UK’s Leading Dementia Research Charity Increases Commitment to £20m

UK dementia scientists are set to gain from a huge funding boost after Alzheimer’s Research UK committed a record amount of money to new research projects. The UK’s leading dementia research charity has pledged a further £5.5m investment in new projects, increasing its current commitment to research to over £20m. The announcement, which coincides with World Alzheimer’s Day (21 September), includes awards for a total of 52 new grants aimed at understanding the causes of dementia, improving diagnosis and finding new treatments and preventions.

Projects that have been awarded funding include:

  • A major three-year project led by Prof Patricia Salinas, at UCL in London, to study a protein that plays a key role in the destruction of the connections between brain cells, called synapses. The project will also see researchers test whether different molecules can stop synapses being destroyed – the first step towards the development of new drugs to help treat Alzheimer’s.
  • A major programme at the University of Manchester to investigate how a person’s genetic profile contributes to their risk of frontotemporal dementia. Researchers will screen DNA samples from 1,500 people with the disease and compare them to 1,500 healthy people, to help confirm newly-identified genes that are thought to raise the risk of the disease.

Prof Salinas said:

“I am delighted that Alzheimer’s Research UK has chosen to invest in my research and my future as a dementia scientist. This funding will allow my research team to investigate potential ways of stopping synapses deteriorating as Alzheimer’s takes hold, a process that has been correlated with the loss of memory observed in the disease. With so many families affected by the disease, it is important to understand how we can prevent or treat it, and I hope my research will take us closer to that goal.”

Deborah Gatesman knows only too well the impact that Alzheimer’s can have on families. Her father, James, was diagnosed with the disease in 2003 at the age of 74, and now lives in a nursing home. She said:

“We had a two-year struggle to get a diagnosis for Dad, and watching his decline has been absolutely heartbreaking. His symptoms crept on slowly at first, but he gradually began to lose all concept of time and became more and more confused. He’s now in a home where he can receive the specialist care he needs, and even though it’s lovely to visit him, he no longer recognises me. We desperately need new treatments that could help people like my dad, so it’s great to see new money being invested in research, as it’s the only solution to this devastating disease.”

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said:

“The Prime Minister made dementia research a national priority earlier this year when he launched his Challenge on Dementia in March to deliver major improvements in dementia care and research.

“It’s great to see Alzheimer’s Research UK are also increasing their research funding because the scale of this challenge is immense and it’s vital for government, charities and the private sector to continue working together. We welcome this renewed investment and look forward to seeing the fruits of this research.”

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

“We are proud to announce a record year for investment in research. Dementia is an issue close to many people’s hearts and it is touching to see that public support for our work has increased despite a difficult financial climate. We are entirely dependent on voluntary donations, so this major investment in research is a vote of support from the public for UK dementia scientists. We are dedicated to defeating dementia and pleased to be supporting world-class research across the UK.

“While this increased investment reflects a successful year’s fundraising for Alzheimer’s Research UK, it’s also a time to look to the future. With the number of people in the UK with dementia estimated at 820,000 and rising, we need increased and sustained funding for research. Funding for dementia research still lags far behind research into other serious diseases and we desperately need the public’s support to make dementia a national priority.”

Film Review: Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly is a film about incompetent gangsters. Seriously, these gangs certainly aren’t The Sopranos. We feel for Brad Pitt’s hitman Jackie Cogan, who is exasperated when he learns the very people he is tracking down almost want to be caught. When you see Cogan’s frustration, you might even think he’s annoyed that they’ve made his job too easy. The general stupidity of the gangsters gives the film a darkly witty tone, but when it drifts into social commentary, Killing Them Softly loses sight of what it wants to be.

As a basic gangster movie, this really does get it spot on. It has a delicate blend of old fashioned and modern techniques, that evoke memories of David Mamet while still feeling fresh. And yet, Andrew Dominik doesn’t seem satisfied with this. He has to inject social commentary by setting the film in the backdrop of the 2008 Presidential Election. It’s like the country has a hangover, but it doesn’t say as much about the condition of America as it thinks it does. Thankfully, the more dialogue heavy scenes save this film from drifting into limbo by injecting some black humour for relief. One particular scene which leads to a story about a car burning is rather hilarious.

Frankie and Russell (Scott McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn) are both rather smalltime junkie thieves. They are hired by Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) to hold-up a card game run by Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta). Trattman has organised a hold-up of his own game before, so he instantly becomes the prime suspect. The high rolling victims though are not completely satisfied, so decide to bring a little outside help.

