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since 27/04/2001


Boy Racers - Alan Bissett 17/10/2001

Boy Racers - give this one a run

Boy Racers - Alan Bissett UPDATE: £7.99 paid at Waterstone's in Perth compared to the cover price of £9.99 a £2 off special offer, probably to start shifting the book. This is Alan Bissett's first novel. The Boy Racers in question live in Falkirk, say no more. Their priorities in life are roaming around in Belinda (their car) and doing most of the usual hormone-afflicted teen lad stuff, which is all well described and graphic in places complete with the language to go with it. But the observations are acute and funny like the hero's obsession with Tyra Mackenzie, an unobtainable and beautiful school mate. It's a kind of rites of passage / road movie book. A lot of the dialogue and setting is pretty bleak (this is Falkirk) apart from the colour that is introduced by the characters. Black humour and outright abuse is rife as you would expect from a Boy Racer crew, but there is a happy ending for the hero Alvin. Current and recent references (for road-heads) abound. It helps to have a smattering of understanding of contemporary low-life Scottish phraseology, but don't let that put you off reading the book as the context usually explains all. Funny and moving in parts, Bissett has a fine command of his subject and one suspects he has 'been there' himself in the not too distant past.

Zanussi ZCE7700X 600mm Electric Cooker 30/09/2001

Zany Zanussi 77ZeroZero X

Zanussi ZCE7700X 600mm Electric Cooker 30/9/01 Quick UPDATE based on sparkydog's comments - I bought this cooker at Scottish Power in Perth, Scotland. Method for obtaining a discount was a) brass neck in asking for it b) suggesting that I should get a discount 'for cash' even though I paid by credit card and c) suggesting that 'you know I should really get a discount as I'm a good customer' -- well I am actually but I'd never seen the salesman before! Try these ones - you will find they work as long as you plug away and don't cave in and NEVER, NEVER pay list price! UPDATE read on... Our need was for a cooker to fit in with other kitchen units and to blend in with my home-made (and not too untrendy looking) stainless steel wall cabinets. This Zanussi was the one we finally chose having looked at a range of other offerings. It had to have a ceramic hob (it does). It had to have a fan oven (it does). It had to have a proper grille for e.g. bacon, black pudding, you name it. (It does, and it also has a fan assisted aspect to this as well). The appearance is good with the maximum use made of stainless steel frontage and matching dials and controls. The hob surface is very easy to clean despite one or two spillages (burnt) on to the surface, using a proprietary cleaner and not a great deal of effort. This was a 'must' compared to previous cookers with plates. On the down side, the timing controls, apart from a straight countdown and alarm are desperately difficult to understand (or maybe ...

Telewest 13/09/2001

Telewest - so far so good

Telewest We switched from BT recently to tke advantage of the unlimited phone UK calls deal and blueyonder £10/month internet connection (BT equivalent £14.99 and you need to mess about and get an ISP). Installation Comparatively painless compared to some I'd heard about - we have an existing extension and they put a new one in for the £30 installation charge. Telephone Previous crackling on the BT line was always a problem and this has disappeared entirely. 1471 seems to work fine, but I have yet to switch on the equivalent of the BT 1571 messaging service if it exists. Our existing number was maintained, but I did have to ensure that our directory entry was not removed as they had intended. The line is clear and clean. Internet Blueyonder - mostly OK - with the occasional 'pause' for no good reason as the line connection is still apparently good. This may just be peak usage, so perhaps they need to beef up their capacity to handle. Quite comparable to my previous ISP (Gateway) who have always been quite reliable. I have maintained my Gateway account due to e-mail address and as a back-up. TV - digital. Excellent picture, as you'd expect. We just took the basic package as we don't watch huge amounts of TV and if we need a film we just use the Front Row facility and order the film online via the handset. We're not totally fanatical about sport so the fairy expensive additional channels just did not work out cost-wise. Front Row has worked well on the 2 ...

