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I love the sun and can’t sit inside when it’s out. We belong together. It makes me feel good being brown and an unseasonably warm sunny day in March or October the best feeling on the face to perk one up for the dark nights to come. I have travelled all over the world in the winter following cricket and so ended up chasing the sun. I’m now naturally light brown in our winters and only require a little bit of sun in April to be tanned. Because I’m in a serious relationship with the sun I need protection. The cheap band in Wilkinson’s is not always appropriate.
In a recent report it exposed just how much of a mark up sun tan cream manufacturers make when the sun comes out, more expensive than Don Perignon per liter in some stores, similar to the printer ink scam. It’s very much subject to supply and demand economics as far as prices go. The various brands consist of very similar ingredients and the chemical processes quite straightforward to make the stuff. Some cost a lot more to buy, especially kids brands, children susceptible to all manner of rashes and swelling when creamed up in the sun. I’m surprised the adverts are not more fear inducing for children’s projects to make worried parents get the most expensive brands. Then again that may score them away from being in the sun and so sell less.
The idea with the Aussie oil is to be four-in-one. It deep dark tans like a traditional oil like Hawaiian Tropic but also offers protection like a cream, and the moisturizing qualities for the skin but a clean cooling gel delivery. The hemp bit is supposed to deliver revitalizing Vitamin E alongside the suns vitamin D giving effects. It’s a lotion/gel blend so cool to the skin and the moisturizing tag designed to target female consumers who fear skin damage to their face. If you sit in the sun you will get skin damage guys, what ever sun protection you use. Ultraviolet Radiation is bad for all of us.
At this point I’m supposed to show you a bronzed picture of my abs and hulking shoulders and gently oil my six-pac but you will have to wait for that, girls, although I do private shows. It comes in at about 12 pounds for 250ml, which isn’t bad for a sun product here, if you can find this brand in our stores. It’s an imported product and rarely available here in the United Kingdom so surprised it’s the POW here, presumably the company wanting to get a hold in the UK through a marketing campaign strategy here. I got my supply, believe it or not, off the London Cheerleaders, who wiggle their pom poms at Northampton Steelbacks home Twenty20 matches. They are mostly Aussie girls based in London and giving away supplies from their sponsors. As a ‘cricket writer’ I have to make the most of opportunities on offer. Sadly they didn’t let me apply it pre-match but you live in hope.
The oil is in a swanky container and feels cool to the skin when applied. Apparently it’s a big hit in tanning parlors in Thailand. If you slap too much on you are wasting it as it only needs one layer and there isn’t much of it in the bottle. Don’t think +50 will give you anymore protection than +15 and you simply pay more money for the more protection. Skin cancer rates are rising in the U.K. but +15 should be enough to provide basic protection. Don’t go out in the midday sun if you are fair-skinned. I’m darker skinned now so don’t have the ginger fear factor when it comes to buying creams. I’m not that convinced the Vitamin E from the hemp seed mush makes your skin softer in the sun and just a selling point gimmick to women to buy this brand. But it certainly makes it smell funny. I thought Hemp was another name for pot.
It gives you that darker tackier tan women of a certain age and social climbing class get when they go to the Maldives or Minorca and perhaps more suited to men. Women don’t look sexy when their tan is too dark, especially if they are over 40. A nice light honey brown is sexy for bikini girls. I would say that if you believe the marketing hype then you will buy this but for me just another sun oil that I hope you can soon buy in Wilkos. Sadly, as yet, you can’t buy sun cream in pound stores because of that steep mark up.
DON’T buy sunglasses off the internet. The expensive brand names are often fakes and the generic plastic ones as flimsy as Israel’s excuses in the Gaza Strip. The last three pairs I purchased off Amazon for around a tener have been no sturdier than those you can buy in the pound store. In fact I have given up on buying good sunglasses to last online and gone with the cheap ones from the 99p store in Northampton, until I could find some decent and reasonably priced ones in the shops. I bought a pair on Monday from Poundland and they were cracked on BOTH frames by Friday! 99p for four days use seems to be the going rate, no doubt hitting the deck many times as grizzly kids and fat tattooed mums on benefits spin the displays around and the glasses falling to the floor every ten minutes. But these are made from the same materials from the ones on Amazon like Xloop and EyeLevel and all a load of old junk. Just don’t buy these ranges and stick with brands from reputable sites with guarantees if you do shop online. Make sure the guarantee is a good one. Amazon is no longer to be trusted on value and quality and as good as a glorified Argos now, especially as they won’t refund on anything after 30 days use, when the Xloops I purchased there broke apart, and I had not dropped them. They also don’t want to pay tax as they sell us this stuff and beginning to annoy me. Most of that Amazon Market Place stuff are Amazon returns anyway.
I used to go for aviator style in days past but moved towards the sportier look of the classic Oakley. I’m not a Rayban fan and like my shades to wrap right around the side of my eyes as genuine protection from the suns rays. All those generic plastic ones say they offer protection but they just can’t be trusted. We are talking about our eyes here. I settled pm Boots own brand in the classic black style and priced around twenty pounds. The frame feels sturdier than the Amazon tat and although not total side cover there was real visual clarity to them and it felt like they were genuinely polarized.
The lens has a slightly metallic silver sheen to make you look cool and that what reflects most of the sun away from your eyes. The hinge looks solid and the screw looking like it actually screws into something to keep it sturdy. On the Xloops the screw on the hinge tends to like to unscrew itself and you end up seeking out that tiny screwdriver set you got from your Christmas cracker to fix it.
The case is made from a nice and thick material and plenty of protection if you drop it with the glasses inside. A nice fine felt cloth enables easy cleaning. The glasses rest comfortably on the nose and none of those ugly yucky flap things that are used to center certain style of glasses and end up there only to collect human facial gunge of bogies and dry and greasy skin plus crushed bugs.
