Trends for Autumn / Winter 2012

Dust off the hats, grab the gloves and mummify yourself with your scarf’s – here comes the cold! Now, I could state the obvious and simply say “wrap up” but we all know this! What’s under those layers needs to stir up this drab weather.

Now ladies, when I say to drab up and point you in the direction of grey nubby cardigans, don’t side-eye me, these are really taking over right now and each store/designer taking their own spin on them, for me one of my favourites is in Pull and Bear – a thin knit grey sweatshirt with a mixed-studded collar – it was love at first sight! We also have Lana Del Rey twisting up H&M and bringing some lovely 60’s revival into the spotlight from angora to chunky knit we certainly have no excuse in being cold this season.

Not much has changed in the last month regarding fashion, keep the brocade prints and leather textures in as these are still very much sought after, peplum tops and dresses are also still in the running over the next month, another style of dress slithering onto the rails is the sheath dress, favourably in form of a graphic print, these figure-hugging-snug dresses are one to keep an eye out on at the moment. The ankle boots are a real winner for our feet at the moment, and what better time really, keeping our ankles and feet nice and dry from the expected down-pours.

For the men this coming winter mixing up your casual get-up couldn’t be easier, go grab those woollen beanies as hats are completing a lot of the gentlemen’s fashion right now – you can opt for a simple one-colour to garish granny knits, either way make the most of enjoying keeping warm and being the fashionable dudes that you all are.

Button up shirts are always a hit and we are still seeing the use of rich luxurious colours spilling onto the fabrics, deep blues and fresh purples screaming regal, thin denim shirts are also a great choice especially for casual days and go great with most trouser bottoms, I’ve seen the double denim pulled off quite a lot this season, and not looking like a b*witched boy band tribute! (Nothing wrong with that though) Of course it wouldn’t be autumn without the lumberjack shirts! You can never go wrong with the ‘traditional’ red, teaming that up with smart or casual attire; it surprisingly goes with almost anything!

Shoes for both the ladies and gents the versatile shoe or trainer of the moment are the VANs era shoe, get them in the right colour for you and they will go with anything and pretty much any occasion, well worth the cost for such a great shoe!

Southampton Scientists Reveal New Clues to Alzheimer’s Risk Gene

A study by scientists at the University of Southampton has revealed new clues to why people who carry the Alzheimer’s risk gene APOE4 may be more likely to develop the disease. The findings, which link the risk gene to clearance of the hallmark Alzheimer’s protein amyloid, take scientists a step further towards understanding the devastating disease. The research, published on 25 July in the journal PLoS ONE, was funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The APOE gene is the biggest known genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. People who carry the APOE4 version of the gene have a higher risk of developing the disease at an earlier age than people who carry APOE3 or APOE2. However, the reason for this increased risk has remained unclear.

One of the key features of Alzheimer’s disease is the build-up of a toxic protein called amyloid in the brain. Higher levels of amyloid have been reported in blood vessels in the brains of people with APOE4, causing a condition called cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA). It is thought that CAA may contribute to Alzheimer’s and the Southampton team, who specialise in studying blood vessels in the brain, set out to investigate this link further.

To examine the effect of the risk gene in the brain, the scientists used normal mice and mice bred to have human versions of either APOE4 or its neutral equivalent APOE3. They looked at the levels of amyloid in the blood vessels of these mice using a fluorescently labelled version of the protein that they could track.

Dr Cheryl Hawkes, an author on the study, said:
“We found that only the mice with APOE4 had high levels of amyloid in the blood vessels of their brain, suggesting that people with the risk gene may not be able to clear the toxic protein as effectively from their brain. After delving a little deeper, we discovered that the blood vessels in mice with APOE4 were very different – they were made up of a different set of components that may not work as well to clear amyloid.

“These initial results are really exciting because they help us to build a bigger picture of the factors influencing a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s. The next step will be to move this study from mice into humans to confirm that we see a similar change.”

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research, said:
“Our understanding of the factors that make up a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s is improving at an incredible rate. Across our lifestyle and the environment, our age, diet and our genes, the answers to what predisposes us to Alzheimer’s are being found. Research like this makes the risk picture more complete, and moves us closer to developing new treatments and preventions that can avert this devastating disease.

“There are around half a million people in the UK living with Alzheimer’s disease, yet research into dementia remains hugely underfunded compared to other common diseases. If we are to make a real different to the lives of people with this devastating disease, we must continue to invest in research.”

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Win Tickets to BBC Good Food Show Winter

City Connect has teamed up with – the blog written by our Food Writer Nayna Kanabar – to offer readers the chance to win a pair of tickets to the BBC Good Food Show Winter taking place at the NEC Birmingham between 28 November and 2 December 2012. The Prize Draw closes on 15 November so don’t delay entering to win this fantastic opportunity to visit the Show for FREE!!!

BBC Good Food Show Winter is opening its doors on Wednesday 28 November 2012 to Sunday 2 December at the NEC Birmingham. As usual it will be packed with lots of exciting things to do, visit and shop. Some of the highlights of the show include:

Celebrity Chefs
See top celebrity chefs James Martin, Gino D’Acampo and the Hairy Bikers cooking live on stage in the Supertheatre. Plus the favourite hit TV programmes will be returning to the Show with Saturday Kitchen hosted by James Martin with celebrity guests and the Great British Bake Off with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry.

With over 400 exhibitors to choose from it is the perfect opportunity for Christmas shopping!

MasterChef Experience
The UK’s favourite TV cookery programme will be brought to life at the Show. MasterChef Champion Shelina Permalloo and Emma Kennedy, the champion of Celebrity MasterChef 2012, to the BBC Good Food Show Winter will battle it out live on stage in our MasterChef Cook Off sessions.

