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    • More +
      29.12.2009 18:24
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      a useful resource book for every eventuality

      When we moved house with our then 7 month old puppy we thought everything would be great. Buster was responding very well at puppy/dog obedience class and was always winning best behaved dog at dog shows. We were so proud of him. Then one day after work we returned home to an evil letter posted through our door saying that Buster was a nuisance and that the RSPCA and council had been called reference us abandoning the dog. I knocked on the neighbours doors to discuss the issue and apparently Buster barked from 7am until 5am. The fact my sister took him out for an hour and I was in fact home from work at 3:45pm everyday really annoyed me. We took measures to ensure Buster was fine during the day and rigged up a device to record the barking during the day and what we found was rather alarming. The neighbours had downloaded a noise from the internet to scare Buster and therefore record him barking. We spoke to the neighbours explaining that during the morning we would take Buster to my parents for 3 hours then when my mum had to go to work she'd bring him back to ours.

      We also invested in Jan Fennels 'The Dog Whisperer' hopeful it would contain all the answers we required.

      The book itself seems to be the bible for all dog owners with easily accessible chapters on a range of issues.

      1. The Lost Language
      2. A life with dogs
      3. Listening and learning
      4. Taking the lead
      5. The first test
      6. Amichien Bonding : Establishing leadership of the pack
      7. Separate lives : Dealing with separation anxiety
      8. Mean & Moody : Dealing with nervous aggression
      9. Peacemaking : Dogs that bite
      10. The Bodyguards : Overprotective dogs
      11. The up-and-down game : Dogs that jump up
      12. Non-total Recall : Dogs that run wild off the leash
      13. Dog v. Dog : Taking the heat out of canine confrontations
      14. Tales of the Unexpected : Fear of noises
      15. New Dogs, Old Tricks : Introducing puppies to the home
      16. Gremlins : Dealing with problem puppies
      17. The House on Pooh Corner : Soiling in the home
      18. Situations Vacant : the problems of extended packs
      19. Biting the Hand that Feeds : Problem eaters
      20. Have Dog, Won't Travel : Dealing with car chaos
      21. Feet-Chewers and Tail-Chasers : Nervous wrecks and how to salvage them
      22. The Yo-Yo Effect : Overcoming the problems of rescue dogs
      23. Toys not Trophies : the power of play
      24. How've Ya Done That, Lady?

      We were very interested in the Amichien Bonding but could instantly see links to our training classes. We gathered that the issue was more than likely separation anxiety and our trainer was very knowledgeable in the steps to take however after being told of the book we decided to work through the four steps. To summarise a large book in a few sentences is quite simple. Jan bases her methods pretty much on dominance issues and being the pack leader. Therefore not showering affection at the dog at every opportunity, ignoring the dog on entering the house and generally ignoring unwanted behaviour. As our puppy classes were based mainly on this method we chose to follow the advice from our trainer we saw every week and found that although the section confirmed what we were already doing it disappointed us the 'groundbreaking' Amichien Bonding was really just based on years of dog training. Over the last few weeks with Christmas we have found the chapters on introducing people into the home and therefore jumping up as a result very useful but again our trainer could have easily imparted the knowledge to us. Nonetheless as a quick reference guide we have found the book useful; however it is still not a substitute for Google or one of the many pet forums and dog training schools out there. In theory Jan's methods are good for beginners to dog ownership and certainly a book my mum or dad would find more useful than myself. Neither have ever had a dog and tend to mother Buster thus adding to his attention seeking behaviour.

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    • Pedigree Jumbone / Dog Food / 12 Readings / 11 Ratings
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      29.12.2009 15:54
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      a yummy treat and an excellent way to keep a hyperactive dog calm.

      I recently bought a dog treat cookbook so tend to make all dog treats myself. That way I know what Buster is eating, however after a long day at work I decided to pop into CO-OP to buy something easy for tea and noticed that they were selling everything off with huge discounts. I took a look in the pet section (I can never help myself!) and noticed some tempting offers. I picked up a few packets of large Jumbones 62p and a packet of small Jumbones for 59p judging by the previous price of £1.38 and £1.23 I felt I had got a good deal.

      Packaging
      --------------
      The Jumbones are packaged in the typical yellow/red wrapper associated with Pedigree products and stand out prominently on the shelf. The Maxi Jumbone had a picture of a Collie and the mini Jumbones had a picture of a terrier, I thought this was very effective in showing the type of dog the product would be suitable for. I bought the beef variety however Jumbones also come in chicken and rice and at Christmas time - turkey flavour.

      Taste test
      -------------
      Buster loved the mini Jumbones each one has lasted between 10 and 20 minutes. He made a lot of mess with the meaty filling but seemed to enjoy licking it up afterwards. The maxi jumbone has now been lying around for 3 weeks. I doubt very much that this is due to him not being able to eat it however it seems to be more of a comfort toy. When someone comes to the door he grabs it and runs around frantically looking for a place to hide his Jumbone. The Jumbone has teeth marks in but has not been eaten in anyway. We often come home to find that we are sitting on a Jumbone that has been buried in the sofa. We can always settle him down with a Jumbone and for that reason we find the Pedigree Jumbone a very useful training aid especially as the same Jumbone has been used for 3 weeks to make him sit, stay and especially in recall at the park.

      In conclusion
      ------------------
      The Jumbone is a very good training aid. We have a very stubborn beagle and anything that enables us to teach him to sit, stay, lie down and come back whilst out walking is invaluable. The price I paid was excellent but I wouldn't mind paying up to £2 for the next one. They do tend to stain carpets and furniture so we have purchased a few throws (very useful anyway with a dog in the house) and we insist that he eats chews on a wipe clean food mat.

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      • Royal Canin in General / Discussion / 27 Readings / 25 Ratings
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        11.09.2009 18:18
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        A great quality food but unfortunately did not agree with my pooch

        Introduction
        ----------------
        When we picked Buster up he was being fed on Royal Canin Junior Mini, we were given a very helpful measuring cup and Buster continued to develop very well. We continued to buy 3kg bags until Buster won a dog show and was given two large bags of Arden Grange puppy. We were careful to wean Buster off the Royal Canin whilst we tried him with the Arden Grange after making the transition we instantly we noticed a huge difference in attitude, behaviour and energy. Buster seemed happier and was more receptive to training. We noticed that a severe wind problem Buster had previously had disappeared and he had more positive energy so rather than jumping over furniture and tearing carpets apart he was more receptive to training and playing with a ball.

        Due to budget and being unable to afford Arden Grange we have switched back to the Royal Canin as reviews tend to be very positive and we felt it was worth another go. Buster has now been on Royal Canin for 6 weeks and we have agreed that after the 15kg bag has been used up we will pay the higher price for Arden Grange. We have made this decision purely based on Busters requirements and not the quality of the food. We feel that although the food has not agreed with Buster it is still a very good food compared to its competitors and people I speak to agree that the food has been better for their pooch.

        The range
        -------------
        Royal Canin appear to have a very good selection of products for both cats and dogs. In the dog range Royal Canin cater for dogs of all sizes with the Mini range suitable for dogs between 1kg and 10kg, Medium for dogs between 11kg and 25kg, Maxi for dogs between 26kg and 45kg and Giant for breeds over 45kg. Royal canin also have a generous range of breed specific food and speciality food covering puppies, older dogs and fussy eaters. I cannot imagine what its like to have a fussy dog as Buster happily eats anything including slugs, dog poo and the contents of the bin.

        Royal Canin also have a great range of cat products based on breed, fur style and whether the cat is kept inside or allowed to go outside. I do not own a cat so I must admit I was quite surprised to see the vast range of food products for a cat. Royal Canin also produce veterinary products

        The product
        ----------------
        One thing I noticed about Royal Canin is that the product is sealed in a foil bag and the food is kept very fresh. When buying a large 15kg bag of food a bag designed to keep the food fresh is essential. I have found that the smell on opening the bag is quite sickly with a smell very similar to honey. The kibbles are a very nice size for small teeth and I must admit that whilst Buster has been teething these kibbles are great for his painful mouth. Recently Buster has been recovering from a nasty virus and the vet asked us to soak the kibble in water to prevent the cough from worsening and we found this very easy to do. The water drained from the kibble was like gravy so I would imagine that to a dog or cat the food is quite palatable. I can also buy with confidence that the food has been fairly produced using quality products suitable for human consumption. Buster has usually polished off his bowl within seconds so I am guessing he likes it but as mentioned above Buster loves the contents of a bin.

        Nutrition
        ------------
        If swapping from a wet diet the prospect of feeding a bowl of boring kibbles twice a day can be worrying but Royal Canin food products contain adequate protein levels for energy. I was quite interested to read that small dogs need more energy than large dogs so food for smaller breeds tends to contain more protein. I feel quite confident that by feeding a specific food product my puppy is getting all the nutrition he requires.

        Value for money
        ----------------------
        We paid £25 for a 15kg bag of Royal Canin Mini Junior in a sale at a local pet store. The average price for 1.5kg is £10, 3kg is £15, 7.5kg is £30 and 15kg is £48 however these prices can vary by as much as £10 depending on stockist, product and special deals. Certain breed foods can be more pricey than others. A 15KG bag has lasted us 6 weeks and we still have another 2-3 weeks left. Buster is eating around 25g three times daily a bag should last between 2-3 months depending on size and weight of dog.

        Overall
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        Although Royal Canin did not agree with Buster I believe it is a very good quality food and would recommend it to all dog owners. I can't really comment on the cat food however Royal Canin is a good quality product so I am sure it is as good for cats as it is for dogs.

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        • Egypt / Destination International / 22 Readings / 20 Ratings
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          24.08.2009 01:48
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          Visit this marvellous country before fast food outlets and tourism ruins it!

          INTRODUCTION
          -----------------------

          I will never forget studying Ancient Egypt in year 3 of school. I was an enthusiastic 7 year old with a passion for history. I remember returning home begging my mum to buy some straw and let me dig up the garden so that I could make mud bricks like the Ancient Egyptians did. I loved learning about the gruesome mummification and the kings and queens. When I trained to be a teacher Egypt was the one topic I looked forward to teaching. It was only wise therefore that when we were planning our wedding and honeymoon we went somewhere as inspiring as Egypt. I was very lucky that my now husband had a life-long dream to visit Egypt and had researched the history well. We chose our hotel in Luxor and planned to stay a fortnight at the Maritime Jolie Ville, however 2 hours before driving to the travel agents to book our dream honeymoon we decided that a cruise on the River Nile for 7 nights would be an experience of a lifetime.

          The wedding was fast approaching and news of Swine Flu was mentioned daily, on our arrival at Luxor Airport we were rather scared when we saw airport staff wandering around with masks on. We were taken to a door with 8 large queues. Unfortunately being a military airport holiday reps were not allowed into the airport. With the hysteria about Swine Flu and lack of explanation the customs staff with swabs, thermometers and guns was a scary welcome but when we had survived the medical assessment and purchased the entry visa we had to go through customs. It was safe to say our first hour in Egypt was not the most pleasant. Driving through the streets of Egypt I was shocked to see the small mud houses and apartments with no roofs, the shops with no doors and the driving standards. I was a little overwhelmed by the poverty and presence of armed police on the streets. We arrived at our cruise ship in a secure private docking bay, and I started to feel a little more secure. During our evening meal I spotted two armed police guards walking through the boat brandishing a machine gun and a shot gun, surprisingly however it made us feel quite safe as they were there to protect the tourists.

