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Every summer, I take Mini-Me out to Cyprus, to see my parents for a fortnight. In an attempt to get him enjoying the water that little bit more, we often take him to one of the waterparks. For the previous two holidays, this had been Fassouri Waterpark, near Limassol, a waterpark which became the subject of a large disagreement between my father and I on this years holiday.
Darrell (otherwise known as Mini-Me) has always seemed slightly fearful of the Fassouri waterpark, which had lead to me feeling that the whole day was somewhat ruined by his incessant crying, reluctance to try anything, and all this seemed to related to the main attraction of the children's pool in the waterpark; an activity gym, in which other children could turn pipes to torment other people climing steps to the two slides. Oh. And one more feature... A large Fanta bucket, which was designed to periodically empty itself over the kids play area, with a deafening roar, as so many gallons of water crashed down. To a 20-something year old me, it was irritating, off-putting. To an 18 month old, or 2 and a half year old child, it was terrifying. Now, as Dad planned our third nightmarish trip to Fassouri, I suggested Aphrodite's instead. "He'll never get over his fear if he doesn't face up to it!", my father argued. I'm not sure at what point a child regularly, if ever, has to face the prospect of gawd knows how much water tipping over and around them, but still. Luckily, I eventually managed to persuade my parents that we should at least try Aphrodite's, and thus, we'd see if it made any difference to how Darrell reacted to the waterslides.
Aphrodite's Water Park is based just outside the popular resort of Paphos, on the west coast of Cyprus, and covers 35,000 square metres of land, and features 26 rides and attractions. If you're staying in Paphos, the park can be reached by using the no. 11 and no.15 buses, or, if you're driving, by following the signs marked "Follow The Frog!". We drove into Paphos from Pissouri, and I believe the signs started from around 10km from the park. The park is open daily from May until October, although the website states that the park's season began on April 15th this year, with opening times of 10 am til 5.30 pm, although during July and August, the park is usually open until 6pm.
Upon arrival at the park, we were relieved to be able to find a shady spot under which we could park the car. The high temperatures had meant we'd often return to a scorching car, despite the sun blind having been put up, but this time, the car was truly covered. Entrance to the park was reasonably priced, at 29 euros per person over the age of twelve, and children between the ages of 3 and 11 at 16 euros. Children under the age of 3 are admitted free of charge to the park, and residents of Cyprus receive a 3 euro discount. We were then issued a paper wristband, which was used to collect charges in the park. This saved the issue of carrying cash around the park, or having to leave purses or wallets unattended, or countless dashes between the locker, just for another drink. The park does issue a "no food and drink to be taken into the park", but were more than willing to allow my son to take his juice bottle in, even though it was still mostly full. Once inside the park, you can then purchase a locker space, which means you can leave a change of clothes and anything valuable in the locker until you're ready to leave the park. We were quickly greeted by a 6 foot tall, rather friendly frog, who offered Darrell a high-five. Somehow, my usually chatty, lizard loving three year old developed a severe case of amphibiphobia (not sure if it's a real word, but you know what I mean), and burst into tears.
After a quick change into our swimsuits (or in Darrell's case, Buzz Lightyear swimshorts), we hunted down a set of deckchairs, so Mum could top up her tan, Dad could finish his book, and Darrell and I could wreak havoc on the waterpark. We found a set of chairs quite near the wavepool, the only attraction Mum used throughout the entire day, and set up camp, before terrorising the wavepool with the sight of me in a swimsuit. (To anyone who was at Aphrodite's that day, I apologise profusely...) We hadd timed this well, as less than two minutes after Darrell set foot in the pool, the waves started. Luckily, these were bigger than the waves we tried to make in the pool at my parent's villa, yet significantly calmer and smaller than the waves which had crashed over us at Curium Beach a few days previous. Darrell enjoyed the pool for the best part of twenty minutes before I managed to drag him away to try the kiddie's pool...
Now, the kiddies pool was, for Darrell at least, the highlight of the holiday. Almost straight away, he headed for the small waterslides, which were set in what looked like a bunch of rocks. Luckily, the slopes and steps were covered with a grip to minimise the risk of burning feet or slipping on the way to the slides. However, at the top of the slide, Darrell set his eyes on possibly the most marvelous sight he'd seen in the seven days we'd already been there... A pirate ship occupied the opposite corner of the kids pool. In that dramatic manner kids have, he grabbed my hand, the shouted "there's Captain Jack Sparrow's pirate ship, Mummy!" I managed to get him seated on the slide, and, to my amazement, not a single grizzle was heard as water splashed in our faces when we reached the bottom. Instead, Darrell scrambled to his feet (which, when you're three feet high, and in water a foot deep, isn't that easy) and moved as fast as he could to the pirate ship. An hour later, and I'd lost count of how many time's he'd raced me to the bottom of the slides, shouting "Arrr, I'm a pirate..." Ahem. He did the shouting. I only made him "walk the plank"...
Now, all these slides and all this pretending to be a pirate makes for thirsty work, so we decided to stop for lunch in the fast food cafe, situated near the wavepool. i don't remember seeing any prices listed anywhere, but this may have been due to a lack of glasses on my behalf. The choices seemed ample, although, looking back, I'm not sure I remember seeing a vegetarian option. However, we found that the chips were somewhat lacklustre, with even my chip loving toddler leaving his box of chips almost untouched. The range of drinks was quite wide, however Mum seemed somewhat depressed at the lack of lemon iced tea, and settled for an orange juice. She did later decide to try their choice of "cannabis iced tea" (I'm not kidding!), which was made with 5% hemp blossom... with which she said "your brother would be impressed..." Oh. Dear. I suspect my mother may have been experiencing a midlife crisis...
After lunch, I felt a craving kicking in for the tube slides. Or, more specifically, the family rafter, also known as the rapids. Now, as Darrell is, on occassion, overly cautious about trying new things, I found the best way to get him trying the raft was to tell him "I was going on the big slide". Yep, it worked. There we were, getting into the raft, when Darrell suddenly decided he was going to protest that he didn't like the slide. However, after being assured it was fun, he quickly sat down, and, upon reaching the bottom declared "I like that slide, Mummy!" We then followed this up with a quick trip around the lazy river, a slow moving river, which you ride on rubber rings. As Darrell struggled to stay seated on his own, he sat on my lap, and used this as an opportunity to splash at me. This backfired when I managed to paddle under a waterfall, which left Darrell looking like he was about to cry, until he realised I was laughing, at which point he joined in. We then headed back to the rafting, where you can also head down on an rubber ring. This gives the added option of, after reaching the bottom of the rapids, heading down another tube slide, to reach the lazy river.
I mentioned the subject of the wristbands earlier, and do feel it is important to clarify their purpose. The park is by no means "all inclusive". Instead, you pay for your food and drink upon leaving the park. We found that for four main meals, twelve drinks and three ice creams we paid 69 euros, which is around 17.25 euros each. This did feel slightly pricey, but it is worth remembering that prices are usually bumped up in tourist attractions. Upon leaving the park, we were greeted by the ever friendly, 6 ft frog again. We had seen him five minutes previous to getting ready to leave, and Darrell had remained terrified of him. It seems even the offering of a balloon wouldn't get Darrell to approach him, although it did mean Mum had to confront her fear of balloons (oh the irony). This seemed to be enough to encourage a goodbye wave from Darrell.
Now, with a three year old in tow, I did find I didn't get a chance to head onto all of the rides. However, I found that the atmosphere and facilities at the park were commendable. I found the ride attendants were patient, and willing to help whenever asked. I definitely found Aphrodite's the more enjoyable of the two waterpark's we've visited, something I suspect was echoed when Darrell returned to nursery this week and talked about the big waterslides for an hour straight...
It would be faitr to say that Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) is currently having the holiday from hell. Upon the train from the Gare-de-Lyon to Venice, he is approached by the mysterious Elise (Angelina Jolie), and, needless to say, is of the belief his luck may possibly start to change for the better.
Mourning the death of his wife, 3 years previous, Frank has taken a trip to Venice, and a break from his career as a maths lecturer, in Wisconsin. However, after being invited to spend the night in Elise's luxury hotel room, Frank finds himself in a near fatal case of mistaken identity.
See, Elsie has deliberately approached Frank, under the instruction of her swindling lover, Alexander Pearce. Pearce has crossed paths with a tantrum throwing gangster, Mr Shaw, rumoured to have killed not only his ex-wife's previous lovers, but her too. So yeah, you wouldn't want to get on his bad side. Now, in a vain attempt to escape, after cheating the toddler like, gun-wielding, bad guy, as well as a rather hefty tax evasion, Pearce instructs the stunning Elise to pick out a man on a train who is of his height and physique. Poor Frank just thought his luck was in. Instead, he finds himself with a bounty on his head, shot at, and arrested...
