Two Wines from Dopff & Irion, Alsace

Dopff & Irion is based in the beautiful village of Riquewihr in Franco-Germanic Alsace; the vineyards are now four estates, created by René Dopff in 1945: Les Murailles, Les Sorcières, Les Maquisards and Les Amandiers, each with a single variety planted.

The domaine sent me two wines to review: they make an oddly sensuous / nervy couple; the big blowsy Gewurz and the lean, limey Riesling – a bit like Hattie Jacques and Kenneth Williams in Carry On Matron.

Dopff & Irion Les Sorcières 2008

Varietal Gewurztraminer, this is deep golden sandy colour in the glass, it has an intense, complex, perfumed nose of lychees, rose petals, beeswax and sweet spice.

On the palate, there is more ripe exotic tropical and citrus fruit, varietal perfume of acacia and heather with clear, fresh acidity, honeyed sweetness, spice and a touch of bitter grapefruit, orange oil and hints of savoury yeastiness.

The texture is waxy and mouthfilling with weightiness from residual sugar (a generous 23g/l).

Match with gravadlax with dill and a honey and mustard vinagrette.

Dopff & Irion Les Murailles 2008

Varietal Riesling, golden in the glass; on the nose classic aged petrolly aromas, with complex white flower blossom, mineral and honey.

The palate is ripe and limey – like lime marmalade – with mouthwatering linear acidity and candied lemon peel, offset by a touch of steeliness and minerality.

Long on the palate and good savoury underpinnings with lime zest and persistence on the finish. Potential for further aging.

Match with seafood, such as char-grilled squid rings, or herby roast pork.

Tooting: SW17 is Worth a Second Look

Tooting Broadway Tube

For those of you who are familiar with the Tooting area, you will know that it’s not the most happening of places when it comes to eating and drinking.  And for those of you who have never heard of Tooting, I don’t blame you.  Tooting gets over looked by its richer neighbours – Balham, Clapham and Wimbledon.  It’s just that bit further down on the Northern Line, a few stops too far.

BUT, there is a gradual change happening in SW17, and as a resident of this slightly less favoured area of south-west London I am crossing my fingers and toes that this change starts to gather some speed.

The high street at Tooting Broadway has everything you might expect: Primark, a bingo hall, a 99p store, shops that offer to unlock phones, two McDonalds, and butchers catering to every religion and ethnicity you might think of.  So far, not so many places you might want to go on a Saturday night or for Sunday lunch.  But look a bit closer, and there are the hidden spots that have appeared in the last few months that show Tooting is beginning to shoulder its way towards something better.

If it’s a Saturday night drinking hole you’re after, look no further than the Tram & Social – tootingtram.com.  Reasonably priced drinks, good music (i.e. not the Top 40 mega-mix you might get at Infernos), and a very different setting from what you might expect.  At the end of a short alley, tucked between Maccy D’s and a pawn shop, you’d be forgiven for being slightly surprised to find yourself in a spacious venue (complete with bunting in the summer months) where there’s a complete absence of people who might shoot you for looking at them in the wrong way.  The Tram is my local, and what a local to have!

Then, just down the road is Graveney and Meadow: a ‘bar, bakery and tapas restaurant’ that is owned by the same group as the Tram & Social – graveneyandmeadow.com.  Home-baked goods, wooden chairs, chalk boards and a general boutique-meets-country-kitchen feel, where better to spend a chilly afternoon at the weekend?

Walk towards Tooting Broadway tube and round the corner, and you’ll find Tartine – www.tartineartisanal.com.  This French-Moroccan café offers more than croissants and bread.  Mezze, burgers, salads and desserts can all be found in this busy and friendly place.  The décor is simple, the menu comprehensive – a great place to go with friends that have quite varied tastes.  Just don’t expect to go there for dinner as they close at 7pm.

And finally, about two doors down from Tartine, we have Tota – www.tota-restaurant.co.uk.  This restaurant has popped out of nowhere and has quickly established itself as the go-to place for Sunday brunch.  I was there two weeks ago and had some of the best pancakes I’ve ever had.  My friend’s full English was perfection – crispy bacon, sausages that looked like they actually had pork in them, and properly poached eggs (i.e. not microwaved).  The dinner menu is simple but effective – all the favourites like steak and fish, along with something different like pork belly in a curry sauce.  The service is faultless as well.

So it seems that Tooting is gradually upping its quota of decent places to eat and drink.  Yes, the general locality needs a bit of a scrub, and there are still quite a few things that make one want to get a taxi home rather than walk from the bus stop. But perhaps Tooting is going through what Angel went through a few years ago.  And with places like the Tram & Social and Tota sprouting up every few months, this little corner of south-west London could be destined for greater things.

New Battery Technology

battery

In a world of developing technology, every enthusiast loves it whenever a new gadget is invented. Has the average user ever noticed or observed how tacky and bothersome it is when the battery of the cell phone loses power in a short period of time? By way of example, what if you were in the middle of an important conversation concerning business or anything which is considered to be significant from the perspective of a particular customer? Then suddenly the phone no longer functions until it is able to be recharged again which becomes an inconvenience. Currently, there is a new upgrade in the battery sector as the new lithium-ion battery design has been created. This product is 2,000 times more powerful and recharges 1,000 times faster when compared to other batteries. As stated by the scientists, this is not merely an evolutionary stage in battery tech, “It’s a new enabling technology… it breaks the normal paradigms of energy sources. It’s allowing us to do different, new things.”  The old, bulky lithium-ion battery has finally been updated with enough power to boost a car battery and still restore in seconds.

So how does this sort of power relate to real-world scenarios? The batteries could, in theory, broadcast radio signals 30 times farther than normal and allow devices to be about 30 times smaller. The fact that the microbatteries will recharge 1,000 times faster than existing technologies makes this product highly extraordinary. This denotes that devices could be powered for days and recharge in seconds. William P. King utilises medical devices and implants as an illustration declaring, “Where the battery is an enormous brick, and it’s connected to itty-bitty electronics and tiny wires. Now the battery is also tiny.” Many global citizens share the perspective in life that if something is bigger that this connotes that it would be more beneficial to the consumer. However in scenarios like this, the trend of thought alters as this battery demonstrates that these small devices are quite favorable and delightful.

Presently, technology generally is objectively limited by battery technology, particularly when it deals with medicine. There are several types of hearing aid batteries, categorized by size and color coding. The size of battery desired will depend on the particular type and model of the hearing aid. Most hearing aids use one of five standard button cell battery sizes, each represented by a color code. Cochlear implant hearing aids are used for those with significant hearing loss to deafness. Batteries for these hearing aids are made from zinc. They are typically 1.45 volts, which allows them to last longer and be changed less frequently. However, a miniature battery such as the lithium-ion battery will allow programmers to create tablets that can easily be held in one hand for any amount of time and laptops that wouldn’t be difficult to hold due to their heavy weight. Additionally, the new battery is less prone to fire hazards because of its capability to function within a wider temperature range and better manage its internal temperature modifications. It can be used for boats, for accommodation and grid storage, as well as plug-in vehicles, which are subject to a “large and growing sales pipeline.”

It is an incredible fact that advances in battery technology may one day help to solve the global energy crisis. The improvements that are being made in battery technology are quite “mind baffling” for those that are unaware of how it is done. These devices are collecting power from about every source that is imaginable and at the present there is battery technology from researchers who work at various universities across the globe. From cell phones to cars and all in between, there may sooner or later be nothing more required than to actually use the device.  So although, the technology behind the lithium-ion battery has not yet entirely reached maturity, the batteries are the type of choice in many consumer electronics.  They also have one of the best energy-to-mass ratios and a very slow loss of charge when not in use.

Film Review: Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers“Spring Breakers” is the best film Harmony Korine has ever made, but that’s not really a compliment. Up until now Korine’s films have been nothing more than self-indulgent and overly self-conscious tripe. However, with his first feature film since “Trash Humpers” in 2009, he seems to be a changed man. Is that for better? Moderately, yes. His ability to create impressive imagery remains, but the over indulgence has been replaced with a keener eye for the mainstream.

Korine’s latest film is an orgy of excess. A world of intoxicating hedonism, that only acts as a disguise for the nihilism and gradual self destruction that’s going on underneath. Given his past problems with drugs and alcohol, perhaps Korine is actually being more self-conscious than initially thought. Perhaps his life became one massive spring break; spiralling to destruction and thinking you’re enjoying the prime of life. The four girls at the heart of “Spring Breakers” are of that exact frame of mind. They want to go to Florida for spring break so they can escape from all the monotony in their lives. When the girls sit around and talk about their boredom with real life, it’s vaguely reminiscent of the “Choose” monologue at the beginning of Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting.”

The girls decide they need to go to spring break for the sake of their spirits. Only problem is, they don’t have any money. They discover a quick, easy, and exhilarating fix to their problem – rob a restaurant. They take their money and head straight for Florida, where they find more “spirituality” than they thought they would. They go to parties where people get drunk, take cocaine, smoke pot through makeshift bongs made out of dolls, and women constantly parade themselves topless.

As you’d expect, reality soon fights back, and the police arrive at one of the parties. The girls are arrested and spend the night in the cells, before they go before a judge the next day. They’re informed that someone, unbeknown to them, has paid for their bail. When they leave court, they meet their saviour – at least that’s what he is now – Alien (James Franco). He’s a drug dealer, arms dealer, and part time rapper. His entire life is one long spring break. He embraces the chaos of the world around him, either because he’s part of it, or because he knows it will probably destroy him before he has a chance to get bored. To the girls, he’s like an inspirational speaker.