And so in rides Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), an outside enforcer to track down the real culprits. Cogan is a brooding, introverted anti-hero, the kind of role that Pitt revels in. It’s hardly surprising then that this is one of his best recent performances, and at times he is required to carry the film on his back. He had to face up against a lawyer (Richard Jenkins) who just won’t condone any violence (even though Cogan knows it is inevitable). And when Cogan decides to bring in his friend Mickey (James Gandolfini) to help, he starts to spiral into a pit of booze and prostitutes. Cogan could not be more alone.

Lucky for Cogan then that his targets are making it all very easy for him. Scoot McNairy’s Frankie is a layabout who probably hasn’t done a day’s work in his life. Ben Mendelsohn’s Russell is a junkie who steals dogs and sells them on. When they first meet up to arrange their heist, Frankie is ideally smoking while standing on a wooden stool that has been left in the street. Russell is towing along around eight dogs that are varied in size. Why would someone want to hire these two idiots? Probably because they were the only two people available. And because this will probably be the most accurate representation of thieves on the screen this year.

Killing Them Softly marks the second collaboration between Brad Pitt and director Andrew Dominik, their first being the superbly eerie The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford. This film is based on the 1970s novel Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgins, Dominik manages to drag the story into the modern day world while at the same time keeping a 70s style. It’s like he’s turned back the clock to the pre-Tarantino era, keeping it for the most part rather traditional. However there are a few flares of modernism that lead to the more memorable moments in the film. There is one notable slow motion set piece, filled with shattering glass and spurting blood.

However the film really does start to let itself down with its blunt attempts at social commentary. In the background of many scenes, we can hear rolling news reporting on the latest speech given by outgoing president George W. Bush, and the Democratic candidate Senator Barack Obama. They are always talking about the economy and the latest bailout. We do understand where the film is coming from, but it feels like it’s being shoved down our throats when it’s not what we’re looking for. The only thing that is more distancing is the rather abhorrent representation of women. They are constantly being referred to in strikingly offensive ways. The only female character is a nameless prostitute that Cogan finds in Mickey’s room. They have a brief conversation which is colourful to say the least.

As a gangster film, Killing Them Softly evokes memories of Mamet, Stone, and Scorsese without feeling like a carbon copy. It also has one of the most severe beatings you’ll ever see on the screen, which is exactly what you come to expect from a film like this. But at times it’s trying a little too hard to make a point. Dominik is showing us that the idea of the community is a complete fallacy, and that people are now only concerned with greed and self-interest. There is nothing wrong with this, and while the final line of the film is snappy and memorable, everything that came before makes you feel a little distanced. It could have been one of the best films of the year, if it had only taken it easy.

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Film Review: The Myth of the American Sleepover

The Myth of the American Sleepover will for many be one of the most nostalgic films of the year. Anyone who remembers being a teenager, and the growing pains that ensue when adulthood beckons will find something bittersweetly familiar about this teen drama. And while all the elements of this film may not fit together perfectly, it does evoke the pleasant memories of past teen movies without seeming like it’s copied from the same script.

This directorial debut from David Robert Mitchell is rather tame and tender, and is often treated like a dreamy bliss. It all connotes perfectly the mind of an adolescent during this time of life; nothing but a carefree existence without a care in the world or any consequences. You can see in the characters’ eyes that they enjoy this, but at the same time there is a yearning for something more. They’re starting to crave a life with a forward trajectory, that involves biting the bullet of adulthood and accepting responsibility for their own lives and move on. But before they do, they want to enjoy one last night of freedom.

The story takes place in a suburban area of Detroit, which is made to look so immaculate you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s an episode of Last of the Summer Wine USA. It’s the last day of summer, and the various teenagers in the movie are getting ready to bid their families, friends, and Detroit goodbye as they head away to college.

The only problem with the ensemble cast is that none of them are particularly memorable. You are rooting for them to succeed in whatever endeavour they have planned for their final night of freedom, but you would be forgiven if some of the stories just mould together into one. The majority of the film is taken up by easy going conversations between the teenagers, and while that certainly isn’t a bad thing, it is a missed opportunity to give the character’s a little bit something extra to make them more memorable.

The cast for the most part is taken up by young, unknown amateur actors. It is a lot to expect such a young and inexperienced cast carry a film, but David Robert Mitchell’s script and direction make it a relative breeze. The script contains natural, easy-going dialogue, which allows the actors to settle into the more natural aspects of their roles. They’re teenagers playing teenagers, and it’s the nervous anxieties and raging hormones of the characters that make them all the more believable.

The Myth of the American Sleepover marks David Robert Mitchell’s directorial debut, but you wouldn’t think that is the case watching it. It is a very well made film that knows exactly what it wants to be. While it does often bare similarities to past teen dramas (and on some occasions, it directly refers to them), Mitchell manages to inject something into the heart of it that makes it feel much more fresh and engaging. It feels much more naturalistic than previous summer break movies, while at the same time keeping a dream-like quality.

