Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Snow stops Queens Road!!

Merry Christmas all. Here’s to open fires, mulled wine, pints of Timothy Taylor’s, roasting chestnuts, carols, proper Christmas Tree’s, Turkey, Cranbury Sauce, crackers, hangover’s, traffic chaos and the Queen’s Speech.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Juicy steaks

Two fillet steaks driven down from Scotland to Archer’s on Queen’s Road, Fried potatoes from Ron Combo’s garden in Italy and mushrooms from Peasgood’s, fried in butter with double cream, as a sauce. Washed down with a decent Cote de Rhone. May find room in about half an hour for a sliver of Ossau-Iratu stinky French cheese. Fantastic! Sorry for the break. Been busy!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Who's foolin' who.

I was greeted at the checkout yesterday (pack of 4 veg samosa’s - £1.45) with a sign congratulating all of us who have helped reduce plastic bag use by 50%. I imagine we are all supposed to feel most virtuous by doing our bit to save the Planet (doomed anyway). But, hold on a minute. Just who is the biggest winner in this campaign? The annual plastic bag budget for a supermarket chain must be colossal. So they have a saving of 50% on that straight away. Us wicker basket users are offered extra Nectar Points for not using bags as some incentive, but most middle aged, middle class, middle income males don’t know their nectars from their elbows. So the supermarkets are on a pretty save deal there. Then - and this is the big one- many of us recycle the give away bags as bin liners. They're bit small, but free. So the supermarket looses out on bin liner sales as well. So next time you are in a supermarket demand a free plastic bag and a spare one to line the bin with! Gosh ! That’s another rant. Must be my age.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Disobedience on the Park.

It was noticed that during the hotter days of this summer, certain irresponsible groups of young people were flagrantly disregarding this important notice. Disposable Barbecue’s bought at Sainsbury’s were being blatantly lit and sausages cooked, whilst alcohol was consumed. Clearly there is a great danger of scorching the short grass and the possibility of burning the odd finger. Grass that would take days to recover! On a stroll across the park after a particularly busy weekend I counted at least five one foot square areas of blackened grass. Disgraceful! I trust that next summer the Council will employ a permanent guard armed with a fire extinguisher. Rather oddly several well attended, and jolly good, music festivals took place on the park this Summer leaving their own temporary scars, but this was okay as it was controlled. I wonder if they ever stop to wonder why so many of us turn to drink, or leave these shores for pastures new in the free World over the Channel.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tea and home made scones.

Launde Abbey is a beautiful building just 17 miles East of Clarendon Park - A cycle ride for the fit and healthy. Yet, despite it’s proximity few venture down the lanes that lead to it. Heading for Rutland Water at the Bank Holiday we were lured off route at the promise of an ‘Open Day’ at the Abbey. It was like stepping into another World - home-made cakes and cups of tea on the lawn, served by matronly women in check shirts, an overpriced car boot sale trying to flog the junk of the Counties. All in aid of the renovation of this fine building. The Alvis Doctor’s Coupe was on display with a proud owner explaining all about his ‘dickey’ seat to those interested. Old fashioned (Totally inadequate title!) Fairground attractions lumbered round to entertain children. The Home Office's Vetting and Barring Scheme thankfully as yet unannounced, so children and adults could be freely seen within just a few inches of each other, enjoying the day.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Squirrel Pie.

Sat round a table in Babelas last week enjoying a pint of Dorothy Perkins when old pals Doug and Richard came in offering anyone who was interested, Squirrel Pie! Doug had bagged a few in his garden and he and Richard had skinned the blighter's guided by a Youtube film. Doug cooked two in a pressure cooker and added home grown potatoes, carrots and onions to make a few pies. I ate one in the bar, cold, but brought a second home to re heat the following night. It was superb! A delicate flavour, not like any other meat. being vegetarians squirrels have a pretty good diet, nuts, berries etc. This could be the way forward. I’ll definitely have it again, maybe done with shallots and garlic. Yum yum.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Park wherever you like.

