Monday, 24 December 2012

BLOG #97 - BIRROTECA AL MARLO PARLANTE, CAGLIARI

 
Ahhhh… Christmas; seems like only a year ago since the last one. My mum, bless her, truly loved this time of the year for as she used to say it was the one occasion she got to strangle a turkey!

It’s a shame we don’t see so many poinsettias around the Christmas table these days and it seems that these tender plants, once so much a feature at this time of year, are now rarely displayed at Christmas-time. Am I right? The main problem is that the plant requires good light away from direct sunlight and draughts. And where temperatures fall below 55ºF (13ºC), the plant is then at risk, and of course overnight temperatures much lower than this occur in homes in the UK. Poinsettias thrive in the temperate conditions of Central America. In fact when mum got a couple of poinsettias each mid-December, she was unaware that the short trip from Bardill’s Garden Centre to home, with the plants in the cold (often frozen) back of the hatchback, was enough to see their early demise and it was a toss-up to see what would endure longest during the holidays – the turkey or the deadened bracts of the poinsettia?

It’s nice to see these plants adorn shop windows and fronts in this part of Sardinia. They naturally colour up during the shortest days of the year.


Buone Feste…
 
 
 
 
 
Al Merlo Parlante - Birroteca
via Portoscalas, #69
09100 CAGLIARI 
Tel: 070 653981
 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

BLOG #96 - IL BIRRIFCIO di CAGLIARI, CAGLIARI




So nice to get away from the pre-Christmas frenzy and have  the chance to relax in some warm Mediterranean sunshine, with just a gentle sea breeze as accompaniment. Cliff Richard-free zone to boot. Mistletoe and wine? No thanks...I'm more of a poinsettia and birra man myself.

The thought often occurs to me when abroad, why we British never take the trouble to at least learn some of the basics of the host language? Even if it's a simple "Grazie mille!" or Auguri” - only in Italy though with those...

As an English-speaking nation, we’ve been indulged by the large number of people connected with the tourist industry speaking very good English. Who expects the locals to speak our language when you are abroad, anyway? It's ridiculous to assume that everyone understands English when travelling to the Continent and beyond.

And if you speak slower, louder, and with/without a local accent, you’re still speaking English, and they still won’t understand you. You only end up looking like a total prat!

US author James A Michener (1907 - 1997) once said of travel, “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”
 

Buon Natale...


Il Birrificio di Cagliari
via (Isaac) Newton, #24
CAGLIARI
09134
Tel: 070 456 0569













 
 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

BLOG #95 - WETHERSPOON (T2), BIRMINGHAM INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT


Cadbury's have come up with a chocolate bar, exclusively for women.

Called the Crispello, the chocolate bar is aimed shamelessly at the female demographic, and specifically at weight-conscious women who have been moving away from chocolate altogether, resulting in a 6.6% slump in the £800m annual single chocolate bar market. Kraft, Cadbury's parent company, says the bar will be "… a lighter way to enjoy chocolate", marketed under the tagline "a little treat for you".



[Incidentally, I once got a peanut stuck in my ear and my GP recommended I put some melting chocolate into the ear canal to remove it. He was right - it came out a Treet! But we digress...]

Crispello, a mix of wafer and chocolate from the Fererro Rocher school of confectionery, comes in at 165 calories in 3 re-sealable packages, so that women can help themselves to "a little at a time rather than in one go". Hmm... this is women we are talking about, isn't it? One package at a time? Are you being serious? 


And while Crispello's 165 calories might be nearly 100 calories fewer than 260 for a Mars, a Flake has only 180 calories - and you can stick it in your Mr Whippy. What's wrong with a Yorkie, anyway? - a proper chocolate bar that and fit for any woman!






Wetherspoon (T2)
Airside, Terminal 2
Birmingham International Airport
BIRMINGHAM
B26 3QJ
Tel: 0121 781 7880

Saturday, 17 November 2012

BLOG #94 - THE 3rd SALTBURN BEER FESTIVAL, COMMUNITY and ARTS CENTRE, SALTBURN-by-the-SEA, N YORKS




"Don’t give me a problem unless you have a solution".
 
When this becomes the mantra that a manager consistently conveys, you have to ask yourself “If you’re not going to manage this, what on Earth do you actually get paid for, at three times my salary?” since this response to raising a problem has become a norm with some organisations.
 
