Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Lovely Buckets

I really have seen it all now. My team and I arrived early for our departmental Xmas lunch, and we saw something that I doubt that paying customers are generally supposed to see. In fact, it really turned my stomach.

One of the waitresses, as bold as brass, was dishing out the bread rolls from a mop bucket. A red plastic mop bucket just like the one we have at home. Now call me old-fashioned, but I don't think you will find this in the book of how to impress your customers. Hygene considerations were attended to, she was, after all, wearing rubber gloves. Not bright yellow Marigolds it has to be said, but something that looked a little more refined than that. If they had been canary yellow, it would have convinced me she had been swilling out the urinals only moments before.

We pondered for a moment how they intended to serve the soup course. One flush or two anyone?

The Marx Brothers

...Or a Day at the Races. Never let it be said that the old adage
"Failure to prepare is to prepare to fail"
doesn't apply even when you are trying to have fun.

We had a company Xmas do last week at the Races, and I didn't do any homework beforehand to study the Racing Post or form guides in the dailies. In fact I only really had one plan not to spend more than a certain amount on betting, at which I consider myself to be a complete novice.

So when we sat down for our meal, and the Tote lady came round explaining about the Jackpot and Placepot cards that were conveniently located in front of each placemat, I didn't really think that I would actually need some of my budget for betting on individual races. So when my two accumulator bets had been blown out on the first race, that rather spoilt the excitement of the subsequent races, as I had literally nothing riding on them.

Like all good budgets however, mine was there for the breaking. My will snapped in the seventh race, and I put a minimum bet on a horse to win. It did, and I at least recouped some of the loss from my earlier rashness. Of course, I then wished I had put rather more on it in the first place, but that is the trouble with betting isn't it.

Being of a technical mind however, what impressed and dismayed me in equal measure was the replacement of the bookies 'book' and simple printed cards with the bet number, with snazzily printed betting slips reeled off from their laptops. It was about ten years since I had been racing.

Is there any part of life into which IT hasn't intruded?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Eighth Wonder

Concrete ideas (a recurring theme) - now a bridge spanning a gorge is a great example of one. Norman Foster's Millau Bridge in the Massif Central in France is a true wonder of the world.

I remember the press coverage when it opened a year ago, but the Top Gear boys went there last week, and I decided to check out the website. The webcam lets you enjoy the weather as well as marvel at the fine architectural design. It is truly astonishing how they managed to construct the thing so far off the ground.

I haven't yet seen the clouds underneath the bridge but that must be a sight to behold.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Never go back...

Did I hear that right? That Britain's answer to the impending 'Energy Gap' is to return to the Sixties and the era of power that was going to be so cheap that it wouldn't be worth metering.

When is it ever right to go back to a technology that has been totally discredited - with the longest lasting pollution of all the power generation methods that have been used over the years. It's like re-introducing CFCs if we get an aerosol deficit. Are we so devoid of ideas now that we have to re-invent the wheel.

OK, so I advocate building on, rather than destroying ideas, but is difficult to see where this one is headed. The basic ingredients of nuclear power are always going to end up with hazardous waste of the most extreme kind. There are two types of pollution: those that you can see, and those that you cannot. They are both bad. Little did we know that burning fossil fuels creates both kinds, and it is the invisible one that is the longest lasting: CO2.

France, one of the biggest fans of nuke power is experimenting with a large hole in the ground to bury the waste. Understandably the locals are objecting. Wouldn't you.

Read the Energy Blog for alternatives please Tony.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Allowing others to build on your own ideas, benefits everyone in the end.

Andrew Brown in today's Guardian has written a very similar critique on the ownership of ideas. Having an idea is one thing, having a good idea is a hundred times better, but exploiting your interpretation of that idea is the notion that needs to be protected, not the idea itself.

No two people will ever read something and have the same reaction to it, or an identical view of it. If you put your idea in the public domain, but make something useful or saleable out of it, then you have a right to ensure that no one duplicates the item that you have created from the idea. The idea itself, can be used to spawn other ideas, and that is best done by the power of collective intelligence, not a single owner.

So this writer advocates that only the concrete instance of an idea should be able to be protected by the law of copyright, not the idea itself. This is not to say that you should not necessarily profit from the use made by others of your intellectual property. If, in using your idea, someone uses your physical instance of it, or a copy, then you should be able to receive a fee, like a type of value-added tax.

People should be able to make money on the difference between their output ideas and their input ideas, just as a company is taxed on the difference between the value for which they sell an object and the value for which they bought the raw materials.

