|I am now going to let you into a secret about myself. In the event of you requiring to keep me quiet for any reason you will have to do one or more of the following;|
Give me something to read – I couldn't care less what it is (although I refuse to read “Horror” books – my imagination is screwed up enough thanks very much).
Supply me with food. If you can make any of my favourite foodstuffs you will have a friend for life.
Educate me – I love learning about things. Especially things which I have never known about before.
Have an unusual or interesting accent. This may not actually work as I may end up asking you questions so you have to speak more.
(Please note: The above do not have to be in any particular order.)
Yesterday afternoon found me in a place where I was subjected to all four. Funnily enough – it was one of my favourite foodstuffs (or – more precisely – the Brainiacs behind the shop which sells it) which made me decide to go there in the first place.
The “Foodie Festival” was held in a cafe which I had never been to before. Hidden down a side street near the Highcross Shopping centre in Leicester, “James” Cafe (or restaurant) was the venue for this extravaganza.
When it comes to puddings, sweets, desserts, toetjes, nagerechts, (or whatever you want to call them) my tastes run to the slightly more “exotic”. As in – it is impossible to get two of my favourite desserts anywhere in England, and another one is only available whenever there is a “Continental Market” in Leicester city centre. The desserts being “Chipolata Pudding” (a cross between Tutti-Frutti ice cream and a Blancmange – not a sausage in sight), “Dubbel Vla” (think “Devon Custard” and chocolate mousse in the same carton – pour it into a bowl so the substances are separate but mixed, hand me a spoon, and leave me in peace), and “Poffertjes” (Small Dutch Pancake type cakes – a bit like Profriteroles but without the cream inside – best served with sugar and stem ginger).
If you want to feed me on something “exotic” which you can get in Leicester – stand by to be dragged or taken to “Gelato Village” in St Martin's Square. Every time I walk into that shop they have a new flavour to add to my list of favourites.
As the name might suggest - “Gelato Village” sells Gelato (it also sells “Sorbetto”) which could be described as the Italian version of ice cream. I think it is better than ice cream – it has certainly got more “real” flavour than regular ice cream. This is because the Gelato is made from cream and whatever is in season at that particular moment – no additives, no colouring, no anything else nasty. Oh – and certainly no air - you ask for a cone or tub of Gelato and that is exactly what you get, a full tub or cone of delicious product.
The main ingredient you need to make authentic Italian Gelato (according to me at least) is an an authentic Italian recipe book. “Gelato Village” was started (and is run) by two of these, Daniele Taverna and Antonio De Vecchi are Italian – complete with the accent. They are both also very friendly. In fact, Daniele almost reminds me of Rene from “Allo, 'Allo” because of his cheerfulness.
They were both at the “Foodie Festival”.
The other companies at the Festival were a Cocktail bar, a wine maker based in Leicestershire, a beer making outfit, a company selling gin, someone showing how to make bread the proper way, a company selling pies, and someone with an interest in bees. (It was a pity that the Continental Market was on in the city centre as I think the Festival should have been somewhere more prominent – due to it celebrating Leicestershire companies and products.
Apart from the free samples on offer my favourite things were the talks and the reading material. I got educated about gin, wine, the history of pubs, the baking of bread – not forgetting Gelato.
I really hope there is another “Foodie Festival” in Leicester. I am all for being able to get “exotic” foodstuffs in Leicester but I am also passionate about home-grown companies and products getting a fair go at being showcased as well. I don't just mean food and drink – I mean companies producing all kinds of things.
|I must admit this is a kind of a cheat review. I had been to The Coffee Counter before but at that point I was more concerned about whether or not I was going to get a replacement bus pass than rating the cafe.|
There are some great places that you can walk past if you are not looking for them – and you will miss a gem.
The Coffee Counter is one such place. Tucked away on Bowling Green Street in Leicester (the last place I would expect to find a cafe) is an Olde Worlde type cafe. I mean that in the best possible way – the menu is short and sweet (as in you don't get hundreds of choices but what choices you do get are well-executed).
You also feel comfortable in the light, airy surroundings. The best thing about it is the owners appear to have gone for comfort over capacity. I have noticed a tendency with small cafes to try to cram as many customers as they can into the available space making it difficult for people like me to feel truly comfortable in it.
There are no worries about me getting around in this cafe. Not only that but I felt like I could have a private conversation with the friend I was with – even though it was an open plan layout.
The coffee is up to my usual high standards (as is the food).
A really nice touch is the logo appearing on the cups (I am a sucker for an interesting logo).
The Coffee Counter is really worth a visit.
|It was the quotes which caught my attention and got me intrigued. After all, there are only so many sweets, pens, keyrings, stress=-balls, bags, leaflets, cards with tiny writing on them, etc, that one person can usefully collect and use in one lifetime – never mind the amount of branded junk you can pick up at events where companies attempt to grab your attention and stick in your mind – ready for when you find yourself in dire need of the service which is provided by the Company whose pen has somehow managed to roll behind your radiator, rendering their contact details useless forever more.|
However, it wasn't just the fact that there was a display which was actually easy for me to read (the quotes were at the front of the table in a clear font) which caught my attention. What really grabbed me about them was that – under slightly different circumstances – they could all have been about me. As in - Every Single One Of Them.
The table I was standing in front of also had copies of a book on it. The book (“The Invisible Child – A Secret Life”, by Samantha Houghton) was being launched at the Choice UnLimited Roadshow yesterday. I had intended to go to Samantha's talk where she launched the book, but I didn't make it in the end. Instead – it turned out that I had the pleasure of meeting both Samantha and her Mum (Maureen) at their stall and getting a bit of the background to the book itself from the two delightful ladies themselves. I decided to give Maureen a namecheck in this review because – as she herself said – she lived through the situation with Samantha as she went through it (with all the self-blame, etc, that would entail). I am not exaggerating when I say that both ladies are extremely inspirational people – they are also very gentle even though they have both had to become very tough.
The book is about Samantha's battle with Mental Health issues from childhood through adolescence, into adulthood, and how she sought help (not to mention how she felt ignored and judged by many of the Professional Carers who were supposed to be the ones trying to help her).
