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marcb

marcb

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since 18/08/2000

21

I´m Sorry I Haven´t Got A Clue (Radio 4) 04/10/2000

The anitidote to Panel Games

I´m Sorry I Haven´t Got A Clue (Radio 4) I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue has brightened up many a dull evening for me. It is wonderfully irreverant and has just the right hint of cheek without going over the top. The rounds are brilliant - singing one song to the tune of another, the round where the record fades out but the panelists have to keep up with the song, sound charades and of course, the wonderful Mornington Crescent (a round that still baffles several of my friends, despite the rules being so obvious!) The chairman, Humphry Littleton is brilliant, particularly with his putdowns and the way he ignores the scoring. I particularly love it when he gets something wrong in the script and re-reads it in a totaly deadpan way. The panalists are also brilliant, making some wonderful contributions to this games which really lives up to the way it is billed - an antidote to panel games. This is a show I try not miss, if I can possibly avoid doing so. It's a great way to pass half an hour and forget about all those other things going on in one's life.

BBC Radio 4 04/10/2000

Today Programme - Great Coverage

BBC Radio 4 I've been tuning into the Today programme for a number of years now and there can be no question that you get some of the best national and international news coverage around. I enjoy the daily tussle between the presenters, most notably Mr. Humphries, and the various politicians on the scene. I have particularly enjoyed the recent debates with Michael Portillo who has been shown to be wanting time and time again. The quality of the presenters on this programmes is absolutely outstanding. They seem to have mastered the knack of asking the awkward questions we would all like answered and putting the politicians on the spot. Aside from the political coverage, there is also good coverage of international affairs, often with a presenter reporting from the location and of sport and weather. The Thought for the Day spot is often amusing and has a good selection of presenters from right across the spectrum. I use the Today programme to keep me abreast of what is going on in the world and would feel very lost without it's daily input to my life.

BBC1 - Nine O´Clock News 04/10/2000

BBC News Moving to 9 O'Cock

BBC1 - Nine O´Clock News So, the BBC have finally made the decision to move the nine o'clock news to 10 o'clock. I understand the reasoning behind this, in terms of being able to cover parliamentary votes and also to enable them to better cover North American news, but for myself, I think this will make the bulletin a little too late for my taste. The fact that all late evening bulletins are now going to be at ten o'clock is bad for news coverage. Let's face it, the BBC coverage is far superior to ITN, so a lot of the focus will be on the BBC programme. To be honest, I think a lot of people have had enough by 10pm and want to relax, not be bombarded with news on all sides. It will also be quite distruptive of scheduling. I think this really raises the question of how valid news coverage is on terrestrial TV. With 24 hour news channels is this battle over times really valid? I shall be sorry to see the 9pm news move from it's current slot. I find it a good time to digest the day's events.

London Heathrow, LHR 29/09/2000

It's all in a days work

London Heathrow, LHR There can be no doubt that Heathrow can be a frustrating place to be if you are not a regular passing through, so here a few thoughts/ideas to help ease your passage: TRANSPORT TO/FROM HEATHROW Heathrow is served by various different public transfer options. The quickest (and most expensive!) is the Heathrow Express, which will deliver you to Paddington in around 15 mins. If you are travelling the to LHR, you have the advantage of being able to check you bag in at Paddington, before boarding the train. Other alternatives include the Tube (which takes 40/50 minutes) or the airbus (similar sort of journey time). There are also numerous other bus and coach services available from the central bus station. WHICH TERMINAL? This probably confuses people the most. Basically, T1 is used by BA shorthaul (except Paris, Amsterdam and Athens), British Midland, Aer Lingus, EL AL and SAA. T2 is all other European airlines T3 is all longhaul operations, except those listed below for T4. T4 is BA (longhaul and Paris, Amsterdam and Athens), KLM, Air Malta and Quantas. SHOPPING The best shopping is always to be found in the departure lounges. The BAA offer a price promise that no items are more expensive than what you would pay on the high street. Generally, there is a good selection of items available. PARKING Short term parking is prohibitively expensive (the BAA make more on car park charges than they do on landing fees!). There are also plenty of long ...

Metro 29/09/2000

Not Bad, For a Freebee

Metro I used to buy a paper to while away the boredom when commuting, but with the arrival of the Metro there is no longer any need. This free newspaper is available at most tube stations (I don't know about BR, or whatever they call themselves these days) and is actually quite a reasonable read. I particularly like the little extras like the I Spy feature and the London street explanation - it's nice just to have another couple of useless facts to start your day off. The articles seem reasonably well written and there is generally OK coverage of home news, world events, TV and sport. It is also quite useful to have event information particularly about London in an easily accessible way. I think the Metro is a very good idea and long may it continue. I shall certainly continue to read it whenever I happen to be commuting on the train.

