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julwhite

julwhite
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Member since: 15.05.2007

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      01.01.2014 21:25
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      Recommended for anyone interested in history

      This review is of the paperback book "A History of the World" by Andrew Marr.

      This book is written by the television presenter and journalist Andrew Marr and is based on a television series he presented on BBC. The aim of the book is to offer an introduction to global history which is of course an enormous subject to try and condense into one volume.

      Marr writes in the introduction that the task at hand is immense but I liked the line that "the better we understand how rulers lose touch with reality, or why revolutions produce dictators more often than they produce happiness or why some parts of the world are richer than others, the easier it is to understand our own times".

      The book itself is split into sections by time period across eight chapters which seems a logical and sensible way to deal with history. I found that Marr writes in an entertaining manner and I was particularly interested by the "The World Blows Open" chapter which covers the period of 1492 to 1640 when Europe erupted and changed the world. I found it fascinating how the early civilisations which developed where in southern Europe and Asia but over the centuries Europe became dominant. In the last century much has changed again with the United States and then Asia becoming more powerful and it was interesting to see Marr explain how and why these events took place.

      I liked that the book was presented in a way which was accessible and not too academic but I did personally feel that the bibliography was a little excessive in its length. The book ends with a chapter covering 1918 until 2012 which Marr refers to as "the best and worst of centuries". The conclusion of the book to me is how much more mankind (and womankind) has to learn from the mistakes made in the past and it is wise not to forget them.

      The book was published by Macmillan in 2012, the ISBN is 9780230755956 and the book is 600 pages long.

      I personally have the paperback version of the book which retails at £8.99 although is sold by Amazon for £3.85 which is a substantial discount off the full price. Second hand copies are available but are only slightly cheaper after taking postage into account. The hardback book's full retail price of £25 and is sold by Amazon for £15 but second hand copies are much cheaper. Finally there is also the option of a Kindle edition which is £3.66, disappointingly close to the cost of a new paperback copy.

      In summary I particularly liked the book as it helps to bring together the jigsaw of history together. The book is interested and is likely to teach readers something new however much they thought they knew about history. It is a large subject to cover but I feel that this book achieves a good general summary without being too academic or bogged down with footnotes and overly complex prose.

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        28.12.2013 00:58
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        Recommended for those interested in the history of London

        This review is of the large 368 page hardback book "Lost London : 1870 - 1945" by Philip Davies.

        I personally borrowed this book from the library and it was some considerable weight to carry home. The book is a snapshot of various buildings across London which no longer exist with many of the photos taken shortly before the buildings were pulled down. The buildings weren't though all destroyed for the sake of new construction or roads, many were sadly lost in the heavy bombing of London during the Second World War.

        It is sad that although the street line of London has remained unchanged in many places for centuries that most buildings have been lost. There are very few medieval buildings left in London and it's sad in many ways to read this book and see what has been demolished. Although cities move on and construction is important it's clear that sometimes insufficient thought was given to what replaced the buildings which were demolished.

        The photos in the book comes from the archive of English Heritage and there are over 500 photos, the vast majority of which have never been seen before in print. The author, Philip Davies, is from English Heritage and this enables the book to be both of general interest and also of some academic weight.

        I enjoyed reading through the book and dipping in and the book is split into various sections covering different areas of London. There is text by each of the photos which is relevant and describes the buildings and when they were lost. Although this is by no means a comprehensive record of what has been lost it does show a fascinating representative sample.

        The book was published by Atlantic Publishing in 2009 and the ISBN is 9780955794988. The book retails at £39.95 which is a lot of money but the book is substantial and well-made. At the time of writing the book is available new for £25 from Amazon including postage and a little more expensive on eBay. Second hand copies are around the same price so it is probably better to get a new copy.

        Overall I found this a really interesting book with plenty of good quality photos and text about the buildings which have now been lost. Although it's a little expensive this is definitely a recommended read for those interested in the history of London.

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        • Samsung UE40F6510 / LCD TV / 29 Readings / 28 Ratings
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          27.12.2013 14:56
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          Merges the Internet and traditional programmes together on one TV

          This review is of the Samsung UE40F656510 40 inch widescreen LED television.

          I was looking for a new television and this was recommended by a friend as they had one and found that it had a good picture quality and seemed robust and reliable. It is also an 'intelligent' television which can make recommendations on what you should watch based on previous viewing. There are also other sizes of the same television available including the 32 inch and the 46 inch model.

          In terms of the looks I found that the television seemed stream-lined, sleek and modern. The edge on the television is kept to a minimum so that the picture comes nearly to the edge of the television itself. It also comes with a silver stand which I didn't particularly like but did seem to have a modern look.

          The extra functions on this television I did find of interest, especially as I could link my Samsung phone to the television and use it as a second screen. The television also has its own built in wi-fi which allows people to connect to catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer, ITV catch-up and 4OD and I did find this facility really useful.

