Festival Guide 2013: V Festival

V-FESTIVALIf there’s ever that one person that the world wants to see, then you will find them at this year’s V Festival. This independent woman took some time out last year to have a baby but she comes storming back this year to cities and festivals all over the world. Who am I talking about? Well it’s none other than Queen B herself, Mrs Carter, Beyoncé!

Tickets sold out within minutes to all of her tour dates, and if you were lucky enough you may just have caught yourself arguably the most wanted tour tickets ever. If you weren’t one of those lucky ones, then maybe you were when it came to getting tickets to V Festival this year. The organisers of the festival announced earlier this year that Beyoncé is to headline the Saturday night of the weekend festival so you can imagine the excitement that fans felt.

beyonce virginmediaV festival is a subsidiary of Richard Branson’s multi-million pound company Virgin. This year it is in popular demand due the fact Queen B is headling, but there also some other acts to tide you over while you wait for the performance of the weekend. Calvin Harris, Sterophonics, Rita Ora, Of Monsters and Men and The Fratellis are just some of the artists taking to the stage over the weekend with many more still to be announced. The festival runs from 17th to 18th August so is ideal to end your summer. The festival runs from two parks Hylands Park near Chelmsford and Westin Park near Westin-under Lizard over the weekend so you can chose where you would like to go for an amazing weekend with one of the biggest stars in the world. As with all festivals in the UK you have to prepare for any weather Mother Nature might throw at you. Make sure you get your willies ready and waterproof jacket in case the summer is a wash out but it shouldn’t dampen your spirit with the amazing Beyoncé taking to the stage.

We all know that, though it will be nice to see the other acts, the one who everyone wants to see is Beyonce. So if you can, then you should try hard to get tickets to this hugely popular musical event of the year.

Tickets are sold from reputable sources. You can find out more on http://www.vfestival.com/tickets/official-ticket-outlets

Tickets start from £89 for day ticket and £185 for a weekend camping ticket.

Theatre Review: Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing - Stage Show
Dirty Dancing comes to the stage. I definitely wanted to see this. Dirty Dancing is only one of three films that’s always in my top ten from the 1980s. Could this ‘Be My Baby’? or become a ‘Wipe-out’?

If you’ve never ever seen the film? Why not?!

Basically it’s coming of age story for our heroine Baby Houseman who meets Johnny Castle at a holiday park in the summer of 1963. Her father wants her to change the world but only on his terms and when she becomes involved with Johnny – it’s trouble!

Paul-Michael Jones and Jennifer Winternitz take over the roles of Johnny Castle and Baby Houseman. From the first scene Jennifer and Paul-Michael did an amazing job playing the lovebirds from different classes.

I loved Paul-Michael’s accent and his dancing was thrilling. Jennifer was able to bring a sweet naivety yet sassiness to the role of Baby. I loved her learning to dance.

The stage show did a fantastic job of keeping mostly to the film. The only major omission I could see was no Mrs. Schumacher, there was only a Mr. Schumacher (charmingly played by Tony Stansfield).

Nicky Griffiths played Penny, and all three leads did a great turn keeping the dance routines alive and energetic. There was the Mambo, the staff area where Dirty Dancing itself is performed in secret. Baby gets a shock when she offers to carry a watermelon to help Billy, one of the staff she likes. This is where she gets to speak to Johnny and utter the best chat up line ever, ‘I carried a watermelon.’

Humour came from Stefan Menaul who played Neil Kellerman, the ‘dad dancing’ and awful jokes were just superb! He looked like he was having a lot of fun.

The way they got over Johnny and Baby practicing their dancing in the woods and lake was very imaginative.

Nearly all the major songs also return with a couple of new ones. I enjoyed the differences, as what works on film might not on work on stage. I don’t think an exact word for word, scene for scene would’ve worked. These are different people and they must be allowed to bring their own personalities out.

I believe the actress who was playing Lisa might’ve been one of the understudies, Tara Verloop? She played her perfectly, I loved her song and routine in the run up to the Kellerman’s talent show!

The stage props were excellent and I loved the idea of a rotating circle in the middle to help with moving scenery, plus the way the doors would come out. There was either a projector or TV screens that helped with the splendid mountain views.

Everyone pitched in and it just made an enjoyable afternoon show for all involved.

This is one of those times, where lack of a ‘big’ name has no impact on whether the show is a hit or miss. The cast gelled so well and made me believe I was in Kellerman’s.

There was some great singing too and I predict a lot of the cast will become stars and household names.

10/10 from me for this extravaganza. I’VE had the time of my life!

Image by chewingthescenery.com

You’ve Graduated! Now What?! – Part 2

Graduated Now WhatA career path is an excellent choice after all you have studied for years to get the qualification in your chosen field of interest. Getting your foot in the door straight after university is a wise idea as you can get experience and really chase the career you want from day one.

However, if you chose the other path of taking some time out to decide what you want from life then this is also a great choice. You can enhance your life and really find out what you want from life and there are many options you can take. Whether that be a round the world trip, volunteering or simply just relaxing, it is a good idea to plan well and be prepared. It’s exciting to try something new and explore the world. Whilst this is good and you should always know how to keep safe and secure on your adventures. Always check that your source is from a reputable place and any agencies that require travel are backed up with ATOL and ABTA as well as ensuring that you have the correct insurance that will cover you in all cases. Most of all be safe and use your instincts to judge whether something is good or not, it is usually right. That aside, let’s get talking about all the exciting things you can do in a year out from the responsibilities life can bring.

If you chose to travel then you have a whole world to explore. Perhaps you always wanted to go to America and do Route 66 or dip your feet in the Pacific Ocean or Indian Ocean whilst soaking up the sun in Australia. How about a ride on an elephant or being a wildlife care taker where your days are looking after kangaroos or swimming with dolphins? Sounds amazing right? Whatever you chose to do you can be sure that it will give you a whole new perspective on life. You will grow as a person and discover what you really want from life. There are many companies who can help you plan and organise your year out such as Bunac, Trek America and PGL.

Have you ever thought about experiencing a new culture first hand, learning the traditions and living like the citizens? If you like children and have some experience with them (babysitting a sibling is fine) then a good way of soaking up a culture is to Au Pair. You can do this all over the world and there are many agencies that work with families and are fully checked so you are sure you will be safe and have the time of your life. If America is the culture you’re interested in then Au Pair in America is a very experienced and trusted agency that have been helping young women have a year of a lifetime for over 25 years. The process is thorough and safe so you know that you are well looked after. You sign up online and begin payments (which are very little for what you get) then you are matched to families who meet your requirements. You then spend some time getting to know some families who contact you before making a decision on who you are going to live with for the year. During your time in America you are giving an orientation in New York before you fly to your family and begin a year of a lifetime. You take care of the family’s children and get pocket money of roughly $200 per week which is yours to do as you wish as the family take care of all your food and bills.