Ideas are the raw materials of the information age, so don't keep them to yourself - trade them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Oxford Calling

It was the quinessential Oxford experience: an meal at Browns - that iconic restaurant, followed by a visit to the New Theatre, for the English National Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty.

My visits to Browns have been few, with many years between, but each visit has been a truly happy one. It simply breathes life at most times of the day and our ballet trip necessitated an early meal, when most restaurants would be soulless and dull. Browns, though, was buzzing with people at 5pm on an autumn Saturday.

The great thing about this place, is that it does un-pretentious food well. I had the beef pie in Guinness and this came with browned puff pastry topping and creamy mash. This is standard pub fare, but better executed than in most alehouses, with a dark, rich gravy enveloping the pie contents.

The family ate well too, with the youngest opting for sausage and mash, which featured bangers that were un-exotic and tailored to a young palate. The eldest had the burger-with-the-works and this came on a ciabatta roll to give it some distinctiveness. My wife chose the Fisherman's pie, which had a good balance of fresh fish and seafood under the mash.

Being a bistro, the service was quick and attentive, and we were easily able to round off our meal with dessert, and hot-foot to the nearby theatre, through the baroque architecture of Oxford.

The New Theatre is anything but - having been the Apollo previously - and was confusingly laid out and cramped as only an older theatre can be. Admittedly we were in the cheap seats in the vertiginous balcony, which people in the row behind compared with the Bernabeu in Madrid. Once we had recovered our composure, we were treated to a brilliantly coloured production of the traditional ballet, Sleeping Beauty, with music by Tchaikovsky.

The production was a re-designed version of the American Ballet Theatre production, re-using the original costumes. These were truly magnificent, especially in the finale, with more gold than the Bank of England. The lead character, Princess Aurora, was danced by Daria Klimentova, and she displayed the true height of her powers in the scene where she is courted by four suitors. In this breathtaking scene, she is wheeled round by each man in turn, for one complete slow revolution, with her on one point, with her leg extended away from her out-stretched hand. In between each revolution, she has to let go, maintain her balance and grasp the next hand. In all she stays on the one point for what seems like an agonising amount of time, but she carried this off with superb grace and elegance.

The story of Sleeping Beauty is a traditional Labour story of ruler brings in nanny-state laws against pricked fingers and the causes of pricked fingers - in this case needles. He does this in vain attempt to stop only child Princess Aurora from dying in manner foretold at her christening by old hag called Carrebosse. Lucky for them they are 'away with the fairies' and the lilac fairy is able to water this punishment down to a mere one-hundred year nap for all concerned.

Equally lucky for Aurora, the lilac fairy has a good memory and finds suitably able Prince Desire, danced by a slightly hesitant on first arrival Dmitri Gruzdyev. The fairy shows the prince a vision of Aurora, and confusingly he dances with her while she is still asleep - a dream sequence as we say in the trade. He is entranced enough to hack his way through the forest with which the fairy thoughtfully surrounded the castle.

You know the ending - Prince kisses Aurora and wakes up whole entourage despite efforts of fairy-gone-bad Carrebosse. This is cue for big wedding scene with interlopers from other fairy tales.

A magical evening finishes as we wend our way through good natured Saturday binge-drinkers to the car.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Lessig is More

Culture is remix. Knowledge is remix. Politics is remix. Everyone in the life of
producing and creating engages in this practice of remix. Companies do it.
Politicians do it... We all do it. This is what life is in the expression of
creativity. Remix is how we live.

This is what Lawrence Lessig, the pioneer of the Creative Commons limited copyrighting system, has said. It brings together ideas from the world of Web 2.0 to Dance music, another of my favourite subjects.

In Dance music, the sample is king and the records and CDs of the past provide fodder for today. No longer constrained by 'the cover version', producers can take a snippet of someone else's work and turn it into something new, the remix. With the proper licensing, and respect paid to the original work, the creative process has built upon and not stolen the creators intellectual property. Less maybe more, but more built upon less can be even more (if you get my drift).

And so it seems to be in the world of Web 2.0 where content is recycled many times by aggregation or services adding value to the services created by others. When a PC is built, the manufacturers don't build all of the components themselves. They are happy to buy in commodity chips and boards. Their intellectual property is in the unique way they have assembled the parts and added their own 'je ne sais quoi'. For many years the software industry has been attempting the same - allowing people to use libraries of code in the run-time of other programs.

