Villa Maria Pinot Noir

If New Zealand’s Villa Maria is the John Lewis of wine, always dependable and well-made in a middle-class, slightly expensive sort of way, and Pinot Noir is the Alfa Romeo of grapes, capable of greatness and disappointment in equal measure, what then to make of a pair of Villa Maria Pinots ?

For some, good, reliable Pinot is not only a contradiction in terms, but almost an abomination, as there is an unwritten rule that good Pinot should be hedonistic and elusive.

Perhaps I have been insufficiently bitten by the infamous “Pinot bug”, but I find the search for great Pinot a bit too much like hard work.

Either way, anyone unsure and wanting to know what all the fuss is about with Pinot could do a lot worse than check out these two.

For my regular after-work Wine Club, I had two different wines which I put into decanters and encouraged people to try blind and decide which they preferred.

As it turned out, everyone preferred the more expensive example, even if they were less capable of correctly identifying them.

Villa Maria Marlborough Pinot Noir Private Bin 2011, £11.99 from Budgens

Pale in the glass, it has a typically varietal nose with cherry fruit, mushroomy aromas and a touch of spice.

The palate shows red and black cherry fruit, juicy acidity, some spice, good savoury depth and balance.

Good, well-made example of an entry-level Pinot.


Villa Maria Marlborough Pinot Noir Reserve 2009, £18.99 from Tesco

With a half degree more alcohol and noticeably darker in the glass, there are some brick red hints of age.

The nose is again varietally typical with cherry fruit and undergrowth, with some vanilla spice, but more complex and intense than the previous wine.

On the palate, it feels bigger and fuller, with ripe cherry fruit, undergrowth, vanilla and roasted dark spice.

It is more rounded and bigger, with a soft mouthfilling texture, savoury depth and a long palate.

Overall, it is balanced, harmonious and integrated with a good finish.


Well-made, typical and reliably enjoyable, these are certainly both good Pinots. But are they great ? I’m not entirely sure.

And there’s the rub – reliability and greatness rarely go hand-in-hand; especially in the case of Pinot.

Then again, I’ve had more expensive Pinots that I’ve been less impressed with, but that probably says more about Pinot as a grape than it does about these particular wines.

And I can’t help wondering if searching for great Pinot is rather like owning an Alfa Romeo – a potential source of great kudos and dinner-party stories, but actually rather tedious in practice.

If you are new-ish to wine, want to try out a Pinot and don’t mind spending £10 – £20 on a bottle, this could be just what you are looking for, but it leads me to wonder whether reliable Pinot can be seen as A Good Thing or not ?

For it is in Pinot’s nature to be unreliable – sometimes great, more often disappointing – and a reliable Pinot is perhaps like an Alfa Romeo that starts every time you put the keys in. If I wanted that, I’d buy a BMW instead – it would be reliable, it would be good, but it wouldn’t be an Alfa.

Unable to resolve this inherent contradiction, I put the question to perhaps the one person I know placed to answer authoritatively as she is both a Marketing Director and a WSET Diploma student; she mulled for a few moments and then said “Villa Maria is not a large winery, New Zealand does not make much wine, so to produce reliable Pinot is no mean feat – yes, it’s A Good Thing”.

For the more pragmatically minded, here are some Pinot quick facts:

– spiritual home is Burgundy, also grown in other cool-climate areas such as NZ, Chile, parts of California and increasingly Australia

– prone to mutation, fussy and low-yielding, it is never cheap to buy and £10 gets you an entry-level New World example

– key characteristics are light, pale colour, soft silky texture and aromas of mushrooms, game, truffles and cherry fruit

– matches typically with game

Both wines provided for review.


Villa Maria –

Image credits:

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

Sweden Wins Eurovision 2012

Last night, Sweden won the world’s largest televised non-sporting event, the Eurovision Song Contest. Loreen won convincingly with her dance anthem “Euphoria”. voters all over Europe supported this new single hit with 372 points and undoubtedly we will hear her voice in the radios all over Europe now. This year the contest took place in Baku, Azerbaijan.

"eurovision 2012", "eurovision", "sweden"

Loreen performs Euphoria

Russia with Buranovskiye Babushki and their song “Party For Everybody” became second with 259 votes, followed by Serbia’s Željko Joksimović and their song “Nije Ljubav Stvar” with 214 votes.

The Russian entry was a departure from the usual performances by younger singers in song contest. Buranovskiye Babushkithe or the “Buranovo Grannies” (the group’s name in English) and their ethno-pop song was popular with the voting public as it was both fun, entertaining and unusual – as you can see from their performance below.

The UK entry sung by Engelbert Humperdinck ended up second to last place with only got 12 points for his performance of “Love Will Set You Free”. Last year’s more popular UK entry from the band Blue reached 11th place when the Eurovision Song Contest took place in Düsseldorf, Germany. Judge for yourself whether Europe was right not to give more votes for Humperdinck’s ballad style song by watching the music video below.

The Norway entry received the fewest votes and they came last in the song contest.

The show was shown on television all over the world and millions of Europeans followed this event which has been designed to celebrate the diversity of all the nations on this continent. Next year the contest will be taking place in Stockholm, Sweden.

The winning entry Euphoria is currently the song that has received the most 12 points under the current voting rules of the Eurovision Song Contest being awarded 12 points by 18 other participating countries. Sweden recieved points from 40 of the voting 42 countries.

Enjoy the YouTube video of Loreen’s winning performance in Baku and again, congratulations Loreen!

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Videos reproduced from YouTube / eurovision

Wine of The Month – May

April showers bring forth May flowers

English proverb

The weather so far in May has been mixed to say the least with the wettest drought any of us can remember and any occasional sunny days being distinctly chilly.

So, this month’s recommended wines from our local independents are an appropriately varied mixture.

La Fornace Gavi 2010 – Joseph Barnes Wines, £10.00

From a small estate Italy’s Piedmont, this Gavi is an example of a well-made modern Italian white with a traditionally fashionable-but-overpriced label. Made from the Cortese grape, it initially seems straightforward and lemony with orchard fruit on the palate, but with a bit of time and air, it really opens up and shows a great leesy depth of flavour and balanced acidity with some grapeskin yeastiness.

It’s the kind of Italian white that makes me think of wild mushrooms in a creamy sauce with freshly-made yellow egg pasta as an accompaniment; it has the body and depth to stand up to rich, hearty peasant food, but also the acidity to cut through heavy, indulgent sauces.

Lovely, really well-made and balanced.

Orion Wines ‘E Solo’ Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2010 – Noel Young Wines, £7.99

Staying in Italy, this ‘E Solo’ from Noel Young proved incredibly popular a few weeks ago at an in-store tasting. Sealed under screwcap, on first opening it seems full of simple ripe, up-front berry fruit.

With just a bit of air, though, it becomes more complex and interesting, with typically Italian cherry fruit, but also chocolate and some smokiness and oak.

The palate remains ripe, rounded and balanced and over the course of a few days, the nose develops an interesting Pinot-esque mix of vegetal and sour cherry aromas.

Match with tomato-based meaty pasta dishes.

