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Member since: 19.05.2009

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      20.11.2010 22:42
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      Really popular in our house; highly recommended!

      My dog is the kind of dog that will gladly accept any gift with grace and enthusiasm; he will never disappoint you with a blasé reaction and will always show appreciation, no matter how naff the toy, bless him (that's why we love him!)

      I like to think we have bought him some good and really enjoyable toys though (although the humble slipper remains ever popular); he has the standard squeaky toys, tug ropes, stuffed toys, a mega nylon chew bone, a kong, tennis balls, old slippers, etc, etc.

      One day, however, my brother came to visit with something he and his girlfriend had picked up at TK Maxx. As I examined the gift, it took me a while to figure out that it actually was a dog toy and not just something that they thought would make a good dog toy as I was somewhat distracted by the Space Hopper appearance, however, it is indeed a space hopper toy designed for dogs by the company Good Boy, which I generally have found to be a great company for both treats and toys, this toy being one of the main reasons for me being a fan of them, along with their white chocolate substitute puppy buttons!

      My brother then demonstrated the toy; at the slightest touch, the soft rubber squeezes to make a lower (than usual high pitched squeaky toys) squeak...well I say squeak, but it's basically the sound of the air inside escaping through the small hole in the bottom of the toy when you sqeeze I think. Not sure if there is a technical term for this though, so I'll call it a sqeak (but it actually sounds more like s high pitched Formula 1 car!) Looking at it, although my dog isn't particularly rough, he does like to play a lot (he's a Labrador) and I thought being so soft, he would puncture it straight away and it would last about five minutes; how wrong was I!

      5 months later and it's still driving my dad mad (it seems to disappear mysteriously for days on end!) but Rolo absolutely adores it! It's the first toy to be selected from the toy box, or if you're playing with another toy and he runs passed this one, he'll drop the other toy in favour of it.

      At first he wasn't sure about it, prodding it with his nose and jumping back and picking it up ever so carefully as not to make it squeak, and my sister thought maybe he had taken pity on the woeful-sounding thing and was trying to put it out of his misery. To be honest, when he first got it, we weren't sure whether he loved it or hated (my dad knew straight away that he hated it, ha!). The squeak is quite strident (the harder you squeeze, the higher and louder the squeak!) and I worried it might irritate him, but he always initiates play with it himself, he could just leave it be, but he does genuinely seem to love it; I believe it's his firm favourite (although with Christmas just around the corner, who knows, it may lose its place!)

      So although soft and not harsh in the mouth, the toy is very durable; we have thrown it, tugged it, squeaked it. Oh yes, it has been well tested. It has space hopper ears which provide added grip and somewhere to grab hold of the toy without getting in your dogs' mouth's way. It has a cute little space hopper face on it and the packaging claims that it is a 'cool funkadelic toy for your dog dude' or something along those lines! The whole thing really is very amusing for humans and canines, although beware, it does grate on some people, and obviously your dog will always want to play with it when

      a) you have guests
      b) are trying to watch your favourite programme on the telly which you have waited all week for

      I would highly recommend this toy for its fun and durability, and it is reasonably priced too. The going rate seems to be £4.99, but can be found cheaper if you shop around, and can be bought at the PDSA shops, where I presume some of the profit will go to the charity (?). But it is well worth it considering how well the toy seems to be standing up to rough play. The face is just beginning to wear slightly (but has been bitten and slavered on profusely in its defence!) and I would definitely replace this toy should, God forbid, the worst happen!

      It's also great as a present for friends with dogs who are maybe into the whole retro thing as it is a good talking point and a good visiting gift for people with pets. Incidentally, my baby nephew also seems to love it, so it doubles up, although I'm not sure of its suitability as a baby toy!

      All in all, very recommended; I think most dogs would love it and it seems to have a great level of durability and although it's soft to the touch, doesn't seem to get as dirty and embarrassingly bedraggled as other dog toys, and, as it is rubber, is easy to clean anyway! The squeak isn't as high as other squeaky toys, which is nice and also provides a change for the dog. I'm sure every dog would love to at least try it!

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        20.11.2010 21:44
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        A classic what ever your age!

        Released in 1950, Cinderella is a film I hadn't seen that many times, having only watched it at friends' houses when I was younger, etc. I did, however, remember enough of it to know that I'd like to own a copy of it! So when I purchased it, I couldn't wait to watch it properly! Disney's version of the popular fairy tale follows poor Cinderella, an orphan who is reduced to serfdom by her wicked stepmother and stepsisters, who eventually gets her happy ending and her Prince Charming, however. it was the fantastic animal characters in the film which sold it to me:

        Of course the mice, and in particular Gus! Who's so adorable and greedy, bless him, and his fellow kind-hearted companions, who take in Gus and risk their lives, most notably Jaq, in protecting him. They also look after 'Cinderelly', making her dress for her to go to the infamous ball in (before it is of course destroyed by their antithesis, the Ugly Sisters). The mice add great cuteness, humour and friendship to the story, and on a deeper level, show people of all ages, perhaps in particularly Children, that even the smallest, most unassuming beings can make a difference and do good, and battle evil no matter how much it outsizes them! It pays to be a good guy...

        Then there is of course faithful, poor done to Bruno the dog, who I love because dogs always have a special place in my heart! And we feel sorry for Bruno when the nasty cat gets the run of the house, and cheer him on when he gets his chance to get his revenge on Lucifer the nasty cat!

        As for the Lucifer, he is fantasticly big and cuddly, (with a wonderfully well suited name!) name; alas his personality has been ruined by the company he keeps!

        Speaking of which, of course the main villain of the story is the Wicked Stepmother, who is cold and harsh and her cruel towards her stepdaughter Cinderella, driven by the bitterness and selfishness, which she has passed on to her two daughters, Anastasia and Drizella. They do their best to ruin Cinderella's life, having made her into the houses' slave, living in a pokey attic and wearing rags, despite the house and fortune being her late fathers', because they are fantastically jealous of her beauty, etc. Ultimately they try to stop her from going to the Prince's ball, where the Stepmother hopes the Prince will notice one of her own daughters. She tells Cinderella that she can go to the ball IF she finishes all of her chores, which of course they make sure she doesn't, not in time to make her dress anyway, but when she returns to her room to find that the mice have made the dress for her, she is overjoyed that she can go to the ball, until the ugly sisters ruin her dress, tearing it from her.

        However, what they don't realise is that beauty is not as important as grace and integrity and kindness, and so when Cinderella gets a visit from her fairy Godmother, who arranges everything to make sure that Cinders does get to the ball, the Prince of course falls in love with her, and when Cinderella makes her sharp exit on the stroke of midnight as her dream is turning back into a pumpkin, rags of a dress and her animal friends, he finds her glass slipper on the steps, (the fairy God mother knowingly lets Cinderella keep these slippers as a memento), and hunts her down, scouring the kingdom for her...or rather getting his footman to do it! But still...

        In fact, my only criticism of this film is that Prince Charming does indeed choose Cinderella on her looks, which doesn't really teach the moral of personality above beauty! However, I guess the story is simplified for its young audience, which is understandable.

        All in all, this film is a classic fairytale, which, in this Disney version, is funny, romantic, heart warming and full of great and colourful characters, with morals and dreams, and great songs. Well worth a watch, whatever your age! Although the DVD is quite hard to get hold of at the moment, I got mine second hand on ebay for quite a good price.

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        • More +
          18.11.2010 13:38
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          A fantastic day out; well worth a visit

          Living up north, we tend to think that all the major theme parks are down south...and I guess we're right! But, although Camelot may not be as major as the likes of Thorpe Park, or even the closer Alton Towers, we found on our recent visit that it still has much to offer...

          My previous memories of Camelot are mainly from school trips; the most lasting impression being made actually by the resident wasps, and yes, they are still pretty rife around the jousting arena where many people go to enjoy their picnics. That said, I've never actually been stung by a wasp there, so don't let that put you off too much!

          No, to be honest, I'm not really a theme park person as I don't like big rides (really don't have the stomach for anything faster than a Nissan Micra!), but I do still love the atmosphere. My favourite theme park growing up was probably Alton Towers because there is plenty to do there for me and my kind with our sensitive stomachs and sense of self preservation; I loved the river rapids, the sky train, the haunted house, tea cups, etc, and the shows, such as Beatrix Potter on Ice. The fire works were also fantastic and when I was very young, I enjoyed cheap admission prices for me and my family as I was in the Henry Hound club! However, nowadays, Henry and Henrietta are long since retired, prices have rocketed (they even want a fiver to park now!) and the park is aimed far more at groups of adults rather than children, in fact last time I went, it seemed to be turning into a bit of a dive; entertainment was sorely lacking (not nearly as many shows as there used to be!) and the place seemed full of large groups of rowdy adults - a shadow of its former self.

          So I wasn't expecting too much of the 'lesser' Camelot, where we went the other month with my young nephew. However, I was pleasantly surprised! The admission was cheaper than most others, but considering that they don't have as many big rides or as much land as many others, it was still a bit pricey at £22. However, they were currently offering 2 for 1 until September 30th I believe, so we got in for half price.

