Thursday, 14 May 2009

Hail Hail! The George is here! Views on George Galloway

A genuinely good speaker. A joy to listen to

Disadvantages: He is, when all is said and done, a clever politician

I like to listen to George Galloway's talksport show. I don't listen to it on a Friday and Saturday night, when it is on live, but there is a facility to listen again via his website. 

I see George Galloway more as one who is in the media, rather than a politician. He is of course using the media though to get his political agenda across. 

I am not very 'political', so couldn't tell you one politician from the other. So with that in mind I first encountered George Galloway on Celebrity Big Brother, where he came across as a bit of a good guy, and definitely one who knows his mind, and one who knows how to put his point across. And what about the cat episode. He got a lot of stick for that - I thought he was a sport to be honest. 

I heard about Mr Galloway being summoned to answer some questions by some Big Dicks in the USA. Again, not being one who gets involved with politics, I didn't really understand what it was all about, but I tracked the video down on youtube and was highly impressed by the way Mr Galloway held his ground. 

Then, I heard he presents his own radio show and tuned in. Well there is no doubt that this is a mouthpiece for his politics, but whether or not you agree with what he says, he certainly drums up some debate. This is a show worth listening to, you might get angered, you might feel in total disagreement, you might revel in what he says. You will in all likelihood be hooked. 

George Galloway's political stance would seem to be all about a fair society for all races, creeds, etc. His favourite subjects are the situation in Palestine and the famous Glasgow Celtic, although he has promised not to mention them, and has agreed to donate to charity when he does. 

As you may have guessed, he is not only a Scot, but a Catholic and from time to time he will take the opportunity to remind listeners, in no uncertain terms some of the abuse that Scots, Catholics and Catholic Scots in particular have had to put up with over the years, especially from their fellow country men. This can make very interesting listening when he gets a particular type of caller from the West Coast of Scotland. 

Despite his nationality and religion, surprisingly George Galloway does not want Scottish Independence. He is always very quick to put down, I am glad to say, anyone from one part of the the UK who is prepared to put down someone from another part. 

One thing I cannot stand about his programme is how he can cut off a caller. Fair enough, some people ramble on about nothing, don't make their point, and get nowhere. But sometimes you just feel that George knows a caller isn't going to take the call in the direction he might wan't it to and down comes the fader with a quick "Thank you to that caller. Now moving on" Sometimes this is justified when it becomes clear the caller should never be let near a telephone, never mind a radio station 

Another reason his cutting a caller short bugs me is that the caller has to PAY the call. The caller is paying the radio station, yet it is the caller who is providing the content. This though is more the fault of the producers than George Galloway. 

My conclusions are that I like George Galloway as a media personality, as a politician (for what it is worth with my knowledge of politics). I think if put in charge he could do a lot to solve this country's problems, although I feel his solutions would really rankle the right-wingers in society. 

George is charming and charismatic. With that in mind though I still need to remember he is a politician!

Summary: An entertaining speaker who deserves a higher media profile.

Comfy Caffe Nero

Advantages: The big comfy chairs and sofas

Disadvantages: A touch pricey, just a touch though. No waiter service, though not really a problem.

There is one particular aspect of Nero's that I enjoy, but more of that later. 

Nero is a self serve cafe - the choice of food and cold drinks are on shelves near the entrance. You take your food to the counter and there it is heated if necessary - the food is brought to the table when cooked. You also order your hot drinks at the counter and pay there. 

There is a 'good' choice of drinks and sandwiches available and in some Neros I have seen salads offered, though to be honest I wouldn't like to comment on their full range and availability - I tend to go there later in the day, perhaps when they have stopped stocking their shelves after the lunchtime rush. 

Let's talk about the food and drink I actually have tried. 

I haven't been through their range of food and drinks, and coffee, in general for me is something that comes out of a jar on a teaspoon. I couldn't tell a latte from a skinny or a cappuccino from an esspresso. 

My drink of choice from Nero's is a good old hot chocolate, which comes with a good splodge of 'squirty cream' on top. The chocolate is already quite sweet, so no need to add any sugar. In the summer I might just have a Pepsi. 

Nero used to do pizza, but when I have been in recently there doesn't seem to be any left - whether or not they have stopped doing it or it has run out I don't know. 

The pizza is served up on a shallow bowl on top of a napkin - this gets awkward as the napkin gets covered in stringy cheese. If you want a knife and fork, you need to ask for this. The pizza is delicious though! 

I can be a little fussy when it comes a sandwich - I want a basic sandwich, with one, two or three at the most ingredients. Neros seem to want to pack as many ingredients into their paninis etc - most people I would guess like this - perhaps they feel it is value for money. 

My favourite is a sausagemeat type panini (I don't remember the Italian name!). I could eat these all day. 

So I tend to limit my choices at Neros - I stick with what I know especially when the sandwiches are between £3 and £4 or more. 

Now my favourite thing about neros - the 'comfy corners'. 

In the Neros I have eaten in, they have had at least two comfy areas, where you are seated at comfy chairs or perhaps a settee. This is what brings me to Neros - I feel that I can chill out and relax while I am eating and drinking. This is an important point for me. When I enter a Caffe Nero, the first thing I check is if there is a free comfy area. If not I go and shop a little more and come back later. 

I recommend Caffe Neros, so long as you don't pinch my comfy seat!!

Summary: Good food, good drinks, good comfort, good cheer.

The Art of Always Being Right 38 ways to win in defeat - Arthur Schopenhauer

Advantages: A valuable book if you like ploughing through big words.

Disadvantages: It is too much of a 'big' read

This book is not a quick fix! 

The title has a little bit of an air of self-help book to it. This probably has more to do with the term 'defeated' being used in the title. The self-help book prays on that sense within us, when we are down and we need someone to hold the hand we are reaching out when we need help. 

This is not a book for those who are looking for help - those defeated because they can't argue their way out of a paper bag. 

I feel instead, this book is for the over indulgent smarty pants who doesn't need any help. He who goes through life doing other people down. He who doesn't yet realise that no matter how big you think yours is, there is always, metaphorically speaking, a guy with a bigger one than you! This is a book for the guy who, thus far, has always, always come out top in a discussion, but has met his better, and is scared. This is for the guy who has come up against philosphy's very own John Holmes and gulped! 

Perhaps I am being mean and unkind. 

This book is a 'clever' book for 'clever' people. 

It takes a bit of reading, there is a lot to absorb, there are techniques, not only to assimilate, but to practice and master. In this book you will learn many tricks of discussion and debate. Tricks and actual techniques of rhetoric. Should you be bothered to get through it, for it is not an easy read, perhaps not to someone like myself, you should (I won't say will) be able to win, win, win in every argument and discussion you ever find yourself in. If nothing else, if you at least can't learn the techniques, you will at least learn to see when someone is taking a liberty. 

Personally for me it never went in, but I can imagine the person who really cannot bear to be defeated in a discussion, relishing this and lapping up every letter, word and sentence. 

At the risk of sounding like a total idiot, there are a lot of 'big words' and philosophical terms to blunder through - if you get over these you will no doubt be in top form next time someone tries to convince you their footy team is better than yours - or even something less important or deep!! 