          It was the catch-up and wi-fi connection which I personally felt changed television the most for me as it integrates the Internet and television together really well. Watching Youtube or BBC iPlayer on a large screen is much more useful to me than watching it on a laptop and browsing the Internet is smooth and entirely functional. The sound quality was also better than the speakers from my laptop and the picture quality was as good as I've seen from a television.

          I didn't use some functions of the television which included the voice recognition facility, but I also never use this facility on my phone. The television does create a schedule of viewing based on your viewing but again I didn't fine this particularly useful or relevant to me, but it was an interesting function which might be useful to others. The television is 3D compatible but again I don't watch 3D movies and I would have had to have purchased glasses to use this, so I haven't tested this particular function.

          I took the specifications from the product literature although it didn't all mean a great deal to me. The television has 400hHz CMR motion technology, full HD 1080p picture resolution, is compatible with 3DTV, has a 20 watt speaker output and offers screen mirroring. The energy consumption is 62 kilowatts per years and the television weighs 13 kilograms.

          The television cost me £549 in a 10% off sale at John Lewis but is currently available for £619.99 on Amazon and a little cheaper on eBay.

          Overall I would recommend this television to others as I felt that the picture quality was excellent and I also enjoyed the extras which came with it in terms of the 'intelligent' programming, even if I only used it infrequently. I did though find the integration with the catch-up services was excellent saved me using a laptop to watch episodes I had missed. For the price I felt that it represented good value for money and I am confident it seems robust and well-made so should last.

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          27.12.2013 14:25
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          Good for those interested in London's transport history

          This review is of the paperback book "Do Not Alight Here : Walking London's Lost Underground and Railway Stations" by Ben Pedroche.

          The book is a series of walks which take the reader around the historic parts of the London rail and underground network. The distance of each walk is given and it contains routes which both walk along former railway lines and those which include treks around central London and seeing buildings which used to be important parts of the rail network.

          I really enjoyed the book as there were some photos and descriptions of parts of London's history which I hadn't noticed even though I knew some of the areas well. An example is the large closed off walkway near Holborn which I had assumed was some back entrance into a building but which was actually once part of the Kingsway tram network.

          I found that the walking instructions were sufficiently clear although there was a lack of maps and this would have been useful as occasionally I did go wrong when following one of the routes. I didn't find their omission a substantial problem but this would have made the book even more useful for me. The other slight negative is that the book is quite short and I would preferred it to contain a few more routes, but again this didn't detract from what was in the book.

          I personally borrowed this book from the library and it seemed to have been a popular book judging by the number of times it had been taken out. There are twelve walks in the book and I did in particular like the walk which took me past Leinster Gardens, which is where fake building frontages were out up to hide the new underground route.

          The book was published by Capital Transport Publishing in 2011 and the ISBN is 9781854143525. The book retails for £6.95 and is currently available from Amazon for only a very slight reduction making it £6.81. At the time of writing the second hand copies are just 50p or so cheaper on sites such as Amazon and eBay. The Kindle edition of the book is though available for the very reasonable price of £3.06.

          In summary I felt that this was a well-written and interesting book which introduced to me to parts of London's transport history that I hadn't previously been aware of. Maps would have made the book better for me but the Kindle edition of the book in particular does represent good value for money.

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          27.12.2013 01:35
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          Accessible and interesting, recommended for those who like history

          This review is of the paperback history book "Bedlam : London and its Mad" which was written by Catharine Arnold in 2008.

          Bedlam has become a word which means chaos but this is derived from the mental hospital of the same name which is still in operation after 750 years in various forms. The hospital actually started as an off-shoot of the Church of Bethlehem and later became known as the Bethlem Royal Hospital, or Bedlam.

          Catharine Arnold takes the reader through the long history of the institution since its creation when it was situated near Bishopsgate in London, near to the present London Liverpool Street Station. The story of the institution is though complex as it moved on numerous occasions and was used for various forms of medical care. One passage sums up the early state of the institution, "those troubled in mind had to compete for beds with the lepers, the blind, the crippled, the toothless hags and the abandoned children, scrabbling for scraps of bread and cheese, a jug of ale and a bed of straw".

          I found that the book was written in an accessible and interesting way which didn't become too obsessed with the historical complexities but instead it offers a look at what life in the institution would have been like. The author looks at how Bedlam was managed and also covers interesting parts of its history such as when in the seventeenth century it became a place where political prisoners were held.

          The author does deal with the word "mad" which is in the title of the book and she explains that "it isn't used to cause offence" but is usually in the general sense of the word. Certainly life at Bedlam must have been something quite extraordinary for very long parts of its history and so it must have been a chaotic and often frightening place to be.

          I'm personally more interested in the history of London than this particular institution and I found out lots about London that I hadn't realised. This was my favourite element of the book as it didn't just deal with Bedlam in isolation but it also covered the areas in which it was situated and how the institution related to the rest of the city. I found it interesting that an early hospital called the Round House was closed down by Richard II because the residents of the institution which was situated at Charing Cross were causing disruption for his falcons.

