Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Staple diet of the English.... Curry. What better after a few pints than a couple of Popadom’s, some hot pickle, Onion Baji’s and a red hot Ruby Murray, washed down with Indian beer, probably brewed under licence in Birmingham? Following three lovely pints of Timmy Taylor's each last night, three of us ambled over to Queen’s Tandoori starving. It was busy. Usually is. Giggling like school boys we ordered a mixture of dishes, none of which I can remember, but all were good and we ate the lot, complimented by a bottle of Cobra each, just to be polite you understand. The bill was £55. Very reasonable for Popadoms and two courses to follow, whatever it was. The downside of consuming so much beer is that I clean forgot to photograph the meal itself, casually getting my camera out when it had all gone and we had licked up the gravy.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
We have seen a victory for common sense here over the last week. The council was planning to impose a residents parking permit system. £25 to park outside your own house - no guarantee of a space, a quid a go for visitors, local businesses wiped out as shoppers unable to park and everybody getting thoroughly pissed off with parking tickets when they forget/don’t give the visitor a voucher/left the second car out by mistake. There was a heated meeting on Wednesday 3rd, as about a quarter of the residents would like a residents parking scheme. True. It is very difficult to find a space, but that is the price we pay for city living, for having good bars and restaurants on the doorstep, for a range of excellent local shops. Without free parking they would all loose custom, we would loose the ‘buzz’ of Queens Rd. and the whole area would slip back down the popularity scale. Those of us who have been here a while can remember the empty shops of the eighties. One pub and a couple of takeaways. The plan has been shelved for five years. Great.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
We should give a warm welcome to the Turks who have brought reasonably priced fresh food to Queens Road. Lurking between two Queens, Indian Restaurant and Chinese Takeaway, Zesty’s is, strictly speaking, a takeaway, but it has seating and if one happens to sit down, through tiredness you understand, the guys who run it will bring your food over, to save you the effort of walking three feet to collect it from the counter. Once comfy, you may as well eat it there, to save walking home and allowing the home made bread to go cold. Three of us ate eight mezes. Three of which were stuffed peppers, as they are so good. Washed it down with a pot of tea and walked out having spent under twenty quid. This is fantastic value as every mouthful is delicious. They seem to be open virtually all the time and always greet one with a smile. Good for them. Babalas don’t seem to mind one popping over there to use their loo, especially if it’s their Timothy Taylors one is rejecting from the bladder.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Friday night and spoilt for choice. All within walking distance. Starting foreground, left there is a fine selection of cocktails and bottled beers at Bar Dos Hermanos, our local Cuban Bar. Big and always busy. Great atmosphere. Draught beer tends not to be quite so well kept and are always a tad disappointing, but they serve quite the best G&T. Double measures of Bombay Sapphire, stacks of ice, lime and Schweppes. Moving on down there is Sansomes. Bit brash and yet to hit the spot with the locals. Mainly lagers and this new Marstons Pedigree ‘Smooth’. It’s a keg beer - easy to look after. It sounds harsh, but Sansomes is just not quite Clarendon Parky enough. Maybe cruise over the road to Babalas wine bar. Cosy and full of atmosphere. The sort of place you can peer into and usually see a familiar face, if solo drinking. My personal favourite thanks to a good choice of wines and the all conquering - Timothy Taylors Landlord draught bitter. Could then stay on the same side of the road and ease on down to Olives Bar on the first floor of the corner premises, above Subway. Not been in and I find there is a mental barrier about entering somewhere that you can’t see into. Final option would be to walk up the end of Montague Rd and visit The Clarendon. Rather naff 30’s building. About 15 years ago The Clarendon was the ONLY bar here, served great draught beers and was rammed, but has had to try very hard in the light of such tempting opposition. As it’s just a stumble too far, I’ve not been in for ages. That’s the drinks sorted. Food blog next time.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Sansome’s is the new bar on Queen’s Rd, lurking behind the Marston’s lorry in the last posting. The name has been recycled from the Haberdashery shop that used to be there. The last place in Leicester you could buy a string vest. I popped in there to try the Pedigree the other night with a few friends. It was a new brew called Pedigree Smooth. A keg beer which I felt was rather a sell out to the traditions of Marston’s Brewery. I tried a couple of pints, while my friends stuck to lager. It had a similar taste and one could imagine the waters flowing across the gypsum of South Derbyshire into Burton on Trent, but somehow it wasn’t quite right. designed for the minimal maintenance required by bars these days. I felt moved to nip over the road to Babalas and have a proper pint, hand pumped by a buxom barmaid. no Pedi that night, but the Timothy Taylor's Landlord was just perfect.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Something you will only ever see in England. The reassuring sight of a big delivery of Marston’s Pedigree. Seen here outside a new bar on Queen’s Road, Sansomes, named after the drapery store that used to be there. The only place left where one could still purchase a String Vest.
