Sunday, 31 January 2010


Apple’s long awaited new gadget has finally been revealed…the iPad. It has kept computer geek types blog-happy for the past few months, speculating what the next must-have gadget will be. But is it worth the hype?

As far as I can work out the iPad falls somewhere in between an iPod and a MacBook, but is lacking the most important features of both. The new touch screen device is too big to fit into your pocket or carry around easily like an iPod and does not enable you to use word processing or publishing software like a MacBook.

The main new feature of the iPad is the ability to use it to read books, newspapers and magazines in a digital format. Now I am no computer expert - I once spent several hours wondering why I couldn’t connect to the internet before realising that the wireless switch was turned off - but surely those Apple elves could just add this and all the other functions of the iPad to a new laptop.

Of course, this wouldn’t happen. Like any multinational corporation they will do everything they can to squeeze every penny possible out of us gadget addicts. Soon enough our lives will be stuffed full of Apple products. It’s only a matter of time before the iLoo hits our shops.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Freshers Fest

“You’re gonna have so much fun!”, “It will be the best years of your life!” These are just some of the things people told me before I came to university. Along with “Freshers Week is the best!” and “I wish I could have Freshers Week again!” All things I pretty much knew already. What they didn’t tell me is just how much Freshers Week is like a really long music festival.

Obviously the copious amounts of alcohol, poor diet, loud music and lack of sleep and hygiene were no surprise but there were some other unexpected similarities which no one had mentioned.

Just after my parents said their tearful goodbyes and left me in my uni room, there was a knock on the flat door. Two other Freshers from across the hall stood there, smiling with vodka and cookies in hand, inviting me to their flat for ‘drinks and games’. Déjà vu suddenly hit me. This is exactly what happened on my first night at Download Festival just a few months before! The guys from the tent pitched right next to mine, invited me and my mates over for coffee and a dip in their paddling pool. See the similarity?

If you have ever been to a music festival you will know exactly what I mean when I say “BUTTSCRATCHER!!!” Originally a joke from an episode of Family Guy, it has turned into a much loved catchphrase and you cannot go anywhere on a festival campsite without hearing it, and its variations, e.g. “Margaret Thatcher!”, being bellowed from nearby campfires. Well during Freshers Week when I was venturing out of halls to go and get some supplies from Asda (vodka and frozen pizzas) a group of guys burst through the doors and screamed “BUTTSCRATCHER” in my face. I couldn’t help but smile and scream it right back, much to their delight.

During Freshers Week, I would awake at 2pm almost every day with only a hazy memory of the previous night and my arms, legs, back and cleavage covered in swear words and alarmingly detailed drawings of male genitalia. This is exactly the state I would find myself in every ‘morning after the night before’ at all of the festivals I attended this summer.

A form of the infamous campsite rivalry was also evident with the Student Union club hosting an event called Hall Wars, in which the different Halls of Residence wore different coloured t-shirts and competed in various games to be crowned champion. Just a more organised version of the entire parades of people chanting ‘Green Army’ through rival campsites.

By the end of the week, everyone in my halls was popping in and out of each other’s flats and many evenings I would emerge from my room only to discover another random stranger standing in my kitchen/living room. Memories of all the randomers who would stumble into my camp at festivals came flooding back.

And it wasn’t just the first weeks of uni that these similarities cropped up. Just the other day the guys in my flat began constructing an impressive tower of beer cans in our kitchen, much like the one my neighbours at Bloodstock festival built using a tent pole they supposedly had no need for.

So if I could give any advice to anyone who is planning to start university next year and wants to know what to expect it would be to go to a music festival. It is pretty much the same as Freshers Week except with worse toilets. We even have Freshers wristbands for God’s sake!

Timeline: AC/DC - Back In Black?

Legendary Australian rock band AC/DC have had an eventful career, with several line-up changes and a period of 'commercial decline' in the 80's. So how did they became one of the world's most influential rock and roll bands and bag a headline slot for this year's Kerrang! sponsored Download Festival at Donington Park?

1963: Malcolm and Angus Young, two brothers born in Glasgow, Scotland moved to Sydney, Australia with their family.