          Overall I found it an interesting read although I felt it was aimed far more at a general readership than as a comprehensive and meticulously researched academic record. At 340 pages long the book isn't overly long but it does cover all the essential parts of the institution's history.

          The book was published by Pocket Books in 2009 and ISBN is 9781847390004. There is also a hardback version of the book published by Simon & Schuster and the ISBN is 9781847370006.

          The book is available from Amazon for around £2.80 for a new copy or for around £2.30 for a second hand copy. At the time of writing the book is available on eBay for around £3 which is still good value as the paperback book originally retailed at £8.99. The hardback book is more expensive and costs around £8 for a second hand copy including postage.


          In summary I found that the book was an interesting read in terms of the development of medieval institutions, the history of mental illness and also about the city of London. Given that the book is available cheaply from eBay and Amazon I'd recommend it as it's well written and covers some fascinating topics.

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            27.12.2013 01:03
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            Robust and good quality bag at a reasonable price

            This review is of the Gelert Radisson 30 litre rucksack backpack.

            I needed a larger backpack for a longer walk and noticed this in Go Outdoors (which is a large retail store selling all manner of outdoor and sporting products) for 15.99 pounds which I felt was an excellent offer, although this was the only one that they had left.

            The bag is large and has two main compartments which are spacious and sufficient to hold a good amount of food, water and also a coat and other items. There are no side pockets but there are three extra pockets on the front of the bag and there is a mesh which is handy to hold smaller water bottles rather than putting them inside of the bag.

            I've used the bag for some months and found that it meets my requirements and although it isn't waterproof it is sufficiently water resistant not to let too much water inside even in heavy rain. The bag is also quite lightweight so it doesn't prove too much of an effort to carry around as some of the bags with frames can be.

            I haven't had any problems in recent months with any parts of the bag breaking or becoming worn with the zips still functioning. I particularly noted that the bag doesn't come open if over-filled as some bags can do when the zips burst open. I felt that the quality of the bag seemed high which is something that I have come to expect from a brand such as Gelert which I've found in the past is a generally very quality brand.

            I've found that the bag is sufficiently easy to clean by wiping the outside with a damp cloth if it gets mud or marks on it. It has sufficient pockets both internally and externally to put various items in and I've found that the straps are sufficiently easy to adjust.

            Some technical facts about the backpack from the packaging which are that the bag measures 49 centimetres in height by 19 centimetres in length and 32 centimetres in width. The bag weighs around 0.7 kilograms and is primarily made from polyester.

            There are a range of colours which this backpack is available in, including blue/black, olive/charcoal and black/grey. I wasn't personally keen on the olive bag and preferred the other two, particularly the black/grey bag which I purchased.

            The bag is currently available on Amazon for 29 pounds including UK delivery but at the time of writing the bag is available from sellers on eBay for 22 pounds including UK delivery.

            Overall I found that the bag met my requirements and has been robust during my use of it in recent months. Although I've used it for walking it could also be used for school-children or anyone needing a bag for work. Given the low price that I paid and the quality of the bag I would recommend this to others.

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            04.10.2013 12:41
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            Not the most obvious tourist spot for some, but recommended

            I visited Mumbai, better known in the past as Bombay, for two weeks this summer and found it a very positive experience. The city is situated in the south east of India and is the largest city in the country and one of the largest in the world. It is difficult in a review to even begin to sum up this city so I will try and just highlight my particular experiences.

            The British left India in the 1940s and when they left they went through the Gateway to India, which is also better known by many as one of the main entrances to the city. It remains today as one of the most visited tourist locations in the city, situated near to the Colaba district, and is an impressive site. It was built nearly 100 years ago to mark the visit of King George V and Queen Mary and hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets to see them arrive.

            For visitors today the temperatures can be very hot and humid and although I visited in September it remained very hot, although still cooler than in previous months. The heat can be quite intense so visitors who might be affected by that are best to travel in winter months and I did see numerous children struggling with the heat as well. There are though lots of air conditioned locations in the city for when it gets too much. If I visited the city again I would personally rather travel in the winter months, although I did find that the trains and taxis were generally sufficiently cool with their fans and air conditioning.

            For those who like visiting historic attractions there are plenty of these in Mumbai, many a legacy of British rule. Sometimes not as well maintained as they should be there a few museums such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum) and the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum of Mumbai (formerly the Victoria and Albert Museum). Also worth visiting is the Mani Bhaven, the former home of Gandhi and which is now a museum. The architecture of the buildings in the city centre is staggering and the old station building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My own personal preference was the Prince of Wales Museum with its large number of artefacts and which offered a good introduction to the city's history. Charges for non-Indians are much higher than for residents, but they still represent very good value for money.

            One thing which is noticeable are the amount of name changes there have been to locations in Mumbai, including the name of the city itself. Contrary to expectations I discovered that the use of the name Bombay wasn't politically incorrect and that many locations are known by their former British names. Most of the changes were made in the 1990s when a right-wing party took control of the city and wanted to assert its independence.

