England's switch-hitting maverick shown the door following diminishing returns and shonky Ashes tour. Poor form all round.
Inevitable, but no less sad for that, Kevin Pietersen has, barring an improbable climb down, played his last game for England. He has not been 'sacked' - international selection, even with central contracts, is still a joyous privilege- but the relationship between he and the ECB is over, with the maverick batsman being told he is no longer in the selectors' plans
Much will be written about the timing of this decision, coming before a new team director has chance to assess his options, before limited overs tournaments in which 33 year old Pietersen would expect to shine and, crucially in the wake of a dismal showing in the recent overseas Ashes tour.
Pietersen can count himself deeply unfortunate, and will be justifiably angry. Yes, he played like a drain in Australia, but so did everyone else. England's batting and decision making was universally poor, muddled and muddied in the face of the reinvigorated sling, speed and swing of Mitchell Johnson, unused to, and confused by, the sort of chin music the burly paceman was dishing out.
It's true, Pietersen's game looks uglier than most when he is out of touch. He makes a scratchy, swatting 7 and out look particularly hard work where Ian Bell's high-elbowed classicism may persuade commentators to forgive an edge to slip while stranded in single figures.
A victim of his own hair-raising success, unorthodox, ungovernable talent, perhaps too much has been expected of KP for too long. He has for so long been England's finest, most destructive, most feared batsman, that each recent failure has been amplified.
For whatever reason it was ever thus. Pietersen has always been the first to be blamed when England struggle, and it is because so much has rested on his broad shoulders. When he plays well England looked a superior prospect, when he flapped and flailed and surrendered his wicket it often exposed England as a frail, one-dimensional unit.
A cricketer who could bat, on his day, against any attack, Pietersen was/is at his best larrupping a tired attack around the park, moving the game on at breakneck pace, putting his team firmly in the ascendancy. He needs, to some extent, other to put in the donkey-work, as we had become accustomed to seeing Cook, Strauss and Trott do. This is how the team was built, around Cook's solidity and Pietersen's flair.
With England's top order recently as secure as soggy toilet paper in a public convenience (rather than the indomitable wall of nurdles and nudges of old) Pietersen was all to often exposed to fresh, fast bowling and attacking fields, required to grind out innings, reduce risk and curb his instincts, diminishing his game in the process. Where England failed, Pietersen was inevitably set up to fail.
Pietersen has much still to give, and clearly would still like to give it with England; it is a shame he won't have the chance to redeem himself after a poor tour while others who failed at least as spectacularly will. We'll enjoy, and he'll doubtless profit from, a few years of mercenary limited overs wandering. And don't be surprised if he tops the first class averages next season; Pietersen is a dangerous figure when he has a point to prove.
All the politics and assumptions of ego and baggage appear to have caught up with Pietersen, a man who never looked anything other genuinely enthused to be playing for England, who gave interviews (mostly) visibly twitching with childish and excitement after a day's play. He's done, a couple of years earlier than he probably should be, and England, having chosen their sacrifice as redemption for a horrific Ashes performance, must now fill a massive hole in their team.
Open, Heat and Eat: Can it be that simple, and still Taste good?
The nice people at Taste Inc were kind enough to send us a selection of products from their new range of microwaveable snacks and sandwiches.
Coming in at a reasonable £1.89 each, and available in Morrisons stores across the country, these snacks promise you “good food fast”. So, do they deliver? After 90 seconds of spinning, what does the ping bring?
All ready in just 90 seconds, these snacks in pretty packs are great for work if you want something hot and fast that you can snarf down at your desk. You'll attract a few admiring glances (“ooh, have you been out for that?”) without getting the dirty looks that might be used to enduring if you've ever tried to discretely eat a slab of lasagne, or some French onion soup, while clearing your inbox.
Each sanger, sub, dog and burger in the range contains fewer than 500 calories. That's enough to keep your motor running, but not so many you have to feel terribly guilty. For context, a Big Mac has around 490 calories, while a Subway BMT, toasted, racks up around 450 calories. So Taste Inc sandwiches are certainly no worse for you than other convenience foods. Except, since you don't have to go out to get them, they're a bit more convenient.