At time of writing the cheapest inclusive price for a copy is over at

Summary: Don't listen to me. Give it a try

Find a copy here

A Voyage To Arcturus - David Lindsay

Advantages: It is not badly written

Disadvantages: The 'meaning' doesn't shine through

Before Tolkien and Pratchett and a whole host of other Fantasy writers there was David Lindsay. 


Well that is not surprising really. Not many, except perhaps the most die-hard fantasy fans, it seems, have heard of him. 

Lindsay's Voyage to Arcturus was published in 1920. It sold about 600 copies, but has since the 1960s been rediscovered and is considered a bit of a cult item. 

Although I have taken the book to be a Fantasy book, it seems others consider it Science Fiction, perhaps because it involves space travel? Perhaps because it involves a distant 'planet' and 'alien beings'. 

As you might have gathered from my other book reviews I hate to give away anything about the plot. I hate to give any spoilers. What I will always try to do is give you a flavour, a taste if you will of what to expect. 

I went into this cold, never having heard of the book, but the fact that I acquired it I thought why waste an opportunity to read a book with an interesting cover. 

As soon as I started it I was hooked, well sort of. It begins with the build up to a séance in a well-to-do household in Hampstead. It is in these early stages of the book you think you are going to get into something comfortable and familiar. As usual I struggled to keep up with all the characters who are introduced in a small space of time. You needn't bother. The séance takes a twist and after a relatively short journey, the book's protagonist, Maskull, is transported to the planet Tormance. 

This really is where the meat of the book happens. As it turns out, the book seems to be some sort of philosophical exploration, delving into notions of Good and Evil, God and the Devil and other binary oppositions that man has struggled with in the then, modern age, and still does in these postmodern times. 

On a basic 'fantasy/SF' level all the elements are here - a distant planet with two suns, a host of differing species of humanoid beings, telepathy, strange flying dragon-like beasts, strange landscapes. 

I genuinely don't know if I enjoyed this book. On the one hand, I found it difficult to put down, but I do find myself asking, is this because I wanted something 'interesting' to happen. On the other hand I haven't really read a book too much like this before. When all is said and done, I did work my way through it. 

Approach this book, philosophically, not as a good read!

Summary: A vaguely enigmatic read.

Making Christmas Cards - Judy Balchin

Advantages: This will keep you busy

Disadvantages: The cards you make might end up costing more thatn shop bought, but...

Making Christmas Cards by Judy Balchin is a softcover book measuring approx 8 by 10 inches. It is 48 pages long and as you should expect from this type of craft book it is very well illustrated. The projects include 

Stitched Stocking 
Embossed Motifs 
Seasonal Silk Tree 
Wire & Bead Star 
Festive Fairy 
Bethlehem Sticker Scene 

The real beauty of this book comes in the wonderful illustrations. Not only do they serve the purpose well of showing you clearly how to do the craft work, the pictures are just very attractive in themselves. This makes you secure in knowing you have bought a quality book. The ideas do look stunning in the book and if you prefer to make a card for a special person rather than buy a shop one, you are really going to feel inspired. 

The step-by-step instructions are easy to follow and the photos only serve to make this easier. I must say though that, as with any activity, if you don't have a flair for it, no amount of easy instructions are going to turn you into a master-crafter. To be fair though, if you are a complete beginner you must expect a little trial and error. To get immediate results it will help if you have good measuring, cutting (paper and material), gluing and basic sewing skills. To get more elaborate results you will need to have a flair for embossing, glass and silk painting. 

I tried the first project - Stitched Stocking - and to be honest it didn't look too bad, it did resemble the picture on the book (you can see pictures from the book - link at foot of review) It was only my sewing that let me down really. Yes you need to do a little sewing, but when you see the results and the wonderful projects you will see why it counts. 

If you get enjoyment out of making things this is a really good book and I do recommend it to the beginner - like anything, just be patient with yourself and the results will come through. My attempt at the Stitched Stocking was passable and it will be given to someone when Christmas comes, and hopefully I will work my way through the projects and have a stack of these to give at Christmas. 

If you want to see some pictures of the projects in the book go to and type in the keywords making christmas cards judy balchin. 

Good luck and happy crafting

Summary: A great all round book for the beginner, with projects to suit the experienced.

You can get this on ebid
If that link has expired search for it here (join ebid link)

I couldn't believe the name De-Solv It Sticky Stuff Remover

Advantages: An apt name and this really does do what it says on the bottle

Disadvantages: You might find it a little smelly.

I first happened upon Sticky Stuff Remover years ago when I bought a secondhand book from a charity shop 

I had met up with a friend in a cafe after a day out shopping, and as we sat drinking coffee we showed each other what we had bought that day. 

I showed her the book I bought. When she handed it back to me, I didn't realise I was nibbling away at the corner of the price label on that book as we spoke. My friend noticed this and suggested I get some Sticky Stuff Remover for that. 

I thought she had made it up, as the name at first seems a bit naff, but sure enough such stuff exists. 

When we parted, I toddled along to the nearest hardware shop and bought a bottle. It came in a 250ml size and cost £4.00 - this was eight years ago. I have checked online with places such as These days online you will expect to pay between £3.60 and £5.00. It comes in a bottle about 6 inches tall (15cm). 

My friend told me you only need a tiny bit of this for removing a label from a book. The screw-top lid is one of those safety lids - you need to give it a little squeeze to open. The top is a plastic ring with a little hole in to let the fluid out in drips. Inevitably, some of it is going to run down the sides of the bottle. 

Handy hint time. Go to the chemist and buy a little bottle and eye-dropper. Decant some of the Sticky Stuff remover into the bottle and - hey presto - you can control the amount of fluid coming out with no waste. 

Back to the book label. You literally need ONE drop for a small label, maybe two for a larger one. Drop the fluid on to the label bang on the middle. Wait until the label absorbs the fluid. The label will start to go semi-opaque. Give it a minute or two. If the fluid hasn't spread to the edges (i.e. gone semi-opaque) by five minutes, add another drop. Be aware not all labels will take on this semi-opaqueness. You should in about 95% of instances just be able to peel off the label. 

Just a few words of warning, if the book is an older paperback, or doesn't have a glossy sheen, if you let the fluid go beyond the boundaries of the label and onto the book, the book might soak some of this excess up and leave a 'grease-spot' type stain. So go really easy when you apply the fluid, to guard against this possibility. 

Also, if it is a paperback, put a sheet of greaseproof paper between the cover and the flyleaf, just in case it soaks through - this is just a precaution. 

A positive side-effect I have found of applying too much sticky stuff remover is that, when I wiped off the excess, I found it actually cleaned the book! So, as long as the book has a glossy non absorbent cover, or dustjacket, it can be cleaned. 

I have since bought some real grotty books at the car-boot sale and got to work with the Sticky Stuff Remover and brought them up good as new in many cases. 

This stuff is oily or greasy. It has a smell which you might find 'pleasant'. It smells a little of oranges, but is also a little bitter, so be prepared for a little pong on your books - it does go away. 

I have also used this stuff for other minor cleaning jobs involving sticky stuff. The label claims it will remove oil-based stains and spills from fabrics. It will also remove chewing gum it seems. I haven't tried any of these, so can't make any claims or recommendations. 

I have had the same bottle for years, and as I buy a lot of second hand books from charity shops, (I do need to get their pesky labels off) this stuff gets used. Well I have had this bottle for years and it still feels nearly full.

