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Sold As Seen Or Sold As Unseen (Or Why Do Shops Only Show You Half The Picture?)
12/4/2014 11:44:42 PM
I decided to treat myself last week (as well as attempting to reduce the chances of my house burning down accidentally).  So I bought myself a Digital TV.  I knew I had to get it home myself so I bought the smallest and cheapest one in the shop.  As it turned out I could have bought one the size of a wall and it wouldn't have made much difference.  (Carrying it would have been difficult but that isn't what I meant.)

I can see the picture clearly as well as the subtitles.  Both of these are good things.  (In fact the picture looks bigger and sharper than on my old TV - and it doesn't sound like it is going to explode when I switch it on.)

What I cannot see clearly (and I wouldn't be able to see clearly - no matter how big the actual screen was) is useful information like the channel and the Electronic Programme Guide.

You see, the shops selling TV's all have one fatal flaw.  At least as far as I am concerned.

If you want to buy a computer, a laptop, a tablet, or a mobile phone, you can walk into any retailer and play around with the display models to see if the object meets your requirements before you buy it.  I have heard rumours that would suggest that you can even take a car out for a test drive before you buy it.

When it comes to buying a TV though you don't get that opportunity.  You are shown a wall of screens (with the sound on mute) all tuned to the same channel.  No sign of a remote control.  This means you have to actually buy the TV before you find out that the Channel number is in small writing in a faint colour which merges into the background - and the same goes for the Electronic Programme Guide (which also happens to be a small box in the middle of your picture).

I am convinced that any shop selling you a TV should be forced to supply remote controls (they could be attached to the same kind of flexes as mobile phones) so customers can see the full workings of the TV.
The Bottle Opener You Can Use Again And Again On The Same Bottle (Or "Gadget Games")
11/23/2014 7:58:35 PM
This may or may not surprise you but I am absolutely fascinated by gadgets (especially how people come up with all the weird and wonderful ideas).  Find me a phone, a computer, a lamp, an unusual pen, a bottle opener, etc, and leave me to play with it for a few hours.

By now you are probably staring at your screen thinking "she has finally flipped her lid, lost the plot, etc.  How can anybody be fascinated by a bottle opener???".

Yes, yes, bottle openers open bottles.  But this one lets you use the same lid to close the bottle as well.

I got it from Red5 in the Highcross Shopping Centre in Leicester (with some other items which I may or may not review at a later date).

This bottle opener is not one of those things which turns the lid to your lager bottle into a piece of metalic origami (the top stays the same shape as it was when it was on the bottle).

The bottle opener is approximately the same size as one of those metal salt cellars you find in cruet sets (salt, pepper, and sometimes vinegar) - with a difference.  If you turn it upside down it almost ressembles a metallic shot glass - the inside of which is black.

You place the bottle opener over the neck of the bottle and press firmly on the top until you hear a click or a pop.  Then remove the bottle opener, turn upside down and remove the lid of the bottle.  When you have drunk as much as you want to from your bottle simply replace the lid until you next want to drink from it.  Then repeat process.

I know I don't usually review gadgets but I was so impressed by this one I had to tell you about it.

The Riverside Restaraunt And The Railway Station With A Reading Room And A Bar
11/4/2014 8:37:07 PM
If I had been born in Yorkshire I would have advised you to play the "Hovis" theme tune as you read this.  As I was born in East Anglia I don't think it would work but the sentiment is still there.

As it was my birthday last Friday my Dad decided to take me out for a treat.  In fact, he took me home to where I was born (yes we did drive past some signs for the hospital I was born in as well).

Before I continue with the reviews I would like to say a couple of things about myself.  I am technically English (born, raised, and educated in England) but the part of England I was born in has more in common with Holland than Leicester and the rest of England - it is flat as a pancake for one thing.  My Mum and I were both born in Port towns (OK so Rotterdam is slightly bigger than Kings Lynn but at least we were born facing the same stretch of sea).  Oh - and when I started Primary School my Mum and I both had a strong accent which other people couldn't understand.  (I really wish I could get my original accent back.)

I am reasonably easy to keep quiet and happy - just show me water and lots of it.  This can take the form of rain or - more usually - rivers or sea.

Last year for my birthday my Dad decided to surprise me by taking me to a part of Kings Lynn I didn't really remember for a meal.  This year we went to the same place.

The Riverside Restaurant, in Kings Lynn (27 King Street), really lives up to its name by being right on the riverside (you can even watch the little ferry go from West Lynn to the town centre).  It is in an old building (probably a warehouse or Customs Bond House) with the original beams and features.

