Friday, 15 May 2009

Jumbo cooking time - Tesco Finest Jumbo Wedges

Advantages: Crisp up nicely

Disadvantages: Take a lot longer to cook than expected.

I have never been a fan of potato wedges. I mean they don't taste too bad, so I don't have any real reason to dislike them. 

What I think it boils down to is the fact that they come out of the oven. 

Now this isn't why I am unsure about them. It is just that for years I have been on this good earth, I have come to the conclusion that if a potato comes out of the oven, I expect it to taste, look and feel like a roast potato (unless it is a potato croquette - that is a different thing altogether). 

So when I have serving of potato wedges, this is always the expectation - I am always expecting a soft fluffy inside, and deliciously crisp on the outside.. this just doesn't seem to happen with potatoe wedges! 

But then again I have never had Jumbo Wedges. 

I gave these a try. 

You know the drill, into the oven, though not as easy as it sounds. I had to keep putting them back in for an extra five minutes - about an extra fifteen in all, if I remember right. 

When they did come out, they were surprisingly crisp on the outside - maybe a little overdone, but the inside was nicely cooked. this is probably the nearest these have come to the roast potato I was expecting, and probably the most favourable of potato wedges I have tasted. 

Generally, I have potato wedges as a snack in a bowl with a dip, but I think I will allow these to sit next to the other Sunday Roast stuff, if there is ever a potato emergency and I need to fish something out of the freezer.

Summary: Nice big chunks of spud

Silky smooth deliciousness - Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate

Advantages: It is Cadbury's Dairy Milk, say no more
Disadvantages: none
What is it that is so satisfying about putting a lump of chocolate in your mouth?

It is nigh on a question you can't answer.

The scientists will tell us it has something to do with pleasure chemicals being released into the body to give us that rush of pleasure.

I know as children we always find sweet things delicious and desirable, and the good old Cadbury Dairy Milk is no exception whatsoever.

This was a treat as child, and I did have a handle on that. I knew that if I didn't spend my pocket money on these. but rather, treat myself every now and again, I would enjoy it so much more.

Taking off the paper wrapping carefully, and then trying to keep the lovely silky, shiny purple foil intact, was part of the ritual of eating one of these.

This was definitely a rainy day treat for me. I don't recall ever eating one of these while I was out playing. I would be sat in front of my granny's roaring coal fire, with a cup of cocoa and the Whizzer and Chips and this gorgeous bar of chocolate.

It would be pouring with rain outside, maybe snowing, or blowing a gale - grey and blustery, and I would be cosied-up with this deliciousness of chocolate.

Fast forward *?%$ many years, and I still like to enjoy my chocolate 'in style'. OK the coal fire has gone, but I really do like to cosy up with a bar of this when the weather is down.
Summary: 10/10

A Close Encounter of the Audio kind - Close Encounters Of The Third Kind - John Williams - Soundtrack

Advantages: Includes previously unreleased and unused music

Disadvantages: None

I don't normally listen to film soundtracks - in fact I rarely take notice of them, and in some respects this means the composer has done his job. 

Would I be too bold in saying that your average person who enjoys a film, but is not a film buff or cinema goer, doesn't take too much notice of the soundtrack, but enjoys it passively as part of the overall film? 

Very few film soundtracks stand out in my mind. Star Wars does. A Clockwork Orange does, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind's soundtrack definitely does. This might have something to do with the fact that I have seen these films a number of times. 

I have had the opportunity of hearing both the original vinyl soundtrack, dating all the way back to 1977, and the recently released extended CD, which has much more than the original vinyl. 

I am no musicologist and when all is said and done I have no knowledge of classical music. Close Encounters soundtrack is orchestral - when it comes to classical music and art, I can only say I either like it or I don't, I may not be able to say why. 

This soundtrack is one of those ocassions when I can't say why I like the music. I do know when I am listening to it, I am transported in my mind back to the scenes of the film. 

Both old vinyl and recent CD have that same crescendo, that you will know from the film (I won't describe it, it will spoil watching the film), which will make you jump, in a similar fashion to the classic Jaws scene. There is a feeling of menace, urgency and eeriness throughout much of this soundtrack, and other feelings of hope and near resolution. One my favourite pieces is Track 14 (CD) "The Mountain". Where Roy and Gillian finally get to a first glimpse at what has been haunting them. I won't describe the scene, as it might spoil things, if you have seen the film you will know what I mean. 

There is a rather magic, if not cheesey, finale to this album starting with track 24 "Wild Signals", which is essentially the showcase of 'that' Iconic five note motif, which has been parodied to Kingdom Come over the years. This is interesting and the film must be seen to appreciate this piece of music. 

I also think the end sequence is rather special - not only does it nicely incorporate 'the five tones', but John Williams magically weaves a classic Disney tune into it - I won't say which, as it is pivotal to the story. this end peice has such a great feeling of relief, resolution and conclusion, with just a teensy hint of 'what if?' and 'what next?' 

Parts of the soundtrack reminds me of bits and pieces of the music from Hitchcock films, as indeed do many of the actual scenes from the film - try comparing this film with North by Northwest, and you might just see what I mean. 

This soundtrack, to me, is different. It stands out. I actually wanted to own this, as well as the film's DVD. 

Did I mention Spielberg made the visuals and John Williams made the music? That is magic in itself.

Summary: A nice reminder of a special film. Spielberg and Williams work their collective magic.

Find Close Encounters on

What an odd name - Lidl

Advantages: Good and inexpensive food

Disadvantages: A little untidy

Wow! This place is a godsend, especially in the times where the credit is well and truly crunched! 

To get straight to the point Lidl, is another supermarket, which of course we have many competing brands throughout the UK from Sainsburys through to Tesco - there is a whole range ,catering for just about every taste and almost every level of affordability. 

Over the years many people have snubbed their noses at Lidl, perhaps because it is cheaper than the main supermarkets, perhaps because it is European in origin, perhaps because it carries a range of unfamiliar brands. 

Other reasons may be because the stores don't have the glisten and glint and the comfort of the 'in yer face' corporate image of the bigger and more established places like the Tescos of this world. 

In no way am I a snob, but when I did first set foot in a Lidl, I did think the store was a bit of a mess (although not as bad as Primark!), and this really did put me off. The thought in mind was, 'if the store is like this, what is the food going to be like'?' But I persevered, I picked up the same shopping I would have got elsewhere, albeit brands I had never heard of. 