Royal Bank of Scotland Mortgages 13/09/2001

Re-mortgage a breeze-ish

Royal Bank of Scotland Mortgages Frankly I wasn't too pleased with the fact that my former employer dumped us out of the existing company mortgage scheme into the Skipton (who?) BS when we were outsourced to a large service company. It had been at he back of my mind for some time just to switch to a mortgage provider of my choice as opposed to theirs, who had a Scottish presence and who were competitive as regards rates and type of service. We decided to switch to the RBoS flexible mortgage, which after a quote from their call centre turned out to be a few quid cheaper than Skipton but nonetheless had better facilities. (to be precise £204 rather than £213). Customer Service At the local Dunkeld Road office of RBoS - I already had a current and savings account there and knew they could be relied on. The lady dealing with our enquiry was polite, efficient and friendly and answered all my (sometimes awkward) questions, with one particularly difficult mathematical query on the 'final cost' which I couldn't quite reconcile. So excellent there. Legal Setting up the legal documentation and survey were all done in record time - within around 2 weeks from start, which I found to be amazing giben previous experience of the legal profession! Final acceptance of the loan has been made in principle and I now await the final confirmation and billing of the actual mortgage. I have not had to deal with Skipton, we have incurred no charges and it has all been made as painless as possible. This is not a ...

Ecco Shoes (Shop) 21/08/2001

Soft Shoe Shuffle Ecco

Ecco Shoes (Shop) I discovered Ecco shoes just over 3 years ago. Ecco are a Danish company and their shop here in Perth is in South Street ‘Ecco let’. Someone is going to ask, “What’s the ‘let’ part about?” Well, frankly, I don’t know! It may be something to do with “ Co.” or “shop”. If I were a bit less ignorant of my Danish I could probably say. At that time I needed a good-quality pair of hill-walking boots which would stand up to normal trail walking and some more punishing treatment on scree and rocky surfaces in the Highlands of Scotland. I had looked at Berghaus and other makes, but they were either too flimsy or too rigid. Then the Ecco Trail boots caught my eye as I walked past the shop. They looked good and were worth more investigation. For example did they have my size (EU 48)? This is never easy off-the-shelf. As it happened they did – amazed. Uppers are Leather – the softer lighter variety compared to the sometimes very rigid boot leather. At strategic points. the leather has been made specially soft and flexible to bend with the foot – something that makes it easier to break in a new pair and helps in reducing unnecessary strain on longer hikes. In fact these boots did NOT need breaking in – I remarked on this to my wife later that they nearly walked themselves there and back on first trial. Soles are made from a proprietary compound patented by Ecco which is light but ...

Honda Accord 2.0i 13/06/2001

Accolade for the Accord

Honda Accord 2.0i Recently we decided that our Land Rover Discovery was getting just a bit heavy for all that pavement mounting and although exploring up the gravel path was a little daunting it wasn’t absolutely essential to have all that kit to do it. We have had a Honda Civic for 5 years now (see that review) and it has proved itself an absolute little cracker of a car, so we test-drove the Accord a while ago. At the time we were offered £17.5 K for the Land Rover and didn’t like that price so walked away from the deal. 4 months later we had a test drive in the 1.8I Accord Sporting –which was good and we had decided that we might buy this one. We felt though that the 2.0I VTEC SE 5-door was a bit more up our street (refined, classic, etc). Finally we settled on the 2.0I and took delivery this week. So far all it’s been is excuses to take the new car somewhere – ‘oh – Iain’s forgotten his football boots, I’ll just nip down with them’. ‘Errr, I’ve been meaning to go to Crieff to look at this bread-making machine’ (that’s another story). You get the drift – we just can’t lay our hands off this car. Why not? Dealer Weir Honda – Crieff Road, Perth, Scotland. Price £16,250. Trade in was the same as we’d been offered a few months ago and was now more realistic. Effectively this was around a £750 discount on the car, which is what I would expect. This time round we had ...

Combat Flight Simulator 2: Pacific Theatre (PC) 09/06/2001

Get your flying jacket on...

Combat Flight Simulator 2: Pacific Theatre (PC) Combat Flight Simulator 2, or CFS2, as we aficionados know it, has to be one of the best games ever. For anyone interested in flying in general and WWII in particular this PC game from Microsoft offers a comprehensive view of the air war in the Pacific with campaigns capable of being flown from the American and Japanese viewpoints (nice balance, but this is an American supplier and you notice the greater number of US aircraft available so no doubt about who won in the end). Modes Flights can be free format, ‘quick combat’ to get going fast and learn as you go, campaigns (a long series of episodes) and individual missions. All have clear goals to meet, with promotions and decorations as awards, Purple Hearts for wounds and scolding panels for defeats. ‘You failed to meet your objectives. You are being sent home’ (!), etc. Tailoring The options are nearly infinite. Different flying aircraft are selectable for any campaign or mission, so cheating becomes very tempting, but for more realism the default aircraft should be left as they are. You can choose whether to have unlimited fuel and ammunition or make things more real by limiting these as they would have been. You begin to realise how difficult these missions must have been and how easy it would have been to crash into the ocean, hundreds of miles from rescue or be shot down as your ammo ran out. The choices go on and on – weather can be shifted from clear blue skies to torrential ...

