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since 28/04/2001


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling 25/07/2003

Let's All Go Potty

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling Harry Potter. Have you heard much about him lately? Have you read the odd opinion about him? I thought so. The release of the fifth instalment of J. K. Rowling’s immensely successful Harry Potter series brought new levels of hype to our already hype-ridden world. Usually I can’t see what all the fuss is about, but this time, having read the previous Harry Potter tales, I joined in with the excitement. So much so in fact that I bought my copy of “Harry Potter and the Order Of The Phoenix” within hours of it being available to pre-order from Amazon ( At 50% off the RRP (i.e. £8.49 not £16.99) I was extremely pleased with myself. Sadly, however, I had to wait some six months or so before the postman finally delivered it to my door on the fine, sunny morning of Saturday 21st June. Even more sadly I was booked in for a double shift at work that day. Never mind... So, as the first tentative opinions on the book began to appear on ciao, I was still eagerly reading the first few pages. A month later and I’ve read the whole book not once, not twice, but thrice! (No, I didn’t spend quite the entire month reading it, I did manage to do a few other things as well). It is, fortunately, as entertaining as I hoped and expected, and its 760 odd pages make sure that the entertainment lasts as long as possible, and we’re able to immerse ourselves deeper in the wonderful world of magic than ever before. Saying it was “as entertaining as I hoped” is quite a ...

University Games Really Nasty Horse Racing Game 16/07/2003

Nasty fun for all the family

University Games Really Nasty Horse Racing Game *This opinion has been completely re-written as of 10/07/2003. It was my very first ciao opinion, written over 2 years ago, and I recall my joy when it received a string of VH ratings (albeit slightly dubious ones LOL). Certainly it now seems to me a rather poor effort, but reminds me not to be too critical of new contributors to ciao. The original opinion is underneath this one; feel free to read it but do not feel obliged to.* Don’t you love Christmas with the family? All the uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, all hyperactive and all in your house. All forcing you to watch and coo as they open each others’ presents for hours, then finding themselves so stuffed full of chocolate and other snacks that they consume virtually none of the Christmas dinner (meaning Turkey sandwiches for at least a fortnight). Then, finally, they demand entertainment, and the appeal of charades, cluedo and pictionary begins to wane by the small hours… Well fear ye’ not, Timmy O’Toole to the rescue! Well, my parents actually. Back in the year 2000 (having survived the deadly Millennium Bug), they decided they couldn’t stand the old classics any longer and instead bought a new game assured to heighten the old family tensions, namely “The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game”. Evidently playing on the idea that horse racing is seedy, corrupt and risky, this name conjures up images of you gaining revenge on old Auntie Marge for giving you a horrible beige cardigan for Christmas. Aaaah, revenge, ...

The Third Reich - Michael Burleigh 03/07/2003

The 1,000 Page Reich

The Third Reich - Michael Burleigh Nazi Germany is one of the most analysed periods of history, with which historical and popular society seems to hold a strange obsession. There are hundreds of books considering pretty much every aspect of the terrible regime, and propounding all sorts of unlikely theories. One might be forgiven therefore for thinking the subject exhausted, but each year more literature adds to those hundreds of books and articles already written, among them "The Third Reich: A New History" by Michael Burleigh (distinguished research Professor at Cardiff University). To claim to be writing a “new history” therefore displays remarkable self-confidence, if not arrogance, yet Michael Andre Bernstein of the LA Times comments that this is “fully justified”, the Sunday Times describes the book as “the product of authentic historical genius” and the Sunday Telegraph as “a monumental book, a tour de force”. To cap it all the book was winner of the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction in 2001, a prize previously won by Anthony Beevor’s best-selling “Stalingrad”. However, critical acclaim has never been a great guide to anything (otherwise ciao would be redundant), so the ‘proof is in the pudding’, as they say. The most striking thing about Burleigh’s book is its length, which at over 800 pages (plus almost 200 pages of footnotes and bibliographies) reveals that he is attempting something more than the average textbook summary. It is incredibly comprehensive, covering virtually every aspect of the ...

