Courtyard Tearoom Award

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It is really pleasing to see the “Courtyard Tearoom” at Womersley is flourishing in today’s challenging climate. First opened in 2012 the unique setting in a World War II NAFFI adds to its charm along with the use of china crockery. Not a sign of motorway service station stainless steel dribbling teapots here!

The tea room thrives on its reputation based on good food and home made cakes. The owner Jacci, responsible for the cakes that she bakes at home would excel in any “Bake Off” competition – if she had the time.

Recently the “Courtyard Tearoom” was a well deserved runner up in the 2017 Yorkshire Life Food and Drink  awards. Some say this competition is reserved for entrants from Harrogate, where the vast majority of winners are located. This would mean Jacci’s award is all the more deserved – but this would perhaps be just be sour dough, hang on Jacci can make that as well.

You may find the Yorkshire Life website a little behind schedule. When checked on 30th October it advised that on Monday 25th September, over 150 highly esteemed guests, finalists and sponsors will be joining Yorkshire Life to celebrate the 24th Yorkshire Life Food & Drink Awards at Rudding Park, Harrogate. Rather confusingly it also advises The nomination form is now open and will close on Friday 24th March 2017 ?

Courtyard Tearoom Highly Commended Award 2017

The Courtyard Tearoom can be found along the main road in Womersley, four miles east of Darrington on the A1. If you see a church (St. Martins) on your left you’ve just missed it, if it’s on your right and it’s about 50 yards or metres- let’s not split hairs. Or you could follow the cyclists. Sat nav DN6 9BH. Currently The Courtyard opens each day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays when Jacci starts to bake cakes from guarded recipes.

 

Liverpool’s Great Cathedrals

Trotting about the universe it’s amazing how many advisory signs you come across that were written with good intent, yet bring a smile to the unusual world I personally live in. I am eternally grateful to their authors.

My pick of the month is a sign seen in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.

There are numerous seats around in addition to the rows of pews. To avoid confusion as to the function of the cushioned altar rail a sign has been added; “Do not attempt to sit here.” Now to me if you actually do sit there the ‘attempt’ becomes an achievement, and the miscreant is safe in the knowledge they can resist any challenge to their inappropriate use of church furniture.

Better would be a sign that says ‘Do not plonk your arse here – it’s for elbows only’ in several languages of course.

Both Liverpool Cathedrals are well a visit. The Anglican building boasts of being the biggest cathedral in the UK with the world’s highest and widest gothic arches; at 101m the worlds tallest church tower; the world’s highest and heaviest peal of bells, and the UK’s largest and most magnificent organ.

The Catholic Cathedral, known colloquially as Paddy’s Wigwam is at the opposite end of Hope Street and is the largest Catholic cathedral in England. Its modern design has matured over the 50 years since it was built. But it holds a huge secret.

The striking design of the present Cathedral is actually the fourth attempt by the Catholic Church in the North West of England to build a mother church for the Liverpool diocese – and the culmination of a story that stretches back over a century.

The third design was by Lutyens on a truly massive scale.

It was to be the largest cathedral in the world and roughly twice the size of the Anglican Cathedral. Work started in 1933 but World War II interrupted progress in manpower, materials and funds. This caused the project to be abandoned ultimately to be replaced by the design by Gibberd that now stands. All was not well with this novel design, however. Within 20 years mistakes in the building design and construction led to a £8m repair bill.

If you visit the Metropolitan Cathedral of Liverpool not only will you see a magnificent and novel design but since 2008 you can also visit the vast crypt of the abandoned Lutyens design.

 

 

 

 

Route Ahead Closed

Ever get the feeling there is a conspiracy aimed at messing with your walking progress. Twice in the space of a week I have come across blocked routes which fail to advise why? This only concerns walkers so no need to reflect on the vast chunk of the M1 south of Sheffield that has been coned off since the 1840″s whilst someone does something to the black stuff. My beef involves an old favourite and a new excursion.

The old favourite is the entrance to the Frenchgate shopping centre from the station. A heavily used route for all visitors and commuters  using the railway. Owing to architectural oversight the entrance up the escalators from the station acts as a chimney drawing cold air from the station that rips up the escalators and freezes bits you least want frozen in the winter. The solution was the Berlin Wall that emerged right across the access requiring customers to walk around the wall and crash into those going  the opposite way.

But suddenly just after Christmas the wall disappeared and access was straight up the escalators again. Deep joy, but short lived. Some unexplained civil engineering were about to start. The adjacent lifts and stairs disappeared and brick dust and dingbats appeared. Then suddenly the escalators were shut down, the door from the station slammed shut and a strange and long a winding diversion appeared. OK for the fit and determined but a right pain in the rear for those less mobile. And the reason for all this …….The frugal signs merely say the route is temporarily closed whistle alterations are underway. And your guess is as good as mine.

