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Introducing The Sony Xperia Z5 Star Experience (Or - A Phone Which Exceeded My Expectations)
11/11/2015 2:12:08 AM
After my Honor 6 Plus had lost one too many arguments with the ground (meaning the screen died on me) I needed a phone and I needed one quickly.  I was unwilling to pay £96.00 to get the screen repaired and lose the phone for the best part of a week.

I went to the Three shop in Gallowtree Gate in Leicester, where I attempted to buy their cheapest phone on a Pay As You Go deal - but they refused to sell it to me.  So I started to panic.

Eventually, I went back to the shop and spoke to another (more helpful) assistant who suggested I contacted the Insurance Company and they would send a replacement out within 24 hours.  This would still have left me without a phone - apart from that I had promised myself that (after my experience with Virgin) I would only use the insurance if there was no other way on Planet Earth of me getting a useable phone.

The problem I had with Virgin was that I had accidentally dropped a mobile in my toilet.  The Insurance company replaced that one.  However, the replacement started to develop serious problems with the connector for the flex to the charger.  The Insurance company refused to replace the replacement phone.  So I changed to the Three network.

I originally wanted an Honor 7 Plus but the shop do not stock that one (the Plus was the 32GB memory version) as a straight replacement.

The phone I bought was the Sony Xperia Z5 (the most up to date version).

There are good points and bad points about this phone.

The good points are that it has 32 GB built in memory as well as a Flashlight (even though you have to search in one of the menus to find it).  Oh and it runs on Android 5.1.

The most annoying thing about it is not the fact that you have to go through to the menu screen to get to your Apps (the Honor 6 Plus let you put your Apps straight on to your Home Screen) - instead it is the fact that you physically have to press the volume button until you get to Silent Mode instead of pressing the button to restart the phone and selecting your desired ringtone profile from the handily placed buttons which used to be at the bottom of the screen which asked you if you wanted to switch the phone off or restart it.

The screen is nice and big with clear, easy to read icons and menus.  I judge anything I intend to use by the size of the screen and font.

All in all it is a very good phone.
Welcome To Birmingham New Street Station (Or - I Have Finally Found The Eigth Circle Of Hell)
11/11/2015 1:44:44 AM
There are some trips which I feel the need to "psych myself up" for - or talk myself into - and attempt to convince myself it is not going to turn into a complete disaster.  These are usually to places that other people have visited and praised in such glowing detail that I become convinced that there is a downside to them.

Yes - I know - there are only supposed to be Seven Circles of Hell.  However, my experience of the new Birmingham New Street Station (and attached "Grand Central" excuse for a shopping centre) left me feeling not just disappointed but actually depressed.

Now - I should give a disclaimer.  I can imagine someone who has not got my vision difficulties would almost love the place.  They would certainly have far fewer complaints about it.  In fact, I was left with the nasty feeling that people who do have vision difficulties were not considered at any point during the planning.

I admit I was never the world's biggest fan of the old Birmingham New Street Station - it was mainly the steep staircases to the platforms which put me off the place (as well as the tiny screens at the top of the staircases showing what time the next trains were due to depart).  At least the old version was easy to escape from - and you could easily get from Bimingham New Street Station to the Palisades Shopping Centre (and go from there to the Bullring if you so desired).

The most impressive thing about the new Birmingham New Street Station is that the steep staircases have all been replaced with escalators.  To be perfectly honest - that was the best bit of the entire experience - apart from the massive screens which I could see from the "Pret A Manger" concession quite some distance away (pity I couldn't actually read them clearly from that distance).  These screens screamed the times of the trains from the various platforms.

When I stepped off the escalator into the main passenger area of the station I was left feeling the train had overshot the station and ended up in either Birmingham International Airport or (more likely) Schiphol Airport.  I was left feeling almost as confused as I had been when I had had to change trains at Crewe on one of my trips north 8 years ago (put it this way - if I never have to venture through Crewe Railway Station again I will be extremely happy indeed).

There was nowhere near enough signage for my liking - and what signage there was appeared to be confusing - instead of clearly marking things like the exits the signs seemed to be intent on telling me about how to get to the "Red Lounge", "Yellow Lounge", etc.  (These lounges had no seats in them - I ended up more thinking about the "Departure Lounges" you find at airports.)

I spotted an escalator up to something which advertised itself as "Grand Central".  This appeared to be a failed attempt to replace the "Pallisades" Shopping Centre.

I only found one electronic "map" screen - which was totally useless for two reasons.  One was the map was far too small for anyone to see without a microscope - the other reason was (ironically) the bulb had died on the part of the map which may have told me if I would have been able to get to the Bullring Shopping Centre.

I said "ironically" because - if there was one thing the Grand Central Shopping Centre wasn't short of it was extremely bright lights.

As you may know I am a Bookaholic - so I was really interested to find a bookshop I had never come across the name of before.  Unfortunately the lighting was so bright that I walked in and immediately walked back out (with a mild headache).  Good for the funding situation but not so good for someone who wanted to browse a new bookshop.

In fact - the darkest places seemed to be the food concessions which were situated below the dome window in the middle of the roof.  These were around the rim of what can best be described as the "Balcony" which Grand Central seemed to be - overlooking the main passenger concourse for the main Birmingham New Street Station.

Maybe - if the map screen had been working - I could hve found a way of getting to the Bullring.  All I know is there were no visible signs telling me where the little walkways - which were like offshoots of the main balcony - would go.

After I had completed my circuit of the Grand Central Shopping Centre - I got the escalator back to the main concourse of the station and found the "Pret-A-Manger" concession (by this time I was feeling hungry).  I thought I might have been able to catch the stoptrain back to Leicester after I had bought my food and drink but I missed that whilst I was being served,

This resulted in me being directed to both Platform 12A and "Yellow Lounge" - no sign of anywhere painted Yellow - never mind any seats.  The escalator back down to Platform 12 was slightly hidden from view until you were nearly standing at the top of it.

As I said at the beginning - I am sure that anybody who does not have any vision problems whatsoever would enjoy both Birmingham New Street Station and the Grand Central Shopping Centre.  Unfortunately, my overriding feeling on getting back on the platform was pleasure at being back in a not very brightly lit space with a proper contrast between light and dark.

I am sure someone will give it an award for "Best New Station" at some point in the very near future.  However, I doubt the judging panel would include anybody with either sight difficulties or any other form of disability.

We really need to build buildings (and Public spaces) which are truly "accessible for All" - and if that includes involving people with practical experiences of disabilities being involved in the Planning stage (preferably in a Consulting capacity) whose views are legally binding - I would be the first to sign up to offer my opinion.

I had really high hopes for the new Station and Shopping Centre - but I came away feeling cheated and more than a little disappointed.

Someone Old, Someone New, Someone Borrowed, And Someone Blue (Or How Four People Combined To Make A Special Evening!)
10/26/2015 1:29:48 AM
I know I usually start any review of a gig by Kristyna Myles with a play on the title of one of her songs - so why have I decided to give you a title which makes it sound like I may have attended a wedding instead???  (A big clue is in the word "Someone" - see - I still managed to slip one of her songs into the title of this blog post.)

Have you ever turned up to a gig and felt like you left a completely different one to the one you thought you had attended???  The three singers were as advertised (with a bonus singer thrown in for good measure).  I don't quite know how to explain it but the gig just seemed more magical than usual.

The first act definitely fulfilled both the "Someone New" and "Someone Old" categories - even though I was originally convinced she was meant for the "Someone New" category only.

Nina Schofield has somehow managed to step into a close second behind the Myles-Maestro herself as a solo singer/songwriter - and that is after hearing a handful of her songs.