Easy to let the mind wander for the everyday tasks and imagine the waters filtering across the gypsum of Derbyshire, south to Burton-on-Trent where noble men brew, and I mean BREW, Pedi. Oak barrels and brass pipes. Centuries of history. Unchanged methods, all resulting in the perfect pint, and I’ve supped well this evening as you may guess. Cheers and sorry for the absence.
Friday, September 05, 2008
A wine tasting, organised by The Wine Society was, conveniently, in The City Rooms, here in Leicester this week. My son Will and I strolled down dodging various heavy showers to sample 16 wines from around the World. Rubbing shoulders with so much tweed and silver hair was novel and made even me feel quite young! Kicking off with some refreshing sparkling whites, we moved on to heavier whites, light reds and then the Clarets. A good learning experience! Favourite was wine number 7, a full bodied white Burgundy at £225 a case. At the end of the tasting the girl serving it poured the last of the bottle into our glasses as we confirmed it really, really was our favourite and we stumbled off to get something to eat.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
We had, last Sunday, The Leicester Caribbean Festival, here in Victoria Park. I usually stroll across and am generally in favour of the event. It is truly multi cultural and brings a sense of excitement into the city, with some elaborate floats on the backs of lorries and stalls selling Jerk Chicken and Goat Curry, all washed down with gallons of Red Stripe. There’s a lot of loud reggae played and a stage with a live act. Everybody has a good time and the law turn a blind eye to those smells that waft through the air, taking one back to college days. The whole thing’s over as the sun goes down and everybody goes home. What I can’t understand, is why they can’t take their rubbish home with them. A brisk walk across the park the following morning revealed an army of private contractors picking up a sea of litter, mostly called Igor and Perestroikavitch. The Caribbean community was not well represented. But, by lunchtime you wouldn’t know anything had ever happened.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I'm just back from a week in Jersey and know that a few of you out there enjoy a good example of the architecture. Jersey Airport proclaims to have been built in 1937 and as most of it is still there under the hideous addition on top, it is not difficult to imagine the De-Haviland's taxiing in and disgorging their wealthily clientele. In the north of the Island (Jersey is only 44 sq. miles in total) there is this delightful school at St Johns, originally built in 1901, but extended, in the same style, in 1929. If only the architects of the Airport extension had been as considerate those who extended the school.
On a bit of a tangent, and according to my uncle, who is the holder of such information, my maternal Grandmother flew back from Cairo in about 1934-36 in a Handley Page Hannibal or Horsa. The seats were Lloyd loom basket chairs (for reduced weight) arranged like a lounge, not in rows as they are now. One of her fellow passengers was Geoffrey De Haviland of aircraft fame.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Always amusing to see a man of a certain age dressed in fancy dress in public. One month it’s dear old Max Moseley, the next Friends of the Toxic Waste on Queens Rd. They were protesting about Bio Fuels and thought the countryside should be used to produce food with prices constantly rising. Having topped up my diesel tank with 40 litres of Sunflower oil, that I had photographed recently, I was thrilled to travel about 60 miles for nothing. Bring on the Bio Fuels I say.
Monday, July 07, 2008
This, Ladies and Gents, is The Looney Bench of Queens Rd. That transitional place where we end up, somewhere between sanity and another world. There is always somebody there, either waiting, listening, or offering a point of view on nothing much in particular. Sometimes a poet, other times a bag woman. A can of Special Brew is never far away. Nobody knows what they talk about, but it’s always busy. Blockbusters is right behind with the latest, rather appropriate, offering displayed on the telephone kiosk. Maybe you have to go through some right of passage to sit there? having lived here 27 years I have never dared sit there, but there’s time........