Weingut Werner Mueller Trabener Wuerzgarten Riesling Hochgewaechs 1997, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer – Cambridge Wine Merchants, £12.25

It’s said that life’s too short for a German wine label, but to the initiated, they do really tell you everything you need to know about the wine’s provenance.

This Riesling from Werner Mueller is from the beautiful Mosel valley – the vineyard is wuerzgarten (“spice garden”) in the village of Traben

Starting with the basics, it is a classic Mosel Riesling, with a developed, petrolly nose, pure lemon-lime fruit, and a sweet-sour palate; it is distinctly off-dry, but this is balanced by the high acidity.

Focused, pure and fresh, yet also rounded, balanced and gentle, it is an elegant and superbly well-made wine to fall quietly in love with.

It is light enough to be a garden sipper or match the sweetness and acidity to seafood such as smoked salmon, prawns or sushi. Avoid heavy sauces and don’t overchill the wine – an hour in the fridge is plenty.

It is worth noting that this is technically the best wine here; if you are already a wine geek, you won’t need me to tell you how good aged Mosel Rieslings are, but if you are new to this sort of thing and wondering what all the fuss is about, this is as good a place as any to start.

If off-dry German wines were not so generally unfashionable, this wine would probably cost at least twice what it actually does.

Diez Siglos 2011 Rueda Verdejo – Bacchanalia, £6.99

Unlike Germany, Spain is super-cool in wine making terms right now and just keeps getting better. Yet its lesser-known regions and grapes still remain a great source of well-made, good value wines.

The Verdejo grape originated in North Africa and was brought to Spain around 1,000 years ago; by contrast Diez Siglos, a group of around 70 small-to-medium producers, was formed in 2010.

Aromatic and minerally on the nose, there are aromas of cut grass with hints of fennel; on the palate, the acidity is poised, rounded and balanced by a touch of ripe sweetness of fleshy stone fruit.

The finish is long, minerally and aromatic – a lovely, well-made wine that is great value. Versatile and food friendly, it will match especially well with goat’s cheese or pasta with pesto.

Recommended Wine

Given the uncertainty of the weather this month, it’s very hard to know what to recommend for May drinking, but based on what we have had so far, I suggest some rich, comforting autumnal food matched with a bottle of the wonderful Gavi from Joseph Barnes

Image credit:

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

Film Review – American Pie: Reunion

With the latest release of the Marvel franchise, Avengers Assemble, hitting our screens last month, it is little surprise that one of the year’s hotly anticipated sequels, American Pie: Reunion, somewhat slipped under the wire. The fourth of the original series, the eight of the overall franchise, this instalment saw all of the class of ’99 return for a cameo-filled romp of middle-aged men, trying to recapture adolescence, rekindling their lost friendships. As a fine blend of sentimentality, humour and awkward situations, American Reunion is a great watch for anybody in search of a good laugh, whether an avid fan of the originals or not.

The biggest drawing point that the film seemed to have was that, unlike American Pie: The Wedding, the entire cast were back, including the much missed Chris “Oz” Ostreicher. However, unlike the film’s trailer suggests, his was the only return that carried much calibre. Token minute-long appearances from great characters, such as Sherman, Jessica and Nadia were rather unnecessary to plot development and very far from the trailer’s original set-up. On first viewing, this was a bit of a disappointment, as the nostalgia that the film encompasses was not all there.

However, after a second viewing, this film really comes in to its element. Less a story about five men in mid-life crises, searching for true love or life’s meaning, the final instalment is more a tale of friendship than any of its predecessors. After settling down, making their names, establishing themselves in routines, the four men realise that it is their friendship with one another that are missing from everything they have.

For those who immediately dismiss sequels, abhorring their attempts to outclass their predecessor, do not be put off by this film. Admittedly, the first film is the champion of the series – not one of the sequels has come close to the magic that that bought to our screen. However, the battle for second place is now hotly contested with this and American Pie 2. Both have their flaws, yet both are wonderfully funny. The final scenes featuring Jim’s Dad, the MILF guys and, this time, Finch’s mum, are hilarious, unprecedented and still reminiscent of the original films.

The biggest negative that came from this film was the constant references to modern times. Where some films use subtle reference to Facebook, or other social networking sites, one of the key elements to this film is the lack of communication between Sean William-Scott’s Stifler and his neglectful friends. It seemed too tacked on, as a way of showing that the characters have definitely progressed from the nineties – something that is not at all obvious from their seemingly unchanged appearances.

This film does a very good job in rounding off the series. Fans who were disappointed with American Pie: The Wedding, and the questionable spin-offs, can rest easy in knowing that their favourite characters can still all get together and produce some of the greatest laughs that will hit our screens this year. This is a recommended must-see film of 2012.

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Video reproduced from YouTube / trailers

Film Review: Headhunters

Thirty minutes. That’s how long Hollywood executives were watching Morten Tyldum’s Norwegian adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s bestseller Headhunters when they decided they wanted to remake it. Whether this is because the film is a superbly smart and stylish thriller, or that Hollywood once again seems unable to look inward for its own new and creative ideas remains to be seen. The former is certainly true though.

Aksel Hennie plays Roger Brown (very Anglo-sounding name, coincidence?), a head hunter struggling to keep his head above financial waters. He lives in a large stylish penthouse which he hates, and lives a life of luxury. He can’t afford pretty much everything he owns, but he buys it all anyway to please his beautiful wife Diana (Synnove Macody Lund), who he fears will leave him unless he spoils her. To make ends meet, Roger breaks into the homes of the people he interviews at work, and steals their expensive artwork and sells it on the black market. As he points out though, one painting usually doesn’t even cover his mortgage payments. He needs something more substantial. Enter Clas Greve, a charming businessman and owner of a very valuable painting by Rubens, which Roger soon plans to steal.

This film achieves in areas where so many other thrillers have failed – it manages to use blistering action and yet still make it an examination of the characters. The screenwriters Lars Gudmestad and Ulf Ryburg will have known that by achieving this delicate balance they were onto a winner. It still even manages to find time to blend in its own native Scandinavian style and very dark humour reminiscent of the Coen Brothers.

The director Morten Tyldum deserves the most credit for crafting this Norwegian box office smash hit. Not only has he managed to take some superb source material and do it justice, but in a rare movie fete he manages to improve on it. Tyldum seems very aware that some of the plot twists do head towards the ridiculous on a few occasions, but his sense of timing and ability to use dark humour mask these moments perfectly.

If you were in Roger Brown’s position you would need a sense of humour to avoid descending into madness. He is a profoundly unlikeable character – adores his wife but still has a mistress, and because he’s only 1.68 meters tall (around five foot six, but don’t take my word for it) he has quite a serious Napoleon complex. He is in all honesty a poisonous rake, and you feel he deserves everything he’s got coming to him when Clas Greve starts looming in on him.

Remarkably though, we don’t feel that way. In fact we want him to stand up and fight back. Perhaps it’s the many indignities that Roger is put through that finally wears down our defences. Poor Roger really does go to hell and back, as he is humiliated more and more by what he’s put through. The most notable indignity certainly comes when Roger is forced to hide in a very full outside toilet, where he uses a toilet roll tube to breathe as he submerges himself under the human waste. Filming that scene apparently put Aksel Hennie off drinking coffee for a whole year.