She was new to my eyes and ears - but her voice reminded me of a cross between Kate Bush and Annie Lennox (which is were the "Someone Old" comes in).

Now - I have to admit that usually it takes a lot for a female singer to impress me on first hearing.  Nina more than impressed me - and she complemented both Kristyna and Ben Montague very well with her singing style.

Unfortunately, I cannot remember any of the titles to her songs (I was too busy being caught up in the scenarios she wove in my mind to worry about things like that).  One thing I do remember (and I think I will have a hard job trying to remove this idea from my brain) is one of her songs was apparently either inspired by or based on a Sociopath.  You could say her range of topics for songs was a very broad genre.

I did take some photos but I think I was standing in a perfect place to hear the singers - even though it was actually a lousy place to take photos as the light was wrong.

Next up we had Kristyna Myles, who - although she didn't sing the song mentioned in the title of this blog post - did kind of combine with someone else to fulfil the "Someone Blue" category.

Among the songs she sang were "Heavy On My Soul", "Heaven Knows", along with a song which is slowly moving up my personal chart of favourite songs by Kristyna Myles - "I'm Not Going Back".

How can an upbeat song like "I'm Not Going Back" be put anywhere near a category with the word "blue" in it???  Easy - the blue refers to the colour of the national flag of Scotland.  Last I heard Dumfries was in Scotland???  Put it this way -
since a very good friend of my called Julie Kirkpatrick explained what it means to her - every time I heard "I'm Not Going Back" I wished she was with me.  Tonight I got my wish.  Julie was standing next to me when Kristyna sang that song.

I was a bit surprised to see Ben Williams armed with just a guitar - usually when he and Kristyna are playing together he has a tambourine-stompmat combo so he can provide basic percussion accompaniment.

Ben even played "Hold Your Fire" during Kristyna's set.  (I never get tired of hearing Ben sing.)

Closing the show (or should I say "headlining" it?) was another Ben this one with the surname of "Montague".

I have a confession to make about Mr Montague and my previous experiences of his music and performances. I always thought there was something missing - don't get me wrong - I thought they were OK as far as they went - they just didn't seem to have the necessary "hook" to draw me in.  The first time I saw him he was with his full band and I found it a little bit too noisy for my tastes.   The second time I saw him he was with a guitar and singing acoustically - more quiet but still lacking that spark to totally ignite my interest.

Tonight's gig finally had that hook or spark I was looking for - and it came in a very unexpected format.  And it appeared to be based on a shared experience.

"My Father Said" was the song which finally hooked me in.  What Ben Montague could not have known was that for the past couple of years I have dreaded the arrival of 29 October.  That date is the anniversary of the death of my English Grandma - my Dad's Mum.

So to hear him sing a song which was inspired by a conversation he had had after the death of his Grandma was particularly poignant for me.  It also talked about having one chance in life.

My second favourite part of the gig tonight could be filed under "Someone Borrowed".  Ben Montague borrowed Kristyna for a duet on the song "Liberty Road".

All in all it was a very good evening's entertainment.

The City Which Never Stops Changing But Always Welcomes You With Open Arms (Or - Come With Me To My Favourite City On Earth)
10/22/2015 3:54:40 AM
If there is one thing I hate about "Tourist Guides" it is the way they never give you a chance to explore the place you visit and experience it in the same way as the locals do.

Rotterdam is a perfect case in point.  Even though I am only technically half-Dutch through my Mum being born within the city limits of Rotterdam - you could say I was born within the "24 Hours of Rotterdam" (to paraphrase that song "24 hours in Tulsa" - more commonly known to me as "24 Toasters From Tooting" after an advert on British TV a few years ago).  I was born on 31 October - which, when you write it in numbers, is 31 10 (the International Dialling Code for Rotterdam).

My parents met and got married in Rotterdam.  Up until I was 20 years old my parents and I used to go at least once a year to visit my Oma (and a few other relations).  Even though my Mum died 8 years ago my Dad and I still go over to Holland when we can.

I suppose that - as a result of my trips - the Rotterdam I know and love would not feature on any Tourist Trail or in any Guidebook.  In some instances - "the Rotterdam I know and love" has turned into the Rotterdam I knew and loved due to the constantly changing face of the city.  More about that as we go along though.

One thing which has never changed about my beloved city though is the welcome I feel whenever I am there.  As the Mayor of Rotterdam says in "Kom Mee Met Mij" (Or "Come Along With Me" - the promotional song for Rotterdam) - "Here is the city with arms wide open" (English translation of "Hier is de stad met armen wijd open").

In order to experience the "True" Rotterdam which I know and love you really need to give Schiphol a miss and arrive by ferry into Hoek van Holland.  (I am sorry but I refuse to call it by the English name because it is a mistranslation.  "Hoek" is corner in Dutch - so, instead of "Hook of Holland" it should be "Corner of Holland".)

You could drive between Hoek van Holland and the centre of Rotterdam itself but I really would not advise it - unless you like driving on the edge of your seat.  It is not for the fainthearted.

Dutch Public Transport is cheap compared to English prices.  It is also clean, reliable (more reliable than the English version anyway), and comfortable.

Catch a "Sprinter" train from Hoek van Holland to Rotterdam Centraal Station (or Rotterdam Central Station).  It passes through some rather interestingly named places - Maasluis, Vlaardingen, and Schiedam (the station "Schiedam Centraal" was formerly known as "Rotterdam Schiedam") on its way to Rotterdam.

One of the drawbacks of the safety concious times we live in is that they have changed the announcements which came over the address system when the trains reached their ultimate destination.  The announcement no longer says "the next station is Rotterdam Central Station - this is the end of the train" (trust me - that is the exact translation of the announcement whenever Rotterdam Centrsl Station was the last stop on the journey).

Another thing which has changed about Rotterdam is the Central Station itself - it was rebuilt.  I found the spaciousness of the new station with its shops, etc, difficult to get used to.  Yes - the old station would have needed lifts to the Platforms anyway - but I actually missed feeling like a sardine as I walked (in some cases it felt like I was being carried by the sheer volume of the crowd) along the "tunnel" to and from the platforms - with other sardines coming and going as they either went to a platform or came down from it.  And the word "tunnel" is not as much of an exaggeration as you might think it is - the back of the station opens out into a suburb of Rotterdam.

I suppose I felt that - by putting shops in Rotterdam Centraal Station (particularly in what would have been the "tunnel" if it wasn't so bright and spacious) - they were ripping its soul out.  Now it seems like every other identikit station I have ever been in.  The cafe above the new Ticket Office is a nice relaxing place - pity I cannot say the same about the Ticket Office itself - that needs a lot more seats in it.

On leaving the Central Station you have three choices of Public Transport - bus, tram, or "Metro" (pronounced "May-tro") the Rotterdam Underground system.  All three of these are easily accessible from the station.  In fact, the tramlines used to be in front of it but now they are tidied away to the left as you leave the ticket barriers.

If you cross over the tramlines and keep going straight on you will find yourself in front of the "Nationale Nederland" building.  In this building you will find what could be classified as the "Dutch Costa Coffee" but in reverse - the "Douwe Egbert" Cafe.  I say "in reverse" because - unlike "Costa Coffee" "Douwe Egbert" primarily exists to sell coffee in dry, powdered format (ground or instant).  "Douwe Egbert" seem to use their cafes not only to serve coffee (and tea) in liquid form - they also seem to use them to showcase and sell their range of utensils to serve coffee (and cakes).  I saw a cake plate, with a useful looking dent in it to store your cakefork, for sale.