Summary: This is one of those truly wonder products.

This inevitable TV tie-in is actually quite self sufficient The River Cottage Cookbook - Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Advantages: A wonderful introduction to part of the self-sufficient lifestyle

Disadvantages: The photography can be bad in places - not a major worry

I bought this book on the back of the television series River Cottage which Hugh presents. 

A little background on the series first. It is essentially following the smallholding exploits of the celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. In this series we get to see Hugh grow fruit and vegetables, bring up, and send to slaughter, livestock and we watch his progress as he becomes accepted into the hierarchy of Country Living in West Dorset. 

Now as is the norm today, sooner or later the TV tie-in book comes along, and this is it. Although the River Cottage television series was essentially about food, it did also say a lot about 'country living', whether real or some rustic, romantic notion dreamed up by city-dwellers hoping to one day escape, the series attempted to show this. 

The book on the other hand leans more towards the foodie who wants to be a smallholder. If you are after a simple recipe book, be warned, it is not just that. Yes there are recipes in here, but there is also a wealth of information about fruit, vegetables livestock and the process of these becoming food. It is a good general read and will definitely whet the appetite (or sensibly discourage) those who have considered becoming smallholders. 

Be aware though, despite the books size and weight (447 pages) it is NOT a complete smallholders guide. 

As a general read for those who have watched and enjoyed the River Cottage series, you should get something from this, at the minimum some interesting recipes. If you are interested being self sufficient at whatever level the information here is valuable, though probably not complete. 

One criticism I have of this book is the photography. There are lots of photographs, which is great, but it looks as if the photographers have tried to use natural light throughout, to give the book a 'natural' feel in keeping with the spirit of the book. All this has achieved in my opinion is dark grainy/noisy shots, and quite frankly there is some bad-looking photography here. Some other shots look as if no thought has gone into them at all. Still, it all looks natural and organic, so perhaps it is fitting and contextual. Despite this I am still giving the book a five star rating. 

Despite being a TV tie-in the book does stand up on its own 

The cover price is £17.99. I would recommend you get it for a couple of quid on, though unavoidably you will have to pay hefty postage on this heavy book, wherever you buy on-line, you should still get a used copy in VG condition for under a tenner all in, which is fantastic value.

Summary: Brimming with ideas for both the wanabe chef and smallholder

Revel in these Mars Revels

Advantages: All in all a tasty treat

Disadvantages: For me, the coffee and orange flavours stop me from buying.

According to an older relative, Revels have been described in the past as a box of chocolates in a bag. 

So what do you get in a bag of Revels? Basically a selection of near round-shaped chocolate treats. 

There is one you may already be familiar with and that is the good old Malteser, basically a ball of malt flavoured honeycomb covered in chocolate. 

There is a raisin variety, essentially a raisin covered in chocolate. I find this one particularly delicious. Sometimes they move the goalposts and swap this with a peanut variety, which I am not so keen on. 

Next we have a good old chocolate button style sweet, essentially a big chocolate button covered in a crisp chocolate shell. Just play around with this in your mouth - try and get the chocolate shell off then enjoy the lovelines inside. 

Next up there is a caramel toffee, which I find a bit hard and trying on the teeth. I would have prefered a softer caramel type sweet. 

I know they say you should always leave the best till last, but I have broken the rules here. There are two flavours which I don't think belong in any box, or bag, of chocolates and that is the coffee and orange 'crème' type, and what do we have here? Yes those very two. 

These two flavours are over-sickly and over-sweet and don't belong anywhere in my humble opinion. 

Despite liking real coffee and real oranges I hate the coffee and orange flavoured revels. It defeats me as to why they continue to put these in, as anyone I have spoken to detests these. I understand they did replace the coffee with a different flavour at one time, but it seems coffee is back to stay. 

So with that in mind I rarely buy a bag of Revels, why spend money on something you are only going to enjoy about 60 percent of?

Summary: Despite my reservations about some flavours, still a quality product.

Flexible stuff in many senses. - Bostik Blu Tack

Advantages: Has many uses beyond the obvious

Disadvantages: None really - it does what it is supposed to - and more.

What I love most about Bostik Blu Tack is its flexibility - no pun intended -but more of that later. 

If you have been on Mars since the nineteen-seventies, you might not know what Bostik Blu Tack is. 

In a nutshell it is a gooey, putty like substance used for semi-permanently (if there is such a thing) fixing posters and such like to walls - essentially a substitute for drawing pins, where it is most useful in situations where the wall is too hard for a drawing pin to penetrate. It comes in a flat slab about 6 by 4 inches, sandwiched between what appear to be two sheets of greaseproof paper, and ultimately stored in the cardboard envelope it is supplied. Essentially to use for its widest known purpose you get a small blob about the size of a marble, divide this into four equal parts, roll them into small balls, stick one to each corner of the poster on the side to be fixed to the wall. Position the poster and press the corners where the blu-tack is against the wall and - hey presto! 

But what about this flexibility? 

Well not only will it put up posters, you can also use it for holding up birthday cards, christmas decorations (not too heavy mind!), maps, messages - you get the idea now. 

As well as holding things up, you can use it for keeping things down. Put a small blob of it under your desktop calculator for example and you stop it from slipping around when you bang on the keys. 

You can also help to keep the screw on a screwdriver, and it helps to keep things in place for hobbies and crafts. 

You can use it for picking up lots of small things, like beads, in fewer goes. You can use it as a makeshift lid or cap. It can help to remove labels. Use your imagination. 

Check to see if you have any in a drawer at home. If not I recommend you get some when you are next out.

Summary: A consumable that no home or office should be without

Cleaning bargain of the century - Tesco Value Sponge Pan Cleaners

Advantages: Great value for money for light work

Disadvantages: Won't last long for heavy duty pan cleaning.

I have a love/hate relationship with Tesco - There are certain ways they go about their business that I dislike, which can be discussed elsewhere, but I love some of the bargains they pop onto their shelves from time to time. 

No-one likes spending their hard earned cash on cleaning products, but they are necessary. Now I am firmly of the train of thought that you get what you pay for. So when I saw these Tesco Value Sponge Pan Cleaners for 30 pence, I thought "Hmmm! Let's give them a go anyway" 

Now I knew from the outset that I wouldn't be using these to clean pans with (most of mine are teflon coated - there is NO WAY anything remotely scratchy is going near them), but I got an old pan out and punished it with some scrambled egg, just so as I could test these. All I can say is, the pan-cleaner did the job - it did look a bit worse for wear afterwards, but hey, for 30 pence, what do you expect. 

No, the beauty of these is for things like wiping the surfaces and they are great for cleaning plates. 

There really isn't much to say about these except that they are great for non heavy duty general wiping, they work out at 5 pence EACH, and the best part of all is: 

Don't throw them away: - 

pop them in the washing machine with your dishtowels and dishcloths, when they start to look a little skanky and get another couple of uses out of them.

Summary: A proper bargain!

Kudos to Kudos for squeezing the fans - Spooks Harry's Diary: Top Secret

Advantages: Provides a subtle degree of backstory. Fills in a few holes.

Disadvantages: It doesn't come across as Harry Pierce.

I didn't really know how I was going to approach this book. 

