Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The truth about GHDs-product review

GHDs; Misunderstood by men, worshipped by women. And until recently, misunderstood by me, too.

Never having been the most feminine of teenage girls, it was always beyond me why anyone would spend over £100 on a pair of hair straighteners.  The hype that surrounds them has always gone over my head, no pun intended. What makes them different from any other pair of straighteners (except the price)? Surely your hair can only get so straight, regardless of whether you spend £30 or £100 on straighteners? Even now, I can sense pampered and primped women everywhere shaking their heads in despair at my ignorance as I write this.

My limited use of straighteners has always been reserved for special occasions and very bad hair days, however I seem to be very accident prone with them (although on reflection, that is a sweeping statement that can be applied to most areas of my life). I've got through several pairs in my teenage years; Babyliss, Remington, Vidal Sassoon- hell, one pair even exploded in my face, mid-straighten. I've still got the scars from that one, but it didn't deter me in my search for controllable hair. I bought another pair, and kept straightening, hoping for some sort of miracle. All these other brands did an OK job-my hair was always straighter when I finished than when I started, but nothing amazing happened. I guess, then, that it was curiosity more than anything that made me bite the bullet and splash the cash on a shiny new pair of GHD gold max stylers.

Even the process of buying them was daunting; Having seen the adverts full of gorgeous goddesses with naturally amazing hair, and even looking at the sort of people I know who already own GHDs, I felt as if I wasn't good enough to own them, that I didn't have a right to, a fear that I may be laughed out of any one of the overpriced salons I could purchase them from.  I had looked on the website before, so that I knew exactly which model I wanted and didn't make a fool of myself when asking for them, and tried oh-so-hard not to wince at the price as I handed my credit card over, still feeling the need to prove myself worthy of the 'in-crowd' for whom such purchases are normally reserved.

The whole way home I was dying to know- did the secret of good hair now lie within my grasp, my life long search for the holy grail over, or had I just been conned out of £100 for a distinctly average product?

My conclusion? GHDs are different, they do seem to work better, and they leave your hair feeling softer and shinier than other straighteners I've used, although whether this is a short term effect that will wear off remains to be seen. It may even be psychological , just knowing that I have bought a more expensive and highly coveted product. I don't know what the GHD secret is, but I'm amazed they've kept it under wraps and away from competitors for so long. Worth the extra money? In my case, definitely; my hair has become so long, thick and generally uncontrollable that other straighteners were having little effect. GHDs make it more manageable within minutes and, on days when I'm willing to put the extra time in, presentable, which it hasn't been in a while!

In short, I'm a convert.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Thrift shop buzz #2

I've been at it again. I was merely walking past British Heart Foundation this morning, and BAM, next thing I know I'm in the changing room armed with two jumpers and a dress. Fortunately for my bank balance, the jumpers didn't fit, but I did end up with this rather elegant tweed effect dress, a bargain for £3.75!

It's perfect for interviews (which I hope I will get some of soon, or else I'm doing this job hunt thing a bit wrong), or work experience etc. The thing I love about it most is the length. I've always loved dresses like this, but I normally find they are way too long on me and I end up looking even shorter than my already challenging 5ft1. But this one is the perfect length for me, finishing just above the knee, as most dresses of this type should. Lovely.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Just Rosie

Just Rosie is the new spin-off series from Coronation Street, starring none other than the increasingly irritating Rosie Webster, following her dreams of becoming a model. The idea is a good one; draw in younger viewers by giving them a stronger character of their own age to relate to. The spin off series has it's own website, with pictures, videos, a blog etc., all of which help the concept appeal to the younger audience. So far, so good.

Image from website (link above)

The reality, however, is painful. The website is somewhat tacky, and unlikely to appeal to anyone over the age of 14.  Click 'play' and you are greeted with a bizarre mixture of over the top special effects, split scenes and pointless layover animations, as if somebody got trigger happy with the special effects buttons.

Bizarre special effects (screenshot from first episode)

 You can tell that the thought was to recreate the ditzy, pink, self-centred world of this wannabe-model, but it's just too much. The show steps away from the usual Corrie formula as well, with strange time jumps and flashbacks, and perhaps most bizarre of all, the character of Rosie directly addressing the camera. And this was just the first episode, I'm not sure I can bring myself to watch the rest.