Producers’ Village
The Producers’ Village will be packed with small speciality producers who specialise in local and seasonal produce.The Producers’ Village, is a huge speciality food market at the heart of the show, packed with small artisan producers who pride themselves in the quality and provenance of their produce. It is the perfect place for picking up great festive produce ideal for Christmas gifts and recipes.

BBC Good Food Show Winter have teamed up with and City Connect to offer one of three pairs of tickets in this Prize Draw to 3 lucky winners. The Prize Draw is open to all UK residents and must be over 18 years of age.

For your chance to WIN one of 3 pairs of tickets, simply click here and follow the instructions to enter the prize draw. Closing date for enteries is 15 November 2012 at 6pm.

Good luck!

Book Review: Detective Leonard Makes an Entrance

The story opens very directly and in-your-face as our first-person narrator Simone Seabolt introduces herself to the reader by telling us; “In the scheme of this story at least, I’m not very important.” From then on, Detective Leonard makes his entrance into the text before he is physically made present.

This short piece of detective-crime fiction follows Simone Seabolt as she enlists the help of her godfather, Private Detective and ex-policeman, Detective Leonard in order to solve the murder of a young woman who has been murdered with a cricket bat, and prove that her fianc̩ Рwho was caught fleeing the scene Рis innocent of the crime.

Much of the first chapter is a back-history of Detective Leonard through the eyes and memories of Simone. Author Eric Wood sets this up so well that when the reader finally meets the infamous Detective Leonard – who is deep in combat with an assailant – they already feel very much acquainted with him.

Eric Wood

Before meeting Detective Leonard, the reader already has a strong and concrete sense of his character. He is an eccentric, adventurous detective who has a somewhat unhealthy addiction to Twitter, but there is a hint and a sense that his character is far more complex and deeper and what lies on the surface.

The key relationship in the story – and the reason the storyline flows so naturally – is between Simone and Leonard. In fact the murder and crime solving almost becomes a sub-plot as the tale goes on, and the story becomes a character driven narrative led by Leonard, followed by Simone. But this by no means is a bad thing at all, in fact this makes a refreshing change and draws in the reader’s interest.

Set in the heart of Manchester where the author was born and raised, Detective Leonard Makes an Entrance is not only a worthwhile and enticing read, it is a brilliant introduction to the what I predict will be a bright and successful career for its author, Eric Wood.

Detective Leonard Makes an Entrance is available to buy on Amazon Kindle. Please click here to order your copy today.

Film Review: Taken 2

There is an episode of CSI Miami when it’s clear the show had gone completely potty. In the episode there is a fire which traps one of the crime scene investigators underneath a concrete pillar. Two burly men try and lift it, but fail miserably. Then the shows hero Horatio Caine, armed with his shades and flamboyant ginger hair, is able to lift the pillar single-handed and sling it across the room. The fact that he’s in his fifties didn’t seem to matter. Because he’s the hero; the man who can do anything no matter how unrealistic.

Taken 2 has one of those moments. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) finds himself in a tricky situation when his past comes back to haunt him. He’s in Istanbul and has no idea where he or his daughter is. So he decides to call his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and hatches a plan. He tells her to throw a grenade in the air so then when he hears the explosion, he can calculate the exact distance between them. Just like that. In his head. It’s an idea that is laughably insane, but it is the kind of the thing you expect from action B movies like this. But B movie actioners at least have the enjoyability factor. Taken 2 is devoid of this. Bryan Mills used to have a particular set of skills; now he’s a cartoon.

While doing some work in Istanbul, Bryan invites his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and his daughter Kim to join him for a short holiday. While attempting to patch things up with Lenore, Bryan finds the holiday turning into a nightmare when the Albanian family of the man he electrocuted to death in the previous film have tracked him down. Bryan and Lenore are taken, so it is left up to Kim to come to their aid and save them.

It really is a shame that Liam Neeson is being forced to make his way through such a bad story. He is watchable and engaging as always, but there are moments when you get the feeling he’s just thinking about picking up his pay cheque. This is certainly something we didn’t see in the first instalment, when he made his transformation into middle-aged action hero. Neeson himself admitted that he thought it would go straight to DVD, instead of becoming a massive box office hit.

Maggie Grace returns to play Bryan’s daughter Kim, and she has made quite the transformation. She used to be the innocent, virginal victim. Now she’s an innocent, virginal action hero. When Bryan and Lenore are captured, Bryan doesn’t think twice in telling his 19-year-old daughter exactly where he has stashed a handgun and some grenades. With them in hand she’s off leaping across rooftops. It’s difficult to decide what’s harder to believe – that Kim could make such a ridiculous transformation, or that Maggie Grace is still convincing as a 19-year-old even though she is now 28.

A lot of the blame has to be laid at the feet of the director Olivier Megaton. Having directed two other poor action films (Transporter 3 and Columbiana) he continues his bad run, this time with horrifically filmed set pieces. Bryan’s close encounters with Albanian thugs are quite often filmed with a handheld camera, so there is so much shaking it’s impossible to tell who’s pummelling who. If it weren’t for shots of Bryan as the last man standing we wouldn’t know who won these fights. Luc Besson has co-written the script again, but this time it’s like he can’t think of anything cool to show us.

Taken 2 has a 12A certificate, unlike the first film which was a certificate 15 and an 18 when it was released uncut on DVD. There’s no doubt that this sequel has been watered down in order to reach a wider audience, and we will probably see an uncut version of the film on DVD shelves in time for Christmas. But it’s clear from the total lack of creativity that this was purely made for the money.

