How to get the best value in car valeting, or while enjoying a civilised afternoon tea.
You may just about have had enough of the sweet wrappers and crumbs that date back to sometime in the last decade still covering the floor of your car. And the body now holds so much dirt that it's starting to reduce your fuel economy through wind drag. Perhaps it's time to get a valet. There are firms all over the country that will gladly do your dirty work. As always, it pays to shop around, but pay attention also to what you'll get for your money. In Dublin:
Best: www.suddiesvaleting.com Golden Full Valet plus paintwork touchup: €120
Avoid: www.callawash.com Gold Valet €149
There can be something very civilised about a spot of afternoon tea -- as long as it doesn't degenerate into a wine and champagne fest. It's often an oddly Victorian experience, and a good exercise in seeing whether you can employ some self-control when presented with delicate sandwiches and pastries, rather than shoving them down your gob as soon as they're left on the table. In Cork:
Avoid: www.hayfieldmanor.ie €25 per person
Best: www.fotaisland.ie €32 for two
Happen to be a banker? Pay cheque feeling a little light these days now that the bonuses aren't tumbling in like they used to? Time to save the pennies. Start with the car insurance. What's on offer for a 38-year-old male banker, living in Newbridge, Co Kildare, and driving a 2010 BMW 5 Series worth €32,000? No points or claims on the licence and an excess of €300.
Best: 123.ie: €536.65
Avoid: Liberty Insurance: €825.75
Saving: €289.10 a year
Nothing like getting away from it all to beat the January blues. Come back when spring might be in the air and you can start hoping that the summer will bring another heatwave. Park the car at Dublin Airport for 10 days, but don't pay over the odds. Price for 10 days in January:
Best: www.quickpark.ie €45
Avoid: www.dublinairport.com (Express Red Long-Term): €49.95
Took more photos at Christmas than you know what to do with? Chances are that unless you get up off your bum and bother either emailing them to your local developer, or God forbid, actually pay a visit to get them printed, they'll languish for eternity on your computer's hard drive or a memory stick. Why not print a few off at home with, say, a HP Photosmart 5520e?
Avoid: www.littlewoodsireland.ie €109
Best: www.hpshop.ie €91.17
Best Buys - Electric shavers for men, by Peter Flanagan
Philips PowerTouch PT720 €55
The Philips PowerTouch PT720 electric shaver is one of the lower end shavers that is part of Philips' popular "Power Touch" range. While it is very much a cheaper model and is limited on features, it does the basics well.
The shave is as close as you will get for the money, but the device lacks useful add ons such as a beard trimmer.
Buying this means you will also have to go without features such as self clean and a detailed battery indicator -- the battery only shows "full" and "low" with nothing in between.
The battery takes seven hours to charge and gives you one hour's use when fully charged. That works out at around 14 shaves for most people.
The shaver feels good in the hand though, and has the solid build most users will like.
While it may not replace the wet shave most men prefer, it is the type of shaver that will slot well into your desk drawer at the office, or the glove compartment in the car.
REMINGTON TITANIUM-X F7800 €175
This was the most expensive shaver we tested, and while it is very, very, pricey, it is also one of the most impressive. The Remington's biggest advantage is its battery, which lasts around 10 hours -- long enough for 20 thorough shaves.
The device also has an LCD display showing the remaining battery time. Even when the low battery warning comes up, you should still have plenty of time to get your grooming done. The Remington has a "quick charge" but be warned -- that will barely be enough to give you one decent shave.
The shave is close, and the sideburn trimmer is easily used. Cleaning is also very handy, and can be done by simply running it under a tap.
The big drawback for this shaver is its price. While it is not he most expensive one going, at €175 you will need to use it an awful lot before you start to make a saving on wet razors. Even if you just prefer an electric shaver, there are probably alternatives that can do an adequate job at half the price.
BRAUN SERIES 3-380 WET AND DRY €95
The Braun Series 3 comes in many forms: wet or dry, high powered and low powered. The 380 is at the top end of the range.
As the name would imply, this can be used for either wet or dry shaving, so whether you prefer shaving in the shower or the car, then this should do the job.
On paper, this shaver looks the part. It is powerful, versatile, and comes with a simple cleaning system. Battery life is good and the charging time is short. Unfortunately it falls down on its fundamental requirement: the shave is just not close enough. Despite the price, for us this shaver was adequate mainly for giving a "top up" before heading into that important meeting. In our tests it was not close enough for first thing in the morning. It has the performance of a shaver that is stored in an office drawer, but that is not good enough for nearly €100.
Braun's products are generally excellent, so we were surprised at the Series 3's weakness. Considering the substantial price, this shaver is best avoided.