Should I approach it as a serious text on the back of the wonderful BBC drama "Spooks"? 
Or as a bit of fun, with the knowledge that the producers are just trying to squeeze a little extra cash out of the public, or to be more specific from fans, starved of Spooks, inbetween series. 

Well I like Spooks, so I thought I would give it a serious approach. This quickly changed as I got past the first few pages. 

There is no discernible author. Amazon state the author as being K Udos - the production company is called Kudos. Of course we all know the author is Harry Pierce, but someone in the real world had to write this. Whoever has written this I feel has certainly got Harry's story across, but not Harry's voice. I quickly found that the text didn't come across as Harry. OK it could be argued that a diary reveals our private self, not that which the public sees, but I still feel more of Harry Pierce could have shone through. 

That aside the diary does a fairly good job of telling it as Harry saw it from when he finished MI5 training. One of the most valuable aspects of this book is the notion of backstory. It subtly fills in a few holes and answers some questions left unanswered in the series. There is a huge glaring error in the writing of this, approaching a continuity error, which I wont say here, but it can be forgiven to a degree, when Harry later reveals something about how he decides to keep his diary. 

This is the difficulty with doing a book review is in not giving anything away, so hopefully I have given something here for you to grasp. 

Diehard fans will either love or hate this, simple as that. I like Spooks, but I am not a diehard. This book kept me occupied, and filled in some backstory. I would not go and spend £12.99, new, on it though (the cover price).

Summary: Not a bad read for when you want to relax and not think too hard

Stick with what you know - Cartridge World

Advantages: Cheaper....

Disadvantages: ....but unreliable

You really do get what you pay for in life. 

I don't know the technology or the costing behind printer inks, but in my mind, I have always though they are hideously expensive. 

When I first got a colour printer all those years ago I stuck religiously with the HP own brand inks at anywhere between £25 to £40 a go (nearer the £25 for the black ink and between £30 - £40 for the colour ink), because that is all I knew to be available. 

I have always found that judging how many prints you get from the cartridges, especially colour, to be somewhat akin as to the age old question "how long is a piece of string"? 

Being as tight fisted as I am it would be a case of printing everything at the 'economy' or 'normal' settings, over the 'best' setting, and I generally found that for important stuff the 'normal' setting was just as good as the best. Then the day comes when you run out of ink, which always seems sooner than I would like to dip my hand in my wallet. 

This went on for a few years, you know buying HP ink. Then one day a friend told me about Cartridge World, and how I could probably save between 30% and 50% on each cartridge. 

That was a few years ago and I haven't been back to HP since.... well until now. 

When I first started using Cartridge World I didn't perceive any difference except for the cost. Now though, in the last two years, I have been finding I am returning cartridges that don't seem to work. Yes I get the same old story of 'it must be your printer', but I have always insisted they do an exchange on the faulty item, and what do you know the exchange has usually worked, this is no good though. I want the cartridge to work first time, rather than having to spend bus fare again. 

I am also finding that I am changing cartridges much sooner that I used to. No I am not using the cartridges more often than usual. I am not entirely convinced that the cartridges are being filled all the way up. 

I have also noticed that whilst photos that I have printed off with HP ink look fine after a few years, photos I have printed off with Cartridge World ink are beginning to fade. 

Yes there is indeed an old saying in life that you get what you pay for. 

I am going back to 'own-make' printer inks from now on.

Summary: Ok for printing off documents, providing you don't get a dud cartridge, but forget colour.

You can make Paul McKenna rich - I Can Make You Thin - Paul McKenna

Advantages: This book will motivate the right person

Disadvantages: If you expect others to do the legwork for you, the book is no good

Some psychologists would have us believe that when we have a problem, we have that problem because we are blaming everyone else. Now while it is true that sometimes when we have a problem in life, it can be the fault of others and sometimes things are beyond our control. But, yes, the psychologists are right to generalise in order to empower us - to tell us to stop blaming everyone else - to grab the bull by the horns and get on with eradicating a problem. 

And so in the "important note from Paul McKenna", Paul McKenna goes ahead and blames everyone else on our behalf. He says " have been brainwashed by diets to believe that weight loss is difficult and it is not" and that "diets are the enemy of weight loss". How very convenient for Paul McKenna. This is because this is not a diet book he is selling and making money from you. This is because he is selling (and making money from you) a book about how to think about food - an approach if you like. 

Now it sounds as if I am doing the book down. That is not the case. 
I don't want to hear that diets are brainwashing from someone who is best known for practising a form of 'brainwashing' himself - for those that don't know Paul McKenna his road to fame started off as a stage hypnotist. 

But let's find some value in this book. 

The blurb, is what I always look at when I am browsing books. The blurb in this book cleverly turns itself over to the reader, not by telling, but by asking. It asks. 

Would you like to eat whatever you want and still lose weight? 
Would you like to feel really happy with your body? 
Are you unable to lose those last 10 pounds? 
Are you a late-night snacker? 
Do you find it difficult to say no to second helpings? 
Do you get disheartened about your eating habits and your weight? 

The blurb then claims that this is a revolutionary way to stop overeating, to feel motivated and control cravings. It claims Mr McKenna's method is a breakthrough weight loss system. 

Now to cut a long story short, this book as we have ascertained is not a diet book, it is a means of making you become more aware of thinking about and approaching mainly food and there is a little also on exercise. So it could be easy to say: 

Why not write a book saying eat a lot, within limits, and exercise often. Well simply, not everyone is motivated to take such good but succinct advice. Eating is also to do with factors other than simply enjoying food. This is where the book comes into its own. There is a lot of motivation within its pages. 

What I dislike about not only Paul McKenna's books, but other self help and motivation books, is the amount of padding, but some would argue it is not padding, rather, a way to reinforce a message. And it is chapter one, Are You Ready For Something Different, that reinforced in me the notion that the book is all about reinforcing a message in you. Chapter two is The Simplest Weight Loss System in the World - this is peppered with four rules 

the golden rule number one being - 
when you are hungry eat. 
golden rule number two 
eat what you want not what you think you should 
golden rule number three 
eat consciously and enjoy every mouthful 
golden rule number 
when you think you are full stop eating 

There are plenty of analogies and metaphors to get you thinking and bear in mind this, to me, is the point of the book. The golden rules in chapter two are probably the most useful parts of this book, this is why I have highlighted this chapter, but for me the rest of the book is 'samey' information. just wrapped up in a different chapter title and the information shaped around the title, so I will just give you the chapter titles, which essentially contain, again, analogy, metaphor, example and case study all designed to motivate. 

Chapter three is program your mind to slim your body. 
Chapter four is overcoming emotional eating 
Chapter five is make exercise easy and supercharge your metabolism 
Chapter six is craving busters 
Chapter seven is the final piece of the weight loss puzzle 
with a final note and a list of techniques. 

If you are one of the 'read about it but never get round to it' types, then this book is ideal for you in that, when you are reading about it you will feel refreshed and ready to go - much like the CD that comes with it - enough said about that. In other words the words in it are stirring and motivational. But also, if you can take in the motivational message that is there and actually do something about your desire to slim, it will be a really good book. Yes, it is hype and rhetoric, but put yourself in the right frame of mind and you really will be able to put this book to good use - at the end of the cliche though it will be you who will have done the work, not the book.