The film benefits from its slow pace, as it allows the audience to ponder why it is these characters are in such a rush a grow up. The majority of us think of our teenage years as the best part of our lives, and yet as a teenager there is nothing you crave more than being an adult. Mitchell understands that being young is a magical time in a person’s life, full of new experiences and discoveries. But he also notes that a day comes when a teenager realises that he/she is ready to take the final step to becoming an adult.

The lack of interesting character’s is certainly a drawback, but David Robert Mitchell’s tale is more about what is happening to the teens, rather than the teens themselves. As they sit back and watch the season change around them, they themselves take the next step in the movement of their lives. It is bittersweet and nostalgic, and in the end that’s all that really matters. Mitchell’s debut film is all about the mood, and he nails it perfectly.

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Fashion Update: Autumn/Winter 2012

With fashion – it just gets better, what with Marc Jacobs rolling in with models on a Louis Vuitton train at Paris fashion week, it really sets what were in for this season!

For women the shapes of the clothing seen on the catwalk this season are still between athletic and cute small curves, a line skirts and skater skirts are the main skirts seen on the catwalk this season and enhancing the waist by bringing it in ever-so-slightly by using wide belts/cinchers and wearing fitted blazers and peplum tops. The peplum style is massively popular with designers this season from Elie Saab to Lanvin the style has been covered or replicated by most if not all designers this season. Gentlemen this season suiting up was all over the catwalk, beautiful suits ranging from textured suits to glitter suits, Mugler had a fabulous range for the gentlemen this season!

The prints gracing the ladies garments this season is a refreshing change, think deep Gothic colours with brocade prints like a luxurious wall-paper, jewelled garments such as wearing jewellery on the clothes and in the hair for a quirky new accessory the catwalk has definitely taken a regal approach this season, lots of golds and silver and yes, lurex! Lurex tights have been seen on the catwalk by Chanel and I couldn’t be happier to see them again! Colours popular this season are Purple, Vermilion, Black – Purple being a definite winner for men and ladies. Military accents are on long jackets and jump-suits are popular in militant colours such as Khaki and light browns, a look that will surely make you scream don’t-mess-with-me when strutting around the high street! We are not with-out the sheer-garments, finally mixing sheer fabrics to make shirts and jackets are suitable for all seasons! Yes, sheer garments even for men too.

The catwalk wasn’t without it’s textures for men and women – PVC and jewelled garments donned the catwalk heavily this season, PVC garments were more with darker colours and khakis and the jewelled garments featured a lot on the creamy pinks, satin and soft fabrics are in a lot of high-street retailers at the moment and if you don’t like to look bulky with the PU leathers and adore the wet-look, grab yourself a pair of satin trousers, they are thinner and a lot more comfortable! Hippy chic is also another strong theme this season, the muted tones mesh well with the military themes happening so it’s a mergable style in regards to that, the prints are very 1970’s including making it’s way onto the shoes!

Light platform heels have taken centre stage too, I’m not talking massive platform but in the style of creepers but applied to pumps and dolly shoes which give outfits a cute Harajuku look! Other shoes to keep an eye out for is, and I take a deep breathe because these are my favourite shoes, platform Mary Jane shoes, actually Mary Janes feature a lot not just in terms of platform heels. Accessories to suit the military theme are the wonderful long gloves, these beauties bring a nice edge this season, team that up with a beautiful cape and you will look elegant and edgy! The men this season were also in brocade capes and textured fabrics Cuffs and collars are also a great way to change up the usual bracelet/necklace routine! Shoes for men are classic black smart shoes, one pair I saw were glittery and I adore these! Gents should opt for a pair of Matrix-esque glasses, these solid black glasses bring a touch of mystery to an outfit.

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Film Review: The Imposter

Imagine for a moment that you are screenwriter in Hollywood. You come up with this idea for a psychological thriller about a young boy who is kidnapped, and then some years later a boy is found claiming to be the missing child. He looks nothing like the kidnapped boy, but the family believe it’s him, at least at first. Chances are you’d get laughed out of the executive’s office for pitching such an outlandish idea.

It does however make for an astonishing story for a documentary. After all, the cliché does say that the truth is stranger than fiction. The Imposter tells the story of Nicholas Barclay, a 13-year-old boy who disappears from his hometown in Texas, his family fearing that he has been kidnapped. Three years later, a boy is found in Spain claiming to be Nicholas Barclay, and he is returned to his family who are waiting for him with open arms. However, as time goes on they begin to suspect that the boy isn’t who he claims to be. They soon discover that he is in fact Frederic Bourdin, a 23-year-old Frenchman who impersonates missing people.