Magellan GPS 2000 08/06/2001

Get lost - but get GPS 2000

Magellan GPS 2000 This is a great sat-nav instrument for anyone who has ever stood in remote country staring at an Ordnance Survey map, compass in hand, gazing at scenery that looks the same no matter which direction you inspect it from. Or, peering through a suddenly-descending mist at sea wondering where the harbour channel is, with the depth-sounder rapidly registering shallow water. I confess – I have been there. As a keen hill-walker my usual haunts are in the Scottish Highlands and as a sail cruiser skipper I have sailed off the West Coast of Scotland. Hill-walking Normally a map and compass and training in how to use them are all that’s needed to navigate around the hills in safety. Careful attention to detail and logging your observed position every half hour or so helps when conditions deteriorate and heavy rain starts or a hill fog descends. In 99% of situations I have been in this is perfectly adequate and for the other 1% when the forecast was particularly inaccurate you can adopt sensible strategies such as steering an escape course by which you know you can avoid major hazards (e.g. cliffs) and eventually reach safety. But there are times when you just feel you could do with a precision plot on that map – a nice pencilled ‘X’ saying ‘you are definitely here!’ Sailing Same thing, but there is the added dimension of water depth and usually several crew to be concerned about from the safety angle. Again chart and compass ... 17/05/2001

Ciao - new products opinions Ciao! is easy enough to use and I have not had any problem setting up my profile, writing comments on others’ work, reading others’ opinions, guestbook entries, etc. But I am having real problems with subjects where a category and /or product is not present. There are 2 situations – the ‘Product not present’ link is just missing from the page I intend to put my opinion in and the other is that, having spent some time and trouble writing the opinion, I put myself at the mercy of the editors for an unknown length of time before it is reviewed and the relevant category and product is set up. Or not. Because there is a possibility that your opinion may not be ‘good’ enough to merit an entry. This discriminates against new products and categories because their fate is uncertain compared to opinions like this one which are already there and will take (within reason, I suppose – obviously abusive or irrelevant articles will be removed at website discretion) any new opinion immediately and start earning the author money and reviews. My suggestion is that authors of opinions on new products (or even categories) should be able to park their article visibly in a special default sub-category where it can be viewed and reviewed by other surfers and members, until such time as the website editors can set up the appropriate entry or inform the author that the op is not being accepted (with or without a reason at their discretion). The ...

Breville TT4 Classique 4-slice Toasters 16/05/2001

Classy Breville Classique Toaster

Breville TT4 Classique 4-slice Toasters With monotonous regularity our toasters ‘die’ every two years. The last one was no different, having ejected 4 slices of toast most mornings for its brief life. If the white goods industry goes for a 5-year cycle of obsolescence by catastrophic failure of key components, someone forgot to tell the toaster people. In a bizarre coincidence, like all the buses coming along at the same time, the iron joined the queue for replacement having been with us for a commendable 15 years or so. We shopped at Scottish Power and Curry’s in Perth but at the end of the day Curry’s had the best choice. It is of no use whatsoever if we have a 2-slice toaster due to my wife and I wanting a slice, then as soon as the bread’s in and cooking the two boys want to join in. Appearance So the Breville caught our eye, standing out as it did from the bland “I’ll be dead in two years” pasty-white models. This one has its upper bodywork made of chrome and the bottom half a textured black plastic, with both surfaces curved pleasantly and having no sharp edges. It looks almost Art Deco, which matches our 1930’s house and would look good in any kitchen, except the smallest where it might ‘take over’ limited counter space. It reminds you of days when chrome plating was more prevalent on cars than it is now, with a hint of class and elegance. Controls Very straightforward, even for toaster technology morons like me. I may ...

