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I live with my wife and 2 youngest children in Plymouth and our aging wizard of a cat

Reviews written

since 05/11/2008


Tower Of London, London 03/12/2012

The Tower of London - no better historic attraction in the UK

Tower Of London, London As part of a very hectic few days in England’s capital – London, we decided to visit the Tower of London. It is not the cheapest of attractions with adults £18 and children £9 or a family ticket for £47 (without donation prices) or with an extra 10% with. Luckily for us however we had traded in Tesco clubcard vouchers at 4 times their face value in an attempt to keep our visit as cheap as possible. The Tower of London is located next to the River Thames next to Tower Bridge with HMS Belfast moored on the opposite bank. There are many bus services that stop outside the Tower including sight-seeing tours but for us we chose to use the tube which stops on the opposite site to it – Tower Hill. We chose to buy travel cards rather than oyster cards as from our research they appeared to be easier to use if you had young children although from experience are easier to de-magnestise! The ticket office is located close to the Tower and there are several shops nearby. Before entry there is a customary bag search. I have visited The Tower of London on a number of occasions and it is an attraction that I would like to visit more than I have done whether because of the building or the various exhibitions I’m not sure but there is something special about it. What I always find however after my visits is how sore my feet are! There is a great deal of walking involved as you move around the ramparts or walk through the various exhibits. The most distinguished of its exhibitions is the ...

Star Trek 4 : The Voyage Home (DVD) 27/11/2012

Star Trek The Voyage Home - Whale Meet Again in the 24th century!

Star Trek 4 : The Voyage Home (DVD) I first watched Star Trek 4 as a set of videos featuring all 6 films made by the original Star Trek cast and since then Star Trek IV The Voyage Home has been seen on TV many, many times. I found my original copy of it on DVD in a rental store in Plymouth not long after I moved to the city and the store itself closed less than a year after opening. I now have 2 copies because I decided to take out a collectors subscription to the Star Trek The Next Generation magazine and DVD that included all episodes of the series and all 10 films made by the original Star Trek and Next Generation cast and incidentally the VHS set is still within easy reach. The Voyage Home is an oddity because it is the one film featuring the original crew that has quite a few funny moments (mainly involving the straight faced Spock and his Vulcan logic – or should I say illogical Spock) as well as having a serious theme. In the previous film (The Search For Spock), an adolescent Spock is rescued by Kirk from the Genesis planet where he has been reborn and is taken back to his home planet of Vulcan to be re-educated. In The Voyage Home, Kirk once again sets out to rescue the planet Earth from destruction this time by an odd looking alien tube orbiting the planet that begins transmitting a sound that is not recognised by anyone on Earth. Unable to make contact it begins neutralising Earth’s defences and causing a series of disaters. Kirk returns with Spock from Vulcan in a Klingon Bird of Prey (from ...

Paignton Zoo, Devon 26/11/2012

Paignton Zoo the best attraction in Devon?

Paignton Zoo, Devon My favourite attraction (so far) within an hour’s travel of Plymouth is Paignton Zoo, or should I say it would be if it weren’t for all the hills that it is built on! It is situated to the South of the Devon coastal town of Paignton directly off the A3022 on what is known as the Totnes Road and well signposted. Adult prices are £14.45 / £13.10 and children £10.20 / £9.25 and dependant on whether you choose to Gift Aid. There are also rates available for senior citizens / students and for families (2 adults + 2 children). Added to this is what they call a Zooper ticket combining admission to Paignton Zoo and Living Coast which is situated in the harbour area of the nearby town of Torquay although I have yet to visit Living Coast so have not researched the value of this option. Parking is located on a slope next to the zoo entrance and there are zig zag paths leading down to the entrance and next door is a modest sized Morrisons store - for those preferring to buy food and drink before entering. I have been to Paignton Zoo many times since my dad first took us in the 70’s / 80’s and it has seen various improvements since then including a crocodile house, children’s play area and desert house. There is a theatre where macaws can be seen in action and an education area where you can learn various facts about your favourite animals such as how fast they can move or how far they can jump. The zoo also has a nocturnal house where you can see bats, reptile house with various ...