The Tourist is shot against the beautiful background of Venice, with a luxurious wardrobe, The Tourist is certainly stunning. Yet it holds an element of "I've seen this all before," particularly with scenes and storylines reminiscent of North By North-West (Alfred Hitchcock, 1968), with possibly as many twists and turns as the Hitchcock film itself. The cast is beyond phenonemal, yet it appears somewhat odd to see Depp in a less quirky role than usual. This doesn't, by any means, equate to a less likeable role than his more famous, fairly odd, alter egos, Jack Sparrow, Edward Scissorhands or even 2010's Mad Hatter. Instead, his charms and chivilarous nature as Frank, who appears to quickly fall for Elise, have the audienced rooting for him from the start. Elise, although seemingly manipulative, is still charming, elegant and every part the female protagonist of the film. Jolie plays Elise in a slightly provocative manner, reminiscent of the typical femme fatales of the 1940's film noir period, with an enviable and elegant wardrobe, flushed with whites, creams and gold, which simultaneously contrast with and compliment Depp's dark suits, yet clash completely with his white and blue pyjamas... Sorry, ladies, Frank Tupelo doesn't sleep in the nude...
The plot, although a bit far fetched in places, the revelation of which would result in some pretty big spoilers, is not only enjoyable, but believable enough that you can forgive some of the suspensions of reality. Or maybe all of them... In fact, after seeing Depp in the white tuxedo, at the films climax, hell, I could forgive the film-makers anything!
It came as a slight shock to learn that the film took around $100m to make, none of which seems to have been placed on eye catching stunts. But then, if you consider the location, which includes the luxurious Hotel Daniele, and Jolie's stunning wardrobe, plus the boats used in many of the shots, the budget doesn't seem that far fetched after all.
The climax of the film is slightly predictable; it took me around 15 minutes to work out the goose chase that director Florian Henkel Von Donnersmack is trying to lead the audience on, but then I suspect I may have seen one too many of these films. Although the location is stunning, none of the shots really take your breath away, or have you on the edge of the seat, and to be honest, as much as I loved the film, the climax felt so anti-climatic that it could have been written by the master of the anti-climatic tale, James Joyce.
The film is worth a watch, but PLEASE don't expect your breath to be taken away.
1) What did you do in 2010 that you have not done before?
I approached my university for help with a suspected case of dyspraxia. I've always buried my head in the sand where my studying problems lie, which usually results in struggling with regards to meeting deadlines. I'm awaiting an official diagnosis, but apparently, it seems probable. If that's the case, I can put 26 years of being mocked for being "lazy", "clumsy" and "disorganized" behind me, and hopefully get the help I need.
Also, I started learniing DIY. So far, I've put up a bookcase, two wardrobes, two chests of drawers and two bedside tables on my own. I'm slowly becoming more independent, and feel less useless where practical things are concerned.
Ooooh, and I took my son camping. He's not an outdoorsy kid, and he hated it! Personally, I felt so at home, esppecially sat round the fire with a few close friends at two in the morning, trying to cook burgers without the means of light... How none of us got food poisoning, I don't know.
2) Did anyone close to you give birth?
.Yes, my sister in law gave birth to her second child, my brother's first child. A little boy, called Callum. He weighed in at 8 lb 15, and is the spit of my brother. Also, two of my biological sisters gave birth, one to a little girl, the other to a little boy.
3) Did anyone close to you die?
My biological grandfather died, and although I'd never met him, it opened up a door for me to meet my biological family. I do wish I'd had the chance to meet him first, though, as I have so many unanswered questions, and just to have met him would have meant a lot to me.
4) What countries did you visit?
Usual. Took a trip out to Cyprus to visit Mum and Dad. I'm already looking at booking the flights for next year.
5) What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
A bit more security with childcare. Two weeks before Christmas, my childminder handed in her notice, which means I'll be hunting for childcare before I go back to uni.
Also, a bit more free time. I've managed two nights out this year.
6) What dates will you remember from 2010?
5th June; first time I met my biological family. I still don't know how I felt about the whole situation.
17th September; first day of university. I got COMPLETELY lost. Luckily, my best friend is living on campus, so was able to rely on him for somewhat sketchy directions. It's become a running joke that every time we arrange to meet on campus, he'll give me specific directions.
7) Did you suffer illness or injury?
My eczema decided to flare up again, I got diagnosed with anxiety issues, and I have a strong suspicion that I broke the bit that connects my toe to my foot after missing a stair at 2 in the morning, landing toe first, and the excruciating pain I felt in the bone. Since then, I can't wear heels, and the bone still looks odd. But thanks to my fear of hospitals, there's more chance of me winning the lottery than turning up for an x-ray...
8) What was the best thing you bought?
It's between my laptop (belive me, coursework is impossible without a computer at home...) or my son's Christmas presents, which mean my house is constantly filled with phrases like "To infinity and BEYOND", and "There's a snake in my boot!"... Yup. 2010. The year Toy Story invaded Christmas...
9) Whose behaviour has merited celebration?
My son's, as always. He's managing wonderfully with the early starts, so I can get to uni on time, which mean he's been rewarded with a fair few treats, since.
10) Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
BOTH of my mothers'. Yes, the apostrophe is in the right place.
Biological mother; we found out her youngest daughter had been sexually abused by BM's partner, and fell pregnant, and had a baby as a result. BM can't seem to appreciate the things her daughter must be going through, and is standing by her man. Yes, I'm also waiting for the year I don't have some kind of major drama in my life.
Adoptive Mother, or Mum, has been a bit better this year. The exception has fallen to her visit to England in October. During this time, we went for dinner at a local restaurant, and unfortunately, Mini-Me was sick. Rather than checking he was ok, Mummy Dearest walked out of the restaurant. She didn't bother asking if he was ok. She also tried to guilt tripp me into believing that getting a degree now I have a child was illogical and selfish. Welcome to the 21st Century.
11) Where did most of your money go?
Childcare, Christmas and Computers... Due to problems with Student Finance, I was paying for my sons childcare out of my own pocket until the last week of the Winter Semester. christmas was pricier than last year, but due to the backdate in my childcare grant, I was able to splash out on Mini-Me a bit more. Oh, and computers. I bought one laptop during my first week at uni. It lasted two weeks, until my son managed to knock his squash over. The damn thing couldn't be saved. It works out that I spent £900 on laptops in one semester...
12) What song will you remember from 2010?
I can't remember if it was a 2009 release originally, but Many of Horror by Biffy Clyro. I fell in love with the song the moment I heard it, and I'm hoping to use it for one of my film projects next year.
13) Compared to this time last year are you happier, fitter, more productive?
I'm happier. Hell, it's been a stressful year, but I've now got friends I can rely on to be there when I need them. I also got into the university I wanted to, and surpassed my own expectations on my exams in English Lit and History. I gave up revising for History, after convincing myself I was going to fail Instead, I managed to earn myself a distinction.
14) What do you wish you had done more of?
Saving up. I'm now saving for next Christmas, after seeing how stressful this years was.
15) What do you wish you had done less of?
Worrying. I spent the first half of the year, worrying about peoples opinions of me, the second half of the year worrying about money or university. I have to start taking things in my stride.
16) What was your favourite TV programme?
Misfits! I missed the first series first time round, so when it got shown again, I ended up becoming hooked. I almost cried tears of joy when they said series 3 was definitely being made.
17) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate last year?
Yes; the guy that ruined my younger sister's life. I always said I wouldn't hate, but he's become the exception
18) What's been the best book of 2010?
Not from 2010, per se, but The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Riddor. It's an Alice in Wonderland spin-off.
19) What did you want and get in 2010?
To get into the UEA. When my tutor told me I had the grades to get in, I didn't believe her. My coursemates claim I looked shell shocked. I phoned her three times to check that our maths was right, and that I was indeed in at the UEA, not City College.
20) Who was the best person you met?
Brandan. Without a doubt! The guy rapidly became one of my best friends, and we only met through pure chance, but now I can't remember what life was like before him. Rather amusingly, we seem to trick people into believing we're a couple, and on April Fools, the prankster iin me coerced him into entering a facebook engagement with me. We had a few people fall for that, hook, line and sinker.
21) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010?
Things will work out the way they're meant to, but that doesn't mean you don't have to put the effort in.
I'm actually rather disappointed that Dooyoo has listed Enchanted as a Children's DVD... I've been trying to justify my love of this film for two years now, and the closest explanation I got, while my mother was ticking me off for my 25 year Disney Princess obsession, was that it was actually an adults fairytale, but they had to keep some bits in for the kiddies. She didn't fall for that line, either.
