Can Music Save Your Life? – Part 2

Jennifer Campbell continues her exploration of music and the powerful effect it can have on our lives. To read part 1 of Can Music Save Your Life, click here.

Music is featured almost everywhere, we can even go as far as saying that we each have our individual soundtracks to our lives. And as each year passes and we go through a little more we add to it and even when you’re dead, those songs that once helped you are playing as you make your exit from this world. We all remember the songs we listened to from our first to our last loves, the songs we listened to during our school years and of course those songs that remind you of a loved one who may still be with us or not. Music is like a fingerprint, each of us is different and unique in our particular styles and what gets our hearts pounding with an array of emotions.

In a recent online survey, one of the women who answered the question “what does music do for you?”, said:  “It gives me a rush and can completely change my mood. It also gives me confidence in life”. Another respondent said “Songs can hold strong memories, so even if the music seems to be in the background it makes a huge difference to the setting and mood of a situation or memory”.

It is evident to see from the above comments that music is helpful to many people in a variety of situations. It doesn’t just stop with helping people through emotional times in life but music can also be used as therapy to those who are disadvantaged in life. The work of one charity in particular is phenomenal, Nordoff Robbins. They work as a music therapy based charity who works with a wide range of people from all ages, disabilities and illnesses. They particularly work with people who are very isolated or cannot communicate verbally. As with everyone music therapy needs to be adapted to suit each individual, there isn’t just a one trick wonder that will cure everyone instantly. The charity begins by working with the individual and making music with them until they recognise what they respond to then build from that. Often they help people who used to be able and very independent but due to a sudden and unfortunate life event have suffered from isolation.

Speaking with the Director of Music she shared this story in confidence, so he is anonymous. One man in particular lost his receptive and expressive language abilities following a stroke. He felt isolated, cut off and extremely depressed. He began taking music therapy on his own then his wife started joining him in the sessions, there was something magical about what she was witnessing. It went from his wife taking care of him, to them becoming partners again through the power of music.

Another organisation you may be familiar with is Samaritans, the work with people in confidence who are in extremely low places emotionally. Just recently there was a CD release called ‘Songs to Save a Life’ in aid of Samaritans. It featured many artists including James Morrison, KT Tunstall, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and The Overtones who donated their time to a cause they feel strongly about and they each chose a song of significant meaning.

KT Tunstall, multi-platinum singer and songwriter, on recording the album: “I’ve always had huge admiration for Samaritans; their existence is so vital to aid those in desperate need of someone to talk to. And music too can be a route out of places too dark to stay.”

Catherine Johnstone, Samaritans Chief Executive, on the album itself: “All the profits from the album will fund our essential 24-hour helpline service to support anyone feeling suicidal or with nowhere else to turn. We’re extremely grateful to all the artists and to the Songs to Save a Life production team for helping to make it happen. By buying this album, you could help us to save lives.”

The Songs to Save a Life album was named after the production company behind the project. Two music-industry experts, Richard Cardwell, musician/producer and musical director and Phil Armorgie, who has 20 years’ experience in the music industry, approached the Samaritans out of a desire to ‘put something back’ from an industry that had served them both well over the years and their mutual respect for such an incredible organisation.

Every year, Samaritans receives 5 million calls for help – that’s one every 5 seconds and every 60 seconds, the charity answers a call from someone feeling suicidal. The Songs to Save a Life is an album that can help Samaritans help others.

It just goes to show us, that no matter what situation we are in, whether it is a break up or a life altering event such as a stroke, music can do wonders for us. It can save us and bring us back to the life we love.

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Top 5 Restaurants in Bali

In her bestselling 2006 book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert found love in Bali. I wasn’t that lucky but I did discover great food! Everyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a real foodie – a vacation for me isn’t complete if I haven’t sampled local delicacies and the best of what the destination has to offer. My recent trip to Bali was no exception.

With so many great restaurants and bars to choose from, it’s difficult to only pick five favourites. But after much deliberation, below are my top five restaurants in Bali which I hope will whet your appetite and inspire you to go to the island soon and experience them for yourself. May to September is the best time to visit this tropical paradise.

My Top 5 Restaurants in Bali

Bali has many excellent international restaurants (some of which are listed below) but a trip to Indonesia would not be complete without sampling the local cuisine. Thankfully the beautiful surroundings of Ketupat means that one does not have to slum it in a local warung to eat authentic Indonesian food. The restaurant gets its name from the little woven parcels made from palm leaves used to cook rice. The famous dishes of Sate Lilit and Nasi Goreng are here on the menu but I recommended trying the Nasi Campur – a small selection of tasty little dishes which are beautifully presented and gives one the chance to try a variety of authentic Indonesian delicacies without getting lost in the extensive menu of Ketupat. Address: Jalan Dewi Sri, Kuta, Bali.

Queen’s Tandoor
This popular Indian restaurant in Seminyak is part of the largest and longest established Indian restaurant chains in Indonesia. You know that the food must be special because of the large number of coach parties of Indian tourists that visit the restaurant every week. The large air-conditioned restaurant is very comfortable and the staff are friendly and will always ask you how spicy you want your food if you don’t appear to be a curry aficionado. My favourite dishes here are Chicken Tandoori, Dhal Sag Chicken and Rogan Josh. As well as the traditional dessert Kulfi, Queen’s Tandoor also offer a decadent chocolate dessert if you can save some room for it. The Sizzling Brownie is presented on a hot plate, drenched in bubbling chocolate sauce and served with vanilla ice cream. Definitely worth the calories! Address: Jalan Raya Seminyak , Kuta, Bali.