Typhoon Lagoon 26/11/2012

Typhoon Lagoon an outstanding Disney water park

Typhoon Lagoon It is incredible to believe that only 4 months ago my wife and I set off with our two youngest daughters, her son and his partner on the holiday of a lifetime to Disney World in Orlando, Florida especially as apart from Wales I had never left England! Our trip was planned as a memory to my mother-in-law who had died toward the end of 2011, and knowing that we would never be able to afford a trip like this again we went to town by including 14-day tickets to both Universal Studios and Disney parks with car hire, 14 day stay in a medium quality Disney resort hotel (with dining plan included) and a trip to The Kennedy Space Station at Cape Canaveral built in, and for our 16 year old a trip to Discovery Cove to swim with dolphins. All in all it was a holiday costing in excess of £12,000 and was booked through our local Virgin Holidays store in Plymouth’s Debenhams. A further “free” addition was the use of Virgin’s V Lounge at Gatwick Airport before flying out where they served a reasonable breakfast, drinks and snacks plus viewing the aeroplanes taking off and landing, internet access and unfortunately miles away from our gate! For someone with a fear of heights (me) it was not as daunting as I had thought and looking down into the ocean from 40,000 feet with the wing right in front of you was an experience I will never forget. Nor, may I add was the sudden gust of heat as we headed out of Orlando International Airport and into a thunderstorm at 34 degrees. We went in early ...

The Flambards Experience, Helston 25/11/2012

The Flambards Experience where experience tells you not to go

The Flambards Experience, Helston I have now visited Flambards on two separate occasions, the first about six years ago and the latter earlier this year with my wife, and her two children (16 and 27). I had hoped that six years on, that the experience would have improved but alas no. Flambards is located near Helston close to the edge of Cornwall within reach of The Lizard, Land’s End and the main town in the area – Penzance. Standard admission price is £21.95 for adults and £13.95 (from 3 to 15 year olds) and there are various discounts for families and a 5 day return allowing free entry on exit for the following 5 days. Flambards has several rides including small roller coaster, log flume and carousel as well as a more thrilling ride that is often found among the travelling fairgrounds that appear regularly across the country that spins you around a bit – but the rides are really small in number. Scattered around the area are a number of parts recovered from the area of aircraft wreckage related to World War II including many engines and propellers that have been located both on land an off the coast. There is also a hands on science attraction where you can play with a range of experiments relating to sound, colour and light, and there are a range of mirrors aimed at providing a degree of amusement. The biggest attractions at Flambards though are the Victorian Village with its streets of small shops including blacksmiths and chemist, World War II in the Blitz exhibition and The Aviation Experience ...

Star Trek (Blu-ray) 25/11/2012

Star Trek the legend but not as we know it

Star Trek (Blu-ray) I became aware of Star Trek in late 2008 after seeing a trailer for it as part of a survey I completed and being honest was filled with mixed emotions as it was a remake of one of my all-time favourites. Oddly enough, I only became aware of its successor “Into The Darkness” a few days ago and due to be released in the UK in May 2013. I recall events of that fateful day at my local Vue cinema very clearly, it was approximately 11am on a peaceful Sunday morning in mid-May 2009, and was given 2 tough choices – Star Trek or Hannah Montana The Movie! Peaceful that is apart from a number of unmarked police cars followed shortly by formal police cars all with their lights flashing that stopped outside the local Pizza Hut and certainly didn’t think their food was that bad although I confess to hating pizza. My 8 year old daughter was at her mums for her alternate weekend stay and my wife was nagged to death by her then 13 year old to watch Hannah Montana. Unbelievably, I found Star Trek extremely enjoyable and nothing like what I expected – it was suspenseful and nothing like what I expected with a cameo role for Leonard Nimoy as Ambassador Spock, and was in fact very, very entertaining throughout. Acting is of very good quality and special effects are excellent - and believable. Star Trek is an alternative beginning to what is the Star Trek legend. It is the end of the 24th century and Ambassador Spock has been on a diplomatic mission to save the Romulans from the effects of a ...