Now, I'm the kind of adult that gets ridiculously excited about so-called Children's Films... My obsession for The Nightmare Before Christmas has been inherited by my son, and everyone that knows me knows that I shrieked with joy the moment I found out Disney were making Rapunzel into a movie. Now, Enchanted? I'd been a tiny bit dubious about.
Disney have been, in my eyes, hit and miss with their animation since after Pocahontas. The exception goes to the Pixar films, but then, I often find they are a bit samey-samey... And as for their live-action films?Yes, they've had some successes, mainly Pirates Of The Caribbean, but too often, I find myself just craving a good, old fashioned, Disney Princess film.
So, one fateful night, in 2008, I found myself daring to try Enchanted.
The film starts with an animated Giselle (Amy Adams)... No, she's not a Princess, yet... With her large blue eyes, and long, red hair, something about her bears a strong resemblance to Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Anyway, in true Sleeping Beauty fashion, she's recently been dreaming of the Prince, the man of her dreams. And, whilst telling her friends (yes, they're furry... Disney Princesses aren't allowed human friends, unless they're waist high, with beards or wings...) about this wonderful man, she bursts into song about how she's waiting for her "True Love's Kiss"
Meanwhile, in an act of paranoid narcissism, Queen Narissa (Susan Surandon) has assigned her henchman, Nathaniel, (Timothy Spalding) the task of making sure her step-son does not fall in love, get married and then make his new wife Queen of Andulasia. So, Nathaniel takes her step-son, Prince Edward (James Marsden) troll hunting. I mean, obviously, he's not going to meet the love of his life there, is he?
Well, incidentally, he does. After he rescues her from a troll. When I say "rescues", I mean he's on his horse, underneath the tree she falls out of, and she lands in his arms... but hey. Let's not be technical here. So, after a quick exchange of names, they agree to get married... The next day, of course!
Now, I've never been married, but I suspect it'd usually take more than one evening to choose (or in Giselle's case, make) a wedding dress. But somehow, the next morning, Giselle turns up at the castle, ready to become Mrs Prince Edward.
But, if things were going to hapen that easily, we wouldn't have much of a film now, would we? On her way to the Church, Giselle is stopped by an old hag, who offers her a wedding wish. Now, for those well educated in the School of Disney Princesses, you'll know that these hags are bad news. Usually jealous step-mothers, in need of an inconspicuous disguise, these hags are there to remind us that step-mothers are evil... wait, no... Ugly people are evil... No. Still not right... Oh yeah. These evil hags are supposed to remind us that being evil is an ugly business. And that you shouldn't go off killing your step-daugher, or your step-son's future wife... Anyway, Giselle decides to take the offer of a wedding wish, and before she knows it, she's falling down a well, and somehow landed in the sewers of New York... Well, there's THAT wedding dress ruined...
It's not long, however, before the (live action) Giselle meets the gorgeous Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter, Morgan. (Rachel Covey) But, as Robert strugles to understand Giselle's strange ways, and Morgan believes that Giselle really IS a Princess, can they get Giselle back to Andulasia? Or is she trapped in New York, "A place where there ARE no happy endings", forever?
The great thing about this film is that Disney have finally decided NOT to take themselves too seriously. They take every single Disney Princess stereotype and work it into Giselle. Now, normally, it'd be annoying. Nut somehow, in Enchanted, it works. Amy Adams plays the ditsy, hopeless romantic beautifully, with even her facial expressions resembling those of a genuinely confused Disney Princess. Or an escapee from a mental health ward. Instead of adapting to life in New York immediately, Disney have considered the problems that Giselle really would face...
James Marsden plays Edward perfectly, not only as a confused Prince, but also as the fearless hero, who would willingly take on the ever so deadly, ever so scary... local bus? His chemistry with Timothy Spalding makes for a great comedy pairing, although you do wonder quite how stupid Prince Edward really is...
Now, I feel guilty for crushing ever so slightly on Patrick Dempsey. Only a matter of weeks ago, I found out that he's old enough to be my father... But he is, in this film, adorable as the cynic, who doesn't believe in Happily Ever Afters, but more so in, if you're going to marry someone, you have to be damn sensible about it. You feel sorry for his long suffering girlfriend, Nancy (Idina Menzel - who reminds me ever so slightly of Penelope Cruz) who is obviously hoping for the day that Robert turns into Prince Charming.
As seems to be standard with most Disney DVD's, Enchanted has a number of bonus features, and hosts Disney's fast play feature. But what fun is a DVD without the bonus (or as I call them, "Geek") features?
On Enchanted, in addition to the main film, you'll find...
#Deleted Scenes. Now, sometimes, you get scenes that don 't make it into the main movie for whatever reason. The majority of scenes that are shown in the deleted scenes didn't make it in as they either dragged out the introduction, or just didn't fit in quite right. This is one of the rare films where I agree that every single final scene worked better without any of the deleted scenes.
#Blooper Reel. Ah, what DVD isn't complete without a blooper reel? It's there, reinforcing the fact that hell, even world class actors screw up on their lines sometimes! But, alas... I've yet to find a blooper reel that outshines the one on the end credits of Toy Story 2...
#Carrie Underwood music video. Well, does what it says on the tin... Features a cartoonized Carrie, jumping down the well into which Giselle is pushed, and being "stalked" aroundNew York by her own Prince Charming.
#"Making Of" featurette. This featurette tells you how various scenes were achieved throughout the movie, including the climax of the film, and various other effects.
#Pip's Pop-Up Adventure. I thought this was a brilliant idea. It shows us what happened to Prince Edward while Giselle was pushed down the well, and how Pip told him what happened... All I'm going to say is, it was an Enchanting idea...
Well, credits where credit is due... and it takes more than a few actors to make a film work... So here goes!
Director ~ Kevin Lima
Written by ~ Bill Kelly
Produced by ~ Barry Josephson and Barry Sonnenfeld
Director of Photography ~ Don Burgess ASC
Edited by ~ Stephen A. Rotter and Gregory Perler
Giselle ~ Amy Adams
Edward ~ James Marsden
Robert ~ Patrick Dempsey
Queen Narissa ~ Susan Surandon
Nathaniel ~ Timothy Spalding
Nancy ~ Idina Menzel
Morgan ~ Rachel Covey.
Kim's Last Word
Don't be put off by this being a children's film. This is one of those Disney films that you KNOW people are still going to be watching in years to come, so, it's worth watching! It's made it's way onto my list of favourite ever films, and judging by my son's reaction, it's one of his favourites too!
"Once, there was a boy, and the boy loved stars very much"
And so, his mummy, who loved him very much, went and bought him a book called "How To Catch A Star".
Now, I had got tired of reading my son every Disney story available. The "That's not my..." series never really caught his attention, and, by the time he was two, he seemed to need more of a story to keep his attention than the likes of "Hello, Baby." So, during a trek round Waterstones, a dark blue book, with a boy standing on a star drawn on the cover caught his eyes.
I hadn't, I'm ashamed to say, heard of Oliver Jeffers. But he hasn't been missed by those in the know. In 2004, the book was shortlisted for the Booktrust Early Years Awards.
How To Catch A Star starts about telling us about a boy who has this love for stars. So, he sets his heart on catching a star. So, the next day, he gets up early, to try and catch one. Now, credit where credit's due. Not only does he wait all day to catch a star, but then, the poor lad can't reach the star. So, he tries several methods.
*please note, this book endorses climbing trees and a child planning trips to the moon without their parents permission...
Now, the methods that the little boy uses to try to obtain the star are inventive, We have rockets, a lassoo made from lifebelts, and asking a seagull to help... It took my son a matter of days to memorise the order, shouting them before I turned the page.
The moral of the story is quite a traditional one, but told in a sweet narrative; if you want something enough, and work hard enough for it, then nothing is out of reach. The illustrations are beautiful and contemporary, yet they have a childlike edge to them. At 32 pages long, I find the book is short enough to keep my son's attention, yet long enough that he's not demanding it to be read again at bed time.
The writing could have run the risk of being overly simple, and turning into another stereotypical child's tale, with patronising text, but instead, Jeffer's writes in an almost poet-like prose, which makes reading and hearing the story a delight.
This book has become a firm favourite of my sons, and to be perfectly honest, I find myself reading it alone sometimes. I'm following it up with three further Oliver Jeffers' books for my son over Christmas. Expect follow up reviews to those, soon!
So, after the failings of the Sony Ericsson w595, I was in dire need of a new phone. Now, I have a slight obsession with girly looking phones. So, the KS360 caught my eye almost immediately.
The KS360 is a sliding phone, with a qwerty keyboard, in a choice of pink and black, or blue and black. I was able to buy the KS360 for £29.99 from Argos, with £10 top-up.
The first downside to this phone was that it is only available on Orange. I'd been with o2 for two years, and was dubious about the change. But I was already in love with the phone. Sometimes, a change is worth it...
