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February 2010

Book Review: Mum can you lend me twenty-quid? by Elizabeth Burton-Phillips

By Books & Authors, Reviews9 Comments
mum can you lend me twenty quid Mum Can You Lend Me Twenty Quid? is the true story by Elizabeth Burton-Phillips of what drugs did to her family. The prologue described the knock at the door late one night, the police – one of her twin sons has died. Although this Prologue intended to encourage the reader to read on, I felt that it didn’t need it. I had already picked up the book because of the title and back cover.

The book starts off by describing the twins and their family. Average was the word that sprang to mind. Elizabeth describes the closeness of the twins and how they were lovely children. Elizabeth describes some of the warm, funny, close memories that she had of her young children and of family life at that time.

Then she tells the reader about her twins Nick and Simon’s adolescent years. Elizabeth discusses not knowing about their Cannabis use and Simon writes sections explaining what was really going on. He describes the early life style of his teenage years and how the little lies started to grow in to more elaborate complex lies.

Elizabeth describes how she felt as her sons became young adults, started to live independently and became involved in crime. Elizabeth still unaware of what exactually was going on, but knowing that something wasn’t right. The book continues with extracts from Simon explaining what was actually going on and how him and his twin brother progressed to become addicted to heroin.

Elizabeth then tells of how she coped with the addiction cycles. She explains the financial cost, the psychological pressure of trying to maintain her Teaching position with very few people knowing about her sons addition and most importantly the worry and anxiety she felt. She then tells the rest of the story with this addiction cycle coming some-what repetitive at points. Throughout the books she gains others perspectives by allowing them to write short sections. Contributers include Nick’s Drug Worker, his Probation Officer, Hostel Workers as well as Simon’s continued input.

Overall it is an emotional journey. It helps you to realise that addiction doesn’t just effect the person with the addiction but their families too. It helps you understand that because of the nature of addiction being a taboo subject it makes families feel isolated and alone, which is partly why she wrote the book.

The other reason she wrote the book is to make Nick’s life (the twin that tragically died) not be in vein. She describes that perhaps without the death of Nick, Simon would have never got drug free. They were too closely intertwined. The final few chapters of the book describe what the family have done since the death of Nick. The good work in setting up a charitable foundation, speaking at various conferences and even being a consultant for the UK government around UK drug policy. If you would like to read Mum Can You Lend Me Twenty Quid? by Elizabeth Burton-Phillips, you can buy it at Amazon.


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DVD Boxset Review: Extras the complete box set

By Reviews, TV, Online Streaming & FilmsNo Comments

Having watched all of Ricky Gervais live tours (available here in a complete box set: Ricky Gervais – Live – Animals/Politics/Fame [DVD] [2003]) and found them both cleaver and humorous I decided to buy the complete boxset of Extras.

The first series introduces Andy an extra who desperately wants to be an actor and will do anything to “get a line”. The humour in this series is created by the situations Andy gets himself in to as tries to convince others give him a line. One of the funniest scenes is were Andy is working as an extra in a war film directed by Ben Stiller. The film is telling a true-life story of a man who lost his wife during a war in a country torn apart by violence. As the man stirs at a photo of his dead wife and beings to talk about her Andy responds rather awkwardly starting by saying “about that line…” and gives him a £15 Boots gift voucher. We are also introduced to other characters.

Maggie is Andy’s best friend and even funnier than Andy in my opinion. Maggie is also an extra with a rather lovely but wacky view on the world. In the first series it focuses around Maggies love life. Unfortunately she is unsuccessful at finding a man in the first series, but you find yourself wanting her to find someone. You find yourself being to care for her happiness. Also introduced in the first series is Andy’s agent, a geeky, weird character. Enough said.

The second series shows that Andy progressed and has a sitcom commissioned by a BBC. Its a sketch style programme with a catch phrase “Is he having a laugh?” Similar to Little Britain and The Catherine Tate Show now I come to think about it. However Andy is still not happy.