As with the recognized high street chain store sunglasses brand the frames do look stronger and damage more likely to be a scratched or cracked lens from dropping or sitting on them. So far they are sturdy enough and in full working order. They are snug around the lugs and fit surprisingly well. There can’t be that many sizes for sunglasses. The lenses are bigger and more rounded than the more sporty Oakley lines but still feel trendy. Sometimes you can buy sunglasses you think are cool but don’t look cool on you. We have all been there but never knew it. Its amazing how self conscious certain items of clothing can make you feel. I never used to where shades until April but now have no problem with wearing them on a crisp and clear sunny November morning.
On the whole good value sunglasses at twenty pounds (in context that there is not such thing with the cheaper ones) and stylish enough to recommend. They have a small 12 week guarantee covered under the standard Boots rules and a nice little carry pouch. If you shop around you can buy a similar design quality and style from stores like Marks & Spencer’s and Debenhams. I’m afraid you have to spend money now to get decent sunglasses that will last and very much substance over style now.
England have lost only their second ever test match against India at Lords, the previous some 80 years ago. India have only ever one six tests in England and India’s weaker seam attack often sited for their failures in English style conditions. It’s the same in India when England visit as they lose out to India’s spinning pitches. But for captain Alistair Cook it look s grim, picked as captain for his big hundred scoring ability, reason now to drop him after a terrible run of scores. Since 130 v NZ, Cook''''s Test scores: 13, 50, 12, 8, 62, 0, 51, 22, 25, 34, 13, 65, 3, 1, 72, 0, 27, 51, 7, 7, 17, 28, 17, 16, 5,10 and now 22. He may want to stay on until the end of the season but he is no longer affecting results and will have to go. He may well pick up a ‘groin strain’ before next weeks test and have arrest or may even stay and bat down the order.
Lords rolled out its greenest pitch I can remember after the ECB were fined for the dead and low pitch in the first drawn Test at Trent Bridge, somewhat unfair as the TB pitch is always good and this a blip. The feeling was it was flattened out to last five days to put money in the till.
England won the toss and put India in on that treasured green carpet. All touring teams insist on a test at Lords and raise their game accordingly. At 145-7 it seemed to be going to plan but yet again England could not remove the tail. They bowled poorly in the first session and poorly in the last as young Rahane batted through the chaos, putting 90 on with that man Kumar and 50 more with Shami, Rahane unbeaten on 103. India were very happy with 295 all out, Anderson 4-60. Stuart Broad passed 250 test wickets for England and now seventh in the all time list for England test wicket takers.
-The top England wicket takers-
Botham - 383
ANDERSON - 364
Willis - 325
Trueman - 307
Underwood - 297
Swann - 255
Statham - 252
BROAD - 252
Hoggard - 248
Bedser - 236
The wicket wasn’t quite as green but England never looked comfortable. Balance guided them to 215-5 with his second test hundred before all-rounder Plunkett closed the innings on 319 with 55*. It was a small lead and India right in the game, Kumar 6-82 and the first India to take five wickets in his first two tests in England.
India batted better second time around, 95 form opener Vijay guiding them to 235 for 7 and setting a tough total for England to chase, Pajara 43, now the second highest test average of players still playing at 62. 2. 344 is the record 4th innings chase at Lords in Tests, by the mighty West Indian side of Greenwich, Haynes and Richards, 280 the second best. Jadeja (68) and that man Kumar (52) again exposed England’s inability to knock over the tail, 342 all out proved too much and set England 318 to win in four sessions.
England wobbled at 74-4, victory almost there, before Root (66) and Moeen Ali (39) put on 101, Ali going last ball before lunch on the final day, 173-5 and India just ahead. England came out swinging after lunch, Dhoni ordering Istan Sharma to bowl bouncer after bouncer, Prior eventually caught in the deep taking them on at 200-6. England didn’t have the stamina Sharma did and moronically tried to hook him out of the attack, costing three more wickets caught on the hook in the deep. Sharma polished off Broad and Anderson run out and India had won their first Lords Test since 1935. Sharma’s 7-74 is the best bowling figures by an Indian bowler in a test in England.
For me Cook should have gone before the summer started, the 5-0 Ashes hammering the end of his players giving him everything on the field. Kevin Pietersen had split the dressing room and the need for unity over his match winning slogs won out. Without him they have lost seven out of nine tests.
Malaysian Airlines are not going to survive this latest crash. After MH370 ‘disappeared’ and the airline held back critical information to delay the search passengers lost trust in the airline. The airline responded by cutting prices and costs to win back passengers. This meant some of their long haul routes were the cheapest on the market, meaning backpackers and families travelling on a budget packed their flights, terribly ironic. Malaysian Airlines, like many major carriers, had no room to maneuver on costs and so were one of many airlines still flying over the war torn area of the Ukraine to save on fuel and airtime costs.
To beat the rules of the ceiling set by European flight controllers at 32,000 ft and above the Ukraine they flew at 33,000ft. To a sophisticated Surface to Air missile battery this 1000 ft is irrelevant. The pilots knew that and did not want to be there. Malaysian airlines were not going to change their routes. The Ukraine authorities posted a warning on June 14th to avoid this route as they had intelligence the Russians had moved powerful BUK mobile SAM Missiles into Eastern Europe to shoot down Ukraine military planes. Quantas stopped flying there over three months ago. This is why they are the world’s safest airline. Some airlines have to take risks to keep flying. If you knew just how many airliners land with just 10% or less of their fuel left with little access to cover emergencies you would never fly again. If you circle and airstrip more than three times you are in trouble.