City Of God (DVD) 30/01/2003

Hell On Earth

City Of God (DVD) This is, by all standards, an unusual film. Unusually gripping, unusually powerful and unusually thought-provoking. On top of that it is a Brazilian film (subtitled) by an unheard of director, starring mainly first-time child actors and based on a semi-true story of life in a Rio de Janeiro housing project (read: slum) that became a novel accredited to that world-renowned writer, Paulo Lins. The film is narrated by the peace-loving ‘Rocket’ (played by Luis Otavio) who we follow from pre-teen to the verge of adulthood as he flirts with drugs, crime and sex, while all the while craving to leave the favela (slum) behind him and become a professional photographer. He is a timid and morally good character who appears a saint in comparison with his violent and merciless contemporaries, and we become highly sympathetic towards his plight as he narrates the stories of various people and places that determine the nature of the world he lives in. ~The Plot~ [no major spoilers] The film begins with a short description of the City of God (or ‘Cidade de Deus’, which is Portuguese I think), which was essentially a local government project to destroy some of the most unsightly shanty towns and relocated the inhabitants to or more secluded purpose built estate. This does not mean that they did much to help the inhabitants; the ‘houses’ on the new estate are nothing more than 2 small rooms, and the only service provided is a school, at which attendance is entirely voluntary. As ...

Scooby-Doo - The Movie (DVD) 10/01/2003

Rooby-Rooby Roo

Scooby-Doo - The Movie (DVD) Scooby-Doo the movie is a tongue-in-cheek yarn that capitalises on nostalgia for Hanna Barbera’s classic low-budget animated series. Scooby-Doo remains animated, obviously, and has plenty off opportunities to offer his classic “rooby-rooby roo” in response to Shaggy’s (played by Matthew Lillard) “scooby-scooby doo where are you?”. A surprising cast of stars have been enticed into appearing in this film (one for Mystery Inc. to solve) and alongside Lillard we have Sarah Michelle Gellar (Daphne), Freddie Prinze Jr. (Fred), Linda Cardellini (Velma) and Rowan Atkinson as Emile Mondavarius, the reclusive owner of Spooky Island. The best thing about the film, strangely, is that it’s bad, really bad. Not the kind of bad that makes you cringe and leaves you torn between laughter and tears, rather an intentional kind of bad that leaves you crying with laughter as opposed to embarrassment. This intended poorness is evident from the beginning, when, after “those pesky kids” solve get another not-so ghoulish mystery they have the cheesiest break-up of all time that somehow finishes just before they all start sticking their tongues out at each other. Anyway Shaggy and Scooby are both a bit sad at the others leaving and are cast throughout as loveable despite the others’ petty squabbles. They live as hippies eating copious amount of junk food (although without becoming obese) and refuse to do any more mystery solving, for ...

Bill Bryson - Notes from a Small Island 30/08/2002

An Incredibly Long Ciao Opinion... By Bill.

Bill Bryson - Notes from a Small Island After living in Britain for almost twenty years American-born Bill Bryson decided to return to his native country. First, however, he decided to embark upon a tour of the British Isles and this book charts his adventure from Dover (from Calais actually) to Porthmadog to John O’Groats and half-way back again. It is written in an interesting and highly humorous style combining observations about the various parts of Britain with observations about Britain as a whole. He begins with a description of his first visit to England in March 1973 and relates his rather amusing failure to satisfy the demands of a Dover boarding house landlady, which ends in his humiliating and premature departure. He returns to the town 20 years later (but not, surprisingly, to the same guesthouse) and then continues in stops and starts around Britain using almost entirely public transport (although he does borrow a car for a few days to get around the Cotswolds) and staying in a variety of hotels, inns and guesthouses. His route around the country came about due to his sudden urges to visit places and the inconsistency of public transport and so ends up looking like something of a gone-wrong join the dots puzzle. None the less it is shown on a small map at the beginning of book. The book is of a very high quality throughout and so much so that I just began a sentence “some of the more memorable parts of the trip include” before realising there was no way that any were more memorable than others ...