I don't care if it's part of blue-sky thinking...
 
The key message surely is that the systems and working practices that we implement function exactly the way they were designed to work – but these systems could be either of our action, and/or of our inaction. If we don’t think the systems work, they need to be changed and that often involves procedures, rules and protocols.

When I hear the above comment from a manager, I think to myself that this is a person who happily abdicates responsibility and if staff get it wrong, he/she can deny all knowledge…
 
 




 




The 3rd Saltburn Beer Festival
Saltburn Arts and Community Centre
Albion Terrace
SALTBURN-by-the-SEA
North Yorkshire TS12 1JW
Tel: 01287 624997

 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

BLOG #93 - THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON INN, DANBY, ESK VALLEY

 


 
Remember,
Remember,
The …..

I forget the rest.

A giant effigy of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong went up in flames last night as part of one of the biggest bonfire parties in the UK.

Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for alleged doping offences, was chosen as this year's celebrity guy at the Edenbridge Bonfire Society display in Kent, pipping the likes of Jimmy Savile and Chancellor George Osborne to the dubious honour after suggestions from members of the public.

Unlike his career, which has already crashed and burned, the effigy of Armstrong went out with a bang last night as fireworks shot from his 30ft high body which was stuffed with oil soaked newspapers.


The effigy came complete with a 'Jim Fixed It For Me' medallion and a sign which read 'For Sale, Racing bike no longer required'.



 

 


The Duke of Wellington Inn
2 West Lane
DANBY
North Yorkshire YO21 2LY
Tel: 01287 660351
www.dukeofwellingtondanby.co.uk
 











Saturday, 20 October 2012

BLOG #92 - THE VICTORIA INN, DURHAM




They’re everywhere!

The Royal Mail small red rubber band is used extensively by the state-owned postal delivery service in the UK. The Royal Mail uses a staggering 1billion rubber bands annually to tie together bundles of letters at sorting offices. In recent years, complaints about Royal Mail rubber bands littering the streets of Britain have given rise to ongoing press interest in this minor cultural phenomenon.

In a response to a Freedom of Information Act request made to the Royal Mail in December 2008, the company disclosed that it used the following numbers of rubber bands in each of the following years:-








2005/06 - 753,480,000

2006/07 - 825,750,000

2007/08 - 871,695,000

2009/10 - 760,000,00

According to the Daily Record  newspaper, costs for rubber bands in the 2007/8 period were £982,677. Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph  showed that between 2007 and 2011, spending on elastic bands increased by 40%. In 2009/2010, this meant that one rubber band was being used for every 28 letters that the Royal Mail delivered.

Complaint and comment on the theme of discarded rubber bands is a recurring focus of media interest. A Times newspaper story in 2006 — "Posties' red rubber bands stretch public's patience"— is fairly typical. It revealed a campaign by the London Borough of Lewisham's mayor complaining that an estimated 5,000 bands are dropped in his borough each month; it highlighted the response to a November 2005 BBC Radio Essex programme in which listeners were asked to send in found rubber bands; allegedly 10,000 were received; and made a range of more or less whimsical suggestions for the re-use of such bands — as rubber balls, "chopsticks for butterfingers" and rubber band tanks.

In April 2009, the Keep Britain Tidy  campaign involved itself in the issue as part of its Big Tidy Up  campaign, and returned some 13,000 bands that had been collected by the public to the Royal Mail. The campaign, together with a similar initiative by the Keep Scotland Beautiful  organisation, once again raised the profile of the issue, garnering coverage in the mainstream press.

The Royal Mail emphasises that it instructs staff to re-use and not to abandon rubber bands, and that in mid-2004 it changed the colour of bands used from brown to red so that that they are easier to spot and retrieve. The Royal Mail has never been fined for rubber band littering; and that contemporary red rubber bands are designed to be more biodegradable than previously used brown bands, so as to lessen the environmental impact. Apparently RM is seeking to redesign certain processes to make the bands obsolete.





The Victoria Inn 
86 Hallgarth Street,
DURHAM DH1 3AS
Tel: 0191 386 5269


Monday, 8 October 2012

BLOG #91 - QUEEN'S HEAD, LONDON, E14

Would you Adam and Eve it?
 
The Queen Mum pulling a pint of Young's and then downing her pig's ear in an East End rub-a-dub-dub!
 