Only in Rotterdam would you expect to watch a football match in a "tub" and go shopping in a "Drain" without anyone batting an eyelid.  Don't believe me???  Feyenoord play in a stadium known to the locals as "De Kuip" - or "The Tub" in English.  If you are looking for the doubledecker shopping street which passes through the "Beurs" Metro station the signs will direct you to the "Beurs Traverse" - your friendly Rotterdammer, however, will direct you to the "Koopgoot" (nearest English pronunciation - "Cope-goat") or "Sale Drain".

(A word about Rotterdam's annoying station and bus stop naming "system".  If you are on Public Transport be very careful if you are in the city centre.  The different stops and stations may have the same name but be in slightly different places.  "Beurs" is a perfect example of this.  The "Metro" will stop in the "Beursplein" itself - however, if you are on a tram or a bus, the stop marked "Beurs" is outside the old Rotterdam "Beurs" building itself.  "Beurs" is Dutch for "Stock Exchange".)

If you go to the "Beurs" Metro Station and walk along one of the platforms, go up an escalator and walk on to another platform you will find yourself in another bit of the station (this part used to be called "Churchillplein" (or "Churchill Square").  Look on the map for a station called "Blaak" and catch a train to it.  When you come out of the station look to your left and you will see the Cube Houses.  (This and the nearby Market Hall are the only two "Tourist trap" buildings I like in the centre of Rotterdam.

There is a building in Rotterdam city centre which I used to love when I was at school.  Unfortunately, the Dutch developers got their paws on it and wrecked it.  In its original format this building (which is still on the Binnenwegplein) was a luxurious department store (along the lines of Fenwicks or Rackhams in the UK) called "Ter Meulen" - I remember having a sundae in the cafe on the top floor of the original building.  There are now some small shops in the ground floor but it is nothing like it was.

Another old store I could spend hours in when I was younger (usually trying to find my way out of it) was a large department store called "Vroom & Dreesman" (or "V&D" for short).  Both the shop and the building were still there when I went in June this year - I am not sure how long the shop will last for though.   "V&D" seem to be going through some financial troubles.

If you are looking for somewhere to stay in Rotterdam you could stay in "Hotel Rotterdam Oost" which is part of the "Campanile" chain.  It is not a million miles away from Rotterdam Alexander Metro Station - and the "Alexandrium" Shopping Centre (or - as I know it - the "Oosterhof").  For a true and accurate description of the shopping centre try something like a Westfield Shopping Centre but keep it all one one level accessible only by escalators.

You could say I have a family connection with that hotel.  Well, not the hotel exactly, more the ground it is standing on.  Before that hotel was built there was a farm complete with farmhouse (and little summerhouse) on that land.  How do I know this???  The lady who was turfed out of the farmhouse - and put in a flat overlooking the demolition of her former home - was my Oma's next oldest sister (Tante Jannie).

If you get the Metro back from Rotterdam Alexander into Rotterdam Centraal Station you will go past a personal landmark for me.  It is a circular block of flats with multicoloured vertical stripes.  Now - this block of flats doesn't feature in any guidebook but it used to be almost the centre point of an imaginary compass with most of my Mum's family living at various points on it.

If you can get to Rotterdam in September - and you like ships - I would highly recommend a visit to the "World Harbour Day".  This is when Europoort is open to the public - they will even let you roam on some of the ships.

If you don't mind going off the beaten track a little more - take a train from Plstform 16 of Rotterdam Central and disembark at a station called "Nieuwerkerk aan den Ijssel".  Congratulations - you are now in the lowest part of the entire Netherlands.

I could reel off a list of Tourist trap destinations - like Gouda, Delft, The Hague, etc.  However, there is a place which I mentioned very near the beginning of this blog post where I would highly recommend you visit.

Schiedam probably doesn't mean very much to you.  However, I can guarantee you can name one of the things it exports an alarming amount of.  A clue - it is a horrible yellow colour, consistency of very thick custard, usually drunk (or should that read "eaten") around Christmastime.  (I have tried it once - never again!)

Yes - I am talking about "Advocaat".  This is made by Warninks (who were bought by "De Kuyper").  De Kuyper have a distillery in this picturesque little town.  You can go on a tour of the distillery - and I dare you to try a "Schiedams Koffie" whilst you are there (but definitely not if you are driving anywhere afterwards).  From what I remember of this drink it was like Irish Coffee but with the alcoholic component replaced by what seemed like half a bottle of brandy - It was very strong (and I don't mean the caffeine content either).

Before I finish I want to leave you with two more ideas which may sound slightly strange to you.

The first one is take the Metro from Rotterdam Central Station to Schiedam Central Station (or take the train there and the Metro back).  When you get out of the Centre of Rotterdam you will notice something strange about the Metro system - it spends most of its life above ground level.  In the case of the bit between Rotterdam and Schiedam it is literally above ground level.  The Metro comes in at a higher platform than the conventional trains - so if you are on a train pulling out of Rotterdam Central Station and you suddenly see a silver train going up a ramp looking like it is going to take off - you are near Schiedam Central Station.

The final suggestion I have for you involves buses.  If you time your buses right you can have an enjoyable scenic tour to Delft and back by service bus.  Jump on the 40 to Delft Station (Or "Station Delft").  When you arrive get off that bus - maybe have a walk around Delft - then get a 174 to Rotterdam Noord Station before getting a train or a tram to Rotterdam Central Station.

Sometimes you can see more when you travel by bus.

I hope this has given you some ideas.

"The Gourmets" Prove That Italian Takeaway Food Can Be More Than Fast Food!!! (Or - How To Convert Me In One Very Easy Move!!!)
9/4/2015 8:05:55 PM
Before today's experience I have to admit that I wasn't all that keen on what usually passes for Italian Takeaway Food - Pizza Hut, Pizza Express, etc (are you starting to notice a theme here???).

In fact, I was starting to get a bit disheartened when it came to finding anywhere which sold authentic Italian food without me having to sit down for a three course meal (especially as I have been watching Rick Stein and his series about his travels from Italy to Turkey - where he shows all this lovely "street food").

If I am perfectly honest, I was in two minds about visiting "I Buongustai" for that very reason.

I should have realised that if the Italian guys from "Gelato Village" were tweeting about how good it is it must be OK.

(This review indirectly came from my review of "Gelato Village" - the "Gourmet" (Sorry - English Translation of "I Buongustai") staff tweeted me to invite me to sample their food after reading my review of "Gelato Village".)

One question - have you ever walked into a takeaway and felt like you were walking in to someone's kitchen at home???

That is exactly how I felt when I walked in to "I Buongustai".  They had some stools and one small table.  The thing I loved the most - apart from the food and the friendliness of the staff - was that I could actually see the dough being worked on for tomorrow's food.  No locking the cooks away in this establishment.

The food is prepared on site and cooked from fresh when you order it.  Yes - they do have pizza, however, they also have other dishes.  Allow me to recommend the "Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni".  I think the Italians have the perfect word for it - "Bellissimo"!!!

Situated at 82 Granby Street, Leicester, it is a bit of a march from "Gelato Village" but you will need the exercise to make room for dessert.  (Leicester really needs either an "Italian Quarter" or a "Proper Home-cooked Food Quarter!)

If you really want to know what I loved most about "I Buongustai" - it wasn't the food so much as the people cooking and serving it.  This is because they are obviously passionate about providing authentic Italian food to re-educate people like me.  (Of course, it helps that they are Italian themselves.)

Yes - "I Buongustai" might be a little on the expensive side for a normal "takeaway" establishment but - trust me - it is worth paying that little bit extra for food which has been cooked and served with love, using ingredients you can taste all the way through.

