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I just adore Tom Sharpe's books - his satirical type of humour is just my cuppa cha!!
'Wilt' and 'Blot on the Landscape' both had me splitting my sides laughing ( although I was slightly disappointed with 'Grantchester Grind.'), so I was very pleased to find 'The Midden' in a local charity shop - I paid my £1 and took home the book to sit reading it in the lovely Lancashire sunshine!!
Tom Sharpe is either a comical genius or an absolute madman - he always throws his characters into incredible, unbelievable situations, and stands back to see what happens - mostly what can happen worse... happens, with hilarious results.
'The Midden' is a tale of greed that is set in Margaret Thatcher's England - with all the greed and hunger for bigger and better that prevailed at that time. Timothy Bright, from a well to do family, is in his late twenties. He may be 'Bright' by name but what he certainly isn't bright by nature!! Timothy Brights was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Sadly it failed to make up for his complete lack of gumption, especially when he finds out that the spoon has been pawned. He is accepted with open arms as a Lloyds name and is only brought to heel when he is asked to repay some major sums to that august body. In true Tom Sharpe style there follows a drug fuelled motorbike ride through unfamiliar countryside, ending up in bed with the wrong woman, in the kind of implausible yet highly credible kind of story line that only Tom Sharpe can pull off. As with any book review I believe that less is more, you can give too much away so I will leave you with this comment:
So far, I have read all of the Tom Sharpe books. A few, such as Porterhouse Blue, Wilt and Blott on the Landscape have made it onto the small screen, to great acclaim, and including such stars as Griff Reese Jones, David Suchet and Geraldine James. It is a shame that more can't be filmed but the content may not sit well with a family audience. In my experience, the book is always better than a film or TV adaptation so five yourself a treat and read The Midden, it will take you to a place where the ludicrous is normality. His life as a financial advisor held a bright future, but this is a Sharpe novel and consequently things go horribly wrong!! Hounded by appalling debts, Timothy Bright gets involved with the mob, robs his Aunt, and has to frame one of the top judges or else the mob turns him into "piggy chops". This is a typical slapstick/farce Sharpe style book as things go from bad to worse as our poor 'hero' is soon dragged naked from a cellar by a Rottweiler , is under duress from a chief constable who's trying to escape his wife's lesbian house guest.
We have all the typical incredible incidents like the old bloke who, as he remembers his years hunting buffalo tries to shoot the police; basically chaos rules, and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments - certainly not a book not to be read on the tube!!
I didn't think that 'The Midden' was as good as some of Sharpe's earlier works. Yes it is very funny, and a big improvement 'Grantchester Grind' but there is a few problems in my opinion. At the beginning of the book we are introduced to a character who then spends the rest of the novel either unconscious or imprisoned and out of most of the action. It is also a little predictable with a rather disappointing ending.
On the pro side however, there are some hilarious characterizations, some side splittingly funny passage and a typical Sharpe ridicule of authority. If you're a newcomer to Tom Sharpe, choose ' Wilt' or one of his other earlier books to read first - tackle ''The Midden' after that. Still a worthy read and I'm sure that Sharpe lovers will enjoy it.
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd; New edition (1 April 2004)
Amazon has copies available from 1p
Please bow your heads and stand a moment in silence to mark the passing of my old laptop, an Acer travelmate which, after four years and one too many blows to the head, finally gave up the ghost and went to laptop heaven with some of my holiday photos still on the hard disk. It's OK, they were still on the cards, so all I have to do is re-edit.
I'm now the proud owner of a new Acer, and it is quite an upgrade on the old one.
For one thing it has a super processor, which is apparently dual core.
It has built in wireless which connects so easily that I had to turn it off as I wanted to load AVG antivirus before I connected to the internet.
It is quiet and very quick, even with 512 Megabytes of RAM it performs. when I get around to putting in the other 512 it will be unbeatable. As it is it runs Adobe Photoshop very well, handles three different browsers and a word processor simultaeneously and has not struggled yet.
Look and Feel
Acer have come on a long way since my first laptop, it is slim, elegant and light.
Memory and Capacity
There are 512 Megabytes of RAM - DDR2 dual channel. Good for most applications.
Capacity of the Hard disk is 60 gigabytes, divided into 2 partitions, one for system files and one for data and backups.