Summary: The book is full of the same old same old, but it will motivate the right person

Stick this in your pipe - Collectible Pipes by Jean Rebeyrolles

Advantages: Excellent picture reference with just enough supporting text to make it a good read

Disadvantages: There is no deep knowledge to be gained. To be fair, 'expert' knowledge costs much more

This book is packed with pictures and has supporting information for the collector of pipes. 

It is approx 5 and a half inches square, or about 14 cm square for you young pups that measure everything in metric. 

The Contents are 
Classic pipes 
Figurative pipes 
Animal pipes 
Memorable pipes 
Unusual pipes 

The book is essentially a picture reference for collectors, with a paragraph or so of supporting information for each pipe featured. The introduction is lengthy at approx 26 pages including other pipe related pictures. the actual pipe photographs are isolated against a white background, which gives a better appreciation if the detail. 

The introduction is essentially a good, well written, account which is both historical and educational. Just a quick calculation with page numbers show that there are probably about 320 pipes illustrated here. What is interesting about this book is the diversity of shapes, sizes and colours. The supporting texts also tell us something about the people and cultures that used a particular sort of pipe, perhaps why a pipe was designed in a certain way. 

The book is not highly detailed, and it would be easy to dismiss the book as an overall beginners book. I don't believe this is the case. I believe this book should belong on the shelves of all pipe smokers, pipe collectors and general smokerama enthusiasts. Yes it does have a good amount of information for the beginner, but for all levels of knowledge and experience it is a very handy visual reference. 

Expect to pay around a tenner for a new copy or about £3 or £4 for a used copy on

Summary: A great picture reference and a good read.

Get one here (this is a direct link and may have expired)

Or search for item here

Join ebid here

Get and give a free read.

Advantages: It is a bit of fun. You get free books.

Disadvantages: If you enjoy this sort of thing, there are not really any disadvantages

Do you ever find your self in that situation where you have clutter lying around the house and you don't know what to do with it? 

Right the first thing I do is to get it on and try to make a few quid. The thing is though, some of that clutter tends to be books, which don't tend to sell quickly on online auctions sites. 

So as far as books go, I might be left with boxes of books cluttering up the place. I generally end up taking them to the charity shop or the dump. This is where the guilt kicks in. 

So, how can you feel guilty about giving to charity. The truth is most books donated to the big High Street charity shops get dumped if they are not sold with in a certain short time - they don't even get recycled, just put in the rubbish. I would rather see a book being READ. 

So now I might just give them away, using 

This website allows you to register your spare books on their database. When you register yourself with bookcrossing, you will be given a 'virtual shelf' to store your registered books on. Each registered book is given a unique number (a 'BCID', or Bookcrossing ID). 

What you do when you have registered a book is give it away, but in a specific way. First you need to put a label on the book explaing in some details about bookcrossing and the BCID. You then leave the book at a bookcrossing point, either of your choosing or one that is already familiar to bookcrossers. 

You then go home and look up the book on your bookcrossing 'shelf'. Here you will be able to make an entry to say where you left the book, and most importantly in which town. 

The next part of the book's journey is for it to be found (or 'caught'). 

Hopefully the person who has found it will take it home and read it and (if they are not already a bookcrosser) follow the instructions you have put on your BCID label. 

This should instruct the finder to log onto and, either anonymously, or as a bookcrossing member to go to your books BCID and add comments, but most importantly for them to state where they are going to leave the book should they decide to pass it on. 

Now the reason for stating where the book will be left, rather than just leaving it somewhere to be found, is that 'Bookcrossers' as they are known can look up books that have been left in their town, then pop out to 'catch' the book. 

It would be too easy to see what a pointless website this is. Book clutter - dump 'em! would be the easy answer for most. For many though as well as getting a free read and passing on a free read, it is a little bit of fun seeing how far round the world your book has progressed - the reality is: this doesn't happen often. 

Bookcrossing though does, if you want, offer a great chance to meet other people and has a reasonably good forum community, and meet-ups are organised - not my thing, but for many this is fine it would seem. Some charities actually offer themselves as a bookcrossing point, though I am unsure if the books are charged for. 

I personally can't be bothered with too much participation. Once in a blue moon I will log on and say i will be leaving this-or-that book at such-and-such a place - help yourself! 

Another point, although this isn't a criticism of the people who run the site. It must be borne in mind that by participating in the site, you are generating traffic for the site owner's which translates into money for them probably through Amazon affiliation (of that I am not sure, but it seems so), and through the online sales of their own products such as labels and bookmarks. I realise that the owner's aren't running this website for love, but you must remember, your activity is earning them money. Are you comfortable not getting a cut of it? 

With regards to finding a free read, the reality is it rarely happens. Most books are left in cafes. The staff either grab them (which is fair, they have been 'released'). but don't re-release them, or the cleaners stick them straight in the bin. 

For me the reality is: 

I will try and flog my spare books on 
I will buy my cheap reads on ebid for a quid or two, rather than spend out on a bus into town, to track down a book (that has already been 'caught' by the time I get there, in a cafe, where I will probably spend a fiver+ on a coffee and a muffin. 
So, CHOOSING a book on ebid £2+£1P&P = £3.00 total 
'FREE' book via bookcrossing which I can't really choose. £4 return bus fare + £5 for cofee and muffin + book taken anyway = £9.00+no book. Not so free after all. 

I will be releasing books on bookcrossing for those that want a 'free' read courtesy of me, but I am sticking to ebid for buying a read of my choice.

Summary: Another internet pastime really

This IS the Real Deal - Dickinson's Real Deal

Advantages: Easy watching

Disadvantages: None really, it is what it is.

Dickinson's Real Deal is an ITV programme based around the idea of member's of the public trying to get a good price from antique dealers for their own belongings, or alternatively taken the item to auction. On the odd occasion a member of the public who has deliberately bought a piece to turn a profit will square up to the dealer's. 

David Dickinson presents the show in between the action, where the haggling between the member of the public and antiques dealer is taking place. 

It is important you know who David Dickinson is. Think Lovejoy in a suit. Then think again. Yes, some people see a similarity. He is a British antiques dealer who by chance was asked to present a television programme many years ago. One thing led to another and he ended up becoming a 'face' of the antiques world that the public could relate to on television. The British public have taken him to their hearts for many reasons; his quirky and indeed catchy catchphrases such as "cheap as chips"; "booby dazzlers" to relate to stunning items and poor items as "a load of tat". David dickinson has also appeared in programs which relate to his adoption and family tree. Again his sometimes sad tale has earned him a place in the British heart. He also stands out due to particular shade of skin which gives the appearance of fake tan, which he stands firm is real and due to his Armenian ancestry. He also like a little bling. In general he is a big character. 

Now back to the show: It tours the UK and may be in any Town or City at a suitable venue for a large number of people. 

