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since 31/08/2002


General: France 04/08/2006

The Basque Coast

General: France .........or "Euskala", as the Basques call the Basque homeland. In April i received an e-mail from Eurostar, informing me that the Independent newspaper was about to run an offer of a return trip to any one of about 50 towns and cities in France for £50, including Eurostar fare. Never one to miss a bargain i signed up, looked at a map to see how far away from London i could get for my £50, and chose Biarritz (it was a choice between there and Perpignan). I have a close friend who is French, and she suggested that i wouldn't like Biarritz too much, and in the ten days i had i would be wise to explore some other towns close by - what excellent advice that turned out to be! I searched for some cheap hotels online and in the "Rough Guide to the Pyrenees", and booked myself a cheap holiday. The first two nights i booked in Biarritz, as well as the last night. Biarritz has three beautiful beaches, and is a magnet for surfers from all over the world, but it is, to my mind, spoilt by the number of people who seem to spend their time wondering up and down the promenade that lies next to the central beaches, in all their expensive finery, without ever setting foot on the sand or in the water. If you know London, think of "Sloane Square on holiday"...... My little holiday really kicked off with two days in Hendaye, which lies right on the border with Spain. I stayed at a lovely beach-front hotel called "Hotel Valencia", which was about 50 Euros per night, and worth every ...

Tesco (Shop) 04/08/2006

Advice on dealing with customer service

Tesco (Shop) I have been using Tesco's for my main grocery shop for well over a decade as i have always preferred their stores to the competition, but i won't be doing so any more........ I recently bought a packet of 6 Tesco white pitta breads from their store at Brook Green, near Hammersmith in London. Having eaten four of them, i discovered to my horror what looked like rodent faeces attached to the fifth - as you can imagine, it made me feel quite ill to think i hadn't really looked at the other four. As many of you would do, i searched the packaging for a customer complaints department, but found none listed, so i searched some other Tesco items i had bought, and found an address in Dundee. I sent a letter in a "Jiffy bag" together with the packaging from the pitta breads and HALF of the pitta in question ( i chopped it through the offending attachment, keeping the other half in my freezer) to this address in Dundee. Why did i only send half of the pitta? - after about a week i received a reply, which states that they cannot conduct an investigation "without the packaging and faulty goods". They had "lost" the goods i returned. I thought i had been wise by only sending half the pitta, as i had half-expected them to "lose" what i sent, but what didn't occur to me was that they can "lose" the packaging as well. I stiill have the other half, wrapped up in my freezer, but no way to prove it is Tesco's.......and as far as i know nothing is being done regarding the hygiene in ...

Lullabies to Paralyze - Queens of the Stone Age 29/05/2005

Trying something different......

Lullabies to Paralyze - Queens of the Stone Age I'm not a heavy metal fan, and QOTSA are "supposed to be" a metal band, but overall i like this album, 'cos there isn't much Lead or Iron in evidence - i can't help being reminded particularly of the Gun Club's first album Fire of Love, with its' alternation between delta-bluesy type riffs and gentler moments, and it's those gentler moments i find myself being drawn into here. The version of the album i have is the "standard" one i.e. without bonus tracks or DVD, and was bought from HMV for £15.99. The first track is a gravely-voiced ballad, which is a great intro, and not what i was expecting at all - i was expecting something more like the second track, which is a full-on punky tune called Medication, and which wouldn't be out of place on a Green Day album (give me novocaine!). The third track, though, is one of those songs that hooks onto something in your head which you don't mind being hooked there (unlike, say, Karma Chameleon), and i find myself humming "everybody knows that you're insane" (which is both the title and the chorus) at random moments. I don't know if it's intended to sound like the Buzzcocks "Everybody's Happy Nowadays", but my humming-at-random-moments tends to get confused between the two......... Tangled Up In Plaid is the fourth song, and is a kind of love song- "I could keep you all to myself, though i know you gotta be free", and the high-pitched voice together with the scuzzy guitar riffs works well. Track 5, Burn The Witch, is not one of my ...

Musée Rodin 01/12/2004

Excellent value for money

Musée Rodin I've just returned from a short stay in Paris, and i feel i must recommend the Musee Rodin. Perhaps the fact that it is not one of the better known attractions in Paris accounts for the excellent value this museum gives - i.e. the entrance fee isn't highly over-inflated as with some Parisian sites i could (and probably will in due course) name. I'm not a great sculpture person, but i had heard good things about this museum, and my first surprise was the price - 1 Euro ( yes - ONE ) for entry into the garden, which contains several large sculptures, and 3 Euros for entry to the garden and main building combined. There aren't many attractions in Paris that start at one Euro! The garden is a little "threadbare" in November, but i am willing to put up with that in exchange for the room to move about without hordes of people, and the lack of crowds meant that i was able to devote as much time as i wanted to each exhibit, and i found with a few of them, that if iput my nose about 15cm from the nose of the sculpture for maybe 10 seconds, it almost wouldn't come as a surprise if the sculpture moved or spoke! I think that that was part of the genius of Rodin, that he could make chunky, solid bronze, life-size statues seem so "life-like". This came as revelation to me, a non-arty type person. I got the feeling that some of the sculptures were half-way through something, and frozen in the middle of what they were saying or doing. Rodin's most famous piece, "The Thinker", ...

