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since 31/07/2003


Should we celebrate Halloween? 01/11/2006

Halloween? - Hell Yeah!

Should we celebrate Halloween? 31st October 2006 So far this morning as we were innocently driving along in our van the gear stick came off in my partners hand!! We then had to perilously manouevre the van across busy traffic by trying to jam the base of the gear into first. The trains were late and now Im in work I've had an email request from someone called Ezekiel and my colleague says she can smell garlic! Call me superstitious but it's Halloween today and Im starting to think maybe I've been bewitched! Anyway, I digress before I've even started, on the question of: To Halloween or Not To Halloween - I would like to say that I'm in favour of it, particularly for adults' amusement!! How and why we should enjoy Halloween: An excuse to have a Party: We've just held our Halloween party for the fifth year running and it gets better every year. It began with us renting our first flat and thinking we needed to have some sort of moving in party, it was around October time so what better than to combine it with a Halloween party. You wouldn't believe the excitement this caused amongst our friends. None of us had ever been to a Halloween party but had all quite hankered after dressing up as something spooky. I think this is an innate desire amongst all my friends who are in their 20s or 30s who had been brought up with the rumour of Halloween parties around us but never having been to one. My mum always told me in no uncertain terms it was a silly American tradition and therefore not worthy of us ...

Member Advice on Money 20/09/2006

Travellers Cheques and why not to use them.

Member Advice on Money Having been on holiday recently to Barcelona in Spain the only thing that disrupted and upset us was something we'd bought with us from the UK: Traveller's Cheques! I'd now strongly suggest that if you're considering travelling in Europe that you do not use these as your source of money. What they are: The universally accepted safest and most convenient way of carrying money with you on holiday is the travellers cheque, designed to be available in all major world currencies, easy to use, refundable and accepted worldwide at thousands of locations. If you have any unused travellers cheques, you can keep them for your next trip and they are valid forever. Why we chose to use them: It was quite a debated subject before we went on holiday, should we take all Euros, rely on hole in the wall machines in the city or take Travellers cheques? We came to our decision to take a small amount of euros for travel with us and £500 in travellers cheques after looking at our own bank's web site to see how easy it would be to use ATMs and what charges there would be to use them. According to Barclays' web site you: "pay no transaction charges when you use your debit card at cash machines belonging to our Global Alliance". Great, we thought, let's find out where the Global Alliance machines are, so we clicked on the link. This is where it began to be confusing, the information is vague, short and less than helpful but it seemed to indicate that in Spain the Deutsche Bank is in the ...

Guru, lounge club, Barcelona 25/08/2006

Guru Bar, Barcelona an esoteric chill out zone

Guru, lounge club, Barcelona There are a huge array of bars to chose from in Barcelona, catering for everyone but I thought I'd write about this one because I like to read up on places to visit in my guide book and then go off and find them and this bar wasn't in our guide book and should have been. Guru, lounge club and cockteleria (using the Spanish word) is a wonderful, eclectic visual delight. And the drinks are great too! We literally dived into this lounge bar in the late afternoon on our first day in Barcelona (I'm afraid to say whilst I was in search of a lavatory again) and were so taken with it we kept going back. We were greeted by a member of staff and shown to a seat which was novel and rather special. We chose a nice little table and sat back to admire the surroundings. There is so much to catch the eye you're not sure where to turn first, it is a visual feast, and because of the excellent environment, even more so than the drink, this bar really stands out. The outside of the building (located in the Gothic quarter) is fairly non-descript and you could walk past the grey exterior and dark windows without even realising it's a bar. When you stop to get a better look you can see a huge Buddha sitting in the window, peer further in and you can see lots of colourful orangey/yellow wall hangings and a huge screen with images being projected onto it. It's a strange mix of the oriental with a splash of modernist art in a bar that looks like its been converted from a small shop. At one end ...