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Having so little and being so vain, it is always a challenge to get my hair cut. I have tried them all around here. I started going to Yan’s years ago, when the money was rolling in, but to save a bob or two shifted my loyalty to Mohammed at 'Gents & Boys'on Clarendon Park Rd. When asked, ‘What number would you like?’ I came over like Patrick McGoohan - I am not a number. However, Moh and I bonded, but I was never truly happy with the cut and after a few weeks began to look like Tintin, with a spikey bit sticking up in the middle. He thought he was doing me a favour covering my baldness with a faux Bobby Charlton. At £7 a throw it was good value though. Determined to make the most of the bit that’s left though, I returned to Yan’s yesterday. A very pretty girl washed and conditioned my hair, then Holly cut it. Well worth thirty quid.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Welcome to Pennbury. This is the view you will get entering the new ‘Eco’ Town of Pennbury from the area just north of Houghton Lodge farm, Stoughton. A 10 minute cycle ride from Queens Road. The exciting news is, there will be a bio burger outlet, a new venture for the great McDonalds empire, situated just where the rape seed is in the middle distance. The lane in the foreground will have to be widened, of course, but this will be done under strict Government guidelines. In the woods to the left will be a Toyota Prius outlet covering 10 hectares. The biggest in Europe and built entirely from recycled Range Rover tyres, filled with compost and planted with evergreen bushes. The lush, green, grass in the middle will make way for a paved recreation area. This being favoured over grass by the Health & Safety committee, for obvious reasons. New residents will be queuing up to buy their Eco friendly houses, a snip at just 30% more than the comparative normal houses, but what price to share the Governments dream of a new, Eco town.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Just over on the unfashionable end of Queen’s Road, the other side of the traffic lights, is this nicely preserved off licence. I can just about remember this being a shop about 25 years ago, but it has been a house since then. Hat’s off to the owner who has kept us wondering: ‘Whatever happened to Kimberley Ales’, all these years. Well! I’ve just looked and the brewery was in Kimberley, Notts and was bought out by Green King, who, as recently as 2006, closed it down as it was not cost effective. So there you are. Thanks to Martin Cordon, of Kimberly for the picture of the brewery.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Alas, poor Mr. Patel. If he could see his shop now he would turn in his grave. When we first moved here in 1982, Mr. Patel’s was our nearest corner shop and many was the evening I would walk 100 yards down the road to buy a can of Carlsberg Special Brew to take the edge off. He and I would discuss a test match with India, who if playing, would be on the radio for the duration of the game. An enterprising chap, he was one of the first to set up video rentals, but this was not enough to secure a long and happy life. He moved on to that big cash and carry in the sky about 20 years ago and bit by painful bit the shop has drifted into dereliction. A compulsory purchase order was slapped on it before Christmas and it’s up for auction on 31st April with outline planning permission for a four bed house. A big job for somebody.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
A stroll round to Queen’s Rd to buy some parsley for the Moules Marinere I’m cooking later, took me past two corner shops and prompted me to record the others in the immediate vicinity. Within an area that can be no bigger than an acre there used to be myriad shops selling pop, crisps and sweets, limp vegetables and alcohol, some cashing in on the video rental boom in the mid eighties. Most have changed use to domestic houses now, but here’s a selection that I can just about identify. I’ll release them over the next month, individually, to keep up your excitement!
SW1 Hairdressers has not been in the current ownership for long, and has the look of a business in decline. There is a heavy mesh at the window to keep out intruders, but it has the effect of frightening off, would be customers, as you can’t see into the darkness they cause. The shop used to be an unlicensed ‘one armed bandit’ emporium back in the early ‘80’s, then an Antique Shop, before becoming a Hairdressers about 15 years ago. Up until recently it was run by a very camp man and he catered for the blue rinse brigade and was always busy. You could hear him gossiping from my house 200 yards away. “Ooooooooooooooooooooo, really!”
Friday, March 21, 2008
I pulled up at the lights next to an Ice Cream Van this week and was amazed at how little they have changed since my own career as an Ice Cream Man, killing time in the summer holidays. Still on offer was the ‘99’ and the ‘Oyster’. Even the boxes of wafers and cones looked exactly the same. How on Earth can they make a living in these days of marvellous Hagen Daas and Ben & Jerry’s available at all hours from Supermarkets?