The new idiom of a service running on the internet and accessible by http makes that component very accessible, and with a standard interface that any competent programmer can use. If companies make money out of their unique combinations of such services, and allow others to use the component services that they have created then this can push the rate of advance up to exponential levels.

Keeping information private, which companies spend millions doing every year, may before long be seen as pointless and holding back the tide of human endeavour.

Charge for only what you sell, and put the rest of your material in the public domain, should be the philosophy of the new media. The truly creative will get back more than they put in to this democratic exchange. It's a very New Labour economy.

Publish and be damned.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Beginning of the End?

Tony Blair has suffered his first defeat in the Commons. Is this the beginning of the end for this great leader?

He has always stood up for what he believes in; what he believes is right. He has had the necessary powers of persuasion to push through ideas that may have been unpalatable to many in the Labour party. I don't think that he has been on some crazy ego-fuelled power trip, but that he has been a true leader.

Leaders have to take unpopular decisions, as part of some greater plan to improve the way we all go about our daily grind. Leaders do have to listen though, or else they seem out of touch with the people they represent. Getting the balance right between driving through the leader's vision and echoing the mood of the government, of the party is no mean feat.

Tony Blair has managed to stay on the tight-rope since 1997, keeping his footing. He is wobbling, but can he regain his composure, or will he descend into the safety-net of the back-benches, seeing out this last term? If Tony Blair does what he promised to do when he took office with his sharply reduced majority, listen to those around him, I really believe he can stay on and finish the job.

If he doesn't then Gordon is on the bench, awaiting the call to come onto the field and play the striker's role. Gordon Brown has been the most successful Chancellor in recent memory, with his vice-like grip on the nation's finances, and the independent Bank of England right where he wants it - carrying out his interest rate policy with ruthless efficiency. But is he really the man for the top job, does he have the charisma, the connections with the people, the country at large. I fear not. It is a tough substitution to make.

Labour government - keep me smiling - whatever you do: get that fourth term.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Porthcawl "Coast" - yes it's a restaurant

Decent food is hard to find in Porthcawl - where we visited last week, but we were impressed with the cuisine in "Coast" a sleek and modern restaurant in the town.

Porthcawl is a big tourist destination in South Wales, but on a blustery, rainy Friday lunchtime in late October it is not exactly rammed with people, and neither was the restaurant. This isn't usually much of a good omen, but after ordering in their rather too spacious bar area at the front, we were led to our table and served with our choices.

I had picked the smoked mackerel - which was beautifully presented, perched (no pun intended) on the garlic mash and surrounded by a poached egg, dill and hollandaise sauce. It was a sort of brunch like dish, but was very tasty. It would great for a hangover, but I didn't have one, so even better. My wife had the Chicken and Leek pie, which is a great pub favourite and the children had pitta pizza and lasagne. Of these the only real disappointment was the lasagne, which was a strangely constructed, and seemingly devoid of its customary white sauce. Our host had the Vegetable Soup, which was comfort food for the rainy season.

So, all in all we had a decently cooked set of restaurant and pub classics, in a contemporary setting. That beats most of the competition in the local area.

Saturday was the Cowbridge food festival: our cup runneth over - watch this plate.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Life in Broadfield Village: Secret Crawley: No. 2 - Whalebone Plantation

I would heartily recommend this article for how nature can weave its magic ways.

I find the blog to be highly readable and interesting, so try it for yourself.

My first comment

I was delighted but surprised to receive my first comment on my blog this week. I rushed excitedly upstairs to tell my eldest, who calmly replied, "Yes, that was me".

And to think that for one minute, I actually thought that people read the articles that I write.

Onward & upward.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Pot Lunch

Its obviously a hard job being a TV chef. One moment you're in the studio, cooking up your latest dazzling dish. The next moment you are borrowing a shed-load of cash from your friendly neighbourhood bank manager and buying the local pub.

This is what Mike Robinson has done, by investing his life savings and a lot more besides in the Pot Kiln, in Frilsham, Berks. So what does a chef do with a century old, legendarily hard-to-find pub. He turns it into a gastro-pub, that's what. Food is big in the Rod K household, so we decided to check it out. The fact that I was a year older gave us an even better excuse.

Once you have navigated your way down the lanes of West Berks, you happen upon a beautiful valley with the pub set on one side, with a fantastic view from the beer garden, over the autumn scene. We didn't stay here long, as our date was with the restaurant.