Located on the busy Jalan Padma, Mozzarella is an Italian restaurant that has a reputation for serving the best steaks in town and is famous for its two-for-one cocktail deals which makes an evening here nicely lubricated. The staff are forever smiling and friendly and will treat you like a regular even on your first visit. I was referred to as “Mr Alan” by the waitress during the course of the meal – which was very sweet. This hospitality, on top of the great food, will keep you coming back for more. For starters, try the Smoked Mahi Mahi – an interesting twist on a classic starter of traditional Smoked Salmon. My favourite main course here is the Beef Fillet Rossini – succulent, tender and very reasonably priced. Address: Jalan Padma, Legian, Bali.

A trip to Bali is not complete without at least one dinner reservation at Sarong. The décor is sumptuous and luxurious with chandeliers, candles, billowing gold curtains and Chippendale furniture all under a high roofed pavilion. The menu is an eclectic mix of South Asian inspired cuisine with dishes originating from Thailand, India, Vietnam, China and of course Indonesia. With such a diverse choice, it’s difficult to recommend one dish in particular but the Rogan Josh is a favourite of mine. The bar serves interesting and inspired cocktails such as the Jeruk Martini - citron vodka mixed with lemongrass syrup, dry vermouth & lemon juice. When it comes to dessert, the lushious Vietnamese coconut crème caramel is to die for! Address: Jalan Petitenget, Kerobokan, Bali.

Métis is without question one of the smartest dining destinations in Bali and a purely sensory experience. A fabulous dinner is guaranteed as you sit on the terrace of a beautiful pavilion overlooking verdant rice paddies. The romantic setting is made more so by candlelight and sophisticated colonial inspired furniture from Scandinavia. The food is mostly French and Mediterranean in influence and the restaurant boasts a special foie gras menu – unusual for Bali. Métis excels in the delivery of the highest quality food which is gorgeously presented and tastes divine. The service from the waiting staff is exceptional and faultless. If the Chateaubriand is on the menu then I’m a happy man. Otherwise, I am more than satisfied with the meltingly tender Beef Tenderloin. Dessert has to be one of their deliciously light and fluffy soufflés – for which Métis is famous for. They’re always worth the 25 minute wait! Address: Jalan Petitenget, Kerobokan, Bali.

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Government Announces New Plans to Boost Medical Research

Alzheimer’s Research UK has broadly welcomed the government’s announcement to boost research and innovation in life sciences in the UK. The Prime Minister’s speech, which coincides with the release of the government’s Strategy for UK Life Sciences, has pushed for greater collaboration between the health service and private medical companies to promote medical advances in the UK.

As part of the package of new measures proposed, David Cameron has laid out plans to allow private health care companies access to anonymised patient records from the NHS. Other schemes set out in the life science strategy include a £180m ‘catalyst fund’ to drive the development of new treatments and technologies, and an ‘early access scheme’ to allow some seriously ill patients to have access to new drugs which have shown promise in clinical trials but not yet been fully licensed.

The government hopes that the strategy will boost the life sciences industry in the UK, seen as a great potential area for economic growth. By making it easier for medical advances to reach the clinic, it hopes to provide greater benefit to patients and maintain the UK’s position as a global leader in research and innovation despite the tough economic climate.

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“The Prime Minister’s announcement has the potential to give patients more effective treatments sooner.

“A scheme to make greater use of public data will need to be subject to tight regulation, but if it could drive the development of new treatments and advance our knowledge of global health problems such as dementia, we should allow it to be fully considered.

“The prime minister has highlighted the achievements being made by UK dementia scientists. It is essential that the advances being made are translated into patient benefits as quickly as possible. With dementia research so hugely underfunded, effective collaborations between charity funders, pharmaceutical companies and the NHS could lead to the breakthroughs we so desperately need.

“With 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia, we must invest in research now if we are to beat this devastating disease.”

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Amy Winehouse – Now She’s Gone

I used to think that I was the biggest Amy Winehouse fan in the world. I can still remember the first time that I heard Stronger Than Me from her debut album Frank. I fell in love although then I denied it. My older sister used to play that album on full blast all the time and it used to annoy me and I used to plead with her to turn it down. It wasn’t until my sister left for university, taking the album with her that I realised just how much I loved Amy Winehouse so I went my local HMV and bought myself my own copy of Frank.

I listened to that album repeatedly for months each time discovering something new, lost in the echoes of her thunderous smooth vocals. I felt like I knew everything I was wanted to know about Amy Winehouse from her music and for me that was enough.

A few years later she released Rehab off of her album Back To Black and suddenly she was everywhere and I was happy for a while because she was a success and I believed that she deserved it.

Then at some point, it wasn’t about her music anymore, it was about everything else; her marriage, her drug addiction, her alcoholism, her deteriorating weight, even her hair. Suddenly Miss Winehouse was the intro, the middle and the punch line to every joke. People waited eagerly to watch her fall and she never disappointed.

Amy Winehouse - Before & After

Now that Miss Winehouse is dead and buried, making it into the infamous 27 Club joining the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain to name a few, it seems that she’s been placed on this pedestal that we the public tend to put dead famous people who die young and tragically on. I myself was saddened by the news of her death, but I like many I was not surprised in fact truth be told, I was slightly relieved.

