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taker4376

taker4376
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Member since: 16.09.2008

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      25.04.2011 13:38
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      A great place to visit once, especially for kids

      Entry and Tickets
      --------------------------------------------------------------------
      I visited Cadbury World on Easter Sunday. We pre-booked via the website, getting a measly 5% discount off ticket prices (by entering the code 'web') as we expected massive queues when we arrived. Although the free car park was pretty full, the actual factory was not packed. This is due to their entry time system. Tickets are timed so that only a certain amount of people can enter the factory experience at any one time. This limits queuing times and creates a steady flow throughout the factory.
      Tickets are not overly cheap: one adult is £14.30 and one child is £10.40 but under 4's do go free. Family tickets can also be bought for a slight discount.

      The Cadbury Experience and Essence
      ----------------------------------------------------------------------
      Upon entry you are handed a couple of bars of free chocolate to eat as you go around. Although there are plenty of bins some people still felt the need to drop their wrappers around the factory. There are several zones throughout the factory which take you through the history of chocolate and then the history of the Cadbury factory and the village of Bourneville. The zones are fun and educational, although there is quite a bit of reading for some younger children. There is some clever use of holographic videos intermingled with creative scenery and models. The next zones take you through how the chocolate is processed from the bean to the wrapper via a short video which is quite in depth but keeps the kids entertained by using different sensory effects to make you feel like the cocoa bean. Next you go through the actual factory, some long corridors and stairs here (there are lifts available) but they don't allow pushchairs in this section. You see and smell the chocolate being wrapped and packaged before you get to a short ride. The ride is probably the highlight for children but this is also where you will queue for the longest time. Luckily they give you another chocolate bar before you start to queue and also an activity to keep the kids interested. Once off the ride you get the chance to play with some chocolate, but unfortunately you can't make any of your own samples, which was a huge disappointment for me! All in all it took 2 hours to get around the actual experience, but it flew past.
      After the experience there is another section called 'Essence'. Here you learn about the creation of Dairy Milk Chocolate through two videos. You then go through to a room where you create your own chocolate combination (although someone else makes it). You get a cup of liquid chocolate and add things like rice-crispies, popcorn, marshmallows or wine-gums. This then also ends in a smaller gift shop.

      Gift Shop and Cafe
      -----------------------------------------------------------
      The experience finishes in the gift shop, where you can buy all the chocolate you could possibly eat. There are other gift items but not a massive range to choose from. The usual teddies, pencils and pens. Prices were surprisingly reasonable, but most of the things you could buy in your local newsagents or supermarket. The cafe was also reasonably priced, not cheap but not expensive. There was hot and cold food and drinks available. Baguettes, salads or pasta pots were about £4 and cold drinks were £1.60, a coffee was £1.90. We went to the cafe around 12.30 and there weren't any queues.
      There is also an outside kiosk selling drinks, ice-creams and hotdogs and burgers. This is located by a colourful playground area for the kids.

      Cadbury Trail and Bourneville
      ----------------------------------------------------------
      If you want to walk off the chocolate you've eaten then the visitor's map shows you a trail you can take around the factory and then a couple of highlights to see in the village of Bournville. The Trail is not worth the bother, the outside of the factory is not attractive and not overly well kept. The trail isn't circular either so you have to walk back on yourself when you come to the end. The village of Bourneville, however, is very pretty and picturesque. Nearby is a tudor house which Mr. Cadbury bought and restored, called Selby manor which you can visit, although there is an entrance fee.

      Overall
      -------------------------------------------
      Cadbury's world is worth a visit, but kids are going to get more out of it than adults. There's some free chocolate and it is quite educational. A visit will probably take about 4-5 hours in total. I'm glad I went but I'm not sure I would go again. It's a good place to visit, even if the weather is miserable as most of it is indoors. The experience would be much improved if you could make your own samples. I definitely advise pre-booking as you can walk right through when your time comes and skip the queues!

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      12.04.2010 00:30
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      Well worth a visit and then a free return visit too!

      On my latest visit to see my brother he decided that we would go to the West Midlands Safari Park. I love animals and want to eventually go to Africa to work with lions and so he knew that I would enjoy it.
      Luckily we had some Tesco Clubcard vouchers which were really useful with 4 of us going as it can end up being a very expensive day out. The prices are as follows:
      Adults -£12.95 per person
      Children - £11.50 per person
      Under 3's - Free
      Senior Citizens - £11.50
      Disabled - £11.50
      Students - £11.50
      Family Admission Ticket (Admits 2 adults & 2 children)- £44.00
      Once you have been once you also get a free return ticket which is an amazing offer! The park is generally open from around 9am-6pm and it is best to get there early as the park can get very busy.

      The safari park is amazing. If you are worried about your car being attacked by animals then don't be. There are no monkeys at this park and the other animals are not interested unless you have food. There are also rangers around in every area to drive off any over zealous animals, not that they were needed when we were there. The only problem we came upon was an ostrich who enjoyed pecking wing mirrors. We did see a couple of cars break down, in which case you need to beep your horn and a ranger will drive over. There are lots of hills and so your clutch will take a bit of a bashing, especially if it is busy. All windows, doors and sunroofs must be closed and locked in the more dangerous areas but big cats aren't generally too active during the day and so there is nothing to worry about.

