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since 15/01/2003


Canon PowerShot Pro70 09/05/2005

Packed with features

Canon PowerShot Pro70 After I dropped our last Digi camera I had to go on the search for a replacement. I saw the Canon Powershot Pro 70 on eBay and started tracking it. It looks a bit of a lump and is not the prettiest camera on the market but it is easy to operate with the controls well placed and accessible. I won it, and it duly arrived at the house. It does tend to eat batteries so I bought a new rechargable for it on the web for about £27 which has improved matters. The camera is packed with features - it can do thumbnail shots and larger format, both of these in either higher or lower resolution. The screen is great and can be set at just about any angle - you use it when using macro so can see exactly what you are getting. The camera can also be set to shoot RAW. We put a 1Gb card in it - it will take two cards at a time and you can switch between either - so you could set it up to store 2Gb of pics! Would probably have to plug it into the mains, however! The camera sits cupped in your left hand and allows you to zoom in and out with the roller control on the front outside of the lens mount with your left hand, whilst you have a good grip with your right hand for a solid shutter position. No more trying to fiddle about with your right thumb and shoot with your right index finger. It is probably a bit dated now - it doesn't shoot video or do sound, however you can put audio tabs onto individual shots and it will shoot a series of shots - powerdrive style, which is an interesting ...

Renault Kangoo 1.4 15/04/2004

Renault Kangoo

Renault Kangoo 1.4 The Frontera died and we needed something else. Looking around all the cars looked the same - was it a Merc? Was it a BMW? Was it a Skoda? Was it a Vauxhall? I don't know they all seemed to have been designed by the same computer programme - they all had the same shape, number of seats and those 'orrible same coloured bumpers - they are supposed to be for running into things with, for heavens sake, they shouldn't be all shiny and need mending every five minutes. We did a search on "" and there she was - Gwendoline, and only 2miles away from where we live. A 1.4 RXE - what more could we ask? Five full size seats, You could wear a top hat whilst driving and still have room to spare - my head used to touch the roof in our cavalier! A handy voluminous luggage hopper above the windscreen is useful for seatcovers - as paddlers we get all drippy and wet and muddy - roof bars were quite affordable £35.00 and a towbar £85.00, yet to be fitted. We are ready for roofboxes, J bars for kayaks, and space for the canoe with the dinghy behind. Huge "van inspired" mirrors, sliding rear doors, huge front doors for easy access and egress - useful with my bad back, and a rear door hinged at the top provides full standing headroom underneath for cooking/changing in comfort during our summer weather. Designed as a load carrier the suspension is "firm" the road holding isn't quite in the Lotus class - you have to drive sensibly, but the brakes are designed to stop a loaded ...

Renault Espace 2.1 dt 15/02/2004

a car for all seasons

Renault Espace 2.1 dt We bought one of these to replace a vauxhall corsa - replace it, we could have got the corsa in the back! Tow bar, two sunroofs to leave open when it rains - got three inches of water inside one night!! What a car loads of space for kids, junk all sorts of stuff - we've moved rotavators, shower cubicles, house, cookers, fridges, gas ranges, woodburning stoves - it is the size of a small transit with the seats out, I have towed trailers with six toppers and a power boat without so much as a grumble. We regularly just hopped-in filled-up with diesel and headed for central France the car would cruise down the autoroute at the speed limit all day from Norfolk to Limoges on less than a tank of fuel. All was well until an old dear from round the corner wrote it off for us - the strength of the insurance companies was not around on this occasion - the pay-out was not enough for us to replace the car with an equivalent one, after about six weeks of our own personal transport nightmare we replaced the Espace with a Frontera - lots of fun in the recent snow - but not in the same class. See my forthcoming comments on insurance companies to avoid. The espace - if you can afford one, get one and go for the most recent one you can manage - allways use the correct coolant additive to stop the exotic metals in the heating system getting leaky, keep your hoses in good order and you will avoid the few problems we had - but then, when the car went to the scrap yard in the sky it did ...

Vespa 90 15/02/2004

Vespas abroad

Vespa 90 I bought one of the original machines in 1967 or so, cost me £60, second hand - that took a while to save at £1.50 a day on the street market! With the innocence of youth I set off for switzerland - as you do - with £30 in my pocket. From Lancaster across the country picked up the A1 - no motorways then and down to Dover. Across france through the Jura to Basle and back. Tent, stuff back rack full, bag between my feet and a rucksac - no wonder I have a bad back. The machine survived all this, plus a two-up trip to Scotland the week after I got back, survived being hit by a car on a roandabout, finally succumbing, having done all this and more, on just a mix of petrol and engine oil. If the new ones are half as good as my old one they will give a lot of people enormous pleasure and convenience. Living in the country as a youngster you needed wheels to - this is even more the case these days - I still feel a glow of affection for my old Vespa - go on, treat yourself to an adventure!

