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since 06/12/2003


Wrexham and Shropshire Railways 03/05/2011

From Wrexham and Shropshire to London Marylebone

Wrexham and Shropshire Railways Recently, I needed to go to London on business. I live in Shropshire, so decided to use the recently established Wrexham and Shropshire Railways service to London Marylebone. The carriages were spotlessly clean, and the newly refurbished toilet puts other providers of train services to London to shame! Fully accessible for disabled people, they are a credit to the company. The service starts from Wrexham and calls at Ruabon, Chirk, Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Wellington, Telford, Cosford, Wolverhampton (restrictions apply) Tame Bridge Parkway (Walsall), Leamington Spa, Banbury and London Marylebone. First class travellers have a complimentary two course meal, either a full English breakfast in the morning or lunch or dinner, depending on the time travelled at. There are complimentary newspapers available and as many cups of very delicious coffee as one can drink. The company is introducing a glossy lifestyle magazine called Tracks for free distribution to passengers. Arriving at Marylebone rather than Euston was interesting, as many of the typical London attractions (The West End, Oxford Street, Madam Tussauds,etc) are actually within a short walk of Marylebone station! Wrexham and Shropshire have a deal with the Borough Council for Telford to allow local residents to use their Leisure services card (Flex Card) as a rail travel card on Wrexham and Shropshire, so it is possible to travel from Wellington and Telford to London for well under £30, Standard Class. There's also a ...

Bloom Gin 07/12/2010

BLOOM Gin. One taste and I was hooked!

Bloom Gin I am not, generally speaking, a lover of Gin. My first taste of gin put me in mind of aftershave. Down the years, however, I have tried Gins that I have, although not actually enjoyed, thought were OK. However! All bets are now off! I have found a Gin that I absolutely adore! BLOOM Gin by G and J Greenhall is a floral Gin. On the label it is described as: Premium London Dry Gin, a delightful floral Gin inspired by the true beauty of nature.” If you'll excuse the next truly dreadful pun, that's rather flowery language, but does it stand up? Yes! Yes it certainly does! It's a gorgeously clear gin and when you remove the cork (yes, it has a real cork top!) the smell is not one of alcohol, rather it is a delicate and delicious floral scent that wafts from the contents. It contains honeysuckle, pomelo and chamomile. Rather than an alcoholic drink, it sounds a little bit like a flower remedy! But wasn't Gin originally devised as a medicine? I cannot vouch for any medical properties that BLOOM Gin has, but it certainly is a delicious, warming drink with a vibrant feel good factor. And, apparently, it makes some absolutely delicious Christmas Cocktails, too! BLOOM London Dry Gin is made by the World’s only known female Master Distiller, Joanne Moore and it features the natural botanicals of Chamomile, Pomelo and Honeysuckle, this beautiful clearm sweet tasting spirit is the perfect drink if you want something a bit more than some gins that can be a little harsh. ...

Jacket Potato Halves with Cheese & Smokey Bacon 26/11/2010

Farmhouse Potato Bakers 4 Jacket Potato Halves With Cheese and sm

Jacket Potato Halves with Cheese & Smokey Bacon Farmhouse Potato Bakers 4 Jacket Potato Halves With Cheese and smokey bacon Having tried something from the Farmhouse Potato Bakers range several weeks ago, I thought I would try something else. Namely Farmhouse Potato Bakers 4 Jacket Potato Halves with cheese and smokey bacon. They very helpfully give you instructions for cooking based on how many you might want to serve at any one time. Starting with one potato half at 4 minutes (category B) or 3 minutes( category E) right up to eight minutes for all four (category B) or seven minutes (category E). As well as microwaving these potato halves you can also oven cook, in an oven pre-heated to 200C/400F or Gas Mark 6 or Regulo 6 (Who remembers Regulos? Besides me, I mean?) for approximately 30 minutes. The potato halves must be cooked from frozen, it does point out on the packet. The potatoes used are of a good, decent quality and are nearly as good as home cooked jacket potatoes. The filling is a mixture of smoked bacon pieces and Cheddar cheese and mashed potato with added herbs. The filling is very tasty indeed. You know exactly what you are getting, the taste of Cheddar cheese and smokey bacon is very predominant and is, in my opinion, very good indeed. It's a pity they don't make this filling in freezer packs. I would fill half of our freezer with it, it is that nice! At £1.09 from Heron Frozen Foods, it is well worth buying, in my opinion. Either for a workplace lunch or something to keep in the freezer as a tasty ...