Someone who knows all about spending time out is Emily from Sussex. She took a year out in 2008 to do Au Pair in America. It was an exciting time for her and a decision she has never looked back on. Emily began her journey on August 4th 2008; she boarded a plane to New York where she would spend 3 days on orientation before heading to Atlanta Georgia for her year of a lifetime. She got the chance to live with an American family and was treated like an older sister to the kids she looked after. She had her own apartment in the basement of a luxurious house in a picturesque neighbourhood and loved every minute of her time there. Emily told us ‘If someone is looking to gain independence and experience a new culture then this is the perfect way to do it. I had the time of my life there and would highly recommend anyone thinking of doing a similar thing to grab it with both hands.’

This is just one of a thousand options you can take on your year out. The world is your oyster and you can choose to explore it in your very own unique way. So if you are thinking of taking time out to travel you should investigate all of your options. The same applies to that of volunteering; there are many companies that deal with opportunities to volunteer either here in the UK or abroad. As will the career path, you also need to be prepared that things won’t always go to plan and sometimes situations may arise which may lead you in a different direction. You need to be wise and have your wits about you especially if you are going half way across the world on your own and you don’t know the culture. Remember every country is different and although the UK and the USA have similarities, the cultures are very different and the way the Americans do things can be very different and you may find yourself in dangerous situations. So always do your research and do the best planning you can to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable adventure.
This is an exciting time in your life, you are taking a large step from being a student to being a grown up. You should take it with both hands and go running into your chosen path. The road may be smooth but most likely you will run into potholes or come up against dead ends but do not give up. Life is a journey and we learn the most when times get tough and they make us stronger. It is good to have ambition and that drive to succeed; it’s what is going to make you great.

Plan, prepare and do your research. You will achieve great things if you do this. Graduation is just the beginning of a long road to achieving the life goals you want and if you let it, it will be a fantastic adventure.

A Weekend in Prague

Forget country cottage weekends in the UK; if you really want to broaden your horizons, the only way is Prague. The Czech capital is fast becoming one of Europe’s trendiest city break destinations, thanks to its jazz scene and strong pub culture, but there’s also plenty of history to uncover once you know where to look.

Prague by Night

Prague by Night

Day 1

Morning: Getting to grips with the Old Town

Many of Prague’s most talked about sights are in this part of the city, such as the Astronomical Clock at the Old Town Hall, Franz Kafka’s birthplace and the Charles Bridge. As with any tourist-heavy destination, you may find it tricky to combat the crowds in peak times, so it’s best to watch the clock chime in the early morning if you want to get a good view of this unique spectacle, which includes appearances from the 12 apostles and Death himself. Afterwards, explore the Old Town Square and the narrow streets that run off from it, full of boutiques and cafes.

Lunch: The Josefov

The Jewish Quarter, or Josefov, is foodie heaven, boasting everything from classic pubs to luxury restaurants. You should explore the cobbled streets before you choose your lunch venue, as there’s history around every corner, from the Jewish Museum to the synagogues. If you’re short on time then grab a snack at the ever-popular Bohemia Bagel during your walk (found on Masná 2); alternatively, savour the art deco feel and the tasting menu at the Sarah Bernhardt restaurant (U Obecního domu 1080/1), named after the actress who appeared in several posters by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha. You can even buy tickets to Mucha’s nearby museum in the New Town, which is well worth a visit for its Art Nouveau vibe.

Afternoon: Prague Castle and art hunting in the Lesser Town

Step into the Lesser Town, or Malá Strana, where you’ll find the city’s famous castle, which is an essential pit-stop for any self-respecting tourist and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Whether you want to watch the changing of the guard, see the crown jewels or discover paintings by old masters, there’s plenty to keep you occupied within the grounds. If castles aren’t a big draw for you and you’re more tempted by modern attractions then you might prefer to seek out David Černý’s conceptual art sculpture, Quo Vadis – a Communist-era Trabant car with legs. It pays tribute to East Germans who sought political asylum at the West German Embassy back in 1989.

Continue your modern art tour by stopping at Lennon Wall (Velkopřevorské náměstí), which is a graffiti-based reminder of John Lennon’s life and his peace activism. The wall art has been constantly evolving since 1980, with the original Lennon wall portrait hidden under more recent scrawled additions from tourists and locals.

Dinner: New Town

The New Town Brewery is the perfect place to enjoy Czech food and, of course, a glass of Pilsner beer, but it’s also very popular for nights out, so it’s best to make a reservation. Follow up your meal with a quick 20 minute tour of the brewery, available after 6pm, to see how they manage to make it taste so good. Just as the place begins to get really busy, leave the revellers to it and head for the bright lights of Prague’s best music hubs.

Nightlife: Jazz Clubs

Even if you’re not normally a jazz music fan, the city’s intimate clubs and talented live acts may well change your mind. Soak up the atmosphere in Reduta, one of the most renowned venues, which has been bringing music to Prague since 1958 (found at Národní třída 20). There’s entertainment every night, covering more than just jazz – expect to find anything from swing and blues to reggae and cabaret being performed. For advice on where to stay in Prague after your jazz club experience, click here.

Day 2

Morning: Petrin Hill and Tower

Start off with plenty of fresh air and a stroll across small parks that are scattered around Petrin Hill. Don’t get too comfortable, as you’ll need plenty of energy to climb the 299 steps of the Observation Tower, which is a quirky tribute to Paris’ Eiffel Tower and can be reached by travelling on the funicular railway from Ujezd. The views from the top certainly won’t disappoint, with the chance to see the country’s highest mountain, Snezka, on a clear day.

Lunch: Vinohrady

The area that used to be King Charles’ personal vineyards is now an up-and-coming part of the city that is very family-friendly and has plenty of good value places to eat, from pizzerias to casual coffee shops where you can people watch in peace. Try Pradelna Café, which used to be a laundry, where you can pick up a steaming bowl of soup, a homemade slice of cake or one of the speciality loose leaf teas.

Afternoon: Vltava River

End your trip on a high note by cruising along the Vltava on a rowing or pedal boat in the summer, allowing you to choose your own route. There are rental areas by the National Theatre and also by the Charles Bridge, which tend to be open for business between April and October. Seeing the city from the river will give you a totally different perspective and you can test your skills as a rower.

By following this guide, you’ll get a good grounding of Prague’s best sights in just two days and you’ll know why it’s so popular for weekends away. Find out more about Prague breaks and get planning your escape to the Czech Republic.

24: Jack Bauer is Back

In what is one of the most exciting and unexpected developments in TV this year, it looks as if Fox are planning to bring back 24. If it pans out the current plan is to bring it back for a limited order of twelve episodes, which would be interesting and may warrant a rethink to the show’s title, ‘24: Half Day At The Office’ anyone?

Keifer Sutherland as Jack Bauer

Keifer Sutherland as Jack Bauer

When 24 first came on our screens in 2001 it was a groundbreaking series, not only because of its real time format, but also because it was one of the first shows that really brought Hollywood style storytelling, production values and actors primarily known for movies to the small screen. It was also the first in a wave of serialised dramas which proved that audiences could follow a single narrative ark over a whole season and that audiences didn’t only want to watch story-a-week procedurals like CSI and House. If it were not for 24, then we never had shows like Lost, Prison Break and The Walking Dead.