          Inside, there was a Knight and a photographer offering to take photographs for people, however, I felt this was quite poorly done as it seemed a bit premature as soon as you walked through the gates and would seem much less pushy if they had done them after the jousting shows instead. In fact, there are plenty of photo opportunities after these shows; informal ones you take yourself with the cast of the show, and there seemed to be a knight who would be further back to have professional photos done too, which seemed a much better idea than the set up at the entrance, as the opportunity is obviously much more appealing when you've seen the heroic knights in action!

          Speaking of which, this show really is what makes Camelot stand out. It's a great idea to have the park themed on the legend of Arthur and his kingdom, and the jousting show is even better now than I remember it as a child. My six year old nephew was in tucks all the way though thanks to the resident jesters Scoop and Jest, who really are simply fantastic and very humorous and entertaining: They commentate the show and tell us who to cheer and who to boo, and even get into a bit of trouble with the not so nice knights! The knights we saw included baddies the Black knight and Sir Gawain (who I don't think actually is a baddy according to legend, but oh well, we can't leave the Black knight on his tod!), and the heroes Sir Percival and of course the legendary Sir Lancelot.

          Watched on by King Arthur himself, the knights joust against each other and compete in sword combat, as well as showing off their skills by targeting shields and collecting hoops of fire with their lances. It's all very skilled and impressive; apparently the lances are genuinely very heavy, etc. The knights are very good, but the horses are just beautiful! There is a sign on the arena saying not to stroke the horses as they may bite, but at the end of the show, you can go and meet the knights and their horses, and the horses are lovely and docile, and obviously used to the kids! They look spectacular in the jousting cloaks. This show is far better than anything I've seen at any other theme park here, and just as good as the entertainment at the likes of Disneyland Paris; well worth the tenner just to see this show!

          The park is very much child orientated, with lots for the young ones to do; they have junior rollercoasters, fairground rides and even a driving school and go carting (although there are small additional charges for these). There is also a fantastic magic show; the new jesters are even better then Mad Edgar! However, there's also plenty for older children, such as the Dragon Flyer, the log flume and the ghost train, as well as the adults with the big pirate ship, the new rollercoaster 'Nightmare' and Excalibur 2! But I can't really comment on those!

          Other things to do include the many amusements they have in the fair ground section of the theme park, where you can win enormously oversized stuffed toys...should you so wish!

          As far as food is concerned, many people take a picnic, which is fantastic as you can get to the jousting arena early to secure a good seat and eat your picnic while you wait! However, this isn't to say that the food for sale on site is inadequate, in fact, they have take away and eat in food, covering all of the basics, such as fish and chips, and treats such as candyfloss and ice cream, although they are very much missing doughnuts!

          All in all, we had a fantastic day out, full of laughs and thrills, which all of us in our various ages enjoyed. Yes, the park could be improved with a few renovations, a few new rides...and doughnuts, but it's actually a great little park, which is pretty much everything a theme park should be, and who knows what will happen with it in the future, as it really does still have a lot of potential.

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          • Formula 1 / Discussion / 55 Readings / 50 Ratings
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            30.05.2010 17:21
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            You either love it or hate it...

            When I was younger, my dad would watch Formula 1 on a Sunday afternoon, not every race, but very often, and eventually, I guess I just got more and more into it and started watching it of my own accord. My sister said it was just a phase, but here I am years later, still an avid watcher!

            Formula 1, the formulated and regulated evolutionary result of Grand Prix motor sport on the 1920s onwards, is basically composed of nineteen races throughout six months of the year, over which drivers and teams receive a certain number of points for achieving certain finish positions in the race. Currently a driver who wins a race will receive 24 points and a driver who finishes eighth will receive only 1. The driver with the most points at the end will win the Driver's Championship and the team which wins the most points will win the Constructor's Championship.

            There are many rules and regulations to Formula 1 racing, such as having to use both hard and soft tyres during a race, beginning a race on same tyres on which you qualified and not over taking under a safety car, etc, and they are complex and far too many to remember, which is why it is vital that Formula 1 is broadcast well.

            Currently, as of 2009, Formula 1 is back with the BBC, and for me, I think it's a great improvement on the ITV broadcast, with better coverage of practice, qualifying, the race build up and the race and even the F1 forum on the red button which is great for interviews and comedy value...and more Eddie Jordan shirt time... Of course the Fleetwood Mac theme tune has also been re-instated, just as it should be!

            I also think Jake Humphrey is a great presenter for this and David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan are fantastic with him, exchanging friendly (and not so friendly!) banter. Not to mention Martin Brundle who is unforgivably rude to other presenters while interviewing drivers, etc, on the grid pre-race, but the guy seems to know what he's talking about and I have to say, I'm warming to him as I quite often agree with what he says! I was, however, very pleased when German driver Nico Rosberg told him off for being rude to the lady German interviewer (whom Martin seems to make a habit of terrorising!).

            The racing itself is amazingly skilful and I'm in awe of it; I can't even go on fast rides at theme parks and really am not very technically minded at all. I'm also slightly claustrophobic, so these drivers constantly do any number of things at the same time which I just could never do.

            But does this really explain the sport's popularity? For me, what I perhaps love most about the sport is the atmosphere of it. Because there are only ever 24 drivers racing during a season, it means that you get know everyone's faces and personalities to some extent and it's almost like you know each driver, in a way that you could never know, for example, all the current footballers. The sport has indeed seen many legendary athletes; Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Graham Hill, Nigel Mansell, Jim Clark. And more, you get to know all the other big characters involved, such as Bernie Eccleston and Eddie Jordan. It feels like everybody knows each other; the drivers all know each other, some get on and some, very obviously, don't, and this adds to the atmosphere of the sport and in some ways, it feels like watching a soap-opera because they are almost like a big (at times dysfunctional) family, full of laughs, drama (exemplified recently by the revelation last year that Nelson Piquet Junior followed the orders of his team and a contrived a crash to gain his then team-mate, Fernando Alonso, a victory in 2008), sometimes fantastical ideas and other times tragedy with which the audience become deeply involved. Somehow it just has a more intimate feel, helped by the fact that for six months of the year, F1 is on so regularly and with such in depth coverage.

            Yes, the sport has seen much tragedy, including the death of the legendary Ayrton Senna. This happened before I really started watching the sport, and I was very young so I don't remember it. Recently however, Felipe Massa's accident in which a part from a Braun car in front flew off and hit him on the helmet causing him to crash into the barrier and nearly lose his life, just days after Henry Surtees lost his life in F2, reminded viewers just how dangerous this sport can be...

            I really considered not watching the sport anymore, but then listening to the reactions of the other drivers, and Massa being desperate to get back to the sport showed everyone just how passionate the drivers are about F1, and that they really are doing what they love...

            Indeed, many former racing drivers now have sons competing in the sport; Keke Rosberg's son Nico, Nelson Piquet's son, Nelson Piquet Junior was until recently a driver, and Ayrton Senna's nephew Bruno is a new driver this year, meaning that the famous name is once again gracing the sport.

            One thing the sport does seem to lack is female drivers... There have been some in the past apparently, but I'm not sure why in this modern day society there is such a lack of them...

            The current season has seen many changes to the sport, including not being able to re-fuel during a race. Some people feel that the changes are for the better while others disagree, and even Bernie Ecclestone has voiced concerns over many of the new regulations. However, this season I think has been good to watch so far, with the four main teams (Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes, Ferrari) competing at the top, as well as the new teams at the bottom racing each other to be best of the new-comers (including the return of Lotus).

            I think with this sport, as with tennis, because it is an individual sport with less people therefore competing in it, you get to know the personalities of the athletes better and so it's difficult to single out favourite drivers in a way. All the drivers have to be exceptional of course, but I am a big fan of the Red Bull Team; I like that the team has worked so hard over the years to, relatively quickly, get to this point of being the fastest team, and I really admire that this has obviously taken a lot of loyalty from the members of the team. The drivers also have been loyal to the team and both re-signed their contracts after the 2009 season. The Red Bull drivers, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, also always seem quite happy and laid back and also to get on well with each other, which is nice. My brother and his wife also met Mark Webber at a wedding just before he started driving for Red Bull and apparently he was very nice, so of course we're now all obliged to support him!

            Other than Red Bull, who seem to be dominating this season, there is of course Ferrari, who started well in 2010 but seem to be suffering now, Mercedes with the famous Michael Schumacher returning to drive for them this season alongside the also very talented Nico Rosberg, and McLaren who are doing increasingly well with the two British drivers and most recent champions, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

            I'm not totally sure what exactly it is what makes this sport so great, it's hard to put your finger on just one aspect of it. I think people either love it or hate it; some people never really give it a chance as they assume it's boring, but I think everyone should at least watch it once! I think you get a better view from the TV, but I'd love to go to a race just to get the atmosphere; I wouldn't want an expensive ticket though - I remember the coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix last year with all the people with, I think, no tickets clinging onto tree roots on the side of a hill to watch, and they seemed to have the best atmosphere there, so that's where I'd head for!