Whatever next? Her Maj parachuting into a sports stadium! The third in line to the throne caught stark-bollock naked in a Nevada hotel? Surely, not!
 
Well in July 1987 the unthinkable happened. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in one of her many visits to London's East End visited the Queen's Head and not only served herself a pint of Young's but was game enough to quaff it, proclaiming "Never mind the champagne, this is much better!”.
 
It had not been part of the protocol for the day of course, but the Queen Mother proved a willing barmaid. At one time a polished brass plaque commemorating this event was sited on the pillar next to the handpump she used - is it still there? A photograph of the pint pulling episode seemed to feature in just about every Young's pub soon after, as I remember...
 

It has been suggested that York Square (pictured), on the corner of which sits the Queen's Head, was the model for Albert Square in BBC TV's EastEnders, and that the Queen's Head is actually the pub the Queen Vic was based on.  I don't know about that, but the pub is a Grade II-listed building (built 1855) in an elegant Georgian residential square of Regency style terraced houses. The square was given conservation status in 1973 and this was further extended in area to form the York Square Conservation Area of 2008.
 
 
In the mid 1980's the CAMRA East London and City Beer Guide described the pub as one of only two Young's pubs in Tower Hamlets (the other was/is the Coborn Arms which was taken over by Young's in 1984), and the QH was popular with locals, with darts available in the Public Bar (one of two rooms). The fact it was tied to Young's brewery was its USP as far as I was concerned. It could be cliquey though... 
 
Without a doubt the QH is what you would once call a typical East End boozer, off Commercial Road and near Limehouse.

Since the substantial redevelopment of London's East End in the Docklands, together with the encroachment of the City to beyond Aldgate East, a lot, in fact a helluva lot of traditional pubs like the Queen's Head have gone.
 
 
 
It now seems that the Queen’s Head is facing closure as part of a wider property sell-off by Tower Hamlets Council. The pub is being put up for sale along with the Blue Anchor in Bow and the Old Ship in nearby Shadwell. The future of the pub is uncertain as new owners have the opportunity to either continue the lease or end it and redevelop the site, as has happened to countless other pubs in the area.
 
 


 
 



Queen's Head
  8 Flamborough Street,
LONDON E14 7LS
Tel: 0207 791 2504
Nearest tube: Limehouse DLR
'Buses: 15, 115, 135, D3
 
 

Sunday, 30 September 2012

BLOG #90 – CROCKER’S FOLLY (CROWN), ST. JOHN’S WOOD, LONDON NW8





I wonder if the good people of Glocca Morra ever wonder how things are over here?

The first CAMRA North London Beer Guide (1985?) describes the St John’s Wood district of north London as once part of the Great Middlesex Forest. The land was eventually acquired by the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem in mediaeval times (1323). It later became part of the Royal Hunting Grounds of Marylebone Park under Henry VIII
 
 
 
At the heart of the district today is the Marylebone Cricket Club – Lord’s. The surrounding area is largely residential – with a mixture of smart houses and expensive apartment blocks and more modest dwellings that belie the reputation of NW8 as a metropolitan Frinton-on-Sea. 

This variety extends to its pubs. The Clifton  was a former hunting lodge 200 years before obtaining a drinks licence, and later hotel status, by King Edward VII. This was to enable him to visit his mistress Lily Langtry at the hotel; as royalty were then prohibited from pubs. It’s a cracking watering-hole to visit during the lunch break at Lord’s. Around the Church St, Maida Vale area of St John’s Wood, the pubs are more bohemian and basic, excepting the Crown (Crocker’s Folly).

The Abbey Road Studios, established in 1931, are also located within postal code NW8.

You should never let a good story get in the way of the truth.

Crocker's Folly… This once grand old pub is now boarded up sadly – from March 2004. It is showing signs of decay, with windows broken and weeds growing out of the plasterwork. It is falling into decline and disrepair.



It is listed for sale at £4.25m, and it would be a shame to lose what was once such an historic pub. It has a wonderful story attached to it, as best described in Ted Bruning's excellent book, Historic Pubs of London (2000) :-






"Here is true folly: folly preserved forever in mahogany and marble, folly on a princely scale, folly so tragic that London has been laughing about it for over a century. Originally The Crown Hotel, this grand pub was built in the 1890s in an unassuming Maida Vale side street by a Kilburn publican named Frank Crocker. And what a palace Frank built!

