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since 28/07/2006


EasyJet - EZU 02/02/2010

Queazy Jet

EasyJet - EZU The best part of the easyjet experience is buying your ticket, because it's cheap and you'll be bouncing around the room at the deal you've got. Unfortunately from then on it's all downhill. My last experience of using Easyjet reinforces my view that if the trip you're going on is that important then pay a bit extra and use a decent airline. If however, you're willing to play a bit of russian roulette with the times/destinations then by all means give Easyjet a shot. I've had straightforward flights where punctuality was ok and I wasn't flying too far, but I've also had a bad experience. So I'll review my last experience and let you make up your own minds. My last trip was from Luton to Geneva (return). Going out from Luton was fine . No problems with extra weight on baggage. Staff on the plane were ok, but not really very attentive. They have a policy of employing anyone regardless of age and appearence, so don't be suprised to be served by someone looking like your nan (not that there's anything wrong with that, because that can be quite a comforting experience). The return flight was a disaster. Having checked into Geneva airport we then found out that planes weren't going anywhere because the airport had become snowed under. That would've been handy to know prior to checking in but no one on the Easyjet desk told us that and sent us through to the departure lounge blissfully unaware. When the announcement came through that no planes were going anywhere, the ...

Sony Ericsson W800i Walkman 05/12/2006

the ginger whinger

Sony Ericsson W800i Walkman Let's just put this on the table - this is not the first review of the W800i so is not going to tell you about a hidden feature that no ones discovered But.. it's going to be honest and straight down the line which is what you want to and need to hear before thinking about buying this little peice of apricot pie. I've had my w800i for almost a year and given it a full workout now so I feel like I've bonded and can be objective in my review. Is it any good? If the camera and mp3 is what you've got your eye on, then yes, it's pretty good. If you text a lot and pound those buttons more then the sounds pound you, then I think you may want to deliberate a little. What's hot? The phone doubles as a camera quite nicely with a dedicated button on the side and nice software features on the phone to edit the pictures. At 2 mega-pixels its not a heavyweight player but you'll be pleased with the results on the screen and when connected up to a pc, the quality is above average. The music function is the biggest draw on this phone and again, there are dedicated buttons for switching to walkman mode, play/pause and volume. These are all vey handy but it is possible to accidently turn the player on, which I have done on several occasions to my chagrin. The difficulty most people will have with this feature is the loading of music onto the phone. Almost every w800i user I have met has experienced some problems either with connecting the phone to the computer using the disc2phone ...

Loyd Grossman's Balti Curry Sauce 24/11/2006

Through The Cakehole

Loyd Grossman's Balti Curry Sauce So who cooks with a sauce like this? David, it's over to you... ... Yes, let's take a look at the evidence. One flamboyant presenter with what seems like a put on accent, one jar of curry sauce and a couple of very hungry bellys. It can only add up to one thing: A Loyd Grossman Balti Curry Review! If you're anything like me, you've eaten your way through different brands of curry sauces like your searching for the elexir of life. You see, we Brits love our curries but finding a sauce which tastes as good as a take-away bought curry seems like an exercise in futility. Having tried the whole spectrum of varieties from Knorr to Superstore Own-brands, I suddenly happened upon Loyd Grossmans smart little range of sauces. I must admit, that I was enticed by a 2 for £3 offer which pitched each jar at £1.50 instead of the usual £2 down at the local Sainsbury's and can reveal that my journey may have at last reached a succesful ending. First impressions always count with curry sauce, a fact that Mr Grossman is all too aware of it seems. Each 425g Jar has a minimalist branding style with a teasing view of most of the contents, as opposed to other brands which blanket brand the jar as if it were considered immodest to show too much sauce. With an upper-body shot of Loyd on the wrapper, some would cynically say that this minimalism is solely because Loyd has a face for radio, but I would like to think that this is a shrewd move in showing off the exquisitely chunky ...

Sky Broadband 10/11/2006

With Brilliant Broadband, The Sky's The Limit.

Sky Broadband Don't tell anyone, but until recently, I used to be a Dial-Up dropout. Many of you won't relate to this but I had to cope with snail-speed internet surfing. Pages would take an eternity to load and downloading anything would be a 2 day event. Luckily this tale of impoverishment has a happy ending because, I have now at long last found the path to broadband thanks to Sky. As a sky tv customer, I was offered a chance to receive sky broadband for free! Well, that actually would be a bit too good to be true, but in basic terms, the deal was to pay £40 for their Sky Wireless Router package, with 2MB monthly limit and receive sky broadband free for as long as you stay a sky tv customer. There were other sky packages offering faster connections and greater downloading limits, but the £40 package was the cheapest offer and on balance it would suite my needs fine. I registered my interest by emailing sky a couple of months ago and admittedly it did take over a month for them to get back to me with the opportunity to purchase the package. Once I had ordered the broadband, the box of goodies arrived a week later and synchronised nicely with my BT landline being updated to accept the ADSL connection. So what's in the package and how does it shape up? The main attraction is the router which is a Netgear DG834GT which is wireless with 108 mbps and I'm told is a pretty nifty bit of kit. Also supplied are 3 microfilter plugs that you stick in your phone sockets. These help ...