Her style of writing reminds me of both Cathy Glass and Tory Hayden – yet more relaxed and less likely to blind you with science when she gets to the “Scientific” bits.
In fact, I read the book from cover to cover when I was on the bus from Leicester to my Dad's house. I ended up feeling as though I had gone through every experience with Samantha just through reading the book. That – to me at least – is the sign of a brilliant author or blogger. Take your readers on your journey with you – keeping it simple and jargon-free.
I must admit to being pleasantly surprised about something else regarding the book. I did my usual trick of reading a snippet of it before I bought it. This wasn't to make sure I would find it interesting (Samantha and Maureen had both “sold” the book to me before I bought it) – instead it was to check the font size. After all, there is no point buying a book (no matter how interesting the subject is) if the font is so small you need a microscope to read it, or you need to chain-eat paracetamol or aspirin, to counter the ensuing headache from trying to read it.
Apart from the “Acknowledgements” page (who reads that anyway?) the main bit of the book was not only large enough for me to read comfortably - I even think it would be easy for people who read what are officially deemed “Large Print” books to read without any difficulties.
I would seriously love it if Samantha went to “Mainstream” Publishers and showed them her book as an example of how to publish a book in such a way that everybody can enjoy the pleasure of reading without having to select books based not only on topic but on font-size too.
In case you missed it – my recommendation is that you buy this book. It doesn't matter if you have experience of Mental Health issues or any other Disability or impairment – I can guarantee you will find something useful in it. Even if it is just about how to really listen to people and pay attention to them (as well as the potential consequences if you don't).
The Guitar Maestro commonly known as Ben Williams has released his second album. He had put some videos of some of the songs on his YouTube Channel as a bit of a taster – they just made me want to hear the whole thing. Here now follows my review of “Put It On Ice”.
The first track is “Deadline”. It has got a catchy melody. I am trying to figure out what genre to say it comes into – Some parts of it remind me of different songs I heard back in the 1980's.
The next track is “Foolish”. This song just made me want to give Ben a hug when I heard it live – the feeling wasn't diminished by the album version. The lyrics are powerful without repeatedly bashing you over the head. This is one of the slower ones.
The third track is “Bob Dylan”. The title also perfectly describes the music. I could almost imagine Mr Dylan singing it himself. (Have a look at the video to this one on YouTube – you will love it – especially if you are a Bob Dylan fan.) Note to Ben – Even if you “didn't pass the exam” you came extremely close to an A* Grade.
The forth track is “Taking It Easy”. Ben goes 1960's with this one. This has a bit of a Hippy vibe – in a good way. If you want to relax after a hard day just listen to this song.
The fifth track is “Serious”. In a funny way this one kind of reminds me of “Let's Dance” by David Bowie laid over one of the tracks from “Dirty Dancing” (the name “escapes me at the minute but it is one which you can ballroom dance to).
Next up we have the one track you should see performed live. “Bodybuilding” is in the same vein as “The Fallout” from his first album – as in I cannot listen to it with at straight face. The chorus goes “I'm going keep on bodybuilding – building my body up. I'm such a skinny boy – everybody wish me luck”. The reason I suggest you go and see this performed live is connected with the Double Bass player lifted his Double Bass over his head at the end of the song when I saw Ben perform this live.
Now we come to a true tearjerker of a ballad. “Another Minute” strongly reminds me of “Stay” by East 17 – the lyrics are totally different but the atmosphere of the song song is the same. Ben really sounds like he is missing someone as he sings this.
The next track is the title track “Put It On Ice”. The intro to this one is a departure from all the other songs I have ever heard from Ben – I didn't know he could sing so low. The combination of the rocky-style (to the point of Heavy Metal in parts) music and Ben's mostly higher pitch singing should grate on the ears but it actually blends very well.
“You Got Me” is next up. Welcome back Jazzy Ben. Another song to relax to – preferably on a beach somewhere.
Want to know Ben's “Number One Rule”? Give this track a listen and find out. It kind of reminds me of “Not In Love” by 10CC – in how the song sounds like it could be a love song but in reality it is the complete opposite.
Next up is another example of Ben's sense of humour. “Bins” is exactly what it is about. You really have to listen to it in order to understand it. I could almost imagine one of the Great Jazz Singers singing this.
“The Mist On Morecambe Bay” is another slower track. This one includes a rather clever reference to a very famous painting “You're moaning like the Mona Lisa”.
“What Are You Going To Do Now” is the nearest thing you are going to get to a Country song.
The last track is “February Fools”. This track reminds me of “Autumn” by Kristyna Myles. A nice slow track to finish the album off with.
|There are times when a Facebook status intrigues me so much I just have to investigate further - saying something about "Live Mannequins" and "Grand Opening" definitely does that.|
On Saturday afternoon I was trying to decide between going over to my Dad's village to see the switch on of the Christmas lights and going home for a quiet night in - when I saw a Facebook Status with those exact words. Further investigation was definitely required.
I ended up spending a rather enjoyable time seeing some stunning designs, as well as being able to talk to some of my favourite Creatives (and adding a new one to that list).
Although I didn't have my camera with me (I ended up being glad that I could just sit back and watch the show unfold) I could still enjoy myself whilst the trainee and professional photographers took their pictures.
The Facebook status was posted by someone who I call my favourite "Womble". If you have read this blog before you will realise that title goes to a friend of mine who is the brains behind LUVINBLING (who creates upcycled jewellery).
The reason for the "Grand Opening" was that LEONE Designers now have a permanent shop in the Highcross Shopping Centre in Leicester. (Those of you who are thinking - "I know that name from somewhere" - are correct. I blogged about them when they had a "Pop-up shop" a few months ago.)
The fashion show all the Designers put on was first class. Making use of two large windows (one on each side of the doorway) for the "Live Mannequins" - aka Models - to be shown in was ingenious.
The clothes, hats, and jewellery showcased by the LEONE Designer ladies and LUVINBLING were very imaginative but were also the kind of clothes I could also imagine myself and some of my friends wearing. (Usually whenever someone utters the words "Models", "Fashion Show", or "Designer Collection" I immediately think of sizes which only a garden rake could wear, and designs which are obviously not to be worn in the real world.)