That is except for Faith (Selena Gomez). She’s instantly suspicious of Alien, who tries to show them a good time. She tells Alien of her suspicions, and James Franco easily slips into creepy manipulator mode. In this insane world of total fantasy, Faith is the only person we come across who seems genuine. All she wants is to get away from bible study for a few weeks and get drunk in the sun. Getting arrested and hanging around with a dread-locked lunatic wasn’t what she had in mind. She’s almost a representation of the audience, if it weren’t for the fact most of us would have ran away from this sunny circle of hell after ten minutes.

But that of course isn’t really the point. If the aim is to create satire or some form of social commentary, then realism has no place here. Harmony Korine doesn’t really permit real life a chance to get in. The courtroom scene, when the four girls appear before the judge still only wearing the bikinis from the day before is proof of that. Korine’s love of arresting visuals and unique soundtracks come together when Alien plays a Britney Spears song on his white piano, while the girls dance around him, wearing pink balaclavas and swinging automatic handguns over their heads. Yes, their still wearing bikinis.

Korine’s visual style often comes to save many of the movie’s scenes. The script is rather painfully written, with dialogue that is too on the nose. Not that it really matters. “Spring Breakers” is a film that allows you to talk to the people next to you and quickly check Facebook without missing anything. Perfect for young movie goers then. Often the actors are encouraged to ad lib, which is something a skilled actor like James Franco, who seems to enjoy taking risks with his work, no doubt enjoyed.

And yet, despite the interesting visuals and pumping dubstep soundtrack (which occasionally becomes irritating), things do become surprisingly dull at times. Still, “Spring Breakers” invites you down to the very depths of wasted youth, where only debauchery and chaos are allowed. It gets so painfully close to becoming the next big teen cult movie, but fails to clear the bar. That’s what makes it so irritating. Despite all the gloss, all the booze, all the drugs, all the guns, and all the bare breasts, it has a hollow core. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it either. The problem was I felt nothing, and therefore didn’t care about what was happening on screen. While it is an intoxicating and immersive experience, it fails to be the effective social commentary it desires to be.

Image reproduced from imdb.com
Video reproduced from YouTube / FilmsActuTrailers

Album Review: Alex Day – Epigrams & Interludes

Image courtesy of dftba.comThree years since the release of his last album and now with three Top 40 singles under his belt, Youtuber & Musician Alex Day is back with a brand new collection, Epigrams & Interludes.

The album consists of a vast mixture of his older work, brand new tracks, chart toppers, collaborations, and songs he’s produced for other artists. All combined to create a incredibly addictive and complexly layered album.

Day’s style is distinctively different from other music of the moment, it’s lively, upbeat with a nod towards 90’s pop. Lyrics are not vague with hidden meaning but stories, telling us tales of love, friendship and bread. The majority of the album is heavily produced brimming with catchy drum beats most prominent in the dance anthem styled “Poison” sung by the talented Carrie Hope Fletcher. Though it also includes a few acoustic tracks, such as the beautifully mature “Losing a future” which showcases Day’s vocals at their very best.

What’s most remarkable about this album is the growth shown in Day’s work from “Holding on” to “I’ve got what it takes”. He’s become confident in the production of his songs, breaking away from the safety of his guitar to create new, more complicated sounds with a polished finish. It provides us with best of Alex Day and the perfect introduction to his music.

Tracks to skip straight to are “Bread” eerily reminiscence of “The nightmare before Christmas” with it’s Burton style of storytelling and insanely hyper “Lady Godiva” guaranteed to stay in your head for the rest of the day.

“Epigrams & Interludes” brings a breath of unique life into the monotone of the music industry and is certainly well worth a listen. Even better ten of the twenty tracks are available for free download at http://www.bittorrent.com/ so try a taste of Alex Day a musician you’ll be kicking yourself that you’ve never discovered before.

Image reproduced from dftba.com

Festival Guide 2013: Wireless

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake

If you can’t get to T in the Park this summer perhaps Wireless festival could be the one you go to? Also running from 12th-14th July like T in the Park this is perfect for those in the South. With Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z headlining over the weekend and an additional day added this year it is sure to be one amazing weekend. This year the festival has took advantage of London 2012 and it will be based on the grounds of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. What a fantastic location to soak up the summer sun in the middle of London for a weekend you won’t forget.

Snoop_Dogg

Snoop Dogg

The headline acts that are considered legends in the music industry plus many more acts throughout the weekend including Rita Ora, Frank Ocean, Trey Songz, John Legend and Snoop Dogg.

This pop festival is perfect for all those who love themselves a bit of Justin Timberlake who makes his comeback this year. Not into camping? Then this is perfect for you, just arrange your coach or tube travel each day and you are sorted.

Wireless festival is great if you are not into the fuss of packing for the weekend and preparing not to get a decent wash until after the festival has finished.

Rita Ora

Rita Ora

You can buy tickets for each day you want to go or buy a 2-3 day package ticket to suit you. You can also hire a locker for any essentials you need for the day but don’t necessary need them on you whilst you are enjoying the music. If you fancy getting a little personal treatment, you can get VIP tickets, where you will be given first class treatment. You will receive complementary food and drink, fast track entry and exclusive areas that get you away from the crowds whilst you wait for your favourite act to hit the stage.

The location is fantastic, with many easy transport options to get you there each day and back again and a place full of memories and achievements that will be there forever. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is an amazing place to hold a festival. It isn’t held in the stadium but the grounds surrounding it, so with beautiful views of an important part of history for the UK and a stage full of musical acts that will have you singing and dancing the weekend away, what more can you ask for?

Tickets start from £83.50 plus booking fees and are available from selected ticket retailers which you can find on the festival website http://www.wirelessfestival.co.uk/tickets

You can find full details of the line-up so far at http://www.wirelessfestival.co.uk/line-up

Next time we’re talking about the legendary Glastonbury Festival which returns this year after taking a year out last year and what a festival it will be.

Images reproduced from wirelessfestival.co.uk

Dementia’s Impact on Children

Over 820,000 people are now living with dementia across the UK. As well as the toll it takes on the person, the carers and families around them can be profoundly affected as dementia takes a grip of their loved ones. Alzheimer’s Research UK has been exploring the impact of dementia on families, and in particular how young people understand what is happening to their relations.

Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference_2384_1_1___Selected

Part of this work has seen us team up with Orion Publishing which has recently published the debut novel from Sarah Moore Fitzgerald called Back to Blackbrick. Aimed at younger readers, the book describes the special relationship between a boy and his grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a fascinating insight into how dementia affects the person and those around them. Orion has been helping raise awareness of dementia as the book launches, including news of our work in lots of the promotion around the book.

If you have an experience to share about how dementia has affected younger members of your family, we’d like to hear from you. Contact us on press@alzheimersresearchuk.org to share your experiences.

Back to BlackBrick, which has some unique twists in its story, has enjoyed a number of five star reviews and was a Sunday Times Book of the Week for young readers. It is available from Amazon:http://www.amazon.co.uk/Back-Blackbrick-Sarah-Moore-Fitzgerald/dp/1444006592

Ramon Bilbao Dinner at Cambridge Hotel du Vin

It’s not often you get to try a completely new appellation of wine – the Ramon Bilbao NV Mar de Frades Albariño Rías Baixas Brut Nature, the first-ever sparkling Albarino from Rias Baxas, was presented by Carlos Delage at Cambridge Hotel du Vin at a Ramon Bilbao dinner.

Over canapes in the Hotel’s Library room, Carlos explained that the wine is made by the methode champenoise, but does not aim to be a Champagne copy. Rather, with just a year’s ageing on the lees, it is a mediumweight fruit-driven sparkler with a fine mousse and plenty of varietal citrussy fruit and white flowers.

But there is also a persistence and savouriness that goes beyond mere blossomy spritz, so the closest stylistic comparison is perhaps a young blanc de blancs.

In any event, it has proven very popular – Spanish supermarket chain El Corte Ingles sold out of its allocation in just a few weeks, whilst Head Sommelier of Cambridge Hotel du Vin, Debbie Henriques, was so impressed that she immediately arranged to add it to the hotel’s list.

Our second aperitif was the Albarino Algareiro Rias Baxas 2011; much more weighty and complex than a typical Albarino, the emphasis here was on minerality, salinity and persistence.

On the Atlantic coast of north west Spain, just above Portugal, Rias Baxas is not an easy place to make wine; warm and damp, it provides perfect conditions for rot. To avoid this, the vines are trained on granite trellises around 2m high making pruning and harvesting all the more labour-intensive.

Ramon Bilbao was founded in the 1920s as a family company and is now on its third set of owners, but is still privately held. Owner and boss Rodolfo Bastida is the wine-maker, meaning, according to Carlos, an absolute focus on modernity and quality, rather than on pennies.

The wine that accompanied our starter was a good example of this – a Verdejo Monte Blanco 2012 from Rueda, the grapes are harvested at night and for freshness it is fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel to preserve the tropical-fruit aromas.

Grown on granite soils, it has a piercing, mouthfilling linear acidity and minerality with a delicately aromatic nose with puy lentils and white flowers that is reminiscent of Austrian Gruener Veltliner.

Hotel chef Jonathan Dean had matched this with pressed pork rillettes with an apple and chicory salad – the fresh acidity of the wine cut through the meat whilst the apple and chicory, lifted with a dash of mustard vinagrette, enhanced the aromatics of the wine.