Russia as good as fired that missile. The rebels in Eastern Ukraine have no aircraft and so no need for the Ukrainians to be firing ground to air missiles at them. These separatists are being armed by Russia and many of them are Russian military. The West, of course, don’t want to start a war with Russia over this and the European Union willing to surrender Eastern Ukraine to avoid hassle. A lot of Russian oligarchs hide their money in Europe’s financial centers to avoid Russian taxes and corruption and the likes of London and Paris want to keep it. The British Prime Minister simply doesn’t want to upset those money men, however many planes Russia shoot down. London and Britain’s recovery is being driven by corrupt and foreign money being ‘invested’ in London.
This war is all about oil and gas. The Crimea seizure gives Russia back control of the strategically important Black Sea oil & gas and military bases and the Eastern Ukraine is where the pipes leave Russia to the all-important European gas markets, 80% of Europe’s gas coming through the Ukraine. Because Russia’s huge Gazprom Company own most shares in Ukraine gas infrastructure and fields there are all manner of battles going on over sovereignty. Russia sells gas cheaper to Europe and so the Ukraine was siphoning off some of that oil and gas to get it cheap.
In that region the countries that allow gas and oil pipelines to cross their territories get a royalty for every therm and barrel. Only last year the Ukraine announced a massive natural gas strike in that Eastern region of ‘their’ country. This would make the country increasingly self-sufficient for oil and gas and less dependent on Russia. Dutch oil companies have the biggest investment in those fields. The European Union wants Ukraine in the union to get cheap oil and gas and have been tempted them in. 75% of the plane passenger manifest was Dutch. Basically Russia is fed up of the independent Ukraine and wants them back in the fold. It’s just a theory.
All wars are about energy and scarce resources in the end and this one no different. A Ukraine in the EU makes the EU much stronger and Russia weaker. A 911 style attack on commercial airliner is a proven way for Putin to show his absolute power in this war to the West. He will do it again.
This shoot down of MH17 and investigation may inconveniently reveal more information of the loss of MH370. Was that also shot down by a missile from a countries missile battery and covered up to save that government’s skin and protect them for compensation? Any plane deliberately going off radar becomes a bomb in these post 911 years, one that may have been heading for the Malaysian parliament and an aircraft stuffed with aviation fuel controlled by an angry politically active pilot.
A Labor politician is pushing for a bill in parliament to legalize assisted suicide, where a doctor can put a terminally ill patient to sleep forever. Lord Falconer (Blair’s big mate) is getting support from unlikely places, including Desmond Tutu and George Carey, as prominent Bishops as you can get. If Gods servants want you to hurry along then what chance have we got to living to 80 in the future?
They say it’s purely about helping terminally ill or sick people to end their lives because legally the able bodies loved ones and medical professionals are not allowed to do it at the moment. Living in pain or delirium can’t be pleasant and so I suppose you should be allowed to end it all if you can’t do it yourself. But critics say this is really about the ageing west and the almost impossible burden the old and sick have become on the state and so if they could be hurried along it would take the pressure off the health service. By 2020 one-in-six in the west will be over retirement age and the working population will have to increase and to pay more taxes to pay for them. People here don’t like immigrants or taxes. It’s simply becoming too expensive to get old now. Unless we cull everyone over 80 the money will have to come from the tax increases and immigrant workers and yet more reckless banking models to generate cash from thin air.
The worry is that a perfectly reasonable law to help doctors put to sleep terminally ill patients with as little pain as possible may become more cynical, relatives pressured by their families to go and leave them the house or the state box-ticking away lives away in hospital by asking doc to increase morphine to fatal levels. Already we are seeing doctors putting pressure on parents to ‘accelerate’ the end of elderly patients lives with last stage dementia by ticking five boxes so to deny food and water, the doctors simply wanting the beds to keep the hospital functioning as their budgets are slashed. If a patient refuses food and water the hospital legally doesn’t have to feed them, a loop hole put there to be exploited, one suspects. Delirious patients with dementia often think they are being poisoned in hospitals when fed and watered and so naturally refuse it. It’s how my father died. All dementia patients die early in the morning in hospitals when relatives are not around. Faced with a deliberately extortionate $1000 per week care home bill its no surprise people tick the boxes.
In Holland where they introduced assisted dyeing deaths have exploded since the law was bought in back in 1994, 1- in - 30 deaths are now euthanasia there. They even have mobile units to go out to the patients to finish them off at home. The deaths rose 13% in 2012 alone, the sixth straight year of increases. The more confident doctors get at assisted suicides the more there seem to be. It takes bed pressure off their hospitals and the world goes on as the burden is lifted from both the families and the health systems. How long is it until the government decides you have no choice and they decide you are a burden? All those terminally ill people who balance on top of the stairs at the High Court in their wheelchairs to protest for the right to die have no idea just how much they are being exploited, ironic as their campaigns backed by high profile lawyers are often the incentive for them to keep living.
Trent Bridge is a great place to watch cricket and one of the more consumer friendly stadiums with its quirky stands and odd shape. This is not an oval. Its new modern stand behind the arm encourages swing and so favors English bowlers, often a result test in favor of the home team in test matches. But because of that the test only lasts three or so days against the weaker touring teams and this years visitors India certainly fit that criteria. They have won just two tests in 18 here and 1982 there last decent series, Because of that the ECB instructed the groundsmen to roll out pitch that would last five days so the Nottingham test ground could get some money in the till. They went one better and gave the victor a pitch straight from Madras, dry, flat and low.
Felling at home India batted first and piled up 457, Vijay stroking 146 for his first test in England, the highlight putting on 126 with India captain Dhoni. Jamie Anderson three wickets took him within three scalps of Ian Botham’s English test record of 383 wickets. Kumar and Sharma guided the tail past 450 with a record 111 last wicket stand for India in England. England now average 31 for the last wicket against in the last five years, three 100 plus partnerships, including that then world record 163 by Aussies Agar and Hughes last year, also at Nottingham.