I would thoroughly recommend giving "I Buongustai" a try if you are in the area and you want takeaway Italian food with a difference.

Gelato or Sorbetto - "Gelato Village" is Magnifico!
9/2/2015 8:14:14 PM
OK - I admit I have a slightly strange taste in some foodstuffs.  Put it this way - my favourite foods include such diverse items as Gouda cheese with cumin seeds in it, Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice dish), Smoked Sausage in a small paper bag from a shop called "Hema", chips with mayo, Stroopwafels (I have been known to eat them by the packet), Pistachio ice cream, chocolate coated coffee beans, etc.

I have found something else to go on my list - Chocolate Sorbetto.  If I could find somewhere that would sell me this in one litre tubs I would be very happy.

There is a story attached to me discovering this exotic foodstuff.

I was in my favourite cafe (which is not a million miles away from where I discovered the Sorbetto) having lunch when I read a tweet from "Gelato Village" which intrigued me.

I had been in "Gelato Village" before for a small tub of Gelato on a hot day.  The previous visit had left me thinking it was like an ice cream parlour I had visited during a heatwave in Zeist (in Holland) several years ago - walk in, purchase ice cream, walk out again prior to consuming it.

They had obviously had a bit of a rethink - it had seats and tables this time - as well as the coolest fibreoptic sculptures I have ever seen.

Back to the Sorbetto though.

I had it as part of something called a "Grande Belezimma" (I think that is how you spell it).  This comprised of two scoops of your choice of Gelato or Sorbetto,  scoop of vanilla Gelato (or cream), and chocolate sauce, all on top of a Belgian Waffle.

I had Pistachio Gelato and Chocolate Sorbetto.

I must admit I was expecting the Sorbetto to be something closer to a cross between the English chocolate ice cream and a "Calipo" frozen ice drink.  As in - almost like frozen chocolate milk.

When I got my food I was amazed at how delicious the Sorbetto looked.  It looked like someone had taken a very large quantity of chocolate and performed some kind of magic on it.  Chocolate ice cream actually looking like chocolate is unusual enough (actually a bit too unusual for my liking) but this Chocolate Sorbetto tasted as good as it looked - there was not a bit of it which tasted metalic or synthetic.

I am very choosy when it comes to frozen chocolate of any description.  I am slightly less choosy when it comes to other forms of chocolate (but - if you really want to keep me happy may I put in a request for one of the following - the biggest bar of "Verkade" milk chocolate you can find, a box of Fererro Roche (any variety), or a large box of milk chocolate "Hagelslag" (or "hundreds and thousands") - the last one should preferably come with a supply of "Beschuitjes" (or "Dutch Crispbreads"), and a tub of "Becel Dieet Margarine" (the Dutch equivalent to "Flora Light" but without the salty taste)???).

If you want to try Chocolate Sorbetto for yourself - enter St Martins Square from Hotel Street in Leicester.  "Gelato Village" is immediately on your lefthand side.

Waste Not Want Not - A Cafe For The Conscientious (Or - How "The Real Junk Food Project" Lived Up To Their Name!)
8/8/2015 11:43:57 AM
On Thursday evening I decided to investigate something which I had only recently heard about through LCiL.

How I heard about "The Real Junk Food Project" was when they provided some very tasty food at a "Super Friday" at the Social Media Cafe run by John Coster of LCiL.

I know what you are probably thinking - "Junk Food" is a term which is used to describe the food you get from places like KFC, Birger King, McDonalds, etc.  So why should I go all the way to the West End of Leicester to eat what I can get in various forms from outlets within a 50 yard radius of my house???

Allow me to introduce you to the concept of a "Real Junk Food Cafe".

Information sheet I was handed when I sat down - tells you how a "Real Junk Food Cafe" works

First you have to re-imagine the term "Junk Food".  In the case of a "Real Junk Food Cafe" the "Junk Food" is not the sort of stuff you get out of a Fast Food outlet.

The "Junk Food" in a "Real Junk Food Cafe" is food that shops cannot sell because it has past its 'Best Before' date but is still perfectly wholesome and edible.

The Cafe is run on a "Pay As You Feel" basis (and if you cannot afford to pay they accept voluntary work and ideas in return).

On Thursday evening we had a choice of four Main Courses and two Desserts.  I honestly felt like the food had been cooked in a Restaurant kitchen.

Even if you cannot get to the West End Neighbourhood Centre on Andrewes Street in Leicester, next Thursday evening at around 7.00pm, I have a request for you.

Look in your local newspaper, or on Twitter, or Facebook, and find your nearest "Real Junk Food Cafe", and give them a try.  You will find yourself in a group of interesting humans too.

A "Lucky Dip" With A Difference - (Or Why "City Outlet" Is An Inlet For Fun!)
8/8/2015 11:09:42 AM
I don't know if you remember the "Lucky Dip" you used to get at fetes, bazaars, carnivals, etc?  You used to have to put your hand in either a bag or a bucket filled with sand and grab something without knowing what you would get.  Sometimes you would get something really good and others you would get a tacky piece of plastic.

Well, a few months ago I found another sort of "Lucky Dip" - this one came in shop form.

"City Outlet" could be classed as another exercise in Wombling but this one has a kind of fun element attached to it from the old "Lucky Dip" idea.

The shop is located on High Street in Leicester - a double-fronted shop with lots of goodies in it.

Speaking to the owner, James, I learned that the shop apparently sources all its stock from places which have gone bankrupt.  This means the stock frequently changes (so if you do find something you love I would strongly suggest taking a trolley and loading it up).

Because the stock comes from places which have gone bankrupt you can get items a lot cheaper than you would get in other High Street shops - a few days ago I went in and came out with a pair of shoes and a pair of good quality trainers for a total of £10.00.

Where the "Lucky Dip" idea comes in is - "City Outlet" is not the kind of shop to go in if you are looking for something specific at that moment in time - it works best with an open mind.

Another reason I love "City Outlet" is because it is not masquarading as a 'charity' shop - it is merely selling quality items cheaply.

I would definitely recommend "City Outlet" as a good place to visit when you want some entertainment which is easy on your finances.

"LuvinBling" - Upcycled Jewellery With A Heart (Or - Fashion For The Passionate About The Environment)
7/28/2015 11:26:35 PM
Every so often I introduce you to people (mainly friends) whose work I admire.  In this case I want to introduce you to a Womble whose work I admire because she reminds me of the line "Making good use of the things that we find - the things that the everyday folk leave behind" from the theme song to "The Wombles".

Senika Simon is the brains behind a company called "LuvinBling" which takes items which are destined for the bin and "upcycles" them to make fantastic jewellery - some of which looks as intricate as you would find in upmarket jewellers.

The only bits of the jewellery which are new (because of hygiene reasons) are the "Fishhooks" (sorry - I cannot think of another way to describe them) which attach the earrings to the holes in pierced ears.

Example of LuvinBling jewellery.

Senika also runs workshops where you can make your own jewellery (and she is a patient teacher).

If you want to see some more examples of her work and you are in Leicester go to the LCIL Popup Shop in the Highcross Shopping Centre this week and look at her stand in there.  (She gives nice hugs too!)

Maybe Its Just Me Being Me (Or - Why It Is Difficult For Some People NOT To "Think Like A Freak!!!)
7/22/2015 10:48:52 PM
I suppose I kind of owe you a bit of an explanation regarding the name of the "Being Me" category on this here blog???

The cop out would be to tell you that it is complicated - well, that would not actually be a cop out because it is complicated.  Just not necessarily in the way you might expect.

You see - the name "Being Me" is a bit of a "Ronseal" name (it does what it says on the tin) with a twist.