The main of roast duck breast, cherry chutney and fondant potato was served with two reds from Rioja: the Gran Reserva 2004 Ramon Bilbao Rioja, a youthful purple colour with only a slight paleness around the rim, looks much younger than its almost decade of age.

On the nose there are dried bramble fruits, spice, leather and gaminess; the palate shows good fruit and acidity with sweet thyme.

Alongside this, we tried a 2001 Gran Reserva special vines Ramon Bilbao Rioja; this unfiltered wine, the product of a single vineyard that formed part of the original Ramon Bilbao estate, was also surprisingly youthful in appearance.

In the glass, the colour is purple with only a touch more paleness around the rim – all the more impressive considering it has spent three years in oak. The nose is complex with aromas of dried fruit, game, old leather, mushrooms and sweet herbs.

On the palate, there is a mouthfilling, fresh acidity and flavours of red pepper and rosehip. The finish shows fine-grained tannins and a savoury persistence.

This felt like a much older wine – noticeably more developed than the 2004 – and for me was much the more interesting of the two. Carlos, however, preferred the 2004, which caused me to wonder how the two might develop; on the night, the 2001 was more interesting, but in five, perhaps even ten years, I can see the 2004 showing better.

In any event, both wines matched extremely well with the food; the fresh acidity and gaminess were a classic match for duck breast, whilst a touch of spice in the jus and red cabbage accompaniment was extremely well-judged and brought the food and wine into perfect harmony.

The final course was a selection of British and Spanish cheeses served with a biodynamic wine, the Crianza Cruz de Alba 2008.

Biodynamics is something of a wild-haired branch of wine-making that takes organic, low-intervention processes as a base and sprinkles over a generous libation of astrology, pagan earth-worship and downright superstitious oddness.

It is a step-back in time to wine-making as it must have been practised several centuries ago – and the wines often have a vibrant, earthy character as a result.

With none of the advantages of the modern era, low-intervention wine-making also requires high-quality fruit and absolute cleanliness in both the vineyard and the winery.

Whether it is these factors or the cow horn full of dung and phases of the moon that impart a certain quality is something of a moot point.

But for anyone who feels that modern life has become somewhat sterile and soulless, this biodynamic crianza had a vibrancy and texture that spoke of a way of life that is more in touch with nature.

I finished the evening with a trip downstairs to the hotel’s bar with Mike Webb of importers Ellis of Richmond to try a glass of the Crianza edicion limitada.

This is essentially the second wine in years when the top Mierto is not made – in Bordeaux, my rule of thumb for a second wine in a weak year is that you get the elegance but not the structural interest.

The edicion limitada, however, suffered from no lack of structure with lots of fruit and perfectly ripe tannins It is available by the glass at Hotel du Vin and a great place to start in seeing what Ramon Bilbao has to offer.

Either that, or try the world’s first-ever sparkling Rias Baxas.

Tickets for the Ramon Bilbao Dinner at Cambridge Hotel du Vin cost £60; I attended as a guest of the hotel.

Film Review: The Paperboy

the-paperboyAfter its recent slating at the Cannes Film Festival, with audiences mooing (yes, mooing!) after seeing the initial screening, I went in to The Paperboy with a lot of trepidation. Indeed, with a cast that includes Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, and the consistently terrible Matthew McConaughey, there was nothing more than the appeal of seeing a slummed-down John Cusack that drew me in. It seemed a worthy cause to offer this film a chance, but one that, within the first five minutes was instantly regrettable.

We are sent into the world of the American Deep South during the 1970’s, where skinning alligators and casual racism are the locals’ pastimes, and the sweltering heat causes everyone to become scantily clad. When hotshot reporter Ward Jansen (McConaughey) comes back to town, trying to free the potentially innocent Hayley Van Wetter (John Cusack) from death-row, we begin to see the dangerous corruption the encompasses a criminal charge of this nature. Ward enlists the help of his younger brother Jack (Efron), the sexually-charged Charlotte Bless (Kidman), who Jack immediately falls in love with, and his writing partner Yardley (David Oyelowo) a black Londoner, in order to crack the case open. However, no sooner have they started their work than do things start to turn sour, as friends begin double-crossing one another, love interests cloud motivations, and scrupulous locals try to hinder any progression with the case.

The Paperboy had every potential to become a nice mix of A Time To Kill and To Kill A Mockingbird, with the race and class undertones that were there to access, and it could have had as much a punch as In The Heat Of The Night with its subject matter. However, all of the action, conflict and drama of the overriding prison sentence gets lost, as instead we focus on the strange twisted relationship that develops between Jack and Charlotte. And therein lies the problem that writer-director Lee Daniels (Precious) has created for himself – the tone of the film is far too confusing. It isn’t quite about race, the law, or even the newspaper industry, and therefore loses its poignancy, and the ensuing relationship is so farfetched that it completely loses its realism. The story is pointless, the ending is absurd, and halfway through you just want the barrage of absurdity to end.

At the end of the day, this film will only be remembered simply for its shock factor. With scenes including some post-jellyfish-sting-urination, non-contact orgasms, and an extremely surreal case gay bashing, there are several key talking points, all of which would make you feel very dirty for watching them. However, they are included for all of the wrong reasons, and therefore become cheap tricks to bring in curious audiences.

Overall, The Paperboy had a lot of potential. It could have been an emotional, tense journey for all those involved. Instead, it is an over-long piece of drivel where, for once, McConaughey puts out the best acting performance. If you have any sense, you will stay very far away.

Image reproduced from apnatimepass.com
Video reproduced from YouTube / LionsgateFilmsUK

Technology Updates

“Machines take me by surprise with great frequency”. – Alan Turing

Cheers to Gordon Moore’s Law which describes a driving force of technological and social change in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Computers are still evolving at an amazing speed and PC as well as laptop accessories seem to grow at the same rate. G TECHNOLOGY announced its latest gadget in the Computing World and Creative Professional Market called the G-Drive Pro. It is a high performance storage solution featuring screaming fast USB 3.0 and FireWire® interfaces. A product like this would come in handy in today’s world because it delivers flexible and extreme-performance storage for the Thunderbolt-enabled computer. Over the years, everyone has owned or had access to various brands of computers such as Hewlett-Packard, Alienware, Apple and Toshiba (just to name a few) for purposes such as communication or leisure. Evidently, the computers are changing as each software company upgrades their products on a yearly basis so that customers can enjoy these latest devices in technology. Imagine a world without computers such as in the Middle Ages and automatically there is a vision of a sluggish, draconian place for those who live in modern day society for the advancement of technology.

This upgrade in equipment is a new storage solution which is designed chiefly for photographers and film-makers. Capacity and performance requirements to support 2K, 4K and other media formats differ by camera and supported media formats, as well as related pixel sizes, frame rates, compressed or uncompressed media, depths and color models. The G-DOCK ev with Thunderbolt, the G-DRIVE ev and G-DRIVE ev PLUS external hard drive modules with USB 3.0 together deliver quick content transfers for camerawork, 2K and 4K¹ digital cinema assignments with simple storage expansion. The G-DOCK ev with Thunderbolt is the only two-bay solution with interchangeable and rugged storage modules that have the adjustability to be taken into the field and used as true standalone external drives.

At this point currently, new high-resolution media formats and related files sizes do require massive amounts of storage space in addition to ever faster data transfer rates so that one can efficiently edit and distribute content throughout the workflow without being inefficient. If one were to take a look at the statistics, it would be astounding. Take for example, an uncompressed 2K digital video format, which alone will take up more than one terabyte (1TB) each hour, and will require just about 305 megabytes per second (MB/s) sustained throughput for smooth editing without experiencing any kind of dropped frames. Such high-resolution video formats, alongside the increasing popularity of higher megapixel DSLR cameras which are used to capture professional 2K video has served up a need for a new high-performance storage solution that will be able to cater to the requirements of nowadays’ digital content creators.

Patience is a valuable virtue but everyone likes products that work smoothly and quicker in the context of Computing. It would be a nauseating experience to use a retrograde gadget that doesn’t serve any purpose and does not operate properly. If firstly, the appearance of your external hard drive as much as its performance is treasured, and secondly, works greatly on 2K or 4K video editing, then G-Technology’s G-DRIVE PRO with Thunderbolt would be appealing to enthusiasts. It connects a single 3.5-inch hard drive with the intensely fast Thunderbolt technology to offer sustained data transfer rates of up to 480MB/s, while still giving the high capacity storage of up to 4TB.

For those fiddling with high resolution videos, it is most likely pleasing to know that this gleaming invention certainly supports compressed 4K and multiple streams of 2K, HDV, DVCPro HD, XDCAM HD, ProRes 4444 as well as uncompressed SD workflows. The forthcoming summer is awaiting entertainment with this state-of-the-art device which will be available through G-Technology and its Premier Channel Partners. The cost is $699.95 and $849.95 for the 2TB and 4TB model, separately. With up to 4TB capacity, the G-DRIVE PRO with Thunderbolt is Mac-formatted and is Apple Time Machine ready.

Photographers and film-makers who desire to get a head-start on making 4K content (or 2K videos that the next-generation of DSLRs should be capable of) will be particularly interested in the G-Drive Pro with Thunderbolt. Introduced today at 480 MBps, it has the fastest read-write speed of all the G-Tech hard drives, which means one drive can support 1TB of unedited 2K content (it has a need for a 305 MBps data transfer). If the user wishes to make full use of the Thunderbolt’s read-write speed of 750 MBps, he or she can daisy-chain two G-Drive Pros together to give an enormous 960 MBps, which is just quick enough to accurately handle unedited 4K videos.