1973: The brothers, aged 18 and 20, formed AC/DC. The name is thought to be the brainchild of their older sister, Margaret, who saw the abbreviation for 'alternating current/direct current' on the side of a sewing machine. They recruited bassist Larry Van Kriedt, vocalist Dave Evans and drummer Colin Burgess to complete the line-up.

1973: The band played their first gig at a club named Chequers in Sydney and were later signed to the EMI distributed Albert Productions label. They moved to Melbourne and Angus Young settled on his signature schoolboy look after trying Spiderman, Zorro and gorilla costumes.

1974: Scottish born Ronald Belford "Bon" Scott replaced Dave Evans as vocalist after having worked as their roadie and driver back in Sydney.

1975: Debut album 'High Voltage' was released in Australia and the band had another line-up change with bassist Mark Evans and drummer Phil Rudd replacing Van Kriedt and Burgess.

1976: The band signed a deal with Atlantic Records and 'High Voltage' was released internationally. The band began to tour Europe, supporting the likes of Black Sabbath and Aerosmith and released 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap' later that year.

1977: Following the recording of 'Let There Be Rock', bassist Mark Evans was sacked due to 'personal differences' with Angus Young. He was replaced by Cliff Williams and the band began to tour America.

1978: 'Powerage' was released

1979: Sixth album 'Highway To Hell', produced by 'Mutt' Lange, was released and became the first of the band's albums to break the US top 100.

1980: On 19th February, Bon Scott died aged 33 from 'acute alcohol poisoning' after a night out in London. He was replaced by English-born Brian Johnson and the band released 'Back In Black' in August. The album reached Number 1 in the UK and Number 4 in the US.

1981: 'For Those About To Rock' was released and became the band's first album to reach Number 1 in the US.

1983: The band fired Paul Rudd after he fell out with Malcolm Young and was replaced by Simon Wright. Their next release 'Flick Of The Switch' was less successful than previous albums and was voted the eighth-biggest disappointment of the year in the 1984 Kerrang! readers' poll.

1986: The band returned to the charts with 'Who Made Who', the closest the band has come to releasing a "greatest hits" collection.

1988: 'Blow Up Your Video' was a commercial success and sold more copies than the previous two studio releases combined. The band were inducted into the Australian Recording Industries Association's Hall Of Fame.

1989: Chris Slade replaced Simon Write

1991: The band headlined Monsters Of Rock Festival at Donington.

1994: Paul Rudd rejoined the band replacing Simon Write

2000: AC/DC were inducted into the Hollywood Walk Of Fame

2003: The band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame

2004: 'Corporation Lane' in Melbourne, Australia was renamed 'ACDC Lane' in the band's honour.

2008: 'Black Ice', the band's first studio release in eight years, was released. It made history by reaching Number 1 in 29 countries

25th January 2010: AC/DC were confirmed as a headline act for 2010's Download Festival to be held at Donington Park in June.

Monday, 25 January 2010

TV: Bring Back Cilla!

I would quite like the half an hour of my life back please. I have just spent it watching Take Me Out, the new ITV1 dating show filling the X Factor slot on a Saturday night. Even though I only wandered in half way through I could immediately tell it wasn’t for me. In case you haven’t had the unfortunate opportunity of watching this show, let me fill you in…

A bunch of what can only be described as ‘desperate slappers’ are lined up whilst an ‘eligible bachelor’, or ‘tosser’ as I prefer to call them, is paraded in front of them. Much like Crufts, but with more panting. The girls then show if they would like to date said guy by ‘leaving their light on’. At the end the guy chooses from whoever is left and they go on a date to a mysterious place called Fernando’s, which for some inexplicable reason everyone gets very excited about.

Paddy McGuiness, of Pheonix Nights fame, is a suitable irritating choice of host for this show. His catchphrase ‘No lighty, no likey’ is possibly the worst in history. It makes the dreadful ‘Bring on the wall!’ seem like music to your ears.