Andy wants both creditability (recognition from his peers) and celebrity status (being recognised on the street). The humour is found by the awkward situations Andy gets himself in to, such as agreeing to visit a ill child. Andy begins to become self-important and arrogant. He doesn’t have much time for Maggie and at one point when an extra comes to him asking for “a line” he has the extra sacked. Andy decides in order to get the credibility he strongly desires that he will give up the sitcom. We start to severely dislike Andy as he sells out all who have stood by him, including his manager for a more business-like trendy one. By the end of the second series we have mixed feelings about Andy, we have gone from sympathy and laughing (in the first series) to dislike and wanting to pick him up and shake him for being so self-centred (in the second series).

The final episode which is a Christmas Special, Andy has been out of work for eight months following his decision to end his sitcom. He decides to do a few things to keep his public profile up – including being an alien slug in Dr. Who which is hilarious. He ends up in celebrity big brother and suddenly realises the error of his ways. He walks out of big brother and heads off to the airport with Maggie to give a feel good ending.

Throughout the entire boxset Ricky has enlisted the help of famous celebrities including actors, fellow comedians, TV personalities, etc. Sometimes it was appropriate and added realism to the scenes, whereas other times it felt as if Ricky was trying to capitalise on their status and fan base – particularly in the first series. Some reviewers have dubbed Extras a comedy classic, I don’t know if quite reaches that status as a comedy known by all. Would you make it a comedy classic?

You can buy Extras Boxset from Amazon. Write another review soon,


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Geeky Post: Website Development

By Technology, The Web3 Comments

This is a Geeky post and in it I’m going to show you how my website has developed over the years.

Version 1
My first version was created in HTML and looked like this:

It had sections to it: Personal, Carrer and Occult. It had Quick Links News on the home page.

The Navigation was simplistic as was the site as a whole. This first version of the site was online when I was 16 years old and at that time I didn’t have the domain

Version 2

Version 2 was designed with sidebar Navigation in order to allow me to populate the site with much more content. It again was designed in HTML using tables. It contained much more photos than Version 1 including a photo’s section.

New features included a News page that had paragraphs of my news including Site Updates to let the visitors know what had been developed and updated. The Occult section of Version 1 became religion as I accepted Paganism as part of my religion. This version of the site was online around the time when I was 18 years old.

Version 3

Most significantly in Version 3 was the new blue design. I kept the sidebar navigation as I liked that it allowed me to populate the rest of the site with more content. The site used a combination of HTML and PHP, using Iframes. Removed the Site Updates but added on a Last Updated sentence on the home page so that people know when it was last updated.

The news section (above) had a page per news entry and an archive like a blog.

Version 4

Kept the same blue colours design. Kept the last updated sentence on the home page. Moved the Navigation to the top of the page. The main feature of this site was a wordpress blog which unfortunately I deleted being unable to pull off the posts and saving them. This was probably the shortest version of the site ever online, really I only focused on the blog.

Version 5

Again I kept the blue design (look above). It was the most advanced coding I had done so far. I liked the photos and had more of them to use as technology developed. I kept the Last Updated sentence and added a hit counter.

I created a windows-style little windows for the content. For the first time I had a guestbook.

Version 6

The major change in this design was the colours, using oranges and reds. The site design was the same, but I uploaded much more content.

Version 7

Easier on the eye colours were used. Advanced PHP coding used. Meta tags added so that I would appear in search results. For the first time I used an RSS feed. This was probably one of the longest sites online.

Navigation returned the sidebar with little yellow star bullet points! I discovered photoshop and used it to make my own banners. Put news on the home page. Kept expanding the site adding new sections and pages.

Also added Coming Soon – so that visitors would know what new content was to be added and Site Updates makes a return so visitors know what’s been recently updated.

Version 8

My friend Sye designed this site for me. I asked him to design it after seeing his cartoon artwork (see Funny cartoons from a friend and More funny cartoons from a friend). The idea was to create a noticeboard with a piece of paper pinned on to it. The Navigation was cartoon images that changed on mouse over at the top of the page.

The site was designed in dreamweaver using tables in a blog style. I also had a cartoon logo designed by Sye. I decided to have a wordpress blog for the home page and made some minor changes to the design to accommodate this to the version you see today:

So that’s how my sites developed over the years. Do you think I should make some changes to the current version or create a new version? Post a comment.


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