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Naturya Blends Organic Choc 25/03/2017

Naturya natural blend organic choc - fancy drinking chocolate?

Naturya Blends Organic Choc I’m guessing it’s often the way that people get a “eureka moment” towards the end of their working careers just when it’s unlikely they can do anything about it. It’s that time where you suddenly realise you could have made a fortune doing something else. I’m approximately 3 years away from pretty much walking away from the world of work if I so choose (the early retirement is called the “no-kids saving plan” dear reader), but if I had my time again I swear I’d work in the somewhat unscrupulous world of private and organic health. What price would ill people pay for the chance of good health? How many treatments, potions and lotions are there out in the world where you can legitimately say it might help? Selling hope is very lucrative; thus the USA medical market takes up the highest proportion of any nation’s average income and yet life expectancy in the US remains one of the lowest in the Western World. There’s plenty of money to be gained selling hope; unfortunately my 30 years working in the world of welfare and disability benefits and social housing means in my career I’ve been more involved with the world of despair. I guess I might get a reward in the next life. Naturya Natural Blend Organic Choc To be entirely fair to Naturya they don’t make any outlandish claims on their product; the somewhat fanciful boasts for the active ingredients within the produce (lucuma powder and maca powder) are on various internet sites instead. In any case, I didn’t spend a fortune ...

Alcazar, Seville 19/03/2017

Seville's Real Alcazar.... no fakes here

Alcazar, Seville We go and see friends on the coast in southern Spain a couple of times a year, and for a change for our February visit, we explored the opportunity to spend a few days in Seville. It’s not easy (or cheap) to fly direct to Seville from Northern England particularly in winter, but fortunately there is a fast bus which goes to Seville from the centre of Malaga. There are countless cheap flights to Malaga and so it was all systems go. It was a tiny bit of a phaff but after our cheap flight hop from Manchester to Malaga Airport, we took a bus to the bus station and then waited a couple of hours (with a leisurely lunch just up the way) before hopping on the 10 Euro direct non-stopping bus to Seville. OK, we could have flown to Dubai in the time it took us overall, but it was hardly a hardship having a doze on a comfortable bus to sleep off the exhaustive lunchtime salad and glass (!) of wine. Rather bizarrely the bus company wanted our passport numbers both on booking the tickets and also sight of our passports before we could board the bus. I guess security is king in these anxious, paranoid, unfriendly times of ours. Seville Our primary reason for visiting Seville was to go and have a look at the Real Alcazar, the royal palace in the centre of the city. I’m not really one to kowtow to royalty so I wasn’t particularly interested that the upper floors of the palace are still used by the Spanish Royal Family today (why be interested in tax avoiding inbred parasites?) but the ...

Men Like Air - Tom Connolly 15/03/2017

Tom Connolly - Men Like Air: Love trumps Hate more like

Men Like Air - Tom Connolly It sometimes feels like some men have it all. Finn is 19, strong and handsome with an older (rich) experienced kooky girlfriend who loves to have lots of sex. They are on a trip from the UK back to her homeland of New York and they have some delicious time planned with Finn looking forward to exploring a new exciting city. Of course, as is so often with the lives of someone you might envy, scratch below the surface a little and all is not quite what it seems. The girlfriend is actually very self centred and hard work, and worse on this trip Finn will have to meet his older brother Jack who moved to New York and left Finn to grow up with an abusive and resentful uncle following the death of their parents. There is a lot of baggage to emerge. Meanwhile Leo is another man who seems like he had it all; something of a rich playboy in his youth, but in older age Leo rather regrets his rootless lifestyle and feels somewhat lonely. He latches upon and relies too much upon his comfortable and solid brother in law William, who leads a very simple, stress free but rich life. The story in Men Like Air follows a snippet of the lives of these men in New York while things seem to deconstruct and rebuild within and around them. Love beats Hate I thought Men Like Air felt like a very masculine book, where feelings and opinions more regularly attributed to the chick lit formula applied themselves well to the male setting. Perhaps the men had to be either young or set within cosmopolitan ...

