Friday, 23 March 2012

I went to the local library earlier today and asked if they had any reading matter on self-help groups - the girl at the desk said - "If I tell you that, it would defeat the object, surely!" Cheeky mare!  

Time on your hands? Thinking of taking up a hobby or pastime? Philately not your thing? Thanks to Middlesbrough Central Library - I may have found just the answer!

Look no further! Building your own coffin (or casket) can be a truly rewarding experience. Constructing your own coffin from salvaged materials can save money (in these cash-strapped times – something to think about) and will reduce the consumption of precious natural resources.

If you are interested in a green or natural burial, then designing and building your coffin can be possible without the use of metal fasteners, such as screws or nails.

A glued rib construction can provide a robust coffin suitable for natural burial cemeteries that require metal-free coffins. All you need is some solid pine lumber and 130 tubes of EVO-STIK™ weatherproof wood adhesive and you’re away (literally!). Must be weatherproof glue mind – for reasons I shouldn’t have to explain!

For handles use some thick cotton rope. Ideally the cotton rope should be 1” or 1¼” in diameter as it provides a soft comfortable grip and adds an attractive, but modest finish to your coffin.

And that’s it! What are you waiting for? Get the toolbox out and sharpen up that plane.
The Old Coach House
69 Easthorpe,
Nottinghamshire, NG25 0HY
Tel: 01636 813289

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


In truth there is very little these days that gets my goat – other than lazy people and shopping in Tesco's in pyjamas – subjects covered in previous blogs. But there is another matter that has annoyed me recently and that is petty bureaucracy and so-called “jobs-worth”.

The owners of a Lancashire fish and chip shop have been forced to take down their Union Jack (Union Flag) sign, as it was described as "gaudy" and "too busy".

Husband and wife owners Peter and Lesley Salthouse have run the Naze Lane Chippy in Freckleton for almost 25 years and were told the sign was not in keeping with the village.
The sign has a simple, but prominent Union Flag in the middle, with two St George's flags on either side.

The couple lodged a planning applicaton after a single complaint spurred the council to take action, but it was denied. They then took their case to the planning inspectorate in Bristol, but they were again rejected.

Lesley, 53, was furious at the council’s decision and said: "We are an English fish and chip shop, yet we cannot even use our own flag to celebrate that”.
Mr and Mrs Salthouse outside their chippy
She added: “Everything else seems to be allowed from different backgrounds, cultures and nations and yet you try to fight for something English and British and it’s snubbed, as far as I’m concerned.”

In fact, Freckleton Parish Council approved the planning application, but it was Fylde Borough Council that denied it on the basis that the design was "oversized and gaudy with too many angles, triangles and colour".

Lesley added: "The council called the sign too busy and gaudy, and by saying that they are effectively insulting the national flag and our history".

Too many angles, colours and triangles? Do I need to take more water with my drink? The Union Flag has been in existence in this form – more or less – since 1606. The current version can be traced to 1801, following the Act of Union in 1800. What do you expect from the Union Flag design-wise, for Heaven’s sake? Flags have angles and triangles... Even an amateur vexillologist will tell you that!

And what are they putting in the hotpot up there in Fylde? Stupid pills? What next - barber's poles to be removed because they have too many stripes or maybe pawnbroker's signs should be changed because they have an excessive number of balls!

I would think twice if you’re considering celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in Lytham St Annes later this year – all bunting will be confiscated anyway and anything geometrically resembling a triangle, or has any other form of angle to it, will be seized the minute you leave Blackpool.

Beggars belief!

Local politicians and nappies have one thing in common. They should both be changed regularly, and for much the same reason.

Malt Cross
16 St James's Street,
Tel: 0115 941 1048

Saturday, 17 March 2012



Top of the morning to all friends from fair Erin’s Isle! If you’re Irish come into this parlour...

Happy St. Patrick’s Day one and all! Gave my shillelagh a good rub and polish before I got out of bed this morning – and much needed it was to!

