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since 10/11/2000


Canon LBP 800 13/09/2002

Canon Fire Off A Good Printer

Canon LBP 800 Now for a long time I have been a committed Hewlett Packard man when it comes to printers. The one provided by my employer as my printer for working from home is a HP Office Jet and I have no problems with it. My old home computer printer was a HP too, a 640C. However as you can read in my review of that whilst it was good, well made and reliable it was not fast enough. Of course like most things connected with (and to) computers new and better products are launched all the time. I now have a Canon S800 and I bought it mainly to indulge in my new passion of digital photography. The Canon is a little bigger than the HP was. It is about the same width but a little deeper and higher. It is finished in a high quality two tone effect which looks quite attractive. Overall the printer appears to be more solid than the HP did but the HP was a budget printer and the S800 runs in at £300. The paper feeds in through the rear and before you can say ‘Wow that was quick and such good quality’ the printed page appears. It has standard USB parallel connections and the paper feeder will hold about 100 pages. Setting up the printer is about as easy as it could be. The instructions are all perfectly clear and within minutes its ready to use. Once set up it also ease to use in day-to-day use . It is also as Bjork might say 'Oh So Quiet' in comparison with the cacophany of noise the old HP made. The Canon scores though in providing the best quality inkjet quality I have ever ...

Center Parcs, United Kingdom 08/09/2002

The English Middle Class At Play

Center Parcs, United Kingdom On arrival at Center Parcs we unloaded everything at the Chalet and left our car in the central car park. Here the car would stay until it was time to depart. This is great, a chance to holiday without driving everywhere. Better still it makes it a safe place to cycle around. When you arrive you get a book which includes a plan of the site and how to get the most out of your stay. It includes a daily planner as you will need to be quick and efficient if you want to play some sports at peak time. The first tip would be to take your own bikes – as we did – as hiring them can be expensive. Make sure if you are taking them on the back of your car that you have your number plate, lights and indicators visible. Just how many cars do you see where the owner has just put a bike rack and the bikes on the back without any regard for lights or indicators. The other attraction is to be able to walk with everything you need within a reasonable walking distance. It was winter when we went to Sherwood but the chalet was warm enough. It was reasonably spacious for a young family and had satellite TV and anopen fire. It also had a barbecue but it was too cold for that. I would imagine at other times of the year there would be a bit more wildlife about but it was too snowy for that. Another drawback was that the heavy snow had closed a lot of the outdoor attractions. This had 2 effects one that you were not able to do them and also that the indoor attractions got busy. In fact ...

Fiat Seicento 1.1 07/09/2002

Seicento, Say No

Fiat Seicento 1.1 Finished in custard yellow it looked small, not entirely without charm. Neat alloy wheels at each corner. Overall a pleasant mini sized car. But this is no world beating supermini if this car were a person it would be Little Jimmy Krankie, irritating, annoying, trying to be clever when it isn’t. Sit in the drivers seat and there is a neat curved dash, simple chunky buttons and neat easily readable instruments. The front seats are reasonably supportive and the cloth is adequately fine. Back seat occupants need to be very young, have very short legs or suffer in appalling discomfort. A long journey could put you in danger of deep vein thrombosis. This would be all very acceptable if the blessed thing wasn’t so awful to drive. The 1.1 Sporting I drove recently promised far more than it ever delivered. It bounded into play like a 40-a-day smoker due to tennis with Anna Kournikova but a lot of enthusiasm soon evaporated into the reality of wheezing under achievement. The brakes are there but require an absurd amount of effort for the size of the car. The ride is not too bad absorbing some bumps quite well and the steering is light enough to let you throw the car about in country roads. It has a top speed of over 90mph but I really would not want to be in it if it ever got that fast. The smaller engine must be a struggle though. Full consumption was stubbornly in the low 40s mpg, not good enough at all. What was really missing from this car was fun. It was ...