Robustness and durability
Well I've had it a week, written several articles on it, surfed the net and everything works OK if it is like my last Acer it will be fine, so long as I don't drop it like the last one, - A Tip for users: If you buy a house with a stone floor, try not to drop your laptop on it, they don't bounce very well. given normal care I would expect this computer to last a few years.
considering the price I paid this is excellent. it was half the price of my old one, delivered to my home for £394.
Ease of use
It's a windows computer, it's easy to use. I haven't got the hang of the touch pad sticky button feature yet but it's not a big thing.
Range of Extra features
This is good, there is a dual layer DVD burner, memory card reader which takes 5 types of card, including the SD card used by my camera, 802.11G wireless Lan, RJ45 LAN, a Modem (so far unused) and a very respecable speaker system ( for a laptop) The widescreen display is brilliant, something Acer does bettter most is displays.
what can I say? it covers all the functions particular to the computer but assumes you know how to use a computer.
I have never needed to use the support, and this is the fourth Acer I have bought. the website offers downloads of all the drivers you might need for the machine.
Value for money
You can't beat this for VFM. Why people are prepared to cough up £800 or more for big brand laptops is competely beyond me. you can get everything you need for under £400, including delivery. You can't go wrong and that's from somebody who has been playing with PCs for 15 years, compared with my Dell lattitude D610, my work laptop, this one is streets ahead on performance at a third of the price.
Downsides? The mouse buttons are a bit clicky and are only three USB ports, but that's not a problem. This model does not have built in Bluetooth either.
I would have no hesitation in recomending this computer to anyone, beginner or profesional.
We took a fancy to a new telly and searched everywhere for the best deal, finding this one on savastore.com
To quote their details:
"The Alba32" is a perfect addition to any room with its subtle good looks and inconspicuous stand it will look at home anywhere."
Resolution wxga- 1366x768
Contrast ratio- 600:1
Response time- 16ms
Aps syst Wall unit
So what does that all mean to me? well, a normal telly with a 32 inch screen would weight more than my overdraught, take up half the sitting room and would probably use more power than a small town, as well as generating enough heat to bake bread. This is a very slim tv that takes up hardly any room.
This TV, not counting the feet is about 2 inches thick, so you can put it on a small shelf, hang it on a wall or simply stand it on a book case, freeeing up untold amounts of space. you can use it as a PC monitor or just as a telly. As with most modern TVs it is simple to set up, plug in, switch on and allow it to auto search for channels. when complete save the settings and that's it. It has two PC input and 2 scarts, so that connectivity proves to be no problem either. For those looking for a larger screen at a lower price then this gives a ot for the money.
The picture quality is as good as I have seen anywhere, the onboard speakers sound very respactable, it also drives our home cinema system well, delivering superb sound when playing DVDs.
The flat LCD screen is excellent, there is none of the bowing of image that you get with cheap models and you get a good viewing angle no matter where you sit.
The remote control is small, thin and light. it takes AA batteries so cheap to replace and has all the buttons you need without taking up sofa arm space. The one quibble I would have is that the screen attracts our cat Oscar, who, being the complete git he is, sits in front of it, right over the remote sensor, meaning that I sometimes have to get up to change channels, actually, that's not true, I have to get up to throw him off, then sit down and change channel before he gets back up again. He doesn't block out a significant area of screen.
The book says to leave it on standby but as it uses less than 3 watts in this mode it is no great problem.
We paid about £199 for it, making it really cheap for an LCD.
One of the things I like about it is that it automatically sets itself to the correct format for the programs being watched, widescreen DVDs don't have a black space top and bottom.
It makes a stylish addition to our sophisticated home! the whole thing has very clean lines which don't clash with anything.
When you get bored of hearing your guitar making ordinary noises it is time to plug in an effects pedal. An effects pedal is a foot operated gizmo that you plug into the line between an instrument (usually a guitar) and the amplifier. Its purpose is to modify the signal from the instrument.
There is a huge range of pedals available, back in the 1970s I had two that are now considered to be classics, the Dunlop Crybaby Wah wah pedal and, I kid you not, a distortion pedal that gloried in the unlikely and slightly pervy name of The Big Muff Fuzz Box. Later on more advanced effects were available, with octavers, phase shifter and chorus heralding a range of modulating effects.