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols (Parental Advisory) [PA] - Sex Pistols 03/10/2004

Never mind the Sex Pistols, here's the.....

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols (Parental Advisory) [PA] - Sex Pistols If you like Justin Timberlake, or Elton John, or Simply Red, or HeartBeat or Bruce Forsyth or Hallo Hallo, or any of things that "normal", decent people like, you almost certainly WON'T LIKE THIS ALBUM, and you're probably here by mistake. You will almost certainly be offended by the album, both morally and aurally, and by this review,so PLEASE LEAVE NOW. In order to write an HONEST review of an album which changed music PERMANENTLY (whether or not you like the fact) i have to print some lyrics, to give a taste/warning of what the album is about, for those who don't know the album and possibly haven't heard most of it but ARE GENUINELY interested in knowing what it's about, and you won't like these lyrics AT ALL. Please remember we rate on Ciao according to whether or not we like the review, not the music, so i have no reason for anybody on Ciao to be offended or wound up by my review (there's a time and place for everything!). If you like Green Day or Good Charlotte or Rancid or the Young Ones or the Simpsons you might like this album, so read on, but NMTB has none of the smoothness and sophistication of those bands mentioned above. The Sex Pistols set out to shock, and this album was constructed specifically so as to be challenging, so be warned. If you like GBH, or Discharge, or Conflict, you know this album already, and are just curious as to what i have to say. Hello, we may well have met before met before. This review comes in two parts, first the music itself, ... 02/10/2004

Last Christmas This is gonna be a long story, so go make yourself a cuppa, and settle down while i tell you about it. I'm gonna tell it as it happened, 'cos that seems to me the only way to tell it. I wouldn't have believed it if someone else had told me, so please try to keep an open mind. It's not a love story, but another scene in life's rich tapestry. In mid-December last year i had a day to myself - i try to live my life in such a way that i get days to myself, i wouldn't want any of that 9-5 office stuff -and on this particular day i was surfing idly on the net, sort of work-oriented (i have to do a fair bit of research in my line of work, and my studies as well (i do both) ), but happy to go off on a tangent if the chance presented it. About 11a.m. that morning i had clicked on a page, and as i clicked out of the page a pop-up appeared, which i got rid of immediately as usual, only to get a kind of after-image of what it said..."Free inkblot test". I thought to myself "i'd like to take a free inblot test, i've never done one of them before", but it was too late, so i forgot all about it. That afternoon, about 3.00p.m., i had had lunch etc., and had returned to my PC and was idly surfing again when the same pop-up appeared again. Free inkblot test. This time i managed to stop myself before getting rid of it, and studied the page. I wanted to make sure there was nothing i ought to know before entering the site e.g. a likely virus site, or do they really want money for it after all ...

London Underground 02/10/2004

A neccasary evil

London Underground We all have to do things we don't like sometimes - the dentist, visiting the in-laws, paying the council tax....personally i'd include shopping in that list, and the London Underground has definitely joined it. I know those of you who aren't in London very often are probably under the impression that i moan about anything and everything, but i'm looking out my window at a a rainbow, and am very cheerful, thankyou very much. It's just that i've been living in London for almost 25 years now, and i can tell you the shine has come off it. Don't get me wrong, i don't know where we'd be without it, but that's the problem. It's not too long ago that the only realistic way of crossing the Channel for most of us was by ferry, and the fact that they had a captive market meant the ferry companies had to make little effort in maintaining any sort of standards of service, and the same goes for the Tube. I'm completely in agreement with Ken Livingstone's congestion zone, and i think we should all be using public transport whenever we can, but if at all possible i try to use the bus nowadays. The cheapest fare is £2.20 - to even go one stop - with reports that fares are about to rise by 10%, so it's basically a fiver if you want to come home as well! My advice, if you're visiting London, is to go to the tube station and ask for a bus map. And why are there signal failures almost every day? Once they're fixed, why don't they stay fixed?? If you're in a rush, however, the tube is ...

