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Mrs Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady
Mrs Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady
by Kate Summerscale
Edition: Diary
Price: £16.99

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A forgotten scandal that gives an insight into mid-19th century life, 24 Jun. 2012
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I like the way Kate Summerscale writes. I feel that she does not attempt to foist her opinions on readers or even argue a case, but rather provides facts and narrative and lets us reach our own conclusions as to the whys and wherefores.

Mrs Robinson's Disgrace is no exception. It is an interesting book, detailing a Victorian scandal involving the said woman's desire for a life different to the one she has and, ultimately, her husband's attempts to divorce her on the grounds of her adultery. The evidence for this adultery was the contents of her diary.

Mrs Robinson strikes me as a woman out of time and suffocated by the mores of Victorian society. At the same time, she comes across as naÔve and a fantasist. There seems little doubt that she is intelligent but, in common with many women of the time, under-educated and destined for a life of domesticity and duty. She is trapped in a loveless marriage with a mean spirited and intellectually inferior man who does not share her interests or aspirations. Mrs Robinson lives in her head and alights her attention and hopes on the most fleeting contact with any man who is remotely civilized or shows the merest hint of interest in her. These interactions, and her interpretations of their meaning, are what seem to make her life tolerable.

I am unsure whether Mrs Robinson actually had an affair during her marriage. She did, however, make the 'mistake' of committing her rather florid thoughts, feelings and hopes about various men, and most particularly the man named in the divorce case (Dr Edward Lane), to paper in her diary. Whether the events outlined in the diary were real, imagined or a bit of both, however, was not clear to me. I felt this ambiguity made the book more appealing.

What seems evident from Ms Summerscale's telling of the story was that Mrs Robinson was a victim of the constricts of her time. I was struck by the utter hopelessness of her (and probably most other women of the Victorian era's) situation. No choices, no say in her destiny and ultimately no control over her private thoughts. Her husband appeared to have little compunction about seizing her journals and airing her most private thoughts in open court. Never mind the fact that he was a known adulterer, who kept a mistress and had fathered illegitimate children.

Mrs Robinson's Disgrace is an engrossing book. While much has been written about this period, Ms Summerscale's use of a forgotten Victorian scandal evokes a real feel for what life must have been like for the better off middle classes in the mid 19th century. Although women may have been the most subjugated individuals of the day, it appears they were by no means alone. The difference, however, is that a man with unusual or unacceptable tastes (for the time) could get away with it, with money and family support. One of the Drysdale brothers, who are satellite characters in this story, does just that. You will have to read the book to see if the same can be said for Mrs Robinson. It is well worth the effort.


Delonghi EN520.W Nespresso Lattissima Plus Coffee Maker - White
Delonghi EN520.W Nespresso Lattissima Plus Coffee Maker - White

27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Can't recommend this machine, 16 Jun. 2012
We bought this as a replacement for a Magimix M200 Nespresso which sprung a leak after six years. We opted for the Lattissima because it was the only model available that heats and froths milk with steam, which is what we are used to. We were not keen on the idea of an aeroccino.

We have always used only ristretto capsules and continued to do so with the Lattissima. Similarly, we used the same cappuccino and espresso cups. Initially, the coffee didn't taste too bad, although it seemed noticeably weaker than that produced by our Magimix M200. It was also not hot enough for our tastes, despite heating the cups prior to using the machine. Nevertheless, we decided to persevere.

After about four weeks, the taste of the coffee obtained from this machine really started to deteriorate. It tasted quite insipid and was totally lacking depth. The difference in quality of the coffee produced by our old machine and the Lattissima was remarkable, considering we were using exactly the same Nespresso capsules. It is possible to reprogramme the Lattissima to adjust volumes of milk and coffee and we have tried several permutations. All, however, have failed to produce coffee of comparable quality to our old Magimix.

Around this time, the Lattissima indicated it required descaling. I queried this with Nespresso as it had only been used for about 20 cups of coffee a week, if that. Nespresso said the machine had a quirk whereby it often needed to be descaled early in it's life. They assured me that, after this initial descaling, the process should not need to be repeated for 3 or 4 months. Time will tell whether this is true. If this machine requires descaling every 4-6 weeks, however, running costs will rack up, considering you can only use Nespresso branded descaling kits, at a cost £7 with delivery charges on top.

I had hoped descaling our Lattissima would improve it's performance but evidently not; we are still getting luke warm, insipid coffee. I actually tested it against our old Magimix using capsules from the same batch, the same volume of milk etc. The coffee from the Magimix had a far superior taste and was hotter. It is just a shame that we can't continue to use it regularly due to a leak.

I felt certain that De Longhi machines must have a lower bar pressure than Magimix as this seemed the only possible explanation for the inferior quality of the coffee. I rang Nespresso to query this but they stated both machines had 19 bar pressure.