Ainsley Harriott Spice Sensation Cous Cous 31/10/2006

Why buy it? Cous cous Ainsley-body can cook it!

Ainsley Harriott Spice Sensation Cous Cous ok - queue mission impossible music: it's 6 o'clock, dinner needs to be on the table in 15mins and all you've got at the moment is some cooked chicken. What can you put with it to make it more exciting? Chips? - too fattening. Rice? - a bit boring. Wild truffles from some obscure forest in Provence? - Stop having a laugh, this is serious! HOAM (that's=Hang On A Minute) - what do we have here but the perenially ecstatic Ainsley Harriett and his spice sensation Cous Cous! Perfect!! What could be a more excting plate partner for your rather ubiquitous chicken than this spicy mediteranean style cous cous. But wait a minute, isn't this going to be tediously difficult to prepare and take ages to cook? Not at all. It takes 10 minutes from Sachet to Plate and only 2 minutes of that spent with your medium sized saucepan looking after it. AND it's good for you. So how does this work? First you tip your sachet of cous cous into the pan and add 6 fluid oz per sachet to it. Stick a knob of butter or a couple of teaspoons of oil into the mix and bring it to the boil, which should take about a minute. Then cover the pan and leave it for 5 minutes while you do other stuff like hanging our with your friends, reading a book or making a cup of tea - it's your call. Ding! 5 minutes are up, so now just heat and stir for a further minute to seperate the grains and hey presto! it's ready to serve. It's so easy, you think you must've missed something - but you haven't. It's really quick, ...

Riviera Hotel, Venice 20/10/2006

Far from the madding crowd

Riviera Hotel, Venice Venice is without doubt the city of romance but as we all know, the romance fades when you're re-mortgaging your house just to be able to afford a decent room in the so-called city of love. So how exactly can you visit Venice on a budget and still find a decent hotel within 10 minutes of St Marks Square? Let me introduce you to Venice's best kept secret - The Riviera Hotel on Lido. Now I know what you're thinking, Lido is a different island and I'll be cut off from everything and have to travel ages to see it all. The truth is that your not at all cut off and can actually admire Venice with views that most other people wouldn't get. The reason being is that The Riviera lies on the waterfront of Lido across the lagoon from St Marks, a location that offers beautiful views of the entire southern skyline. What's even better is that the hotel is located across the road from the Vaporetto (water bus), so it's like being right next to the bus stop. You'll be thankful of this when it comes to hauling your luggage to the hotel. From here you can get the boat straight across to the city centre within about 10 minutes, which is no hassle at all. Also, because the main line starts out from here , you can often get seats right at the front of the boat and stay on it for the best views of the city as it travels right up the entire Grand Canal - just what Canaletto would've wanted! The buses leave regularly from lido and run throughout the entire day, so you don't have to fret about ...

Trouble - Ray LaMontagne 13/09/2006

Trouble is it's over too soon

Trouble - Ray LaMontagne It's high season for male singer/songwriters and you just can't move for men pouring out their hearts about their loves & losses. To be honest it's a bit of a joke and finding the genuine articles amongst the commercial cash-ins is an exercise in muscial truffle hunting. Let me save you some time here by guiding you past the mediocrity of James Blunt & Jack Johnson to bring your cultured snout to sniff over a real gem in Ray Lamontagne. Legend has it that he came out of his reclusive lifestyle to bring us his music, but this detail only serves as a notion for why his "sound" is so old-fashioned. Ray sets his stall out very simply with an album here of love songs written from the heart. With it's strongly acoustic style it's true that the pace and volume of the album never boil up to fever pitch, but it does simmer nicely, keeping you warm and relaxed. Songs like Trouble and Forever My Friend have an immediacy that will have you hooked in no time, but there's also an undercurrent of songs that although not exactly radio-friendly, have a depth and character all of their own. The album shares similarities with Bruce Springsteens "Nebraska" on some of it's more melancholy tracks which goes someway to describing it's rootsy feel. It's a real whiskey-sipping album with it's own time-zone and one which I've had nothing but positive comments from to the friends I have played it to. The strange thing is that for an album with a running time of 44 minutes, it feels like it's over ...