And I will tell you what! The food is just as good as any of the brands I am familiar with, in fact I would go as fas as to say, probably better in some instances. 

Mainland Europeans do snacks like biscuits and cakes better than we get here in the UK (although nothing can ever come close to anything output by Tunnocks), so you can expect a different range of crisps and cakes. 

I reckon I save at a minimum 10% off most things I buy at lidl. 

It can be a little difficult to navigate, like I said it is not as pretty as the main supermarkets, and to be honest, now that I am used to that I quite like it. 

I haven't quite got to the point where I do my weekly shop, there. I usually go in there when I fancy something in particular. 

I think there may be a change in shopping habits while we ride out this credit crunch, and I reckon lidl will see the benefit.

Summary: A great alternative to the big boys

Don't get it on HP. Get HP on it! - Heinz HP Sauce

Advantages: Simply delicious.

Disadvantages: None, though may be a little too sharp or tangy for some palates

There are two main competitors in the brown sauce market - HP Sauce and Daddies Sauce. 

OK they are not really competitors, as they are both owned by Heinz. 

I can't actually make up my mind if I have a preference, they are both very similar in flavour to me, but this is a review of HP, so here we go. 

In case you don't know, HP sauce is a blend of fruits and spices in a vinegary base. It is absolutely delicious. 

So how do you use it? 

Well, whatever you are eating, you put a big dollop on the side of your plate and you dip each forkful in this. 

It is a fantastic with a cooked breakfast, and great on a bacon sandwich, although I must admit that in recent years I have been enjoying my breakfast without any sauces. This actually came about in my efforts not to use as much salt in my food, I just stopped bringing condiments to the table, and have since stopped using the sauce on cooked breakfast. I can't say the same thing about my visits to the chippy! 

My favourite all time use of HP sauce is on your chip shop take-away. If you are not bringing your take-away home, you can generally get a sachet of HP at the chippy. However, I love to do that thing where you get your chip shop take-out home and plate it up. 

No matter whether it is fish and chips, battered sausage, pea fritter or just about any traditional chip shop take-out, a big splash of HP sauce is really going to get the taste buds going. 

The delicious vinegary tang and the sweetness of the fruit sounds like such an odd and unusual combination, but believe me, this is absolutely amazing.

Summary: A delicious sauce for your chip shop take-out.

This doesn't drag on - Dragon's Den

Advantages: You might learn something about business

Disadvantages: none really

Have you seen Dragon's Den? 

It is a program that which shows us entrepreneurs going before a panel of venture capitalists, with perhaps an idea, or a product that hopefully will make money. 

These entrepreneurs need capital to get their ideas off the ground and it is to the Dragon's Den they come to get that money. They essentially have to pitch their idea convinvingly in the hope that the 'Dragons' will find their idea or product attractive and will offer them a deal of money and/or partnership. 

The negotiations are fraught with difficulties, sometimes contradictions and lies. When you see how the panel of Dragon's quiclky weed out the scammers, you begin to understand how they got where they are - not just by sniffing out a good business deal, but with a sixth sense for people. 

This programme throws up some excellent ideas, but some of the ideas will never make it onto the consumer platforms, simply because they ain't going to make the dragons any money. 

The programme also throws up a load of rubbish, and it is these points where a little humour is often injected into the show. 

What I like about Dragon's Den is that it is a little inspirational. OK, I know that I am never going to have the technical or business know how to get an idea in motion, but it does inspire you in other areas of life. 

There is a feeling about watching the program that gives you that get up and go to get all those things done that you have been putting off until tomorrow. 

This is an interesting programme if you are interested in business, wan't ot see how deals might be done and you also like the human interaction perspective. 

Give it a try. Plenty of repeats on channel Dave on Freeview etc.

Summary: Entertaining and education.

Find Dragon's Den at

Bet "You are the weakest link" ain't been used as a headline. No?? Oh well!

Advantages: funny and entertaining

Disadvantages: Anne robinson is an acquired taste

Quiz shows! 

I love them! 

It is like veg-out TV for the body, but not for the brain. So what is The Weakest Link and how is it presented to us. There is a team of nine contestants, each battling for a money prize, the amount which depends on how the game play goes. Now what I am not going to do is try to explain how this works. After all these years I still haven't got the detail correct as to how this is worked out. 

The contestants are behind small podiums and arranged in a crescent around the quiz master Anne Robinson. More on her later. 

In the first round Anne works her way around the contestants in turn firing a question at each, and starting again in order if the time hasn't run out. 

At the end of the each round one of the contestants will be voted out as the weakest link, with the next round having one less competitor than the previous, until it gets down to two, where they will play a normal round and then go up against each other in a five question first past the post play-off for the winner. A tie results in a tie-break. 

Simple ehh? But, the contestants have Anne Robinson to deal with. 

Boy she is a harsh so-and-so. Not only during the rounds, but she really comes to life she will pick on you. She will make a complete idiot of you. If you are overweight, not particularly good looking, or even if you are attractive, you are going to be the butt of her acid tongue. 

If you haven't come out the closet yet, she will out you. She will make you sing, dance and perform any other talent you claim to have. 

Anne Robinson can do anyone down, but, from time to time she does meet her match and this is worth watching just to see her dropping a peg or two. 

So, this is a great quiz programme. It is straight and to the point. It also has the amusing moments which Anne, love her or hate her, does well. 

You shouldn't fail to be amused, entertained and informed here.

Summary: Amusing, entertaining and informative.

Find You are the weakest link on

Who wants to be asleep in the chair? - Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Advantages: Witty banter (till the novelty wears off).

Disadvantages: Slow, slow, slow

Sorry. I will say it straight from the start. I cannot bear this programme. It really was good at first. I remember when it first came on our screen, everyone was raving about it. 

It gives a contestant a chance to win one million pounds! 

How it works. 

The contestant is asked a series of multiple choice questions, which get harder as they progress, the amount of money they can win progresses with each step, until the last one which is worth a million. Certain steps will be guaranteed. You have three lifeline where you can depend on the audiences choice, phone a friend or go 50-50 (two of the four choices are knocked out).

A good quiz show relies on the presentation of the questions being interesting, and the questions themselves being moderately difficult. The quiz master must also make it interesting. 