Hennie without a doubt gives a performance that will see him receive much recognition worldwide. Oscar winning? Not quite, but it still would be pleasant if his name was even mentioned in the same sentence as the Academy Awards. He adds a certain charm to the reptilian Roger Brown that deserves much praise, and should put him in good stead for any future bad guy roles in Hollywood. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (best known for Game of Thrones) also makes a good impression as Clas Greve. He processes all the qualities you’d more likely find in a protagonist – charming, handsome, charismatic, and as we soon find out much to Roger Brown’s dismay he’s also quite the ladies man. He’s also tall, which goes a long way to explaining why Roger has nothing but contempt for him from the moment they meet.

If you log onto IMDB, you’ll find that the American remake of Headhunters is currently slated for release in 2014. It’s not so much irritating that Hollywood seems to think that wide audience is too stupid to read subtitles, but that they’ve made the decision to proceed with this project based on the first half hour. In the first thirty minutes we are very well set-up for what’s to come true, but the majority of that time is filled with scenes of Roger interviewing clients. These incidentally are the only times when Hennie looks out of place in the role. Not just that, but what makes Headhunters so superb is its distinctly Scandinavian style, something that would evaporate in an American translation. Either way it will probably make double the money of the original version, more to the pity. In any case, Headhunters proves that the Scandi-crime phase is still not over, and when it’s resulting in films like this, long may it continue.

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Video reproduced from YouTube / trailers

The Sick Children’s Trust Cambridge Sponsored Walk

Date: Saturday 16 June 2012

Time: 1pm

Location: Milton Country Park, Cambridge

Ticket: £5 registration fee

Come and join The Sick Children’s Trust for their Cambridge Sponsored Walk.

The walk takes you 1.5 miles around the park, through some beautiful scenery. A mixture of woodland, grass and water areas within the park ensures that there will be a wide variety of wildlife present, from towering willows to dancing butterflies. It’s the perfect summer event that all the whole family can take part in.

Registration costs just £5 per person and whatever you can raise in sponsorship will all go towards our campaign to build our new ‘Home from Home’ at the Rosie hospital in Cambridge.
All walkers receive entry into the Garden in the registration fee, an official t-shirt to identify you as a sponsored walker, and refreshments after the walk. Plus all children taking part will be awarded with a medal to show their achievement.

You must be registered to participate with The Sick Children’s Trust.

To register for the walk please click here: or for more information please contact Sophie on 020 7931 8695 or email

Press contact: Sarah Wallace on 020 79318695 or email

About The Sick Children’s Trust

The Sick Children’s Trust is celebrating 30 years of supporting families in need. It was founded in 1982 by two paediatric specialists, Dr Jon Pritchard and Professor James Malpas, who believed that having parents on hand during hospital treatment benefited a child’s recovery.

Today we have seven ‘Homes from Home’ at major hospitals around the country where families can stay free of charge, for as long as they need whilst their child is undergoing treatment. There is a growing demand for our ‘Homes from Home’ as children must increasingly travel long distances to get the specialist treatment they need. In the last 30 years we have supported more than 40,000 families

Hot Fashion Trends for Summer 2012

City Connect welcomes Emily Kissock as our latest Features Writer on Beauty and Fashion. In her first article, Emily – an experienced make-up artist, model and fashion writer – takes a look at the hot trends this coming season and shares some key style advice on what to wear in Summer 2012 to stay fashion forward.

Emily Kissock – Style Writer

Summer is coming up and what better to challenge the dull weather than to introduce some light pastel colours into your wardrobe. Beautiful pastel shades are everywhere at the moment and the ability to wear different colours without looking like you’re about to hit the “nu-rave” scene is possible in these shades. Think 1960’s, geometric prints and pop art – yes, pastel pop art! Keeping in with the theme of pastel shades, sheer garments are a real winner right now too. It’s the ultimate ‘fashion oxymoron’ – sexy but innocent, perfect for any occasion and if you pick your sheer-shade right it will go with almost anything.

Little Mistress Embellished Waistband Dress – £50

If you like to go bold and the soft pastel-marshmallow hues just don’t do it for you then you must take a dive into ethnic prints – they are making waves again in fashion, don’t just think of the typical mass printed ‘Aztec’ & ‘Navajo’ as this time round there’s a multitude of mixed ethnic influenced prints available. H&M currently have a brilliant cause – it’s “Fashion Against AIDS” collection – and if you want to add a splash of bold print they will fix that craving and you get to help a great cause in the process.

H&M Fashion Against Aids Skirt – £7.99

Of course not forgetting those needing that touch of edge, denim is one of the on-trend fabrics. Think of it as a canvas and stamp your own personality onto it, for example what’s trending currently with the ladies and gents is to simply teaming denim with hoodies or, if you’d like to really make it your own, adorning it in studs and/or patches for that rock-out-loud look. Denim is such a versatile piece of clothing and wearable by all types of people. You could be as drowned in denim as B*Witched or rocked up like an old school metal head… you catch my drift here, it’s versatile.

ASOS Colour Blocked Denim Shirt – £30

If that’s still not tipping bold on your Richter scale, don’t forget that we have the Diamond Jubilee AND the Olympics in the UK this year and there’s a fabulous range of subtle to downright tacky Union Jack covered garments available! So if you want to show your support by being a walking flag (no pun intended) or just want that Ginger Spice 90’s Union Jack dress it doesn’t matter, stuff like this isn’t usually readily available so grab it while you can and have fun with it!

Religion Union Jack Body – £35

Finishing off today’s article in the same way you would finish off an outfit, let’s look at accessories. Get ready for summer and unleash those futuristic crazy sunglasses, enjoy the mouthwatering sweet colours mixing into the accessories – meringue whites and pixie stick pastels, and not forgetting the tribal touches slithering into those little rectangular clutch bags, big bangles and dangly drop earrings. Bags and shoes share the more than necessary strap look with chunked heels. Hats are dominated right now by big slouchy wide brimmed hats, straw hats and fedora hats. And with that I tip my hat to you and bid you good day until next time.

ASOS Wide Brim Straw Fedora Hat – £14

Images reproduced from and

Cambridgeshire Big Walk Huge Success for Alzheimer’s Research UK

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Big Walk on Sunday 13 May was a huge success, and on target to raise thousands of pounds for pioneering dementia research. Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of the UK’s leading dementia research charity, cut the ribbon to mark the start of the nine mile circular walk in and around Comberton, in South West Cambridgeshire.

The event was sponsored by Greens health and fitness club in Cambridge and some 300 people stepped up to the challenge from all over the county and beyond to take part in Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Big Walk. Everyone joined in a warm-up session before they set off in the long awaited sunshine. Walkers enjoyed exploring Comberton’s peaceful country lanes and an off-road ramble, following tracks through fields and country paths, alongside beautiful woodland areas. The youngest walker was 8 years old and many people bought their four-legged friends along too.

