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Great Barr Gazette

Travel – The Fairytale of New York

I’d like to fly to New York to indulge in a long weekend of pre-Christmas retail therapy every year, but I can’t afford to. Happily, last year was one of those years when I could and it was well worth every penny. I went with a couple of like-minded friends in November; December can be surprisingly cold and everywhere is more crowded and consequently more expensive. The key to a successful shopping trip is to do some research and plan it well in advance; you will save a lot of money and also get a good table in the better restaurants in the evening.


We flew Virgin Atlantic from Heathrow, economy class because it’s perfectly civilised for a 7 hour flight and saves a lot of money. To make up for this bit of cost cutting I’d arranged for a limo to pick us up from the airport; at $45, equivalent to £10 per head, it would be rude not to. New York is home to some of the best hotels in the world, and probably some of the worst too, but, by judicious use of Trivago, I’d managed to get us rooms in Hotel Pennsylvania on 7th Avenue for about £110 per night. The Pennsylvania is not über luxurious, but it is classy and comfortable and located right in the heart of the action.


New York is five hours behind the UK so it felt like 10.30 at night to us when we checked in, even though it was really early evening. I enjoyed a reviving soaky bath in the huge American size tub before meeting the girls in the bar for cocktails – Manhattans of course! Dinner was in an Italian just round the corner, nice food, laid back and remarkably cheap – just what you need after 11 hours of travelling. We went to bed early to sleep off the jetlag.


In the morning I avoided the siren call of the American breakfast (they really do offer you steak and eggs to start the day) and contented myself with coffee and a croissant. Then we got down to some serious shopping. Planning your shopping trip(s) is essential; if you simply started at one end of 5th Avenue and worked your way along going into every shop, you’d be there for weeks. Instead we spent the day on Madison Avenue, which is a real designer paradise. Virtually every upmarket label you can think of has its own store there, from Calvin Klein to Versace and everything in between. Between them they took us up to 1.00pm when we became ladies who lunched. In the afternoon we checked out Barneys, a must visit destination for all fashionistas.


Our evening destination was 21 Club, an iconic New York bar and restaurant dating back to the prohibition era. The food is classic American cuisine and they have a fantastic wine list; the cocktails are sensational. We had a great evening, but take note: this is definitely a place that you need to book in advance. Our other dining adventure was to Aquavit which claims to be the number one Scandinavian restaurant in New York, rather too much pickled herring for my tastes but classy all the same.


Saturday also saw us making our pilgrimage to Fifth Avenue, starting off with Bergdorfs, a department store that is mainly devoted to fashion. They have an entire floor given over to shoes and handbags; I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Next up was Saks which is very much along the same lines – you can’t go to NY without going to Saks. We finished off at Century 21 off Broadway, a fabulous shop where you can buy all the designer clothes you looked at on Madison and Fifth Avenues but at half the price. We devoted Sunday to a long lie in, a lengthy lunch and a spot of sightseeing. Then it was back in the limo to JFK and the red eye home again.


A weekend in New York is so uplifting they should provide it on the NHS.

Frances Claiborne

This article appeared in the Great Barr Gazette, a local magazine delivered to 16,000

homes in Great Barr and surrounding area’s.


Road Test – Vauxhall Astra VXR

I remember back in the eighties my friend had an Astra SRi which was his pride and joy. It went like stink, but the handling was so bad that it was positively dangerous. To a degree, the same can be said about every hot version of the Astra ever since. Will the latest VXR coupé be the car that breaks the mould?


In recent years Vauxhall has become world class at extracting spectacular amounts of power out of a 2.0 litre engine and this version of the VXR is no exception; the high boost turbocharger punts out a stonking 276bhp and, even more impressively, 295 lb/ft of torque. Vauxhall is also producing some seriously good looking cars these days and this one, based on the curvy Astra GTC, is a proper head turner. VXR trim adds 19 inch wheels, big exhausts and a hefty rear spoiler to give the three door coupé a more menacing look; coupled with the lowered ride height, it looks the part from every angle. The interior is fairly standard Astra fare apart from figure hugging, leather trimmed sports seats and a small chunky rimmed steering wheel. The quality of materials is impressive, though, as is the fit and finish and, with room for two six footers in the back and a good sized boot, it really is a practical proposition as a family car.


Of course, this is a hot hatch so we need to talk about the driving experience. As well as that mighty engine, a lot of technology has gone into the VXR. A fancy front suspension setup gets round the worst of the problems created by putting so much power through the front wheels and a limited slip differential is meant to take care of the rest of them. It also has an adaptive suspension system, the kind of technology normally associated with an M series BMW. There’s a normal setting for pottering down to the shops, sports setting for tackling a twisty back road and “VXR” setting for when you’re really on it. The various modes are operated by a couple of buttons on the steering wheel. But does it all work?