Let me say something first. This is more of a guessing game than a quiz show. What did make this programme interesting at first, but no longer for me, was Chris Tarrant's presentation. He had a great way of building up the anticipation for the audience and for the contestant. Little catchphrases like "Is that your final answer." Then he would wave a cheque in front of the contestants face with a cheery "we don't want to give you that". 

The banter was good, and that was the attraction, but with quiz shows I don't like waiting for the next question. I enjoy answering the questions not waiting for the contestant to dither over an answer, or phone a friend, or being enlightened after the break. 

I am sticking with something fast paced like University Challenge.

Summary: Once interesting concept, now slow and dull

Find Who Wants to be a Millionaire on

As sweet as Sugar - The Apprentice UK

Advantages: Builds up well to a good ending

Disadvantages: none

15 candidates get the opportunity to win an apprentice-ship with Sir Alan Sugar, one of Britain's leading businessmen. And of course it is all filmed and edited into neat one hour packages for the consumption of the viewer. 

Each episode starts with the contestants being split into two teams, a team leader is appointed, and they are set a business task. The team to make the most profit wins a treat; the losing team go back to the boardroom where first, they along with Alan Sugar and his sidekicks Nick and Margaret, will thrash out what happened - essentially whose fault the loss was down to. 

The team leader will then invite two team mates back into the boardroom, where they will each argue their case as too why they shouldn't be fired. Finally Sit Alan will choose who he is firing. 

So there is the summary of how it works, but why is it good viewing. 

Well within us we all like to think deep down we know it all! 

So there is a little bit of us shouting at the telly "don't do it that way, do it like this" 

And some of these candidates are so far up their own pipe that their comments in pieces to camera are totally out of this world leading to high amusement and at the same time a little infuriation. 

How the candidates go about the tasks can be very interesting, and some people really get found out for their lack of business skills and largeness of perception of self-worth. 

But, it is the boardroom at the end. This becomes a real slanging match. If you want to learn anything about politics and self-preservation, this is the spot to watch. 

Add on top of this Alan Sugar's straight talking, and his sidekicks' dry honesty and you have an entertaining winner of a program.

Summary: Well made social entertainment

Where are those good old-fashioned values... Family Guy

Advantages: Funny and presents the truth in an absurd manner

Disadvantages: Some might find it violent, racist, sexist etc if they have a high irony threshold

OK it is a given that if something is going to be written about Family Guy, you can be pretty sure that there will be a comparison with The Simpsons. 

They are both about a family, each dysfunctional in their own way. 

There you go, now to concentrate on Family Guy. 

There was a time when animated cartoons were for kids - all a cartoon really is, is just another medium for telling a story or making an expression. You could call Family Guy a sitcom, you could say it was a soap. There are some outlandish occurrences and over the top situations shown to us. I cartoon form, this allows us to absorb the message that the absurd way in which a point is being expressed. 

In some ways it also allows the makers to show the ugly side of people in a way that won't cause uproar, the main character Peter Griffin, the head of the family is often shown acting in unacceptable ways, i.e. he is sometimes racist, sexist etc. 

The fact that there is also a talking dog who acts just like a human, though occasionally with doggy traits and a baby who talks very eloquently in Received Pronunciation, makes the unbelievable, believable. 

The show is obviously a vehicle for the makers views on society and perhaps sometimes the views that we daren't express. 

Aside from that, for those of us who don't really want to make a cultural analysis of the show, it is downright funny,

Summary: Family life in the USA in animation

Find Family Guy on

I'll have a vowel please Carol erm.. I mean Rachel - Countdown

Advantages: Good for keeping your mind in check

Disadvantages: A bit dull and staid in places

Much loved (or hated) long running Channel 4 program, originally hosted by the kindly Richard Whitely and the marmitey Carol Vorderman. I am sure there was another female presenter at first, but her name escapes me. Des Lynam and Des O Connor have also had the Anchor. Currently it is presented by the solid Jeff Stelling and the 'sweet' Rachel Riley 

Two contestants battle it out to go through to another game with a different contestant. 

Up to nine random letters are chosen and the contestant to come up with the longest word gets the high scores. 

There is also a numbers round where a series of numbers are blindly chosen. A random number is then generated by a computer and the contestants must make that number used the chosen numbers and the basic arithmetical oprators. 

Finally, after a number of these rounds, there is the 'Countdown Conundrum', essentially an anagram, which needs solving. 

It is aired late afternoon. This is easy viewing, it is typically enjoyed by the older generation, it also has a cult student following. 

You will definitely enjoy this if you like solving word and number puzzles. The banter can be a bit staid at times, at others extremely funny, though this is few and far between. Sometimes when the letters are being chosen, they will spell out a rude word, which causes a few giggles, though they do edit out anything very offensive and start the round again. 

From time to time the contestants themselves will put forward a rude word as their answer - there was the case where the contestants Gino and Lawrence got the same rude word. 

The letters to choose from were 

S R K D U A E W N 

So Lawrence said his word, which created some mirth. 

When gino was asked for his contribution, he said:- 

"looks like we've got a pair of wankers", or something to that effect! 

Right I will be honest here - I never saw this and don't know if it was aired, but it definitely was shown on an out-takes program (check out youtube, you will see it there). 

I would recommend Countdown for those days when you have a quiet half-hour or so to yourself.

Summary: Well made and long running letters and numbers quizzes

Really Good comedy from the 1970s - The Good Life

Advantages: Nice harmless and fun viewing

Disadvantages: none

Oh how I loved this program as a kid! 

To quickly sum-up, it is about a couple (Tom and Barbara Good) who decide to give up middle-class suburban life, to live the 'Good Life' of self-sufficiency. 

They live next door to a rather uppity couple (Margo and Jerry Leadbetter). The programme is set in well-to-do Surbiton, so as you might imagine the sudden inclusion of a couple of overnight farmers dressed in shabby clothes, in the neighbourhood, along with a few farm animals, does not go down too well. 

Much of the humour in this show revolves around the clash between the Goods' new-found freedom from the "middle-class commuter-9 to 5 life" and the social compliance that goes with it, and Margo Leadbetter's "holier-than-thou" stuffiness. Jerry over time becomes more relaxed about having self-sufficient neighbours and often (at his peril) sides with the Goods over his wife. 

The Goods, despite Tom being previously in a well paid job, found themselves, struggling to cope with money, though oddly they continued to live in expensive leafy Suburbia. 