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Renal Function Cat Food 11/03/2017

Purina Renal Function Cat Food: good for a poorly cat

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Renal Function Cat Food My beloved and I ended up living together almost from the week we started stepping out. As often happen with a young couple in love, the patter of tiny feet soon followed and the succeeding 24 years has seen no fewer than 32 tiny feet enter our household. No of course I’m not suggesting we breed like rabbits; we simply keep cats and over the years given we always like to have 3, in total so far we have had the pleasure of sharing our lives with 8 cats. In an ideal world I’d like to make much more of our cat food, as despite what cat food manufacturers tell you, their food is a successful by-product from the human food business and generally contains low grade, low protein, low nutrient food. Vitamins are added not because they are being kind to your cat but because without it your cat would ail. However, unfortunately we are where we are and we use more manufactured cat food than we do fresh. A death in the Family 2016 was something of a watershed year for our cat family as after 7 years of consistency in our furry companions, our 20 year old black Dandelion finally died. In truth she had been ailing a while and the vet was visibly more upset than we were. She told us that Dandelion had been mentioned to many customers over recent times as she was the oldest cat on their books by almost two years. As is the way when you are part of the cat fraternity, someone quickly cottons onto the fact you have a vacancy and it was a bare couple of weeks before our new addition, 18 ...

Syracuse (Italy) 09/03/2017

Syracuse - A visit to the Ancient World's Largest City

Syracuse (Italy) Syracuse is one of the larger cities in the Italian island of Sicily and as it lies on the touristier east coast it is a place that is familiar to many visitors. For tourist purposes, the city is divided into two main portions; the archaeological ruins located on a hill to the edge of the modern city, and Ortigia, the island (with bridges) at the end of the spit of land which is host to the original maze of tightly knitted buildings and narrow streets that formed the heart of the city. The modern part of Syracuse is not unattractive but fairly standard, and most people choose to stay in Ortigia where you can lose yourself in the history and romance rather more comfortably. It’s worth remembering that in Greek times (2500 years ago or so) Syracuse was the largest city in the world. Today the city has around 120,000 inhabitants but 2,500 years ago there were around double that number living in the Syracuse area; probably about the same number as in Athens. That seemed as good as any reason for us to take a pit-stop for a couple of nights during our winter break to Sicily. It’s all Greek and Roman to me One of our first explorations was to walk the mile or so up the gentle hill from the bus station towards the ancient site on the edge of town. There’s a 10 Euro entrance fee to cover a number of attractions here, and there are a couple of rather unexciting looking log cabins selling tourist tat (and most importantly a (charging) loo) at the entrance. The first thing you ...

T2 Trainspotting (DVD) 01/03/2017

T2 Trainspotting: Just as disappointing to rail fans as the first

T2 Trainspotting (DVD) There are some things that really aren’t worth risking. I thought 1996’s Trainspotting was such a perfect and groundbreaking film that I was very reticent towards watching any revisit; particularly a revisit over 20 years later. However, I’m in a mode where I need to stop sticking things into my mouth (dear reader I’m talking about food; you potty minded devils) and where a few hours in a darkened room helps me achieve it, so it was time for a weekend trip to the cinema and 2017’s T2 Trainspotting. The characters As it has been many years since I watched the original Trainspotting film, I did just wonder if I would get a bit lost about who was who. In the end, the movie makers appreciated the obvious flaw in producing a sequel 20 years on, and it saw main character Mark “Rent Boy” Renton returning to Edinburgh following the death of his mother after 20 years away in Amsterdam. The setting gave plenty of space for the main characters to reminisce over the old days. The return of Rent Boy saw him catch up with friend Spud (who has largely continued his relationship with heroin, and a return to a stormy relationship with “Sick Boy” addicted to coke and who is scraping a living from his parent’s pub in a rough part of town and sex blackmail. “Sick Boy” is still angry with “Rent Boy” for running off with £16,000 at the end of the original Trainspotting film. The fun really arrives when Franko Begbie (Robert Carlyle) escapes from prison after 20 long years inside; he wants ...