Although newly extended, the interior is unremarkable, and decorated with things that should be, and in some cases are, on your plate. Mike's ethos is to cook with what he can source locally, which gets top marks for green credentials. It is no accident that the pub is set in woodland that supports wild muntjack deer, wonderful species of fungi, and is surrounded by a garden that provides a home for chickens and a new vegetable/herb garden.

All of this gives rise to Mike's earthy, country cooking. This is not Michelin-starred fine dining, but very good rustic fare, with strong flavours and robust textures. We ate from the Sunday lunch menu: I had the Goat's cheese roulade to start, which had been browned but cooled, and had aubergine, red pepper and vine leaves inside, served on a bed of lamb's lettuce, with olive tapenade. This tasted great with the variety of flavours that a great chef can bring out.

My wife started with salmon on the ubiquitous lettuce, with a flavoursome honey, lemon and dill vinaigrette, which she thought was excellent - although she had expected smoked salmon! The children had the vegetable soup, which was suitably earthy and laced with a dash of olive oil. They devoured this along with the home-made bread.

For mains, I had the seared tuna Nicoise, which was classically composed and presented. My wife had chosen the Poussin. I had shied away from this, but it was a revelation, being not plain, but stuffed with a seemingly impossible quantity of vegetables. This made for a taste extravaganza and was a interesting dish to see and eat. The children opted for the mushroom tagliatelle. Apparently the chef gathers the mushrooms wild from the nearby woods, which shows commitment to a cause. Our eldest likes mushrooms but I think was unprepared for the depth of flavour from these varieties. Apologies to the chef for the amount they wasted! Anyway there is plenty of time for the younger ones' tastes to mature.

We all chose the Lemon Tart with Guernsey Cream as dessert. The lemon taste was striking but neatly balanced by the deep-yellow cream and left us all suitably full.

The birthday boy, me, had a glass of the house Salice Salentino Reserva, Candido 2000 and with sundry drinks and service charge the bill for four was around £95. So was it worth it? To sample the cooking of a chef on the up, with a distinctive, earthy country-style menu, without booking months ahead, I'll say we were all very lucky.

Don't go there though - it will make it difficult for me to get a table!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The English Market

What if the English took a market to France and nobody came?

Newbury's market traders are objecting to a French market in the town, because it would "take their trade away" at Christmas. This seems to miss the point of free market economics.

If the regular guys want to hang on to their margins, they need to sell better quality produce than the visitors and make people prefer the home team's stuff, by making a play on their unique selling point, locality. Relying on artificial restrictions like number of allowed pitches and days of trading is not going to cut it in this day and age, but with rising energy costs and global warming to think about, selling things in the area they are made or grown is vitally important.

The customer is the one who needs to vote with his or her wallet and they will be induced to flash the cash if they are seduced into buying. The market needs to be an experience. In these darker days of autumn especially, the lights, the aromas and the entertainment factor of a market can help to empty the stalls.

Many column inches are being devoted to the impending move of the market, to make way for the re-paving of the market place. This is vital for improving the townscape, and needn't be bad for trade whilst the work is going on. By staging events in the area of the temporary venue - street entertainment, food stalls, try-before-you-buy offers and such like, the people of Newbury can be tempted to become buyers.

Some of the usual traders have asked if the French would put up with an English market in their towns, hence my question at the outset. If they could create a strong demand by stressing the benefits of their goods and produce, the public clamour would be irresistible to the French authorities.

Hiding behind the 'rules' is just so last century.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Web 2.0 - Requoting Tony Blair

Forgive me if I requote Tony Blair:

"But if we follow the principles that have served us so well at home - that information generation and sharing - must be in the hands of the many, not the few - if we make that our guiding light for the global economy, then it will be a force for good and an international movement that we should take pride in leading."

This seems to me to be the essence of Web 2.0 - the buzzword which is sweeping the world. It says that by working together - sharing information, links, comments, linkbacks, and by making software open-source and generally available - everyone will benefit.

Imagine a world where the productivity of software developers grows exponentially as they put new systems together out of parts sourced from their peers. Imagine a world where you can publish information about new products and get feedback and ratings from your global customer base. Imagine a world where democracy means that the whole country could vote on an issue rather than someone representing you and thousands unlike you.

It's a powerful concept and companies/organisations/governments that ignore it deserve to be left behind. Only the information-enabled will be truly agile and only the truly agile will survive in our turbo-Darwinian world.

Web 2.0 - it's like the web but democratic.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Do ye ken John Peel Day

For anyone of my age, it should be a national holiday. The anniversary of John Peel's untimely death is a celebration of the life that he brought to my formative years.