Dad and I both had the same meal.  I found a starter of Lynn Shrimp and Leek Tart irresistable (and delicious) although I wasn't too keen on the leaf salad it was served with (I would have preferred it on its own - either provide me with other salad items to go with the salad leaves, ie, tomato and cucumber or just give me the tart on its own - and don't drown the leaf salad with a dressing which clashes with the tart).

The main course was a Sea Bass with Tomato and Pesto Sauce, served with New Potatoes.  I had never tried Sea Bass before but it was delicious.

I even had a glass of white wine with it.  It was advertised as a dry white wine.  I am sorry but someone is really going to have to explain to me how a liquid can be both wet and dry at exactly the same time.  It was a Sauvignon (even I know that is white grapes).  We skipped dessert as we had more adventures to go on that day.

After my Dad had taken me for a drive past the one building I have ever lived in which I would move back into like a shot as well as the nearest local Railway station to it (if you are ever in Norfolk I would suggest you visit Runcton Holme and Watlington - especially if you are into quaint places) we went to Downham Market.

I was amazed to learn on one of my trips back to Norfolk with my Mum that she and a couple of family friends had protested against plans for "Woodlakes Caravan Park" (as it was then).  The reason for my amazement is that we were staying in that exact place when I found out.  Woodlakes has now turned into a Fishing Lodge park www.woodlakes.com/.  Situated between Downham Market and Kings Lynn (and a 20 minute walk from Watlington station) it is in peaceful surroundings.

Downham Market is almost a chocolate box Market Town with a very well-kept secret.  The secret is a Railway Station which I would move into if I could.  It has got a library (with second hand books for sale too) and a bar selling alcoholic drinks.  The front of the Railway Station looks for all the world like it could have been transplanted from somewhere like Groningen or Delft.

The only disappointing thing about Norfolk is that the original accent is being drowned out by the London/Essex/Home Counties accent.  I stopped a lady on a Mobility Scooter to ask if I was heading in the right direction to get to the Railway Station and I was really pleasantly surprised to hear my original accent being spoken at me.  (You wouldn't believe me now if you heard me speak but - when I started Primary School - I had such a broad Norfolk accent that apparently my Mum was advised to send me to a Speech Therapist because nobody could understand a word I said.  Her reply (in a thick Dutch
accent) "Don't worry - they all sound like that where she comes from".  When they enquired where on Earth that was she silenced them with "Norfolk".  End of Speech Therapy idea.

Back to the subject.  Next time you are in Norfolk give Kings Lynn and Downham Market a visit.  A bit of Holland in England.

A Change Is DEFINITELY Gonna Come (Or The Myles Magic Strikes Again - And Introduces Me To Another Great Band Or 600)
10/14/2014 1:20:17 AM
You could say that Leicestershire is lucky to have a vibrant "Creative Arts" scene.  After all, the rollcall of people who are recognised as being in the Creative Arts are as varied as Sue Townsend, Kasabian, Showaddywaddy, one member of Queen, and the winners of "The X-Factor" and "Great British Bakeoff".  Leicestershire also has a few companies which produce Creative Artwork which you might not expect.

Leicestershire also has quite a few venues dotted around the city and county.  Unfortunately not all of them are "Disabled-Friendly".  One which fits under the heading of "Disabled-Friendly" - if not easily accessible on foot in the dark - is The Musician.  This is a music venue/bar/pub which is squirrelled away down one end of Clyde Street, near Leicester City Centre.  It also happens to be an intimate venue which encourages lots of interaction with audiences.

The gig I went to was billed as a "Double-header" between one singer with one guitarist, and one band.  What we actually got (as will become apparent) seemed more like one singer, one guitarist, and several bands all at once.

Kristyna Myles opened the evening - ably assisted as usual by her guitarist, Ben Williams.

The set included a couple of tracks from her debut album "Pinch Me Quick", along with "Fooling" from her EP "Wanna Wear Black".  However, most of her set was made up of tracks from her forthcoming album "Paint A Brighter Day" (yes - I have mentioned a Pledge Music Campaign elsewhere on this blog to raise funds for the recording of the album).

I am not going to name all the songs she sang - I am just going to tell you about the ones which stood out to me for one reason or another.

The one which stuck in my mind long after the last chord and the last word faded into silence was "Garment of Shame" - this was pure emotion and pure, unadulterated, Kristyna at her best.

You know when you are just sitting quietly, listening to music, and an idea comes into your head, dragged in kicking and screaming by the memories the music provokes???  That is exactly what happened when I heard "Halfway".  I had been tring to find a way of writing something based on my side of an argument.  "Halfway" not only brought the memories flooding back but I think they may have unlocked the way to start the writing.

On the subject of writing - "Drop Me A Line" is a song with a pretty good twist in its tail.  It starts of sounding like someone wants you to write them a letter telling them about your problems (and that person tells you they know what you are going through).  However, it is only right at the end of the song when you find out who wants you to tell them your problems (the major clue is the word "Prayer" right near the end of the song).