Ikea 30/06/2002

Obsession Swedish Style

Ikea Now Britain has Sven to follow Abba, SAAB and Volvo it is time to consider that other yellow and blue flag planted on the retail parks of Britain which is IKEA. Over many years I have visited the shop in Warrington and bought a few things. Overall though I have never been very impressed. The furniture at first sight looks well designed and to be of good quality. Unfortunately to my cost I found it wasn’t. In the final analysis it is no better than MFI. No, I will qualify that it is not as good as MFI. The prices for furniture are higher like-for-like compared with MFI but are cheap and not robust. In addition to furniture they also sell household accessories such as lamps, table cloths, bulbs, rugs, plants, candles and kitchen equipment. Some of these are well designed, different and cheap. The Warrington shop is on 2 floors and I do not like the layout. Everyone seems to go round in a loop, up the stairs along through the furniture and out through the bottom floor. You seem to become part of a chain like going to see the Crown Jewels in London. The store always seems to be busy and the parking is just about adequate enough. We have though had to queue before now to get in by the access road.. We do not get chance to go at off-peak times and the crowds can be huge. They seem to be doing something right and I suppose a big part of that is daring to be different from all the other home furnishing shops. Their popularity is self evident as they cannot all be there ...

Vauxhall Vectra 1.8i Hatchback 29/06/2002

Top Dog or Just Plain Dog

Vauxhall Vectra 1.8i Hatchback I have recently had cause to drive a Vauxhall Vectra. From that opening sentence you will guess that I was not entirely enamoured with the experience. I know Vectras and their predecessor the Cavalier too well and I have never liked them. I still don’t. In fact I hate them with a vengeance. I was only driving one because m own car had been damaged in an accident. The hire car company gave me a Vectra. Grrr. This particular Vectra was a 18I LS finished, almost inevitably these days, in Silver. It was a ‘51’ registration from 2001. It was as bad as I expected. First off : how it looks. Its dated. The new Vectra is due soon and appears to copy the Mondeo an awful lot. They are not exactly innovative at Vauxhall/Opel/GM. The one I drove was dull, its neatly proportioned but about as inspiring as my old history teacher. By the way; who did win the Boer War? Inside it just as bad, dull ,dull, dull dull, etc. About the only redeeming feature was that it had a CD player. That is until you played anything on it and realise it had the sound quality of something tuned by Posh Spice. It was made by Delco who are owned by GM. I think if GM want to catch up they need to get some decent ICE in there. My biggest bug bear with Vectras is that they are damned uncomfortable. The steering wheel adjusts and the seats move every way they can but you just cannot seem to get comfortable. I tried to work out why this was and the only thing I can suggest is that the pedals ...

Philips VR600 12/06/2002

Its Not Philips Its Mine

Philips VR600 In the great story that is the development of video recorders Philips were one of the pioneers. Whilst Sony developed the Betamax system JVC and Panasonic and others developed VHS and Philips had a system called V2000. One of ironies is that both Betamax and V2000 were technically superior formats for video it was VHS which became the platform, a success built almost entirely on the back selling and market development the manufacturers did on getting films onto VHS. It must though be galling for the likes of Philips and Sony that they had failed to recoup all their development costs. Both companies do now produce VHS recorders and a good fist they make of it too. The video is well made and solid and finished in a neat silver colour to match our TV and DVD player. The display is quite clear but some of the LED writing looks a bit thin, telling the time on it for example is not easy. Setting up the video to record is easy due to it the essential videoplus+. The remote control handset is neat and all the functions really easy to use. Picture quality is first rate and still pictures really good. It is showing all the old recorded tapes we made on the previous video without any problem and all our pre-recorded tapes look great on it. Rewinding and fast forward is not as fast as I would like however. When winding without the picture it seems to start very slowly and go through the gears before reaching any sort of useful speed. Once up to speed it whizzes too fast making it ...