Yet one of the most infuriating things about this show is the fact that the female contestants, with their make-up laid on thicker than Kerry Katona at a Mensa meeting, can switch their lights off before they have even heard the single guy speak. So much for ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’! Nevertheless, I do have to admit that it is hilariously funny to watch the steady wave of lights going out as the guy swaggers on in his pink shirt or tight fitting vest.

Watching this show, I can’t help but mourn the days of Blind Date. Saturday nights were not complete until that classic theme tune filled the living room. I know that it could be a bit risqué at times, but it was nowhere near as shamelessly filthy as the cheesy innuendos of Take Me Out. And the contestants actually went on proper dates chosen from three ‘mystery envelopes’. Sure they almost always ended up going ice skating or to a theme park but at least the mystery was there.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Album Review: Hold Me Down - You Me At Six

You Me At Six have left Neverland and fallen into the dark depths of emo. ‘Hold Me Down’ sees the Surrey quintet release some of their darkest songs to date. So is it only a matter of time until they break out the eye-liner?

Every song on this second release sees lead singer Josh Francheski thrash out his teen angst and tales of heartbreak to the bands trademark pop-punk tunes, which still manage to be catchier than swine flu.

Unfortunately, Francheski still insists on mimicking a slightly whiney American accent but considering the vast majority of their fan base live off of MTV and Twilight, you can’t blame him for giving the crowd what they want.

However, there are signs that the band are growing up, with Hold Me Down providing a much more mature sound than previous album Take Off Your Colours. Tracks such as ‘Liquid Confidence’ would easily be at home in large arenas and if the band’s recent stint supporting Paramore is anything to go by, the band are more than capable of bigger and better shows.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Snow Pleasing Some People

‘Snow Chaos’. That was the headline that greeted me as I woke up to a sparkling carpet, whiter than Simon Cowell’s teeth, outside my bedroom window. Despite legally being classed an ‘adult’, I still get that child-like excitement when it snows. The urge to dash outside and build a snowman or have a snowball fight is always too great to resist.

Snow manages to make everything look beautiful. It’s a natural Tipex covering the country to ‘correct’ all those ugly mistakes. Even the most run-down areas of town are transformed to look like a magical winter wonderland. I almost expect Aslan to wander out of Lidl.

Yet it seems others don’t share my positive mental attitude. Each year everyone hopes and prays for a white Christmas. The kind that Bing Crosby sings about and is depicted on the mounds of Christmas cards sent and received during the advent period. Yet when our prayers are answered, all we do is moan. We Brits are never happy. When it’s hot, it’s too hot. When it rains, it’s too wet. When it doesn’t rain, we complain about hosepipe bans.

One simple change in temperature manages to bring the entire country’s transport network to a standstill. Countries such as Canada must be laughing at us - they deal with several feet of snow for months on end without so much as a whimper.

Yet here in the UK there are women on the news actually breaking down in tears because they can’t get to work in the snow. The day you wake up to discover that it has snowed and your first reaction is ‘damn, this is going to cause some traffic jams’ is the day you need to subscribe to Grumpy Old Git Weekly.

What happened to the good ol’ days when snow meant a day off work or school? If it isn’t traffic troubles, its old people slipping over on icy pavements or heating systems breaking down. Now everyone is panicking because we are running low on salt. Who would have thought the humble fish ‘n chip shop could turn out to be our saviour?

It’s time for a revolution. Forget going to work or school. Everyone should put on their winter coats, go outside into their gardens, driveways, local parks or even just the pavement outside their house, lie down in the snow and make a snow angel. I defy anyone not to feel instantly happier.

Profile: Charity Chic

Not even Mary Portas or a bag of dirty nappies can stand in the way of Bournemouth charity shop assistant manager Tracey Conner, as Joanna Stass discovers...

It’s a very wet day in Boscombe and 46-year-old Tracey has ventured into the Age Concern shop from her home in Ferndown, to cover for the manager, Linda Love, who is off sick. She makes this journey every day, collecting one of the shop volunteers on route.

The shop is unexpectedly busy for such an awful day and is filled with everything you would expect to find in a charity shop. Everything is neatly displayed on shelves and hangers. “We always receive compliments about how clean the shop is. How it smells nice and looks clean and tidy” says Tracey.