Being a determined soul and whiling away some free time in a coffee shop with wifi I had a dabble searching for announcements in the local news and bless us the Frenchgate website. Nought,nothing, zero. Some guff about a couple os shops opening and yet another pub for Doncaster but this was way back in August 2014. The helpful guy on the contact us email said he knew nothing about the closure but perhaps the escalators would start working again in three weeks. Which is about all we need to know I suppose except the building work, whatever it is, looks like a six month project. Whether the main route into the Frenchgate re-opens or has disappeared forever we may never know.

On a whim I decided to walk along the industrial stretch of the Trans Pennine Walk that meanders North along the canal towpath from Meadowhall to Rotherham. As our world off-road seems to be a sea of mud for about six month a year I donned boots, gritted teeth and set off. If that guy can walk the Nile I should be able to cope with the trans Pennine. The walk immediately takes you under the mighty Tinsley Viaduct that shunts the M1 overhead. The mud failed to materialise as the path is tarmaced for its length, allegedly, because you can only walk for about 1/4 mile before you reach a lock on that canal that is under repair.  And here the damn Frenchgate guys strike again. With no explanation of why, what, or for how long the route is barred. An arrow indicates a diversion that chucks you on the main road running in roughly the same direction. Not quite the same and wearing  great clarty boots you feel a bit of a plank as the unknown diversion wanders along for 2 1/2 miles past all manner of steelworks, in use and disused.

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           The underbelly of the Tinsley Vaiduct                                                   

Eventually after plodding through the back of industrial estates you end up back on the towpath. Like all canals and railways that pass through an industrial area you witness the backside of industry. The rear view that no one cares about. Festooned with litter and the detritus from local manufacturers there is also the inevitable heap of industrial waste being moved from one heap to the next in an apparently endless Boondoggle operation.

 

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Converted work barge to house boat                                             Solar panels adorn spare surface on old working barge

As the path evolves the site of canal barges converted into water homes provides cheery welcome. The use of renewable energy seems a valuable asset as they are remote from normal utilities. It seems in typical army tradition  that you salute anything that moves and paint anything that does not. This has been updated to include that any flat surface is ideal on which to slap a solar panel.

Having been critical about the lack of information re diversions it is good to note the other extreme. Here  a railway bridge proudly announces its presence. Whereas we are left in the dark with this structure on the

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Railway Bridge  – it says  so                                                                             Not a Railway bridge?  – it says n’owt

 

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A Bridge that Beggars belief. The large and heavy steel door slanting backwards is the only onto the bridge

Although predominately an industrial visita the ingenuity of man to utilise the good earth has led to a field of goats and another full of sheep which frankly can catch you unawares. Also presumably as part of the raw materials used in steel manufacturing an intriguing  pipe carrying oxygen leaps over the canal from open space on the left bank to open space on the other en route to doing something somewhere. Struck me as the only occasion where if it sprang a leak it would appear as the last hazardous substance known making and probably never repaired.

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Oxygen flows over the canal (it says so on left hand side of structure)

In the midst of the industrialised environment no land is wasted. An enterprising soul has established a flock of sheep where you least expect it.

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The return walk, from would you believe New York back to Meadowhall actually allows you to avoid half the diversion. It’s due to where the towpath crosses banks and you can walk back as far as the weir on the river Don. Then you have to us the delightful path that squeezes between the railway track on your right and the vast Tinsley sewage works on your left.

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Tinsley Sewage Works

Philips SoniCare The Disposable Teeth Cleaner

The image on the left is, or was the fantastic Philips Sonicare oral cleanser. Despite using an electric toothbrush rated at some phenomenal pace of bobbing up, down and indeed sideways it failed to remove all the important bits the dentist says are nasty. The Sonicare is rechargeable over thousand of cycles it promised, is a very efficient piece of kit which uses a blast of water – or mouthwash at 50 psi to dislodge all manner of clag from crevices the toothbrush cannot reach. The combination of toothbrush and Sonicare gave brownie points at the routine visit to the dentist who said despite my ugly, misshapen and misaligned teeth I manger to keep them cleaner that a vicars starched dog collar. I am the result of machine over matter, so to speak. But apart from waiting for a TV testimonial opportunity there is one niggling worry. These Philips Sonicare thingies only last 6 months. At 80 quids a pop this is a tad expensive. The first failure was exchanged immediately by Boots with no drama. The second also lasted 6 months then needed me to contact the Philips helpline in Holland. A little more intense as they gathered evidence of purchase etc, but a sparkling new Sonicare arrived in 10 days. A further 6 months, and it too failed. And with the same fault – it stopped recharging.