Almost 6 months after her awful demise, she’s still topping charts but now it’s not about her music anymore. Now it’s about obtaining a piece of her because she’s gone and she’s never coming back. The truth is it doesn’t matter how many of her records we buy because she’s taken her music with her.

When I listen to Stronger Than Me now, I don’t feel that thing I felt all those years ago when my sister used to play it. All I hear are words and although the words do move me and make me cry and laugh all at the same time, her music great as it is and was will never be the same again because she’s gone.

For me that is the saddest thing about Amy Winehouse and all the other dead musicians who died so young. The way they lived, their depression, their addiction, the way these aspects of their lives were portrayed by the media and everything else was sad but the saddest thing is that the greatest gift they shared with the world, their music, had to suffer because of all of the above.

Chameleon – Dublin’s Intimate Indonesian

Chameleon is an intimate and cosy Indonesian restaurant serving contemporary cuisine in the Temple Bar district of Dublin. Opened in 1994, Chameleon has been very successful and has won many prestigious restaurant awards and has been included in “100 best in Dublin 2009”. This speciality restaurant has also been featured in the Bridgestone Guide’s “Best Restaurants in Ireland” every year since opening – which is something rather special for restaurant in what tends to be the very touristy Temple Bar area. Chameleon’s food and unique atmosphere have gained a well-deserved reputation and it is not unusual to see familiar faces returning each week or month to sample the authentic Indonesian cuisine on offer.

Chameleon specialises in Rijst-tafel (which literally means rice table). It is a way of serving Indonesian food that was devised by the Dutch, who first colonised these Spice Islands back in the early 19th century. Rather than eating just one main dish, each diner is served small quantities of several different dishes all at once. This is similar to the Greek meze or Chinese Dim Sum style of eating. The Rijst-tafel is comprised of appetizers, curries, vegetables, noodles and rice dishes. A selection of sambals (spicy chutneys) and pickles are also served as condiments to eat with the meal. At Chameleon, your dinner plate arrives empty, a hot plate is lit to keep the dishes warm and all the food arrives to the table at the same time.

I ordered the “Rijst-tafel Bali” which was quite filling even though it was advertisied for just one person. I was served the following 6 dishes served with steamed jasmine rice and condiments:

Free range chicken satay served with our peanut sauce

Seasoned balls of Irish lamb in a rich, spicy, Javanese curry sauce

Irish beef cooked slowly in a spicy coconut milk sauce with cinnamon, tamarind and red chillies

Seasonal greens wok fried with sautéed onions and toasted sesame seeds

Salad with cucumber, mango chinese leaves with a peanut and black sesame dressing

Wok fried noodles with beansprouts, ginger, garlic & soy sauce

I have travelled to Indonesia many times in the past and have spent much of my time in Bali. Compared to the authentic food I tasted on my travels, I would have to say that Chameleon serves probably the best rijst-tafel I have ever tasted outside of Indonesia. The raised sitting area upstairs is a traditional yet stylish touch and allows diners to experience a sense of culture reminiscent of the Spice Islands of Indonesia. I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who is travelling to Dublin and wants to try a restaurant that stands out from the crowd.

Chameleon Restaurant
1 Lower Fownes Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland
T: +353 1 671 0362

Images courtesy of the author

Can Music Save Your Life? – Part 1

“I cannot tell you how many times in the 6 year period of severe depression I felt hopeless and that there was nothing to live for in this world. I thought about killing myself numerous times, sad to say. But the one thing that always stopped me from wanting to die was music. I knew that I’d always have it and that if I left this world I would not be able to listen to the beauty of it anymore and that is how music saved my life.”- Anonymous

Music always helps, no matter what you’re going through. Whether you’re going through a really bad break-up or just miss someone so much it hurts, there is always something out there that will get you through it. Therefore it is always a good thing when we find some kind of music that helps us through those particular moments in our life.

A recent online survey proved this theory, where 80% of you who took part agreed that music got you through life events and even changed or saved some of your lives. The thing about music is that it doesn’t care what age you are or what background you come from, it will always be there to help and inspire if you let it. The other 20% were unsure that it had the power to save but believe it can change their mood instantly.

There is something powerful within the melodies and lyrics in a song that can do something to your emotions. It is almost like we as humans cannot help but be moved by rhythm and beats of the music we listen to. Notice that even your feet cannot help but tap to the beat of just about every melodic moment. Look out for it; your feet will be dancing away without you even noticing. It is amazing how musicians and the music they create can tug on our heartstrings, everyone reacts differently and we all have that one song that may remind us of someone special or of a big change we went through in our lives. So, why do we respond the way we do to music?

Rachel Verney the Director of Music at Nordoff Robbins said: “We are hardwired to respond to music. It can affect our feelings, make our bodies move, change the way we think and – when we make music with others – offer a way of communicating and connecting with people in a way that doesn’t rely on words, but which can be very powerful.”

We can’t help it, as humans it is in our blood. This is why music is used just about everywhere, people know it can affect your attitude and mood making you feel inspired or uplifted. We hear music when we are doing our shopping, or when we go out for a meal at our favourite restaurant. Even flicking on the TV you are guaranteed some sort of music throughout every show whether it’s the opening theme credits or songs during scenes, it is always present. It stirs emotions within our hearts so that we can empathise with the situation on screen.