It had - still has - two bars: a public bar of no more than ordinary magnificence, and a grand saloon with marble bar-top and pilasters, marble stringing, marble archways, even a great marble fireplace; with a magnificent Jacobean-style coffered ceiling of the most intricate plasterwork; and acres of gleaming woodwork.

It is mad - the demented dream of an architect who has overdosed on a mixture of hallucinogens and mason's catalogues. The former billiard-room, now a carvery, is scarcely less ornate: but perhaps the bust of Caracalla is a sly demonstration that the pub's designers were quite conscious of the excess to which their client was pushing them: Caracalla was a Roman emperor known for his architectural excesses and his complete insanity.

The whole thing was the biggest gamble in the history of pubs: the railway was approaching from the north, heading straight as an arrow for Maida Vale. Surely, reasoned Crocker, it would stop right where he was building his palatial pub; and the Crown Hotel would become the Railway Hotel, and a goldmine.

Alas for Crocker! The line turned left a few degrees at St John's Wood, to terminate not at his doorway, but about a mile away, where Marylebone Station now stands. The Crown Hotel was a palace in the middle of nowhere; the grandest folly in London.

 

Crocker, naturally, went bust and then killed himself by jumping out of an upstairs window.

For years the pub mouldered (sic) on as an absurdly grand local; photographs from 1967 show it much as it was built, even down to a few surviving sticks of the original custom made furniture. Only the gas fittings had been changed, and the tawdry little lights with which they had been replaced speak volumes.

In 1983 the Crown was bought by north eastern brewer Vaux, which formally adopted its nickname of Crocker’s Folly and then sold it to Regent Inns*, which now runs at a big, bustling profit. They say Crocker's ghost appears each evening at cashing up time, his dead eyes bulging with spectral envy."
 
 
The pub-cum-hotel was built in 1898/99 by C H Worley for Crocker – and no expense was spared with its construction. Worley's remit was brief, funds were limitless and his elaborate creative designs were paid for and implemented. It is said that 50 types of marble were used inside the building. As I recall it in the mid-80s it still had its superb fittings and a grand entrance and saloon with a sumptuous marble fireplace together with a long white marble-topped mahogany counter to the right – as described by Bruning. Just as impressive was the ornate ceiling in this room – and it was one of three (not two as mentioned) connected bars at this time. The public bar was pretty impressive in its own right, and accommodated bar billiards and darts. The spacious room to the left of the main room was originally a two-table billiard hall and later served as a restaurant (the grub on offer was nothing outstanding though). You could buy beer in the saloon and public bar in quart pots. I saw Dana Gillespie perform in the pub one Sunday night. She was brilliant.

In fact the CAMRA North London Beer Guide stated that Sunderland-based brewer Vaux acquired the Crown in 1984 and undertook a refurbishment programme that brought out all the opulent and luxurious splendour of the Victorian building. The Grade II*-listed venue is included in The CAMRA National Inventory (2003) of pub interiors with outstanding historic interest.  

In reality the truth is a much less dramatic than any story of hotel building in anticipation of the railways and subsequent financial windfall. Frank Crocker died in his bed of natural causes at the age of 41 in 1904 and at the time was a respected member of the community. The suicide tale was thought to be invented by the new owner who had an over active imagination and was probably trying to make a name for the bar (in 1985?). The rail route to north west London had already been excavated and known several years (1894) before Crocker's construction of the Crown in 1899.


*Regent Inns was the parent company of Walkabout, Jongleurs/Bar Risa and Old Orleans pub chains. It went into administration in October 2009.




 


Crocker's Folly (Crown)
St John's Wood,
LONDON,
NW8 8JR

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

BLOG #89 – STAINCLIFFE HOTEL, SEATON CAREW, CO. DURHAM


The emoticon recently celebrated its 30th birthday - :-(

An emoticon is a pictorial representation of a facial expression using punctuation marks and letters, usually written to express a person's feelings or mood. They are annoying in the extreme.

Emoticons are often used to alert a responder to the mood and sentiment of a statement, and can change and improve interpretation (really?) of plain text; emoticons for a smiley face :-) and sad face :-( appear in their first documented use in digital form 30 years ago. The word is a portmanteau of the English words emotion and icon. In web-based forums, emails and text messgaging etc, text emoticons are often automatically replaced with small corresponding images, which came to be called emoticons as well.