Ham & Cheese Melt: A sub style sandwich, with a generous slice of ham and a layer of Emmental cheese sitting on a white flour baguette, this is one of the range's most successful snacks. The cheese does what cheese does in a microwave, going deliciously melty and stringy and the honey mustard mayo sachet (added post-microwave) adds a sweet and tangy quality, which elevates the sandwich above the hum-drum. It is this sort of added-value, special sauce sachet that you feel Taste Inc could use to really distinguish its products.
It's a good snack, but not without flaws; the ham goes a little chewy, slightly bacony and stretchy, refusing to tear off when you bite through your bun and threatening to eject itself from the sandwich whole. Only 350 calories.
Chicken & Chorizo: Another baguette-based sub sandwich, this classic combination, moistened and sweetened with an optional mayonnaise (plain) sachet, delivers a moreish whack of flavour, all smoky paprika and lean, chargrilled chicken. At a lean, mean 380 calories you could do a lot worse.
As with the H&C Melt, a serrated card sleeve on the sub-style sandwiches keeps the bread from suffering too much under the stresses of a minute and a half in a microwave, maintaining a decent bready texture.
Some of the other products in the range – the burgers, and burgerish chicken sandwiches – would probably benefit from being afforded this extra protection. They tended, for us, to work less well.
Flamin' Chicken Sandwich: The crispy coated chicken breast while very tasty, and nicely seasoned with a pleasant peppery punch, didn't seem to fit on the bun quite as it should, being a roundish bit of chicken on an oval bun. This meant there were a few bites which were just bread (which had gone a bit microwavey, obviously) and mayo. It spoiled an otherwise nice bite for lunch. A quick flash through the Taste Inc Twitter timeline reveals that a few others have had similar issues - the hazards of using actual chicken breasts, which come in varying sizes, rather than reconstituted stuff we assume.
This one, which comes with a sachet of plain mayo (where maybe something fancier would be better – ranch, sweet onion or whatever), is a naughtier 425 calories per sandwich, but you'd go that for some southern-fried loveliness we're guessing.
Barbecue Chicken: Again suffering from being a bit meagre, and not quite the juicy prospect we'd have liked, the BBQ chicken, a whole breast on an oval bun with a supplementary smoky barbecue sauce sachet, delivered in terms of flavour. It was, however, a little off in terms of texture, not responding so well to its minute and a half in the microwave.
This was the lowest calorie option of all the Taste Inc snacks that we tried at only 280 calories per sandwich - good for when you trying to shift the post-Christmas paunch but fancy something quick, easy and tasty.
Check out the Taste Inc website for more details of their range and ethos here: tasteinc.com/
Check out the Taste Inc website for more details of their range and ethos here: http://tasteinc.com/
Prime Cuts: The Aberdeen EP; further adventures in brevity from concise Manitoba power poppers The Perms
The new record from The Perms, whose Sofia Nights LP we heard and loved last year, does not drag its heels. This latest 4 track effort, The Aberdeen EP, fairly rattles along, each song coming in at under 3½ minutes, with the whole thing resolutely failing to test your patience at a little under 11 minutes. Good, we're all busy here.
The Winnipeg-based band have a clear sense of identity, and you can trace a clear line from this latest set to the infectious, micro-party in a bottle, fuzz pop of their last LP, here maybe layered with an angsty sniff of Smashing Pumpkins (Aberdeen).
Again we're happy to hear reminders of other great power-pop revivalists, like Fang Island and Free Energy, both of whom we got a ton of time for.
Mouse-ear tight, The Perms continue to make a lot of noise for a 3 piece, and to pump a lot of joy into a few breathless minutes, the frankly relentless, elastic-limbed drumming of John Huver driving the songs beneath elevating harmony parts from guitar and bass bothering twin vocalists Chad and Shane Smith.
The Parent Thing, which is probably the EP's standout, feels like a ready-to-go hit, a rising, falling box of tricks which swings and sways and fades out all too quickly, leaving a evaporating taste of love and opportunity on your parched lips.
A slightly more emotionally ragged, darker affair than previous efforts, there may too be a glance further back than the easy, boozy breeziness of 90s rock-popping touchstones, to the hair-brained heaviosity of the likes of Guns N' Roses and AC/DC (Walk Away).
The Aberdeen EP, is available NOW, right now, on iTunes. And you can have a listen for yourself at http://thepermsmusic.com too. We say, get on it, but what do you care what we think?