A show that has used music as a tool to connect with viewers is One Tree Hill. I am sure quite a few of you girls have watched this and are hooked. The hit series is on its 9th and final season and through-out the show it has had many musicians take part, making the show a success. Mark Schwahn the creator of the show has a close connection with music and the titles of the episodes are mostly from songs, bands or albums.

Some of the bands who featured on the show included My Chemical Romance, Wakey Wakey, Angels and Airwaves and Fall Out Boy. One anonymous fan wrote on “I was suicidal in 8th grade and just really depressed. Then I watched the school shooting episode of One Tree Hill. The music featured literally saved my life.”

Stay tuned for the second part of Jennifer Campbell’s exploration of music and mood which will be out next week on 31 January.

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Dublin – More Than Just Guinness

Mention Ireland to someone and one of the first things they’ll say is probably Guinness. Ireland is famous for the land which created “the Black Stuff” and Dublin was were it all started. The original brewery near the centre of the city is now a museum – called the Guinness Storehouse – where you can learn more about the history of this great drink and even sample a pint in their rooftop bar which has stunning views across Dublin. The Guinness Storehouse is without a doubt Ireland’s and Dublin’s number one tourist attraction – and quite rightly so. But there is more to Dublin than just being the home of Guinness.

The best place to start planning your trip to Dublin is to check out the website for Dublin Tourism Board which gives full listings and guides to the city. When it comes to getting there, book a flight with British Midland International (BMI). BMI fly from London Heathrow to Dublin every day and although they might not be the cheapest, they are neither the most expensive and offer the best value for money. BMI are a member airline of the Star Alliance which is a network of respected airlines such as Singapore Airlines and Luftansa.

There has been a resurgence in the city centre thanks to the increasing amount of tourists from Europe and America who are now travelling in every increasing numbers to Ireland’s capital. The city is full of culture and you are never too far away from a quality restaurant or bar to sample the best Ireland has to offer in good food and drink. See our reviews of Pichet and Chameleon for just two examples of some of the wonderful dining experiences awaiting you. Dublin Castle is definitely worth a visit, if only to marvel at it’s technicolour walls which are unlike any other historic building you’ll be used to. The grounds outside the castle was the original home of the Dubh Linn (meaning Black Pool) where Dublin gets it’s name.

No visitor to Dublin can miss seeing the amazing Spire Of Dublin rising up to the heavens on O’Connell Street. It is also known by it’s official name of the Monument of Light. At night it looks spectacular when the top 12 metres of the monument is illuminated forming a beacon across the night sky. The monument itself is 120 metres high and is the world’s tallest sculpture.

The River Liffey runs through the heart of the city and splits the city up with the historic Georgian Dublin and main tourist attractions in the south and and the less touristy areas of the city in the north. The Temple Bar area just south of the Ha’penny Bridge is the main tourist area of Dublin and is filled with lots of pubs, bars and restaurants. The Ha’penny bridge is probably the best known bridge in Dublin and is famous for being the first iron bridge in Ireland. A good central hotel to stay at is the reasonably priced Eliza Lodge which is only a stone’s throw away from lively Temple Bar but manages to maintain a sense of tranquility by overlooking the River Liffey.

Famous Dubliners include the influential writer James Joyce, the witty Oscar Wilde (whose leering statue lies foppishly on a stone crag in Merrion Square) and of course the infamous Molly Marlone from the popular song which has become the unofficial anthem of Dublin. A buxom statue of Molly Malone is located at the bottom of Grafton Street and is fondly referred to as “The Tart With The Cart” by locals!

Discover Dublin on your next city break – it is so much more than just the home of Guinness!

Images courtesy of Alan Philippe

Film Review: Margin Call

In a movie industry that is increasingly demanding more spectacle than intelligence, Margin Call isn’t a film you expect to see on a big screen. It seems more like a TV special that wins awards but no one actually sees.

Having said that, Margin Call deals with a subject that another pair of hands could have been treated like a sequel to Wall Street. Margin Call tells the story of twenty four hours in the life of an investment firm that makes a horrifying discovery in 2008 that the whole financial system is about to collapse before their eyes. After several meetings through the night, the big investment bankers decide to perform what is called a margin call, in other words sell their entire bad stock as quickly as possible, fully aware that it will destroy all the companies that buy from them.

With that in mind, it’s hard to see how you can sympathise with the main characters, but the genius of the script by J.C. Chandor (who also directs) is that we actually do care. We care about who gets fired and who doesn’t, and it may be the only film about Wall Street where you actually want the bankers to succeed. A slightly cynical trader Will Emerson, played sublimely by Paul Bettany, gives a speech about why the bankers are right and that “ordinary people” are wrong, in a way that actually makes you think he has a point.

Paul Bettany isn’t the only bright spark here. Kevin Spacey gives the best performance of the film as head trader Sam Rogers, with superb support from Stanley Tucci, Zachary Qunito, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, and Simon Baker whose performance has been surprisingly ignored. Everyone gets their big entrance scene where they have the commanding presence as the man (or woman) in charge as news of the impending collapse spreads, until the news reaches John Tuld (Jeremy Irons), who gives a great performance as the commanding and almost vamperic boss.