On the subject of "Heavenly Beings" - the next song is one "Heaven Knows" I am still not sure about.  It is the only one of Kristyna's songs which I actually had to see performed in a certain setting for it to make total sense to me.  Before I saw it on "Songs of Praise" my brain was still stuck on the usual throwaway kind of line "Heaven knows why she did that" with accompanying sarcastic tone of voice.

In the middle of Kristyna's set she let her guitarist - Ben Williams - play a couple of his songs.

One of these "Hold Your Fire" was slightly more laid back than the title may suggest.  The whole mood of the song is best summed up by Ben singing "come back when you've calmed down" in a way that suggests he has got a headache, is fed up, and just wants some peace and quiet.

The second track is slightly more frenetic sounding - "Balloon String" is the only song I have ever come across which talks about someone "selling my body parts on Ebay".  This is closely followed by the lyric "She is a dangerous woman.  She's made grown men cry".  (To be quite honest I am not surprised she makes them cry.)  This sounds like a random collection of overheard bits of conversation set to music but it is brilliant because of it.

The second set was played by a group called Miss 600.

Kristyna had introduced them by saying their music was a mix of Jazz and Soul.  By the time they had finished I had mentally added Ska (Reggae) and a rocky sort of Blues to the list.

I have to be honest and admit that I had my doubts when I say the Trumpet player walk onto the stage.  His jacket and tie just suggested "Madness" to me.  No - I am not being rude about someone I have never spoken to before - I mean "Madness" as in the band from the 1970's/1980's who had a lead singer who answered to "Suggs".  (I was quite surprised when the Trumpet player stayed standing next to the Saxophonist instead of running into the middle of the stage.)

When the female lead singers came on stage I was hooked.  I say "female lead singers" plural for one very good reason.  Although there was only one female lead singer and one female backing singer - the lead singer started off sounding like Judy Garland, then sounded like Lisa Stansfield, then sounded like Marilyn Monroe, and she kept switching between them.

There is one easy way for me to tell you how good I thought Miss 600 were - I bought their second album based on hearing the song "Ladies Do (What Ladies Do)".  Usually I have to hear at least two tracks I like before I buy a CD by a band I have never heard of before.

For their finale Miss 600 gave me a treat (I don't know whether the rest of the audience felt the same way as I did about what the band did but I loved it) - they let every instrument player play an extended solo in their last but one song (they also did an encore).  How to convince an audience that the people in the band can play their instruments in one easy move (the bass guitar solo had to b heard to be believed).

There was only one thing which I was slightly disappointed about.  I would have loved to have heard Kristyna singing with the ladies of Miss 600.  (Now I am going to add that to my personal wishlist just behind Kristyna duetting with Richie Sambora on a cover of "Undiscovered Soul".)

I know I can sound like a broken record at this point in a review of a gig by Kristyna Myles but please go and see her sing live for an out of this world experience.  Please also go and see Miss 600 live.  Even better would be to see Kristyna Myles and Miss 600 on the same bill.  It would be worth it.

The Day A Cafe Lived Up To Its Name (Or Never Mind "Bewiched" I Was Captivated!)
8/24/2014 5:27:29 PM
"I love this place and I haven't even bought anything yet!"

Yesterday was the first time I said the above words aloud on entering any kind of retail premises and actually meant them.

What could have caused such a spontaneous reaction???  Being allowed to retain some independence and feeling able to let someone do their actual job without having to ask them for help.

I am a simple creature and it is reasonably easy to keep me happy when I am roaming around in the wild on my own.  Do not make me feel that I need to find a pack to be part of in order to enjoy whatever it is you are trying to offer me - especially if I have entered your premises on my own.

Three things got me intrigued enough to walk through the door of "Bewiched" in Kettering.  Someone had mentioned it to me when I had reviewed the Costa Coffee places in Kettering for my original blog.  The name was quirky enough to grab my attention.  Having a bicycle with flowers on it outside the window* definitely caught my eye.  (Well - I am half-Dutch.)

If there is one thing I absolutely hate it is having to ask complete strangers to read things out to me (to be honest I am not very keen on having to ask friends to read things out to me either but at least I know they won't mind doing it).  The way I see it is - getting me to enter your shop, cafe, etc, is the easy bit - actually keeping me in there long enough for you to sell me your product or service is where the really hard work starts.

A large menu on a coloured background with easy to read type will definitely help you if you are in charge of a cafe.  A menu large enough for me to read even though it is stuck behind the counter definitely works in your favour.  In fact, that is what made me say the sentence I started this blog post with.