Digital forms of emoticons on the internet were included in a proposal by Professor Scott Fahlman of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in a message on 19 September 1982.

Professor Fahlman sent an email that included the first use of the sideways smiley face.

"I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-) Read it sideways." (Hilarious!)

The aim, according to the professor was to differentiate between those emails that were meant to be humorous and those that were not meant to be.

Once the initial email was sent the idea quickly spread to other universities and research labs across the computer network. 

The concept went global within months and has become a widely used communication tool - loved and loathed in equal measure. 

There are many modern day variations of the emoticon which appear mainly as small, yellow computer graphics.

While some are static, others move and express many different emotions. 

Professor Fahlman said that he disapproves of the updated emoticon. He told the Independent newspaper: 

"I think they are ugly, and they ruin the challenge of trying to come up with a clever way to express emotions using standard keyboard characters. But perhaps that's just because I invented the other kind." 

He said he was incredibly shocked that his simple invention took off in the way that it did: "This was a little bit of silliness that I tossed into a discussion about physics."
 


He went on. "It was ten minutes of my life. I expected my note might amuse a few of my friends, and that would be the end of it." 

Sadly not…



Staincliffe Hotel
The Cliff
SEATON CAREW
Co. Durham
TS25 1AB
Tel: 01429 852890

Saturday, 8 September 2012

BLOG #88 – HEAD OF STEAM, DURHAM




 

More Olympics/Paralympics verbiage I’m afraid – for the final time.

As the summer of London 2012 comes to its conclusion and the warm glow that envelops our nation gives way to more prosaic concerns over the economy, jobs and benefits cuts, decline in living standards and goodness knows what, it seems that not everyone shared the feel good factor earlier this week as Chancellor George Osborne was greeted to a chorus of booing from the crowd shortly before he presented medals to the winners of the Men's T38 4oom Paralympics event in the Olympic Stadium. When his name was announced at the medal ceremony it elicited a response from some of the spectators that you could expect at the Empire Theatre, Sunderland, every time the pantomime villain makes his entrance on stage.

But why such a reaction? This is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not the Big Bad Wolf! He’s behind you…unless you happen to be disabled!

Well to be honest it came as little surprise he was given such a negative response from a crowd made up of a high proportion of people affected by the Government's changes to the disability benefit system. In fact you could argue the point that to have Chancellor Osborne at the medal ceremony in the first place shows a glaring error in judgment and lacked sensitivity. People have a democratic right to express their opinion, I suppose; and if they feel they have been negatively affected by the Government’s austerity programme, which includes an overhaul of the assessment process for those claiming incapacity benefit (often a sole source of income), then what did he reasonably expect?


Head Of Steam
3 Reform Place
North Road
DURHAM
DH1 4RZ

Tel: 0191 383 2173
w: http://www.theheadofsteam.co.uk/durham-about-us/
 




Sunday, 26 August 2012

BLOG #87 - BREWERY TAP, PETERBOROUGH (OAKHAM ALES)



A lot has been written recently about pub closures in the UK, either for urban development as in the case of the Brewery Tap in Peterborough (a campaign to stop the bulldozers knocking down the Brewery Tap, as part of Peterborough’s North Westgate development has been running for at least 6 years) or as a result of financial sustainability – some pubs just can’t make ends meet in today’s harsh economic climate. The Brewery Tap, near to both rail and National Express stations, is a welcome bolthole after the 4+ hour coach trip on the X1 from Gorleston-on-Sea…
 

Recent concerns have rightly been expressed about the current hike in beer duty – and in particular the Beer duty escalator – which sees around 5% added to the cost of your pint each year as an automatic increase. In fact the legislation means that beer can be set at 2% above the current inflation rate each Budget and as a result Beer duty has now risen by 42% since the escalator policy was introduced just four years ago. It has meant the loss of over 5,000 jobs this year in the brewing industry, and hundreds of pub closures. A third of the cost of my pint now goes to HM Exchequer. 
 
Wonder whose minding
the kids?
Chloe Smith MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, in a staggering piece of flawed logic has said “The duty increase forms a vital part of the government’s plan to tackle the debt left by the previous government. It would be worse for everybody if we did not tackle that debt. I mean beer drinkers, cider drinkers, spirit drinkers, wine drinkers, brewers and publicans.”