I told you that I added another Designer to my list of "Favourite Creatives", didn't I??? Well, that is not entirely true - Sam West (of Samuel West Fashions) managed to add himself to the list by doing something I had previously thought was impossible. All he did was show a collection which included one of my favourite designs in wearable fabric form.
To say I love holographic patterns is something of an understatement. Holographic patterns to me are like catnip to felines. By creating and making his own holographic fabric himself he has won me over to his Fan Club without even trying.
Not only are the Designers who have items for sale in LEONE Designers's shop all based in Leicester - every single item is a unique, one of a kind, product.
Of course - there is another reason to visit LEONE Designers. Ryte and Zoya are both very friendly ladies who will make you feel extremely welcome in their shop.
By the way - the next event that LEONE Designers are going to have in their shop is the official launch of LUVINBLING's products in their collections. This will be on Saturday 17 December 2016 between 1.00pm and 4pm - including a live demonstration.
There are times when you need to look under the surface before you can get to the facts. There are also times when you need to abandon all your previous ideas and just take a totally radical approach.
A case in point is the mirror in the above photo. It has been around for as long as I can remember. However, the story behind it was a little stunning when I heard it. In fact, that mirror has been mentioned in a blog post before - for that very reason.
I remember standing in what is now my back room with my Granddad when he asked me if I could tell him the object he had got for his 21st birthday. I had a couple of guesses before I gave up. Let's just say that a mirror which has always reminded me of a ship's portal was one of the last objects in the entire house which I would have associated with him. He was happiest on dry land - in fact, to my knowledge, I have never seen him anywhere near a seagoing vessel of any kind.
However, you would really need to know me to know the connection between that photo and this one below.
You could say that there is a kind of watery connection between them. You could also say that there is a kind of family connection. You would be correct on both counts.
The watery connection being the North Sea. The closest family connection actually being my Dad. Well, he did marry the daughter of the person who made it. (Yes - I had to get my Oma into my house in some way.)
However, the kinds of connections I am really interested in reading, learning, and writing about are the ones which seem to escape all known logic.
Here is a question for you - what connects the following;
British Board of Trade
(I got this little fact from "Black Box Thinking" by Matthew Syed).
Would you believe that three teaspoons of Lemon juice per day were prescribed to sailors on one particular ship sailing to India in 1601 - and were found to prevent scurvy on that ship (one of four sailing to India at that point)?
That isn't the worst part though. It took 194 years for the Royal Navy to get round to ensuring that all sailors on their boats were given the anti-scurvy treatment.
If those two weren't bad enough - the next fact will probably horrify you.
It was only in 1865 that the British Board of Trade got round to ensuring all Merchant ships used the anti-scurvy treatment on their sailors.
(Just imagine the uproar if modern "cures" for things like cancer took that long to come into the Healthcare system nowadays. There would be petitions and questions in both Parliament and the Mainstream Media.)
We can be thankful that there are people who "solve" as yet unknown problems with a mixture of "sideways thinking", frustration, and perseverance. Take - James Dyson and his bagless vacuum cleaner for example. We can also be very thankful that inventions and discoveries of new ideas don't take 264 years to come to our notice these days.
When I was little I used to love those "Join the Dots" puzzles - I still love things like wordsearches and arrowword puzzles (as well as those frustrating puzzles where you get a list of words and a grid to fit them into).
If you have spent any extended amount of time in my company you will probably have found that I can confuse people very easily at times.
The worst thing - though - is when people just think they know what they are looking at when they see me - only to be totally flummoxed when I either say or do something which they do not expect.
The worst example of that was when I attended a job interview. I was asked a question which I answered very honestly. The question was regarding the last film I had seen - I told the interviewer that I had problems with going to the cinema due to the fact I am Registered Partially Sighted. I could have said or done something rather drastic when the interviewer said "you don't look Partially Sighted".
Please accept my humble apologies for attempting to live in the same way as everybody else and not wandering around with a White Stick. I know people who use a White Stick - I also know there are people who do not dare to use White Sticks in certain areas because they know that doing so raises their risks of being attacked.
Look beyond the surface to find the real facts - and do not be afraid to ask if you do not understand.
If you have read my blog before you will kmow that I love unusual things. You may also know I love doing my bit to help promote people who want to showcase their talents in the Creative Arts.
LEONE Designers definitely fit into the second category. Ryte and Zoya are two ladies who have decided to promote the talents of Designers from Leicester. In fact the name LEONE Designers is actually a tribute to the LE1 Postcode - where their pop-up shop is based until August 2016 (the shop is close to the Costa Coffee and the Showcase Cinema behind the Highcross Shopping Centre).
I must admit I wasn't prepared to write about it when I first walked into the shop (the battery on my mobile had run out so I couldn't take photos).
When I went back the next day I was in for a real treat. I witnessed a true artist at work - making a leather wallet from scratch by hand using silk with a pattern he had designed himself for the inside pockets.
The start of the wallet-making process - unfortunately I didn't get to see the finished article
The shop is almost set out like an Art Gallery with an eclectic range of products.
The following photos show just a small selection of the items on sale.
The pair of jeans in the next two photos were actually made by Ryte (one of the partners in the business) - the lady modelling them bought them.
The shop is well worth a visit. The staff are friendly and encourage you to have a look around. (To be honest I can find shops which almost double up as Art Galleries more than a bit intimidating - I don't usually feel comfortable touching the items in that kind of shop.)
If you are in Leicester City Centre and you want to escape into s world of msrvellous Art and Design give LEONE Designers a visit. You will be in for a treat.
Poem by Ken Duddle (One of the "The Real Junkfood Project" Volunteers)
OK - so it wasn't technically a "Roadshow" as such. The "Super Saturday" event which usually happens at the West End Centre, Andrewes Street, Leicester, just moved itself to the Riverside Festival on Saturday.
Before I continue I suppose I had better declare an interest in this great bunch of people. I am one of the Volunteers. However, you won't see me serving or cooking at any of their events (even though I helped out on Thursday afternoon). I am more of the "Behind the scenes" Volunteer - as in - I do the Admin.
