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Reviews Written by
Jeff Walmsley "JW" (Wales)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

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The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind and Soul
The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind and Soul
by William Sieghart
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "THE CURE OF THE ID BY THE ODD...", 20 Sept. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If you thought this was going to be just another anthology of poetry, think again. It may or may not suit you - as is apparent from the reviews - and it's really quite hard to describe it in terms of what it actually is - but I liked it, anyway, so I'll try...

Possibly I'm the right person to review it, because I don't have (or feel that I don't have !) any need of the psychological advice packed between its covers; for, whatever else it may be, this is a self-help book about treating the disorders of the mind and soul that arise from a variety of experiences and conditions. (I include the word "soul" because the OED includes it in its definition of psychology). To this end, the content of the book is 90% psychological advice, in prose, by the author, and 10% poetry - occasionally just 4 lines of the latter to a whole page of the former, although the author also sometimes feels the need to explain and occasionally even interpret his selections.

I don't invariably agree with either the selections or the nature of the psychological advice - how could I ? We are all different - but this hardly matters; The advice he gives is anyway frequently very apposite, and bears study by those afflicted. Altogether, I find this book to be a noble attempt to aid those suffering from psychological - well, "dilapidation" seems a good collective word; in another context, say the NHS, it would be called counselling.

I feel bound to say, though, that many of the conditions he describes amongst his "patients" seem to me to imply clinical depression, and I fear that that sad condition will not frequently be responsive to any kind of counselling - but it's always worth trying, because the mind doesn't always behave as we expect.

One reviewer complains that the contents are mostly depressing - well, quite so - it's entirely about comforting people who are having a hard time, so could hardly be otherwise, especially if you yourself are happy and lucky and, say, would rather not concern yourself with other people's troubles (a trouble shared is rarely a trouble halved - more like a trouble doubled). But if you aren't happy, there's sometimes - and only sometimes, mind - comfort in realising that there are others far worse off than you. You may find them in these pages.


DREAMNITE DN49003 Memory Foam Fleecy Electric Heated Blanket, Cream, King Size
DREAMNITE DN49003 Memory Foam Fleecy Electric Heated Blanket, Cream, King Size
Price: £169.99

1.0 out of 5 stars INAPPROPRIATE DIMENSIONS (AND NOT FOR THOSE WHO FART IN BED, THEY SAY...), 20 Sept. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This Chinese-made electric blanket is one of the most poorly-designed, badly-made, daftest items I've ever been asked to review, and will be going straight to the recycling centre.

Let's start in a low key with the safety instructions. These are rapidly becoming a joke generally anyway, and the phrase "information overload" was never more apt. Just as with the the therapeutic heatpad I recently reviewed, there are three pages of them, and the wording is very similar - and often equally inappropriate ("Do not leave heavy objects on the bed when the unit is switched on" !!).

The lengthier - and dafter - these safety pages become, the less likely are they to be read; and the more important it becomes, therefore, not to inflate them needlessly by bad drafting or inappropriate entries - warning us not to use our electric blanket in a flammable liquid store, or where flammable fumes may be present, for example. (Do you often fill your bedroom with flammable fumes ? Methane, perhaps ?)

The careless drafting is evident from the fact that TEN of the injunctions are repeated twice (at least) in different places throughout the safety warnings, mostly word for word, sometimes in slightly different wording.

We now come to a whole clutch of perfect catch 22s.

Firstly, the blanket is so made that it is impossible to use it without defying the safety instructions - doing which, they warn you, will immediately invalidate your guarantee. (Well they would, wouldn't they...)

Secondly, we are told that the blanket must not be situated beneath pillows or bolsters (you wouldn't want to anyway, would you ? Who wants a hot pillow ?); this injunction is repeated twice, and reinforced with a large diagram. Yet, since it is only 12cm shorter than my King-sized adjustable, I cannot obey the injunction not to cover it with pillows without simultaneously disobeying the other injunction (also repeated twice) not to allow any part of it to hang over the edge of the mattress...