XO - Elliott Smith 16/08/2006

Excellent Elliott, O how we miss you

XO - Elliott Smith Being a cult hero is a two-edged sword. On the one hand you're appreciated for being individual, brilliant and anonymous to the mainstream. On the other, you suffer the fate of being liked just because it's "cool" to and never really properly understood. Elliott Smith died in 2003 and took his place alongside cult figures, Buckley, Cobain, Drake and so on.. (not necessarily alphabetically, but you get the picture). Behind him he left a body of work that has the potential to be celebrated for longer than the 34 short years of his own life. But let's not get sentimental about this particular album XO which I'm reviewing and fall into the trap of immortalising something on cult grounds alone. If you had no background knowledge of Elliott Smith and took this album on face value, there are certainly grounds for celebrating the discovery of a genuine diamond of a record. The songs form 14 sparkling facets, with depth and beauty whichever way you look at it. So why is XO so good? Perhaps the answer lies within the many contrasts that this album throws up. It's a pop record that constantly switches genres, sliding from the intimacy of acoustic folk/country tracks like Pitseleh and Tomorrow Tomorrow, over to the rock-out numbers such as Amity, then taking you ballroom dancing to the lullaby whispers of Waltz no.1, whilst often landing you squarely amongst beatles/beach boys-esque pop classics as shown on Bled White and Baby Britain. Here's how this album plays ...

Trevor Sorbie Professional Range Styling Wax 11/08/2006

Wax spots off the competition

Trevor Sorbie Professional Range Styling Wax These days, hair care products seem to go through more image changes than Madonna, and Trevor Sorbie's Mg (male grooming) range is certainly as guilty as the rest of the bunch. For example the last review of Trevor Sorbies Styling Wax is at least 2 image changes ago, and describes the wax as being in a small clear glass 75ml pot. The styling wax now comes in a bigger 100ml browny/grey circular metal pot and is beefed up in design to match the rest of the Mg fleet. I must admit to being caught out by the packaging change on a few occasions, but when you lift the lid on this wax, you automatically know you've found the right one. So what is it about this wax that makes it more stylish than the competition? The Wax Factor A lot of hair waxes tend to be really gooey and although this makes them instantly easy to apply, they have a downside of being too greasy and you'll also find that you get through a tub pretty quickly. Trevor Sorbies wax is a tuff caramel coloured substance that is really versatile when your looking to change styles. The wax is generally best when you heat it up by working into your palm. You can make it as gooey as you need and you'll discover that a little goes a long way. Alternatively, if you don't mess around with it, but bung it straight on, you'll get a really firm hold which will stay solid all day. The other thing I like is that the wax doesn't have a strong smell. If you've ever used Black&White you'll know how embarrassing it is to wreak of ...

Knorr Sizzle & Stir - Balti 07/08/2006

Jar Jar Clinks

Knorr Sizzle & Stir - Balti We all love a good curry and yet when it comes to saving a few pennies by making one at home, we can never quite find a sauce that hits the high notes. So my quest to find the best of the supermarket-bought bunch led me to this little beauty - the Knorr Sizzle 'n Stir Balti . The Balti is just one of the range in Knorrs fleet, flanked by such delights as Sizzle 'n stir Tikka Massala, Korma and Tika Bhuna. They all follow the same fomat of having one little jar containing an oily paste to cook your meat in and a bigger jar with the curry sauce which you stir in when the meat's cooked through. ~~Simplicity it's fairly straight forward stuff : first heat the paste till it sizzles and then add the meat. Second : when the meat is cooked through, stir in the sauce. The instructions are a bit rubbish because it says to heat the paste on a high heat until it sizzles, but really you should put it on a low heat first otherwise you could burn the stuff, which is what I did first time round. Overall the entire thing takes no longer than 20 minutes with the first quarter of hour dedicated to cooking the meat through, so I would get your rice on pretty pronto instead of starting it when you add your big jar of sauce. ~~The Taste Test Both the Balti and the others in the range score high on the yum factor. This is because the meat gets a kind of marinating experience from the little jar before the big jar wades in to kick start the party. The big jar sauce is not bad at all, but ...

