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since 30/09/2000


British Museum, Bloomsbury, London 21/09/2001

Best of British

British Museum, Bloomsbury, London Whilst down south staying with my parents, my Dad and I decided to visit the British Museum – despite having visited numerous museums throughout Britain, strangely enough this was one place I had never been to. Opened to the public in 1759, today the British Museum has an attendance of over 5 million visitors a year. Getting there was easy – the British museum is located in Bloomsbury, in Great Russell Street to be precise, and the nearest tube station is Tottenham Court Road, which can be accessed from both the central and the northern line. It’s then only a couple of minutes walk to the main entrance of the museum, and it is well signposted, so even if you’re hopeless when it comes to navigation, you can’t get too lost! Entrance is free, which is really useful, especially if you have only a short time to spare, as I hate paying a big entrance fee if I’m not anticipating spending long in a place. They do however ask for a donation, with a suggested amount of £3, but that’s up to you. My Dad put in some money for both of us, since we thoroughly enjoyed our time here, and felt it was well worth it. At the entrance, there’s also a cloakroom, which saves you carrying round heavy bags or coats, although it won’t accept large rucksacks. People the world over have heard of the British Museum; its huge number of artefacts (over 6 million!) cover all periods, from the earliest civilisations, right up until the present day. ...

Scotland's Secret Bunker, St. Andrews 07/09/2001

Chilling - in more ways than one

Scotland's Secret Bunker, St. Andrews At the moment, I’m staying with my parents, but as my Dad has kindly allowed me the use of his laptop, I thought I’d write a ciao op on one of his favourite places to visit. Earlier this summer, he came up to Scotland for a brief holiday, and we paid a visit to a fascinating place, just down the road from St Andrews, on the road to Anstruther. This place is known as Scotland’s Secret Bunker. First of all, I’ll give you a bit of background information and history… After World War II, which had ended with the first wartime example of the use of atomic bombs, the relations between the communist countries of the East, and the Western democracies deteriorated quickly. There was an unstable combination of both ideology and, more frighteningly, such devastating weapons. So, shortly after the war was over, the UK government needed to take action. It established a chain of early warning radar stations, some of which were underground. The one near St Andrews was underground, since it was thought to be in an area of great risk, being near RAF Leuchars, and relatively near the Rosyth Dockyard. It is actually one of the largest bunkers that there is. In the late 50s, there was no need for so many radar stations, and the function of this bunker changed. It became a Regional Seat of Government, staffed by the Civil Defence Corps. In the event of nuclear war, essential decisions and plans to care for any remaining civilians, would be taken down here. When you visit Scotland’s ...

Aberdeen in general 22/08/2001

The Granite City

Aberdeen in general The other day, whilst browsing through Ciao, I had hoped to read an op on Aberdeen written by a local, someone with insider knowledge, who might be able to advise me on some unusual and interesting places to visit when I went up last week. However, although there are a few ops, the type of op I was looking for was not to be found, and so, whilst I can’t give you any information from the viewpoint of a local, I’ve decided to write an op from the viewpoint of a tourist. Getting to Aberdeen is easy – there is a GNER train service all the way from London, via Edinburgh, which calls at all the principal stations on the east coast line. If you’re already in Scotland however, then you can do as I did, which was to pick up the little Scotrail service which runs between Edinburgh and Aberdeen (usually hourly). It was a really nice journey, up along the coast, and past many golf courses. I arrived at Aberdeen station, and found it to be much smaller than I had remembered, with only about 8 platforms (still, the last time I was there, I was only about 9 years old, and things do seem much larger to a 9 year old!). It was a very light and airy station, clean, and well looked after, although like most mainline stations, there were no rubbish bins! Unlike most mainline stations however, there were lots of seagulls strutting around – they were very tame, and very fat, despite notices urging passengers not to feed them. I hate seagulls – and these ... 20/08/2001

A multitude of skins It is pretty obvious just from the title, just what this website provides. However, for anyone new to computers, I will briefly explain what Winamp itself is, before going on to review this particular website. Chances are that if you frequently download MP3 files from the internet, or even play audio CDs through your computer, then you will have come across winamp before. It is a program which enables you to play these audio files, with an interface similar to that which you would find on a CD player, with all the relevant buttons, (play, FF, RW, Stop, etc), a graphic equaliser, and also a track listing. Now winamp in its most basic form comes in a very boring format – it might be clear and easy to use, but its dark background and dodgy reds and greens for the equaliser certainly didn’t appeal to me and won’t do anything for the look of your desktop. will change all this. A winamp skin is simply a small file that you download, usually only 100-300Kb, and it will totally transform the look of your Winamp, giving you a different background, buttons and sometimes even cursors. Although there is an official winamp site that has a variety of skins to choose from, I find it very slow, and quite tedious to browse through, so I was pleased when I found this alternative site. seems to be fairly speedy when loading, something that is very important to such an impatient person as me! Its layout is clear, with a black ...