Several walkers talked about the day and their inspiration for supporting Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Big Walk:

David Pitches from Haverhill was one of the first walkers across the finishing line and said:

“It was a really pretty route and I was pleased to be one of the first to finish – it took me just under two hours. I lost my mum Jean to Alzheimer’s last year so supporting Alzheimer’s Research UK is very important to me.”

Elaine King from Sutton, near Ely, said:

“My father-in-law George had Alzheimer’s and my husband and I joined in the Big Walk to raise much needed money for Alzheimer’s Research UK. The route was really lovely and it was a very well organised event.” 

Lisa Dimaline from Cambourne walked with her husband Simon and their two children Thomas, 15, and Amy, 10, and said:

“My mum Jean has Alzheimer’s so we’re doing the Big Walk for her. It’s a horrible disease and this is our way of raising money for new treatments to give hope to other people and future generations.”

Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, added:

“It was a fantastic day and a brilliant sight as a sea of purple t-shirts set off down the country lanes in Comberton for our Big Walk. Everyone had the same aim in mind – to help us achieve our vision at Alzheimer’s Research UK of a world free from dementia.

“Thanks to the generosity of the hundreds of people who took part or made a donation, the Big Walk is set to make a fantastic contribution to our world-class research – it’s just amazing! The money is still coming in and it will pay for a pilot research project to help defeat Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia and fund vital equipment for our scientists.

“We’d like to say a huge thank you to Greens health and fitness centre who sponsored our Big Walk and to the hundreds of people who took part or volunteered to help on the day. A team from St John Ambulance were on standby too and a number of companies kindly contributed water and food to keep everyone’s stamina up and some super raffle prizes to add to the fun of the day. 

“There are over 6,000 people in Cambridgeshire living with dementia today and over 820,000 across the UK, with numbers forecast to rise substantially in the next generation. We rely entirely on our wonderful supporters to fund our vital research. Every penny raised through our Big Walk will bring us closer to finding ways to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure dementia. Research is the only answer.”  

To help Alzheimer’s Research UK defeat dementia, donate online at or call 01223 843899.

For further information, photos or to speak with Shirley Cramer, please contact Sue Armstrong, Media Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK on 01223 843304, 07500 119514 or email

Photography Studio Launches a Snappy Appeal

A photography studio in Thurston, Bury St Edmunds, spent last weekend clicking away to raise money so that families can stay close by to their child when they are being treated in hospital – and has already raised a brilliant £110.

Suffolk based Lighthouse Studios kick started their fundraising efforts recently to support The Sick Children’s Trust’s Appeal to raise money to build a new ‘Home from Home’ at the Rosie hospital in Cambridge.

The studio is offering to donate £25 from each family photography session booked between now and when the new house opens to the charity’s “Buy a Brick” campaign, helping the charity to edge ever closer to its target of opening its eighth ‘Home from Home’ in September 2012.

Colleen Howe, from Lighthouse Studio said: “I wanted to support the charity as I know how wonderful they were to my friend Holly when her daughter, Evie, was rushed into Addenbrooke’s Hospital with respiratory failure in 2010. Holly and her partner, Kevin Rumbelow, stayed at the charity’s Acorn House for more than eight days and they always told me how much of a difference just having a place where they could stay close by to Evie made to them during this stressful time.

“The launch party was a wonderful family event and we had lots of people stop by to support the charity. Best of all though was the fact that little Evie could join us and she is now running around like a normal toddler.”

The Sick Children’s Trust’s new ‘Home from Home’ is [art of Cambridge University Hospitals extension of the Rosie Hospital and the will support the parents of the most vulnerable babies from across the East of England and occasionally beyond. It will provide a comfortable, calming facility for families. With eight en-suite bedrooms, a communal living area and cooking and laundry facilities, helping more than 250 families every year.

Lydia Solomon, Community Fundraiser for The Sick Children’s Trust added: “This is a great start to the studio’s appeal and it’s wonderful to see Holly and her family get back to a sense of normality after everything they have been through. We are really grateful to the Lighthouse Studio for supporting our appeal. We still have to raise more than £240,000 so appreciate all the help we can get.”

Family shoots are offered at the Lighthouse Studio, Thurston, Bury St.Edmunds or on location at a venue chosen by the family. Each photo shoot costs just £40 for which the family will get a 6×4 photograph of their favourite image and the Lighthouse Studio will donate £25 towards the Rosie Hospital “Buy a Brick” campaign.

For more information or to attend the launch party: Please contact Sarah Wallace on 020 7931 8695 or email

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Limoncello at Cambridge Food and Wine Society (with La Dante)

After I arranged a tasting of Italian wines for La Dante in Cambridge last year, Giulia Portuese-Williams, who runs the centre, suggested we do a joint event together with the Cambridge Food and Wine Society.

When, shortly afterwards, I made contact with Steve Turvill who runs Limoncello on Mill Road, everything fell into place and we agreed to promote the event together using our various Twitter accounts and Facebook groups.

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.

As the old adage goes, I’m sure at least half of our social media efforts were wasted, but I’ve no idea which half; in any case it proved to be the best attended event the Society has held for a long time.

Numbers aside, it also proved very popular with both Society and La Dante members as well as the new guests who came along, including Caroline Biggs who writes an excellent  blog on Cambridge’s hidden past, The Real Cambridge.

After introductions and welcomes, Giulia briefly spoke about La Dante which has recently moved into new offices, describing her experience of British bureaucracy as what she hoped to leave behind when she left her native Italy.

She also made an open invitation for everyone to drop into La Dante to see the new offices and have a cup of real Italian coffee, but I suspect that may not apply to the powers that be that oversee property moves in Cambridge.

We started the event itself with a Prosecco, Villa Sandi Millesimato 2011 Valdobbiandene – with ripe pear fruit, hints of yeasty brioche and good depth on the palate, it had good, food-friendly acidity and a long finish.

The name was familiar and reviewing this blog, I see that I tried a sparkler from Sandi some time ago and checking my notes, was impressed with it then as well.

Steve then invited us to try two different sets of olives – the first cured, the second marinaded; the accompaniment to this was a Sicilian Grecanico, Vinali Roccamora Sicilia. Also known as Garganega in Soave and with just 12% alcohol, it was crisp and fresh. A sandy yellow in the glass, it had an expressive nose, with herbaceous, floral hints, white pepper spice and toasty yeastiness; there is lemony citrus on the palate, and a long, savoury finish

There followed a series of “taste tests”, starting with two olive oils; both had been poured into unmarked containers and we were invited to decide which we preferred – one being significantly more expensive than the other.

For me, olive oil should be strong, fruity and peppery and I was sorry to learn that my preferred, more-strongly flavoured oil proved to be the more expensive one.

This set up something of a pattern as we then repeated this with two types of cured ham – both were very good, but I found myself slightly preferring the (more expensive) San Daniele compared to the Prosciutto.

Next were two lots of balsamic vinegar to try – the first was thick, gloopy and sweet, whilst the second was incredibly complex and quite wonderful, so there were no surprises when #1 proved to be a basic “balsamic glaze” whilst the second was a 25yo, extremely expensive balsamico tradizionale.