      The park is a great way to get up close to animals which are normally seen by most of us behind bars in small enclosures. These animals can wonder around in quite large areas relatively freely. The animals range from all sorts of different deer to wallabys, wolves, wild dogs, tigers, lions, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, buffalo and hippos. You can drive around as slowly as you want, stopping for as long as you want in the enclosures. We did have to wait in lines of traffic for the tiger enclosure but other than that we were relatively unrestricted. We did find that as the weather was quite drizzly while we were driving around that the carnivorous animals tended to be asleep or sheltering which was a little disappointing, so I would recommend that you check the weather before you go and choose a nice day.
      My favourite enclosure had to be the white lions. This rare breed is totally extinct in the wild and the West Midlands Safari Park has a whole pride and is doing wonders to try and breed them! The worst enclosure was the leopard enclosure which was placed near the theme park and was more like a zoo. They were behind glass and did not have nearly half the room that the other animals had. I really could not understand the logic of this. I was very impressed with the rest of the park but this is one of the reasons I could not give it 5 stars!
      It took us 3 and a half hours to get around the park. By which time we were starving. Luckily we had taken our own picnic because prices were pretty high. There were lots of benches to eat on and lots of different places to buy food, including a restaurant. There is another section in the park which is a theme park with rides. If you take the kids this area will seriously hike up the price of your day out as the rides are not included in the price of the ticket. The minimum price is £6 and you can buy a wristband for between £7.75 and £11 which means you can get on all the rides. There are height restrictions on rides. There are also lots of stalls to win cuddly toys etc. There are plenty of gift shops which are unbelievably pricey and all sell the same thing. I can understand the need to earn money to keep the upkeep of the park up but I think they have gone a bit too far with the gift shop prices!
      In the theme park area there is also a reptile house, bat house, mini aquarium area and a sea lion show. The sea lion show was disappointing. Lasting only 10 minutes and with about 3 tricks but it was free.

      I had an amazing day out and loved seeing all the animals so close and clearly. It is an fantastic learning opportunity for kids but also pretty expensive for a large family or demanding children.

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    • 2012 (DVD) / DVD / 10 Readings / 10 Ratings
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      11.04.2010 23:59
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      Save your time and money incase the world does end in 2012

      I was quite excited to see this film. I had heard great things about it, especially its special effects. I had wanted to see it at the cinema but never got around to doing so. We decided to rent it on blu-ray and watch it on a HD t.v. hoping that the quality and effects would be amazing. I am sorry to say that I was spectacularly disappointed!!

      Directed by Roland Emerich (who also directed "The day after tomorrow" and "Independence Day") and the addition of one of my favourite actors, John Cusack, I was expecting great things and a great story. But after the incredibly looooong 158 minutes I was relieved that it was finally over.

      I am a big fan of disaster movies but a disaster movie can only be successful if it is believable and realistic. "2012" is neither of these things. The story is so fanciful to make it laughable. In theory this should have been a great film and I really can't see how they could manage to so spectacularly mess up such a simple premise. The end of the world is nigh and the human race faces extinction. The film should have been gripping, moving, scary and hold hidden depths. "2012" has no depths at all. It would appear that the writers got carried away with themselves. Perhaps they had a brainstorm session of perilous situations they could put in the movie and couldn't decide on just one or two and so put them all in. There are only so many times the same people can come within one second of dying before you stop caring and start yawning. Not only this but these perilous situations are contrived, fake and so obviously CGI. I thought the point of CGI was for it to look realistic but a lot of the special effects are extremely poor! I really can't see why people rave about this film's CGI! It's no better than a lot of other movies, in fact I would say it is some of the worst effects I have seen in a long time!

      The storyline doesn't fare much better. It takes a back seat to the "effects" and suffers horrendously from cliché after cliché. The story is superficial and I did not care for any of the main characters! There was no passion and no chemistry between the actors. The only redeeming feature comes in the guise of Woody Harrelson who plays Charlie Frost, a conspiracy theorist who broadcasts a pirate radio station that the end of the world is nigh. Harrelson puts more passion into his role in his brief time on screen than anyone else throughout the film does.

      You know a film is bad when you cant decide whether the director was serious when making this film or whether it was a spoof. This film is a disaster movie, but in all the wrong ways! The script, casting and CGI were all disasters and I will not be wasting my time or money on it again! It really is shame it could and should have been amazing! If you want a disaster movie with a moving story, hidden depths and compelling characters than watch "The day after tomorrow". It is a better film by a mile!

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      17.01.2010 20:08
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      If you like Call of Duty or Tombraider then give this game a shot and prepared to be blown away!

      For Christmas my brother had asked for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. I had a cursory glance at it on amazon and forwarded to my parents, who then purchased it for him. I didn't take much notice of it until my brother told me a little bit about it as he had played the first Uncharted game. As he had brought his PS3 back with him for the holidays I thought I would give it a go. This happened to be a fairly bad decision on my part as my brother and his PS3 would leave after a few days and I was seriously hooked on this game.

      The story: Nathaniel Drake is an adventurer/thief, in fact he is pretty much a male version of Lara Croft. He is related to the famous Sir Francis Drake and the first game deals with that storyline. I've not played it but I will if I get a chance (Thankfully you don't need to have played the first installation to understand Among Thieves). Drake is approached by an old girlfriend, Chloe Frazer and buddy Harry Flynn who have been asked, by a rather unscrupulous fellow, to recover an oil lamp from a heavily guarded Istanbul Museum which supposedly will help reveal the location of Marco Polo's lost voyage and with it a serious horde of treasure.
      The gamer, as Nathaniel Drake, must find his way to the ultimate prize, whilst staying alive.

      Naughty Dog have really outdone themselves with this spectacular game. It's graphics are phenomenal, especially when played on a HD-TV! The scenery and locations are amazingly intricate and range from Jungle Borneo to the city-streets of Phokra Nepal and the heights of the Himalayas. Cut-scenes are really amazing and add a real depth to the storyline. They can be skipped if you are playing it for the second time. The voice acting is also superb. The characters spend their time playfully bantering with one another throughout game-play. It is no way repetitive or annoying.

      A good aspect of the game involves having to find treasures (like tombraider secrets). The more treasures you find the more awards you will earn which will earn you money which you can then spend to get bonus'. This isn't the only way to earn money. You get awards for killing people in certain ways and with certain weapons too. Bonus' include different skins to play in, art concepts boards, cheats and ingame "tweaks" etc. The treasure hunting is quite challenging and you could play for hours and hours trying to find them as some are really quite ingeniously placed. Furthermore as you search you can also come across some really helpful ammunition to keep you alive.