Download Accelerator 17/08/2001

Goodbye to frustration

Download Accelerator If you frequently download from the internet, then there are two essential utilities that you will need to use. Firstly, a virus killer, and secondly, a download management program such as the one I am reviewing here, Download Accelerator Plus (DAP). The version that I am using is version 5.00, which I think is the most up to date one there is. Whilst there are several download management programs about, all of which are free to download, I would recommend this one above all the rest. You might have heard of rival programs such as Gozilla, but several of these install spyware along with the download management program, and if you remove the spyware, then they will not always function correctly. I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I’m allowing any spyware to enter my system – I inadvertently installed some a while ago, and it kept causing my system to crash. Furthermore, I don’t like the idea that data is being collected on my computer usage, it’s all a bit too much like Big Brother for me! With DAP, you’re free from any spyware. To get a copy of the program, go to a site such as, or, (the official site) and, seeing as this is such a popular program, chances are it will be on the front page. Installation is easy – the file is relatively small to download, and you simply run the program and it will install itself. You are then given the choice of whether you want the program to start ... 15/08/2001

Navigate your way round the news, for free How many times do you buy a paper, read a few articles, get print all over yourself, then leave the papers piling up in the armchair, until you put the rubbish out a week later? A familiar scenario? Well, if so, then I can heartily recommend A site which contains everything you would find in the paper edition, but saves on waste, and allows you to access the relevant articles quickly, and for free. The Times has always been my favourite paper, for its relatively unbiased, well-written, clear and accessible articles, which cover a wide variety of topics and extra features such as health, culture, television – you get the general idea. I will not go into detail about every single thing that this paper covers – I am sure there are many reviews of the Times on Ciao which will cover that. Rather, this opinion is to point out what the website in particular has to offer. The same articles that you find in the paper are on the internet, divided into the same sections. The front page has a few main headlines, in varying font sizes to reflect their importance, which you can click on, taking you straight to the story, or you can choose from one of the menus at the top of the page, taking you to either:- · British News · World News · Sport · Business · Comment · Features · Specials This is particularly useful – means that someone like me who hates sport and business news, has only a mild interest in world news, but devours the general ...

Boots Advantage Card 12/08/2001

Take advantage

Boots Advantage Card Like many other stores, Boots offers a reward card, known as the Advantage card, which is pink and credit card sized. I’ve had my card for over four years now – as soon as the cards came into existence, my mum and I swooped on them immediately! Over those four years, I’ve been very happy with the savings I’ve made, and free products I’ve acquired, yet I do still have a couple of quibbles, albeit minor ones, with the card. Right, first off, I’ll just explain how it works. Really, it’s very simple. You fill in a form in store, with your name, address, date of birth, sex, and tick a couple of other relevant boxes – whether you wear glasses, contacts, or are pregnant etc. Then, within 21 days, you will be sent an advantage card, with your own name and card number printed on it, with a smart chip embedded in the card, meaning that unlike reward services such as Sainsburys, you can redeem your points at any Boots in the country, which is very useful if you’re a student and live away from home for most of the year, or if you see something better in a Boots which is larger than your local store. Earning points is also easy. You get one point for every 25p that you spend in the store, each point being worth 1p. So for every tenner that you spend, that’s 40p on the card – doesn’t sound like much, but believe me, will add up quicker than you think if you’re a frequent shopper at Boots, and take advantage ...

Mango 10/08/2001

Frothy fun lacking a competitive edge

Mango Ever since the age of two, when I’d sit in my wooden swiss chalet in the garden, surrounded with Enid Blyton books, I’ve always been an avid reader. I’m the sort of person who, wherever I’m going, always has to pack a book in case of emergencies – being kept waiting for a train for example! Consequently, because I get through books so quickly, I’ve been on the look out for many years for ways to acquire them more cheaply. Before I became such a frequent net user, I was always keen to join bookclubs, since books were usually cheaper here than on the high street. One such bookclub was Mango. Mango is very similar in setup to the other bookclubs which operate out of Swindon – e.g. World Books. You get an initial, highly attractive, joining offer, usually along the lines of buy five books for a fiver plus p&p at £2.35, and then you have a commitment to buy four or sometimes six books in your first year. These offers vary; it depends where you see an advertisement for the club, or sometimes whether you have already joined another. Mango has a specific target audience for its books – young women. The types of books that it offers certainly have a limited appeal – I can’t imagine many of the males on here being particularly interested! As the name of the club suggests when you break it down into two words – “man….go” – it’s really just suited to female readers. Many of the books ...