          The cruise down the Nile overnight was rather surreal and an experience I would thoroughly recommend. We awoke in the morning in Esna and met with our First Choice rep, we decided to sign up to the full package that week enabling us to see most of Upper Egypt (Luxor - Aswan).


          EXCURSIONS
          --------------------

          Our first excursion that day took us to Edfu Temple dedicated to the Falcon headed god Horus and was built over a 180-year period from 237 BC to 57 BC. This was our first temple of the week and I was blown away at the information given to us by our amazing Egyptologist. I was stunned by the carved images and hieroglyphics, many of these were defaced by early Christians who did not believe in the Egyptian history. Walking around the courtyard, the narrow corridors and standing at the shrine I felt so overwhelmed - the experience will be one to remember forever.

          Going back to our ship that evening I felt immense excitement for the rest of the week. The next day we visited the unique temple of Kom Ombo this temple is considered 'unique' because of its 'double' design. There are two courts, halls, sanctuaries and rooms for two gods. On the southern side there is the temple dedicated to crocodile god Sobek and the Northern is for falcon god Horus. Our Egyptologist showed us the calendar, surgical carvings and phallic symbols making the history really exciting. I would certainly recommend a visit to Kom Ombo and walk along the Nile to really appreciate the beauty of Kom Ombo temple.

          We sailed further up river to Aswan, here we stopped for a sail on a felucca (a tall sailed boat), after a few Egyptian songs and purchasing some Nubian souvenirs we wandered back to our boat. Unfortunately the weather had been quite poor and the rain was consistently pouring all afternoon. Later that evening a small group from the cruise ship visited Philae temple for the Sound and Light show. Philae temple is situated on an island; it was relocated after the Aswan high dam was built. It is dedicated to the Goddess Isis. The light and sound show explained the story of Isis and her brother and husband Osiris and his evil brother Seth. We later returned to Philae temple the next day in the sunshine making the contract between dramatic moon-lit paths and shadows with the sunlight more spectacular.

          We continued to sail visiting temples, monuments and sights along the way. Every morning we awoke in a different place to sunlight pouring through the windows. Each evening we sat on the top deck watching the scenery pas, the sunset was a spectacular sight every night. We could sit for up to an hour watching the hot sun set on the horizon and listen to the sounds around the Nile. The gentle breeze was enough to keep us cool and despite warnings we never saw a mosquito or experienced a bite however we know we were lucky as many others on the cruise boat had been bitten.

          Near the end of the cruise we were geared up for some serious sight-seeing knowing that the Temple of Karnak, Luxor Temple and the whole of the West Bank had been saved for the last two days. The weather was starting to get hotter everyday and at this point I was dreading the many excursions that were being crammed into two days. In one day we managed to visit Luxor and Karnak temples. Our Egyptologist was amazing but really these places warrant a lot longer than the two hours we spent there. Luxor is nicely located in the middle of the Souk (market).

          On the last day of our cruise we visited the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, an alabaster workshop and the Colossi of Mnemon. We also took a camel around the West Bank of the Nile visiting local villages and meeting some of the local people. We found this an amazing experience as we could see a part of Egypt that otherwise would have been hidden.

          Our honeymoon did not end there and as we were booked into the Maritim Jolie Ville for a week of relaxation we were glad that we had done the cruise and seen everything in the first week. There was one place we had not seen and a place I had always wanted to go and this was starting to upset me. Due to poor advice from First Choice and a terrible exchange rate the £1500 we had exchanged before our holiday had not gone far at all and we had about £150 to last us all week. Desperate to see the pyramids I admitted that we would have to return to see them at a later date, with First Choice charging over £200 per person for a trip to Cairo we realised this dream would have to wait. Whilst at the pool I mentioned this in passing to a couple who had been on the cruise with us and they explained that for 70 Egyptian Pounds each they were going to Cairo by train. They explained that a first class ticket on the tourist sleeper train to Cairo was the best option. We realised that although it would take 9 hours there and 9 hours back and was hardly our idea of fun it was a dream we had and we were determined to go.

          At 7pm we left the comfort of our hotel and caught a taxi to the train station. Walking past armed guards we felt quite intimidated but we were excited and could not wait for the trip. In 36 hours we would be back in Luxor. We walked onto the platform, to see a train with bullet holes and livestock fly past. There were guards at all doors with people lying on sandbags and bin bags. It was then we realised that the train had been delayed by 3 hours. We found a lovely little bar down a back street and for the first time in Egypt we were charged a fair price. We soon realsied that by visiting the back street bars, shops and restaurants its possible to save so much money compared to El Souk and tourist spots.

          The train journey was horrible at one point I sat up and wanted to cry despite having our own cabin we had guards walking in waking us from our slumber to check tickets, locals waking us to ask permission to sleep on our floor or others trying to move us out so they could use the cabin. He noise of the train was deafening and the rickety track shook us from side to side. We arrived in Cairo with stiff necks, red eyes and desperate for food. Outside the station we were mobbed by taxi drivers. After haggling for the best price we jumped in a taxi asking to be taken to the Pyramids. About 10 minutes into the journey we were taken down a narrow alley and told to take a camel the rest of the way. It was clear that this was a scam and after refusing to get out we were taken to Mina House - Hotel Oberoy at the foot of the pyramids. We walked up the steep incline and stopped outside the entrance. After paying our 150 Egyptian Pounds per person we entered. The rest seemed to be a blur - sure the sights were breath-taking but so was the heat. We were mobbed by tour guides desperate to take our money and followed by horse and carriage workers wanting us to take a ride. We knew we had to watch our money so decided to walk around at our own pace taking pictures. I was impressed at the sheer size of each pyramid but was slowly getting very annoyed with locals trying to grab us for a ride on a camel, horse and carriage or to buy postcards. At the top we stopped to admire the views before being stopped again to buy postcards. A polite "la la" sufficed and we were alone again for about 3 minutes before being asked to take a camel 10 yards to the great pyramid. We were getting quite fed up and could see the Sphinx so decided to wander down the hill for photos on the way down we were shocked to see the familiar site of KFC, it was so surreal to see Pizza Hut and KFC so close to the pyramids.

          After several hours in and around Giza we hopped on a train back to our comfortable hotel bed in Luxor. We had enjoyed our visit to the Pyramids but this was mainly so we could say "We have been to the Pyramids at Giza" more than anything else. I am glad I have seen them before they build too many fast food outlets or destroy the landscape too much.

          On our last day in Egypt we were sad to be going home but were ready. We had the most perfect honeymoon and would love to go back one day but two weeks for us was more than enough. Our last week was so relaxing but we couldn't wait to get back to normality. The landscape, sights, sounds, smells and heat makes Egypt a unique country and we were glad we had chosen to take our honeymoon is such a spectacular place.

          EGYPT IN GENERAL
          -----------------------------
          Visa
          ------
          For entry to Egypt a visa is required, we were advised to take 15 US Dollars however the cashiers took pounds and Euros as well. Do make sure you see the Travco people as many tour operators were taking a cut of the money and charging more. We did not have to worry about the Visa until we were on the plane. We were given a form to fill out by the aircraft crew and we kept this in our passports until we arrived. We were then given the exit Visa form on our coach back to the airport.

          Weather
          -----------
          We travelled to Egypt in may and the temperature was unbearable enough, I cannot imagine the heat in the months of July - September. Do take plenty of sun cream and drink plenty of water. I got bad sunburn on one day but for the rest of the holiday I used light, airy, long-sleeved tops to prevent sun burn. A hat and comfy shoes are also a must. On three of the days we had heavy rain and strong gales but the temperature was still warm. We made the mistake of taking 2 travel fans in our luggage and these were not needed as all rooms were air-conditioned.

          Clothes and traditions
          ---------------------------
          I wore long sleeved kaftans and linen trousers mainly for protection from the sun but also to respect local beliefs. On the cruise ship there were no rules about clothing but we were asked to cover up shoulders and legs when we left the boat to show respect to the locals people.

          Money
          --------
          When we travelled out to Egypt the exchange rate was 6.2 but it can vary between 5 and 11. We were told by First Choice that we should change up all money before we go however whilst were were out there we noticed that most places take GBP, USD and Euros so we could have saved over £400 by leaving our money until we arrived in Egypt. The value of the GBP is very high in Egypt and on our cruise boat they were exchanging 1GBP to 9.7 Egyptian Pounds (LE).

          Shopping
          ------------
          Everywhere we went the Souk (market) was a bustling hive of activity. The smells of spices, Shisha Pipes and leather was strong. It's almost impossible to walk down the market without some form of 'hassle'. Haggling is a major part of shopping in Egypt, never pay the first price quoted. Our guide explained that if you can drop the price by 25% with no problems its possible to get another 50% off. At the beginning of the fortnight the hassle was quite intimidating but on our last day we spend a good 3 hours shopping and managed to buy many great items. On our return home we have realised that the silver cartouche was infact fake and that the silk scarf was not silk but we live and learn. Shopping in Egypt is not for the faint hearted but and experience that can be enjoyable with the correct attitude.

          Travel around Egypt
          --------------------------
          Train - the train was OK for long distance travel but if you plan to go across the country then a plane is probably the best way to do this. The cost was reasonable and conditions were Ok. We were not impressed with the cleanliness of the toilets and the cabins were uncomfortable. On our return journey from Cairo to Luxor we had reclining seats and these were certainly more appropriate than the cabin seats.

          Taxi - taxis are relatively easy to use, they all wait at tourist areas such as the market, hotels and on the bank of the Nile next to cruise boat moorings. Again haggling is a major part of travelling by taxi its possible to get between 25% - 50% off the fare. Riding in a taxi is another experience in itself, there seems to be no real system of driving yet we never witnessed an accident so beeping at anyone in the way, swerving in and out of pedestrians, bikes and donkeys or driving on both sides of the road must work. A trip will cost anywhere between 5 and 20LE (10p-£3)

          Horse and Carriage - these are a lovely ride and in some towns the horses are cared for very well. The locals refer to these as 'Ferraris' these can cost anywhere between 20 and 50LE. (£3-£7)

          Many hotels however provide free bus/boat shuttle services to El Souk.

          CONCLUSION
          ----------------------------
          We had the most perfect honeymoon in Egypt and really miss the place. We hope to go back one day however we will probably go to Sharm El Sheik as it appears to be more geared towards tourists looking to relax or partake in recreational activities. Luxor however was full of culture and will be a place we remember for the rest of our lives.

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          • More +
            08.06.2009 01:18
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            A stunning place to visit but definitely 'once' in a life-time!