The cafe was also well-lit (even though it was daylight - I have walked into some cafes which made me wish I had purchased a lantern before entering during daylight hours).

Comfortable looking furniture was set out in such a way that I could navigate my way around even with a tray in my hands.  The place looked like it had plenty of space inside.

When I ordered my mug of tea it was served in a large - solid - mug*.  To me this indicated that my custom was actively encouraged and I was allowed to linger over my drink.  I am sorry but serving me drinks (even cold ones like milkshakes and iced coffee) in a plastic container - even when I have stated I wish to stay in your premises - does not make me feel welcome.  Although I am a bit puzzled as to why the milk was served in something which ressembled an old fashioned vinegar bottle which had lost its stopper.

I chose a very comfortable armchair to sit in as I drank my tea (and ate my Teacake which was served with butter and apricot jam).

What made the experience even nicer was the lightshades*.  They were such a pretty pattern and left me wondering how they had been made (along with where I could get them from).

In fact, there is only one minor problem with "Bewiched" - there isn't one in Leicester yet.  When I was handed my Loyalty Card I asked the man behind the counter if they could open one in Leicester.;  Now I have to find a way of getting to Peterborough or Corby if I want to visit another branch.  (I actually wanted to move in to the Kettering branch but I had a bus to catch.)

*I did take a photo of the bicycle, the mug, and a lightshade.  If you want to see them go to the Photos Section of the website.

When The Stage Lit Up Something DEFINITELY Took Hold Of Me (Or Another Dose Of Myles Magic)
7/27/2014 3:48:05 PM
Please don't ask me where I was between 2.30pm and 3.00pm this afternoon because I couldn't actually tell you.  Oh - I could tell you where my physical body was.  That was standing in front of the Stage at the De Monfort Hall in Leicester.  However, the rest of me was taken on a magical journey piloted by a world class singer - ably assisted by her band.

It really comes to something when I don't actually recognise the person on stage as a friend of mine.  She looked like my friend and sounded like my friend when she spoke.  When she sang it was a completely different story - the lady who was singing could have been almost any famous female singer who had just decided to drop in on a music festival in Leicester on a sunny Sunday afternoon in July.

From the minute she walked onto the stage and started to sing it almost seemed like the building could melt away and I could be transported to any place of her choosing.

She even moved around the stage confidently.  As in - it seemed like she had moved in for the duration (I could almost imagine some furniture - a settee and a few chairs - being put on the stage and the audience being invited up to take a seat whilst she sang to us.  She seemed that comfortable).

There was a rather unusual twist to "The Paris Match" this time.  Instead of the trumpet solo which features in the song her guitarist, Ben Williams, played the solo on his guitar.  To me this gave the song a slightly different feel - it almost took it back to Paul Weller's mournful original version.

However, I now have a new favourite song of hers (it shares top spot with "Someone").  It was the one she opened with and one of only two she didn't announce before she sang it.  "I'm Getting Rid Of This" is pure Kristyna.  To me it also showcases the range of emotions her voice can show on its own.

There was a song with a slight Country flavour as well.  "A Change Is Gonna Come" was an interesting song as it sounded so unlike anything I have heard her sing.  I could imagine an out-and-out Country singer (as in from the United States) singing it.

(I am just waiting for her to write and perform an Operatic-style Aria - I think opera is the only form of music which has yet to be subjected to the "Myles Treatment".)

She also sang "Just Three Little Words", with just bass guitar, electric guitar, and a bit of keyboard, as backing.  Stripped back almost to its orginial acoustic version.  (Put it this way - the first time I heard this song it was just her and a guitar.)

The closing song was the most apt song she could have chosen as far as the lyrics are concerned - "I'm Not Going Back".

After the gig I got talking to a man whose 6 year old daughter loves Kristyna's album so much that she has learned some of the songs by heart.  If proof was needed that Kristyna's music appeals to all ages that was it.

There are times when I can hardly believe that a lady with Kristyna's talents is so friendly and down to Earth.  She made time after the gig to speak to some of her fans personally.  Believe me - when she gives you her attention she makes you feel like you are the only important person in the room at that moment.

This is not going to be my usual request that you go and see Kristyna perform live before she starts selling out places which cost the Earth to get into.  (Although - I would really encourage you to do that.)

Next time you want to hear some good music or see a good performance go and find a singer or band you like who are not quite as well known as your Mariah Carey, your Adele, your Bon Jovi, or your Rod Stewart, and share in their journey to their dreams by watching them perform and buying their CDs, etc.  If you do that you will be doing all of us who like live music a favour.  You may even become one of their friends and share in their story that way.

We need more people like Kristyna Myles in the Music world.  Talented, yet friendly and down to Earth, with a big heart for her friends and fans, and who has made a big difference to the life of this fan.
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