Sony DVPNS300 10/06/2002

Sony-er So Near So Far

Sony DVPNS300 Not got a DVD yet? The chances are you will already have one. The question might be when did you buy it? If your DVD is over a year old it is probably already out of date, buy one now and the probability is it will be out of date by the end of the year. The certainty is if you bought your DVD just 6 months ago it will now be cheaper and in 6 months it will be cheaper still. So what can you do? Well, simply at some stage you will have to take the plunge. If you are going to I can recommend the one I have bought. Already you can get it cheaper but you have to ignore that today. I bought a DVP- NS300 made by those awfully nice Sony people (for those who remember the John Cleese adverts of about 10 years ago). I paid £175 for it from Currys but this is just a guide. Sony quality is legendary and a brief look at the high number of Sony DVD reviews on this august community is testament to that. The DVD has a neat stylish silver finish complementing the video and TV we have. Setting up could not be easier just plug it into the mains system (plug provided, of course) and connect the SCART socket (not provided) through the video into the TV. The DVD plays DVD films and discs obviously but also plays CDs. As we have a stereo TV this is very useful. The remote control handset is black and thin and provides all the functions and features which are de rigeur for the credible DVD player. Fast forward, rewind, shuffle as well as access to the DVD menu for the disc you are playing ...

Ford Galaxy 2.3 08/06/2002

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Ford Galaxy 2.3 Hitch hiking is getting to be a dying art. As a driver of a company car I know it is actually against the rules of my company to give them a lift. A shame really. In these days of environmental problems and absence of low cost public transport isn’t it a little sad that transport by thumb power is so frowned upon. Of course safety is a big issue nowadays and picking up strangers can have inherent risk for the hiker and the driver. As TAFKAP might say ‘A Sign Of The Times’. My company car is now a Ford Galaxy and just in order to have my review match the title and avoid the shopping list approach to car reviews I will give it from a potential hitch hikers point of view. Firstly of course the hitch hiker will notice that the Galaxy is a roomy car. There would be a seat for you even if the car already 6 people in it. If there were two of you you’d both get in if there were 5 already in it. If there were 3 of you…well, you get the picture. Lucky enough to be in the front seat and a huge expanse of dashboard stretches out in front of you. There are two handy boxes on top and a disappointingly shallow glove compartment but as this may be your only Galaxy journey you might not be too bothered. There are 2 handy cup holders if you have brought a can of Coke or two and down each of the wide opening doors are more useful cubby holes. The Galaxy is definitely a comfortable car to ride in, good seats and arm rests for the front seat occupants. The ...

BBC2: Not the Nine O´Clock News 29/11/2001

Welcome Repeats

BBC2: Not the Nine O´Clock News It was a daring innovative idea when the first series of Not The Nine O’Clock News was shown as it was scheduled at nine o’clock right up against the main news bulletin. The programme has recently been repeated on BBC and is a regular on the satellite channels. Having watched it again I was surprised at how many of the punchlines and gags I remembered and perhaps that is testament to the quality of writing and its continued relevance today. The main core of the presenters have all gone on to be in major series of their own. Though Pamela Stephenson is no longer in show business she is married to Billy Connelly and is a successful psychologist working in America. Stephenson was an extraordinarily attractive and versatile comedy actress and in NTNOCN used this versatility to great effect. As a spoof newsreader she mimicked Angela Rippons tortured delivery perfectly probably to the extent that Rippon later toned her pronunciation down. Stephenson also did a very acceptable mumbling Moira Stewart and a passable impression of Jan Leeming. Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones also featured before moving on to become a very popular comedy duo. Rowan Atkinson has probably become one of Britains favourite comedy actors since the programme ended in 1982. Atkinsons range of characters is extraordinary too. He can convey pomposity, distaste, excitement or boredom by use of his uniquely expressive face. This was used to great effect in NTNOCN. Atkinson tended to be used as an ...