If you were to ask me what my all-time favourite non-Kristyna Myles song is I would have to say "Being Me" by Plaeto (you can find it on Amazon).  It is the song I listen to the most when I am feeling annoyed with the world.

The lyrics are a bit dark but the part that we are most interested in right now are in the Chorus "Because I'm being me - before the night is over you'll be here but you won't see - no you won't see - what you've got here!  You've got me!".

I was reminded of it when I learned that someone I have never met got really upset on my behalf as a result of what honestly felt like a Lynching on Twitter.  (Note to self:  Never attempt to explain yourself in 140 characters (including spaces) on Twitter when the "mentally hard of hearing" are the ones you are trying to educate.  Before you decide I am being offensive to a group of Disabled people - you are correct.  However, thinking like everybody else is not exactly classified as a disability by most people (no matter how inflexible and entrenched the thinking is).

I am not going to rehash the argument again on here (I have already had my say on that subject in a previous blog post).

There have been a few good books around recently which I have read.  They made me think about things differently.

One book - "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande - is about how wrong we have got End Of Life care for the elderly and terminally ill.  Although organ donation was not mentioned in the book, it has raised a lot of serious, negative, questions in my mind about that subject which seem to have been swept under the carpet in an attempt to get everybody to join the Donor Register.

Another book I want to mention is "Headscarves and Hymens" by Mona Eltahawy.  Ms Eltahawy is an Egyptian lady who has written about the Muslim attitudes to women as opposed to their attitudes to men.  She managed to gain the trust of Muslim women from a variety of Arab and African countries and interview them about their treatment.  Warning - this book is not for the casual reader - it hurts when you read it (or at least it did hurt me).

However, the book I want to ramble on about now is a book which (had I not read the entire "Freakonomic" series) I might well have left on the shelf because the title "Think Like A Freak" actually put me off at first.

Written by an Economist (Steven D Levitt) and a journalist (Stephen J Dubner) the entire "Freakonomics" series may sound like it will be Boring with a capital "B".  Trust me - it is the funniest, yet most educational, series of books I have ever read.

What "Freakonomics", "Superfreakonomics", and "When To Rob A Bank (The Freakopedia)", have managed to do (apart from convincing me I am not totally certifiable) is explain difficult concepts in a way which makes them easy for me to understand.

On the other hand "Think Like A Freak" has some valuable advice in it which we could all benefit from.

The first piece of advice is "in order to get the right answers you need to start by asking the right questions".  I was reminded of that one when I was watching the news this evening and saw Tony Blair badmouthing (indirectly) Jeremy Corbyn over the Leadership Election for the Labour Party in the UK.

The second one was "Freaks do not think big".  If you ask a Freak to solve a problem they will see the big picture but they will concentrate on trying to solve it in small chunks.

That sounds like me - I will concentrate on what I consider to be the most obvious problem first (whilst the rest of the world is too busy arguing about how I am doing it completely wrong).

You don't need to be an Economist or a journalist to learn the benefits of thinking like a "Freak" - you just need to be confident in your own ability to find a different way of doing something.

I suppose the hard part is explaining what you are doing and why.  Especially when what you are doing, what you believe, etc, is the exact opposite of what the rest of the world believes is how things should be done.

Take me and steep staircases for example.  Just because I went up the steep staircase doesn't mean I necessarily intend to go down it if I can avoid it.  I have been known to take a big detour to avoid going down them.  I have also been known to hold up a queue of complaining human traffic behind me as I descended a steep staircase at - what they considered to be - snail's pace (there wasn't a lift to the cardeck I wanted to get to).

As I told the lady who had stuck up for me - "I like thinking sideways because it hurts my head too much to think like normal people".

And It's From The Old I Travel To The New (Or A Short Walk From "The Globe" To An International Place Of Beauty)
7/14/2015 1:07:22 AM
Whilst I was on my way to the subject of this review I found a plaque stuck to the side of a building which was rather intriguing.

Unfortunately, I will never review "The Globe" as it fails my External Menu Test (as in I need a microscope to read the menu they have "helpfully" stuck in a glass box on an outside wall near the door.

Apparently, "The Globe" is the most notable Pub in Leicester.

Plaque on wall of "The Globe"

Maybe you can read the writing a bit better on this photo???

However, this was not my intended destination.

Those of you who read the original "Inkyworld" blog may remember I reviewed "Taps", on Guildhall Lane, a few years ago.

"Taps" is a very apt name for this pub as it has taps serving lager at the tables (apart from in the main bar area) so you can serve yourself.

Main Bar Area of Taps

This is a truly international establishment - you can try lagers and other alcoholic drinks from all over the globe.

If you want my honest opinion the best room in the place is to the right of the bar (then turn left - mind you don't (a) trip over the step just after you get into the room or (b) fall down the staircase to your left as you walk in.

As you probably know by now I hate dark or dimly lit spaces - however, I will definitely always make an exception if I am provided with stunning scenery to look at.  (Call me strange but - if you stick labels and posters on your walls advertising drinks from exotic places - I will read them.)

A Tap at Taps!!!

Something to read with your pint Sir (or Madam)???
A Place To Escape In A Busy City (The Hidden Gem That Is "St Martin's Square" - and "The Lanes")
7/14/2015 12:35:07 AM
Let me take you on a magical journey to a place where you can hide from the world.

If you read my "taster" blog post (or you follow me on Twitter) you will know that I wanted to introduce you to my favourite part of Leicester City Centre - St Martin's Square.

Ironically - one of the reasons I love it so much is because hardly anyone knows about it (so it isn't cluttered with people like the nearby Gallowtree Gate).  The other reason is why I am writing this blog post about it - it has got some great little independent shops in it which I have not seen anywhere else.

St Martin's Square has got two "main" entrances.  You will find out why I put main in inverted commas in a minute.

The most visible entrance is from Hotel Street (nearest bus stop is Town Hall Square).

The top of the Entrance to St Martin's Square (from the direction of Town Hall Square/Pocklingtons Walk)

Entrance as seen from Ground Level

The entrance from Silver Street is what you might call "slightly hidden" - I would call it almost invisible - unless you are trying to avoid stepping in any puddles (the most obvious clue is on the floor).

The writing is literally on the floor (you might just be able to make out the writing on the pillars as well).

The Square itself is nice during sunny weather as it has seats.

Anyone want a picnic???  There are picnic tables in St Martin's Square as well as the outdoor seating from the cafes.

There are three shops in the Square itself I want to give a mention to (and one which is technically not in the Square but is only a short walk away).

The first shop is St Martin's Coffeeshop.  If you are in Leicester City Centre and you want me this is where you will usually find me drinking a black Americano.

St Martin's Coffeeshop reminds me of just about every Dutch cafe and restaurant I have ever been in (OK so the furniture and the crockery in a Dutch cafe would match but the atmosphere is the same).  Another reminder will make itself known when you look at the photos.

In fact, to be perfectly honest - whenever I walk into St Martin's Coffeeshop I feel like I have walked into someone's home.  The staff are caring and friendly too.

Entrance with Terrace type seating

I could almost imagine I am in Holland - Coffee and Cycles (Cycle shop is on the right out of shot).

However, what I love most about it (apart from the mishmash of furniture and crockery) are the lighting and the space between the tables.

The string lights would probably show up better if it had been dark.

Space enough for me to navigate my way around even whilst carrying a tray!!!

They have two "menus" - a Breakfast one until 12.00pm and then a Lunch one from 12.00pm until 3.00pm.  The prices are pretty reasonable.  The food is provided by Crafty Burgers - who also do a kind of Takeover from 6.00pm from Thursday through to Saturday.