During the press interviews leading up to the film’s release, Liam Neeson said he doubted there will be a Taken 3. However, Luc Beeson said he wasn’t planning on doing a third film, but because Taken 2 has made a huge amount of money at the box office he is considering it. This says it all right here. Forget creativity or actually giving the audience value for money, just keep churning out the same garbage as long as it makes money. Taken 2 does have a tiny plot thread in the vengeful family that could have proved interesting, but in the end it’s nothing but bile.

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Video reproduced from YouTube / FilmTrailerZone

Immunotherapy May Stabilise Alzheimer’s Symptoms: Phase 2 Trial Report

Results of a phase two clinical trial suggest an immunotherapy treatment may be able to stabilise Alzheimer’s symptoms over three years. Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College, in New York, tested intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) – a treatment that is currently given to people with immune deficiencies – in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

After an initial six-month trial, in which 12 people received IVIG and 12 received a placebo, the researchers ran an extension trial in which all the participants were given IVIG. They found that those who received a specific dose of IVIG (0.4g/kg every two weeks) for the whole study had no change in their cognitive symptoms, while those who began on a placebo or received different doses of IVIG saw a significant decline in these symptoms.

The results were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2012 this week.

Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“This small study has turned up some interesting results, but it’s important to note that there were not enough people in this trial for us to draw any firm conclusions from the findings. One limitation of this study was that after the initial six-month trial, all the participants received the same treatment, meaning the researchers did not have a control group to provide a comparison for their results. We would need to see results from large-scale clinical trials to tell whether this treatment has the potential to help people with Alzheimer’s disease.”

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Win Tickets to Ideal Home Show Christmas 2012

City Connect has teamed up with – the blog written by our Food Writer Nayna Kanabar – to offer readers the chance to win a pair of tickets to the Ideal Home Show at Christmas 2012 taking place at London’s Earls Court on 14-18 November. The Prize Draw closes on 30 October so don’t delay entering to win this fantastic opportunity to visit the Show for FREE!!!

Back for its second year and hosted by celebrity ambassadors such as Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Suzi Perry, Myleene Klass, Olly Smith and Gino D’Acampo, the Ideal Home Show at Christmas will offer six, extraordinary shows in one which include: Interiors & Furnishings, Home Improvements & Outdoor Living, Technology and Gadgets, and Gifts and Decoration ideas, as well as Fashion & Beauty and Food & Drink, combined to give you style and advice on how to dress your home in time for the holiday season.

This year’s event will see a series of themed room sets, a new and unique Christmas Craft Theatre which offers a variety of workshops and advice on how to decorate your homes’ interior, from making your own decorations, table settings to Christmas cards and wreaths, as well as Home Improvement ideas for those last minute jobs around the house.

There will also be a Traditional Christmas Market with gifts and crafts that cannot be found on the high street, as well as a variety of seasonal recipes and festive food and drink from a range of highly acclaimed chefs across the Food & Drink section. If that wasn’t enough to wet your appetite, there will also be the chance to indulge in a 3 course tasting menu at the Winter Restaurant.

For fun and festive entertainment visit our special Dancing on Ice Skating Rink where all the family can enjoy a skating session, a bandstand filled with Christmas Choirs and live performances by a range of West End Musicals, which will celebrate the start of the Christmas season and provide a great festive day out for the whole family.

Featuring over 600 exhibitors the Ideal Home Show at Christmas offers an unrivalled range of products and all the inspiration you need to make your home feel welcoming and inviting this season.

For your chance to WIN one of 5 pairs of tickets, simply click here and follow the instructions to enter the prize draw. Closing date for enteries is 30 October 2012 at 6pm.

Good luck… but if you don’t win one of the pairs of tickets you can always book tickets online at or call the Ticket Hotline on 0844 209 7330.

Gangnam Style: PSY’s K-Pop Phenomenon

What is “Gangnam Style”? You’ve perhaps seen the YouTube “Gangnam Style” music video that went viral within weeks. Or maybe you’ve heard of PSY – the artist behind “Gangnam Style”. You’ve possibly even tried to do the “Gangnam Style” galloping horse dance moves in the privacy of your own home… or in public if you’ve been daring enough!

Gangnam Style” flash mobs have popped up all over the World celebrating the crazy dance music phenomenon of “Gangnam Style”. There have even been some very funny parodies of the “Gangnam Style” music video (more on that a little later). So the question is (for those of you unfamiliar with K-Pop) who is PSY, the chubby South Korean star of “Gangnam Style” and what does Gangnam Style” even mean?

"psy", "gangnam style", "kpop", "south korean rap"

Psy dancing “Gangnam Style”

Gangnam Style” (Korean: 강남스타일) is the hit single by South Korean rapper PSY. The song was released on 15 July 2012, as the lead single of his sixth studio album PSY 6 (Six Rules), Part 1. “Gangnam Style” debuted at number one on the Gaon Chart, the national record chart of South Korea. On 21 August 2012, “Gangnam Style” officially charted #1 on the iTunes Music Video Charts, overtaking Justin Bieber’s “As Long as You Love Me” and Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake”; this feat is the first for any South Korean artist. As of 19 October 2012, the music video has been viewed nearly 500 million times on YouTube, and is the site’s fourth most watched video and most watched K-Pop video.

