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2mennycds

2mennycds

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With accepted product proposals now as rare as the giant panda and the black-footed ferret, I may add some photos to some earlier reviews, hope you don't mind if some recycled reviews appear...

Reviews written

since 28/08/2015

274

The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling 18/10/2017

Tales and tails of the Jungle

The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling Kipling’s “Just So” and “Jungle Book” stories formed part of my childhood, partly as they were considered children’s classics – but then I am fairly old now! I had some of them read to me, later read them myself, and heard a TV narration of “Rikki Tikki Tavi” – on “Blue Peter”, I think. My Mum had hardback copies (including “The Second Jungle Book”) which I’ve now claimed as a result of clearing her house! I loved some of them as a child, but to be honest found them of varying interest. Many years later I saw a beautifully illustrated hardback edition which I bought for my son as a Christmas present with money sent by an aunt of mine. Not like the animated movies! “The Jungle Book” is a collection of stories featuring animals, and isn’t a single take about a boy growing up under the care of animals in the Indian jungle. This isn’t a criticism, just an observation. Interwoven between the chapters are poems or “songs” that describe the sentiments of one of the characters in the preceding story. Language and style The language is, of course, a little antiquated, and at times somewhat (intentionally) grandiose, though some would feel that this adds to its appeal. I suspect that the appeal at the time the book was written were three-fold. FIRSTLY, its content and setting were exotic. India was a place that most British people knew of, but had only seen a few images of, and was exotic in terms of its climate, geography, culture – and wildlife. SECONDLY, many children ...

Lightnin' Hopkins [Smithsonian/Folkways] - Lightnin' Hopkins 16/10/2017

"I'm gonna do time for another man.. you oughta be ashamed"

Lightnin' Hopkins [Smithsonian/Folkways] - Lightnin' Hopkins ++++++++++ Sadly, although the most mundane – and conversely, the most expensive consumer products – earn money as well as points on Ciao, music reviews aren’t only exempt from Diamond awards and Premium Fund – like books – but don’t earn a single penny in the writing or for any rating received. Sharing some great music was my main reason for joining the site. I think it’s the poorer for the absence of music reviews, and despite earning no money for writing them, I still want to recommend some worthwhile listening. ++++++++++ In 1959 an attempt was made to acquaint those caught up in the American “folk” revival with Lightnin’ Hopkins’ music. This album is the result of him being tracked down – understandably sceptical – and persuaded to record for Smithsonian/Folkways, a label dedicated to discovering obscure singers and players and to rediscovering others. The microphone was held by hand and angled alternately towards his mouth and his guitar! Sam Charters, who tracked down and recorded Lightnin’ for this album, says in the sleeve notes: “This was the kind of blues singer that everyone hoped to find – someone who was a great guitarist, a warm, loose, singer, and who was also in his way an unconventional rebel”. He goes on to say that whenever he was asked later to define the sound of the country blues, he would play this album. It may be partly due to nostalgia or personal joy in meeting the man, but Charters also says that throughout all the following years Lighnin’ ...

Go For Broke 14/10/2017

"You've WON, you loser!"

Go For Broke In another game review (“Careers”) I mentioned my loathing for Monopoly, because it always seems to bring out the worst in people. Also, to me, it reaches the point where it becomes fairly obvious who is going to win, but the remaining players are gradually and tediously ground down to bring about the final victory. My son bought this game many years ago. We still find it very enjoyable, as it is light-hearted, and novel. Aim At the risk of stating the obvious (starting the game with a million pounds of cash) the winning player is the first to LOSE all his or her money! Number of players Suitable for 2-4 players, aged 8. One must double up as the “banker”. £ £ £ In my opinion, the minimum age is realistic, and it is suitable as a family game OR for adults. We still play it as a family, and the youngest is 31 years old! ££ £ No pen and paper are included, but we think it’s important to log bets placed at The Casino to prevent confusion. The board The board consists of a course of adjoining squares. Players move according to dice throw. It has a large blank oblong in the middle to accommodate a plastic section containing four spinning devices for The Races, The Stock Exchange and The Casino. Going for broke… All squares give an instruction to pay/buy, win/draw money, or proceed elsewhere. The appropriate square allows the purchase of a steel, oil, or electricity company share – for which a certificate is issued (see below, “The Stock Exchange”). Other ...