These range hugely in price but i have discovered the Behringer range of pedals which offer great quality at very fair prices. This is a multi-effects pedal which means that instead of doing just one thing, like a Wah Wah pedal, this one has a range of settings, allowing a huge range of different sounds to be played.
The different effect settings are: Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Delay (Echo), Tremolo and pitch shifter.
The Chorus effect is a nice sounding one, it takes the basic note played and adds a little highlight, higher and lower than the original tone. With adjustment you can make sounds like those used by Dave Gilmour on Dark Side of the Moon and Pink Floyd live at Pompeii.
The Flanger is another modulating effect that adds a swirling effect. Hard to describe in words but very psychedelic.
The Delay is an echo effect, with a wide range of delay periods, reiterations and depth.
Phaser effect is a great 70s effect, just clicking onto this one took me back to my youth and the likes of ELP and King Crimson.
The Tremolo effect causes the sound to lower and gain in pitch, the Paramter knobs allow you to alter the depth and speed of the effect.
The pitch shifter is a great one, it splits the note played, you get the natural note and you can choose to have the pitch lowered or raised so that it sounds like two instruments playing together. The range of the shift is from one octave below the original note to one octave above it. it can sound like you are being accompanied by either a Bass guitar or a violin, depending on the setting.
There are four knobs, the one on the far right is the selector for the different effects.
One the far left is the level control, which controls the intensity of the selected effect. The two remaining controls are parameter 1 and parameter 2, which have a different function, depending on the effect chosen.
At the top of the pedal is an LED which lights when the pedal is activated by pressing the foot switch.
This phone was issued to me by my employer as a replacement for the XDA2i, which had proved to be unreliable.
I will divide this review into two parts, my initial impression of the phone and my experience of using it in the field.
Our usage of PDA phones is how we get our calls in the field. I work as a field support engineer and when a call arrives for me it is displayed on the screen in an application called antenna, which we install on our phones.
The first thing you will notice about this phone is the deviously clever design of the box! it took some of our guys ten minutes to get it open and find all the accessories.
we carry our service manuals on SD cards and I found fitting the microSD card very fiddly. once installed, however, it stays put. it goes under the SIM card and anyone who has handled a micro SD will tell you, it is smaller than a badger's toe nail.
The screen is smaller than the old XDA, making reading the call log more difficult. THe phone quality is better, the bluetooth, once you sus out how it works (God forbid that any tech ever reads the manual!) - the old XDA used to regularly fall over with bluetooth, not allowing you to answer calls. The other problem with the old one was the deplorable battery life - sometimes the battery would be flat by lunchtime unless you took the charger with you to jobs. this new one has lasted 2 days, which is a vast improvement, especially as it is the first charge and should improve when the battery is properly conditioned.
The big problem that I have found with all the PDA phones I have tried is that whenever you have finished with an application and click on the X to close it, it carries on running in the background, when you look at the running program list everything you have used that day is there. you can then close each of them. when too many applications are running it gets very slow to respond
The phone is easy to set up for internet access, especially if you have a wireless access point, although surfing the net on such a tiny screen is a bit pointless.
Data connections can be made via dial up and GPRS.
Call quality is reasonable, although the FM radio is a disappointment.
The camera is pretty much like any other phone camera, anyone who has read my phone reviews in the past will know my views on such things, to me they are as much use as wing mirrors on a donkey.
The stylus is a bit small and fiddly and, quite annoyingly, instead of fitting into a slot at the top of the phone it locates in the bottom, so that when it gets a bit worn it will probably fall out and get lost.
The good thing is that, unlike the XDA IIi, I have not needed to reset it, with the IIi I was having to reset anything up to ten times per day.
The unit synchronises with my PC via the cable supplied. other PDAs have a cradle but that is just another piece of junk taking up space on my desk. The cable is a more elegant solution.
The connector on the bottom is a lot more robust than the ones I have experienced on other phones, the charger, wired headset and synchronisation cable all use the same connector, so it might be a bit of a pain if you wanted to listen to the radio and charge at the same time. it will charge from the USB cable but the wired headset is required for the FM radio, as it also acts as the antenna.
The bluetooth is reliable, I have had no cause to use the infrared connection, the WiFi is just what it says, it works.
