Archive | February, 2012

They don’t make them like they use to!

22 Feb

Not for the first time on this blog I have indicated my lust for a smartphone….seeing people walking down the street on their smartphones always illicits in me a longing gaze that you would also find on broody women staring longingly at babies. I have watched friend after friend get Blackberry’s, Iphones, Android phones, jealousy was my middle name. My dinky plastic little phone only capable of making phone calls and texts seemed practically stone age in comparison to what my friends were capable of on their phones. Determined to have one of my own, I spent hours agonizing over what to get, whilst friends insisted that I really wasn’t missing out on much, that these phones really weren’t all that impressive once you got use to them. I ignored them completely.

I spent a long time waiting and finally decided to get the new Iphone 4s as all the Blackberry users I spoke to seemed to think the Iphone was the better choice. Taking out a contract with Vodaphone I eagerly awaited the delivery of my new phone, it arrived two days later and after a full charge before I had even switched it on for more than five minutes I was having problems. Excitement plummeting, I struggled to connect the phone to my home network, I spent ages trying all sorts of advice, calling it a lost day I decided to try again tomorrow with a fresh mind and fresh enthusiasm to match.

The next day…still couldn’t connect to my home WIFI, muttering what I can only describe as language unsuitable for any decent person or child to hear I phoned Vodaphone to ask them for help and also to switch my old number over to the new sim (I’ve had my phone number since I was 16 I am not changing now) they couldn’t help me with the WIFI situation, which really irritated me as this was pretty much the whole point of getting a new phone in the first place, to have the internet at my finger tips, and switching over my number involved five phone calls which achieved nothing, as it turns out I now have to fill out a whole bunch of forms and send them off through the post!

I have spent the past two days more irritated than I ever was with my old phone, I have a lovely new shiny phone that I can’t use with a great internet service that I can’t access, and a new number that I don’t want.

Maybe I got carried away, perhaps simple is best, and I should have stuck with my dinky plastic model, it may not have been perfect, but I was less stressed and wasn’t pulling my hair out.

So my battle with Vodaphone and the Carphone warehouse continues! I can’t believe I was once excited about this new phone!

I guess its true what they say…they don’t make them like they use to!

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The woman in black

17 Feb

This is the film I’ve been waiting for. Ever since the trailer burst on to our tv screens oh so many months ago, I knew I had to see it, my school girl crush on Daniel Radcliffe non withstanding, the trailer brought back memories of happy times spent in my old A level drama class, going to see the production with my friends, studying the play, analysing it to death and even writing about it in my exams!

His talent isn't limited to Harry Potter 🙂

The fact that I knew exactly what to expect with this film because of my previous study did nothing to ruin the experience for me, I spent the whole day getting in the ‘paranormal’ mood by watching re-runs of ‘Most Haunted’ and ‘Ghosthunters’ and my favourite horror movie companion Kelly spent the lead up reading horror stories. Both of us feeling sufficiently terrified before we’d even sat in our seats I promised not to punch when I jumped (it’s a thing I do) and she promised not to scream out loud, with this agreement in place we were ready to go! 

There are some slight differences between the original and the film, but the main storyline is this…

Young Edwardian lawyer Arther Kipps still grieving for his wife lost to a difficult childbirth, is forced by his law firm to go to remote Eel Marsh House,  and handle the estate of deceased Alice Drablow. Leaving his young four-year old son Joseph in the care of his nanny, with only the promise of a reunion in the nearby village after the work is completed, to look forward to. But the seemingly simple task of organising the estate is not as simple as it seems, on arrival Kipps is greeted with hostility and fear, desperate to complete his task and be reunited with his son, Kipps ignores the warnings from the locals and enters Eel Marsh House  finding much more than he bargained for.