            However the negatives of it are definitely the safety aspect. Although over the years developments have been continual to make the sport much safer, and today, it really is a very careful and concerned sport which does everything to protect those involved (Felipe Massa's helmet saved his life in 2009 and the technology behind the modern helmets has been praised for this), it is still, obviously, very dangerous and this is the blotch on it. Yet unfortunately this is an aspect which I don't think it is possible to completely banish...

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            • More +
              28.05.2010 23:52
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              A contraversial breed at the moment but don't judge a book by its cover :)

              Staffordshire Bull Terriers have received alot of negative publicity of late, and DEFRA are even considering adding them to the list of 'Dangerous Dogs', which I think is really sad.

              Once upon a time, the humble Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or the Staffie as it is affectionately known, was noted for its good nature around people and especially children for which some called them 'nanny dogs', and it is so terribly sad now that we might well lose this fantastic breed through no fault of its own.

              I find it so irritating that undesirable people are taking these dogs and treating them so badly as to encourage them to be vicious to other dogs and people. I have no first hand experience of this, but there are endless reports about this breed being used as status dogs, and dogs for protection for people such as drug dealers, and still people arrange dogfights in this country, with which this breed above all others is now most associated.

              Of course any breed of dog can attack, but a dog's temprement must depend an awful lot on how it is raised and so it is most definitly the owners at fault in most cases rather than the dog.

              Now, the Staffie has lost its good reputation and many people just associate this dog with child attacks and fear has obviously driven many owners to abandon their Staffies as rescues are now literally over-flowing with them :(

              It also means that some Staffie owners are subject to abuse while out on walks with their dogs, people shouting at them for letting 'dangerous' dogs out in public, etc.

              Having had a lovely Staffordshire Bull Terrier in our family, I think it's sad that they have been reduced to their current state, and some people even think that Staffies and Pit Bulls are one and the same: While walking my dog the other day, a lady in the street was kind enough to warn me that there was a stray dog on the canal which had got loose from next door. She told me it was a Pit Bull sort, and I said, doubting that it would be the rarer Pit Bull and assuming there was some confusion, "a Staffie?" to which she replied, "yes I think".

              Our Staffie Marvin was fantastic. My sister bought him when I was only about three and as a puppy, he used to chase me round the coffee table trying to bite my nappy (one of my earliest memories, after our trip to visit him at his breeders!). But as he grew older, it became apparent that Marvin certainly was no fighter. Naughty? Well, yes, somewhat! Mischievous? Definitly! But aggressive? No way.

              Marvin was so intelligent and used this to his best advantage, manipulating people and our other dog, Otis, in order to get what he wanted, which was basically food! He once licked all the topping off my brother's 18th birthday cake, haha! And had a side sweep for maximum in put; he would cause a distraction, often encouraging our other dog to bark at the door as though he had heard something, and while everyone was otherwise engaged, he would clear the table by sweeping his open mouth across it! Sometimes, he would just pinch food straight out of your hand too... He also quite often went toilet in bedrooms too. Usually mine actually! And I had so many toys with Marvin teeth marks in them, but now I keep them for sentimental reasons.

              He was a definite people dog though, despite his naughtiness; he liked an ear massage, loved being at home with his people, being stroked on the couch or sitting on the windowsill taking in the view and barking at people who walked past and were cheeky enough to stare and point! I always had to put a book under his back leg so that it didn't burn on the radiator when it slipped from the windowsill. He wouldn't go out in the rain; he would sit in the street and refuse point blank to go any further.

              He was a big softie, and when I was growing up, I was never at all scared of Marvin. I remember my dad's friend coming round once (he loved Marvin and Marvin loved visitors and would make a fuss of them and even nibble their ears affectionately!) and I was lying on the floor with Marvin, and Tom remarked how soft he was and that he'd let me do anything without batting an eye, not that I was ever rough with Marvin, that I remember anyway, but he dealt in the same relaxed way with all my neices and nephews too from them being babies and upwards.

              Marvin really did love children and would change his approach when he was dealing with children, genuinly, visibly becoming much gentler and less hyper around them. And other Staffies I've known have had these exact same great qualities with regards to children; they will let themselves be messed about and patted roughly and will still be gentle around the child, seeming to sense that children are different to adults. We also saw a beautiful little Staffie at our local pound, and her little face actually lit up when she saw my little nephew, bless her.

              Neither was Marvin confrontational with other dogs; he was strong, like a little tank on the end of a lead, but he definitly used his brain far more than his brawn. He was really a bit of a scardy cat unless he had to be brave. He was scared of loud bangs (so fireworks and balloons) and didn't like the cold (probably because they have such short hair). He'd shake when cold or scared.

              He was great fun though, a proper little character, really did seem to think he was a human (dog food was a big no no for Marvin, he wanted what everyone else was eating!) and he was a lovely, gentle soul (one time, as a young dog, he went for a ball my brother was throwing and accidently caught his finger and looked guilt stricken when he realised he's hurt my brother; he always seemed to be able to sense when people were hurt or upset and would come to comfort you).

              He loved chasing bubbles, which was really funny to watch, and he loved playing tug of war with his rope (he was particularly good at this) as well as getting under the duvet at night time and walking up the bed til his head was on the pillow too.

              Unfortunately, he only lived til 9 years as he got a cancer and the Vet operated but couldn't remove all of the cancer as it was surrounding his Jugular vein. But he was so brave at the end and had real grace in his later years; we miss him terribly and his antics are legendary around here, we still find ourselves talking about him all the time.

              If it hadn't been for the great experience of growing up with Marvin and Otis, I wouldn't have got my current dog; they turned me into a dog person :)

              In my experience of this breed, they are fantastic, loving pets who really have a great affinity with people, especially children. They are real intelligent, but use this differently, some to their own ends and some to the ends of their owners and others (we met a Staffie guide dog and thought how terrible it would be having Marvin as a guide dog and being dragged all over the street on the trail of rogue doughnuts and kebabs!) You also seem to get some Staffies that will walk nice on a lead and come back to you on cue, where as others, like Marvin, really are just almost untrainable (Marvin could of course sit, lie and shake hands...for food...only...)

              So they are a breed that I would recommend. Some say they can sometimes be tempremental with other dogs, and I have met a few who've had a go at my dog, but Marvin was never any trouble in this respect. He was just a fantastic friend, who loved his home comforts and being with his family.

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              • What Dreams May Come (DVD) / DVD / 38 Readings / 36 Ratings
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                28.05.2010 16:03
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                Highly recommended

                Released in 1998 and directed by Vincent Ward, this is a film I saw some time ago when I was quite a bit younger. I think we hired it from the library. It must have left a lasting impression, because although I only saw it once, when I was young, its ideas, visions and philosophies of Heaven have stayed with me and I've continued to think of it every so often since then. I had thought that it was quite difficult to get hold of, but recently saw it on Play.com for just £3.99 which is a bargain I think! So I now have a copy of my own, finally!

                I really don't want to ruin the plot on this one, which makes it kind of difficult to review, but basically, it follows a man, Chris Nielson, who meets his soul mate, Anna, on holiday in Switzerland. They quickly marry and then the film skips ahead a number of years and the couple now have a teenage son and daughter. They are very happy all together, going through life the expected way; they have their share of heart aches, but they are happy. Then tragedy strikes and the two children die in a car crash while their nanny is driving them to school. The mother has a break down and ends up in an institution but with the love of her husband, she makes it through and four years later, the couple are continuing their life together...

                The film's tragic beginnings mean that the film is able to explore the afterlife and what it means to everyone. The visions of Heaven, and Hell too, are very stirring and I really believe this film is very artistic and insightful, deep thinking and thought provoking. It explores the idea that Heaven is actually what you make it and what you want it to be, and that the afterlife is a very harmonious yet individual experience.

                The film is very touching and emotional and has a great cast, lead by Robin Williams as Chris Nielson, a children's doctor, and Annabella Sciorra, who plays his wife Anna. Cuba Gooding Junior also stars and the two young actors who play the couples' children are very good in these roles. I think the cast is well chosen and have been also blessed with a very well written, well thought out script, as, although this is a very difficult subject matter which people have varying opinions on and, therefore, makes it very easy to pick holes in the opinions of others, I found that the ideas of this film were very well presented, in a way which suggests that they are just ideas and it therefore invites you also to have your own ideas, to think about what you believe in, which means it is easy to have respect for this film. I couldn't pick any holes in the theory of it, which I think is tribute to the passion the makers obviously had for this film. It's like a great philosophical conversation you might have with a good friend.

                It was never a huge blockbuster, yet it has remained true to itself and so I feel it will stand the test of time and is one of those rare gems that you have the fortune of seeing, just by chance, and it becomes one of your favourites.