Farmhouse Potato Bakers Ready Baked Jacket Potato & Cheesy Beans 22/11/2010

A great meal in minutes

Farmhouse Potato Bakers Ready Baked Jacket Potato & Cheesy Beans Farmhouse Potato Bakers Ready Baked Jacket Potato with cheesy beans a tasty treat in minutes. Sounds like an advertising slogan, but it isn't. Just my opinion of this product. Due to pressure of work I had not eaten and my colleagues suggested that I should get something to eat. Yes... but what? I entered a nearby frozen food store (Heron) and thought about a microwave burger, or pizza, but somehow neither of those options appealed. After several moments of thought, gazing through the clear tops of the chest freezer display cabinets I spotted: Farmhouse Potato Bakers Ready Baked Jacket Potato with Cheesy Beans. Ah. That looked interesting! And it can be either oven baked or cooked in a microwave, which would make the ideal late office lunch. I carefully read the instructions (sometimes I surprise even myself!) and noticed that I would need to cook it for 6 minutes, leave it to stand for 2 minutes, cook for another 4 minutes, then leave to stand for a further 2 minutes before I could eat it. So a baked potato in under 15 minutes? Is that even possible? The proof, as they nearly say, is in the eating. It was a truly delicious baked potato with just the right amount of baked beans and cheese. The potato was fluffy and tasted as near enough to home cooked as you could get with a shop bought product, in my opinion. The company Farmhouse Potato Bakers Limited point out that it was founded by a farming family in the mid-1980s and that they carefully ...

Marmite Very Peculiar Milk Chocolate 19/11/2010

Marmite Chocolate. Very Peculiar? Actually, I love it!

Marmite Very Peculiar Milk Chocolate Marmite on toast, Marmite in a stew but… Marmite Chocolate? It sounds horrible, but the proof is in the eating. As they say. At first when you open the packet is that there is an incredibly strong Marmite aroma. But when you eat it, the Marmite taste is hardly noticeable, at all. The predominant taste is that of an exceptionally creamy and tasty milk chocolate. I agreed with the view of a colleague: “It tastes quite like Galaxy, doesn’t it?” But there is a very mild and rather pleasant yeasty, Marmitey kind of an undercurrent taste to it, as well. The bar is 98% milk chocolate and 2% Marmite. (See? I CAN do maths!) The Marmite seems to have been introduced into the chocolate in little granular packages (for want of a better expression for the process) which crunch with a tiny hint of Marmite goodness when you chew into the bar and it starts to melt. The melt factor of the milk chocolate that is used is very good, and as the chocolate melts in the mouth, the Marmite flavour tends to suffuse through the chocolate, but in a very pleasant and mildly understated way. In fact, I wonder if they should have put a little bit more Marmite in the bar? Just a thought! It costs £3.00 a bar and is available from department stores like BHS, Debenhams and Robert Dyas. Whilst £3.00 for a chocolate bar might be seem a bit much, it will make an interesting Christmas gift.

Kallo Organic Dark Chocolate Rice Cakes 18/11/2010

Kallo Dark Chocolate Rice Cakes

Kallo Organic Dark Chocolate Rice Cakes Kallo Organic Dark Chocolate Rice Cakes. OK, OK... I know that might sound a little too healthy, and Kallo do try to make products that are good for us and help us to live a good, healthy lifestyle with a good balanced diet, and, as you would expect from Kallo, these Kallo Dark Chocolate Rice Cakes taste absolutely delicious! The rice cake has pleasantly wholesome and sort of nutty flavour (that will be caused by the wholegrain, organic brown rice that is puffed up and turned into the delicious rice cakes!) Then rice cake is covered by some truly delicious genuine Belgian chocolate. Now, the chocolate coating is not merely a smear or a lick and a promise, as they used to say: It's the real deal! The rice cake is thickly covered in good quality organic Belgian chocolate. So thick it cracks as you eat it!   And Kallo Organic Dark Chocolate Thins contain 53 calories per slice, actually 33 calories less than a plain chocolate digestive! They cost £1.40, or thereabouts. They taste delicious and there's a milk chocolate version, too. ...

