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"I couldn't run 13.1 miles" is the most common phrase when you mention the great north run to people. Let's start at the beginning.
Entering - The way to enter is through a ballot system. To enter this first go to www.greatrun.org and register your email address to be notified when the ballot begins. Then once you receive notification you enter the ballot and will be informed after a month or so if you are successful. And then the hard work starts....
Course and length - the Great North Run is a half marathon (13.1 miles) and goes from Newcastle Upon Type to South Shields. The run is usually around the end of September or early October. The course has a number of gradual uphills (some of which you really feel but others are not too bad) and then a sharp decline (at 12 miles) until a flat finish. It costs around £40 to enter and there are approximately 50,000 runners, most of whom run for charity.
Training - Training is a must for a run like this because it can be tough but my approach was to slowly build up training until I could comfortably jog 10 miles although different people need different levels of training. My training involved running and swimming. You should start training early to avoid trying to cram it all in at the end. I started in May but slowly built it up from there.
Hotels - book a hotel early as there are 50,000 runners and their supporters all converging on the north east that weekend leading to massive demand for accomodation.
On the day - it takes time to get to the start because of the sheer numbers involved to leave plenty of time. The race starts on a dual carriageway (obviously closed). The race is quite congested for the first mile or so but after that it gets better. There are markers at each mile and as the race progresses you do start to wonder where the next mile marker will be!! There are also water and lucozade stops along the route to ensure you keep hydrated. The people of the north-east and charity supporters also turn out in force each year all along the course to cheer you on which gives you an extra spring in your step.
At the finish line you get a commemorate t-shirt and medal and a goody bag with water, lucozade and snacks in it and then there is a family meeting area with letters of the alphabet on poles so you can arrange to meet your family by one of those.
Overall, it is a great experience and with a bit of training most people could have a good do at it.
The Nectar card is effectively a loyalty card which allows you to earn points on money spent at selected outlets. There are two different types of card - the general nectar card and the nectar credit card. You can earn points at actual shops as well as online. Outlets include Sainsburys, BP petrol stations, recently Homebase and many more. A good feature of the card is that if you go to nectar.com and then access certain online retailers you will earn points on your purchase. This includes sites like Play.com and Amazon.co.uk although you do have to visit nectar.com and access these sites from there before you put anything in your basket to earn points.
A few down sides. A few months ago my points were not added on from Amazon purchase but nectar did sort the problem out fairly quickly becauase it was a common problem. Also, it does take a lot of spending to build up your points although you are regularly send vouchers to gain bonus points. You are also sent a statement every quarter to outline your points but it is much easier to logon to view your statement where you can then also use points to make purchases or earn points through the online stores (e-stores).
In terms of rewards, 500 nectar points will get you £2.50 off at Argos or Sainsburys, or you can buy things like CDs with your points on Nectar.com but again these seem expensive compared to the money you spend to earn the points (at Sainabsurys or Fords this is 2 points per £1 spent).
In my opinion this card does not reward you as well as things like the Tesco Clubcard although obviously in this case you can earn points in a much wider range of outlets.
To start with I should say that everyone who can should give blood. It is easy to do and helps to save lives.
Getting started - the best thing to do would be to go on www.blood.co.uk to register and book an appointment near where you live/work. On your first blood donation you are given a lot more detailed information to ensure you are a suitable donor and explaining the process. Once you have donated a few times, the information pack is much smaller.
Process - the way it works is you first fill a form in (which they send you in advance) with questions about where you have travelled and other questions designed to see if you can give blood. At the session, you see a nurse first who will go through the form with you and then pricks your finger (doesn't hurt) to test a drop of your blood in some liquid (I think this is testing for iron). If the blood drop sinks in the liquid you are ok to give blood.
The next stage involves lying on a bed with your sleeve up and the nurse inserts the needle which is no more painful than a normal blood test. The tube is attached to a bag which holds the blood. You don't actually see the blood enter the bag as it is strategically placed out of the way. You give a pint of blood in total. Once you finish, you rest on the bed for a few minutes and then move to a different room where tea/coffee and cold drinks are provided and a biscuit. From there you are on your way. The nurses are very helpful and hygiene is at the forefront with various wipes and gels used throughout. The whole process is really well organised and you do feel valued as a donor.