The "Pay As You Feel" concept is a very good idea. You don't even have to pay in money - you can volunteer your services instead. This has the effect of allowing everybody to be treated as equals (whether or not they can afford to pay with money).
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you will probably recognise the "Menu" board from whenever I am having my Thursday night dinner at the "Pay As You Feel Cafe".
I must admit that Thursday afternoon was an eyeopening experience for me. Put it this way - I got a big shock when I saw the food which had been collected from various places. There was lots of it.
At the Leicester "Pay As You Feel" Cafe they also have a "Food Boutique" where you can pick up some perfectly edible food which has been thrown out by supermarkets, etc, that you can use at home.
The motto of The Real Junkfood Project is "Feed Bellies Not Bins" and - if you could see the amount of food which the Leicester gang collect from various places - you may get some idea of the best way to solve the problems with people going hungry unnecessarily. Use the food which Supermarkets throw away to feed people who honestly cannot afford the crazy prices you have to pay for thngs like fresh fruit and vegetables.
I am really tempted to suggest that the Police sign up to the Junkfood initiative - and either donate their excess food or serve food which has been prepared by their nearest Junkfood Project in their stations.
Is there any way of the Junkfood Project being incorporated into the Criminal Justice System??? Either as a volunteering opportunity or as a place where people can get a healthy meal without being judged???
What I love most about the Junkfood Project is not the food itself - it is the way of bringing the community together - and helping people to learn about each other.
|Every so often I attend an event whilst having extremely low expectations of it. This year's "Riverside Festival" in Leicester was one such event.|
I found these two ladies crocheting old plastic carrier bags into new shopping bags
To be honest the reason for my low expectations was hearing someone (who shall remain nameless) saying that there would be an "Eco Zone" at the Festival.
You will have to excuse me for thinking this was just going to be a "Lip Service" idea. However, I do have my reasons.
Leicester was actually the UK's first "Environmental City". The fact that Charles Street, in the city centre, can almost be classified as the most polluted street in the UK (in proportion to the length of it), is apparently beside the point.
Anyway - I digress.
I was actually hoping that this year was going to be more of a "Holistic" Festival - dealing with things like Mental Health, etc. Well, they did have my friends from The Real Junkfood Project there - as well as the "Rescue" bit of the "Fire and Rescue Service" (also known as the Fire Brigade).
This dinghy was put to very good use in a demonstration of how the Fire and Rescue Service rescue humans from inland waterways
Although, I did wonder if an invasion was in the process of being planned.
I have to admit that my favourite stand was the "Abbey Pumping Station" one.
Abbey Pumping Station is currently a rather forgotten museum. Its next door neighbour seems to attract all the publicity now with their rockets and high tech gadgets (it is next to the National Space Centre). The Pumping Station is where most of the old vehicles are housed.
On the Abbey Pumping Station stand I saw a Messerschmidt car, an old lorry, and something that I think the Real Junkfood Project should have borrowed.
There was one other stall which I found rather intriguing.
In fact, I found them so intriguing I decided to put a photo of one of their flyers on here.
You could say that "Wonky Veg" is a very interesting concept. The vegetables in their boxes can definitely be described as "Wonky" - as in they are the vegetables which the supermarkets usually reject because they do not meet their standards of presentation.
I am hardly what you would classify as an "Evangelist" by any stretch of the imagination but I really think we need to consider the amount of food which is wasted by everybody - supermarkets, farms, Domestic Humans, etc.
If the Riverside Festival gave me one message to take home it is this - "The Emergency Services and The Military attempt to protect us and our homes - who is protecting our food sources???"
|Well - they finally let the public into the redeveloped Haymarket Bus Station in Leicester this weekend. The Open Day they had yesterday was fascinating - they even had a mix of new buses and Heritage buses on the stands.|
I must admit there was an added intrigue to the Open Day for me (as well as my escapade at St Margaret's Bus Station today).
If I see anything about Heritage Public Transport in connection with Leicester I immediately think of someone who would definitely not recognise Leicester City Centre as it is now - and who would probably hate the way the Public Transport has become so disjointed.
I was educated about that self-same person yesterday at the "Heritage Bus" stand. To be perfectly honest - I am not sure if I have ever met him but I heard a lot about Lancelot Frank Watkinson from my Grandma. In fact - she was the one who originally told me he had worked for the Transport Department of Leicester Corporation (as it was then). She would have known that - being his niece.
I am not sure if I mentioned this elsewhere on my blog but Lance Watkinson was pictured at the decommissioning of the last tram in Leicester. (After the past couple of days I really think we need to either bring back the trams or create some sort of Underground system.).
The redeveloped Haymarket Bus Station is one of the best bus stations I have ever visited. I must admit that I was worried about the amount of glass in the place but the sun didn't appear to be as much of a problem as I thought it would be.
I will start with the good points about the bus station.
It is definitely more spacious than it looks on the outside although it is nowhere near as big as St Margaret's Bus Station (even though I think it actually has more stands). It is well lit - apart from the toilets.
Most of the signs and electronic displays were easy to read. I wonder if St Margaret's Bus Station could swap their confusing board (theoretically) showing when all the buses are due at which stand for one like the Haymarket Bus Station has now got. The Haymarket one is just one long screen with an unbroken list of buses - whereas the one at St Margaret's Bus Station has got two lists side by side with what appears to be smaller font.
In fact - as far as the electronic signage goes - I only have one complaint. There are three screens at the Haymarket Bus Station (as well as one in the waiting room at St Margaret's Bus Station) which are completely hopeless as far as I am concerned. They have too much information on in a font that I need a magnifying glass to read - even when they are at eye level to me - with unnecessary logos for the different bus companies which serve both Bus Stations.
Ah - yes - both bus stations. Put it this way - we now have one train station and two "proper" bus stations which apparently have nothing to visibly connect them to each other.
What is worse is - the Railway Station is on one side of the City Centre and all the the major "Collection Points" for the buses are on the other side of the City Centre (Humberstone Gate, Belgrave Gate, Haymarket Bus Station, and St Margaret's Bus Station). If you are not a native of Leicester you will not realise there is a bus layby outside the Railway Station for buses heading towards the Bus Stations.