Lakeland Limited (Shop) 08/08/2001

Fantastic Plastic

Lakeland Limited (Shop) It’s not often that I find a shop or a mail order company worthy of a five star rating on Ciao, but Lakeland Limited, who you may have heard of as ‘Lakeland Plastics’, score highly on all the criteria I use when assessing a company such as this. Hopefully by the end of this op, you’ll be itching to give them a go! Lakeland is a company specialising in useful gadgets and storage solutions for the home, focusing in particular on the kitchen and the bathroom. I’ll go into detail about the products themselves in a bit, but to start off with, I’d just like to give you a bit of background info about the company, since it helps to show just why they pride themselves on the high levels of service that they offer. Background ~~~~~~~~~ The Lakeland Limited company has its origins in an event which happened over 35 years ago. This was when Alan Rayner, an agricultural feed salesman, thought it would be useful to supply local farmers with much needed polythene bags for packing poultry. Together with his wife, he set up a mail order business, run from the garage of his own home in the Lake District. They began to supply more and more agricultural products, and then home freezing accessories. Soon the demand for the kitchen products grew, and Lakeland Plastics had begun! The business was handed on to Alan’s sons, and a wider range of kitchen accessories was developed. In time, the business grew even more, and although it’s still family ... 06/08/2001

Let's sing with If you’re anything like me, then you’ll find the lyrics of a song equally as important, if not more so, than the tune. When you eagerly unwrap a brand new CD, and turn to the inlay, it’s always a disappointment if the lyrics aren’t included. Sometimes there are just parts of a song you can’t make out – or which you believe are saying something completely different to the actual words. For a few years now I have believed that REM were singing about ‘viagra’ when in actual fact they were singing a very long drawn out ‘fire’! It also took me ages to discover that in Queen’s “Killer Queen”, the first line is “Moet and Chandon” and not “mowing and shining”! For some songs, the lyrics can almost be poetry in their own right and it’s nice to have your own copy, particularly if the song has a special meaning to you. I always used to use the site to find out any lyrics I was after, but the other day I was disappointed to see that this site seemed to have disappeared into a black hole on the internet, and so I asked my sister to recommend another site. She suggested, a site run by a guy named Ray, who is a university student in Amsterdam, and so on her recommendation, I gave this site a visit. I have to say, I was not initially too impressed with what I found. Anything which launches a pop-up advert when you enter always irritates me, ...

Imperial War Museum, London 04/08/2001

Lest we forget...

Imperial War Museum, London The Imperial War Museum is dedicated to all the wars from the beginning of the last century, with a strong focus on the Second World War. It is situated in Lambeth Road, London, in a domed building which used to be a hospital for the insane, known as Bedlam. The nearest tube stations are either Elephant and Castle, or Lambeth North, or you can walk from Waterloo mainline. Personally I think Lambeth North is slightly easier to get to - especially if you go alone, as round Elephant and Castle there are some rather dodgy subways. It costs £5.50 for adults to get in to the museum, and for students it's £4.50. Children get in free however. I don't think that for London, these admission prices are very high at all, they seem extremely reasonable, and when you buy a ticket there is usually a coupon on the back for money off your next visit. However, I do feel that if children get in for free then the student rate could be a bit cheaper! When you get into the Imperial War Museum, it seems very spacious, as you walk into the large exhibit area first of all. This contains military vehicles from both world wars, including my personal favourite, a tank called 'Willie Pusher' - it's just the name I like, don't worry, I'm not a secret tank obsessive! There are also some missiles - the huge Polaris being the most noticeable. However, if tanks etc. are not really your thing, and to be honest, they are not my main reason for visiting the museum, you can and look round some of the other ...