What is so alarming about this story is that Bourdin was accepted by the Barclay family so warmly, even though he looks nothing like the actual Nicholas Barclay. It even takes a while for someone to notice that Bourdin can’t speak English without an accent. There is absolutely no resemblance between the two of them at all. So why did the Barclay family believe him?

When we see the heart breaking interviews with the Barclay family, it seems clear that they believed Bourdin because they just wanted to. They were in denial on such a massive scale that they were willing to accept that Bourdin was Nicholas. Having said that, the director Bart Layton handles the ambiguity of the story so superbly that we actually see signs of something much more sinister underneath; that Bourdin was a convenient cover-up for the skeletons in the family closet.

Layton combines talking head interviews with the family of Nicholas Barclay, and Frederic Bourdin himself, along with dramatic re-enactments. You can almost hear the documentary filmmakers scream at the thought of the latter manipulating the truth, and yet that really is the point of the film. Like Verbal Kint telling the story of Keyser Soze, the family and Bourdin are telling their own versions of the story and we have no idea which is the truth. That’s assuming either of them are. It doesn’t attempt to connect the dots for the audience, which is what makes it such an unnerving experience. Probably the most gripping and terrifying documentary of the year so far.

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From Little Acorns Grow Big Ideas

More than 300 families each year will have somewhere to stay close by to their sick child thanks to a new ‘Home from Home’ opened today by The Sick Children’s Trust. at the new Rosie hospital, Cambridge.

The charity launched a £400,000 appeal to build the house in Spring 2011 to accommodate families as part of the Rosie hospital’s three-storey extension. The Rosie’s new unit is equipped to care for the sickest and most vulnerable new born babies from all over the East of England and occasionally beyond and Chestnut House will support the families of these children who would otherwise have nowhere to stay whilst their new baby is being treated.

Alan Booth, House Manager at Chestnut House commented: “Every day families lives are thrown into turmoil. What should be a happy time with the birth of their child suddenly turns into a stressful situation and they find themselves having to travel great distances on a daily basis to be with their sick newborns in intensive care. This can place a huge strain on families, both emotionally and financially at a very difficult time.

“Last year 1,081 babies were admitted to neonatal intensive care and special care at the Rosie, and we expect this to increase when the new unit opens. With this new house we can ensure that families are able to stay close to their newborn baby, so that these poorly babies can get the best possible start with their family on hand to offer love and support. Our ‘Home from Home’ at the Rosie hospital has eight en-suite bedrooms, a communal living area and cooking and laundry facilities which will help to provide a comfortable, calming facility for families.”

Jane Featherstone, Head of Fundraising for The Sick Children’s Trust added: “We are thrilled that we can open this new house and want to thank everyone who helped us in our bid to raise the £400,000 needed to build Chestnut House. As a non-NHS funded operation we relied entirely on our supporters to help us fundraise for this new ‘Home from Home’ and are delighted with the result. However we still face ongoing running costs to keep the house open so urge everyone to continue to support us with this project.”

The charity’s Vice President and Broadcaster, Esther Rantzen was on hand to officially open the new house – Chestnut House – on Wednesday 5 September. She said:

“As an 8-year old child I became gravely ill and had to stay in hospital for three months, and even now I remember how I treasured my parents’ visits, and how precious they were.   Now that I am a parent, I know that is a no more worrying or distressing time than when a child is ill and they are miles away. What families need during these times is support, and that’s why The Sick Children’s Trust has its ‘Homes from Home’, so that parents can be close by their child, holding their hand through their illness.

“I am delighted to be here today to open Chestnut House.  This charity provides a vital service to families and hospitals across the UK and it’s an honour to lend my support to such a great cause.”

The £30 million project has transformed the Rosie hospital into one of the leading facilities in the UK.  The existing hospital has been struggling to cope with the rising number of births and also specialist cases that come from across the region to receive treatment here. Chestnut House will be based on the ground floor of the new centre which includes a purpose-built Rosie Birth Centre, which includes 10 spacious en suite rooms – all with birthing pools and some have access to a private garden. The extension also includes maternal and foetal medicine clinics for the monitoring, treatment and care of women with higher risk pregnancies and a larger neonatal unit including a special care baby unit.

Dr Amanda Ogilvy-Stuart, consultant neonatologist, added: “We are one of the leading tertiary units in the UK, providing specialist medical and surgical care for sick and premature babies from across the East of England. Our 41 neonatal cots are always under intense pressure so there was a need to expand the existing hospital.