Microsoft Trackball Optical - mouse, trackball 03/11/2003

One mouse to have around the house

Microsoft Trackball Optical - mouse, trackball We bought a laptop with a track pad, and soon decided that we needed a full size key board and a seperate mouse - living on a boat at the time meant that we were a bit short of space. The track ball solution was ideal for us then and remains so in our second house. The great thing is that the mouse stays put - you don't have to go wandering around your work station with it, getting stuck on all those crumbs. The mouse is erganomically designed and very easy to use - provided you are right handed. I found that, especially after eating toast with lots of butter the track pad on the laptop refused to operate, not so the track ball. You have four programmable "buttons" and a wheel for scrolling. The wheel is centrally placed, between the two larger buttons, with two smaller buttons on the outside edges. You navigate the curser around the screen with the trackball which is operated by your right thumb, the whole unit is shaped a bit like a trilobite - which makes it especially endearing to me - your hand "moulds" to the shape and rests comfortably with all the buttons to hand. We chose the one with a wire - after all, what's the point in being able to operate the mouse from across the room when you can't reach the computer? With a wireless keyboard we could have done both, but then not been able to see the screen, Hmm - it was much cheaper than the wireless one. Good value at less than £20, and very reliable, without the usual clogging issues associated with the ...

Vauxhall Frontera Estate 2.2 DTi 28/10/2003

affordable 4x4

Vauxhall Frontera Estate 2.2 DTi We recently bought a s/hand frontera to replace the espace which a neigbour kindly wrote-off for us whilst we were eating our tea. After the usual insurance nightmare - despite being fully comp etc - we were left without a work vehicle for the best part of a month. When the insurance company finally paid-up, after a string of very assertive phonecalls - suprise suprise we couldn't replace the vehicle we had lost. So, cheque in hand we went looking for something simillar. We eventuqally found the Frontera - 7 seats, like the espace, diesel, like the espace, towing tackle, like the espace, and we could afford it. I was a bit sceptical, at first, but had a test drive and was pleasantly suprised. The car drove well - a bit agricultural in performance - but hey, there are speed limits. We took the plunge and have had nearly 12 moths trouble free motoring so far, the parts are reasonably cheap - very much so when compared to the espace - a set of roof bars for £28, full set of locking wheel nuts - to include the spare, less than £20. The car tows well enough, runs along at 70+ on motorways and autoroutes and keeps up a decent average speed so long as you keep the revs-up. Fuel consumption and overall comfort don't quite match the espace, and although it is a big vehicle - a lot of that space is fresh air under the floor - the internal space is a bit limited - especially compared to the espace. Rear seats fold forward well and the extra "dicky" seat in the back is ok for ...

Calendar Girls (DVD) 28/10/2003

Well placed chelsea buns!

Calendar Girls (DVD) I really enjoyed seeing the film, I was with my partner and a couple of our girl friends, we got free Yorkshire tea-bags and shuffled off to see the film. I had heard lots of trailers and ops on radio 4 so had a feel for the back-ground and the story. I was not disappointed - what a line-up of serious actors and what an oportunity for a British film to showcase this level of mature talent - and what a great chance for them to work together in the UK. The story was a bit of a tear jerker, but we knew that, the setting was wonderful, the filming was wonderful, and as a celebration of mature feminity and personal growth it was a very good yarn. I thought that the casting was excellent and the characters mostly very convincing, some of the bits around the young people I felt were less well developed, and some of the domestic stuff appeared to me to be rather two dimensional - or perhaps it just was? I thought the introduction of increasingly more gigantic clothes for the dying hubby - to make him appear to be shrinking was a particulrly entertaining touch - after all, he was a pretty big bloke to start off with. The awkwardness of the two main characters (at the WI conference)I felt was a bit overdone - if I was to be really picky. The WI people were tremendous - where else could you possibly have got them from? It was , on the whole, a cheerful and tearfully funny film. Verdict - don't miss it!