            I will never forget studying Ancient Egypt in year 3 of school. I was an enthusiastic 7 year old with a passion fir history. I remember returning home begging my mum to buy some straw and let me dig up the garden so that I could make mud bricks like the Ancient Egyptians did. I loved learning about the gruesome mummification and the kings and queens. When I trained to be a teacher Egypt was the one topic I looked forward to teaching. It was only wise therefore that when we were planning our wedding and honeymoon we went somewhere as stunning as Egypt. I was very lucky that my now husband had a life-long dream to visit Egypt. We chose our hotel in Luxor so that we could be close to the Valley of the Kings, Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple, The Valley of the Queens was never a priority. We soon decided that as we wanted our honeymoon to be a once in a lifetime opportunity we would spend a week cruising on the Nile and another week in Luxor. The Nile Cruise included all of our excursions so the Valley of the Queens was included within the price. This was actually a blessing in disguise as I enjoyed the visit to the Valley of the Queens as much as the Valley of the Kings and the temples.

            The Valley of the Queens is situated along the West Bank of the Nile in Luxor and lies to the South of the Valley of the Kings. Within the Valley of the Queens you will find around 80 tombs of Pharaoh's wives, children and nobles. I admit that in the heat, amongst the barren landscape I felt very de-motivated by the prospect of yet another trek around crumbling tombs. My husband on the other hand was getting very excited. I couldn't help feel hot and bothered and I feel this ruined the overall experience. I would therefore recommend that should you visit anywhere in Egypt go really early. We had unfortunately booked through First Choice and although we had a top Egyptologist (Omar was amazing) the day was rushed and we had to fit five excursions into one morning and despite the 4am start it soon got very hot. I also found that the further up the path we went the more uneven the ground became and I soon regretted wearing flip-flops.

            Although we soon got used to the 'hassle' at every attraction the Valley of the Queens was no exception, as soon as we stepped of the coach we were offered guide books, postcards and the opportunity to have a photo taken in front of the landscape. They are advertised as 'free' but this is never the case. We were fortunate to have our Egyptologist with us as I think we could have been persuaded one way or another to part a lot of cash in return for a poorly translated/photographed souvenir.

            After walking up the steep hill to the tombs we were disappointed to find that the tomb of Nefertiti was closed. Nefertiti was the favourite wife of Ramses II and the tomb is said to be decorated with lavish paintings, and all have kept their original, bright colours. I was amazed by Amenherkhepshef's tomb a son of Ramses III, it contained a small sarcophagus (although Amenherkhepshef was never actually buried here) and at the back a small mummified foetus, thought to have been miscarried by Amenherkhepshef's mother on hearing the news of his death. I was amazed at how well the foetus was preserved.

            I was a little disappointed with the 'no photography' rule and the fact that the locals monopolized on this by selling digitally enhanced postcards as these postcards never give a true reflection of what you saw on that day. Our Egyptologist explained that 5 years ago photos without flash were accepted but a minority of selfish tourists used a flash and ruined it for everyone else. With photographical advances these days it is possible to get a good photo without using the flash so that did annoy me a little bit. That said the views are etched in my mind and I doubt I will forget the experience for a very long time.

            Overall I was not blown away with the Valley of the Queens however we had paid £20 for our ticket, transport and Egyptologist with First Choice which I had thought was rather expensive for a 50 minute visit. The entrance to the Valley of the Queens direct was 35LE which is roughly £3-£5 depending on exchange rate which is actually very good however I believe there was a charge for Nefertiti's tomb. I feel that a mixture of heat, lack of shade and the rocky incline was cause of my frustration and lack of interest. Despite my developing frustration at antiquity in the 46c heat I couldn't help but wonder what undiscovered treasure was beneath my feat, the awe inspiring landscape and history buried beneath amazed me and therefore the experience will be one I remember forever. I believe it is worth the visit whether you visit by taxi and pay the 35LE or go with a package tour e.g. Thompson, First Choice, and Eclipse and pay a little more for the qualified guide.

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            • Clix Multi-Clicker / Dog Accessory / 27 Readings / 26 Ratings
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              07.06.2009 21:31
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              We now have a happy, well-behaved puppy - who said training Beagles was impossible?

              With a wedding approaching it was only natural that we would start to discuss a family. We both agreed that although a family was certainly on the agenda we were not 100% ready for kids; however a canine friend would be a welcome addition to our family, we really didn't want a baby and a puppy at the same time for practical reasons.

              We discussed breeds and after some deliberation decided that due to friendly temperament, small size and lively personality the Beagle would give us years of enjoyment and would be a great dog to have around children. We found ourselves becoming quite obsessed looking at websites, books and even You Tube to get a thorough understanding of behaviour and training requirements. We soon learned that although an older Beagle is a lovable breed the training and puppy months can be somewhat stressful. We knew that to enjoy our Buster in later life we would have to work hard in his first months with us.

              Before we had even paid our deposit for Buster we booked him into a training school however the popular training school was fully booked until September. We contacted the breeder and booked a date 2 days after our honeymoon, much sooner than we had anticipated but nonetheless we were excited and ready for the challenge. We were confident that we had done our 'homework' and knew that to see us through the period before his final puppy injection and the wait for his puppy classes we would need to start training from the word 'GO'. The research had assured us that we would rather use positive reinforcement rather than resort to shouting and smacking. The older methods really did not appeal to us. We visited our local pet store hoping to buy a 'clicker' of some sort - a quick chat to the shop assistant confirmed our thoughts and we ended up purchasing the 'Clix Multi-Clicker'.

              The product states that it is recommended by Dr Roger Mugford, an influential animal behaviourist. The 'Clix Multi-Clicker' is a small blue device with a pressurized metal strip inside. When the button is depressed the device makes a 'click click' sound. The volume/sound can be gradually increased or decreased to suit the hearing ability/preference of the puppy/dog. The 'Clix Multi-Clicker is about 5cm long and about 2 cm thick with a small elastic wrist band. The clicker comfortably fits in the hand. The 'Clix Multi-Clicker' is ergonomically designed with a raised button so that it is easier to use. The 'Clix Multi-Clicker' comes with a training guide which helped us train Buster how to go toilet on the newspaper and training pads and to sit however the down command took a lot more work and I found myself searching pet forums and You Tube for advice on other commands and training issues. We soon learned that the timing of the 'click click' sound is crucial. The treat should be given after the sound is heard and the sound should be straight after the desired behaviour has been achieved e.g. for the 'SIT' command the clicker should be pressed as soon as the bottom touches the floor and then the treat must be given when the command has been completed e.g. the puppy stays in the position long enough to call it a sit e.g. a few seconds.

              We used the clicker from day one and within 3 days noticed an amazing improvement with behavior. Buster was able to toilet on the training pads and understood the command 'sit' and 'down'. We are now able to use the 'SIT' command when Buster is biting feet, hands, and furniture or barking. Without hesitation Buster sits making it easy to remove the item he has stolen or stopping him from Barking. If Buster is jumping up at guests or furniture we use the 'DOWN' command and he reluctantly sits on the floor with a slight growl.

              The use of the 'Clix Multi-Clicker' has enabled us to reward desired behaviour rather than punish him for undesired behaviour. Training Buster has been fun, we use the 'Clix Multi-Clicker' twice a day for 5-10 minutes or until Buster loses interest. We are now able to pick the 'Clix Multi-Clicker' up off the shelf and Buster is sat waiting for his next command. In the 2 weeks that we have Buster the 'Clix Multi-Clicker' has made the 'house-bound' stage prior to his vaccination more bearable. We will continue to use the 'Clix Multi-Clicker' on car journeys, walkies and when visiting the vets, family or friends. We couldn't imagine what the last 2 weeks would have been like without our 'Clix Multi-Clicker' although I am sure it would have involved more Elastiplast, Strepsils and socks. We have found that the volume control has been beneficial for indoor/outdoor training. When Buster is outdoors in the garden I find that the maximum volume is most effective as the sound of traffic or background noise can be distracting. When indoors or when it is quiet however the lowest volume is sufficient as the higher sound can be quite alarming and can distract him. The 'Clix Multi-Clicker' is therefore better suited than cheap or non-branded clickers for Buster.

              The 'Clix Multi-Clicker' cost £3.99 from the local pet store although it can be purchased online for £1- £2 less however this saving must be weighed up against postage and packaging. I personally think the £3.99 price tag was well worth it and a price cannot be put on a well-behaved, pleasant dog. The investment at the beginning will pay off in a few months when Buster starts teething as he is now aware of 'Buster's' toys and 'Human toys' knowing that he should not touch shoes, DVDs, CDs, cups of tea etc.

              The 'Clix Multi-Clicker' is not a miracle cure for bad behaviour however it relies heavily on owner enthusiasm and participation. The clicker needs to be used at the correct time and must be used regularly. We have since purchased two more clickers so that my husband can use it; we found that we were using it so often that chucking it across the room made the training ineffective. We can now teach Buster to 'FETCH' and to 'COME', a spare 'Clix Multi-Clicker' has been given to my parents who have agreed to look after him if we need to go somewhere for more than 3 hours so that the training is consistent. I am now at the stage where for new commands we give a small treat (actually a chunk of dry dog food Buster will not eat training treats) however for old/learned commands we can get away with praise and attention so Buster does not expect a treat when he sits.

              I would not hesitate at all in recommending this product especially for puppies, they are so quick to learn.

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                03.01.2009 19:16
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                A very enjoyable game based in space with the lovable Nintendo hero Mario!

                Many years ago I had Mario 6 Golden Coins on my Gameboy, last year I got Super Mario Bros and we bought the Wii this year I was desperate for another platform style game like the previoius two. I managed to get Mario Kart Wii for Christmas and a week later (only 2 days ago) I received Super Mario Galaxy for my birthday.

                The beginning was great although the story did drag on a little but we soon realise that Princess Peach has been kidnapped and is on Bowsers ship. There is then a series of 'training' activities to learn how to jump, spin, shoot and collect star bits. Throughout the game however it is possible to run into toads and stars to gain tips by pressing 'A' to speak.

                I hated the game at first because I found it really hard to control Mario and navigate however - in fact I had a temper tantrum but within an hour I was hooked I have just completed the game today. Everything from music to characters and even the graphics had me hooked throughout the last 2 days. Some nights I couldn't get to bed until 4am in the morning - awful I know but it has that effect.

                CONTROLS
                ----------------
                At first I was very dubious with the fact that I had to use the Nunchuk and controller to play the game but after the while I got used to it and when I go to play another game I struggled to get used to the controls. A bit of practice at first you will be fine. The Nunchuk acts as your main controller the analogue gear stick at the top will move Mario, the Z will allow him to ground pound objects and 'C' will enable you to change the . The Will remote is used more for spinning - shake the Wii remote. It's also used for collecting and shooting star bits. I find that with the remoter and Nunchuk the game is slightly more interesting. It's a lot easier to get into the game when you are moving in synchronisation with Mario, then again that is what the Nintendo Wii is about.

                Whilst the game is primarily a 1 player game I like the fact that a friend can play by collecting and shooting star bits which effectively increases life and helps defeat enemies. I have played as player two today with my partner to help him collect star bits etc. Player 2 uses the second Wii remote and points at the screen.