Citroen Xsara Picasso 2.0 HDi 24/11/2012

The Citroen Xsara Picasso a great family MPV

Citroen Xsara Picasso 2.0 HDi I have now owned my Citroen Xsara Picasso 2.0 HDi for just over 3 years and I love it as much now as I did when I first bought it from Evans Halshaw just outside Saltash in Cornwall for around £4,500. Despite buying the car from a main dealer (Vauxhall) I would not recommend them especially as the 3 month or 3,000 mile warranty was incorrect as they had done 1,000 miles since they had taken possession of the car and not corrected this on our paperwork. There are however a number of things I don’t like about the car: Visibility from the front passenger and driver seats – front corner glass that can be a real problem at first when parking as it is very deceiving Gap between the driver and the computer display – cannot adjust trip switch or some of the other features without stopping and unbolting Range of colours – most are light (including our which is a very pale green) and show dirt very quickly Sump cover drops / catches on speed bumps – like many modern cars metal screws wear away very quickly and the RAC are very helpful in strapping it back on! What I do like (compared to our former Peugeot 406 estate): Tax group much better – half the price Fuel economy – combined in excess of 45 miles per gallon (compared to a maximum of 30 from the Peugeot) Easier to park We bought our Xsara Picasso with what was left of my divorce settlement because the Peugeot even 3 years ago was costing us over £80 for full tank and despite having a larger fuel tank that the Xsara Picasso was ...

Disney MGM Studios, Orlando 23/11/2012

Disney Hollywood Studios a fantastic day's entertainment

Disney MGM Studios, Orlando It is nearly 4 months since my family went on the holiday of a lifetime to Disney World in Orlando, Florida that was made possibe by the death of my mother-in-law just over a year ago. It was a fantastic holiday and for anyone I would seriously recommend it even it does take many years to save up because it will give you many lasting memories and in fact I recall our visit very well down to the intense heat (between 34 and 39 degrees) during the entire 2 weeks of our holiday and mid-late afternoon thunderstorms that we experienced on all but 3 of the days. The holiday cost in excess of £12,000 and included 14 day stay at Disney's Port Orleans (French Quarter) of the Riverside Resort, 14 day Disney Ultimate tickets to all their parks, 14 day passes to Universal Studios parks, car hire, a day's coach tour to The Kennedy Space Center and free Disney dining plan giving us 2 free meals and 2 free snacks each per day (plus flights on Virgin Atlantic and access to their V Lounge). Our Ultimate tickets provided unlimited access to all parks and free car parking and cost £265 for each adult and £235 for children - in our case 5 adults (me, my wife, her son and partner, daughter) and our 8 year old daughter. It was not a cheap holiday and there was a reason for this - it had to be something special that gave us the full Disney experience. We bought tickets to both Disney and Hollywood Studios (both 14 day) so that we weren't limited in our choices but in hindsight it was excessive. ...

Ripley's Believe It Or Not!, West End, London 22/11/2012

Ripleys an attraction that failed to impress

Ripley's Believe It Or Not!, West End, London My wife (Sue) and I decided to take a short break in London while our daughters with their respective other parent and bought tickets to Ripleys Believe It Or Not Museum situated just off Piccadilly Circus. We had bought tickets from quite a few weeks before our visit and at the time was a buy one get one free offer with our reservations being £19.95. Current pricing is £22.91 adults, £18.66 child or various others from their website Our visit to Ripleys was part way through our stay and we decided to book it for an evening knowing we would be busy taking in the sights and attractions. In fact, it was 9pm when we arrived only to find that there was a problem with the tickets we had bought from – it wasn’t supposed to be buy one get one free, but after some negotiation we were given entry to the “attraction”. Sue had heard some good reviews of Ripleys and had watched a number of programmes on TV that showed various strange but true events which she loved and was why she had suggested that we visit after we discovered it on’s website. When we entered and took the lift to the 5th floor where the attraction began all Sue’s enthusiasm began to dwindle and she felt guilty that we had wasted time that could have been better used elsewhere. It began with a rather cheap and tatty light show in the lift as we went up to the start of the exhibits. Ripleys did indeed have various oddities including a cow with a 5th leg ...