24 ran for eight seasons before we finally waved goodbye to the likes of Jack Bauer, Tony Almeida and everyone’s favourite socially awkward character Chloe O’ Brian (Sorry to Sheldon Cooper fans out there). The goodbye was sad, but not final as we rather more fittingly bid farewell to the members of CTU with the gesture of “We’ll meet again” as it was widely known that after the show ended we had the proposed 24 movie to look forward to. Yes, we wouldn’t get a whole day with Kiefer Sutherland anymore, but fans were content that we’d finally get to see step up Jack Bauer kick ass on the big screen Die Hard style. It was even rumoured at one point that the fifth Die Hard would be a 24 cross over called ‘Die Hard 24/7’ but that along with a standalone 24 movie was never to be.

Kiefer Sutherland long said that there would be a 24 movie, and various start dates were announce, and pushed back and announced again, and pushed back again, and it became clear that the chances of 24 The Movie happening were just as unlikely as seeing Jack Bauer go to sleep. Kiefer moved on to star in Touch, a series from Tim Kring who created Heroes, which was an alright show, well acted and an interesting concept, but really wasn’t want anyone wanted to see from Kiefer. So although Touch’s cancellation may be sad, we will all soon get over it with the phoenix which has arisen from its ashes.

The initial response to the idea of bringing Jack back has been generally positive. There’s a few raised eye brows and rolled eyes from some of the more passionate in the internet community, but overall people are very excited that what was for many a year the most exciting show on television is making a comeback. The most interesting thing about the very few details we have on its comeback is that it’s said to only be coming back for a twelve episode season. This wouldn’t be the first time 24 has existed as less than a twenty four hour period as we got 24: Redemption, a two hour TV movie a few years back when the writers’ strike forced the series proper to be put on hold for a year.

If it came back in real time it’s very possible that after six episodes or eight episodes they may announce based on its success that the series is being extended to twenty four episodes. That would be the safe bet, especially considering that that is exactly what happened with the show’s very first run (Hence that the story seemed to wrap half way through with Jack rescuing daughter Kim only for her to be kidnapped again a couple of episodes later). What would be more interesting is if the series abandoned its real time aspect, and they re-launched the show with a fresh feel and format. It was considered that the second season of the show wouldn’t be in real time, and maybe that could happen now. I’m not saying that each episode should cover a twenty-four period in itself, but maybe the twenty-four hour period the title suggests could be covered in twelve episodes. It wouldn’t be as strange as it sounds, as anyone whose watched 24 on DVD will know, the show skips over a few minutes of ‘real time’ every time there was an ad break on the telly. Surely the show could use the familiar digital clock display to show jumps in time.

However it comes back, and whoever is involved from the previous run of the show one thing is for certain. It won’t be long until Jack has another bad day!

DVD Review: Into The White

Into The White
Into the White stars Rupert Grint. He was the only face I recognised. I do try and not judge a film on an unknown cast, it’s hard to put on hold my feelings of ‘uh-oh’. I should’ve have listened. This for me wasn’t so much a film, but a reconstruction on how fighter pilots survived an air crash.

Set in World War II, the basic plot of British and German pilots engaged in battle started out okay. Battle scenes were acceptable but lacking in originality. Where it went downhill was when both sides had to share a cabin to survive the oncoming cold weather.

It reminded me a bit like a Ray Mears programme but without the humour. The cast didn’t gel and no one had the ‘X Factor‘, which might brighten such limiting space setting. The minute you restrict the story there’s only two roads to go down; that was fabulous or I’m a film critic – get me out of here!

Due to this, the groups getting along seemed very unlikely. The other actors were like watered down cola. Making a film work and entertaining isn’t like painting by numbers. Spend most of your budget on one decent name, have them do this and that, let’s have this story and hey presto! Movie magic!

Sadly, it takes more than this. The vision for this movie got lost as sure as the plane went down! I only hope Rupert Grint isn’t going have lots of low budget British/Europe film offers. He does deserve better, perhaps that’s why he was subdued for me in this. I can only hope he wasn’t forced?

Based on a real event, this should have been a belter. Mismanaged from start to finish means this dull story would be better released in schools to educate the young as opposed to entertaining the masses. Movies do need a bit of ‘oomph’ to make it fun or exciting.

I love making model spaceships, but I wouldn’t want to watch a film about how the parts are made! As in an actual step by step guide.

There isn’t else much I can say about this, as for my customary mark, I can only give this 3/10.

Hopefully the next British film being made, might remember that audiences want to have a little zing to their movie.

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

Kickstarter: A Game-Changer for Independant Film Makers?

Wish I was Here - Characther Designs Reproduced from www.kickstarter.com

Wish I was Here – Character Designs
Reproduced from www.kickstarter.com

For a new unheard of film maker starting their career with no contacts and even less funds there are two routes to take. Route one, send their script to major film companies in the hope that someone will like their idea enough to create it, or route two, be funded by a private investor who believes in their film. Whilst the first option requires almost an entire loss of creative control on the film makers part, ensuring what hits the screens is yet another safe bet of Hollywood clichés, option two requires unrealistic quantities of luck. As a result of this many independent projects have never gotten off the ground, until now that is.

Social networks, once again, have made the impossible, possible. Sites such Kickstarter and Indiegogo now allow films to be funded by the fans. Donations can be contributed big or small, with certain rewards given depending on how much is donated. These can range from exclusive behind the scenes updates to VIP tickets to the première. In the last twelve months various projects have been successful using such sites. Sci-Fi web series Chronicles of Syntax received $4,525 over their target allowing the show, originally planned in 2009, to finally be produced. The project was funded last August and aired on the Multiverse earlier this year. Even more impressive was the funding of a Veronica Mars film. After it’s television series was ended prematurely, fans of the show raised a staggering two million dollars in just ten hours to watch the rest of the story unfold.

Image reproduced frpm www.facebook.com

Image reproduced from www.facebook.com

Inspired by the amazing support shown by fans, film-maker Zach Braff, of Scrubs fame, has created his own Kickstarter account in a bid to produce his film Wish I was here. Braff’s début film Garden State was funded by a single fan of his work and was well received by fans and critics alike. Braff was already offered funding for his second film but under the conditions that he’d give up casting controls and the decision of the final cut. In order to retain the same artistic direction as his prior work, Braff took a huge risk by refusing the funding and asking his fans to help instead. The risk has certainly paid off, in just three days the needed two million dollars was donated and as the account does not close until the 24th May the figure continues to raise. The film industry has been left in awe.

However is this really a feasible future for independent cinema? Though the films now can be produced there is still the obstacle of distribution and many will have to rely on a good reception at film festivals such as Cannes or Sundance for their films to be available to a wider market. Another issue is the power of fans depends on the amount of fans you have. Whilst Braff’s acting popularity allowed a large fan-base to respond to his project unheard of film-makers will have a much harder time in gaining donations. The success of Chronicles of Syntax was in part due to the fan base they had gained over time by producing a trailer and other promotions of their vision.
Despite the remaining set backs, Kickstarter has proved if you want something enough there’s a way to get it. Independent cinema may not be able to rival Hollywood yet but it’s beginning to catch up.