General: Scotland 16/05/2001

General: Scotland This site relates to the Highlands and Islands Tourist Board and covers the area roughly North of the Central Belt f Scotland and West to the Islands. It has an attractive, simple design, with understated but good photographic background and clear text. Loading speed is reasonably good, with not much waiting around for complex Java or ads popping up all over the place. In this respect it is clean, straightforward and easy to use – something of a rarity in websites. There are currently 3 main offerings on the site 1. A Foot and Mouth update on available walks. It’s important to have accurate and up to date information in this area to avoid unnecessary risk to livestock farmers, but at the same time to have readily available data on which walks are permissible. This avoids upset and can mean you do not waste a journey going somewhere to be disappointed. In this I have found the information to be good and current and walkers are encouraged (as I have done) to feed back information on open walks. The Comeback Code is clearly posted. Walks in this category are classified by type (family, moderate, longer and hill/mountain). The second type of classification is by area – Grampian, Skye, Perthshire for example. Once a link is clicked, all option for it are shown in a factual and clear way and you can display a printable version – always handy if you need to think about a few alternatives without sitting online. Evidently the person editing the ... 10/05/2001

Petrolbusters Petrolbusters was set up during the fuel crisis last year and I have used this site consistently since then to check the cheapest source of petrol or diesel locally (I use both). Locally (Perth, Scotland), prices can vary by a few pence which can make a reasonable difference if I am filling the Land Rover with 30-40 litres. The site is now administered by the AA and you can obtain a login id and set a password to access the fuel comparison. On the fuel saver page you then select which fuel (unleaded or diesel), then what radius from you home you wish to travel to get it. All you have to do then is submit the query and the program returns the 6 best results for that radius. As far as I know this facility is national and let's face it, if Perth features on this site, your town should be there too. There are other fuel cost comparisons on the site, some more up to date than others, e.g. the fuel cost map showing the pence per litre comparison for unleaded across the UK. The site has been reliably present and ready for use with few or no irritating features such as pop-up ads. The present tax position as applied by the Chancellor to ULSP fuel is explained but is getting a little out of date now. If any improvement could be made it is to keep the ancillary information more up to date so the site stays fresh. But the main cost-saving function is current and that's the one that matters. ...

Land Rover Discovery 2.5 Td5 08/05/2001

Land Rover Discovery 2.5 TD5 GS 5 seat

Land Rover Discovery 2.5 Td5 My Land Rover Discovery 2.5 TD5 GS is the 5-seat model, first registered in December 1999. It was bought in June 2000 for £20,000, having cost approximately £27,500 new. It had nearly 5000 miles on the clock. Bodywork was and is immaculate and the previous owner (a rural chemist) buys a new one quite frequently (every 6 months!). This car had also had lamp protectors and fog lamps fitted over the standard spec, with floor mats and mudflaps also fitted. The point at which bought it was just after the start of the drop in new and used prices and appeared to be priced to keep cash flow going as it has only depreciated by £2000 over 1 year. Main off-road use has been up rough tracks (to go hillwalking or visiting relatives). Otherwise its main off-road use has been up our gravel drive or mounting a pavement to turn or park. Needless to say perhaps it excels on the rough stuff, although has not been pushed to its maximum limits. Having completed an off-road course in a Land Rover 110 Defender I have an idea of what these may be, but someone else's vehicle is always useful in these situations! The engine has been completely reliable and has had one or two oil top-ups since we got it. Having been provided with 2 free services, we have used one so far. It has had one recall inspection for a possible exhaust gas recycling problem which proved clear. Otherwise, mechanically there are no problems and in this respect it feels bullet-proof. Fuel consumption is not especially good ...

Honda 08/05/2001

Honda Civic

Honda We bought our Honda Civic 1.5i VTEC-E in 1997 when it was 7 months old, but just had delivery mileage. Our local Perth dealer (Weir Honda) were offering what was a nearly new car with around £1500 off the new price. We knew from looking at comparative prices that this was a good deal and managed to get mudflaps and carpet mats fitted as well. Broadly the experience has been very good - the dealer has been helpful in sorting out several minor problems. These were rattle in top end of the engine (a minor adjustment), a missing jacking point on the rear nearside, a silencer which gave out after 2 years' use, squeaky ventilation fan and a stuck sunroof (x2). None of these prevented the car from running and all were fixed free of charge. In the case of the silncer they really did not have to do this but decided to offer a replacement ex-gratia. In terms of running it offers excellent fuel economy at an average 40-42mpg, with the engine tuned for this. But it also offers a reasonable amount of performanc from the VTEC engine when overtaking power is needed. Interior space and boot space are good and almost equivalent to the Accord. Open road handling is sharp and it is well-behaved in town, with good weighting on the power steering and a slick gear change. Brakes are good - not too sharp on application bit they do anchor well. A downside is the build quality as regards rattles and squeaks from the boot area and windscreen respectively. However we like the car so just ...
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