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since 26/07/2000


Utrecht (Netherlands) 04/07/2001

This is where its at

Utrecht (Netherlands) If you're looking for somewhere with all the benefits of Amsterdam without the disadvantages, this is the place for you. Utrecht is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe but still retains an oasis of tranquility compared to Amsterdam which is only half an hour's train ride away. Head away from the Hoog Catharijne, (one of the largest shopping centre in Europe - and possibly the ugliest), which connects to the railway station and discover the hundreds of shops, bars and restaurants along the canals and sidestreets - these will cater to your every need. Utrecht is a great place to shop with a mixture of old and new, bargain finds and designer labels. Prices are apx 25% cheaper than the UK. Stores such as 'Dept' offer styles similar to Gap/Banana Republic at a much better price. If you're a culture vulture, pop in to the VVV (tourist information) and ask for one of the walking guides for Utrecht. This ensures you see all the best buildings and takes you away from the busy centre. Don't miss a visit to the Domtoren (Dom Tower). This imposing structure is the highest church tower in the country with (only) 465 steps to the most spectacular view of Utrecht. Hungry? For some of the best Indonesian food in the Netherlands (and perhaps Europe) head for Djakarta (on Lucasbolwerk) - I've visited Utrecht a dozen times and never missed a trip here! On this same road (Lucasbolwerk) is a new hostel designed at all age groups where you can crash down in relative ...

Channel 4 - Big Brother 04/07/2001

Shoot me now ...

Channel 4 - Big Brother I must be the worst type of Big Brother viewer. I'm addicted, and yet I watch every episode (thankfully I don't get E4) and get frustrated by (at least) one housemate every time. Am I alone? I enjoy watching Big Brother. The concept is great and I love people watching. I like to see what makes people tick, how people interact with each other - facial expressions, personality traits and all such voyeuristic characteristics. But if someone were to ask me 'Who do you want to win?' - I'd have to reply truthfully - 'none of them'. Why? Because this time around they are all high maintenance, publicity-seeking, OTT people that I struggle to relate to. So what? Well, I thought they'd entered the BB house to entertain the nation. Oh and win some money maybe. Now I know they had the opportunity to watch the last series and so gen up on how to act, how not to act, but it's made these 10 (11) really painful. Few of them seem up for a good time; most of them seem obsessed with their appearance; all of them know what to expect on the outside and so are permanently obsessed with 'how do I appear', 'am i pretending to be nice enough', 'am i faking indifference sufficiently?', 'did my laugh sound genuine'; and so on. I know it's not the environment to 'act natural' but c'mon. Admittedly, a bizarre affection can develop for some of them - but only those that entertain us with their tantrums, traumas, mischiefs and misdemeanours. And they're the ones that seem to be leaving... ...

AOL 6.0 03/07/2001

Fares well in the current marketplace

AOL 6.0 AOL has many benefits but I am also struggling to tolerate some of its 'quirks'. I have only recently switched over to AOL - because I needed to be online for hours at a time, and so it is worthwhile using an ISP that offers unlimited access for a set rate. The first benefit is naturally the £14.99 a month charge for unlimited access. Very handy. My enrolment also came with a free 99 hours online to start with, and I have made good use of it. The service itself is fairly stable. I have been able to log on successfully 99% of the time. I have had one or two instances where lines are engaged, but immediate redialling has resulted in a connection. For people unfamiliar with the internet, AOL does provide you with its own range of services, links to topics and areas of interest and these are easy to navigate through. There are also a number of features such as the Welcome Page which contains (some) useful information and services on one page - ie, email, calendar, weather, daily essentials, latest news and the day's chats. AOL also offers instant messaging, (only great if you know several other AOL users) and a built in media player. AOL boasts an 'intuitive toolbar for easier navigation and search' but as someone familiar with Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, I just found it to be annoying. However, someone with little Internet knowledge might appreciate this facility, since it structures everything into easy to find categories. Disadvantages? I found ...

