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since 05/09/2003


Lesvos (Greece) 05/09/2008

Mystical marvel

Lesvos (Greece) As an alternative to the usual boring facts and statistics of travel reviews I have comprised a review based on my personal experiences and observations to try to give the reader a 'feel' for the island and what a holiday on Lesvos can or could include. Readers of my previous travel reviews know I am an avid fan of Greece and its numerous islands. Here we are going to explore Lesvos, or Lesbos as it sometimes called. Let the story begin……….. The volume increased as we climbed higher and higher. The ground giving way to white and grey visual explosions of cloud, littered with glimpses of brown and green squares dotted with lines that were only a few minutes ago, fields, roads and rail lines. Quickly these faded into a blur of distended shapes and colours as we gained more height, away from the depressive weather that hung over the countryside like a black curtain darkening a room. Living in Britain can be likened to living with a beautiful woman who is constantly sick. I settled into my seat as we cleared the cloud cover and entered a bright blaze of blue light, far above the dreary landscape below. Soon, all thoughts of wind, cloud and rain had escaped my memory, replaced by my own pleasant perceptions of the different world I was about to enter as I fell gently into a twilight world of semi-consciousness. When I awoke, the bright blue had been replaced by a haze of cloudless blue covering the landscape below. Mountains, lakes, rivers, pastures, fields, and roads like ...

What is Blair's legacy? 25/07/2008

The soul of the country is dead.

What is Blair's legacy? Well I haven't written a review for quite some time but thought I would try to invoke a revolution with this one. Only joking. I am getting increasingly angry with this government and all it stands for, it is my way of venting that anger. I hope it is also a way of justifying my feelings and gaining a consensus of some of your feelings and whether we agree or not. Those of you who have read my past reviews know that I can be outspoken and labelled somewhat eccentric, but I do write from the heart, am brutally honest, and always tell the truth. I believe I have the credentials to speak from experience on this matter as I live amongst the people generally stereotyped as lower/working class, work with their everyday problems due to my career as a counsellor and teacher, and have lived in a multicultural city most of my life. "Blair's legacy" seemed to be the most apt slot to fit this into so here I am back again like the phoenix. I feel President Blair as he became known affectionately and sarcastically in his later years was no worse a prime minister than many others that litter our historic past. Please bear in mind this is just an opinion. Opinions are opinions and we all have those, and that is exactly what they are, just opinions. No one can say an opinion, interpretation or perception is right or wrong. As Mr Blair wrenched power from the Tories in a landslide victory some of us may have thought a new dawn, and fresh beginning beckoned. I was not one of ...

Member Advice on Angiograms 15/12/2007

Heart to heart.

Member Advice on Angiograms This is a review of my actual experience, from beginning to end of the emotional and physical journey of someone with potential heart problems. The roller coaster of thoughts, feelings and experiences. I hope it helps anyone having to undergo this experience and procedure to do so with just that little extra bit of reassurance. I have left the advice to the end, although by then you should have formed your own opinion of what you need to do by relating to this review. We are all different so your experience will not be identical and hopefully it will have a happy conclusion. HOW I GOT HERE When I first heard the word Angiogram suggested, I felt strange with relief, not alarm, and a sense of "their actually taking me seriously". After eighteen months and a plethora of every conceivable cardiac, blood, and anatomical tests I was about to have the accepted medical gold standard test for heart disease. This journey had been a long and unpleasant trip to physical and mental hell and back. Was I at last about to get an answer that had been evading me for what felt like eternity? It had begun with palpitations. Not the erratic, occasional ones I had suffered with all my life, but a barrage of unpredictable episodes accompanied by pains in my left arm, and right side of my neck. They numbered in their hundreds at times and slowly but surely they wore me down. Panicking on occasions, I had visited the emergency department always to be told the ECG was normal except for ...

England failed to qualify for Euro 2008: Who's to blame? 05/12/2007

Land of hope and dismissal.

England failed to qualify for Euro 2008:  Who's to blame? England failed to qualify for Euro 2008, who's to blame?.............. .... Now that the media furore has faded, and general public acceptance has embedded itself in everyone's conscious realisation that our nation will not have a team at next years Euro finals, it seems a fitting time to examine who, or what, is to blame for England's demise. It would probably seem to an outsider who has little understanding of the English Psyche that we are making a big fuss over a small matter of a football team. However we are not talking about any football team, we are talking about the representatives of the English nation. The hopes, ambitions, and expression of English national fervour, and identity rode on the shoulders of this small collection of men. A wish to belong, to succeed, and to say we are the best. To be able to laugh at the Scottish, Welsh, and Irish. It would have given us a sense of purpose and hope during next summer, and above all to give us something to look forward to, and escape the difficult day to day environment we exist in. That has all been taken away and the nation temporarily entered into a period of mourning as all those excuses for escapism have been vanquished. To help us in the future perhaps we should abandon and discard what seems to be an inbuilt attitude that we have a God given right to success. Gone are the days of the rollover and die minnows. As well as the mental anguish this caused to the general football supporter it has added a ...