                CHARACTERS
                ---------------------
                These really made the game; the detail of each character both good and evil made the game that extra bit playable. I loved the way the creators had made the stars look cute and cuddly but the evil characters quite scary. I think my worst character was the spider although the creativity that went in to creating some of the 'bosses' was amazing. Every detail such as the way they walk and the noise they make is amazing. Each toadstool has a different characteristic e,g, glasses and hats etc.

                SOUND AND MUSIC
                ----------------------------
                The music throughout varies but a majority of the time it sounds majestic almost like the music in a sci-fi / action film. It's great although it can get on your nerves after a while. On a few galaxies the music changes to reflect the type of galaxy. The scary galaxies full of evil and danger sound quite haunting but the one with the ray surfing sounds fun to reflect the game. The sounds from each enemy was scary and the noise made when collecting or shooting stars made the game fun to play.

                GRAPHICS
                --------------
                The first thing I noticed was the excellent graphics you have the option to play 50 Htz or 60 Htz. I started the game as 50 Htz although it is recommended that you play as 60 Htz. I am no games specialist but I was a little disappointed by the camera angle. It seemed to move in the most inappropriate moments and despite using the 'C' button on the Nunchuk to change the angle it didn't do much. His is a small issue but did cause a few swear words when it led to being killed by an enemy.

                The graphics are excellent and the detail on each item is amazing. The grass even looked realistic and made the game much more interesting to play.

                BASIC CONCEPT OF THE GAME
                ---------------------------------------------
                The game is based on saving Princess Peach from the evil Bowser. Throughout the game Mario needs to collect power stars these will enable Mario to unlock and travel to new galaxies.

                Mario also needs to collect star bits on his travels so that he can feed 'Lumas' (baby stars) and stun enemies. 50 star bits will also give Mario another life.

                The game is based around the observatory for the first part and Mario can travel to new galaxies from the various domes.

                Mario can swim, skate, fly and surf. Mario can also pick enemies up and throw them to protect himself. Mario can also transform himself into a spring, bumble bee, ice Mario, fire Mario, boo Mario and rainbow Mario. With fire power Mario can shoot enemies, with a rainbow star Mario is invincible but only for a short while. Bee Mario can fly and attach to honey covered walls. Boo Mario will become transparent and pass through walls, Boo Mario can also float. Ice Mario will leave a trail of ice behind him, and spring Mario can jump really high.

                Throughout the game Mario needs to jump on flip switches to turn off machines and he needs to break blocks to collects coins and star bits. Mario can improve his health by collecting coins so breaking blocks can be quite important.

                The Polari star will help Mario find his way and Rosalina (Mama) will explain what is happening through the game e.g. a comet is coming or the meteors power has been increased etc.

                CONCLUSION
                -------------------
                Thinking back to my first ever Mario game this one really lives up to my expectations. It is great. The contrast between the galaxies is what makes Super Mario Galaxy a very special game. It is very similar to the earlier games with the different worlds and enemies. The style and format is very similar with mini enemies and a big boss at the end. The mixture of music, sound and superb graphics makes this game highly addictive.

                The game was very difficult to get used to at first and I am not sure children would have the patience but would still enjoy the music, characters and graphics enough t9o play it constantly.

                The game cost my partner £19.99 in the Zavvi sale but can range in price from £35 - £15. I think the price of games is extortionate anyway so would never pay £35 regardless of game but I think the value for money is excellent and has given me hours of entertainment and kept me quiet.

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                • Grace - Jeff Buckley / Music Album / 35 Readings / 35 Ratings
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                  15.12.2008 03:53
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                  Jeff Buckley has created a spectacular debut and final full album

                  I must admit that it's only through the travesty that is X-Factor covering such a beautiful, powerful, compelling song that I decided to purchase this album today. There is a group on Facebook that brought Jeff to my attention and reminded me of the beautiful song I once listened to regularly. I dusted off my single and listened to the exceptional voice of Jeff Buckley. The album is admittedly the best I have heard in months. The lyrical genius of the song (written by Cohen) is sung beautifully by Buckley.

                  Jeff Buckley was born on 17th November 1966 in Anaheim, California and was raised by his mother Mary Guibert and step father Ron Moorhead, Jeff was the son of singer/songwriter Tim Buckley who died in 1975 of a drug overdose. Jeff only once met his father when he was eight years old just a couple of months before his dad died. Jeff released his album 'Grace' in August 1994 and at the time it received some harsh reviews from music critics. In 1997 Jeff died tragically when he drowned in the Wolf River, his album soon became very popular. Grace to this date is Buckley's only complete album. An incomplete album - was released in 1998 after his death.

                  TRACK LISTING

                  "Mojo Pin"
                  (Jeff Buckley, Gary Lucas)
                  5:42
                  --------
                  This song is simply beautiful. Mojo Pin was jointly written by Buckley and Lucas. The song starts out softly with a gentle guitar tune in the background towards the end it reaches a powerful climax. Buckley's excellent vocals contribute to a successfully, compelling song.

                  "Grace"
                  (Jeff Buckley, Gary Lucas)
                  5:22
                  -------
                  Grace starts with a great little guitar intro, it's interesting, and then Buckley's beautiful, almost haunting voice kicks in. The poetic lyrics are very compelling and easy to listen to. The guitar tune plays throughout the song and picks up towards the end; Buckley's strong, powerful voice reaches a climax at the end to make this one of my favourites on the album.

                  "Last Goodbye"
                  (Jeff Buckley)
                  4:35
                  -------
                  The lyrics on this song are quite interesting and echo that of a sorry love story. The almost chilling but beautiful vocals of Buckley add greatly to this song. The guitar throughout adds another element to a great song.

                  "Lilac Wine"
                  (James Shelton)
                  4:32
                  ---------
                  One of the excellent cover versions by Buckley, the lyrics start very soft and gentle and continue throughout. The almost chilling voice is very strong and almost mesmirising. A beautiful song sung beautifully throughout.

                  "So Real"
                  (Jeff Buckley, Michael Tighe)
                  4:43
                  --------
                  The lyrics in this song are amazingly complex but very compelling; the vocals are gentle however during the chorus Buckley breaks into a falsetto. This is a beautiful song to listen to as it is a very easy going track.

                  "Hallelujah"
                  (Leonard Cohen)
                  6:53
                  --------
                  There is only one word for this cover of Cohen's Hallelujah and that is WOW! Six minutes go so quick during this song. It is easy to get lost in the complexity of the beautiful though provoking, compelling lyrics. This perfect version of a very sexual but sensational song is what attracted me to this amazing artist. I think this is one of the only songs that truly gives me goosebumps when I hear it, no other artist can portray it in the same was as Buckley.

                  "Lover, You Should've Come Over"
                  (Jeff Buckley)
                  6:43
                  -------
                  The beginning reminds me somewhat of a church organ and when the guitar kicks in the song is an easy going tune with powerful vocals, mesmirising background music and strong lyrics.

                  "Corpus Christi Carol"
                  (Benjamin Britten)
                  2:56
                  --------
                  Corpus Christi Carol, although a short song is absolutely stunning. The level Buckley reaches with his voice is spectacular. A beautiful song, I just cannot stop listening to Buckley's stunningly amazing falsetto. What a talent this guy had - a beautiful song, sung with a beautifully powerful voice.

                  "Eternal Life"
                  (Jeff Buckley)
                  4:52
                  ---------
                  This is a bit of a 'rocky' tune and I feel this is excellently placed on the album. It shows that Buckley can perform a more fast-paced song successfully. I wouldn't say it's his best song and does feel a little bit out of place I must admit however that it's a welcome difference on the album I actually started tapping my feet part way through the song and I quite enjoyed.

                  "Dream Brother"
                  (Jeff Buckley, Mick Grondahl, Matt Johnson)
                  5:26
                  --------
                  A beautiful, almost eastern influenced song, with mesmirising vocals. This song although not the strongest on the album is easy to listen to and with the gently background music it is a perfect song to chill out to after a long hard day's work.


                  "Forget Her" - BONUS TRACK
                  (Jeff Buckley)
                  4.33
                  -------
                  A beautiful song with compelling, powerful lyrics. The almost poetic lyrics are amazing as demonstrated below.

                  her love is a rose pale and dying
                  dropping her petals and men unknown
                  all full of wine the world before her
                  was sober with no place to go

                  although the song does not demonstrate Buckley's strongest vocal genius until the end. The guitar tune in the background is powerful throughout. A lovely song.


                  I never thought when I purchased this album this morning that I would enjoy it so much. I knew I could expect some excellent lyrics and a varied but talented mix of songs. I never expected so much from this album and I have loved listening to the powerful, compelling lyrics today. It really is one of those albums to be listened to a few times. I first needed to listen to it to get a feel for Buckley's awesome talent, and twice to listen and take in the powerful, though-provoking lyrics. Overall this is a fantastic album and I am sure the songs will soon make it onto my favourites list on my MP3 player.

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                  • More +
                    14.12.2008 18:18
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                    A great item for transferring files froma phone etc.

                    I am a bit of an anorak when it comes to memory sticks. I cannot help but buy one every time I go to town or whenever I see one I like online. I bought a phone last year and I was keen to be able to hold a large collection of photos, videos and music within my phone but the memory was very basic so a MicroSD card was essential. I purchased a few cards but rarely moved the files from one place to another as the process seems too arduous.

                    Whilst browsing through Amazon I found a memory stick that encompassed a mini-SD card reader. My first impressions on the stick was 'WOW' closely followed by the 'I want this now urge' unfortunately I know by now that Amazon can take up to 5 days to deliver my order and I had to wait.

                    The memory card/MicroSD card reader was made by Kingston and I am aware from past purchases that Kingston are a reliable manufacturer creating strong and highly effective removable storage devices.

                    They also seem to have one of the greatest ranges of removable media from novelty memory sticks n the shape of Lego or a specific character, as well as memory sticks able to hold a lot of memory.

                    The card and reader bundle was a bargain at only £3.99. The size makes it very potable and convenient to use. It has saved me worrying about losing my existing card reader/card adapter and means that I no longer have to carry USB wires and bulky card readers in my bag. The card supplied has 2GB of space, which is quite good for a few picture files, videos and a few MP3 files.

                    On plugging the USB stick into my computer it took a few minutes to recognise the new software, however on installing the new hardware it now powers up very quick. The Kingston card reader is classed as a 'plug and play' device meaning it automatically opens and file transfer is fast and effective.


                    The memory stick itself is small and compact. It folds up neatly into its casing making is convenient to carry. It has a mini lanyard that can connect to a set of keys, neck strap or even the phone itself. I purchased the 'black' version although it is available in an orange-red colour. I thought the black colour looked more stylish and more professional, although the orangey colour is fun it does look a little plastic and cheap. That said the memory stick in general is quite flimsy and I am always cautious about dropping it or leaving it in my pocket.

                    I do like to print my phone photos and have found that the card is often easier to use than connecting to a photo booth via Bluetooth. Most photobooths have USB connections and I would much rather use the 'plug and play' method than try to connect via Bluetooth.