                I also think this film is great for parents to watch with children who might be at that age where they ask questions about death, as it has a very positive outlook on life and death, however, it obviously needs to be checked out by the parents first as it depends on the individual child, and there is also some strong language a couple of times too, which is a shame as otherwise I think it's quite a good film for older children.

                I would definitely recommend this film for everyone, and it is great for family and friends to watch together. It is quite a heavy film, not exactly light-hearted entertainment, but it does have a bit of everything; it is emotional, funny, heartbreaking, joyous and inspiring all together. It also has some great music and is visually fantastic to watch.

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                • Desperate Housewives / TV Programme / 18 Readings / 17 Ratings
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                  28.05.2010 15:51
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                  Well worth a watch!

                  Created by Marc Cherry, with very fitting, Stepford wives-esque theme music by Danny Elfman, Desperate Housewives is an American-made television series which began to air in - and has recently embarked upon its sixth series. Apparently inspired by the film American Beauty (Wikipedia) the story follows a number of characters living in well-off suburbia, namely Wisteria Lane in Fairview. The main characters are the women of the street, Susan Mayer (Terri Hatcher), Bree Hodge (Marcia Cross), Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria) and Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman), with other female characters who come with main story lines before leaving the street in some way at the end of the series.

                  Each character represents a different kind of woman really; Lynette, the dedicated mother who also has a career and struggles between satisfying the demands of both. She is caring and motherly, yet also very fiery and out to get what she wants.

                  Narrating the story while watching over her friends is original final member of the group of housewives whose suicide began the show is Mary Alice. Her friends are:

                  *If you have never watched the show and intend doing so, there will be spoilers here which you may want to avoid*

                  Gabrielle, the fashionista. A former model in New York, she is continuing a spoilt and privileged life with her husband Carlos. Over the series, they have had her ups and downs: Gabby's affair with their teenage gardener, their divorce, Carlos' blindness, but in the end, they have stuck together and now have two children, Juanita and Celia. Gabrielle is quick with her tongue and can often seem careless and materialistic (and she is!); she wears the most expensive and glamorous clothes, wants her children to do well at school so that she looks good, and in fact, often seems quite selfish even when it comes to her own family: She recently fell out with Juanita's school and decided to home tutor her daughter, just because she couldn't bring herself to apologise which lead to her and Juanita falling out because her daughter really missed school, etc. At times, you will Gabrielle to do a good deed or make a right decision, but sometimes, she just doesn't!. For example, she wanted their cleaner to teach her daughter (it turned out that the cleaner was a graduate and very intelligent, yet was an immigrant who had found herself on hard times) but she wanted to take all the credit for herself, so rather than help the cleaner forge a new career as a tutor, she made it look like the cleaner had done nothing all day because non of the house work had been done, while really she had been teaching her daughter all day, so the cleaner was sacked by Carlos, much to Gabby's dismay. However, despite the hard exterior, Gabrielle does also has a sensitive, caring side deep (deep) down, and hasn't always had an easy life having come from a very poor family. Her disregard for tact and personal restraint mean that Gabby adds much humour to the show.

                  Susan Mayer is really the Bridgette Jones of the street, always embarrassing herself with her clumsy antics (getting locked out of the house naked, etc) and saying the wrong things in most situations (easily making enemies in this bitchy community, therefore). She is an author, and therefore really the creative force in the women. She has a daughter, Julie from her first marriage with Karl Mayer, but is now married to resident plumber Mike Delfino, with whom she has a little boy, MJ. She is a very sentimental, caring, worrying mother and genuinely tries to help people and do good deeds, although she can also get dragged into all the bitchiness of the street. Susan is currently a teacher at MJ's school, and has just sold her shares in the local strip club (don't ask, haha!). After a car crash in which a mother and child were killed while Susan was driving, the husband of the woman and father of the daughter killed moved onto Wisteria Lane under the pretence of dating Susan's then arch rival but now deceased Edie Brit. He planned to get revenge on Mike and Susan but failed in the end, having a change of heart (though he had already killed at least two other innocent people as part of his elaborate plan), and instead was re-institutionalised. The crash had originally driven Susan and Mike apart, and they had divorced and were both dating other people, but Susan's relationship didn't work out, and while Mike had been living with Susan's friend and neighbour, Catherine, they found themselves drawn back together by the traumatic events and re-married.

                  Lynette Scavo is the mother of four children, she is headstrong, not afraid of conflict and comes up with some of the best one-liners/put downs, etc. She is quite manipulative and out to get what she wants for her and her family, but she has a good heart for the most part; she can be scary and intimidating for newcomers at first but soon shows her softer, maternal side. She is a dedicated and protective mother, yet also a driven business woman, and has recently gone back to work after bringing up her children. However, she has now found that she is again pregnant with twins, although she lost one, and now finds herself on maternity leave again. She has battled cancer, worrying that she doesn't want her new babies, and marital problems between her and her husband Tom, not to mention all the problems her children have caused her, haha!

                  Finally Bree, the ice maiden. Not one to show much emotion, Bree is very proper, and very Stepford wives, almost trapped in a 1940s time warp. She is an excellent cook and prides herself on the impeccable standard of the appearance of herself, her house and her food. However, Bree's life isn't as perfect as she would have hoped and after her first husband, Rex, died, she was left with their two children, Andrew and Danielle. She has very strained relationships with both: Danielle is a spoilt, quite horrible girl who has left the street since she became pregnant as a teenager and her mother sent her into the country with some nuns to have the baby! And Andrew was also a horror, manipulative and calculating, leaving the street when he and his mother fell out but eventually returning having been homeless for months. He and his mother were getting on better (Andrew having seemed to have matured and had a bit of a personality transplant) but the current story line is seeing s bit of a relapse with the appearance of Bree's long lost (actually never known about) step son from her first marriage. It is difficult to warm to Bree as she shows little emotion and can appear uncaring and only concerned with appearance, but every so often, a softer centre is revealed to her. She is currently married to Orson Hodge, who was recently paralysed at a Christmas fair when a plan crash-landed on the street, killing Bree's lover, Karl Mayer.

                  Catherine is the current extra housewife; not one of the main cast from the start, but basically taken the place of Edie Brit as the other woman on the street. After Mike chose Susan over her, she had a break down and made up all kinds of ridiculous lies (such as Mike trying to kill her) in a desperate bid to win him back. She really did believe that he still loved her and told her daughter Dylan (who now lives in another state) that her and Mike were very happy together. After being institutionalised, the other women on Wisteria lane forgave her for the trouble she had caused them all, even Susan, and she has now moved back to her house on the street, taking in a needy stripper who Susan befriended. However, Catherine and ex stripper, Robin, have now embarked upon a relationship, leaving Catherine very confused.

                  Karen McCluskey. The oldest woman on the street and best friend of the late Edie Brit, she has had her fair share of dark secrets (keeping her dead husband in a chest freezer in her basement, etc), has a sarcastic manner with a dry sense of humour and drives a hard deal; she certainly doesn't let the other housewives bully her! Yet she is always around to help and doesn't judge people; we get the impression nothing surprises her anymore! She helps Lynette by babysitting her children, she befriended the friendless Edie Brit and was the one who went to visit Catherine twice when she was depressed in hospital thinking that everyone on the street hated her, convincing her that her friends would forgive her and persuading her to come home.

                  Bob and Lee are a relatively new addition to the street, and although they haven't had many main story lines, they have quickly befriended all of the women. While Lee is comical and very open, Bob, a lawyer, is much more serious and reserved, so that together, they make a great dynamic couple for the show and are easily very likable, although maybe fall victim to some gay stereotypes. Through these characters, the show has covered topics such as civil ceremonies for gay couples, as well as adoption as it was recently revealed that Bob and Lee are hoping to adopt a child when they can.

                  The latest resident on the street is Italian born Angie Bolen (Drea De Matteo) who is a convict on the run with her convict husband, Nick, and their son, Danny, who they are protecting from their previous lives in New York. They haven't told him their history, but the audience are slowly finding out that Angie was an environmental activist and met another activist Patrick Logan who persuaded her that they needed to be more heavy handed, and in the end, someone was killed and now the police are after Angie, and she fears they will sentence her to life imprisonment of death, yet she seems more scared of Patrick than anyone. Slowly, the housewives of the street and befriending her and learning to accept her; Bree at first thought she was too loud and brash, arguing in the street with her family in a way that reserved Bree disagrees with. For this reason she tried to steal Angie's Italian recipes rather than employ her, but after a heart to heart the women understand each other much better. She has had a similar breakthrough with the other housewives also.

                  The show was fantastic when it first came out, and I'm still a fan, however, my sister thinks that it's gone on too long now and isn't as good as it used to be, so she's stopped watching. However, the series before last, the show was given a new lease of life when it went forward in time five yeats, which made a whole new host of story lines possible (new relationships, new characters, children for Gabby, older children for Lynette, etc).

                  It's still well written, funny, sometimes very unrealistic, which I don't mind at all, has morals to stories, adds a bit of glamour and escapism to a Wednesday night, and is basically good entertainment. The concept is great in that it means they can just introduce a new resident to the street with a dark secret every season and the show follows the new family and how the residents of Wisteria Lane adapt to them and their story, etc.

