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If my reviews entertain, amuse or brighten your moment in any way, then my task is done! ++ My alerts haven't worked for a week now - a big thank you to anyone rating any of my older reviews. ++

Reviews written

since 20/06/2004


Volvo XC60 D4 Polestar R-Design 22/04/2017


Volvo XC60 D4 Polestar R-Design ......Now, just to prove, or disprove, to a few doubters out there that my, Millbrook Testing Ground, test drive based reviews actually have some validity, here is my own story – not of a car that I have necessarily recommended to you, but one that I chose for myself on the back of just such a test drive in 2015, and subsequent review: Adding to the mix is my surprise at Ciao actually granting me a specific category for my own car, which if you look up the review above will find to all intents and purposes looks identical to the one reviewed two years ago. My car however does differ materially, on two counts, from the Volvo XC60 R-Design that I reviewed in 2015, in that it has a six speed manual gearbox (as opposed to the eight speed automatic reviewed) and I have also had my car “performance enhanced” courtesy of Polestar, a process that you can read about in detail here to save me going over old ground: This then is a review of my own car, which, having driven 24,500 miles during the last 15 months, I hope even the traditional doubters would consider sufficient experience to be basing a detailed consumer review on. WHAT IS IT? The Volvo XC60 is a classy compact Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV), or, if you prefer, a high riding estate car. Launched in 2008 and facelifted in 2013, this model is just being replaced by an all new XC60, the very first of ...

Bburago Bugatti Chiron 15/04/2017


Bburago Bugatti Chiron WHAT IS IT? I would love to be able to tell you that having had a very sizeable win on the Lottery I have splashed out £2.5M on a new car, but I have not, and, more to the point perhaps, nor would I. Yes, the prospect of being the first reviewer here on Ciao to bring you a review on this 1500bhp, 8 litre (with four turbochargers), 16 cylinder monster “hypercar” was too good to resist however and, having put my brain into gear, I came up with a plan, thus killing two birds with one stone...... ......I came close once to owning a Bugatti Veyron, this car’s predecessor, but, as the price of it, particularly in my favourite Bugatti Blue colour scheme, went ever skywards, it slipped my net, I was determined however that its replacement, the Chiron, would make its presence felt in the RICHADA household. The fact that it arrived courtesy of an Amazon delivery driver, rather than from H.R. Owen in London, who are Bugatti’s sole UK authorised dealership, may rather give the game away as to this not being “quite” the real deal here! My, blue - naturally - Bugatti Chiron is a Bburago 1/18 scale die cast metal and plastic model of what is reputedly the world’s fastest, current, road car, but my question, and what I seek to answer in the course of this review is; am I reviewing a toy, a replica or a model here...... may well ask “is there actually a difference?” or even “do we care?”, well actually, yes there is, and, yes, I do. The devil, you see, is all in the detail. ...

Everything that starts with I ... 08/04/2017


Everything that starts with I ... RICHADA RANTS...... ......It has been a funny old week here at RICHADA Enterprises. With the smell of burning electrics and a muffled bang, one of the very last machines that dear old Great Uncle Bill purchased before he retired in 1965 bit the dust (or did it?), just as one of our younger employees became father to six children.....well, maybe not all at once you understand. Are these two events connected in any way? No, not at all, they just added to the challenging mix of this funny old week here at the family firm. A refresher, or an education even for those who know me less well, I do my best to run a very un-glamorous family engineering business, for 77 years now we have manufactured very specialised small hardened metal components, that, unless you are a precision engineer or toolmaker, you will never have heard of and have even less use for. From time to time, certain events or circumstances find me here writing what I term “from the coalface” reviews, if nothing else it lets off some steam and, on occasion, provides the reader with, hopefully, some amusement, almost always at my expense...... .....and sometimes that proves to be more expensive than others. HOW OLD CAN IT BE AND STILL REMAIN “GOOD AS NEW”? Well I suppose that is going to depend on what “it” is. I, for instance, am 55 in September and most definitely not as good as new, no, I am much better - like a fine wine...... ......oh hell, who am I kidding here? “It” in this instance is a Myford, ...