For our third catch 22, the instructions offer guidance for fitting the blanket with either - according to model - tapes for tying, or, for a fitted blanket model (i.e.. the one offered on this web page), an elasticated skirt. However, this blanket has neither - it has elastic corner straps; but because it's 12cm shorter than the mattress, they can only be used at one end ! This alone makes it unsafe to use. But if the blanket WERE of a size to permit the use of all the corner straps (or did have an all-round elasticated skirt), then, of course, there is yet again no way that it could be fitted without defying the injunction not to cover it with pillows and bolsters...

My foam mattress is a mere 15cm deep, incidentally, and I doubt if these corner straps would fit over anything thicker.

The web page gives the size of the blanket as 150x190cm; this is not the standard UK king size, which is 150x200cm. But in any case, the item sent to me measures only 148.5x188cm... And whilst there is also a zip all the way round it, when you unzip it, there is nothing to remove - everything inside is stitched to the outer cover !

I could go on, but what's the point. Given the currently quoted price of £169.99 - which leads one to expect incomparable quality, functionality and attention to detail - this is nothing short of appalling.

I'm wondering if perhaps the other reviewers were reviewing a different product...


JETTINGBUY Up to 73cm Telescopic Extendable Fly Swatter Prevent Pest Mosquito Tool Plastic
JETTINGBUY Up to 73cm Telescopic Extendable Fly Swatter Prevent Pest Mosquito Tool Plastic
Offered by smileforlife
Price: £0.10

4.0 out of 5 stars EASY TO STORE, LESS EASY TO SWAT, 18 Sept. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A useful weapon in the armoury for the war against airborne intruders. The biggest advantage of the telescopic handle as far as I'm concerned is that when closed, it makes for very convenient storage. However, it's less effective as a weapon of mass destruction compared to some, because its swatting area is relatively small compared with that of, say, the Balvi Ninja Fly swatter Balvi - Fly swatter Ninja plastic - which, although seriously expensive at £7.60 all in, is a far more deadly weapon in my wobbly hands.


Kitchenaid Tea Towels 100% Cotton Set of 6 (Colours May Vary)
Kitchenaid Tea Towels 100% Cotton Set of 6 (Colours May Vary)
Offered by Micronutrients Ltd.
Price: £21.99

2.0 out of 5 stars WITHOUT EQUAL IN THE DRYING STAKES - BUT..., 18 Sept. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Who is this Terry who gave his name to this type of cloth, I wondered ? If it was a bloke, he would have lived before 1784, when the word was first employed, apparently, to describe cotton fabric with projecting uncut loops - the purpose of which is to soak up more moisture by increasing the area exposed to it. Which is why a terry-towel will always beat an artifical microfibre in the drying stakes, hands down.

Having read all the complaints about the water-repellent microfibre and other partly artifical fibre teatowel products, I looked for cotton, and came across these. The US Kitchenaid has a reputation amongst at least some consumers of producing eye-wateringly expensive kitchen gadgets which look fabulous before they fall to bits. At £30 for six modestly-sized tea-towels, this certainly falls into that price category; but they are made in India, and having worked there for many years, I know Indian-made cotton can be equal to the best anywhere. I'm still using the odd towel I bought there 60 years ago.

I hate towels which, to quote one reviewer of another product, "just smear the water over the dish", and I'm prepared to pay a premium for one that soaks it up instead. After washing them before use, I can say that these are unlikely to have any equal amongst the modern materials when it comes to absorbency. And if they last as long as my Indian-made bath towels, they will be worth the watery eyes...

I do have a complaint, though; the towels showing outside bear the fancily embroidered Kitchenaid name together with an elegant, contrasting border; the four invisible inside towels not only have no such ornaments, but are also of inferior quality to those visible, and even slightly smaller. It beats me how a company which brags about its quality can stoop to such cheap marketing tricks. Any miserable amount of money they save is surely outweighed by the damage to customer goodwill, and in this case, the loss of those coveted stars... That said, even the 4 lower-grade towels still beat microfibre out of sight.