I think that more people should give blood because it only hurts for a split second and giving that pint could help to save someones life.
Lord Lever is famous for the creation of Sunlight Soap - a brand which still exists but has now developed into Unliver who make many of the household cleaning products today.
He decided to build a factory on the Wirral (across the Mersey River from Liverpool) and set about it in a unique way. Lord Lever was a visionary of his time and in an era of back to back terraced, poverty and squalor he decided that it would make good social (and business of course) sense to build decent homes for his workers. Therefore he built a village (known as Port Sunlight) where his factory workers had access to village greens, community halls and a public house. He also introduced pensions for workers, decent wages and allowed more leisure time than most of his counterparts. His theory was that a happy workforce is one which is more productive and apparently he was right.
Most of the Port Sunlight village still stands as it did today. The factory still produces cleaning products and you can buy some Sunlight Soap as a souvenir. There is a visitors centre which explains the history of Lord Lever (born in Bolton, Lancashire - he married Elizabeth Hulme and later upon her death took her maiden name to become Lord Leverhulme). Also, the histroy of the village. There are many things to see including an art gallery which is larger than it looks from the outside and you can buy a map from the visitors centre to guide your own walk through the village to see the way the people used to live. Port Sunlight is a normal village so people do live there today (including some of Lever's relatives). There are a number of cafes on the way round to take a rest and a pub. The main attraction is trying to imagine life there in comparison to the conditions in the other industrialised north-west towns.
General information - visitors centre including a map costs around £4 each and parking is free in the village. Definately watch the short film in the visitors centre which is on a loop so you may have to wait a short while. There is also some stuff for kids such as interactive models of the village and the opportunity to design your own house using ink stamps.
Overall this is a nice peaceful, interesting afternoon out.
In my opinion, quite simply the best theme park in England. I will get my gripes out of the way first - getting there can be a bit of a pain from either the M1 (from the east) or M6 motorway (from the west) as it is in quite a remote location and you may be shocked by a £5 parking fee when you arrive by car.
The cost to enter the park in £38 but there are usually 2 for the price of 1 offers if you look in the local press and on the internet. Tickets are also cheaper if you book in advance online.
The place is packed with rides. Here are a few:
Rita: 0-60 in a few seconds from standing. This rollercoaster is brilliant even though it is over quickly due to the speed.
Nemesis: Rollercoaster where your legs swing free. A few upside down parts too.
Air: You sit normally in the seat and then just before the ride starts the seats tilt so that you are facing the floor. Another good rollercoaster and a different experience to most others. More upside down turns in this one.
Oblivion: This rollercoaster takes you to the top of a vertical drop, hangs you over the edge (mist blocks your view of the bottom) and then releases you. Brilliant but doesn't last very long.
Spinball Wizzer - a smaller rollercoaster but the carriage you are in actually spins around as well so sometimes you will be facing the drop and other times you will go down it backwards.
There are also other rides such as the Ripsaw and Submission which both hang you upside down. Watch out for getting wet on Ripsaw - if you are in the wring place at the wrong time you can get a face full of water. Other rides include the Blade (the old pirate ship), log flume, runaway mine train and many more. These are mainly the rides for the over 16s but there also seemed a lot there for kids.
I would recommend going at Haloween as there are scary themes throughout the park and the Tower of Terror opens which is a haunted house with live actors and probably the most scariest thing I've ever been on at a theme park.
My main recommendation is to go and try it out.There is more than enough to keep you occupied for the whole day!! In terms of queues for rides this can be a problem in busy times but f you don't have children then try and go when the kids are at school because the park is much quieter and you can do all of the rides (some more than once) comfortably in one day).
Hotel Marhaba Beach, Sousse
The hotel is located just on the outskirts of Sousse although you can walk into the centre of Sousse in about 40 minutes (which is a lot in the heat) but a taxi costs around £2.50. We were at the hotel at a fairly quiet time so not sure how that affects our experiences.