Top Gear 01/04/2017


Top Gear 8.00pm SUNDAY, BBC2 Here I am reviewing the latest, 2017 series, of the BBC’s long running Top Gear programme, probably most familiar to you all as Jeremy Clarkson’s TV vehicle of choice since 2002, a programme which many felt would crash and burn without its infamous star....... ......Thanks to radio DJ Chris (“this McLaren is so good I’ve just ordered one”) Evans it very nearly did just that last year, although to be fair, the cloud of grey haze publicity left by its previous three presenters did rather leave the well known “motoring” programme in something of a void. Sadly Mr Evans fell through a trap door which could easily have swallowed up the programme whole, that it did not is a tribute to the strength of appeal of its concept. After all there was life on Top Gear prior to the “Clarkson Three” and there remains so following their departure, hopefully proving that the show has more mileage in it than any individual, or group of, presenters. THE CONCEPT 8 / 10 Is this something original that will capture the audience? Well I would be pushing it some to claim that the series currently airing is in any way original; three “blokes” banging on about cars, The Stig (an incognito racing driver timing cars around a disused airfield race track), a celebrity guest in a “Reasonably Fast Car”, if you have seen Top Gear at any stage over the last ten years or so it will all feel quite familiar – but different. It has evolved, in my opinion, into a much better, more rounded ...

Ford Escort XR3 31/03/2017


Ford Escort XR3 WAS RICHADA EVER AS COOL AS HIS CARS? That is a rhetorical question thank you, and I am also aware that in many eyes – especially thirty years later – these particular convertibles will not be viewed as very cool at all, in their day though...... ......that being regarded as the mid to late 1980’s, they were “the” car for we, mere mortal, young aspiring yuppies to be seen in. In truth having owned an XR2 Fiesta, followed by two Escort XR3i hatchbacks, I was looking for something different, which would not break the bank in terms of day to day running costs. I had never seen myself as a convertible, or sports car driver, always liking my creature comforts and an upright driving position too much for that. That was just as well as, although convertible, these Escorts, even badged as XR3i’s were far from sporting and, strange as it may now sound, started my transition into far more sensible wheels during the following quarter of a century. However, for the purposes of this review, press the RICHADA rewind button to 1987 and to the purchase of the first of my two Ford Escort XR3i Convertibles. WHAT IS IT? The Escort, when conceived in the mid 1960’s, started out as a very traditional, rear wheel drive, two or four door “three box” (i.e. saloon) car for the masses. The hatchback genre had yet to become popular outside of France. It was a fantastic success from the day in 1968 that it was launched, always top of the European new car sales charts. As one generation of Escort ...

Boston Tea Party, Stratford-upon-Avon 18/03/2017


Boston Tea Party, Stratford-upon-Avon WHERE IN THE WORLD? For this review we are on the north eastern tip of the Cotswolds in the south Midlands at the scenic, tourist trap (thanks Mr Shakespeare!) town of Stratford Upon Avon. WHY DID WE CHOOSE THE BOSTON TEA PARTY IN STRATFORD UPON AVON? Well, we weren’t really “in” Stratford, we were merely stopping off for breakfast on the way one recent Sunday morning, to an appointment a few miles north of here. The previous night, thanks to the wonder of the “www” we discovered that our favourite Honiton Breakfast venue, Boston Tea Party (BTP) had, last year, opened a new restaurant in Stratford, what a thoroughly appropriate venue for a BTP we thought, and, how very conveniently located on our route that morning too! LOCATION & ACCESSIBILITY: 13 / 15 We merely followed Ulrika (that is our Volvo’s female GPS)’s directions off of the M40 and into Stratford on main roads that I did not recognise from our last visit around fifteen years ago, suffice to say here that, landing up in an ugly grey 1960’s concrete multi-storey car park right opposite Boston Tea Party, we saw nothing that is remotely pretty about Stratford Upon Avon en-route. Boston Tea Party is very prominently located in the distinctive old School Hall on the corner of Henley and Windsor Streets, just off the main A3400 Birmingham Road. The Windsor Street multi-storey car park is almost opposite and at £1 for an hours’ parking, we were not caned on price either! Accessibility is very good; a flat entrance ...