Imperium (DVD) 28/02/2017

Pocket boy FBI agent roots out racists - Imperium

Imperium (DVD) If you have your main career young (as a sports star perhaps) then it is often thought that you are also a long time retired; sometimes too impossibly long to contemplate a life without a direct goal or purpose. Perhaps it’s also this thought that propels former child film stars into attempts to launch an equally successful movie career as an adult. Or perhaps it is the desire of avoiding turning into the rather pleasant but very weird relaxed dope head Macaulay Culkin that motivates them. Anyway for whatever reason, former Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe still seems to be desperately trying to cut the strings from his childhood fame by trying out lots of different and new outfits and styles and being filmed doing so. In Imperium (2016) Radcliffe makes for a somewhat unlikely American FBI agent charged with a task of infiltrating far right gangs intent on sparking a race war by creating a dirty bomb. It would seem the former boy wizard is successfully avoiding that “type cast” role. Midget Marine Boy I always get a bit confused when actors play actors but here, Radcliffe plays Nate Foster a mild mannered FBI agent who poses as a former pocket Marine boy turned owner of a Medical Supply company (and thus able to get his hands on some nasty chemicals) to lure some of the crazy right wing white supremacists into thinking he can obtain the materials needed to create the outrage event and resultant unrest needed to spark a race war. Along the way, we meet some of Nate’s ...

Generator Hostel, Hamburg 14/02/2017

Hangin and Chillin in Hamburg's Generator Hostel - it's sick man

Generator Hostel, Hamburg I do so hate it when the mixed age bar discussion topic turns to recreational drugs. When you are in your fifties you are in a no win situation. Show interest and you either feel like the oldest swinger in town or that life has passed you by depending on your knowledge on the subject. Talk about it in the past tense and you come across like a dismissive know-all, ignore it and come across like an old fogey. Unfortunately, on our third night in the bar of the Hamburg hostel Generator we were confronted with such a conundrum. Given that it seemed little good would ultimately come from such a conversation (and I certainly wasn’t minded to sit crossed legged on an unmade bed sharing a joint with a few gobby know-all loud American strangers less than half my age) it was time for a gentle withdrawal for the benefit of all parties. Hostel Generator After our experience in nice but near deserted hotels in Sicily in December my beloved made the sensible suggestion that we look for something a little more lively in Hamburg in January. After taking a look around on the internet we decided upon what is an upscale hostel right in the city centre, a stone’s throw from the central train station, the Generator Hostel. Our private facility room wasn’t particularly cheap at around £60 for the double a night (although Hamburg isn’t a cheap city to rest one’s head in), but the location was great, and it had its own (private) bar which felt like a good idea. The hostel is in a rather ...

Bosch SMV40C30GB 11/02/2017

The Bosch SMV40C30GB - sexy dishwasher name; you German dudes!

Bosch SMV40C30GB I must confess I don’t particularly favour dishwashers. As there is just the two of us in our household it generally means that things are “stored” dirty in the dishwasher for a day or two until there is enough in the machine to justify a washing load, and by the time you have fiddled around bent double to get all the stuff in the machine I swear it’s just as easy to use the sink and wash the things. However there are also definitely occasions where a dishwasher is useful, and that particularly extends to dinner parties where you just want to put the dirty things out of the way quickly and to get them washed while you carry on wining and dining with guests, or when you are cooking really horrible greasy things like roast potatoes (albeit I don’t like cooking (or eating, or washing up) greasy things like that either). Thus when our kitchen was being refitted, we weren’t particularly bothered about a dishwasher given that the one we had was seldom used, but when Wren Kitchens gave us a £99 offer for a new Bosch beast, it seemed cheaper to fill the space with a fancy bit of metalwork than buy another fancy veg rack or such like for the cupboard space. Ha, our kitchen designer found us the easiest customers ever... it was rather like “just throw us in some random cupboard space and stuff”. In the end I think he did a better job than we would have done. Our Bosch SMV40C30GB (you just have to admire the snappy sexy names those Bosch marketers given their products) is a full ...