The hotel is fairly large and caters for tourists mainly from Britain, Russia and Germany.
The food is nice generally and there is a lot of choice so that if you want to stick to British food there is something for you but you can also try more obscure dishes. You tend to sit on a table with another couple which was a bit strange at first but you soon get used to it. The waiters and restaurant staff are excellent and nothing is too much trouble.
The room is basic but clean and large enough. We had a balcony with a sea view. The animations team at the hotel play quite loud music all of the time during the day so if you want peace and quiet it may be worth getting a room away from the pool area. It didn't bother us though.
Nicely kept pool area althougth tips are expected when using the sun loungers. The pool is strange in that the water doesn't seem to reach the top but it was ok.
The hotel has a private beach (as do all hotels that are next to the sea) which just means that although it is open, people don't bother you with selling things. The sunbeds are again a small tip but 1TD (50 english pence which included an umbrella, 2 sunbeds and a table) sufficed as it seemed to do for most tips. You can also do aqua-aerobics and watersports from the beach area and the hotel waiters are on hand to get drinks if you need them.
The entertainment was very children orientated and I would say was the only disappointment with this hotel. The bar staff seemed overworked in the evening and struggled to serve drinks quick enough for the demand but they were working as hard as they could.
Paying for drinks
The hotel works with a pre-pay card system where you load money onto a card at reception and use this card to pay for things around the hotel such as drinks and food not included in your stay. This is a good system because you don't need to carry much money around and feel safe leaving your things on the beach whilst going in the sea.
This is an excellent hotel although I think the 3star system would probably be more like 2star in the uk but it was clean tidy, very friendly staff, good location, great beach and just the perfect setting for a great holiday.
Went to Sousse for the first time earlier this year and I enjoyed it although you do have to be a bit streetwise - I've outlined a bit about the place and some tips below.
You generally fly to Monastir airport and Sousse is a 30 minute coach journey away on which you see quite a bit of poverty and the scruffy side of Tunisia and honestly think "where have I come to?!". Once you reach the actual resort it is much better and the hotel I stayed in was just on the edge of Sousse. Again, it was very nice in the hotel complex and down by the private beach (most sea front hotels have a "private" beach although there is nothing to stop anyone using them), but outside of the complex wasn't as nice although I didn't feel threatened apart from....in the Sousse medina. Apparently you either like it or hate it, well I hated it. A few tips - 1) don't look at or pick up products because the sales people will be there straight away trying to haggle a price and they are not too happy if you walk away without buying. 2) Someone will probably approach you saying that they work in your hotel and will show you the best shops. This is absolute rubbish and apparently they take you to expensive shops and we heard stories of someone being kept in a shop until they bought something. As long as you have your wits about you its fine but the medina wasn't for me I'm afraid.
In response to some comments, I know that the haggling is part of the culture but I found that if you tried to have fun with the traders and banter about the haggling then can become quite angry if you don't buy anthing in the end. I'm sure some people will enjoy it but it just wasn't for me.
Sousse overall is nice enough particualrly the hotels. There is the usual array of water sports on the beaches and the sand is white and the sea is clear. Another thing to be aware of is that the tunisians expect you to tip for everything but once you get used to it, its not that bad - usually 1TD (50 English pence) will suffice. Had a great holiday and a trip to the Sahara desert is a must whilst you are there.
I saw an advert for the 16 months interest free credit card from Virgin so enquired online. After reading the small print to make sure there wasn't a sting in the tail of the offer, I went ahead and ordered the card. It was simple!
I received the card and online banking details shortly afterwards and logged onto the website with no problems. When you receive the card, you need to register it for security purposes by ringing a phone number. When I rang there were quite high pressure sales in terms of trying to persuade me that I require credit card protection or loss of personal details insurance but I was quite firm that I didn't want the products so after a while he gave up!