“With the future expansion to 58 intensive care, high dependency and special care cots over the next few years, the unit will be the largest in the UK and we will have the capacity to treat those babies that need the specialist care we can provide here. Providing parent and family accommodation on site will help enormously, especially for families who live some way from Cambridge so we are delighted to have the support of The Sick Children’s Trust with this new venture.”

The charity already has a ‘Home from Home’ in Cambridge, Acorn House, which supports families of children being treated at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. 

For more information: Please contact Sarah Wallace on 020 7931 8695 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.

Journey 2 – The Mysterious Island

This picture had all the makings of a blockbuster. However it moved so fast, you didn’t really get time to see much of anything.

This was a pity as the ensemble cast was one of the best I’ve seen. But like a demented roller coaster ride, there were no lulls to allow space for them to grow.

You’re hurtled right into Sean played by Josh Hutcherson riding his motorbike chased by police. Although he’s bailed out by his new step dad Hank (Dwayne Johnson – The Rock).

Next Hank helps Sean decode a message Sean’s received. It leads to an island – The Mysterious Island. Sean believes his missing grandfather sent it.

Then they’re at Palau. Where a helicopter ride owner (Luis Guzman) is willing to take them for $1,000. This goes up to $5,000 when the owner’s daughter (Vanessa Hudgens) arrives. Sean fancies her and gets Hank to pay the money.

Then they’re flying over the island get caught in a storm and the helicopter gets destroyed and they are marooned on a very grey cloudy beach. Then Sean finds a cave that leads to the island – and the weather inside is sunny. Then they find a lizard who chases them, then the grandfather (Michael Caine) shows up to save them from the lizard.

The grandfather and Hank exchange barbs with Sean approving. Hank believes the island is sinking but grandfather won’t have it. After 5 minutes at night, the next day begins, they discover Atlantis and Hank proves the island is sinking. The grandfather sill argues that the island only sinks every hundred or so years.

They decide to head for Captain Nemo’s submarine, climbing on giant bees to speed across the island and giant birds promptly appear to eat them. They rest but the helicopter owner decides to go in search of gold, which the volcano is spewing out. So the grandfather and Kalani so get him.

Sean and Hank go to the submarine and make a Blue Peter pack for water tanks as the cave with Nemo’s submarine has flooded. The rate of the island sinking has increased, then as they have giant eel… That’s where I’ll stop.

I hoped I’ve given the sense of speed. This is why there’s so many unanswered questions and it’s the main reason I am not happy with this film.

Firstly if the island sinks every 100 years, how come the animals survive? How can Atlantis still be around? It would have crumbled to pieces with no bit intact. How can the tiny elephants swim underwater??? You’re just supposed to accept that’s how it is.

When movies do this, I just think. Why should I? It’s just plain lazy not to explain things. Why was everything put into under 90 minutes? Surely a longer film would have made a more interesting story.

This time it’s not the actors. I feel they were cheated out of their roles. They did a sterling job with what they had. Again most of the budget goes on the CGI and little on the script. Even an episode of Primeval could beat this. At least they try to explain things.

Why are the bees big and elephants little? Maybe the answer is in the books, but that’s no reason to skip in the film! It’s like when they cut things out of Harry Potter, oh it’s in the books! And?

Can Atlantis be where this island lies? Are all three books tied and are actually the same place??? So Gulliver’s Island was here, so where’s the little people? How can Nemo’s submarine still be working and intact after being left so long? It was even working when it was flooded!

Also one of the characters wants to retain it to use it in his business. How can he keep it? Surely there would be other historians who would pale at the idea of Nemo’s sub being a type of cruise ship!

The lack of direction and proper planning along with the short timescale means this is only getting 6/10 from me!

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Wine of the Month – September

After an August break during which the CWB household travelled to Burgundy and the south of France, we returned to a cold, wet and miserable late British “summer”.

Now, with the schools just back, that seems like a distant memory with temperatures rising and a barbecue Indian Summer in the offing.

It’s hard to know what to recommend when the weather is as unpredictable as this, so here is a varied collection of wines that hopefully will suit all occasions this month.

Rousseau de Sipian 2002, Medoc – Cambridge Wine Merchants (£11.99)

From the left-bank region of Bordeaux, this Medoc wine has a high proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon, giving it structure and ageing potential and even at 10 years old, it still feels relatively youthful.

There are meaty, truffley aromas on the nose with pruney fruit and cedar wood; the palate shows bramble fruit, sweet vanilla and minty eucalyptus with good juicy acidity, with pepperiness and grip developing.

Long on the palate, the finish is nicely grippy. Match with plain roast red meat or something gamey such as duck or pheasant.