Hotel Felix, Warsaw 04/11/2007

Functional Felix

Hotel Felix, Warsaw For my second visit to Poland after Krakow last year we had the pleasure of staying in what I would conclude as another much underestimated hotel in Poland. Star ratings for hotels in Poland seem to be a far removed reflection of what we in Britain measure as a good hotel. The Felix hotel, rated as two stars on internet and relevant literature references such as the well known Expedia, is in my opinion as a quite experienced European city traveller, way above the standard of two stars for what we consider here. As a quick comparison we stayed in a three star hotel in Italy in the same week and that hotel did not compare at all with the Felix in any of the required formats for my own rating of hotels. The Felix was far superior. The Felix is not in the city centre but is close enough (ten minutes maximum by tram) to reach, and just over 12 kilometres from the one airport serving the city. About a twenty minute cab ride from the one airport in Warsaw it lies on the right side of the river Wista and on the edge of an area called Praga. This area is referred to as the downtown bad area, but the hotel is separated from it by a dual carriageway and a double tram line (two hundred yards away) and not an inconvenience to view or to cause any noise pollution. Until fairly recently decent city centre or near city centre acceptable cheap accommodation was hard to come by in Warsaw and indeed many European ex communist cities. This is changing rapidly and the Felix is a ...

Online investigations, shooting down passenger planes? How far can a government go to fight terrorism? 02/10/2007

Battleground Earth

Online investigations, shooting down passenger planes? How far can a government go to fight terrorism? How far can a government go to combat terrorism? An interesting question but I feel one that has to look first at what is a generally westernised orientated notion of the definition of terrorism and what it entails as described usually very dramatically by the media. The word "Terror" brings immediate thoughts of something that inflicts or promotes intense fear. Terrorism is the application of the terror on the chosen victim/s, which these days are usually aimed at governments via the general population. Terrorism in differing forms has been practised throughout the history of the world and is usually applied by minority factions who do not possess the political power of governments to negotiate their wishes. As these factions get more frustrated, violence in the form of terrorism then becomes the choice of negotiating weapon. Most terrorists seem to be fanatical extremists of an existing medium of thought or belief, and therein lay the danger and the power of the terrorist. The fanaticism means they are quite able to inflict death and destruction with a strong sense of righteousness for their mission with quite often a total lack of conscience. Modern day terrrorism has also changed in so far as it now makes the whole Earth a potential battleground and any target has become legitimate. These are not people that can be easily dissuaded from their obsession which makes them a totally different proposition to fighting an enemy soldier on the battlefield. It makes ...

The children of today 11/09/2007

A Minor report.

The children of today This category was suggested by myself some time ago and was intended for Ciao members to air their opinions on modern day children. Generally I believe the minors of today are no different to the children of the past in so much as they are still nurtured, reared, and influenced by significant others, and events present in the here and now of the societorial infrastructure in which their development occurs. Comparisons are often made with historical generations, but this will obviously differ as conditions in the past are not identical to present day. As the parents and grandparents of those children, we, like other generations before us leave a legacy for our offspring. In the present day I believe that collectively we have generally left a very negative impression on those that will replace us, and this is now being repeatedly, regularly, and increasingly reflected in the environment and events around us. Initially as babies it is the parents who are responsible for the child's upbringing. As our offspring mature, other factors enter the equation and we all begin to have a collective rolling responsibility as a society. I can only express an opinion based on my own experiences, perception, and analysis of the world around me. Obviously my perception, experiences and conclusions will be alternate to others, but I am not usually far from the target. I am going to try to write about the most common complaints we have as adults on the children of today such ...

The Secret of Crickley Hall - James Herbert 24/08/2007

Herbert and the fidget

The Secret of Crickley Hall - James Herbert James Herbert has been one of my favourite authors since my twenties. A devotee to graphic detail he is one of the masters of the art. Chillers and Horror are his main forte, rarely detracting from these. He established himself quickly and is probably best known for the book, "The Rats". Commonly accepted as Britain's number one chiller fiction writer with twenty books credited thus far, and published in thirty-five other languages across the world, he has sold over fifty million copies. Not really being an ardent reader these days due to time commitments, although I have always enjoyed reading, the opportunity to read his latest novel could not be missed with a holiday giving me that chance. Published by Macmillan and on sale in Tesco's for just £3.23 in paperback with a RRP of £6.99 and at 632 pages the book is of no short duration and great value for money. Having read every one of Mr Herbert's novels I looked forward with excitement to this latest offering. As you would expect with a book of that length, it's thick, and heavy. Maybe I am not the only one with the idiosyncrasy of having difficulty holding a book of that size with one hand and being able to roll around on the bed/sun bed changing position to be comfortable. (I am a fidget). It meant I would have to read the book with two hands, but I put aside that small inconvenience with the thought of how that would be counterbalanced by the contents. The book starts with a passage from the distant past ...