I wondered if the film would live up to the hype or fall short of expectations, but I have to say it deserves its reputation, from the off set an atmosphere was created, by the bleak grey colouring of the scenery and costumes as well as the tragic forlorn expressions constantly clouding the lovely Daniels face. Lots of reviewers said they found this to be the scariest film they’d ever seen and I hate to jump on the bandwagon but I have to agree. I was clinging on to Kelly for dear life with one hand, and with the other peering through my fingers, even the unflappable horror film veteran Kelly found herself becoming jumpy with a racing heart.

I think the most surprising element of this film was the certificate rating! 12A? What were they thinking? I would not take anyone under 15 to go see this, they’d be traumatized! I can’t help but think that this low certificate rating was to allow the younger Daniel Radcliffe fans the chance to spend their money seeing this film. This aside The Woman in Black is a fantastic horror/thriller that takes its audience to the brink of terror and back again, every moment is carefully crafted to create suspense and fear, plenty of talent was on display, the child performances were particularly chilling and Ciaran Hinds did a wonderful job playing the wealthy sceptic landowner, forced to face the terrifying truth.

So if like me you have a fascination with the paranormal, enjoy being scared witless and are crushing over the gorgeous Daniel Radcliffe then go see The Woman in Black, and allow yourself to be taken on a twisted journey with a dramatic conclusion.

Arctic Chills: A mushing adventure

16 Feb

For 2012 one of my many resolutions is to experience new things, so when I got the opportunity to go and mush with some very cute furry huskies, it seemed like the perfect way to start my new years resolution, and a great way to spend a day!

On the way down to Gloucestershire (where the track and team were based) I can’t deny that the nerves began to kick in, I had visions of myself whizzing around the countryside clinging on for dear life, to a rig with a team of dogs that weren’t stopping for anything. The memory of when my brother put on roller blades, hooked himself up to my own husky Koda and ended up throwing himself into a bush to get Koda to stop, was now fresh in my mind. One thing that incident taught me, other than never hook your brother up to your dog with no means of braking and no helmet, is that huskies love to run, and a silly little thing like a human being attached to them, won’t stop them if they want to go. 

The Track

Arriving at the track I was greeted by freezing cold conditions (looked like I was going to get the full mushers experience!) and also Vickie, who introduced me to the team of six dogs I would be working with Dashka, Mckinneley, Willow, Minx, Koda (yes they had a Koda as well!) and Nanuk. Spending a lovely half an hour getting to know the cutest dogs I’ve ever seen, it was time to get down to work. I learnt how to harness the dogs up to the rig, and the commands I needed for the team to understand me, as well as how to work with the dogs safely.

Vickie suggested I started myself off slow, only working one dog and building myself up to working a team, looking at the long stretch of track ahead of me with quite a few dips and hills along the way, I found myself  nodding vigorously in agreement, starting off slowly was fine with me! Hooking up Willow to the rig, it seemed she was far more ready and excited about this than I was, barking and howling impatiently, the other dogs joining in, howling in anticipation for their turn to go on a run.

I lifted my steadying foot off the ground, and before I had even finished calling ‘hike’ Willow was already breaking into a sprint, my first thought was ‘sod me this is fast’ with my stomach doing a few flips as we hit some holes in the ground, however after the first minute, the terror subsided and I really began to enjoy myself. It was absolutely exhilarating, racing along the countryside past the lake with Willow yelping noisily in excitement,surprising myself I remembered the commands for left and right (‘haw’ and ‘gee’) and the technique of using my body to turn the rig so it didn’t flip over when taking a corner, heading around Willow must have sensed we were heading back to the beginning and really picked up the pace (turns out she was holding out on me, this was a whole new gear of speed). I got completely caught up in Willow’s enjoyment and enthusiasm and forgot about my fear of tipping the rig, and found myself urging her on, when we reached the end of the track and came to a halt I found myself disappointed it was over, but with a huge grin on my face. Vickie later told me that Willow is her fastest dog (she kept that quiet!)

The lovely Willow! My ginger twin!

We all stopped for a break and had soup around a campfire, the dogs at our feet looking hopeful for any leftovers, however they were left disappointed, Vickie loves her dogs but is very strict about them begging and getting treats, a far cry from my own very spoilt dogs at home!

