Programme Review: Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)

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I was a little late to this party! I watched series 1 in March and am well over two thirds of the way through series 2 now. Those of you unaware should know that series 2 has only just appeared on Netflix. Series 1 was uploaded last year. The show is based on a real life story, though I imagine as always it has gotten buried a little in the need to create an episodic series with a cliff-hanger every 60 minutes.

Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is facing prison after she had, 10 year earlier, been involved with a drug importer Alex Vause (Laura Prepon). That these two are women and were in a lesbian relationship is inconsequential early in the series but as the first episode concludes it becomes apparent that while Piper is now with a male partner there is concern that she could go back to her old ways. She even considers getting pregnant before going and handing herself into prison.

As the series becomes more about life inside the prison we are treated to all sorts of characters that are deeply flawed but beautiful in their own way. Each episode focuses on one of these women and looks at either how they got into prison or the road that led them there. Often it is the most inconsequential characters that have the most compelling back stories. Many of the roles have been fleshed out in series 2 as a result of viewers taking to these characters back stories.

At the heart of this story (and trying to keep it as spoiler free as possible) is essentially a woman who may not be all that she appears. When Piper goes into prison we feel a deep sympathy for her but as things proceed we realise that she is not the person we thought. During the course of series 2 I think she starts to catch up with us in that thinking. There are episodes in series 1 where Piper is oblivious to the damage she is causing through her own selfish actions.

It is here that the similarity between Breaking Bad ends. After all a central character that you feel less and less sympathetic for is now old hat. It appears (and remember I haven’t finished series 2 yet) that Piper may have realised her flaws and embraced them. Perhaps she can be redeemed. There is a scene where she is asked if she can’t wait to come out of prison and go back to being her normal self. In that moment she realises she never wants to return to being that person.

In the flashbacks it is clear that the chemistry between Piper and Alex is incredible. As a gay man I have to admit that a series is good when you can feel the sexual tension sizzling off the screen between two lesbians. This is not catering for my “tastes” but love is love. At the heart of it that is what this series is about. If it isn’t pure love that might get you through prison and out the other side then it is a love that you can only have for yourself.

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It is a series that does also focus on the lives of the guards as well as the inmates. All of whom are perfectly cast and carry their parts well. Inevitably they are as flawed as the inmates in most cases. They however are also not above redemption. In fact even the most flawed or “evil” of characters is not one dimensional. I know this is not new in a series but here often it goes even further than most. At no point is anyone anything less than 100% human.

I encourage you all to take a month’s subscription to Netflix and watch these. Cancel it right away if you have to but if you bought two series of a show on DVD or Blu-Ray you could be looking at £30 so £5.99 is really not that bad.

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Restaurant Review: Caesars Arms

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A friend and myself dined here on a Saturday in May 2014. There is a large car park for the restaurant so parking is readily available. Other than that the restaurant is pretty isolated just outside of Church Village/Trefforest in South Wales. The village it is located in is called Creigiau.

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Opposite the restaurant (which admittedly looks like a pub from the exterior) is a farm. The restaurant is now a little bit dated inside. The main grilling area is in the dining area. You can watch your meat being cooked. I choose mushroom soup to start and my friend had the oysters. The soup was priced at £4.95 and the Oysters were £1.50 each.

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The soup was not memorable. Standard mushroom soup with blended mushroom and a fairly thick consistency. No bread was served with it. My friend said his oysters were fantastic and very fresh. They were served with lemon and Tabasco. My friend chose lamb in gravy for his main and I opted for ribeye steak.

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Now I love steak so seeing it before being cooked and then seeing it prepared was a nice touch but sadly the end result was completely lacking in flavour. The French mustard was requested to try and add some flavour. My friend by contrast loved his lamb which was very rare as requested. I’m starting to wonder if I am just hard to please? Finally he opted for a summer fruit dessert which he said was ok. I declined dessert due to my diet.

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In all my meal came to £25 as the steak was £18 (I believe the lamb was around the same price). All desserts were £5.95. I would recommend the restaurant for the service as this was impeccable and staff made it clear they were there to help any way they could. They were always polite and helpful. It is worth going if you are a lover of fresh fish would be my suggestion as this certainly seemed to be their speciality. There was no pork option on the menu and only one chicken and one lamb dish.

