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since 19/08/2006


Clarke Quay (Singapore) 11/03/2007

Going down to the "Godowns"?

Clarke Quay (Singapore) I was fortunate enough to spend a number of weeks working in Singapore earlier this year. Having spend some of my childhood there, I was consistently amazed throughout my trip at how much the city has changed since my last visit in the 1980s. Clarke Quay, quite simply, is an area which is almost unrecognisable these days. Named after Andrew Clarke, the second governor of Singapore, and sometime governor of The Straits Settlements in the late 19th century, it was once, along with nearby Boat Quay, the epicentre of Singapore's world of commerce. River trade moved out of town a long time ago, however, and the area, much polluted by the late 20th century, underwent an extensive period of regeneration throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Over recent years the 19th century 'godowns' (warehouses) have been renovated and Clarke Quay is now a leisure based complex. Aesthetically it's a pleasing environment, although hardly "authentic Singapore". Its London equivalent would probably be St Katherine's Dock - reminiscent of days gone by but very much a development for the tourists. There's contrasting traditional and innovative features: the godowns have been preserved, although painted in a myriad of colours, and giant translucent "umbrellas" cover some areas to provide dry cover in the rainy season. We visited the area on a few occasions and I have to say it's riverside location makes it a very pleasant place to while away a little time and, like the rest of the city centre it is ...

Muppets - The Best Of The Muppets Vol.2 (DVD) 07/03/2007

♫ It's time to start the music… ♫

Muppets - The Best Of The Muppets Vol.2 (DVD) You know, you can definitely date a person by their Muppet history. Sure, you have your chronological age and your biological age, but as far as I'm concerned you have your Muppet age as well. In this part of the world at least, if you remember watching The Muppet Show you're probably now a 30 or 40 something or at least the parent of one; if you're a fan of Sesame St you're probably a little younger, given it's late arrival to these shores and subsequent disappearance from terrestrial television; Fraggle Rock? Younger still (funky bridge section in the theme song, by the way); The Muppet Babies?! Pah! You're a virtual embryo, and it was a cartoon anyway. For me, growing up in the 70s and 80s, the highlight of Saturday evening TV, along with Basil Brush and Doctor Who, was ITV's weekly outings to the vaudeville style show put on by Jim Henson's Muppets. Yes, Sir, I'm with the little green frog on this one. A LITTLE BACKGROUND: *************** ************** When "The Muppet Show" premiered in 1976, it was by no means the first Jim Henson production to come into existence. Sesame St was already extremely popular elsewhere in the world and Kermit The Frog, originally created in the 50s primarily out of Henson's mother's old green coat and some ping pong balls, had been regularly guesting both there and elsewhere. Here in the UK, however, the soft, colourful, comical puppets were a new phenomenon and we can owe their debut to the fact that The Muppet Show was actually a ...

Ealing Comedy (DVD) 10/11/2006

A Box Of Delights

Ealing Comedy (DVD) Looking for an original Christmas present for Dad? Granddad? Uncle Arthur? Maybe even Auntie Maureen? Then step into my office, for I have an idea. That's it, pull up a seat… just move the cat… help yourself to sherry and make yourself comfortable… I've got 3 feature length films to review here… A few years ago (about 2003, perhaps?) I was looking for the DVD of "Passport to Pimlico". Back then it wasn't possible to buy the film individually and so I opted for this gift set of Ealing Comedies, featuring not only "Passport to Pimlico" but two films I had not, at that time, heard of, namely "Hue and Cry" and "The Titfield Thunderbolt". I am so glad that I did. I have been treated to an additional two features from the postwar period of the Ealing Studios that I might never have come across otherwise, and some great bonus features to boot. HUE AND CRY Released in 1947, this film is usually regarded as the first true Ealing Comedy, and was written by T.E.B. (Tibby) Clarke, directed by Charles Crichton. Set in a war ravaged London it follows the adventures of a group of boys on the trail of East End gangsters. Our teenage hero is Joe Kirby (Harry Fowler) who is joined by Scots choirboy Alec (endearingly played by Douglas Barr) and "The Blood and Thunder Boys". Joe, on his way into town to look for work, is deeply engrossed in his comic book "Trump" when a peculiar set of coincidences he encounters cause him to suspect that events in the comic are actually being ...