Ecozone Biobulb 17/11/2010

Looks as bright as day with the Ecozone Biobulb

Ecozone Biobulb The Ecozone Biobulb is a truly wonderful invention. My wife and I have used low energy light bulbs for many years. The first ones we had were horrendously expensive, buzzed loudly all the time and could give you a headache if you so much as dared even glance in its direction! Later green light bulbs were better, in that they did not buzz loudly, had lower prices... but they were nowhere near as bright as the claim on the pack. "Equivalent to a 100 watt light bulb? I don't think so! Do me a favour!" And they take a long time to come up to full illumination. So you can imagine my initial scepticism when I saw the Ecozone biobulb 25 watt daylight bulb. My scepticism lasted right up until the moment I plugged the bulb in. Wow! what a difference it made to the room we installed the bulb in! It was after we installed the Ecozone Biobulb that we realised how our normal low energy bulbs give out a sort of somewhat weedy and grubby yellow light. Not really the best type of light to try to read by or sew, for example. But the Ecozone Biobulb claims to be "close to full spectrum light" which means it is closer to genuine sunlight. And was it ever! We were delighted to note that it gives a lovely and fairly naturalistic and bright bluey white light. It reminded me of something, but what? Yes! I have it! It reminded me of sunlight on a very slightly overcast day, when the light is suffused through white clouds. The bulb is available in bayonet or screw fitting ...

Camitz Sparkling Vodka 12/11/2010

Camitz Sparkling Vodka.

Camitz Sparkling Vodka Camitz Sparkling Vodka, is an absolutely astonishing drink. Because it is actually some very fine Swedish Vodka that has been carbonated so that it fizzes like a good quality Champagne or a bottle of Asti Spumanti! The fist thing you should notice is that it forbids bottles to be placed and stored in a deep freezer. This is because it is a pressurised glass bottle. The bottle looks very much like a small champagne bottle -it even has a Champagne style cork in a wire cage. Some care should be taken when opening the bottle. After all, it is under pressure and it does pay to be careful! Although they do emphasise that the bottles should never be put in the freezer, they do recommend chilling it properly before drinking it. When I first tried Camitz Sparkling Vodka I was in for a pleasant surprise. The taste of Camitz Sparkling Vodka is very interesting in its own right, before you take into consideration the fact that it is a carbonated Vodka. It has the typical flavour of Vodkas (a result of the ethyl alcohol, or so I believe) but there's more to it than that. Camitz Sparkling Vodka has several tastes that I found not exactly easy to pin down. Vanilla? Yes, I think vanilla, but with a faint hint of something else. A sweet taste, like honey spread over a lightly-toasted summer's day? Well, not quite but that's a rough approximation of the taste. The addition of the bubbles to Camitz Sparkling Vodka actually enhances the taste, causing little flavoursome bubbles to burst ...

Kilo 17 - Harry Ferguson 12/11/2010

Kilo 17. The Secret War Against the Drug Smugglers

Kilo 17 - Harry Ferguson Harry Ferguson decided at university that he wanted to become a spy. So he allowed himself to be recruited into MI6. This seriously annoyed his tutor, who had wanted him to join HIS branch of the Secret Service, MI5. Despite this, Harry starts to do well, until conflicts develop between Harry and his wife, who has a promising career in international banking. So Harry decides to take a two year career break to look after his children. Although this is cleared by his superiors at MI6, a remote and shadowy figure further up the chain (with even more real power than "M") decides he does not want Harry back, as he had shown disloyalty to the service. As a sort of a compromise Harry is offered a transfer to another civil service job. But after being trained as an MI6 agent, he really does not fancy the Ministry of Agriculture, the Welsh Office or any of the other departments on the list he was shown. But on the bottom he noticed Customs and Excise, Investigations Division. Almost on a whim, he asked to be transferred to that department. He was granted his wish and immediately he was landed in the middle of a war against some particularly evil drug dealers. Harry Ferguson pulls no punches. His story has the ring of truth to it, because he reports not only his successes but his failures. Including the embarrassing ones! Harry finds himself learning to drive cars at dangerous and illegal high speeds, on the wrong side of the road, on pavements, the wrong way down a one-way ...