For those of you living under a rock who haven’t seen the “Gangnam Style” music video in the last couple of months, here is the YouTube viral phenomenon that everyone’s been talking about and dancing to “Gangnam Style”:

The music video shows PSY performing a comical horse-riding dance and appearing in unexpected locations around the Gangnam District. He wears several distinctive suits and black sunglasses with a mindset of “dress classy and dance cheesy”. In K-Pop, it is routine to have cameos by celebrities in a music video. Making appearances in the music video are:

  • 4minute member Hyuna playing PSY’s love interest and appearing in the two final dance sequences.
  • Big Bang members Daesung and Seungri appear in the video as two old men playing a board game in the park; they are the two men flying in the background after the explosion.
  • Hwang Min-woo, a 5-year-old boy who appeared on Korea’s Got Talent and is seen dancing at the beginning of the video.
  • Yoo Jae-Suk in a dance duel with PSY. Yoo is one of Korea’s top comedians and is known as Korea’s “MC of the Nation”.
  • Comedian, No Hongchul, dancing in an elevator with his trademark pelvis-thrusting, with PSY rapping underneath him.

PSY has brought the “Gangnam Style” dance to various TV shows such as Saturday Night Live and The Ellen DeGeneres Show (where he taught Britney Spears the dance moves). PSY has gained fans amongst politicians, business leaders, celebrities and sportsmen who either have mentioned “Gangnam Style” on social media networks, television and radio, or even performed the dance moves themselves. For example, here is Nelly Furtado dancing “Gangnam Style” on 16 August 2012 at her concert in the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Manila, Philippines:

Gangnam Style” has been praised for its catchy beat and PSY’s amusing dance moves in the music video and during live performances. On 17 September 2012, the song was nominated for Best Video at the upcoming 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards to be held in Frankfurt, Germany. On 20 September 2012, “Gangnam Style” was recognized by Guinness World Records as the most “liked” video in YouTube history. On 30 September 2012, Gangnam Style reached #1 on the official UK Singles Chart making it the first K-Pop single to do so.

Riding high on the success of “Gangnam Style“, it was announced on 4 September 2012 that PSY had signed by American talent agent Scooter Braun to Braun’s Schoolboy Records, a label distributed by Universal Republic. Scooter Braun is famous for discovering Justin Beiber on YouTube.

The “Gangnam Style” music video has become a source of parodies and reaction videos by many different groups. The latest one – and perhaps the best and funniest so far – was filmed by the boys of the famous English public school, Eton. Here are the UK’s future movers and shakers (and perhaps our next Prime Minister!) doing it Eton Style.

Gangnam Style” is a Korean neologism that refers to a lifestyle associated with the Gangnam district of Seoul, where people are trendy, hip and exude a certain supposed “class”. The term was listed in Time’s weekly vocabulary list as a manner associated with lavish lifestyles in Seoul’s Gangnam district. PSY likened the Gangnam District to Beverly Hills, California, and said in an interview that he intended a twisted sense of humour by claiming himself to be “Gangnam Style” when everything about the song, dance, looks, and the music video is far from being such a high class.

In an interview with CNN in August 2012, PSY explained: “People who are actually from Gangnam never proclaim that they are—it’s only the posers and wannabes that put on these airs and say that they are “Gangnam Style” — so this song is actually poking fun at those kinds of people who are trying so hard to be something that they’re not.”

And for any of you who haven’t learnt the dance moves of this K-Pop music phenomenon, here’s Tammy Mejia from the London K-Pop Dance Workshop presenting a masterclass on how to dance “Gangnam Style”:

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Videos reproduced from YouTube / officialpsy, YouTube / NellyFurtado and YouTube / VideoJug, YouTube / Rather Rum
Sections of this article have been reproduced from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Film Review: A Few Best Men

The main issue I have with A Few Best Men is that it tries too hard. What could have been a really funny movie ended up as a shock fest. All of the gags you can see coming a mile off. There’s nothing new.

Xavier Samuel’s next offering from Twilight Eclipse is a total disappointment. He looked stoned all the way through, maybe he had to take something to get through this! His motley band of friends were unlikeable, they just didn’t work. They all had issues.

The overuse of a sheep in pointless gags, which didn’t explain why a sheep was needed in the first place! Bondage, stripping, drugs, mishaps galore, The Queen’s picture being drawn on so she resembled The Joker from Batman… this comedy attempted to use everything, in the end it just came off as a total mismatch of sketches. There was no charm.

There was little chemistry between the bride and groom. It wasn’t a whirlwind romance. You don’t just decide to marry someone. Nothing to really say why they decided to get married within a week. Surely the girlfriend would want to meet his mates and family beforehand?

The bride being a senator’s daughter (Laura Brent) was a lazy step. Also her father would be much more threatening being a senator. He would not want shame or scandal yet the portrayal was weak. As if it was beyond him to stop events. Hello, he’s a senator!!!!

It would have been better if they’d got married in LA and ended up on the news with her father watching on horrified etc.

Even Olivia Newton-John’s appearances can’t save this. It reminded me a lot of watching You’ve Been Framed. The 1st series was very funny, roll on 10 years and you chuckle at some but most you’ve seen before.

It lacked a freshness to keep the genre fresh. The stag night degenerated into debauchery, like being let loose in a shopping mall with no spend limit. It was so cringe worthy. I’ve never seen the like of it.

In soap operas weddings going wrong are nearly a bi-annual event. With TV Serials as well having a wedding infrequently means all the disasters have now been shown. You have to do something new, or at least go about things in a different way. The script for this was like painting by numbers. No individual flair or decisions.

Having a good mix of stars such as Kris Marshall, who was very funny in BBC’s My Family, should have been better. Were they allowed to ab-lib? If not they should’ve been. The writer for this ought be fired from all movie sets!