Although filmed and shown on the BBC in the 1970s, to watch it now, it feels like it was filmed a long, long time ago (OK so your under 25 and that is a long, long time ago to you). By that I mean. life seems much slower in this - God I must be getting on if I am speaking like this. 

It is typically canned laughter, but the gags are all there, in the right places and nicely done. 

You are bound to see a repeat of this on one channel or another, so if you haven't had a chance, watch this. 

Tom Good played by Richard Briers 
Barbara Good played by Felicity Kendal 
Margo Leadbetter played by Penelope Keith 
Jerry Leadbetter played by Paul Eddington

Summary: A blast to the past

Find Self Sufficiency books on

His Holiness, Holness - Blockbusters

Advantages: Fast paced quiz action

Disadvantages: none

I really miss this show. As you will read from some of my other reviews, I enjoy a good, well put-together quiz show. 

I reckon this was one of the best. I really liked the format. Not only were the contestants battling against each other in terms of actually answering questions, but they had to 'block' each other on a honeycomb game board, in a manner not unlike Chinese Chequers. 

The game board would be filled with a selection of letters, within hexagons and the players would make a choice of a letter from which to answer a question - hence given rise to the hackneyed phrase "I'll have a P please Bob". As time brought the program nearer to the MDMA generation, asking "I'll have an E please, Bob" had a particular resonance. 

So for example, someone might say "I will have a K please Bob" 

So Bob might say "What Chinese Ceremony is a Chinese Ceremony of abasement" 

To which the contestant might answer Kuma Satra - and then go on to cringe with embarrassment - either because she mispronounced Kama Sutra, or because she remembered she was a sixth former on telly and shouldn't have known such things. (True check it out on Youtube!) 

But you get the idea... 

One team would have two players, the other only one, though they got the easier route through the honeycomb maze of letters. Whichever team won the match, would go through to the Gold Run - This time you were in the dramatic spotlight, and had to get across the board in sixty seconds. This time if you got a question wrong, you blocked yourself and had to work around this block to get to the other side of the board. The hexagons had a series of letters from which the answer would be a phrase. 

There were also some rather nifty prized involved for the Gold run winners. 

Now why did I like this program so much? 

It was on just as I got in from work. 

I would be mentally and physically tired. So I could flop straight onto the settee, but I could also let my brain wind down (it takes me a while to get out of 'work mode'). 

I really miss this program. I hear it has been remade on Sky?? And hosted by Lisa Tarbuck. Aside from giving Sky my money, I will be giving this a wide berth - even though I don't rate Lisa Tarbuck as a presenter, there is only one Bob Holness.

Summary: Excellent and sometimes humourous quiz show

Find Blockbusters on

Never mind Simon Amstell - Never Mind the Buzzcocks

Advantages: Some great humour from Bill Bailey and the guests

Disadvantages: Mostly cheap-shot humour from Mark Lamarr and Simon Amstell

This show just reminds me I am getting older! 

I remember a time when I used to follow contemporary pop and rock pretty closely. This I no longer do. Looking back, as a youngster, it seemed that there was an urgent necessity to keep in touch with the latest sounds, rather than an actual want. 

I also remember a time when i could walk into a pub quiz and really tilt the balance for my team, when it came to the music round. 

Nowadays I know this would not be the case - not because I go to lots of pub quizzes and have seen myself fail, but because I am finding the questions on Buzzcocks increasingly harder. A simple analysis is that the questions are involving more recent music, which I am just not keeping up with - nowadays I couldn't tell your Arctic Patrol from yer Snow Monkeys!! 

However, I still enjoy the quiz, even though it has become 'less serious' if that is possible. 

Basically, two teams and a quizmaster/host. Originally hosted by that annoying Mark Lamarr, it is now hosted by the thoroughly irritating Simon Amstell. 

The teams are of three people, each made up from a resident team captain and two guests, from the world of celebrity, usually from the music world. From time to time there will be a scapegoat guest - a B-lister, or someone who is not particularly funny, or loudmouthed enough to defend themselves against the 'wit' of messrs. Lamarr and Amstell. So this poor guest will be embarrassed and humiliated, so that we can all be happy at how funny and witty the presenters are. 

The game involves answering questions on pop and rock, based around video clips, 'what have they got in common' spot the pop star, name that tune through a capella versions, and complete the lyric. This is all bound together with witty banter between the presenter, captains and guests, and yes it can be funny, but much of it relies on humiliation rather than humour. 

As for Simon Amstell, the show has gone downhill since he started. OK, I know the show isn't meant to be taken that seriously, but he doesn't seem to give a toss about the show. He only seems concerned with trying to be funny.

Simon Amstell, wake up!! - you never were, aren't and never will be a presenter, or a comedian. How in heaven's name you managed to get a job in the media, is a mystery. You were a terrible interviewer on Channel 4s Popworld - truly truly awful. You didn't interview pop stars on that programme, you just tried to put them down. You just tried to come across as superior. You are up - or should I say down - there with Stephen Mulhern - another presenter who relies on humiliating people (check out his pieces on Britain's Got talent). 

Back to Buzzcocks - Thankfully the best humour comes from Bill Bailey. This guy IS funny and doesn't rely on cheap put downs to entertain. 

Try and catch some of the earlier episodes pre-Simon Amstell on some of the repeat channels. 

I would give this programme 5 stars, but Lamarr and especially Amstell do spoil this.

Summary: A great show, spoiled by its presenters.

My Family is nothing like my family. Probably not yours either for that matter.

Advantages: Easy to watch.

Disadvantages: Easy to get bored with.

I remember reading somewhere that this represents your typical British family and that we should all get the humour and see ourselves in it somewhere. Wrong, wrong, wrong. 

My dad is not a dentist for a start. Neither am I for that matter. I am most certainly not in that wage earning bracket, in fact I am a long way off it. Now whether or not I would represent a member of the typical British family, I wouldn't like to say, but I think a family with a dentist as the head doesn't. 

It may be more typical of a family within a certain suburb of London - no doubt the suburb where comedy writers live, wherever that may be. 

Now back to the program. It is a sitcom which revolves around the ups and downs of a family, and all the little incongruencies of character between family members, which all families have, whether typical or untypical. 

Where this family-based sitcom is typical is in that the dad is the one who takes all the flak - think Jack Dee's Rick Spleen character in Lead Balloon - oddly enough his character and his wife are media types. I wonder if they lives in the same London suburb as BBC comedy writers? Also, think Al Bundy in Married with Children. These characters' characters are miles apart, but the father of the family is taking the flak, and always coming off worst. 