It’s been like this all summer whilst the students are back at their parents sleeping off the rigours of the last gruelling 8 week term. Next time there is a campaign to introduce residents parking permits please flutter this picture under the noses of the all controlling Council. If the vile ruling had gone through we would have been paying a King’s ransom to park in these near empty streets. So glad people power stopped it.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Bonjour mon vieux ami.

Just back from France, where even the smallest of village cafe’s can rustle up a fresh croissant and a good cup of coffee in seconds. Not wishing to end the holiday atmosphere too soon, we fancied a leisurely petit dejeneur a la Queens Road. First stop was the recently opened Salvador Deli run by John Husain. The Husain brothers have made their mark on Queen’s Road with the hugely successful Bar Dos Hermanos and Barceloneta, both of which offer superb places to eat and drink. For those unfamiliar with the Deli it is half shop and half cafe, with tables outside that catch the sun in the afternoon. We fancied a couple of Cappuccino’s, croissants and pain au chocolate. Surprisingly these were not on the cafe menu, but clearly visible in the shop so I ordered them there and returned to my seat in the cafe bit. The coffee arrived quickly and was hot and good, but then we waited, and waited, and waited. I asked the girl what the problem was - they only had to travel 10 feet and we were two of four customers. She said they would be ready in a minute. This became 5 minutes so I went back in the shop to see them being put in a microwave. ‘No!’ I cried. ‘I’ll take them as they are’. (Microwaved croissants are soggy). Finally, coffee finished, we got them and they were stale. Yesterdays probably. We never did get to see the pain au chocolate. A fiver down on the deal we pottered across to Fingerprints opposite, in the interests of research, and ordered two Cappuccino’s and two pain au chocolate. The pastries went in a real oven and were served a few minutes later, hot, crispy and delicious, the coffee’s were a little smaller, but fine and the whole experience was less fraught. A tad more expensive though, at £5.80. Anyway. It is good to have a bit of competition between deli’s and I shall try and frequent both of them more regularly. In the meantime I shall continue to get my deli foods at the long established Christopher James Deli that doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a very good deli.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Short Ride on a thing you push.

The weekend saw a spirited send off for Clarendon Park resident and frequenter of Babalas, Ian Reeds. Ian is on a mission to shake off the demons of a broken relationship. He is cycling from here across France to Italy, where he’s going to take a shower at Ron Combo’s, Grappa Hell paradise. From there he will continue down through the former Yugoslavia, before catching a ferry back to southern Italy, back up to Ron’s for a second shower, then west across the South of France to Barcelona. Paris will be the next destination, then back home, eventually, to Queens Road, where he would appreciate it if the road is lined by girls waving flags and the bunting is out, last used for the Queens Silver Jubilee in 1976. It must be in a box under a cupboard under the stairs somewhere. Is it in the Conservative Club?

Moon - Sorry about nicking your excellent title, once sold to the Telegraph.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Green Door.

At the risk of treading on Unmitigated toes, I just wanted to share this lovely door with you. It is at the northern (park) end of Queens Rd near the opticians. The house is having quite a lot of work carried out on it at the moment. It is a shame that some previous owner made rather a hash of fitting a letterbox, but the basic style and structure of the door rises above that. The point is we simply cannot make doors like this any more. The skills have been lost. Those few craftsmen left would charge thousands to make a replica and would then struggle to find timber of a good enough quality. This door is over a hundred years old, yet perfectly serviceable. Where did it all go wrong. Progress I suppose and the need to conform to a government standard of door manufacture that achieves a sustainability rating of Tog 15. Those who share my commiseration's feel free to rant, and rant hard, below.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Perfect steak.

Simple pleasures available on Queens Rd. every day of the week, but especially Fridays when the steak munchies arrive. Two fillet’s from Scotland courtesy of Archer’s. I like to imagine these are from an animal that has been gazing out across some Loch in the highlands. I hope it led an easy life and has enjoyed every minute of it. I don’t actually eat a great deal of meat, but when I do, I’m picky and this is the best by a long way. Fresh English asparagus, Lincolnshire new potatoes and wild mushrooms from Marian and Joe Peasgood’s round off the fare for Friday night. Washed down by a smooth Rioja I had stashed away, it was a perfect meal and not a Nectar Point in sight.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Bin there, done that.