Cook was out cheap and yet more pressure on the England captain, now in that fatal paradox where the pressure increases to get a score and so your scores get worse because of the pressure. Foreign born Balance (Zim) and Robson (Aus) recovered things with a 125 partnership for a half-century each before the inevitable collapse came, crashing to 298-9. But young Root took over with a big century, which, amazingly, ended up being the backbone of a new world record for the tenth wicket, his 154* and Jamie Anderson with 81 adding 198 for the last wicket to grab a remarkable lead in the match. There were 5 wickets for young Kumar, bringing back the mullet look for opening fast bowlers.
Barring a huge wobbly (or some dodgy Indian bookies involved) a draw was nailed on. Half-centuries for Vijay (52) and Pujara (55) glided India into a possible wining position to set up 50 overs at England with the spinners around the bat but a big wobble came and 184 for 6 pushed the game back England’s way before Binny (78) and that man Kumar (63*) secured the draw with 91 for the 8th wicket, a very Indian test match result. England used 8 bowlers and Cook taking a rare and comical test wicket with his dobblers, the only smile he could manage all test. Anderson was later charged with pushing an Indian player in the tunnel after the close, a tactic to unsettle England for today’s Lords test no doubt.
The year of 2014 made Smartphone''s affordable for the PAYG user. I am one of those cheapskates that waited until now. Until recently a mobile phone for me was for text and calls, tiny screen, simple as. I did have Wap internet on my old phone but it was expensive, never connected and not exactly fun on a one inch screen. Once owning a cell phone was all about how small and cool it was but not now.
As soon as owning a Smartphone became all about size the smaller 3 and 4 inch screen size ones became dated very quickly and so the price collapsed. Every girl and guy would prefer 6 inches to 4.5 inches, right? You can get more pleasure from six inches, of course. It''s definitely a case of how big it is and not how you use it here. It''s roughly about 50 quid extra for each half-inch of screen increase. If you do want a top of the range 4.5 inch screen then the Motorola G is the one I would have gone for, currently 100 quid on Amazon. To put it simply the smaller screen smartphones that were are 120 pounds are now 65 and brilliant value. Contract and business smart phone users never have to worry about buying phones and just pay monthly but all of a sudden you can now go PAYG on those sexy smartphones. Admittedly the PAYG data charges are outrageous and you will use up your credit within twenty minutes browsing so cheaper to get a contract if you want to browse out and about, and so the internet priced high for that reason. But at least WIFI hotspot its mean you can surf for free in places like pubs and hotels, why I bought this one. I didn''t fancy a 5.7 behemoth, mainly because my budget doesn''t stretch to it, and so settled for just 4 inches and the Nokia Lumia 520. I chose this one as it was bang centre of my price range on Amazon (60-80pounds) and featured in all the top 10 budget smart phones lists I looked at. It was between this one and the Huawei Ascend G510 but the later having only 15 reviews on Amazon to the Nokia''s 429 reviews. That tells its own story and so I decided to steer away from the Chinese upstart and go with the cool blue-eyed Scandinavian. If you want to go slightly smaller on screen size you can buy a pretty good 3.0-3.5 inch smartphone today for just 45-50 bucks. They really are worth it. They will make for great Christmas and birthday presents for your mum and dad and now is the time to get them used to internet on the go. If not we will have more of those dreadfully patronizing adverts like the Barclays Legal Eagles commercial with the old fart on Skype.
The battery is semi charged in the sealed box from new and then you just charge up the rest with the adapter provided. You also get earphones in the box and a Bluetooth cable. The battery doesn''t take long to charge, barely twenty minutes with this one. The set up process is like any other basic software instruction and you just press install tab a few times. If you press yes to something you are not sure about you can always correct it later.
The Lumnia 520 is a smooth black monolith rectangle that is light and has a good battery. Some say those apes beating their chest on Kubrick''s A Space Odyssey: 2001 are the sort of people who would buy this now. I turn off my phone most of the time and run the smart battery app when it''s on to make the battery last. I have yet to re-charge after one weeks use. The phone does have a rather boring start display but we are not here for the bells and whistles. The touch screen is super sensitive and one quickly gets used to moving through the screens and hyperlinks. This one also turns the display on its side when you do likewise with the phone, which is very smart. You need to get a protective case though because if these hit something hard the screen will break and maybe worse. The cases are a couple of quid on Amazon or a fiver on your local market.
All the email and phone messaging stuff also takes time to seek out but you can re-arrange the tiles on the front screen to get there quicker. If you slide the main screen to the left a long list of features are displayed. Again general messing around with the phone will help you discover its features. Don''t be afraid to try things. There is an app store listed to get free stuff for the Windows 8 operating system on the 520 but they do say Android phones offer far more free services and apps. All the big websites and social media apps are free to all on most operating systems and don''t take long to download. Remember that these apps may run while you don''t use them and that mean leaked data usage so if you leave Facebook or whatsap running then wave goodbye to your PAYG data. You can turn them off fairly easily or you hold your thumb down on the app and it gives you options to delete it.
The screen resolution is impressive and it is like being on a mini internet. Obviously you can''t do your regular browsing as you would on your laptop as things don''t fit as well so best to research bespoke apps you may need. I have downloaded weather radar and sports sites for my cricket writing work and also the app version of the BBC and Wikipedia. They do the job. Rating ciao reviews is not easy. There are thousands of apps you can download free so no worries there and if you do have to pay your network will simply deduct the cash form your credit, normally around 80p to a pound.