It would seem therefore that as a beer consumer I have an obligation to bail this country out from the financial mess caused by continued Government mismanagement and greedy bankers and at the same time have faith in an administration whose leader is not averse to leaving one of his offspring in a public house (at least it was open) and handed over £650m of UK money to help schools in Pakistan, whilst freezing funds for the maintenance of schools in the UK. It seems that the UK taxpayerr subsidises MPs' bars and canteens in Westminster to the tune of £5.8m a year. Another kick in the proverbials for the beer drinker! Surely subsidised parliamentary bars are now an anachronism if we take Chloe Smith’s comments into account concerning our economic plight. I suggest Chloe Smith turns to somewhere closer to home as a proving ground for her plan to continually hike beer prices. Where better than the House of Commons bars? Stick the price of a pint in the Strangers' Bar at Westminster up to a tenner, and see how it affects beer consumption in the House?

I have paid sufficient tax on my beer since my teens to fund half an Olympic village, at least 5 Royal Navy Sea King helicopters and an NHS maternity unit in Runcorn! I am now expected to contribute to this and previous Government’s mismanagement of the economy - a situation not of my making - by an unfair hike in the price of a pint each fiscal year.

 
 

Brewery Tap
80 Westgate
PETERBOROUGH PE1 2AA
Tel: 01733 358500

Friday, 10 August 2012

BLOG #86 - HIGHFIELD HOTEL, MIDDLESBROUGH

It always happens doesn’t it? You’re in a good mood and maybe life isn’t so bad after all? You’ve got the feel good factor; happiness abounds. Then somebody comes along to p*ss on your strawberries!

Singer Morrissey (is he still going?) describes the home reaction to the success of Team GB at this summer’s Olympics as nothing more than "blustering jingoism" and comparing the mood in the UK to Hitler’s Germany in 1939. The latter statement is presumably apocryphal and has little if any evidence base attached to it – Morrissey was born in 1959.

Whilst the nation has largely got behind Team GB’s medal-winning exploits, the ex-Smiths front-man remains impassive to the bonhomie that has engulfed the Kingdom. In a web address to his fan club, he writes: “I am unable to watch the Olympics due to the blustering jingoism that drenches the event”. The Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now singer (Miserable? You don’t say!) asked: “Has England ever been quite so foul with patriotism? The 'dazzling royals' have, quite naturally, hi-jacked the Olympics for their own empirical needs, and no oppositional voice is allowed in the free press. It is lethal to witness.”

Morrissey, who left Britain to embark upon a European tour after complaining that he had not been invited to participate in the Opening Ceremony, said London was being “suddenly promoted as a super-wealth brand” as the rest of England “shivers beneath cutbacks.” Why would you invite this doom-merchant to gig at an event as celebratory as the Olympics Opening Ceremony anyway? It would be a massive turn-off! Remember this is a bloke who prances about on stage with a bunch of gladioli shoved down the back of his trousers! If you ask Joe Public if they would prefer to watch a spectacular Olympics Opening Ceremony that showcased aspects that have shaped our Kingdom in such a dramatic fashion or sit through a 90 minute Morrissey concert – I think I know what the answer would be! Morrissey has undoubtedly misjudged the mood of the nation.

He confuses patriotism with national pride. This is not 1915 England at war with Bertie Bosch. Lord Kitchener does not need me. I have not offered to take the King’s shilling. Jingoism is extreme patriotism usually expressed in terms of aggressive foreign policy; typically a practice used in times of conflict to safeguard national interest. What we are witnessing is an understandable welling of British pride in our athletes – it has bugger all to do with jingoism, in all honesty.




Highfield Hotel 
Marton Road
MIDDLESBROUGH
Tees Valley
TS4 2PA
Tel: 01642 817638

Saturday, 21 July 2012

BLOG #85 - THE ROUND HOUSE, NOTTINGHAM



Travel chaos; shambolic security; water-sodden venues and possibly stadium capacities reduced.

Just over a week before the London 2012 Olympics start, and the usual doom-merchant tabloids are giving us headlines that include – the G4S security fiasco, London's creaking transport network, a recent poll indicating that only 3/10 Britons are enthused about the forthcoming event – I could go on...

It is quite the catalogue of woe, and nicely summarises a thoroughly downbeat lead-in to the Olympics - save for neglecting to mention the dismal weather, which threatens to disrupt the action. Oh - and the potential strike by dairy farmers! 