Anima, Ciutat Vella, Barcelona 24/08/2006

Encouraging Anima

Anima, Ciutat Vella, Barcelona Its very easy to find somewhere to eat in central Barcelona, there are countless tapas bars, falafel outlets, international eateries and very posh looking restaurants, but having said that one night during our recent stay we wanted something a bit different. We asked our hotel reception staff to recommend somewhere romantic but Spanish to help us celebrate our honeymoon. They suggested Ānima. Situated in the Raval district, which is on the lefthand side of La Rambla when you're facing Plaza Catalunya, Ānima is based a little bit away from the usual tourist beaten track. We found we usually tended to wander round the Gothic quarter for bars and restaurants so it was somewhere new for us to explore. Our hotel was based on c/ de pelai so we decided to go from there but there is an easier route detailed below. Going from there meant it was bit further to walk to but gave us the advantage of exploring this entirely different district. With trusty guide book in hand we also found many bars and places of interest along the way which meant we spent an entire evening in this area. You are often warned in guide books that the Raval district is not a completely safe place to be after dark as it used to be Barcelona's red light district and still attracts "unsavory characters" - me and Lee for a start, but don't be put off just be wary as usual. You will see the people who actually live in Barcelona out and about and normal life going on. Ānima itself is a small ...

Tranquility Mini Health Farm 18/08/2006

Romantic Pampering from Tranquility, Slough

Tranquility Mini Health Farm "We would like to take this opportunity to invite you to Tranquility. The most therapeutic place in town. Where our highly qualified therapist will devote time to discover who you are and ensure your experience is specifically customised to your lifestyle and personality." So reads the web site blurb for Tranquility, a mini Health Farm "the only one of its kind in Berkshire". I found the site through an advert they had placed in our local paper a few months ago and was intrigued. Actually the web site - doesn't give a whole lot more information than the newspaper advert, but what particularly drew my attention in the paper were the lovely inviting pictures of a palm treed garden / patio area, Jacuzzi, lounge seats and generally relaxing oriental-looking environment and the "Couples Special Romantic Night", where you could spoil your partner (and yourself) to a private exclusive experience. Which I thought would be a perfect wedding present for my hubby-to-be on the run up to our wedding. The rest of the advert read: "Relax in the hot and bubbly Jacuzzi surrounded by palm trees and candle lights. Followed by a sauna and a luxury ½ hour beauty treatment of your choice. Complementary soft drinks, strawberries and chocolates served. The ultimate romantic evening dedicated just to you and your partner. After hours 7.00pm - 9.00pm - 2 hours = £35 each". I was keen straight away and thought the price was very good, especially for having the ...

Absolut Ice Bar, London 07/06/2006

A perfectly chilly way to spend 40 minutes!

Absolut Ice Bar, London If you're interested in going somewhere a bit different for a drink one day try the Absolut Ice Bar in London. I had a very exciting surprise when I was taken there as part of my hen night recently (May 2006). Location It can be found hidden away at 31-33 Heddon Street in London. Just off Regent Street, 5 minutes from Piccadilly Circus tube, it's also incidentally opposite the Cheers Bar where we started off for our first drink! To get there we turned left off Regent Street into Heddon Street and passed Strawberry Moons pub also on our left. I've been to the Moons before but I was surprised to see other establishments in this same little back street, I'd never realised anything else was there. Even though it was raining the street looked invitingly nice and summery because of a Moroccan restaurant with outside seating which we also passed. Just beyond this in a corner is a little sign over a small entrance saying Ice Bar. General Info The bar is the first official Ice bar in the UK; ie a bar mainly made out of ice! It is kept at a temperature of minus 5 degrees and nearly everything inside is made out of ice which has been transported (so the web site says) from the Torne River in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden. The walls, bar, tables, and glasses are made out of it. You pay for a 40 minute time slot in which to enjoy this icy cold atmosphere, with apparently any more exposure to the cold being dangerous for you. You can borrow a thermal cape with a hood to wear during your ...