How to use the Circle of Trust 05/08/2002

Ages Since I Used It

How to use the Circle of Trust But that’s because I haven’t been on ciao in a while, apologies therefore to the members who I trust and who deserve reads from me. Yes this is yet another comeback with yet more promises to be more active in future, but forget for a moment my inconsistency of contribution and enjoy it (or not as the case may be) while it lasts. I’m not sure when the Circle of Trust began, perhaps it was way back when the site began in the summer (July I think) of 2000. What I do know is that when I joined at the end of April 2001 the maximum number of “trustees” one could have had just been increased from 50 to 100, where it has stayed ever since (in contrast with Dooyoo’s Circle of Friends where I believe the number is unlimited). The Circle of Trust has become one of the defining features of ciao and can be used in numerous ways by different types of user, a few of which I will attempt to explain along with general advice about it’s usage. What Is The Circle of Trust? This is probably the first question if you are a new user: what the hell is this thing that appears on my personal profile page, on my personal statistics, in the Community Centre league tables and in opinion searches? Quite simply your Circle of Trust is a list of people you trust and is found on the top left hand corner of your personal profile page (click on “my ciao” in the top right-hand corner of your screen to get there) just beneath the “member search” facility. To add a member to this list you must visit ...

Member feedback on Ciao Community Points 06/06/2002

A Few Points Of My Own.

Member feedback on Ciao Community Points A few months ago our beloved ciao UK followed the path of European Ciaos by introducing a community points system, giving each member a community score based upon everything from ratings given to ratings received, including comments written, VHs/Hs/FHs/UHs received, opinions written and members who trust. Introduced last October at the same time as ciao decided to pretty much stop paying us, Community Points did not have the easiest of infancies due to their association with this heinous act. Other concerns were voiced too, that members with lower scores (especially new members) might be ostracised by the demi-gods that top the charts and have a large following of loyal supporters. Over half a year has now passed since these tallies were spawned and hence I will make a few observations with regard to the concerns that were originally voiced and the other merits and demerits that have come to light over the duration. I have already outlined how your Community Points score is worked out, or at least the factors involved. For more information click on the Community Points hyperlink on your profile/ratings page (just below Friends Invited). If you are not a member then I’m afraid this opinion isn’t gonna be much use to you, because Community Points are a members’ thing, and you can use the fantastic resource that is ciao without every having to know about them. However these Community Points are not a simple tally like all the others on your profile page. Since October a ...

Should Britain join the Euro? 29/05/2002

In For A Cent, In For A Euro

Should Britain join the Euro? Some critics of member advice (or ciao cafe) categories claim that ciao should cater only for opinions on “real” products. Well let me tell you now, the Euro is very much a real product and sometime in the next few years you, me and everyone in Britain is going to have to decide whether or not to buy it. There will be an obvious cost of “purchasing” it, i.e. minting all the coins, printing all the notes, informing people as to its value, administrating the changeover etc. However this cost is negligible in the long-term and is pretty much irrelevant when considering the value of accepting the euro. The main consideration of the consumer (us) is whether or not the euro will provide benefit and how this benefit will be distributed. And as you well know, this question is the cause of a great deal of debate! ~What Is The Euro?~ The Euro is the legal tender of 12 European countries, known as the ‘Eurozone’ and is worth approximately £0.63. The idea of a single Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) was first proposed in the 1970s during the oil crisis and worldwide depression. The formation of the European ‘Exchange Rate Mechanism’ (ERM) that fixed exchange rates between European currencies within tight parameters appeared to be the first step in achieving this goal. The signing of the Maastricht Treaty (opted out of by Britain and Denmark) in 1991 committed those who signed o the establishment of a single EMU, with a single currency and a single European bank to set interest ...

Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone (DVD) 11/05/2002

The Film On It's Own Merit

Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone (DVD) There was only one film that mattered in 2001. No, not Lord of the Rings, but Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. The reviews have been varied, but while some have slated it as a poor adaptation the overwhelming verdict on ciao is that this was a classic in our time. I’m inclined to agree. And I intend to review the film on it’s own merit, not concerning myself with the quality of the adaptation or anything like that, mainly because I haven’t read the book (yet). I write as a sceptic made a fan, dragged to the cinema to be won over by the magic of Harry Potter and his early adventures at Hogwarts. From the moment this incredible world leapt onto the cinema screen till the credits started to roll over two and a half hours later I was totally spellbound, enchanted my the sensational creations of J.K. Rowling (author of the book on which the film is based) and Chris Columbus (the director). So, what created this marvellous, enchanting potion? ~The Recipe~ Harry Potter is dumped on the doorstep of his aunt and uncle as a baby after the unfortunate death of his parents. He grow up being bullied and mistreated by his guardians and his spoiled cousin, Dudley, but is essentially just like any normal 10 year-old boy, or is he? It would appear not, for one day (Dudley’s birthday) he has the fortune of being able to visit a zoo, the only real excursion he’s ever been on. While there he has to put up with his horrible cousin but is ...

Drambuie 20/04/2002

The Drink That Satisfies

Drambuie Drambuie is an exquisite whisky-based liqueur, straight from the long and colourful history of the Isle of Skye. It is creamy and flavourful (herbs and honey) and at 40% could perhaps be considered a man’s Bailey’s due to its delightful strong but soft flavour. Produce of the Drambuie Liqueur Company Ltd. ( it comes in 1litre glass bottles that will set you back £12.99 in Sainsbury’s and the bottles are rather uniquely shaped with a sort of strange top that I can’t really describe and they are made of a rather disgusting coloured brown glass. Fortunately very little of the glass is actually visible as it is obscured by possibly the world’s largest and most informative label: “Drambuie forms a link with one of the most romantic episodes in the history of Great Britain. When Bonnie Prince Charlie came to Scotland in 1745 to make a gallant but unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne of his ancestors, he presented the recipe to a Mackinnon of Skye as a reward for his services. The secret of its preparation remained with the Mackinnon family, and the manufacture has been carried on by successive generations to this day. It is the only traditional liqueur to use a base of 100% Scotch whiskies, many of which are 15 to 17 year old malts, blended with the finest herbs and honey. Drambuie comes from the Gaelic: “An Dram Buidheach” meaning the drink that satisfies.” That says it all really, which while making it the easiest to research opinion of all time also ...

Comedy Theatre, London 20/04/2002

Grey Comedy.

Comedy Theatre, London A couple of weeks ago my English class and I, along with a couple of teachers, escaped from the classroom and trundled off to the Comedy Theatre (Panton Street, off Haymarket, Piccadilly). After a longer than expected and re-routed train journey (courtesy of Connex South-Eastern) we reached the theatre with a few seconds to spare before the curtain was raised and the performance (directed by Robin Lefevre) of Harold Pinter’s classic work began. The play is very dark and disgusting, although a dubious comedy, and we had studied it previously so ‘knew’ what to expect (I shall elaborate upon the plot later, but I’ll try to avoid spoilers). And of course, as with any school outing, there was a catch. That is, we were obliged to write a critical review of the performance when we returned, and it is with its assistance that I will construct this opinion, as two weeks is just about enough for me to forget what happened. ~The Setting~ It was the first time I had set foot inside London’s Comedy Theatre, a five minute walk from Piccadilly Circus underground station. We had obtained dress circle tickets at an excellent price of £11.50 each (including a group discount for 20+ people; we had 21) and were ushered to our seats, avoiding purchasing programmes that were, as ever, retailing at a ridiculously high price, although the exact amount has slipped my memory. The Comedy Theatre is a fairly small theatre, which means you have a good view of the stage without having to resort to ...

Voluntary 06/04/2002

Get Off Your FAT Backside.

