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since 11/06/2008


Pedalite Pedals 28/11/2009

Twinkle Twinkle For yer Bike

Pedalite Pedals It seems that winter is really established now. It’s cold dark and gloomy and often seems just really dismal all day. With such poor light characteristics this is a particularly dangerous time of year for those of us who venture out on bicycles. The law requires that bikes should have a front white light and a red rear light together with a rear red reflector whenever light conditions are poor. Yet, how many cycles have you seen on a dark night, no lights at all and the rider dressed completely in black. It’s little wonder that accidents are all too frequent, and in the majority of all such collisions it’s the cyclist who comes off worst. Pedalite is not a new concept, indeed I can remember seeing flyers advertising them over 10 years ago whilst shopping in a Hypermarket in France, but it has taken a little while to complete the journey across the Channel. These simple pedal replacements offer twinkling red, white and amber lights, with no batteries and really help improve the visibility of cyclists for other road users. They are however not a replacement for the legally required front and back lights, but should be seen as a sensible enhancement. Product Installation Available today from the likes of Amazon and other high street outlets you can expect to pay around £30 for a set of these replacement pedals. Replacement pedals are exactly what they are, you simply remove your old pedals (once you have worked out which way the thread runs, which is actually quite simple ...

Percol Fairtrade Instant Colombian Coffee 22/10/2009

Conscience Coffee

Percol Fairtrade Instant Colombian Coffee I really love the taste and smell of fresh ground coffee, especially from Colombia or Costa Rica. There is a richness and distinctive aroma as you open the pack which just sets the taste buds tingling………..Alas, all too often it is simply not practical or best use of time to indulge in real brewed coffee so instant must suffice. Unfortunately in this sector of the beverage market price is often indicative of quality, and premium brand instant coffees almost always taste better than the standard or economy offerings. Having experienced enjoyable cups of Percol Fresh Ground Colombian Coffee I had high expectations from the instant variety: even more so since it was on offer at just over £2 for a 100g jar making it very competitive against other premium brands. The packaging with it’s familiar green green hue and prominent Fairtrade logo made me feel even more socially and environmentally responsible. Percol and Fairtrade Percol was launched in 1988 with a registered office in London. My guess is that Percol is a combination of Peru and Colombia reflecting the focus of activity in Mexico and Central America. In 2008 there were only 10 UK employees; so this really is a small but ethical business. In fact the business model relies on support for Coffee Kids as a registered charity with elements of profit, staff time and marketing effort going into developing awareness and support for Coffee Kids. Percol is amongst the pioneers of “Fairtade” for Coffee and Tea Growers, which ...

Johnson Duck Fresh Discs 23/09/2009

'Quacking' Clean Idea

Johnson Duck Fresh Discs I really hate ‘iffy’ toilets. This includes both the unclean variety……. and those which are so heavily charged with either chemical disinfectants or overpowering masking scents. Historically toilet blocks or cleaners were either added to the cistern : slowly generating sludge and gunk or lurked under the rim in a cage arrangement collecting germs and other unpleasant looking growths. As the flu pandemic threatens to return in anger this Autumn, so thoughts naturally turn to cleaning, protecting and dare I say disinfecting the smallest room in the house. Consider then ‘Fresh Discs’ a cageless rim block scented gel dispensed into the toilet bowl and effective for up to one week. Should be no more ‘iffy’ growths here then….. Product and Packaging Produced by S C Johnson, the US Company which brings you for example Raid, Pledge, Brillo, ,Mr Muscle and now this latest variant in the DuckTM range and is actually made in Mexico. Packaged in a non-descript predominantly blue or green/yellow box two ‘flavours’ are available, Lime Zest or Marine Blue. This box contains a gel holder filled with a gloopy substance which is remarkably similar in colour whatever the flavour, and undoubtedly both are a shade of green to my eyes. Also a blue plastic handle is included with pre-determined holes to ensure that you dispense just the right amount of gel,; at least in theory……..Each box which should contain enough for 6 gel dispensing retails for about £3.00 full price. This sounds expensive ...