            For me one of the greatest parts of the city was the food which was available. Whether eating at the hotel or in the city centre the quality of the food was superb and there is a great range to choose from. I generally stuck to Indian food during my visit and the quality of the sauces used in the curry was very high and they had a rich and intense flavour. My own personal favourite restaurant was the Konkan Cafe on Cuffe Parade.

            In terms of my favourite part of the city I personally really enjoyed the Colaba district and the walks by the sea nearby. The views over the harbour are fantastic and it's a reminder of when the city was once comprised of seven different islands, with water playing a large part in the city's history. The layout of the city, it is bordered by sea on each side other than the north, is what has made expansion so difficult in recent decades. A project in the 1980s

            Transport in the city can be chaotic to say the least and the suburban rail network struggles to cope with thousands of people hanging out of trains at rush-hours as there is no space inside. An average of nearly ten people are killed per day on the railways, a quite staggering number, many simply trying to cross the railway lines to get where they need to be. For those wanting to use the trains it is very cheap, just a few pence (although first class tickets are usually no more than a pound) but do all that is possible to avoid busier times. Trains don't tend to have doors and stop for only around 15 seconds at stations so get off quickly. On a positive note though the metro system which is under construction will make things much easier for visitors to the city and relieve some of the pressures from the current railway network.

            There are though lots of taxis and rickshaws available for hire in the city, and these tend to be quite cheap. It is best to either agree a price in advance or check that the meter is running as a few drivers will try and charge exorbitant sums at the end of the journey. Taxis can be harder to find in the north of the city where there are more rickshaws and in the city centre itself only taxis are allowed, although they are easy to hail off the street.

            The poverty in the city is manifest and affects a significant proportion of those who live in Mumbai, with about 65% of the city's population living in slums. One of the most famous slums, which appeared in Slumdog Millionaire, is the Dharavi slum which houses around one million people and thousands of small businesses. I visited a slum tour here which showed just how innovative and hard-working the people were and how complex the whole slum was.

            Terrorism is a problem for the Mumbai authorities, although there have been no recent attacks and the chances of being involved in any action are small. In recent years most attacks have involved railway stations and the transport infra-structure, although in 2008 there were serious attacks on key tourists locations in the heart of the city, including some of the most expensive hotels in the city such as the Taj Mahal Hotel.

            There is much which does need improving about the city, whether that be the transport infra-structure, housing, heritage or just the general living conditions. The number of people coming to the city though does make this difficult as hundreds come to live and work in the city in a hope for a better life and providing housing for everyone is a huge challenge. That said the city hasn't recently been served by particularly effective governance and it can only be hoped that in the future it changes for the better.

            Mumbai is a huge city, which like all others has good and bad to it, but it is one which has a very vibrant atmosphere and is multi-dimensional. It might not be the most obvious tourist destination, although it isn't geographically that far from Goa, but it is one which is rewarding to visit and offers a perspective on what the future India might look like. Definitely a recommended place to visit and my personal favourite of all of the Indian cities which I visited.

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              19.04.2013 19:40
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              I found this stand-up performance humorous and entertaining

              This review is of the Russell Peters - Outsourced stand-up comedy. Although I watched this on Netflix, the DVD contains the same material.

              I hadn't heard of Russell Peters before watching this, but he is a Canadian comedian who is of Indian descent. This is important because Peters's humour is based on different cultures and races from around the world, and I discovered that Peters has a substantial international audience.

              The humour which Peters uses is very much observational, and in this stand-up he inter-acts frequently with the audience, often at their expense, although with a mischievous rather than nasty edge. Peters is quick-witted and does very well threading the interactions with the audience into his observational stories.

              Peters can do a wide range of accents, and is able to switch to and from them with great speed. He seemed to have stories from many countries, depending on who he was interacting with in the audience, and he seemed very fast on his feet. Although the humour is never overly offensive, there is reasonably frequent swearing and some sexual references, so the DVD wouldn't be suitable for children.

              Without giving too many of the jokes away, he mixes a series of stories from around the world with stories based on what his audience says. One piece was how he was with an African woman in KFC in China, and the comedy is based on a mis-understood word which is frequently spoken in Chinese. Other jokes based around wordplay and misunderstandings are his pieces on travelling in Vietnam and his "someone is gonna get a hurt" joke.

              At first sight the material might seem quite edgy and controversial, but Peters tries to unite people by identifying characteristics in a culture, but also recognising that everyone is really the same. There are some clips on Youtube of this performance, so it's a good way to see if this style of humour will appeal.

              This particular stand-up performance was recorded from a gig in 2006 and was recorded in San Francisco. Although some of the humour is a little American orientated in this particular performance, I didn't feel that it made it any less relevant. There is also another performance, also available both on DVD on Netflix, by Peters which was filmed in the O2 in London front of 30,000 people in 2010, which is worth looking out for.

              The DVD is currently available for 7 pounds on Amazon including postage, although is sometimes on eBay for a little less. Alternatively the show can also be seen on the UK version of Netflix. The DVD and Netflix version of the stand-up last for 74 minutes.