Climbing - General 25/10/2003

Join the dance

Climbing - General Like most youngsters I started off climbing trees and the cliffs around where I lived - just on the south edge of the lakes. After a bit of daring do and a few close shaves I washed-up at the school climbing club -remember those pre-national curriculum days when staff used to do things like that? Maybe not I must be showing my age! Well off we went on the local quarries, cliffs and crags - second hand steel krabs, laid viking rope - swapped for an old kayak, that's another story - eventually an old AGV fibreglass helmet and a pair of masters. The protection consisted of engineering nuts with the thread drilled out and a bit of rope tied through - climbing on quarries on limestone tended to make you careful - you never quite knew if a bit would come off in your hand - and we used to tie straight onto the rope, my how things have changed. If you fancy giving it a go, but without all the machismo you can probably get yourself on a course through your local climbing wall - check with your library for the nearest one or get in touch with, or by a climbing mag in the local newsy and check the ads. Maybe you have a local club -bound to be in a local sports directory or ads at the local wall. The advantage of a course is that they will lend you kit to get started - to see if you like it - and can advise on what should suit you best should you decide to continue. The great thing about climbing shops is that you usually get advice from an active climber - one of ...

Olympus OM2 N 25/10/2003

OM2 Spotmatic

Olympus OM2 N I could not believe my eyes - there it was a £50 ticket on it, I looked at loads of others then casually asked to see the OM2, a bit of LCD gone at the top end of the exposure scale on the viewfinder - so what! I ran off with it and have been rewarded with some of my best ever photo's - a friend's wedding, leafy woodland shots - awesome. Judging by the rest of my photo's probably just luck, the wedding shots were taken with natural light inside a church (?) with some realy good skin tones, the woodland shots captured the spring leaf - soft pale yellow/green. It is my camera of choice when I am out and about, I have an OM1, but I usually go for the 2, it's the spot metering that makes the difference - I like to just shoot off film, and don't have access to lights and flash etc. I like to us the natural light the spot metering makes the best use of this. If you see one - don't hold back. You could normally expect to pay £120 - 150 for one in good condition. They are pretty foolproof and not difficult to use, you can still get bits for them if the worse comes to the worse.

Siemens ME45 25/10/2003

Its a phone

Siemens ME45 Recently got this one, and naturally didn't read the instructions - it comes with it's own cd. As phones go it's a bit on the small side for me - not one i would have gone for other than all the waterproof stuff - it was the only one I could get for work. When I text people - not very often - I need to press the button with the 1 and the binoculars on it, this not only gives me a space, but appearantly turns off the ringing tone. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing - it being my work phone. It has some rubber plugs which go into holes - thus rendering it waterproof, I am not convinced, however, with a two year warranty I am going to give it some serious testing - I hope it likes salt water. I have been dragged into the mobile age via Nokia's, I like their logic and have no problems finding the stuff I want on them - this one, I need to give it time, to be fair, but I am not very comfortable with it. I mean - just because you CAN make it small do you HAVE to make it small I think mine was designed for a four year old. I can just bearly do that thing where I can trap it between my chin and shoulder to get that "handsfree" sensation, I end up pressing usually two buttons at a time, and you have to bang it on a table to turn off the predictive texting mode. Would I have bought it if someone else wasn't paying for it - I think not. ...

Canoeing/Kayaking - General 25/10/2003

Captain and crew - paddle your own canoe

Canoeing/Kayaking - General Sea Kayaking is for me the ultimate buzz, it can be a gentle poddle along navigating by chip shops and caravan sites - as in Norfolk, or the gateway into a magical world of seals, dolphins, sea birds, caves, cliffs, swell and surf. It can be exciting, challenging and at times down right scary. Once you master the basics - and always in company with a few chums, you can push your boundries just as far as you want, once you understand waves, weather and tides you can select the conditions you want - no having to sit around waiting for rain to run some river with access problems - you can choose to be at the right place at the right time and you will get the conditions you want, twice a day, every day - well, almost. The absolutely best places for sea paddling in the UK which I know of are around the Outer Hebrides, Orkney, Shetland and North Wales. They all take a bit of getting to and once there you need to be pretty self sufficient. Join the British Canoe Union - - lots of info there,plus a sea paddling group. To learn the skills you will need to get to a club or sign-up on a course at a local centre - sea paddling is a little less popular than most branches of paddling - get your general skills sorted and then transfer these to the sea. Night classes for day skipper - local adult ed centre will sort out your navigation - be sure to make them aware that you are a paddler, NOT a sailor, so they know that it will all be done beforehand and then done off your ...