We accompanied this part of the tasting with a Sangiovese; with cherry fruit and vanilla spice on the nose, there was juicy sour cherry on the palate which opens up and becomes more rounded with air.

Steve’s chef Paul then made some pesto freshly using a blender which we compared to some from the shop; I found myself preferring the shop-made pesto for its stronger flavour and higher cheese content, but a number of people on the table who are regular visitors to Italy found the more herbaceous, freshly-made pesto to be typical of what they had experienced in Italy.

This led on to a discussion with Giulia about how best to keep basil in Cambridge – whilst I can grow rosemary, tarragon, parsley and chives in our south-facing garden, I’ve never been successful with basil.

According to Giulia, basil needs hot, damp conditions to thrive – essentially a Mediterranean climate, which is not easily reproduced in Cambridge – so I am unlikely to be making pesto from home-grown basil any time soon.

We then moved on to a comparison of three types of cheese – a Pecorino Fresco which had a soft texture, a firmer and stronger aged Pecorino with saffron and black pepper and some shaved parmesan, accompanied by bresaola, marinaded artichokes and various breads.

With this, Steve served an Elvio Cogno Vigna Elena 2005 Barolo; still relatively youthful at 6 years old, it was a pale, brick red in the glass with red and black cherry, tobacco leaf and pepperiness on the nose with cherry fruit, minty eucalyptus on the palate and a grippy finish.

The dessert section of the tasting featured home-made pannetone – better than any shop-bought one I have ever had – and cantuccini biscuits with a Moscato Sicilia; a golden colour, it had a an oxidative nose with a marmaladey palate cut through with fresh acidity.

The final digestivo was, appropriately enough a limoncello – a sweet lemon liqueur; on many occasions when eating out in Italy, I have found a sorbetto al limone con Prosecco a perfect digestivo at the end of a long, multi-course meal and the limoncello served the same purpose here.

With a zesty, pithy nose, it is initially intensely sweet and warming on the palate with a mouthfilling zesty, pithy bitterness that develops over time and a long, citrusy, aromatic finish.

It was a great event and very well received by Society members, those from La Dante and the large number of guests who came along – I put the success down to the sheer quality of the food and wine that Steve brought along for us to try, as well as to the way he ran the event; he is an easy-going, natural presenter and his love of and enthusiasm for all things Italian is very apparent – even if, as he admits, he would not actually want to live there.

For the final part of his talk, Steve explained how he had first got involved with Limoncello; in its previous guise, it had been his favourite deli and when it went bust, he bought the business and ran it as a sideline to his day-job. After a few years, the business was successful enough for him to do it full time and he is now looking to expand with further branches in the Cambridge area.

It should come as no surprise that there were a number of expressions of interest from the audience at this point.


Cambridge Food and Wine Society – website, Facebook, Twitter

La Dante – website, Facebook, Twitter

Limoncello – website, Facebook, Twitter

Review of Limoncello on Wanton Flavours –

More on Elvio Cogno from Chris Kissak –

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

Film Icons: The Femme Fatale

During the 1940s, a new film genre started to emerge. The film noir genre flourished into life during the post war era in America, starting what was described as “the golden age” of the genre, until it disappeared from prominence during the early 60s. Film noirs were bleak representations of the world and very rarely sported a happy ending, the perfect genre for a world struggling to rebuild itself after the devastation of World War Two. But with the new film genre came one of the most iconic of characters.

The femme fatale was more than an on-screen male fantasy; it was a representation of how men were threatened by women. During the war when the majority of male adults were off fighting on the front line, women were forced to stop being the stay at home housewife and go out to work. In some cases many of the weapons used during the war were made by women in the weapons factories. Once the war had concluded though, men suddenly found their masculinity under threat from women, now bored with the domestic life and wanting a career for themselves. The femme fatale is almost a fight against domestic life. Nearly all of the characters have no children, and whenever they are referred to it is always as a handicap to a woman’s independence.

The idea of gender role reversal in film noir is still considered rather radical to this day, and many feminist critics have often delighted in examining the male and female relationships in these movies. Take for example Fritz Lang’s Scarlett Street, where Joan Bennett plays Kitty Marsh, a young beautiful woman attempting to trick an older man (Edward G. Robinson) out of his money by seducing him and pretending to fall in love with him. Edward G. Robinson’s character is presented as a very lonely and desperate man, and from the very moment he meets Kitty Marsh she is in complete control of their relationship. It is a classic example of how male protagonists are affected by the presence of the femme fatale. Most of their actions are done for love, but come the film’s conclusion we usually find that love had nothing to do with it.

The male protagonist often becomes obsessed with the femme fatale, and the femme fatale usually exploits this by any means necessary. They often deploy men as their hitmen, henchmen, decoys, and sometimes even pray. They are always politically very ambitious characters, but in the end they are usually punished for the indiscretions. They are of course a male fantasy, an unpredictable character who could kiss you one minute then kill you the next. The mysteriousness and rather opaque nature of the characters made them very intriguing to men.

Some feminist critics have said that the femme fatale is not just a male fantasy but a female fantasy also. Femme fatales are often breaking out of the system and throwing away shackles of repression. Back in the late 1940s marriage was an institution that should never be broken, so it was often deemed a deep delve into a fantasy world when femme fatales criticised monogamy and marriage. Rita Heyworth’s performance in Gilda is a classic example of that.

Considering that femme fatales are often considered a critique on marriage, how can a femme fatale exist in today’s world where marriage is no longer considered an institution? The character Alice (played by Ruth Wilson) in the British TV drama Luther is a good example of how the screen icon has changed. Instead of the male protagonist being obsessed with the femme fatale, in the case of Luther the role is reversed. Perhaps in this case the real fear is that the femme fatale will know too much about the male character, as appose to the more traditional vice versa. The character no doubt will undergo more philosophical and thematic changes, but either way the femme fatale will still remain one of the most complex and iconic characters in cinema history.

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Film Review: The Cabin In The Woods

We need to clear something up before we start. The Cabin In The Woods has many plot developments and twists that are naturally integral to the film’s themes and messages. They are also best discovered during an actual viewing, rather than in a review. In fact, even the trailer below may reveal a little too much for people who like to go and see a movie without expectations. In my opinion, that is the best possible way to watch The Cabin In The Woods, and so with that in mind I will try and tread as lightly as I can around the plot, but I would suggest that you watch the movie first and then come back.

Still here? Then we’ll get started. The Cabin In The Woods begins the way many horror films before it have started, but in this case it’s is with good reason. We are introduced to a group of young college students (including Thor’s Chris Hemsworth) as they get ready for, yes you’ve guessed it, a camping holiday in the woods. Don’t worry; it’s good that you guessed it. They’re even going in a van, and would you believe it they bump into a crazy redneck along the way that helps propel them towards their almost certainly foreboding destination. There’s even the obligatory overhead shot as the van heads up the mountain road and all we can do is sit back helplessly as they head towards what we know will be a terrifying experience.