Seeing Stars - Christina Jones 24/05/2006

A little bit of magic goes a long way

Seeing Stars - Christina Jones I have eagerly awaited reading Seeing Stars as it is the next installment in Christina Jones' series based around rural village life in Berkshire and its' strange inhabitants, laced with a little bit of magic and mystical forces. And now I have it in my clutches and have read it in about 5 minutes flat! Well not quite that quickly as my speed reading's not quite what it used to be but it's a very easy read which you'll get through quickly and probably won't want to put down. Based in the fictional village of Fiddlesticks, which is near Hazy Hassocks from Jones' previous book Hubble Bubble, we enter the scene with the arrival of Amber. She is a city girl from "Oop North" who has come to stay with an elderly friend who's putting her up for a while because her parents have moved to Spain. Amber loves all things expensive; clothes, make up, phones, glossy magazines, shopping and drinking and wonders how she'll cope in a little village. In fact she cannot even imagine what this village will be like or it's inhabitants or whether she'll find anything to do. As it turns out there is plenty to do and needless to say love to be found if all runs smoothly or should I say by the luck of the stars. There is a healthy dose of star gazing in this book as village life revolves around the astral calendar. It's a complete change for Amber as the villagers hold festivals for the different celestial bodies throughout the year to promote love, health, good crops or rain and Amber is ...

Garnier Summer Body Moisturising Lotion 24/05/2006

Anyone for a Summer Body?

Garnier Summer Body Moisturising Lotion Summer's just round the corner (a very long wet corner) and this year there seem to have been more adverts than usual for body lotions containing tanning agents in them to give you a healthy, safe sun tan even before you get outside. Last year the idea of a cream that contained a little bit of tinted moisturiser ,which you could apply to your body and overtime build up an even tan, was quite novel. I duly tried one (Johnsons) but with quite disastrous results (I had differing shades of brown all over my legs and feet and stained my hands brown so it looked like I smoked a hell of a lot of ciggies); so I figured that the fact there seem to be more creams available this year would mean they've improved. I decided to try a different make this time and go for Garnier's Summer Body - a "kiss from the sun in your moisturiser". It's a daily moisturising lotion which they say will give your skin a: "beautifully radiant and sun-kissed look all year round, in one simple step. Summer Body moisturises skin from morning to night, gradually building a light, natural looking tan. Summer Body is immediately absorbed without greasiness." It contains camomile extract. I bought a 250ml bottle to start with in Superdrug, they had an offer on them for £4.99. I believe it is usually a bit dearer. The bottle is a sort of soft orangey, yellow colour and reminds me of sun tan lotion bottles. When I open it and have a sniff it also smells gloriously like summer fruit and sun tans, a bit ...

Hubble Bubble - Christina Jones 23/05/2006

What a storm you can mix up with a good story!

Hubble Bubble - Christina Jones The title of this book (Hubble Bubble) did it for me I have to admit. I didn't need to know anything else about the book, I thought it would be the kind of book I like; girly, romantic with something fun and magical in it and I wasn't wrong. It was a wonderful read which I'd recommend to anyone who likes an easy, romantic comedy with a bit of a difference. The central character is Mitzi Blessing, who at the age of 50-something is forced into early retirement from the bank at which she works. She is bitter and resentful about this and not willingly accepting the decision, which immediately draws me to her character because why should you be ready to accept that?! I didn't immediately think I would identify with Mitzi as she's from a different generation and I would normally read about characters of my own age so I think it says a lot for the talent of Christina Jones that you want to know more about her straight away and feel an empathy for her. You can identify with her because Jones shows that no matter what your age, our feelings are often the same and we can all feel empty and lost but have a laugh at life. You're led gently through an introduction into Mitzi's life, environment, the small rural village she lives in called Hazy Hassocks (a brilliant name) and the people around her. It is sad and painful to begin with but with an undercurrent of anticipation so you know that something's in store for her. The people in Mitzi's life echo her own sadness and neediness. ...