Crete (Greece) 17/08/2007

Zeus goes home

Crete (Greece) As many of you will already know I am an ardent fan of Greece and its islands. This review is about Crete, the most sizeable of those islands measuring 260 Kilometres from West to East and differing between 12 and 60 Kilometres wide from North to South. It is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean. A SHORT HISTORY LESSON Most of you will be aware that Crete is a popular tourist destination. As well as having a plethora of unspoilt historical sites, there are also some interesting little known facts about the island. Crete is commonly recognised as the seat of the most ancient civilisation in Europe. It was the site for the ultimate, and strategically largest, airborne attack by Nazi Germany in 1941. (Battle of Crete) This invasion was also the only recorded battle in history to be won solely by airborne troops. Another notable fact elicited from 17th century records was the removal of the Venetians from Crete by the Turkish Ottoman Empire after the siege of Candia, (1648-1669) noted as the longest siege in recorded history. Crete is best known however from Minoan history, made famous by historians such as Homer. His descriptions of ancient Greek history allow us to explore and understand Cretan origins. There are many legends mentioned, such as King Minos, Theseus and the Minotaur, Daedalus, and Icarus. The first signs of human settlement are believed to have begun around 7000BC but it was the Minoans who emerged as the first historically ...

Eurocypria Airlines 16/08/2007

Flying pasta

Eurocypria Airlines My summer holiday this year was to Crete with Olympic holidays. As a charter company Eurocypria airlines were the airline allocated after originally being booked with Monarch, an old favourite of mine, but for some inexplicable and unexplained reason Olympic changed the airline. Who am I to question the bureaucratic idiosyncrasies of who I fly with to my holiday destination as long as I get there intact and in one piece? Eurocypria are located in Cyprus, no surprises there as the name is self-explanatory. They were formed in 1991, and were the first Cyprus based charter airline and began operations in 1992. Originally they were one of the few success stories aligned to Cyprus airways but like so many national airlines guilty of poor operational management and because of the dire financial situation they were eventually sold to the government of Cyprus for just over 13 million Cypriot pounds in 2006 as a contingency plan to take over as the Cypriot national airline. Although Eurocypria first started with airbus 320s they now have a fleet of six Boeing 737-800s the last being delivered in April of this year. This sounded good to me as I am a fan of the Boeing 737. They do run a minimal amount of scheduled routes, but mainly to obscure European airports, their main forte being in the charter sector. CHECK-IN After arrival at Gatwick with my customary extra hour allowed to meet any unknown issues I was very surprised to find the Eurocypria check-in desk already open ...

Europa Gatwick, Crawley 14/08/2007

A purpose served.

Europa Gatwick, Crawley Britannia Europa Hotel (Gatwick) As the title implies the Europa hotel is part of the Britannia group. It is rare for me to stay in a hotel so a review on one is unusual. We decided to stay in the hotel primarily because it originally appeared as one of those annoying pop-ups whilst looking for airport parking on the internet. As part of a deal you get to park your car at the hotel on-site for a similar fee to competitors parking facilities at the airport, and get a double room for two for just an extra £25. (Usual prices start at £39 rising to £170 for luxury suites) Breakfast is £9.50 extra if required and there is room service and alarm calls as requested. Advertised as a three star hotel the pictures on the Europa website were quite impressive with its wonderful looking architecture. I thought it would also be a pleasant change to break the usual habit of a nightmarish drive around the notorious M25 through the rush hour and would also be a good opportunity to get a good nights sleep without getting up in the middle of the night to catch our flight. Those facts together with the offer of a free transfer bus to the airport and back on your return, and a health club attached for guests use for a small fee (£2.50 each a day or £5 for a five day pass with swimming pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, Gym, and massage) it seemed ideal for a good stress free start to the holiday. We used the health club and it was very pleasant. Located at junction 11 of the M23, it is ...