I’m happy to say, yes it does. The engine delivers sledgehammer performance; 0 – 62 comes up in 5.9 seconds, similar to a Porsche Boxter, and it charges on to 155mph. Above 4000rpm the engine emits a rasping snarl overlaid with a high whistle from the turbo, a sound that is seriously addictive. The adaptive suspension earns its keep; even in standard setting there is bags of grip and very little body roll – press the VXR button and it turns into a proper little racing car. The ride is excellent in anything other than VXR mode when it acquires a bone jarring firmness.


The limited slip diff is slightly less successful; it is not at all subtle in its action – either it’s off or it’s on. What it does allow you to do is slingshot out of the corners with your foot hard on the floor, very exhilarating! Accelerate hard in a straight line and the wheel squirms in your hands as it tramlines and follows every contour of the road, the classic symptoms of torque steer. Even this can be good fun, though; it feels like you’re wrestling the car.


The Astra VXR is more than a hot hatch; it’s a proper little sports car. It looks and sounds sensational, goes like a train and handles like a go cart, yet it rides like an executive saloon and has all the practicality of a family hatch. All this comes at a price, just shy of £27,000. If it had an Audi badge, no one would think twice about it, but the fact that it’s a Vauxhall will give some people pause for thought. It shouldn’t do; this car is worth every penny.

Kit Johnson

Car as tested Vauxhall Astra VXR   £26,995 RRP


This article appeared in the Great Barr Gazette, a local magazine delivered to 16,000

homes in the Great Barr and surrounding area’s.

Property – Is the housing market set for take-off?

The latest house price figures for August show a 1.4% rise over the past year. In real terms that’s actually a 2% drop but it sums up the housing market over the last 3 years – broadly flat. But could there be some light at the end of the tunnel? Anyone who’s sold their house recently and taken an offer well below the asking price would probably disagree, but I see some hopeful signs.


Mortgage availability figures have jumped strongly in the last month while the typical deposit demanded by lenders is slipping slowly down towards the 10% mark. Even better news comes in the form of the Funding for Lending scheme. This allows banks and building societies to borrow 5% of their loan book from the Bank of England to fund new lending. The initial evidence suggests that most of this new lending has been in the way of mortgages. More good news comes in the form of forecasts for economic growth. Most economists are united in their belief that the economy will return to growth in the third quarter of this year, which should give a welcome boost to optimism among the house-buying public. Most estate agents I speak to are already confident; once again they are looking at investing in their businesses instead of cutting overheads.


The biggest thing, though, is the sheer level of undersupply. In the past five years it is estimated that, as a country, we should have been building between 200,000 and 300,000 new houses per year. In reality we have been building between 100,000 and 140,000. This situation shows no signs of improving in the immediate future. That means that there is a lot of pent up demand already in the system and the situation is only going to get worse year on year as we continue to build less houses than we need to.


All this adds up to one thing, rising house prices; maybe not tomorrow or next month, but certainly next year.

Craig Brown

Estate Agent


This article appears in the Great Barr Gazette, a local magazine delivered to 16,000 homes

in the Great Barr and surrounding area’s.

Add a splash of colour and elegance to your life

Andrew Wills Painting and Decorating 

“Having used several different methods of advertising over the years I find Recommended Magazine to be very effective and excellent value for money.” Andrew Wills


Great Celebrations at Great Barr Gazette

The Great Barr Gazette has been publishing for over 12 months now and has been going from strength to strength.  Although this is a relatively new publication, the owners have a vast wealth of experience being party of the Think Big brand which includes other publications such as Recommended Sutton Coldfield, Recommended Lichfield, Walmley Pages and more.

If you want affordable, yet high quality magazine advertising then the Great Barr Gazette is the place to come: a local monthly community magazine with a total coverage of 16.000 Great Barr homes brought to you by the successful publishers of Recommended Magazine and Walmley Pages.

Why choose the Great Barr Gazette?

The Great Barr Gazette is a really high quality magazine, full of features, local information, puzzles and competitions to ensure that it is read and retained. We know you have a budget and we do our best to squeeze as much out of it as we can.

Quality and Longevity

Great Barr Gazette has a very high standard of print and production utilizing a thick glossy colour cover and colour gloss art paper inside. All artwork is professionally finished to ensure that you look your best and that your company is proud to be featured and associated with such a high quality magazine. The Great Barr Gazette isn’t thrown away each week like a local newspapers. People keep it as a reference for the whole month.

If you’re a local business from Great Barr, Birmingham or surrounding areas and want more customers, call 0121 351 6513 for some FREE advice and more information.


Please renew my advert, done many quotes and completed several jobs already and people have told me they found me in the Great Barr Gazette. The advert has already paid for itself


Roofing and Guttering


Thanks for the advertorial, it has helped me gain many new local customers within the first month.


Basic Beauty


Your magazines are working well and the Great Bar magazine  is bringing in more business than expected.