The phone is definitely an attractive model, albeit slightly bulkier than other phones on the market. However, the white plastic, which makes up the battery cover, feels cheap and plasticky. On the front of the phone, there is a directional keypad, two soft keys, and two dialling keys. There is also a key with a grid on it which brings up a keypad on the touchscreen for dialling. I found the touchscreen to be a bit tricky to use, and if I often found that, if I needed to use the key pad during the call, just having a hair or ear lightly brush on the screen would be enough for the screen to register a touch. Rather annoying when you're trying to top up.
To access the qwerty keyboard, you slide the screen left. The keys are small, and relatively easy to use. However, some keys have the tendency to give you the symbol function, without you requesting it. Switching between upper and lower case is done by pressing a shift button in the bottom of the keypad. However, and I'm not sure how much of this is down to me being a general klutz, I often find myself pressing either the function or the symbol button located directly above the shift button.
The internal memory on the KS360 is relatively small, but I alwys use a memory card in my phones, so I was easily able to extend this memory. However, the phone will usually save to the internal memory by default. This results in a lot of file transfers.
The phone comes with orange messenger pre-installed, and a months free trial was a lifesaver when I found myself out of credit and internet usage one week. However, the log in seems to be unreliable, and can often take several attempts. Once online, however, I found the messenger worked well. Until I tried sending instant messages...
There's nothing quite like having your closest friend having a nervous breakdown, and you trying to offer moral support, to have you phone turn itself off unexpectedly. However, turning itself off seems to be a regular occurrence with the KS360. At current, the record stands at eighteen times in half an hour. I'm also convinced that the phone monitors what you're typing, as it seems conveniently reliable in turning itself off as soon as you type the immortal words "Damn pho..." Yes, you get that far. This problem also comes into text messaging.
The text messaging, when it works, is a beautiful feature. You can choose from the boring, average general view. Or you can have a threaded view, which shows the entire conversation between you and your friend. However, threaded view seems to have an allergy to ampersands (that's this symbol: &) Any text message received, containing an ampersand is truncated before that damn symbol.
The sound quality on the phone during calls is reasonable. However, my mother has reported that when I phone her that the volume coming through is variable, and sometimes so quiet she can't hear me. This problem only seems to exist when she's talking to me, but this may be down to the network instead of the phone.
The phone comes with a built in radio and mp3 player. However, although these are both of a reasonable quality, I do feel they have a few negative sides. Firstly, the radio cannot be minimized, so that you can reply to a message. Neither application can be run at the same time as Java applications or the internet browser. Which, when you have half an hour to kill on the bus or train, seems a difficult decision... Music or Facebook?... I also found that the range on the volume was not too great. At it's quietest, it was too loud, at its loudest, it was too quiet...
The phone isn't a complete failure, but it's not something I'd recommend. The failures that the phone does hold were enough to make me contemplate throwing it under the wheels of a moving vehicle at time, but luckily, it's holding out long enough for me to buy a new phone (touch wood)... Oh wait... There's a text...
So, after finally completely and unintentionally destroying my trusty k800i (which I was beginning to think was indestructible, it was time for a new phone. So, last December, with my birthday just around the corner, off I trotted to the Carphone Warehouse to find a replacement. Now, after the problems I had with the delightful "our-keys-will-crack" w580i, and the gorgeous "oh-you're-sending-a-text-I'm-turning-off" w980, I was a bit dubious. But, you know what they say! Practice makes perfect! So, perhaps Sony had finally made another reliable phone... But, it would appear that the k800i was a one off...
The w595 is one of those more attractive phones on the market, albeit slightly heavier than some other models you will find. But, for what it holds in beauty, and, if it works, practabitility, it lacks in general functioning.
It all started with the signal. Now, I started by blaming o2. "Useless network..." I muttered. At 2am, following three hours of no signal, my phone beeped. Five messages arrived, all in one minute, which had been sent between four hours and ten minutes beforehand. Yet, a few days later, I realised I was struggling to get signal anywhere. A quick sim exchange with a friend confirmed that I was capable of getting full signal, yet, as soon as she put her sim in my phone, she found she had the same problem.
A few weeks later, another huge problem kicked in. As I attempted to switch my phone on, I realised something was up. It vibrated and lit up, before turning back off. Ten attempts later, I realised that this was the end of the w595... or so I thought. A quick search on google informed me that other people had similar problems, and had been able to restore the phone using the phone restore software, which I had to download from the Sony Ericsson website. A short time later, I had a newly working w595... WITH SIGNAL!!! The ecstasy kicked in! Now the phone worked like a dream.
I suppose before I reach the climax of the tale of the w595, I should give it some credit. As someone that hates carrying multiple gadgets, I found the w595 was advantageous on its ability to run several functions at once. The music player that features on the phone is of a very high quality, and has the ability to play wma files as well as standard mp3's, thus making transferring files from CD album to phone a piece of cake.
The PC suite has to be downloaded seperately, but this is done easily enough. Once this is downloaded, you can transfer files from your phone to the computer and vice versa.
The camera is basic on the phone, at 3.2mp. However, it also lacks a flash function, which means you have NO chance of taking that beautiful night time shot. The video camera option is reasonable, although the sound quality can often be slighlty crackly.
The battery life on the w595 seems reasonable, although once the battery dies down to half way, the battery begins to wear out a lot quicker. I typically found I was charging the phone once a night if I was using the music player (which tended to be every day, on the way to college). However, I'd typically run the music player alongside the internet browser or a game.
The sound quallity during phone calls was defintiely worthy... until the mesh over the speaker fell out a few weeks ago. I now only use the phone for downloading. Which brings me to the demise of the w595.
Now, the main factor in my decision to buy another Sony Ericsson was the fact that I had a memory card only compatible with Sony products, full of around 600 songs, and 200 photos of my son. So, the fact this phone took the same memory card, and my fondness of the k800i both convinced me to give the w595 a try. Alas, six weeks ago, my phone froze on me. The memory card had only been half full. After turning the phone back on, I realised that my wallpaper had gone back to the standard Sony Ericsson wallpaper. Fearing my memory card had been wiped, I decided to check the status of the memory card. The phone decided to helpfully inform me that "MEMORY CARD NOT INSERTED!" Despie trying every trick in the book, the phone still refuses to accept that the memory card is in the correct place.
I've finally given up on the w595, and replaced it with an LG... Let's just say, that's a whole new (negative review).
I first came across Secondhand Serenade with thanks to the power of YouTube. I'd been flicking through various related videos, and I stumbled across a song called Maybe. And suddenly I was hooked.
Secondhand Serenade comprises of singer/guitarist, John Vesely. The first album, Awake was produced using multi-track recording, but on A Twist in my Story, Vesely enlisted the help of an orchestra. Vesely's sound is best described as acoustic emo or alternative rock.
I ended up downloading the album from Amazon, as most of my CDs end up being converted to mp3 files and onto my phone anyway. The album cost £6.99, but the CD retails as new on Amazon for between £6.85 on Amazon marketplace, and £34.49 from Amazon themselves for an imported copy.
After a bit of research, I discovered that the album is a reference to Vesely's divorce in 2008, and the album was released shortly after.
1. Like a Knife. (4:30)
This is, in my eyes, one of the most difficult tracks to review. On one listen, I find myself hating the track, but on the next, I can hear sheer beauty. The first verse starts off with an awful synthesizer and a beautiful guitar track and... Oh my god, is he singing in a minor key? Something about the first verse just doesn't sound right. But then we get to the chorus, and drums kick in. And you can't help but know the chorus is going to be stuck in your head for quite a while. Lyrically, the song isn't genius, but vocally, you can feel this guy's pain. And you actually want to rip the madam who's caused him this grief apart... Ok, maybe it's just me... This song is an emo ballad. There is no denying that. Ever. The use of language tugs at the heart strings, and there have been a few times I've almost felt myself reaching for the tissues. Yes, songs do that to me.
2. Fall For You (3:07)
You know those times when you're in a relationship, and you hit a rough patch? But then, there's a ceasefire for maybe just one night... This song is the soundtrack for those times. Vesely starts singing, with a simple piano accompaniment. In this ballad, you hear Vesely telling a girl how special she is, yet he's scared he's going to lose her. Somehow, towards the start of the song, you can't help but feel that Vesely's vocals are overbearing, overpowering compared to the simplicity of the piano. But, as we reach the second chorus, more instruments kick in, taking us to the bridge of the song, providing an almost epic conclusion.
3. Maybe (3:33)
WARNING! THIS IS AN UPTEMPO SONG!!! I best warn you before you suffer from a coronary. Yes, you can tap your feet to this song, and not feel like a moron. This is the first song that suggests Vesely's not such an angel after all. The song suggests he's hurt someone. And damn, he is sorry for it. So now, you still find yourself feeling sorry for him again. There's something about having a guy singing promises such as "I'll make it better than it ever was" that makes me melt. This is one of my favourite tracks from the album.