BBC1 - Open All Hours 29/11/2001

Barker and Jason Combine But Dont Harvest Laughter

BBC1 - Open All Hours With 2 of Britains greatest ever comedy actors Open All hours should have been a masterpiece. Sadly although occasionally funny it never really climbed above the level of an extended sketch. Although written by the very capable Roy Clarke for once the gentle home spun humour did not fully fire together. Clarke would have more success with Rosie, Keeping Up Appearances and Last Of The Summer Wine. As you would probably imagine from this list Clarke is not a writer of cutting edge sharp comedy. Rather he prefers to craft his characters and the situation. Open AllHours first appeared on BBC2 in 1976 but it was not to reappear until 5 years later on BBC1 after Ronnie Barker had completed Porridge and its follow-up Going Straight. In the programme Ronnie Barker played Arkwright an extraordinarily mean tight fisted Northern grocer. He ran a corner shop which sold practically everything a modern hypermarket would sell but from within the space of a terraced house. Arkwright though regaled against the modern advances in retailing and struggled to cope even with his overly aggressive till. David Jason had worked with Ronnie Barker before in the series Hark at Barker and more famously as an aged old lag Blanco in Porridge. David Jason played Granville who was Arkwrights nephew and had to be errand boy, shop assistant and skivvy all in one. Granville was a daydreamer who imagined he would go on to better things but was ultimately brought to earth by Arkwright. Granville was ...

RBS Advanta 24/11/2001

Let Me Recommend An Alternative

RBS Advanta I am an inveterate credit card churner. It seems the only way to get a decent credit card rate is to change it at a regular interval. First of all it goes without saying it is simply not good money management if you have an outstanding amount on your credit card bill and have to pay interest. However there are occasions when even the most well managed household budget needs to spend money it does not immediately have to hand. If you do and you are caught make sure you have one available with low interest. I had an RBS Advanta card because I had an RBS current account. I have now got rid of my RBS account for reasons that can be seen in my review of that Banks performance. I decided at the time to get rid of all RBS products and so the credit card has now gone. Next in line are the insurances we have with Direct Line. When I fall out with someone I do it big time. Of course the replacements will have to be cost effective but in what is still a competitive market that should not be a problem. The RBS Advanta card is not attractive if you are beyond the introductory period with interest at 13.9%. Of course credit card suppliers tailor their interest rates to suit your personal circumstances so perversely the less credit worthy you are the more interest you will pay. I do not like the way they calculate interest either which is done on the statemented balance if not paid in full the previous month. There is a website like all the others ( but it ...

Garfunkels, Cambridge 23/11/2001

Artless Garfunkels

Garfunkels, Cambridge I spent over 2 hours in Garfunkels in Cambridge on Sunday. I have to say the service was just about as bad as you can possibly get it. It started off well enough, we were soon found a table and we settled down with the Sunday papers. Then we waited, and waited. Eventually a poor waiter for whom we later felt sorry for took our order. It was a simple enough order, we did not want starters and my wife and I had Omelettes whilst the boys had Ribs and Lasgane slightly complicated by a side order of garlic bread. A round of drinks was ordered. Then we waited, and waited. After 10 minutes the drinks duly arrived. And then we waited, and waited. After 40 minutes the poor waiter returned to inform us that the chef (meaning microwave operative and salad tosser) (delete salad and replace with complete) had lost our order and so could we order again. We did and expecting that some priority would be given to our order we settled down to wait. Our expectation that we would now get our food in reasonable time was misplaced, a further 20 minutes elapsed before the food arrived. Now any restaurant can have an off day. However if they do its what happens when they do that will decide whether you will return. How do they try to make up for what has been a poor show in terms of service. What happened at Garfunkels? A round of free drinks while we waited interminably? Nope. A reduction off the bill perhaps? Nope. Profuse apologies? Well yes but that’s just manners that’s not ...