Toshiba NB100 26/08/2009

Twee little Tosh…..

Toshiba NB100 I am really fond of my old Toshiba laptop. It’s big and it’s clunky, only has a 15 inch screen, but it’s familiar: loaded with lots of useful stuff and frankly too valuable to tote about where it might get lost stolen or broken. Furthermore the notion of accessing e-mail or the internet on a mobile phone device is just too fiddly and beyond my ageing eyesight. Yet, when out and about I still want to be in touch, able to access information, data and send meaningful ( not text speak or hieroglyphics) out to friends and relatives. Enter then the concept of a Netbook computer. You will have seen many examples in the high street shops and white goods outlets, and it even seems that some mobile phone contracts offer them as an incentive. (I rest my case then that there is no competition between the versatility and usefulness of such powerful miniscule computers compared to the compromises built into scaling such functionality so far down so that it fits on a phone). I am happy to carry my phone separately and just boot up my Netbook PC when the need dictates. With a plethora of choice for me familiarity and trust in the Toshiba brand attracted me to the mini marvel. I gleefully selected My Toshiba NB100 from Amazon, electronically submitted payment of £249.98 and waited for the postman to arrive. This he did some two days later in April 2009 bringing a simply boxed package containing a Toshiba NB100-12A 8.9-inch Netbook, Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz, 1GB RAM, 120GB HDD, Windows XP Home ...

Eurolite Beam Deflectors 23/07/2009

Bend those Beamers

Eurolite Beam Deflectors Over the course of many years I have driven on the Continent numerous times in both my own vehicles and hired cars. Each time I have driven a hired car (once I have finished complaining that the gear stick is on the wrong side) I have been struck by how much better the night vision and headlamp performance seems than when I dive my own car abroad. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that I used to insist on creating my own beam deflectors from black sticky tape rather than purchasing adapters, and the blacked out bits were very effective at cutting out the light rather than just directing it away from the centre of the European roads. Moreover living on the .south coast and near to busy cross channel ferry services I am very critical of foreign drivers who come to our shores, do nothing to adapt their headlamps to be suitable for our roads and proceed to blind and dazzle me with what feels to be full on beam headlamps. I appreciate then that notwithstanding the legal implications that doing nothing to adapt my headlamps whilst overseas is simply not an option. On previous vehicles working out which bits of the headlamp needed to be blacked out was always very simple from the prism type patterns on the headlamp glass. No longer is this the case, when you next bother to look in any detail at your lights you can find all manner of different configurations and projection systems which make our modern day lights so much more efficient. Enter then a universal headlamp deflector ...

Sikkens Cetol Marine Teak Varnish 10/06/2009

Garden Bliss

Sikkens Cetol Marine Teak Varnish It’s the English summertime again. Whimsical notions of al-fresco eating and luscious strawberries, bathed in gentle sunshine makes outdoor furniture an essential must have for many households. Any trips to the local nursery or DIY chain will have displayed settings of golden coloured durable wooden furniture as the perfect solution enticingly placed since well before the Easter holidays. Many hardwoods are used for such purpose today, lots from sustainable sources but teak is always the crème de la crème in any such display. The fact that it is a hardwood (so not pine or other coniferous wood), with a high natural concentration of oils and resins means that it is not prone to rot, shrink or distort, withstanding the elements au-naturel……….or so they claim. The Reality When first purchased the teak feels smooth to the touch, not oily but with an unmistakable rich musky smell. The golden colour is streaked with interesting grain and the whole ensemble feels warm and inviting. The literature would have you believe that you need do nothing to this magic material it will naturally weather to a silver grey patina, and in some respects this is absolutely true. Without care or attention, your teak will lose its rich colour and turn grey, go dirty and then shabby looking. Eventually turning green and covered in mildew. The image of forlorn park benches in winter immediately springs to mind for me. This is certainly not the prospect portrayed in the shops, nor does it mention that ...