4. Stranger (4:51)
Now, there's so many ways to interpret this song. Personally, I can't help but think of that feeling when you set your eyes on some random stranger in the street, and you just get that initial feeling of lust, but mistake it for love at first sight. Anyway, you pluck up the courage to speak to said stranger, and they, obviously are a bit dubious of this weirdo talking to them, and you just want to get to know them. This is another of Vesely's beautiful ballads, set to a beautiful piano, and you can't help but wonder who the stranger in Vesely's mind was. Was he referring to a real stranger, or was the stranger his wife, following the distance of separation? This is my favourite track from the album.
5. Your Call (3:58)
This is an extremely slow song, initially, with Vesely's vocals accompanied only by an acoustic guitar for the first verse. This is a bittersweet song, about being in love with someone, but having to be away from them. The tempo remains slow, but picks up slightly at the climax of the song, in which Vesely sings about how he "was born to tell you I love you". Yes, he's that sweet...
6. Suppose (3:50)
I don't actually like this song too much. The song starts off sounding flat, before picking up towards the end of the first part of the verse. Then the chorus kicks in. The chorus itself isn't too bad, but the verses, and the bridge just have me itching for the skip button. Yes, its Vesely's usual sentimental lyrics, but I just struggle to hear this one out.
7. A Twist in my Story (4:10)
This is another really sweet song, about being in love with someone, and wanting them in your life until the day you die. Bearing in mind we know how the story in question ended, it's a sad twist at the end. It's not the slowest song on the album, far from it, but it's hardly upbeat either. It's played beautifully on an acoustic guitar, to start with before a piano and violin kick in. You have to hear this song to realise how beautiful it is.
8. Why (4:15)
Another sad song, about the fallout from a relationship, and the feelings that the guy is feeling afterwards. Avery slow song played on a piano with a violin accompaniment. During the bridge, he sings about how he'll bring the girl in question back, win her over again.
9. Stay Close, Don't Go (3:38)
A more uptempo song, but still tinged with sadness. This guy cannot sing an uptempo and happy song... he actually implodes if he tries. Anyway, this one is about a relationship on the brink of collapse, and how Vesely doesn't think he'll cope, so he's almost begging her to stay.
10. Pretend (3:33)
Ahh, the joys of unrequited love. It's what it seems this particular song is about. In this song, Vesely sings as if he's asking a girl to let him go because she's playing with his heart, and the pretence is too much for him. The musical composition on this is simple, but then if it was much more complicated it'd run the risk of ruining the song. Another song that as of yet, I'm undecided on.
11. Goodbye (5:30)
The final track on the album, and it seems dear John is finally accepting things are well and truly over. This track is pretty heartfelt... as if you expected anything less. But in a way, his acceptance that his marriage is over makes this track even more emotional.
I actually enjoy these survey type things. I tend to read them back at a later date, and analyse how my mind set has changed since I filled them out.
What did you do in 2009 that you have not done before?
I moved into my own house. Well, it's rented, but it was the first time I started living in a household where I was the only supposedly responsible adult. It's been a big shift, especially as up until the day I moved, I was living in a refuge, so there was ALWAYS someone about for a chat, coffeee, or whatever.
Did anyone close to you give birth?
Not this year, no. But I found out on Boxing Day that my sister-in-law is pregnant.
Did anyone close to you die?
Yes. My ex's uncle died two weeks after I left my ex. I'd always been fond of him, so it hit me hard, and even more so that I couldn't be there for various reasons
What countries did you visit?
Cyprus, as my parents live out in Pissouri, and following my split, they felt they needed to see me to know I was ok.
What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
Self-belief. I'm gradually getting there, but the belief "I can't do this" was almost constantly in my mind up until at least October.
What dates will you remember from 2009?
8th January - My son's first birthday
14th May - Left my ex, moved inbto first refuge
1st June - Moved 200 miles into next refuge
4th June - Ex's uncle passed away
15th June - Moved back to home town
18th September - Started college, despite still living in the refuge, and still doubting that I had the skill to do the course.
3rd November - Moved into my house
5th December - My brothers wedding day
Did you suffer illness or injury?
I was ill for about the last six weeks of the year. I'm still not fully recovered, and the doctors still aren't sure what exactly is/was wrong with me. For the first three weeks, I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, couldn't stop coughing. The coughing is still happening occassionally, and for seven weeks of the illness, when I coughed, I was losing my breath for about half an hour afterwards
What was the best thing you bought?
A washing machine. I'm serious. For the first three weeks of living in the new house, I was having to handwash everything. Nightmare.
Whose behaviour has merited celebration?
My son's. He has had to deal with moving four times in one year, leaving the people and places he's used to behind. For a sixteen - twenty-three month old, that must be quite bewildering.
Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
My ex's. For the first two weeks of me leaving him, he threatened suicide, told my dad I had been having an affair, called social services, threatened to try to get full, sole custody of our son, and then decided he never wanted to see our son again. After two weeks, I ended up having a nervous breakdown, and changed my number.
Also, my brother and sister in law. They have done little for my self confidence, and constantly undermined me where my son was concerned. Famously, they brought my son nback three hours after the agreed time. I had done everything possible to find them, and was about to phone the police when they returned with him. Also, my brother decided to tell me I was "lower" than him, due to the fact he was working, had his own house, had a loving fiance, etc. Nothing like kicking a dog when they're down, hey?
Where did most of your money go?
College costs, and furniture for my new house
What did you get really excited about?
my son taking his first steps, moving house, starting college, applying for uni
What song(s) will you remember from 2009?
Frank Turner - The Road. I feel this song summed up my year, but also reminds me of a good friend I made
Compared to this time last year are you... happier, fitter, or more productive?
Definitely happier. I've come through a lot, and retrospectively, I've realised I'm stronger than I previously believed. Fitter? I'd say about the same. More productive? Yep, now at college, so I'm now spending a lot of time writing assignments and so forth, but learning something new everyday
What do you wish you had done more of?
I would have liked to take more visits to the cinema, or had more nights out. I'm something of a social recluse of late
What do you wish you had done less of?
Worrying, crying. At the end of the day, I may not have much materially, but I've got a beautiful son, my determination, and my goals. That's what matters
What was your favourite TV programme?
The Inbetweeners. Saw it for the first time, and it was the funniest thing I'd seen for ages
Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate last year?
Nope. Disdain, maybe, but hate is such a waste of an emotion.
What's been the best book of 2009?
Rather biasedly, Jodi Picoult's Handle With Care. I had my photo taken with her at a book signing/discussion, and couldn't get over how lovely she was.
What was your greatest musical discovery?
Oh, there's too many to list, but probably Secondhand Serenade, Bayside, Hinder, Theory of a Deadman, Frank Turner and Ryan Adams. These bands are collectively the most played bands in my mp3 collection. I can't narrow it down to one greatest discovery, as they all fill a different hole in my heart
What did you want to get in 2009?
Freedom, a house, and some empathy from my mother about my situation.
What did you want and didn't get?
Empathy from my mother
What is your favourite film of the year?
I'll say Hannah Montana. It was between this and X-Men Origins, but the Cyrus crew win on the basis that it was the first movie I took my son to the cinema for. He loved the experience, and ate most of the popcorn in the tub singlehandedly
What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
Went to college, found out I'd failed an assignment, went out for dinner with my parents, and was ill throughout the day. I was 25
What political issue stirred you the most?
Although it wasn't a new political issue, the rights that abusive parents have with regards to their children drove me crazy. The laws in place give parents almost guaranteed access in most cases, and the law seems to feorget that child protection is key.
Who was the best person you met?
Too many to remember, but the girls in the last refuge, and some of my college mates
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009?
No matter how bad life gets, it's how you deal with it that makes the difference
1. What is your middle name?
Alison, which is also my Mum's first name
2. Fire or Central Heating?
Central heating. I'm stuck with storage heaters at the moment, and I'm sure they're colder than my freezer.
3. What are you listening to right now?
Taking Back Sunday - Makedamnsure. I always have music playing after my son goes to bed
4. Clubbing or Romantic Meal?
Romantic meal, preferably home-cooked, and by candlelight.
5. What was the last thing you ate?
Cadbury Creme Egg. They were 3 for £1.20 in McColls. How could I resist?
6. Last person you hugged?
My son at bed time.
7. How is the weather right now?
Dark, cold but dry.
8. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?
Mum and Dad, and I remember telling Dad I was convinced I'd failed an assignment. Luckily, I was wrong, and got a merit.
9. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex?