The thing with made me think that Mr Watkinson would hate the disjointedness of the Public Transport system in Leicester was my trip to St Margaret's Bus Station today. More to the point - my trip home from there.
I admit it is only a short walk between the Haymarket Bus Station and St Margaret's Bus Station. However, I think they have missed a trick by not having a dedicated bus directly linking both Bus Stations with the Railway Station. Especially seeing as they moved the outbound bus stops on Charles Street away from the entrance to the Haymarket Bus Station (there is no longer a bus stop outside Wilko's on Charles St for example). I heard a rumour that there should be some way of getting off an inbound 84 (for example) very close to the Haymarket Bus Station to link up with the buses which serve that Bus Station. The buses which call at Haymarket Bus Station terminate there - and the buses which call at St Margaret's Bus Station terminate there (and never the twin shall meet).
However, I have to admit to being shocked at the state of St Margaret's Bus Station. The stands cannot decide if they are supposed to be numbered or lettered. The bus I arrived at St Margaret's Bus Station dropped the passengers off outside the side of the Bus Station - due to the driver apparently being told to do that - whereas other buses were letting passengers off in the bays. If the driver whose bus I travelled to St Margaret's Bus Station was actually correct I predict either a major bus jam - as the buses all try to drop their passengers off at the same stop at the same time - or someone getting seriously injured or killed by a bus.
What is - in a way - worse is that the old layout of Charles Street near Haymarket Bus Station appears to suit that bus station more than the new "accident waiting to happen" layout - especially when you think the buses pulling out of the Haymarket Bus Station will merge with the traffic heading for St Margaret's Bus Station - and some buses may have to cross the traffic. Yes - I know that the Haymarket Bus Station almost empties directly onto a roundabout but - still - I am half-expecting a crash between buses coming out of the Haymarket Bus Station and the ones going past it on their way to either St Margaret's Bus Station or Belgrave Gate.
All in all - the design of the Haymarket Bus Station is very good but the new layout of the road is rather worrying. The lack of any clear connection between the Haymarket Bus Station and St Margaret's Bus Station does not suggest to me that the needs of passengers have really been thought through.
We need a proper - cohesive - public transport strategy for Leicester putting into place which connects all the major hubs where the Public are likely to visit.
We also need some way of arranging the Public Transport so that the public do not have to rely on their cars (for example - a Sunday evening Home Match at the King Power Stadium will finish after the last bus has travelled either into or out of Leicester on the Aylestone Road).
The really annoying thing is knowing there are posters in the Leicester Royal Infirmary encouraging visitors to use Pubic Transport to get there - but no Bus Service to get to or from the Hospital either on a Sunday evening or late at night. As for buses going past the Main Entrance of a hospital - Leicester General and Glenfield Hospital both have bus stops virtually outside the Main Entrance. The Leicester Royal Infirmary doesn't. Not only that but the bus stops heading into the City Centre are the easiest ones to find. If you want a bus stop heading for the Southern side of the county you have to cross over two roads (head for Leicester Prison) to find it.
I am hoping for the Royal Infirmary to have bus stops where the Accident and Emergency entrance is now (when the new Accident and Emergency is open). I very much doubt that will happen somehow.
|This blog post was a kind of "request" blog post. As in someone handed me something with the words "I thought you could write about this on your blog". What they handed me was the most confusing piece of paper I have ever had the misfortune to attempt to read. Therefore, it ended up on here.|
The "Virtual Reality" I refer to in the title to this blog post is not quite the "Technological Advance" involving screens and pictures, etc. This "Virtual Reality" would more appear to have involved a blindfold being tied around the head of the person who was in charge of coming up with the design of an information leaflet.
Forget for a moment the fact that it is not available in a font size which is readable by people who have got worse eyesight than me - as well as the fact that it has some print in colours which my eyes didn't like peering at for very long.
For having decided the title of the leaflet is "Where to board your bus in the new Haymarket Bus Station, St Margaret's Bus Station, and at City Centre bus stops" the Brainiac in charge of the Information Department at Leicester City Council informed us of anything but that.
Good Luck with finding out where the buses will stop on that map. Too small, too cramped, and too faint, for me to read properly.
I need more information than this!!!
The leaflet would not have been so bad had it not been for one pretty major error (and an obvious one at that).
The new Haymarket Bus Station has indeed got stand numbers with letters (HA through to HZ). However, if you go to St Margaret's Bus Station and look for any letters on the stands there you will be in for a shock. The stands in St Margaret's Bus Station are all numbered (1 through to 22). So I would strongly suggest that anybody looking for a bus in St Margaret's Bus Station starts counting. (Unless of course - the stands at St Margaret's Bus Station are going to revert to being letters - but the bus using public have yet to be informed of this???)
I could talk about how the Haymarket Bus Station is in the wrong place to start with but I will leave that for the blog where the bus station gets reviewed after I have been inside it.
First impressions are not very good at all. I remain to be pleasantly surprised but I doubt I will be somehow.
|This is the first review I have ever done with the permission of the manufacturer of the item. Please note - I have not been paid for it - all I did was inform the manufacturer that I was a blogger and asked if I could review it (that was the first time I evr plucked up the courage to do anything like that).|
To say I like gadgets is a bit of an understatement. The more unusual the better as far as I am concerned.
You cannot get much more unusual than "Nimble".
The "Business End" of a Nimble - it has a very small cutting surface which doesn't cut your skin - just paper, card and plastic.
A close up view of the working end of it.
A "Nimble" being used.
I must admit that when I saw the "Nimble" it looked like a thimble you would wear when sewing - just a bit chunkier.
It was actually the card on the stand which grabbed my interest more than the device itself. The card suggested it was a "Kickstarter" (crowdfunding) project. The card also told me the device would be more useful than the novelty "Christmas Cracker toy" it appeared to be.
It may just look like a bright yellow plastic thimble but it has a small blade protruding out of the top of it which will cut card, paper, and plastic (apparently it is useful for microwave meals).