Ben Harper is the dentist in question in My Family. He has two sons, occasionally at odds with each other, but who come together when it involves ganging up on Dad. There is also a daughter who is at university. Her character was replaced by a niece, who is a little less intelligent. The wife always gets the better of him. 

Roger is a fellow dentist, who is 'nice but dim'. It is Roget that Ben always tries to get one over, to make him feel a little better at what he suffers from his family. 

I enjoyed My Family, when it first came around. It reminded me of comedy from the 1970s such as The Good Life, but I very quickly started to go off it - although still enjoyable to watch, it is in some places a little tired and seems to rely a little too much on that BBC 'feel' that you are supposed to be comfortable with this, because you are just like this. 

Yes, I will still enjoy an episode of this every now and again when it comes up as a repeat, but I am afraid it has got a little jaded for me and no longer fits in with more contemporary stuff.

Summary: Typically BBC family sitcom which nods back to classic 1970s BBC sitcom

Find classic sitcom at

Tricks of the Mind - Derren Brown

Advantages: A thoroughly good read

Disadvantages: You are actually being taken in to some degree

There is a saying (and I stand to be corrected) which goes something along the lines of: 

"you can cover up a thousand lies with one carefully chosen truth" 

Now consider Derren Brown. He who likes to come across as Honest Joe, short of telling you how he actually does his tricks. He who will denounce the psychics and spiritualists for the charlatans that they probably are. 

Derren will be be glad to tell you this in whichever medium he his working be it the printed page, the theatre or the TV screen. 

Derren is getting you onside, by exposing these people and by gaining your trust, he can tell you whatever he wants. He is clever and charming. 

Derren Brown would have us believe that his magic is worked through a subtle mix of "magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship", and "at no point are actors or stooges used" in his shows. 

Now I believe some of that, I won't say which. 

Derren Brown in his previous TV shows has furthered his honesty by actually showing us how some of his tricks are done - do you recall the ones where he planted suggestible images along a person's route - codswallop. 

Anyway, with that in mind, what about the book. 

The book suggest (ha ha, there it is again) that you will know his secrets. 

What the book does let you into is how to do some easy magic tricks (easy after you have thoroughly practiced them), more to illustrate points about misdirection. 

There is a section on memory, and to be quite honest it is nothing you haven't read about before in Tony Buzan and similar books. 

The next is section is about hypnosis and suggestability. Much is actually said in this book, directly or otherwise, about NLP, which I believe to be a big con and its strength lies in selling books and making business people pay large sums to think they can manipulate people. 

You will also read about unconscious communication; pseudo-science and anti-science and bad thinking. 

Any good book has an excellent index and bibliography, and this is no exception. 

Now up to this point you may have thought I am being a bit negative about this book. On the contrary, it is an excellent book. It is at once filled with genuine information and cleverly, very cleverly padded out with a load of psycho-babble. 

You will be led to think, that Derren bases his tricks on the things he has written about in this book. Nothing could be further from the truth - why would he want to tell you that - this book, in that sense is just one great big misdirection. The only thing that is being directed with any certainty is the money from your wallet into the wallets of Messrs Brown, Channel4 & Transworld Publishers. 

Don't get me wrong though. It is a cracking read, you will just need to be very choosy as to what you take for gospel.

Summary: This will satisfy the die hard Derren Brown fan

Find Derren Brown books at

How many uses for your crisps? - Walkers Ready Salted Crisps

Advantages: They are salty and crispy

Disadvantages: They are not Golden Wonder.

I stand by this - you can't beat Golden Wonder crisps - bring 'em back. But until then, we are stuck with Walkers. 

Now it is fair to say that flavoured crisps such as salt and vingar and cheese and onion really do add another dimension to the potato crisp. But there are times when you do prefer a plain crisp, or strictly speaking ready salted crisp. 

First off lets say something about these: Well they are a potato crisp with salt on and they don't taste much different from other crisps on the market. There are plenty of supermarket own brands out there, a little cheaper say, but they tend to be a little thinner, so some would say lacking in substance and with less in the pack. 

With crisps in general, I would say, with ready salted, choice is a matter of what is available to you at the time. Other than that, at the time being I will always go for a cheaper brand, but this review is for a packet of Walkers Ready Salted. 

Now I don't really enjoy ready salted on their own, I prefer a flavoured crisp, but these come into their own in the following ways. 

A crisp sandwich - 
Simplicity in itself - two slices of bread - butter - half a bag of crisps. Four slices if you want to use the whole bag up between slices. Stick a sliced boiled egg in there as well. Yum 

With salad - 
Right, I know salad is supposed to be healthy, but why put all those nasty greasy crisps in there? Simple! Because you can! Dish your salad up and on the other half of the plate bung your crisps. This makes a marvellous crunch with your lettuce. 

With chicken - hot or cold - 
I first experienced chicken with crisps ages ago. To be honest the crisps were straight out the deep fryer and made a delicious combination with the lovely spicy chicken, but it the combination isn't so bad with crisps straight out the bag either. 

So there you have it more uses for a bag of crisps than you can poke a stick at.

Summary: A reasonable alternative to Golden Wonder I suppose.

Ridged for your pleasure - McCoy's Cheddar & Onion

Advantages: They are cheesey and oniony

Disadvantages: They make you fat, especially when you eat six packs one after the other.

I can't leave these alone! Seriously! I am addicted to these. Allright that is taking it a bit far, but I am not really satisfied with buying just a teensy weensy little pack of the so and sos. 

I need to get a six pack of them. And when I say six pack, I don't mean the six pack that is 2x cheddar and onion, 2x ready salted and 2x salt and vinegar. I mean the six pack of Cheddar and Onion. (though saying that I had to put up with one of the multi six packs the other day, but that is for another review. 

We all know what a crisp looks like, but for anyone who hasn't seen these, they are thicker than your average crisp and ridged with it. This means you can nibble away at these in little chunks if you are so inclined. They can also be a little tough on your gums and palate. 

Now the flavour is out of this world - there is a good balance of cheese against the onion. Neither flavour dominates. You can taste both flavours in equal measure. 

I usually have two bags of these at a session, and sometimes when I feel like being kind to myself, I will have three sessions on the trot, which makes... a greedy so and so. It also means I have to get up off my lardy rear end and go and buy some more. 