It even has free WIFI (even if someone with my eyesight has to almost get on their hands and knees to read the code and password you need to access it).

The only snag I can see is - unless you like cakes and Brownies - you would be better off going to Gelato Village (across the Square near the Hotel Street entrance to the Square) which do some lovely sorbets.  (Gelato Village is the second shop.)

Once you have eaten and drunk to your heart's content I would suggest you head for the Silver Street Entrance to the Square because you will find my second favourite shop on your way out.

"Watch This Space" sounds like an instruction more than the name of a shop - I know - but when you walk in you will find a treasure trove of handmade clothes, jewellery, and craft items.  They even do workshops where you can learn how to make some of the items yourself.

Front window of "Watch This Space"

Turn right onto Silver Street - go past the "FairTrade" shop - and you will find what can only be described as a Chocoholic's idea of Heaven.

Cocoa Amore is an artisan chocolate shop - with an old fashioned charm (the presentation of the chocolates in the boxes is really special (even to the point of tying them with proper ribbon).

Open Tuesday to Saturday it is a shop which is well worth a visit - especially since it moved out of its previous cramped premses on the top floor of the Silver Arcade.

Front window of a Chocoholic's dream.

Of course, there are other shops, etc in and around St Martin's Square - this is only a small selection.  There are also events and happenings which take place on the square itself - usually on a Saturday during the warmer weather.

I hope I have inspired you to take a trip around St Martin's Square and the area known as "The Lanes".
A Teaser And A Taster Of A Forthcoming Blog Post
7/7/2015 4:45:00 PM
I know - I know - I don't usually usually give teasers and tasters of future blog posts but I wanted to make an exception this once.

If you follow me on Twitter (@Inkyworld) you will already know how much I love St Martins Coffeeshop in Leicester.

This is the best independent Coffee Shop (or cafe) I have ever been in.

It is in a little known area of Leicester called St Martins (near "The Lanes").  This has got small independent shops in it - also "The Sweater Shop" hav got an outlet there.

I have decided I am going to introduce you to St Martins Coffeeshop, as well as some of the other exciting little places I have been known to be found in around that area.

I feel that area is too good to be "Leicester's Best Kept Secret" for much longer.

I hope you will come back and have a look when I blog about it - and maybe eve visit the area for yourself.

I really hope you can "virtually" join me at my favourite table.

I Have Seen The Future And It Is Idiotproof (Or - The Day I Fell In Love With A Mobile Phone - Of All Things)
5/9/2015 9:15:29 PM
On Thursday I was walking around in the Highcross Shopping Centre in Leicester.  (Other Shopping Centres are available.  My personal favourite one is the Oosterhof - Sorry - Alexandrium - on the outskirts of Rotterdam.)

As I was walking around an advertisement in the Three Store caught my eye.  It was advertising a mobile phone which is exclusive to that network.  Now - I am on that network already, so I decided to investigate further.

The mobile in question is an Honor 6 from Huawei (the people behind the HTC brand).

I suppose it would better be described as a "Phablet" (a cross between a mobile phone and a tablet) as it is bigger than a standard mobile phone.

Homescreen set up to my requirements

I have to admit I am slightly more fussy about the capabilities of a mobile phone than other people might be - this is partially due to my sight and partially due to the fact I hate having to delve into the phone to find the apps and features I require.

My previous favourite phone (which I have owned) put in for its P45 a few weeks back.  That was an LG G3 - all singing, all dancing (except for two features I discovered on the Honor 6 after I had bought it - more about those as we go on).  However - I should have remembered my last experience with an LG mobile phone - I had had an LG Viewty a few years ago and that died quicker than I had been expecting it to as well.

I had read reviews of the Samsung S5 and decided to give that a try.  To say that me an it did not get on is an understatement.  The three fatal flaws in it (as far as I was concerned anyway) were not being able to put the Apps in groups on the Homescreen, Not being able to set up the email so I could access my emails from my Tiscali email account (Samsung do not do Tiscali), and not being able to access the Wifi in the Phoenix in Leicester (told me the Wifi was unsafe and forced me to go back - when I had previously accessed it on both my Samsung Tablet, and my LG G3 mobile phone).

I admit I haven't tried to access public Wifi on the Honor 6 yet - time will tell about that.

So - what about the Honor 6???

Well, it is on the Android 4.4.2 Operating System - but don't let this put you off.  It seems to be better than Android 5.0 (I refuse to call it "Lollipop") although I am expecting it to be upgraded at some point.

There is one major difference between the Honor 6 and every other Android mobile phone I have seen and owned.  The Apps are on the Homescreen (as you would see on an iPhone) so no scrabbling around looking for the icon to get you to the Menu screen.

It is very easy to put the Apps into groups on the Honor 6.

The memory on the mobile phone I got is 32GB built in (upgradeable by inserting a memory card).

You can either use two SIM cards (from different networks) or one SIM card and one memory card.  The slots are on the side of the phone so you don't need to remove the back cover.

The Honor 6 is a sealed unit phone (except for the socket for the earphones and the socket for the power charger - this is the only thing I actually liked about the Samsung S5, having a cover for the charger socket).

The screen is bright with easily readable (and adjustable) font sizes.  This is the first thing I look for in a screen which I am expected to access information from.

The Google Keyboard is white on black as default - easier on my eyes.

The Notification panel at the top of the screen is easy to read and the drop down menu (which shows you what the notifications are trying to alert you to) is the clearest I have come across on any mobile phone.

Remember I mentioned there were two extra functions which were not on the LG G3???

These two were a pleasant surprise when I found them hidden away in the menu as they are the two things which someone like me could find most useful on a mobile phone - even more useful than the ability to make phone calls and send tweets and texts (that may be an exaggeration but it is not much of one).

The most useful was the torch - yes, I did say torch.  Unfortunately, most mobile phone manufacturers seem to have decided that the last thing anybody needs on a phone is a torch.  This means that you need to go to the App store for the Operating System for your mobile and risk getting a virus or phishing malwear downloaded onto your phone when you most need a torch.  The Honor 6 has the best torch I have seen on a mobile phone - it is as bright as a car headlight.

The other function I found which I was pleasantly surprised about was the Magnifier.  Whilst this is not adjustable for magnification purposes I still think it is a useful tool.

Three cameras finish this brilliant masterpiece off.  We have one front facing camera (so you can take selfies with it, use it for video calls, or use the Mirror App) and two cameras at the back.  I am still a bit confused by this but apparently one is for "normal" views and the other one is for panoramic shots.

Oh - there is one thing I forgot to mention.  The sound quality from the Music App is extremely good (pity the headphones supplied with the phone don't match it).  In fact, the sound quality is good full stop, music, digital radio (you have to download the App separately yourself), or phonecalls.

If I had my way this mobile phone would be on all networks.  At nearly half the price I paid for the Samsung S5 you get a much better phone.

I cannot compare the Honor 6 to an iPhone merely because the couple of times I was forced to use an iPhone I ended up wishing I could throw it into the nearest river.  Unfortunately I was forced, through politeness and respect, to return them to their owners.

(Please note - this review is my genuine opinion and I have not recieved any payment or bribe for it.)

A Rainbow Of Emotions Painted By An Extraordinary Artist (Or - The Album Was Stunning But Hearing Kristyna Myles Live REALLY Made It Come To Life)
3/25/2015 2:23:20 AM
They say that a picture can paint a thousand words, don't they???  Well, I decided I could do with a little help in trying to describe the extraordinary show which Kristyna Myles put on tonight - so I took my camera along to take some photos of her in action.  (It is up to you if the photographer gets her P45 though.)

