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R. C. McGinlay (Ilford, Essex)
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Cloud B Sleep Sheep
Cloud B Sleep Sheep
Price: 28.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sheep you can count on, 24 July 2013
This review is from: Cloud B Sleep Sheep (Baby Product)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is one of two types of Sleep Sheep sound toys available from Cloud B: this larger size and a mini "On the Go" version for mobile use. I have one of each, so in this review I aim to compare and contrast the two.

The regular size is obviously not as portable as the "On the Go" variety, though the sound unit is removable, so you could just take that with you on trips. I don't think the regular Sleep Sheep is quite as cute as its smaller cousin, though the sound quality seems superior. The choice of sounds are mother's heartbeat (on the mini version this is replaced by a babbling stream), rainfall, ocean waves and whale song. The recommended retail price is higher than that of the "On the Go" version, though sale prices on Amazon frequently change, so it is well worth keeping an eye on those until the price is right for you.

In both cases, I had a bit of a struggle fitting the sound unit within the sheep, though once it is in there the controls are easily accessible and simple to operate. For that reason, keep the toy out of reach of babies if the sound unit is installed, otherwise they might accidentally change or turn off the sound and get upset about that. The sounds can be set to last for 23 or 45 minutes via a switch, and there's a volume/off dial to control the level of sound. I find that a slightly higher volume is required for the ocean waves and whale song, and for when the sound unit is installed in the sheep, which tends to muffle the volume compared to use outside the toy. Batteries are included, which is helpful.

The preferred sound is a very personal choice, as previous reviews will testify, though in this particular household the ocean is the favourite. We don't find the heavy sounding rainfall at all soothing. Of course, as a grown-up, I am completely immune to Sleep Sheep's effectszzzzzzzzzzzzzz...


Cloud B Sleep Sheep On The Go
Cloud B Sleep Sheep On The Go
Price: 22.02

4.0 out of 5 stars A good night's sheep, 24 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is one of two types of Sleep Sheep sound toys available from Cloud B: a larger size and this mini "On the Go" version for mobile use. I have one of each, so in this review I aim to compare and contrast the two.

The "On the Go" version is obviously more portable than its larger cousin. I also find it looks slighter cuter, though the sound quality doesn't seem as good. The choice of sounds are a babbling stream (this replaces the mother's heartbeat on the big version), rainfall, ocean waves and whale song. Despite being smaller, "On the Go" is still a decent size (22 x 14 x 13cm), especially if you have a very young baby. The recommended retail price is lower than that of the full-size version (though sale prices on Amazon frequently change, so it is well worth keeping an eye on those until the price is right for you).

In both cases, I had a bit of a struggle fitting the sound unit within the sheep, though once it is in there the controls are easily accessible and simple to operate. For that reason, keep the toy out of reach of babies if the sound unit is installed, otherwise they might accidentally change or turn off the sound and get upset about that. The sounds can be set to last for 23 or 45 minutes via a switch, and there's a volume/off dial to control the level of sound. I find that a slightly higher volume is required for the ocean waves and whale song, and for when the sound unit is installed in the sheep, which tends to muffle the volume compared to use outside the toy. Batteries are included, which is helpful.

The preferred sound is a very personal choice, as previous reviews will testify, though in this particular household the ocean is the favourite. We don't find the heavy sounding rainfall at all soothing. Of course, as a grown-up, I am completely immune to Sleep Sheep's effectszzzzzzzzzzzzzz...


Blake's 7: Project Avalon (Classic Novels)
Blake's 7: Project Avalon (Classic Novels)
by Trevor Hoyle
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 13.96

4.0 out of 5 stars Blake's 6 hours 50 minutes, 18 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For some years now, AudioGO has been dusting off out-of-print "Doctor Who" novelisations and giving them a new lease of life as unabridged audio books, often read by members of the original cast, and with exciting sound effects and music. More recently the company has given a similar treatment to "Blake's 7", though there aren't as many novelisations of this series to choose from - just three, of which "Project Avalon", originally published in 1979, was the second.