Texas Tornado, The - Johnny Winter 12/11/2010

Johnny Winter, Texas Tornado

Texas Tornado, The - Johnny Winter I have to admit I found Johnny Winter totally by chance. I was in a record shop and saw a CD in a round, metal case. "Johnny Winter? The Texas Tornado? I'll buy that!" So I did. What I found was a musician, Johnny Winter, who is a hard rocking bluesman of consummate skill. Johnny Winter is such a accomplished bluesman that I have to admit that it came as something of a shock to discover that Johnny Winter is a white Texan. Though he reveals that he hung out in the black part of his hometown in Texas, such was his fever for the blues. And, Winter maintains that it was his sincerity about his passion for the blues that meant that he was safe there. Even though Beaumont had not long before suffered form some terrible racially-inspired riots. Winter's blue's sound as if they were recorded in the 1940s or 1950s. Actually, I was surprised and amused to find out that the CD is filled with modern material, and was released in 1992! Some of the tracks are old blues standards from the pens of such legendary blues greats as John Lee Hooker and Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, some are original pieces by Johnny himself. In fact, bizarre as it might seem, some of his own work sounds even more traditional than the works he covered. For example, Low Down Gal of Mine could easily have come from some rare recording session from the very early 1920s, only recently re-discovered in an old recording studio. (Yes, it really IS that good!) Johnny's other work, Leavin' Blues (complete with nicely ...

Eleven Days - Donald Harstad 09/11/2010

Eleven Days and at least four dead

Eleven Days - Donald Harstad I think I would like Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman, with the Maitland, Iowa, Sheriff's Department. Why? Because Carl's been a police officer for much of his working life, all of it spent in the tiny police department of Maitland. There's never enough funding, so he just gets on with the job, best he can. He seems to have a good word for everyone and is popular and well-liked by just about everyone, in return. Nothing much happens in Maitland. That is, until very late one night, something really, really horrible happens. There is a desperate phone call from an unknown female. They can't identify the number. The woman said: "My, god, my, God. Help us here, help us here, please... They are killing everybody! Help!" But... exactly why did she make the call? She gives the location and Carl was one of the officers who took the call and when he arrives, he, the police department and the whole town of Maitland and the area beyond is thrown into a sickening nightmare world, where nothing is quite what it seems and nobody, but nobody, can be trusted. The house is a scene of utter carnage. Four people are dead, horribly, horribly mutilated and an Alsatian dog, mortally wounded, has to be put down by the officers attending the scene. But what, exactly, has happened and is continuing to happen? Is it a case of a psychopathic rage? A revenge killing? Or is it something far, far worse? Something the likes of which have never before been seen in Maitland, or, perhaps for that matter, the ...

Totally Weird and Wonderful Words - Erin McKean 08/11/2010

Weird & Wonderful Words, or I'm feeling wabbit!

Totally Weird and Wonderful Words - Erin McKean Totally Weird and Wonderful Words is a book compiled and edited by Erin McKean, with rather splendid illustrations by Roz Chast and Danny Shanahan. The book is published in paperback by the OUP at $14.95. (That's about £8.00) Why the OUP chose to put only the Dollar price on the cover is anyone's guess. As is the decision by the OUP to employ American English spelling in their books, but please do not get me started on THAT one! As you would expect, the book is a mixture of odd, bizarre and entertaining words. Is it a draffsack of odd and old words? Or a logomachy, perhaps? Read this book and you will discover words that you probably never even had the vaguest idea even existed. Learn that a loon-slatt was a Scottish coin, that a lolling-lobby was a derisive term for a monk, that a gallinipper is a large mosquito, that dromaeogathous means having the palate of an emu, that dretch means to trouble in sleep, or to be troubled in sleep. If someone has a fear of the dark it could be said that they are suffering from nyctophobia. The book is a lot of fun and should while away the time should you be feeling somewhat wabbit. Draffsack = a bag of garbage Logomachy = fighting about words wabbit = A Scottish word meaning exhausted or slightly unwell. ...