In all? it was provided by work for a particular task. I could not imagine buying one for personal use.
I've turned out the cupboard in the back of my sitting room and rediscovered some more instruments in my collections. One of my favourites is the Stagg Electro-Acoustic Mandolin.
The Mandolin is a delightful instrument with a lovely bright, optimistic tone. It has eight strings, arranged in four matching pairs that are tuned, from high to low: E A D G.
From the top: the head of the instrument is a slim tapering wedge with four tuners on each side. These are smaller than on a guitar but basically the same design.
The next thing of note is the nut, which is the block over which the strings run. the fingerboard is a lot narrower than a guitar and the frets are closer together. The fret markers indicate the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 15th and 17th frets. As on a guitar, the 12 fret is the halfway point on the string.
Just after the neck ends there is the electric pickup, with a black scratch plate, the adjustable bridge, the volume and tone controls and the tailpiece.
The jack socket is on the lower edge of the instrument.
There are two F holes, through which you can see the maker's label showing the model and serial numbers.
The built quality is nice, there is a quality binding around the body and along the neck. The body is a brown sunburst, the face of the tuning head is a piano finish black. It is also a good finish, four years on and mine does not have any scratches or dings on it. A dust off and a rub with a microfibre cloth brings the finish up beautifully.
As with all my stringed instruments, I like to clean the finger board with lemon oil. It feeds the wood and prevents it from drying out and the acid in it gets all the dead skin and grease off. It smells quite nice too.
the mandolin is a civilised instrument to play at home, it's not too loud until plugged into an amplifier. The amplified sound is excellent, cranked up it still sounds like a mandolin, only louder.
The only downside, in my opinion, is setting it up. I can re-string a guitar and have it back to pitch in less than ten minutes. The Mandolin is a bit more fiddly, like a violin, the bridge is held in place by the strings so if you take all the strings off the bridge falls off too. Re-positioning it takes ages as you have to loosen the strings, move it then retune to check the intonation. So far it has taken several hours but I'm nearly there. My recommendation for re-stringing would be to remove and replace one pair at a time but this means that cleaning the fingerboard is more fiddly.
when we moved we had at last, a space in the kitchen for a dishwasher. No matter how hard I try I can't get that gleam on glasses and cutlery. It also means that I can press the button when I leave home in the morning and the pots are done when I get home. The thing to look for is how easy they are to pack. The downside is that the racks are sometimes set out wrong to take all the plates, glasses, cutlery and saucepans.
it is important that I can put the saucepans in as these are the hardest to wash up and the good news is that this machine does them all well, provided that any leftover food has been scraped off before washing.
There are 4 different wash programs but the only two I use are the soak and the main wash. If there are gungy plates and it is not ready for a full wash the soak ensures that it won't get smelly. it takes about ten minutes.
What is it like?
THe full wash takes an hour but this doesn't matter if you aren't in although there is no time delay setting. You really need to get hold of some good dishwaser cleaning productsd you need detergent to give the paltes a through clean. Glass care is important to keep glasses sparkling. I find it fairly easy to keep clean. It was pretty cheap as well, £119 plus delivery. This is a steal and it is an economical machine so it does not use as much water as others.
The installation is easy, connect the water feed, place the drain hose into the stand pipe and plug it in. The washer beeps twice when the program is complete and once when you switch it on. there really isn't much else to say about it, it washes and dries stuff.
Are they clean?
Glasses, plates and cutlery are completely clean shiny and grease free. As long as you rinse things you will have results. You can put stuff away straight from the machine as it tends to get thnigs dry too, this is down to the steam and heat.
Would I recommned?
I am happy to recommend this washer to anyone with the only downside of it being rather loud. It really does sound like a light aircraft is trying to land in my kitchen!
This week has been a week of arrivals and departures. Our faithful Hotpoint Dishwasher groaned it's way through it's last load of soiled crockery and our cat Jack died after a mystery illness. Whilst we can't replace Jack the dishwasher was a simpler proposition.
We went on line and searched for a cheap dishwasher and found that Homebase and Argos both had this washer for £161 and £8.95 delivery. Given that I could get Nectar points through Homebase we opted for that one.
It was delivered on time and when I got home I set about installing it.