For your amusement I have included a picture taken in 1972 of my pal, John Littlejohn, now a U.S.A. resident, and me on the right, with two cameras around my neck. The 35mm rangfinder camera was a Contax 2 and the twin lens reflex a MPP Microcord. I sold the Contax, but the Microcord bounced out of a shopping bag loosely fastened to the rack of a moped in Crete some years later. Gone forever, as have Suncream Dairies, my employer.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
In the constantly changing urban environment, that is Queens Road, one thing remains a steady constant. This post box, now at a rather jaunty angle, probably following a dice with a delivery van, has been a link with the outside world since Clarendon Park was first built. Even in this age of super fast internet connections and e-mail, the humble envelope and stamp combination still has its place, be it to send a birthday card to a mate in a far flung place or to partake in the greatest pleasure available to the self employed, sending a clutch of invoices off at the end of a busy month. Odd how we take that red 2 inch x 10 inch slot so much for granted and grumble at a slight rise in cost every year. I actually think its pretty good value to be able to spend 30p and have something delivered to the other end of the country for the next day.... hopefully.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Hot Pork cobs with apple sauce and fried onions. Impossible to resist on a crisp, but cold Saturday morning as the aroma wafts down Queens Road ever intensifying as you close in and watch the knife slice through the tender meat. Even a vegetarian would struggle to walk past Archer & Sons, the butchers. Sean roasts a pig outside the shop every now and again. Maybe one he’s got spare, or a cancelled order. Whatever, its usually all gone by 2 o-clock. At £2.50 a cob its money well spent. Part of the business is hog roasts and it keeps him pretty busy,especially in the summer. See: http://www.hogroastuk.com/
Pictured is Simon. Simon is, bizarrely, a hairdresser by trade, though has clearly given up on his own locks.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
We are privileged in Clarendon Park to have a ‘real’ garage, staffed by chaps who have the ability to repair anything from classic to modern. There, in oil stained overalls they toil in all weathers under the watchful eye of Terry, the proprietor. They do MOTs which is very handy, though they are a bit efficient, if you catch my drift. None of that ‘I’ll let it go this time, but get it sorted for your own good’ malarky. The building itself is interesting. I think it was once a tram garage and wears a faded plaque above the door, too eroded to read. Trams did once run along Queens Road and the place would be far better if they still did. Before Terry took it on it was known as Reggio garage, after Reggio in Sicily, ‘Mafia Country’ as Tony, the old Italian owner once confided in me. Tony specialised in Citroens, along with his son, Tony and grandson.... you’ve guessed, Tony. Tony senior had a lovely DS 23 Automatic, which one day he intended to drive back to Sicily. I had a DS 23 Pallas at the time which seemed to spend far too much time round there. In October Tony and other members of the Leicester Italian community used to buy a lorry load of grapes and make their own Italian wine in his garage at home in Knighton. I was invited to witness the event once and sampled a glass, or two. I believe it was an acquired taste!
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Following the great success of the Grand Central Station ‘Big Freeze’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwMj3PJDxuo a scaled down version took place today on Queens Rd. Ignored by most, the event was almost a flop. To star in a flop is always a good career move as negative publicity is no worse than good publicity. The three stars await international recognition. In case you hadn't noticed.... It's a film. Click on the arrow, bottom left. A first amongst the collective I think.
Monday, February 04, 2008
As the Collective have spotted, I’ve been away for a while in The Sahara Desert. I have the great and unprecedented pleasure of bringing you the Libyan equivalent of Queens Road. This is Idri, slowly festering at N 27º 29’ 37” E 13º 04’ 25” if you fancy a look on Google Earth. Idri was out first tarmac since Derj 600 miles further north and a chance to refuel and pick up supplies from the local shops. The local petrol station actually had fuel which is suprisingly unusual in a country that produces the stuff. Electricity is still something of a novelty and the Libyans have not quite mastered the ability to do a neat wiring job, seeing nothing at all wrong with the ‘twist them together’ method. A request for electricity will often be met with the proud presentation of two bare wires and who can argue with them. The litter bin is still regarded with suspicion and largely ignored, rubbish being someone else's problem. Wade through the mess and dust and you find a genuine hospitality in rural Libya and a great desire to practice spoken English with a native speaker.