Magpie Estate “The Beak” 2010, Barossa – Noel Young Wines (£9.75)

From Noel’s Magpie Estate vineyard in Australia’s Barossa Valley, this newly-released wine is blend of southern Rhone varieties – Syrah / Shiraz and Grenache.

A dark purple colour in the glass, on the nose there is lots of expressive, ripe, dark berry fruit, cassis and aromas of liquorice, leather and spice.

The palate is soft, full and rounded with an inky, custardy texture, juicy acidity and good savoury underpinnings.

Long on the palate, the finish is firm, structured and persistent with more black fruit and spice.

Fresh off the boat, this is still a young wine and whilst drinking nicely now, will also repay some cellaring – for drinking now, it is best decanted an hour or so before drinking.

Match with either roast lamb or lamb koftas if it’s barbecue weather.

Bodegas Pittacum, Bierzo ‘Tres Obispos’ Rosada 2011 – Joseph Barnes Wines (£10.99)

This is something of an unusual beast – a rosé made from the Mencia grape in Bierzo, a remote region of northwest Spain located on the border of Galica and Castilla y Leon and considered by many to be the next ‘big thing’ in Spanish wine.

A deep, raspberry red in colour, there is strawberry and raspberry fruit on the nose as well as something a little more unusual that I can only describe as “workshop” – a mix of swarfega, tyres and used engine oil. It’s in no way unpleasant and rather intriguing.

On the palate, there is more red berry fruit, good acidity and a persistent, clean finish; this would be perfect for an Indian-summer barbecue.

Recommended Wine

Whilst the rosé and the Aussie Shiraz will prove great if you get the chance of a barbecue, for me the winner this month is the Rousseau de Sipian 2002 for being a good, affordable Bordeaux with a bit of age that is drinking very nicely now.


Cambridge Wine Merchants –

Joseph Barnes Wines –

Noel Young Wines –

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

The Dinosaur Project

OH… MY… GOD… (As Janice from Friends would say).

To warn anyone who actually might want to watch this, I’ll quote Dr Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park II to flag a warning. “ Watch out, this is going to be bad!”

For something that’s billed as THE best dinosaur movie since Jurassic Park, I was expecting much more than this film delivered.

This TV Movie of an ill fated expedition into the Congo, does not do the team any justice. The acting was something like Prisoner Cell Block H, but whilst that iconic prison show was good because it was bad – this offering was just bad.

I do understand budget restraints aren’t the same as Jurassic Park, as a TV Movie they wouldn‘t get millions for CGI nor would it have Spielberg’s clout. However you can manage your money.

The dinosaurs were a total let down from beginning to end. There’s no point in investing what little money you have in CGI if you give them no personality or quirks! They just roared and behaved as if they had permanent PMS. Also it did little to the debate whether primitive man and dinsouars had lived together.

One big problem with this movie is the cast. The lack of any big names should have hinted how bad it was going to be. You’re supposed to want the team to survive, I found myself cheering for the dinosaurs!

Richard Dillane played the main hero but he tried too hard to be like Alan Grant from Jurassic Park. The film lacked any originality and if you’re going to emulate a movie like Jurassic Park, you have to deliver.

It begged the question why most of the money went on the CGI? There was not much spent on the writing! The script was poor with simplistic dialogue that weakened the whole adventure. I think even kids would struggle to be entertained by this. I nearly fell asleep during one lull.

Another big plot hole was one ‘schizoid’ dinosaur who thinks they’re Lassie the dog! What??? That was weird! And no, that doesn’t count as a personality but a shortcut!

I’ve seen some howlers in my time, but this one takes the biscuit. From what could’ve been a great adventure, the choices made pushed this in the wrong direction. As a result I’m only giving this 1/10. The real life team must be annoyed!

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Grand Designs for Charity’s New ‘Home from Home’

Renowned British designer, Emma Bridgewater, has provided a much needed boost to a Cambridge based charity’s fundraising campaign with the donation of some of her famous home ware.

Emma has donated dinner plates, side plates and mugs to The Sick Children’s Trust’s new ‘Home from Home’ at the Rosie hospital in Cambridge, which is due to open next month. The charity provides free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation to parents of sick children whilst they are being treated in hospital.

Sue Cartwright, house operations manager for The Sick Children’s Trust said:” we are very grateful to Emma’s donation to our new accommodation. The kitchen is the place where a lot of our families come to make home cooked meals away from the hospital and really helps to create a sense of normality like they are back in their home.

“These plates and mugs, with their colourful design, will certainly help brighten up the kitchen area and hopefully make these families’s stay just that little bit easier.