But should we really be downbeat about the London 2012 Olympics? Negative stories dominate the headlines, but is that because the positive stories are not so sensationalist? Don't make good reading? A good-feeling story seldom sells - so it appears...


Monday was all about a 32mile tailback on the M4 (not actually Olympics-related), and athletes ‘buses going on four-hour magical mystery tours around London en route to the Olympic village. The more significant story was that London Heathrow (LHR) had its busiest day ever, and came through it almost entirely unscathed. More significant but less interesting. Therefore largely ignored...

And the withdrawal of football tickets is an issue based less on low demand than an excessively ambitious schedule - 50,000 on offer at Hampden Park for Colombia's women against North Korea. Hmm – yes, a bit ambitious that!




This is London and you're talking about tennis at Wimbledon, football at Wembley, Lords Cricket Ground (archery), an impressive Olympic Park, a marathon passing by some of the world's most iconic buildings and beach volleyball in Horse Guards Parade, no less!

London - what better backdrop could there be for an Olympics? What more do you want?

The rest of the world will decide on the success or otherwise of the London 2012 Olympics in a few weeks time. All the ingredients are there for an amazing event though, and I'll be very surprised if it doesn't turn out to be exactly that... Go Team GB!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0GZq2YmpTc - shows video footage of the route from Nottingham Castle to The Round House
 
 

The Round House
Royal Standard Place
NOTTINGHAM
NG1 6FS
Tel: 0115 924 0120


Friday, 20 July 2012

BLOG #84 - STRATFORD HAVEN, WEST BRIDGFORD, NOTTINGHAM


Beer - a universal language of sorts. Beer lovers from all over the world can gather in a British pub, and though they may not speak the same language, they can bond over a decent pint, brewed in the British way – because nowhere is beer a more important part of society than in Britain. Beer is the national drink.
Not least of the things for everyone to celebrate at this year's London Olympiad is the very best of British food and drink. So it follows that some of us find it a little insensitive that a Dutch lager-producing giant has been chosen as the official beer of the 2012 Summer Olympics which starts next week.

Dutch firm Heineken® – they produce lager by the way and plenty of it - was chosen by the International Olympics Committee (IOC) as the official beer of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. What no Fuller's London Pride or Young's London Gold? It certainly knocks the furore surrounding the US team and their uniforms from the People’s Republic of China into a cocked hat! It's a shame that global corporate sponsorship has been allowed to hijack the Games.

As part of the deal, the company's flagship premium beer lager*, Heineken® will be the branded product served at the Games and Heineken UK will have exclusive pouring rights for its limited portfolio of brands (which includes John Smith's Smoothflow and Strongbow cider) at all London 2012 venues where alcohol is served.

Major Rook - Equestrian Olympian
from Nottingham

Greg Mulholland, a Lib Dem Party Member and the chair of the “All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group” recently vehemently criticized the IOC for its thoughtlessness in opting for Heineken®over a British brew.

"Beer is the UK's national drink,” Mulholland said. “and the country has a strong and ancient tradition of brewing; by choosing a mass produced bland foreign lager (you said it, pal!), the Committee has ignored all the wonderful, traditional beers that the UK has to offer and instead gone for the company with the biggest [cheque] book.” Admittedly Heineken® does have plants based in the UK and produces some of its products here, but has closed a lot of breweries in the process.

MP Mulholland went on to say, "The Olympic Games is a prime opportunity for Britain to showcase the best of British, including the opportunity to promote its traditional beers and its thriving brewing industry. By opting for Heineken as the official beer (it’s a lager by the way – admittedly a type of beer), the opportunity has been lost. The decision is completely at odds with the strong positive British identity of the bid and the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics."

In the end, the British public and those from abroad attending the Olympics who want to drink a beer as they enjoy the spectacle will have little choice. Most will merely fork out over £4.50 for their lager and put up with it.

The traditions and heritage of the country seems to matter little to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the body that chooses which sponsors' products will become the “official” items of the Games.



*lager is a type of beer – in the interests of pedantry – and is a term used in the UK to describe the very different product largely brewed outside of these shores using cold temperatures, usually without hops and a bottom fermentation process which all contribute to an insipid, unpalatable offering.




View from outside the Strat



Stratford Haven
2 Stratford Road
West Bridgford
NOTTINGHAM
NG2 6BA
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