Pentax Optio 50 14/05/2006

I'm a digital Convert!

Pentax Optio 50 Finally I've been initiated into modern photography and have my very own digital camera, which was bought for me on my 30th birthday last year! Goodbye all those promises that I would stay true to my faithful old Zenith SLR or my handy compact camera. Goodbye to having to traipse to the shops to have my films processed only to mutter at how expensive it is. (£6.99 on my last visit for 24 measly photos over an hour). Goodbye to all that and hello Pentax Optio 50 Digital Camera!! In the box A sleek, shiny silver 5.0 megapixel camera which is lightweight and very nice to handle with rounded corners. A black, velvety type soft case, strap, manual, CD Rom and video cable, 2 x AA batteries plus inbuilt memory of 12mb. My initial thoughts on receiving it were about things I thought I would miss, for instance; Whether I would still use my other cameras. The excitement of not knowing whether photos will come out ok or not. The anticipation of opening the packet of photos not knowing what will be a good shot. The loading of the film and trying to actually think about how to take the photo, use the aperture and shutter speed properly etc. I was also very excited and keen. My partner sat me down (made me sit down) at the computer to read through the information provided on the CD Rom that comes with the camera. (He knows how I rush straight in). It was helpful identifying the parts of the camera but for points of actual help taking pictures with this particular model it ...

Nokia N70 04/05/2006

A look into the future with Nokia's N70

Nokia N70 Usually once a year there comes a time when we get all excited and yet nervous, it's a bit like Christmas, will we get what we want or will it be a big disappointment and we'll have to wait til next year and start over again...yes its time to chose a new phone!! Having finally decided to go for a Nokia N70 in January this year, for reasons of versatility over my existing Nokia 6230, stylish looks, more megapixels for the camera (2 mp), it was actually really difficult to get hold of. It's quite hard choosing a phone just from seeing a dummy one or reading the specs but this time I read a few reviews as well. At first they made me more confused - so is my review going to help anyone I ask myself?! I think they helped me when I read a good selection to get a good cross section of views. They helped me to see what bugged other people and to ascertain whether I would find the same things annoying or being able to live with them. For instance quite a few people had a big problem with the sliding panel at the back of the phone (which turns on the camera function), becoming loose and opening on its own. (I have never had this problem.) Both my partner and I wanted to continue with O2 on contracts but this was where the problems started, O2 shops everywhere had no stock of the phone and were very unhelpful when we tried to order one. We were told they had no idea when the N70's would be coming in so we'd have to ring every week to see if they had any which isn't really good ...

Honda (TV Advertisement) 24/11/2004

Here’s a little review in the key of “Ahhhh”....

Honda (TV Advertisement) The first question (after laughing at me) that my partner asked when I decided to write about the latest Honda advert was why on earth write about an advert? Who would be interested and isn’t it a waste of time? This comes from the Advert King himself who gives me the evils if I even open my mouth to say something when adverts are on! Talk about not being allowed to talk during a very interesting part (all of it) of a programme, it actually gets worse in the adverts! He transcends into some sort of hypnotic trance like state, unblinking and seemingly unbreathing. So I was little bit amused at his reaction, especially on the day he had been at work discussing the advert for a cereal (I think) in which a little boy says “I hope its not fish I ate fish” (which he loves - sorry Lee your secret’s out). So this is my reply... If people discuss adverts at work and Channel 5 can have a show on the Top 100 (or whatever it was) Greatest Adverts I can put my very top favourite advert forward for discussion. Personally, I don’t really like adverts. I’d much rather sit through a whole film or programme without the constant intrusion of marketing and advertising. However, the breaks do come in handy for me to rush off to the loo or get a drink, so they do have some uses! There have sometimes even been adverts that I have thought are really great, usually when they have very cute babies in them, but I’m usually very hazy about what the advert is actually trying to sell (although with the ...