Unlike a lot of people in the UK who will today claim to be Irish descendants of one kind or another – tracing their roots right back to when all Blarney had was a pebble - I can safely say that I’m 100% pure Anglo-Saxon – with perhaps just a dash of Viking thrown in for good measure! Not one drop of Irish blood in me! To be sure, to be certain!
But I have spent time in Dublin recently and if you find yourself in that lovely city - and don't take in a visit to Davy Byrnes whilst there - then you must have broken biscuits for brains! An open sandwich of Atlantic prawns and a pint of Irish red ale (an acquired taste, admittedly) in Davy Byrnes is the perfect way to while away an hour or two in the early afternoon.

A time to reflect on Dublin's rich heritage perhaps -  to think of notable Irish literary figures such as James Joyce, Brendan Behan and Samuel Beckett - somebody should tell him that Godot hasn't turned up yet, by the way! A truly friendly pub with a cracking atmosphere...

Remember this blog promotes sensible alcohol consumption...

Davy Byrnes
21 Duke St.
off Grafton St.

Friday, 2 March 2012


Last week I had chlamydia, diarrhoea and eczema – first time I’ve ever won a game of Scrabble...

It appears that my comments in the last blog relating to short beer measures have caused something of a stir. It seems it is only in the north that there is this fascination with a creamy beer head. The beer sparkler often used in providing the froth can be removed on request –
but this is usually greeted with bewilderment by bar staff who say things like “You’re not from round here are you? That’s how we drink it here!” That may be the case – but it’s not how I drink it, anywhere...

The beer sparkler is a little plastic device placed on the end of the pump and has lots of little holes, to create tiny gas bubbles as your pint is dispensed. You end up with a creamy head that takes ages to settle. It has nothing to do with the softness of the water and comments and comparisons about wet shaving in London and York have little to do with the creamy beer head on pints so treasured in the north.  

The joy of beer drinking is partly in the way the product is dispensed. I do not like flat beer by the way – and no self-respecting pub landlord would offer a beer that was as flat as a witch’s tit!

At the end of the day – it’s all about choice, I suppose – but there’s nothing more satisfying than a good quality beer.

The Sandpiper Inn
Market Place
North Yorkshire


"When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England"  Hillaire Belloc 1870 – 1953

When you are served 7/8ths of a pint of beer – you are faced with a dilemma... Do you ask for you beer to be topped up or hand over 7/8ths of the full pint price? 

I place lot of importance on beer heads: too much of a head is undesirable because it detracts from the mass of the drink but on the other hand, a beer drink is viewed as incomplete unless it has a head of some sort. Some view beer heads as important because they give off the aroma of the beer. Another opinion is that it is important for the aesthetic look of the beer. Under-filled pints is a widespread practice that costs drinkers as much as £500m a year.

A Sunday Mirror ­investigation last year found two thirds of UK pubs short-changed customers by up to 25p a pint. Their findings were raised with Consumer Affairs Minister Ed Davey by the GMB union, which claims hard-up landlords face financial pressure to under-fill glasses. The union says owners set sales targets that can only be achieved by serving customers less beer.

Industry leaders say the head is an essential part of the pint and customers can ask for a top-up if necessary. It’s worth adding that, in my view, as often as not short measures result simply from sloppy bar practice rather than from any deliberate intention to short-change the customer.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) previously launched a petition calling on the government to end what it describes as a 'rip off'. It claims that one quarter of all pints served fall short of the required 95% liquid content and is costing beer, lager and cider drinkers £1.3m per day. It says its claims are backed up by several Trading Standards surveys carried out since 2004.

The crux of the argument is whether the head (the frothy top) constitutes part of the pint. The drinks trade says it does. In 2005, the last time legislation for a full pint was attempted, the Brewers and Licensed Trade Association argued it would add annual costs of £250m, which would be passed on to customers. CAMRA argues that from a measurement point of view, beer should not be treated differently from petrol or milk and a pint should be 100% liquid.

The thought occurs to me that you are paying well over a £1.00 in Excise Duty and VAT with each pint of beer – and I reckon I’ve paid enough tax in my working life to fund two Centurion tanks, an NHS maternity unit and at least one Royal wedding. When I ask for a pint of beer - that's what I expect - nothing more and certainly nothing less...

The Fountain Hotel
Market Place
North Yorkshire DL8 3RD
Tel: 01969 667206