                    Like all Kingston products the card reader has a warranty of two years however I have not encountered any problems at all whilst using the card reader and it has given me many hours of fun use transferring files between the phone and computer (vice versa).

                    Overall this is a great little addition to my ever-growing collection of USB sticks. It is probably the one that gets used most often after my Kingston Mini Datatraveller. The prices vary between 90p and £5 online so if you shop around you may be able to get a real bargain.

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                    • The X Factor / TV Programme / 43 Readings / 41 Ratings
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                      14.12.2008 03:00
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                      I used to love X-Factor - now I can barely stand to watch it!

                      It seems that X-Factor this year has caused more controversy than normal. I have always been a fan of X-Factor however they have now in my opinion 'over-egged the pudding' somewhat.


                      I though Alex performed very well tonight and that she deserved to win, I am not happy however at Simon Cowell's song choice. I feel that using a much loved song 'Halleluiah' written and performed by Leonard Cohen. The song later covered by Jeff Buckley is beautiful and I think X-Factor have made a wrong choice this year to cover it - The single has overtly sexual themes and has been described by Buckley as an 'homage to "the hallelujah of the orgasm' hardly appropriate for Christmas time. I for one will not be buying the single this year - or at least before Christmas - thats not to say I will not support Alex in the future with her future releases.


                      SHOW FORMAT
                      ------------------------
                      The X Factor is a talent show aired on ITV1 Saturday nights. It is a popular show and attracts many viewers each year. The X-Factor replaced the popular 'Pop Idol' a similar type of talent contest. The show aims to create stars from normal people with talent. The premise is great and I do support the whole idea of creating a star from an average, normal member of the public but feel that the show has overdone things now and each year turns out to be a fight for Christmas Number 1 with the public generally knowing who will get the much coveted title of Christmas Number 1 almost instantly after the winner is announced on the final show.

                      He show was created by Simon Cowell and is joined by three other judges. This year the judges are Louis Walsh, Danni Minogue, Cheryl Cole and Simon himself. Until last year Sharron Osbourne was one of the judges and I must say that the show was much better with her as a judge.

                      The competitions are usually split into four categories, although until 2007 it was split into 3. This years categories consisted of: The Groups, The Over 25's, Under 25's Girls and Under 25's Boys.

                      The show follows a typical format and admittedly my favorite part has to be the auditions as some candidates are hilarious. I tend to switch off after this point and get more into it near the end.
                      Stage 1: First stage Auditions - consisting of some awful contestants and at this point we can spot potential winners

                      Stage 2: Boot camp - all judges are responsible for selecting the best to go into each group.

                      Stage 3: Visits to judges' houses - this is where the final contestants will be selected

                      Stage 4: Live shows - usually about 10 weeks of live shows and the audience and viewers votes for the winners.

                      X-FACTOR 2008
                      ------------------------

                      This years X-factor has been entertaining, and in my opinion has been one of the best series so far. The quality of contestants exceeded my expectations and that of previous years. I have really enjoyed watching the live shows this year and have not been bored one bit, unlike previous years.

                      In the first week I predicted that Diana Vickers, JLS and Alexandra would be in the final and I wasn't far off with my prediction. I do believe that Alexandra deserved to win tonight as she performed consistently throughout the series.

                      THE CONTESTANTS
                      -----------------------------

                      Groups

                      Bad Lashes - Bad Lashes was the first act to leave the X-Factor, not always the easiest or most pleasant title of a series but that title has to go to someone. They went out with their version of Wonderwall - I thought it was a different but good version of the song. Bad Lashes has since turned on the Plymouth Christmas Lights where I live...yes that's right Plymouth pulled out all the stops yet again this Christmas!

                      Girl Band - The public don't really value girl bands especially on shows such as X-Factor this act didn't last too long at all and they ended up suffering a similar fate to Bad Lashes.

                      JLS - This band made it to the final. I thought JLS were brilliant and as runners-up I can see a great future ahead for the talented four-piece group.

                      Over 25's

                      Daniel Evans - Daniel caused a bit of controversy and was the first of the 'Over 25's' to leave the show. Many people on the radio and on Facebook groups were urging the public to vote for daniels despite the negative comments he received from the judges week after week.

                      Ruth Lorenzo - Ruth the fiery Spaniard was one of my favourites throughout and her performance of 'Purple Rain' was spectacular. I really thought she would have remained until the very end and was quite sad to see her go.

                      Rachel Hylton - I really didn't like Rachel, I found her too overpowering and outspoken. I also thought she was rude and didn't think she really had much reason to be so big-headed. She was not the best singer in the competition and I was surprised to see her stay in for so long.

                      Boys under 25's

                      Eoghan Quinn - Eoghan made it to the final and rightly so he is a very talented young man, at only 16 he was unable to stay up after the live show as he was too young.

                      Austin Drage - Austin was one of the unfortunate guys to go out rather early. I thought Austin had a bright future ahead of him, unfortunately he was not good enough for this years standard.

                      Scott Bruton - Scott was another unfortunate one to go out quite early. Scott like Austin was not strong enough for the high quality acts in this years show.

                      Girls under 25's

                      Laura White - Laura's departure caused a lot of controversy. Laura was voted out after being placed in the bottom two; however her popularity over the UK caused people to assume that it was caused by incorrect votes and some people reported not being able to get through on the phone lines. This led to many people saying they'd boycott the show and that Laura should be given another chance.

                      Diana Vickers - Diana had a distinct, beautiful voice and I would have liked to se her win. She managed to get laryngitis on the week Laura had been voted out which had led to people believing she should have gone. Diana went through a few dodgy weeks with weak performances whilst recovering from her Laryngitis and soon went out the week before the final.

                      Alexandra Burke - Alexandra is the winner of the contest after some excellent strong performances. I thought her Candyman performance was amazing and overall I am glad that someone with an iota of talent has won the contest. I must admit that her performances tonight were spectacular especially the duet with Beyonce

                      THE JUDGES/MENTORS
                      ---------------------------------------
                      Louis Walsh - This year Louis has mentored the groups and I think he has done a good job. Louis has also been quite fair this year. Lost a bit of faith in Louis last year when he slated Same Difference every show and tried to make a personal jibe at Simon most shows.

                      Danni Minogue - Danni is a great mentor and seems to care for her acts. Danni is a fair judge as well giving credit to acts where it is true but giving any negative feedback fairly. Danni has had a rough time this year with the over 25's however Danni did have the winner last year.

                      Cheryl Cole - Cheryl is new judge on the panel and I feel she has taken to the role brilliantly of supporting the under 25 girls. I have rarely heard her criticise other acts and she has supported her own acts very well. You can see that she cares deeply and she shows true emotion when one of her girls perform on stage.

                      Simon Cowell - As much as people hate Simon Cowell I feel he makes the show more appealing. The live shows can be quite boring and his comments are wonderful, although sometimes I feel she could tone it down a little. This year Simon has managed the under 25 boys very well.

                      PRESENTERS
                      ----------------
                      The show is well presented by Dermot O'Leary and the 'Xtra Factor' presented by Holly Willouby. These two presenters seem to make the show that little more entertaining. Dermot shows a lot of care and consideration to the acts who may have just received negative feedback or worse been voted off

                      SUMMARY
                      -------------
                      X-Factor has seen some high profile talent come out of the show and although I have not liked any of them I cannot doubt that it helps people with talent reach the dizzy heights of fame.

                      The idea behind the show is good but I do not agree that the destiny is somewhat decided straight after the show has ended. We know that Alexandra will have the Christmas number one as did Shane Ward, Leona Lewis and Leon Jackson. This however does not mean that these stars are any good in fact Leona seems to be the only winner to actually make something out of her success and even then I do not like her style of wailing like a banshee. I will not deny Alex of her chance to have a number 1 as I do actually think she has a real talent and will happily buy her single at a later date. I just don't agree with the timing of the singles every year and the pre-determined assumption that the winner will get a Xmas number 1.

                      I only hope that this year the British public will use their noggins slightly and not act like sheep. I believe the Christmas number one should be as the title says - Christmas and therefore it should be remotely linked to Christmas.

                      The show this year seem to have caused more outrage than normal with Facebook groups springing up urging the British Public to buy the Original Jeff Buckley song, buy Rick Astley's song 'Never Gonna Give You Up' or even buy Geraldine McQueen's Christmas song (the spoof of X-Factor but I think Simon Cowell summed it up well when he said thankyou to everyone who has talked about the show - all this publicity year after year about petty squabbles, controversial voting problems and legal battles makes the show stronger.

                      I think the only thing that will calm the hype down is to ensure that the cycle of X-Factor Christmas numbers 1's is stopped. If people do not buy the singles then the show fails to take over prime time television. I used to love X-Factor it has now reached that annoying stage - please ITV no more next year!

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                      • More +
                        13.12.2008 21:03
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                        An amazing university in teh South West of England! Amazing!

                        This time of year students will be looking at a place to study after Sixth Form/College. Most will have filled out UCAS forms and will be hoping that they get into their first choice university. Some students may have never heard of Marjon so I will introduce it in more depth.

                        I graduated from the college last year and have recently started my masters at Plymouth University so am in a place to compare the two. The College of St Mark and St John (better known as MARJON) has recently gained 'university status' making it the 'University College Plymouth St Mark and St John'.

                        You may be thinking to yourself already "but why this place I've never heard of surely Oxford or Cambridge is far better" well maybe in terms of academic success however MARJONS was voted in the top 10 for 'Overall Student Satisfaction', 'Academic Support', 'Assessment and Feedback', 'Personal Development' and 'Quality of Teaching'. Only four other institutions ranked higher in more than 5 categories.

                        The Sunday Times has also ranked the College in the Top 3 higher education colleges for four years running. Choosing a university can be a daunting and expensive experience therefore it is important that reviews are accurate and fair. I have enjoyed my time at MARJON and felt I should write this review to give my honest opinions.

                        HISTORY
                        ---------------
                        The College of St Mark and St John is a Church of England Voluntary Aided College meaning that the Church help support finance and play a big part in college life. The College of St Mark and St John was formed when The College of St John merged with the College of St Mark in the 1920's (1923 I think!) in Chelsea, London.

                        The two colleges were founded in the 1800's to train teachers, to this day The College of St Mark and St John is still a famous institute dedicated to Initial Teacher Training.

                        The College of St Mark and St John moved to Plymouth, Devon in the 1970s later becoming affiliated to Exeter University in 1991. The affiliation to Exeter University meant that The College of St Mark and St John could award degrees through the University of Exeter.

                        Last year (2007) The College of St Mark and St John received 'Taught Degree Awarding Powers' which basically enables them to award their own degrees. The status change was alittle late for me and I was awarded an EXON degree (Exeter). The university is now known as the University College Plymouth St Mark and St John.

                        ADMISSIONS
                        --------------------
                        The admissions team were very helpful, I applied to 6 different universities however The College of St Mark and St John was my first option above Plymouth University, Brighton, Sheffield Hallam, Cardiff and Brunel University. I was accepted at all six following gruesome interviews of varying difficulty however I never felt 'right' at the others. I felt like I was already a student at MARJON when I visited on the open day.