Citroen 2CV 24/10/2003

My ugly duckling

Citroen 2CV After many years of looking I am now the proud owner of a 2CV6 - 602cc of throbbing power under the bonnet, inboard disc brakes - the same as formula 1 cars..Hm, thats where the simillarity ends. In a recent trial mine returned 203 miles on 20.06ltrs of unleaded fuel - now trying a comparison on 4*lrp - that was for a mixed urban/rural area. I was interested to note in the handbook that in 1987, when the car was new, the optional extras included a rear parcel shelf and an ashtray! If you like minimalism this is the car for you, acceleration is nothing if not "steady" breaking has to begin early. If you are using all those eager cc's, don't doze off, you neeed to read the road well ahead or you might get a bit of a fright! Tyres etc are cheap, parts - original and others are available through ads and websites. The annual road tax is (currently)less than £100, and my insurance aged 50+ with a clean licence is £150.00 a year, fully comp. including full UK and european recovery and use for work. The canvas sun roof is simplicity itself to roll back and replace - easier than on the astra cabriolet I used to have - giving the option of fresh air or carrying those awkward loads which wouldn't fit into a much larger car. OK, some people might find the walking stick gears a bit if a challenge, at first, but it soon becomes the norm, and it is handy for hanging things on. I am not tall, but have a long back - my head rubs on the rooflining of a cavalier - not so with the ugly ...

Epson PhotoPC 3000z 06/05/2003

Frames galore without film

Epson PhotoPC 3000z We bought one of these s/hand in Jessops in Norwich - rush of blood to the head! It came with all its bits - rechargable batteries, cables for the laptop etc etc. I was a little unsure of it at first - really didn't like it compared to my Olympus OM1 and OM2 - however, it is now so long since I've used them, I can't quite remember where I left them. The camera does video clips with sound and a good range of photo styles and resolutions - being able to edit on the camera is great as is the 120 or so images you can get at the lowest resolution setting. I like the size of the camera in the hand - it is simillar to a modern auto SLR in feel and the buttons are where you expect to find them. Use the camera with the viewfinder rather than the screen and you can shoot away all day without any battery worries. What's the downside? Well, there is that electronic thing where you press the button and it takes the phote when it feels like it - it lacks the control which you get with a mechanical shutter - at least if you press it at the wrong time it's your fault, with this one you press and then there is a delay before the shutter operates - not too good if you are trying to catch movement, mind you - you can change the "sound" it makes when the shutter operates - so maybe you can alter other shutter settings - obviously someone will need to read the instructions! It has probably been improved on now - but it has an array of features - you can set it to black and white or ...

Nokia 9210 17/04/2003

Office in your pocket

Nokia 9210 I bought one of these as my work phone just over a year ago - expensive it certainly was! I was unable to get a 9110 so paid a cool 399 pounds for the colour screen 9210. Being a bit of an old fart, I have trouble with the really small phones - short of having a child's fingers grafted onto each hand I had to find something where I only pressed one button at a time. The QWERTY keypad is the business, I still haven't found out how to use all the functions - the "on board" manual is great, unless you need to refer to it during use?!? I have to be an emergency contact for young people's trips - the fax mode is brilliant - I even got a 35 page document faxed to me on it once, it can recieve drawings etc sent by fax. I usually have the voicemail set-up to ask people to fax me rather than leave voice mail - much easier and quicker to sort. Huge contacts capacity, good standby time and very easy to use to send faxes and SMS. Other top features - the kids think it is a brick - hence not really nickable, It doesn't have any of those irritating games - so I don't get pestered so they can play on it - told you I was an old fart! Draw back is that it's hard to read outdoors in strong sunlight - not much of a problem in the UK. I think that one of the best features is that you can use it as a hands free, with the organiser open - really useful, the flip-up aerial helps in poor reception areas - fits in your pocket - if you've got big ones - but doesn't do much for the line of your ...

Topper junior single handed Sailing Dinghy 15/04/2003

Top, top, top of the world in your topper

Topper junior single handed Sailing Dinghy rotomoulded, weldable virtually maintenance free for a family - the ideal plaything for youngsters in their early to late teens, and smaller adults. This boat forms the backbone of many sailing schools' young person fleet, it is forgiving and hard to destroy - especially when working from a beach. Why Topper? - Because it is car toppable, needing only a bit of muscle to get it on and off the roofrack you can then manage with a minimal launching trolley. There is nothing which suffers from salt water - the main consumable being the sail - unbattened, no windows etc, this is pretty durable and in family sailing will last the life of the hull - just so long as you don't want to finish at the front of the fleet all the time. "Come on" I hear you say - "there must be some drawbacks!" OK I will come clean, we have a fleet of 42 Toppers, 12 on two trailers, and the rest at our main sailing base. For teaching use we take out the self-bailers - they tend to break and then work in reverse - rather like the way steam trains used to take on water! If they are run smack! into something else - usually something very solid - they do tend to split along the seam - especially on the nose - check this out if you are buying secondhand. If you have access to a hot air welder - rather like a psychopathic hair dryer - then you can quite easily fix it, or get it fixed. Oh, yes - tie the rudder assembly onto the boat - it doesn't float! That about sums it up - we regualrly push novices out on ...
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