After a rest we got back to the task at hand and this time Vickie asked me if I would mind working Koda and Mckinneley, her least seasoned dogs, as it was important for them to gain experience of someone other than her working them, quelling my rising nerves I agreed and clipped them to the rig. It wasn’t the smoothest start, for the first few minutes Mckinneley was running off to the side distracted and Koda was making me nervous as she was running, but looking at me as opposed to straight ahead in the direction we were going. But soon instinct took over and both dogs began to run like a dream, the difference

Getting up close and personal

between one dog pulling and two was all too apparent when Koda and Mckinneley put their minds to it, and we were racing along at break neck speed, to the point where when we approached the downward slope I was tugging on the brakes and yelling ‘steady’ as much as my voice would allow.

It felt a lot faster than it looks

It was one of the most amazing and thrilling experiences of my life, right up there with swimming with the dolphins and standing on the cliffs of Xcarat in Mexico. I would recommend it to anyone who loves animals and has an open mind to try something new, however I’ll warn potential candidates for this experience you may be surprised at how addictive the thrill is, I’m already looking up resorts abroad in Norway, Switzerland ect that offer the same sort of experience, as I would love to try it again, hopefully next time in the snow.

 
On the way home I stopped at a service station to use the facilities and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, covered in mud, hair looking uncontrollably bushy and wild (this is where my nickname Mufasa starts to makes sense) basically looking like I’ve been dragged through a hedge. Not my most glamorous look by far, and although I received quite a few stares from fellow travellers I didn’t care so much, the other remnant of the day, my grin, was still there.
 

Beautiful dogs but they're a tough bunch as well!

 
  

The husky team!

 
 

Confessions from the underground

3 Feb

I love channel 4 for many reasons, they have the Simpson’s, My big fat gypsy wedding, Hollyoaks and Jon Snow. However their series of documentaries on controversial topics is definitely the largest reason for that love, I’ve spent many evenings with my flat mate Rachel glued to the television, having a bit of a lively debate on our differing views (me and Rach are a bit of a personality contrast, but that’s what keeps our friendship so interesting!)

So when I saw the programme ‘Confessions from the underground’ advertised there was no question that I was sitting down to watch it, as someone who has had a fair bit of experience doing the commute to London and tackling the tubes, I found this a fascinating programme from the viewpoint of people working behind the scenes on one of the oldest yet busiest subway systems in the world.

If you’ve gone on the tubes before, and I’m sure you have at some point, then like me you may have felt some apprehension for the first few journeys. I’ll never forget the first tips my dad (a hardened London commuter veteran) gave me when I started commuting. Never stand in the first row behind the yellow lines, try to stand behind two people who are shoulder to shoulder so they create a barrier if you get pushed, keep one foot forward as a form of balance and stability in case you do get someone who deliberately pushes you (yes apparently that happens) and try not to wear anything that has dangling bits which could get caught between doors. 

I watched interviews with staff who genuinely cared about the safety of commuters, tourists and other travellers using the underground, and created a compelling picture of an old and lagging system pushed to the limit by cuts, with underground staff barely holding the pieces together. One woman described the system as ‘running on  luck’ whilst another young man spoke out about how the drive to make the underground faster and efficient has led to severe breaches in public safety and was ‘killing with cuts.’ They raised interesting points and opinions on how London would cope with an influx of visitors for the 2012 Olympics, giving an insight into what I already imagined was a thankless job, describing some of the treatment and tasks they have to perform its a wonder they turn up to work at all.

With a great amount of in-depth research and  interviews on a system that a large majority of the country depends on yet takes for granted, this was an amazing programme narrated by one of the all time greats Richard Wilson. Watching this you can’t help but compare our subway system to other countries like Japan, Russia, France and China  and wonder why Britain wastes money on so many pointless endeavours, when it could be spending it constructively on updating a system that’s very much in need and in constant use.

Thought provoking and insightful, if you haven’t seen it, make sure you do!

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