Human brain research Made Easier by Database

Alzheimer’s Research UK has welcomed a new online database that will allow scientists to access brain tissue to study diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Researchers will be able to access samples from more than 7,000 donated human brains to help study major brain diseases, thanks to the database, launched by the Medical Research Council (MRC) today.

Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference_2384_1_1___Selected

The UK Brain Banks Network database speeds up access to donated brain samples held across 10 brain banks in the UK and allows researchers studying a range of neurodegenerative and developmental diseases to track down human tissue samples for their work.

Thanks to a unique collaboration between the MRC and five leading charities, the database will help scientists from academia and industry investigate the underlying causes of major brain diseases and understand how they take hold in our bodies.

Although scientists can model diseases in the lab, to fully understand dementia and other brain-related disorders they need to study human brain tissue. A lot of research relies on donated brain tissue stored in brain banks across the UK. Until today, researchers had to apply to each brain bank in turn to find out if they held the samples they needed and find the ‘control’ samples (donated brains free from disease) for comparison – a long and drawn out process. Now samples can be found with the click of a button from one source.

Prof James Ironside, Director of the MRC UK Brain Banks Network, said:
“The database is the result of four years of painstaking planning and data analysis by very dedicated people. It will enable quick and easy access for researchers who are already working on neurological or psychiatric disease (perhaps in animal models or cells) and would like to translate their findings into human tissue and is very useful for those who are planning a grant application. The brain banks have already been given ethical approval, cutting out the need for researchers to go through a separate ethics application.

“We must remember that vital research would not be possible without the generosity of those individuals who donate their brains to medical research. We’re working hard to make sure that the access for researchers studying brain samples is much easier. The next step is to improve the systems for those wishing to donate their brain to medical research.”

Prof Paul Francis, Director of Brains for Dementia Research which is funded by Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK, in association with the Medical Research Council, said:
”Finding better treatments and ultimately a cure is the holy grail of dementia research. This new online database is another step forward which will ensure that even more researchers are able to make the most of these valuable resources. Without the generosity of people willing to pledge to donate their brains, this research would not be possible and our hopes of transforming the lives of people with dementia would be unattainable.”

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“Studies using brain tissue are crucial for advancing our understanding of the diseases that cause dementia – by building a picture of the changes that occur in the brain in diseases like Alzheimer’s, we can also identify new targets for treatment development.

“We are continually humbled by the generosity of people who have donated their brains for research, but for their actions to help move research forward it’s essential that scientists can easily access the right tissue. The UK Brain Banks Network database is a fantastic resource that will enable researchers to track down the samples they need much faster, potentially speeding up results. We desperately need effective treatments for dementia, and research holds the answers: this initiative from the MRC is a real boost for research.”

Alzheimer’s Research UK is one of five leading charities that helped to supply data for the database, along with the MS Society, Parkinson’s UK, Alzheimer’s Society and Autistica.

For more information about the database visithttp://www.mrc.ac.uk/brainbanksnetwork

Festival Guide 2013: Glastonbury

glastonbury-festivalThis year we see the return of Glastonbury after taking a year out last year. It is sure to be an epic comeback from the family friendly festival set in the beautiful backdrop of Somerset in the West Country. This year the stars set to grace the famous pyramid stage are rock legends The Rolling Stones, The Artic Monkeys and Momford and Sons are the headliners for the festivals 3 day weekend line-up. The festival runs from 28th-30th June 2013 and is jam packed with music that is suited to every generation.

Glastonbury is known for its laid-back and family friendly atmosphere and eco-friendly vibes that makes it a special festival for those who enjoy it. On top of the great headliners, this year we have a massive line-up which is sure to meet all those going to the festival’s needs. Some of the other acts include; Jake Bugg, Foals, The XX, The Smashing Pumpkins, Crystal Castles, Seasick Steve, Bobby Womack and Dizzee Rascal to name a few.

Most people know that the main stage for Glastonbury is the Pyramid Stage which hosts some of the festivals most high-profile acts. Previous musical legends to appear on the stage include; Stevie Wonder, U2, Blur and Queen B herself Beyonce. The stage has had many, many incredible acts in the past and this year is no different.

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones

The festival isn’t just about the music; it also likes to mix things up by throwing in many different acts which makes the festival exciting. Waiting to be discovered away from the music scenes are inviting circus surprises, theatre specials and beautiful spoken word for all to enjoy.

If you enjoy music festivals but no the average pop or rock one, then Glastonbury may be for you and your family alike. With hundreds of acts over a summers weekend what more could you ask for? Get you camping gear at the ready and be prepared to be blown away with some of the best music acts around. With less than 2 months until they hit the stages you best be sure to get your tickets while you can.

Tickets for Glastonbury 2013 cost £205 (+ £5 booking fee per ticket & £6 P&P per order). Entrance for children aged 12 and under remains free.  The ticket price covers entry to the Festival site from Wednesday 26th June until Monday 1st July 2013 and, as ever, includes a free programme.

Images reproduced from extranea.wordpress.com and

Wine of the Month – May 2013

Named after the Greek goddess Maia, May is the month when spring turns into summer – or should do, at least.

With two bank holidays in the month, opportunities for leisurely eating outside should be plentiful – and in case we get the inevitable bank holiday wash-out, there are also some reds.

This month, we also have a guest entry from Waitrose.

Cave de Lugny Sparkling Burgundy Blanc de Blancs NV Crémant de Bourgogne (£12.99, Waitrose – 25% off until May 21st)

Made by the traditional (i.e. Champenois) method, this cremant de Bourgogne is made from 100% Chardonnay.

The grapes are from the Maconnais region of southern Burgundy – a significantly warmer climate than Champagne, several hours’ drive to the north, meaning more ripeness.

On pouring, it foams enthusiastically; sandy yellow in the glass, there are aromas of ripe pear and toasty leesy aromas and a hint of sweet spice.

On the palate, there is ripe, white pear fruit and a fine mousse. The acidity is refreshing with a leesy biscuitiness and a persistent finish.

Elegant and approachable, this is a classy fizz with a sunny disposition.

Serve as an aperitif or match with shellfish, choucroute or soft white cheese such as brie.

Vina Leyda ‘Kadun Vineyard’ Sauvignon Gris, Chile (£11.99, Noel Young Wines)

Sauvignon Gris is a relatively unusual mutation of the more familiar Sauvignon Blanc – it shares Sauvignon’s linear acidity and minerality, but is less herbaceously aromatic.

The grapes for this varietal Sauvignon Gris are cooled by sea breezes in Chile’s Leyda Valley, leading to long, slow ripening and more complexity as a result.

Bright sandy yellow, touch of flint and green pepper on the nose.

Linear, mouthfilling citrus acidity and good minerality. Ripe pear fruit cut through with fresh acidity, hints of honeydew melon and green nettles.

Clean, minerally finish, fresh, balanced and elegant; really good, versatile food wine. Match with fish dishes or light starters.