      To progress through the game there is an awful lot of climbing! Some of which you don't have to think too hard about (unlike with Tombraider). There are a few puzzles to figure out but luckily Drake has a notebook which gives you clues in these cases. This notebook is actually worth flicking through and reading the little comments in it as they are quite funny. If you die in the game it automatically takes you back to the last save point, so no need to save manually very frequently. However each time you die the game records it in your statistics which can be a bit depressing. Statistics also give you details on how many people you have killed and in what ways, how long you have spent running, climbing and standing still.

      There are four hardness levels but once you have completed it in hard an extra hard option becomes available. I first completed it on easy, then normal and have been replaying some chapters in hard and to be honest I can't see that much difference. Once chapters have been completed you can replay them however you want so no need to play it all through again, it will also tell you how many treasures you have got from each chapter.

      There are some ingenious ways to kill people in the game. You have to learn to be stealthy and kill people without being noticed, kill people hanging from ledges, with grenades with a plethora of guns, some better than others. Dodge tanks and helicopters. This aspect of the game very much reminds me of Call of Duty. You have to aim at people, your guns won't do it automatically like with tombraider. The levels aren't all the same format, there are different challenges and things to do in each one which makes the game versatile and thoroughly engaging as you won't know what to expect next. Once you have completed the solo-player game you can take it to multi-player online (not something I have done) which has a whole new angle on the game with new challenges and modes and new awards to unlock.

      I absolutely love this game, and have played it for hours and hours on end. It has been so enjoyable that I am considering saving up for my own PS3 to see what else the PS world has to offer. Unfortunately for some gamers Uncharted is solely available on the PS3 as Sony own the Naughty Dog production company. The game is a real cinematic experience, a treat for the senses and will appeal to men and women alike. The only problem I found was that the solo-player game was that it was far too short. I was able to complete it in a couple of days. It's nowhere near as challenging to complete as Tombraider was, which is good for general gamers but not so good in other ways. However those are my only complaints. I am now looking forward to Drake's next adventure!

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    • Beauty And The Beast (DVD) / DVD / 35 Readings / 34 Ratings
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      12.12.2009 00:22
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      But he was mean and he was coarse and unrefined ...

      I will be reviewing the film only.

      Beauty and the Beast is my absolute favourite Disney movie. It was released in 1991 and is a children's animated film by the Walt Disney Film Studio.

      The story opens with a narrator describing how the beast became a beast. A young selfish prince is disgusted to find an old begger woman on his doorstep wanting a place to rest for the night. He turns her away to discover she was in fact a beautiful enchantress. She transforms the prince into a hideous monster. Unless he is able to fall in love and be loved in return before the last petal of a rose the woman gives him falls he will be doomed to live as a beast forever. But the beast isn't the only one transformed his entire castle staff are turned into household objects, forced to share the selfish prince's fate.

      The heroine of the story is introduced, Belle, who has recently moved to a new quaint village in France with her inventor father Maurice during the 18th century. The locals consider her to be a little odd as she always has her head in a book and dreams of adventure far away from her "provincial life". The local "hunk", a chauvinistic and arrogant man called Gaston has decided that he wants Belle for his wife and he will not take no for an answer. Belle's father has just invented a new machine, after some mishaps, and hopes to win first prize at a festival, but on his way to the festival he gets turned around and ends up being chased by wolves into a dark and frightening castle. Maurice's horse runs home whereupon Belle realises something must have happened to her father and she makes the horse take her to him. Belle finds her father locked up in the castle tower by the beast. She offers herself in place of her father and the Beast makes her promise to stay forever. The rest of the film follows the attempts of the household objects to get Belle and the Beast to fall in love in time to save themselves. But things do not run smoothly.

      The films characters are very diverse and funny. The household staff were turned into objects which resembled their characters. There is Mrs. Potts who was head of the kitchen and is turned into a tea pot, she is a really motherly figure. Her children were all turned into tea cups and one tea cup in particular, called Chip has a chip in his cup. Cogsworth the head of the household staff is turned into a clock, presumably as he kept the house running like clockwork. Lumière is turned into a candelabra and his run ins with Cogsworth are entertaining. Even the castle's dog was turned into a footstall. These characters make the film come alive from what would otherwise might have been a rather dark film.

      Belle is voiced by Paige O'Hara who beautifully portrays her. I have so many similarities to the character of Belle (aside from not being French, 2D or getting pursued by bulging hunters) and this is probably why I love the film so much. Beast is voiced by Robby Benson who has a really gravelly voice. You never discover his real name. There are some really funny moments where this giant beast is attempting to be gentle and he acts like a naive child some of the time. It actually makes me laugh out loud now I'm older and pay more attention to the jokes and interpret the facial expression better. Everything about the character of Gaston I hate with a passion. He is voiced by Richard White and is unbelievably egotistical, brash and rude. He has no respect for women and believes he has a right to do what he wants.

      The animation is 2-D and is more classical in style than say Finding Nemo. The colours are not as bright and vibrant, but darker and richer, which obviously suit the classic fairytale style of the film. The settings are really rich and beautiful and I would absolutely love to live in the Beasts castle. The animation creates such an amazing atmosphere which changes with the progress of the film from dark to light.

      The film does have some scary moments which might frighten smaller children. I saw it when I was 7 and adored it. It deals with some great themes, including standing up for what you believe is right, respecting your parents and not judging a book by its cover. Although ultimately it does also deal with kidnap and stockholme syndrome but we all know what fairytales are like lol. I would prefer the ending to be different (I don't want to give it away in case you don't know the story) as in some ways it ruins the moral of the story. Kids may even learn little bits of French which are scattered through the film.

      The fairytale obviously didn't originate with Disney. The first version was published in 1740 by Velleneuve and there have since been many adaptations of the story in literature, theatre, film and T.V. However as far as I'm concerned Disney is the best. Disney released a mid-quel called "Beauty and the Beast the Enchanted Christmas" in 1997 and it is set during the middle of the first film.