This new accommodation will increase the number of families the charity can support each year to nearly 3,800 and bring their total number of ‘Homes from Home’ to eight. With eight en-suite bedrooms, a communal living area and cooking and laundry facilities, the ‘Home from Home’ at the Rosie hospital will help more than 300 families every year.

Elaine at Emma Bridgewater added: “We are very happy to support such a worthwhile charity. When you have to be away from familiar surroundings we understand the importance of being in an environment that feels like home – and this is just what The Sick Children’s Trust offers.”

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.

Fiona Kirk: So What The F*** Should I Eat?

As soon as I saw the title of the book, I was intrigued.

So What The F*** Should I Eat? It was a question I had asked myself many times over the years as I moved despondently from one fad diet to the next, trying to find an eating plan where I could lose weight but didn’t feel like I was starving myself or denying myself foods I enjoyed.

Fiona Kirk’s Fat Loss Plan detailed in So What The F*** Should I Eat? is radical and rebellious. Primarily because it’s all about you – the individual – rather than a prescribed method of rules that MUST be followed as if your life depended on it. Whether you are a Disciple, Rule Maker or Rule Breaker, her weight loss advice will work for you. I’ll let you guess which category I fell into but let’s just say that chocolate and I have been having a meaningful relationship for many years!

What becomes apparent as soon as you start reading Fiona Kirk’s So What The F*** Should I Eat? is that she knows what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the struggle most of us will face at one time or another when we’re trying to shed those extra pounds. Most diets are about deprivation, boredom, starvation and dull repetitive regimes. Fiona Kirk is a qualified nutirtionist and has spent years researching what a healthy diet actually looks like. I love her straightforward, no-nonsense approach and how she is able to take the confusion out of dieting to give the reader a clear and confident path to follow and a great deal more understanding about nutrition. Throughout the book, Fiona’s humour and wit ensure that the advice she gives is entertaining, engaging and as fresh as the foods she champions.

Fiona Kirk

The first revolutionary thing about Fiona’s advice in So What The F*** Should I Eat? is that she tells the reader to BIN THE SCALES! She quite rightly states that muscle mass increases while you lose fat if you are following a healthy weight loss regime of diet and exercise. So obssessing about where the needle is wavering on those bathroom scales isn’t the best way to monitor weight loss. Fiona advocates the WAISTBAND METHOD instead. Take your tightest pair of jeans and see how they feel every day as you follow her fat loss plan. As the weeks go by and the waistband feels more comfortable, you know you’re heading in the right direction. Being able to get a thumb or two between you and the waistband of your skinny jeans or skirt is much more satisfying than looking at a number on a dial.

The second revolutionary thing about the book is that there are few rules but lots of suggestions. Fiona knows that following a prescribed way of eating doesn’t work for everybody so instead she takes a Pick ‘n’ Mix approach with her Fat Loss Plan. There is a whole chapter called Lots of Eats which give you countless options you can choose from to eat. Fiona also takes the radical approach of not defining meals as Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. She believes that five or six small meals are better than three large ones and there is no reason not to eat porridge as an evening meal. That’s probably her Scottish roots coming through as any Scot will tell you how filling and nutritious a bowl of porridge is, no matter what time of day you eat it. Eating something healthy from her Lots of Eats suggestions every 2 to 3 hours is one of Fiona’s recommendations to keep your metabolism fired up and lose fat without losing your sanity. Fiona also gives plenty of advice about exercise and clever tactics to increase your levels of fitness.

In addition to the Fat Loss Plan, Fiona has also devised a 14 day diet called 2 Weeks in the Fast Lane which is detailed in this book and is also the title of her second book which promises maximum fat loss with maximum nourishment in minimum time. Quick fix diets always attract bad press but here Fiona “decided to concentrate on the positives and ignore the negatives and find out what the 5-15% of successful dieters do and why they not only reach their goal but maintain fat loss long term”. After extensive research, she discovered that certain quick fix strategies can and do work and devised a diet that combines the revelations of successful dieters with the latest research into foods, eating and lifestyle practices that accelerate fat loss – a unique and exciting recipe.

Fiona also has an even quicker 3 day plan when time is of the essence where you live on fresh fruit, nuts (not peanuts) and water for three days, eating a handful of nuts or a couple of pieces of fruit every 2 hours. I tried her “3 Days in the Super Fast Lane Plan” and must admit the results were amazing.

Moving onto Fiona’s Fat Loss Plan, I continued to lose weight steadily and after 4 weeks I felt very comfortable in my tight skinny cords. In fact I could even get a thumb inbetween me and the waistband! I enjoyed eating a wide range of foods and based my meals around soups and salads, eating fresh fruit or drinking smoothies in the morning, avoiding carbs after 6pm and snacking on nuts or raw veggies. I found that eating every 2-3 hours gave me lots more energy in addition to the fat loss results and I slept better too.