Tonight was an interesting gig in more ways than one.

What do you get when you cross Russell Brand, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and Axl Rose???  The answer is a rather interesting singer called Matt Henshaw.

When Matt walked on stage he reminded me of Russell Brand - he looked so much like him.  When Matt spoke he was quiet - the Ringo Starr connection came about because he kept muttering "Peace and Love".  One of the songs he sang reminded me of "Got My Mind Set On You" by George Harrison.  If there was one slight niggle I had with what could have been an amazing set, it was the fact that I thought he was short of a keyboard player, a drummer, and a bassist (Matt played the guitar himself).

For those of you who have never been in The Musician in Leicester, I had better inform you that it is an intimate venue, tucked away in a side street in Leicester City Centre.  Put it this way, you cannot mistake it for the DeMontfort Hall, King Power Stadium, or the Tigers Rugby Stadium on Welford Road (all of which can fit in a lot more people).

Why am I telling you all this???  When Matt sang he seemed to sing at one volume for most of his short set - LOUD! As in - imagine Guns & Roses playing the King Power Stadium and people needing to hear from Row Z (now you know where the similarity to Axl Rose comes in).

I found it a real shame because - if Matt had sung his whole set as quietly as he sang the last song I am sure I would have liked him and his songs more.  As it is the only song which my ears liked was the last one "You Have Eyes Of Gold" due to the fact it was sung quietly compared to the others - which made it easier to hear the story he was trying to tell with the song through his voice.

Then we had the star of the show.  Kristyna had a band with her (including Ben Williams of course).  I was surprised near the end of the show when Kristyna said that the gig was the first time the lineup on stage had performed together (they sounded like they had been doing it for years).

(Kristyna Myles and band)

I half- expected Kristyna to open with the amuse bouche from the album ("New Page (Interlude)"). However, she went straight into "I'm Getting Rid Of This". 

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to take a good photo of one of the Barbershop Quartet in his hat and bowtie as he was almost hidden in a dark corner.  Apparently some of the other extras from the video were scattered in the audience in costume too.  I would have liked to see some of them at the front dancing along.

I must admit to being so used to Ben Williams doing the backing vocals whenever he and Kristyna play together that I was actually worried that he had lost his voice.  This time the backing vocals were done by the keyboard player - who added a different dimension to some of the songs through the way his voice blended with Kristyna's.

(Kristyna and Keyboard player blending harmonies)

Every single time I hear Kristyna sing one of her own songs she somehow manages to show me something new in it.  This is especially true when she sings live.  "Garment Of Shame" is one of the songs which Kristyna really brought to life just by the way she sang it - you could actually hear the pain in her voice as she sang it.

(Kristyna showing the audience the emotion in her song)

"A Change Is Gonna Come" was the 'audience participation' song of the evening.  We were encouraged to clap along.

(Kristyna leading the audience in clapping to "A Change Is Gonna Come")

That last photo really sums up the gig for me.  Kristyna is happy because she is doing the one thing she exists to do - singing - as well as taking her audience on a magical journey of discovery.

Between Matt Henshaw's set and Kristyna's show I met up with someone I had been in contact with on Twitter.  Keith Bache had seen Kristyna's gig in Manchester on Monday, came to the Leicester gig, and was planning to go to her London gig too.  He recognised me both by my Twitter profile photo and a photo I had put up earlier in the evening of me wearing my "Team Smyles" tshirt (which the founder of Team Smyles, Julie Kirkpartick, had sent me the logo for).  The smile on Kristyna's face when she saw my tshirt was the icing on an extremely delicious cake.

(Team Smyles member reporting)

My absolute favourite photo of the night was one I took of Kristyna speaking to a fan.  I love it because it shows how much she likes her fans, pledgers, and friends.  She is so warm and down-to-Earth, she makes you feel like you are the only person in her world when she speaks to you.

(Kristyna speaking to a fan)

I know I keep saying this but if you get the chance to see Kristyna perform live do it - preferably before she starts selling out places which cost the Earth to get into.  I promise you will be taken on an adventure you will remember because she will guide you through your emotions and leave you smiling at the end of it. 

"Paint A Brighter Day" - The New Masterpiece By Kristyna Myles
3/23/2015 2:02:37 AM
I want to take this opportunity to thank the Czech Painters for allowing the UK to "borrow" one of their number.  This one uses words and music to paint such vibrant pictures that they could almost be painted on canvas and sold for millions of pounds at Christies or Sotherby's auction house.

Actually - I am not entirely sure that the album which is the subject of this review is by Kristyna Myles at all - the name matches, same as the photograph on the cover, the voice sounds familiar in places too.  However, the artistry and the emotional rollercoaster ride I have just been on are something I would more expect from someone like Celine Dion, Dolly Parton (I am thinking of the original of "I Will Always Love You" in this instance), Patsy Cline, Diana Ross, or one of the earlier "Diva-type" singers from yesteryear.

The opening song "New Page (Interlude)" is a little amuse-bouche for your ears - and it really left me wanting more of that song.  By the power vested in Kristyna she is now going to take you on an emotional journey which will leave you feeling like you can take on the world and win.

Next we have "I'm Getting Rid Of This".  This is an upbeat song about finally realising you are in a toxic relationship and getting up the courage to leave.  My favourite line of the song has to be one of my favourite lines of the entire album - "Would you treat your Mother like that???  I don't think so".

Next we have "Heaven Knows" - This is a slightly jazzy song.  It is about not giving up because you never know what is round the corner.

"Drop Me A Line" is one of the more clever songs lyrically.  It has a twist in the tail.  She starts off sounding like it is a follow up to "Setback" from "Pinch Me Quick".  It is only in the last few lines that you realise that it is one of the songs where she is talking about God and how prayer can help.

"Autumn" could almost be a slow dance ballad.  She is singing about the season of Autumn and how much she loves it.  It is so convincing that I think even those who start off (for some strange reason) not liking autumn very much will end up liking the season.

Next we have "It's Not About You" - this song contains the title of the album as part of it's lyrics.  A slower soul-type song which matches the lyrics.  If you ask me I can think of several people in the Public eye who should really listen very carefully to and pay very close attention to the lyrics of this song.

Next we speed up slightly for "I Guess I'll Never Know" - I think this could be a contender for a theme to a "James Bond" film.  I could honestly imagine this being played with the band being replaced by an orchestra (just think "Goldfinger" but with a much gentler singing style and you will get the picture).

"A Change Is Gonna Come" heralds it's own arrival with a switch to a country-style tune.  I am not really a very big fan of out and out country music so it may surprise you to learn that this is my favourite song on the entire album - just because it is so chirpy and upbeat.

Next we have some pure - unadulterated Kristyna in ballad mode.  "Garment of Shame" could even melt the hardest of hearts - just through the heart-wrenching emotion she uses her voice to show.

"Halfway" is actually the last but one track on the album.  Here we have a Kristyna who wants to compromise with you in an argument.  This one is a kind of mix between Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" and "Chain Reaction" by Diana Ross when it comes to the mix of emotion in the lyrics.

We finish the emotional rollercoaster ride with "Heavy On My Soul".  This song is more upbeat and danceable to than the title may suggest.  In fact, it is about the joy Kristyna finds in her faith.

All in all I think this album is a complete work of art.  I also feel honoured to have been able to be part of the journey of making it through pledging through her Pledgemusic campaign to raise funds to record the album.