                        The admissions team were great after my interview they sent out regular mail to inform me of open days and events so I could keep in touch with the university.

                        The entrance requirements were quite low; students only need to get 120 points at A-level to be accepted, I never thought I would fail my A-levels but I was scared about not being accepted. Interviews were a necessity for my course although the interview was daunting it was easier than those at other universities. Don't be put off by this as the standard of work on the course is far from easy.

                        Prior to my start at The College of St Mark and St John I was taken very ill and admitted to hospital, I knew I would miss registration and fresher's week. I was very upset as the hospital window overlooked the College and I just wanted to start. My dad liaised with the admissions team on a regular basis being able to complete my registration for me. As a result of their helpful nature the start of term was not delayed and I could attend lectures as soon as I was ready. My student loan was also unaffected by this sudden illness.

                        Last year after confirmation of my degree the admissions team were very supportive in arranging references for job applications and sorting out tickets for my graduation. Thinking back to it now, I can see that Marjon staff went above and beyond expectations. My experiences with my new university are not as pleasant.

                        CAMPUS
                        ---------------
                        I have really enjoyed studying at The College of St Mark and St John due to its self-contained campus. Whilst I lived at home during my degree I enjoyed the fact that all facilities were 'under one roof'. I have stayed on campus for summer schools and really enjoyed the fact that lecture theatres, classrooms, accommodation, sports centre, computer suite, student union bar, food outlets, library and convenience store are on site.

                        Lecture theatres and classrooms
                        The lecture theatre is huge and the acoustics are very good. I am hard of hearing and when I use my hearing aid it is great to know that the T loop works brilliantly and I can hear the speaking lecturer very well.

                        All classrooms are kitted out with 'interactive whiteboards'. I thought the teaching rooms were well adapted to their purpose with science materials in the sciences rooms, electronic robots in the IT suite and A-Z posters and dolls in the teaching rooms. In comparison to Plymouth the rooms are not as modern and do have the original 70's them, despite the addition of modern items.
                        I have to mention the new drama theatre my first time in this refurbished theatre was my last day at college when I was presented with my award. The drama theatre is rather amazing, with state of the art equipment for performances and productions. I am sure the theatre will rival that of Plymouth University's new theatre.

                        Accommodation
                        The accommodation is quite basic, with a single or shared bedroom. All the rooms have washing facilities and a 'built in' desk. There are 6 rooms per 'wing' and have access to a bath or shower with toilet. A kitchen is also shared with a communal living room with television. Students staying in halls of residence must purchase a card which allows them to eat in one of the dining areas this card is approximately £530 but does last 3 years depending on how much you eat in your first year - many of my mates managed to make their last the full four years even if they did eat rabbit food most days. The cost to stay in halls of residence is about £60-£70 a week.

                        There is also a Student Village situated in college grounds where you can share a two storey house with 4 other students. You would be staying in similar accommodation as the halls of residence however these houses are more cut off from the social gatherings, so if you want a quiet life the houses are probably better suited to you. They are slightly cheaper than the halls of residence I think about £50-£60 per week.

                        Whether you stay in halls of residence or the student village you will have a final year student who will look after you and advise you on anything you need. They are apparently quite reliable and are available on a 24 hour call system in case of emergency.

                        Sports facilities
                        The College is very famous for its sports courses and the facilities reflect this. The sports centre has its own lecture theatres and classrooms, three sports halls and a sports science laboratory. The sports centre is also open to the students and public for swimming and sports sessions. I have enjoyed being a member of the sports centre which is very modern with some excellent facilities. A year's membership costs £50 and this price includes the gymnasium, swimming pool, Astroturf and sports halls.

                        Computer suites
                        I have used the main computer suite for many ICT-based lessons, this computer suite is well equipped for all courses. The college is also equipped to teach the ECDL advanced course which seems to be in high demand at the moment in Plymouth. Between time-tabled sessions the computer suite is open for drop in session and students can use computers for work purposes with technicians in close proximity in case of any problems.

                        Library
                        The Library has been a main gripe of mine since 2003 when I started at The College of St Mark and St John. The books usually dating back to the 18th century when the colleges were first founded are not very useful for a current research project. In comparison to Plymouth University where the books are very current and useful Marjon never had the decent books in stock. The one book I eagerly wanted for the full four years never actually appeared on the shelves.

                        The library is set out over three floors and is a little like Dr Who's TARDIS, from the outside it looks small but there are many computer suites and reprographics rooms leading off. Library loans, renewals and reservations can be done over the internet if you do not have time to go to the library. The staff are very helpful and if you cannot find something in the library they will order a book in from elsewhere. The library staff run workshops and sessions on 'how to find journals' 'how to search for books' and 'how to cite references' all three are crucial in university.

                        Student Union Bar (SUB)
                        As you would expect this room saw a few visits from me and my mates. With a nice little restaurant situated at the top we could spend our 'time off' with a few alcoholic beverages and a burger. The Student union provides some excellent events and this is the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night although I rarely got chance to enjoy the many popular themed nights due to a huge work load!

                        Restaurants
                        There are several of these situates around The College varying in style, price and atmosphere. My favourite for a posh lunch was Cafe del Rosa where you could pick up a posh baguette for £3.60 and sit in comfort with an excellent service or go up to the Student Union Bar and pay £1.90 for the same baguette but surrounded by drunken students celebrating almost anything like taking library books back on time!

                        The Lion and Lamb bar is situated in the sports centre so was often occupied by the 'general public' criticising students for being dossers so I tended not to venture in there if I could help it!

                        Shop
                        The shop is great really, for those staying on campus in the Student Village you can purchase many microwave meals, bread, milk, coffee, rice etc, alcohol, cigarettes and a limited clothing range. The cash back service was used many a time until they got a free cash machine.

                        Book Shop
                        There is no need to get the bus to Waterstones as the book shop sells all course books required for the courses on offer at The College. They have also started buying back books in a good condition to sell second hand. The book shop is open most of the year so new students can get a head start on their course. I used to think the books were quite expensive, however compared to the only other book shop in Plymouth (Waterstones) the books were very well priced.

                        Launderette
                        I was fortunate enough to be living home so never had to visit this room although I am pretty sure it involved washing machines and tumble driers. The price so I was told was great but you need to provide your own washing powder. I was told each was between 50p-£1 so that's not bad really...although I am sure many of my mates chose to buy new clothes and take the dirty ones home each weekend!

                        Child Care
                        For those students returning to study after having children MARJONS does provide an excellent nursery and playgroup. Flying Start nursery caters for children 0-4 years during the day and 5-8 years after school. My mate got pregnant during her course and could only return with the support of the nursery. The nursery have received excellent OFSTED reports and offer free places for 3 and 4 year olds. See http://www.flyingstart.uk.com/ for more info but be warned the website is noisy, it gave me a fright!

                        SERVICES
                        -----------------
                        I believe these following services should be included in a review, after all it's the services that will make your time at university easier. I believe the support received from counselors, careers advisors, copy shop staff, porters and student union is a deciding factor on which university you choose.

                        Counselor
                        Whether you are struggling with family problems, relationships, members of staff or other issues the counselors are an excellent resource. We met the counselor briefly during a dissertation workshop. If we ever had any issues they would strive to support us in a reassuring way - a very valuable and much needed service in a university especially at any busy or stressful time.

                        Careers Service
                        Leaving full time education can be the most daunting experience when you have known nothing else since the age of 5. The careers service provided careers fairs to meet prospective employers. They also agree to support students for up to 4 years after the end of a course. I met with an advisor prior to an interview and although it wasn't what I had expected she gave me the confidence. I know that when I want support they are the other end of the phone and will help. I have also used this service a few times since I left the college and after 3 interviews I managed to get a job. The support is very good and with so many people out of work at the moment a good bit of support from a qualified person can make a lot of difference.

                        Study Support
                        These people are excellent for students with disabilities or lacking confidence. They will help read through assignments and suggest places to look for more quotes. They will support you with improving academic writing and citing references. People tend to think they only support students with disabilities but they are there as a free service to all students to offer academic support and advice. They were a great help when I couldn't find journals for my dissertation and helped with layout two things that I could have failed on had they not helped.

                        Health Care
                        A nurse and doctor visit the campus regularly for appointments concerning illness, sexual health and other issues. They also have a regular dental visit for anyone concerned about dental health. The hospital however is down the hill and is understanding of residents of Marjon.

                        Copy Shop staff
                        These people are the ones you see on your last few weeks of University when you hand in your dissertation. I need to mention them as when you get your dissertation bound you don't really expect to make several changes but they did it without any fuss free of charge so without them I would have ended up a rather poor student!

                        Porters
                        These are the people who deliver your mail to your pigeon holes, quite jolly chaps who never seem to stop whistling. On a wet day they have the ability to brighten up the place. They are often seen after a fire drill frantically waving towels at smoke alarms to stop them beeping or sorting lost students who have lost keys or the codes to access the halls.

                        Student Union
                        The student union are there to stick up for students with any issues, they have often been seen appealing against parking fees, prices of alcohol and food and have provided excellent entertainment.

                        COURSES
                        ----------------
                        The College of St Mark and St John offer a selection of BA, BEd and BSc courses as well as the postgraduate courses and masters' degrees. There is a quick list of courses on offer during the academic year of 2008-2009 although I doubt it is changing much for the 2008-2010 academic period.

                        Courses involving Children, Youth and Community such as Education (PGCE and BA), Youth and Community (BA). The College have great links with local kids clubs and community centre's meaning that the course can be hands on and academic.
                        There has been a new course added in creative writing allowing you to work towards a Bachelor of Arts. The course has been supported by some famous authors who have visited the College in the past, I am sure that after a few years this course will attract many 'famous authors' from the South West such as Michael Morpurgo so will become a popular course.

                        The drama course as far as I am aware offers a BA and masters courses. The new drama theatre has been an excellent addition to this course meaning that they can now provide more learning opportunities. I have seen one of the productions by the 2nd year students and was rather impressed by the quality. I get the impression however that if you actually want to be a famous actor/actress you are better off studying in London where the competition is high.

                        You can also choose to specialise in Education by doing a degree (B.Ed or PGCE) focusing completely on Teacher Training. You can also do a course specifically relating to teaching English to foreign students.

                        You can do an English Language course which could enable you to progress onto a masters or postgraduate course in Education. Combined with the Creative Writing course I would imagine that they would work well together. The English staff do look rather 'dull' so beware of this.

                        Due to the vast moorland and Plymouth's history the Outdoor, Environment and Geography course is very strong in the College. Many trips and projects are focused on the local area. Students graduating with a BA in an Outdoor, Environment or Geography course usually go on to work in the local area or complete a PGCE.

                        As mentioned previously The College's excellent sports facilities boasts and excellent selection of sports courses. Whilst showing prospective students around the college I found that 70% were interested in sports and teaching PE. The courses relating to sport focus on health, sport, coaching and PE in schools.
                        The newly built (2005/06) Speech and Language therapy teaching building is linked to Plymouth University part of the Peninsula Medical School. The College also run a Psychology degree linked to the Peninsula Medical School.