You can download and play games on the phone although this one phone perhaps not as good for games. You can also Bluetooth link to your other devices. The letter keyboard is small and fiddly for email and texts and the like but you can download free keyboards to upgrade the size and sensitivity. Like I say the screen is very sensitive and you will keep pressing the wrong key, which is slightly annoying. The separate number pad is excellent for making phone calls. The external speakers are good and the camera has its own switch on the side of the phone to activate and seems fine as far as clarity goes. The side buttons on the phone take sometime to get used to as they are placed where you grip the phone and so you can easily turn the phone off or to standby by pressing the button accidentally.
So summing up
It''s the ideal phone to have to move from regular mobile to Smartphone. You have a hundred quid''s worth of hi tec kit that was two hundred just a couple of years ago in your hand today for just 70 bucks. It''s slightly delicate in the hand and you have to hold and caress it like a baby but that''s how it''s designed. It has everything you need to communicate and a brilliant list''s of free apps and things and gadgets you can quickly download. Those apps don''t take long to add and you can be on Facebook within a minute or two of downloading the app. It''s cool stuff. Because it''s a very popular model all the spares - generic or not - are available cheap on Amazon so no new battery or screen issues.
Its time to upgrade folks and going Smartphone is a revelation. If you''re at work or play you can easily find a hotspot and surf away so don''t worry about PAYG costs. You can also tether it to your home broadband or download a free text app like cfbs.com. It''s technically easily to operate although if you have a fuddy duddy mum like me you may have to sit them down and wag your finger to explain how easy smartphones are to use and so not that intimidating. One slight niggle is the main Back, Internet and Refresh buttons on the bottom of the actual frame of the phone are not back lit so you have to set it to vibrate to find them in the dark.
Pairing 5 ft 5 inch Dustin Hoffman with 5 ft 9 inch Emma Thompson is like dragging two Pandas over from China to try and get them to get it on in a European Zoo, in this case London Zoo. The chemistry is just not there, a Golden Globe nomination each for their attempted insemination. They were OK together in the rather good Stranger than Fiction with Will Ferrell so decided to try again with this one. Sometimes even great actors, which they are, can''t produce movie magic in romantic comedies, which they don''t.
New Yorker Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman) is one of those musicians who do jingles for radio and TV commercials and the like. He is off to London to be with his daughter Susan (Liane Balaban), who is getting married to Englishman Scott (Daniel Lapaine), but worried about his job in Manhattan so wants to race back after the ceremony to secure his next contract. He has drifted from his daughter in recent years after getting divorced from wife Jean (Kathy Baker) and so Susan has asked her new dad Brian (James Brolin) to give her away instead. Not only could he lose his job on this trip but his daughter.
Londoner and market researcher Kate (Emma Thompson) is also single and only her over-protective mom to care for, Maggie Walker (Eileen Atkins) constantly calling her daughters mobile when she is on dates or at work.
Kate''s first contact with Hervey is at arrivals, where he brushes off her market research approach at Heathrow. The two clash again in a London pub, Harvey contemplating that his boss (Richard Schiff) has just told him he is likely to be fired so stay in London and be with his daughter, a daughter that has all but disowned him, whilst Kate is just sad at her empty life of mum and London. A spark occurs and the two walk around the city for a bit (making sure all the famous London landmarks are in shot for the movie), realizing they have things in common, maybe the start of a beautiful friendship. But Kate is used to being alone and not about to let an American who lives 3000 miles away break her heart. Or as Kate puts it: ?I''m not gonna do it, because it''ll hurt! Sometime or other there''ll be, you know "It''s not working." or "I need my space." or whatever it is and it will end and it will hurt, and I won''t do it''.
There are some nice lines and always great to watch these two on screen, especially the effervescent Thompson, but Hoffman in his ankle length raincoat and Thompson all wrapped up in Marks & Sparks it ends up like Colombo meets Mary Poppins for their London adventure. The problem is they are so good they can breeze through this stuff and so something gets lost, that thing called movie magic. You just don''t believe they would pair off. If you think of that incredible restrained and very British chemistry with Antony Hopkins in Remains of the Day you know she could do better, or at least pick a more plausible co-star. I presume the director was so chuffed to get interest in the decent script from both that he just cast them there and then.
As per usual with America/British projects every London landmark is wheeled on like scenery at local thereat as actors linger in front of Tower Bridge and the Millennium Dome, making it a tad cliche and forced at times. It''s not too bad, screenplay wise, but the romance isn''t there and not enough going on elsewhere, poor old Richard Schiff typecast as the always anxious New York Jew and Hoffman looking his age. I wanted the writing to be stronger and the comedy to be funnier, the high ratings for this movie suggesting it would be good. Its OK but don''t expect an enthralling weepy romance with convincing leads, a kind of watered down Richard Curtiss affair.
Doest add a great deal to the movie with no additional extras. As I don''t know what the regular DVD extras I can hardly say this is any better on that point as it has none. It looks crisp and the sound always way better on Blue Ray. Alas it does make Emma Thompson s skin look worse. Hoffman , on the other hand, doesn''t look his 71-years.
What happens in the dressing room says in the dressing room, so says Sir Alex, his long awaited autobiography not answering many questions about his illustrious career. Fergies approach is more of a memoir of Manchester United here and simply responds to the press stories we know about to make him less responsible for them, like the flying Beckham boot, the Rio drug ban, his questionable football agent son and the Roy Keane departure, for example. We really don''t learn much more about those infamous run in''s and the book really about the continuing respect of the club Ferguson loves and refuses to damage with any negative stuff. He is still an insider after all.