Another way to stop yourself eating so many on the trot is to cut up lots of little chunks of cheese and eat them with the crisps. This is great, but it makes them taste too cheesy. You can balance this up with some finely crafted slices of raw onion. Yum. 

See my forthcoming review on mouthwash !!!

Summary: This is a lovely snack.

Overlooked by my lust for Cheddar and Onion! McCoys Salt, Malt & Vinegar

Advantages: It is food

Disadvantages: Might be a little sharp for your taste

I have never been too keen on these. 

The flavour is too sharp and zingy for my liking. My normal preference with McCoys is for the Cheddar and Onion, and six pack at that. 

When I went to get my usual six pack the other day, they only had the multi flavour six pack consisting of 2x cheddar and onion, 2x ready salted and 2x salt and malt vinegar. 

My procedure when eating the multi six pack is to eat the ready salted, then the salt and vinegar then the cheese and onion. However I was so desperate for my Cheese and onion fix I went the other way. 

Now this is strange, when I got to the salt and malt vinegar, I actually found myself enjoying these. No really! 

I had never really appreciated the fact that they are not over salty, and I did try to get over the sharpness of the vinegar - in fact these were rather nice. I will admit though, I was a little hungry at the time and couldn't be bothered cooking, but yes, they were quite nice. 

I will be trying these again - well next time the shop runs out of the Cheddar and Onion!

Summary: Not a bad crisp

I should coco. So should you. Kellogg's Coco Pops

Advantages: Chocolatey goodness.

Disadvantages: None apart from the normal eat in moderation thing

I know I have had these, but I can't remember when. I do know it was a long time ago, and I remembered enjoying them. 

So whilst out shopping the other day, I decided to have a change from the usual boring weetabix. These were crying out to me in their lovely yellow packaging. The fact that I also had a craving for chocolate, just pushed me over the edge. 

I don't mind saying, the price of breakfast cereal is quite ridiculous. That is often why I go for boring stuff, and often supermarket own brand, but heck - I wanted a treat. 

Now the beauty of cereal is that it is welcome at any time of the day. I found myself getting stuck into these at about 10 in the evening after I got home. Three bowls in fact! What's wrong with that? 

Right if you are familiar with rice crispies, you will be familiar with these. They are just the same except these taste chocolatey and so does the milk after a few seconds - in fact they are nothing like rice crispies, except that they make a bit of a snap a crackle and a pop. 

I can't say these are superior to rice crispies - just different. 

They definitely make a nice change from supermarket brand weetabix though. 

As for the price! Get the big box. The small box is about £2.80. The bigger one is just over £3, with about a third more than the small one.

Summary: You will like these if you have sweet tooth

See you. See me. Seabrook. Yum! - Seabrook Crinkle Cut Crisps

Advantages: A huge range of flavours.

Disadvantages: Not widely available

The shop across the road from where I used to work sold these - these were the only crisps they sold. No Golden Wonder, no Walkers, no Smiths (remember them)? Seabrook only. 

And so it came to pass that if I wanted a crisp or two with my lunch it would have to be a seabrook. 

These crisps are ridged, but they are nothing like McCoys for example. they are much lighter and thinner and as a result feel crisper in the mouth. 

That in my opinion makes them perfect for having with a sandwich or with a salad. They come in a huge range of flavours, about 22 I think including their hot and spicy range. so as wll as the usual flavours, expect stuff like: 

Bacon & Brown sauce 
Canadian Ham 
Chicken & Stuffing 
Roasted Garlic 

and from the Hot and spicy range 

2 Chilli 

This range of flavours make them ideal for matching up to whatever sandwich you are making. 

I particularly like the Cream Cheese and Chive flavour with some crusty bread filled with finely chopped onion, green pepper and cottage cheese. 


Summary: Plenty of flavours to choose and put in a sandwich.

Birds Eye Potato Waffles They really are versatile, but I prefer them simple style

Advantages: Filling convenience snack. Frozen food so they last well.

Disadvantages: Some would argue they are neither healthy nor wholesome.

These really are versatile, but I still prefer them on their own and smothered in butter. 

What are they? 

Potato shaped into a waffle shape, which you can either fry, grill or oven bake. They don't come out so well if you are frying them. 

I prefer to do them in the oven, as they tend to warm through nicely, without getting too browned on the outside - that is they stay a light golden colour 

This is what I tend to do with these. Rather than have them as part of a meal. I will have these for my breakfast, if I am not doing the full cooked thing. Or as a suppertime snack. 

So in the morning it is butter and brown sauce. In the evening it is grated cheese on top. Absolutely piping hot, so that the cheese melts. 

At the risk of this turning into a processed food-fest, there are times when I enjoy a bit of junky instant food. One of the ways I do enjoy these as a meal is with beans and Findus Cheesey pancakes (or whoever makes them these days). That really is delicious. 

I recommend you always have a pack of these potato waffles in your freezer.

Summary: Very convenient. A simple 'filler' accompaniment.

No witty headline required. This is simple and straightforward.. Batchelors Cup-a-Soup

Advantages: Quick and easy winter warmer

Disadvantages: Well it is not really soup.

Oh my word! 

Good old cup-a-soup. 

Do you remember when you were young and you would get dragged around by a parent everywhere? 

You would maybe get taken to an auntie, or your mum's friend, or one of your dad's buddies. They would be talking adult talk and very soon you would get bored stiff. So they would try and keep you entertained, whilst getting on with the adult talk. 

Well my old auntie, this is what she'd do. 

She would be in the kitchen and shouting through the gossip to my mum. Then what seemed like an eternity later, she would appear in front of me with, not so much a cup a soup, but a mug of cup-a-soup. An two slices of bread with butter - real butter none of this marge or spread stuff. 

This would shut me up for five minutes or so, and keep the moans of "I am bored, I want to go home" in check for five or ten minutes. 

I always used to appreciate this because my mum would never get cup-a-soup in. 

So what is cup a soup? 

It is a sachet of powder, which you put in a cup, add boiling water to and reconstitute into soup. There is some debate into how authentic it is as a soup, but there is no doubt, that on those days when you are starving cold and hungry, this is a really quick way of feeling nourished, warmed and a little cheery. they come in 4 sachets in a cardboard box and the variety of flavours is quite extensive, though I would recommend staying with flavours with no 'bits' in such as tomato. In fact I would say especially tomato as this is probably the flavour that is most like the real thing.