A poor showing with as much effort into scripting as I put into opening a packet of crisps. 1/10 from me.

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Trailer reproduced from YouTube / IconFilmsAustralia

Dietary Supplement Citicoline May Slow Decline in Vascular Dementia

Italian researchers presented findings from a study using citicoline in people with mild vascular dementia. The dietary supplement is a naturally occurring compound needed for the production of the fats which make up the membranes of our cells.

It is believed that citicoline may help repair damage from injured blood vessels and boost levels of the chemicals which help nerve cells communicate. The study followed 265 participants over the age of 65 for nine months and found that while the memory performance of the control group declined over the nine month period, scores were maintained in people taking 500mg of citicoline twice daily.

The findings are due to be presented today at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC).

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“Previous short term trials have suggested citicoline may benefit people older people with memory problems and these findings seem to add to this evidence, however this study did have a significant limitation. A weakness of the study is that participants were aware of whether they were in the group taking citicoline, which could influence their performance on memory tests.

“There are currently no drugs specifically to treat vascular dementia and so research in this area is vital. While this study, and other research, suggests citicoline is safe to take, more research is needed to confirm whether the supplement has real benefits for the health of our brain.”

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Wine of The Month – October 2012

In a recent post, Will Lowe says that the start of autumn is marked by one’s first opening of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape .

I think this is spot-on and as the evenings get darker, the weather more blustery and the leaves russet and golden, the idea of a wine with more southern warmth and spice becomes ever more appealing.

This month we have two classics and one curve ball from our Cambridge merchants; interestingly, they all come from within a fairly narrow north-south band: two from the Rhône in southern France and one from Rioja in northern Spain.

Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône 2011, Noel Young Wines £11.35

The most northerly of our wines this month, this is 100% Syrah from the classic northern Rhône region.

Dark purple in the glass, blackberry and black cherry fruit on the nose, some spice. The palate shows lots of ripe, sweet black cherry fruit, soft yet mouthfilling texture.

Good fruit expression, acidity and savouriness. Lovely balance, elegance and finesse. Lovely finish with a touch of spiced prune or baked fig – very accomplished and showing well despite its youth.

Mas de Libian, Vin de Petanque 2011, Vin de France, Joseph Barnes Wines £10

Our next French wine is a whole lot funkier – unfilitered and unfined, this needs to be allowed to settle for a few minutes before serving.

Labelled as a humble Vin de France, it comes from the Ardeche in the southern Rhône and is mostly Grenache with some Syrah in the blend.

A dark ruby garnet in the glass, there is some elderberry and black cherry on the nose. The palate shows pure, quite primary, black cherry fruit on first opening with a prominent, almost Italian-style acidity – with aeration it all rounds out a little more into elderberry and prune.

Good savoury depth, clean acidity and lovely balance with soft tannins and a persistent finish.

Rioja Navajas Crianza 2008, Cambridge Wine Merchants £9.50

(reduced to £7.12 during October)

Rioja, from northern Spain, is another classic and a staple of autumnal evenings.

This 2008 Crianza from Cambridge Wine Merchants spends over 12 months in American oak and has a textbook “Rioja nose” of sweet vanilla with cedar, woodsiness, spice and cherry fruit.

A deep cherry red in colour, it is not quite as bright and youthful as the other two youngsters and shows a slight paleness around the rim.

On the palate, there is more sweet vanilla and mellow oakiness, with cherry fruit and meatiness. The texture is soft, supple and mellow. Long on the palate, a touch of pepperiness and eucalyptus develops.

Good, savoury and well-balanced finish, held together by well-integrated tannins. This is a very classy – as well as classic – wine and a textbook example both of what a Rioja should be, but also of the harmonious mellowness that comes with a bit of age.

And if Rioja is your thing, Cambridge Wine Merchants will be having wine and tapas tastings every weekend, masterclasses and some fine dining menus with restaurants.

All three wines have a distinctly autumnal, warming feel to them matched a European elegance and food-friendliness.

Match with stews such as beef and root vegetables or chicken, tomato and rosemary.

Recommended Wine

All three are very lovely wines and improve with a bit of air Рhowever, my personal favourite here is the classy, elegant and complete C̫tes du Rh̫ne from St Cosme.


Cambridge Wine Merchants –

Joseph Barnes Wines –

Noel Young Wines –

This article also appears on my blog.

© Tom Lewis 2012

Film Review: The Sweeney

The Sweeney was a fabulous film. The casting of Ray Winstone and Ben Drew (rapper Plan B) as Regan and Carter was superb. Although throughout the film Regan is violent and dishes out some mean punches – somehow you can’t help but like the guy.

Even when he takes some gold from a job to pay his informant. He gets a tip off about a robbery being planned. Somehow he makes it justified. Also supporting the title, you have to act like a criminal to catch one. Regan is also having an affair with his female colleague.

However internal affairs spot some of the gold is missing and attach a member to watch the squad. Unfortunately for Regan the man is the husband of his illicit affair.

Carter adds support by helping his boss out. There are a lot of team changes, denoting that the Flying Squad is a high risk career choice. The guns, bashings and car chases along with the destruction of buildings, caravans and public property just adds to the thrill of the ride.

A massive chase scene across Trafalgar Square left me breathless. I loved it. It was very gripping. The storyline of a criminal who intends to bring Regan down begins with a jewellery shop raid. A woman hostage is brutally shot at the last second.

Regan is determined to stop the gang from carrying out any further raids. Using his resources he discovers a retired criminal Allan is back. Regan put Allan away years ago. They raid his house but this is one sly lawbreaker. Having an alibi though means they must let him go and this is the downhill slide Regan finds himself on.