Zulu (DVD) 12/10/2017

"The army doesn't like more than one defeat in a day"

Zulu (DVD) # # # # # # # # # # FILM ONLY REVIEW # # # # # # # # # # Introduction/plot On 22nd January 1879, the British army sustained one of its greatest defeats, one that shocked the whole nation. Seemingly invincible, and having crushed the powerful African kingdoms of Ethiopia in 1868 and Ashanti in 1874, the British army had invaded Zululand. In a pitched battle rather than by stealth or ambush, the two sides met, at Isandlwana. And there the British lost about half its 1000 or so men. Later the same day, a British garrison of around 100 men was attacked by about forty times that number of Zulu warriors at the mission station of Rorke’s Drift. The battle raged – and I use the term deliberately – for 10 hours, from late afternoon one day until almost dawn the next. Both sides fought with incredible courage and commitment. Hastily erected walls of “mealie” sacks (effectively “sandbags”) and biscuit boxes were built to form a battlements between buildings, and a walled mealie bag circular “redoubt” constructed in the courtyard in case the outer defences were penetrated. Wooden wagons were turned on their sides to form barricades. Loopholes were made in building walls to enable protected shooting. But still the Zulus came on in great numbers despite heavy losses – and brought fire to help them! Would this be a second ignominious defeat of the day for the British? The Battle Of Rorke’s Drift is an infamous military “last stand”. Once the decision had been taken not to ...

Palmolive Aquarium Hand Wash 11/10/2017

You've heard of a SHIP in a bottle...

Palmolive Aquarium Hand Wash We’ve all heard of the novelty ship in a bottle. Palmolive-Colgate, a leading UK toiletries brand, have produced an interesting variation for bottles of handwash. The bottle The clear plastic bottle has a fairly wide, rounded base; I’m not sure whether to describe it as roughly oval with two flat edges, or roughly oblong with two rounded ones. It measures 7.5 cm by 4.5 cm at its widest point, and tapers up to the cap, which is white and topped with the pump action lever. Mostly in 2menny Mansions it stays put on the edge of the washbasin, but I find its shape and dimensions easy to hold to dispense if necessary. The lower half of the bottle, like the base, has flattish sides. Inside the bottle and attached to the pump action tube is a flat piece of plastic on which there is an underwater scene. Our current one features a marine turtle surrounded by some reef fish; I think they are intended to be Wimple Fish or Moorish Idols. It features clever use of perspective, with the front part of the turtle and some of the fish larger than other parts, so it helps to create a 3D effect. The front of the bottle has a coral reef design, enhancing the 3D effect. I must admit that it looks rather nicer on a windowsill than a plain bottle does. The bottle is widely recyclable. Ingredients Listed ingredients, for those to whom such things have any meaning, and as far as I can read the small print, are: Aqua; Sodium C12-13; Pareth Sulfate (*A); Sodium Laureth Sulfate (*B); ...

Pass The Bomb 09/10/2017

Pass the "BOMB"; "BOMBadier"; "BOMBombardment...."

Pass The Bomb This game is a firm favourite in our family. My parents bought it many years ago as a family game for Christmas. It’s a game that requires quick thinking, and either the ability to spell, or agreement on “ground rules” for incorrect spelling. For example, if a child (or adult) thinks they’ve spelled a word correctly, it could be allowed to stand. Although they weren’t able to think quite as quickly, my late Dad was able to play this (with enthusiasm, too!) well into his eighties, and my Mum into her mid-eighties. ++++++++++ SUMMARY Manufacturer: Gibson Games Age range: 12+ Number of players: “Any” Contents: 110 cards (containing syllables of words); 1 special game die (with symbols, not numbers); battery-operated electronic “bomb” (makes ticking and exploding sounds when internal timer runs out); rule booklet (Contents come in a durable cardboard box 23.5 cm long, 17 cm wide and 8 cm tall, with a shaped plastic insert tray. Both box and plastic tray have survived well over the years. My parents’ copy admittedly hasn’t been used extensively, but the battery of the bomb hasn’t needed replacement since purchase). Aim: to make words that include the syllables on the printed card before the bomb “explodes” ++++++++++ CLAIMS: “For about thirty nail biting minutes, players’ nerves are tested to the limit by the threat of the ticking bomb” “All too often the word you think of as you await your turn is used by a preceding player and even those who boast the largest ...