A survey of the blog forums on the interweb and FaceTube indicated I am not alone. Philips have a persistent reluctance to move electrons twixt charger and battery. Thus rather than approach the delightful chaps in Holland, hello its me again , I’ve decided to move further East and purchase a Panasonic made in Japan machine. Bigger, more versatile with lots of options I am still getting used to it. The most significant difference being the Panasonic whatnot fills your mouth full of water as it jet washes  the depths. Finding the “off” button whilst desperately try to spit to relieve the pressure needs some further training. Removing the device mid squirt  to read the controls buttons has the disadvantage that it continues to fire water at 75 psi – in your eye.

It would appear I am on the road to having sparking gnashers once again possibly in time to receive a pat on the back from the dentist. In the meantime I have calculated it is far better practice to use the tooth brush and teeth jet washer in the shower.

 

Beau Rivage Hotel Looses It’s Shine.

Visits to the Five Star Beau Rivage hotel in Interlaken on several previous occasions were a delight. It came as a disappointment to experience the drop in standards during a recent visit. The welcome and attentive “old world” service has gone. In its place a smile that said we are full and therefore too busy to offer you the support or interest you might expect. The management operates reverse logic, guests staying one night have preference in room allocation compared to those staying for a week.

A promotion by the owners, Linden hotels implores guests to sign up to their frequent visitors scheme to gain additional benefits. As a returning guest you might also expect a little recognition, but the opposite materialised. Every member of the front desk team will be aware of the eccentricities of every room in the hotel, which are next to the lift, face the kitchen fans or have delightful of the car park. Anyone staying at the Beau Rivage need to avoid rooms facing the front on the first floor, especially rooms 114.

Recently refurbished with modern styling and a great range of power outlets there is a rationale behind this move. The room is immediately above the smokers haunt. ( The pink table and chairs in the pic) Open the window to get some fresh Swiss mountain air and the room fills with stale cigarette smoke from 5 am. until midnight. Ask for a room change and “we are very full” comes right back at you. Stand your ground and reluctantly another room is found, on the same floor just two rooms to the left. Marginal drop in the smoke volume but still very evident. Thus avoid room 117 as well.

Although a five star hotel charging top rates some rooms are desperately in need of refurbishment. Room 117 suffers from a range of additional issues. Minimal surface area to put anything; just two power points – right where you don’t need them, stains to furnishings, carpet  and the wall finish revealing where a substantial  leak had occurred in the bathroom.

Ask the front desk where a major art exhibition was located and despite the publicity being everywhere they couldn’t help or be bothered to find out.

The restaurant staff in comparison seem to be from a different planet; helpful, competent and attentive. The root cause of the irritation is the comparison with previous visits and having seen what the Beau Rivage can really do. But the angst is not just with the hotel, Interlaken has changed as well. The Swiss hospitality, vista and cuisine being swapped for the trappings associated with increased tourism from the Far East. The growth in the two or three days visits has swamped the historic appeal, the Beau Rivage is geared towards a large number of guests staying overnight, the foyer resembling a station or airport check-in concourse.

The area still hold a fascination for those wanting to   experience the vista of the Swiss mountains. The growth in tourism has unfortunately left its mark. Whilst it is an essential element of the local income it is a great shame the historic  facilities  have been overwhelmed  and some of the famous Swiss culture has disappeared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bridlington Station Buffet Bar

Well worth a visit if you are visiting Bridlington and the station. According to the landlord, the Railway buffet bar in Bridlington station is one of the two remaining original bars in the UK. Built in 1902 the bar has remained exactly the same – apart from the addition of a range of collectors paraphernalia and the original lamps were now electrified, oh and the beer was new.

The bar was divided into first and third class, there was no second class facility as the management calculated if any second class passenger complained they could be induced to travel first class. The collection of railway odds and ends may bring back living memories for those able and willing to admit to the recollection. Interestingly the old railway name tag machines, where you embossed a strip of aluminum with your name etc could not be found – yeah I remembered theme as a  child.

One interesting fact; the floor of the first class lounge bore a crack caused when a train ran in the buffers at some speed. Beer was spilt but not so in the third class lounge. The antitheses of the Titanic class system perhaps.

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Very Short Back and One Side Sir.

Recently accused of being an adolescent pensioner, the term meant as a slight actually describes my outlook perfectly. Equipped with a right of passage bus pass and brandishing silver locks, de rigour with members of the wise socio economic group, I sallied forth to explore options for a haircut. Traditionally this involved a barber complete with revolving stripped pole and a six quid investment for a trim, but of late a couple of disasters have steered me towards other options.