The script is where the real strength of this movie lies. The stock market and the nature of its demise in 2008 is a very convoluted and difficult subject to grasp, something expertly dealt with by J.C. Chandor. When things get a little too complicated for a layman to understand, one of the high ranking execs ask to have it broken down to them in “plain English”, or as Jeremy Irons’ character puts it, “talk to me like I’m a small child, or a Labrador”. The fact that most of the people at the top don’t seem to know the first thing about the stock market is a running gag used throughout the entire film.

J.C. Chandor is a first time writer director, so naturally there are points where the film falters. Kevin Spacey’s B-story involving his dying dog is a little too clear an attempt to make him seem like a sympathetic character, and Stanley Tucci’s speech about the bridge he built in the 80s goes on a lot longer than is needed; he’s good with numbers, we get it. In the very capable hands of Spacey, Tucci, and the rest of the cast though the film still stays strong through these setbacks. We spend most of our time moving from room to room, and it doesn’t exactly move at an expeditious pace, but the intelligent script makes this a gripping, grown-up movie, the kind of which we really could do with seeing more of.

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Pichet – French Cuisine with Irish Charm

Pichet is a friendly French bistro restaurant based on Dublin’s busy Trinity Street in the heart of the city. Pichet opened in 2009 and is owned by Nick Munier and Stephen Gibson. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal with stylish blue leather chairs and dark wood tables. Pichet has a colourful and interesting menu with wonderful presentation and exceptional taste and quality. The wine list is very reasonably priced and is concise but includes something for everyone’s taste. Although there is lots of choice on the A La Carte menu, if you’re going there for lunch, why not try the special Fixed Price Lunch menu which is only €25 for three courses between 12pm and 3pm. Here’s a sample of what’s on offer:

Starter – Salmon Fishcake with Pickled Cucumber, Watercress and Tartare Sauce
The fishcake was plump and succulent with a decent amount of fish compared to potato. There is nothing worse than a fishcake that’s all cake and no fish so Pichet got top marks for their tasty version of an old classic. The addition of the pickled cucumber was a nice modern twist but it was reassuring to have that familiar favourite, tartare sauce, served on the side. The size of this starter is slightly larger than you would expect which was great for me as my heart tends to sink when I’m served tiny portions!

Main – Daube of Beef with Sauerkraut and Colcannon Mash
The meat was meltingly tender and full of flavour. The sauerkraut balanced the richness of the daube nicely with its tangy aftertaste. No prizes for guessing that the mash would be colcannon – we are in Ireland after all! Again this was a nice mansized portion which was true to the nature of this relaxed yet stylish bistro. I recommended trying the New Zealand 2007 Pinot Noir from the Lake Chalice Estate which is a perfect complement to this dish.

Dessert – Rhubarb Cheesecake with Tangerine Jelly
An interesting take on the classic cheesecake. The dessert is served in a glass instead of on a plate with the different elements of the cheesecake piled on on top of another and topped off with a crisp tuile biscuit. The tangerine jelly was interspersed through the fruity creaminess like hidden gems of orange wobbly. A perfectly pleasant end to a perfectly pleasant meal.

The staff at Pichet are charming and friendly but the attentiveness can sometimes falter when the restaurant is really busy. However it is never too difficult to catch the eye of one of the waiting staff. Getting a table for lunch tends not to be a problem but reservations are certainly recommended for dinner. The next time you find yourself in Dublin don’t forget to visit Pichet and try their delicious French cuisine served with plenty of Irish charm.

Pichet Restaurant Café and Bar
14/15 Trinity Street
Dublin 2
T: +353 1 677 1060

Images courtesy of the author

Nicotine Patches May Slow Progression to Alzheimer’s

Scientists in the US announced clinical trial results showing that nicotine patches may improve cognitive performance in elderly people with early memory problems. The findings could take scientists a step closer to the development of new treatments to tackle dementia.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, was completed by 67 volunteers. All of the volunteers were non-smokers and had mild cognitive impairment (MCI), thinking and memory problems not yet severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia. Half of the volunteers wore a transdermal nicotine patch for the six month trial, while half wore a placebo patch which did not contain nicotine.

Nicotine, a chemical found in tobacco, is known to stimulate nerve cells in the brain – one reason why cigarettes are so addictive. Some of the nerve cells which are stimulated by nicotine in the brain play a role in preserving cognitive function and these cells can have trouble firing in people with Alzheimer’s. This had led some scientists to believe that nicotine may hold a clue to how to get these cells firing again.

Over the course of the trial, the volunteers took several different types of memory and performance test and the researchers followed their performance. The results showed that, although there was no significant difference in overall improvement between those with nicotine patches and placebo, volunteers with the nicotine patch performed better on specific tests of long term memory and attention.

Although a nicotine-based therapy is unlikely to prevent or cure the disease, the scientists hope it could in future present a way of slowing the progression from MCI to Alzheimer’s and treating some of the symptoms of the disease.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:

“This small study looks promising as people with MCI treated with nicotine patches showed improvements in several cognitive tests. Larger and longer term studies will be needed to get a bigger picture of the potential of nicotine-based treatments in Alzheimer’s. As we know, nicotine is highly addictive and smoking can increase our risk of Alzheimer’s as well as other serious diseases, and so we must interpret the results sensibly.

“We hope that the findings can push scientists towards developing safe and effective therapies to tackle dementia, and with 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia, this need has never been greater.”