I was so impressed with the results achieved that I shared Fiona’s book So What The F*** Should I Eat? with City Connect’s Editor-in-Chief Sloan Sheridan-Williams. Sloan did the 2 Weeks in the Fast Lane Diet and lost enough weight to go down a dress size and fit into this season’s fashionable skinny flares with no hint of a muffin top! Sloan also reported that she had more energy and clearer skin after following the eating plan.

If you’re looking to shed those extra pounds and want to try a diet that works with you rather than against you, I highly recommend you buy Fiona Kirk’s So What The F*** Should I Eat? or if you’re looking for a quick fix that will still teach you strategies to lose weight after Day 14, then buy Two Weeks in the Fast Lane Diet. Both books are available from

Film Review: Shadow Dancer

Recently the spy genre, that usually involved tuxedos, continental locations, and loads of explosions, has been brought crashing back down to Earth. Now even the new James Bond film will be taking place in London’s underground. Spies are going through a bit of a reality check, and Shadow Dancer is indeed so plausible and realistic it almost sends a shiver down the spine.

The film takes place in Belfast in 1993 during the troubles. IRA member Colette (Andrea Riseborough) is caught by MI5 while attempting to leave a bomb on London’s subway network. MI5 agent Mac (Clive Owen) tells Colette that she can either go away to prison for 25 years, and therefore only see her young son on rare occasions, or she can go back to Belfast and spy on her IRA brothers (Aiden Gillen and Domhnall Gleeson). Colette chooses the later, but it’s not long before suspicions start to rise, and Mac thinks his boss (Gillian Anderson) is covering something much more sinister.

The most alarming thing about Shadow Dancer is how incredibly bland and grey it looks, and it’s not a bad thing. It is something the audience would expect when they see Colette return to her dull run down home in Belfast, but even the MI5 office where Mac works is the dullest shade of beige. Fortunately though it’s what is beneath the surface of the film that makes it such a treat. Director James Marsh takes a rare stab at directing fiction, after becoming best known for his documentary work such as Man on Wire. It is perhaps down to his work in documentaries that he is able to create such a chillingly realistic world, where it’s surprising ‘based on a true story’ isn’t on the credits.

Marsh certainly doesn’t sacrifice character development for a quick moving plot. It’s a very slow burning drama that takes it’s time, and it’s because of this it is able to be so riveting and tense. When Colette is leaving her bomb on the London underground, it is just a small part of a dialogue-free sequence that lasts around fifteen minutes. The atmosphere is so superbly crafted and tense that it has to be one of the best moments of British cinema in 2012.

Perhaps during the early stages there are a few too many questions being asked, but it eventually settles down into an easy and efficient rhythm. It may be about as beige as you can get, but under the surface it is an intelligent and emotionally complex spy drama. On this evidence, there’s no reason why James Marsh shouldn’t be offered a Bond film as soon as possible.

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Film Review: Total Recall

I didn’t like the original version of Total Recall at all. But when I heard that Colin Farrell was in the remake I decided to give it go. I’m thrilled to have seen it. For me it was much better.

The double agent storyline remains along with the original character names. But rather than Earth to Mars, it’s all based on Earth. A global disaster means only the UK and Australia are left to live on. Travel between the two is made by a big train that goes through the core. Artificial police officers govern the populace along with humans but there’s more robots.

The Chancellor Cohagen has to deal with terrorists and ups the number of robotic police to cope. Factory worker Douglas Quaid (Farrell) is getting fed up of his dreary life wanting more action. He is overlooked for promotion and along with the nightmares he has, means a trip to a memory factory called Rekall might just spice things up.

It certainly did but not in the way he hoped. The people at Rekall discover he actually is a secret agent and cannot insert the memory he asked for. Then the police break down the door! Cue lots of thrilling action and explosions! Quaid finds out his whole life is a lie, even his loving wife Lori is an agent placed to keep an eye on him. Is he really Douglas Quaid or Karl Hauser?

There are numerous action chases that keep you guessing – how will he get out of this one?! Farrell was likeable and zip fast on the fighting. The ending was one of the best with big explosions and lots of twists and turns.

Can our hero discover the truth, uncover a sinister plot to invade Australia to rebuild a new city and defeat all the bad guys/girls and robots? I won’t reveal too much but you’ll love the ride that this film takes you on!

Kate Beckinsale makes an impressive and sassy Lori, whilst Jessica Biel proves a worthy ally as Melina to Quaid.

9/10 from me. It ticked all the boxes. I loved the fact it was very different to the original film.

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