The long used barber having retired handed his operation over to a daughter, who although skilled and efficient, regrettably for us both was hospitalised for a while. This broke the cycle, a substitute man-with-scissors was needed. This took the form of a chap from Scotland who has the best craic know to man. His narrative had me in tears, the hair cut session was a delight, but yet a lingering concern after he explained he was self-taught. How does a barber acquire the skills needed on a self-teaching basis apart from acquiring them from practicing, presumably unannounced on the first 20 customers who were subsequently subjected to a progressive learning curve when the post haircut rear view mirror was mysteriously lost for a week or two?

They say the difference between a good and bad haircut is four weeks, I have to concur. After several visits to my Scottish barber friends enquired why I had ridges cut into the top of my hair. Was there fashion link I appeared to be following? Closer inspection revealed it was presumably down to the embryonic skill base of the barber.  In a week or two the ridges became less defined but clearly it was time to move on, a new skill base was needed.

I tried a ladies hairdresser that advertised its male hairdressing ability. The drive to enter the salon was a tad lacking, this was new territory. And what was the drill? Luckily on the day the place was empty so at least no anticipated weird looks from fellow customers. Then the tricky question; what did I want doing? A trim all round was nervously suggested, I mean how lame is that description, but it appeared to be accepted much to my relief. This was going all well and seemed straightforward. Chatting about the weather and holidays to come didn’t stretch the imagination or communication skills, and off she went; snip, snip etc. Fairly early on in the sequence I noticed a significant chunk of hair was missing from above the left ear. Perhaps it was the benchmark to trim down to, in itself rather scary, as it was desperately short. The young lady had also spotted the mistake, paused deciding on whether I would notice or whether she could spin it as a fashion statement like the shorn patch where kids have hieroglyphics cut with a beard trimmer. We both drew breath realising the visit to her salon was in all probability now a one-off event.

Back home I was duly inspected. The comment  it was “different” heard through a hand  placed over the mouth in a vane attempt to stifle laughter helped not at all. Further tips suggesting that if I place a cupped hand over my ear – as if answering a phone nobody would notice. Not the outcome I was hoping for and what about the lengthy periods in between “calls”. I was resigned to the asymmetric look for some weeks although this provided unexpected street cred. Lopsided presented a positive fashion statement to many predominately younger souls. I was in. A visit to Boots tempted me to try a grooming product in an attempt to train the top hair to drift across the shorn area. whilst things reestablished themselves. A further irrational decision saw me walk out of Boots armed with a substance called grooming clay. For the uninitiated this has adhesive characteristics that makes super glue seem like flour and water paste. It allows about three  seconds from application to achieve a permanent immoveable set able to withstand 90 mph winds without a twitch. Regrettably if the desired effect is not achieved within the three seconds…….! Running a comb through it just ripped the teeth from the comb and sleeping with a hair set like chicken wire was not easy. Luckily hot water and shampoo weakens  the molecular structure sufficiently to wash the stuff down the plug hole. If anyone wants a tube of matt clay grooming glue with one squirt used just let me know.

The bad haircut finally approached the four-week duration. I gave it seven weeks to ensure the additional foliage masked the scalping from the next hairdresser by. It was a vain attempt to avoid the “who gave you this haircut?” moment. This is where salvation was discovered in the form of Fran at “Two’s Company” hairdresser on the outskirts of Leeds.

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The salon posted an enticement; men’s hairdressing also available. The salon is like a film set, besieged with all manner of gubbins and technical kit of no known use to mere males whose experience extends to red and white barber poles. Q in the James Bond films had met his match. Decked out in black smock with what looked like a shoulder brace from American football to stop cut hair falling into the depths of ones apparel I was plonked in a chair, faced the mirror and waited for the tutting to begin. Fran ran her fingers through the hair; this was an unexpected plus I thought, but the moment vapourised when I distinctly heard a stream of Hail Mary’s being muttered. The damage had been spotted.

Like the professional she is Fran announced she was not going to cut the hair too short, omitting the obvious – like you had last time. Relieved, I was in the hands of master, or rather mistress  – but after the hair fondling I think it best to say master to avoid repercussions from Ray who is (a) Fran’s husband and business partner (b) was standing nearby armed with scissors idly clicking which I quickly surmised could have consequences – and the possibility of a deliberate repeat of the previous disaster.

ray-portThe process began. Clearly the barbers use of powered hair trimming or shearing equipment is shunned by the professional preferring the deft use of scissors to cut and correct. Without doubt the best haircut I have ever enjoyed. To say I look stunning is an understatement, and OK, possibly also an overstatement but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and looking in the mirror is certainly enough to convince me.

The process took slightly longer than a fully mechanised barber but the output was of an infinitely higher quality. The loose hair being blown away with a hair dryer set on low heat produced a far superior cleaning effect than the average barber with his little white brush. The hair dryer/blower was the only thing mechanical used, the little grey particles of seven weeks output of the follicles being blown into oblivion. But what still remains a mystery is what the various pieces of equipment hanging from the ceiling are actually used for.