I suppose you are asking why it is okay that we can predict everything that is happening during these early stages, and the answer is because that is exactly what director Drew Goddard and his co-writer Joss Whedon wants you to do. It is both a celebration and a critique of the horror genre, and what is truly impressive about this is that you know the clichés are there for a reason.

The script is handled very playfully, and yet preserves a great intelligence and wit. It would be very easy for this to have come across as a painfully formulaic film and for Goddard and Whedon’s points to go high over the audience’s head. But they don’t, and it still manages to find time to be genuinely funny. Perhaps the only downside is that the characters do not get as much attention as they deserve, but they do on occasion put in as much effort avoiding cliché as they do looking for it.

This is of course similar territory for Joss Whedon, a man we know likes to challenge the formulaic and critique the way things are done. Buffy The Vampire Slayer, one of the most successful horror TV shows ever was based around Whedon’s critique of the sexy blonde girl who always dies in movies. He likes to be playful and try new things, while at the same time putting as much effort into making it a crowd pleaser. The Cabin In The Woods is certainly that.

Is it a game changer? That remains to be seen. It does have a surprisingly fresh feel to it, even though it is almost entirely made up of bits of other movies and constantly makes reference to them (sometimes explicitly so). Will it become iconic? Quite possibly. If so, the line “I kinda dismembered that guy with a trowel. What have you been up to?” will go down in history as one of the best in modern horror. Considering this has been sitting on a shelf for over a year while its producer MGM struggled to make ends meet, it deserves a lot of credit for still working. Perhaps that is even its best achievement.

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Film Review – Shame

Shame is available to rent on 7 May 2012 on DVD & Blu-Ray exclusively from Blockbuster and will be available to buy or rent elsewhere on 14 May 2012. To celebrate the release of the DVD, we take another look at Craig Busek’s review of this fearless, frank and compelling movie which was on the big screen earlier this year…

Described by critics as “one of the most provocative films of the year”, Steve McQueen’s Shame gained a lot of anticipated hype in its build up. The film follows the story of sex-addict Brandon (Michael Fassbender) whose life gets turned on its head at the arrival of his younger sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan). Set in New York’s Manhattan district, the film spans all over, taking the audience from high-end nightclubs and luxurious apartments, to seedy bars and gloomy whorehouses. However, throughout almost every scene there is an element of beauty captured by McQueen, juxtaposing the unwholesome subject matter at hand.

Albeit Shame has been branded as a story about sex-addiction, this is not a fair representation of the film. McQueen seems to have done extensive research in to a sex-addict’s life, in order to create a seemingly honest representation of their actions and behaviours, developing the film in to a character-study. Indeed the more gratuitous sex scenes portray the psychological elements, as opposed to the erotic – Brandon’s inability to sleep with a woman he is attracted to emotionally – and this in itself creates an empathy for the character that would not be there otherwise.

Michael Fassbender

Furthermore, the character development between Brandon and Sissy is very thorough. Perhaps not all of the details are exposed, but what is missing in dialogue is made up for in explosive, somewhat uncomfortable scenes. As Brandon loses control, after Sissy has walked in on his masturbation, there is a noticeable sexual tension between the two characters, as they fight and struggle together.

Where the film succeeds the most, is creating a profusion of emotions for the audience to react against. There are large elements of humour, such as when Brandon throws away ALL of his pornographic items. We are hit with a barrage of imagery that would shock even the most enlightened viewer. Collocating this, there are elements of deep distress and exasperated suffering. Intense close-up depictions of self-harm, mixed with explosive outbursts of anger, reveal inner sufferings of characters in a tormented world.

Carey Mulligan

Where the film seemed to lose its way was with the extravagant use of long-winded, one-take shots. The intention seemed to be to create an extraordinary feeling of beauty and intimacy between the characters and the audience, creating a lifelike presence that goes so often unseen. However, as soon as that moment of appreciation has arrived, immediately it has gone. From then on there remains an awkward ambience that seems to drag down on the overall story that, by all accounts, disengages from the pre-created closeness.

Overall, Shame is a thoroughly engaging film and enjoyable throughout. McQueen has done well in creating a tangible depiction of sex-addiction whilst also, through the use of detailed characters in challenging situations, creating a level of empathy and understanding for the audience to relate to. Shame may not be the best film to be released this year, however it should forever remain one of the more talked about films of 2012… and not just for the shots of Fassbender’s penis.

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Video reproduced from YouTube / ClevverMovies

Retinal Damage Linked to Cognitive Decline

US scientists have found that women with retinal damage are more likely to show signs of cognitive decline and vascular damage in the brain. The study is published in the journal Neurology.

Research led at the University of California studied 511 women with an average age of 69, who were enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study. The women all took cognitive tests to measure their thinking and memory skills once a year, for up to ten years. About four years into the study, the participants were given an eye exam to check for damage to the retina – damage to the tiny blood vessels in the eyes – and about four years later, the women underwent MRI scans to check for brain size and signs of vascular damage to the brain.

They found that 39 of the women showed signs of retinal damage, which was not severe enough to cause significant symptoms. Those with retinal damage had lower cognitive scores across the ten-year period, and had more areas of vascular damage in their brains.

Retinal damage is a known complication of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The researchers believe retinal damage could be an early marker for declining brain health, and suggest that in the future, eye exams to check for this damage could be a useful tool for detecting potential problems.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Accurate early detection of the cognitive decline that can be associated with dementia could unlock our ability to treat it. This small study offers clues for another possible route doctors could consider when monitoring for the signs of cognitive decline. Further, larger studies will need to determine how reliable it could be. As part of an approach to detection, a non-invasive eye test could be beneficial as a means for spotting signs of early cognitive decline.

“The study adds to mounting evidence linking vascular health to cognitive decline, and underlines the importance of looking after our hearts. It will be useful to see whether the people in this study went on to develop dementia.

“Numbers of people living with dementia are increasing rapidly and research offers our only hope of detection, treatment or prevention. In the face of this generation’s greatest health challenge, we must increase research funding now or we risk failing countless families who will be affected by dementia.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

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Let’s Go Punting

A list of the Top 3 Things To Do on a visit to Cambridge would probably include looking round King’s College chapel, seeing The Backs and going punting.

Having lived in Cambridge for over a decade now, I occasionally find myself becoming rather blase about the city’s charms – before a trip to the historic centre reminds me of why it’s such a wonderful place.

With two small children to occupy, school holidays are often a good excuse to explore with them the historic and more picturesque parts of the city, so this Easter, I accepted an invitation from Lets Go Punting to meet one of the company’s founders, Simon, for a chat whilst he chauffeured the three of us up and down the backs.

Passing the usual row of touts on Bridge Street, we followed the boardwalk on Quayside towards Jesus Green and found our host.

Simon has been working independently as a chauffeur for well over a decade now – having tried a day-job for a few years immediately after graduating and finding it not to his liking – and plies a second trade as a tree surgeon for the off season.

Unlike perhaps most punt chauffeurs, Simon is a local, being actually from Cambridge originally, and did not go to the university here; as a result, the bits of talk he gives us as we wind our way up and down the river focus more on Cambridge as a lived-in city, offering a local’s eye view rather than merely a standardised recitation of the splendours of the university; the river as a trading route with the fens, its course and how the water levels have been managed over time.