Channel 4 - Gogglebox 11/03/2017


Channel 4 - Gogglebox 9.00pm, FRIDAY, CHANNEL 4, DOES IT GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS? Here on there are a large number of reviewers, from all walks of life, all ethnicities, every sexual orientation - a bunch of people brought together, on a UK consumer review site, to share their opinions on just about any subject. For doing so, we earn a pittance, or, nothing at all increasingly, for pursuing what becomes something of an addictive occupation / hobby. However, through thick and thin, Ciao remains a popular site with we members – and hopefully proves of benefit to the millions (yes indeed) of you offsite who refer to our reviews as consumers. Why do I start this review thus? Well, it just struck me that the appeal of Gogglebox is not dissimilar, in many respects, to that of this very site. On Ciao, as on Gogglebox, we get to look into a window on others lives, we express our opinions here on many things and have a free choice to do so, the “members” on Gogglebox are rather more limited to commenting on what they watch on their own TV or, more specifically, are tasked by the producers to watch. Another parallel is that they actually earn surprisingly little – a closely guarded secret, revealed by the tabloids recently as £1500 per month per family – OK, no family EVER earned that on Ciao! Having in two previous TV “critic” reviews actually referenced Gogglebox, I could not resist offering up my opinion on it here. THE CONCEPT 10 / 10 Is this something original that will capture ...

BBC1 - SS-GB 08/03/2017


BBC1 - SS-GB 9.00pm SUNDAY, BACK IN FRONT OF THE TV, BUT WHICH CHANNEL? In February 2017 we were treated to brand new drama series from both major channels; ITV just pipping the BBC to the post with its “Good Karma Hospital”, airing two episodes before SS-GB went out on BBC1 for the first time. I have ended up reviewing these two series in the order in which they aired, although SS-GB being a five parter, if you are a live TV watcher, you might just have seen the entire series prior to reading my review. As far as the professional TV critics were concerned it was pretty much all going the BBC’s, SS-GB’s way on this one, four or five star rates consistently beating the three star ones for The Good Karma Hospital. For many years now I have been extremely selective of what I view on television, for instance I watch none of the soap operas and the only “reality” TV, if you can call it that, viewed is Gogglebox, which I regard as a programme of simple genius. As far as Sunday night goes, I am, undeniably, part of the television broadcasters captive audience, but even so, some blockbusters, notably “Poldark” have totally failed to capture my imagination or loyalty, whilst other, surprisingly soapy ones, such as Call the Midwife have proven unexpectedly addictive. Falling into the latter category is currently The Good Karma Hospital, already rated here in a comparative Ciao review, so, where does that leave this particular big-budget offering – SS-GB? THE CONCEPT 5 / 10 Is this something ...

The Good Karma Hospital 07/03/2017


The Good Karma Hospital IT’S 9.00pm SUNDAY, IN FRONT OF THE TV – NATURALLY! Traditionally the 9.00pm Sunday viewing slot is something of a “captive” sweet spot for TV broadcasters, at least in terms of the anticipated audience numbers, a wind down from the weekend in preparation for the new working week to come. This tends to lead to the broadcasters throwing big budget at dramas, with the likes of Poldark and Downton Abbey turning into something of a Sunday night institution. Unusually, in February 2017, we have been treated to brand new series from both major channels; ITV just pipping the BBC to the post with this one, “Good Karma Hospital”, having aired two episodes before SS-GB being screened on BBC1 for the first time last week. As direct competitors, one may well argue that, in terms of viewing numbers, the BBC was definitely wrong footed on this one, Good Karma having already prevailed in order to have the viewers hooked prior to SS-GB being launched (with apologies to my non-ship loving friends for the awful pun there). However, my impression is that the professional reviewers rated the BBC’s offering far more highly than they did ITV’s, appearing to rate on average Good Karma 3 stars against SS-GB’s four or five. In the name of fairness I have viewed both programmes and intend to review them here on a competitive basis, hereby starting yet another review “formula”. I am these days extremely selective of what I view on television and, Gogglebox, undisputedly the best entertainment on ...

