Linkblog – May 25th to May 27th

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Links between May 25th and May 27th:

Just so you know, this is an automated recent overview of the Linkblog, a collection of interesting links I find on my travels. The archives are here:

Online food shopping – why on earth not?

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foodshopping.jpgI’ve just completed our once-monthly online food shop, and it it reminded me of someone the other day complaining that they couldn’t afford the delivery charges. But there really is no reason not to do it. We live on the second floor of a place with no lift, and every time we shop online at Tesco we get the added bonus of seeing the exasperated face of a bloke lugging four of five crates of food up two flights of stairs. It’s fun, I assure you.
So, in a moment of full-on philanthropy, here are the arguments against online shopping – and the answers to knock ’em down.

1. They can’t usually deliver when I want.
Far be it for me to promote someone who’s already the top of the grocery pack, but Tesco are the way forward. They have two hour slots for delivery (if that’s not enough, Ocado from Waitrose do one hour slots) and can usually deliver within a day.

2. You have to pay for delivery.
True, you do. But with a little knowhow, you can cancel out the charge. You can get £5, £10 and £15 off your shopping total by using the codes listed on the Tesco Voucher Codes website, or reading the Voucher Forum on

3. It’s not secure.
It’s as secure as going into any shop. In fact, it’s more secure than that, as all the transactions are done by computers rather than people. So if you buy anything anywhere with a credit card, there’s no reason not to shop online for food.

4. You can’t potter around picking up other things you might like.
No you can’t – and this is surely a good thing, no? You don’t spend money on things you didn’t need in the first place, you don’t add more inches to your waistline, and you don’t add more pennies to Tesco’s bulging moneybags.

So what’s not to love about online food shopping?

A Week in Gran Canaria

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Fridges must have a very hard time in Gran Canaria.

By the second day of our trip to the sunny Canary Isle, as the heat climbed up the the early 30 degrees and I dripped like a wet towel, my concern for our fridge was paramount. The poor thing was commended to freeze our drinks in temperatures that were climbing into the 30s by 11am. It was a tall order.

But still, let me start at the beginning. The very early beginning.

It was 4am. Even the bloody birds were asleep. But for the second time that week, I was up, busily preparing for a trip abroad. Michelle was being her usual organised self, reading off a prepared list of things to take, whilst I laid back and left everything until the last possible moment. Michelle’s mother has drawn the short straw, and drove us through wind and rain to Gatwick airport. The take off in this weather would be fun, I surmised.

After we’d managed to queue-barge a long line of travellers at the check-in desk and braved their glares, we shopped a little, worried at the weather a little, ate a little, and headed for the gate. The howling gales outside made the grey, unremitting interior of the airport look almost inviting. We were happy to be indoors.
20 minutes later, we were decided unhappy. Trudging up to the plane, across the wind and rain, we cursed our luck that the plane hadn’t been allocated a berth. After several minutes of buffeting, and a particularly loud cabin crew announcement, we were flying into the grey, overcast sky, the turbulence causing small children to scream. I was brave – I merely whimpered.

The flight over was uneventful, save for the excellent choice of in-flight movie – Shrek 2. How I laughed – how I annoyed the person next to me with my chortling shoulders. And then, 4 hours later, the volcanic isle of Gran Canaria hove into view. As we descended through the clouds, the perfectly flat sea gave way to land, and as we touched down I could sense the heat.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at the hotel, on the seafront of a large town called San Augustin. We’d read in the brochure that there was a “nudist sun terrace”. I eagerly began scanning the ground for hints of genitalia, so that I could recoil in disgust. There were none forthcoming, and I slumped back in my seat, waiting for the cue to alight.
We alighted with 2 other couples of dubious age. Probably around sixty-five to seventy years old, I reckon. This was the first hint that this hotel may not have a carnival atmosphere, but on a few minutes reflection we decided this was a good thing. Now we’re cracking on a bit (24 and 25 years old repectively), Michelle and I were pleased that our holiday was not going to be ruined by raucous folk. The thought of the nudist sun terrace, however, was distinctly less appealing.

This being her 6th trip to the island, Michelle was eager to show me the highlights. “Shall we go for a short walk down the coast to a place I know? Mum says it’s only a few minutes away.” One and a half hours later, my feet were like stumps, and asthma was beginning to grab hold of my lungs. But despite the length of the journey, it allowed me to take in the sights and sounds of the Canary Islands. And it wasn’t half bad. The sea was flat and calm; the sun was starting to set over the horizon, and people were wandering carefree along the sand, playing in the dunes and rocks near the water. Life seemed very peaceful, and I’d warmed to the place already.
Warm was as good a word as any to describe the weather too. It was past 5pm when we found a seaside bar, before taking in a nicely limed-up lemonade or two. We’d found the Playa del Ingles, the mystical destination Michelle and I had trekked to. The one and a half hour walk back was completed in three and half minutes by a handy taxi, costing 3 euros. We decided, belatedly, that taxis were the way forward. Our feet were immensely relieved.