Getting around in Paris 30/03/2009

Cheap lowbrow tour in a Day!

Getting around in Paris Paris is a magical city, with inspiring imperial and modern buildings and a fabulous central river heart. However for those with a limited attention span; keen to avoid long walks or highbrow culture there still is a reasonable way to introduce the magic and so pave the way for a future return using the integrated transport options which abound in this city. Parking I would recommend that you don't even think about driving or parking in Paris. Whilst there are obvious car parks signposted, the traffic is a nightmare and the manners non-existent. It makes central London feel like a picnic. With the price of truly integrated public transport so cheap, the car really is an unnecessary complication; except for access to a link point to get into the city. This is where we really scored lucky. Since we were staying just a few miles SE of Paris we had easy access to the RER (Regional Express Railway) station at Marne La Valley (Chessy) which also serves Disneyland Paris. So, yes there is a massive well organised, safe and supervised car park all for just 8 Euro per day. A bargain if you care about your vehicle, as many of the other station car parks seem to attract drivers who fling their cars and doors about with complete disregard for others. It almost seems car ownership is scored by how many dings you have or can dispense to others! A Paris Day Ticket Less than 13 Euros will buy you a day ticket for access across all Paris zones, unlimited travel on the RER, metro bus ...

Sainsbury, J. 16/03/2009

A Proper Job……..

Sainsbury, J. My brother has Downs Syndrome, which in these politically correct times is quaintly described as a learning difficulty. The reality is probably much closer to the historic descriptors of ‘mentally handicapped’ or ‘mentally retarded’. However he is fortunate in that he does go out to work independently to a proper job at a local Sainsbury’s supermarket. Indeed he has been working in the retail sector for most of his working life, although it has only been at Sainsbury’s for the last few years due to TUPE transfer from Safeway via Morrison‘s. His employment experience also includes Tesco and Marks & Spencer. Job Role He is employed as a General Assistant, competent grade within the checkout department, working 24 hours per week spread over 4 days. This competent grade is important since it determines that his hourly rate is paid at a premium over a new team member or someone who has not completed all their training. His current rate is £6.08 per hour which is above the National Minimum Wage rate of £5.73 per hour meaning that Sainsbury’s are actually rewarding him above the minimum they would be obliged to honour. Although he works within the checkout team, there is no way he would be competent to be left unattended on a checkout. Whilst he could operate a scanner and count money, he would be slow with change, and any complications would completely fluster him, whereby the queue would be snaked back to the car park. Consequently his role is based around collecting baskets, ...

J D Wetherspoons (Restaurant) 19/02/2009

Breakfast = Pub ....... surely not!

J D Wetherspoons (Restaurant) We decided to try a slightly different idea for a half term treat, opting to try out the newest Wetherspoons in Southampton for breakfast. Yes, I do mean breakfast and since this review has this specific focus I have left more tantalising possibilities for you to explore should you wish?? Location The latest addition to the Wetherspoons chain in Southampton is the aptly named Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis, Canute Road, Ocean Village, Southampton. I say it is aptly named since Sir Lucius bless him laid the foundation stone for Southampton Docks, and the pub is now situated in the old Dock House offices where affairs and labour was originally managed. My dad when he was alive was an ex-stevedore and would never set foot in the place when it was first sold off during an earlier property boom. Formerly called Ferry House, this is a grade II listed building, with a poignant memorial remembering World War I dead built into an external wall. Happily this means that alterations to this high ceiling-ed and oak panelled building are carefully controlled. For the history buffs this building is alongside the offices of the White Star Line, usually associated with those sad pictures of clamouring faces anxiously awaiting news of the ill fated Titanic disaster. As it is on the edge of the marina complex, which has a cinema, Tesco Express, restaurants and some high profile business buildings the mix of people in the pub was eclectic to say the least. A nearby student village no doubt adds ...