One thing I want to finish off with is that if anybody tells me I am even a quarter as talented at writing on my small - insignificant - blog as Kristyna Myles is at writing and performing such amazing songs I will be a very happy blogger indeed.  (If, on the other hand, they try to tell me that I am equally as talented as Ms Myles I will politely but firmly ask them to reconsider their opinion because I honestly do not think I an anywhere near as talented as her.)

I Think I Can Finally Say That I Am Off My Trolley (Or - One Goes Mad In A Treasure Trove Again!)
3/21/2015 9:24:20 PM
It is official - Lutterworth has finally got it's own Disneyland.  Instead of fairground rides and Disney characters it has got eclectic things to buy and helpful, entertaining, staff.

You may remember my review of the first time I went into "Nyo" in Lutterworth?  (The photo of the sign saying "We are 39 steps away - just round the bend?)

Anyway - I returned.

This time I bought a trolley!  And loaded it up!  I must admit it was a bit of a struggle to get it on the bus home!  I couldn't even squeeze the three umbrellas I bought into it!  Or the fan!

Only joking - see below for full-size photo of trolley and contents.

(I must admit I was so tempted to buy the bigger version of the trolley.  The wheels and the seat, etc, do work as well.)

In the trolley are Lip Gloss, Phone Sleeve, Tweezers, Nail Clippers, Foldable Scissors, and Padlock.  Leaning on the trolley is the Fan.

Above you have the photo of the three umbrellas in their tubes still.

The black one has got a cat's face painted on the handle.  It has it's own furry holder complete with tail.

The turquoise one has one of those Russian doll faces painted on the handle.

The red/pink one has a dancing girl in a shoulderless top painted in the handle (I suspect the umbrella unfolds so it looks like a ballgown or something like that).

If you are in Lutterworth please visit the shop!  You might even beat me to buying a large LED light shaped like a Lightbulb if you do!

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Introducing Ben Williams (Or The Guitarist Takes Centre Stage)
3/2/2015 2:36:54 AM
What can I say about Ben Williams???  I think of him as the Richie Sambora to Kristyna Myles playing the role of Jon Bon Jovi.  He is usually found playing a guitar and tambourine/stompbox combination as acoustic backing for Kristyna Myles at her gigs (he plays guitars when she is with her full band).  This is his debut solo album.

Ben previously released an EP called "Balloon String" which contains different versions of some of the songs on this album.

This album is called "Who Do You Think You Are?"

The first track is a slight reworking of "To My Delight" from the EP.  This version sounds like a slightly more upbeat version of the original with added drums.  The lyrics sound like they have been written by a man who doesn't quite know how he go into a relationship but he knows he wants to stay in it.

Next up we have "Bide Your Time".  A vaguely exasperated-sounding Ben trying to convince someone to stop their argument.  This track has got a 1970's/early 1980's vibe to it - both with the music and the way he mixes speaking with singing.

The best way of describing "The Fall Out" is it sounds like Madness decided to cover "Ghost Town" by The Specials.  As in - it shouldn't work but somehow the combination of the music and the lyrics combine to make a really nice song.

"I Can Do That" has a soulful jazz-like sound to it which complements both the way Ben sings it and the lyrics themselves.

Take your partners for the Hoedown that is "Who Do You Think You Are?".  I have to admit that I prefer the version of this I heard on the "Balloon String" EP - the slower tune of the original matched the lyrics a little more.  The Country and Western style tune and singing of this version sounds a little rushed (poor Ben almost sounds like he is going to run out of breath at the end of the song).

Next Ben slows the pace right down and decides to find a white towel which he can wave as a flag of surrender before he throws the towel in and walks away.  The appropriately named "Hold Your Fire" is a proper, lighter-waving ballad.

Back to the Country and Western vibe - this time with more of a Line Dancing feel - for "Did I? Didn't I?".  The slower tune compared to "Who Do You Think You Are?" is easy listening at it's best.

We are now in the region of the 1960's with "Change It".  The simplicity of the lyrics are complemented by the danceable tune.  (This song has made me move as I type this review.  It is also a possible earworm song.)

Now we have my favourite song!  "Balloon String" is a mish mash of lyrics which should not make sense in the order that he sings them in.  (The ones about "Selling my body parts on Ebay" are the best ones on the entire EP - or maybe that is just my weird sense of humour.)

I am "Trying So Hard" to work out which song and group this next track reminds me of.  Ben sings most of this in a lower key and voice than the rest of the songs on this album.  This has the effect of turning it into the most relaxing song on the album - almost to the point where it could be used as a meditation exercise or a hypnosis backing track.  I like it.

If I had my way I would do two things with "Jukebox Secret" - First thing is make it the opening track of the album (it is pure Ben) and second thing is release it as a single.  It is singable and very listenable.

All in all this is a very good album with a nice mix of musical styles.  It is available on Amazon and iTunes.

Amusing Sign And Zip-up Earphones (Or I Knew This Shop Would Be Fun Before I Got Near It)
2/25/2015 3:46:13 PM
How would you react to the following sign;

I admit the "We are just around the bend" line is what got me intrigued enough to follow the sign's advice and find the shop.

Owned by Laurence Sharma and his wife Madeleine, "nyo" is a treasure trove of unusual products.  I even bought myself a pair of headphones that you can zip up from there.

The shop passed my "entry" test - it was bright and well spaced out. I also felt able to browse at my leisure (I hate shops where merely pointing at something brings an assistant running as if you are intending to steal items).

Although, I have to admit something.

Laurence Sharma was nearly as fascinating as his shop.  He was friendly and approachable.  He even told me the shop was named after his Burmese Mum (his Dad was from India and he was born in England).

If you are ever in Lutterworth and you want some fun - visit "nyo".  You will come out smiling.

The Book Which Reminded Me Of My Favourite Teacher At School (As Well As Daring To Say How I Felt About The Rest Of School)
12/18/2014 9:42:04 PM
Warning - This post may appear to contain gratuitous swearing (foul language, cursing, call it what you will).  However - on this occassion I hope you will forgive me as I have a legitimate excuse.  As in the words are not originally mine.  All will become clear.

I have recently had to apologise to someone behind a till and tell them that the words on the cover of one of the books I wished to purchase were not directed at him.

Apparently the author (a Matt Potter) had even more fun trying to publicise it on Radio 4 (cannot say the full title - just asterisks) and on the Andrew Neil programme on TV - he couldn't say the full title but had the title on full display).

I must admit - the title is what hooked me originally.  You could say it was direct and to the point.  However, the title didn't tell you what the book was about - you had to read the subtitle for that.

"F**k you and goodbye" may not be everybody's idea of a nice title for a book but at least it got my attention enough to make me pick it up and browse through it.  (I admit the larger title kind of swamped the subtitle of "The dark and hilarious history of the Resignation Letter" until I actually picked the book up.)

If you want to interest me in something which I may find difficult to understand or may not be interested in to start with - go for a strange title.  I am just sad that the people who design the curriculums for schools haven't quite grasped that idea yet.  Jazz the subjects up by giving them interesting names and you would be halfway to success.

What you have to do next (which Mr Potter managed easily) is make me feel like I am living the book as I read it.  As well as make me want to read it non-stop from cover to cover.

He covered a wide variety of resignation letters - ranging from wordy ones from ex-politicians (as well as giving a juicy peice of information about George W Bush's earlier career), through one Native American Chief, to some other people who would not have been interesting had it not been for their resignation letter.  In fact, the main title from the book is actually copied from a resignation letter.

His explanations managed to avoid the "Art Historian" way of explaining things (ie, trying to put the early resignation letters into modern contexts and tell us what we are supposed to think about them).  Instead he let us think for ourselves.

The book was written in a conversational style (which I like most of all in a non-fiction book) and easy to read. 

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