My favourite thing about it is that - not only can you wear it on your finger (thereby saving you hunting for a pair of scissors) - it is portable without being bulky. Also, you don't have to attempt "reverse Origami" like you would do for those foldup nail scissors you can by on keyrings.
If you want to help "Crowdfund" this brilliant gadget (and pre-order yourself one at the same time) please visit www.kickstarter.co.
|Have you ever wondered how one mug of black Americano can make you hallucinate enought to believe that (just by crossing a small space) you are in a completely different country???|
I had just over an hour to waste in Market Harborough on Tuesday afternoon before I could catch a bus to Lutterworth (having just missed one by a few minutes) - so I decided to investigate an establishment I had heard about.
The building was actually familiar to me - but not in what you might call its current format. They had apparently tidied the Library and Council Offices away upstairs and left the downstairs free for a slightly surreal experience - to me any way.
When you walk into the Symmington Building in Market Harborough, (Ex-library and Council Offices building) you will find that the former Library space is now filled with a Coffeeshop and Wine Bar with - what I think is - a very appropriate name. (That was just based on the strength of the coffee I had from there.) The former Reception bit for the Council Offices is now taken up with something I found even more intriguing than most people might. (More about that later.)
The Coffeeshop and Wine Bar is called "Insomnia". The best way for me to describe it is a cross between my two favourite cafes. (I didn't stay until it turned into a Wine Bar.)
It had the comfortable feeling of St Martins Coffeeshop - but the armchairs were more like I would expect to find in someone's home.
The crockery reminded me of the "Douwe Egbert" Coffeeshop in Rotterdam. So much so that I was half-expecting any cakes to be served on a cakeplate with a slot for the fork.
I must admit I am not a big fan of "Branded" cups, etc, when I intend to consume what I have bought in their own establishment. It just seems a bit of a waste to me. But I liked the logo on these.
No - this is not what you are likely to get as a result of visiting this establishment.
The serving area looked a bit posher than I was expecting.
In fact, the last time I saw something look that inviting I was in the cafe at Rotterdam Central Station.
However, my favourite touch was found on one wall (and I think my Mum would have loved it as well).
Old fashioned sewing machines on the wall.
I also loved the fact that - when I had placed my order I was advised to sit down and it would be brought to me. The person who brought it over was very polite too.
After I had finished consuming my coffee and snack I decided to investigate the shop on the other side of the entrance - and promptly thought I was in a Railway Station in Holland. I also thought I was standing in a supermarket with a different name but the same nationality as the one I was actually in.
Allow me to explain.
The shop I was standing in was called "SPAR". For those of you who think SPAR is English - I am afraid it is actually Dutch. (Its name is actually an abbrieviated acronym - the original Dutch name was "DE SPAR" - but the SPAR bit still means something. "Samenwerking Profiteren Allen Regelmatig" translates into "Working Together Profits Everybody Regularly".
I said that I thought I had walked into another supermarket from the same country, didn't I??? I also said I thought I was in a Dutch Railway station???
There is a simple explanation for both of the above.
There is a Dutch supermarket chain which I absolutely love. It is called "Albert Heijn" or "AH" for short. Stand me in this shop and I will be amused for hours. Now - AH have got a chain of smaller supermarkets (usually found in Railway Stations) called "AH To Go". Forget "Tesco Express" - these are compact and very well laid out (usually).
The layout of the SPAR shop in Market Harborough reminded me so much of an "AH To Go" that I was quite surprised not to find myself looking at Dutch train timetables as I exited the building.
It was a shame I couldn't stay longer in both places.
|Whenever I think of LCiL and The Real Junkfood Project (Leicester Battalion) one word comes into my mind. That word is the Dutch "Verbinding". Don't worry - the English translation is not as ominous as it sounds - "Verbinding" may read as though it may mean "Binding" in English - it actually means "Connection".|
There are three events per week which make me think of that word. All three are held at the West End Neighbourhood Centre on Andrewes Street, in the West End of Leicester.
Thursday evenings (7pm until 8.30pm) are when people turn up for food at the "Pay As You Feel Cafe". Not only do you meet a rather eclectic group of people - you are also helping to divert perfectly edible food from landfill. The volunteers are a great bunch of people too.
On Friday mornings (11.30am until 2.00pm) LCiL run something called a "Social Media Cafe" (with food provided by the Real Junkfood Cafe). In this case - the term "Social Media" has what you might call a slightly more "human" element than Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the computerised "Social Media" streams (although these do come into play on occassion). This version of "Social Media" is more of a "Human Newspaper" kind of meeting point. You can get information or advice about different subjects - you can sometmes hear interesting talks - or you can just sit and find people to share your news and views with. The people who attend range from the ones who "society" would consider to be "normal" through to the "Disabled" - physical disability or Mental Health issues. Personally I have had discussions with people who I would never have plucked up the courage to speak to otherwise on subjects which "Society" can sometimes still treat as "Taboo" - and felt absolutely comfortable. Seriously - the "Social Media Cafe" is a great place for learning about issues which affect different people - without having to worry about your personal safety if you accidentally say the wrong thing. It is also a great place for realising that even people with severe disabilities can (and do) have a valid role to play in society.
Last Saturday was the start of an event called "Super Saturday". This runs from 11.00am until 3.00pm. The best way to describe it is a mix of both the Thursday "Pay As You Feel" Cafe and the Friday "Social Media Cafe" with extras thrown in - in the form of some kind of crafty-type stuff, table football, a small stage where budding performers could entertain the crowd, etc. Even the local Police turned up and joined in with the fun.
We hear so much about how Society is so fragmented with different groups almost living in isolation from each other - as well as how there is no such thing as "Community" any more.
All it takes is a couple of people to get together and organise an event for everybody to attend - in a location which is accessible for all - not forgetting the friendly people who help run it.
If you are in the West End of Leicester, on a Thursday evening, Friday morning, or Saturday afternoon, come along and join us. You will be given a very warm welcome.
|After deciding to give the debut edition of the first new newspaper for some years a miss on Monday I ended up buying one on Tuesday, yesterday, and today (well - I did have to form a proper opinion on it which was not influenced by hype).|
The first thing I should say is that I think the trial price of 25 pence should be the full price. I would not be prepared to pay 50 pence for a newspaper - no matter how good it is.