The Product Highlights are:-

  • eSATA, FireWire 400/800, USB 2.0
  • High-performance 7200rpm Drive Speed
  • Up to 64 MB Cache
  • Data Transfer Rates up to 100 MB/s
  • Ideal for Audio/Video/Photo Applications
  • Stylish, Industrial Aluminum Enclosure
  • Mac Formatted and Time Machine Ready
  • Mac and Windows Compatible
  • Stylish, industrial design features an integrated heat-sink for near-silent operation
  • Pre-formatted for Mac but works equally as well with Windows based systems
  • Includes an industry-leading three year limited warranty

A summary of its Kit Contents are:

G-DRIVE PRO External Hard Drive

(1) Thunderbolt Cable

Universal AC Power Supply

Quick Start Guide

3-Year Limited Warranty

 

MSRP: 2TB – $699.95

4TB – $849.95

 

Dimensions: 2.68″ x 9.25″ x 5.12″ / 68 x 235 x 130mm

Weight: 3.13 lbs / 1.42 kg

Type: SATA III

Storage Capacity: 2TB , 4TB

Drive Speed: 7200 RPM

Compatibility: 

1

Mac® OS® 10.7

2

2x Thunderbolt

Award-winning director, producer and photographer Vincent Laforet, one of the world’s leading adventure photographers Lucas Gilman and Vienna-based award-winning filmmaker, director of photography as well as film producer Nino Leitner are all supporters of G-Technology. They hosted in-booth workshops (G-Technology Booth #SL12105), showcasing and discussing their artistic approaches, gear and workflows. G-Technology makes the workflow simpler, improved and faster.  Its commitments include transporting, editing, distributing and storing content. G-Technology’s high-performance portable and desktop drives, flexible transfer/edit solutions and fast RAID systems are all manufactured for professional content creation environments where performance and reliability are paramount. Due to the fact that G-Technology has a reputation for the uppermost standards, its products can be found in open post-production facilities worldwide.

It is understood that it is factual to state that storage capacity needs to increase every day. This is because humans get faster internet connections allowing them to download enormous chunks of data from the Internet in astonishingly small periods of time. G-Technology storage solutions are engineered precisely to meet the necessities of the content creation and Apple Mac communities. This includes heavy users of multimedia content, Final Cut Pro® and Adobe® Premiere® Pro audio/video specialists along with other pre/post production professionals.

3

 

 

 

Blood Pressure Drugs to Slow Alzheimer’s – New Clinical Trial Launched

A new clinical trial is being launched to test a common blood pressure drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. The trial, known as RADAR, is being funded by a £2m investment from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and will see around 230 participants being treated with the drug losartan.

The trial is being hosted by North Bristol NHS Trust and run by scientists from the University of Bristol, Cambridge and Queen’s University Belfast. Previous research has suggested that the drug could hold benefits for the disease by increasing blood flow and triggering biological processes important for protecting brain cells from the effects of Alzheimer’s.

The research team will use brain scans and memory and thinking tests to assess the effects of losartan on brain shrinkage and memory. The researcher spearheading the clinical trial is Dr Pat Kehoe, Administrator of the Alzheimer’s Research UK Research Network in Bristol.

Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference_2384_1_1___Selected

Recruitment for the trial is set to begin in August 2013 and those who are interested are asked to email dementia-research@bristol.ac.uk or visit www.dendron.nihr.ac.uk for more information.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“The ultimate test of any potential new treatment strategy for Alzheimer’s is success in clinical trials, so it is encouraging to see this trial getting underway. Alzheimer’s Research UK funded some early research into this area in the past and we are very interested to see whether the findings from these studies will translate into patient benefits.

“Despite over half a million people in the UK living with Alzheimer’s, there are no treatments available at the moment that can slow or stop the disease. The funding for this project has come from the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge, which pledged in 2012 to increase funding for dementia research. This trial is evidence of how crucially this funding is needed and how vital sustained funding for dementia research will be in the future.”

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

Film Review: The Host

The Host
The Host is another work of art by Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame. The main plot is ‘nice’ aliens are taking over humanity by living inside them, so the body becomes ‘the host’. (Not sure what’s nice about that!)

When they get the host, their eyes become bright, so there’s no mistaking when someone has been caught! However our heroine Melanie Stryder survives the procedure and fights the alien put inside her. Now this is bad news for the main leader – called ‘Seeker’ (Diane Kruger).

The Seeker unhappy that Melanie has survived, wants to put the ‘Wanderer’ into another body and put herself in Melanie. But Melanie helps Wanderer escape, but they’re the same? So who is helping who??? Melanie/Wanderer is now looking for the last band of humanity which contains her boyfriend, brother and Uncle.

To be honest, I got a little lost in this film. With the ‘is she Melanie or not?’ plot. Her brother and boyfriend take turns in trying to get Melanie to the fore or ask the host to release Melanie. To confuse matters the ‘Wanderer’ falls for another boy. So now she’s being romantic with another.

Perhaps Stephanie Meyer thinks the formula of boy meets girl, girl gets an alien parasite planted inside, girl finds boy, boy tries to get alien out of girl, alien in girl finds another hottie, boy punches hottie, is a sure fire success. But with so many twists I couldn’t keep up – by the end I didn’t care whether Melanie, now dubbed ’Mela-ninny’, was herself or a schizoid alien hybrid who developed a craving for nachos covered in jelly and bananas!

Plus the not so subtle touches for an alien race that’s bent on world domination didn‘t help. A tattoo/mark on the upper arm, chest or back might have given bigger suspense. With bright eyes and personality transplants, they might as well wear billboards ‘I’M AN ALIEN! GET OVER IT!’

Also the leader needed a more sinister name than ‘Seeker’. And I wouldn’t have any of her crew that’s for sure! ‘Numpties R Us’ had a riot trade supplying her with the village idiots. For a superior alien race, I was expecting at least a couple of sensible beings. Asking them to do anything independently is akin to giving the children from Outnumbered free reign. (Although the former would at least have amusing results!)

I think again, a lack of a big name in the main trio didn’t help. Saoirse Ronan as Mela-ninny was wishy washy at best. There’s no way a girl that’s a size zero, could last long in a desert or escape. All the ‘Seeker’ had to do to stop her was snap in her half.

Her brother Jamie is played by Chandler Canterbury, who was okay but great movies are not done by ‘okay’. Jared Howe played the boyfriend Jared. Slightly better, he did show more emotion but the number of times he kept asking ‘Is Melanie in there?’ was so darn frustrating I wanted to yell ‘No, there’s an alien inside her stupid!’. Clearly Melanie was not drawn to him for his brains.

It reminded me of a scene from Victoria Wood’s comedy show. ‘Kimberley have you seen her?’ Remember that? I thought that might have been funny to put in the film! The guy wearing a beret and orange mac like Wood saying, ‘Melanie, have you seen her?’

William Hurt (Lost in Space/Hulk) played Mela-ninny’s uncle and was sadly unable to save it.

The car chases were nothing amazing. The sub plot of Mela-ninny/Wanderer finding out some one (an uncle of one of the other human survivors) performs experiments on extracted hosts was predictable and dull. What is this Law and Order? Now it’s a moral issue???

The love scenes were plain. I’ve seen more steam from my wall paper remover machine! The resonance of Bella and Edward from Twilight was strong, but this couple were so weak, even Steve Zodiac and Dr Venus from Fireball XL5 could beat them!

Now do the voices for Fireball XL5 when you watch this, it’s much better.
‘Gee, is Melanie in there? This sure isn’t boss.’ Jared asks dancing around like a puppet.
‘Oh I don’t know Jared, I just feel so very tired. I need to sleep. Feed Zoonie for me.’
Zzzzzzzzzzzz….

This rubbish gets 3/10 from me. I’m off to watch Twilight. A REAL couple!

Image reproduced from wikipedia.com
Trailer reproduced from YouTube / ENTV

Monsters University: Pixar & the Prequel

a mo

After Toy Story 3’s massive success, despite the trilogies ten year hiatus, Disney Pixar has decided to breathe life into yet another of it’s best creations, Monsters Inc. However will this be a lovingly told, long awaited new chapter? Or is it merely a shameless ploy to exploit nostalgia of the company’s older fans?

My biggest issue with the upcoming film is that it is a prequel. The one question on everyone’s mind at the end of Monsters Inc. was “what happened to Boo?”. It certainly wasn’t “how did Mike and Sully become friends?”. If you told me they met in college I would happily accept that explanation. I would not however sit through an entire film to find out the facts to an answer I quite frankly do not care about.

Going by the trailer Monsters University is essentially the tale of rivalry between the two protagonists of Monsters Inc. It’s your classic American college film in which two unlikely room-mates decide to make the others life a living hell for the duration of their freshman year. Which one of them will come out on top? Neither of them, we already know they become best friends, so this is a case of putting their differences aside in a bid to work together. Whether or not the film will be a success depends on this second plot point, it’s going to have to be pretty spectacular to destroy the mediocre image this film is currently projecting.

Despite it’s rather disappointing trailer, Monsters University is bound to be a sell-out film. Just as with Toy Story 3 not only will it draw in Disney’s target under ten audience it will also bring along those that where ten when the original film came out. University is something this older audience can relate to in they same way they related to Andy outgrowing his childhood toys. Yet whereas Toy Story 3 was a bittersweet goodbye to childhood, Monsters University looks set to disappoint. It’s guaranteed to be an hour and a half of childish pranks and animation clichés.