Andy Maxwell


I.T. News from Sutton Coldfield’s PC Doctor

Sky had a busy week, announcing support for BBC’s iPlayer via its own TV catch-up service, as well as saying it will offer fibre broadband via BT’s infrastructure – cheekily offering it at £5 less than the same service from BT.

How did you all get with your Apple iPad’s this Christmas?. Paulette (Wifelet) loved her iPad or as she calls it MyPad as she is having a really difficult time getting her hands on it! If you haven’t tried it already I recommend downloading the Daily Mail & Mail on Sunday Applet (App) Not only is it very reasonable at £20 per annum following a long 60 day Trial Period it also is a fantastic read and collection of ALL the stories in the Paper and those that the Sub Editors cut through lack of space. So if you are into Technology or Financial stories or just Travel or Cars then this is the App for you as it really gets to grips with all stories and explores the subjects events very well. (Commission please Daily mail!) plus full colour, video, multimedia clips – brilliant. BTW I promised Paulette I’d buy an iPad but hey wouldn’t you believe it they are bringing out the iPad 3 and in response to the Amazon kindle Fire Pad they are dropping the price iPad 2… J

I asked for a Kindle for Christmas and am really impressed. Its clean, light easy to use, easy on the eye and also has the Daily Mail available to down load. However, there is very Good and very Bad news… The good: Excellent stories in depth and before the dreaded Daily Mail sub editors have got their mucky, biased, narrow minded hands on it! Meaning that the same story with the headline “Labours Ed Milliband in a Flap over …” Translates after sub editing to “Bonkers’ labour Leader in total disarray over …” The detail of the story is in a similar vein one concise and factual the other bloated with rhetoric. I suppose it is a matter of taste. I prefer the former. The Bad: £8.99 per month and 14 day trial, Black and white, a few grainy pictures – what planet are they on?

Computer Virus’s

I spend my life cleaning Virus’s off computers. All of the infected without exception have either Norton or MacAfee installed. If you want a cleaner system then two products can be recommended AVG 2012 Internet Security (www.avg.com/uk) the paid for version at £39 per annum and Malwarebytes (www.malwarebytes.org) at a single one off payment of £25 The latter will clean those difficult to remove malware virus’s and the former will provide excellent all round protection. Of course it also helps if you stop using bad software and sites like: Allot tool bar, free football TV tool bars, free Music and Film torrent sites and Bear Share – All guaranteed to infect your systems.

Why have a computer?

Put simply you have to have somewhere to install iTunes so you can sync your iPad, iPhone and iPod.   Somewhere to store vast amounts of Photos and Music. By the way don’t forget to buy an external USB Hard Disk Drive to backup your data to because when your HDD dies (as inevitably it will) you’ll want to keep those pictures of little Jonny and Suzie when they were five years old – Won’t you?

Other News

Source code from Symantec’s pcAnywhere has been leaked following a breach, the security firm has warned users to avoid using the remote desktop software until it patches the product. It only took six years to issue the warning but we all get busy don’t we?

Apple has hired a new head of retail, and looking to boost its customer service, has gone to Dixons. Yes, that’s right you read correctly! Apple was apparently so impressed with Dixons’ customer service, it poached its CEO. Obviously they live on another planet…

And finally, Outlook’s Web App (Office 2010) is nominated as Hot Cloud Service of the week – we’re as surprised as you are that we’ve found another cloud service we actually want to talk about. Now if they could only make a skin to put over the whole of office to make it work like Office 2003 then we’d all be much happier.

Nick Bache – PC Doctor Sutton Coldfield

P.C. Doctor regularly feature in Walmley Pages and The Great Barr Gazette 

Increasing brand awareness shouldn’t be optional!

I have noticed a consistent trend in small business advertising habits over the last seven years. Local business owners feel the need to launch advertising campaigns when business is slow or possibly even non-existent. When I suggest they advertise while business is strong they often respond, “it is not a priority at the moment as we are busy this month.”  This is a big mistake for many reasons; I have listed 5 reasons which immediately spring to mind below.

5 reasons to advertise even when business is thriving

  1. You will have the cash flow available to support a new advertising campaign.
  2. You are more likely to “think outside the box” and be creative rather than advertise out of panic. Creative advertising has a better chance of increasing your brand awareness.
  3. You will develop a strong customer base which removes the pressure of “this advertising campaign needs to bring in X number of new clients.
  4. Current customers may have forgotten about other services or products you offer.
  5. Prospects often need to see you adverts several times before they become a customer.

Your priority should always be to remain at the forefront of a prospective customer’s mind because if you aren’t, someone else is ! 


With Walmley Pages, Recommended Magazine (Sutton Coldfield), the Great Barr Gazette (Great Barr) and Recommended online (Sutton Coldfield) we have a quite a few low cost options to keep local businesses in the public eye and increase brand awareness.

For more details on our Sutton Coldfield, Great Barr and North Birmingham low cost advertising opportunities why not give us a call on 0121 351 6513.