All previous biographers have covered his early days in Scotland as a player and a manager and his brief spell as a pub landlord so this book can race on to United, for the United fans, its core sales pitch. Alex was a good striker and played for Rangers and scored a lot of goals but that''s stuff is not for United fans. Some of the stuff is new but still rather trivial, like the fact Beckham wore his Beanie hat for three days at training and out and about Manchester so not to reveal his new haircut to photographers, the level of vain celebrity he had reached. Alex makes it quite clear in the book that once players get bigger than the club they have to go, however good they are, perhaps Ferguson''s biggest fault as a manager. Letting guys go like Beckham, Stam and Van Nistelroy damaged the club and cost United trophies. Those were the best three players in their positions United had under Ferguson. But they crossed him with their attitude and that was that. He would let the players rib him some, banter always good for team spirit, players in the 90s enjoying winding him up by saying ?we need another Ralph Milne'', boss, as any United fans know, United''s worse ever signing. But if any young players would call him Alex he would tear them a new back side. His ego as ?the boss'' was huge.
The Rio Ferdinand six month ban does reveal an accidental clue to why the press thought he would fail the drugs test he never took. The testers turned up and the list handed over of the random four players they wanted to test. The first three were fine but Rio late. The Manchester United people said he was on the way and took the testers to the United canteen. That gap allowed Rio to ''forget'' and leave the ground, the same way Serena Williams refused to have her bags searched when she left last weeks Wimbledon or locked herself in her panic room at home when they arrived unannounced. Nothing suggests Rio took performance enhancing drugs back then as he was lethargic to say the least but you could definitely see him smoking pot at weekends, why I think he legged it. There is no situation where Ferguson can defend players for missing drug tests, which he does in the book.
I did chuckle at Sebastian Veron refusing to learn English and calling Sir Alex ?mister'' on the training ground and little else, and the revelation that 23-year-old Kleberson from Brazil would bring his 16-year-old girlfriend and father-in-law to team talks as translators. Presumably he knew some English but no Glaswegian. Alex Ferguson''s obsession with the JFK killing was an eyebrow raiser and the most obtuse in the book. On the heroic side Nemanja Vidic recently insisted that he return home to do his national service in defense of a free Serbia! We also learnt that Paul Scholes enjoyed surprising players and coaches by hitting them on the back of the head with 70 yard pinged passes, including Gary Neville urinating in a bush mistakenly thinking he was suitably camouflaged from the ginger wizard.
Alex talks about his pride for the club a lot and the 72 players the academy produced and sold on to have top careers elsewhere. What he doesn''t talk about is the bundle of cash thrown in his car window from Andre Konchelskis agent or go into detail about his son Jason and that panorama program that clearly showed that certain managers and agents were up to no good. As Cloughy said back in the day ? managers expect a bung as they were not well paid back then. Fergie also talks about the press and his conflict with them, perhaps intimidated that they were better educated than him and so not like his cowering players that would do as they were told. He occasionally threw them out of press conferences if he didn''t like their questions, famously not talking to the BBC for three years over the Jason issue. That to me is a control creamery. He quotes in the book that he likes and respects people who apologies when they know they were wrong. I just can''t imagine Alex being that man who apologizes.
If you are a United fan there is nothing new here. If you are not a United fan you probably won''t read this book anyway. It''s a dull read because this guy has a story to tell he is refusing to tell. There was no animosity when he left the club so why would there be in the book? I would have loved to have known if he had offered Moyes the job as a mate and why he did sign so many players that were clearly there just to sell the United shirts and ?the brand'' to the rest of the world to secure media and commercial endorsements. Those are the brave and interesting football books, Robbie Fowler, Stan Collymore and Neil Warnock''s books to name but three. There were simply no wow moments in this book.
The topical argument is raging over whether the hugely successful three days of the Tour De France in England will encourage more cycling in the U.K. The Olympics certainly had that effect and portly middle-class men in Lycra a common site on our roads today. Amazing crowds turned out in beautiful Yorkshire to watch the blur of color whizz by but both crowd and sport still in total denial over drugs and corruption in the sport. This is a race you can''t finish without drugs, let alone get in the top 50. But it was a free show and so the Yorkshire people weren''t too bothered about the morals of it all and turned out in their millions to enjoy the occasion.
7 time tour winner Lance Armstrong pretty much destroyed the tour by getting caught for massive drug use and only one guy who finished on the podium in those seven Tours did not have a drug conviction. Some American sports are as dirty but cycling is the only one where you need to cheat just to take part in it. EPO has a 4 hour half-life and so the ?loyal'' testers simply wait a bit for it to clear the system and no one is the wiser, international cycling federations complicit in the cheating. It''s all about the money and if everyone stays quiet then everyone gets paid...the riders, the media the support staff all dependent on the lie. It''s not possible for the likes of Wiggins and Frome to win it without someone in their team cheating. Kenyan born Froome has claimed to have all manner of illnesses so to be able to take ?legal'' steroid treatments, including typhoid and bilharzias.
There are two kinds of leisure cyclists here. There are the ones who can''t drive and use public transport and bikes to get to work and play. The male ones are far more likely to be single and live with their mother. The second lot are the ones who also have a car and can chose to either drive or cycle to work and play. They have all the kit and the nice bike and tend to be middle-class and male. They tend to be the ones who come into conflict with car drivers the most, a sort of transport schizophrenia. They know both sides of the argument, so to speak. For me these cyclists tend to stick their helmets on and plug their Ipods in and leave it up to the motorists not to hit them. Woe betide if any driver disturbs their world of Radiohead and Skype chat
These guys also like to go riding at weekends and in the evenings in their Festina tops and Lyrca shorts, perhaps those portly bellies and tight shorts suggesting they are not getting that many heath benefits from their chosen sport, it''s biggest attraction. Middle England on cycles is like Middle-England in Waitrose, buying the fair-trade coffee and organic vedge to prove their eco credentials to the lower orders to make themselves feel good and guilt free yet destroying the environment just like everyone else with other aspects of their lives ? there SUV for the school run. Cycling is healthy and we should encourage it but the leisure racing bike side is essentially a middle-class statement that they can be healthy and self-indulgent at the same time.