Flexi Classic Lead 01/03/2017


Flexi Classic Lead PLEASE NOTE: Richard applied for a specific category for the item I am reviewing here, which is "Neon" or fluorescent yellow, rather than black, and was turned down by the powers that be, who “hope that he will continue to help keep Ciao interesting and up-to-date”, not much chance of that if most new product proposals are being turned down whilst decades old, obsolete, categories still remain available to review! Apart from the colour of the lead itself and a fluorescent yellow sticker on the casing either side, my lead is identical to the one shown in the Ciao picture and functions in all respects in exactly the same way – I know this as this is my third Flexi lead, both of the previous ones being the "Classic" version as in Ciao's category picture. Enough of the formalities, time to sniff out the crime – sorry, review, the exact subject of which is...... FLEXI RETRACTABLE NEON DOG LEAD, MEDIUM SIZE Hello, just in case you hadn’t already guessed, it is me, Lord Frederick Jack-Russell here and, this time, I’m going to tell you all about how stupid and forgetful my faithful servant, Richard, can be...... ......Please don’t tell him that I am sharing these thoughts with you though as I am still residing in RICHADA Towers, my holiday home in Brighton, I should have been back at home in Devon weeks ago, but rather want to stay here and I was really hoping nobody has noticed that I’m still here – six weeks later! (Fat chance of not noticing YOU still being here Freddie ...

Enterprise Rent A Car 25/02/2017


Enterprise Rent A Car RICHADA RENTING A CAR? Well no actually, and if you believe that in order to review a subject you have to have paid for it, stop reading now…… ……This story begins when, having been told by Caffyns Eastbourne Volvo; ‘yes, they all do that, sir, we’ll need your car in for two days to fix it’, come the day before the fix, they had no loan car for me. Very generously – well, being a warranty claim the bill was being passed on to Volvo after all - the receptionist rang me to say that they had arranged a hire car from Enterprise next door, but it would not be ready until 11.00am. I dropped my car at the Volvo dealership in eager anticipation of a new review subject to drive, the receptionist walking me through the showroom and into the adjacent Enterprise premises. The Enterprise advertising boast is that they offer “UK car hire with US customer service”, I have never been on the receiving end of their “US customers service”, but the review should reveal all. EASTBOURNE ENTERPRISE RENT A CAR Enterprise Rent a Car are headquartered in Clayton, Missouri, United States and operate in a total of sixty-six countries world wide. Here they have hundreds of locations covering all of the UK, not only at airports and major population centres but in what they describe as “neighbourhood locations” too. You really are never all that far away from an Enterprise office. My experience, and therefore this review, is entirely based on their Eastbourne site. Whilst their premises are right ...

Ford Escort XR3i 21/02/2017


Ford Escort XR3i RICHADA THE EX-FAST FORD FAN Last week I published a review on the latest Ford Focus, specifically a top of the range Titanium X model, coming to the conclusion that this was a car 25% over priced. Many commentators agreed with me that, for “average” cars Fords were over-priced……. ……This was not always the case, and, during the 1980’s, I had a lot of fun, cheap motoring, in a series of Fords, starting with a 1.1 Fiesta Ghia in 1982 and finishing almost ten years later when I sold my second Escort XR3i Convertible. Unlike the modern, range topping, Focus, the Escort Ghia, XR3i and RS’s had enough trim and styling differentiators to easily justify their premium price over the more humble L and GL models of the day. Both to sit in and to drive they had a decidedly more upmarket feel to them, yes, even then, they were built down, ruthlessly, to a price, but the price you paid was a fair one. Maybe over the last thirty years I have simply grown up, that or Ford’s image has changed to the extent that it no longer mass-manufactures cars which appeal to the masses in the way that they did when I was in my twenties. WHAT IS IT? The Escort, with its roots in the 1960’s, was always Ford’s car for the masses, it was successful in sales terms in a way that few models ever have been since and that was due to a very clever model mix and the presence of aspirational models such as the XR3i and rather more specialist RS (Rally Sport) at the top of the range. The XR3i was a ...

Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi Titanium X 11/02/2017


Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi Titanium X WHAT IS IT? The Ford Focus is the definition of a whole class of family five door, five seat hatchback cars that Ford has laid claim to since the days of the Mk3 Escort in 1981. It is the car for everyman, arguably the largest, most practical car that any of us truly need in our lives and, as such, it faces fierce competition from just about every manufacturer from Alfa Romeo to Volvo, and has consistently outsold the competition since this version was launched in 2011, since being heavily face-lifted a couple of years ago. WILL IT FIT YOUR GARAGE? Bearing in mind that a current model Fiesta is now similar in dimensions to the Escort, this cars forebear, the Focus and the whole five door hatchback class has grown to pretty much fill a 1960’s standard single garage. With a length of 4358mm and a width of 1823mm, dimensionally, the Focus is class average, the 1400kg weight is an eye opener for a front wheel drive hatchback too, clearly my size and weight perception of this class are as out of date as my price / value judgement! To compare, a VW Golf is just 20mm shorter and 16mm narrower, whilst the latest Vauxhall Astra is 12mm longer and 14mm narrower. We are talking cigarette packet differences between the three, leading, class contenders here. WHICH SPECIFIC MODEL? This car, the Focus Titanium X with a 2.0 TDCi diesel engine, is right at the top of the non-sporting, Focus hatchback tree. A similarly equipped, more practical Estate model is also available – for an ...

Question time! 02/02/2017


Question time! HANG ON A MOMENT……. “This is supposed to be a topic entitled “Question Time”; Lord Frederick Jack-Russell, that means I, Richard, ask YOU the questions, you do not get to address your adoring publ……….” “No, no, not you, no, you’re a Black Labrador your breed is awful, vicious, absolutely terrible, no, I’ll not be answering any of your………..” “I am not a black Labrador, and they are not vicious or terrible - stop it Fred! You’ve been watching far too much television here in Brighton, that doesn’t sound in the least bit presidential, just a poor, doggy, impression of one!” “You are the best, absolutely the best, a serious specimen of a human being, serious human.” “Fred this is tiresome, why do you only pick up the most ridiculous and annoying mannerisms, rather than the friendly well mannered ones? Thank God you are asleep by the time Family Guy airs.” “Well Richard, aristocratic and highly intelligent as I am, when all said and done I am a seven and a half year old Jack Russell and have a mental age of approximately two point four of your human years, mimicking our elders is what we do, along with challenging them – pushing the boundaries…… ……Yes, Jack Russell, the best, absolutely the best, the finest, most handsome, intelligent and wise breed there is, serious dogs, the very finest…….” THIS IS A STRUGGLE WHAT IS GOING ON? “YOUR elders, Lord Frederick, do not feature on the BBC News Channel, the only thing that you have in common with the American President is that ...

Lancut Castle, Poland 25/01/2017


Lancut Castle, Poland Lancut (pron. wineshoot) was one of the very first places in Poland that my then fiancée and I visited in our first flush of romance. Indeed, it was on the Sunday of my very first visit to Poland - the "meet the parents" trip in June 2001. That day trip to Lancut was rather rushed for several reasons, partly though due to the heavens opening. It was a very hot and humid, thundery day. Outside the sky was as black as night, we saw little of the gardens, or indeed the Coach House. During the five years that followed I have always wanted to return on a finer day - partly because, due to the weather, we were unable to take photographs that first time. On the last Sunday of July (2006), we made our return visit, this time as a family party, Mrs R, her sister Klaudia, their parents and myself. It was an equally hot day, the outside temperature gauge in the car reading 35deg.C, as we parked in the road that crosses the park. This time however, a bright blue sky formed a backdrop for the many photographs taken. WHERE IS LANCUT? Assuming that very few of you have heard of, fewer still actually visited this little town, I had better explain where it is located. Follow European route E40 all the way east from Calais, across northern France, central Belgium, all the way through Germany and then Poland - stop around 50 miles from the Ukrainian border and there you will find Lancut, situated on the left hand side of this ancient trans-continental route. It is about a 20 minute drive to ...
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