Much commotion outside this morning as the Bin Men try to negotiate their way around Clarendon Park. It is the same every week. One or two cars just a few inches out on their parking accuracy and the whole place shuts down. Here we have two culprits from the land of the rising sun narrowing the gap by a good couple of feet and the truck can’t get through. Given that all the streets around here and many other areas of the City comprise terraced houses built around the turn of the century, and most of them have similar width roads, would it not perhaps be worth using a fleet of smaller trucks? Too obvious I guess. Too much like the logic applied by a ten year old, not encumbered by committee thinking. What we need is those ones from the fifties with four gently curved roll up sides and an all up weight of about three tons. I had a Dinky Toy version as a lad. In the time I’ve taken to upload this pic and write this, he’s managed to reverse out and turn round. It’s taken 15 minutes. They may come back and do our road later in the day. Daft!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Daylight robbery.

For a long time the Mars Bar was used as a barometer of inflation. ‘A hours wage would buy 5 Mars bars in my day’ etc. etc. But we may have a new one in these more cosmopolitan times. The Clarendon Park essential, Lavazza coffee. I would never want to be thought of a consumer researcher, but brace yourselves for this bombshell! We, as many know, have a new local Sainsbury’s on Queens Road. This seems a good idea all round as it makes us all less car reliant. Lavazza is about the only thing I rely on supermarkets for. The going rate (Morrison's) for a pack is £2.74. The big Sainsbury’s in Oadby had it on spesh last week at £2.05. A snip. Here on Queens Rd it sell for £3.05. A more than a 10% price hike. Watch out!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Solid tyres

How much longer shall we hear the distinctive city clatter of a Milk Float? Surely the days must be numbered for this fine English institution, in the light of supermarket milk being about half the price. I saw our local Milkman this week speeding along Clarendon Park Road and wonder if he knows of the impending speed humps that will blight all our lives very soon. Too late to protest. Letters had to be in by 30th April.

But just look at this simple electric truck. Perfectly designed for the job. I guess it probably covers about 20 miles a day. Therefore, with the aid of a calculator with fresh batteries, since 1965, when it was first registered it must have covered ( 44 years x 365 days = 16060 trips x 20 miles = 321,200 miles!!!!!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

All the fun of the fair.

Growing up in Warwick in the sixties, a highlight of the year was Warwick Mop, a funfair that closed the centre of town for a few days. Probably still does. We have a local fair on Victoria Park just about to open and it is reassuring that even in this doomed climate some things remain pretty well unchanged. Sneaking around this morning there are still ERF lorries and Foden's. Old English manufacturers that used to be powered by Gardener 180 diesel engines with a second in the back to power the massive generator needed to run the ‘Bumper Cars’ as we called them. I intend to visit one night very soon and see if the heady smell of candy floss and diesel can take me back to my childhood when i watched in awe, the operators skipping nimbly from one car to the next collecting a shilling off each of us. Of course, it was all in black and white then....

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Boom for Shoppers.

There used to be a grocers here, run by a smiling chap with greased back, black, hair. Those that have lived around here for over 25 years will remember him. It was old style. Shelves with packets of Birds Custard and a slicing machine with some dubious looking cooked ham. Now we are having a new Sainsbury’s Local to a mixed reception. As there was always a queue in Jackson’s a need can be clearly proved. My own thoughts are that far from suffering, the local, owner driver, shops may well benefit. There will no longer be a need to drive to a supermarket for loo paper etc. and I, for one, will be doing all that on Queens Rd, on foot. This may prompt locals to return to buying meat from a proper butcher and fruit and veg from a proper Greengrocer. Completing all of the weeks shop (whatever that is) on foot and on Queens Road. I hope so.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

1984 and all that.