The Tree & Shrub Expert - D.G. Hessayon 07/10/2017

Avoid mistakes when browsing the garden centre!

The Tree & Shrub Expert - D.G. Hessayon It’s spring, and a flush of gardening enthusiasm bursts out like cherry blossom (no, I can’t believe I’ve penned that phrase, either!), you see a flowering plant that looks different and you are sure you will be able to find a place for it somewhere in our garden… But maybe the plant has specific requirements and soon dies off. Or perhaps it spreads uncontrollably. It’s worse with trees or shrubs. They’re pricier than most flowering plants; if they die, it’s been an expensive mistake. On the other hand, that compact shrub in a small pot may grow rapidly when planted out. My garden is small, and I’ve wasted money on a number of attractive, flowering shrubs that have all but taken over and have been dug up and thrown away after a year or two. Choosing the right shrub or tree (or avoiding the wrong ones) is easy, provided that you read up and resist impulse buying. That’s where I find this book so handy. I find its compact size handy for taking round a garden centre to help me assess what’s on offer. It’s helped me to select, and know how to care for several shrubs I have: two “Japanese Maple” acers, an evergreen golden Euonymus, Pyracantha, and Mahonia. This book follows the same format as its companion titles. Scope A wide range of shrubs and trees is included, including climbers like Clematis and Honeysuckle. As with the rest of this series of books, its size makes it quite a selective in terms of the species covered. On the other hand, it does include a lot of unusual ...

What are your plans this Autumn? 05/10/2017

So much to do...

What are your plans this Autumn? The garden My garden has been somewhat neglected over the past two summers. I will do a fair bit of tidying up and resolve to do better next year! ~ ~ ~ ~ Wildlife I try to help wildlife as much as I can, despite the small size of my garden. I’ll cut some plants down for the sake of tidiness, but not to ground level, so there is still some cover for insects and the like over the winter. Some thick but hollow dead stems such as on my echinops (“globe thistle – I’ve reviewed it on Ciao) I’ve now cut down at an angle and about 12-18 inches from the ground for over-wintering insects like ladybirds. I’m leaving my lavender and teasel seed heads as food for goldfinches. Some seed heads are attractive in winter, too, like my sedum. So, I’m leaving leave these alone until spring. There’s a bit more work in the spring, then, but I prefer gardening on lengthening days to shortening ones. Autumn isn’t may favourite time – it’s a reminder that winter is approaching! ~ ~ ~ ~ Compost There are two basic ways to help garden plants to grow. You can feed THE PLANTS with appropriate chemicals. Or you can feed THE SOIL – by which I mean the bacteria and tiny fungi that in turn feed micro invertebrates that form the next part of the food chain. I far prefer this method. It’s natural, it’s also less likely to be overdone and cause problems for plants (some artificial fertilisers can “scorch” plants if used to excess). It also causes no environmental damage – it doesn’t leach harmful ...

Seven Wonders of the Industrial World - Deborah Cadbury 03/10/2017

7 remarkable feats that transformed millions of lives

Seven Wonders of the Industrial World - Deborah Cadbury Even if we can’t name them (and I won’t show off by doing so!), many of us will have heard of the “Seven Wonders Of The World”, commonly held iconic structures of the ancient world, most of which have long since disappeared with little or no remaining trace, one of which (the Great Pyramid of Giza) still draws wondering crowds today. Attempts have been made to name and categorise other wonders of the world in groups of seven, but it is of course difficult to arrive at a consensus given the subjectivity of the exercise and the scope of sights from which to choose. I came across this book while clearing out my parents’ house (my Dad passed away two and a half years ago, and my Mum has gone into residential care). It makes for a fascinating read, and the author has a surname that, in my mind, evokes an eighth wonder of the industrial (or retail) world! The book This book was written to accompany a BBC TV series which I’m fairly sure I must have missed, as I would have enjoyed it, and I think it would have stuck in my ageing mind if I’d seen it. I have the paperback edition. It consists of 330 pages of actual text (i.e. excluding bibliography, index and notes of sources). It’s broken down into… er… seven chapters, and contains 16 pages of black and white photographs and other illustrations. The “Seven Wonders” A selection like this is bound to please some and outrage others. It’s interesting that all seven are of British or American origin. The book’s excellent ...