On the plus side, the Lattissima is very easy to use and clean. You basically press a button and the coffee comes out - it's just a shame about the taste. The manual recommends the milk frother is dismantled and cleaned twice a week. I rinsed all the parts through after every use, however, as the milk left in the container had a slightly foul smell after it had been heated. I would certainly not return any unused milk in the frothing container to the fridge to use again, as suggested in the manual. You can, however, learn to judge exactly how much milk you need.

Judging by the other reviews, a lot of people are clearly happy with their Lattissima. We love Nespresso coffee, just not from this machine. Maybe we bought a dud. We will certainly try to return it as £200 is a lot of money for a machine that makes coffee we don't want to drink.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 15, 2014 8:54 PM GMT


Ruark Audio R4 CD, DAB/FM Radio with integrated iPod Dock - Walnut finish
Ruark Audio R4 CD, DAB/FM Radio with integrated iPod Dock - Walnut finish

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Sound, Great Looks, 22 May 2012
I was fortunate enough to be given a Ruark R4 as a gift. To say I am delighted with it is an understatement. This really is a fantastic piece of kit with a clarity and quality of sound that belies it's size. We have eclectic taste in music and everything from opera, through jazz, indie and R&B sound great on this system, which has to date been used mainly for CDs. We have tried the i-pod dock and this too gives excellent sound quality, far better than the Bose we also have. I love the remote on the Ruark, it is very easy to use and seems much more robust than many I have come across. I am aware that some reviewers have made negative comments about the incremental sound control. I actually love the way the sound is adjusted in increments; it prevents the ear-splitting blasts you can sometimes get from over-zealous volume adjustments. I am so pleased with this that it has taken the place of our not inexpensive hi-fi separates in the living room. I love the fact that we can achieve a great sound without the bulk, trailing wires and ugly speakers that go hand in hand with separates. It is a very stylish addition to our room. Although I didn't buy this myself, I don't consider the price expensive for the quality of the unit.


The Retribution: (Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, Book 7)
The Retribution: (Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, Book 7)
by Val McDermid
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One for the die hard fans, 18 May 2012
I have read and enjoyed a few of Val McDermid's previous books. I was, however, disappointed by The Retribution and gave up on it after 100 pages or so. I'm not sure whether the serial killer genre has had it's day or I'm just bored with it. I do think that it is difficult to maintain fresh ideas and momentum in a long running series such as this and I'm sorry to say that Val McDermid seems to be running out of steam with the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan books. I suspect this is one for the die hard fans. Ms McDermid has certainly produced better books and I would look to one of those if you are new to this author.


Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky [DVD]
Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky [DVD]
Dvd ~ Simon Curtis
Price: £3.90

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative and powerful, 28 April 2012
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Two Thousand Streets under the Sky tells the story of three young people, who's lives collide in the Midnight Bell pub. Ella and Bob live and work there, Jenny occassionally drinks there. It is a sad tale indeed. Bob is an aspiring author, working as a waiter in the pub. He falls for Jenny, a prostitute with a fondness for drink, on sight, and expends all his savings on a relentless and fruitless attempt to rescue her from her existence. Ella is in love with Bob, but he either doesn't, or doesn't want to, notice. The story of each of the three main protagonists is told from each perspective; the first focusses on Bob's pursuit of Jenny. The second tells how, in the degradation of one fateful night, Jenny went from being a seemingly hardworking, decent girl, albeit in a lowly job, to life as a lush, a thief and a prostitute. The trilogy ends with Ella's story. I found this the most affecting of the three tales. Ella is a modest, unassuming girl who works as a barmaid at the Midnight Bell. Her quiet longing for Bob is painful to watch. She is, in turn, pursued by the wealthy, and much older, Ernest Eccles, who is a regular in the bar. Phil Davis gives a great performance in this role. Mr Eccles is vain, a bore and plain cringeworthy. Nevertheless, Phil Davis is so accomplished in the role that you do feel the odd stab of sympathy for this lonely man. Sally Hawkins as Ella, puts in a particularly moving performance as she attempts to avoid an engagement to Mr Eccles and tries to retain her dignity in a life which seems to consist of a series of chronic disappointments. The acting from all three main characters is impeccable.

These stories are set in a highly evocative context which conjures up the thirties beautifully, drab rooms, pubs and clothes capturing the daily grind of life for ordinary people just trying to get by. The only relief being the odd trip to the pictures or a Lyons tea room and the largely vain hope of something better.

This is a drama of outstanding quality. However, if you are a fan of happy ending, Downton Abbey type period dramas, this may not be for you. It is a real life, rather than, feel good drama.


Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality
Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality
by Theodore Dalrymple
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking, 23 April 2012
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In a society that supposedly prides itself on egalitarian and democratic principles, it is a pity that Mr Dalrymple's views do not get much of an airing. Theodore Dalrymple (aka Anthony Daniels) is a retired psychiatrist. Much of his writing appears to be based on anecdotes and personal experience, rather than empirical evidence. That said, a psychiatrist is probably in a better position than most to comment on the lives of the 'underclass' and some of his arguments are indeed compelling. Mr Dalyrmple works from the premise that many of the ills plaguing Western, and particularly British, society are due to the fact that some people simply do not know how to live and inhabit a brutal and nihilistic world outwith that which most of us would consider normal. Mr Dalrymple's proposition is that this situation undermines the life of all. According to the author, this set of circumstances has largely come about as a result of the medicalisation of social problems and a tendency on the part of the left to create a culture where rights without responsibilities are the norm. Although I have left-leaning tendencies, it is hard to dispute that welfare reform has not had the desired effect. Rafts of legislation has failed to address the problem of the growing army of people who simply abdicate any responsibility for their own lives or that of their children. He uses an example of the parents of a troubled child telling him they had given the child everything (ipods, computers etc), missing the point that the child might have been better served had they provided appropriate and nurturing parenting rather than gadgets.

Mr Dalrymple explores these issues in some detail. He also casts a glance at aspects of our culture that I find distasteful; the apparently endless appetite for misery memoirs, the mawkish collective grieving undertaken by people who could in no way be affected by the events in question, and explores the implications of a (cheap in my opinion) tendency for some people to feel they are a better person if they are seen to empathise with the distress of others. The crucial word here is seen, not the fact that people may empathise, but that they want to be seen to be doing it. Of course, it is very easy to wallow in other people's misery. You don't really have to do anything. In my opinion, there is something quite sick about this kind of behaviour. Mr Dalrymple clearly thinks so too and argues for a return to the more stoic attitude of previous generations.

I do not agree with everything Mr Dalyrymple says in this book (or elsewhere) but he is clearly an erudite and thoughtful man who has much to contribute to the social reform debate. Many of this author's writings could be considered right leaning. Although his work may be controversial, and even offensive, to the liberal left, it is certainly not the rantings of some right wing crank. In a society that is so tolerant of so many ills, I cannot understand why Mr Dalrymple appears to be something of a pariah for merely putting forward his rationally argued views. I found this book refreshingly frank.


Develop Your Property: A Complete Guide to Planning, Managing and Funding Home Improvements (Which? Essential Guides): A Complete Guide to Managing, Building and Funding Home Extensions
Develop Your Property: A Complete Guide to Planning, Managing and Funding Home Improvements (Which? Essential Guides): A Complete Guide to Managing, Building and Funding Home Extensions
by Kate Faulkner
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Basic, 22 April 2012
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Purchased this book as I thought it might help us to prioritise home improvements and decide on a potential extension. As it is a Which publication, we thought it would contain sound advice. Although this may be the case, the advice is so basic it is virtually useless. We found nothing in this publication that we didn't know already. It struck me as merely an amalgamation of information that is freely and readily available elsewhere.


UniBond Anti-Mould Grout Reviver for Floors and Walls Tube and Sponge - 125ml, Ice White
UniBond Anti-Mould Grout Reviver for Floors and Walls Tube and Sponge - 125ml, Ice White
Price: £6.99

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A quick fix that is anything but, 22 April 2012
Although this initially gave a decent result, the long term effect is not good in my experience. After a couple of months, it began to flake in parts. We have mosaic tiles on the floor. Although we didn't use UniBond reviver on these, trying to remove the flakes falling from the walls tiles that had been treated was horrendously time consuming. The grout treated with the UniBond reviver looked worse as the months went on - more and more flaking, more and more mess, and grout that looked worse than before the product was applied. In my opinion it is a quick fix that is anything but. In the end, we regrouted; time consuming and laborious but at least you get a decent, lasting result. I would suggest you do the same rather than waste time with this product.


E-cloth Window Cleaning Pack, Window Cloth/Glass and Polishing Cloth
E-cloth Window Cleaning Pack, Window Cloth/Glass and Polishing Cloth
Offered by R & S Supplies Ltd
Price: £4.58

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They work, 3 Nov. 2011
Having tried just about every glass cleaning product on the market, as well as every old style remedy I came across, such as cleaning with white vinegar and water, rubbing glass surfaces with scrunched up newspapers etc, I was always left with streaks. It was with some sceptism that I purchased these clothes but I have been amazed at the results. My windows and mirrors are gleaming and streak free. All you have to do is wet the thicker cloth with cold water, wipe the surface, then polish with the thinner cloth and you're done. Very little effort required and great results. I have only used the cloths once so have no idea how long they retain their effectiveness but I will certainly be buying more.


Dower & Hall, Cherished Hearts - Solid Sterling Silver Two Part Engraved Heart Pendant on 41cm Trace Chain
Dower & Hall, Cherished Hearts - Solid Sterling Silver Two Part Engraved Heart Pendant on 41cm Trace Chain

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good quality but the chain was very short, 2 Nov. 2011
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I bought this pendant for a gift but ended up returning it to Amazon due to the short length of the chain. It is a lovely pendant and the quality is excellent but when the recipient of the gift (who does not have a particularly large neck) tried it, she commented that she felt it was "strangling" her. It was possible to obtain the same pendant with a longer chain directly from Dower and Hall, although I'm not sure if they still stock this item.


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