ICS Diplomas 17/11/2004

ICS should stand for : I Cant See my Diploma!

ICS Diplomas As the title of this overall topic is “ICS Diplomas” I can devote my review entirely to this subject because ICS will not issue me with mine!! I finally completed an ICS distance learning course on Freelance Journalism in April this year. I say finally because it actually took me four years to complete and 2 extra payments of £75 a time to extend the deadlines. I can’t say why it took me so long, it wasn’t a particularly difficult course especially if you enjoy writing. It wasn’t any particular grade or level and you didn’t have to take an exam with it. There were around 10 modules which you had to read through, write a piece on and then submit to a tutor to be marked. After a stint of travelling I ended up disillusioned in a boring, mundane job which was slowly destroying my will to live so I initially did my course at work. I had an hour’s cover on reception each day to kill so it helped to liven my brain and brighten my days. I passed my first few assignments with flying colours and thought “yes this is for me”. However, there is only so much you can do in an hour with the odd interruption and this was my first problem. I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything at home! My second stumbling block was that I tended to find it hard to think of topics to write about. You can contact your tutor at any time by phone or email and mine was genuinely helpful. Yet she couldn’t offer the kind of support I needed. I needed someone to ask me where my next assignment was , what ...

Wimpy, Ruislip, Greater London 02/11/2004

Why not Wimpy??

Wimpy, Ruislip, Greater London Did you know that this year the humble burger restaurant Wimpy is celebrating it’s 50th year in business? You may not want to know or care but for those who do here are a few facts about Wimpy and some of my memories thrown in for good measure too! Some facts: Wimpy was originally created in the 1930s by an American called Eddie Gold. Apparently he named the restaurant after the J Wellington Wimpy character in the Popeye cartoons. By the 1950's there were 12 Wimpy restaurants running and their brand was bought up by J Lyons & Co in England. Their chain (Lyons Corner Houses) were English tea rooms popular with the working classes. Lyons licensed the “Wimpy Bar” and in 1954 the first one appeared as a special fast food section of the Lyons tea rooms. They were so successful that it eventually led to separate Wimpy restaurants being established that specialised in burger meals only. The 1970s saw the height of Wimpy popularity with over a thousand restaurants over the world. There was even once a video game made where you could make your own burgers!! However, by the end of the decade its popularity began to slow with the competition from McDonalds and then later Burger King. Today there are around 45 franchised restaurants left in the London area and about 300 in the whole country. My first memories of Wimpy are from about the age of 5. My parents used to regularly take my sister and I on day trips down to the coast and we almost always ended up at the end of a day ...

Zorbing 26/10/2004

Calling all Zorbonaults, this is where it's at!

Zorbing “Zorbing (n.) a sport in which a participant is secured inside an inner capsule in a large, transparent ball which is then rolled along the ground or down hills. -ORIGIN 1990s: invented word from zorb (the name of the ball used in this activity) + -ING”. (Taken from the Oxford English Dictionary). My first introduction to a “sport” of this kind was whilst watching a Jackie Chan film (Operation Condor - I think), in which he Zorbs down a cliff face to escape from some villains. At the time I thought “Hmm that would be a fun kind of thing to do” and in my admiration of all things J.C. thought I would try and do it one day (perhaps on a mildly less treacherous terrain). I made some enquiries and found out there are two versions of the same sport; Zorbing and Sphereing. As far as I can see they are the same sports with different names. Anyway, a few years passed and I never got round to doing it until I received a Red Letter Day gift from my sister for my birthday! It came with the instruction to hurry up and get on with it as everyone wanted to see me actually do it! Red Letter Day vouchers can be purchased from Debenhams for just about any experience you could wish to have and they range in price from £49 to £1000 according to how much you can afford and the equivalent value of the experience. Valid for a year, they are split into 8 colour coded sections with around 20 different experiences to chose from in each. I received the blue voucher which offers amongst other ...
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