Egg Card 02/08/2001

Your flexible friend

Egg Card I have been an Egg customer for a few years now – I joined soon after they started, with those fantastic interest rates on their savings account. So when their credit card was launched, I was soon sent an application form. Not just any application form, I might add, since Egg told me that I was already pre-approved for a credit card with them, and all I had to do was sign the forms. At the time, I was a second year university student, and having had numerous run-ins with my high street bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland, who kept making errors on my account, I decided to cut up their credit card and go with Egg. (I also wanted to get away from the patronising attitude the Royal seemed to have with their student credit card holders). I was quite surprised, since I was a student, that Egg didn’t ask for any financial information (employment for example), but I assume it was because I already had a savings account with them and had been a good customer. Now unlike some people, I didn’t want a credit card for actual reasons of ‘credit’. I wanted it simply because some places refuse to take switch (e.g. ITVdigital), and because sometimes my switch card causes me problems, as it has no issue number (typical Royal Bank having to be different!). So for me, the interest rate was irrelevant, but I am pleased to report that it is currently 12.9%, APR which is very competitive. Barclaycard for example currently stands at 18.9%, and MNBA at 14.9%. ...

Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre, Edinburgh 01/08/2001

A must for the Whisky fan

Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre, Edinburgh The Whisky heritage centre in Edinburgh,is, as far as I am aware, the only centre of its type in Scotland. Of course, there are plenty of whisky distilleries in Scotland, where you can learn how whisky is made, and usually get a free dram, but this place is very different, and very entertaining. It cost me about £4 to get in last year - that was student rate. Considering that a free whisky is included in this price, I thought it was good value. There is also a two pound coupon on the back of the ticket which you can use to save money off of a bottle of single malt in the well-stocked shop. When you start the tour, you are given the free whisky whilst you wait for it to begin, this puts you in a more relaxed mood for the rest of the visit! The tour round the heritage centre takes about an hour in total. Firstly, you are given an explanation of how whisky is made. For anyone who has been to a distillery or two, this information will be known already, but don't worry, the rest of the trip is very different. You are treated to audiovisual displays, including the basic video presentation, moving models, and at one point, a 'ghost' appears. In addition to this, there is also a real life tour guide with you. After having heard how whisky is made, the differences between the main four groups of malt whisky are explained to you - I found this bit really interesting as in the past I had only ever stuck to blended whisky and so this encouraged me to try different types. ...

Canterbury in General 30/07/2001

Make a pilgrimage...

Canterbury in General No visit to Kent is complete without a visit to the city of Canterbury. Virginia Woolf once said that "There is no lovelier place in the world than Canterbury...” (1904), and whilst this is probably an exaggeration, it’s certainly a fantastic place to visit – there is so much to see and do here that you are going to need more than a day to fit it all in. Canterbury began its life as a Roman town, named Duovernum, and it is still possible, even today, to discover traces of the Roman past. Time Team have carried out several digs here, one of which focused especially on the Roman period, and there is a museum, to be found in Butchery Lane, where you can go underground and see the original Roman mosaics and walls to be found underneath the modern city. It is amazing how this has survived – you would never believe that under the high street shops lies so much history. This museum is one of many in Canterbury, and it’s possible to buy a ticket allowing you entry to several of them. There are recreations of Roman life here, and touchscreen and other activities to amuse children too. An audiovisual display will help you understand how Roman Canterbury developed and grew, and explains some of the special features of Roman houses – e.g. the heating systems. After Augustine came to Canterbury, in the 6th century, the town assumed a great religious importance, and was in competition with York for religious primacy. It was after the murder of ...

Monopoly (PC) 26/07/2001

Cash, Fun and Ritzy Property

Monopoly (PC) I’m not a frequent player of computer games – in fact, I only possess three in total for my PC. It is the latest addition to this extensive collection that I wish to write about, Monopoly, which I acquired from streetsonline, where it is sold for only 17.99. In this op, rather than explaining the rules of monopoly, since there are some excellent ops on the board game which do this, I want to show the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing the computer version as opposed to the regular board version. For as long as I can remember, I have loved playing monopoly. When I was small, I used to play it with my Dad who had one of the old fashioned boards, with the wooden houses, as opposed to the modern plastic versions, and my friends and I would spend many a happy hour round the board. I suppose that was in the days before kids had huge numbers of TV channels and video games to choose from. Living up here in my small flat however, I wouldn’t have the room for a monopoly board when it was all set up. Games can often take several hours and more than one sitting to complete, so it would be impractical. Furthermore, at the moment, finding a game partner, or partners, would be almost impossible – St Andrews has become a summer town of OAPs and tourists. So for me, the computer version was ideal since it needed neither space nor any human players. You can play against computer opponents, over the internet (more on that later), or, if you do have friends ...
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