It's probably best to look for inexpensive terry-tea-towels whose manufacturers see no reason to stoop to questionable marketing.


mDesign Free-Standing Tea Towel Holder - Steel Tea Towel Rail for the Bathroom - Free-Standing Towel Rail in Chrome
mDesign Free-Standing Tea Towel Holder - Steel Tea Towel Rail for the Bathroom - Free-Standing Towel Rail in Chrome
Offered by DékorWNN
Price: £14.80

5.0 out of 5 stars IMPRESSIVELY STURDY AND STABLE., 18 Sept. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My usual approach to tea towel storage has been to roll them into a ball and chuck them into a corner of the worktop; I happened to see this while looking for new tea towels, and decided I should try to clean up my act. The illustration is a bit of a cheat; if those are tea towels hanging from it, they are for hobbits; I think they are actually dish or face cloths. A normal sized tea towel folded in half hangs to the base. But that's not a problem. What I liked about it was its sturdiness and weight. It won't topple over easily, and the base is just large enough to sit comfortably on my tiled window ledge, allowing damp tea towels to sit in the sun (when we have any) to dry off nicely.


Medisana HP 625 4D Heating Pad
Medisana HP 625 4D Heating Pad
Price: £49.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A SUPERIOR, EFFICIENT PRODUCT OVERALL; BUT TOO EXPENSIVE (£49.99) AT THE TIME OF WRITING, 18 Sept. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Life without a heat pad - or pads in my case (I have at least one in every room in the house) - would be unthinkable. Having discovered their therapeutic properties many years ago, visits to the Physio were subsequently significantly reduced - so a good financial investment, too...

At that time, the only brand available was the German Beurer, not without its drawbacks. Nowadays there are many brands - but their close family resemblance suggests that differences may be confined to brand names and other cosmetics. Medisana, although having a German address, is a subsidiary of the Chinese Xiamen Comfort Science & Technology Group., Ltd, whose factories I presume to be the manufacturers of this and many other similar heatpads.

The manufacturers claim a "new 4D-warmthflow technology" which provides "more intensive warmth effect", arising from "additional heat emission by convection (air current)". This apparently means that unlike other heat pads, this one has holes in it. But in use, I cannot detect any difference in effect between this and any of the other non-perforated types I possess. I therefore conclude that this is effect is a chimera, and largely marketing hype. But it doesn't reduce the value of the product - merely puts up its price...

The big drawback with the Beurers was the easily-overheated temperature controller, and as soon as other makes introduced digitaL LED controllers, which do not heat up so readily, I switched to them. This model, whilst pretty clearly in the general Beurer "family" mould, has a nicely designed digital controller, which is much more easily operated by an arthritic thumb than other types, and placed at a sensible distance from the pad itself, so that it is in less danger of being covered by a cushion, clothing or bedding - a potential cause of overheating and failure. The 30 minute reset time after auto-switch-off is unique, and a pain. No reason is given.

The instructions are also in the Beurer mould; the four pages devoted to safety include injunctions not to fall asleep whilst the pad is on, not to use it unsupervised, and not to sit on it, but "rest the pad on or against the part of the body to be treated" - all of which, although common throughout the industry, seem to me to be particularly daft. I am, however, not recommending that you ignore them; I am simply recounting my own experiences with them, which you copy at your peril, and pointing out some inconsistencies between the nature of the product and the instructions for its use.

Just about everyone can fall asleep at one time or another without realising it until they wake up - and a nice, warm feeling is very conducive to that. It happens to me all the time, especially when using a heat pad. So far, I have always woken up.

Secondly, I cannot envisage any circumstances whatsoever in which a person living alone, like myself, will summon, for example, a neighbour or a long-distance relative to "supervise" them for 90 minutes whilst they use the pad to relieve immediate pain - especially in the middle of the night.

Thirdly, a rectangular, flat pad is clearly designed for use only on correspondingly flat parts of the body - it is of little use for limbs, or for the outside curve of the shoulder, for example. The vast majority of aches and pains for which a pad is expedient occur in the back, from buttocks to neck; ischial bursitis, lumbar pain, compressed vertebrae, right up to cervical spondilosis, with many muscles additionally in between; all of these conditions plague me intermittently, and I cannot "rest" the pad against any of the relevant parts with sufficiently close contact to be able to feel its heat without sitting, lying or leaning on it. So if I observed these restrictions to the letter, the pad would not be worth buying.