Lacrosse - General 03/07/2001

Visit Women's Lacrosse World Cup 2001

Lacrosse - General Lacrosse is one of the most under-rated sports in England, whilst it has become the fastest growing sport in the US. This year sees England host the Women's Lacrosse World Cup 2001 at High Wycombe. Incase you are unfamiliar with Lacrosse, here is a brief overview. If you just want information surrounding the World Cup, please scroll down... THE (UNOFFICIAL) HISTORY Created in the 1400's by Native American Indians, Lacrosse was originally called 'Baggitaway' and played by men only. Often teams were made up of one hundred to one thousand braves on each side! The goals were usually five-hundred yards to one-half mile apart. On occasion, the goals could be separated by several miles. Indians played the game not only for recreation, but also to settle tribal disputes and to toughen warriors for fighting. White men - Jesuit missionaries from France - first encountered the game in the 17th century. They wrote home about a game played by the Huron Indians with sticks reminiscent of the crosier (la Crosse) carried by bishops as a symbol of their office. Now the sport has developed into a popular pastime for men and women alike in countries around the world. The men's game is perhaps growing faster in popularity than the women's (a typical trait of sport in general). As with most male sports, the game is faster and more aggressive - often male players wear heavy protection -padding and helmets. But the women (the supposed 'weaker' sex) play with no protection ...

Charles Tyrwhitt Shirts 03/07/2001

Classic Shirts - Excellent Service

Charles Tyrwhitt Shirts Charles Tyrwhitt (pronounced "Tirit"!) are renowned for making tailored shirts for men (and more recently women). Their flagship store is in London's Jermyn Street, off Piccadilly, but they also provide a mail order and internet service. CT pride themselves on quality and customer service and both these factors are very evident. I originally went to the store to buy a shirt for my brother. At apx £50 a shirt, they are expensive. However, the quality is second to none, and my brother (someone less fussy about his clothes than me) said he was hugely impressed - and that it was the best shirt he'd ever worn. A huge bonus was that the shirt also came with a FREE silk tie (worth £35) - so this made the shirt a worthwhile purchase. Whilst at the store, I espied the limited range of women's shirts on offer. I managed to refrain (at £45 a throw) but did add my name to the mailing list. This was about three years ago. Since then, I have received their season catalogues and spent quite a bit of money! Including Christmas and birthday presents for other members of the family, I must also admit to owning eight CT shirts! Ordering shirts is simple. Either complete adverts often seen in the broadsheets, log on to the website ( and/or order a catalogue. Delivery is brilliant. Shirts arrive in boxes, tissue wrapped packaging and usually within 72 hours of receiving the order. The shirts are great quality, fit perfectly and wash and iron up wonderfully. ...

Clinique Self-Tanning Body Mist 01/07/2001

Get a good tan - in the shade

Clinique Self-Tanning Body Mist As a redhead, I don't tan easily, so have been using self-tanning products for over five years. During this time, I have tried several brands and products but Clinique has quickly become my favourite. COLOUR Firstly and most importantly, the colour is very natural. After several hours (not the one to two quoted by Clinique) the tan develops into a warm golden colour. APPLICATION This product is dispensed in a spray of clear liquid - as thin as water. It is significantly easier to apply than most of the creams and lotions and the spray works upside down (handy for backs of legs!) The best thing about the body mist is the time it takes to dry. This is one of only a few products that dries within 15-30 minutes (others still feel clammy after 30-60 minutes, which can be inconvenient). SMELL Although it isn't the most pleasant of scents, it is fairly inoffensive. Difficult to describe, but reminiscent of citrus fruits. PRICE The price for Clinique Self Tanning Body Mist is apx £12. Always worth buying in Duty Free when it drops to apx £9. I have tried the tanning lotion but still come back to the spray each time. It works well on all areas of the body - I also use it on my face - and if you exfoliate properly, the product will last 3-4 days before it starts to fade.

101 Poems That Could Save Your Life - Daisy Goodwin 29/06/2001

A cure or consolation for every modern misery

101 Poems That Could Save Your Life - Daisy Goodwin The book cover tells you 'Prozac has side effects, drink gives you hangovers, therapy's too expensive; for a quick and effective relief for all your emotional ailments, try a poem'. OK, so a poem isn't the ideal fix in the face of adversity or a moment of crisis, but this book is a precious pick me up. Although not a huge lover of poetry, I love reading, and some of the poets here have written words to touch the soul and warm the heart. This book is the first poetry anthology designed for the self help generation. It takes some of the best poems from over the last 100+ years, written by a poet who's 'been there too' and provides a consolatory word or humorous line for many an ailment. The book has an 'emotional index' with entries ranging from 'Bad Hair Day' to 'Friendship', 'The Parent' to 'Adultery', 'Christmas' to 'The Morning After' and a whole section of 'Instant Moral Fibre'. There are classic poems from the likes of Emily Dickinson and Lord Byron and previously unpublished works by contemporary poets including Wendy Cope, who has a wry outlook on life that's refreshing and funny. One of my favourite poems is published here, entitled, 'If People Disapprove of you' by Sophie Hannah. I bought this book for a friend of mine who was going through a rough patch and she loved it. I then went back and bought myself a copy!