Summary: Not real soup, but for what it is, it is probably the best, so five star

Jessops LCD Screen Protectors - Pure and simple solution to preventing scratched screens

Advantages: Should keep screen scratch free and might reduce the appearance of scratches

Disadvantages: Some might find them a little fiddly to apply

For months I put up with the LCD screen on my camera becoming gradually more difficult to see. The problem was this. I am a bit of a heavy duty camera user, and the LCD screen on one of my cameras became scratched and marked - I must point out that part of the problem here was down to getting the camera in and out of its tight, but protective case. It was getting scratched against the nylon inner. 

Another part of the problem was not wanting to 'interfere' with the screen, by putting something that I thought was sticky all over it. Although I had heard of these screen protectors I was reluctant to try them as I did not know what they would do in the long term. 

It eventually got very difficult to see the screen due to the scratches and the additional reflections they caused. 

I had no other choice but to try the Jessops LCD Screen Protectors. 

So I popped down to Jessops and paid £5.39 for a pack which includes three protective films measuring approx 100 by 80 mm. Eaxh film consists of a microthin transparent film with a card backing. You cut the film whilst still on the backing, so a little careful measuring of the LCD screen you will use this with, is needed. 

There are some templates for some palmtops, but if you can measure thoughtfully, and use a pair of scissors you won't have a problem. 

You are provided with a screen wipe to ensure your screen is free to take the protection. Once you have cleaned the screen, give it a few seconds to dry. Then carefully peel the backing away from the film, and by following the instructions, carefully line up the film. 'square on' ready to peel it onto the screen. 

Once you have done this, there is a stiff piece of card provided for smoothing the protection down and assisting to remove any air bubbles you might have got trapped. 

Now although I had used this as a last resort as a bit of damage limitation, I was impressed by how much this had actually improved the screen's image. The guy in the shop did mention this, which I put down to sales banter. It really did improve the situation, and although I can't say if this will improve the look of your scratched screen, it did for me. 

I have since put this protection on my mobile phone screen, and the first thing I did when I bought a pricey DSLR, was to make sure the screen was protected with this. 

I don't know at this stage if the stuff eventually peels off, and if it leaves any residue behind. I have had this on camera for about a year now and, touching the proverbial wood, all seems fine.

Summary: This is value for money

Find photography books on

Nothing Corny about this - Tesco Value Corned Beef

Advantages: It is great value and tasted good

Disadvantages: None, unless you are fussy about packaging

Its corned beef and it is only a quid or so. 

Sometimes when I go into supermarkets, my jaw drops at the prices of something as simple as the filling in a sandwich. Many cold meats, I find are actually quite bland and tasteless, and you usually need something else on there to give it a bit of a bite. Something like a dollop of branstons (or similar) pickle or a blob of brown sauce or ketchup. 

One of my favourite cold meats has to be corned beef, and it is simply because it does seem to have a bit of flavour. It is disappointing though when we fancy a sandwich and you go and look at the cold meats and are confronted with something like £2.00 for four slices!! You could buy a ready made sandwich for that, with much more filling, and save yourself a few minutes in the kitchen. 

When I say this Tescos corned beef, I had to snap it up! I can't remember how many slices you get with this, but it is definitely more than four. 

It tastes fine, each slice is about the same slice as a slice of bread, so the sandwich bit is easy. Apart from that though, one of my favourite ways of using this is with a meal - a couple of slices of this, boiled potatoes drenched with butter or marge, and a portion of baked beans. You can even use a tin of new potatoes to save on the cooking. 


Summary: A tasty and delicious part of a snack or full meal. Close Encounters of the Third Kind fansite

Advantages: Well laid out. Should answer some unanswered questions

Disadvantages: Navigation a little unclear

Ever wondered what Roy Neary's house looks like nowadays? 

This is a real treat for fans of the film Close Encounters of the Thrid Kind. It should answer many unanswered questions you might have about the film and about the making of the film. 

Have your speakers switched on for the little soundbites. 

There is a very neat splash screen, with appropriate wording, clicking enter takes you to the introduction, which is heralded with a familiar fanfare. Once you have read the opening paragraphs, you will see another "enter" link. Click on that. 

This is where you get to what I will call the menu page. The graphics are great! Along the top is the main menu, which signify the sections of the site: 

The Movie 
On Location 
Pop Culture 

Along the bottom of the page are further links to: 

Forum (no longer working??) 

Each of these sections, might have further subsections; for example the Publicity section is subdivided into: 

Press Materials 

Now what you do need to be aware of when navigating this site is that it might be easy to miss much of the site, by simply not having your browser on full screen - one of the things I like about this site is that there is no scrolling about to look at info, instead there is a next page link. To see this link, you must have your browser on full screen, as it is tucked away in the top right hand corner of the page - not a problem once you know where it is and it does keep the page neat. I accidentally disregarded the music section because of this, thinking there was no additional content. There is also a "previous" link in the top left hand corner. 

I think this is a great site, and I am not going to spoil it by spilling out the content, as it is worth a visit if you have enjoyed this film. 

The look of the site, with its dark background, colour bars along the bottom and Close Encounters typeface, really do sum up the film. It is a neat and well laid out site. The visual content is attractive and the webmaster has made great use of existing material, and (I think) has also come up with some original unpublished material. 

The various sections are well thought out and packed with content. 

This site is well worth a visit.

Summary: An excellent fan site

Its not just for youth -

Advantages: This website is straightforward and east to navigate

Disadvantages: None - it is a genuinely good website

As soon as you hit this site it is clear that they want to get down to business. Not a bad thing. The Youth Hostels Associations in Britain (SYHA and YHA) have been moving away from their initial aims over the years and they need you. 

You are confronted with a flash player intro to one side of the screen and a mini booking form on the other. Other items on the page are general news and events blocks 

The main menu items are: 

Holiday Ideas 
Groups & Schools 
About Us 

******* Hostels ******* 

This is essentially a list of the avaialble hostels throughout Scotland, with links to each one giving more detail about a particular hostel, its surroudnings and other info. 