For the sake of clarity readers should note the photo of me below was taken before I became an Adonis with a Two’s Company haircut.

 

 

Two’s Company Hair Salon

579 Selby Road

Leeds

LS15 8PX

Tel: 01132 328988

Olympic Village Rebirth As Queen Elizabeth Park

Just what happens to an Olympic village after the athletes have gone home. Every four years the host nation promises a legacy that emerges with the transfer of the facilities to the nation. The London Olympics were no exception. Now open the public the location has been transformed from the intense sporty bits to a leisure facility surrounding the remaining operational buildings after what seems a zealous cull.

Although the success of the modifications to the London Olympic facilities are yet to be proven, regrettably the world is littered with the relics of Olympic games that never stood the test of time and lie unused, decaying in faded glory.

The park is still to grow in popularity. My trip on the tube from central London revealed some empty seats and most of the passengers were on their way to the shopping mall alongside the Olympic park.

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A rare sight, empty seats on a London tube train.

Comes as a shock to see what the £9.6 billion cost of the London Olympics actually bought. Chuck in the extra £580 million now being spent to modify the place and it all seems a colossal fee for what is actually left for futures generations. The swimming pool, cycling velodrome and main stadium remain but look so much smaller than expected. The TV camera can play tricks.

The Olympic Park numbers to date include:
  • 4,000 trees planted
  • 300,000 wetland plants
  • 525 bird boxes, many set in the bridges
  • 150 bat boxes, some located in the Olympic Stadium structure
  • 8 toadflax habitat patches
  • 4 grass snake egg laying sites
  • 2 kingfisher nesting banks
  • 2 sand martin banks
  • 2 otter holts

 

Olympic pool

The Aquatics stadium
The site is still work in progress with what seems miles of boarding to separate the visitor from the civil engineering. Plants shrubs and trees are still being planted at a pace. Overall it gave the impression the ideal time for  a visit would be in five years time, when the building work is complete and the shrubbery matured.

The whole park is equipped with an abundance of seats but very few  toilets. There is however water everywhere; rivers, canals and fountains which exacerbates the need for a pee. The park is dissected by the River Lee, the Limehouse Cut  canal, and some wetlands. Now all cleaned up the park shows little signs of the gruesome waste land that was before.

 

Main Stadium Olympic Park

As you travel around Europe most old buildings seem clad in scaffolding  as their ancient structure is renovated. The Olympic stadium is also clad in scaffolding whilst the top deck is removed. Spending cash to destroy, sorry modify the stadium seems a hideous way to spend money.

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Main Stadium undergoing modifications to house West Ham Football Club.
The Velodrome is worth visiting. The futuristic building is highly functional and possibly one of the few stadium where the spectator gets a great view of the action. You are able to have a squint inside from the spectators area that circulates the track where you can find a very reasonable priced cafe and TOILETS! Watching the cyclists being schooled on the track allowed the spectator to see close up just how steep the end banking on the track is.

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Velodrome

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The London Olympic games were heralded as a sporting and organisation success. It seems a shame the event costs such a huge sum of money to stage and that the aftermath is a desperate bid to make some use of the facilities which now look a little lost.

 

Bose New In Ear Sound Cancelling Head Phones QC20i

Listening to music on the go has reached new heights with the release of the latest QC20i noise cancelling headphones from Bose shown on the left.

Having had the model “Quiet Comfort 15” over ear cans for a couple of years I have always been impressed with the quality of the phones. They are an absolute essential for aircraft flights – short or long haul. Shutting out the rushing noise from the aircraft pressurisation system is a sublime luxury. If you are plugged into an iPod or iPhone so much the better as once you have listen to the safety info you also shut out the endless, and predominately pointless announcements over the PA system; an outstanding luxury on budget

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For guys who wear glasses to watch the in-flight movie the cans push onto the side arms. Not so with the new QC201.

The original Quiet Comfort 15 system had a couple of disadvantages. There is a need to remove them to hear anyone want to speak to you; like “Would you like a drink from the trolley sir.” Secondly, they can weight a bit heavy after a couple of hours, if you wear glasses they squeeze the side arms into your head and lastly if you get a touch of the nods and the earphone touches the headrest the noise of the aircraft is then transmitted through the earphone. The startled produced look can be upsetting to fellow travelers.

The size of the travel pouch require degree of forethought to extract them from the carry on baggage before sitting down, especially of you are marooned in the window or mid aisle seat.

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New QC20i pouch shown on the left, Quiet Comfort 15 travel pouch shown on the right. iPhone shown in top for size comparison.

