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Now writing music gig reviews for free tickets. Sorry ciao, less time for you now; just wish you hadn't stopped paying for music reviews.

Reviews written

since 13/05/2008


What is your summer song 2017? 06/08/2017

Top Summer Song - I've Found What I've Been Looking For...

What is your summer song 2017? Following Ciao’s decision to downgrade music reviews to non-paying ones (and insulting every music reviewer within their statement on the decision) I’ve gone right back to my writing roots where I began 33 years ago; I’ve recently been doing a little work for an online music fanzine. This means I get free and reduced priced gig tickets and I’ve been out and about listening to a fair bit of grass roots music this summer. Support New Music First up is a little plea to everyone who enjoys music, give a hand to the industry; things are fairly dire at grass roots level. In terms of vibrancy, the sheer number and variety of acts have probably never been greater. It has never been so easy for a kid to pick up a cheap electric guitar or a computerised music package. Conversely, it’s never been so hard as to make a few quid from the industry. Release a record and see it make pennies on Spotify, the decline of the number of live music venues over recent years, and a general polarisation where people will pay a fortune to see the “big boys” but ignore tomorrow’s big boys by not going to see a smaller act means it’s really tough out there. Even if you get a break as a support act to a larger band you might find the promoter has a “pay to play” arrangement. Acts are getting strangled at birth, If everyone just supports the big boys where are the new acts going to come from? So, if you like music and enjoy exploring different sounds can I ask you get out there on a night and see ...

Alcatel Pop 4 11/06/2017

Alcatel Pop 4 - An alcapop that's a phone?

Alcatel Pop 4 I was not born for this world, dear reader. I’m not stupid but my mind doesn’t seem to work quite like other peoples; it’s always wandering off somewhere and sometimes this means that I forget things. Like mobile phones for example. So, after about a dozen close shaves where friends and family knowing what I’m like look out for me by checking tables, floors, radiator tops and the like for anything I might have left behind during my constant pursuit of the new, finally the inevitable happened and I lost my old trusty and serviceable Samsung 4. I did spot a second hand Samsung 4 on sale for about £70, but for the same money I figured I could nip to Tesco’s and buy a brand new Alcatel Pop 4. I’m a pay as you go kind of man (and heh, I spend the princely sum of about £40 a year on topping up my phone as my beloved is my unofficial social secretary and does much of our arranging. It’s that “forgetful other worldly” quality that means even if I arrange things I sometimes fail to follow them through; I like to think its endearing, quirky and engaging but my beloved insists it’s just plain irritating. Alcapop 4 On the bright side I can do a reasonable stab of comparing this very cheap Alcatel Pop 4 with the Samsung range (my beloved has a S6 which I also regularly use). On the face of it the Alcatel Pop 4 has good functionality and most of the things you might expect to see in a Samsung. The picture image at 8meg is great, and while the keyboard is a little less responsive, the ...

Breville Colour Notes Kettle 17/05/2017

Breville Colour Notes Kettle

Breville Colour Notes Kettle Unfortunately years of getting up before six am means that even on holiday I'm an early riser. Meanwhile for my beloved, years of nursing shift work means she can fall asleep at a drop of a hat, and for hours at a time. Thus on holiday for a couple of nights in Berwick upon Tweed, I've been tiptoeing through the room in our B&B looking for something to review. My eyes have alighted upon this rather splendid looking kettle which looking at the makers code reveals it to be a Chinese produced Breville Colour Note kettle. The kettle is certainly nice and shiny plastic on the outside and feels quite sturdy to use. I prefer its broad straight up shape; my beloved bought one of those conical heavy on the bottom kettles for home; they look great but the minimum fill is quite large meaning we are wasting energy when there's just one or two cups of tea to be made from it. Likewise the lid of the kettle is solid and easy to pull off although there is a little fastener to make sure it doesn't just hang loose. It's one of those jug kettles which is attached to a base plate with the electricity wire so its modern and easy to use. As is the way of these things, the lead to the plug is pretty pathetic at a couple of feet, so check the distance from your plug socket to your work surface. In time honoured tradition the room of our B&B has a tiny sink and consequently this 1.7 litre capacity kettle is difficult to fill; likewise 1.7 litres suggest 6 cups of tea capacity, so it doesn't quite ...

Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Grooming Pomade 23/04/2017

Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Grooming - Transform from Eamonn to Elvis

Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Grooming Pomade I do have negative vibes about the traditional hairstyling product Brylcreem. Today people would flock to the barbers my father used to take me for a hair cut as a young boy in the early 1970’s. It was retro even when it was current. I remember a lot of bakelite and formica surfaces, cut-throat razors and sharpening stones lying around and a real 1940’s barbershop vibe. The smell was predominantly bergamot and the afore mentioned Brylcreem, and I’d always get a dollop of the greasy stuff on my hair at the end of the cut to make me look even more like the 1940’s Hovis Advert delivery boy. It was a lasting traumatic experience for a lad who lusted after flowing Marc Bolan curls. At present I’m growing out my short spiky hair so it’s shaved close at the sides and back and long on top. Thus I’ve just made the change from using spike it up gel and wax to something a little more slicked back. I’m not sure I’m going to like the end result once it has fully grown through but it’s about the journey and I’m showing off that a man my age has enough hair left to change his hairstyle if he wants. My hairdresser takes great delight in styling my hair to make me look amazingly like late period “hamburger” Elvis but I guess there’s not too many choices when you are a corpulent vain old git. This is where I hurriedly mutter “ThankUVeryMuch” before exiting stage left. From Eamonn to Elvis Anyway, to assist me in my transformation from Eamonn Holmes to Elvis, I turned not to Brylcreem but ...

Everything that starts with S ... 13/04/2017

Science Fiction: Another Life: 2030 Game Review

Everything that starts with S ... OK; it’s been done much better but I’m on a writer’s block so indulge me on this little bit of writers cafe fiction... . . . . So this is what the end is like. I’m in a bed not without pain, but the morphine is keeping things at bay and I heard the nurse mutter “he’s comfortable at least, bless ‘im” a few hours ago. It took a long while to appreciate she was talking about me. My beloved Muriel is at my side; I can sense her although my eyes are now beyond seeing. Likewise I can hear a low murmur of voices but I can’t say I can be bothered nor have the energy to pick out anything distinct. I recall Muriel’s face; not as it is now tired, old and drawn framed by a shock of white hair, but as she was on our wedding night; young, beautiful, willing and care free. I’m guessing she is here with our two sons; I’m so proud of them both of course. So this is what the end is like. I’m zoning out even of that thought and I can just hear my old man ragged breath, uneven now, rasping but shallow. I will soon be in God’s judgement. . . . “GAME OVER” “BONUS POINTS AWARDED” 10000 for being faithfully married for 62 years 3000 for regularly going to church 1000 x 3 for converting people to Christianity 1000 x 2 for rearing 2 god fearing children 500 x 6 bonus points for helping to repair the church WELL PLAYED – you have reached the House of the Lord and will enjoy an eternity at the bottom level of Heaven. REPLAY - Y/N? . . . . “Whoa” I take off my virtual ...

Silken Al-Andalus Palace, Seville 07/04/2017

An affordable palace in Seville - the Silken Al-Andalus

Silken Al-Andalus Palace, Seville Booking a type of hotel is always something of a quandary; as we travel a lot I don’t like to spend too much on a place, and it’s thus often a compromise between size of room and quality of hotel versus location. I tend to veer towards the central location option because the best experiences aren’t always the plushest and being in the heart of things makes all the difference, but occasionally I think it’s great to enjoy something of a smarter class of accommodation to see how the other half live. Smart and Distant For our recent Seville experience we had the full choice of hotels given we were visiting in February and the Silken Al-Andalus Palace Hotel caught my eye despite being a full two miles out of the centre of Seville. It didn’t necessarily immediately catch my eye in a good way because it rather resembles a cheaply built PFI Comprehensive School. At least if you stay here you are inside looking out. On the bright side, the hotel got some good write ups and it was keenly priced; so keenly priced in fact that I snaffled a Junior Suite and a balcony garden room for £55 a night each. We and our travelling friends took a raffle to see who got what room which somewhat added to the fun. Given that we were only in Seville for 2 days and arrived somewhat late (after dark at least) i decided we would eat local on night one, and splash out on a taxi home on the second. As it turned out we peaked too soon on our second evening and returned home early in hunt of a second ...

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 ...
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