I may be wrong. Monsters University may be brilliant. After all, this is Pixar and they’re bound to have something up their sleeves, but what made Monsters Inc. such a milestone film for them was that it was a beautiful standalone piece about the monsters in your cupboard. It needed no build up, it worked that we never saw the grown up Boo, it remains a piece of our childhood. A stunning piece of cinema like that needs an equally stunning follow up, one that Monsters University cannot deliver. Though the film is set to appear this July, I will personally avoid tarnishing the original by not going to watch it.

Image reproduced from disney.go.com
Video reproduced from YouTube / DisneyPixar

Festival Guide 2013: T in the Park

The time has come when you are beginning to make your summer plans.  Depending on what stage you are at in your life, these plans will vary from person to person.

One thing that happens every year is the music festival.  We have an extensive choice of festivals worldwide, so whether you stay here in the UK or venture abroad, we are sure you can find something to suit your taste. Join us over the coming weeks as we fill you in with everything you need to know about the music festival.

T-in-the-ParkThis week we begin north, Scotland’s number 1 music festival, T in the Park.  Out in the middle of a nowhere in Kinross-shire, on the second weekend of July, a massive crowd descends on the fields of Balado ready for a packed full weekend of madness and music.  A lot of musicians say that Scotland has the best crowds, this is clear to see when you are amongst the fans that are more than ready to fill their boots with music for the weekend.

This year T in the Park celebrates their 20th birthday, and what a celebration it will be.  With headliners; Mumford and Sons, Rihanna and The Killers, it is sure to be an amazing weekend. There are many things to keep each individual busy whether that be ‘Dressing up Friday’ which has become a tradition where you can make or buy your costume and get into the spirit of the festival from the moment you arrive.  If you’re the thrill seeker of your group then the Fairground could be for you, with the bungee ball and the bomber throwing you through the air or the giant wheel that gives you excellent views of the festival then of course fairground favourites like the dodgems and the waltzers plenty to keep you occupied until your next favourite act hits the stage.

T-in-the-Park-girls

Let’s talk about the music, TITP is known to have a great line-up year after year and often sells out before the headliners are announced. Previous stars to have graced the stage are Eminem, Muse, Jay Z, Kasabian, Coldplay and Foo Fighters.  As mentioned previously this year the headliners are; Mumford and Sons, Rihanna and The Killers. Three major acts are just some of the musical highlights to come over the weekend.  Other acts include The Script, Sterophonics, Emile Sande, Chase and Status, Calvin Harris, Snoop Dog, Alt J and Frank Ocean.

The festival caters for all music tastes from huge artists who play the main stage and the Radio 1/NME stages to smaller acts in the King tuts wah wah hut and the unsigned acts trying to make their break on the T-break stage and the BBC Introducing stage.

T in the Park is a great festival for all and you will be sure to find something that is right up your street so to say.

T-in-the-Park-stage

Join us next time as we move south to cover more of the UK’s best festivals before throwing in some foreign festivals to mix things up.

For full details of the line-up visit http://www.tinthepark.com/line-up.aspx

Tickets cost £194 for a weekend camping ticket for full details on tickets visit http://www.tinthepark.com/tickets.aspx

Images reproduced from cityglobetrotter.com, m-magazine.co.uk and holyroodpr.co.uk

Film Review: Safe Haven

Safe HavenSafe Haven is another book to film adaptation. Now not all adaptations are good. This was okay. I would say the film was middle ground. Interesting but it felt like nothing new.

In fact it struggles from the word go. Josh Duhamel (New Years Eve, Transformers, Life As You Know It) is one of the main stars. Now I was expecting so much more from him, after seeing him in countless film and TV shows – Las Vegas being the main one. But he fell short on this one!

I was very under whelmed by this offering. Julianne Hough plays Erin, whose has an abusive husband who she tries to escape. The plot is very similar with Sleeping With The Enemy starring the wonderful Julia Roberts. You cannot top Sleeping With The Enemy. You shouldn’t even try.

Julia Roberts’ film is like Kellogg’s Cornflakes, the original and best. This film seemed like a supermarket value pack by comparison!

The usual stereotyping of husband being the abuser is restricting, because there’s only one way you go with this line. You could never have a movie that delighted in the practice, so like drugs, the story can only go one path. Now it’s down to the stars.

Unlike Sleeping With The Enemy, this lacked pace, terror and a sympathy for the female lead. Julia Roberts had such emotional range, it was hard to get into a film where the main actress looked as if she was constipated.

Colbie Smulders (Robin – How I Met Your Mother) plays a neighbour Jo. But she offers nothing new, in fact it was like she playing Robin pretending to be Jo. Setting up Erin with a new guy so soon was silly. Oh sorry, Erin is now Katie, and she can recover quickly because she doesn’t seem to mind being set up with Alex. (Josh).

So remember the name change or you might be even more confused! The children were predictable, the girl accepted Katie (not Erin now) and the boy didn’t. It was all happening too soon. Romance, kids… I was expecting her to wear a wedding dress and have a priest on standby!

It might have been funny but this cast weren’t gelling. That was a big problem and why I think the film ended up more like a TV movie than a major suspense film.

It was another cliché that her husband (David Lyons) was a police officer and misusing his powers to beat her and then track her down. I could’ve written this script, heck even my seven year old nephew could have. With so many obvious turns you should get a flashlight as a gift.

The whole ghost angle was just weird. So now we’re expected to believe a ghost has brought Katie (NOT ERIN!) and Alex together? And not just any ghost, why go simple when you can go massive. No, it’s Alex’s dead wife!

Then somehow she’s already written a letter to the woman who will succeed her. Something just isn’t right about that. So why would Alex’s dying wife be writing a letter to a possible successor? I could get her writing to Alex telling him to get on with his life, but to the woman who would be sharing his bed??? Ewwww! Weird!

That might work in a Carry On Film, ‘My husband did like his nipples tickled you know.’ Oh I say…

One good point, the final showdown was good though. But it did not excuse the route it took to get there.

It wasn’t the worst movie I’d ever seen but it won’t be getting a repeat viewing either! I’ll give 5/10 for total lack of imagination but a decent final battle. It would be nice to have a movie bring a new spin to this kind of thing.

And if Julianne Hough thinks she’s the next Julia Roberts, I dread to see how she’d do a remake of Pretty Woman!

Image reproduced from wikipedia.com
Trailer reproduced from YouTube / SafeMovieHaven

The New Age of Computing

“In attempting to construct such (artificially intelligent) machines we should not be irreverently usurping His (God’s) power of creating souls, any more than we are in the procreation of children. RRather we are, in either case, instruments of His will providing mansions for the souls that He creates.” ― Alan Turing

As Windows 8 launched last year, a great deal of hybrid notebooks that are created to benefit from the touch-optimized operating system started to appear in the computing market. Evidently, it appears that the trend will definitely continue well in 2013. The new HP Envy x2 is one of the products which was first presented at CES 2013 back in January and has made its way across the globe earlier this month.

With its smooth metallic colorway, the HP Envy x2’s physical design suits its purpose as an invention under the corporation’s Envy premium series. With a hybrid design that enables it to perform as a tablet as well as a normal notebook when attached to its keyboard, the Envy x2 is equipped with an 11.6-inch IPS touch display with a graphics resolution of 1366×768 and supports up to 5 simultaneous touch points.

volney1

When I interviewed Professor Leonard Adleman, I asked him generally “What motivates you?”

He stated, “I am motivated by the beauty of mathematics.”

When I reviewed this product currently in the market I thought in terms of Applied Mathematics that it was epic for mathematicians that work on practical problems. Most people in one way or the other know how to calculate things whether they are young individuals or in their elderly years. By way of example, whenever someone purchases or sells an item of any sort, he or she utilizes the logical part of the brain as well as its reasoning ability to function in the activity.

In a scenario where a software company desires to have a feasibility study which entails a report that purposes to detail the characteristics that will determine the success or failure of a project, the following is significant to note. The various elements that constitute system requirements are necessary to be looked at and thoroughly assessed. HP Envy x2 is a suitable product to utilize in a situation where there is a ‘High Tech Restaurant & Bar’ which needs a technological upgrade of the establishment. Clearly, in order for any business to operate efficiently on a daily or weekly basis, there are certain individuals that are involved in this process. These persons include:-

  1. The end-users: The prospective users would comprise of: – the chef, possibly kitchen staff, waiters, bartenders, managers and the accounting staff.
  2. The managers: The management of the client comprises of the manager of the kitchen staff and the serving staff.
  3. Indirect beneficiaries: The customers of the client, both average and business are indirectly affected by the system.
  4. Maintenance and Support People: Any Software Development Company and its technical staff will continue to serve and support this system launch for the client.
  5. Regulators and standards people: This includes a Systems Auditor.

Volney2

Furthermore, it is critical that there are techniques of Elicitation such as:-

  1. Interviews: Business data, business practices, business goals, technical information and skill levels of users can best be extracted by the method of interviewing.
  2. Observation: Physical environment, business practices, skill levels of users and interfaces with other systems are all best obtained through this process.
  3. Scenarios or walkthroughs: Technical information and business practices are best attained through this way.
  4. Questionnaires: These are best used when gathering business data even though they are not always 100% correct.
  5. Brainstorming: This is good for understanding what the clients’ preferences are.