N.C.I.S. - Naval Criminal Investigative Service - Series 1 - Complete (Box Set) (DVD) 01/10/2006

NCIS - Season 1 DVD - Region 2 version

N.C.I.S. - Naval Criminal Investigative Service - Series 1 - Complete (Box Set) (DVD) I first came across the TV series NCIS whilst working abroad. It was, however, being shown dubbed and, as I have yet to progress beyond lesson 2 of my "Teach Yourself German" Cd-rom, I am somewhat limited to ordering a coffee, discussing the tall blonde Helmut with Marlene (if you like that look) and moaning about my mortgage (which, incidentally, I don't have). I was, however, intrigued by the fast paced and stylish action that I saw and so jumped at the chance to buy season 1 on DVD when it was recently released for Region 2. THE SETTING: The show revolves around the activities of a group of special agents and forensics specialists in the 'Navy Criminal Investigative Service' in Washington DC, who investigate all manner of criminal goings on connected to both the Navy and the Marine Corps. THE CHARACTERS AND CAST: The creative team have been clever with characterisation and casting and there really is someone there for everyone, with the show appealing to a broad spectrum of viewers. The senior agent on the team is the rugged, and slightly grizzly, former marine Leroy Jethro Gibbs played by Mark Harmon, probably best known in the UK for his roles in series such as 'Chicago Hope' and 'St Elsewhere' (and if you're a 'West Wing' fan, he was Special Agent 'Sunshine' in series 3). He is joined by agent Anthony Dinozzo, a former cop with more than an eye for the ladies, played by Michael Wetherley ('Dark Angel') and agent Caitlin Todd, a ballsy former secret ...

The Bridge Leisure Centre 29/09/2006

Swimming & Other Sports, London SE26

The Bridge Leisure Centre I'm a keen swimmer and, because I try my best to keep it up when I'm working odd hours or in different locations, I use a number of resources to locate pools that are convenient and suitable for lane swimming. The only problem is that I normally only manage to get the most basic of information, like the address, the phone number and maybe a current timetable if I'm lucky. What I really want to know, without having to phone the centre, are the little details like "What kind of coin do I need for my locker?" "When are the best lane sessions?" "Will I have to walk through a dodgy housing estate to get there?" "Is there somewhere safe to park my bike?" I realized that there really aren't many reviews of pools and leisure centres here on Ciao, so what better place to start than with my own contribution? I hope this starts a bit of trend and that we can get a few more on here. THE BRIDGE LEISURE CENTRE: This is a local authority leisure centre, which I have used a great deal, managed by Parkwood Leisure. According to their website*, Parkwood Leisure are the third largest leisure management company working in the public sector and in 2005 delivered £30.9 Million of turnover. * LOCATION: The Bridge Leisure Centre is located on Kangley Bridge Road, which is just off Southend Lane (A2218), in Lower Sydenham, London SE26. PARKING: There is a reasonable sized car park, free for leisure centre customers, which is immediately in front of the ...

The Rough Guide to Walks in London & Southeast England - The Rough Guide 17/09/2006

These boots were made for walking...

The Rough Guide to Walks in London & Southeast England - The Rough Guide We are always being told we should exercise more and how great walking is for us, but if you live in London the pollution alone can make this seem unappealing, not to mention the fact that you could be taking your life into your own hands by walking on some of the off road routes that the capital has to offer. I was delighted, therefore, when a year ago I came across this guide to the 35 best walks within easy reach of London, and am slowly but surely working my way through its offerings, spurred on by the promise of country pubs and fresh air. It is definitely time for me to share… THE ROUGH GUIDE SERIES: +++++++++++++++ +++++++++ Almost anyone who has travelled independently, and many who haven't, will have one of the books from this series tucked away on a bookshelf somewhere, however dusty. The series was started in 1982, in a rather crude form, and was originally aimed at budget travellers. Current guides, however, are aimed at a much wider range of users and, although many still are travelogues, a surprising range of other topics are covered from Latin Jazz to James Bond. This book, 'The Rough Guide to Walks in London & South East England', is a more than worthy additional to the collection. THE AUTHORS: +++++++++++++ The guide is written by Judith Bamber, a 10 year plus resident of London, who has edited other Rough Guide British titles, and Helena Smith, another adopted Londoner, who is a managing editor for Rough Guides. Throughout the guide you really do ...