              Overall I felt this was an excellent performance which was received very well by the audience. Peters has a quick wit and is well traveled, and engages well with his audience rather than just trying to insult them for the sake of a quick laugh. By being able to imitate various accents and with a wealth of stories from different countries, I felt that this made for a really clever and different style of humour. I will be looking for more stand-up performances from Peters.

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              08.04.2013 04:36
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              Fun game, ideal for children, lots of puzzles and a good two player function

              This review is of the PS2 game "Wallace and Gromit - The Curse of the Were Rabbit", originally released in 2005.

              The game is based on the animated characters from Aardman and is quite closely based on the 'Curse of the Were Rabbit' film. It's suitable for all ages, including younger children, and although several years old, is still an interesting game.

              The style of the game is an open-ended adventure and puzzle game where you can explore the area and attempt to solve problems. Some of these missions and puzzles aren't the most obvious, although I don't claim to be a very good games-player, so younger children might require some assistance in this, but they'll probably enjoy chasing all the rabbits which is a key part of the game.

              I like the ability to explore the area, even though sometimes it isn't immediately clear what I should be doing, although this adds to the challenge. It is possible to complete many of the missions in any order by exploring the town, although some sections remain locked until you progress a little further in the game.

              It is generally easy to control the character with a bit of practice and there is a short training section at the beginning of the game to explain the controls. You can also play the game with two players, one controlling Wallace and Gromit, and both have different abilities. Alternatively you can play the game alone and just switch between the characters, but two players is good to encourage children to work together!

              The game is fun for a good while, but eventually once the missions are worked through it does lose its appeal a little, as much of the game is based around these missions and puzzles. The game is though surprisingly large and it is fun to explore, so it has a reasonable amount of game-play. In many ways it reminds me of Spyro, with lots of areas to explore.

              The graphics and sound are perfectly sufficient and were good for a few years ago, but of course look dated compared to the latest games. I do find that the 3D perspective can occasionally be confusing, although moving around tends to ensure that the camera angle is corrected. The concepts behind the game aren't particularly innovative, but as a fun little game, I feel it works well.

              At the time of writing second hand copies of the game cost just two pounds including postage from Amazon and eBay, representing very good value for money. The game isn't currently in production and so it may be difficult to find new copies.

              Overall this is a recommended purchase, especially for children who don't necessarily want or need the latest games, and is currently available at a very good price.

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              23.03.2013 18:33
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              Recommended, excellent service and food

              This review is of the Tandoor Palace in Warsaw, an Indian restaurant in the Polish capital. It's situated a little to the south of the centre, about a fifteen minute walk from the central railway station, and not far from Lazienki Palace.

              I was recommended this restaurant by an ex-pat who has been going for a significant part of the 15 years that this Indian has been open. He recommended this Indian because he felt that it offered an excellent service and range of foods, which was of a consistent quality.

              Given this recommendation I decided to try the restaurant, and I was made to feel welcome straight away by a friendly member of staff. I found the waiter to be engaging and he spoke good English, and I got the impression that the restaurant was professionally run.

              Although I've only been to a small number of Indians in Warsaw I do find that this one offers a more authentic range of foods, but it is a little more expensive than some of its rivals. The main course that I had of a chicken balti with rice and naan came to 55zl, which is roughly about 14 pounds, and I felt that this was good value.

              Another member of the group had the butter boneless chicken which was excellent, plenty of tender and moist chicken in a slightly spicy sauce, which was what was asked for. Someone else also ordered off their sizzler menu, effectively offering a range of different meats on a skewer, and these cost around 40zl (just under ten pounds).

              The food was all excellent, the rice was served in a good portion and the naan bread had a pleasant texture and taste. The meat in all the dishes was tender, and it was served at the appropriate heat, both in terms of the spice and also the temperature. The portion sizes for the curries were also reasonable generous and entirely met my expectations.

              The service was always attentive and friendly, and I felt that the meal was well paced, so we were never rushed, but were also never left waiting for food or service. What appeared to be the owner was there, who is an Indian from Singapore, and the restaurant is proud of its authentic roots.

              The only slight negative was that the surroundings of the restaurant themselves were a little dated, which didn't really detract from the experience, but I did feel that a brighter and more open feel would have been better.

              The restaurant is open seven days a week and opens at lunch-time and closes at 10.30 in the evening, or until the last customer leaves. This is also entirely true, during my visit it went past 11.00 and the staff showed no sign that they wanted us to leave and continued to offer the friendly hospitality.

              Although I haven't ordered a takeaway, the restaurant does offer this, and also a delivery service. There is a 10% reduction from the usual menu price for orders which are takeaways.

              The address is ul. Marszalkowska 21/25, the restaurant's phone number is +48 22 8252375 and their web-site is http://www.tandoor.com.pl/.

              Overall I felt that an excellent meal was offered for a good price, with friendly and attentive service. I'd certainly recommend this restaurant and want to return on my next visit to Warsaw.