101 Poems to Get You Through The Day And Night - Daisy Goodwin 29/06/2001

A survival kit for modern life...

101 Poems to Get You Through The Day And Night - Daisy Goodwin This is the second anthology book edited by Daisy Goodwin. Taking the idea of the first book (101 Poems that could save your life), Goodwin has explored the theme, and produced this book which is 'designed to help you get through the stresses of modern life'. Admittedly, it's not going to fix your problems or alleviate your worries, but if you enjoy reading, then there are several entries in this book that can make you chuckle when you least expect it. This book is arranged to help you find the right poem at the right time, by organising the poems like a book of hours. Starting with 'Getting up', it then moves to other morning traumas, such as 'Stepping on the scales' or 'Looking in the mirror'. As the day progresses, sections cover everything from 'Office Politics' (very funny) to 'School Run', 'Love Struck' to 'Credit Lines', 'Escape Routes' to 'Toothache'. Again, like the first anthology, the poems are written by classic and contemporary poets alike. W B Yeats, Kahlil Gibran, DH Lawrence and Rudyard Kipling's lines jossle for position alongside Alice Walker, Sophie Hannah and Maya Angelou. If you, like me, aren't a huge poetry fan, but enjoy 'dabbling' with the odd poem or poet, then this is a fun place to dabble!

Atkinsons 29/06/2001

Heaven scent indulgence

Atkinsons If you're looking for a bit of luxury in your bathroom, head for J&E Atkinson's 'I Coloniali' toiletries range. Atkinson's can usually be found in large department stores, such as Bentalls and John Lewis, as well as Heals and Conrans. The packaging itself is eye catching. Combinations of silver cannisters, clear old fashioned bottles and foil sachets are available with some wrapped in 'trendy brown paper' to make it look (as well as smell) like the perfect gift. The most appealing smell comes from the 'red label' range. These include extracts of 'green tea' and 'starch' which, admittedly, don't sound appealing, but the smell ... well, it's heavenly! There are a number of products to indulge in, from fizzing bath tablets and creamy soaps to the silkiest talcum powder and light moisturising creams. They may be a little more expensive than the everyday stuff, but you can easily tell why. If you can't afford the whole range, then just treat yourself to the soap.The fragrance is gentle and sweet without being too overpowering. The scent lingers without being too potent, and you end up wanting to head back for another shower as soon as it wears off, just to relax and treat yourself all over again. Great birthday and Christmas gift ideas for the women in your life who like a little luxury and something a little different ...

Trailfinders 29/06/2001

Great holiday - varied service

Trailfinders Having read the other Trailfinder reviews - I felt it only fair to mention the experience I had with them! Myself and a friend booked a three week holiday in South East Asia last November. We spent weeks reading all the available brochures and settled on Trailfinders as the most informative and appealing to our requirements. We visited the Kensington branch to 'gen' up further and make some provisional enquiries. Our initial consultation was excellent, so much so that after an hour and a half, we had selected our dates, confirmed our hotel choices, flight selections, specified our preferences, paid the deposit and left very happy clients. Unfortunately, things weren't quite so straightforward after that. We received a confirmation itinerary in the post. It had three glaring mistakes in it. I telephoned Trailfinders and they apologised profusely and said a revised itinerary would be sent out immediately. Seven days later - nothing. I called again. They apologised profusely again and the next day I received an itinerary. I was all ready to accept it as a wee mistake and forget the matter. Tore open the envelope to discover that there were still 2 mistakes outstanding. Suffice to say over the following 2 months, I ended up calling them several times and in total received 12 copies of the itinerary before I received a correct version (no word of a lie!). After I called and spoke to the manager, things were sorted out swiftly and he was most apologetic. He ...