The rest of the holiday was a mix of sunbathing (unfairly, I’ve no tan to report), getting the in-room and aforementioned fridge to work, and visiting the nooks and crannies of the local towns. There were an unbelievable number of shops, mainly centred around the Kasbar and the Yumbo Center, all with eager shopkeepers trying extremely hard to make us a bargain. I eagerly wanted to purchase several bargains, but at the end of the week managed to buy only a baseball cap. On the second night, we went to a few bars, one of which Michelle has known for years – the barman remembered her, bless him – and another which is a spitting image of Chinawhite’s nightclub in London. It’s even called Chinawhites.

We went on 2 excursions and we chose well. One was a musical, where the singers and dancers came and served us dinner when they weren’t singing and dancing. The quality of the production was astounding, and the idea really should be brought over here. The second excursion was a trip around the island on a catamaran. This required no effort at all, and from 9am to 3pm we mostly laid down on the deck, sunning ourselves while the boat took us past the villages and beaches of the island. There were water caves to explore, and snorkling to indulge in. And I still didn’t get a tan.

So, come Monday, we were sad to leave. The airless coach took us to the airport and deposited us at the entrance. We queued, shopped, queued and boarded the plane, horrified at the thought of trudging back to work the following morning. Still, our objective had been successful – we were fully refreshed after a couple of months of hectic action, and ready for the days ahead.

I never did find the nudist sun terrace.

Faisal gets Wrapped

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It’s a small world. Reading my daily edition of The Wrap – a popular online Guardian email summarising the mornings newspapers for people with poor time management – I noted the latest editor, an good friend from college named Faisal. I’ve finally got an inroad into the media…

Big Brother mobiles

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“I’m in Tesco’s, I’ll have to call you back later”.
I wasn’t of course, but the conversation was boring me to tears. They’ll never know I was actually in bed, reading my newspapers.
But I won’t be able to do that for long, if these two sites have their way. MapAMobile and FleetOnline track your mobile phone’s location. And if you’re like me your mobile phone never leaves your side. The worst thing about these sites is that anyone with cash can access them. They ask the mobile users permission before tracking them, but that can easily be done if you know the person. You’ll never be able to pull a sickie off work again…

Unity Encounter

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I popped out after work in Monday night for a swift half in RSVP, a one-time overflowing bar in the centre of Guildford. After polling up at the bar for a drink, someone screamed just behind me: “Simon!”. I swivelled round, and my eyes descended on a girl called Unity, a sometime friend and sister of a school chum. I hadn’t seen her for 3 years; her family was the height of public school educated, moneyed society, and last time I saw her she had money and boys dripping off her.
“How’ve you been?” I enquired, as I settled down next to her and some friends for a chinwag.
“Well, I’m living in Guildford now,” she revealed. That’d be right, I surmised. I’d always assumed it would only be a matter of time before her parents bought her a nice flat.
“That’s nice, whereabouts?” I innocently asked.
“The hostel up the road.”
This was the first sign that things may have moved on a little in the last 3 1/2 years.
“Oh. Parents kicked you out, did they?!” i joked.
Oh. I tried a well-worn subject change.
“So, what are you doing with yourself?”
“I work in a nightclub in Reading. You should come and see me sometime!”
Why not, I thought. Ever the student, I asked about the possibility of cheap drinks.
“That would be a bit difficult. I don’t keep any drinks in my cage.”
Her cage. I feared what was coming. “I’m a topless bondage dancer, you see.”
Now, I’d known Unity since she was 6. Imagine the sheer horror that was crossing my face as I played with that little gem. And then multiply it by 10.
“Bloody Hell!” was the only comeback I could think of that vaguely suited the situation. Amused by my shock, she laughed out loud as she delivered the final, illusion-shattering blow. “Oh, how rude of me,” she said, hugging the two barely dressed, heavily built girls next to her. “These are my girlfriends. We sleep together. Are you single?”
Had I been 17, single and drunk, I would probably have jumped at the chance. But as the threesome started indulging in a spot of tongue tennis, I ashamed to say I feigned a slack bladder and ran. Ran as fast as I possibly could.