La Petite Syrah du Mas Montel, 2011, Pays du Gard (£8.99, Joseph Barnes Wines)

Mas Montel is based near Montpellier on the French south coast, whilst Petite Syrah is a cross of two southern French grapes, the noble Syrah with the rough-and-tumble Durif.

Translucent ruby in the glass, there are ripe red fruits on the palate and some warming sweet spice.

With just 12.5% alcohol, this is quite a light red; the texture is soft with fresh acidity, the finish gentle and warming.

Match with a plate of mixed anti-pasti; mozzarella, salami and roasted vegetables, ideally served in the garden on a warm, lazy evening.

Grignon Monastier Shiraz 2012, Pays d’Oc (£7.99, Bacchanalia)

From the vibrant Languedoc region of southern France, this wine is unusual in being labelled a Shiraz.

Firstly, because the French name for this grape is Syrah (Shiraz is generally its New-World name) and secondly because the tradition in France is to label by place of origin, rather than variety.

Dark purple in the glass, there are lots of ripe, dark berry aromas on the nose, with hints of sweet spice.

On the palate, there is black cherry and elderberry fruit; the texture is pleasantly soft and slightly inky with a touch of firmness and persistence on the finish.

With fresh acidity and low tannins, this is an easy drinker that will match strongly-flavoured foods, such as leg of lamb with a Mediterranean spice-and-citrus rub.

Bodegas Neo Ribera del Duero Disco 2011, Ribera Del Duero (£12.99, Cambridge Wine Merchants)

Just up the road from Rioja, Ribera Del Duero is the modern wine miracle of Spain, and produces wines from the same principle red grape – Tempranillo – but in a very different style on a wide, high plateau.

Ribera del Duero’s fierce continental climate, tempered by altitude to give a long growing season, results in intense, concentrated wines with a lively acidity.

The label features a vinyl LP (Radiohead’s The Bends, apparently)and I can’t help hoping the millennial vintage featured Pulp’s Disco 2000.

Dark, almost opaque, in the glass, there are aromas of bramble fruit, pencil shavings and complex oaky spice.

The palate shows rich dark fruits, chocolateyness and some bitter herbs; the texture is soft, mouthfilling and velvety with a touch of vibrant mintiness; it feels well-structured and poised.

Long and savoury on the palate, with firm, perfectly ripe tannins on the finish. Very classy indeed – match with plain roast red meat or steak.

Copyright Tom Lewis 2013

Film Review: Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 stars the charming Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man/Tony Stark and the gorgeous Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts.

I actually only became interested in Iron Man through watching the Avengers Assemble last year. I love the Hulk so that’s why I watched that one. The trailers for Iron Man 1 and 2 did not interest me, a ‘smart mouth know it all’ didn’t seem much of a hero.

I have to admit I was wrong. Not only is this film great but 1 and 2 are on my shopping list. This role was made for Robert Downey Jr, he breezes onto the screen with such confidence and makes playing Iron Man a joy. I believe his hard path to stardom was all part of a journey to play this iconic character. He’s simply sizzles on the screen.

A marvellous character and although fast with the quips, he does show humanity – sometimes!

Now the real surprise was Guy Pearce, who remembers him as Mike from Aussie TV soap Neighbours? Jane Mangle’s boyfriend? What a blast from the past. He plays the latest threat to Tony Stark’s world. Not just because he fancies Pepper Potts but he could be the next big thing in business.

Another threat comes in the shape of a terrorist leader – The Mandarin. (played by Ben Kinglsey). Although the plot can’t change much for a superhero movie, it’s all about the delivery. This film was the pinnacle, as it was also about heart and what choices we make when the going gets tough.

The humour is ample, from Tony Stark putting on his suit to music, to using another remote controlled suit to talk to Pepper so he can tinker in the basement! There’s a lot of fun and banter. I love ‘Jarvis’ the computer who’s the thinker and Tony needs him more than he realises.

Tony has nightmares from what happened with the Avengers Assemble and can’t sleep, so he’s already stressed and is very obnoxious. His arrogance becomes his undoing when he gives out his address whilst on TV news! Oops!

An old girlfriend arrives which complicates things. What does the old girlfriend what? Now with his address known can he defend Pepper?

Another suit appears, this one used by the army. Iron Patriot is controlled by an old friend of Stark’s. The armour is the same but red, white and blue. But they’ll need more than their suits, they’ll also need all their wits about them as The Mandarin cranks up the pressure and soon they are defending the heart of America against an enemy that isn’t what he seems.

Excellent effort all around! Very impressive with lots of twists and turns. One thing Tony Stark said was very true, ’He is Iron Man!’

This gets 10/10 from me!

Image reproduced from teaser-trailer.com
Trailer reproduced from MarvelUK

Emily’s Fashion Trends – Spring/Summer 2013

I think we can officially start moving on from the layers and winter clothing, albeit we’re in May now we can really have a bit of a trend-binge to make up for the lost weeks of strolling into spring. Before we sprint faster than Usain Bolt into summer trends it isn’t an ideal climate to be parading around in the bikinis just yet, but hey if you want to, then go for it.

ss13 SkirtTwo-tone, now I don’t know about you but I love my ska and own a plethora of monochrome garments and the mod checkerboard print has been a big fat check on the catwalks from the likes of Louis Vuitton and Roland Mouret taking a delightful twist with black and white colour patterns – wearable for top class nights out. Polka dot is also something to keep an eye out for, preferably white dots on deep blues, whilst it is popular at the moment you can take it down the 1990s grunge route ala Gwen Stefani or a big polka dot print circa 1940s/50s pin up.

ss13 suitFashion for men is anything but monochrome in terms of trends at the moment, whilst we all agree with Barney Stinson that the suit is always a great choice but a suit for spring/summer 2013 can be a delightful mix of quirky and preppy – your choice to do both at once, adding a pop to your suit with the addition of a retro or paisley print shirt, level of 1970s is optional with paisley prints, and now something so un-70s is the flat shoe-boot, to maintain that level of looking smart but tough have been clocked on the runway and is always a great addition to a gentleman’s wardrobe.

ss13 ShoeMonochrome often is the ‘boring’ choice but you can’t really go wrong as it’s super cheap and easy to reinvent items and it can be an open invitation to personalise your outfit of the day. With the invitation of monochrome back into wardrobes the 1960’s inspiration has followed suit, with the plus of using colours that weren’t as popular in the 1960’s giving a more modern twist on lush graphic prints on tight dresses – checks and psychedelic patterns – perfect to show off your figure, simple ‘random’ graphic stripes to vamp up an outfit and slightly mixing up with tribal prints to give a fresh new print style on clothing.

ss13 print shirtIt’s great to welcome more males on board for the tidy unusual, not the everyday print shirts – i.e. mini clouds – little patterns, the key here is to keep it small, compact and presentable, a fashionable take on fun. Speaking of fun fashion or fashion fun I’ve been seeing more men in bright jeans/trousers lately, not the neon nu-rave style but solid deep, fresh colours and if that’s not your bag opt for shorts, think on the lines of preppy again, pastel colours super suitable for those beach boys and team that up with some light denim, distressed or with a small graphic print and you have a day outfit that will take you right into the night.

ss13 fringe dressWhat’s fashion without the texture, like a meal, sometimes outfits just work when you mix up the textures of the fabrics, soft, fluffy jumpers have been on the radar for awhile and ideal timing because of the cold lately, these 1990’s jumpers are always another texture welcomed back on the runway was all the modern 1920’s fringed creations, using the fabric and even feathers, a perfect way to add movement to an outfit and create a showstopping look – including being seen on the accessories! No better time really for men as the perfect two-tone 1920s brogue as advertised by Johnston Murphy is a great choice for you gentlemen to welcome the summer, if you’re not into that try a nice tan leather (doesn’t have to be the real deal!) shoe.