BBC1 - Dog Eat Dog 23/11/2001

How Long Should We Put Up With This

BBC1 - Dog Eat Dog I am getting very concerned about the current plethora of entertainment shows on TV. It seems we as a nation have eschewed the qualities of light entertainment, we have turned away from well crafted and constructed comedy and we have ceased to value wit and intelligence. All this has now gone because what we really want to see is ritual humiliation, nothing seems to entertain more than someone putting someone else down. Whether its They Think Its All Over seeking to belittle our sports stars, Never Mind The Buzzcocks perpetually biting the hand that feeds it, The Weakest Link putting down any poor sap who cannot answer a question in 2 seconds flat or the dogs breakfast of Dog Eat Dog. The occasional show where pomposity is pricked is fine but we now have a constant diet of bitching, people being superior for no apparent reason and members of the public seemingly willing to do anything for 15 minutes of fame and £10,000. The premise for Dog Eat Dog is that in order to gain the prize thy have to metaphorically walk upon the bodies of those they are competing with. To triumph you have to prove yourself capable of disregarding any feelings you may have for anyone else after look after No 1. This is indeed a contest where victory is unsatisfyingly pyrrhic. You have £10,000 and a certificate to everlastingly prove you are half egocentric half bastard. The contestants are eliminated through a series of tests which are done by the ones assessed as most likely to fail. This ...

American Beauty (DVD) 23/11/2001

Outstanding Natural Beauty

American Beauty (DVD) Some of my most recent reviews have been very negative. As I have also bemoaned the lack of quality in many TV programmes and complained that too many merely set out to undermine people and their achievements I felt I was doing that which I most criticise. I will seek to redress this balance by describing some thing that is truly excellent. A film whose mere presence makes the world a better place. American Beauty is such a film. For a directors first movie to be such an absorbing spellbinding production is amazing. The film has the feel of a number of cinematic gods who have combined, used all the known wisdom gathered over a century of film making, and produced a near perfect film. Sam Mendes deserves every honour he has gained from this film. The story is told is a comparatively simplistic way, there is no deviation from the view that this is a well written story. The story itself is not simple and has a number of complexities in story and character which draw you in to the world that has been created. The view is of normal suburban American life, the actions and consequences credible and believable, the emotions familiar to anyone who truly lives in our world rather than merely exists in it. This is a film capable of making you look around the cinema, the street, your home afterwards and see things a new way. It is that powerful a film. On the surface the film revolves around Lester Burnham who is married to Carolyn And they have a teenage daughter Jane. They ...

Carry on Up the Charts (The Best of the Beautiful South) - Beautiful South (The) 18/11/2001

Please Love Us

Carry on Up the Charts (The Best of the Beautiful South) - Beautiful South (The) The Beautiful South don’t you just love em. Well actually it seems from the odd occasions when we have had friends round and sought views on what to put on as background music a mention of The Beautiful South brings polarised reactions. There are as many ‘Oh God Noes’ as there are ‘Yes that would be great’. It does also seem to be split on gender too. Women love them, men hate them. To give them their due they have ploughed their own furrow. This album is a showcase of their hits all of which bar one have been written by band members Paul Heaton and Dave Rotheray. The songs though are very individual and the ballads make a nice change from the joyless dirges vomitted out by the plethora of characterless boy bands. The more up tempo numbers have a deft light touch. We are not in guitar rock territory here, we are in relaxing mode. The songs have a bittersweet, ironic value to them and seem based on real experience of real life and love how it really can be. The band emerged from the ashes of the Housemartins (best known for Happy Hour) and featured Heaton and Dave Hemingway from the first band joined by Rotheray on guitar with drummer Dave Stead and bass player Sean Welsh. This album covers the period up until 1994 when the lovely Briana Corrigan was the female vocalsit before going on to do other things and Jacqui Abbot took over. You may be familiar with many of the tracks aleady including the opener "A Song For Whoever" which was a big ...
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