                        In addition to the above the College also offers courses in Management, Media, Public Relations, Culture, Philosophy and Sociology. I must apologise but I have heard very little about these courses and wouldn't like to comment on the quality.

                        CLUBS AND SOCIETIES
                        -----------------------------------
                        Marjon is proud of its many societies and clubs. Most clubs are 'sports based' and therefore MARJON is a very popular college for sports teams. They have men's and women's hockey, football, rugby, basketball teams, as well as surf club, Jujitsu club, sailing club, climbing club, dance club etc.

                        As a Church of England college they have a Christian Union with a gospel choir and education team who visit schools and present assemblies. The Christian Union also organise several events to raise money and raise their profile throughout the college. They have a prayer society sometimes organising 24 hour prayer marathons.

                        During fresher's week they hold a fair for new students to join up to the clubs most clubs require a joining fee so it is important to consider whether you have time to commit fully to the activities on offer.

                        Unbelievably the clubs and the college seem to get a large coverage on local TV and radio, mainly due to their involvement with local companies and schools. The student union involved heavily with the 'Race for Life' every year and has a huge profile locally.

                        STAFF AND TEACHING
                        ----------------------------
                        This is one area I thought I should really mention as without the support from my personal tutors, and dissertation tutor I wouldn't have survived life as a student. The personal support I have received has been amazing. I have always been able to get in touch with my tutors and they have always been happy to help. Teaching groups consist of about 15-30 people so the personal touch to teaching is great. I thought it was really important that by the end of the four year course all of my tutors knew my name and knew me as a person rather than a statistic. The lecturers made our lessons fun with interactive lessons, we rarely sat in a huge lecture theatre merely listening to drivel.

                        Quality of Teaching is high, with staff knowing every student very well. Whilst I was at the College the staff under-went an OFSTED inspection, which was highly successful. The inspection was thorough and looked at areas such as lesson planning, delivery, assessment and the qualifications.

                        The college are good at planning and implementing a programme which makes them one of the best Teacher Training Colleges in the UK. Assessment standards are high and all assignments are graded with a long positive comment suggesting ways to improve. In terms of other courses quality of planning, teaching and assessment is of a high standard which has led to the college now being awarded university status.


                        LOCAL AREA
                        --------------------
                        Without trying to sound like a travel agency I will try to tell it as it is, but I don't really have anything negative to say about the South West so here goes.

                        Plymouth has a lot of history and is a great place to socialise. The Hoe is very ancient with Elizabethan buildings and little quaint lanes. The Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America in 1620 from the Mayflower Steps and the Hoe was also a major part of WW2. Plymouth City Centre was one of the most bombed cities during World War 2 due to its huge links with the Navy, the city is constantly regenerating.

                        Plymouth is a stones throw away from the beaches of Cornwall so there is plenty to do on a nice day. Plymouth is host to a number of popular bands appearing in the Plymouth Pavilions situated in eth West End of Plymouth alongside several nightclubs, restaurants, theaters, cinemas and a casino.

                        Plymouth is quite cheap in comparison to London, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds etc therefore you are likely to get a lot more for your money I am often quite surprised when I go up country and see some of the prices of alcohol and club prices so we do actually have it quite 'cushty' down here.

                        Many people seem to believe that Plymouth is a boring town with little to do however this is not the case. To the East of Plymouth you can stroll amongst the Haunted Moors, to the West you can enjoy the surfing beaches of South East Cornwall or travel a little further to Newquay (the Surfing Capital of the UK).

                        Or you could visit the home of Plymouth Argyle (Home Park) and support a decent team!

                        Plymouth is easy to reach by plane, train and coach so there is no excuse to not visit the parents on your weekends off, or them to visit you - In fact the airport merges with the College carpark, so you can become a plane spotter if you wish during boring lectures!

                        To find out more about the local area try viewing these sites - www.thisisplymouth.com.uk or http://www.visitplymouth.co.uk/

                        SUMMARY
                        ----------------
                        I am feeling quite sad writing this review, as my days at Marjon are all over and I have nothing but great things to say about them - I may have moaned constantly during my time theer buit would be pushed to remember any of them. Whilst sitting in lectures at Plymouth University I feel comfortable but the feel is not as warm and friendly. The atmosphere is not as supportive and encouraging.

                        Since leaving last year I have never regretted the choices I have made and am proud to say I graduated from the college. It was a major part of my life and will always generate happy memories. I can guarantee that if you choose to study at Marjons the experience will be challenging but very exciting as well.

                        If you would like more information on The College of St Mark and St John contact 01752 636700 or view the website on www.marjon.ac.uk for up to date information.

                        The website can tell only one side of the story, so I hope you have enjoyed reading my side of it - even if it does seem so LONG!

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                          08.12.2008 19:19
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                          Cadbury's are great with chocolate and their instant hot chocolate is no exception!

                          I have just had one of those horrible days. You know the sort of day where nothing ever goes right. The bus was late, the computers wouldn't work, I had an awful headache and couldn't find my phone. I got home flung my bag on the floor and wanted to cry. I stormed off upstairs then my lovely fiancé brought me a cup of hot chocolate. I got quite sarcastic with his and said "well that's not going to help me meet my targets! Is it?" and he walked out quick. I sat and looked at the steaming hot cup and the smell wafted towards my nose.

                          I usually have a cup of hot chocolate before bed, it always helps me unwind and relax. I usually make the drink at about 10pm and am ready for bed 30-45 minutes later. I find it works a treat.

                          I am now sat here 1 hours later feeling much better feeling rather embarrassed that I was so rude to my poor guy and that I got so wound up about work.

                          I love chocolate in fact I am a confessed chocoholic, so why chocolate wouldn't cher me up I don't know. One of my favourite brands is Cadburys and I am very loyal to the brand. Every week on our visit to Tesco we buy a small jar of Cadbury Instant Hot Chocolate. We tend to go through a jar a week as I like my hot chocolate to be nice and thick. Cadburys recommend that you use four heaped teaspoons but I change this to about 6-8 depending on the size of my cup. I tend to find that the powder is not easy to mix with the water at first so by making the powder into a 'paste' with a small drop of hot water. I also find that by making the hot chocolate this way the drink ends up with a frothy top and is easier to stir. I then top up the 'paste' with hot water and give it another stir.

                          The smell is so inviting, it smells sweet but not sickly. In fact it smells like 'real' Cadbury's chocolate I often find that with hot chocolate such as Options or cheap shop brands the smell can appear quite sickly and of-putting.

                          The drink itself I find is better served hot but not boiling. I tend to wait for it to cool slightly before attempting a mouthful. If I am feeling quite adventurous I will add cream or a handful of marshmallows although they are not actually required the taste of the hot chocolate itself is fine. The drink itself is thick and tastes of chocolate - strange that! However I have found that with some brands the drink may look brown and appear to be chocolate but it in fact tastes like sweet warmed up water.

                          The Cadbury Instant Hot Chocolate can be found up the tea and coffee aisle in most supermarkets. Is not the cheapest hot chocolate compared to similar brands but in my opinion the price is reasonable. The 400g jar lasts us anything between 2 and 4 weeks depending on how often I drink it. I do tend to have an average sized mug every night and with this frequency it does not seem to last long at all however if you have the occasional drink and use the specified quantities of powder it should last a lot longer.

                          In my opinion this is the best drink around and certainly helps me relax before bed, after a very long, hard day - well worth the money.

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                            07.12.2008 21:22
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                            I always rate fairly and subjectively, this review contains some advice about rating fairly.

                            I have unfortunately been inspired today to write this review after what I would say was 'revenge rating'. A new member who shall remain anonymous wrote a very short review approximately 160 word and I rated this review as helpful as it lacked the content and personal insight that I would expect for a very useful review, to find seconds later that the said member thought it would be acceptable to 'down rate' several of my reviews.

                            When questioned later the said member said that they thought the review was not helpful to as it was too detailed and lacked personal insight - fair enough advice taken - but the abuse that followed it caused some concern. I can't be too disheartened however the member added some money to my wedding fund!

                            I believe that I rate fairly and always make a point of rating new members, that's what the site is about and that's what keeps it running as successfully as it does. I always carefully plan and construct my reviews to give a bit of background information, product information and balance this with a well constructed opinion on the product or service. Many of my reviews have positive comments and if I do get a comment that offers advice I use it for the future. I understand however that everyone rates differently and therefore I have given my personal insight into this. You may find it interesting to see how I rate.

                            NOT USEFUL
                            -------------------
                            I rarely give 'Not Useful', however a few times I have seen reviews that have repeated the same sentence a few times or reviews that talk about a completely different opinion and I have to give a 'Not Useful' rating. If I think someone has copied from another source and I can prove this by inserting a line from the review into Google and getting an exact or edited version I will rate the review as 'not useful' as cheating and plagiarism is against the Dooyoo terms and conditions. I have probably rated no more than 20 reviews as 'not useful'.

                            SOMEWHAT USEFUL
                            ------------------------------
                            This is another rate I avoid giving if possible. I will often rate a members first review as 'helpful' and give feedback on how it can be improved, if that member chooses to edit the review I will re-rate if they continue to 'churn' 150 word reviews out each minute then I tend to rate as 'Somewhat Useful' - I do not find reviews helpful if they give only opinion. I like to know a bit about the product, and I like to learn more about it. If I was a consumer visiting Dooyoo for a review on a laptop I would like to know the specification, how fast it is, whether it does exactly as it says on the box and any other pieces of information both fact and opinion that make the laptop special or a waste of money.

                            USEFUL
                            ------------
                            I do rate many reviews as 'useful'; I tend to give this rating when I believe the member has written a very short, unbalanced review. I may rate a review as 'useful' if it only talks about one aspect of a service e.g. a bank - "I will never go to Barclays again as they charged me for going over my limit" This statement is fair enough but is unlikely to help a prospective customer as it isn't subjective and does not focus on other areas of the service such as opening hours, telephone support, staff demeanour and other facilities. It may however help someone make an informed choice if they are the sort to go overdrawn every week. A useful review lacks depth and consistency and does not provide a balanced discussion or a fair argument for why the product is recommended or not as the case may be.

                            I may also rate a review as helpful if it far too detailed. I personally feel that a review over 2000 words is not 'very helpful' as it can take a lifetime to read and the opinion gets caught up in the middle. I do believe that for travel reviews a long review may be necessary and if a member plans to write a very long review I find it more useful if it has headed titles.

                            VERY USEFUL
                            ---------------------
                            I tend to rate a review as 'very useful' if it gives a balanced argument, focuses on every aspect of a product/service/destination. When reading a review I want to see the good parts and the bad parts. If however a product/service/destination is all bad then its helpful if the review is detailed enough to see all of the bad parts not just read a review that says "its was rubbish, I won't go again" or "don't buy this it's a rip off". A very useful review gives a mixture of fact and product information combined with an objective opinion.

                            I do not necessarily look at a review and say that's roughly 600 words and therefore very useful. I do read them thoroughly and rate fairly. A review consisting of 500-2000 words does not automatically constitute a 'very useful' rate.