Love Soup (DVD) 04/09/2006

Love Soup - A Gourmet Comedy Drama from the BBC

Love Soup (DVD) "If your perfect partner was out there… how would you ever know?" 'Love Soup' is the most recently broadcast TV comedy series to come from veteran small screen writer David Renwick and, if you didn't come across it when it was broadcast, you will surely have come across his other hugely popular series 'One Foot in the Grave' and 'Jonathan Creek'. No? Well then you've almost certainly seen his material on shows such as 'Not the Nine O'Clock News' and 'The Two Ronnies'. And if they don't sound familiar I can only assume you spent the 70's and 80's living with a reclusive religious sect or in a very secure unit. The series originally aired in 2005, from September 27th, and ran for 6 weeks, in hour long instalments. Having only managed to catch a couple of episodes at the time of broadcast, I was delighted to find this DVD of the series at Gatwick Airport. As I was embarking on a 6 week business trip to the land that quality TV forgot, I promptly added it to my stockpile of things to help the long winter nights pass. CAST AND CHARACTERS: Tamsin Greig (Fran from 'Black Books', Dr Todd from 'Green Wing') plays the role of Alice Chenery, who manages a perfume concession in a London department store. Based in Brighton, in a flat she can barely afford to keep and plagued by dysfunctional neighbours (if your upstairs neighbours' children peeing out of windows 7 times a day isn't dysfunctional, I'm not sure what is…) she undertakes the gruelling daily commute to the capital ...

Kuoni 02/09/2006

Hands off, Grandma! Switzerland is mine!

Kuoni A year ago, I would have considered a week's summer holiday in the Swiss Alps as the sort of thing my grandma would do. In fact I think I still have bundles of postcards she sent to me from Switzerland and Austria somewhere. Don't get me wrong, we kids appreciated the boxes of Neapolitan chocolates she brought back with her, I just hadn't realized she was onto such a good thing and I didn't cotton on until my 30s! Well, the Kuoni brochures dropped through my letterbox and, even though I had intended to head to the Italian Lakes, I was drawn to the holidays in the Graubunden region with their promises of crisp alpine air and stunning scenery. Being an outdoorsy person I decided there and then that I was going on a hiking holiday in Arosa. WHY AROSA? Arosa, situated in the Schanfigger Valley and surrounded by mountain peaks, is just over 1700m above sea-level and as such is one of Switzerland's higher altitude resorts. Since 1883 people have been travelling there to benefit from the alpine air. During the winter it is a fashionable and expensive ski resort, but by summer (technically the off peak season) it is much more affordable, not too crowded and has a wealth of walking trails open. I don't always travel alone, but I am used to doing it from time to time, and I knew that I wanted a peaceful resort where I could quietly relax in the evenings, catching up on all the reading I've been meaning to do, without being the conspicuous lone traveller. This Kuoni ...

Science 29/08/2006

Studying Science With The O.U. - an overview

Science When I was at school I used to get really appalling grades for science. The teachers were dull and uninspiring and I found it hard to pay attention, even thought I tried really hard to concentrate. A few years later I had developed an interest in health and wellbeing and decided I'd like to learn more about human biology. The Open Univesity seemed to be the best choice as they let you study with them despite your background and, for the aforementioned reasons, my qualifications were mainly arts based (or at the least the good ones were!). I signed up for a human biology course (SK220) and a general biology course (S203) and got to work. I was a little foolhardy, in that I didn't start with the Science Foundation course, but this was because at that point I had very specific areas of interest and hadn't realized just how far I was going to take this studying! I would definitely recommend that others consider the foundation course. All the teaching materials were provided in the course fees, including things like books, videos and CDroms, and the OU loaned experiment kits containing all kinds of things such as microscopes. This was great because it meant there were no hidden costs, such as course books. I was allocated tutors for each module I was studying who marked my course work assignments and were on hand at regular intervals via internet and telephone for help and advice. By and large these tutors were excellent. Over 5 years I had about 12 tutors and I can ...
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