The online credit card system is easy to use and understand. It was easy to do a balance transfer to gain the 16 months interest free offer although there was the usual 2.98% handling fee type charge but compared to interest payments on other credit cards this will save a lot of money in the long-run. You still have to make minimum payments each month but these are very small compared to the balance. A note of caution that if you miss a minimum payment, then the 0% interest offer ceases to exist so you would pay the full rate (although I think this is a similar condition on other balance transfer credit cards). Overall, I am very pleased with the product in terms of logging on, making a balance transfer and also paying off money online. One thing I haven't done is spent money on it but as it is backed by MBNA I assume there would be no problems with this.
Also, from reading the small print - if you actually use your card for purchase this would incur a % interest rate which is as expected. However, you would then have to pay off the whole balance (that is currently charged art 0%) before you could pay off your new purchase balance - so bascially you would pay interest on that new purchase right up until you could manage to pay the whole credit card off!! Beware of that!!
Tesco clubcard is essentially a loyalty card whereby you accumulate points when you spend money on shopping with them. The going rate is 1 point per £1 spend (which equates to 1p) although recently the supermarket has started doing 2 points for £1 spend (equating to 2p) although not sure how long this offer last for. You can also gain points with things like Eon energy and on products like Tesco insurance, spending money on the Tesco credit card and from the Tesco catalogue. A good thing is that in this day of expensive fuel, you can also get points on petrol purchases.
To get a card you can pick up a form at the Tesco customer service desk in store and you will receive your personalised card in the post then you can start spending.
Now for the important part - the rewards. As I said earlier (pre-the latest offer) it was 1p for every £1 spent. Once your account has accumulated 50p you reach the threshold to receive a Tesco voucher. These are sent out every 3 months and even if you don't shop there very often you will be surprised how quickly the points accumulate even just buying fuel for example.
A good feature is that the vouchers can be exchanged for clubcard deals. This includes things like vouchers for theme parks, hotels, money off RAC, other days out, meals and many more activities. If you use clubcard points the cost can be half price in some cases on the normal price you would pay. You can also at the moment get 4x the voucher value by exchanging them in store to buy things like gardening products or clothes.
Overall, there are great benefits to having a Tesco Clubcard and it is always a nice surprise when the vouchers arrive every three months (often accompanied by more money off coupons as well!!). Some people may be concerned about privacy but there is that much data out there these days about what we spend our money on so this is just a way of getting a reward for that information.
I recently bought this to replace my VHS version. I had forgotten just how funny it is. The show features Dom Joly in a range of different situations which general embarrass members of the public by catching them unawares and taking the mickey out of them. This includes the man with the massive mobile phone (shown on the cover) who shouts loudly on it when it rings in places like an art gallery, restaurant etc. It's funny because people generally don't know where to look! There are also characters such as the traffic warden who tells off drivers for parking when in reality they are in traffic. The funny part is that the people in it are not part of it which makes it priceless to see their reactions when these wierd things happen. A couple of others are the grim reaper knocking on peoples doors, Dom dressed as a snail crossing a zebra crossing on a busy road at a very slow speed, a burglar with a swag bag asking old ladies for help getting over a wall, as well as various interviews with celebrities (who are unaware that the interview is not serious!) where Dom does things like just running off in the middle of the interview. This DVD is very easy watching and I think it is the best of the trigger happy dvds because a lot of the jokes are recycled in the following series. Definately recommend buying this - it is funny for all ages and most outlooks. Also, it hasn't dated from its original production as VHS.
I recently signed up to Valued Opinions to make a bit of extra cash and so far it seems to be ok. Valued Opinions is a website that specialises in market research which I assume it then sells to relevant companies. You fill in a variety fo details when you sign up so that they can provide you with surveys that are likely to be compatible with you. You can fill in as much or as little information as you like on the website but the less you fill in, the less chance you have of being offered surveys as far as I understand it. You are sent emails every couple of days offering the latest surveys and you just click on the link and away you go. A thing to be wary of is that a number of surveys I have done have asked quite a few questions but then suddenly said that I am not what they are looking for to complete the survey which means that instead of getting the reward, you get entered into a prize draw instead. The prize draws are for £200 and take place every couple of months but I imagine the chances of winning are slim. The rewards seem to range from 10p up to £2 so far. I have been on there a month, filled in 22 questionnaires (mostly short ones but about half of these said that I wasn't eligible once I started filling them in) and got £6 on my account - you can specify what reward you wish to receive when you get to £10 such as HMV vouchers etc. I'm not sure how reliable they are at paying the prize or if surveys will dry up when I reach £9 but I will update on here once I find out.