******* Holiday Ideas ******* 

Wow! this page looks simple as it is essentially a load of links to other areas of the sit, but brilliant info to be had including: 

Active & Adventure 
Mountain Biking 
Wildlife & Marine 
Mini Breaks 
Cairngorm Winter Skills 
Torridon Winter Skills 
Adult Introduction to Bushcraft 
Essential Scotland Tour 
Cairngorm Canoe Weekend 
Cairngorm Wet n' Wild 
Cairngorm Mountain Biking 
Family Bushcraft 
Group Adventure Breaks (on request) 
Torridon Mountain Taster Weekend 
Torridon Munros 
West Highland Way 
Skye Munros 
Nordic Walking Weekend 
Kintail and Affric Ridges 
Silver National Navigation Award 
Bronze National Navigation Award 

******* Groups & Schools ******* 
This section of the website leads to further information on the SYHA's involvement with groups and schools, such as the Give Us a Break project which provides funds for disadvantaged young people tot take part in a various activities. There is also info on how SYHA can cater for groups and schools and a link to a page about the food side of things 

******* Rentahostel ******* 

Yes, you and your buddies can rent a whole hostel to yourselves (on the less busy times of the year), this tells you how to go about it. You can even rent a castle! 

******* Membership ******* 

This page and its links, tells you what membership offers, its benefits, the discounts you will receive and even how you can support a charity. 

******* News ******* 

Obviously this page is ever changing, As well as news, there are a list of events. 

******* About Us ******* 

This is quite a lengthy page, and although it may not be too important to is who are just looking for somewhere to stay, potential die hard hostellers will be interested ti find out about the history of the SYHA. There is also a job vacancies page. When I first encountered this website a while ago, it was teeming with jobs - there are only three available at the moment. 

This is a cracking website, which I used to book a holiday last year. It is straightforward. 

Obviously the appeal of Scotland is its romance and history - its beautiful landscape and interesting weather are also a given. This website puts all that across whilst being at a total tangent to the shortbread tin and kilted piper vision of Scotland. This website puts across a modern, progressive Scotland as a place to enjoy your leisure time.

Summary: Hassle free way to find about a variety of destinations and book a complete itinery.

Bursledon Brickworks Industrial Museum - The industrial south

Advantages: A good day out for all

Disadvantages: Experience the pollution of the past

This is a medium sized industrial heritage site in the South of England about halfway between Portsmouth and Southampton. 

You enter the site down a dusty track on one side of which is the car park and the other a narrow guage railway line. 

On non-event days, all there really is to see is the brickworks building, a lovely old red brick building with a wonderful chimney stack. This stack has had to be shortened for safety reasons. Entering the building you are taken past some of the machinery used to crush the clay and process it through to the making of the bricks themselves. Through the next door you cab see the steam engine which would have turned the machinery. This is a beautiful piece of heritage. You can also see two great big steam boilers, though they are purely there for show, they are it seems, beyond repair. The lower level also houses some machine shops. 

The upper level hold the main displays which tell you about the history of the brickworks - on open days this space has further displays and mainly traders. 

The brickworks really come to life on events days - generally this is a gathering of steam engine enthusiasts, and if you will excuse my terminology, I am talking the steamroller, fairground type rather than those that pull the trains. There are rides on a carriage being pulled by these engines, which is charming. 

The nostalgia value of these old steamrollers is great and educational, however they are dirty, filthy things. There was smoke and its stench all about the atmosphere. My throat was really irritated and I felt smelly and dirty. This was a REAL education. It is easy to witter on nostalgically about the past, but everyday life for the worker involved working amongst these filthy, coal driven machines and factories. Not only the workers, but their families within the vicinity would not avoid the smoke - add to that that every house was heated by coal. 

I am of the generation (just) that remembers when houses had coal fires and in the winter there was a definite pong of burning coal about the streets , and although this was bearable, if Bursledon Brickworks open days are anything to go by, living in the heart of an industrial city must have been hell on the lungs. 

There are usually a selection of small non-locomotive type steam engines, which might have been used for powering a machine such as a lathe or as a generator. 

You will also see a selection of vintage vehicles, mainly working or industrial vehicles as opposed to the family saloon, though there is generally a nice selection of these. From time to time they have also had an double-decker bus such as a Titan for giving short rides. 

The content of the open days do change from time to time, though what I have described here seems to be the core. You may also get displays of blacksmithing, hand brick making and pottery, some of which is hands on for the visitors. 

There are also nice catering facilities where you can get a good cup of tea and a slice of cake and lunchtime snacks. Toilet facilities are clean and tidy. 

All in all this is a good day out and of great interest to those in the south who like a bit of industrial heritage, but are a little too far away from what the north has to offer.

Summary: Industrial Heritage site for the south of England

A few books on Industrial Archaeolgy etc on

Advantages: A great listen - especially if you like controversy.

Disadvantages: Callers are charged to call in

There is no doubt that George Galloway is one of the most controversial MPs in Britain. Not because of his expenses claims (he has none), which is very topical, but perhaps because at one end of the spectrum he is perceived as being a Saddam lover (this is untrue if Mr Galloway's writings are to believed) at the other end of the spectrum, controversial for making a fool of himself on Celebrity Big Brother, by pretending to be a cat (perhaps hence why the Top Cat theme tune at the opening of his show). 

George Galloway is a socialist and internationalist. He is sharp, a great speaker. He is at the forefront in appealing for the rights of the Palestinian - despite this he is not an anti-semite, though it may be fair to say he is anti-zionist. Being a Scottish Catholic of Irish descent, in tandem with his meetings with Saddam Hussein and his love of the Middle East, it is easy to see why some might think he is not a lover of Britain. Nothing could be further from the truth. Galloway loves this country and believes in Britain being united. 

He makes what I have said perfectly clear in one way or another on The George Galloway show on Talksport on Friday and Saturday evenings from 22:00 for three hours. 

'Gorgeous George' will set the points for discussion within the first five minutes, let it go from there and wait for the calls to come in - yes it is a phone-in show. For the next three hours you are guaranteed controversy, raised voices and some people being put in their place and their knowledge corrected. 

First time callers, women and people who disagree with him are given priority. Wome are not given priority due to any feminist agenda, just simply because there are not enough women callers. 

Calls are charged as are texts. I don't like this idea. The caller is after all providing the content for the programme - te caller should be getting paid to ring in! 

Asie from that, I really rate this show. I find George balanced and depsite being on the left, he is fair and gives the other side their say, except in the most extreme cases of stupidity. 

You can access George Galloways show Listen Again via the Video/Audio links here:

Summary: A great show for those who like to listem to a good argument

Academic & political texts on