It’s hard to imagine that just four years ago, this mother of two was almost paralysed in a car accident. “My car skidded on black ice into a barrier and then fell down a steep drop. My two boys were in the car at the time but thankfully they were okay”. Originally misdiagnosed by her doctor, Tracey spent several months in agony before going back into hospital, where it was revealed that she had a ‘misaligned spine’. “They said that it was likely I would be disabled for the rest of my life if I didn’t keep active, but then they told me to stop working. I wasn’t going to give up though”.

In March 2007, two years after the accident, Tracey began working for Age Concern as a volunteer. “Linda was a good friend of mine and she recommended I volunteer in the shop, so I decided to give it a go”. Just a year later, Tracey was offered a paid job and this June, was promoted to assistant manager.

Tracey’s selfless nature is inspiring. As well as working in the charity shop, she is a part-time IT teacher who also volunteers to teach people to use their computers in her spare time. “I used to work with people who had special needs and they had this computer room. I had always loved computers and it really interested me, so I decided I wanted to teach other people to use them”.

In the shop, Tracey’s office - which is no bigger than your average wardrobe - is plastered with calendars, posters and post-it notes of all the colours of the rainbow. Her job is very involved and includes looking after the staff, banking and paperwork, sorting and selling as well as being in charge of health and safety. And she is always willing to go out of her way for customers. “If someone comes in and asks for a particular item, we will ring them and let them know if it comes in. It’s all about knowing what the customers want, talking to them, making them feel welcome. That way they are more likely to return.”

Tracey is extremely dedicated to her job and this hasn’t gone unnoticed. “Tracey is an asset to the staff” said Linda Love. “I can always count on her, even outside of work she is such a loyal friend”.

Tracey likes to travel round different charity shops. “I focus on what prices they are charging, I focus on their displays. It’s a bit of competition isn’t it?” she grins. The shop isn’t short of competition, as there are seven charity shops on Boscombe High Street and many more spread across Bournemouth. “We all have our own price guides and targets but we do all talk to each other. We go into each other’s shops to see how they are doing.”

The job also throws up a few surprises. “There was once a mix up with a delivery. Someone delivered a bag of somebody’s grass cuttings and some dirty nappies. Sadly someone had to open that. That was the worst ever!” However, the store has also been lucky, once receiving a rocking horse which they managed to sell for £200.

Tracey wasn’t impressed with the recent BBC documentary ‘Mary Queen of Charity Shops’, in which retail adviser Mary Portas took over the running of a charity shop in an attempt to make it more successful. After rolling her eyes she says “I thought it was interesting in parts, but I was sad about the negativity towards the volunteers and the way in which they were spoken to. I think they deserved more credit for their ideas.”

Tracey’s motto is “Happy staff means a happy shop”. “June is one of our longest serving volunteers” she says, putting her arm around the shoulders of 84-year-old June Dempsey, who is working behind the till. “She has been here well over 20 years”

The two get along like old friends and when asked what she thinks of Tracey, June jokes “Not a lot!” before adding “No, she is one of the best” once they have finished laughing hysterically. She picks up an alarmingly large pair of pants from the display, drops them onto the counter and exclaims ‘knickers!’ to which Tracey replies ‘knickers to you too!’ and the laughter erupts again.

It seems that not even the recession can hold Tracey back, as she admits that the only noticeable effect of the credit crunch is the increase in volunteers since more and more people are out of work. “We are more affected by the weather really. If it’s poring with rain, there are fewer elderly people out and about.”

There are eighteen branches of Age Concern shops in the south of the UK and the Boscombe shop alone raises approximately £1500 each week for Age Concern. In the spring of next year, Age Concern will be merging with Help The Aged to form Age UK, something which Tracey seems very enthusiastic about. “I’m excited!” she says, “it will make the charity bigger and at the end of the day it’s all about charity isn’t it.”

News: Wooden Spoon Thieves On The Loose

Cheeky thieves stole a games console and a wooden spoon by sneaking into a flat whilst a student slept inside.