Images reproduced from shoewawa.com, asos.co.uk, gq.com, houseoffraser.com and menvision.com

Film Review: Bernie

BernieThere are times when it just works. There are times when the soufflé rises just right. Sometimes it’s explainable, but if we’re being honest, it’s best when it happens miraculously. That’s how I felt when I watched “Bernie.” It’s difficult to describe – as a complete work – what it is that makes it such a triumph. It just is. Director Richard Linklater combines pitch black humour with a sweet and gentle lead character who’s story is so bizarre it must be based on a true story. It’s enough to make the Coen Brothers smile.

You have to wonder if, when Richard Linklater read an article by Skip Hollandsworth in Texas Monthly about a kind hearted man driven to murder, he knew that he’d struck gold. A story about a man so well liked by a small community in Texas that his murder trial had to be moved 50 miles away, because the local jury would almost certainly let him off. Obviously an intriguing character if ever there was one, and one that certainly deserves a movie, but it’s very easy to get this kind of thing wrong. Just ask the writers and creators of the excellent TV show “Dexter” how much controversy they created with their sympathetic serial killer who only kills bad people.

From our perspective, Bernie (Jack Black) kills a bad person too. He arrives in the small town of Carthage, Texas looking to take a job as a mortician. He’s an expert in preparing the dead, to the extent that some of them look better than when they were alive. He sings in church, performs in the local theatre, and makes an effort to check on the local widows for a few weeks after their husband’s funeral. Some residents think he may be gay. Others think he has a thing for older women. The majority just think he’s a very nice man.

Then Bernie meets Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a wealthy old widow who seems to delight in making the people around her miserable. When her grandchildren abandon her when she becomes totally unbearable, it confirms her world view that everyone hates her. Then Bernie arrives at her house bearing gifts, and the two of them soon spark up a friendship. They go away on holidays together, and Marjorie goes to see Bernie perform in his theatre productions. Again, the town’s people start to gossip, and a rumour starts that they are having an affair. It feels like we know more about Bernie than they do though, and we can safely assume he was probably celibate.

Eventually Marjorie’s true nature comes to the surface, and she starts controlling Bernie’s life and ordering him around. When he attempts to leave, she accuses him of hating her like everyone else. Life becomes so unbearable for him that he eventually takes Marjorie’s gun – which he refers to as the “possum gun” – and shoots her four times in the back. We see Bernie’s horrified reaction, and we feel sympathy for him. This is the point when the film really takes flight.

Because Bernie is an all round “nice guy” we support him through everything, even though we do remain a little suspicious of him. Or perhaps it’s just cynicism. We wait for Bernie to be revealed as a nut case, when all the time he was just a “nice guy” pushed to extremes. Richard Linklater at no point attempts to pass any form of moral judgement; he just allows Bernie to be Bernie. The only person we really come across who doubts him is the local District Attorney Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey) who thinks he’s Columbo when he seems to have more in common with Clouseau.

Jack Black proves to be rather inspired casting. He avoids drifting into his usual comedy wackiness, and creates a satirical performance with considerable substance. Linklater intercuts scenes from Bernie’s life with documentary style interviews, some of which involve actual residents from Cathage, Texas. It’s a small town with a population of roughly 7,000, so as you’d expect, the majority of people there know each other. Every now and then – especially when talking about Bernie’s sexual orientation – the interviewee’s use colloquialisms that add a humorous touch of realism.

Linklater’s script – co-written with Skip Hollandsworth – brings out a lot of droll dark comedy from a story that could have easily been misjudged in the wrong hands. But Linklater keeps everything under control, and delicately allows the story to tell itself. Throw in Jack Black giving one of the best performances of his career, and you have a real triumph. The content is well judged and the tone fits perfectly. It just works.

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

The Dating Diary of Miss X – Chapter 11

woman_head_silhouetteDecided to stay an extra day in the Hotel due to bad weather. You’d think we’d be all over each other but he seemed slightly cold – I found out this was due to the “past”  Was just so lovely to be off work and enjoying doing nothing in this lovely Hotel.

Went out in the evening and had the most fun evening with Mr French. We chatted, we laughed, talked and he was the perfect gentleman. Perhaps it wasn’t just about the naughty stuff, we could get to know each other – but some naughty stuff was always good.

The next day we travelled to his flat near Cannes. It was built away from the sea in the smallest most remote little village. Very picturesque but I could tell why he talked so much – he was starved of any human interaction and had to let it all out.

We stopped off along near our favourite village Eze and out came his prized possession… a picnic basket with a special Bordeaux and cut glass glasses. The obligatory French cheeses, bread and charcuterie (meats) came alongside. It was very romantic. The most romantic picnic I’ve ever had hailed from Subway and consisted of
the weekly special.

We spoke and spoke – well he spoke at me for most of it but I loved to hear him talk. We were just so similar or so I thought but then he dropped the line – I just don’t feel ready for anything. I hadn’t even hinted at anything as until this point we were still friends – ok a bit of hanky panky but friends. It was just quite strange and he told me the main reason he’d left the UK was to escape his ex and start afresh. His job was also on the blink… I could understand this.  Prior to this I was thinking to myself… I could probably do this lifestyle even for a bit or to be with him…getting carried away again… but he seemed so nice indeed.

Oh well. One of those things and obviously we weren’t meant to be.

The rest of the holiday consisted of another 3 days together. At times it felt like it was dragging. Towards the end when we continued to enjoy the local sights we went out clubbing on the final night and had quite a wild time. it was probably just the fact that I’d be leaving and not seeing him for a while. We’d got on so well – just clicked I thought.

Saw another side to the South of France too which wasn’t just the glitzy Monte Carlo or St Tropez. It was unspoilt, pretty: time seemed to go very slow and I was really enjoying my time out there.

We got very drunk on the final night – it was the local nightclub on the beach and what a lovely evening. Stars twinkling and vodka was flowing. He was supposed to drive me the next day to the airport as he had done from Nice but somehow was still drunk the next day so I ended up getting not even an airport transfer but a taxi  –
1 hour away. What a way to end. 150 euros!

Felt quite sad to leave and we were still messaging from the airport and back in the UK.