Directly addressing the camera doesn't fit the Corrie format (screenshot from first episode)

A further thing that confuses me; why are they releasing several episodes at once? Three episodes have been put on the website this morning, and they have all been widely publicised on Twitter etc. If all were being released at once, why not put them together to make one decent length episode, rather than bitty and disjointed 10 minute pieces?

Conclusion? A good idea, badly realised. I can see what they were going for. Had they stuck to the traditional Corrie style, this show could have been a lot more successful, and appealed to older, more traditional audiences too. A more interesting character would have helped as well; a spin off with Sean Tully? Yes!  Norris Cole? Genius! But Rosie is just flat, flat, flat. I can't help thinking this might damage the career of Helen Flanagan, who plays Rosie. Perhaps this is just me, growing old grumpily. Anyone else agree?

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Thrift shop buzz #1

As I spend such a large proportion of my shopping time (and budget) trawling through the charity shops of the High Street,  I have decided to keep a record of the items I purchase within these shops. I think it is such a shame that people are still so reluctant to buy from charity shops, or even browse them, due to the stigma of wearing second hand clothes or using second hand items. (More of my charity shop rants here)

My most recent charity shop crawl led to the purchase of two items; Firstly, this gorgeous fluffy pink scarf. It's probably long enough to keep a giraffe's neck warm and it's so soft.

The colours (if you look closely it has a fine gold thread running through it) conjured up romantic festive images with a snow-covered backdrop, so I had to get it, despite already owning hundreds of scarves! There is no label giving away which shop it was originally purchased from, but I'd say somewhere like White Stuff perhaps-I'm guessing it was at least £15-£20. To me, £2.50.

My second purchase was my first ever pair of skinny jeans, and boy am I happy that I finally found a pair that fit. Originally from Gap, they look as if they've hardly been worn. I'm such an odd shape that I resent paying over the odds for jeans that rarely fit well anyway. I've still had to roll these ones up a couple of inches at the bottom, but for £4 I don't mind!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The end of the high street?

Our High Streets are being ravished by an infectious disease, which is spreading from town to town like wildfire, catalysed by the infamous recession, and probably the rise of competitive internet shopping. The disease? Repetition.

Increasingly we are seeing the same chain stores popping up two or three times within the same high street or shopping area. Take York for example. Although it is classed as a city, it is no bigger than a large town. Within this town there are 2 Marks and Spencers stores, 2 Boots stores, 2 Superdrug stores, 2 New Look stores, countless Vodafones, Subways, Costa Coffees, Starbucks and Caffe Neros, and previously there were also 2 Next stores and 2 Clinton Cards, amongst others. To be fair, York has done well to retain a large amount of independent traders too, predominantly due to the touristy nature of the city.

Meanwhile, other previously booming high street stores are being relegated to out-of-town shopping areas-Mothercare being a prime example. These out-of-town shopping parks seem to be the only area of the retail industry that is expanding during the recession. Previously, trips to these places were reserved for visits to the DIY store, or perhaps for purchasing a new sofa.

Empty retail units are a common sight.
Only yesterday, the gloomy voice of a Radio 2 newscaster announced to the airwaves that in some areas of Britain, 1 in 3 retail units is now empty. As some of the high street brands become casualties of the recession, perhaps most famously Woolworths, competition is dwindling. Other brands are stepping up to take a monopoly on the high street, allowing them to increase their prices massively without having to worry about matching their previously dominating competitors, and leaving consumers no choice but to pay higher and higher prices for the most basic of items.

Woolworths was one of the first victims of the recession.
Could this be the end of the high street? Only time will tell. But if we continue to shop online or out-of-town, it may well be.

Some local and independent traders remain resilient.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Animal photos

Here are some of my favourite photos I took whilst working at London Zoo this summer. There were hundreds more, due to the beauty (and curse) that is digital photography.