The burglary happened on October 30th, when forensic science student Dave Amor and his flatmate Vicki Pratt returned to Purbeck House halls of residence after a night out at approximately 3:45am.

The thieves entered the flat after Vicki left the door on the latch whilst she went to let her friends out of the building.

When she returned just a few minutes later she saw two men running out of the flat carrying the stolen goods and alerted Dave, who was asleep in his room.

‘I tried to catch up with them by running down stairs and into the courtyard, but there was no sign of them’ said 19-year-old Dave.

The reason why became clear the next day when Matt Watts, a friend of Dave, knocked on the door holding the stolen Playstation3.

‘I went to visit a mate of mine in one of the other flats in Purbeck and noticed a load of expensive equipment, including Dave’s Playstation, in his living room’ said Matt. ‘They had fans and air conditioning units and all sorts in there’.

When Dave went to confront the suspected thief he blamed his friends who had visited for the weekend.

Despite giving statements to the police and having the flat dusted for fingerprints, Dave decided to tell the police to call off the investigation into the robbery.

‘I didn’t want any hassle’ says Dave. ‘The guy whose mates stole the stuff got a bit ‘lary’ with me when I confronted him.’

‘I wasn’t even that bothered really, I was more upset about not getting the wooden spoon back to be honest’.

Naomi James, Customer Service Advisor for Unite Group plc, the owners of Purbeck House, said ‘It is important for residents to be aware of their personal security by keeping their flat doors locked and not allowing people they do not know to tail gate behind them into the building.’

News: Help Yourself-Service Tills

A student has managed to fool a self-service checkout and get a doughnut for a fraction of the retail price.

The University of London student visited the Tesco Metro on Kensington High Street at approximately 8am on Wednesday December 4.

When she got to the till and had to select the doughnut she was purchasing from a list, she noticed that she could just choose the Tesco own brand doughnut, which was only 17p.

The glazed raspberry filled doughnut which she had actually picked up was supposed to be £1.35, meaning she made a saving of £1.18.

‘Krispy Kreme doughnuts are the best, but they are so expensive for a student like me’ said the philosophy student. ‘Ever since I found out it was possible to get them cheaper, I’ve been doing it all the time. I’ve never been caught, well not yet anyway!’

Despite being illegal under the Theft Act 1968, this same process can easily be used when buying loose fruit and vegetables. The customer is simply asked to select the item they are buying from a list making it extremely easy to select the cheaper alternative on the till.

In Asda, for example, a Red Delicious apple costs £1.97 per kilogram but can easily be put through the till as an Asda Smart Price apple which only costs 57p per kilogram.

Other than watching the tills with CCTV cameras and employing a few members of staff to supervise the tills, supermarkets have done nothing to deal with this issue.

A computer animation student at Bournemouth University says ‘It’s so easy to put an item through as something else, or even just pretend to scan something and put it in the bag. Especially when you have a lot of shopping, the shop staff never notice’

The duty manager of the Bournemouth branch of Asda was ‘unable to comment on this matter’.

Interview: Earliest Childhood Memory

Betty Smith was more concerned about missing maths class than the threat of air strikes.

Growing up as an only child in Ripley, Derbyshire, she taught herself to read by the time she was four and half.

She looks back proudly on her earliest childhood memory - starting primary school at the top of her class.

After moving to Derby aged nine, Betty was diagnosed with diphtheria– a respiratory disease common amongst children during the early 20th century – and had to be hospitalised for many months.

Yet just two years later she was awarded a scholarship to the local girls’ grammar school and when World War II broke out in 1939, Betty remembers being ‘very disappointed’ that the schools were closed for several months.

Like many children during the war, Betty was evacuated from home, but was only sent 10 miles away as she moved back to Ripley to stay with her old next-door neighbours.

She distinctly remembers feeling very homesick and not enjoying her time there, so after just two weeks her father came to collect her and take her back home.

Back in Derby, Betty lived above a shop and remembers her entire family having to squeeze into the cold, dark cellar whenever the bomb sirens sounded.

Betty still lives in Derby with her husband George and turned 81 on the 10th of December.