Read Chapter 12 next Friday to find out what happens next and we meet another new fancy… he comes from yet another continent – how will this one fare? Also back on the scene is Mr Toyboy and Mr Stockings…

A Most Particular Taste: Haut-Brion 350 Years Celebration Dinner

On April 10th 1663, diarist, Cambridge-graduate and upwardly-mobile man-about-town, Samuel Pepys wrote to have “drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryen that hath a good and most particular taste I never met with”, thereby inventing the tasting note.

Haut-Brion, the only Bordeaux first growth based outside the Medoc, was purchased in 1935 by US financier Clarence Dillon, and is now run by Prince Robert of Luxembourg after Dillon’s granddaughter married into the family.

To mark the 350th anniversary of this earliest recorded assessment of the wine, Cambridge University Wine Society arranged a Celebration Dinner, starting with a talk by Dr. Jane Hughes, Samuel Pepys Librarian and Fellow of Magdalene College, on Pepys, the diary and the 1660s.

This was followed by a reception and viewing of the diary entry itself (unintelligible to most as Pepys wrote in shorthand) and an earlier factual record by Charles II’s cellarmaster in Magdalene College’s Pepys library.

The reception, on a sunny spring evening in the college cloisters, featured a Pol Roger 2002 – a beautiful, elegant fizz with wonderful poise – whilst the finale of the evening was a candlelit dinner in the college with wines from the domaine.

Starter: pan-fried scallops with pancetta, garden pea puree and lemon oil

We started with two whites, La Clarte de Haut Brion 2009 and Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc 2003.

La Clarte is a limited bottling of 50% La Mission Blanc (purchased by Domaine Clarence Dillon in 1983) and 50% Haut-Brion Blanc from a very good year indeed; the 2003 is from a very warm year in which the grapes had to be picked as early as August 13th to preserve freshness.

La Clarte de Haut Brion 2009 a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon, just 1,000 cases made; wonderful palate length, complexity and balance. Feels extremely elegant and precise. Really lovely, Very Good Indeed.

Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc 2003 so picked early to maintain freshness; not a wine for long ageing. Starting to tire a little already, the fruit has mostly faded and it lacks the weightiness and length of the 2009. Good fresh acidity.

Main: oven roasted fillet of Norfolk venison with chanterelle mushrooms, rich red wine jus, dauphinoise potatoes, celeriac puree and green beans

Following the school of thought that serves the best wine first when people are more attentive and palates fresher, the main was accompanied by the stand-out wine of the evening, a 1989 Haut-Brion.

In her summing-up at the end, Serena Sutcliffe MW referred to this wine as “a monument” and I was unable to find anyone who did not consider this the best wine of the evening.

Chateau Haut-Brion 1989 still dark in the glass, with few signs of age. Incredible, complex secondary aromas of leather, bell pepper, soy and well-hung game with good fruit; wonderful freshness, matched with elegance and precision. Very Good Indeed – and then some.

Chateau Haut-Brion 1995 lots more ripe fruit on the palate and much less evolution – amazingly youthful for a wine at almost 20 years and feels to have much more life left. Very Good.

Cheese: cheese board with biscuits, grapes and celery

I have never quite understood the idea of matching red wine with cheese – especially young reds with mature, hard yellow cheeses.

Whilst the cheeses were all lovely, for me this was the one part of the meal where the matching did not work.

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion 2008 this could easily be the top wine at any other tasting, but coming after the poise and refined elegance of the previous reds, it feels too young to be drinking now; lots of primary ripe fruit feels like a slap round the chops compared to the preceding wines. Good.

Dessert: traditional creme brulee, shortbread biscuit and seasonal berries

There are few desserts better than a creamily unctuous creme brulee with a thin, crisp, perfectly-browned topping. Add in a rich sticky dessert wine and you have pudding heaven.

A dessert this good needs no additions and the shortbread-and-berry additions were a case of more is less.

Clarendelle Amberwine 2003 lovely dessert wine with peachy, beeswax aromas, waxy texture and plenty of concentrated botrytis. Long on the palate with good fresh acidity; reminds me of a Ruster Ausbruch from Austria, but with just a touch more levity. As expressive and lithe as a ballerina. Very Good.

Links

Domaine Clarence Dillon – website

Chateau Haut-Brion – website, twitter

Copyright Tom Lewis 2013

Film Review: The Look Of Love

The Look Of LoveWhilst watching “The Look Of Love,” it’s hard not to think that it would be better suited for a Sunday night on BBC Four than a Friday night at your local cinema. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it; it’s solidly made by people who know how the game is played, and has moments of humour that help bring out it’s own unique charm. But for those looking for a character study of what has to be a fascinating person, it’s probably best to look elsewhere.

We learn everything we need to know about Paul Raymond, an unconventional entrepreneur with an excess of character, who found success with his nude circus acts and strip joints. He later went on to create Men Only, one of the most profitable erotic magazines ever. We learn about his relationships with the people around him, of course mainly the women. And yet, the big discovery this film unearths is one you realise you never really thought about before. “The Look Of Love” shows us that British erotica really is breathtakingly unerotic. The Americans are able to add glitz and glamour and a smoothness to their porn. The Europeans add a slinky, sensuous exoticism. And then we have the British, who can’t seem to elevate themselves over tacky and miserable.

That certainly didn’t stop Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan). The film starts with him as a middle aged man, looking back on his life after a tragic event inspires him to reminisce. He thinks about his rise in fame and wealth, his struggles with his wife Jean (Anna Friel), his affair with the attractive Fiona Richmond (Tamsin Egerton), the relationship with his daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots), and as you’d expect, how his party lifestyle ultimately costs him everything. He doesn’t lose anything of material value though. As the end credits point out, Raymond was named Britain’s richest man in 1992.

Steve Coogan’s Paul Raymond is an unaggressive, charming man. He has strong convictions, is clearly very self confident, but ultimately avoids confrontation. He has absolutely no trouble chatting up young women to join him and Fiona in their bed, but looks distinctly uncomfortable when his daughter Debbie cries during a public confrontation with him. Steve Coogan himself is very well restrained, only adding delicate touches of humour at points that seem like perfect opportunities to go all Alan Partridge.

Most elements of Paul Raymond’s character are quite accurate, apart from the charm. That is a Steve Coogan addition. In real life, Raymond often came across as a rather cold man. This is the point where the film starts to lose its way. Instead of going in for a proper study of the man, for the most part it is very affectionate, at times uncomfortably so. There is a limit to how appealing a character who exploited women on a daily basis should be.

It’s quite admirable then, that Anna Friel and Tamsin Egerton are able to put in such impressive performances in a film and a world that is so male orientated. Both of them exude a uniqueness that deserves a bit more exploration, but ultimately they are forced to revolve around Paul Raymond’s orbit. Friel and Egerton do a great job though creating strong women who are forced to put up with too much of Raymond for far too long.

As you’d expect in a film like this, both Anna Friel and Tamsin Egerton appear nude, the latter several times. It’s doubtful the film goes more than five minutes without a smattering of female nudity, but it’s not done in a way that’s supposed to shock. Considering this is a film directed by Michael Winterbottom, who certainly has a reputation for embracing explicit images, that is a little bit of a surprise. Plot-wise, he keeps everything very straightforward in an unadventurous rise and fall story. He’s aware that the nudity is tasteless and tacky, and allows the film to revel in it.