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                12.03.2013 23:16
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                For those who work in the cloud, or who write on the move, this is a product to consider

                This review is of the Samsung Chromebook model number 303C12 which was released in late 2012 and is the latest in the Google Chromebook choice of laptops.

                I purchased this Chromebook as I wanted a lightweight laptop which I could use when travelling and I prefer to use as near to a full-sized keyboard as possible, so a tablet was out of the question. Although I think the MacBook Air computers are superb, they are too expensive for my own needs.

                When I opened the box I noticed that there was a small instruction manual, and also a Google sticker for those that want to put it on the laptop. I plugged it straight in, noting positively that the power lead was reasonably long, and didn't need any instructions as I found it very intuitive. It really is a matter of turning it on, connecting it to wi-fi and Google, and that's it, ready to go.

                Since purchasing this Chromebook, I have been very pleased with it. Essentially this computer is an extension to the Chrome browser, so there isn't Windows on it, and there isn't the option to install computer software onto it, just apps. For those that need certain software, such as Office for example, this could be a problem, but for my purposes it was fine.

                I primarily use my Chromebook for writing, and I have a gmail account which links into Google Drive. Although no expert, what I've found is that when I want to write a document I can easily open a Google word processor tab in Chrome and start typing. If I'm off-line, it'll save it on the computer until I'm on-line, and when I'm on-line, it'll back it up safely to Google Drive. It's seamless, and means I can work on the move both safe in the knowledge I don't need an Internet connection, but also that my work is safe.

                The other really useful feature for me is that the computer turns straight on. With my Windows laptop it'll take a good 15 or 20 seconds before Windows finishes the restart process, whereas this Chromebook quotes a time of around 6 seconds. So far from my usage, it's even quicker than that, just a couple of seconds.

                Weight wise this computer is ideal, it's a very light and portable computer to carry around. The battery length is also excellent, I used it for seven hours without needing to recharge it, and this is great for my own needs, as I would never usually be that far away from a power point. It isn't though possible just to switch batteries, as the Chromebook would have to be unscrewed, which is a slight shame. For those needing to replace a battery however, it looks easy enough (although I haven't done it yet).

                The Chromebook inevitably relies on the Chrome browser, and this is what I've used for a few years anyway, so this was very convenient for me. It's also very good for those with gmail and Google accounts, again such as myself, as the integration is very good. This also means that it's easy for Google to update the software on the Chromebook, and the computers automatically upgrades every couple of weeks or so, so it's easy to stay on top of security and to receive all the latest updates. As with everything else on this product, I find it all very seamless and easy to understand.

                I also remembered when using this product that Google Chrome remembers my browser settings wherever I'm signed in. So I was pleased that when I opened up my new Chromebook, it knew all of the passwords to my favourite web-sites, it had my history, bookmarks and predictive typing of web-sites I visit. Although some might not like this integration for security or privacy reasons, I found it great not having to remember all my various passwords. It showed again though, for those that want it, the integration of Chrome is excellent.

                It's still not entirely clear to me what apps will work on the Chromebook and what won't. There are some which I just use from the browser, such as Evernote, which lets me type up new notes when off-line, although doesn't yet have off-line downloads of notes. There are some games which can be installed, but equally there are some apps which I can get on my Android phone, such as Overdrive (useful for getting free books from UK public libraries) which don't work on the Chromebook. Definitely check in advance if it's important that a particular app works though.

                The screen isn't necessarily the best, it's not such a smooth screen as my phone or laptop, but it's perfectly readable and I can control the brightness easily. The screen size is 11.6 inches which is a good compromise for me between a large screen which adds weight to the laptop, and also such a small screen I can hardly see it.

                I was though very impressed with the key-board, which is full size. This makes it, for me, very easy to type on and I find I can make clear contact with the keys which depress easily and which cope with my typing speed. I find the keyboard comfortable to type for a longer period of time, and I consider this to be a big advantage. I found the tracking pad and mouse buttons to be a bit clunkier than what I'm used to, but that's probably because I'm used to my larger laptop, and they're still perfectly easy to use.

                I bought my Chromebook in PC World, which I wouldn't normally do because I find that the service can be a bit hit and miss, but it was 224 pounds which at the time was the same price as Amazon. It's currently a few pounds cheaper on Amazon, and there are probably some deals that can be found, but the price doesn't seem to deviate much from the recommended price of 229 pounds.

                One advantage of shopping in PC World, and I think some other retailers, is that a Google Chromebook specialist may be there to help. I noticed on the web-site there was a list of where these stores are. I had a demonstration a few weeks ago from a member of Google staff who was really friendly and engaging with the product, showing me how it worked, checking what apps worked, and offering advice. If you're not sure whether it's of use, and you can get to a store with a Google staff member, this may really help you decide whether it's a product for you.

                With regards to some technical specifications, some of which I've had to take from the box as I'm entirely unsure of what's inside! It comes with 2 GB of RAM, a 16 GB hard drive, a 1.7 GHz processor, weighs well under 2 kilogrammes ad has an 11.6 inch screen. There is also an HDMI port so you can display the screen onto a large TV, and also a USB 2 and USB 3 port.