I absolutely love this one. Anyone who's friends with me on Facebook might recognise it, it's been my profile picture for a while. It was a pure stroke of luck, it started as an average photo of a tiger but as I took it he yawned? stretched? Either way he showed off those beautiful teeth, which make you realise just how dangerous these creatures really are. It amuses me because he looks so chuffed with himself. It's a shame it's not a clearer photo and that I caught the reflection in the glass.

 If you haven't cottoned on by now, I love penguins. Have done since I was little, not too sure why. But these particular beauties had moved into their brand new Penguin Beach enclosure shortly before I started working at the zoo. It was amazing to watch, over the summer, as they became more at home in their new enclosure, and you could really tell that they all had their own personalities. They became so confident that they would swim right up to the glass and if you traced your finger along the glass they would follow it. Right little cuties.

I wish I'd managed to take this one more centrally to get a full shot of both penguins.

I love the way the giraffe is split in two with the fence right down the middle-he was having a cheeky munch of the next door neighbour's (zebra) trees!

I've got a lot of love for the llamas too. They have a knack of pulling the most bizarre and bewildered looking facial expressions, usually with a bit of straw casually hanging out of the side of their mouths, as above.

 For someone who is petrified of reptiles, I actually fell for this mini crocodile guy. He was quite cute, and luckily was lying head on to the glass so that I could take this photo.
Not forgetting Lucifer, everyone's favourite big cat. When he's not happy, everyone knows it! The residents of Primrose Hill often phone the zoo asking them to turn the volume down on the lion.

I got a couple more beauties but I'm planning on entering a photography competition with them, so I'll hold them back for a while

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Gorilla Kingdom

I was at work on one of my last days at the zoo, on a retail outlet near the gorilla enclosure, and was fortunate enough to be able to watch them for a large part of the morning. It was whilst watching one of them drink from a water bottle with such human skill, I realised I have seen humans frequenting McDonald's drinking with less civility than these beautiful creatures.

Unfortunately I couldn't get a picture of the gorillas drinking from the water bottles (I was meant to be working, after all)

That was when it occurred to me that it is only due to some bizarre twist of genetic fate (and I'm not going to pretend to know all the scientific details), that they were in the enclosure with us taking photos of them, rather than vice versa. If you look closely into their eyes, I mean really look into their eyes, you begin to believe that they are aware of it too. I don't want this to become one of those life-changing-revelation type things, but before this I had never found gorillas to be that fascinating. Having spent a whole morning watching them (it was a quiet day) I genuinely have a new found respect for them.

 (More zoo photos to follow shortly)

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The 12 weeks of Christmas

Following the washout summer that we've had, it's hardly surprising that retailers and customers alike are already looking towards the chillier months ahead. Some high street shops have had woolly hats on sale for weeks already, and although this surprised me, it didn't shock me-our high street has been working months ahead of the current season for years, getting earlier and earlier each year, to the extent that it will probably catch up with itself one day.

What did surprise me, however, was walking into a card shop on 23rd August and being greeted with a wall of Christmas cards. Pictures of Santa and snowmen, innocent enough on first glance, but looking at me tauntingly as if to say " We've hijacked your summer and you're not having it back".

Genuine despair. We're used to Christmas overshadowing a large part of autumn, and creeping closer each year to the summer, which, as far as I can recall has remained sacred. Until this year. Normally we are safe from Rudolph's snowy grip until at least the end of the summer holidays, and back to school offers are shuffled off to make space for Christmas items in the 'seasonal' aisle of supermarkets, with perhaps a couple of shelves reserved for Halloween and fireworks .

Christmas months going on sale in August is 4 months before the actual event. That's 1/3 of the entire year. Add onto that most of January with the post Christmas sales and that's 5 months of tinsel and carols. Nearly half of the year dedicated to one day.

Whilst I don't intend to come across all Bah Humbug about this, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who feels this way. Christmas commandeering our calendar like this can be seen as an insult to people of religions who do not celebrate this festival. I appreciate that we are a Christian country, but we are becoming more diverse every year and it is not fair for the unwilling to be faced with Christmas everywhere they turn for nearly half the year, when other festivals are rarely given more than one shelf in card shops.