      The film is a musical and contains 7 songs altogether. My favourite has the same title as the film "beauty and the beast". But the other songs include "Belle", "Gaston", "Be our guest", "Something There", "Human Again" (although this was only released in versions after 2002) and "The Mob Song". The music of the film won academy awards for best song and best original score. And it is the first animated film to win a golden globe award for best picture.

      The film is 90 minutes long and is rated U, although it felt longer as a child and too short as an adult. Unfortunately you might find it quite difficult to get a hold of it on DVD now. It was re-released earlier this year but has since disappeared again. It is such a shame how Disney remove their popular and classic DVD's from sale to ensure they can re-release them later and charge a fortune for them. People on the internet are charging ridiculous amounts for region 2 versions of the film so I would advise looking for region 1 versions if you can play them or wait for Disney to release it again.

      I adore this film. It is incredibly heartwarming and makes me laugh and cry. It's also great for christmas time as its got lots of snow in it. I will never get bored of watching this film and if you havent seen it you are really missing out!!

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      • A Christmas Story (DVD) / DVD / 46 Readings / 42 Ratings
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        09.12.2009 22:27
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        My favourite Christmas movie :D

        Its coming up to Christmas and I decided to do a review on my all time favourite christmas movie. Its not the classic Muppets Christmas Carol or The Snowman but A Christmas Story.

        Its funny and different to most other christmas films out there. The film revolves around a small boy in the 1950's, Ralphie, played by Peter Billingsley. He's a typical boy and for christmas his biggest wish is to own a Red Ryder BB gun. The film follows Ralphies attempts to persuade his mum and dad and santa to get this for him. But all anyone seems to say to him is "you'll shot your eye out".

        Although obviously not entirely Politically correct now it is still very funny and nostalgic. It was filmed in 1983 and written by the American radio comedy broadcaster Jean Shephard. He also narrates the story as the adult Ralphie, looking back at his fondest Christmas. There are some great moments in the film, including a kid getting his tongue stuck to a flag pole, a child so well wrapped up he can't put his arms down to his sides or get up when he falls over and the mothers attempts to get food into Ralphie's little brother. The film deals with the highs and lows and stresses of a typical Christmas of a typical family and a typical young boy.

        The film is semi-autobiographical of the life of Jean Shepherd, and some of his stories which the film is based in were actually published in playboy. Don't let this put you off, they aren't really rude in a playboy way. The film does deal with swearing and bullying but it is a children's film, for kids and adults alike. Although I know the film isn't for everyone especially as its about a child wanting a BB gun I really enjoyed it as a child and it hasn't done any damage to me. The film even won two Genie Awards for screen play and direction.

        It's a great story that doesn't need much thought, and would be perfect to sit down to watch after a filling Christmas dinner in front of the fire. I tried for ages to get it on dvd two years ago and had to get an import in the end but now I think it was re-released for its 25th anniversary so should be more readily available.

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        • More +
          03.12.2009 00:09
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          I have a healthy and happy cat thanks to More Than

          I think it is the responsibility of any pet owner to ensure their pet is insured, unless of course you are well off enough to pay any amount of vets fees. So as soon as I got my cat last September the first thing I did was look for a good insurer. As I had never insured a pet before I asked some advice from my dad who has been insuring two black labs for a long time and he suggested more than. So I had a look and after comparing their prices and services to a few other companies I decided that more than were the way to go.

          I was quoted £7.99 a month and was given £7000 a year cover for each new illness (including payment for alternative medicine). What's more they also help if your pet goes missing or needs to go into boarding kennels if you are ill yourself and if your pet dies. This was all with an excess of £50. I was happy with the monthly fee, as it was one of the cheapest.
          Unfortunately during September of this year Simba started to limp. He was an indoor cat and I had been feeling guilty and so let him out for the first couple of times. We assumed that he had over done it and had just sprained a muscle. So we didn't do anything for a few days. When it didn't get any better we took him to the vets who gave him so expensive anti-inflammatories and said to come back if it was no better. So after a week and a half and with Simba still limping we took him back. The vet this time decided he had a hematoma on his muscle and that it had turned to cartilage and that a course of anti-biotics would break it down. So Simba went through these for a week and we believed he was starting to get better. But he still wasn't his usual self. He was only 12 months old and he was behaving like an old cat, not a hyperactive kitten. Then when he was out in the garden I made him jump when I threw something out in to the garden. At which point he just lay there and started howling and viciously attacked anyone who tried to touch him. We made an emergency call out for the vet who gave us painkillers and told us to come back on Monday as it was a Saturday for x-rays. The cost was mounting up. After the x-rays the vet told us solemnly he had fractured both hips due to a condition that can be genetic and usually presents itself in 1-2yr old male neutered cats. Its extremely rare which is just typical of our animals lol. We were given the choice of two hip replacements at £3000 each or two hip femoral head removals at £300 each. Because of the policy we had I thought it best to go for the cheaper option as I believed we had to pay a percentage of the costs.

          To complicate things further Simba's policy was due to change. The year renewal had come through More than had increased the price to £9.99. I was rather annoyed about this as Simba is only a year old and I hadn't claimed anything on him in the previous year. So I had arranged for MoreThan to stop and to switch to Direct Line. Luckily we discovered Simba's fractures 2 days before the switch over and we were able to quickly renew the MoreThan and cancel direct line. More than assured me this wouldn't affect any claims I made and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