                Whether this Chromebook will be of interest depends very much on what you would to use it for. It can't have software installed on it, it doesn't have Windows, it can struggle to play some file formats and it doesn't have a very large hard drive. But for those people who work so much in the cloud, such as myself, this is an ideal product and I'd say it's a superb tool for writers, students or professionals who need to write lots of documents and access the Internet. Overall, I'm very pleased with the product and feel the price it costs is very reasonable.

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                • More +
                  17.01.2013 19:38
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                  • Reliability

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                  Recommended as reasonably priced and seems robust

                  This review is of the Oral B Professional Care 500 electric toothbrush.

                  My first impressions were that the unit itself looked robust and well designed (as was the packaging it came in), and it came with a two pin plug for connecting to bathroom power points. As it comes with a two pin plug you'd need an adapter to plug it into a more normal three pin plug, but these are cheap to buy on-line. Also included in the unit were two of the changeable heads, which have a mark on them so you know when they need changing.

                  The instructions note to charge the toothbrush for a minimum of 17 hours before the first use, and also for subsequent recharges. I find that the toothbrush needs recharging after about a week, although I tend to do it more regularly than this out of habit.

                  The technical information is that the toothbrush pulsates 20,000 times per minute and rotates 7,600 times per minute. Most importantly for me however was that the toothbrush was comfortable to use, and didn't feel as though it was heavily vibrating the teeth, and it always felt afterwards that the cleaning process had been effective. I liked the quite soft feel against the teeth and although I wasn't initially sure that this was going to be effective enough, I am now confident that it is.

                  This brush doesn't have a range of brushing modes as my previous electric toothbrush did, and it only has the one speed. However, I found that this worked well for me, and didn't miss the option of a range of speeds. It does though have a helpful feature where it vibrates after 30 seconds so that you know to move onto the next area of the mouth.

                  I feel that the toothbrush is a robust unit, although it doesn't feel particularly modern or exceptionally well-built, but it is sufficient enough to do the job. I've been using it for several months and had no problems with it at all, so it seems good value for money. The unit is easy to clean, just rinse under water, and there aren't any parts where dirt gets trapped.

                  In terms of price the toothbrush retails at a full price of 45 pounds, but can be found much cheaper than this both on-line and in many shops. The current price on Amazon at the time of writing is 27.95 pounds including free delivery, although I was able to buy mine a little cheaper than this at Tesco.

                  I bought a pack of 12 replacement rechargeable heads for 4 pounds including postage on Amazon, necessary if more than one person is planning to use the toothbrush, but also handy for when the head starts to become a little worn. It's an easy process to put a new head onto the toothbrush, just clip off the old one and slot the new one on.

                  The product is very detailed in how many oscillations and rotations it has, but in more important terms of getting the job done well and cleaning teeth effectively, I have found that this is an excellent model which works really well. It's worth shopping around for a better price, but in terms of quality, I'd strongly recommend this model.

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                • Bosch TWK8633GB / Kettle / 56 Readings / 53 Ratings
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                  02.01.2013 22:53
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                  • "Ease of use"

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                  A robust kettle which looks stylish and appears to be of a good quality

                  This review is of the Bosch TWK8633GB jug kettle, which retails at a recommended price of 69.99 pounds.

                  At the time of writing Dooyoo don't have a product image for this kettle, just an image which says the manufacturer doesn't allow a picture to be displayed, which I'm not sure that I understand. But to describe the kettle, it is primarily made of black plastic, although the top section is silver. There is quite a robust look to the kettle, which I find looks quite stylish.

                  The kettle has a capacity of 1,500ml, which is nearly always more than I need, and so it is useful that there is a minimum capacity of 300ml, which makes one cup of coffee or tea nicely. I found that the kettle boils quickly compared to other kettles, and it doesn't seem to make an excessive amount of noise when boiling.

                  Although I'm not sure how to measure this, it did come in a box which noted that it was a low energy kettle and thus saved on electricity and helped the environment just a little bit more than other kettles. However if you're keen to save a little by getting an energy efficient kettle, this seems to be a good option.

                  The feature that I like, and haven't had on my previous cheaper kettles, is that you can choose which temperature to boil the kettle to. Instead therefore of having to boil the kettle to 100 degrees you can heat the water to lower levels, which are 70, 80 or 90 degrees. I don't use boiling water in coffee, which is probably not the correct way to make it, but this feature is therefore useful for me in this regard.

                  Another very useful feature is the "keep warm" option, which lets you boil the kettle and then allows it to keep the water warm if someone else needs to use the water a few minutes after. Although I don't use this feature very often, I can see how it would be useful for some.

                  In terms of the reliability I have been using this kettle for around three months, replacing a different earlier cheaper model where the plastic started to crack. This kettle seems much more robust, I've had no problems with leaks, cracks, jams or anything else, and I feel that on balance it appears to be a well made kettle.