Pukka-Pies Chicken & Mushroom Pie 10/02/2009

Comfort Food

Pukka-Pies Chicken & Mushroom Pie A new food ritual has developed in our household. Suddenly, whenever there is a home football match, a specific pie has to be heated and served in preparation for the 'entertainment'. ……..and no, it cannot be any sort of pie it has to be an individual Chicken and Mushroom Pie made by Pukka Pies of Leicestershire. Amused by the grand sounding title, I looked up the definition of 'pukka' which turned out to be: " Anglo-Indian in origin, meaning good, first rate of it's kind, genuine or real". Well now I know that at least the stock of boxes stacking up in the freezer are real, and not a figment of my imagination: but should I worry about the contents? The Company It seems that Pukka Pies is a privately owned family business founded in 1963, currently employing 250 people. Output is a staggering 40 million pies and pasties per year from what is claimed to be the most modern pie production facility in Europe. The best selling product is apparently the round chilled Steak and Kidney Pie followed by the Chicken and Mushroom variant I am reviewing here. Just in case you were thinking of ordering a pallet load the website at : would be happy to oblige I'm sure; but individual pies are not available: just curiously aprons, hats, shirts, footballs, flags or mugs can be ordered from the online shop!! A Round Chilled Chicken & Mushroom Pie Widely available from supermarkets each 226g pie is packed in a recyclable cardboard box with the pie ...

The English Provender Co Very Lazy Ginger 27/01/2009

Idle Ginger

The English Provender Co Very Lazy Ginger Lurking amongst the root vegetables on our supermarket shelves, there is often root ginger. Attractive to those of us who like to add a little spice and interest to our food, these roots are a dark biscuit brown on the outside with knobbles or antlers making for a very strange looking foodstuff. The interior of the root is typically pale or straw coloured with a slightly woody appearance. Without doubt whole fresh roots still provide the freshest taste and pungency. These curious roots are collected and shipped when they are still immature, and the outer skin is a light green colour, often with little green shoots still sprouting. These can sometimes be found like this in Oriental markets/shops, but I have never seen any green coloured roots in our mainstream supermarkets, they have always matured to the brown covering. Fresh ginger can be kept for several weeks in the salad drawer of your fridge, be peeled to remove the outer covering, then chopped, sliced, or minced according to taste for use in cooking. If this sounds just too much palaver or you have forgotten to stock up then help is at hand courtesy of the ENGLISH PROVENDER Co. and their Very Lazy Ginger product. Pickled Ginger Originally probably native to Southern China, ginger has been used in Western Europe as far back as the ninth Century. Today over 50% of the worlds production is harvested from India and this is probably the source of most of the products found on our supermarket shelves. By taking the ...

Frank's Ice Cream Diabetic Vanilla 15/01/2009

At last a diabetic ice cream which tastes good..

Frank's Ice Cream Diabetic Vanilla Diabetes is a condition which knowingly affects over 2.5 million people here in the UK, and probably at least half a million who don't yet know. The condition is caused when the amount of glucose circulating in the bloodstream becomes too high through either a lack of insulin production or what is produced not working effectively. Since glucose is produced within the body from starchy or carbohydrate rich foods it therefore follows that diabetic people have to be careful about their dietary intake of such foods. The product I am reviewing is declared to have been designed to a recipe more suitable for people with diabetes. It goes without saying that consumption should be as part a normal healthy diet. With a diabetic in the family, our approach has been to try to follow a normal healthy diet, but indulge in the occasional naughty treat. Low sugar/calorie puddings have been the normal order of the day. Imagine my delight when I spotted an award winning "consumer taste approved" diabetic vanilla ice cream carton lurking in the freezers in my local Asda. The Product The one litre carton has an attractive image of golden creamy melt in the mouth ice cream and retails for £1.88 at Asda. This compares favourably with store's own brand 'Good For You' vanilla Ice cream and costs much less than other premium brands. A good start then since these specialist products tend to command a higher price; so well done Asda. There is really nothing remarkable in the packaging, ...

Philips DA1102 13/01/2009

Peace at last…until they score that is!