Brio 29/09/2000

A Father's Dream Come True

Brio If, like me, you hanker for the day you can get your son (or daughter!) a train set then Brio is the answer to your dreams. This good quality wooden train set has a wonderful selection of track, bridges, tunnels, trains and other accessories. For those hooked on it, it even does a range of Thomas the Tank Engine accessories. This is suitable for kids from around the age of 2 and it is pretty easy to connect together. The trains all link by magnets, so are also easy for the kids to use. An interesting point to note - don't be constrained by the traditional circular layout, let your child build their own design, no matter how odd it may seem to you. We started with the standard figure of eight set (with simple bridge) and soon expanded by purchasing more track packs. If you want a layout that fits well, then it is worth looking at the sample layouts Brio show in their brochures and buying the track/accessories they recommend. Otherwise, just buy what takes your fancy and experiement. We have found that the Brio keeps our 2 year old occupied for ages. One minor problem we had was we found we needed more than one train (the starter pack comes with only one), so that several kids can join in at once. The Brio is a quite expensive and some shops (such as ELC) do their own version, although my wife thinks they are inferior - make your own judgement! All in all, the Brio railway is a great toy (especially for Dads!) which can be expanded as your child's needs grow.

BUPA 28/09/2000

Good but expensive health cover

BUPA I have been a member of BUPA for around ten years and have generally found the level of service to be quite good. I have claimed for both inpatient and out patient treatment and find that they usually settle claims very promptly. For inpatient treatment, there is an excellent selection of hospitals. There used to be a constraint that, unless you were on the highest level of cover, you could not use some of the London teaching hospitals, but this now seems to have changed and the restriction is now that you may to have to share a room. For outpatient treatment, it can be difficult to locate a suitable practicioner (that is BUPA registered) and there is quite a lot of red tape. For example, I recently needed some treatment from a chirpodest but was told that I would have to see a consultant first and then get a referal if I wanted to claim the cost back. This seems excessive for minor treatment and in the end, I just paid for the treatment myself. It is always worth remembering to speak to BUPA first before making an appointment with a consultant as they may refuse payment if the consultant is not 'approved'. My main gripe with BUPA is the cost. The older you get, the more expensive it gets, but you would think that they would offer discounts for long standing members - this does not seem to be the case. For a family of four we are paying over £200/month (Grade A cover). We are seriously considering downgrading this to grade B, which is considerably cheaper. The ...

Amazon.co.uk 28/09/2000

A Neat Way to Buy Books

Amazon.co.uk We used Amazon for the first time last weekend to purchase a couple of books. This is the first time we have actually purchased anything over the web and it was a pretty painless experience. The site is pretty easy to use - we had no difficulty in finding the books we wanted through the straight forward use of the search facility and it is pretty obvious what to do in order to purchase the books. The ordering process is simple to follow. The only question we had was concerning the postage, where it was not clear whether you paid a single cost for postage or a cost per item. infact, it turned that you paid a fixed sum, plus 59p per item. Other than that, there were no problems. Amazon keep you well updated on the progress of your order - we have received several e-mails to that effect. One thing we did notice is that the discount seems to change quite frequently. We looked at a book one day, a couple of days later, the price had changed (increased). Be wary of that, order when you see to obtain the best price. All in all, this is a good way to shop. We will use it again.

Kaifeng, London 28/09/2000

A Real Treat

Kaifeng, London Kaifeng is a treat! It's the place we go for wedding aniversaries, birthdays or other special occasions. I rate it as one of the best kosher restaurants that I've eaten in. The food is excellent. The menu offers a good selection of dishes, imcluding vegetarion options. Some of my favourites include sizzilng sechzuan beef, beef with ginger and the lemon chicken. For starters, I recommend the imperial selection which gives you a chance to try most of the starters on the menu. The desserts are OK, but nothing special to write home about. I once ordered a 'special' as a birthday suprise for my wife, which was really just a huge fruit plate - a little disappointing. The service is pretty good, although the waitresses are a little dour, and the atmosphere is great. The sunday buffet is good value, offering plenty of food and a wide selection of dishes to choose from. Fun for all the family, but watch out for the kids running around. Kaifeng also offer a takeaway service which is prompt and efficient. They will also deliver within a certain radius. As you would probably expect, Kaifeng is expensive - around £80 for two, without wine. Hence the reason we keep this as a treat! Despite the price, I will keep going back for those special occasions. ...

Calgel 28/09/2000

Peace at Last...

Calgel We started using Calgel to relieve the pain on our dentist's recommendation - prior to that, we'd used Bongela which can, apparently, be bad for the teeth. We always found that he Calgel was pretty effective, with the boys calming down pretty quickly once we had applied it. They also seemed to like the taste and were less resistant to us putting in their mouths. We started to use Calgel as soon as the boys needed it - I don't think there are limits on the age when you can start to use it. We also felt more comfortable using it because it is aimed at children, rather than some of the other products on the market which are adult products, but can be used for children. I would certainly recommend Calgel as an excellent remedy for soothing teething problems.