This software allows you to create cds and dvds from information on your pc, whether this is songs, movies or photographs to be played back on your tv via your dvd player. This takes burning CDs and DVDs to the next level. With a previous version of Nero I had problems when making a CD that some of the tracks were put on the CD in a different order to that specified. However, this software appears to have no such problems. It is really easy to use and easy to navigate so there isn't much need for the instructions although you may need them for more complex things like making cd case covers which I have yet to do. The software is great in that you can back up files on your pc onto cd or dvd such as photos and your music just in case your pc breaks down. I probably wouldn't buy this if you already have Nero 8 because there doesn't seem to be much difference but it is definately a useful piece of software if you are looking for the first time for something to help you copy data. It is quite expensive for what you get though in my opinion.
I saw the hilarious BBC series "Going Out" and after finding his co-star Lee Mack's stand up very funny, I thought I'd give Tim Vine a go. The DVD looks to be filmed at some form of working mens club (small venue). I was expecting a lot from the Guiness Book of Records fastest joke teller (most in a minute) but I was a bit disappointed. The DVD is full of cringeworthy gags. They are jokes that an embarassing dad would make at a party but some of them are pretty funny. The sort of jokes include Tim saying a joke is a "one liner" whilst also pulling a bin liner from his pocket! I found some of it funny but it isn't a patch on Lee Mack although they are targetted very differently. I found that he spoke too quickly on some of the jokes and you have to watch it a few times to fully appreciate it. If I had my time again I would still buy it because it is quite funny but only if it is available quite cheaply.
This hotel is part of the Reebok Stadium, home of Bolton Wanderers football club. It was added as a later addition to the stadium. There is more than adequate parking to the front of the hotel and is within a short walk of Horwich Parkway train station so easy to access on foot. This rail link provides access to Bolton (10 minutes) and Manchester (35 minutes). The hotel is also near to the Middlebroook retail park with shops such as M&S, Next, Currys, Au naturale, Asda. A large Tesco is also next to the Stadium. The hotel has been designed to fit in with the stadium and looks good from the outside. Once inside, he hotel gives the up market feel from as soon as you enter and the service is excellent and there is a small gym and pool to relax. Some of the rooms overlook the Reebok Stadium pitch which would be ideal for Bolton fans. There are also lots of function rooms available to use for events. This is an ideal hotel, for either a short stay or to provide functions for work events. The cost can be quite expensive but there are often deals available to get reductions - overall, I would recommend this hotel.
The state of the art Reebok Stadium is home to Bolton Wanderers football club in the English Premiership. The club moved to the all-seater Reebok Stadium on the outskirts of Bolton in 1997 from Burnden Park in Bolton town centre which was a controvertial move amongst fans but has turned out to be a success. The stadium has a capacity of approximately 28,000 fans although recent attendences have been much lower, around 22,000 average. The stadium is impressive to look at and is located just off Junction 6 of the M61 and can be accessed with a 2 minute walk from Horwich Parkway train station so the location could not be better. It is located next to Tesco and the Middlebrook Retail Park which is a pretty standard retail park including Asda. Pubs for fans in the area include Scotts Bar near the train station and the Beehive Pub which is a 10 minute walk away. In terms of football, the stadium offers grest unrestricted views from all seats although I would recommend the lower tier as it is cheaper, the astmosphere is usually better there and you get much closer to the action. The stadium offers great facilities such as a hotel (De Vere Whites), function rooms (including the location for boxing matches and darts tournaments) and a club shop (located next to the stadium). Tickets to watch the football can be bought for generally £18-£35 depending on who is playing - the cost increases for the visit of larger teams. The downside of the Reebok Stadium is that the atmosphere can sometimes be poor compared to the old stadium at Burnden Park which had traditional terraces. Apart from that, the Reebok is well worth a visit to watch a game in the new season.