It is a sunny but chilly day and so, despite it being the start of the season, the river is quiet. The children ask various questions, eat the snacks we have brought with us and have a go at taking photos (which I think they do rather well).

As anyone who has walked by the river on a hot summer’s day will know, there is no shortage of punting touts eager for business, so I ask Simon how Let’s Go Punting plans to tap into the market.

A relatively small start-up, the company’s strategy is to offer something a little different from the usual chauffeured punts for tourists.

Rather, the aim is to go after a more corporate and events-led market with “punting plus”, that is punting plus something else, such as wine-tastings, afternoon teas or hot snacks.

Part of me finds this a little bit gimmicky – combining two experiences does not, in my opinion, make them into a single super-experience, it’s just two experiences put together.

But that’s my pedant’s Old-School approach and the Combined Experience is the very stuff of corporate away-days, significant-birthday parties and the like; wine tasting on a punt is aspirational dynamite and ranks highly for dinner party one-upmanship for the generation that cannot ever merely do one thing at once.

From a business perspective, it’s also a great point of differentiation – there are only a few examples of themed punting events, such as Halloween Punts, so as well as being a talking point, this potentially creating a new category.

The Combined Event also has the potential to be more effective from a marketing perspective as it allows two local companies to market jointly and thus share costs; there is also the potential for the fabled “revenue synergies” or cross-selling; try a wine you like on a punting trip and you are more likely to go back to the merchant to buy more.

And as I wrote in a previous post on branding, events are where it’s at in marketing terms these days with, for example, rock bands making their money from touring rather than album sales.

Back at the quayside, we hop on to dry land, say our thanks and wander down to Jesus Green lock for a quick game of Pooh Sticks, before heading off in search of somewhere that serves mains with chips and ice-cream for lunch.


Lets Go Punting –

Image credits: King’s College Chapel –

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

How Do I Holiday Like a TOWIE Girl?

London Life Coach & Relationship Expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about TOWIE and Marbella. Follow Sloan Life Coach on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s Life Coaching website

Having not watched The Only Way Is Essex (TOWIE) myself, I am probably better advising you on whether to holiday in Cannes, New York, Paris or Milan. However one of the City Connect team assures me that the notoriously favourite hotspot for TOWIEs is Marbella.

Getting there is the easy bit. Easyjet flights are direct to Malaga starting at approximately £25 and if you’re already in Essex I believe these go from London Stansted too.

Once you arrive in sunny Spain, the top haunts are the designer boutiques of Puerto Banus, in my opinion a cheap knock-off of Sloane Street however extremely popular with the tourists. Whilst you’re there if you are a fan of Zara not only do they have the clothes department but they also have the home store in the marina where prices are to die for and are far cheaper than any discount sale in the UK. If you also want to look like a TOWIE girl, El Corte Ingles has a great beauty section where you can indulge in fake eyelashes, brilliant bronzers, alluring eye shadows and many make-up ranges you can’t get at home.

Once you have your clothes, make-up and beauty accessories sorted along with your fake tan, a popular place to show off your look is the nightclub Tibu which is renowned for opening until 7am throughout the summer making any walk of shame home far more noticeable and devastating.

Another member of the City Connect office recommends Nikki Beach (

This venue holds amazing events a few of which I will list below:-

30 June – Marbella Luxury Fair
This luxury weekend fair displays super cars, yachts, designer fashion shows, celebrities, fine cuisines and anything a true TOWIE girl would want.

9 July – All Time Beats Party
If dancing is what you want this party mixes the eclectic sounds of 60s soul, 70s funk, 80s classics, 90s R&B and hip hop and many more tunes to get you dancing the night away.

21 July – Diamond Party
This is definitely a TOWIE night full of glamour and glitz with the dress code of black and gold where not only will you have live music and champagne but diamond and spectacular performances will be aplenty.

28 July – Nikki Beach Bartender Challenge
If Cocktail was your favourite film of the 80s then this is the best place to be to watch gorgeous barmen wow clients with their creative cocktails and superb flare skills. If the tantalising talent isn’t enough to whet your appetite, the amazing drinks will definitely be worth it.

July & August – Nikki Beach Moonlight Dinner Experience
If you want something far more elegant and sophisticated throughout the summer months of July and August, Nikki Beach will be providing inspired cuisine worthy of Michelin stars in a fine setting with one of the most beautiful views of the Mediterranean and talented entertainment.

Having said all of that, as a non TOWIE fan and a Made in Chelsea supporter, I hope you do write back asking how to holiday as if you were in MIC because the parties are hotter and the settings far more stunning and sophisticated. However I hope you enjoy your holiday and that the suggestions from the City Connect team give you food for thought.

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DVD/Blu-Ray Review: Scarlet Street

During the late 1930s, German director Fritz Lang fled Germany to escape the impending Nazi rule, and arrived in Hollywood. He brought with him the unique German expressionist style, best illustrated in Lang’s early works such as Metropolis and M.

Scarlett Street was one of Fritz Lang’s early film noirs, and has all the originality and rough edges you expect from a filmmaker trying to settle down in his new surroundings. Edward G. Robinson plays Chris Cross (don’t worry, even he knows his name is funny), a board banker and amateur artist celebrating 25 years of service. On his way home from a dinner celebration in his honour, he sees the beautiful Kitty Marsh (Joan Bennett) being attacked on the street. Chris intervenes and saves Kitty, and the two become very close friends, only Chris is unaware that the man attacking Kitty was Johnny (Dan Duryea), her thuggish boyfriend, and the pair is attempting to con him out of his money.

I should warn that this is a special film in the history of American cinema, and for that reason spoilers are unavoidable. So if you don’t want to know too much about the film’s plot, now is the time to look away…

"They'll be masterpieces": Robinson painting Bennett's toenails

Still there? Great. Scarlett Street was the first of its kind – it was the very first film Hollywood film where the criminal is not punished for their crime at the conclusion. As you would expect this was considered rather controversial, to such an extent that the New York State Censor Board and the Motion Picture Commission in Milwaukee banned the film on the grounds that it was immoral and “sacrilegious”.

Indeed the incredibly dark nature of the film’s final act can still pack quite a punch to this day. The sense of underlining bleakness though has always been a characteristic of Fritz Lang’s work, and you combine that with his expressionistic visual style and we are presented with a brooding and dystopian world, where the aforementioned Joan Bennett is the only thing that can light up the screen.

This has to be one of the best performances by Joan Bennett in her career. As the feisty Kitty Marsh she became one of the most iconic of femme fatale characters. We’re given plenty of reasons to dislike her, namely faking the most sincere emotion of love to trick and old and lonely man out of his money. We also can’t help but fall in love with her though, and think of her as an innocent catalyst caught up in a bad relationship that leaves her with no choice but to agree to her boyfriend Johnny’s demands. Her husky growling voice and general body language is also very appealing, but that could be male bias on my part.