In a dastardly move today the Council has announced that we shall now be held responsible for issuing our own parking tickets. This move, hugely unpopular with residents, will save thousands on traffic wardens. Surveillance cameras will be positioned on every street corner and of such high definition they will even be able to read tax disk dates. Car users, the scum of our society, will be charged with sticking parking tickets on their own cars if illegally parked and reporting their own out of date tax disks! Fines will have to be doubled to cover the installation costs, but Graham Ramsbottom, the brains behind the scheme assured people they would soon get used to it like all other stealth taxes. The pioneering scheme is being applauded by snoopers everywhere hunched over monitors in their high vis jackets and hard hats. Possible future developments include catching thieves who bend down and pick up coins off the street, those who don’t own up when they’ve been given too much change in shops and people who wear odd socks. As English subjects will shall, naturally, take it all on the chin. If we were French we would block all the roads with turnips and retreat to a bar until the plan was shelved, but we’re not. Vive le France.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lost World.

Few people ever notice as they stumble from one bar to the next on Queens Road, that if they were to just stray a little further the other side of the Clarendon Park Rd. traffic lights, then hang a left, they are in unspoilt countryside. This is the Queens Rd. allotments and have, I guess, been there since the area was developed around the beginning of the twentieth century. Throughout the War they would have provided a lot of fresh food and post war they have offered chaps a chance to escape from the family at the weekend and head for the shed. There are various pleading notices asking if any are vacant, but no clues as to who owns any of them. Some are cultivated, but many are not, so I expect it’s only a matter of time before a property developer buys them and they become another housing estate. Ever the optimist.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

All gone.

Almost as quickly as it came, saw and conquered, so it has melted with the exception of these massive snow balls rolled in the park looking rather incongruous in the sunshine. I listened last week to the news on local radio casting doom and gloom about closed schools, buses not running, the county ground to a standstill etc. etc. What a stark contrast this made to the reality on the streets and in the parks, where everyone was out having fun - snowball fights, tobogganing and building snowmen. I guess that will be it now, possibly for some years. What fun it was and how it brought back memories of ones own childhood as a crisp, well formed snowball goes down the back of your neck.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Flower Power.

Braced for the busiest days of the year the stalwart and delightful staff at Flower Corner are ready to sell, wrap, listen, advise and deliver thousands of blooms this weekend. It’s quite a risky business. All those flowers will fade rapidly if not shifted over the next three days. Those who plan in advance were in today ordering the best, tomorrow will be the last minute’ers and Sunday morning will be those in the shit trying to bail themselves out of a tricky situation. My pals Naomi and Steve run a florists in Gloucester, Steve seems to end up doing a lot of the deliveries, like Paul, the owner of Flower Corner. Steve told me he was amazed at the number of girls who, when he knocks on the door with a lavish bouquet ask him to tell the bloke to shove them where the sun don’t shine, and slam the door in his face! Strange creatures women.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

R.I.P Vicbag

Vicky Keens-Soper, aka Vic-bag, or Vicky Keen Groper was our first employee at TJ’s Hamburgers when we opened back in 1982. Vicky was a little older than us and a member of the much revered Clarendon Park Women's Army. A group of women who all went through divorce at about the same time and were feared throughout the area. Vicbag was a star though, and a good friend as well as model employee for about 7 years before drifting off into a thing called a career. Social Services, working with ‘lifers’ in prison, from memory. However, she was always at her best flirting with the young chaps and this picture was taken at Clive Millac’s 40th a couple of years ago when she was in full flow with Clive and Leon Fisk. Vicky was always good at listening to the problems of others. Hence the career listening to prisoners. Maybe her own colourful life equipped her for that. It seemed to have many phases. First the Mum, living in a Chateau in France bringing up Robert, Alex and Gus, then a vague cultural existence with Maurice 2nd in Clarendon Park, then her ‘wild’ days working for us and sharing her life with Doug, before settling down with Stephen in Devon and starting a whole new life. It all adds up to far more ‘life’ than most of us manage and yet she embraced it all. It was last Autumn that I had a call from Splev (Ian Splevings) to say she was not well and in Hospital. Things were apparently ‘not looking good’ and just today I bumped into her old pal, Lynne Smith, who confirmed Vicky had died last week. A great loss. Many fond memories, but one that sticks in my mind is when I had completed a basic food hygiene course and felt I should assert the importance of hand washing before starting work to all the TJs staff. “There’s no need for me to wash mine, they are perfectly clean already” was Vicky’s predictable response! R.I.P.