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Movie Review: X-Men Days Of Future Past

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Something you might not know about me is, I am something of a movie buff as it turns out. It came as a surprise to me as I just assumed everyone had the kind of knowledge I did about films!

Anyway onwards with the review. No doubt those of you who waited for this have already gone and seen it. The rest of you might have escaped the hype and wonder if it is any good. The straight answer to that is quite simply…YES! It is a superhero movie with heart which is really quite rare.

Sure stuff gets blown up but the real action here is in the scenes between a past and future version of Professor Xavier. I found this scene especially wonderful. Acted superbly and delivered with an effortless that few could carry out. Patrick Stewart and, to a lesser extent, Ian McKellen steal this film.

Hugh Jackman is the muscle but has his own moments of triumph and heartache. Mainly his role here serves as a bridge between the past and future. It could also be argued that it is also to set up a future film of his own origins.

The rest of the cast handle their roles as well as you would expect from such a high calibre cast. Jennifer Lawrence is spell binding considering she is head to toe in blue paint and green contact lenses. As a young Magneto and Professor Xavier, McAvoy and Fassbender are almost a match for their elders. Ellen Page is Kitty Pride who, given a relatively small on screen role, is pivotal to the plot.

The film managed to shoehorn in loads of guests appearances and an assortment of mutant without it ever once feeling forced or unnecessary. There are shocks galore as the film comes to its final act. You can’t help but question the logic of a very intelligent man who has been told the future given a small event, only to then raise the stakes and assume a future in that world would be better.

All your old favourites are back and they throw in a few new ones. Storm has a limited role which, given her pregnancy, is inevitable. Also expect a few returns.

Product Review: Tyrrell’s Proudly Plain Apple Crisps

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Let me be clear, these are not low calorie. If anything they are higher than regular crisps. They are a little high in sugar at around 1.3g per packet. Fat is at 7.2g per 30g. On the positive side they are high in fibre.

They make a nice change yet are familiar. The crisps had a crunchier texture when biting into it which softens and really does melt in the mouth to an apple pulp consistency.

There is no apple aroma from the crisps and the colour is very appealing. The taste is pretty good but again this product is all about change and variety than knock out flavour. They are not cheap at around £1.19 for a 30g packet.

Each packet comes in at around 148
calories. No artificial colours, gluten free and vegan friendly. Contains 1 of your 5 a day.
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Restaurant Review: Bosphorus (Cardiff Bay)

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A friend and myself dined here on a Saturday afternoon in May 2014. It was used several times, in 2005, for an episode of Doctor Who.

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I ate from the lunch menu which included two courses for £9.95. I choose for the starter stuff vine leaves which were nice enough. Served with a small salad and dressing. I couldn’t help but feel the leaves were drowning in oil. They were served with a delicious bread called Pide.

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My fellow diner had lamb shank served with roasted vegetables and a creamy mash. He enjoyed his dish and the large portion didn’t seem to bother him much.

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My main was a shish kebab of both lamb and chicken. Served with white rice, salad and a small square of flat bread. I couldn’t help but feel the portion was a little on the small side and the absence of sauce made the dish very dry. The meat was good quality however. The rice was uninteresting. The bread was oily and too little to be of much mention.

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The restaurant offers great views over the bay should you choose to sit outside. The obvious downside is that people smoke in this area. In all the location is great and the food, for my taste, was average.

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Product Review: MultiVit Spray

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Be under absolutely no illusions! This stuff tasted like you licked the hand rail on the train. They have made a vague attempt to mask this with an artificial grape flavour but I still wouldn’t put it in the “nice” or “pleasant” category.

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I’ve shown the break down of what is in 4 sprays (daily suggested amount of uses) for reference. To be fair it costs the same as their B12 spray but has 200% of that and all these other extras.

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Currently priced at £9.99 in most online stores. There is an offer on at present of 20% off at Holland & Barratt making it £7.99. Great for those who hate taking tablets and handy for travelling.

Cut me some slack on the second photo the camera really didn’t want to focus properly on it!