Philips DA1102 My brother is an avid follower of our local football team, and with his season ticket attends most home games. However when they play away or heaven forbid another commitment interferes then the pressure is on to keep up to date by tuning in a radio. Trouble is the rest of the world has to put up with this also until I discovered this miracle little gadget. It's a truly portable and best of all completely personal DAB radio; and inconsequentially for me, a 1GB mp3 player too. What's in the Box The personal DAB (that's Digital Audio Broadcasting in case you ever wondered ) radio control unit itself. With a white face and 3cm black and white display screen , the unit measures 6cm wide and 9 cm tall, and 1.5 cm deep; so truly portable in any small pocket. 2 AAA batteries; the nice common little tiny ones you can buy almost everywhere. 2 interchangeable back covers, so you can choose between red, white or blue as the mood takes you. The slide on back is slightly rubbery, no doubt designed for shock absorption for when you drop or throw down the unit. Needless to say red was his immediate choice! The de-rigueur USB cable to connect to a PC for download of music tracks etc. and finally a set of those horrid earplug things that you push into your ears. Apparently the radio aerial is also within these earphones so I was a touch concerned that swopping them for a more conventional headphone set would be a problem, but I need not have worried, the sputnik ones work just ...

Nestle Quality Street 08/01/2009

Quality Treat

Nestle Quality Street I love Christmas and am lucky to have friends and family to enjoy it with. A product I always associate with Christmas is Quality Street as it always seems to have been around at this special time of year. Today somehow it appears much more ordinary and less luxurious than the packaging and media hype would have you believe. Still popular in offices and mess rooms, it seems many people still feel the urge to dip into a tin and select their personal favourite. Please indulge me as I try to explain why I think this assortment still represents a savvy buy at Christmas or thereabouts. Value For Money Local supermarkets were knocking out a 1.2 kg tin (which is 1.16kg sweets if you exclude the wrappings) at the rate of any 2 for £9.00 just before Christmas. This equates to less than 39p per 100g for a well known and branded chocolate and toffee assortment, which just has to be fantastic value for money if you like this type of product as an occasional or sharing treat. Given a sell by date that stretches out to April, investment in these gives a decent opportunity to pace consumption and enjoy the indulgence. Individually wrapped the twelve varieties of sweet will easily keep fresh and inviting in the sturdy, octagonal shaped tin emblazoned with cheer and gaiety. Yes, the tin is well made with nicely rounded edges; useful for storage in cupboards or the shed, but happily as you reach saturation for this need, can be recycled too. The Contents Each tin contains 12 ...

Jacobs Ritz Crackers 16/12/2008

Classy Nibbles

Jacobs Ritz Crackers With Christmas fast approaching much of my attention is being turned to the seemingly endless preparations and stock of 'just in case' measures. Enter here in stoic readiness the humble RITZ cracker……… Christmas Past Apparently in 1898 the New York Biscuit Company was formed by the merger of over 100 small bakeries. This became known as NABISCO the name emblazoned on the top of the iconic red box packaging that so easily identifies these crackers. RITZ crackers were launched in the US in 1935, but today the parent Company was formed by a merger between Kraft Foods and Nabisco in 2000, so both these marques can be found on the box. Today a 200g box of these crackers is further protected inside with a clear plastic sealed envelope, much like a crisp packet but without all the colours; so you can easily see the crackers inside. My recollection of childhood Christmas was that the inner wrapper was more like a greaseproof paper, but no doubt both served the same purpose to keep the biscuits crisp, fresh and appetising. A box would be placed on 'Hostess Trolley' for Christmas and Boxing Day supper alongside cheeses, pickles, cheese and pineapple on sticks, sliced bacon, ham, Twiglets and Cheese Footballs. Squeezy cheese from a tube or cheese triangles could easily be heaped onto RITZ and the whole cracker popped in at once. There seldom seemed to be any left over! Christmas Present Today the tempting little RITZ cracker is equally acceptable, whether undressed to ...
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