Wii Sports (Wii) 20/11/2012

An addictive sports game you can do at home - Wii Sports

Wii Sports (Wii) Wii Sports is a great game to play on the Wii and in most cases comes free with the console as part of a starter pack. It consists of 5 games tennis, baseball, bowling, golf and boxing the latter of which requires a numchuck. Wii Sports can be played in 1, 2, 3 or 4 person mode although I doubt this applies to boxing which is one game I preferred to watch rather than try except in training mode which is single person. In game play there are 2 main objectives – to beats your family / friends and to reach 1000 points which gives you pro status. It can take many attempts to reach your goal and the closer you get to the magic number, the harder it seems to reach it. Dexterity is not my strong point so tennis and boxing to me are quite difficult and my 8 year old daughter very often wins our tennis matches – and no I don’t deliberately let her win, she’s just much better at it! In game play, bowling is quite a straight forward game and is simply about aim and the amount of curve that you put on the ball – how straight your arm moves the controller, which also applies in terms of how straight you hit the ball in golf, baseball and tennis. There are several practice activities for each sport many of which unlock as your skills improve. In golf practice includes putting, practice round and skills aimed at improving your game such as target aiming. Tennis practice includes hitting targets, returning balls back and others aimed at improving your aim and at actually hitting the ...

Airplane II - The Sequel (DVD) 19/11/2012

The Ultimate in Space Disaster - Airplane 2

Airplane II - The Sequel (DVD) Whenever I feel like I need a laugh I reach to my DVD shelves and to the vast collection that I have built up over many years of some 300+. Among them are many sets including the four Black Adder series, Hot Shots and Airplane 1 and Airplane 2 that were bought because they are extremely funny, at times outrageous and at times verging on stupidity. Airplane 2 ticks the box for being stupid, funny and outrageous and still a film I love to watch either on TV or on my DVD player. The copy I own was released in 2001 by Paramount Pictures and was originally released in 1982 on VHS. Both Airplane films feature Ted Striker (Robert Hays), Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty), Captain Oveur (Peter Graves) and his crew First Officer Dunn and Navigator Unger. The Airplane films are the ultimate in disaster movie, in this the sequel it features the maiden flight of the lunar shuttle Mayflower One which is taking passengers to the moon. Ted Striker has been in a mental asylum after the previous disaster which he averted and learns of Mayflower One's flight and that it is danger because of using low grade materials in its design. He escapes the asylum and manages to acquire a seat on the shuttle where he plans to use Elaine his former girlfriend to persuade the crew to abort the mission. Striker has already flown the shuttle in test flights and following law suits had been forced into the asylum to prevent him speaking out against the shuttle design. Unknown to the crew, they have a bomber ...

Philips BDP3000 18/11/2012

The Blu-ray player that doesn't like DVDs or Blu-rays - BDP3000

Philips BDP3000 When it comes to new technology I don't always buy the latest because I am always cautious that many have not been fully tested before they are released on the market and from my experience with the Philips BDP3000 Blu-ray player this seems to be the case. My wife bought me the Blu-ray player a few Christmas's ago from Sainsburys using a combination of her vast collection of Nectar points and cash. It was originally selling for around £120 and Sue had bought it at a point when it had dropped by about 1/3 of its original selling price as newer models were appearing in store. Blu-ray machines are still relatively new on the market and offer at least 4 times the image quality detail of a standard DVD, and Sue bought it because she had heard positive reviews online and because it was a good make at what was at the time a reasonable price – I will however mention that we have bought a couple of Technika Blu-ray players for other family members for half the price offering at least the same quality. It was only a matter of months after first using the Philips product that we began to have problems with it. Blu-ray discs have in fact developed over recent years and many include additional content in a new file format that the BDP3000 did not support. From memory this was either evident on my Blu-ray Star Trek or The Day After Tomorrow which I bought from Sainburys and returned for replacement the same day thinking the disc was faulty because it wouldn’t play. When the second one ...