Imagine the delight of trying the new QC20i noise cancelling headphones from Bose. These compact, lightweight headphones fit into the ear. Impossible to consider the performance could be equal to the larger over ear headphones. But this is exactly the result and the storage package is about the size of the pouch for your iPhone.

The lightweight format makes them far more comfortable and crucially they come with a switch whereby you can cancel the noise deadening facility. You don’t have to take them out of your ear or dangle one earpiece whilst the drink order is being placed! Slipping them into your pocket makes them infinitely more portable and with the easing of the restrictions in the use of electronic equipment in the aircraft cabin during landing and take-off the use is greatly extended.

The rechargeable battery is claimed to last 10 hours so t should see you through most long haul flights. If like me you fly to Australia you may run out range but the body needs some sleep? Just remember to switch the headphones off, although then you then loose that beautifully quiet environment.

Bel Trio, Quel Due and The Dwyers Present Future of Music

The arts are taking a server hammering during the recession. Government cutbacks have a substantial impact, not just now but in providing the structure for the future. Performing arts arguably incurring the greatest effect.

It is good to see that many have adjusted to the new challenge. Not a perfect solution but many a great idea is born through necessity. The Leeds College of Music and the Leeds City Council have joined forces to present their winter series of one hour lunchtime Chamber music concerts. Incredibly this series is free. Some brilliant young musicians showcase their talent giving the audience a delight and the musicians the experience of playing to an audience.

There is a retiring collection which pays the travel expenses, and being up north causes a small dilemma. How much is a minimum contribution? It’s free thus is should be something approaching nowt. But that can’t be right? The nominal donation is around £1 which means the range of donation is around 20p to £5. Perhaps the organisers need to remove the element of choice or pre-empt the donation. A minimum of £1 per head should generate a lot more vital funds for the college or help offset the costs.

In the meantime, if you pardon the pun, recent examples of some brilliant budding musicians, whose skill is enlarged by their youth were Bel Trio a string ensemble, Quei Due a jazz duo with Caterina Comeglio a very skilful Italian born singer and Adam Taylor on the guitar, and this week a due of harpists – naturally from Wales who were also sisters. You’ve got to be from Wales to be a harpist and if you are called Elfair and Rhiain Dyer so much the better.

 

If you are in Leeds on a Wednesday at 1 o’clock to 2 o’clock at the Leeds college of music it is well worth a visit – and a donation!

Beware Of Freebies.

Retribution can take many forms. A novel form was seen recently  in a Sicilian open air lounge bar set in a small square halfway up a steep hill. Picture the barmy night, relaxed atmosphere, LED lighting effects and soft music. The welcoming host beckons you in and seats you in a white leather sofa. Nuts, crisps, olives and something with hot bite entices to a drink out of necessity. As you glance at the menu the prices fade in and out of focus to the sound track of the Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”  The knife, the shower curtain, you know the one.

Brave souls leave at this point and climb the narrow steps that lead from the bar. Here is where the novel form of retribution steps in. The bar owner deals with freeloaders who have eaten his crisps but failed to order a drink by waiting  until the assailant is about 30 steps up or down the slope and lobs an olive with an accuracy honed over the years. It’s dark, the target never quite sure what it was or where it came from can only surmise the following morning as to how a black or green oily stain has appeared in the middle of the tee shirt. Apparently the bar man uses an un-stoned olive if you don’t leave a tip. There’s a moral somewhere; maybe by lowering his prices the bar owner would save a fortune on olives.

Ghent Hot Chocolate

The world is a better place for chocolate. And before you ask I am of the male gender so that statement has even more relevance. Females of course have a chocolate gene inbuilt into their DNA  thus liking chocolate to them is akin to drawing breath. Like most foodstuffs chocolate has suffered good and bad press over the years. At the moment it’s on the accent, the greatest ingredient ever known with an innate ability to cure every known disease, or at least disguise the symptoms. The research; thought to have been conducted by a bunch of females during a visit to Thornton’s may have a bias but what the hell.  My research centres on the presentation of hot chocolate. No I though of it first you go and find your own research topic. I believe the presentation and taste of this delicacy indicates a cultural statement of such impact it beggars belief  a government department is not involved. OFCHOC or more appropriately ONCHOC would probably headed by our man Eric Pickles.

My latest review centres on the preparation served by the Leonidas chocolate shop in Ghent. Being in Brussels gives them a huge head start. The presentation was incredible and the taste divine. All they have to work on now is the art of serving it hot. But I can live with the other two parameters in the meantime.