 

If a Software Development Company has decided to use the Spiral Model of RE to dictate the different stages to be used, then it would be wise to implement a system where each table in the ‘High Tech Restaurant & Bar’ has this product for the use of the customers. The sequence of stages include:-

Quadrant 1: Information gathering makes use of the aforementioned elicitation techniques and provides an understanding of what is to be built.

Quadrant 2: Analysis and modeling is the pulling together of data from elicitation to determine whether additional information is needed.

Quadrant 3: The purpose of feasibility is to decipher the success of the project. This stage is fundamental.

Quadrant 4: The feasibility document is presented to the stakeholders for validation of the requirements’ specification.

In the technological upgrade of such an establishment would require this sequence of stages as in the case of the product HP Envy x2.

Volney3

THE OUTPUT

The output of Requirements Engineering would be constructed as a contractual agreement. This agreement would consist of the client having specified their needs and how the Software Company would achieve it. The Systems Specification document would comprise of the requirements needed by the designer. The Evolutionary model should be used to construct a product as mentioned before to meet the needs of the client. This feasibility assessment has been conducted to confirm the practicality of this system upgrade.

THE FEASIBILITY ASSESSMENT

From my perspective, this is a new endeavor. Based on case studies, it can be done. With the upgrading of the network, installation of hardware and software as well as proper training, the solution to the client is viable.

With the results from Elicitation, the upgrade in ‘High Tech Restaurant & Bar’ in its data processing and other services is feasible.

Given that the software company is creating an additive to the current system, the input information required already exists. In order for this upgrade to be successful, new hardware and software would need to be purchased and changes would have to be made to the existing. Despite the intricacies of this project, it can be delivered in accordance to a detailed project plan. Training of users, changes in the hardware and practicing of safety procedures would eradicate possible dependencies. As a result, the arrangement would be used at its fullest potential.

Wine of the Month – April 2013

April is the first full month of spring – a time when the grapes for this year’s wine will start to burst as buds on the vines.

It is also the month of Earth Day, St George’s Day and the London marathon, so take your pick. Also, April Fools Day and the cruellest month, according to TS Eliot.

St George himself was a Greek who became an officer in the Roman army before slaying the dragon and achieving sainthood. As he is the patron saint of shepherds, it is only appropriate that we should celebrate his feast day with lamb and some appropriate wines.

Bodega Mengoba, Breza Blanco 2011 (£11.35 Joseph Barnes Wines)

From the Bierzo region in northwest Spain, the vines (mainly Godello and Doña Blanca) are grown at an altitude of 550m giving both freshness and depth to the wine.

Vinified in a single barrel and aged in 500 litre foudres, there is some subtle oak influence; a pale lemon in colour with greenish tints. Scents of lemon-edged chalky fruit. On the palate, fresh with a pronounced minerality. Bright, creamy tropical fruit flavours and rounded in texture.

The finish is lingering.

Columbia Crest, Two Vines Cabernet Savignon, Washington State (£6.99 Bacchanalia) 

This US Cabernet Sauvignon is from Washington State -much further north than California with a more moderate-climate feel as a result.

Ruby in the glass, it has aromas of plummy fruit, mocha and oaky spice.

The palate shows ripe bramble fruit with good acidity and a lick of spicy, toasty oak; it feels soft and harmonious but with good savoury underpinnings and a firmness on the finish.

Handsome and well-groomed in an all-American sort of way, this is Richie Cunningham – no rough edges, no hidden depths, just a good ol’ boy. 

A bin-end in limited quantities, it’s just £6.99 and something of a bargain.

Magpie Estate ‘The Thief’ Mourvedre-Grenache Rosé (£11.95 Noel Young Wines)

From Noel’s own vineyard in Australia, this is not so much a rose wine as a red without tannins.

And with the sun finally coming out and temperatures possibly into double figures this weekend, it’s time finally to shake off the winter funk and party like it’s spring.

Made from the classic Languedoc grapes of Mourvedre and Grenache, with a touch of Cab Franc thrown in, it is a cranberry-red in the glass and has a smokey spice and soft red fruits on the nose.

The palate is mouthfilling with more soft red fruit and a wonderfully food-friendly savouriness. Perfect for these sunny-but-still-chilly days.

Match with picnic food and especially cold meats, or any spicy food with tomato.

La Chamiza Malbec 2012 Mendoza (£8.50, Cambridge Wine Merchants)

And if the reappearance of the sun has convinced you to dust down the barbecue, this spicy Argentinian red from Cambridge Wine Merchants is just perfect.

Dark purple in the glass, there is smokey spice and ripe plummy fruit on the nose.

The palate is ripe and spicy, with more pure plummy, black cherry fruit, fresh acidity and savouriness. Long on the palate and well balanced, the tannins are mouthfilling and perfectly ripe with a pleasant savoury firmness on the finish.

This is a wine geek’s barbecue red – ripe, fruity and quaffable, yet supremely well-made from really high-quality fruit.

Match with some smokey barbecue meats or, failing that, peppery steak.

Recommended Wine

The Malbec from Cambridge Wine Merchants and the Magpie Estate “The Thief” both score highly as well-made wines, but my recommendation this month is the lovely Two Vines Cab – available only in limited quantities, it is a handsome and cultured American at a bargain price.

Links

Bacchanalia – http://www.winegod.co.uk/

Cambridge Wine Merchants – http://www.cambridgewine.co.uk/

Joseph Barnes Wines – http://www.josephbarneswines.com/

Noel Young Wines – http://www.nywines.co.uk/

Image credit: St George cross: http://beardedgit.com/?p=423, Richie Cunningham: http://www.retrocrush.com/archive2008/redheads/

Cottage Self Catering: An Excellent Option

Cottage self catering an excellent option

There are many accommodation options for a family wanting to go on holiday. Some people prefer a hotel; it is a chance for mum to forget cooking and washing up for a couple of weeks. However, eating in the same hotel every night can be a little boring. There is the adventure of camping or caravanning as well, but an excellent idea is to book a cottage with a specialist company offering a number of different locations.

No need to cook

Mum doesn’t need to cook because in most tourist areas there are plenty of places to go for meals of all styles and qualities. When it comes to places like the Lake District it is nice to have the freedom to relax one day and be active the next; perhaps dine out one night and do some cooking the next.

A real specialist holiday company will cater for all budgets and a range of occupancy. The information that companies now include on their websites is very comprehensive. Ecommerce is as strong in the travel sector as any other sector and people wanting to book their holiday online need to be able to see the accommodation that is on offer as well as telling potential clients about themselves and the services they offer.

cottage

Destination choices

Cumbria Cottages by Lake Cottage Holiday is a good example of a company that can provide accommodation in a number of places throughout the Lake District. It is an area that offers so much, with lots to see and do. People return time and again, some with a favourite place that they want to visit each year, others understanding the quality of the whole Region and wanting something new each year.

Duke of Portland Boathouse courtesy of Lake Cottage Holiday

There is always a lake nearby or some Fells for the walkers, market towns and villages for shopping and a taste of history of the area. Little industry remains now; it is very much a tourist orientated area at most times of the year. There is a slate mine that is still producing and offers underground tours for a family that wants something different. Most are just happy to enjoy the fresh air.

Plenty of choice

The Lake District is very accessible with the UK road network though travelling around the smaller roads may mean leaving a little extra time for the journey; it is a minor inconvenience and there are plenty of quiet areas for those that want to keep away from the crowds.

When it comes to a Lake District holiday the Internet is a wonderful source of information. Tourism is the number one industry and the area is keen to let everyone know what they have to offer. Research can be done fairly easily to see what the family wants to do on holiday and then the cottage booked after making a decision on a suitable location. Anyone deciding on this wonderful National Park will not regret it and is likely to return home wanting a return trip.

Film Review: The Guilt Trip

The Guilt TripThe Guilt Trip stars Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand. Stand by to be amazed. Although the basic of the plot (a man who ends up on a road trip with his mother) sounds lame and something reminiscent of a National Lampoon film, this is far funnier.

Seth plays the son Alan Brewster. Barbra plays the mother, because Alan’s always away on business trips, she phones him practically every five minutes – ‘are you alright?’. Then she arranges all her friends to come over after he gets back. Even though her poor son’s still jet lagged from his flight!

She’s so overbearing. But that’s why this film works. I myself have a ‘fussy’ mother and I was smiling and giggling all the way! Especially when the guilt trip card gets played. Then when he suggests she starts dating, he has to go with her. Agrrrh!

Her therapy is her library friend Neeta and Mom’s been talking to her about her son’s lack of girlfriends. I cringed with him. Oooh!! No, not the girlfriend queries!

Then Mom drops a bombshell, she’s named her son after her first love! This prompts Alan to try and find him. Thinking if he can hook his mother up, she’ll stop fussing over him. He’s so determined he’s prepared to have her on an eight day road trip to drive to San Francisco. Stopping for business meetings en-route.

But this backfires as Mom starts getting into his meetings and putting her ideas forward, all in all spelling trouble!!! What was he thinking???

This movie has it all, they end up in all sorts of places from strip clubs, mom gets drunk at another bar and Alan has to defend her, but by far the best was an all you can eat diner, where his Mom tries to win a competition by eating a huge dinner in under an hour so they win prizes! Oh my goodness, that was so funny!

It’s a delight. Really worthy and the onscreen chemistry was wonderful.

I’m giving this movie 10/10. It will make you think about the dynamics of your own parents and it made me appreciate mine more, because it helped me to see their viewpoint.