Diamond White Cider 02/10/2004


Diamond White Cider Please see update under main text *************** ****THIS IS SERIOUS*************** *** I had a drink problem for a while,and this was my staple drink (if you're drinking large amounts of alcohol you worry about the cost,not the taste).That's where a large proportion of the market for these "white ciders" is - alcoholics.Rocket-fuel,we used to call it.I will live the rest of my life with pancreatitis,and this is the drink that i, believe is largely responsible (but that's my opinion, though i've been told in hospital that ciders generally are the worst). Taste-wise i'd rate it somewhere near after-shave - i'm from Devon,so know a bit about strong cider.There is no-one i knew who ever claimed to actually enjoy it,but if you're really desperate go for it if you must,just don't make a habit of it,and please don't start curing your hang-overs with it. I stayed at my sister's in Devon recently.She doesn't drink,but had a couple of these in the cabinet "in case someone comes round who fancies a drink".I asked her what sort of people come round!! (It gives you the shakes bad the next day,too). *********** 02-10-04 In response to those who have pointed out in their comments that i could get more points if i edited this :- there are things in life that are more important than earning points on Ciao. If i can make just one person think twice about drinking white ciders in general, and Diamond White in particular, i will have done something else constructive since drying ...

Lexmark Z 25 Color Jetprinter 02/10/2004

ideal for moderate use

Lexmark Z 25 Color Jetprinter I'm sure everybody who hasn't got a printer with their PC must think to themselves occasionally "i could really do with a printer!" I know i did, but this didn't happen more than once per month or so, so i was reluctant to spend too much on something i wouldn't be using too often. The Lexmark Z25 was just about the cheapest i could find during my search of 3 different PC shops. I have found it to be EXTREMELY easy to use - and i am not one of these PC buffs - and have even, on one occasion, had cause to ring the Lexmark help-number (for something which turned out to be my own foolish mistake) and found them to be very helpful. I don't do anything to maintain it at all; it's sitting on the edge of my desk covered in dust, but works every time i click "print", and installing it can be done by anybody who knows how to open the CD drawer on their PC, as you are stepped gently through the process. There is also a Lexmark website to help if anything should not work properly, which is set up a bit like Windows Troubleshooter. I was really pleasantly surprised when i set it up, put the CD in, and was asked to print a test page - out came a beautiful colour picture of a peacock, of much better quality than i expected to see, but this leads me on to the draw-back. Each time you print anything, a small window opens up to indicate how much ink is left in the cartridges, but when you are getting low on ink and buy a new cartridge you find that the cartridges cost almost as much as the ...

Isle of Wight (England) 28/09/2004


Isle of Wight (England) I've just spent a fantastic weekend on the Isle of Wight. There are lovely beaches, cliffs, beautiful towns, and there seems to be loads of visitor attractions. I visited some lovely pubs right on the coast- try Ventnor when the moon is out, shning on the ripples on the sea. We sat on the veranda of a pub, sheltered from the worst of the wind, and enjoyed a wonderful evening. During the day we went and saw the Needles, having walked there from Freshwater - about 2 1/2 miles - and even though the rain got harder the further we walked, the scenery and the fresh sea-breeze more than made up for that. Obviously, as soon as we got there and went inside the gun barreries, the rain stopped! Ryde has a lovely beach, which stretches out for (it seems) miles, all the way to "Palmerston's follies" - the forts in the middle of the Solent. And it also has the "Island Line", the Islands' only train, which is in fact re-conditioned 1930's London Underground trains, running from Ryde pier-head, where the catamaran from Portsmouth comes in. All in all, i can thoroughly recommend the Island. I will absolutely certainly be going back next summer.

Chelsea 31/08/2002

What next

Chelsea Which comes first-being a Chelseafan or madness? I've been a Chelsea fan since 1971,and have been to Old Trafford(3 times),Anfield(twice,and Elland Road,as well as Grimsby,Swansea,Bristol City etc.And that just about sums it up.I'm not knocking anyone,but it is a bit of a roller-coaster ride. At the moment i think we've got half of a really good side - Hasselbank,Zola(still),Zenden(when he wants),Gronkjaer,Cudicini and,my fave at the moment,Eidur Gudjohnssen(have i spelt that right?),but we can't buy the other half 'cos of the building of the white elephant called "Chelsea Village".How many of you out there remember being relegated in the '70's 'cos of building work? And i'm still not too sure about Ranieri-what language does he have a go at the players in?He's made great strides in his English,but he's hardly fluent yet,is he? I watched the World Cup,and the non-performance of France,particularly,and thought of us.Everyone knows we can play fantastic football against the Scousers,ManUre etc. - and don't forget we were only 9 minutes from knocking Barcelona out of the Champion's League a couple of years ago - but we don't seem to want to get out of bed for some of the "smaller" teams,when there isn't so much glory involved.Can't Ranieri use France as a lesson? I shouldn't be complaining.Compared to when we went 10 games or something without scoring in the old 2nd division(i was there when we brokethat sequence against Cambridge-it was like winning the ...
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