In these days of 'New Music', that is exactly what he played. He moved with the times and brought what was fresh and different to the Grundig Yacht Boy (my radio at the time). I started, like a lot of people, to listen in the days of Punk. I was in the sixth form at school and you were either into the Clash, Ramones, Stranglers or into heavy rock. Lucky for me that I chose the former and Peel's show was the source for what was cool.

He picked up the obscure and brought them to the masses - Wire, The Fall, Alternative TV etc. My friends and I would keep the local record shop in business, buying the latest picture or coloured vinyl 7" - all driven by what we heard on Peel the previous night. We belonged to a club which was open to anyone who had a radio, but he spoke to all of us individually, that was his broadcasting skill.

He kept it interesting by playing the widest range of music, reflecting his diverse taste and ear for the unusual. Who could forget Ivor Cutler, the scottish singer and poet, "Tales from a Scotch Sitting Room"? He even managed to get me to look at folk albums such as Dick Gaughan's. I mean folk! How was that compatible with Punk? In the wacky world of Peel, it made perfect sense.

I went off to University, and though I listened less, it left me with a hunger for seeing those Peel bands live. The Clash and Ramones had the sweat dripping off the ceiling, they generated so much excitement. Stiff Little Fingers generated a crush outside the gig that was ultimately fruitless - my friends and I didn't get in.

John Peel kept it real until his sudden death. No being put out to grass on Radio 2 for John, he stayed on R1 until the end. He was afraid that he would die suddenly. I remember hearing an interview with him where he explained the root of that fear. He had read of the death of Lenny Bruce (or another comedian - I don't remember that well), who had died when he bent down to tie his shoelaces. John had remained fearful of this for the rest of his life. Strange then that he was struck down at Cuzco in Peru by a heart attack. The shoelaces didn't come into it, but it was sudden.

We remember him on his day, 13th October. He'll never be replaced.

Sound of Teenage Kicks by the Undertones to fade...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Adopting a low (power) profile

It sounds like an 007-esque gadget: the Stealthgen http://www.stealthgen.co.uk/. In this power-hungry age, it is something far more useful: a wind driven generator. The stealth part comes from its intended low profile urban habitat. It's black to fit in with the drab city-scape, compared with its marine antecedent, which is pure white as the driven snow. In summary, it's the perfect Christmas gift for your friendly neighbourhood eco-warrior, with a technological bias.

Now you can have it all - the toys of the 21st century - plasma screens, Sky+, Media Centres, a PC in every room, iPods, DVD recorders and you can still save the planet. Think of it as conspicuous consumption, but without the guilt. I have struggled with these conflicting demands, but it now seems that there may be a way out.

OK, so the wind doth not blow continuously, but the Stealthgen should reduce those icecap-shrinking CO2 emissions that its buyers currently produce. Twin it with some Solar PV panels on the roof and you should be able to light up your house like a Xmas tree without troubling the National Grid at all - not that I am advocating all of that light pollution - now that's another story.

Low energy bulbs, turning down thermostats, switching things off when not in use - now there's a novelty - it all helps, but we can always go further.

I won't rest until I can be self sufficient - in electricity at least.

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Rose Bowl -athon

It's a pity we only discovered it at the end of the season. My cricket-mad eldest wanted a birthday treat with a twist. He wanted me to take him and three of his best mates to one of the newest venues in the country for the beautiful game that is cricket: the Rose Bowl.

He did everything bar drive us to the ground - that was definitely down to me - but all of the other logistics - when, where, who etc. was down to him. Hampshire's ultimate Tote Sport League one day match of the season was on 25th September against Nottinghamshire.

OK, after an Ashes summer, this was only County fare, but still a chance to see Shane Warne in (almost) his natural habitat. He won the toss for Hampshire and put the opponents in to bat. We cheered loudly when Nottinghamshire couldn't get off the mark for about three overs and lost a wicket for 0 in to the bargain. However, they progressed steadily after that and built up a commanding score of 248-5, including some expensive overs at the end from the captain, Warne. The expected rain turned out to be no more than a couple of patches of light drizzle, the second of which nearly had the players off, until the boos of the crowd and the sun turned them round at the boundary rope and back to the task in hand.

Hampshire came out out to bat with guns blazing - Pothas scoring from the first, but getting out quickly as well, for 12. Two further wickets fell in the first six overs and the sky, which had gone from autumn sun to serious black, opened and deluged for half an hour. The hard-working ground staff had cleared up so that play could resume after an hour and a half delay. The birthday boy and mates were restless and close to quitting the ground, but the sun came out and a Duckworth-Lewis target of 165 was announced for the rain-shortened, now 20 over, match.