For further information, or to speak with Dr Simon Ridley, please contact Laura Phipps, Science Communications Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK on 01223 843304, mobile 07500803936 or email

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Drug-free Therapy Staves off Cognitive Decline in Dementia

German researchers have found a combination of behavioural and cognitive exercises can help slow cognitive decline for people with dementia. A trial of the therapy also found people with the condition were more able to carry out daily living activities such as gardening or food preparation.

Researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, in Germany, studied 61 patients in five nursing homes in Bavaria over the course of a year. Half of the patients were enrolled on a programme of ‘MAKS’ therapy for two hours a day, six days a week in addition to their usual treatment, while the other half received only their usual treatment. MAKS therapy involved a combination of motor stimulation activities such as bowling or croquet, practice in ‘daily living activities’ such as gardening, cognitive stimulation exercises and a ‘spiritual element’ such as a group song or a discussion about a topic such as happiness.

After one year, those on the MAKS therapy had maintained cognitive function and the ability to carry out daily activities, while those who were not receiving the therapy had declined on both measures. The effect was far greater for people with mild to moderate dementia than those with severe dementia. The researchers estimated the therapy’s cost to be less than €10 a day per person, and argue that with no adverse side effects, the treatment would be a cost-effective way of helping people with mild to moderate dementia.

The results are published in the journal BMC Medicine today.

The researchers now want to see larger studies to further evaluate the treatment. They also hope to investigate how long the benefits of MAKS therapy may be maintained and whether it could help patients who are not in a nursing home.

Dr Marie Janson, Director of Development at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“It’s believed that cognitive stimulation can be an effective method of helping people cope with the symptoms of mild to moderate dementia, and this research is a useful reminder that there are non-drug treatments for the condition. The results of this small study suggest that ‘MAKS’ therapy may bring even bigger benefits than cognitive stimulation alone, and if these findings can be replicated in large-scale studies, this could greatly improve the lives of people with dementia. It will also be important to see how long the benefits might last.

“While any advance that can help people cope with their symptoms is to be welcomed, we still lack a way to prevent dementia or stop it in its tracks. With 820,000 people in the UK affected by dementia, we urgently need to invest in research to find treatments that could stop the condition.”

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Cognitive Decline May Begin at 45

A study has found age-related cognitive decline may begin as early as age 45. The ten-year study of Whitehall civil servants, carried out by a team of international scientists in the UK, France and the US, is the first to find signs of cognitive decline in people younger than 60.

Led by researchers at the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, in France, and University College London, the team studied 7,390 civil servants working in Whitehall over the course of ten years. The participants were given a range of cognitive tests – including memory, reasoning, vocabulary and language tests – three times over the decade.

The researchers analysed the results by grouping the civil servants into age categories, taking differences in education into account. They found that each age category showed a decline in cognitive ability over the ten years, although this decline was faster in older people. For example, men aged 45-49 showed an average decline in reasoning abilities of 3.6% over ten years, compared to 9.6% in men aged 65-70. In women, the average rate of decline for those aged 45-49 was 3.6%, compared to 7.4% in women aged 65-70.

The results, which are published in the BMJ online today (5 January), add to previous evidence suggesting that biological changes associated with dementia may start in mid-life – although the cognitive decline seen in this study was subtle compared to the severe decline seen in dementia. The scientists argue that further research is now needed to identify what causes cognitive decline, and suggest focusing on younger people who experience a faster than expected decline for their age group.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:

“Experts believe that Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia, begins to develop in mid-life. Although this study didn’t look at dementia, it would be important to follow up these participants to see which people go on to develop the condition. It’s important to note that the group studied here was not representative of the population as a whole, and it would be helpful to see similar studies carried out in a wider sample.

“Previous research suggests that our health in mid-life affects our risk of dementia as we age, and these findings give us all an extra reason to stick to our New Year’s resolutions. Although we don’t yet have a sure-fire way to prevent dementia, we do know that simple lifestyle changes – such as eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check – can all reduce the risk of dementia.

“With 820,000 people in the UK affected by dementia, it’s vital that we invest in research to find new ways to prevent and treat this devastating condition.”

For further information, or to speak with Dr Simon Ridley, please contact Kirsty Marais, Media Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK on 01223 843304, 07826 559233 or email 

How to Soundproof with Style

Street traffic, noisy neighbors and pets keeping you up at night? If you’ve finally found the perfect flat but are unable to sleep with all the city noise, don’t fret! If you’ve considered soundproofing but can’t go constructing walls, and you don’t want to  sacrifice style for a sound night’s sleep- check out these chic, easy alternatives for reducing noise in your home.

Without embarking on a major construction project, there are a several ways to soundproof your home. The best place to start is to figure out the source of the noise or where the majority of the noise is coming from. Once you pinpoint the source it will be much simpler to choose the right noise reducing method for the area.

Building Barriers

If you find that the majority of the noise is coming from other rooms of the house via shared walls or from outside traffic, building a barrier could be a good solution. However there is no need to start fooling around with expensive drywall. Floor to ceiling bookshelves or a media rack will minimize sounds when placed against the offending shared wall. Not only does this look nice and minimize noise, but it gives you a lot of extra storage. Who doesn’t love more storage?

If you have ample storage already, or don’t have the extra space to fit a bookshelf, there is still hope yet. MIO Acoustic Weave tiles and Träullit Hexagons are very effective sound reducers. The MIO tiles are eco-friendly and can be painted to match any décor. They give the wall a lot of texture and character and are relatively inexpensive.  The other tile alternative, while still green, is slightly more Swedish. Träullit Hexagons are made from woodwool cement board and look more like art than sound-proofing.