A combination of eyes and smile. Those two things combined can tell you a lot about a person
10. Favourite type of Food?
Ice cream, although I'm developing a fondness for the salad bar at Morrisons
11. Do you want children?
I already have one son, and it'd take someone VERY special to convince me to have another. This is nothing against my son, as he is the only thing that keeps me somewhere near-ish to sane, but at the same time, my pregnancy and first eighteen months of his life were ruined, not only by his father, but by various family members, too.
12. Hair colour?
Naturally, dark brown. At the moment, dyed red. Has been, consistently for eight months
13. Do you wear contacts?
Nope, I'm supposed to wear glasses, but my son broke them.
14. Favourite holiday?
L ast time I went out to Cyprus. My parents live out there, so was staying with them, and without my ex being there, the atmosphere was so much more relaxed. Also, my son was now at a better age to enjoy the holiday.
15. Favourite Season?
Winter. I'm a big kid at heart, and love snow. I'm usually the one found throwing snowballs or making the first snowman, and as a college mate pointed out, as soon as the first flakes fall, I become like a kid at christmas
16. Have you ever cried over a love lost?
Yep, and boy was it a complicated situation. The man in question is still a close friend, five years after we split, and helped me find the strength and confidence to get out of a bad situation last year. There's a part of me that will always love him, but at the same time, we're not meant to be.
17. Last Movie you watched?
The Nightmare Before Christmas - I'm a huge Burton fan, and this seems to have been inherited by my son. I put TNBC on on Halloween, and he fell in love with it. At two years old, it's a strange favourite film for him.
18. What books are you reading?
Grimm's Fairy Tales and An Introduction To Literature Criticism and Theory. i'm writing an extended essay on gender and social bias in the Grimm Fairy Tales for my college course.
My ears were pierced, but I ended up letting them heal over, unintentionally. I just kept forgetting to put earrings back in.
20. Favourite Movie?
Just one? That's too difficult for me to answer... It'd be between The Nightmare Before Christmas, A Clockwork Orange and Gangs of New York. I like my films too much to name just one favourite film. At current, I have 132 films queued on love film...
21. Favourite Sports Team?
Birmingham City Football Club. That, my son and the life lessons I gained in Birmingham are the only things that prevent me from hating the city
22. What were you doing before filling this out?
Was on facebook, and listening to music
23. Favourite animal?
Wolves. I think they're beautiful creatures, and there's something strangely mystifying about them
24. Favourite drink?
Cherry Coke, much to my friends amusement. For some reason, Cherry Coke and Apple Tango both send me hyper, so I typically get through a litre before and during our four hour history lessons... If you've studied the Poor Laws, you'll understand
25. Favourite flower?
Roses. An ex bought me a single red rose to ask me out, and I think that was such a romantic gesture.
26. Have you ever loved someone?
27. Who would you like to see right now?
Right now? I can't think of one specific person.
28. What colour are your bedroom walls?
Good old magnolia...
29. Have you ever fired a gun?
Good grief, no. Unless you include water pistols
30. Do you like to travel by plane?
I'm terrified of planes! Last time I went out to Cyprus, we hit a lot of turbulence. I think I left fingernail marks in the armrest
31. Right-handed or Left-handed?
32. If you could go to any place right now where would you go?
It's an old thinking spot that I used to have along the river wall. Unfortunately, it's now fenced off, so even if I had a babysitter, I couldn't go and sit there. Which is a shame, because I used to get a lot of creative inspiration from that place
33. Are you missing someone?
Yeah, a good friend who's now living in Southampton. Unfortunately, he's changed with his new friends, into someone barely recognisable from who he used to be. I miss the old him.
34. Do you have tattoo?
Just the one at the moment. But I plan on getting two more.
35. Do you still watch cartoons on Saturday mornings?
Saturday morning, we usually end up shopping. I'm at college during the week, so Saturday is the most convenient time to do so
36. Are you hiding something from someone right now?
Not that I can think of.
37. Are you 18?
Nope, I'm 25
38. What is the wallpaper on your cell phone?
It's my son in a dodgem. Took him on when he was 22 months old, and luckily they were nearly empty, but he loved them!
39. Are you afraid of the dark?
Nope, it's silence that scares me.
40. Favourite Hangout?
Aty home, curled up on the sofas with my son
41. Three things you can't live without?
My son, my laptop and music. My son easily outweighs the other two things on the list, but the laptop contains my poetry and a novel I'm writing, and music helps me sleep
42. Favourite songs?
Hinder - By The Way, Ryan Adams - Crossed Out Name, Whiskeytown - Dreams, Saves The Day - Delusional, Secondhand Serenade - I Hate This Song, Frank Turner - Photosynthesis. This is the furthest I can narrow it down without changing my mind
43. What are you afraid of?
Silence, and stranely enough, dead fish. Oh, and insects, of most varieties.
44. Are you a giver or a taker?
I try to give more than I receive, but last year meant I had to ask for a lot of help.
45. What do you sleep in?
A bed... Oh, and pyjamas...
46. Stuck on a deserted island, and can only bring one thing?
A sturdy enough boat to get me home
47. Favourite TV commercial?
The Barclays roller coaster one. Never mind the slide, I want the rollercoaster!
48. First thing you'll save in a fire?
My son. Goes without saying
49. What is your favourite colour?
Pink, or red, depending on my mood
50. What are the things you always bring with you?
My son (unless he's been dropped off at the childminders), phone, headphones, keys, banks card, tissues
51. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
An author, and at the age of 24, I realised I needed to chase that dream. This is why I'm back at college, and heading back to uni in September
52. What do you do when the alarm turns on?
Press snooze about fifty times, then realise I have 45 minutes to get my son and I ready, and get him to the childminders
53. What colour is your bed sheet?
Beige, with a black print on it
54. What do you think about before you go to bed
"Might as well go to bed to lie awake until half five..."
Someone asked me the other day what my pet peeves were. Unfortunately, I didn't have the courage to tell him he was one of them. Anyway, after a few glasses of wine, my housemate and I started discussing the topic. And I eventually came up with a definitive list.
1. My phone. Yes, it seems an odd one. And my peeves with it are self inflicted. So far, it's survived being thrown at the wall, dropped down two flights of stairs, and having a relaxing lavender bath. Yet, the only thing that's wrong with it affects the whole functionality of the phone. The back button does not work. At all. I have to go through this ridiculously complex method of returning to the main screen. And if I accidently knock the photo viewer, that's it. I have to turn the entire phone off and back on again. Slightly annoying.
2. Facebook stalkers. At any one time, my mother, my best friend, my coursemate and my on-off boyfriend can tell you what my status is, when I last logged on, the last person to post on my wall, the last group I joined. It's got to the point where Mummy Dearest phones, and I can't think of anything to tell her because she's read it all.
3. Dance music. Not just any dance music, but the kind that takes a perfectly good song, which was never intended for the dance genre, and puts it through the most torturous, painful, long-winded death imaginable. And then reaches the top of the chart. Please note. If anyone ever tries this with The Libertines, Frank Turner or Ryan Adams, I cannot be held responsible for my actions.
4. The newspapers. I believe Russell Howard covers them perfectly in his stand up gigs... You can almost always guess what paper someone reads by their socio-political views.
5. People who play their music so loud that you can't work out who the act is, what genre they're in, or what they're singing. Surely that's not the way to listen to good music. Turn it up by all means, but at least make sure you can still actually listen to and appreciate it.
6. People who become stereotypes of themselves. You know, the type of people who cover themselves in tattoos so they "look hard" then decide to start "acting hard" too. Or the people who decide that just because they listen to whichever emo band, they have to pierce their lip, adopt a pout and look miserable as sin all the time. Oh please. What happened to individuality?
7. People who make snide remarks under their breath. Especially annoying if you're sitting in class, and trying to listen to what the tutors telling you, as you actually want to get a distinction on this course, and someone's continually slagging off the teacher. If you think you can do a better job, YOU teach the class.
8. Buses. In Great Yarmouth in particular, they're awful. To get to my son's childminider takes two bus journeys, then another bus journey to college. Altogether, I spend 3 hours onwards travelling each weekday. And to make matters worse, the buses run on a half hourly basis, and one of them is not pushchair accessible. So I'm left getting a toddler, a changing bag, a college bag and a stupidly bulky pushchair onto the bus. How they expect wheelchair users in Belton to manage, I don't know...
9. Swearing like a trooper. Ok. I admit, I'll occassionally let the odd profanity slip from my lips. And if I'm really angry, I'll close the bedroom door and mutter every curse under the sun about someone. But if you're using expletives constantly in general conversation, you're seriously lacking in both the vocabulary and intellectual department.