It adapts the television episodes "Seek-Locate-Destroy", "Duel", "Project Avalon", "Deliverance" and "Orac", though most of "Deliverance" has been omitted in order to keep the original book to length. In other words, these are all the Series One episodes featuring Space Commander Travis, whose presence provides a handy linking theme. In fact, more could have been done by novelist Trevor Hoyle to blend the material from "Seek-Locate-Destroy" with that from "Duel", by having Travis immediately set off in pursuit of Blake and his crew.

It's hard to be objective about the effectiveness of Hoyle's adaptation of Terry Nation's original scripts, because I have such strong memories of the VHS and DVD releases of the episodes, so recollections of the screen version kept on flooding back to me as I listened. However, the author does impress with his gruesome descriptions of the fungal infection in "Project Avalon" and Travis's eye patch, which is likened to a growth fused with the villain's living flesh. I lost count of the number of times Hoyle describes Travis as swarthy or mentions Jenna's blonde locks - I suspect he had a bit of a crush on Sally Knyvette! The only difference I noticed is that in the novelisation Travis prefers to have androids working for him, whereas on television they were called Mutoids.

Essentially, these are straightforward adventure stories, with lots of gripping action and peril - which suits Nation's style down to the ground. Throughout, the strength of Nation's dialogue shines through, such as Supreme Commander Servalan's description of Travis in "Seek-Locate-Destroy": "He does his duty as he sees it, and he sees it clearly. He has no time for the dirty grey areas of your politics."

Of course, it helps that the narrative is brought to life by arguably the two most important voices from the BBC series, Jacqueline Pearce (who played Servalan) and Paul Darrow (who played Avon). Curiously, the narration chores are split straight down the middle, with Pearce reading the first three discs and Darrow doing the final three of this six-CD set. I had expected that they would alternate the episodes a bit more than that. Perhaps this is an indication that the original plan was to divide the novelisation into two, as happened with the previous one, which became the audio books "The Way Back" and "Cygnus Alpha". Pearce gives a beautiful reading, delicately adapting her tone depending on the mood of the narrative at any given point. Darrow is less subtle, sometimes delivering a sustained note of doom-laden drama when it isn't really called for, but is generally effective in his own way.

Unlike AudioGO's "Doctor Who" releases, none of the sound effects are the original ones from the television show. I would have greatly appreciated hearing the authentic blast of the Liberator guns or the distinctive shimmer of the teleport process.

Nevertheless, "Project Avalon" provides plenty of listening pleasure - almost seven hours, appropriately enough.


Cabin Pressure The Complete Series 4
Cabin Pressure The Complete Series 4
by John Finnemore
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 14.27

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Air Trek Into Light-hearted, 30 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
With each new series of this BBC Radio 4 sitcom, the more we learn about the characters, and the more we care about them as a result.

Regular listeners will know by now that MJN Air is on the verge of bankruptcy, and so Captain Martin Crieff (Benedict Cumberbatch) and First Officer Douglas Richardson (Roger Allam) are effectively working for free, out of sheer devotion to their boss, Carolyn Knapp-Shappey (Stephanie Cole). Therefore, when Martin has the chance of a job with another (i.e. a proper) airline in the series finale "Yverdon-Les-Bains", it leads to a genuinely tense cliffhanger ending, one that is given extra weight by the recent cinematic success of Cumberbatch in movies such as "War Horse", "Star Trek Into Darkness" and the "Hobbit" trilogy.

If you're new to the show, however, there's no reason why you cannot board the flight here. The programme brings together many classic and recognisable personality types of British comedy, with Martin as the by-the-book wannabe, whose ambitions are frequently thwarted by his lack of practical talent (think Arnold J Rimmer, only better at exams); Douglas as the seasoned and cynical one (think Edmund Blackadder at his most nonchalantly sardonic and cunning); Carolyn as the crew's tight-fisted employer, though beneath her harsh exterior lies a heart of gold... somewhere; and her son Arthur (played by the show's writer John Finnemore) as the enthusiastic but dim one (think Father Dougal McGuire). The opening episode, "Timbuktu", requires no previous knowledge of the series in order to enjoy the outrageous web of lies that ensues, though established fans will relish the return of Geoffrey Whitehead as the alcoholic but potentially generous Mr Birling.