          The wording of the policy is unfortunately a little confusing/misleading. The Excess is £50 for cats (£70 for dogs) and the policy states you will be charged a further 20% of the total cost of the treatment if the cat is under 9 years old and 30% if it is over 9 years old. The claim form also states that you must claim within 30 days of the initial date of illness. So Simba's problems meant I was facing having to shell out quite a lot of money, especially as some of it was over the 30 day limit. I phoned More than to enquire about a few things and they told me that the 30 day limit was actually no longer the case. They had changed the policy but not yet changed the wording on the claim form which you can download from their site. (It still hasn't changed) So that made me quite relieved as I could claim on all of the vet appointments. But I think they should have updated their website claim form and let their customers know of the change as it means that people could potentially claim for things they couldn't before.
          When the cheque arrived they had deducted £100. It stated that this was for two excess charges. I queried this as excess was meant to be £100. I thought maybe it was just worded wrongly and it was the percentage I had to pay. But no it wasn't. I was told that as the claim spanned two policy periods they charged two excesses. They said it was in the policy information they gave out. Now that's fair enough, but who ever really reads that stuff? Still it annoyed me as I know no other policies that do that. Further more I wondered where the percentage charge was. When I queried this, the honest citizen that I am, they stated Simba was not in the age range that this applied to, it was only for cats aged 9 and over. But that is not what my policy says at all!! Not that I am complaining about not being charged but if I had known this I could have opted for hip replacements for Simba. And if it is wrong on my policy it must be wrong on other peoples who might also compromise on certain things believing they will have to pay a percentage of the overall vet costs.

          Other than this though More Than were very helpful and my claims were dealt with quickly and efficiently. As I didn't have the case in my account to pay for Simba's second operation I was also able to request that they paid the vets directly. I received a letter less than a week later to say a cheque had been sent to them. Over all I am happy as a customer of More than. After all I've paid about £90 in policy cover and received £700 in return from them. What is more I am so glad Simba was insured as there was no way I could have afforded this operation by myself. I just hope the policy instalments are not put up again next year.

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          • Starbucks Gingerbread Latte / Coffee / 43 Readings / 41 Ratings
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            21.11.2009 01:30
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            Get into the holiday spirit and warm your tummy with this delicious latte.

            You know it is that time of year again when Starbucks changes its white cups to red! There was a time when I used to get ridiculously excited about this as it meant one thing: The Gingerbread Latte was back!

            Firstly I am a massive fan of coffee, secondly I love gingerbread!! Imagine my delight when several years ago I went into my local Starbucks, looked up at the options board and saw that they had this on offer!! Every year since I look forward to when Starbucks bring back this wonderful beverage! In fact one year my friend gave me a fantastic Christmas present of two bottles of gingerbread syrup! Of course it wasn't quite the same as I don't make Lattes at home, only instant coffee. But the gift was very much appreciated!! I also remember being extremely sad the first time I went into Starbucks to discover they had stopped doing them until the next holiday season!

            2009 marks the 10th anniversary of the gingerbread latte. I haven't been drinking them that long and was quite surprised to find this out, but then Starbucks didn't really get on to my radar until around 2004. So what is all the fuss about? The first thing I always notice is the smell. It's a beautiful cinnamon and ginger smell, not at all over-powering. To me it smells like Christmas! The first sip plays with your tastebuds. There is the bitterness of the coffee, mingled with the smooth milk, followed by the sweetness of the syrup and the spicy warmth of the ginger and nutmeg, If you have had whipped cream then this adds to the sweetness as the latte filters through it before hitting your tongue. It's a strange but pleasant experience, not for everyone though. Keep drinking and the sensations continue, but obviously the more you drink the less distinct the different elements become. It's a fantastic, warming drink to enjoy that's just that little bit more special.

            As always with Starbucks you can order your gingerbread latte to suit your requirements. Choose between three different sizes, with or without cream and then whether you want full fat milk, skimmed milk or soya. You could probably also ask for decaff or go the opposite way and get extra shots of espresso. What's great this year is that now Starbucks have completely switched to fair-trade coffee as part of their "shared planet" campaign, that's all they sell and so that's all you're going to drink! Further more if you are really ethically friendly, take in your own travel mug and they will put your drink in this, saving you 25p in the process AND saving a paper cup and plastic lid (every little helps ;) ). Prices for the gingerbread latte are pretty standard of the other drinks. You pay a little more for the syrup but not much more than a plain latte.


            You don't get nutritional information on the cups at Starbucks, obviously because they use the same cups no matter what you are ordering. So you might be wondering just how many calories might be in a gingerbread latte. Well if you want to find out go to this website http://www.starbucks.com/retail/nutrition_beverage_detail.asp where you can tailor the beverage to exactly how you drink it to find out the calories. A Tall Latte with Full Fat milk and Cream comes to 280 calories where as a venti is 440 calories (shocking lol) But if like me, you don't get cream and have skimmed milk a Venti is 250 calories, still quite a lot for a drink but not too bad for an occasional treat!

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              20.11.2009 22:44
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              Simbas happy eating this and thats what counts.

              My cat, Simba, recently fractured both his hips due to a genetic condition, we were told that he needed either hip replacements or to have both hips removed. I felt enormously sorry for him as he struggled to walk and instead tended to drag himself across the floor. SO I decided to buy him something to cheer him up, a nice treat. Scanning the cat food shelves for something special I came across "gourmet". The picture on the front showed a nice plate of meaty pieces in gravy. As Simba adores gravy (he hates jelly and Terrine) I thought I would give this a try. I bought a couple of packets of Chicken in gravy, ignoring the extremely ugly cat on the front.

              Taste Test
              As always Simba got excited to see he was being treated to wet food rather than dry as I showed him the pouch. It was easy to open, just tear across the top. I then went to squeeze the food at as I couldn't be bothered to use a spoon to scoop it out, but found this was completely unnecessary as it just slid out extremely fast and easy. I was a little concerned at the amount of gravy in comparison to meat but decided to try it anyway.

              I put the bowl down and Simba dived straight in. I could hear lots of lapping sounds as he tried to eat all the gravy first and I left him quite satisfied eating his special meal. It got a great big thumbs up from Simba. The meat is in tiny slivers, which is good for Simba as he doesn't like big chunks of meat like in Felix. (I think its because he is too lazy to chew). The meat also looks less artificial than the square chunks you get in Whiskas or Felix for example. I've bought quite a few packs now to keep Simba happy after his operations. He was even happy to eat up the Ocean Delicacies flavour which I was amazed at as he doesn't really like fish. However at 57p per pouch they will stay as a treat.