The venues for the current series (2008-2009) are listed as: 

* Saturday 22nd November 
Caenarfon, Galeri, Wales 
* Saturday 17th January 
Chester Racecourse 
* Saturday 24th January 
Watford, Colosseum 
* Saturday 31st January 
Burton on Trent Town Hall 
* Saturday 21st February 
Kidderminster Town Hall 
* Sunday 1st March 
Newbury Racecourse 
* Saturday 7th March 
Peterborough East of England Showground 
* Saturday 21st March 
Wells Leisure Centre 
* Saturday 4th April 
Bedworth Civic Hall 

Joe Public will turn up with an antique that he or she wishes to sell, sit at the bargaining table and lock horns with one of the many dealers featured on the program. These dealers you may have seen on other similar programs. We then have a couple of minutes of banter and haggling. One trying to get the better of the other,not only in terms of cash exchange but also in the battle of wills. Occasionally it gets a little heated. In general the haggling is predictable: the dealer hoping to turn a large profit, when he sells later, will offer a low price, though before this they all love to pull a large wad of money from the blazer or handbag - the dealer then starts to lay notes on the table - £10 then another £10 the nanother. Or sometimes it is £20s, there have been times when a dealer has laid £50 notes one after the other up into the thousands before saying "how does that grab you". 

The seller then responds usually at first by saying "a bit more" or "no way a lot more." And so this goes on. 

There will be times when the dealer is either offering a paltry sum which the member of the public is about to accept. On other occasions the dealer will be offering an excellent price, but the member of the public either through lack of knowledge or greed, will push for more. At these times David Dickinson steps in and advises both seller and dealer on what the on show experts reckon the item to be worth. Sometimes David will see that a dealer is clearly taking advantage of a seller and chastise the dealer; sometimes he will see the sller is in a great position and step in to advise the mt ograb the cash and "get straight up the pub" or something similar. 

Sometimes the seller and on-show dealer just can't reach an agreement and the seller takes the item to auction. Most times the seller takes more from the auction than if they had accepted the dealer's offer. 

Unfortunately this show is dogged with the phone in competition, which must make the production company millions, yet good as the prize usually is, it is paltry compared to what these companies allegedly pull in through these competitions. Although to be fair I don't know if the companies make enough from advertising to be able to fund the production and transmission of the programs. 

One aspect of the show I like is to actually see how the dealers have fared. Did THEY make the right choice of offer? Although it is generally a cursory glance, we are given an idea (but not on all shows) if the dealers have managed to make a profit on the items they bought from the public. This isn't a detailed part of the show, which I am guessing is down to production time constraints. I would though like to see the dealers in the auction room scenario, willing the bidders to keep upping their bids. 

This isn't great television. It is not even about antiques - really. It is more about that human thing of wanting to see the underdog (the Joe or Jane Public) getting one over on the top-dog (the antique dealer). It is about wanting to see the greedy punter, who has rejected a good offer from a dealer, get embarrased in the auction room, and on the other side of the same coin it is about seeing the greedy dealer, who has taken advantage of naive Joe, making a loss in the sale room. 

What it is REALLY about though is some easy afternoon watching for stay at home workies, like me, on their afternoon tea break!

Summary: An easy watch with your afternoon tea.

Cough!! Cough!! Splutter!! Slurp... ooh that's better! - Covonia Mentholated Cough Mixture

Advantages: Gives an instant soothe

Disadvantages: The soothe is short lived

I had 'man flu' just before Christmas. Not that man-flu, where you can't be bothered doing anything for yourself and things are really not as bad as they seem, but proper man-flu, where you are on your back, can't move, feel absolutely lousy, ache everywhere, have a banging headache, a nose that can't make its mind up whether it is running like a tap or blocked-up, sinus pain, sneezing fits, oh and I almost forgot, a painful cough annoying not only to me but all those around me. When I started to feel better, the cough remained, so off to the chemist who recommended Covonia. 

This is a cough bottle that has 150ml of medicine within - this particular type being mentholated. It cost £2.70 from a local chemist; I don't know if it is cheaper in any of the big ones like Boots or Superdrug. The dose is 5ml for 5-12 year olds and 5 to 10 ml for over 12s/adults. It is a brown syrupy mixture and contains levomenthol, squill tincture and liquorice liquid extract. These are supposed to be the ingredients that soothe the throat, and aid removing phlegm. The bottle claims effective relief from troublesome chesty coughs and claims to be non-drowsy. 

Is it effective? 

Well I found that it is probably the distracting effect of the taste that makes you forget you have a cough. No seriously it doesn't taste too bad - it does have that typical medicine taste to it, but there is also a pleasant menthol-liquorice thing happening. You do start to feel the effect of it as soon as the medicine slips down your throat. It does start to soothe and although it is a cough medicine, the menthol also gives a little relief if you have a lightly blocked nose, and your air passages feel a little clearer. What must be borne in mind though is that it is not a cough cure, it is cough relief. 

Another little 'comfort factor' that may be worth mentioning is the slightly old-fashioned appearance to the bottle it comes in - nostalgia is comforting and when we are ill comfort is craved. The bottle has the name Covonia embossed into it and the bottle is also an old fashioned looking brown, although the bottle colour may be more for practical reasons i.e. the contents probably need protecting from the light. 

I haven't found cough medicines really do the trick, but this one is probably nearer to the mark.

Summary: Better than nothing

You can't stick flowers in it. Cadbury Curly Wurly

Advantages: A 10 out of 10 caramel and chocolatey treat.

Disadvantages: Absolutely none, well apart from tooth decay.

A long time ago (yes a VERY long time ago), in a land far far away - a land called childhood - there was a most delicious playtime favourite. It was the staple product of the school tuck shop. It was also that which you might have brought home on a Saturday morning along with your Beano or Dandy. In the summer it would have you licking melted chocolate from your lips and fingers, and in the winter, you would be getting chocolatey fingerprints on your Hotspur or Warlord for the boys - Bunty or Jackie for the girls, or were girls too sophisticated too have chocolatey thumbprints? It was, to paraphrase Terry Scott, miles and miles of chewy toffee, covered in thick creamy cadbury's chocolate, if my memory serves me right. 

That most delicious playtime favourite was the Curly Wurly! 

The trouble with childhood is, it goes away. There is a transition period in life when Curly Wurlys and the Beano is replaced by beer, girls (or boys) and loud music. Somewhere in that period, in this continuum of life, the Curly Wurly gets misplaced, forgotten, lost, abandoned, neglected. Awwww! :( 

But what is a Curly Wurly some of you may be asking? 

Well it is a caramel and chocolate confection. It resembles two, maybe three, threads of caramel about ten inches long, which are plaited together in a flat plait, then covered in chocolate. This plaiting gives it the Curly Wurly 'look'. It was much prized by children in the 1970s, and although it tasted delicious, much of its appeal was probably down to its odd shape and comical name. 

I tend to think that most sweets from my childhood have gone the way of Spangles, but recently, *cough-cough* years later. I rediscovered this prize item! And yes it still tastes delicious. It is satisfyingly chewy, without the tooth-cracking and filling-removing properties of some other toffee and caramel confectionary. Eating this involves biting into it, and as you remove it from your mouth, you need to catch the crumbs of chocolate and rein in the strings of sticky caramel before they stick to your chin. The chocolate melts first, leaving you with a delicious lump of toffee to chew over. This really is delicious on a cold afternoon with a steaming hot mug of tea. Enjoy.

Summary: A delicious blast from the past

Top Secret Stuff! Station X: The Code Breakers of Bletchley Park - Michael Smith

Advantages: A wonderful read and a definite eye opener

Disadvantages: None

This magnificent book tells the story of Britain's best kept secret! 