As it was a replacement it was not difficult to do, put the waste pipe into the standpipe, plug the electric cable in and screw the water feed hose onto the tap, remembering, of course, to turn off the tap first!
Once this was done it was time to push it back into its space and sort the working part out.
It takes 1 kilo of salt, in a fairly easy to reach filler in the bottom of the machine, The rinse aid dispenser is in the door.
I have owned several dishwashers and have tried most brands of detergents, my conclusion is that the cheapest tablets are just as good as the dear ones, my current preference is for the ones that are sold in Lidls, which work out about a third of the price of the big name brands.
The salt is specific to dishwashers as it contains just salt and no added agents such as are found in table salt.
As an aside I had to laugh at a lady in Waitrose in Dorchester, I picked up their value brand which was £1 a bag, she sneered and said that she only buys the best, picking up a similar sized bag of Finish dishwasher salt at nearly £3. She would not believe that a cheap brand was exactly the same but I explained that Salt is Salt is Salt.
The inside of the dishwasher is a bit different to the one I was used to, stacking the dirty dishes to get everything in so that it washes well is a bit of an art and I have had to relearn it.
We've had it a week now, during which time we have tried all six programs.
They are: Normal, Rapid, Eco, Intensive, Rinse and 3 in 1
The 3 in 1 program is for when you use 3 in 1 tablets, for which there is a special basket hanging from the upper drawer.
There is also an option to delay the start of the wash for up to eight hours, this is handy for anyone who is on an Economy Seven electricity tariff as it means that you can set it to run at night when the power is cheaper.
The plate racks in the lower tray also fold flat so that you can put pans in without having to jam them past the racks.
We should save a few pounds each year on electricity as the machine is A Rated.
The only problem I have found so far is that the wash cycles take quite a long time. This is not really a problem unless there is something being washed that you want to use.
We researched a fair number of machines before going for the cheapest, I cannot really see that the ones costing up to four times more are really worth any more. It appears to be well made, is quite quiet in operation and does a good job. If there is anything else to take into consideration I can't think of it.
Jack the cat is resting peacefully in his cardboard coffin, it might be harder to replace him.
Our Binatone cordless phone with built in answering machine was not a great success. When the batteries stopped working I could have replaced them but instead we decided to go looking for a better one.
We found the BT Studio 3500 in ASDA for a little under £30 and took it home.
BT should get a special mention for their excellent packaging. Normally when you buy a boxed electrical item you have to wade through loads of plastic wrap, sticky tape, tie wraps, and bags to get the item out. You are then stuck with a huge pile of polystyrene and plastic to get rid of.
Purbeck District Council, in their wisdom, only empty our wheely bins fortnightly so excess packaging can be a real bind.
This item was in a cardboard box, the spacers were card and instead of plastic there was tissue paper. Well done BT!
Plug in phone line and power. Fit rechargable batteries (2XAAA) to the handset. Place handset on cradle. Job Done!
Come with a pre-recorded generic message. Can easily be changed if required. Light flashes if a message is left. Press button to hear message. Simple.
The delay before the machine answers can be set to kick in from 2-9 rings, the default is 6. There are three modes, answer off, answer and record and answer and not record.
If the Wicked Witch of the West calls you can see her number clearly on the display, provided that you have subscribed to the service, and you can choose to be out if you wish.
Slim, elegant, easy to get at keys, display. Voice quality very good, clear and loud enough for my aged ears. There is a clear tone that sounds when you replace the handset in the cradle, so that you can be sure that it is on charge properly
All in all, we were pretty pleased with our choice.
I often browse through the Sue Ryder shops, it is surprising what you can find in them and it was the Sue Ryder home who looked after my Dad before he died at Christmas 2004.
I was passing the shop in Bournemouth this summer when I saw this guitar offered for £80. I had to go in and look, I had been looking for a fat strat for some time but most of them are too expensive.
To explain, the standard Fender Stratocaster has three single coil pickups, these are the devices that pickup the movement of the strings and turn it into sound. Single coil pickups are good for tone but not very powerful, but if you put a matched pair together they beef up the sound significantly. The 'Fat Strat' has two pairs of these and a single coil in the middle.
I'll start at the top with my description of this guitar.