For a less permanent, more customizable approach, try wrapping a few big plywood panels with some fiberfill and faux upholstering them with a beautiful, lux fabric to match your interior. These look great, and are easy to move around. It’s a great option for those of you who are renting flats.

Another way to reduce noise in your room is by spraying texture onto your ceiling. It’s easy to apply, just ask your local hardware store about acoustic ceiling spray. Roughening the surface will help absorb sound waves rather than bounce them around the room. The spray texture is easy to apply and the result is sometimes referred to as popcorn ceiling.

Street Sounds

If street sounds keep you awake at night, it is most likely a result of thin windows. If you’re willing to shell out the extra cash to upgrade to triple pane windows it will make a difference in the room noise-wise. Triple pane windows have three layers of glass cushioned by layers of inert gasses that contribute to overall sound-dampening. However, if new windows are not in your future there is another way to sound proof your old ones. Your window treatments can work to reduce noise in the room. Select heavy fabrics instead of sheers or lightweight cotton. Consider lux fabrics like velvet. If noise is a problem opt for these curtains instead of light sheers or window blinds.

Softer Things, Softer Sounds

Soft, heavy materials are great when it comes to absorbing sound. Think about a big empty room, sounds echo much more readily in an empty room than a full one. The more materials and textures you have in the room, the harder it is for sound to travel.  Simple additions to your décor like throws, wraps and throw pillows will make all the difference. For noise that comes from above or below, consider adding high-pile rugs with thick pads to muffle sounds escaping from other rooms.

So don’t sacrifice style or start tearing apart your home with construction just to muffle some unwanted noise. Instead, try these easy style-friendly noise reducing tricks.

This article was written by Erie Construction. Follow Erie Construction on Twitter for more information about home improvement.

Marker Brings Hope for Accurate Dementia Diagnosis

US scientists have road tested a new approach to brain scanning, harnessing a marker which can help distinguish between Alzheimer’s and another type of dementia called frontotemporal dementia. The study, published in Neurology brings scientists one step closer to more accurate diagnosis of the various causes of dementia, which require markedly differing approaches to care and treatment.

The researchers from the University of California worked with 107 people with early onset Alzheimer’s disease or frontotemporal dementia and used two different brain scan markers to try to accurately distinguish between the two types of dementia. The first of these markers – called FDG – gives a measure of how active different brain regions are, whereas a newer marker – PiB – binds directly to a hallmark Alzheimer’s protein called amyloid.

Although the currently available FDG marker could discriminate between Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia, PiB could differentiate with a higher degree of sensitivity and accuracy when scans were visually scored. The hope is that this test could be used alongside other diagnostic techniques to give a more confident diagnosis of dementia.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“Being able to accurately diagnose dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is essential so that people can be given the appropriate care for their needs. An accurate diagnosis is also crucial for the success of clinical trials, which aim to find successful new treatments for dementia. Scientists are currently developing a number of different amyloid markers to boost diagnosis and this study highlights the potential they may hold in accurately diagnosing between different types of dementia.

“Getting an accurate dementia diagnosis can often be challenging and add extra worry and frustration for families and loved ones. With 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia, there is a desperate need for research into diagnostic techniques which will allow people to get the help and support that is specific for their diagnosis. We hope that further investment in research will allow the full potential of these markers to be revealed.”

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Where Can I Get a Good Detox?

London Life Coach & Wellbeing Consultant Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about detox and the best places to go to detox. Follow Sloan Life Coach on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s Life Coaching website

Well, I have never been a fan of detoxing or suggesting detoxing without knowing a lot more about the history of my client. However if you are going to go on a detox, it’s a really good idea to go somewhere with beautiful views, peaceful scenery and the time to clear both your body and your mind.

One of the most impressive spas that is getting talked about is a spa in Bali which is set on a cliff top with stunning views. It is called Alila Villas in Uluwatu and they have just launched a new detox called Mehta Detox. This detox programme starts off with juices, raw salad, and allows you to take your pick from a vast array of holistic therapies.

You can pick from traditional therapies such as meditation or Ayurvedic massage or go for exercises that are gentle such as yoga and even explore things like Qi Gong and internal martial arts. If that’s not your scene, you can just chill out by your own private pool in this all villa resort. More details can be found on

However, as I don’t always suggest detoxing as the best form of spa, another alternative would be the Six Senses Spa at Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay in Bodrum, Turkey. This has an extremely picturesque view of the Aegean coast and offers a Life for Inner Peace programme.

These can be taken as a 3-day, 5-day or even 7-day holiday and they also offer holistic therapies in addition to indoor pool, sauna and steam room, and of course the famous Turkish baths. What is lovely about this spa is that you have the added bonus of reiki, hot stone massages, colour therapy, holistic massages, watsu water therapy, shiatsu, and foot acupressure. So if detoxing is not your thing but you would still like a getaway, visit for more details.

For those of you who want to go on the Bali detox holiday and want to bring a friend along who happens to be not so keen on detoxing do check out our article by Alan Philippe on the top five restaurants in Bali.

For those of you who are more interested in our spa in Turkey, do check out the Relax and Rejuvenate article written by Sloan Sheridan-Williams on recommendations of five of the best international spas.