Station X was that secret, and it was probably Station X that played a huge part in ending the war when it did, with the outcome that happened. 

Britain could quite easily have been crushed due to the might of the German Luftwaffe, or we might have been starved by German Naval shipping, sinking ships that supplied us with food, or the Axis forces could quite simply have sailed across the Channel, landed on our beaches and after a short battle could have simply taken over (although it is debatable what they would have come up against the further north they got). 

The Nazis might have managed to over-run us in part due to their communications network and how they passed information through various commands. The Nazis had a machine which encoded their communications in such a way that the allied forces would never know their next move - they had Enigma! 

This machine could encode a message, such that it would take an enormous number of calculations over a hugely impractical time for a cryptographer to decode the message. There were 159 million million million different possibilities! 

But a select number of people managed to do it. Sometimes even before the intended German recipient had managed to unravel their own message. 

And it was all hush-hush! 

Its very existence was kept from even some of the highest ranking. 

Its workers knew the huge importance of their work, but most of the times did not have a clue what even their closest of colleagues was up to. 

This book tells the story of how this select, a choice of academics and others, from the upper classes mainly, set to work inventing methods and machines (essentially the fore-runner of the modern computer) which would outwit the German Enigma. We learn about the unusual recruitment method, involving the Daily Telegraph crossword. We read about the important and much overlooked earlier work of the Polish in this most secret of adventures. How a country estate was bought up and converted into a secret codebreaking site. 

The book does its best to explain to the layman some of the complex principles of cryptography. We get an insight into the personalities behind this phenomena. We are taken through the battle of Britain - despite being outnumbered in the air, Bletchley Park's role gave the Brits a certain edge. We learn the story of how, despite working in bleak conditions and a lack of resources, the workers petitioned to Churchill, and the results of that. We have the battle of the Atlantic, North Africa and the inevitable American involvement. 

The book comes to an ending with the Invasion of Europe and the end of Bletchley Park. 

This is a fascinating book and it would be too easy in a review like this too give too much away about it. It is the story of the silent heroes of the British War Effort, many of whom took the secret of Bletchley Park to the Grave with them. Thousands were involved, and how the Nazis never found out is a wonder.

Summary: A great read at any level!

Get a copy here

Get motivated! The Motivated Mind - Raj Persaud

Advantages: About a third of the book is very useful information

Disadvantages: Too much 'padding'. You already need a ton of motivation to get through this.

Oh no. Not another self help book! 

This is reasonably good book for those who do things such as make New Year resolutions, go on diets and have great ambitions and dreams, and then the only thing achieved is to: break the resolution, or carry on eating over and above the diet, or put or dreams and ambitions on the back burner. 

So what you need is a motivator, to get you on track. Right? 

Well motivation usually comes as the result of the actions of a motivator. 
Money is a good motivator. Another is a loved one giving you a good pep talk. 

But is a book going to be a good motivator? 

Well the sub title of this book is: 

"How to get what you wan't from life" 

So from the start you are going expecting this book to tell you how. The 'promise' is in the title. For most people that should be motivation enough. It is certainly what made me send off for the book at a time when I felt things weren't going my way. 

This book puts forward many of ways of understanding ourselves in relation to motivation and looks at ideas such as hope, drive, confidence, self-esteem. It includes much in the way of lists and tests and inbetween there is plenty of reading at 526 pages. 

Plenty of reading there may be, but it is page 43 before we get to Chapter One. I mention this because I don't like a book where I have to go through an over-lengthy Acknowledgements, then Author's Foreword, then a long Introduction, before we get to the meat. Fair enough, we do need these elements of a book, but please, not long and over-rambling. To be fair, the intro contains a nice Ten Steps to More Confidence section, but I feel this would have looked better in the body of the book. 

When we get to the first chapter: "Why do you do that thing you do?" the tone is set for this book - it is a load of padding out, with some rather interesting and useful lists and quizzes and tests. 

Each chapter of the book follows this pattern of lists and quizzes surrounded by too much padding - how an unmotivated person is expected to read this is anyones guess, still I suppose when the publishers and authors hear the magic sound 


It shouldn't really matter to them? 

But let's try and make some use of this book. As well as the chapter heading "Why do you do that thing you do?", other chapter headings are: 

How to have a perfect day 

Why will-power doesn't exist 

How to bin friends and disregard people 

Do you suffer from false hope syndrome? 

Goals, goals, goals! 

How rewards really reduce motivation 

Do you hate your job? 

Don't bleed in the water (how to get your boss's job) 

Money, money, money 

See you at the top 

Is time running out? - time to get ahead 

How the tough get going when the going gets tough - setbacks and how to bounce back 

Take it to the limit 

Are you trying too hard? 

Does your motivation come from your body or your brain? 

If you have no enemies then you aren't striving hard enough 

Want to be worshipped? 

Conclusion : why it's not just the size of your carrot that matters 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Now it is within these chapter headings that you really can get an idea of what the book does approach, and as much as I have talked about padding in the text, to be fair, if you have the time and motivation to read this book you will glean a wealth of information from the book. Much of it involves reading between the lines, and the bulk of the usefulness comes from the 'ten ways to..' lists and the quizzes. You should get to know yourself and in turn, what makes you tick or otherwise, and yes, you should at least feel motivated. 

I did read the book from cover to cover, but you should gain something from this even if you just skim it, read the lists or do the quizzes. 

I feel the author and publisher would have saved time and money condensing the book to just the lists and quizzes and hard, succinct supporting information. It is a little academic in tone and it might be easy for some to simply switch off if not used to reading academic texts. 

It is an interesting read, as far as 'popular psychology' goes, but in terrms of being a self help book it is just far too long, too heavy and self-defeating, as you do need some motivation to get through this.

Summary: A good popular psychology book. A good self help book, once you have filtered through the padding.

Weetabix A simple and healthy breakfast

Advantages: Healthy and will keep you going.

Disadvantages: You can't eat them 'dry' from the packet.

If you have never heard of Weetabix before, it is a high fibre, wheat based cereal food, generally eaten for breakfast, although loved by millions as an in-between meals filler. 

Unlike 'loose' type cereals, such as corn flakes, rice crispies etc, these are in the form of wheat 'biscuits' about 3.5 by 1.5 inches and just less than an inch thick, with rounded corners. 

At their most basic, they are served with milk and generally with sugar as well. Although I used the term 'biscuit' to describe the shape, only the hardiest of mouths would eat one of these plain, they are very dry to say the least - I have heard of people who eat these with jam and butter, but c'mon - eeughh. Milk is essential! 

One is sufficient, two is just nice and three of these really will set you up till lunchtime (or breakfast time, if you like a late-night bit of cereal based supper). 

If you are one of those people, who, when eating cereal, like to have a little bit of milk left at the end to sup from the bowl, (yes it sounds undignified, but people do this), forget it! Weetabix will soak up every last drop of milk you put into that bowl. 

In the summer, these are best served with cold milk straight from the fridge, but in the winter months, they really do come into their own when served with hot milk. Either heat the milk up first and add to the cereal, or dunk the cereal and mik in to a bowl or saucepan (depending if you are using a hob or microwave) then heat through gently. You will be left with a most delicious mush of wheat. Again sugar is a must when you are having it winter style, to add to the comfort factor. 