                  I haven't really noticed any negatives about this kettle, although it does make quite a shrill beep when the water is boiled, and although this doesn't particularly bother me, I haven't found a way of turning this off. For those that aren't keen on the colour, there is also a white model available, and Bosch also make some matching kitchen appliances in the same colours, although this is the only product that I have from this manufacturer.

                  This kettle was acquired at Comet's before the retailer closed down, so it was purchased for a cheaper price, of under 40 pounds. However, looking at some web-sites of retailers, you would expect to pay between 50 and 60 pounds for this kettle at the moment, although there are probably some cheaper options around.

                  Overall I would recommend this kettle, although some may not like its look. It is more expensive than other kettles, but it boils quickly and efficiently. I feel that the kettle itself is robust, and it has some features such as variable temperature options and a keep warm function which are quite useful.

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                  • More +
                    27.11.2012 01:48
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                    Recommended for keeping surfaces clean and bacteria free

                    This review is of a 40 pack of Tesco multi-action wipes, with natural citrus. I initially purchased these as I had run through my stock of KFC moist wipes, and thought it would be better to have something which actually offered better cleaning of surfaces!

                    The packaging, which is a little more modern than the picture above, notes that the multi action wipes are anti-bacterial and have natural citrus extracts. The packaging also notes that they kill 99.9% of bacteria, including E.Coli, listeria and salmonella.

                    In terms of the wipes themselves I found them large and absorbent enough to be able to clean up any minor spills and ensure that the surface is left clean. They are also reasonably thick so that my hand doesn't go through them or tear them when using them.

                    I found the wipes were a good quality, and the lemon smell is very obvious and the wipes stay moist in the packaging for some time. I found them convenient and as per the instructions on the back, I just leave any surface to air dry after using the wipes.

                    There is a resealable sticky section in the middle at the front which allows the pack to be resealed. I once left a pack out for a few weeks and they had started to dry out, but now just store them in an container and they don't seem to dry out at all now. I note that the packs I have tend to have a best before date of around a year's time, so they likely dry out very slowly even in sealed packaging.

                    The instructions on the rear are concise, but yet comprehensive to warn of any potential dangers. These are primarily just advisory notes to not use them on carpets, upholstery or fabrics and to use gloves if you have sensitive skin.

                    A pack of 40 of the multi-action wipes sells for 1.14 pounds in my local Tesco Express, and is the only size they offer. I've also seen them as part of a 'two packs for two pounds' offer.

                    Overall I found that these wipes are of a good quality, and it's useful to have a supply of them available. The price is very reasonable, and comparable to branded products. Given the price and quality, I'd recommend this product.

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                    • More +
                      22.10.2012 20:49
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                      Recommended, reasonable value and taste good

                      This review is of the box of Nescafe Cafe Menu Latte sachets, which come in a box of 8.

                      The box I have differs slightly from the one in the picture, as it just states that the sachets are "latte", but the sachets themselves have "latte macchiato" on them, as the picture suggests. I looked up what this phrase means on the ever useful Wikipedia, and noted that it means "stained milk", which is slightly less appealing than what I was hoping to find.

                      The sachets don't require any complex coffee machine to make, simpy empty the sachet into the required mug and then pour in very hot water before stirring. I mention very hot water as I used boiling water, but I later noted that the instructions say not to do this, but I personally couldn't taste any difference anyway.

                      After completing these simple operations, the coffee should look brown with a white (well, whiteish) froth at the top. I liked this texture, and although I'm sure that this froth isn't obtained in the same genuine way as expensive coffee machines, it at least looks a little similar and may fool any guests you have into thinking you have some coffee making equipment other than a kettle.

                      I won't give all the ingredients, but effectively it's just instant coffee with skimmed milk powder and sugar. I usually add milk and sugar to coffee, but I found that the amount already supplied in these sachets was enough, which might mean it's a little too milky or sweet for some. So taste wise, I felt that these exceeded my - limited - expectations of the product, and although I'm clearly not a connoisseur, I didn't feel that the taste varied much from that of a properly made latte.

                      For those who follow such details, each sachet has 96 calories, just under 7g of sugar, just under 4g of fat, just over 3g of sturates and 0.2g of salt. So although they may not be especially healthy, they're not laden with very high levels of sugar which use up your daily allowance (each sachet contains around 7% of your daily allowance).

                      I noticed that the back of the packaging notes that coffee is an ideal time for a giggle with the girls and a perfect way to catch up with the gossip. I'm not entirely sure why they seem to be targeting women, perhaps latte isn't seen as a manly drink.

                      I purchased these at Tesco Express for 2 pounds, but they seem to stock them on a slightly erratic basis, so it may be best to get them from a larger store. This works out at 25p a cup, which is more expensive than normal instant coffee, but not a great deal more, and certainly cheaper (although lacking a little in the authenticity and atmosphere) than a coffee shop.

                      Overall, I feel that these latte sachets offer fair value for money, taste as I would expect and the bonus of the coffee actually being a bit frothy is just a bonus!

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