                  The cast is quite fantastic, all the actors play their parts very well, in my opinion particularly Felicity Huffman who plays Lynette.

                  The show I suppose is in a way the suburban equivalent of Sex and the City, which I never really watched, but it is less adult in terms of sex scenes, etc, although it is still really only suitable for an older audiance, but I think it is much more comfortable for people to watch together.

                  I think it's good that the show has characters who at least female viewers can respect and identify with in some way: The women all have their problems and struggles, and they all make mistakes, but they also always show forgiveness and in the end, usually make the right decision and amend their wrongs. They are all strong, powerful women who's main priorities are their families and friends, and they all work together to help each other have the best lives they can, despite the men on the street coming and going in many respects. It is these four women who are the stable feature of the street, and as long as they have each other, they can and will survive.

                  I think the show really is aimed predominantly at women, which I think some women actually find appealing about the show; it's the kind of thing to watch on a girls night in, or just when you're in on your own and it's kind of like hanging out with some girl friends in a way I suppose!

                  However, the show does have diveristy in its characters; there are characters of varying ages, nationalities, genders, sexualities, etc, and this highlights what this show is really about; acceptance. Learning to accept that people are different, but that isn't always a bad thing, and if we embrace these healthy varieties, then our own lives can be enhanced.

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                • More +
                  18.05.2010 16:51
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                  Worth a try!

                  Haven Lakeland

                  Booking
                  -----------------------------------

                  We have just returned from a short 3 night break here. I have to say that we booked this holiday quite last minute; my dad had some time off work and we decided at the beginning of the week to book a caravan over the weekend. We wanted to take Rolo our lovely dog with us and found it very difficult to find a dog-friendly caravan at the last minute as all the dog caravans seemed to be taken. We originally wanted somewhere in Wales, but I love the Lake District so I took over the search for a caravan park and found Haven Lakeland. I knew Haven accepted pets and it just so happened that they had dog-friendly caravans left!

                  Booking online was simple; you choose your park and number of guests and then add any additions you want, such as high chairs, bed sheets, cots, microwaves, pets, insurance, etc. We only wanted to add our dog and were surprised that he only cost us £1! The places we had looked previously wanted at least £20 per pet. However, we really wanted to make sure that we had the booking right and that we could indeed take Rolls; we didn't want to turn up and be refused admission!

                  So my mum phoned up and yes, everything was correct and Rolo would only be £1 because it was Pets for £1 week, which was good timing for us! The booking therefore went very smoothly (we paid £130 or there abouts) and we had no problems checking in, etc.

                  We were told we would be in a standard caravan as these are the only ones they allow to be used by pets, and these vans do not include a microwave, although you can hire one if you so wish. We thought we'd manage without one. You can also only check in at 4pm, whereas with premium caravans you can check in at 2pm.

                  However, after we'd booked (which is a bit late really!) we read some reviews and they were all very negative bar about two! We're always game for a laugh though, so weren't too worried, especially as we'd got a good deal, but we really weren't expecting much at this point!

                  Arrival and Camp
                  ---------------------------------------

                  As well as static caravan hire and sales, we saw that this camp also accommodate for tents and touring caravans in a different area of the camp.

                  We arrived quite late and found our caravan to be very nice and clean (last cleaned by Jim who did a lovely job, although maybe a bit heavy handed with the old air freshener, which worried us as we then wondered what he was trying to mask!) However, there were no stains or smells, it was very nice, and not at all obviously 'standard'. We weren't sure though whether we might have been upgraded or whether it was a newly demoted to standard caravan as it seemed to have a more modern body and did actually have a microwave. Everything seemed to be there and in good working order; the TV was good with all the freeview channels and good reception, etc. Bedding is included but you need to take your own sheets unless you hire them.

                  There was plenty of space for my dad's car and my sisters (there were 5 of us and Rolo altogether - we're looking into getting a people carrier now we have Rolo!) and the camp is set out very nicely with bits of greenery and trees etc, very clean; I didn't see any rubbish anywhere.

                  Dogs
                  -----------------------------------------------

                  We saw quite a few dogs holidaying here, our first issue with the camp, however, was that the dog walking area seemed to be right on the other side of the camp to us! It was actually near the entrance opposite the shop and entertainment venue, which was fine, but it would be good if they could put the people with dogs closer to the dog walking area as I had to practically run all the way there with Rolo, and he only just made it; it was quite a treck! I felt mean on him as he didn't understand the concept of being surrounded by grass and trees yet having a designated area to poop. I don't suppose it would have been a problem if he had pooped on camp as I could have picked it up, but sometimes (excuse the subject matter) it can be difficult to completely clear up so I'd feel bad as there are kids out playing and people walking, sun bathing and picnicking, etc, and it would be awkward, as well as slightly embarrassing! So I walked him very early in the morning when no one was about, just in case, and then we stopped later in the car on our way out and let him do his business so we wouldn't have to walk it. However, we did walk it a few other times and Rolo did it once on the stretch of grass leading to the dog zone, which was fine as it was out of the camp, and another time on the pavement opposite the shop, which again wasn't too bad and thankfully easily cleared up, but this was definitely my biggest complaint with the camp really, so it could have been worse I guess!

                  Once there, the dog walking area was very nice, with plenty of poop bins provided, which is a nice change from where we live (see review on dog fouling, haha!) However, I didn't like to let Rolo off as it was right next to a road really, and even though he's usually very well behaved and the road wasn't busy, just the park entrance road, I didn't want to risk it. Which is fine if you're going for walks out of the camp, which we were, but it would have been nice to have a better dog walk where they could have a run as sometimes things don't work out and you find that places aren't always safe for dogs to run free when you're out and about.

                  It was a shame though that some people didn't clean up after their dogs on the dog zone though, and even in the picnic area (!), some people hadn't cleaned up, and if they'd forgotten their poop bag, they didn't go back and clean it up either as it was still there sometime later, which was inconsiderate. However, I was a bit annoyed also when I heard someone behind me saying how disgusting it was to walk dogs through the park or something, and that they were going to complain! Rolo never once fouled inside the main body of the camp, only once on the outskirts near the shop and then at the dog zone, which is off the camp really: maybe she's seen the crime at the picnic area! Anyway, that's no reflection on the camp, but I prefer camping sites where things are a bit more simple and back to nature! I guess people expect a more hotel like experience at these parks...

                  We also took him for a walk to the 'beach' right next to the camp but it was more of a coastal road and there were sheep grazing and a sign saying keep dogs on leads, so that wasn't great for him either.


                  Food
                  ----------------------------------
                  On the first night we visited the chip shop on site and while the chips were quite nice, they were obviously frozen chips and we thought it wasn't great for a chip shop to serve frozen when that's supposed to be their main trade.

                  The Spar shop onsite was expensive but did sell all the basics; the cheapest box of cereal was £2.10. We didn't visit the onsite restaurante, but it seemed a nice venue and they served carveries and stuff, although I read poor reviews of the food.


                  Entertainment
                  ---------------------------------

                  You also get entertainment passes included and we went to the childrens' shows on two nights with my 5 year old nephew. The first night it was quite bad to be honest. It was DJ Ned playing his music at an uncomfortable volume and not much of a show really; they had a contest between some of the children who came up with DJ names and filled in the missing bit of Ned's song with the words 'chic chic chicken pie'. The second night however, it was quite a bit better as Rory the Tiger made an appearance in their new show about Rory being a Knight and defeating a dragon who turns out just to be a lonely dragon named Valdor. It wasn't that busy at the shows to be honest, far from Butlins Skyline Pavilion and the such, and the room was quite stuffy and always a bit on the smelly side, but the atmosphere was friendly. The music volumes was too loud though, so we sat at the back, which was better. There also didn't seem to be much of a selection of soft drinks; just Coke, Lemonade and Slush. The kids that were there seemed to enjoy themselves though, Blaise, my nephew, even got up to dance but came back complaining that the music was too loud and they weren't playing Michael Jackson! The songs they did play included Backstreet Boys 'Backstreet's Back' and Aqua, 'Cartoon Heroes', neither of which I've heard for quite some time now!

                  We visited the arcade to play air hockey and two penny slot machines, which was fun and my nephew won about 5 keyrings, etc, which were of extremely poor quality, but he enjoyed himself and the staff were very nice and helpful.

                  They had bike hire and crazy golf, which you had to pay for; it was £10 for an hour for a family bike. They also had a swimming pool, which I think was free, but not sure as we didn't use it, and trampolines, as well as a football pitch and tennis courts and a picnic area.