10. The people who think it's their place to talk down to you. Unfortunately, there's two in my family. One blames her attitude on "a hard lilfe" and the other blames whoever he's talking down to. Firstly, no-one deserves to be spoken to in a patronising manner. Secondly, if you've had a hard life, isn't that suppposed to create an element of empathy? Or am I misunderstood on that.
Anyway, I think that's everything. But there's always the edit button....
On May the 14th 2009, I changed my life for the better. I had spent four years and three months in an abusive relationship, and made the choice to leave.
I'd met my partner back in 2004, but finally started a relationship with him on Valentines Day 2005. Things moved very quickly. Within a matter of months, he had persuaded me to move in. I was 20 at the time.
MY ex had two children from a previous relationship. I quickly became responsible for them, starting with babysitting when they were round ours and he was working. He soon convinced me that it wasn't fair on me for me to be looking after his own kids, so dropped out of work so he could "care" for them. I became responsible for paying the bills, meaning I had to drop out of university to earn enough money to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. In october of the same year, his ex stopped him seeing the kids.
In June, I first encountered his dark side, so to speak. After a trip down the pub, where I had first met his friends, he asked me what I thought of his friends. I said I wasn't too sure of one friend. An argument followed, in which he told me to leave the flat. I pointed out I had nowhere to go. A few moments later, he walked into the room with one of the large knives from the kitchen in his hand. "Get out, or I'll kill you." As I went to leave, he dropped the knife, telling me he'd been clowning around, that it was a joke. Over two days, he worked on getting me to forgive him. I put the incident down to his being drunk.
He started acting jealous of a male friend of mine, and gradually convinced me to drop contact with every male friend I had. I couldn't work with a male colleague without him accussing me of having an affair with him.
In April, 2006, I began working in a bar in town. During an incident, he hurt his ankle, and after someone laughed without realising he'd really hurt himself, he hobbled off. When he returned, the door had been locked shut, as the bar was now closed. He kicked the door, and subsequently broke his foot. After this, he threatened to sue the company, phoning them and informing them of this himself. He pressured me into choosing between him and the job. It was about this time that he first hit me. I don't know what convinced me to stay, whether it was a case of being 200 miles from my own family, or fear. I didn't tell anyone what was going on, but I think my colleagues had their suspicions. After my ex's performance, my boss gradually started whittling down my hours. Eventually, I was down to one evening a week, and had to change jobs, heading back to the pub where I had met him.
By changing back to the pub near him, this gave him a chance to check up on me in every shift. He'd sit in the pub with drinks, taking my tips so he could buy another pint to make sure I wasn't flirting with customers. During one argument, he locked me on the communal landing in our tower block, accusing me of having an affair. He had waited until I was getting ready for bed, and was in my underwear, then dragged me out of the flat, claiming he didn't want a sl*t like me in his flat. When he finally let me back in, he forced me into sleeping with him, as proof that I wasn't sleeping around. I didn't think of it as rape until I left him, and a support worker pointed out that's exactly what it was.
Over all this time, I provided for him, helped him, supported him. When I found out I was pregnant, I prayed it'd be a wake up call for him. He couldn't even stay sober for the results of the test. It should have been one of the happiest moments of my life, but instead, it was tinged with anger that he couldn't stay sober, sit with me while I waited for the result. Instead, he decided to stay down the pub.
When I was six months pregnant, he attacked me for the first time during my pregnancy. For the first time, I fought back, after he went to punch me in the stomach. I blocked his hand, and hit him back. I then locked myself in the bathroom and called the police. After hearing he'd most likely be let off with a caution, I dropped the charges. I felt it made more sense to at least have the fact I dropped the charges making me look like a loyal partner in his eyes. Now, I wish I'd pressed for charges, and made sure he'd got a sentence.
After our son was born, I felt more and more alone. He offered no support in caring for our son, and instead chose to spend his evenings down the pub, while I was dealing with a new born. He pressurised me into having our son share the bed, on the basis that he couldn't stand the sound of a baby crying, which my son did every time I put him to bed. He then used this as an excuse to sleep on the sofa. Two weeks after our son was born, despite the fact my episiotomy had not yet healed, he once again pressured me into having sex with him.
When our son was six months old, my ex returned from the pub drunk and started an argument. He attacked me while holdeing our son in his arms, ripped the cot apart and told me I couldn't leave him, as he'd kill me and my son if I did. When he attacked me in October, I was holding our son. It was then that I left the first time. I made the mistake of returning after the trial. Although he didn't hit me between then and the time I left the second time. But the mental abuse started. I became convinced I was fat, ugly and that I was a bad mother. He hid things to make me look crazy. The turning point for me was when he attacked my son. The next day, while he was at community service, I left.
Since then, I've been living in refuge accommodation. I've moved three times in six weeks, but I'm now near my family. He has no idea where I am, but I'm safe. The refuge I'm in has self contained flats, so I get my own space, but at the same time, I have the chance to socialise.
I found out about the freedom programme, which aims to provide support to women living in, or leaving abusive relationships. The programme was set up by Pat Craven, and after reading her booklet, living with the dominator, I was suprised at how common what my partner put me through was. Every abuser works to the same pattern. I was one of the lucky ones. I escaped. But shockingly, two women a week are killed by a partner or ex partner.
I'm getting my life back on track, slowly but surely. If I spend the rest of my life afraid, he's won. I'm making sure that won't happen.
If anyone is suffering from domestic abuse, don't be afraid to ask for help. Talk to friends or family. Put a bit of money aside in case you need to leave in a hurry. Make sure you have all your important documents with you at all times. You never know when you'll need them. The national domestic violence helpline gave me the support I needed and helped to get me into refuge accommodation. If you need to talk to someone about the abuse, the lines are open 24 hours a aday, 7 days a week, and they can be contacted on 0808 2000 247.
No one suffering abuse is as alone as they might feel.
I was brought up in Clarks shoes, so when the time came for my sons first proper shoes, I decided to head to Clarks.
The first store we used was the one in Merry Hill. The store in question was aimed solely at children, and was very spacious, and set out with children in mind. After taking a ticket, we waited about two minutes before an employee headed over with the measuring equipment. The member of staff was very engaging, and chatted to my son as she measured his feet. Normally, my son hates being measured for anything, so she definitely helped as he seemed very relaxed.
After having his feet measured, and discussing whether he was crawling, cruising or walking, she brought out three pairs of "cruising" shoes. Unfortunately, the range for little boys doesn't seem as varied or attractive as that for little girls, but we managed to agree on a nice suede-looking pair. The employee took a photo for his "first shoes" album, and took us over to the till.
At the till, we were given a first shoes information pack, explaining why regular checks were needed, the photo, and a record card. The shoes we bought were £20, and we were offered the chance to buy some suede cleaner. We passed on this opportunity as we already had some at home. Altogether we spent about 15 minutes in the shop.
We took another trip back to Clarks (this time in the Bullring) last week. As we were in a different shop, I was worried that the staff may not be as friendly as the other store. Unfortunately, the children's department was based upstairs and the lift was very small. Upstairs, the department was spacious, and easy to navigate with a pushchair. Almost as soon as I collected a ticket, a friendly store assistant greeted us. Again, he was very friendly, and seemed interested in making my son feel at ease. He held a conversation with my son (to the extent you can with a 15 month old), and asked me general question about foot health, how his current shoes were fitting, what stage of development he was at. He then measured my sons feet and brought out three pairs of shoes suitable for my son. It seemed to be my son who decided this time, heading straight for a navy pair in one of the boxes, and duly handing it to me. After trying them on, my son seemed to be impressed pointing at his "doos" (as he calls them). At the till, we were offered a navy shoe cleaner, and informed that bags were currently half price with any shoe purchase. I decided to steer clear of the bags for the time being, but this time took the cleaner. The sale came to just over £25 altogether, and the trip took about 10 minutes this time.
All in all, I've found Clarks to be great value, and the staff to be both friendly and helpful. Some shops seem pushy when it comes to buying extras, but Clarks seem to have it just right, by informing you of extra products, but not pushing the up-sells onto you. The shoes may seem pricey compared to other shops, but I feel that something as important as your child's feet is well worth paying the extra for.
The shoes seem to last well, although as with most toddlers, my sons feet grow very quickly. So at the moment, he's going about eight weeks in a pair. The suede ones seemed to get slightly discoloured if Darrell was wearing them with dark jeans, although this could be more to do with the dye from the jeans than the shoes themselves. They've managed to withstand a toddler's clumsy cruising steps, and my son tripping over his own feet when he thinks he can walk faster than he actually can.
About seven weeks ago, I made the biggest mistake of my life. My w580i had finally completely packed up on me, and my back up phone was refusing to charge.
So, of I trotted to the o2 shop, where I decided to invest in the ever so stylish Sony Ericsson w910i. Several friends had reccommended it, telling me what a brilliant phone it was. My mind was set.