Gardener's Pocket Bible - Roni Jay 08/11/2010

Gardener's Pocket Bible by Roni Jay

Gardener's Pocket Bible - Roni Jay The Gardener's Pocket Bible, by Roni Jay, is an excellent little book. It is a little bit bigger than average pocket size, but would probably fit quite snugly inside the leg pocket of a pair of cargo trousers! The book is 178 pages in length and is described by Roni Jay as a collaborative effort between Roni Jay, her mum and dad, Jill and Tony, their friend Will, who is a professional gardener, Laurie Taylor (he was the proof-reader, I think) and James Belsey, to whom she also dedicated the book. There was also a poorly fax machine who helped in the proceedings. With that cast of six (leaving the fax machine out of this, for the moment!) one might expect this book to be a sort of camel of a gardening book, you know, the elderly joke about a camel being a horse designed by a committee? Not a bit of it! The book is eminently readable and useful. It is broken down into easy to use sections and there is much information not found in books many times the size and many times the paperback) price of £7.99 (Check out Amazon, it is £6.39, though do check for p&p there.) For example, buy this book and you will be told if you can or cannot compost couch grass, the correct way to propagate plants, how far apart you should plant your vegetables, whether or not some insects should be discouraged or actually encouraged to take up residence in your garden. I have often found gardening books to be irritatingly vague about some aspects of gardening. "Avoid planting before the spring ...

Jackie Mason - A Night At The Opera (DVD) 08/11/2010

A Night at the Opera with Jackie Mason

Jackie Mason - A Night At The Opera (DVD) Jackie Mason A Night at the Opera is, how can I put this? You either like Jackie Mason, or you don't. A Night at The Opera was recorded live at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Everything is grist to Jackie Mason's mill. The camera crew? No problem. A member of the audience heckling because he couldn't hear? "He must be a Jew," explained Mason, "because no Gentile would complain. He would just complain at home, after the show." It turned out that there was a problem, with his radio microphone, which was sorted with the appearance of an ordinary microphone on a stand. What topics are off limits to this acerbically witty former Rabi? Nothing. After going off on a witty, well-thought diatribe, salted with the very occasional "F" word, merely as punctuation to emphasise an important point, Mason would look at the audience and use what was obviously a catchphrase for him: "This is no subject for comedy" the slow burn and the knowing look on his face made it clear that little (if anything) was ever off limits for the rapier like mind of Jackie Mason. In reference to his being a former Rabi, he sang some snatches of songs in Hebrew. He pointed out that any Jews in the audience would say: "No, he is too Jewish" whilst the Gentiles would say: "That's very spiritual." And yes, it was. Spiritual, that is. Mason poked fun at a genuinely eclectic range of subject matter. George Bush, the fragmented rail network in Britain, Tony Blair, the war on Iraq, the lack of weapons of mass ...

This United State - Colin Forbes 07/11/2010

This United State, Colin Forbes (EDIT)

This United State - Colin Forbes The premise behind This United States by Colin Forbes is an interesting one. Not unique, it's been used before, but certainly interesting. The USA has decided to take over the UK by a mixture of guile, treachery, bribery and armed aggression. And only Tweed and his team of British Secret Service agents can save the day! The novel opens with a bang, as a team of CIA assassins attempt to murder the former head of the CIA in Mayfair. Fortunately secret agent Paula Gray stumbles over him, save his life and so Cord Dillon is spirited away to a secret underground bunker on the Kent coast. The novel is over 530 pages in length and is packed with exciting incidents such as the above and in Switzerland, the Black forest and (again) in Kent. It has all the hallmarks of being a great novel. But in my opinion, sadly, the book is flawed. And fatally so. Tweed and his team find themselves facing a massive team of villainous CIA operatives who all seem to have become lost on the way from Central Casting to take part in a very, very low budget "B" gangster movie, circa 1950-something. At times the book is well-written, but at other times it seems to descend into what I can only describe as an 'hysterical parody.' An example of what I mean is the 'Umbrella Men.' Now, people have been killed with assassins armed with guns, swords and poison delivery systems disguised as umbrellas. But never has any novel (that I am aware of) used anything so lame-brained and as risible as 'the Umbrella ...
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