Will the man find out about Regan’s affair with his wife? Can Regan count on Carter? Carter is up for promotion, so helping Regan would jeopardize any promotion.

Damian Lewis (Homeland) pops up as Regan’s boss Haskins.

I found this to be a great updated version of the 1970s show. Ray Winstone had some great lines such as , “Pull your trousers up, you’re nicked!”

The city scene backdrop and posh office gave great scenic views and added to the city feel. In fact it’s hinted that other departments are jealous of the Flying Squad having such a posh pad.

A worthy effort and I will give this 9/10. I’ll deduct one mark for not using the theme music. Instead they opted for a slow downed version. The Sweeney was anything but slow!

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Film Review: Looper

It’s advised that when you go and see Looper you don’t think about it too much. That’s not to say that Rian Johnson’s third film is rather lightweight, in fact it’s quite the opposite. But as Bruce Willis points out during one scene in a roadside diner, focusing on the time travel aspects of the story isn’t the best way to go. This is rather sound advice; if you do think about time travel it will either drive you crazy or give you a headache.

Jeff Daniels’ Abe makes a similar point when giving advice to the young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He tells him not to think too much about time travel because it “fries your brain”. Abe is from the future, so he also advises Joe to go to China and learn Mandarin. Looper is filled to the brim with time paradoxes, the kind of things modern sci-fi movies avoid just in case it makes the audience think too much. Rian Johnson though has never been a director that chose to do things the easy way.

It’s the mid-21st century, and Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a looper; an assassin who kills people when they are sent back in time from the future, when time travel is illegal and only used by the mob. Joe has a relatively easy job (wait for target, BANG!, go for coffee, job done) and gets paid a lot for it. Then a mysterious figure from the future called The Rainmaker starts “closing loops”; sending back a looper’s future self to be killed. The looper gets a huge payoff and told to enjoy the rest of their life.

Hence the arrival of an older version of Joe (Bruce Willis), who has no intention of having his loop closed. He scuppers his younger self’s attempt to kill him, and sets off to find the Rainmaker in order to stop any of the horrifying future events happening. It’s only when Bruce Willis turns up that you realise what a convincing performance Joseph Gordon-Levitt is giving. During a quick montage when we see how the young Joe spends his thirty years of freedom as he turns into old Joe, it becomes all the more believable that the young man will eventually become old and battered.

While old Joe heads off in search of the Rainmaker (who is just a child at this time), he is able to narrow it down to three possible candidates. Young Joe decides to hide out in a farmhouse where one of the said candidates, Cid (Pierce Gagnon) is living with his mother, Sara (Emily Blunt). It shows what a great writer Rian Johnson is when he casts Blunt as something more than a heroine for the main character to swoon over. She has ideas, feelings, and is a well-crafted character that does have a purpose within the story.

This is a quality that Johnson injects into pretty much all of his characters, which would explain why the likes of Bruce Willis are always willing to take a pay cut in order to work with him. As with his two previous films Brick and The Brother’s Bloom, Johnson combines rather crisp dialogue and unique characterisation in order to keep the audience interested. Many other films in the genre would have given up on those things in order to further the plot, but as far as Johnson is concerned they all work together, and complement each other. It may not always make sense, but it is superbly crafted.

It’s strange to think about it, but underneath all the special effects, explosions, and time paradoxes there is a simple truth at the heart of Looper. If you could go back in time and give your younger self some advice, the likelihood is that your younger self wouldn’t want to hear it. And by attempting to do so, you’d probably make things a lot worse. It’s a film about trying to find redemption, and the consequences that can ensue.

While most of the film will be predictable for some, there is one key scene that is rather unexpected. When the older Joe finally comes to terms with what he has to do now he’s travelled back in time, Rian Johnson bravely sticks to his guns and follows through with the story. It’s a big risk, and you have to wonder if someone tapped him on the shoulder at any point to ask if it’s a good idea. Johnson stands by his premise though, and is able to deliver a sci-fi film that isn’t afraid to use its brain and wear its heart on its sleeve. That’s what really makes this a wonderful and enjoyable triumph.

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Older Binge Drinkers Warned of Risk of Cognitive Decline

The findings of two new studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2012 (AAIC 2012) in Vancouver have highlighted patterns of alcohol consumption that may increase risk of cognitive problems.

The research cautions that moderate alcohol use by women and binge drinking by people who are not normally heavy drinkers in late life, as well as heavy consumption in early life are all linked to increased risk of cognitive decline.

Dr Marie Janson of Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“In a country with major concerns over binge drinking, these new findings should be taken seriously by people of all ages. Many people will drink to relax and it’s important to keep an eye on the amount of alcohol we consume. The findings make clearer the relationship between alcohol use and cognitive decline, and we see stark warnings against heavy drinking for both cognitive and a great many other health reasons. We still lack truly long-term research findings from a diverse population in this area, but the best advice is to keep alcohol consumption light throughout life to reap some benefits and protect against the risks of over-indulging.

“Evidence that helps individuals control their risk of cognitive decline is important, and can also help inform public health decisions. We must support research that helps build a picture of all the lifestyle and environmental factors that conspire to cause dementia.”

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Film Review: The Campaign

For a while you would have though the American politics is beyond parody. We see the various gaffs and mishaps coming from a certain Presidential candidate, and then see that the race to win the 2012 election could still be a photo finish. It’s hard not to crack a smile of incredulity. And yet The Campaign proves that you can mock US politics by going in a different direction.