So what is going on at Williams? Suddenly their car is competitive after ten years of swallowing fumes at the back of the grid and could yet win this years World Championship. They are way back but its double points for the last grand prix and they are fast. Valyrie Botas from Belgium, their star driver, finished third in Austria and a brilliant second at the British Grand Prix and could well win the next Grand Prix.
At the Silverstone press day in Northampton I was speaking to a Mercedes mechanic and he said the Williams car now has the same engine as Mercedes and so should be on the podium every week. He thinks its confidence that gives Lewis and Rosberg the edge. Botas is a driver who can match them on the straights and corners. The mechanic also said that Lewis would win on Sunday, with a nod and a wink, so I put a few quid on Lewis and off to collect it.
But the big story at Williams at the weekend was Suzi Wolff, the team female test driver. She was allowed valuable track time to test in Botas car last weekend at Silverstone as part of her audition to be the next female F1 driver one-day. But many said it was a publicity stunt, many male drivers much faster out there and more suited and deserving to an F1 drive. In fact she broke down after 4 laps on the 45 minute session, her first three laps pretty slow at around 1 minute 45 seconds.
A man made a documentary about her called ?The Fastest Woman in the World'', suggesting she is the best female driver out there, which is far from true. That honor goes to Danika Patrick, the sexy US Indy car racer. The documentary maker was David Stoddart, who just happens to be Wolff''s brother. The name Wolff comes from her husband Toto, who is race director at Mercedes Grand Prix. He is also a share holder at Williams, suggesting it his hard cash that got her the test seat. Suzi Wolf has never won a race in her life but she is pretty and marketable. It''s no coincidence that her two very public test drives this season were at her home Grand Prix and the other at her German husbands Grand Prix at Hockenheim. Maybe she is reporting back to hubby right now and why that Williams car is going faster?
Williams''s team principal is the daughter of owner Frank Williams, Clare Williams, perhaps, feeling she needed to promote women in the sport and so going along with this. I can''t blame Suzi for taking her chance in a sport where F1 seats are really hard to come by and her networking top notch but does this affirmative action really prove women can be top race drivers? If 50% of those coming forward to race were women the half the grid would probably be women but they don''t and so there is no female F1 driver. Yes a lot of male drivers at the back of the grid buy their way into cars by getting sizable outside sponsorship to help fund the team but Wolff is nowhere near quick enough for that prestige.
Belgium proved against Argentina that they will only ever be a quarter-final team. The hype about them going deep seems to be more about the fact they have a lot of Premier League players in their line up, rather than they have a winning team. Eleven current EPL guys in the team. The big names were found wanting against Argentina, Hazard and Lukaka simply not fancying it. It''s a shame as they played in one of the best game sin world cup history in a thrilling last 16 win over the USA. The game was played in an almost innocent and naive manner with no cynical diving or rolling round screaming to be had. The American players are more likely to have come through the collegiate system than a professional league and they showed it in the gentleman way they played. It was so refreshing and we can only wish other leagues took it up as clearly the Belgium lads enjoyed playing the same way. Belgium certainly have a team for the future and as the best qualifiers in the European Zone look good for a possible win in the European Championships of 2016. But right now they are not quite there.
This weeks semi finals have a familiar look about them. There have been 19 World Cups and only 8 nations have ever won the trophy and only four other nations have made a final. It''s a very prestigious club. Germany has made it to four straight semi-finals and an incredible 16 straight 1/4s. Holland are due glory, this their 4th final. This year''s semi-finalists have featured 20 times in the final and 30 times in the semi-finals between them.
As far as winning the trophy it could be anyone of the four. Argentina have Messi whilst Brazil have Brazil ? although not Neymar, knobled by the Columbians, a country familiar with knobling. Brazil could well be a better team without him as he rarely passed the ball. Over to you Hulk. Holland and Germany for Europe look the stronger teams. It''s Holland for me. It''s their turn and Robben the key man this World Cup.
Then She Found Me, based on the 1990 book by Eleanor Lipman, and the feature film writing, directing and producing debut of Helen Hunt, she of the Piano and Oscar winner for As Good as it Gets with Jack Nicholson.
The book is a complex one and deals with the three-in-one subject of adoption - being adopted, having your child adopted, and adopting one. In the hands of first time director Helen Hunt it was a stretch. But these days these type of films have to be made on a budget and so the best way to do it, which she does, hence her intense (and some say gurning) performance to get it seen.
Deeply religious Jewish schoolteacher April Epner (Helen Hunt) is single again after separating from her rather childish husband Ben (Matthew Broderick). She was adopted as a young child and also getting hassle from her abrasive Jewish non biological mother on her deathbed for not having a baby as April''s 40th birthday approaches. Mother doesn''t last long thereafter and April soon contacted out of the blue by her real mom, who turns out to be mouthy talk show host Bernice Graves (Bette Midler).
Bumbling Englishman Frank (Colin Firth) also has an interest in April, his kid at her school, soon making his romantic intensions completely unclear. Things are complicated when April''s breakup sex with her ex husband means she is pregnant, not exactly a deal breaker for Frank, who is taking out his frustrations of his broken marriage on April, as April is on Frank. After disowning Graves for lying about how April was conceived and how much she wanted her daughter thereafter it''s not a time for April to down meaningful relationships and some sort of happiness as her 40th birthday ticks up.
Well, it''s ok, but nothing more. At times it''s funny when it''s not meant to be, like when Salman Rushdie of all people turns up as a shrink. Rushdie has chased in on this fatwa thing where he has to live a secret life with all the bodyguards yet chose to do be in a Hollywood film set. Salman is a pompous twit. The whole film feels forced and the actor''s casts to boost the audience demographics rather than the films chances.