The regulars develop further in subsequent episodes, such as "Uskerty", "Vaduz" and "Xinzhou", in which we hear about Carolyn's relationship problems with Herc Shipwright (Anthony Head). "Uskerty" marks a low point for Martin, as he is berated for his failure to look for a job elsewhere, is attacked by angry bees and loses a signet ring inside a goose. Things begin to look up for him, though, when a Liechtensteinian princess (Matilda Ziegler) catches his eye in "Vaduz", and he determines to get one over on his far more successful brother Simon (Justin Edwards) in "Wokingham".

In case that all sounds rather serious, there is still plenty of silliness, including Arthur's enthusiastic use of a Tannoy in "Uskerty" and snowman-building skills in "Xinzhou", an embarrassing miscalculation over fuel in "Vaduz", and childish word games in "Wokingham".

I am concerned that the show's alphabetical episodes have now reached the letter Y. John Finnemore has stated that "Yverdon-Les-Bains" is not intended to be the final instalment... but all it will take is one more episode set in Zurich or wherever, perhaps a Christmas special, to complete the alphabet. Please let that not be our final destination!


I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue: Volume 15 (Audio Go)
I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue: Volume 15 (Audio Go)
by Iain Pattinson
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 10.64

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Being given silly things to review by AudioGO, 16 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This double CD contains edited highlights from four tour venues (Swansea, Grassington, Preston and Kingston), material from which was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 across eight episodes during 2011 and 2012. For this reason, we hear Jack Dee telling us that it's the end of the present series twice.

If you're a fan of the show, then you'll find all your favourite rounds here, including Just a Minim, Sound Charades, 84 Chicken Cross Road, and my personal preference Uxbridge English Dictionary - listen out for the teams' interesting new definitions of saveloy, bicker and dominion. Even a round that sometimes tries my patience, Mornington Crescent, has been enlivened by the addition of sat nav - which in the Swansea edition speaks with mouthy Welsh tones. If you're not a fan of the show, then I'm sorry, you haven't a clue what you're missing!

My only criticism of this volume is that surely a singer-songwriter like Victoria Wood could have been given a greater musical challenge than singing the words from "Roxanne" by the Police to the theme from "Neighbours". Still, this is more than made up for by hearing Graeme Garden singing "The Wheels on the Bus" to the tune of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind".

"I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue 15" helped me to while away 2 hours and 35 minutes that would otherwise not have been nearly as much fun.


Stephen Fry in His Own Words
Stephen Fry in His Own Words
by Stephen Fry
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of Fry, 2 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm afraid I must repeat what has already been said in previous reviews: this is a very short compilation, running to just 45 minutes on one CD. Stephen Fry is such a fascinating and intelligent chap to listen to that I would have happily sat through the entirety of the shows that we only hear excerpts from here, including his appearances on "Desert Island Discs" (1988) and "Parkinson" (1999). I know this is the format of the BBC's "In Their Own Words" range, but some of these titles (such as the Paul McCartney and Margaret Thatcher releases) have run to two discs. Fry should have been afforded the same treatment.

It's also a strangely unbalanced selection of clips in terms of time frame. Four of the six programmes sampled here are from the late 1980s, around the time that Fry was appearing in "Blackadder" and "A Bit of Fry & Laurie". We then jump forward to 1999 for the "Parkinson" material and 2010 for "Front Row". Did Fry simply not do interviews for the BBC in the intervening years?

Perhaps not surprisingly, there is some repetition of the same old topics, such as Fry's childhood ill-discipline, his efforts to avoid PE, his time in prison and his celibacy. After all, an interviewee cannot be expected to be asked about radically different things every time he is interviewed. However, this does aid the sense of how his outlook on life has developed over the years - he seems happier and more confident in the later material.

Though the brevity of this CD is disappointing, hearing Stephen Fry in his own words is always quite interesting.


Bonsoy Milk 1 Litre (Pack of 6)
Bonsoy Milk 1 Litre (Pack of 6)
Price: 18.90

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Milky milky, 30 May 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Unlike some other reviewers, I'm not a regular consumer of soya milk, so I'm not in a position to compare this directly to similar products. However, in comparison to cow's milk, I will say this...