                  In conclusion
                  -------------------------------------

                  All in all, we had a good time and our accommodation was very nice. My nephew and Rolo enjoyed having races outside the caravan and playing football, although we had to be careful as obviously cars can pass on the roads but we were away from the main camp roads. Best of all was the location of the camp; it's about half an hour from Windermere and Bowness, where there's loads to do! My sister and nephew also visited Ducky's Farm, which is very close to the camp and has animals and go carts and was apparently very good, and we all went to the miniature village nearby, which is basically a couple's garden where the man has created a fantastic selection of small houses based on those in the Lakes. They allow dogs too, which was nice, although had to keep Rolo from peeing on the houses and drinking out of the villages stream!

                  It was also great that we were right next to a parachute school or something and everyday there would constantly be a plan taking people up and they would all appear out of the clouds with their parachutes; my nephew thought this was brilliant.

                  Don't let the negative reviews put you off; maybe some people have had bad experiences there, but we didn't, so I guess it's just somewhere you have to check out for yourself!

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                • More +
                  03.05.2010 15:26
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                  A real experience, definitly one to see if you get chance

                  Some might never have been in a big top before, but tonight, the 'Grand Chapiteau' looming over them in the moonlit sky is the first thing they see as they pull off the motorway, each discussing their different expectations of the evening...

                  As they make their way across the busy car park, the dark, velvet blue sky glistens serenely above, adorned with twinkling stars and the weight of the full harvest moon; connotations of magic and wizardry...

                  For some it would transport them back to their childhood years and their fascination with stories such as Enid Blyton's 'Galliano's Circus', for others, it would be their childhood memory of the circus. Yes, seeing Cirque Du Soleil for the first time is a big deal; many of those in this Manchester audience may never have seen a circus before, except for the one at Blackpool Tower perhaps, but red noses and squirting flowers were somehow not to be expected tonight.

                  Indeed, Cirque Du Soleil is now the world's most famous travelling circus, and its fame and reputation do not precede it without good reason. This show seems to affect people like no other; whatever walk of life they're from, Cirque Du Soleil leaves people with only superlatives, and little room for anything else, in their jaw-dropped mouths - 'most awesome, most amazing...most speechless I've ever been'.

                  While people are still taking their seats, there is movement on the stage as characters in spectacular costumes crawl towards their audience, and it isn't long before a musical accompaniment dawns upon the ears of the crowd, and 'Varekai' begins...

                  First, the audience have the pleasure of meeting 'The Skywatcher', a great and mad inventor whose antics prove highly amusing; the way in which these performers are able to communicate so effectively with the entire world using little else besides mumbles and physical expression is highly impressive.

                  Along the way of this fascinating journey, the audience are also introduced to many other wondrous characters, including 'Icarus', whose stunning aerial routine leaves their hearts racing and palms sore from clapping, and the fantastically funny clowns who have replaced big red shoes with sponge stilettos, and easily have the audience roaring with laughter.

                  Indeed, the costumes, as designed by 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' costume creator Eiko Ishioka, are stunning and add much glamour and panache to the stage of the Grand Chapiteau, and yet even without the aid of beautiful costumes and intricate lighting, this show would be something to behold.

                  The 'Solo on Crutches' is simply awe-inspiring, along with the 'Aerial Hoop' performance, which is the cause of many gasps amongst the audience. The 'Aerial Straps', a truly breath-taking feat, is performed by the UK-born 'Atherton' twins (which gained them an extra enthusiastic applause from their home crowd), while the 'Water Meteors', three very young yet already highly skilled acrobats, spin and throw ropes with metal 'meteors' on the end while performing complex acrobatics at the same time, and still managing to catch their ropes at the end of it all!

                  Each performs to what comprises an incredibly articulate catalogue of music, which compliments the show's dramatic atmosphere and magical climate beautifully: These acts evoke a range of emotions, from awe, to fear, and finally thrill and joyous exuberance which leave such an impression on the spirit as can never, I fear, be un-etched.

                  Not least guilty of this was the spectacular finale to the show, provided by the 'Russian Swings'. As the acrobats are launched from swing to swing, one, two at a time, to great heights and onto material drapes behind them, the precision, artistry and of course the bravery of these acts are all reaffirmed, even as the artists themselves seem so nonchalant about what they are achieving before our eyes.

                  Seeing may well be believing, and yet the uncertainty left lingering on the lips of those who see this show isn't scepticism or doubt, but rather simply 'how?'

                  Tickets for this show are quite expensive. We were lucky enough to go on press night, which included complimentary drink and pop corn (very nice!) and it also meant that we got to see top celebrities such as Roy Cropper from Corrie, however, I would happily pay to see this show too; when you think of the overheads they must have to produce such entertainment, and the show which the audience are able to see, the tickets are really quite cheap considering!

                  However, for those who can't rush to the expense, the show can be bought also on DVD, although I haven't seen it myself, but have read many good reviews.

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                  • Dog fouling / Discussion / 50 Readings / 48 Ratings
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                    27.04.2010 00:56
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                    Dog poop is a natural phenomenon, but needs to be cleaned up and left in bins, not trees.

                    *Warning, not for the faint hearted*

                    Just saw this review title (slightly suprised I must admit!) and couldn't resist! Of course I'm not going to rate dog fouling with 5 stars, but as a dog ownee, there's always an opinion to share!

                    I always clean up after my dog, and it does aggrivate me to see huge piles of 'dog fouling' when me and Rolo go out on our walks. I don't mind as much when it's left in long grass where people are unlikely to walk (and goodness knows, it's not always easy to retreive the offending item from long grass!) However, I see huge piles of doggy doo left, large and proud, in the middle of public footpaths.

                    It irritates me for the obvious reason that it can have a negative affect on a nice, scenic walk, haha! Always having to dodge the whole 'scraping it off your shoe and standing in as many puddles as you can on your way home and then being treated like the plague by the people you live with when you do get home' chore...

                    But I guess it's only a natural thing, and if they were wild wolves, people probably wouldn't compain (although they might be more wary about afternoon walks in the country for other reasons then), but it does give us dog owners a bad name and I'm tired of people compaining about 'dog owners', (generalising us in this way), not cleaning up after their dogs.

                    HOWEVER, on the other side of the coin, I don't want to get at people who have genuine reasons for not picking up after their dogs; maybe some people have valid excuses...

                    Also, sometimes, things just aren't made easy for dogs and their people though. Recently, I've noticed a trend where we walk for hanging poop bags in trees, which has also caused some grumbles, however, speaking again about where we walk, there are hardly any bins, and the ones there are are overflowing with dog poo.

                    For instance, we walk down the canal before we get to our local green area and there is a bin at the beginning of the canal, which is usually servicable for the first poop, although it is rarely emptied and has no sides and so rubbish is left totally exposed and there are needles and all sorts in there!

                    Then, there is no bin until on our way back on the opposite side of the canal, so anything he does in between, while on the other footpaths by the lakes, etc, I have to carry, which isn't easy with leads, treats, water bottles and goodness knows what else to contend with. The solution that I sometimes use is to leave the poo bag in a descrete location where I can pick it back up on my return journey. The problem with this, as I encountered the other day, however, is that you may sometimes, inadvertantly, well, misplace said bag and forget where it is/be unable to relocate it and then you feel bad about it all week and feel compulsed to keep checking behind fences, etc.

                    And I think that this is where the whole hanging them in trees comes from; they're easy to find on the way back! Although it might just be sheer frustration too!

                    If only some areas would put out more bins, more signs about scooping to remind or even actually inform some people who somehow may not know (there are no such signs around where I live), although they can also seem slightly patronising too.

                    The bins can be made to look discrete, I'm sure, and they'd be useful for all the other rubbish around too, so I know if I were a council frustrated by dog fouling, I'd make sure there were plenty bins available first so that dog owners have no excuses, because as it is, the whole scoop poop thing requires some quite advanced strategic thinking on our walks! And it isn't something that should take alot of time out of a walk really...

                    Then there are dogs who are on there own, stray, escaped, who can't really be blamed for not cleaning up after themselves.

                    However, I see quite alot of dogs which seem to have been just sent out to walk themselves, which where we live is very irresponsible and the lesser issue of this is of course that they will foul where they're not supposed to.

                    All in all, people not picking up after their dogs may well lead to dogs being banned from parks, etc, in the end.

                    Other issues with dog fouling:

                    Well, sometimes I see samples which I'm not totally sure aren't produced by another certain two legged species and just blamed on dogs, which is hardly fair...

                    On the other hand, my dog seems to do excited poos, which an be very difficult to pick up and need water as well as bags to diffuse them... So i sympathise with how difficult it is to effectively clean up after dogs, and when other people don't bother, it can be dis-heartening...

                    (Sorry if this is getting too graphic now by the way)

                    It can take up alot of bags if you dog feels the urge to sometimes do his main buisnesses and then a couple of just a few little drop businesses too, so I think the more environmentally friendly you can get your bags the better! I guess sometimes, you just don't have a bag when you need one!

                    Bags are scented which is a nice touch, however, I have heard other dog owners complaining about being confronted by the dreaded see through bags in the hands of other dog owners, although I'm just not that squeamish about dog poo any more! So I guess it just takes time to find the perfect bag for that perfect poop!