At the time, the phone was retailiig in o2 for just under £100. I've yet to see it cheaper. I'd put the flaws of the w580i down as a one off, and as this was supposed to be a newer model, I thought it would be a much phone. Oh how wrong was I.
The handset I bought was a very stylish silver colour. The number keys are a lot more reliable than the w580i, which tended to split. However, I soon found out they were too close together for my slightly clumsy fingers, and I often found myself hitting the wrong key.
The navigational keys have luckily disposed of the joystick style button that many of the older Sony Ericsson models boasted. However, they stilol have the directional keys, for ease of navigation. These also double up as shortcut keys. there are two keys at the top of the screen, which access your stored photos quickly and easily, starting with the latest photo added to your album. Very handy for showing off the latest snap.
At the top of the phone is the power button. I found this fiddly and difficult to manage, often taking several attempts to turn the phone on or off. Also on the top of the phone is the "w" button, to access the walkman. Down the right side of the phone is the volume contgrol, and the memory card slot. Down the left hand side, you'll find the slot to plug in the charger and headphones.
The phone can easily be upgraded by adding applications and games. I added Opera Mini, a version of the Opera web browser that's been modified for the mobile phone, and two games to keep myself occupied during times of extreme boredom/insomnia.
The phone's memory can be expanded by adding a memory card (an m2 microstick), which I found vital for saving all my photos and mp3's.
As a bit of a music fan, I felt drawn towards the w910i as it was part of the "walkman" series of phones. I'd found the sound on the w580i to be of a high quality, and was expecting the same from the w910i. I was let down. Many mp3's which had played beautifully on my previous phone sounded tinny through the w910i's speakers. At first, I attributed this to the fact I'd downloaded songs with a smaller kbps. not only that, buit it was awkward and time consuming to set up the playlist, and unlike the w580i, there was no "update library" option. I still have no idea how I eventually got all of the tracks playing, rather than having just one play individually.
After getting increasingly frustrated with the mp3 player, I decided to test the radio. All seemed well, until I recieved a text message. Upon replying to the message, I noticed that every time I pressed a button, a clicking sound reverberated through the headphones. This problem had not been present in the w580i.
As a mother to a very active toddler, I find the camera an important attachment to any phone.It saves having to carry a spare camera, and chances are, you'll nearly always have it nearby for those amusing photos. However, within three photos taken from the w910i, I decided it was worth hauling around the Kodak and a few spare batteries. The camera lacked a flash, so in poor lighting conditions, photos appeared very grainy. As the flash on the K800i had worked so well, I would have thought Sony would have kept this feature on the phone. In good lighting conditions, however, I found the photos to be of a good standard, considering the camera was a 2 mp.
I mentioned I'd added Opera Mini to my phone. As my internet had packed up and left (the computer version, that is), I found myself relying on the wap version of facebook, and using Opera mini to check my emails, bank accounts, and of course, dooyoo. Howeer, it appears the phone has a major flaw when it comes to the wap experience. I found the phone frequently resetting itself.
But this was nothing compared to my biggest bugbear about the phone. Most people expect a phone to recieve and make phone calls. Makes common sense, right? Unfortunately, with the w910i, I found myself frequently losing network coverage, at times when my partner, on the same network, would have full coverage, whilst being sat right next to me. on several occassions, I lost connection to o2 three times or more a day. Friends often commented on how my messages were coming through in an illogical order, and on several occassions, I'd phone my partner in response to a message to find out it had been sent anyhting up to an hour earlier.
Yesterday, I decided enough was enough, after missing a phone call from my mum due to the lack of coverage. I've bought a K800i, a phone my partner had beforehand, and only disposed of when he had his heart set on a new, sleeker looking nokia. I know some people have had a really good experience with the w910i, but I've found the problems I experienced with mine to be very common, after asking around. If you want an unreliable, tempermental phone, then this would be perfect for you. Otherwise, steer clear.
I have a confession. I'm a pushchair obsessive. My partner finds it worrying that I can correctly identify the majority of pushchairs on the market.
Six weeks ago, I was trawling E-bay for a new pushchair. My son's previous pushchair had been bulky, with very low handlebars. And if I have to admit it, VERY ugly.
Then I saw it. "£70.00 Bargain! Loola Pushchair!"My eyes scanned the screen. This had to be a wind up.
Two days later, my Loola was delivered. It was second hand, and the faults had been described very honestly. The first thing that struck me was how small the pushchair folded whilst in parent facing mode. As one of the "attatchment parenting brigade" (as my sister in law calls me), this had been one of the main requirements for a pushchair. The seat and cosytoes are a gorgeous greyish-blue colour. I'd fallen in love.
The pushchair is simple enough to unfold, although you do need two hands and a foot to do so. There's a small catch at the base of one of the legs, which you unhook, and then it unfolds like a normal stroller. There's a bar at the bottom, which you press your foot on to complete the set up. You then yank the handlebars slightly to lock the handlebars.
It took me a few days to work out that the wheels could change between swivel and locked. By sliding a switch below the handle bar, you set the swivel or lockable wheels system.
The handle bars can be set into three different positions. I tend to use mine facing upwards, like the handles you'd find on the Maclaren Techno. My partner uses them facing each other, so they resemble a one bar handle. My mother, who is quite short, has the handles facing down, so she doesn't feel she's reaching so far up to push. I also find the chassis is quite wide, meaning that it doesn't bode well in our compact corner shop.
The seat unit is reversible. I use mine in a parent facing mode, so I can talk to my son while we're doing the weekly shop, or on the way into town. To change the seat round, you press two buttons, either side of the pushchair, lift the seat off, turn it round, and just put it back in the same place. There are two recline positions for the seat. One is supposed to be upright, but even then, my son looks extremely laid back. Then there's the lie flat, where my son seems too upright for him to be lying comfortably. The harness is a five point harness, which is easy enough to fasten. I was informed by the women I bought the pushchair from that this was the second harness, as the first had appeared to be too tight by the time her daughter was seven months. My son seems to find the pushchair a lot more comfortable than his previous one, with a lot less protestations, even on a four hour train journey.
The cosytoes is one part of the pushchair I find myself disliking. Due to my OCD, I prefer the cosytoes to look perfect. Unfortunately, it tends to slip down when I'm seating my son in the pushchair, resulting in a half hour battle to get my son in the chair. It zips up in a cocoon style, which is designed to enclose arms as well. This did not go down well with my son, so I left his arms free. Then the zip slid down. Eventually, I gave up on the cosytoes.
The hood seems ever so slightly oversized for the pushchair, and slightly flimsy. Luckily, we haven't been caught in a torrential downpour, so my fears that it'd be too weak haven't been put to the test.
The raincover zips very easily onto the pushchair, although some people have commented that they've found the zip too stiff. I must have been one of the lucky ones.
Unfortunately, the pushchair came without a basket, although I had been informed of this, due to the basket ripping.
The brakes operate on a stop-go system. You press a red pedal to apply the brakes, and a blue one to release them. However, mine appear to be very tempermental, and on one occassion, the pushchair ended up releasing the brake system itself, and hurtling out of position on the bus.
I find the Loola slightly heavier to push than other pushchairs, and often struggle slightly to get up raised kerbs. Also, I've found I can't push the pushchair one-handed. Well, not unless I want the pushchair underneath the 8A bus. Even my partner has commented on how difficult the Loola is to push.
The Loola offers a simple enough folding system, although, again, you need two hands, a foot, and this time enough memory to fold the damn thing. The first time I tried to fold the pushchair, it took about half an hour, and the use of the internet. There's two buttons on the handlebars, which you have to pres down. Then, you have to kick the bar underneath the seat (again, like an umbrella fold pushchair). After that, the pushchair is easy enough to fold. You just push the handlebars in a forward/ downward position, and the small catch holds it all in place.
Despite its flaws, I have to admit I'm ever so slightly fond of my Loola. It's kind of like an unconditional love, almost as a thanks for replacing the awful contraption I had before hand. I know some parents will prefer something slightly narrower and easier to push. But I love my Loola. Warts, dodgy brakes, and all.
The Loola usually retails for around £275, which does not include any extras. I bought mine second hand for £70.
UPDATE: 28/1/10 Oh, Loola, Loola, Loola... Please don't do this to me! Yesterday, I was waiting at the bus stop for the bus to the childminders. I took Mini-Me out of the pushchair, and went to fold the pushchair... with no success. The right hand button had completely frozen. Unfortunately, the bus to the childminders is not pushchair friendly, and I ended up having to force the Loola up the steps, and place it in the baggage hold, still full. I later found out that I could fold the pushchair, but only if I removed the seat unit first, pressed the button, replaced the seat. This has NEVER happened before. Ever. *sobs*