Platinum Collection, Vol. 1-3 - Queen 16/11/2012

A tribute to Queen's music - The Platinum Collection

Platinum Collection, Vol. 1-3 - Queen I don't have a great deal of CDs in my collection apart from an extensive collection of one's by ELO but, of those I do own Queen’s Greatest Hits I II & III also known as The Platinum Collection which is a triple CD with silver coloured cardboard outside cover has to be one of the best. I purchased the CD many years ago from Tesco for around £15 and there are several variants of this on the market including re-releases in 2006 for £30 and 2011 for £20. My copy is the original which was released in 2000 and is available from Amazon for £26.99 - available for free super saver delivery if you don’t mind waiting a few days for it. For anyone to say they haven’t been inspired by at least one Queen song in one way or another is probably lying and although I don’t own many Queen tracks, Bohemian Rhapsody is one I do own (original vinyl) and I have listened to many of their songs on TV and at various homes where it creates a very welcome atmosphere and for 2 years while at Polytechnic one housemate was very much into the group. The CD comprises of Greatest Hits I and 2 with Greatest Hits 1 featuring their early work including anthems such as We Are The Champions and Somebody To Love, and Greatest Hits 2 featuring the track The Show Must Go On which was extremely thought provoking bearing in mind that it was written when Freddie Mercury knew he had very little time left before his untimely death in 1991 and there final song released on Freddie’s Birthday – These Are The Days Of ...

Secret Messages - Electric Light Orchestra 15/11/2012

Secret Messages an ELO album with a lot of meaning

Secret Messages - Electric Light Orchestra The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) album Secret Messages was released in 1983 and within weeks of release on the Jet Records label had become part of my vinyl collection. Secret Messages was the last album featuring bassist Kelly Groucutt who appeared on only a handful of tracks and the last to feature real stringed instruments and conductor Louis Clark. It was also the final ELO studio album to become a worldwide top 40 hit upon its release. Groucutt would later sue the group for unpaid royalties and received an out of court settlement. Along with the vinyl LP I also bought all their singles and additional picturedisc single of Secret Messages and 12 inch singles of the hit Four Little Diamonds. The album is littered with hidden messages and a tongue in cheek response by the bands leader Jeff Lynne to allegations of Satanic messages featured in early albums. This is also featured in the artwork that is used on the sleeve cover featuring a power station, row of houses and various artworks with the band looking out from one of the houses and a stags head. The CD version I own of Secret Messages produced in 2001 includes 3 bonus tracks not present on the original vinyl version and was distributed by Sony with EMI April Music appearing on the CD label. During the period 1972 to 1986 while ELO were in operation they have been on the EMI Harvest, United Artists, Jet Records, CBS, Sony and Epic record labels. Secret Messages is an album that has a really good flow with a ...

Light Years (The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra) - Electric Light Orchestra 15/11/2012

Light Years the complete set of all 29 UK hit singles on CD

Light Years (The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra) - Electric Light Orchestra Light Years is one of many compilation albums featuring sons by the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) which is a double CD released in 1997 by Sony Music Entertainment (UK) and on sale through Amazon for £7.85 with free delivery if you are willing to wait a few days. It has a very good combination of tracks that are split evenly across both CDs featuring work from their beginnings in the early 1970’s (10538 Overture and Roll Over Beethoven) to their last real group album Balance of Power released in 1986 – a later album was made (Zoom) featuring only their founder members Jeff Lynne and Richard Tandy. Normally album tracks are copied from various albums but in this case apart from one track (Secret Messages taken from the LP of the same name) they are either 7 inch single or edited 7 inch single versions. ELO have been one of my favourite groups since I first heard their music back in the late 1970’s and until the early 1990’s I had been collecting all their original vinyl works on 7 and 12 inch singles and LP including duplicates / variances on coloured vinyl or re-released on different records labels. They began their career on the Harvest (EMI) record label before moving to United Artists and then to their more familiar record label – Jet. They later transferred to Sony, CBS and Epic. The group itself disbanded in 1986 due to issues on royalties, with Jeff Lynne becoming a well-known record producer in the USA and many band members forming ELO Part 2. I have always ...
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