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                      25.04.2010 19:31
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                      Ideally would have given it a 3 1/2, but you always know where you are with Greggs!

                      Greggs is one of the most well established bakeries in the UK; almost every town seems to have at least one! And that's good because it means that no matter where you are in the UK, if you see that sign above the shop, it means familiarity, something you can trust; you know what you're getting with Greggs.

                      They offer a great range of 'on the go' eatables, such as savoury pies, pasties, sausage rolls, sandwiches and sweets like cakes, doughnuts, tarts, pies, eclairs, cookies, etc. You can also buy a drink to accompany your purchases, such as Fanta, Coke, Oasis...

                      (They also sell bread and birthday cakes.)

                      Greggs is convenient when you're out shopping or whatever, as the food is usually there just waiting for you to come and eat it. However, sometimes they are still waiting for batches out of the oven and may therefore be temporarily 'out of stock', as it were, of what you want, which can be quite irritating.

                      Then if they do have it in stock, there's also another problem which I frequently encounter; 'do you mind if it's not that warm?' I'm frequently asked this, or told that my purchase is only luke warm, which is fine if you're taking your food home and can warm it up, but it does quite irritate me when you want to eat out, as surely it's supposed to be hot? It would be great if they could invest in heaters of some sort to keep their products warm while on display as the pastry gets very greasy and unappealing when cold and you get left with grase all over the roof of your mouth - eew.

                      However, for the most part, Greggs food in itself is very nice. I especially rate their pies and triple chocolate cookies, yum! Although, I have to say that the quality of their cookies can vary and isn't always consistent. I really like them when they are soft and bendy, but sometimes they're really rock hard and a bit burnt, alas.

                      Greggs do offer a good range though, of course they have vegetarian options in their pasties and sandwiches, and also offer meal deals where you get a sandwich, crisps and drink for a reduced rate. They make cakes and gingerbread men especially aimed at children, for example, they'll have Mr Men on or something. Finally, they also do alot for charity, selling cakes for Children in Need, etc, and also have a good sense of occassion, making cakes, etc, in the theme of the World Cup and St Patricks Day and Mother's Day.

                      Their prices are what you would expect really, I don't think they're overcharged, and the staff always seem nice and friendly, in fact their seems to be a good atmosphere amongst the staff at my local branch. And they all wear their hair nets and gloves and hygiene seems well handled there.

                      I also like how the packaging at Greggs usually seems quite minimal; if you buy sausage rolls or pasties, for instance, they just put them in as few simple paper bags as they can and just offer you a plastic carrier bag should you need one. Sandwiches come in card boxes and some things like packs of cakes or sausage rolls come in plastic bags.

                      The only thing I'm not sure about is where they get their produce from; they don't seem to make a big fuss about it being free range or locally sourced or anything, but it may be that it is. I think it would be good though if they would give more information on this.

                      My families top ten Greggs products:

                      1. Pizza baguette fingers
                      2. Triple Choc cookies
                      3. Double choc muffins (triple would be better though!)
                      4. Cheese and onion pasties
                      5. Meat and potatoe pasties
                      6. Chicken pasties
                      7. Meat and potatoe deep pies
                      8. Sausage rolls
                      9. Vanilla slices
                      10. Vegetarian pasties

                      All in all, let's face it, Greggs is a bit of an institution now, it's popularity obvious from the long queues always outside!

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                        16.04.2010 18:29
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                        Give them a try!

                        Height adjustable Pet Food Bowls

                        We recently acquired a 12month old Labrador, and him being quite a large dog, I thought it would be a good idea to buy some of these height adjustable food dishes for him, especially as Labradors, being a deep-chested breed, are apparently prone to bloat, and people say that having these higher bowls aids digestion and helps prevent bloat and such.

                        I had seen them on various sites while browsing the internet when we were still just thinking of adopting a dog and thought they were a great invention, as when we had our last dog, Otis, who was also quite large, we used to put his dishes on a step to give them some height so that he didn't have to strain his back and bend too far to eat, but these provide the ability to adjust the dishes to the most convenient height for your dog and are obviously mobile, so they're better than a step in that respect!

                        At Argos, these bowls are the cheapest I have seen this design at around £12.99 - bargain! You have to set it up yourself but this was very simple and took about two minutes to assemble, although I would recommend that you check them from time to time as the screws do become loser again as time goes on, however, the product seems very sturdy and stable; my dog hasn't even nearly managed to knock it over yet, and he can be quite boisterous!

                        The basic idea is that you have a base in which you secure a metal beam with two dish holders, one either side, which can be used for water and the other for food. The bowls come with the product and some people say they struggle to find other bowls to fit but I believe this isn't such a great problem as the bowls which come with the product seem quite robust and the dog dish we had before also fits into the holder, but maybe that's just luck!

                        You also get a little metal thing which goes over the dish holders and tightens over the dishes in order to keep them in place, but I found it awkward to keep removing and replacing this everytime I wanted to change Rolo's water and put food in his dish and clean his dishes, etc, so now we don't bother and we've had no accidents through not having them in place so far. When we first got them, the dishes did clang a couple of times when he was trying to lick residue from the bottom of the dish and dislodged it from the holder slightly, which gave him a bit of a shock, but this hasn't happened since and I think he's got use to any noise the bowls make now. However, I guess that's something that will depend on your dog and which will need to be adjusted accordingly.


                        All in all then, I believe these are a great purchase; they have a good purpose, which they perform well, and are easy to set up, adjust and are light weight so they can be easily moved. They came at a great price, and so far seem very robust. A great idea! I would definitely recommend them for any dog owners, especially for those who have older, larger dogs. I think for our older dog Otis and now for Rolo, having their dishes at a better height for them made/makes eating much more comfortable.

                        I believe similar products can be bought for all sizes of dog, but I think these Argos ones come in just the one size, which seems ample for large dog breeds, but maybe not for very large breeds, and I've read on the Argos site that someone found them too large for their Lurchers, so I couldn't really say. However, they can be found at ebay, Pets At Home, and many other online stores, in various sizes, for small to very large dogs I believe. They are currently £19.99 at Pets At Home online, plus postage.

                        Finally, some extra info on the Argos model:

                        According to the Argos site, this product is:

                        Dishwasher friendly
                        The diameter of the bowls is "23.4cm".
                        The dimensions of the product (stand and bowls together, etc) are "(H)54, (W)50, (D)27cm".
                        And the maximum height possible on extension is 54 cm.

                        I think this is a great product and well worth a try for dog owners...

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                        • facebook.com / Internet Site / 25 Readings / 24 Ratings
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                          16.04.2010 18:23
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                          Social networking Marmite :)

                          Facebook is a bit like Marmite; some people love it and some people hate it I think! I've been a member of Facebook for over a year now, and to be honest, I find it a bit irritating! However, I have none the less experienced some Facebook addiction too...

                          I joined a long time after everyone else, because I wasn't intending bothering at all, and life was fine and dandy, but then my sister joined and made an account for me so she would have more friends! (Already you have an idea about the kind of establishment we're dealing with here!)

                          It is simple enough to join (and free); you tell them your name, email address and think of a password. You are then given a profile, on which you can reveal as much or as little information about yourself as you like and to as many or as few people as you like.

                          Your information includes the basics, such as name (a lot of people put try and make their names funny by adding another word between their first and last name), date of birth (optional), marital status (optional), religious and political views (again optional), and an optional profile picture. Then you can give more details about yourself in your 'information' area, such as your favourite music and films and where you work and your degree of education, etc.

                          I find that most people display their relationship status and their political and religious beliefs (of which most people make some kind of humorous comment) but I don't display this information as it seems pointless, but that's just my opinion.

                          You also have a 'status bar' where you can tell people "what's on your mind" if you like. Some people strive for something interesting and intriguing to say about themselves to make themselves sound 'cool', whereas others update their statuses regularly with the most mundane information and others yet reveal far too much, right down to their toilet habits! It's just a question of taste and preference...

                          You then add the people you know (and like!) to your friends list which allows you to write on each others walls (a space on your profile page where people can leave you messages and where you can also reply to them) and chat in Facebook chat, which is Facebook's instant messenger service (you can choose to be displayed as online or not).

                          When you log in to your Facebook account, you find your home page on which you receive a 'newsfeed' which tells you all your friends recent activity. This includes status updates, friends who have written on each others' walls and photos people have added (you can add as many photos to your photo albums on your profile as you like), etc. There are also people displayed who you may know, and randomly selected friends who they suggest you 'reconnect with'. This is annoying as it usually suggests my brother, who I might not make much effort with on Facebook, but I see him in non-virtual reality everyday, so there's really no need!

                          Facebook has come under scrutiny with regards to its privacy issues, and yes, it does encourage people to reveal everything about themselves! However, you can make it so that only your friends can see your profile and that people who search for you can see as little as nothing and as much as your whole profile. At the end of the day, I still feel you can reveal as much or as little about yourself as you like, however it all depends on how reliable Facebook's own privacy and security is! Which is something I for one know nothing about, and in that way, I guess it's quite a careless practice...