Hunt does the best she can with her multitasking but the directing isn''t as good as it could be, sound booms in shot and the camera lingering too long here or not enough there. Hunt really puts a lot into her performance and it comes out as too forced at times. It''s unclear what she is really that anxious about. Doesn''t every woman want to have ten weeks off a year as a teacher and be pursued by the bumbling Englishman abroad that is Colin Firth (and boy does he bumble). Talk about an actor who has got lazy in his middle years. Better Midler has only ever annoyed the crap out of me.
It''s not that funny or engaging and only a dust cover machine-gunned with award laurels and broadsheet quotes temps you to rent it. I think it''s fair to say Hunt gets the full support of the film industry on her movie behind the camera now the crow''s feet are clawing. The main problem with this is its too ambitious and in the wrong hands. The whole concept or an adopted mother having an adoptive daughter, who then adopts, herself, is lost in a religious parable that becomes more comedy of errors than a gentle romcom.
Tony Parson said to his son that to learn how to be British you must endure England in the World Cup, the stiff upper lip, the highs and lows but the inevitable disappointment. The same could be said of Wimbledon and Tim Henman, until Andy Murray came along, never a plucky Brit and always destined to win Wimbledon. It was the highest of mountains Murray climbed last year to win Wimbledon and I don''t think he will ever climb it again, perhaps hoping to win the French and Australian to etch his name in tennis history. If Federer wins Wimbledon it will be record 8th time, a record Murray has no chance of getting anywhere near.
The men''s semi finals see Federer v the big serving smasher Raonic and Djokovic v Dimitrov, the Bulgarian boyfriend of Sharapova and the next big name in men tennis. I bet on him at 25-1 to win this year and 20/1 on Bouchard so I''m very happy. A rather skinny looking Nadal crashed out to an unknown 6, 8` Aussie big booming serve goon and Murray beaten badly by Mr Dimitrov. For me Nadal is a drug cheat and when he was out for 7 months a while back with seven different injuries I think he was secretly serving a drug ban. Tennis likes to keep secrets to protect the brand and sponsors. The sports sponsors love to sponsor the 100m guys for their superhuman feats but don''t want you to know they are using illegal substances to achieve those feats you think you can match using their products. If Virgin broadband was as fast as Usain Bolt we would all be happy.
The Women''s Final will feature the gorgeous new comer Eugenie Bouchard against the not so gorgeous Czech Petra Kvitova. Women''s tennis will never admit it but the better looking the girl the more money and exposure she, and they, will make. Kvitova won Wimbledon in 2011 and then faded away until 2014. Bouchard, on the other hand, is hot, the new Sharapova, all legs and backhand. She is charging up the rankings and her looks give her that confidence to do just that. She is a winner and turned her third straight grand slam semi-final into a final here and I expect her to win on Saturday. The Tennis sponsors, the crowd and the boys will all want Kvitova to lose in this cruel world ruled and ranked by looks.
Sharapova lost earlier in the week and Williams even earlier, also crying off a doubles match claiming to be ill. A couple of years ago she locked herself in her panic room when the drug testers did an unannounced test, Serena calling the cops fearing an intruder. The tester walked down the drive and rang her bell, hardly bandits. Serena clearly do not want to take that test, her muscular frame as suspicious as you can get she is a drug cheat. I think she has been caught this time hence her hasty exit from Wimbledon.
The Hollywood sign originally read Hollywoodland, promoting a real estate project in the 1920s. The 4 letters were removed in 1949. Somewhat surprisingly no movie had been called that, this 2007 effort Ben Afflecks realization that he should actually try acting in his movies. Before, the blockheaded hunk just clunked through films looking pretty. But not many people know he has won an Oscar, and not for Argo, which he famously didnt win for, picking up one with his big mate Matt Damon for the brilliant Goodwill Hunting.
Allen Coulter is behind the camera here to tell the true story of the death of TV Superman actor George Reeves in 1959. It was decided it was a suicide at the time but a man who had everything to live for, others saying he was murdered, that conflict why we have the movie.
Private investigator Lois Simo (Adrien Brody) cares more about money than his clients, until his little son Evan (Zach Mills) is upset at the death of Superman on TV. George Reeves (Affleck) was found dead by a single gunshot to the head and his mother (Jeanne Parker) doesn''t think its suicide. The cop''s wont touch the case and so Simo takes it on so to make a name for himself.
Through flashback we learn that Reeves was having an affair with Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the wife of MGM chief Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins), the powerful and ruthless movie mogul capable of almost anything. Toni kept Reeves career going with gifts of car and houses until he landed the role of Superman. The deeper Simo digs the murkier things get, more people ending up dead and studio heavies leaning on Simo to back off. Was it a simply suicide from a man who knew his career was over and could never be the super star he wanted to be or was he a marked man?
Outside of the novelty of seeing Affleck taking on a dramatic role, there isn''t much in Hollywoodland to keep us hooked. Bob Hoskins has left us and you could see in this film his role was restricted due to his Parkinson''s disease. Brody is so cliche he actually chews a match stick playing the private dick. You get the impression the film was a good idea in concept but became rather difficult to make into an interesting one. Is there any real evidence that Reeves didnt commit suicide.
There is a mystery here but its not really resolved, left to the viewer to decide how Reeves was killed, who shot JR style. I think this movie only got made because Affleck and Brody agreed to do it, a common Hollywood paradox. It never really gets going and apart from the ok script and authentic locations it all falls a bit flat as the film plods towards it third hour. Im sure there is an intriguing story and in the hands of someone like Scorcese but not with first time director Coulter.