Instead of focusing on satire, The Campaign heads more in the direction of farcical and crude humour. The political orientation of the two candidates doesn’t really matter, only that they are both completely incompetent. The film instead decides to make satire out of the large amount of money that is put into the system, the simple message being that if you have the backing of someone with huge piles of cash you can win any election you want. Political attack ads are also held up as being rather petty, overblown, and full of lies. They usually are, but as you’ll see these candidates won’t shy away from accusing each other of being terrorists.

Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is the Congressman for the small constituency of Hammond. Looking to serve a fifth straight term, it looks like he will stand unopposed, until a gaff involving an answering machine sends his approval ratings through the floor. The mega-rich Motch brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) see that Brady could be in trouble, and so decide to find another candidate to be their puppet. And so they select Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), a local man who runs a tourism company.

The incumbent congressman Cam Brady is a Democrat, but you wouldn’t think that when you see him. He looks like Bush, and has the brains of Chaney. The only sign that he’s a Democrat is that he has the hair of John Kerry. It’s clear that Will Ferrell has based Cam Brady on the selection of Republican blowhards that march around Washington, and let’s be frank he has plenty to choose from. He will do anything to win, including making a sex tape for a campaign commercial. He has a wife (Katherine LaNasa) who only sticks around because Cam is under consideration to be the next Vice President.

Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) is the Republican candidate challenging Brady. We only know he’s a Republican because he states that he is when he announces his candidacy, and his silent rage when his son confesses he took the Lord’s name in vain (along with many other offensives). Huggins is essentially the village idiot, walking around with his two dogs, saying hello to people on the street who shout back that they have no idea who he is. It is basically Zach Galifianakis doing what he does best.

To make sure that Huggins’ campaign goes smoothly, the Motch brothers send campaign manager Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) to help. McDermott steals every scene he is in as the slimy and venomous campaigner. Never will you see someone make eating cereal so hilariously sinister. The Motch brothers themselves (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) are exactly what you expect from rich backers, and that’s pure evil.  They have a quality that’s vaguely reminiscent of Sir Humphrey in Yes, Minister; they are charming, vindictive, and seem to have control over everything. It’s almost certain that they are based on the real life Koch brothers (look them up – pure evil).

The Campaign has plenty of laughs, and it is well paced so then the election race doesn’t become too mundane. Instead off an underdog trying to break down an insurmountable lead, the polls show a roller coaster ride. The only thing that lets this film down is the ending, which many will see coming, and many will wish it’s not going to happen. The central message of the conclusion is that no matter what honesty and integrity prevail in politics. This is not funny, in fact it’s rather sad, considering that it is hardly ever the case.

It’s the chemistry between Ferrell and Galifianakis that really makes this film tick. Also serving as producers, they will have been able to shape the script into something that suits them perfectly. The supporting characters provide just the right amount of humorous relief from the pair, especially from Dylan McDermott who is superb. If it wasn’t for the lazy conclusion it would have been one of the best comedies of the year. The most sobering thought however is that even though it is totally ludicrous, it wouldn’t be surprising if this story came true.

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A Blooming Lovely Donation

The Courtyard at The Sick Children’s Trust’s Acorn House at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge is looking ‘blooming’ beautiful thanks to a ‘bunch’ of donations from local garden centres and a local sculptor.

Scotsdales Garden Centre, Polhill Garden Centre at Coton Orchard and Oakington Garden Centre all in Cambridge donated potted plants for the charity’s outside space area. The area was finished off with a kind donation of a 6ft tall steel metal pig sculpture by local artist, Tony Hillier.

Acorn House is one of the charity’s seven ‘Homes from Homes’ across the UK which provides free accommodation to families of sick children whilst they are being treated at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

Joy Worship, House Manager at Acorn House added: “Our courtyard sits at the front entrance to Acorn House so when families first come here they will now be welcomed by the site of all these beautiful flowers and the friendly pig! It also provides them with a nice environment to sit outside on the bench and gather their thoughts during this stressful time.

“We are delighted with the generosity of these local companies and Tony and also a special thanks goes to Janet Snider from John Lewis who volunteers a lot of her spare time to help keep our garden nice.”

Press contact: Sarah Wallace on 020 79318695 or email

Pic ref: Acorn House Courtyard.jpg

Pic caption: (L-R) Julie Griffin and Joy Worship from Acorn House.

Musical Review: Sister Act

I liked the show but it wasn’t as good as the film. An enjoyable event but soon forgotten afterwards.

Cynthia Eviro did a good job as Dolores Van Cartier, who if you haven’t seen the film, witnesses a mob murder and has to go into hiding. The police put her in a convent where she joins the choir and uses her mo-town/disco songs to liven things up.

I can’t put my finger on it, but the show lacked something. I found myself waiting for Whoopi to come in and take over.

Denise Black (Coronation Street) played the Mother Superior and again I wanted Maggie Smith there. Denise lacked the authority and the humour of Dame Maggie. (Although I don’t know if Dame Maggie Smith CAN sing!)

And having Michael Stark from ‘Brookside/The Royal/Corrie’ fame as the priest O’Hara was a dreadful decision. How did he get that role??? There wasn’t anyone with stage presence. Whoopi owned Sister Act, she had comic timing, a great voice and snazzy lines.

The new songs were good but for me they weren’t Sister Act. It was more like an episode of that ITV show Heartbeat. Heart warming – yes. But it wasn’t supposed to be about THAT show.

A lot of the backing singers lacked character and while the dance routines were good; I felt it wasn’t anything new or different. The voices sounded all the same and no one, even Cynthia wasn’t memorable afterwards.