                          Then there's also the issue of child accounts. I think it's definitely a difficult area and children's accounts need to be heavily supervised by guardians as there have been cases of children meeting people they have met on Facebook, as well as your standard bullying from other children, so I wouldn't like to say how this issue would best be handled! But I think Facebook is definitely created with adults in mind, and as far as I'm concerned, I think I would have found it all quite boring as a child anyway!

                          Positives:

                          1. Re-connecting with people you've lost touch with, including family and school friends, and seeing what they're up to now.
                          2. Sharing news and photos easily.
                          3. Chatting with friends via instant messenger.
                          4. Learning something about yourself, especially when filling out your 'about me' information!
                          5. Finding out about events; I have friends in bands, for example, and they all have pages on Facebook for their bands through which they can send out information about up-coming gigs/events, etc. This is pretty good as it helps me remember such events and just generally lets me know what's happening and when! Like wise with birthday parties, etc.
                          6. Birthdays! No need to forget birthdays as it shows up on your new feed when the latest birthdays are.
                          7. News events; I've heard so much breaking news via people's statuses, including the death of Michael Jackson...

                          Negatives:

                          1. Getting random people asking to be your friend, as well as people from school who you never really spoke to and will be your friend on Facebook and yet snub you in the street.
                          2. It's pretty boring really, yet people feel compelled to check their page just on the off chance anything is happening!
                          3. People easily become addicted therefore...
                          4. Easy meeting ground for hate groups and bullies.
                          5. The 'I've got more friends than you' competition.


                          I think I'm missing a lot of the negative as there seems more than this! But I'll update this review as I think of them!

                          So basically, most people have joined Facebook, and I guess it's something which everyone should experience (maybe) as it's one of those big things of this century, etc, but I'm thinking about deleting my account now as I personally feel it's just a waste of time for me in many ways, and I feel frustrated about that, although it does have its uses too I suppose! All in all though, every individual will no doubt have an opinion, which they can express at their will on the status bar!

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                            30.03.2010 01:13
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                            A great item for any dog :)

                            Nina Ottosson began producing her products for dogs in 1993, with her aim being to create educational toys for dogs which would encourage them to think in order to be rewarded, thus giving them mental (and physical) stimulation, a sense of achievement and encourage them to learn, play and allowing them to have fun at the same time.

                            The dog 'Tornado' is the only toy I have bought for my own dog, Rolo, so far, although I volunteer at my local guide dog centre and have seen many other toys in the range in use there. The toys come in both wooden and now plastic versions too; the wooden ones I've seen tend to be a bit chewed up, while Rolo's plastic one (which is a cool bone-shape) is still in prime condition, although he isn't really interested in chewing it, yet then again, maybe wood is more appealing for chewing...

                            The idea with the Tornado is that you fill the hollow dishes of the toy with treats, then cover the food in the three rotating tiers and the dog must use his nose and paws to spin the stacked discs around in order to reveal and obtain the treats. They will of course get better with practise.

                            Nina Ottosson's toys come in various difficulty levels, and this toy is a skill level 'hard' with three points. If your dog is a little apprehensive about new toys like this, there is a simpler, one tier tornado to get them started and give them the idea, or if your dog is a genius, the new plastic version of the Tornado comes with some plastic bone covers with scent holes on top which you can use to cover a couple of the dishes making it a little more tricky as the dog must remove the bones before he can fully rotate the Tornado, and if your dog struggles lifting the bone covers (they aren't a great shape for the dog to grip and manipulate) Ottosson suggests putting string through the holes with which the dog can lift the covers.

                            This toy is popular with Rolo, mainly because it gives him food, and it will take him between 5 and 10 minutes to empty it without the bones, and maybe 20 minutes with the bones as he hasn't really grasped that concept yet!

                            But it's great for a rainy day when there's not much for your dog to do and it keeps their mind healthy and gives them some independence as they can play it alone and get the food themselves.

                            The Tornado is dishwasher friendly, robust and comes with anti-slip pads on the bottom.

                            There are videos of the toy in action on youtube for those who haven't encountered these toys before, and Nina Ottosson's site gives plenty of information and suggests that these toys can also be used for other animals, such as 'cats, parrots, horses, rats, lemurs and monkeys!'

                            Other products on the range include puzzles where the dog has to lift up plastic/wooden covers to reveal the food, and games where they must slide covers up and down to reveal their treats, but there are many, many different games on offer, and our plastic tornado came with an instructional DVD to assist you in making sure your dog has a good introduction to the game and that you both get the most our of it.

                            I would highly recommend these toys as they are a great way to entertain your dog while keeping them mentally healthy, however, they are expensive. I did quite a lot of shopping around and found that while they cost £25 at Pets at Home, plus postage, they are a very reasonable £18.85 (some in the range are cheaper) with free postage at Vet UK online, which is where I bought mine from, and hope to buy another from the range for Rolo at Christmas!

                            Highly recommended by Rolo and me.

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                              23.03.2010 11:47
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                              Well worth a try as it can now be purchased at a reasonable price

                              For Christmas, my nephew was suprised by his very own Nintendo Ds. The game he really wanted (well, the game my sister wanted for him because it was educational!) was Junior Brain Training, so he got this from Santa too, however, the console itself came with a free game, and that game was 'Let's Play Pet Hospitals'.

                              The idea of the game is that you play the role of a vetinary surgeon and have an animal rehoming centre that you work in. When you start your business (you have four different memory banks for up to four different games if you so require), you have little money and get little business; these are things that you must build up by way of building a good reputation and sucessful business, which will be conveyed with the grading system, in which the aim is to eventually be ranked A+.

                              Every week, you get the choice to take in stray animals. You only have 8 pens and horses and dogs must have their own pens while you can have upto 2 cats in one, 2 ferrets in one and 3 rabbits together and 3 guinea pigs together. You can choose whether you put them in a basic or luxury combo (obviously the latter will take more of your funds) and you can decide whether to feed them basic or up to extra health food, again with varying costs.

                              When you take in animals, they will be suffering from various conditions. You must treat their medical condition using the various tools and medications on the health screen, identifying the problem with a stethoscope or otoscope if you don't know what the condition is.

                              When you have succesfully cleared the condition, you need to raise their nutrition and wellbeing levels by feeding them treats and petting them, which works instantly while their health and hygeine levels will raise over a couple of days via the food and care theyr receive.

                              When they are in a good condition, you can rehome them (don't try to rehome a sick animal else the customer will complain!)

                              As your ranking goes up, you will get more telephone calls, about twice a day, from various people whho would like to adopt or have lost a specific animal. You have to either tell them that you have that animal, or if you're not sure or you don't have that animal you can tell them you don't have it and put them on your request lists. You will have to go through your requests to keep checking whether you have animals that people have requested or not yet and then phone them to come and collect the animal. There is only so much space on the request list though so you need to delete some else you will just have to tell people you don't have that animal and say goodbye without being able to put them on the list. Beware though, that if you try and give someone a pet that doesn't exactly meet their criteria, they probably won't accept it and will file a complaint which will decrease your ranking! And by specific, I mean people will ask for a 'self red guinea pig' and will by no means accept a 'Agouti red guinea pig'.

                              Other features of the game mean you can decorate the hospital to increase your income and ratings, change the outfits of the female vet and add furnishings, which will again increase your ranking.

                              To be honest, I didn't know how much the game would appeal to my 5 year old nephew; it was a bit complex for him at first. But now he's really got the hang of it and really likes it. It can be quite addictive, constantly having to check the health of animals and waiting for calls to see what animals people want to adopt.

                              My criticism of this game would be that you soon reach your full potential on it. It takes only a couple of days to rake it quite a bit of money, enough to decorate and feed your animals the best quality stuff, and get a grade A + rating, but then that's it, you just carry on. It would be better if you could hire staff, open new stores, etc, and build a proper business. Maybe add more condos, etc, to your existing store. So in this way, it's a bit limited.

                              Also, it seems to be aimed more at girls, and leaves boys out a bit without the presence of a male vet also.

                              Finally, it can be irritating to feel the constant need to the check animals in order to keep your rating up and to keep their health levels up before they get back to square one and need alot of work again.

                              Some of the tasks can be boring and repetetive, such as petting until each animal's wellbeing bar is full.

                              But it is fun to play, and will keep both children and adults occuppied for a while! I would recommend this for everyone from the ages 5 and up, as my nephew is 5 and enjoys playing it, although he did need help with it initially and still likes assistance from the rest of us. However, I think this is a nice feature of it; it's a good game for mums and dads to play with their children, etc, a good bonding game which can also be quite educational in terms of basic animal health (i.e., that animals need treating for fleas and worms, etc, and wounds need to be disinfected) and importantly teaches respect and care for animals and serves as a good introduction to animal adoption, the issue of unwanted animals, and animal care, especially for families thinking of adopting an animal perhaps.

                              The game can be purchased for quite a reasonable price now: £7.57 at Amazon.

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