Bonsoy has a relatively sweet and creamy flavour, so if you usually use skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, you may prefer to dilute it a bit. It is not dissimilar in taste to evaporated or UHT milk, neither of which I mind, though this might put some people off. The creaminess makes it good in coffee, on cereals, and on its own, but I found the taste a bit unusual in tea, though I dare say I could get used to it. I'm not much of a chef, so I haven't tried cooking with it!

The product comes in cartons, which state "Shake well before opening". To be on the safe side, I also shook it before each use - which is perfectly possible after opening, if you do a sideways sort of shake. Just as you would with a carton of orange juice really.

Bonsoy needs to be refrigerated only after the carton has been opened, which means that you needn't worry about it spoiling in transit or while waiting in a sorting office prior to delivery.

The big downside is the price, which is decidedly steep, hence my mark out of five. Milking it a bit, aren't they?


I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue: The Specials (BBC Radio)
I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue: The Specials (BBC Radio)
by Iain Pattinson
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 30.16

4.0 out of 5 stars I'm sorry I haven't got to this sooner, 19 May 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's taken me a while to fit in listening to the whole of this box set. When I ordered it, I didn't realise there was quite so much in it - seven discs in fact, running to 7 hours and 40 minutes. It contains four previous releases: "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Christmas Clue" (two discs), "Humph in Wonderland" (one disc), "Anniversary Special" (two discs) and "In Search of Mornington Crescent" (two discs). Each comes complete with its own jewel case, and the laminated card box is easier to open than some, thanks to the presence of a thumb tab.

The collection covers a range of periods from this long-running series, sometimes several decades on the same disc, so to help you make sense of it (if that's the right approach to take with this show!) here's a rough chronological list of the content. This may be helpful in deciding whether to buy the product, or in arranging your playlist if you already own it:
- The very first episode of "Clue" from 1972 (presented on Disc 2 of "Anniversary Special").
- Two Christmas compilations comprising material from 1980 to 2001 (presented on Disc 2 of "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Christmas Clue").
- "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Desert Island" from 1999 (presented on Disc 2 of "Anniversary Special").
- The 30th-anniversary edition of the show from 2002 (presented on Disc 1 of "Anniversary Special").
- "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Christmas Carol", the 2003 yuletide special (presented on Disc 1 of "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Christmas Clue").
- "In Search of Mornington Crescent", the 2005 Christmas special.
- "Humph in Wonderland", another festive special, this time from 2007.

A problem with specials can be that they are not the same as the show we know and love. They can be something more, but sometimes they end up being just something else. This is true of "In Search of Mornington Crescent", which, taking the form of a spoof documentary, presented by Andrew Marr, is not what we normally associate with "Clue". The Christmas panto formats of "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Christmas Carol" and "Humph in Wonderland", which lampoon the works of Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll respectively, might have fallen into the same trap, but they manage to work in several familiar rounds of the antidote to panel games. The prospect of "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Desert Island", in which luminaries such as Dame Judi Dench, Germaine Greer and Neil Kinnock nominate their favourite moments from the series, doesn't sound too promising, but even this is enlivened by the selection of classic clips.

Perhaps the weakest part of this collection is actually one of the episodes - the very first one. It has been remastered from a rare off-air recording, so the sound quality isn't as good as it once was. More importantly, the show isn't as good as it would later become. The finer points of the format, including Humphrey Lyttelton's trademark deadpan and disparaging style of delivery, have not yet been established. This episode is of great historical interest, but sadly isn't as funny as the panellists' high-spirited reactions would suggest.

Despite a few low points, though, there's so much in this box set that there remains plenty to enjoy. It's like all your Christmases have come at once.


Charles Paris: An Amateur Corpse (BBC Radio Crimes)
Charles Paris: An Amateur Corpse (BBC Radio Crimes)
by Simon Brett
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 13.25

3.0 out of 5 stars Charles Paris's misery, 13 May 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the latest in a series of dramatisations based upon Simon Brett's Charles Paris mysteries. The real mystery, though, at least to begin with, is where's the mystery?