I was surprisingly impressed by the layout and content of the newspaper. It has more of a magazine/blog feel to it than your average newspaper. And I didn't have to peer at the print because the print was larger than your average newspaper - something I feel the rest of the newspapers can learn from.
As for the content - it almost read like a feed from Social Media. What I mean is that the articles did not contain any discernable bias but the people who wrote them had a good understanding of the subject matter.
Whilst I am unlikely to buy it when it goes to fuul price (unless it has something I really want to read in it) - I am impressed with it so far. All that is missing is the website which I really feel would make more use of the content.
|I suppose I have a bit of a confession to make - I am almost addicted (no - forget "almost" - I am addicted) to bath and body products from Lush. However, they can be a bit pricey if you don't go in with a proper idea of exactly what you want - and end up almost buying the shop out due to your inability to choose between products. Yes - dear reader - I have been in that exact situation.|
So - you might be able to imagine my surprise when I found a cheaper range of bath and body products in Wilko. Each item cost 95 pence (the range includes bath foam, shampoo, conditioner, bath bombe, hand soap, hand cream, body butter, bar of soap, and shower gel). By the way the range is called "Fruits".
Bottle of "Lemon and Blaxk Pepper" Bath Foam from the "Fruits" range.
I picked the "Lemon and Black Pepper" fragrance out of the ones I could actually read the names of on the bottles. (There is one dark purple one - however - due to the fact they have used exactly the same colour of type on that bottle I could not read anything on the bottle. Boy - do I hate that.)
The bath bombe should have told me what I was letting myself in for (same as - I suppose - the price of the products). Even if I wasn't used to the delightful displays, bubbles, and fragrances of the Lush bath bombes - I think I would have been underwhelmed by the barely there fragrance as well as the lack of bubbles. According to me bath bombes are supposed to have a bit of fizz to them (why else would Lush refer to them as "Bath Ballistics"???).
The other products I tried in the range kind of went the opposite way as far as fragrance is concerned - even though I could hardly detect the black pepper in them. Much as I love the smell of lemons I don't particularly like the smell of "Fairy Liquid" or any other brand of washing up liquid - sickly lemony smell. I have only tried the bath foam and the shampoo in combination and the result left me feeling as though I had accidentally swapped my bath for the sink in my kitchen.
I am sure that - if you find the scent of washing up liquid erotically appealing - you will love the "Lemon and Black Pepper" fragrance.
When I was walking around the store the Public Annoyance System kept playing the slogan or tagline of the store - "Where there's a Wilko there's a way".
I am sorry but I think - in this case at least - Wilko need to find a way back to the "Inventions Department" and start again. When I have finished the products I have I am going to go back to the Lush products (at least I can smell those before I buy them).
|You should know by now that the best way to get me interested in your Company is to have some kind of unusual twist.|
I had previously visited "Tiger" in the Highcross Shopping Centre on a couple of occassions - but my last visit was something of a revelation.
For those of you who don't know what "Tiger" is - it is a Danish chain of shops selling all sorts of weird and wonderful items.
The nearest equivalent I have come across is the Dutch chain called "Blokker" (a shop - along with "Media Markt" for electrical goods - which I miss when I am over in England).
The first thing to grab my interest appeared to be one of those puzzles that you rearrange (you know the ones - you have several bits that you have to get back into their original shape). On closer inspection I found out what it was.
A Stationery Set which is actually portable.
I did find a few other odds and ends which I needed.
Then I realised I needed something to take everything home in.
Now, call me crazy if you want to, but I prefer buying things which remind me of my friends (if I am not buying stuff I urgently need that is).
The bag I saw reminded me of one person in particular (even though I didn't originally see their native language on it).
This bag has the names of different countries in the language of that country.
My fun did not end there though.
When I reached the till so I could pay I saw a dish with something on it. Next to the dish I saw a sign written in Danish. Now - Danish appears on the list of languages I cannot speak. Apparently, I can read a bit of it though.
The first word on the sign was "Gratis" - so my Dutch (and German) informed me I was not going to be charged a penny. The second word was one which I had never come across before but it looked not unlike the Dutch "Proef" = pronounced "Proof" (in English - Test).
Put those words together and my brain decided that was going to take advantage of the "Free Trial" (or "Taste") that was on offer. This may explain why - a few seconds after reading that sign I found myself trying some (what tasted like) Dutch licorice.
If you want to while away a few hours go to your nearest "Tiger" Store.
|Before I begin this review I would like to show you the effect that walking into places like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, etc, has on my eyes and my brain.|
(My thanks to Derek Lee for permission to use the photographs in this blog post)
You are correct - it is a circular saw which appears to be unguarded
You may think this is an exaggeration - unfortunately, if anything it is an understatement.
Fluorescent lights, coupled with backlit menus stuck on walls at least 6 feet away from the counter (behind it), and furniture which is either too cluttered to be useful or screwed to the floor so you cannot move it, are not exactly my idea of fun.
I have even barred myself from McDonalds since they installed those "Self-Service" screens in their establishments. This is only because I wanted to smash one to smithereens the first and last time I looked at it. The screen is too big, too bright, and the font is way too small. That is before you try to convince me that paying for my food using a Debit Card is easier than feeding coins into a machine. (Less chance of fraud if you use coins.)
Here now follows a picture of how the "Five Guys" restaraunt on High Street in Leicester, made me feel;
That's more like it - soothing water
OK - so the food was slightly more expensive than I expected it to be. But at least you could choose your own toppings for your burger (the Brooklyn Beer is not bad either). Oh - and you had a choice between salted fries and "Cajun" fries - these were more like proper chips of the kind you would get from somewere like "Awesome Chips" (outside the Haymarket on Belgrave Gate in Leicester) than the excuse for chips served up by most fastfood places.
However, the food wasn't what made me like the place.
It was a Tuesday evening and I was hungry enough to put my eyes and brain through the pain barrier if it meant me getting something to eat. I was on my way home from Market Harborough at the time (I used the break between two buses as a chance to have a meal).