Image reproduced from wikipedia.com
Trailer reproduced from YouTube / movietrailers

Six Nations Review – 2013

6nations2013

March 2013 saw the exciting climax of the Northern Hemisphere’s most prolific rugby event – RBS Six Nations Rugby. Albeit the final table shows a vast range in class between certain teams, for example Wales’s four wins to France’s one, it cannot be said that the quality of rugby in the 2013 tournament has not been of the highest standard for each of the participating nations.

The biggest turnaround team of the year has to be Italy. Ask anybody with half a mind for rugby, and they would immediately tell you that the wooden spoon contenders are either the Italians, or the Scots. Perhaps the Italians’ final position was not as good as the Scottish contingent, who themselves recorded two consecutive wins for the first time, but the heart and character they put into every match was equal to any of their peers. They perhaps should have been more clinical against a lacklustre English side, and they could have done better when playing at Murrayfield, but the Italians’ overall results show just how far they have come in a decade of competitive international rugby.

The biggest flop of the tournament, now matter how you look at it, is surely Les Bleus. The French team, who only one and a half years ago came runners-up in the world cup, were constantly lacking composure, making poor decisions, and getting riled-up unnecessarily when they should have been staying calm and seeing off their opposition. Yes, there were some moments of beauty from the likes of Fofana and Picamoles, but these flourishes are not enough to make anybody a world-class side. Some may say that the Irish were more deserving of the foot of the table, but comparing their countless injuries to the fresh legs of the French, it is only fair to declare that French rugby has hit a new low.

And now, to the moment that will be talked about for years to come: Wales’s annihilation of England. It was, for the English, eighty minutes of pain, anguish and heartbreak. For the majority of viewers, it was a marvellous match where, unquestionably, the best team won. England seemed to be shaken at the prospect of a grand slam title, whereas the Welsh, playing on home turf, did not look for a second like they were going to falter. They may have had a bad run of results in the summer, but now, under just one manager, they are a side that will contend any team for a winning result.

Overall, the 2013 Six Nations had a lot to offer. There may have been less tries, and less one-sided events, but that goes to show how far each team has come in their rugby development. If, in the years to come, other developing rugby sides such as Spain or Holland were to be included in the tournament, it would only act as a benefit to world rugby as a whole.

Image reproduced from wsc.co.uk

The Dating Diary of Miss X – Chapter 7

In Cha pter 7 of The Dating Diary of Miss X, our very single and very anonymous Miss X talks about how things went with Mr LinkedIn from Chapter 6.

It was very bizarre as I contacted Mr LinkedIn just before Christmas on a social network site as a new contact and he was in touch from the off. It was like we had not lost touch at all. He was most interested by my status of single or not.  He was most interested as to who I’d been out with over the past few years and most interested in my sex life. Yes that was quite odd but he was always a bit odd. Another reason why I went off him then (which I remembered recently) was the fact that we hadn’t actually got to that intimate side as he would somehow put me off quite easily. The only way to really seduce a lady is to be charming and not mention sex every 5 minutes. He would mention all sorts of intimate things without us even having slept together. It was weird.  When we were facebook friends he’d do the same. Even this time he told me he wanted me in stockings as “tights were the devils work”   I do concur with this statement but could he put a stocking in it until we’ve at least met up a few more times and then perhaps….

We tried to meet up pre-Christmas but of course it didn’t happen due to parties and the like. Over Christmas/New Year we were in touch and he was very quick on the texts plus we arranged to meet up early in the New Year once he was back at work. I was working a bit in between Christmas/New Year in my new PR and Marketing role.

We met up once since the New Year and it was a great date. The first time we were due to meet up he stood me up!  Well he had to “work late” I took the benefit of the doubt and believed it. I didn’t want to as after cancelling the date due to a “conference call” he called/texted and generally pestered me again for a date so I agreed to one more chance.

We met up for the first time in 5 years and had a great evening. I felt an instant attraction to him and it was like old times. The venue he picked was ideal: Gordon’s Wine Bar on Villiers Street which is the most perfect first/second/tenth date venue in London. What makes it so perfect is the intimacy of the place: it is such a non-secret venue, very sexy, dark, dingy and oh so perfect. Their red wines are to die for and you can easily get lost there literally!  Love the cheese boards and sharing meats too.

So date went really well. We reminisced over old times, old dates from the Agency. He was still upset at my terrible matchmaking skills having sent him on some awful dates (I smirked to myself) but also told me about his recent dalliances with ladies. He was most interested in my situation and recent one. I actually didn’t have much to say although there was a dalliance at the beginning of the year with another ex friend from My Single Friend.  He asked me when my last encounter was and I of course lied and told him last year but was very sketchy on that (none of his business, after all).

I really liked him: what I like about him is his humour, fun, intelligence, good outlook and enjoys life. He is now 40 and I had the feeling he was also ready to meet someone.

However for some unknown reason we still haven’t managed to meet up in around 2 months.

He started out being pretty good on texts/emails but “work has been busy”. I really feel he want’s to meet up but it just hasn’t happened. I have resigned myself to the fact that we may not meet again and have been busy myself with long days and some evenings.

However he still sends the odd email which is so odd as he still refers to me in that naughty way and always checks to see I’m behaving. It’s a bit odd. He has since gone skiing as it was “ski season” and he’s busy again. Whatever!

Check back next Friday for Chapter 8 of The Dating Diary of Miss X

Film Review: Trance

Trance“Trance” is a film about a man having fun. It’s not one of the characters though. It’s not even one of the three main cast members, who are clearly enjoying being part of a quick-moving puzzle. It’s the director, Danny Boyle. He gets everything he wants; the stylish music video-like visuals, the pumping soundtrack, the complex plot. It’s all rather joyous. However it’s best you don’t focus too much on logic, or look for sympathetic characters. It will drive you crazy.

It starts off with the tone of a heist movie. Simon (James McAvoy) is our narrator, explaining how art heists have become more complicated over the years as security at auction houses have heightened. Simon works at a high-class auction house where paintings worth millions go under the hammer. During an auction on a painting surpassing £25 million, Franck (Vincent Cassel) and his gang burst onto the scene and steal the painting from Simon when he tries to take it to safety. In the process, Franck belts Simon across the head with his gun, leaving him near death on the floor.

It’s not really much of a plot spoiler, but Simon was involved in the theft; an inside job. Franck though soon discovers that the painting is missing, and so tracks down Simon upon his release from hospital. Simon says he’s lost his memory, and has no idea where the painting is, or why he would have taken it. Franck isn’t entirely convinced with the amnesia story, so starts removing Simon’s finger nails with a razor just to be sure.

The torture doesn’t work, and Franck is convinced Simon has amnesia. Turns out if people stick to their story while their finger nails are being removed, they’re probably telling the truth. Franck hands Simon an IPad (lots of Apple products on display here) with the yellow pages on, and asks him to pick out a hypnotherapist. Simon picks Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) out seemingly at random. Simon says he picked her because he likes her name. After Simon goes for a few hypnotism sessions however, Elizabeth soon figures out that something is going on.

Simon, Franck, and Elizabeth are our three main characters, and the story revolves around the way they interact with each other. All three have their likeable moments, but soon they shift into crazy territory, before bordering on plain scary. There’s very little reason we should empathise or trust them, but Danny Boyle is aware of that. He doesn’t want us to like them, because then there’s a chance we may believe their side of the story, which would completely detonate any chance of a twist.

There is a twist. In fact there are several. Quite a lot of them, mainly during the final act, are a little silly, but Boyle’s intention is just to create vibrant pulp fiction. He delivers on that, but because he wants to get as much in as possible, it pushes things a little too far on occasion. The more serious revelations that occur towards the conclusion feel like they’ve been forced in, and don’t really have a place in a pulp fiction story. Some people may also find the final scene a little too upbeat considering what has happened previous.

It’s a risk Danny Boyle is willing to take though. He keeps things going at a break neck speed; something he clearly delights in. It’s certainly not a coincidence that many of his most famous scenes involve people running. It’s clear that he is having a delirious amount of fun making this; enjoying the purity of the cinematic experience by playing with visuals and the narrative. Yes, it is rather hollow and all about the surface, but it’s still one of the most enjoyable films you’ll see this year.

Image reproduced from imdb.com
Video reproduced from YouTube / joblomovienetwork

Theatre Review: Midnight Tango

Midnight Tango Picture
Midnight Tango, starring Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone from Strictly Come Dancing, is a great show from start to finish, from the breathtaking dance scenes right through to the comedy of the two bar owners.

They used every inch of the stage, even an upstairs balcony. There was also a real band. Miguel Angel was the main singer, the theme was Spanish and although I couldn’t understand the words, I was spellbound.

Argentina has a rich history. It might’ve once been overlooked by the Spanish Empire. A great land with good soil, weather and resources. The only thing lacking was workers. The government got people from Europe to come over with offers of free food and housing for the first week. Many came, men outnumbered women sky rocketing the population. The only way they could get dates was through dancing. That dance was the tango. The women loved it and so learning it was a very good idea!

With so many men, women were very choosy. You had to stand out or end up dateless as word would spread around. Talk about tough!

As the men had to practise so much, they became good at teaching, as they learnt both sides (leading and following). Once the tango started spreading through the rest of the world, the craze set it. By 1913 global domination had occurred, only Word War 1 interrupted as communications were lost, leading to the discovery of dances like the foxtrot.

After watching this show, I can see why the tango is so magical. It’s very rare that I’ve enjoyed a show that has no dialogue at all. It’s all music and dancing. But it doesn’t matter, the music is the language. I wanted to get yup and dance on the stage with them. The songs were so rich in flavour and depth. Like a strong espresso, you are left buzzed.