Grand Hotel Villa Politi, Syracuse 04/02/2017

Syracuse: Fascism, slaves and Mexican karaoke: Grand Villa Politi

Grand Hotel Villa Politi, Syracuse The Internet generation are lucky people indeed. I’m old enough to recall that little period in travel history during the mid-late 1990’s where the cut price airlines were in existence but directly booking hotels abroad was tricky (I can remember having a stressful and expensive call to a hotel owner in Greece to book a room direct, and being only fully certain that they had understood my requirements on the day we turned up at their reception). These days the internet means you get the best prices by booking in advance, and most people wouldn’t dream of rocking up in Barcelona at 8 in the evening, knocking on doors down the backstreets of La Rambla with the hope of hunting down a room for the night. A little accommodation malfunction While of course I had pre-booked a hotel room for our December visit to Syracuse on the Italian island of Scilly, but during our flight I had a nagging feeling that I hadn’t checked my email for a few days and as night followed day (and after a 50 minute walk round the outskirts of Syracuse with a heavy backpack as we lost our direction enroute), we finally arrived at our original hotel to find it shuttered and abandoned. I later found out that a family death meant the owners were out of town and had cancelled our booking a few days previously and offering an alternative. Thankfully early December isn’t really peak visiting time for Syracuse and a quick retire to a local cafe with internet access to both calm our beating hearts and to ...

Schwarzkopf got2b Glued Spiking Glue 01/02/2017

Got2b... fine at a pinch...

Schwarzkopf got2b Glued Spiking Glue I do have an aversion to cheap hair product as it usually looks so clearly like you have sticky gunk in your hair. However needs must sometimes and I recently found myself in serious risk of hair malfunction for a whole weekend in Hamburg if I didn’t buy a little tube of something at the airport Boots. You may scoff dear reader; if you too were someone that has rarely left the house in near 40 years without their hair sculptured (or rather scruffed) to the nines then you might too just feel my pain. I should also explain that without some gunk in my hair, I look disarmingly like the 1970’s Falcon hairspray man. Not a good look. Thus somewhat in despair I purchased a tube of the Schwarzkopf got2b glued SPIKING GLUE. No I’ve not got product stuck in my caps lock key it’s the way the product itself labels itself with the manufacturers happily laughing in the face of standard conventions of capitalisation. While I often either have short or long spikes in my hair, at the moment I’m currently growing the length on top so I can pass a nod towards one of those lads with a birds nest plonked on top of their head with shaved sides. While my mother might despair that I’ll never grow up to aspire to a “sensible haircut” I’m just grateful that at my seriously advanced age I’m able to even make a valiant attempt at “big hair”. Donald Trump eat your heart out baby. I’m probably ultimately going to be disappointed with the look so it’s the journey that’s most of the fun; I suspect with ...

Catania (Italy) 30/01/2017

Edgy in Catania

Catania (Italy) Having visited Palermo the capital of Sicily a few years ago, and liking its edgy rough crumbling gothic feel, part of our December trip incorporated a couple of nights in the island’s second city Catania on the other side (east) of the island. Just a little reminder, Sicily is the island that Italy “kicks” into the Med, and an Italian island and traditional home of the Mafia. As soon as we stepped foot out of the train station in the centre of Catania we weren’t disappointed by the edgy and foreboding feel of the city; it rather felt like we were going to be mugged and robbed within five minutes. We weren’t but we are pretty streetwise abroad, not wearing anything like expensive clothes or flashing jewels, phones or cameras around and not being scared of slowly withdrawing from a part of town. There is a significant amount of both riches and poverty in Sicily and much of it lives cheek by jowl; turn a corner from a posh looking bar and you might find yourself in a dark, dirty alley where were it not for the liberal addition of litter and graffiti you could imagine it looking pretty much the same as it did in 1900. Our temporary home Our hotel, the Catania Inn isn’t in a particularly great looking street; like much of the city outside of the immediate city centre the feel was of a very faded gothic gloom, and where quite a few of the local shops are Indian take-aways (rather than sell curry most of these places sell kebabs and other snacks - some do look good for cheap ...

Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain - Barney Norris 22/01/2017

A book of deep emotions - Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain

Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain - Barney Norris I guess it’s easy to think that no one else has the same feelings as you. Barney Norris’ Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain really lays emotions bare. He uses the rather clever tool of a road traffic accident to pull together the stories of five people who either witnessed or were involved with the accident and offers a snapshot of each individual’s emotive state and life up until the point of the incident. The book is a rather mournful one of loneliness, insecurity and loss. Whether the subject is the elderly and recently widowed childless farmer, the drug dealing flower seller abandoned by her family, the teen son struggling to cope with the death of his father, the security guard fled from London after the break up from his girlfriend, or the army wife abandoned in the middle of the country with a son at boarding school and a husband on tour, there is a commonality of bleak unremitting loneliness. Leonard Cohen eat your heart out. The synergy in the tale is the continuity with the countryside and that five rivers join together in the Salisbury area. You can just tell that author Norris is a Salisbury lad without reading the biography on the back of the book. Clever but There was a lot to enjoy within Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain. I liked the way Norris gave each of the characters a different voice, and while perhaps the characters would not hang together individually for a whole book, each of the characters were convincing enough as they appeared locked and ...

Hamburg (Germany) 15/01/2017

Tea and Symphony in Hamburg

Hamburg (Germany) We didn’t quite know what to anticipate for our Hamburg trip; the flights were silly cheap (£38 return including taxes) and I just knew that the place was something of an industrial powerhouse and in the early 1960’s was a rough city where the Beatles cut their teeth. As it turned out we discovered a pleasant and interesting city, and in summer months certainly somewhere to enjoy exploring. As it was, it was cold (-10 degrees) but we didn’t let it stop us enjoying the wander. As we really only had a flying visit to Hamburg we allocated a day to explore the port area of the city. There has obviously been quite a lot of development in this area over recent years and it rather reminded us of some of the docklands areas in London where original warehouses have been turned into fancy apartments, hotels and restaurants. However, its clear there is also a lot of residual industrial and commercial goings-on too and the result is a pleasing mix of industrial warehouses, cranes, shipyards and play temples. Elbephiliharmonie One of the most impressive buildings and standing on the end of a canal promontory and looking out onto the huge wide Elbe River is the Elbephilharmonie the new concert hall which formally opened on 11 January 2017. The week before official opening (when we were there) saw long queues for tickets to visit the outdoor viewing platform 8 stories up. The concert hall is built on top of a 1960’s warehouse building and that’s where the viewing platform is. On top ...

L'Occitane Verbena Shea Soap Trio 10/01/2017

L'Occitane Verbena Shea Soap - skin soothing

L'Occitane Verbena Shea Soap Trio I’ve said it in other reviews, but when I was being created I was far too busy at the front of the queues for sparkling intelligence, handsome looks, a big penis, and a boundless capacity to embellish the truth. There wasn’t therefore too much left by the time I reached the skin desk. Consequently I picked up the scab end on that particular stall and have skin that burns in March sunshine and which bubbles and blisters at the first touch of harsh chemicals or perfumes. Thus dear reader you can truly trust me when I say that L’Occitane Verbena soap is a soft and gentle beast. Given that my skin has of late been what I can only politely describe as “unsettled” (or what in my teen years I would have described as “pizza face”), I’ve gone to an old standby and within 2 weeks I can report that my skin has the peachiness and healthy glow of a new born babies’ bottom. If nuclear war ever descends (and I’m guessing the nuclear destruction clock has struck a little closer towards midnight this past year), then I’m perfectly comfortable if you all go off rummaging around to stock up on Pepsi and Coke for the nuclear shelter and the harsh life beyond it; I’ll be throwing my lump of concrete at the L’Occitane shop window. L’Occitane Verbena My bar of soap is just a well made bar of vegetable soap. I like most glycerine soaps (or rather they like me), but I do get depressed at the way they visibly shrink in use and in water. A large bar of L’Occitane Verbena certainly is not cheap ...
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