Brighton Rock - J.M. Coetzee 03/08/2006

Not so Bright 'n breazy

Brighton Rock - J.M. Coetzee I don't know about you but whenever someone recommends that you read "a classic" you automatically think you're back at school and been landed with some English homework. There's almost an obligation to like a book because it's a piece of respected literature, a slice of heritage even. Having arrived at this book fresh off the back of reading a bunch of Dan Brown books, I decided to take up my dads offer of reading Graham Greenes classic thriller, Brighton Rock. You could hardly have found two more polar opposites and yet surprisingly although Brighton Rock is now well over 60 years old, it retains a suspense that would have Dan Brown beating down Graham Greenes door, begging for the secret formula. Having not yet read any of his other books or seen the film version of Brighton Rock, I was pretty much a blank canvass which was about to get dirtied by what I now know is a very dark and gritty thriller of the most exceptional quality. Right from the start, Brighton Rock tears out of the starting blocks with the murder of journalist Hale, whose fleeting encounter with affable day-tripper Ida, tips the first domino in a tale that escalates into something much bigger than the sum of its parts. There are stories within stories as Hale's killer, Pinkie, a 17 year old self-appointed gang leader tries to cover his tracks, whilst digging himself deeper and deeper into a pit with no escape. The brutality of Pinkies actions is almost as relentless as Ida's determination to see that ...

Greatest - Cat Power 02/08/2006

Cat Out Of Hell

Greatest - Cat Power Few artists these days can genuinely be called an Enigma - it's usually just clever marketing. When you venture across Cat Power though, there is simply no other word to describe her. First of all, Cat Power is not her real name, it is in fact Chan Marshall and her latest album "The Greatest" is not a greatest hits album. Her live performances too have a variable nature depending on her mood. Cat Power as an artist has drifted into peoples consciousness and might just as easily evapourate out, but let's not take forgranted here and now that "The Greatest" is a genuine masterpeice of an album. With a barrel-aged voice smoked over influences of dylan, lou reed and good old-fashioned folk songs , Cat Power breathes experiences of love life and being down&out , over you like the sweet bourbon vapour in a half-lit saloon. Listen to track 3 "lived in bars" where Chan sings the line "there's nothing like living in a bottle" and you can almost feel yourself slumped down next to her in a tatty armchair. The tempo never lifts above walking pace but you wouldn't really want it to either. There's enough light and shade here to ensure that you never start feeling sorry for yourself or her. The formula of simple song arrangements mostly based around folky piano and guitar riffs, you would have thought might start sounding stale, but something about Cat Powers ear for a good hook keeps you coming back for more. By the time you reach the last song Up and Gone, you'll be getting up to ...

Dell Desktop Dimension 1100 02/08/2006

Dependable Dell

Dell Desktop Dimension 1100 Buying a PC these days is not as straight-forward as it used to be. I remember the days when it was limited to high street shopping at the big 3 - Dixons Comet or PC World. Today there's so many options, so much competition and so many differing prices. It's good to know that Dell take the hassle out of all this and give you exactly what you want - a good value PC with enough flexibility to deliver what you want, when you want it, which for most of us is yesterday! I've recently bought a Dell Dimension PC in one of their package deals. That doesn't mean to say that I had to compromise on any of the features I wanted. The whole process of buying a Dell computer online is easy with plenty of options to upgrade the specs to suit your needs. I upgraded the standard Microsoft XP package to an 80gb hard drive with 15" flatscreen monitor, but they threw in some other handy stuff like wireless mouse and keyboard and a basic Dell Printer. *** Buying Online*** The first note of caution is that the price you initially see doesn't include VAT and delivery, so be prepared for the price to jump up suddenly when you embark on tailoring your PC package. You also have to watch out for other little essential extras such as internal modem, printer cable and recovery CD's. Although this is a bit cheeky, the overall price still manages to be very competitive compared to other PC retailers, so you don't feel like you're being taken for a ride. Having said that, I would definitely keep your ...

Elizabethtown (DVD) 02/08/2006

Thin Lizzy-town

Elizabethtown (DVD) Somebody needs a hug! - let's face it, that's why we watch Cameron Crowes' films. His ability to deliver feel-good films without patronising the audience has earnt him the right to be taken seriously whenever he puts something out. Elizabethtown is definitely worth watching even though it has to play little sister to films such as Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky. What makes it good, are all the stock ingredients of previous films. We have the delicately hand-picked soundtrack. It feels like Crowe not only provides a first class story but gives you a personal mix-tape which you want to listen to over and over again as if given to you by a friend. Again we see the old classics like Tom Petty and Elton John sharing sonic duties with contempories Ryan Adams and My Morning Jacket. The result is a wistful and sometimes very personal soundtrack which complements the events on screen superbly. The story is engaging too. Drew Baylor, the cocky young shoe designer (Orlando Bloom) flops on a gigantic scale with a duff design costing the company almost a billion. With days to go before this news goes public domain, he chooses to take his life but is saved by an annoying ringtone on his mobile. He takes the call, discovers his father has died and takes a hiattus from his date with destiny. Heading back to Elizabethtown to take care of family responsibilities, his chance meeting with stewardess, Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst) sparks a forced friendship on her part which gently ...
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