Voluntary Yes I’m talking to YOU. You that gets up halfway through the day at weekends before eating croissants for breakfast, settling in a warm bath for a couple of hours, sipping at cocktails and making polite conversation before finally settling down to a humongous lunch. You could be doing something worthwhile with your time, helping others, helping your waistline, utilising your skills, acquiring new skills and doing something a lot more interesting than discussing the latest political developments in Azerbaijan! ~My Experience~ OK, so there’s nothing nicer than a lie-in on a Saturday after a gruelling week of work and an even more exhausting party on a Friday night. So why on Earth have I given up almost every Saturday morning for the last year and a half? No, for once the answer is not my total insanity. It wasn’t for entirely selfless reasons either; you see the A-level equivalent course I’m doing (see opinion on International Baccalaureate Diploma) requires me to do, among many other things, 50 hours of community service. And rather than the destination for this being handed out by a judge or magistrate I had to discover something to do myself. Early trips to the Maidstone Volunteer Bureau resulted in me attending a couple of bizarre meetings with off-this-planet eco-warrior types who didn’t seem to actually do anything and so I continued searching for something else. Then I spotted an appeal for volunteers in a local paper, asking for people to help construct a ...

Shock Wave - Clive Cussler 15/12/2001

Not Shocking, Or Even Surprising... But Enjoyable.

Shock Wave - Clive Cussler Browsing through the huge volumes of rainforest that occupy our house in the guise of books I finally game across one that sounded readable and I hadn’t read before. The cover is a deep red (signifying danger?) and shows a rather bizarre animation of a sea serpent strangling a shark. Clive Cussler is hailed as “The Grandmaster of Adventure”, a somewhat dubious definition of a 70-year-old author of 15-20 novels who is hardly a household name and has won no major prizes. However he does deserve some credit because his books have sold over 100million copies worldwide and his efforts still sell well. The cover also reveals that it is a “Dirk Pitt® Novel”, as indeed are nearly all of his novels. ~Dirk Pitt~ Mr. Pitt is the son of a wealthy senator and he is the key member of the National Underwater & Marine Agency (NUMA) special operations branch. NUMA in fact exists in real life as a voluntary group of wreck-hunters established by Clive Cussler himself, but needless to say it is somewhat different in the novels. Dirk is something of an oddity, spending most of his time whizzing around the world researching strange maritime phenomena and the rest of it living in an aircraft hanger full of classic automobiles, aircraft and boats. He is very attractive to the ladies, but his bizarre lifestyle prevents him from getting the long-term relationship that he so desires, although he is very close to congresswoman Loren Smith, who is instrumental in ...

Mars Ice-Cream 23/11/2001

A Mars A Day Helps You Work Rest And Play.

Mars Ice-Cream Long, long ago I vaguely remember a sunny holiday in Cornwall, and it being my 4th birthday (this is among my earliest memories). That was over 13 years ago, and I remember having the newly released Mars-Bar Ice Cream as a birthday treat. Now my memory might be wrong, but I’m positive mars ice creams were the original iced chocolate bars beyond the bog standard choc-ice. Over the last decade tens if not hundreds of other chocolate bars have had themselves given an ice-cream version; snickers, twix, bounty, kit-kat, mint aero, smarties, M&Ms among others! Mars ice creams are still among my favourite treats, long after the other bars have lost their novelty value… I shall explain why! Indeed I requested this category be added so that I could marvel at the wonders of the mars ice-cream, only to find it highjacked by Dave27 for trashing this hallowed piece of frozen food… although all credit to him is opinion is excellent :P Each to there own; bring on the contest! LOL. |The Lowdown| The mars bar is one of the longest running and most successful chocolate bars of our time. It consists of exceedingly rich nougat topped a thick but soft caramel layer and a milk chocolate outer coating, and it is exceeding tasty and very filling (and according to folk-lore contains so many calories that you have to run 10 miles to burn them all off). A mars bar ice-cream replaces this rich nougat with sweet vanilla ice-cream… creating a soft inside with a hard ...
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