Steam cleaners seem to be all the rage these days, so the We Review Anything team decided to put one through its paces on the wood floors at our new HQ.
Not wanting to spend a fortune on a humble steam mop, we plumped for the extremely affordable Abode Black Steam Mop. Available at £29 at Tesco, but also available for great prices at Amazon, Asda and Homebase , the Abode mop was just as cheap as Tesco’s own model.
Upon opening and unpacking the cleaner – there is a reasonable amount of assembly required, but nothing too fiddly – it did seem a bit cheap-looking at first glance. However, once assembled and put into use, its lightweight form actually made the mop easier to move around.
There were a bit of problems putting the cleaner together, however. The water tank leaks a little if you turn the mop upside down, so make sure you only fill this after the mop’s assembled and both the head and pad are attached. Also, the handle comes in two parts, the top of which did not seem to connect very firmly. During use, this part of the handle kept coming off, nearly resulting in a tumble down the stairs for this surprised and rather frustrated user.
The pads (a pack of two comes with this cleaner) are a doddle to attach and remove, as they are attached by Velcro to the head. They are also easy to clean, as you can simply fling them in the washing machine. Hopefully the Velcro will stay sticky even after multiple washes – watch this space. If you need more pads, it looks like a replacement pack of 5 can be bought for under a tenner on Amazon.
The best thing about this steam cleaner is the design of its head. It is triangular shaped and pivots, so it is super flexible and can poke into the tightest of corners, sweep along edges and follow the contours of obstacles of practically any shape. Well done Abode, this is a great feature.
A common complaint with steam cleaners is that the cables aren’t long enough, but this isn’t a problem with the Abode mop. The water chamber claims to hold enough to last 20 minutes of cleaning, but I think it will go longer than that. Storage is quite easy, considering the mop is quite slender, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just stand it up on its own as it will quite likely sway and topple over.
Cleaning with this 900W Abode ASM2001 Steam Mopwas quite enjoyable, if cleaning can be said to be enjoyable. The mop glides around relatively easily, seems to get most of the dirt up and importantly, doesn’t seem to leave any streaks. It even does carpets with a special attachment, although we haven’t tested this out yet.
All-in-all, a good buy for the money, provided it goes the distance.
The good - brilliant head design, washable pads, long cord and great price.
The bad - flimsy handle design, leaking water tank (only when upside down).
Bold food in an old city, Nuremberg's Wittmanns Bio delivers organic excellence with a big warm smile.
There is a lot of meat and beer in Nurnburg (and in Germany generally) particularly on the old side of town where the tourists trek in droves past the city's wonderfully preserved churches and castle walls, and want traditional fare and stomach-filling fuel.
If you don't want braised pig knuckle though, there are more refined options. Nurnburg natives have to eat somewhere, remember, and probably want a bowl of pasta or a nice salad sometimes, just to change things up a bit.
Wittmans Bio is one of the finer of Nuremberg's alternatives to bread dumplings, roasted flesh and gristle. Offering spectacular organic food, locally sourced and served in a contemporary, but cosy, environment, Wittmanns Bio is a cool oasis of modern European loveliness in the middle of this ancient city.
While you enjoy a glass of local wine and get goosed with a pair of sneak attack appetisers, your food is tweaked and twirled in some invisible laboratory upstairs into delightful, surprising and potently flavourful dishes, delivered via a dumb waiter to your ever vivacious and ebullient host, Dieter, who presents them to you with a smile, evident pride and a provenencial story, as far as occasionally halting English allows. We struggled and failed as a group to unpick, for example, a better translation for one main course than 'sweet-water fish'. It didn't matter, it was delicious (and probably river pike).
Kohlrabi soup, an incredible, undersold, beef fillet, cheeky expresso-cup shots of sauerkraut soup, a spring garden antipasti selection and a brain-melting pudding all tickled our fancies and tastebuds and made us coo and giggle a good bit. We had a fun, relaxed, night, leaving us wishing for an invitation to the grand opening of a Wittmanns Bio somewhere near our house. It is expensive though, so be prepared and practice your 'I'm okay with paying that for good food' face.
Style: Modern European, organic, good veggie/vegan options.
Price: It'll cost you.
Atmosphere: A low hum of chatter; background BBC 6 Music; genuinely friendly, attentive service.