See also Hot Chocolate in Sintra

 

Moulin Des Farges Chambre D’Hote and Gite

If you are touring France looking for somewhere to stay that has comfortable accommodation and a warm welcome to the wary traveler there are great alternatives to a hotel. The French  grading system of bed and breakfast( Chambre D’Hote ) or self-catering (Gite) takes some beating. The Moulin Des Farges near Meymac in  La Correze district of the Limonsin lies in an excellent class of its own.

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The water mill set in a hidden valley has been extensively renovated by the owners over the past eight years. Andrew and Georgina Fern opted for a life style change having become jaundiced by their previous careers in retail. Swapping their profit target driven existence with constant head office pressure and the grind of the London commute for the calm of a watermill set in rural Limousin. The only downside; it was a total wreck. Over the years the profits from the Gite have been reinvested to gradually renovate the facility to the current arrangement of five superb double rooms furnished in rural French style. And there plans to carry on; Andrew and Georgina are eying the remaining barn as the next project.

IMG_0275Their previous life as managers with Marks and Spencer’s has taught them the way to arrange décor and food fayre with style, although now both are locally sourced. The Moulin Des Farges was discovered after a three year search for their dream location. Nestled in a six acre plot equal energy was required in the building renovations and the landscaping and terracing of the gardens and mill race lake. Whereas most people would be satisfied with a few statues in the garden, hidden out of sight from the house at the end of the lake is a 60 foot high viaduct adding a huge wow factor to the setting.

The house is full of original charm, modern plumbing and the considerable enthusiasm of the hosts that made the stay memorable. If you want to test resolve; instead of sending an email confirming your arrival time and requirement for the table d’hote meal send the email by mistake to your drafts file instead! This results in your unexpected appearance with your hosts completely unfazed. The cuisine sampled with the table d’hote meal – made at the drop of a hat “from bits and pieces” and the inclusive breakfast the following morning was excellent. It was a delight to watch the versatility of the team. One minute Andrew had a chain saw in his hand the next scrubbed into a chef’s apron.

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Not only are Andrew and Georgina excellent chefs they have an excellent selection of music selected to sooth. Typical of their attention to detail – the sound system extends from the dining room to the outside terraces.  The range of terraces outside, one which includes the swimming pool, demonstrate the attention to the landscaping which has resulted in some delightful gardens and secluded spots. Although the gite is becoming very popular there is always space to withdraw and dream a while.

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The only drawback was finding the location. It’s about three miles from the centre of the delightful medieval village of Maymac. Off the local tourist map and unknown to our sat nav that was having one of its stroppy days. The hosts are on the case and promised additional signage to encourage the feint hearted who needed directional reassurance especially after a long day .

www.moulindefarges.com

Moulin des Farges 19250 Meymac

0033 555460648
mobile 0033 669466427

 

 

 

 

 

 

NHS 111 Road Test

It happened rather suddenly, way too fast for my reactions to cope with. The scene is set in the garden. Pulling a rose sucker out with the left hand, let’s not argue that the damn thing should have been cut not pulled. The sucker suddenly let go allowing the significant potential energy stored in the left arm; A, to be turned in an acceleration force moving the left hand in the direction of the right hand; B at considerable speed. Unfortunately right hand B was holding a hand fork; prongs neatly aligned with the wrist of the left hand. A met B whereupon the potential energy transformed into kinetic energy allowing A to imbed itself onto one of the prongs of item B. I had indeed stabbed myself with a garden fork.

It was pretty obvious once the shock of the incident had subsided it was going to hurt like hell. I was not disappointed. Although not a fan of gardening procedures I was still, instantly, able to deduce this was far from  recommended practise. The process of lobbing the fork at full toss in the general direction of elsewhere – whilst uttering a diatribe in my best Anglo Saxon helped not at all. I was tit of the week and that’s all there was to be said.

The puncture, being the width of the left hand prong was not huge, but it was clear the unorthodox event was best avoided, at all cost. The throbbing wrist, the trickle of blood the embarrassment, the now lost fork all contrived to mask the real problem. How much of the good earth of Yorkshire had been injected into the wrist and were the tetanus jabs up to date? Good question, the answer was I hadn’t a clue. The history and status of ones tetanus shots is not something I tend to cast into the immediate access memory bank. Frankly it isn’t something I have previously given a lot of waking thought to. I needed reassurance that the impact of B into A had not wreaked  biological havoc beyond the initial trauma.

Sunday morning is logically best avoided as the time to conduct medical science. The people who know about tetanus are reading the Sunday supplements, at home, in the pub or on the beach. They do not form an orderly queue of peeps able to help. And so to my introduction to 111 the new National Health Service helpline telephone number. An easy number to remember; if it’s in use in your area, but unfortunately a little too close to room 101, the TV programme where celebrities discard their undesirable bête noir. The adverse publicity about the service is now legend so having to use it was approached with trepidation.