Is global warming an urgent danger? 24/07/2007

The year after next

Is global warming an urgent danger? Is global warming an urgent danger? Basically I feel it is a very urgent danger but one that can not any longer be solved or dealt with to any extent. In my opinion it is far too late to realistically deflect to any great effect any of the major damage this is causing or is going to cause to the planet and the species that live on it. Having been an ardent gardener and person who take much notice of nature, plants, animals, and the environment around them I have seen massive changes in recent years in my small world that most people probably don’t notice unless you have that awareness of the world around you and quite frankly all I generally see is a general apathy of the situation. I could debate all the pro’s and cons about plants breathing CO2, whether 4x4s should be banned? Alternating natural world climate change that has gone on through the centuries with natural ice ages, etc, etc……………………………… I have always believed that Earth and Nature was designed or has developed into a perfect balance. What one positive or negative effect may cause there is another that counters or re-balances it? If you maintain that equilibrium then you don’t have a problem. What I believe we have been doing since the start of the industrial revolution in the 19th century and have rapidly increased since, is the severe tipping of that balance and the worry for me is that this misbalance has become much more pronounced or has already tipped over the edge as we continue to pump ...

Should 4x4 Cars Be Banned? 13/07/2007

Lepers of the road.

Should 4x4 Cars Be Banned? Hi everyone, nice to be back and have some time to write again. I am going to tackle another pretentious issue as always, that of the proposed increase in taxes on 4x4s. The reasoning behind these proposed increases are that 4x4s have larger emissions than other vehicles and therefore pollute the atmosphere causing more green gases. At the moment the global warming issue is the latest media and government obsession, hyping the issue into overkill and building a public frenzy against anything that’s not carbon friendly. It appears to me that a large section of the media led public seems to be missing the point. The point being that 4x4s apart from being generally larger in mass than most family cars are no more guilty of worse emissions than many other vehicles. The only difference by definition and name is that they are capable of having power applied to all four wheels instead of the average cars two. 4x4s are no different to other cars in their use of many different fuels and engine sizes. A Rolls Royce has in most cases a 6000cc engine, and there are many other larger engine car manufacturers such as Mercedes, Audi, and BMW to name but a few. Although there are exceptions most 4x4s have engines no bigger than 4000cc’s and a lot of them are smaller with a Suzuki at just 1600cc for example. Many of them also run on LPG conversions which have no CO2 emissions at all. Any city dwelling driver will tell you that almost all of the time you drive a 4x4 vehicle in ...

Kefalonia (Greece) 25/09/2006

Silence reigns

Kefalonia (Greece) Pre-amble Having been an ardent lover of Greek Mythology throughout my life it is no wonder that I have now become a devotee to the charm, history, and antiquity of Greece and its many Islands. I had my first experience of Greece eight years ago. I was on my honeymoon and we spent two weeks on Zante (Zakinthos). Taking a boat trip around Zante we saw kefalonia in the distance and I offered to take my new wife on a day trip to see this Island. She declined, declaring, "One day I will go there", its beauty standing out on the distant skyline. It got forgotten as things do in this hectic, stressful, fast paced life we lead in this country. Kefalonia was pushed into memories, other destinations taking priority, financial issues, and life in general, until now. Kefalonia was not our first choice for a holiday this year. Malta, for my wife's family history, and Crete for its historical interest had priority. We were looking for a last minute holiday deal. After looking for several days Kefalonia returned that lost memory with an outstanding cheap holiday that fitted our criteria exactly. It was too cheap to ignore. Zante and Kefalonia are both Islands in a group of seven called the Ionian group of islands. Kefalonia is the largest but has one of the smallest populations, less than 32,000. With an area of 266 square miles it is mountainous, but the most scenic, and has been voted tenth in the world for places of scenic beauty. No Greek Island (if you have visited ...

Oyster Travel Card 21/09/2006

Fancy an Oyster?

Oyster Travel Card What is an Oyster card? Basically it is a London travel card enabling the traveller to get around London without constantly buying tickets for the different modes of transport available. It can be likened to a credit card; however the difference being, you pay up front and charge the card before use, almost identically to a pay-as-you-go phone card. Transport for London hereafter referred to as tfl, call it a smartcard. I think it was very smart for tfl to launch it as they cost £3.00 to obtain. A very clever ploy to put a lot of money into the coffers of their bank account. The money is refundable if you return the card when you no longer need it, but who can be bothered with all the rigmarole of that. To obtain a card you need to fill in a registration form at a station, tfl oulet, or Oyster card shop. This records highly personal information and I would have to question the reason for this. Remember if you then use your card for travelling, all your movements are then recorded every time you swipe the card through a reader and it is reported the police are using this more and more extensively to investigate people's movements. More big brother as I see it. You can obtain an un-registered card but will not be able to buy the full range of tickets. Who can obtain one? Adults, holders of 16-17 year old paper photocards, and holders of new deal photocards. The following can apply and this will entitle them to a range of other discounts. (See tfl website ...
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