Edward G. Robinson’s Chris Cross is a man you can’t help but pity from the start. A lonely man trapped inside an unsatisfied marriage, thinking he’s found love once again in the young Kitty Marsh while all the time he’s being used. When Chris finds out what Kitty has been doing during the final act, Fritz Lang dares to go where Hollywood cinema at the time wouldn’t dare go. It was upon its release a real game changer, and a film that signalled the glory years for film noir.

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Marvell’s Double S: “Nobody can stop us from chasing our dream!”

This week we are taking a look at the UK Grime scene, which is now becoming more recognized internationally. Chiedza Zvirahwa got to sit down with Bashir Bazanye,21, better known as “The Flow Father” and Marvell member Double S, and talk about his life as an up and coming grime artist. Marvell – Double S, Shocka and Vertex are three young men from Tottenham, North London, whose faces are becoming more recognized every day. They came together to form Marvell through a chain of mutual friends back in 2008. Though his other two group members were absent, Double S still managed to give us an insight into what him and his group think about the industry, and what he hopes to achieve in the future.

Bashir Bazanye aka Double S

How did the group get their name?
“In the beginning we were in group called Shoddy Crew and Chipmunk was in it as well, but people started splitting up. In the end me and Vertex created Marvell, then we brought Shocka in.”

How would you describe your music for the public audience if they have never seen or heard you before?
“Our music is very uplifting and motivating. If you listen to it you will feel like you’re a superhero!” [laughs]

What made you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in music?
“When I came back from Africa, I went to college but I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. At this time I already had a song out called From Day, and everyone was talking about it. From there I just decided that music is what I was going to do.”

How did you become involved in the type of music you sing?
“Grime is where I come from. I think that for our generation, myself and the people that started the same time as I did were the originators of Grime – getting our motivation from others that started before us .”

If you had to describe your music in three or four words, what would you call it?
“Marvellous, inspiring, honest and beautiful.”

How long have you been performing live for?
“I’ve been performing live since I was 14, but started doing it more professionally in other cities when I was 17.”

If you had to categorize your music, what genre would it best fit?
“In our group we try and do everything, so it’s hard to categorize our music under one genre. That’s why we call it Marvell Music – it’s a genre itself.”

You’ve heard of the term “starving artists” before, how do you cope with major obstacles?
“You have to be strong. Anyone can tell you how they would do it due to what they think is right, but that doesn’t make it necessarily right for you as well.”

If you had the opportunity to change something in the music industry what would it be?
“I would change the way the UK market is. It goes on success whilst the US market goes more on talent. It seems like anyone can sing anything these days. The UK market needs to concentrate more on people who have talent, and can sell records as well.”

We’ve heard about the young boy who cried when he met you (Marvell) while you were on Tour with Chipmunk. How does it make you feel as an artist, knowing that someone looks up to you that much?
“It is such an amazing feeling. It reminds me why I am doing this. The feeling is just something else.”

What does your family think about your career? Are they supportive?
“At first my dad didn’t really agree with it and we didn’t speak for a while, but now he is supportive. I think he just saw the passion that I had for what I do. Everyone else has always been supportive since I started.”

What has been your strong influence to continue performing?
“The fact that I haven’t made it. With me I set goals, and I don’t give up until I have reached those goals.”

What advice do you have for the youth of today?
“I just want to educate the youth of today through our music. Many of them are very lost due to lack of good role models, and following the wrong crowds. God started me up in Tottenham, one of the worst areas in London, but look where I am now. I want them to know that just because they are in a negative environment, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be positive people. Nobody can stop us from chasing our dream.”

What has been the biggest nightmare for the group?
“We were in a situation where we got signed by a label, but due to certain complications things didn’t end up going as planned and lawyers got involved. We got to feel what it would to be like to be signed to an actual record label. Bouncing back from all that was a big step for us. Though it wasn’t one of our happiest moments, we learnt a lot from it.”

If you could perform with anyone in the world, either dead or alive, who would it be?
“Dead, it would be Michael Jackson, Tupac and Aaliyah. Alive would be Drake, Lil Wayne and Justin Beiber. The list is too long, we could sit here all day!” [Laughs]

As an artist, is there anything special you hope to be able to accomplish?
“I just want everyone to listen to my music. Regardless of whether they like it or not, I want to hear their views every time I release a CD.”

Do you currently have an agent, endorsement or record label?
“After that record label situation, we feel like we should do everything ourselves. We are thinking of doing a joint venture under Sony or EMI. That way we will have the level of control that we are comfortable with.”

Is there anyone you would like to thank for making your dream come true as an artist?
“I want to thank the people that didn’t help me because they actually made me the person I am today. They drove me to do more for myself. I also want to thank everyone that was there for me.”

What are some of the details fans can find by going on to your website?
“For more information on the group, news updates and video links, you can find us on, or you can subscribe to our YouTube channel MarvellnetworkTV.”

With the Grime scene continuing to grow, it could do with a lot more people who have the same attitude to life as Double S. He started off at the same time as his good friend Chipmunk, but the fact that Chipmunk is now signed to a record label didn’t make Double S, Vertex or Shocka give up. If anything, this just motivates them more. The way they see it, if their friend who they grew up with can make it, then so can they. Like they said in their first ever single Marvell Music, “Nobody can stop us from chasing our dream.”

Images reproduced from and!/flow.father
Video reproduced from YouTube / MARVELLnetworkTV

Common Alzheimer’s Drug May Benefit Patients in Later Stages of Disease

UK scientists have found that the drug donepezil, which is approved for use only in the mild to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease, could benefit patients in the later stages of the disease. The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study, led by researchers at King’s College London, set out to assess the effects of two Alzheimer’s drugs – donepezil (often known as Aricept) and memantine (known as Ebixa or Axura). Donepezil is currently licensed in the UK for use in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, while memantine is used in people in the moderate and severe stages of the disease. Both drugs can help with some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

The study followed 295 people with moderate or severe Alzheimer’s disease over the course of a year. All the participants were living at home and had been prescribed donepezil, but not memantine, for at least three months before the study began, and were being assessed by their doctors for a possible change in their medication. They were randomly assigned to one of four treatment options: continuing donepezil, replacing donepezil with a placebo, stopping donepezil and switching to memantine, or taking both donepezil and memantine.

The researchers tested the participants’ cognition and their functional ability (the ability to carry out everyday tasks) several times over the course of the trial, and at the end of the study. They found those who continued taking donepezil showed less decline than those who stopped taking the drug. Meanwhile, those who took memantine also showed some benefit compared to those on a placebo, although the effect was smaller than those on donepezil.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We know that people can have different responses to donepezil, but these findings suggest that some people with Alzheimer’s may benefit for longer than previously thought. Trials such as this are extremely important for informing decisions about the way medication is prescribed, potentially helping even more people. It would be helpful to see longer-term trials to determine exactly how long the benefits seen in this study might last.

“While donepezil and memantine can help with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and are an enormous boost for many people, sadly we still lack a treatment that can stop the disease in its tracks. With 500,000 people affected by Alzheimer’s in the UK, we desperately need effective new treatments that can halt the disease if we are to offer them hope – that means we must invest in research.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

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