Even though the central story is supposed to revolve around Raymond’s relationship with his daughter Debbie, the issues of that relationship are skimmed over. Whenever it looks like we might be about to penetrate the surface of Paul Raymond, the story shifts back to his relationships – mainly sexual ones – with women. When Raymond is asked by the press if Debbie will be appearing nude in one of his shows, and he replies that she absolutely will not, all we get is a frown from Fiona to highlight his hypocrisy. In another interview he’s asked if his erotic publications are degrading to women. He simply says “no,” the press laugh, and it’s never spoken of again. “The Look Of Love” is ultimately a solid and straightforward film that has strong performances from the likes of Steve Coogan, but after a while, rather like the erotica on constant display, it all starts to grate.

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

Say Hello to a Fun-Filled Holiday

Planning your next great getaway can be tricky – you have to consider so many things, which include your flights, transfers, accommodations, entertainment options, and so much more. To relieve you from the headache of planning, however, you can go for a unique solution: all-inclusive packages.

All-inclusive deals can be seen all over the world, especially in the most popular destinations like Spain, Greece, Turkey, or the Americas. But what exactly does an all-inclusive package mean?

beach

Pay upfront and avoid the stress

You are required to pay for all-inclusive packages even before leaving your country – which is a blessing for most of us, since we don’t have to worry about budgeting during our travel. The only thing you have to worry about is your incidental expenses, such as souvenirs, tips for hotel staff, and drinks and meals outside the hotel.

Choosing a hotel for your all-inclusive package

As far as flights to and from the destination go, there isn’t much trouble. It is relatively simple to get from one place to another, after all. But the hotel and accommodations is a different matter. You would want to be in accommodations that are not only comfortable, but also come with great food, great activities, and a great ambience as well.

What to expect from an all-inclusive holiday

Package holidays basically include almost everything related to your travel. This would mean that your flights, transfers, and accommodations are taken care of. However, not all packaged deals are created equal. It depends on the type of deal you can get. Some all-inclusive holidays include not only three meals day, but also unlimited local drinks. Other all-inclusive holidays may also include the cost of activities such as day tours around the area, golfing, kayaking, trekking, horseback riding, sightseeing, or boating.

If you have a virtually unlimited budget, of course, you can go all out with 5-star accommodations and all the luxuries imaginable. But if you are worried about the cost, never fear: there are various 3-star accommodations that can give you good value for your money, as long as you know what to look for. And changes in the industry have brought about better food, better accommodations, and better entertainment options all around.

If you don’t drink, then maybe you would rather not opt for an “unlimited drinks” package. If you would rather curl up with a book in the evening than watch a dramatic magic show, then your best bet is to talk to a representative of the tour operator so you can get the best deals according to your preferences.

Also, it would benefit you to look closely at where the hotel is located. If you are planning to explore the local area on foot or with a bike, then it would be better for you to select a hotel that is near specific tourist spots. For children, look for hotels with day-care centres and other child-friendly entertainment and activities options.

That perfect holiday is within reach – and you can rely on a package holiday to give you the ideal getaway – if you choose wisely.

 

The Dating Diary of Miss X – Chapter 10

woman_head_silhouetteI met Mr French at 11 am and he collected me from the Hotel Reception. I was quite nervous prior to meeting him: what if I didn’t fancy him and I’ve booked 2 nights in this Hotel plus I knew we’d be travelling to his place near Cannes towards the weekend.

What if I didn’t really know this guy at all and he was going to do something nasty. You just never know. But I knew my instinct was always right: he was a good friend of a friend so I wasn’t just going out on a whim and we’d be fine.

He seemed quite nervous too but luckily took charge and with the weather so sunny but forecast not great for the week, decided to drive us to Italy. Italy was only an hour away along the French Riviera. We went towards San Remo: a very pretty fishing village in Italy and spent quite a heavenly afternoon there.

He was exceedingly chatty – almost too much. He seemed to talk about himself consistently. However I am a very good listener. I figured he was just starved of human contact or speech and needed to practice his English. His English was almost fluent with hardly any French accent but he’d lived in the UK for many years. He just decided to move to France due to the end of a relationship and to look after his father who is quite frail.

We travelled back from Italy along the coast. San Remo was the most picturesque little village: very unspoilt and traditional. We then went via the Riviera, Menton followed by a beautiful little village called  Eze which had its own castle and Hotel at the top of the hill.

I was loving the South of France already. It was just so laid back and relaxed. Still couldn’t work out what Mr French was doing to earn a bit of money – of course that’s not really important but you must be living on something as from what he was telling me there aren’t many jobs in the South apart from Hotel (and even they don’t pay well) I didn’t really ask too much but knew before he was some sort of Security consultant.

It was all very romantic but still no real romance yet. We then went back to my Hotel where he left his car and even then it all felt a bit awkward and slightly strange… I knew I fancied him quite a bit but we decided to pop out for some drinks as it was holidays!

We then had a little kiss and I almost wanted to stay there and then. We found a really trendy bar near the city centre and had a few drinks which was really nice. That evening was fun, not that I remember too much but it was ok. Ok I say not great!

The next few evenings were more fun however we then travelled to his home town near Cannes and that’s when he really opened up to me.

Check out Chapter 11 next Friday to find out if Miss X and Mr French end happily ever after or not!

Potential New Alzheimer’s Drug Passes Phase 2 Trials

American Academy of Neurology Conference: Safety and efficacy of ORM-12741 on cognitive and behavioural symptoms in patients with Alzheimer’s disease: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group, multicenter, proof-of-concept 12-week study.

Researchers have found a potential new treatment for Alzheimer’s, ORM-12741, may improve some memory problems when used in combination with existing treatments. The results of a phase 2 trial of the drug are to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in March 2013.

The study involved 100 people with moderate stage Alzheimer’s disease, who received a twice daily dose of either 30-60mg or 100-200mg of either ORM-12741 or a placebo. The treatment was continued for 12 weeks alongside cholinesterase inhibitors – existing approved drugs that work to help with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Some of the participants were also prescribed memantine, which is also designed to help with some of the disease’s symptoms.

BRAIN

The participants were given a series of tests to assess their memory and thinking skills at the beginning and the end of the study. The results showed those who were taking ORM-12741 alongside their usual medication improved their scores on memory tests by 4%, while those taking the placebo had worsened by 33%.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“This clinical trial has reported some early, mixed results and it’s important to note that this was a very small study that has yet to be published in full. This trial did not test how effective ORM-12741 was when used alone, and it remains to be seen how long its effects might last. We now need to see large-scale, long-term clinical trials to fully explore this treatment’s potential benefits for people with Alzheimer’s.

“A drug that could provide more effective relief from the symptoms of Alzheimer’s could have a real impact on people’s lives, but we still lack a treatment that can tackle the underlying disease process. With half a million people living with Alzheimer’s in the UK, and that number rising, research to find ways of stopping the disease in its tracks must continue.”

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