Having some disco songs straight of the bat rather than hymns being jazzed up just didn’t feel right. The cast lacked the harmony the movie sisters had. When Whoopi’s crew sang ‘My God’ (which isn’t a hymn jazzed up) it was cute. This new crew just wasn’t.

I think the best analogy would be to compare this to remakes of some TV shows. Sometimes it’s better to leave it alone! It felt at times, they were doing something else and the people just happened to share the names of those from the movie. Like an odd alternate universe or something.

It did make a good afternoon out but I wouldn’t want to see this team again.

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Cliffhanger at the De La Warr

Richard Wilson installation at the De La Warr, Bexhill-on-Sea

A coach hangs precariously over a cliff edge, the gang at one end, the gold bullion at the other, its weight pushing them further over, but do they risk saving the gold or themselves by jumping to safety. Anyone who’s seen The Italian Job (original starring Michael Caine) will remember their dilemma in an ending which always had me frustrated, wanting the film to resolve itself one way or the other, but like the Richard Wilson artwork that’s exactly the idea.

The 1967 film was a flag waving romp with a bunch of our lads taking on Europe in a spectacular heist at a time when England, the world cup champions, still had a heavy car industry churning out the Mini, Jaguar and the Aston Martin. Now set in a recession weary Britain the coach seems well placed, looking over the channel to Europe where much of our economic future will be decided. The economy hangs in the balance and it’s anybody’s guess which way we’re going.

Richard Wilson’s intention is that the captured cinematic moment acts as a metaphor about the absolute limits of anything, an engaging moment. As a part of the London 2012 Festival the concept is brilliant, and the replica bus does rock backwards and forwards as in the film, but the massive supporting girders take away any sense of real danger. Standing any closer than from the car park, and the coach seems roughly made with no real attention to detail with silver painted panels instead of windows and roughly painted body work, but then maybe that’s the idea at a time when England has lost some of it’s shine.

Hang On A Minute Lads, I’ve Got A Great Idea… by Richard Wilson can be viewed at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea until 14 October 2012. For more information, check out the De La Warr Pavilion website.

Image courtesy of Tony Foster

Art Deco in Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s artisan design movement today could be seen as an extension of its Art Deco past. Once home to Dutch Art Deco movement’s forerunner – Jan Torooper, his influence can be seen everywhere. Torooper was born and part-raised in former Dutch colony of Indonesia.

His influence, and Indonesian past can be found in minute detail in anything from furniture and architecture still easily seen today, as well as clothing, jewellery and art found in vintage stores on the Nine Streets and in flea and antiques markets too. One of the most famous Art-Deco tourist attractions within the city is the Theatre Tuschinski, designed and built in the 1800s by Berlage – one of the city’s most famous Art Deco architects.

Art Deco as I live and bathe

A Sauna Deco

Two distinct styles are at work between the Sauna Deco and the grandiose Amrath Hotel (see below). The Deco sauna is kitted out with swirling, organic forms in a fanciful French art-deco style. Thanks to the former owner of the sauna, the majority of the lobby area’s breath-taking fixtures were rescued from the scrap heap when a Parisian department store decided to remodel, including a remarkable cast-iron staircase. Spot the difference: some pieces are from the Dutch school of art-deco however, including the tiles around the pool, salvaged from the city’s bank (another of Berlage’s designs).

Zuiderbad’s pool

Perfect for a Sunday morning swim, the Zuiderbad first opened its doors as an indoor cycle track over 100-years ago. The Zuiderbad first became a pool just a few years into its life, during the roaring twenties. Though there isn’t too much roaring going on there these days, it’s one of the most tranquil spots to enjoy a swim if you can’t make it to a spa. Mounted fountains and original art-deco mosaics covering the walls give the impression of a Roman spa. In keeping with the Roman feel, every Sunday the Zuiderbad is open to nude swimmers for an hour (imagine arriving at the end of that hour?).

The Theatre Tuschinski

Almost psychedelic, the interior and exterior features of the Tuschinski are suggestive of dream-visions or early sci-fi artwork, incorporating both Art-noveau and Art-Deco styles. The switches between organic and otherworldly aren’t at all subtle, but it is nonetheless a mesmerising building. The Tuschinski is by far one the best examples of the Dutch Art-noveau and Art-Deco styles, and happens to also be a fantastic place to catch a movie or see live music. Designed and built by Polish Jew Abraham Tuschinski, the structure survived the German occupation (though Tuschinski did not) by changing the name above the frontage.

Sleep in Art Deco

Eden American Hotel

Designed by Hendrik Berlage, who also designed the Amsterdam stock exchange building, the impressive exterior of Eden American along with its 1920s extension is a national heritage building. Setting back from the street, the grand façade and fountain create a magical setting for a dinner date – the classic-cool of the entrance lobby could be anywhere from Miami to Berlin. What really sets the building apart however is Café Americain, the hotel’s bar and restaurant, detailing both inside and out belies an artisan triumph in art nouveau and art-deco styles.

The Grand Amrath

Built in 1890 the Grand Amrath hotel stands as a slightly macabre monument to the nieuwe kunst (‘new art’) movement. Close to Centraal Station the Amrath’s dark brick creates a forboding fortress-like exterior, it’s monumental size conceals a number of the design features from the naked eye.

The Amrath’s interior is an entirely different story, warm tones and beautifully preserved original features are everywhere. In the hotel’s spa you’ll find colourful designs in the updated pool area. An astonishing skylight illuminating distinctive decorative features, creating a cathedral-like space in the hotel’s main stairwell.

City breaks in Amsterdam and other European cities with holidays to Amsterdam with easyJet holidays website mean luxury at the best price possible.

© Adam Spawton-Rice 2012

Images courtesy of the author