Pampers Nappies 27/09/2000

Pampers are Good

Pampers Nappies We tried several brands of nappies for our kids before we settled on the pampers. Although a litte more expensive than a supermarket brand, we found that Pampers seem to leak far less than other brands. Pampers offer a good range of sizes and the comfort for the child also seemed very good. The velcro tabs have proved extremely useful, as opposed to other brands where the tabs fail to stick, especially when using cream. I've also tried the Pampers premium and cannot say I have noticed any significant difference from the regular Pampers. The premiums are more expensive (you get fewer per pack) and not really worth it. It is also worth buying in bulk. We took to buying the boxes of 144 and these represent very good value and cheap way of buying nappies, if you are using a lot of them.

Britax Super Cruiser 27/09/2000

Good for the back, but child safety?

Britax Super Cruiser We use the super cruiser for our older child and it works very well. One of the main reasons we chose this seat, once he had outgrown the more usual sort of car seat, was it's ease of use and it's light weight, making it very easy to move between cars. We have found it to be very effective for older children and he also finds it comfortable when using it. However, our younger son (aged 2.5) has also used it and in this case, it is more problematic. The biggest difficulty we had was on a long (5 hour) journey when he was climbing out the seat every 10/15 minutes. It has no way of allowing you to effectively restrain the child and prevent this happening. since then, we have reverted back to the more convential seat for the youngest child. The seat is quite expensive for what it is and both my wife and I don't feel it gives as much protection as the conventional type of seat. However, for a halfway house between a traditional seat and booster seat it is very good.

Little Tikes Cosy Coupe 27/09/2000

Good for kids, bad for parents

Little Tikes Cosy Coupe My wife bought one of these for our two year old, although our five year old is also extremely keen on it. The kids think it is absolutely wonderful and have a lot of fun with it, both in and out of the house (watch out for those skirting boards!!) As a parent however, I have to say I am extremely disappointed with the quality of the toy. We are now on our third one having had lots of problems. First of all, the quality and finish of these products is appalling. For the price we paid (around £30) I expect something with a reasonable finish to it. All of the ones we have received have had bad scratches, gouges or dents in the plastic. We queried this with the suppliers who suggest that the shops have mishandled the product in the store room. I find this a bit difficult to believe when everyone I've seen appears to be damaged and we've been through quite a few in the shops. Second, I've had a lot of difficulties constructing this toy. The first time I tried, I could not get the screws in the back to go flush into the plastic. Little Tikes told me that sometimes the mould goes wrong and the plastic comes out too thick. We had that one replaced. I then spent a couple of hours last night trying to assemble the new one that had been delivered. This time, I cannot get the front roof supports to slot into the relevant holes. Little Tikes are now going to replace this one and we shall try again. No doubt this is a great toy for the kids (although the key noises are enough ...

Nappy Pants in General 27/09/2000

Do Nappy Pants Work?

Nappy Pants in General For those of you who have never used them, the idea behind nappy pants are that they are, in effect, pull up nappies. They are supposed to save you from those 'little surprises', but to make the child feel uncomfortable if they are wet or soiled and hence encourage the child to use the toilet. I've seen versions of these produced by Pampers, Huggies and boots, although I suspect various other suppliers also provide similar products. Compared to nappies, they are quite expensive and you get fewer in a pack than for the ordinary nappies. We used trainer pants for short periods with both our boys. We didn't find them particularly helpful as an aide to potty training. The boys didn't seem particularly bothered about wetting or soiling them and it certainly didn't seem to encourage them to use the toilet any more frequently. Infact, we found that when soiled, they tend to leak more readily than nappies and caused more of a mess. We also used them with our older son once he was clean/dry during the day, but not at night. For this, they were much more effective as he objected to wearing a nappy, but felt much more grown up about wearing 'pants' at night. They also helped his confidence as they prevented most bed wetting incidents and helped indicate to us when he was actually dry at night. In general, these are quite expensive and I would not recommend them as an aide for toilet training, but they are certainly useful for that in between period when the child is dry ...

Legoland [TV Advertisement] 25/08/2000

A fun place to be

Legoland [TV Advertisement] We visited Legoland yesterday (23.8.2000) for the second time and unfortunately, we picked one of the busiest days of the year. Queuing times were averaging around 40 - 45 minutes, although there was a waiting for one attraction of some 90 minutes. The worst we had to wait was around an hour, which is along time for small kids to be hanging around. Legoland is split into various sections and it is worth checking out which ones are best for you. Some of the rides have restrictions on for small kids and it can be very frustrating for the little ones to be hanging around for long periods of time. We found the best areas for our kids (aged 5 and 2) were dupo-land and miniland. These seem to have the best rides for their age and also activities which didn't require you to queue. Personally, I enjoyed the Dragon big dipper ride the best. A couple of new attractions have been added since last year - a new water ride and models of the millenium dome and Wembley stadium. There are probably others which I didn't spot as things seem to be regularly updated. A few general points: * Get there early (around 10.00 when it opens) It can take 30 - 45 minutes to get in and get yourself organised before you start. * Take plenty of food and drink. It was exteremly hot when we visited and although we took a large bottle of water with us, we drank it pretty quickly. We took supper with us as well as lunch since you can be there till gone 8pm. Food and drink is quite expensive (99p ...
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