The machine head is glossily finished in nitrocellulose lacquer. The tuning machines are finished in gold and are very responsive. The strings pass over the end of the finger board through a gold finished locking nut. These are usually white plastic. The fret board is dark rosewood and has the full scale of 22 medium weight brass frets.
The body is finished in a sunburst style, I believe the wood to be Bass wood. The neck is close grained maple. The fret markers are spot type pearl finish.
The neck pickup is a zebra pattern humbucker, the middle is a single coil strat style pickup and there is another zebra pickup at the bridge position.
The body is finished in a high gloss lacquer sunburst finish which looks great but can show fingermarks. I would recommend that you buy a good quality guitar polish to maintain a pristine shine.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't use Mr. Sheen, Pledge or any similar furniture polishes, I would hate to have to come round and kill you, besides, these all contain silicone, which is OK for boob enhancements but looks horrible on a guitar and will ruin the strings.
There are two rotary controls, one for volume and one for tone. There is a 5 position selector for the pickup that allows you to select different configurations, the positioning of the pickups determines the sound, the bridge pickup takes the sharper high end tones, nearer the neck the sounds are more mellow and richer. To understand this, take any stringed instrument and pluck a string first at the bridge then about half way along the string, you will see what I mean.
The jack socket for connecting to an amplifier is on the side of the body, so that the cable hangs down from the end of the guitar.
The tremolo bridge unit is adjustable in a numerous variety of ways, allowing you to set up the tone and string height of the instrument properly. The string height can be adjusted (action) the length can be fine-tuned (intonation) and the degree of tremolo (vibrato or 'wobbling') If you think of tremolo think of Hank Marvin of the shadows, playing a note then wobbling the tremolo lever to 'bend' the note. Violinists and cello players do this by wobbling the finger used to stop the note, this can be done on a guitar and is much kinder to your strings. I suppose that Hank Marvin can afford to change his strings ten times a day, should he wish.
So that's the hardware, what's it like to play?
I was very pleasantly surprised, for a cheap guitar the feel is excellent. In the shop I twanged a few strings and tried a few chords, on the strength of that I bought it and took it home. When I plugged it in to my amplifier I was blown away by the quality of the sound, far far better than any other instrument I have tried in this price range the sound is very rich and full, the action, once it has been properly set up, is really fast and intuitive.
It is well made, the only criticism I would have is that it is a little heavier than most Stratocaster style guitars; that said, I have played far heavier ones than this. Before tuning you must use an Allen key to unlock the nut, otherwise you risk snapping strings.
Once tuned, it stays in tune longer than any other guitar I have ever had (and there's been a few).
If you are looking to buy a guitar why not try your local Sue Ryder shop, they are great instruments and you will be helping to support a charity that gives a lot of support and comfort for the sick and dying.
in addition to this model they also have plain Stratocaster copies in a range of colours for about £70, violins and some very nice acoustic guitars.
When I first started to play electric guitar, back in the dark ages of the 1970s, I tried a number of different strings until I found one that suited me. Having small hands (Yes girls, it still isn't true) It was important that I used strings that I could manipulate with the minimum of effort, shorter fingers means less leverage available for holding down and bending strings, so the extra light strings, ranging from .009 of an inch for top E and .042 of an inch thickness for bottom E meant that I could play better, especially when I was learning and strengthening my fingers.
Bigger strings mean a fuller sound but hurt more when learning. Lighter strings mean easier to use.
Bending the string, whilst playing those screaming solos, is very easy to do and doesn't seem to put these strings out of tune. Heavier strings don't bend as far or as easily. The extra strength needed to bend a .012 inch top string means that you will be pulling harder on it and there is more chance of de-tuning it.
Ernie Ball Super slinky strings sound good for lightweight strings, having a fuller and richer tone than many of the cheaper lightweight strings I have used. They also don't break as often, indeed, I have only ever had 1 top E string break, but that was during a live show and meant that I had to re-string in the middle of a show.
One of the reasons I like these strings is that they are very to get good finger vibrato from. I dislike tremolo units, like dear old Hank Marvin uses, preferring to get my sound by movement of the left hand on the fretted string.
Having returned to playing about five years ago, I found that the muscles in my fingers were not as strong as they were in 1975 and I needed to start training them again. My (at the time) new guitar had some very ropey strings on it and I soon found myself at a local music store to find out if I could still buy Ernie Ball strings, and if they were still as good as they were.