Warkworth Castle, Northumberland 25/09/2017

"Worth" a "Walk" around?

Warkworth Castle, Northumberland Northumberland is one of our favourite holiday destinations. Rolling hills, moorland, forest, coast, cliffs, and sand dunes characterise its scenery. Hadrian’s Wall defines its northern edge. The Farne Islands (which I’ve reviewed on Ciao) provide fabulous close encounters with seals and nesting seabirds in their thousands. Perhaps it’s best known for its numerous castles. Some of these are ruins, like Dunstanburgh on a rocky headland; others, like Chillingham, the fabulous Bamburgh on its commanding mound of rock just behind sand dunes and sea, and Alnwick (scene and backdrop of much Harry Potter movie sequences) double as stately homes. We’ve stayed in the lovely market town of Warkworth twice; on each occasion, Warkworth Castle has only been a few minutes’ walk away from our accommodation. This is a review of the Castle ONLY; the website and other publicity often include the Hermitage also. Location The castle is perched on a hill that overlooks the River Coquet. Its defensive position is enhanced by the way that the river loops, protecting it from several sides. Its windows look down on one side to the coast and to the small town of Amble By The Sea. (We almost stayed there due partly to the quaintness of the name. We’re glad we didn’t. We found it rather nondescript, and when the shops closed, many owners lowered security shutters over the windows). History It seems to have been the site of an ancient “motte and bailey” defence, but the present castle dates to ...

What is the best memory of your 2017 holidays? 20/09/2017

Hare today, gone tomorrow

What is the best memory of your 2017 holidays? Mrs M and I love Galloway, the south-west corner of Scotland, and holiday there every two or three years. We prefer the flexibility and greater privacy of self-catering to hotel or guest house accommodation, and this year we revisited a cottage just outside the market town of Castle Douglas. The cottage itself was the setting for our greatest abiding memory of the holiday. Location, location Bear with me if you will, as this is crucial! We chose this cottage because, for us, it offered the best of both worlds. I’m not well up on definitions, but I’d describe the place where we stayed as a hamlet. In my book, a hamlet is a micro-village that has a maximum of one shop (probably a newsagent/general store/Post Office) and perhaps one pub. The hamlet where we stayed, Ringanwhey, is one such location, with a few farms and cottages but not a single shop or pub to be seen. Red kites (fairly recently re-introduced) fly over the fields nearby and over the cottage. For us it’s the best of both worlds because although it has a quiet and slightly remote feel to it, it’s only a few minutes’ drive from Castle Douglas, so finding somewhere to eat or buy in food is no problem. Hare today, gone tomorrow Mrs M shares my love of wildlife, and whilst we’d both be hard-pressed to name a favourite British mammal, the hare is high up our list, whether the mountain hare (which like the stoat grows a pale grey coat in northern regions in winter for camouflage) or the more widespread brown ...

Bergamot 16/09/2017

Balm for bees!

Bergamot Bergamot – often called "bee balm" or, to give it its scientific name, Monarda – is a garden plant that is less popular than it once was, and, in my opinion, deserves to be better known and more widely grown. If you like big, showy plants, this isn’t the one for you. I think it’s worth growing, though if: ~~ you like informal “cottage garden” type flowers ~~ you like plants that come up every year without needing too much fuss ~~ you like to encourage bees and other pollinating insects (and I think that we should do this increasingly, given the changes in agricultural practice and the number of gardens converted to patios or decking) ~~ you like something a little different ~~ you like to grow flowers that you can use in pot pourri mixes Description Bergamot grows to around 2-3 feet tall (and should be planted about 2 feet apart). The flowers have long, narrow petals, and the leaves are aromatic. Depending upon the variety, the flowers may be red, pink, white, lilac or purple. Requirements Bergamot needs a moisture-retentive soil and ideally needs full sun for part or most of the day. It will grow in what gardeners call light shade – but that isn’t the same as a dark corner! ~ ~ ~ Moisture – a solution. The soil in my garden is quite loamy, but for my plants I dug a hole about 6” wide and 6-8” deep (I don’t “do” metric measurements!) and filled it with a mix of garden soil and compost. You can either use home-produced or bought compost. If your soil is very ...