              Nutritional Information
              Typical Analysis: Protein 14.0%, Oil 2.5%, Ash 2.2%, Fibre0.5%, Moisture79%, Copper (as copper sulphate)3 mg/kg.
              Vitamins A: 1110 IU/kg, Vitamin D3: 140 IU/kg, Vitamin E: 10mg/kg
              Some varieties coloured with EC additives
              Taken from http://www.purina.co.uk/Gourmet/Perle.aspx

              I was a little concerned that the lack of fibre was causing Simba to not go to the toilet, as after his operation he didn't go for a couple of days, but this could have been due to the anaesthetic he had. Its not the best cat food nutrionally, but as Simba only gets them as treats I'm not too concerned.

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                07.11.2009 17:03
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                Overall a good cinema experience, but little touches could have made it great!

                On Wednesday, after looking at several cinemas in Leicester I decided to go to see The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus at the Showcase Cinema De Lux. The cinema is located near the High Cross Shopping centre in Leicester. It is near lots of yummy restaurants and I went for steak before going to see the film. The entrance to the cinema is a small foyer where you buy your tickets. There were three or four counters to buy tickets, as well as places to pick tickets up if you had pre-booked. I hadn't pre-booked and I showed up an hour before the film started to get the tickets before going for dinner. There was no queue and I was pleased to find the prices were the same as at other showcase cinemas. They hadn't hiked the prices up because it was "delux". I got a student ticket for £5.50 which is cheaper than most other cinemas that I know of.

                When I returned an hour later to see the film I was pleased to see a nice long queue of people waiting to get tickets, as I went straight to the escalator and rode it up to the next floor. The escalator opened up to a nice open area where the confectionary stands were. To the right was a posh restaurant called "Studio One" and more escalators up to the next floor. At the restaurant you could get two for one cocktails ;) which I am pretty sure you can take into the cinema with you. The prices of the confectionary were also standard to other showcase cinemas and on a par with cinemas like the odeon and vue. Unfortunately I felt a little let down by the ambiance of the cinema. I had heard that it was meant to be very posh and high-tech but the floor was dirty and the lighting was very clinical. There was a big 3D deluxe sign which you could sit in which looked out over Leicester, but we did not have time to sit down and watch people buying their popcorn as we had a film to catch. We queued up for food and were served promptly and relatively efficiently, the steward forgot our order a few times but she was obviously run off her feet and so we were very forgiving lol. We managed to get a large popcorn, large drink, medium drink and 2 tubs of Ben and Jerry's for £13.50. The large popcorn was to share and we were a little disappointed by the size of it. The large at the Odeon is probably twice the size of the showcase version of large (although the drinks have no difference). You can get a supersize at the Showcase but they should really warn you before you order that their large is actually a medium (especially as the steward did not fill it to the top and then proceeded to spill some when she put it down and did not bother refilling it).

                Next stop was of course the toilets, being females I can only talk about the ladies, but I assume the mens would not have been too different. The toilets were pretty standard of any cinema, black floors, doors and walls, low level lighting, posh sinks with sensored flushes and taps. BUT NO SOAP! That's right, the "Posh" cinema had absolutely no soap in the toilets! They did not even have soap dispensers! Poor toilet planning!! ... moving on lol. We walked down to our screen and I was fairly annoyed to find that the door to the cinema had to be opened out toward you, with hands full of drinks and popcorn this was quite a struggle, it would have been much better to have doors which opened in and you could push with a shoulder or foot, rather than juggle the confectionary. (you may think I am being picky lol, but i was still a little annoyed about the soap at this point)

                You don't get assigned seats in a showcase, which is great, you can sit where you want when you judge where is best based on the size and position of the screen. The cinema was about half full by the time we arrived and so we sat to the side. The chairs were great! Really great!! They not only tilted back slightly, to ease that crick in your neck you may experience sitting in some areas of the cinema but they were also moulded, like sport car's seats to your back so it is supported. Most definitely the best seats I have sat in in a cinema! They was ample leg room and the seats were lovely and wide, I had great fun rocking myself in one. The only downfall is that it is quite possible that you will easily fall asleep in them. There was also a nice big cup holder by each seat, big enough to take the large cup (unlike at the Odeon).

                The lights went down and the adverts began, well I say adverts, I mean trailers. Because either I blocked them out of memory and had a black out for fifteen minutes OR the cinema did not play adverts!! Fantastic! I hate having them forced down my throat at cinemas; I don't watch them on t.v I don't want to pay to watch them at a cinema! The screen that we went in (4) was pretty typical of the average cinema, nothing big or special about it. I'm not sure about any other screens as this was my first visit. The only problem I did find was that at certain points the film's volume got a bit too loud, it made me squint because of the noise. I'm not someone that doesn't like loud movies, I love action films and explosions but for the film I was watching the volume was a bit loud in places. I left screening room after a fairly weird film and made my way to the exit. My experience of the showcase delux was pretty average, on a par with other cinemas and not overly special. As you don't pay anything extra for the delux I wasn't too disappointed.

                There are premium experiences you can have at the cinema though. You can see films in the directors Hall, where the seats are leather and its over 18's only after 8pm. There is a lounge attached to the hall where you can go for a drink before and after the film and you can hire the whole screen out for birthdays or special events. This sounds like a great idea to me, an avid film buff, especially for the release of a big blockbuster! You can buy giftcards for showcase on their website if you want to treat someone special.

                There is no parking at the actual cinema location, but it is very near high cross and so you can park in that car park for a fee of £2 after 5pm. Don't forget, if you're not familiar with Highcross that the shops shut at 8pm so if your film ends after this then you'll have to get to the car park through some side doors. I was not aware of this fact and ended up circling Highcross twice before someone told me where to go, lol.