The good news is that you can! Not only that but they are still the same quality and even have the same packaging, I recognised them as soon as I entered the shop. They have gone up a bit in price in the last thirty years but not drastically so. I think they were £2.50 a set in 1975, the last ones I bought, curiously enough from a newsagent in Swanage, were £4. Big music shops charge from £4.50- £6.95.
Because they are well made and well polished fret wear is kept to a minimum. After a few years of playing with heavy weight strings you may find that your frets become worn. it is possible to get them re-dressed but in extreme situations you may need to get them replaced, a job that may well be outside of the skill set of the amateur guitar maintainer.
Having built a couple of guitars I would feel confident to re-dress my own frets on my older guitars but I don't know if I have the nerve to try doing it on my Gibson, as a false move could turn a very expensive instrument into some very good quality firewood in a very short space of time.
As for my star rating; they get four stars because heavier strings have a bigger sound but apart from that they are Five Star, especially for anyone new to steel strings. If it were possible to give 4.5 I would.
I would recommend these strings to any player, particularly a novice, the back of the packet gives a long long list of guitar heroes through the ages who use or used them. To get the best price search on line for the best deal. The quality of the strings, in my opinion, has remained consistent over the years.
As the winter drags on some surprise 50th Birthday presents have been arriving. From my sister (who is quite poorly at the moment) and my brother I received this rather natty digital photo frame, which was a nice surprise.
It is a neat item, with a seven inch LCD screen and three interchangeable frame surrounds, one metal, one white and one black.
On the back are the buttons that control the menus and inputs for memory cards and a USB port, so that you can display pictures straight out of the camera or from a memory stick or via a USB cable from a PC.
There is even a remote control so that you can control the display and choose the next picture, rotate, stretch or generally mess about with the pictures.
That's the basic description, what about my opinion of the product?
There is a stand that screws onto the back so that you can stand the frame in either landscape or portrait mode and a connector for plugging in the AC adapter.
When you turn it on it searches for a data source and will automatically display any images it finds.
It can read SD, MMC, MS and XD cards and it displays JPEG files.
The instruction booklet is quite thick but fear not, only the first six pages are in English. In any event it is pretty self-explanatory and I only read those six pages for reference purposes.
It offers golden nuggets of advice, such as a warning about using it in water, cleaning it with a scouring pad, placing near heat sources or handling in a generally inappropriate manner.
With all this in mind I extracted the card from my digital camera and inserted it into the slot. It is quite a tight fit (oooer missus) but once I worked out which way round it went it slipped in easily (ooer again)
Without fuss it displayed pretty creditable versions of my most recent photos, which included a civil ceremony, Whitby Abbey and several morris dance teams snapped at the recent Swanage Folk Festival.
You can set the duration of each picture from five to thirty seconds or use the remote to advance them manually.
I am planning to take a long sequence of shots of Buttons, my ventriloquist doll, and play them in a slow animated show.
Although I don't officially know what was paid for it, I see that it was £49.99 from Argos, which seems pretty fair to me and certainly a lot cheaper than the ones I was looking at a couple of years ago.
One word of advice I would give, if you are preparing a picture show remember to select images that are all the same way up, my camera card had a mixture of portrait and landscape and it was hard to decide whether to rotate the frame or turn onto my side.
We live in a small cottage which has beams and is over 200 years old. Anyone who has lived in such a property will tell you that dust and cobwebs are an occupational hazard. As it is small we bought one of those compact bagless cleaners which turned out to be a real pain in the derriere, it would fall over rather than be dragged around, the capacity was laughable and the bits would fall out of the cupboard every time we opened the door. It got the sack and we bought the Vax on special offer.
Considerably cheaper than the one we bought in 1993, we paid £79.95 in Robert Dyas in Dorchester. Good old Bobby D's.
The cleaner comes in a sturdy cardboard carton, without too much plastic wrap. It is a bit large for small people to handle but you only bring it home once.
It is solidly built from bright orange plastic, making it eminently suitable for cleaning up on a motorway. Since our first Vax, some 15 years ago the accessories have been improved and are less liable to break. All in all I'm happy with the way it is put together.