                            This tenuously brings me onto my opinion on 'rapid rating', funnily enough the member mentioned at the beginning of my review last night rated 5reviews at 22:45pm and one at 22:44pm funny as I know for sure it would take at least 3 minutes to fully read a review. I know that when I read and rate reviews I take at least 2-5 minutes to read the review so that I can subjectively rate.

                            NOMINATIONS
                            ----------------------
                            Then we come onto the 'crowns', Dooyoo have created a brilliant system where excellent writers can gain recognition for a particularly helpful review. I tend to nominate a review if it has made me laugh, contain exceptional detail and is generally very helpful. If a review gives me a mixture of information and opinion whilst giving me some reading pleasure then I will 'nominate it'. I don't always say that a review has been nominated, but I will leave a comment to say that the review was superb.

                            Then there are the comments...

                            I must admit I do not leave many comments and really should start to do this more often. In the past when I have been job hunting or recently with the news of my wedding members have been absolutely fantastic. The aspect I love most about Dooyoo is the community. I do have people in my 'Circle of Friends' and I am in theirs. A majority of members on Dooyoo are genuinely, nice, helpful and kind people. I have had a few private messages from people wishing me luck on finding a job, for planning my wedding and to thank me for a good review or a rate. I do think comments contribute to this. If I do rate a review that has a few spelling mistakes or is not as well written as I would like I tend to rate it as I see fit and rather than add a comment about this matter I will send a personal message to inform them of this and explain that should they edit the review I will re-rate accordingly. I do not like to make members feel silly by pointing out mistakes.

                            Please remember this is my opinion and whilst I may feel it's the correct way to rate other members have other ideas as to what constitutes a very useful, useful, somewhat useful and not useful review. Despite the fact it is solely my opinion I hope it helps you as a member new or old rate and understand my reasons for rates you may receive.

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                              06.12.2008 23:34
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                              A useful resource for people wanting to take the Life in the UK test.

                              When I started my job in May 2008, I was a little concerned. It was a whole new area to me. My job would involve E-Learning (education delivered over the internet / computer). My company also delivered Life in the UK Tests. I had never heard of the test prior to starting my job and was very interested to find out more.

                              THE TEST
                              --------------
                              The Life in the UK test was introduced for anyone wishing to apply for as a British citizen or indefinite leave to remain (settlement). The does was designed to prove that anyone applying for the above status is aware of life in the UK. The test is for any candidate with a level of English above ESOL Entry 3 or above, if it is below these candidates need to attend citizenship classes.

                              The test is written in English although it can be also be taken in Welsh or Scottish Gaelic. The test is well invigilated and all invigilators need to be fully qualified and attend refresher courses. There are rules about how close candidates sit and how they enter and exit the centre in case another candidate is in the area.

                              Passing the test will enable candidates to apply for a British Passport and the right to vote in elections. The test contains 24 questions on life in the United Kingdom and will last for 45 minutes. It's based on the handbook 'Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship', which is available from WH Smiths and other stationary stores.

                              BOOKING THE TEST
                              ------------------------------
                              I take bookings over the telephone and direct all candidates in the direction of the http://www.lifeintheuktest.gov.uk website sop that they are aware of the test rules, regulations and expectations.

                              The website also gives a list of available test centres, in the 'find a test centre' section. The website also displays centre information, directions and contact details. The website also warns candidates that there is a 7 day wait between booking the test and actually being able to take it,. We often get candidates calling to say I need to take my test today and we cannot do anything for them, it is a Home Office rule.

                              The website also gives details of the current test fees which have recently decreased from £34 to £33.28 due to the VAT decrease. I also find the website really useful as it e3xplains to candidates that they need I.D although we communicate this over the phone many forget or bring the wrong ID and the invigilators need to9 refuse the test charging a £10 administration fee.

                              PREPARING FOR THE TEST
                              --------------------------------------
                              It's surprising how many people turn up the test having never touched a computer or used a mouse. We now communicate this to them over the phone explaining that if they do not know how to use a mouse they may want to visit the http://www.lifeintheuktest.gov.uk website to practice. The test invigilators are not allowed contact with the candidates prior to the test and therefore if candidates need help with using the computer they need to visit another centre or see a tutor such as myself who would not have contact with the candidates during the test.

                              The website has a few helpful articles to help candidates prepare for the test.

                              The first is "How to use a mouse" this article shows candidates how to hold a mouse, position the mouse on the screen, which button to click and selecting/highlighting items.

                              The next article focuses on Keyboard skills such as the 'Enter' and 'Tab' buttons as well as the arrow buttons, if a candidate visits the centre for help I place them on the website so that they can read the information and then practice mouse control playing a game such as solitaire.

                              The test covers areas such as parliament structure, the British Monarchy', British history, Christianity e.g. Christmas, Easter, churches. The website gives these sections in a bit more detail allowing candidates to fully prepare for the test. Candidates are told to buy the 2nd Edition of the Life in the UK Test manual and revise sections 2,3,4,5,6 and 7.

                              The website also gives sample questions such as...

                              When do children take tests at school? How many go on to higher education?
                              How many people live in the countries of the UK?

                              Where are Geordie, Cockney and Scouse dialects spoken?

                              What is the Church of England and who is its head? What are the main Christian groups?

                              What and when are the Patron Saints' Days of the four countries of the UK? What are bank holidays?

                              What is the civil service and how do civil servants work with government?

                              What is the NHS?

                              I sat in on a test a few months ago and found some of the questions quite tricky, it is therefore brilliant that candidates can use the test website to prepare for the test.

                              The website is really easy to use. It does look a bit plain but tit is easy to look at for long periods of time. The main colour - white is easy on the eye, but has section of colour - Navy blue at the top and Yellow tabs.

                              The website generally offers advice and guidance to people who would like to take the test. It is very useful for us too as we have a place to send candidates if they need additional help or support.

                              If you are interested in the test, becoming a test supervisor / invigilator or would like to take the test, then this website will be really useful for you.

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                              • Merlin (TV Series) / TV Programme / 28 Readings / 27 Ratings
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                                06.12.2008 16:49
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                                A great TV series shown on BBC every Saturday night.

                                Living in Cornwall the name 'Merlin' has been mentioned a few times. Have always been interested in some of the legends surrounding our country and am always keen to hear these stories. When I found tout that Merlin would be shown on BBC1a few months ago I knew I wanted to see it. Throughout the 13 part series the programme has developed and the storylines have never failed to impress me.

                                The series starts with Merlin arriving at the land of Camelot where the king, Uther Pendragon, has forbidden the use of magic. Merlin, who was born with magical powers, has come to live with Gaius, the court physician.

                                Merlin soon discovers that he has come to Camelot to fulfill a destiny and that he will have to look after Arthur the heir to the throne.

                                Each episode has seen Merlin in a quandary should he use his magic to save the land, Arthur and the king or protect himself. The Great Dragon who has lived for many years knows all of the events of the past and the prophecies of the future. Merlin often seeks the advice of the Great Dragon. The dragon however was imprisoned in the cave by Uthur and is still keen to see the light of day - is there a cost for the advice he has given Merlin?

                                Throughout the series the episodes have seen Merlin fight off many enemies of the king and sorcerers who would rather see Arthur dead. Merlin is the loyal servant to Arthur and over the series they have grown quite close. We have seen Arthur risk his life to save Merlin and Merlin would do the same for Arthur. Merlin is supported by Gwen (Guinevere) and Morgana.

                                The series has been amazing so far we are now into the 11th episode and we will see just two more before the series ends. The acting has been amazing and the performance of all characters has led to the success of the show. Merlin (Colin Morgan) has played an excellent part in the series and has been a believable character. The scenes with Gwen (Angel Coulby) have been nice; it is really nice to see the chemistry forming between them. I think my favourite actor has been Richard Wilson as Gaius, Wilson played the character well acting as an old, but wise man, he has given a really believable performance. I have also been impressed with the acting of Bradley James as Arthur and Antony Head as Uthur, both of these have given a super performance.

                                The show is a far cry from the Arthurian legend, unlike the legend where the events are set in the dark ages the TV series is set in the 15th century. It has also been pointed out to me that Arthurian legend relates to a time before the union of England and although Britain is not mentioned in the series the Great Dragon does refer to 'Albion' which is the ancient name given to Britain. I have spotted a few other anomalies within the show - Morgana who in the TV series was an orphan taken in my Uthur and is a good friend of Arthur, is in fact Arthurs worst enemy according to Arthurian legend.

                                In fact Morgana (also known as Morgan le Fay) was a fairy, queen and sorceress who tried hard to bring the downfall of her half brother, Arthur. Morgana is associated with the land of Avalon also known as the land of the dead. In episode 7 'The gates of Avalon' the land of Avalon is explained in detail although Morgana was not responsible for this she has sensed it within her dream.

                                In the TV series Arthur and Merlin are the same age - however Arthurian legend shows Arthur as the king and Merlin as an old wizard who is Arthurs tutor. Despite being historically inaccurate I have loved the way the producers have introduced characters such as Mordred (an enemy of Arthur's, and who apparently fatally wounded him at the battle of Camlann). In the TV series Mordred is hunted due to his magical powers, Morgana however takes a liking to the young druid boy and saves him. Mordred's character seems evil and viewers are left wondering if in another series of Merlin Mordred will return to see Arthur. Some Arthurian legends have mentioned that Morgana is in fact Mordred' mother, and this is portrayed very well by the bond between them in the TV series.

                                The Knight Lancelot associated with Arthurian legend has also been mentioned and referred to in the TV series. Lancelot who was a Knight of the Round Table later slept with Arthur's wife - Guinevere. However in the TV series he plays a 'commoner' who seeks approval as a knight. He fights and saves Arthurs life but does not have 'royal' blood and is turned away. Also similar to Arthurian legend Gwen takes a liking to Lancelot, and the romance between them is obvious. I also loved the way the sword - Excalibur was introduced. In some tales of Merlin the legend explains that Arthur was given the sword - Excalibur by the 'Lady of the Lake' however in the TV series we see Merlin have the sword created by the dragon and later throw the sword into the lake, although Arthurian legend explains how Morgana casts the sword into the lake.

                                In Arthurian legend Nimueh (Michelle Ryan) is known as 'The lady of the Lake' who provides Arthur with the Sword - Excalibur, however in the TV series she is the sorceress who seeks to bring the King and Arthur down. I have a feeling that Nimueh will appear again before the end of the series.

                                Despite some of the historical inaccuracies I believe that Merlin is a fantastic TV program. Some of the inaccuracies have been clumsy where as some of the events have been very clever links to the legend and do seek to explain why something happened e.g. Lancelot, Excalibur, Mordred.

                                It could be quite easy to portray the legend as it has been handed down but the stories of rape, incest and bloody murders would not make the TV series accessible to children.

                                I believe that BBC has made light-hearted fun based on a legend we have all heard about. The series consists of some really funny scenes and is a pleasure to watch. I do feel however that if based 100% on the historical readings of Arthurian legend the TV show would not only be boring but would not give as much enjoyment as this series has. I do hope BBC will bring this out on DVD.

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