After ten years of sitting, lying, leaning or sleeping on identical heatpads in chairs and in bed, no pad has failed under this type of use, and there have been no inimical consequences for myself. Quite the reverse - I've enjoyed a significant reduction in persistent muscular, lumbar and other spinal pain.

For my purposes, therefore, heat pads are intrinsically 5-star products, and the quality of this one is not bettered by any other. But seriously overpriced at £49.99. Moreover, whilst the manual states clearly that the guarantee is for three years, a small, cheaply printed printed, loose insert refers to a two year guarantee "applicable in the UK only" - almost as if it's a privilege.

By way of further inconsistency, the instructions include an injunction not to use the heatpad without its cover. It does not explain why, nor why virtually identical heatpads are sold without covers. I value them for keeping the pad itself clean, and enabling frequent washing, so I prefer a pad to have a cover, although they do not last as long as the pads.

For what it's worth, heat penetration for the purposes of drawing more blood (which has healing properties) to the injured parts has been found to be at its highest when moist heat is applied; which is why your physiotherapist uses steam-heated towels; obviously, it is NEVER advisable to to have moisture anywhere near a plugged-in electrIcally-powered product.


THE REAL BOOK OF JAZZ MLC
THE REAL BOOK OF JAZZ MLC
by Various
Edition: Sheet music
Price: £29.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST KIND OF FAKE BOOK, 22 Aug. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'd like to add my praise to that already given by other reviewers; I have many fake books, including four other "Real" Books, including the "Just Jazz Real Book", and I was concerned about the possible extent of duplication. I needn't have worried. There is some such, obviously, how could it be avoided; but my view of a Fake book is that it's worth the money if it only provides a dozen or so new songs one likes; this one provides rather more than that in my case, including Stan Kenton classics like "Intermission Riff" and "Peanut vendor", Shearing's "Baubles..." (which I was especially pleased to see). It's a very eclectic mix; Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker specials like "Night in Tunisia", "Bird feathers", "Yardbird suite" and "Anthropology" sit alongside the Andrews sisters' "Boogie-woogie Bugle Boy" (a fair few other old Boogie numbers, too), signature tunes of bands like Miller, T. Dorsey and Ellington, and Trad classics like "That's-a-plenty" and lots of standards, including all the favourite Bossas.

It's in a beautifully clear typeface, big chord symbols, and only a few pieces spread over 3 pages, with 190 tunes over 300 12" x 9" pages, and, for once, very reasonably priced.

I've added a photo of the contents pages (why don't the publishers ?). I hope it's readable for everyone.
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Tate & Lyle Sugars Taste for Adventure Fairtrade Golden Caster Sugar, 500 g, Pack of 5
Tate & Lyle Sugars Taste for Adventure Fairtrade Golden Caster Sugar, 500 g, Pack of 5
Price: £7.49

3.0 out of 5 stars NICE - BUT EXPENSIVE, 22 Aug. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've tried, goodness knows, I've tried, but, I remain addicted to sweetness in tea, coffee, porridge and other breakfast cereals.

However, I gave up using refined white sugar years ago, in favour of the less-refined "golden" varieties - not because I thought it would be healthier (it obviously isn't) but because I found I liked the flavour it sometimes imparted to whatever it was added to. You can't always detect it, it's sometimes smothered by the recipient foodstuffs, notably porridge, but it's certainly detectable to me in tea, coffee and on otherwise unsweetened cereals.

Folks generally use caster sugar like this for cooking (see the other reviews); but I abandoned the coarser golden ghranulated sugar for cereals years ago in favour of golden caster; because I found I needed less of it to achieve the desired taste; just half a teaspoon finely scattered on two weetabix does the trick. It's very much a personal thing, and It may - or may not ! - do it for you... We're all different.

To me, at least, some of these less refined sugars do have more taste than others, and for whatever reason I find the casters and other fine sugars slightly less tasty than, say, Billington's ordinary golden granulated, which I therefore prefer to use in tea and coffee.

Even if you're buying on Prime, this is not cheap sugar. A kilo of supermarket brand golden caster from my online supermarket costs £1.80 delivered to my door compared to £3.50 for this. I can't tell any difference, let alone one that would warrant a near doubling of price.