Hampshire went for the big slog - they had a challenging target. The wickets fell steadily though and yes they failed. With it came relegation from Division One, but everyone had had a day to remember, complete with Hampshire caps and signature bats from the club shop.

Goodbye 2005 - hello TSL Div 2 2006.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Organic Milkman

Two posts in one day? I must have time to burn.
Along with the semi-skimmed and the bill this morning on the doorstep was a flyer. The milkman is going to deliver organic fruit and veg.
This is quite a departure from the usual fare of gaudy coloured milks, fizzy drinks, packaged meats and so forth - this stuff is healthy! OK it is not locally produced - it comes from Essex, so there is national distribution cost to think about. But for all you eco-warriors out there, at least the local distribution is on environmentally friendly, non polluting green machines - namely your friendly neighbourhood milk float.
Sounds like it might be worth a try - good seasonal produce brought to your door without the aid of greenhouse gases anyone?

Return of the Dead

Well, Waking the Dead anyway.
My favourite cop show is coming back to Sunday nights. Why do I like it?
Well the plot is always unfathomable which holds the interest - you feel that if you miss the slightest millisecond, a vital clue may have passed you by. They are intelligently written - being a good blend of 'not quite believable' but escapist, out of comfort zone storylines.
It is an ensemble piece too, the drama comes from the interplay of the tight-nit team headed by Boyd (Trevor Eve). He is a troubled man, as cops usually are. His team take the full brunt of his anger and frustration, because, unusually for police drama, he has no boss! Well, not that we have ever seen so far.
The cases seem to arrive out of thin air - no one asks the team to investigate, and he doesn't have to explain his actions or lack of success to anyone. This is the beauty of cold cases I suppose: it doesn't matter how long you take to solve them. Who mentioned the budget?
The team all bring their special strengths and the forensic side is an integral part of the investigation, rather than being out in a lab miles from anywhere.
Finally I must mention the glass - why do they always write on glass? No whiteboards or cork panels here - they write in chinagraph on transparent panels. Does this help them to see through the minefield of facts and get to the villian, staring them in the face all along?
I don't really care - I'll be glued to the series as usual.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Lake District

Ah the Lake District - truly a jewel in this island's crown. The contrast with the environs I find myself in usually is magnificent. We stayed near Ullswater and the sheer tranquility of the place de-stresses the parts that other landscapes cannot reach.
Breakfasting on the deck overlooking the expanse of water, framed by high peaks that were traversed by Romans centuries previously, puts the world into a different context.
The days were spent on not too strenuous walking, picnicing at clear spaces with views of the lake and the mountains.
In the evenings we dined at local pubs, and this is where there could be considerable improvement. Spoilt by previous holidays in Tuscany and Brittany, where good quality food can be found in reasonably priced eateries, Cumbria, or the places we chose, seem to be the exception to the vacation-destination norm. In most places we tried, the chefs plainly had not. Ingredients were neither fresh nor local and dishes were not loving presentations of regional ingenuity. We spotted the restaurant in Ambleside visited by 'Ramsay's Kitchen Nighmares': if he has time on his hands he could profitably up-skill the rest of the places in the vicinity.
Nevertheless I for one am hooked on the idea of climbing some of the larger peaks, so I cannot wait to return.
This is living!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Farewell Digital Home Magazine

So farewell then Digital Home Magazine,
It was but a short time that I knew you.
It seems there weren't enough people like me,
Who liked your fusion of computing and audio-visual
Entertainment machines.

Perhaps you were ahead of your time,
And once more will rise up, with stories
Of high definition TV and the latest Media
Centres, home cinema and broadband content.

Audio-visualphiles each one of you,
Extolling the virtues of Plasma, DLP and
7.1 channel sound systems. Talking of a time
When your favourite programmes can be
Downloaded, long after they were shown.

Time for a new hobby, I think.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

New political scene considered harmful

It seems that the West Berks political scene shifted dramatically last Thursday. One moment I was living in the LibDem republic of West Berks and the next, when I woke up on Friday, we had not only lost our hard-working MP, David Rendel, to a Tory landowner, but also had a new local council as well.

I had enjoyed my all too brief stay in this island of yellow amongst a sea of blue, but things had gone wrong and I had entered a new world of strife.

I had better start working hard to elevate this place from the masses again.