You must also try weetabix with fresh fruit, such as berries - I don't recommend citric type fruits or even apples and pears, as I imagine it would spoil the milk. My most favourite fruit with weetabix (in fact any cereal) is slices of banana - the banana needs to be one of those yellow and black ones, not the ones tinged with green, as when the bananas have a little black on them the sweetness has developed. Speaking of sweetness you might also like to try a tablespoonful of jam or honey, though if you are heating the cereal up, be careful, jam can hold a LOT of heat and burn your mouth. 

Unless you have any sort of wheat allergy, you cannot argue that this is one of the most healthiest breakfast options around. 

Oh and just as an afterthought, if you are one of those who sups the last milk from the cereal bowl, I mentioned earlier, I don't recommend this at the breakfast table, when you have had Claudia Schiffer/George Clooney as an overnight guest - unless of course they do it first 

Summary: A delicious VFM breakfast meal or anytime snack.

Spooks - The Great Escape

Advantages: Compelling, well produced.

Disadvantages: Some bad lines here and there.

Spooks is a compelling spy drama broadcast in Britain by the BBC. 
It is in its seventh series now - each series consists usually of 8 episodes. 
This is a general review - to be specific would mean giving unavoidable spoilers. 

It revolves around the work of MI5 (and MI6 occasionally) and how they go about protecting the UK from terrorism - both from within and outwith the UK.

Sounds a bit plain and simple, huh? 

Spooks is action-packed, right from the off. The team, are based at the 'grid', their HQ in London, and headed by Harry Pierce, played marvellously by Peter Firth. You will of course remember him from the Here Come the Double Deckers, if you are old enough. He played Scooper (go find an episode on youtube, and shock yourself! You will feel really old!). 

Harry is supported by a team that variously consists of characters played by actors such as: Shauna Macdonald, Matthew Macfadyen, Rory MacGregor, Graeme Mearns, Hugh Simon, Rupert Penry-Jones, Keeley Hawes, Miranda Raison, Nicola Walker, David Oyelowo, Raza Jaffrey, Hermione Norris.... like any organisation, even in the imaginary world of Spooks, people come and go. 

What to expect here: explosions, murder, intrigue, double-crossing, affairs of the heart, secrecy, betrayal, technical wizardy, some really bad acting, some really naff lines. 

Some series have a definite identifiable thread running all the way through each episode involving a compelling cliff-hanger at the end of each episode, other series have a story for each epsiode usually resolved at the end. 

Harry Pierce is the top dog, he is cool, calm collected, unruffled, but very very human and vulnerable beneath it all. We do get glimpses of his emotions, what affects him, we get clues into his romantic life, and we so want him to have a love-life. 

Tom Quinn, played by Matthew Macfadyen, is also one cool character, in the sense of being the strong, silent type, whereas Adam Carter, played by Rupert Penry-Jones, will be seen as 'cool' as in more leaning towards a bit of a lad. With both of these characters, we get to see how being a spook, can have an effect on your love-life. Both these characters play a similar rank in the series and with the addition of the character Lucas North, played by Richard Armitage, who plays a similar character to the other two, this completes the trio of eye-candy for the ladies. 

The characters Malcom and Colin are the brains of the operation, these are the guys who save the day with thier technical know-how. 

The ladies are well represented, in what is often seen as a male-dominated 'industry' and there are some brilliant characters performed by Nicola Walker, Miranda Raison, Keeley Hawes, Olga Sosnovska, the wonderful Connie played by Gemma Jones (you know, Bridget Jones' mum), and the wonderfully supercool Ros Myers played by Hermione Norris. Sadly the female representation of Spooks was let down by the inclusion of a 'dizzy blonde' character, the underdog status of such being underpinned by the character being a Scot. Good old P.C., Anglo-centric Britain! 

As I said at the beginning of the review, I have tried not to be too specific, for fear of creating spoilers, but if you like being kept on the edge of your seat, you like cliff-hangers, if you like escapism, if you like to believe in the blatantly unreal for an hour, if you can put up with ocassional bad acting and some god-awful, cheesey lines now and again, you will want to watch Spooks.

Summary: Typically good telly

Google Checkout - Online payment with ease

Advantages: Quick, and efficient for buyer and seller. Inexpensive for vendors

Disadvantages: No 'person to person' facility as yet.

What is Google Checkout 

Simply, Google Checkout is a means of paying for online purchases. 

It has until recently been largely unknown due to Paypal's stranglehold on online payment provision. 

This prompts the question. If we already have Paypal, why use Google Checkout? 

Well for a start, consumers should always ensure they have choice, and sometimes that means giving support to a spread of company's or products, otherwise you end up with a near monpoly situation, which is never good for consumers as it takes away choice - when consumers have choice, they have a certain degree of power. So, in this case there is nothing to stop you having accounts with more than one online payment provider. 

Another great reason for using Google Checkout is this - there are many potential consumers out there who won't use Paypal because of the many horror stories regarding its alleged bad customer service, and also due to its close associations with ebay (ebay has in recent years dramatically changed its business model, much to the detriment of a significant number of its users, as well as ditching ebay in favour of, they are also ditching paypal in favour of Google Checkout). Those who have chosen to ditch Paypal now have an excellent means of paying online. 

Using Google Checkout as a means of paying for your online purchases, also means there is a high likelihood you are going to receive your items quicker, due to the way Google Checkout administer getting payment to the vendor or seller. 

It must be borne in mind that it is not a 'person to person' means of payment, but rather a relationship between a seller and a buyer. 

It is easy to use, once you have set up your account using a very easy verification process. 

Where once upon a time most online shoppers were tied to ebay and Amazon for buying online, Google Checkout opens your shopping experience to a HUGE range of other online shopping venues, major and minor players - I could list many of these, but it really would appear as if I was padding out this review, but to cut it short many High Street retailers are now offering this method online, as well as many medium and small online players. 

There is a URL at the foot of this review giving a list of many (and I mean a lot) of sellers offering Google Checkout. 

Google Checkout really comes into its own if you are an buyer or seller, and this is simplicity in itself. 
When you buy from, the whole experience is integrated into a checkout button. The seller gets this information, and is expected to act upon it immediately, including entering the appropriate how shipped and when shipped. 

You can even now shop for purchases directly on Google, this is great for anyone looking for a rare item, as you have a greater chance of finding this through Google rather than on the online auction sites. The results Google throw back at you will also state if the seller is offering Google checkout. 

I have mainly described Google Checkout to this point from a buyers point of view. For the online seller it is a dream to use, though you must have a 'merchant' website, THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM! All you do is sign up for an ebid account and sell your stuff via - this then allows you to have a website address for Google's purposes. Also from the seller's point of view it is much cheaper, as well as easier to use than 'you-know-who', the benefit of this is that if it is cheaper for the seller to run his business it is invariably cheaper for the buyer. 

Whether you are an online shopper or seller, you really must have a Google Checkout account, and if you already have a favourite online payment company, it can do you no harm to use Google Checkout and give yourself the choice. 

Useful related URLS - this should take you to the main site - a list of merchants offering Google Checkout as payment method - where Google Checkout is highly praised by many of its sellers

Summary: At last a monopoly breaking online payment system that is efficient.