The pacing of the story is, shall we say, fairly sedate. It's more of a contemplative comedy drama than an action-packed crime thriller. There is no corpse, amateur or otherwise, until the halfway stage of this two-disc, 4 x 30-minute production. Instead, Jeremy Front, adapting Brett's 1978 novel of the same name, sets the scene and establishes the characters, including Charles's old friend Hugo (played by Paul "lovely bit of squirrel" Ritter from "Friday Night Dinner"), whose marriage to the much younger Ellie (Amaka Okafor) is on the rocks.

The most comedic aspects of the tale are the protagonist's mother Joan (the wonderful Geraldine McEwan) and his agent, Maurice (radio stalwart Jon Glover), both of whom are eccentric mentor figures, every bit as theatrical as Charles's fellow thespians, who elicit feelings of dread from him. In the case of Joan, it's because her antics are socially embarrassing and she keeps rubbing Charles's semi-estranged wife Frances (Suzanne Burden) up the wrong way. In the case of Maurice, it's because Charles has wangled some voice-over work and doesn't want to sacrifice ten per cent of his fee.

Other humorous detective series are available, of course, including the exploits of Dirk Gently and Jonathan Creek. In fact, these characters share a tiny amount of their authorial DNA, since Simon Brett produced the very first episode of Douglas Adams's "Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy", as well as the sketch shows "The Burkiss Way" and "End of Part One", which were co-written by David Renwick. However, Charles is more in touch with the real world than Dirk Gently, more morose than Jonathan Creek, and predates them both (first appearing in print in 1975). And who better to vocalise his world-weary musings than Bill Nighy?

Given the slow build-up, the resolution comes about rather suddenly. Aside from its structural flaws, though, "An Amateur Corpse" is a highly professional production.


Sci-Fi Sound Effects (Vintage Beeb)
Sci-Fi Sound Effects (Vintage Beeb)
by BBC
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Blake's 33⅓, 7 May 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is another addition to the "Vintage Beeb" range of facsimile reissues of titles from the old BBC Records & Tapes label. The design of the CD and sleeve reflect those of the vinyl release from way back in 1981.

Containing effects from then recent BBC productions of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", "Doctor Who", "Blake's 7" and "Earthsearch", it makes for gloriously nostalgic listening, bringing back memories of the shows themselves and of the album's original release on LP and cassette. I vividly recall the use of such effects in teenage audio recordings - for example, the Book's activation code (from "Hitchhiker's") stood in most effectively as the Batcomputer in our Batman spoof.

Other memorable "Hitchhiker's" effects (all from the first radio series in 1978, though many of them were subsequently reused for the 1981 TV version) include Magrathea police guns (which are every bit as powerful as the Gallifreyan staser guns on "Doctor Who Sound Effects") and the Bugblatter Beast of Traal roaring, eating and walking.

Given that "Doctor Who" had already had a sound effects album to its name (released in 1978), all the effects on this compilation are from more recent serials, from Tom Baker's last season (1980-1). These range from an Earth shuttle arriving on the planet Argolis in "The Leisure Hive" to the TARDIS being taken out of time and space and put then back in again in "Logopolis". From the latter story we also hear the perennial cloister bell, which tolled again as recently as the 2013 episode "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS". It has to be said, though, that the flock of bats from "State of Decay" sounds far too electronic to be a flock of bats.

The larger part of the work on this album hails from "Blake's 7" (1978-81). You might say that it represents the core of the album - and yes, you do get to hear the gruesome, beating Core, which is charmingly described in the original track listing as "a huge ever-growing pulsating brain which rules from the centre of Ultraworld"! Other classic sounds include those of Orac being switched on, working and switched off, three blasts of the awesome Liberator guns, and disappearance and reappearance by teleport (a brilliant effect that really does sound like something being reassembled into physical form out of disparate energetic particles).

The final selection of tracks, from the 1981 radio serial "Earthsearch" is not so impressive. Many of these, including "Alarm" and "Bleeps", are decidedly reminiscent of an early Casio keyboard. I think the airlock door effects may have been reused in a Victoria Wood sketch spoofing "Doctor Who"!

There are so many tracks on this album (81 in fact) that the text on the reproduced original back cover is rendered almost microscopic at CD size - but fear not, because it has been transcribed in larger type on the inner sleeve.

If you wish to revisit the sounds of the Seventies and Eighties, or get your hands on clean effects to make your own amateur productions, then it sounds like this could be the CD for you.


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