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                  03.11.2009 15:00
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                  I have sheep on my feet!

                  Yesterday I turned the ripe OLD age of 23. I came down stairs to find a lovely bag of presents including one funny shaped one from our two black labradors, Ben and Bruno. I was a little confused by the shape and the fact that it was slighty hard as well as soft (I also had to question how they had managed to buy me something and wrap it so expertly ;) )

                  When I unwrapped them, I squealed with delight to find two Fuzzy White Sheep Slippers starring up at me, with two cute pink smiles on their faces. I was thrilled to have finally got my hand on a pair of these novelty slippers as I had had my eye on them for quite some time as I saw them in the shops, and to cap it all off I hadn't actually told anyone I wanted them so they were an extra suprise!

                  As they were a gift I cant comment on the price but I was told they fit up to a size 8. I'm a little dubious about this, I am a 7/8 and they only just fit so if you are a large size 8 I would try them on before buying! They are very comfy, although if you have sensitive feet they can feel a bit strange as they have polyester twisty types things inside as well as outside. They are extremely warm and easy to walk in, as they are a nice snug fit.

                  They are made by aroma home and are sponge clean only. They come in different designs:- Pigs, Ducks, Cows, Dogs, Monkeys and Reindeers. All are equally cute but some are more difficult to get ahold of than others. The soles have little grippy rubber nodules like most slippers to ensure you dont slide everywhere.

                  I am very happy with my present and I said a big "thank ewe" to the dogs for their gift! ;)

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                  • Theme Hospital (PC) / PC Game / 28 Readings / 26 Ratings
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                    31.10.2009 14:59
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                    "Will patients please not die in the corridor"

                    Theme Hospital was released in 1997 and it is still as fun to play as it was back then. Yes the graphics are not up to 2009 standards but thats about all you can complain about. Theme Hospital is a simulation game where you have to build and maintain a successful hospital. Through your doors will walk poorly members of the Theme World Public with such diseases as Gut Rot, Infectious Laughter, Bloaty Head and Slack Tongue. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to cure these poor folk of their unfortunate diseases whilst keeping the hospital clean and comfortable, keeping mortality rates to a minimum and fleecing them for as much money as you can! This is not the NHS, lol, you can charge these unsuspecting folk as much as you like for treating them, but they may not pay if they think it is too expensive! There is of course one other problem you may need to deal with... the staff. They need to be kept happy or they will walk out on you! So pay them well, build a nice big staff room and make sure they are not overworked! Alternatively sack them and employ someone cheaper.

                    Theme Hospital is seriously addictive, whats more you can play the levels over and over again as it will always be different, especially as there are 3 difficulty levels. You'll have to deal with different epidemics and emergencies, as well as VIP visits and earthquakes! A Patch is available to download to deal with some problems that the game had when it was originally released. At £3.96 there really is nothing to lose, except maybe hours of your life which could be used doing something useful.

                    Now the downside! Although the box tells you it is suitable for Windows 98, ME and XP you may experience some problems installing it. I spent hours trying to put it onto my XP machine. In the end I copied the disc contents onto my C drive and played it like that only to discover that I couldnt save, even though I went through lots of ways to make it do so. Then however some kind gentleman from the game manufacturer told me that some background processes with XP will prevent the game installing and sure enough when I got rid of the unnecessary background processes it installed fine, although some may have to change the compatibility to Windows 2000 or below. However I do not think they have come up with a way for the game to work on VISTA yet, so I shouldn't bother buying it for windows 7 either.

                    So a fantastic game that you can get hours of fun out of no matter what your age! The only problem is technology has developed too far from the game. They have had 12 years to bring out a sequel its high time they got around to it! lol

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                    • Visiq Facial Sauna / Skin Care / 27 Readings / 26 Ratings
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                      17.09.2009 00:20
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                      Bargain Price for a great little device!

                      The Visiq Facial Sauna is an incredible buy! At the moment it is a mere £9.99 from Argos or £11.99 from amazon.co.uk. I was a little dubious, to be honest, about the quality of the sauna at such a price. I had never had a facial sauna before and did not know too much about them, but I thought at this price it probably wouldn't matter if it wasn't any good. I need not have worried!

                      The Sauna is incredibly simple to use! All you need to do it fill the bottom with water up to the indicated line, put the mask in place and then flick the on button. A light will come on to tell you it is switched on so you don't accidentally leave it on. The water will then slowly heat up (can take a few minutes initially) and create steam. Put your head in the mask and soak up all the steamy goodness.

                      The sauna comes with two different attachments, the facial mask and a large inhaler type thing. The facial mask is obviously for your whole face whilst the inhaler mask can be used on just the mouth and nose if you have a cold for instance and want to clear congestion. I've got to say you do need to get in the right position with the facial mask in particular; otherwise it can be a bit uncomfortable. All you need to sort it out however is a small towel to cushion your forehead or just adjust yourself until you're comfy. Also provided are two head band type things to keep your hair back and cushion your forehead, these fasten via velcro and are made from a soft fleecy material. It also comes with a small measuring cup, although I've lost mine and it is only a convenience thing, not necessary.

                      The sauna is built in with a steam protector, this means that the water does not spit at your face and burn you when it has boiled. The facial mask is also adjustable to enable you to control the amount of steam that is emitted into the mask. So if you are finding it too hot you can close the gaps and less steam will come through.

                      Although it is possible to use the sauna on your lap (you will need to bend your head quite a bit, I put my on a cushion on my lap for extra height) it is advisable to use it at a table to prevent spillages and so you can relax a bit more rather than holding the sauna.

                      I brought the Sauna to help open my pores up so I could get rid of nasty black and white heads using a black head remover tool. It does a wonderful job of doing this and my skin always feels beautifully soft afterwards. What is more it is incredibly relaxing to sit and breath in the steam for a while, the sound of the water heating up is even relaxing. The steam can get very hot and sometimes you might feel it burning when you breathe in, in which case you can just adjust the setting. I've not yet used this when I have a cold but I think it would really help and make you feel much better! I'm almost looking forward to getting a cold so I can try it out lol.