Everything that starts with G ... 13/09/2017

Guitar care

Everything that starts with G ... This was going to be submitted under "Member Advice" but I've no idea how to get round the "required" URL issue - so it looks as though this will be another minimum-reward review! Good job I enjoy writing! ++++++++++ Here’s some advice on taking care of a guitar – to be more precise, an acoustic guitar. A lot of the advice is equally relevant to other stringed instruments, however. Acoustic guitars, and other stringed instruments, are susceptible to serious damage – even to the point of repair being non-viable. A little prevention is better than a costly cure! How it works – a bit of important theory Imagine a guitar on its “BACK” with round or oval “SOUND HOLE” facing up. Just beyond this “SOUND HOLE” is a strip of wood (the “BRIDGE”) where the strings are anchored. Further up, you’ll see where the long straight part (the “NECK”) joins the body of the guitar. Near the top of the neck the wood flares out to accommodate the “TUNERS”, the metal or plastic buttons that, when turned, raise or lower the pitch of the strings. An acoustic guitar is a trade-off between sound and instrument stability. That “top” delivers most of the sound. The hole doesn’t create the sound; this comes from the wooden surface resonating. The construction of the rest of the guitar helps this process. Inside is a kind of wooden framework – “bracing” and “struts”. It keeps the guitar rigid enough to stop it from falling apart – but subtly flexible enough to allow it to resonate. The more ...

Witness (DVD) 12/09/2017

Bringing a killer to "Book"

Witness (DVD) ++++++++++ ~ ~ ~ FILM ONLY REVIEW ~ ~ ~ ++++++++++ Let’s face it, murder/detective movies are ten a penny. The genre is still as popular as it was several decades ago, but the wealth of titles means that there aren’t many that stand out from the crowd. I think this is one of them. Mrs M likes it because it features Harrison Ford, and a relatively young (at 60 years old, I count 43 as relatively young!) Harrison Ford, at that. I find his acting rather one-sided and type-cast, and am not convinced that his acting skills are particularly great. This film ranks highly to me because its setting is very different. The bulk of the action takes place not in the usual big city, among skyscrapers, car chases on freeways, and seedy bars. Instead it takes place in the time-warp of an Amish community. It isn’t just the case that this makes a change of scenic backdrop, though. The setting makes for some fascinating interactions of characters as two very different – even opposite – cultures confront each other. Plot outline To avoid spoiling watching this, I will keep this to a minimum, and confine myself to details that the DVD cover contains! On his first ever trip outside his community with his mother, a young Amish boy, Samuel Lapp, witnesses a brutal murder. Police captain John Book is designated the investigating officer. The murder is narcotics-based, and it soon becomes clear that the boy and his mother are in danger. Book takes them back to their home, but his own ...

Atkinsons Coffee Roasters, Lancaster 09/09/2017

Great coffee (and tea) - and service - from this specialist shop

Atkinsons Coffee Roasters, Lancaster I am doubly indebted to this local, independent shop. At the outset, I should say that this review is of the shop ONLY – they do have an adjoining café, but I haven’t visited it. Waffly pre-amble FIRSTLY, a few years ago, I wanted to sample some fresh coffee. This was the obvious place to go. “Fresh” doesn’t come much fresher than from a shop that imports its wares directly, and grinds coffee to order. The coffees aren’t blends from ground beans of several varieties. They are ground from beans from specific plantations. The other great thing about this, and many other independent specialist shops, is the HELP AND ADVICE on offer. The first time I went in, I declared my ignorance, stating that I wanted a coffee that had plenty of flavour but not too sharp. I was shown several aged tins of coffee beans, and invited to sniff their contents. Costa Rican, I was told, was a good starting point: double- roasted but not bitter. Without exception, and with different staff on hand, I’ve had the same experience. They are all encouraged to sample the coffees on offer, and can therefore offer personal advice, rather than simply trotting out standard sales patter, or saying that they can’t really advise. SECONDLY, Atkinsons helped to settle a long-running – though very amicable – dispute with a former colleague. He was appalled at my lack of sophistication in drinking fresh coffee from a mug rather than a twee, (thimble-like?) cup. “People like you,” I was told, “shouldn’t be ...
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