Also check out for our travel article by Mariam Noronha on the five best luxury spa resorts in India which was published in August 2011.

If you have any more questions about spas, do not hesitate to leave your comments below. Alternatively if you have visited a spa and want to let us know about it please do get in touch.

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Affordable Italian Wines from Cambridge Wine Merchants at La Dante, Cambridge

Recently, I presented a collection of Italian wines at La Dante in Cambridge.

Giulia Portuese-Williams, who runs La Dante, had asked me if I could select and present some wines from different parts of Italy – and with a budget of around £10 per bottle, I decided that “affordable” was the way to go.

Whilst it is generally possible to find wines from the world’s “classic” regions below £10, at this price point, the less-reputed regions can often outperform; and the classic regions of Italy – Chianti, Barolo and so on – are never bargain wines.


However, many parts of Italy, especially the south, are re-inventing themselves as Europe’s New World of well-made, fruit driven wines at under a tenner, so with the help of Cambridge Wine‘s Mill Road branch Manager, Matt Boucher I selected six of the best.

La Dante in Cambridge is part of the international la Società Dante Alighieri, founded in 1889 with 440 offices worldwide – it is a national cultural institute rather like the British Council or the Goethe Institute, but unlike these it is not state-funded and so needs to rely on language lessons for its income.

So my audience that evening was mainly local Italians and Italophile language students plus friends, lending the proceedings a much more sociable and collegiate atmosphere, which suited me fine as it had been a busy weekend in the CWB household and I had not managed to prepare a huge amount to say on each of the wines.

Making a virtue out of necessity then, I simply introduced each wine with a quick overview of region, grape variety and key characteristsics and then started pouring.

La Delfina Special Cuvee Prosecco, £8.99


We began with a wine I have reviewed earlier this year, as I had used it as an ingredient in a jelly recipe by Alex Rushmer, chef at The Hole in The Wall.

Fermented in tank rather than bottle, Prosecco is much cheaper to produce than Champagne and also has more primary fruit than Champagne, which proved very popular on the evening; this La Delfina Special Cuvee Prosecco is light and elegant with ripe pear fruit. It will never challenge a good Champagne for complexity, but it is well-made, very enjoyable and much more cheaply priced.

Alpha Zeta Garganega, £6.55

The first still white, a Garganega from Veneto, was crisp and appley on first opening with ripe pineapple fruit but with some air became richer, weightier and more mouthfilling.

A versatile food wine, it would match with light starters, salmon or white fish in a creamy sauce.

Mandrarossa Fiano, £7.99

We finished the whites with a Fiano from Sicily, increasingly a source of well-made, good vale wines; darker and waxier in the glass, this wine had half a degree more alcohol and felt fuller on the palate, showing tropical fruit and herbal, vegetal aromas.

More weighty than the Garganga, this would stand up to cream-based pasta dishes.

Poggio Del Sasso, Sangiovese, £8.99

The first of the reds, a Sangiovese from Toscana, was a Chianti lookalike on a budget, with typical cherry fruit, prominent linear acidity and good grip, but was also a little more easy-drinking and less challenging than a Chianti.

This is very much a food wine and would match well with beef-based dishes.

Miopasso Nero d’Avola, £8.75

Nero d’Avola is one of Sicily’s “signature” red grapes and produces wines with lots of plum, prune and peppery aromas; this wine is made partially with ripasso grapes (i.e. that have been dried on straw mats int he sun for several months to concentrate flavours). This gives the wine an intense perfume and a mid-palate fruit sweetness that proved very popular on the evening and led many people to say it was their wine of the night.

With so many flavours and aromas, this to me is a less versatile wine, but would match well with a game casserole with the sweetness of root vegetables or braised red cabbage.

Moscato Frizzante Piedmonte Volpi, £9.49

Wanting to finish with a dessert wine, I picked this unusual semi-sparkling, semi-sweet, low alcohol (just 5.5%) Moscato from Volpi which had been my wine match for the jelly I mentioned earlier.

Light and elegant, it shows lots of elderflower aromas and, perhaps because of this, can seem sweeter than it really is (the finish is relatively dry); the acidity is nicely balanced and it is a very easy drinker.

It would make a very pleasant end to a meal, or would match with light, fruit-based desserts – or the layered strawberry jelly if you feel like making it.


Beyond the social aspect and general interest of presenting the wines, the evening proved instructive in a couple of ways – firstly with a mixed Italian and UK-Italophile audience it gace me the chance to see how these two different nations think about wine.

I have long felt that people who grow up with a “wine culture”, where it is part of everyday life (in places like France, Italy and Spain for example), seem to have a more instinctive understanding of what makes a good wine – unlike Anglo-Saxons for whom wine appreciation is something relatively new, they generally do not have the extensive vocabulary for describing wine, but rather simply seem to know whether a wine is good or not.

By contrast, the Brits have both a greater interest in the stories around the wine and also – in a general audience of so-called average consumers – a greater preference for primary, up-front fruit in a wine, rather than more elusive secondary, or tertiary aromas; this was especially noticeable in the preference for Prosecco over Champagne and also the popularity of the very fruit-driven Nero d’Avola.

Recommended Wine

All the wines here were very good and all proved popular with the audience – however, for me the most interesting was also the most typically Italian was the Poggio Del Sasso Sangiovese.


La Dante, Cambridge –,!/ladantecam

Cambridge Wine Merchants –