Three rings and the 111 was answered. This seemed odd…but we were immediately launched into the eponymous data protection act overkill needed to prevent some solicitor’s suing on your behalf. The t & c’s of the service were read out at high speed like the conditions of a radio advert, at which point I normally retune to another station. Room 101, sorry  NHS 111 was stacking up to an “all of our advisors are busy at the moment” announcement. But it didn’t. I was straight through to an advisor who reviewed the nature of the injury, my condition and recommend that I visit the A&E at the local hospital for antibiotics and a tetanus jab. Bingo, brilliant, slick, informative and reassuring in one three minute call.  In four I was en route to the hospital with my wife who similarly reassured, decided to vocalise the nature of my self- inflicted injury in a growing number of deprecating witticisms. My tit of the week accolade being significantly superseded.

At the A&E message boards were flashing four hours wait as a presumed positive. The triage nurse looked as my massive life threatening, pain generating puncture, with suitable distain and reaffirmed my tit of the week status. Five minutes later the clinical practitioner had cleaned the injury, stuck sutures and a plaster, whacked tetanus in the arm and sent me packing with some antibiotics. The whole visit was over in 45 minutes. Brilliant, from 111 to home in one easy movement. But luck was with me. The timing of the injury was critical. If you are going to stab yourself with a garden fork choose a Sunday morning at around 10:30 am after all the Saturday night drunks have gone home and before the Sunday morning sports injuries arrive. 10:30 is ideal for the Tit of the week brigade and we can reassure ourselves we have helped in some odd way to bring the average waiting time down.. ..

 

Chateau des Lys Chambres d’hotes

Staying in France always has its rewards. Hopefully good weather but the food and scenery will inevitably compensate for most ills making any trip rewarding.  Accommodation ranges from the super luxurious, five star haute cuisine to Gite self-catering. It’s difficult to go wrong primarily as the French have a way with hotels – with many of the British chains having learnt a trick or two from their French counterpart. The area where we, on the whole, struggle in the UK is being able to offer lodging based in the equivalent of the delightful historic French grand houses; the Chateaux of France. And one of that is well worth a visit is the Chateau Des Lys, 10 kM from Abbeville in Picardy.

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The French accommodation price structure often means it’s cheaper to stay in France, including the ferry and petrol costs, than stay in the UK. Adding the attraction of staying in one of these grand houses has opened the door to a market that has injected new enthusiasm and cash to repair and renovate these marvelous old buildings. One such hidden delight is the Chateau Des Lys which is now in the process of a gradual makeover by the new owners. The Chateau offers a range of seven delightful chambres d’hotes rooms and three Gites and a private wing able to accommodate large parties.

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The original house was significantly extended during its previous use as a boarding school. The school kitchens, classrooms, dormitories and extensive grounds have now been captured in accommodation options that have become a haunt for both parties from Paris and discerning individuals. The Chateau De Lys can swallow 30 or more guests who are able to use the salon room as an ideal venue for product briefings, team building or gatherings of friends and family. The professional kitchens are offered on a self-catering basis or are used by the enthusiastic hosts to prepare the meals for the guests.

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Set in 14 acres of woodland the grounds are a delight offering the chance to spot red squirrel, deer and lycra clad joggers ripping around the outer circuit. Perhaps ripping is the wrong term for lycra. The well-equipped gym lays testament to a delusion we all suffer; only the brave can look a rowing machine in the eye on holiday.

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The Chateau, originally built circa 1850, like any old building needs love and affection to maintain its structure and integrity. Renovation and repair need great care and consideration. The new owners (from 2013) are in the process of reinstating many of the features lost or hidden over the years. This regretfully may include the deletion of the anachronistic bar and disco hidden in the cellars – unless the owner’s 19 year old daughter wins the day.

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The rooms are being tastefully redecorated.  Reverting to a more traditional style is the overall remit of Tim and Margreeth, the new owners. It will take time and the reinvestment of a huge portion of the profits. One of the delights of staying there now is the possibility of seeing the place again in the future. Like the National Trust, the project to fully restore the Chateau is being carried on as work in progress and it’s good to know anyone staying there is helping the project along.

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The location just a couple of hours from Paris and Lille, and one hour from Calais and Dieppe makes it an idea first or last staging post for any one touring France from the UK. The hosts are able to serve a delightful Table d’hote meal in the evening (by arrangement) where you could be serenaded by Tim who was a professional musician of some note. And in contrast to the conventional and wholesome continental breakfast available, Tim is known to prepare a full English breakfast, which ironically has the French enthralled.

www.chateaudeslys.nl

 

Rue de Port le Grand,

Sailly-Flibeaucourt, 80970

France

Phone: +33 322 285 343

Email: chateaudeslysfr@gmail.com