I had walked past the "Five Guys" restaurant a few times before and dismissed it as liable to be the same as the other Fastfood outlets selling burgers, etc.
Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to walk into a nicely lit building with adequately spaced furniture so I could carry my tray to my table.
However, that was not the best bit.
I was fully prepared to ask the server behind the counter to read the menu to me (as I could tell I was about to go into "shutdown" mode) when I happened to glance at the counter.
I was amazed to see small (A5 or A6 size) peices of paper on the counter. I picked one up - fully expecting it to be a flyer for an offer or something like that.
OK - so the font was slightly smaller than I would ideally have liked it to be but the piece of paper turned out to be not unlike the Holy Grail when it comes to nearly every single cafe and Fastfood restaurant I have been in.
Ladies and Gentlemen - brace yourselves - "Five Guys" actually has a menu on the counter which you can pick up and read for yourself. Correction - it has a pile of them.
Another nice touch was the area where you collected your order. This was away from the ordering area - saves people getting crushed and tempers getting frayed when parts of orders are delayed.
If I have one complaint - and it is a minor niggle - I was not too keen on the Argos-style food collection system. What I mean is that your receipt had a number on it which corresponded to your order. You had to wait for your number to be called before you got your food.
Apart from that minor niggle I enjoyed the experience - which was made all the better by not feeling like I had to rush to finish my drink after I had finished eating.
|OK so some people may think I am a bit fussy about places I go in for the purpose of consuming food and drink but I think I have finally found somewhere to rival Taps (I reviewed that bar elsewhere in this blog).|
Ironically, The Orange Tree Public House (and Restaurant) is situated almost opposite the worst place in Leicester for people with sight problems. In fact, I was tempted to struggle into Bruxelles, on High Street in Leicester, and drag the staff to The Orange Tree so they could be shown exactly how to make people like me feel welcome in their premises.
I had learned bout The Orange Tree on Twitter. A quick look at their website proved inviting. The photo on the website showed that the place wasn't crowded with furniture, as well as being reasonably well lit.
When I walked in to the building I realised the website hadn't told me the full story.
I didn't have to peer at a menu or "Specials Board" with tiny writing which had been glued to some obscure wall behind the bar.
Even I had no trouble reading this Board
The staff were friendly. There was one thing which I was half-expecting them to serve though. There is a brand of alcoholic drink which I really think would have been a nice twist - "Oranjeboom" is "Orangetree" in Dutch.
I admit you may have a bit of difficulty getting a wheelchair in the building - unless they move one of the tables out of the accessible doorway - but it is only one reasonably shallow step.
My secod biggest bugbear - after having to peer at menus on walls - is not being able to navigate my way around a room comfortably. This is either because the lighting leaves a lot to be desired or because the managers have decided to squeeze as many customers in as possible (and cluttered the place up with excessive furniture).
The Orange Tree is bright and roomy - to the point where I could imagine successfully crossing from the bar to my table with a tray in my hands without damaging myself or anything else.
View towards Entrance
A nice wide corridor between the bar and the seating areas.
The food appeared to be entirely cooked on the premises as well.
If you know me by now you will realise that I like places with a bit of a twist - and this one has got a very nice twist (I think it is nice anyway). It is found behind the bar.
Well, my sense of humour thought an orange fridge freezer behind the bar was a nice touch anyway.
There was one final thing I was pleasantly surprised by. I had entered the building during daylight hours and - to be totally honest - I was prepared to be blinded as I left the building due to it being dark. Put it this way - I have enough experience of coming out of buldings which have cosy interiors only to be blinded by searchlight-strength illuminations to last me a lifetime.
The Orange Tree is as understated on the outside as it is on the inside.
External view of The Orange Tree, High Street, Leicester, at night.
I am pleased I decided to investigate this little gem. It exceeded my expectations.
If you want somewhere cosy to eat reasonably priced homecooked food - head for The Orange Tree.
<< All categories
|I didn't intend to buy a Printer (or any electrical goods of any description whatsoever). I had actually gone to Tesco in South Wigston to buy myself a tub of Ben & Jerry's "Speculoos" (Spelling Error - should be spelled "Speculaas") ice cream but they hadn't got any.|
Slight detour - if you like cinnamon and gingernut biscuits, or you have heard me talking about one of my favourite sorts of biscuits - Speculaas - and want to know what they are like - buy that ice cream and wonder no more. It is delicious.
When Microsoft decided to bring their Windows 10 out they forgot to inform people like me that things like Lexmark printers (older versions) would not be compatable with it. This left me in a bit of a pickle.
I had been halfheartedly looking at printers but they either seemed too bulky and heavy to take home on my own or they seemed too expensive for what they were.
It was either on or just after "Black Friday" - not that it made much difference.
I had been reading about different printers - some of which seemed to be able to make you a cup of tea (if the literature was to be believed). I wanted one which I could use to print from my mobile if I needed to. How it connected with my laptop was of no interest to me (although I would have preferred to plug the printer into it with a wire).
So I bought myself an Epson XP-322 All In One.
I haven't tried the scanner or the copier functions out yet - they are not why I bought it.
There are good points and bad point with the printer.
It is nice and small - with the reasonably idiotproof panel folding away neatly. I admit the screen on the panel could do with being a little bigger - but at least it is in colour.
Setting the Printer up was reasonably easy. The guide was easy to follow.
The only minor drawback is that it uses four cartridges. Now - this is not a problem in itself. After all my old Lexmark used one black cartridge and one colour cartridge (which left me wondering how much of the coloured ink I was wasting when the computer told me to renew the cartridges).
The problem is actually twofold.
The cartridges are small (but they don't look like they will fit into the slots provided). They are also very difficult to get into their respective slots - the printer deciding to try them out whilst you are tring to put them all in is annoying too.
Once you have got the cartridges in - however - the printouts look brilliant. Clear and crisp.
I even managed to set it up so it would print from my mobile without too much difficulty.
I am not sure if I would pay £80.00 for it if I had to buy another one though. Maybe that is just me being picky.