First Direct 29/06/2001

First Direct - First Class

First Direct I am a member of several banks (as a result of my work), including Nationwide, Halifax, HSBC and First Direct. I have been with First Direct for only a couple of years, but it has already exceeded my expectations and provided a reliable, competent service. So much so that I have switched my Visa account, and ISA account over to them also. First Direct telephone banking staff are polite, helpful, intelligent people who always perform their tasks swiftly and efficiently without making you feel like it's a painful chore and I have yet to encounter a problem. My first fear was that by not having 'branches' to visit, I would be hindered, but this is not true at all. Their Internet Banking facility is also one of the top services I have encountered. It is easy to use, clear and concise - much like the rest of their business. I have used other Internet Banking facilities and although some of them had been relatively straightforward, First Direct does come out tops. Althought they may not offer the highest rate of interest, in my opinion they do appear to offer the best service. And sometimes this is worth more than money alone! And no, I don't have shares in the company!!

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P1 26/06/2001

Hours of fun and top quality picture

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P1 Despite being very expensive, (around £500) this is a fantastic camera. The range of features are excellent. It is possible to take stills in a number of formats, sizes and film effects (B&W, Sepia, Solarise, etc) and record short high quality MPEG movies (apx 60 secs). The USB port makes viewing pictures via the PC so very easy. Simply plug in the adapter, and the camera (memory stick) becomes another 'drive' on your PC. Copy your pictures to your hard disk and away you go! I invested in a 64mb memory stick and haven't looked back. This stores hundreds of pictures on it (at 640 x 480 setting) plus several movie clips. The DSC-P1 weighs only 9oz (with battery) which although isn't the lightest on the market, it certainly is compact enough for most people. It is worth investing in a spare battery too, if you intend taking hours of pictures in one go (ie, without resorting to the charger). Yes, it is expensive, but it is relatively new technology. As newer models and similar products come onto the market, you may see the Sony DSC-P1 drop in price. There are several add ons and things which you might like to buy to accompany the camera. The only grumble is that some of these should have perhaps been included with the camera (ie, a camera case and larger memory stick). My tip? Encourage someone to buy it for you! ;o)

Captain Corelli's Mandolin (DVD) 26/06/2001

Surprisingly good - but different from the book

Captain Corelli's Mandolin (DVD) Having read the book, I was sceptical about a 'Hollywood' adaptation. A friend dragged me along and I settled down to become an armchair critic. Surprisingly, and pleasingly, I became nothing of the sort. The movie, although slightly long and drawn out (2+ hours and a numb bum sets in), was entertaining, educational and enjoyable. I even shed a tear at the end... John Hurt, Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz acted very well. Hurt played the Doctor brilliantly - his one liner's from the book came through the film and lightened the mood on a number of occasions. The film captured the setting of the book. It was just as I had imagined it, and although the storyline differed a number of times from the book, it was enjoyable to watch and reflected the romanticism between Corelli and Pelagia whilst not forgetting the harsh reality of the war around them. If you've read the book - go watch the film with an open mind. But if you've seen the film and not read the book - you might like to go read the book. It is actually better than the film - written eloquently - and provides some real insight into the second world war from a perspective that is pleasingly un-British and un-American!

Hyde Park, London 15/08/2000

The greatest of the central Royal Parks

Hyde Park, London Hyde Park used to be a royal hunting ground, was once a venue for duels, executions and horse racing, and even became a giant potato field during WWII. It is now a place of fresh air, spring colour and lazy sunbathers. With 340 acres of green space, Hyde Park has plenty to offer with a variety of attractions, formal gardens and spacious woodlands. It contains the Serpentine, a lake used for swimming, boating and fishing; Rotten Row, the world famous riding track and the north east corner of the park is home to Speaker's Corner, popular with soapbox orators on a Sunday morning. Hyde Park even houses a Pet Cemetery (not of the Stephen King variety). In summer, there are weekend and bank holiday concerts at the bandstand. Despite its heavy use, the Park manages to convey an air of rural tranquillity much valued by both tourists and local users.

Hampstead Heath, London 15/08/2000

Bring your picnic on a hazy summer's evening ...

Hampstead Heath, London Hampstead Heath's 790-acres is a sprawling expanse of open grass, woods, meadows, hills and heathland all tucked away in North London. It is one of the most famous commons, and commands a fine view of London. Some of the Heath has such fine views of the metropolis that they are legally protected. The park also contains two bathing ponds, one for men and one for women. Hampstead Heath is also home to Kenwood House, a magnificent Georgian building, used in many historic film shoots, and home to a stunning collection of paintings and furniture. The bowl beneath Kenwood House is the venue for several summer musical concerts, mostly classical or jazz, which are great to attend, armed with picnic and wine. ...
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