The most famous of the songs was ‘Sway’ which the likes of Michael Buble have covered plus in 1999 a group called Shaft did the same.

The main story is there’s a fight for the fair hand of Flavia’s character Sofia. Vincent’s character Pablo loves Sofia but he gets a rival in the shape of fellow dancer Ricardo.

The bar owner’s wife sang a song ‘Temptation’ and that was very good. I’m glad that wasn’t comic, she had a great voice.

The second act kept the pace of the first, more comedy moments from the husband and wife gave good chuckles. Although again there’s no speaking, they relied on facial expression and timing. It’s was perfectly executed.

Can the husband get in his wife’s good books? Who will win Flavia?

There’s a fight between Pablo and Ricardo, a great dance routine really helped define the tension and anger of the two men. The chorography was just mind blowing. The other dancers kept the flow and although they were milling around in the background, they were not a distraction. It melded into one glorious and breathtaking dance.

I will give this 10/10. This is one stage show you should add onto your list. Viva Midnight Tango!

Image by grandtheatre.info
History facts taken from the programme purchased.

Roger Ebert: In Memoriam

Roger Ebert 1942-2013I first became aware of Roger Ebert when I was 17. I was studying film studies at college, and was required to do a presentation on a particular director or genre. I chose to do my presentation on Steven Spielberg. Given that it was to be my first time speaking alone in front of an audience for 10-15 minutes I was a little nervous.

We were required to find quotes from film critics and theorists to back up our arguments. After a little internet searching, I came across a man who wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times. His name seemed to pop up on Google searches a lot, so I figured he must have a bit of a reputation. I found his website, rogerebert.com, and was amazed with what I found.

No one has been able to write with as much joy and passion as Roger Ebert. Here was a man who allowed himself to sink into the magic of cinema, and then once the credits started rolling, pulled himself out in order to put his thoughtful and unique observations onto the page.

Roger Ebert was born on June 18th 1942 in Illinois. He became interested in journalism in a very early age while at high school, when he started writing for science fiction fanzines. He attended the University of Chicago, hoping to get a PhD and seek work as a freelance writer. He started working for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1966 as a feature writer, until a year later he was offered a job as the newspaper’s film critic.

It all started with a favourable review of a Russ Meyer film, a man he would later become good friends with. During his early years as a film critic, he wrote a few movie scripts for Meyer, including “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.” The film was very poorly received upon it’s release, and Ebert regularly joked that he was the brains behind the film, which has now become a cult classic. His other films for Russ Meyer included “Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens”, which was classed as part of the exploitation genre. Ebert referred to Meyer’s films as “skin-flicks.” Ebert’s films were a clear sign of a man embracing the sheer thrill and enjoyment of the medium.

Roger Ebert became such a unique voice in film criticism that it wouldn’t be honest to say he formed the consensus on movies. In fact it was fairly common for him to have a completely different opinion to his colleagues. When “Jurassic Park” was released with wide spread critical acclaim for its visuals, Ebert was one of the few people who sounded sceptical about making a movie purely “to show us dinosaurs.” In one of the more recent incidents, Ebert received a lot of negative comments when he gave a full four out of four stars for the Nicholas Cage film “Knowing.” Critic consensus said it was a disappointment. Watch the film, then read Ebert’s review – you’ll see he was right.

He was a man who certainly embraced his right to free speech and creativity. His negative reviews were often so witty and scorching that they were compiled into a book, wonderfully titled “Your Movie Sucks.” One rather infamous review was for the low budget rape-revenge shocker “I Spit On Your Grave.” In it he tore into the idea that it was somehow a feminist movie, and gave a rather disturbing account of his horror when some male members of the audience during the screening actually started cheering the male characters on during the rape scenes. His last great zero star rant was given to the atrocious comedy “Movie 43”, where Ebert joked about his dismay when he took a pill someone told him would make him forget about the movie, and it didn’t work.

It was in television though where Ebert is widely thought of as a pioneer. He took to the screens with fellow critic Gene Siskel, where the pair frequently clashed in hilarious exchanges of opinion. After Gene Siskel died in 1999, Ebert started co-hosting his show with his close friend Richard Roeper.

His television career however came to an end in 2002 when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He had surgery, but later had to undergo a second operation in 2006. Complications left him unable to speak, and at one stage was in such a critical condition his doctors said he was “a breath away from death.” Remarkably, Ebert recovered and continued writing movie reviews, slowly returning to his usual 5-6 reviews per week output. He simply refused to allow his life threatening cancer to take away the joys in his life. That’s certainly a quality we can all admire.

2012 was the busiest year of Roger Ebert’s career, writing a massive 300 reviews, two blog posts a week, and several other newspaper and magazine columns. On Monday 1st April, he wrote his final ever piece on his blog where he spoke about “taking a leave of presence” to improve his health, and spoke of all the projects he was planning for the future. He passed away on Thursday 4th April.

Roger Ebert was one of a kind. There never will be a writer who soaks up the passion and ingenuity of the world’s most influential industry like he did. Thanks to the internet, his thousands of reviews will remain online for millions to be mesmerised and inspired. And so with that in mind, we will simply conclude with his concluding paragraph from his final blog post:

“So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.”

Image reproduced from blogs.suntimes.com

La Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim – Alsace

Dating back to 1957, La Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim is a co-operative of 230 growers based in the sunnier, warmer part of southern Alsace that typically produces riper, fuller wines.

Alsace, with its Germanic heritage, generally produces single-variety wines labelled as such – these two wines, however, are blends with generic names.

Priced as everyday wines, both have a beautifully ripe-yet-dry easy-drinking style that will match well with a range of foods – the only question, then, is “Who’s more bootlicious ?”

Who is more bootylicious?

Black Tie (€10 ex-cellar)

A blend of Pinot Gris and Riesling, this wine shows off the character of these two grapes with the racy minerality and ripe citrus fruit of the Riesling and the ripe orchard fruit  and spiciness of the Pinot Gris.

With sweet-sour citrus, good minerality and savouriness, it is a somewhat Mosel-esque lovely drinker.

Match with Alsatian cuisine, such as pork, tarte flambee or coq au Riesling.

Pfaff Gentil (€6 ex-cellar) 

An undisclosed blend, this has the raciness of Riesling, the spice of Pinot Gris and just a touch of heady Gewurz perfume.

Golden, sandy yellow in the glass, on the nose there are ripe orchard and tropical fruits and a hint of spice.

The palate is ripe and spicy with good, rounded acidity – a zingy mouthful of luscious exotic tropical fruit and spice. Good savoury underpinnings too – and a perfectly balanced finish.

Curvaceous and beautiful, yet also lithe and athletic, match with a fish carpaccio – gravadlax or, even better, tuna with chilli and ginger.

Six Months On And Local Charity Has Supported 70 Families

Six months on from its opening last September The Sick Children’s Trust’s Chestnut House in Cambridge has supported an astonishing 70 families in need.

Alan and Ronnie

Chestnut House is based at The Rosie Hospital in Cambridge and is run by The Sick Children’s Trust. The charity’s Vice President Esther Rantzen opened the house last year and since then families from across the UK have stayed with the charity which provides free high quality ‘Home from Home’ accommodation to families of sick babies being treated. The longest stay to date by a family has been 61 days.

One mum who has stayed at the facility and since returned home is 27 year old Kayleigh Thorne from Newport, Essex. She said: “Our son Ronnie was born at just 27 weeks weighing only 2lbs 2ounzes. He suffered from breathing problems which meant he had to be ventilated at birth and also treated for an infection due to him being so premature. We were miles away from home and didn’t know what to do until we heard about The Sick Children’s Trust. Already having a three year old, Archie, as well at the time as being a new mother meant I was very vulnerable and in particular those first few hours of Ronnie’s life were critical but having my family all in one area was the most important thing that got me through it all.

“My partner Andy and I stayed at the house with Archie for three weeks whilst Ronnie underwent treatments until he was deemed strong enough to be transferred back to our local hospital. However within a week of Ronnie’s transfer he developed Necrotizing Enterocolitis, a condition usually affects premature babies where the intestines become infected and can begin to die. So once again we found ourselves back at Chestnut House again for a few days before returning home for a week before returning to the charity’s second house Acorn House where we stayed until Ronnie was allowed to come home on 12th December. Staying at the charity’s house was a god send during this time. Without its support I don’t know what we would have done, in particular, Alan, the house manager made me smile of days I felt utter despair. I am so grateful to them.”

Since opening Chestnut House has provided support for families of premature and special care babies who otherwise would have nowhere else to stay. The ‘Home from Home’ 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. It can support more than 300 families every year.

Alan Booth Manager at Chestnut House said: “Unfortunately Kayleigh’s story is not unique. Every day we have mums and dads come to the charity looking for somewhere to stay and we do our best to provide them with all the practical and emotional support we can to get them through this stressful time. The house has been full to capacity since opening and I am delighted that we have reached this milestone and helped so many families in need.

“Kayleigh’s was one of the first families to stay in the house and its wonderful to see how well all the family is doing now, especially Ronnie who has grown so much.”

Amanda Ogilvy-Stuart, clinical director for neonatal services, said: “Chestnut House is an excellent new facility for parents whose babies are being cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit. We recognise that this can be a stressful experience, but having Chestnut House located just downstairs means they can be on hand 24-7 and be more involved with their baby’s care, when appropriate.”