Artist's Drawing Techniques: Discover How to Draw Landscapes, People, Still Lifes and More, in Pencil, Charcoal, Pen and Pastel
Artist's Drawing Techniques: Discover How to Draw Landscapes, People, Still Lifes and More, in Pencil, Charcoal, Pen and Pastel
by DK
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.00

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A LOVELY BOOK, BUT IT'S NOT REALLY ALL ABOUT DRAWING., 17 Aug. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A lovely book ! It's very refreshing to see the work of a whole new set of artists, none of whom I'd come across before, except Jake Spicer, who is already a prolific author on the subject of real drawing, and two of whose books I possess - both 5-star works which I recommend wholeheartedly.

So why not five stars ? Because it's not principally about drawing. It devotes more space to pastel and coloured pencil techniques than it does to the whole of true drawing. Contemporary pastellists and coloured pencillists are rightly very indignant if you categorise their work as drawing, and a glance at the illustrations in this book clearly shows why. (The dictionary definition of "paint" includes dry pigments.) Whilst it is obviously possible to draw with pastels, coloured pencils and chalks, the world has moved on since they were used solely in that way, and this isn't the way they are demonstrated in this book anyway - perhaps suggesting that DK's editors aren't art graduates.

If I'd wanted a book on proper drawing, therefore, I wouldn't have bought this one, there being a huge choice of alternatives; and if I'd wanted instruction on pastels or coloured pencils, or sketching (not drawing) with, eg,. line and wash, I would have looked for the appropriate specialist publications. But that said, I might well have bought this book as well, because, irrespective of being inappropriately titled and something of a hybrid, it's such a lovely book in itself. I was particularly pleased to note the complete absence of those meaningless daubs and scrawls which many authors and publishers still try to pass off as art. Even the solitary example of a supposed abstract isn't an abstract at all, but expressionist - another example, perhaps, of the publisher's unfamiliarity with correct use of various art terms.

In this instance, I have even found it in my heart to forgive them for the space wasted on depictions of art materials, the extent of which is often infuriating, but I still long for the day when publishers of art instruction books realise that absolutely everybody knows what a pen, brush, craft knife or whatever looks like - and uses the space so saved for more art.


L'OR Elegant Roast and Ground Coffee, 250 g, Pack of 6
L'OR Elegant Roast and Ground Coffee, 250 g, Pack of 6
Price: £15.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars JUST THE JOB UNTIL I ROB A BANK TO BUY SOME BLUE MOUNTAIN, 14 Aug. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The pack says "new" - but it's very familiar roasted ground coffee (and perfectly good coffee - as you would expect from the long-established Douwe Egberts brand), and the only thing new about it is its fancy new dress and Frenchified name. Not sure why Douwe Egberts has become ashamed of the company name it has proudly emblazoned on its much-loved products since 1753. Perhaps it's because two years ago they were acquired by the voracious US $30bn multinational Kraft foods (which now disguises itself under the mysterious name Mondelez) who envy the relative sexiness of things French compared to things Dutch. But I'll bet they don't sell it in Holland under this name - if they do, the Dutch will probably stop buying it.

You have to buy it in bulk on Amazon merely in order to match supermarket prices - so you'd better be sure you like it first. I like it a lot and I've been drinking it - or something very like it prominently labelled "Douwe Egberts" - for a long time; and if you don't like it, the reason is that you have a different set of taste buds to me and others who do.

I'm unsure about the point of reviewing stuff that is so subject to individual sensory perceptions. DE have the right idea, though, appealing to our sense of smell rather than taste (the latter being most heavily dependent on the former) - although the aroma emitted when you open the pack is not necessarily a guide to the flavour you get when you've steeped it in hot water and added other substances. However, a nice smell is a good start and puts you in a receptive frame of mind - some otherwise nice coffees smell vaguely fishy to me when I open the pack, but not this one.

The other thing I like about it is that it's very finely ground. It may be all in the mind, but I believe that the finest grind makes the best filter coffee, the only kind I drink.

I can't give it five stars, though; if I did, how would I rate the very best prepared Blue Mountain, which I shall only be able to buy after I have robbed another bank ? Whilst I make my plans and assemble my gang, this rebranded Douwe Egberts will continue to do very nicely, despite its sllly new name.


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