                      The only down side to the Sauna would be the way it looks. It looks plasticy and quite clinical. But as the age old adage always says "Don't judge a book by its cover!" Lets face it you are unlikely to get it out and put it on display when you have company are you? Its perfectly small enough to slot away somewhere until you need it, and when your using it you really aren't going to care what it looks like.

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                        08.09.2009 22:22
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                        My eyebrows have been saved by TWEEZERMAN! *queue theme music*

                        "People of the world, a new superhero has come to help you all!* He goes by the name of TWEEZERMAN. Are you tired of always spending half an hour trying to get rid of stubborn and irritating hairs from your eyebrows? Are your bushy brows out of control and in need of taming? Well you no longer have to rely on cheap and useless tweezers that can not even grip your hairs; you can call on the services of TWEEZERMAN!

                        TWEEZERMAN has a large wardrobe of disguises including costumes in animal print, purple, silver and polka dot but you will most commonly find him in a gorgeous hot pink! Made from solid stainless steel not much can harm this superhero. His weapon of choice?... Hand filed tips for accurate and precise tweezing. These filed tips are incredibly sharp and a steady hand is needed to ensure TWEEZERMAN does not accidentally pinch your skin instead of a hair. I would recommend that you buy your TWEEZERMAN a little side-kick in the form of a magnified mirror to prevent mishaps and increase precision. The slant of the tips means it can be used for general tweezing and then flipped to use the tip of the slant for more accuracy, so a pointed tweezer is not needed in addition. TWEEZERMAN will look after your eyebrows, keeping them clean, tidy and beautifully shaped so long as you look after him. Be careful to ensure his tips keep their protective cap on when not in use to prevent them becoming blunt.

                        TWEEZERMAN's services do not come all that cheap... he can be found for £14.99 at boots or £16 on amazon.com but this is a lifetime investment. TWEEZERMAN will look after your eyebrows for the rest of your life as he comes with a lifetime free sharpening guarantee. But that's not all... if your TWEEZERMAN should become damaged then the guarantee will mean they will replace your little superhero for half the purchase price or repair him for $5. Unfortunately this means you will be without him for four weeks as he must fly to Houston Texas in an insured padded envelope to be repaired/sharpened.

                        You will not be disappointed by TWEEZERMAN's results! In fact you will be astounded at the difference using a quality pair of tweezers makes compared to cheap ones. Invest in your own little superhero and say goodbye to unruly eyebrows forever!!"

                        *disclaimer - TWEEZERMAN is not actually a genuine superhero...just a pair of tweezers ;)

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                          08.09.2009 22:06
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                          Did you ever get the feeling that you were being watched, and that maybe that thing watching you is

                          I have never read a Dr. Seuss book, nor do I intend to now that I am 22. I have seen, however, several of the films. I managed to sit through the "Grinch who stole Christmas", which I did not particularly enjoy and "The Cat in the Hat" which I detested. Why then did I press the record button when I was going through movies on Sky+ for "Dr. Seuss' Horton hears a Who!"? Well the simple answer is that I thought the name was cool and I was in the mood for some light entertainment. I could always delete it if after 10 minutes I felt like I was wasting 83 minutes of my precious life, after all I wasn't paying to watch it. So on to sky+ it went.

                          As I currently have absolutely no social life after returning from university, I waited until the parents had gone to bed (this was not something my Dad would want to sit through lol) and I pressed the play button. Unlike the other two Dr. Seuss films which I have seen "Horton hears a Who!" is a fully animated childrens film, rather than live action. It is rated U and lasts a very short 83 minutes. This may seem like quite long for a kids film but I found that it passed by very fast indeed.

                          Plot Summary
                          Horton is an elephant living in the jungle of Nool. As he takes a bath a speck of dust flies past and he hears a voice coming from it. Once he has finally managed to attach the speck to a clover he discovers it is inhabited by the Whos who live in the town of Whoville. Horton manages to make contact with the Mayor of Whoville who persuades Horton to ensure they are found a safe and stable place to live. Horton decides the best place is on top of Nool Mountain but mischief is afoot. An angry kangaroo, afraid of Horton's influence on the jungle's children (he is walking around talking to a clover) is determined to stop Horton as he attempts to save Whoville. Meanwhile the Mayor has problems of his own. How do you convince a town who has never had any trouble in its one hundred year history that their world could be destroyed at any moment?


                          "Dr. Seuss' Horton hears a Who!" is a really feel good movie. The animation is bright, colourful and wacky. As it is animation the characters are able to look like what Dr. Seuss envisioned. The voice over's are excellent. Jim Carrey voices Horton, Steve Carell is the voice of the Mayor and Carol Burnett lends her voice to the Kangaroo. If you are not a fan of Jim Carrey never fear as there is very little of his "over the topness." Although, as an adult, the film was not laugh out loud funny, I can see how it would be for kids. I did find the film incredibly enjoyable and I sat through it happily, at no point did I get bored or wonder when it was going to end and at no point did I feel that is was cringe worthy. Although I am not a fan of rhyming throughout films, it can get irritating; I did not find this with "Dr. Seuss' Horton hears a Who!" There are some truly great quotes from the film, my favourite being "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful one hundred percent." I don't know why, it just is lol.


                          Furthermore the film is not just an inane 83 minutes of mindless entertainment to plonk kids in front of. It had some very good morals and messages. For example, not to give in to peer pressure, to keep promises and to stand up for the little people. These messages are sometimes subtle and not forced down your throat but they are there for kids to pick up on. (There is also a good message about contraceptives lol. The Mayor has a total of 96 daughters and one son, he can only devote 12 seconds to each child a day) After doing a year of Philosophy at university where I had dealt with the idea of "other worlds" I found the concept a little freaky lol. Perhaps we are the Whos and somewhere out there is a Horton waiting to find us ;)

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