Removing the vacuum cleaning head can be hard, especially if it hasn't been taken off for a while. I recommend smearing the inside of the joint with a tiny amount of Vaseline.
Most vacuum cleaners are noisy, this one is a little louder than most but compensates by being a little more powerful and getting on with the job, so you don't have to run it for as long.
Bags or Bagless?
Unfortunately it has a bag. It is an expense but makes handling the waste a nicer option. Bagless cleaners are cheaper to run but I always end up cleaning again after emptying. I can't decide which is worse. It seems to suck OK even when the bag is full.
Washing carpets is great. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained by watching the much from your carpets gurgling down the plug hole, making you realise just how much filth lurks in the average carpet, so much so that we are moving to laminate floors with loose rugs. It is good on rugs and carpets, comparing favourably with the upright cleaners we have owned with brushes in the head.
After hanging a new door for our bathroom there was a deal of sawdust and small bits of wood which it dealt with without fuss. With four cats in the house hold there is a fair amount hair that gathers on furniture and behind doors, this is no problem for the Vax.
Most of all, it will follow you around when you pull it and stays on its wheels.
A plus feature is the power card. It is long enough to reach almost everywhere without having to unplug. The cord is stowed by wrapping around the motor unit, inelegant but no sprung cord winder to break or jam.
The Vax is a good buy at the moment, it has been over £150 in the past, grab one from Robert Dyas while they still have some.
Among the seemingly endless amount of instant hot drinks available these days I have recently tried one of the Nescafe ones . This one is vanilla but I think slightly different to the one shown above . It is Nescafe Vanilla but it is a Latte version .
The box looks exactly like the one shown but the statistics may vary slightly .
There are eight individual servings in the box .
I bought a box for the knock down price of 99p which I thought was very good .
Each serving has:-
10.3g of sugars
2.8g of fat
2.7g of saturates 0.2g of salt .
Among other things this product contains hydrogenated vegetable oil and some 'E' numbers which I am never happy about . Still as it is only something I will drink very occasionally I will not lose sleep over it .
To make a drink you just tear open one of the very slim sachets , empty the contents into your favourite mug or cup and add 200 mls of hot water . As always you must not use boiling water and you must keep stirring whilst adding the water . I did find this product however mixes well with little effort .
So what did it taste like and will I be recommending it .
The drink mixes up to leave a lovely creamy and frothy head . Although the packet says it is a blend of full-bodied coffee and vanilla flavour as always with Lattes the coffee flavour was subtle . The vanilla seemed to only be a hint and was not distinctive . The aroma was a pleasant mixture though of the two main ingredients , that is the coffee and the vanilla .
As you have probably already guessed I heartily recommend this product . The sachets are a great size to put in your work bag or pocket . They are convenient and easy to use . As they require nothing added but the hot water you can pretty much mix a drink up anywhere . They are good value although I think they will retail a little higher normally , possibly at £1.99 . That's still good value though at about 25p a serving and very competitive compared to such offerings as those in staff canteens .
Overall I found Nescafe Vanilla Lattes a very tasty and creamy drink ,which was sweet enough to not need anything adding . As a relaxing mid-morning or after-noon treat they certainly fit the bill .
I have really dodgy knees and I need a replacement but as I do not have private health care and my body should last for another few decades, they will not replace them until I am older. In the hopes that they only have to do it once. As the new knees only last 10 years.
How did I come across it>?
A friend recommended EMU oil as a herbal rub to alleviate some of my suffering. I am not a big one for herbal stuff but in terms of pain relief I am eager to try anything if it will help. The oil is thick and very greasy and it reminds me of goose fat. I guess in a way it is the same as it is an animal by product but it has healing properties. The oil has been used by aboriginals in Australia for years as it has muscular-skeletal healing properties. To use it you need to rub a small amount into your hands and massage on to the area you need to work on.
I have been using it for a number of months and I find that my knees feel better but it is not a miracle cure, I will continue buying it but it is really expensive, ie £15 for a small bottle. This has added vitamins too so you are getting a skin conditioner too so the body should start healing from the inside out. This is a good product to buy and even if you are sceptical, it is worth trying as I have seen an improvement in the level of movement I have. I used to call it mumbo jumbo but now I am starting to see the benefits of alternative therapies.