drEAming, fashion, general chit chat, mEAndering, out and about

mEAndering…down memory lane in 1970’s Cheltenham

Here is part 2 of our trip down to Cirencester and Cheltenham…

For anyone that doesn’t know Cheltenham it is a Regency spa town and this is an example of the houses you will find there – usually painted and quite often adorned with wrought iron balconies and canopies – from my first visit when I attended my interview for the fashion course I fell in love with Cheltenham and this house was always one of my favourites just off the town centre – I love the intricate iron work.

 

As we wandered through the town we were surprised at how much we remembered –  we walked down the famous Promenade…

 

– it felt very much as it always did with Cavendish House (now House of Fraser) at the top of the street –  but many of the other shops along the stretch had changed.  It is a shame the trees are bare at the moment it looks quite splendid when they are in full leaf.

Habitat was at the very bottom of the street in the 70’s – our favourite shop because it was so modern and different then – but now long gone.  I remember that on a Saturday morning it was usual to see many of the wealthy shoppers parading the Promenade and Montpellier in their furs and jewels accompanied by their Afghan hounds and other beautifully groomed long-haired pedigree dogs.  Such a contrast to my home town of Huddersfield where the shoppers were much more about a bargain from a mill shop or the markets.

 

Behind the Promenade lies Regent Street with the Everyman Theatre – this has quite rightly received the Heritage Award for the complete refurbishment in 2011.

 

We eventually came to the High Street – the old HSBC bank (then the Midland) is still on the corner – I had my first bank account here and ran up an overdraft of £10 in my first term and was called in by the bank manager who looked at me sternly from across his desk and told me in no uncertain terms that overdrafts were a definite no no – putting the fear of God in me I went straight out to get the local paper and found myself a weekend job at the nearby hospital to pay it off and then went to bank with the Co-op where the two ‘old’ ladies on the counter upstairs always addressed me by my christian name and enquired after my progress on the course.

This is quite a famous pub because of the lovely old tiled exterior – it was never our local but it is good to know it has survived demolition.  Our local was still there but I expect the owners have long retired.

Further along the little old fashioned jewellers shop is still in business (surprisingly it looks just as it did then) – this is where we chose my engagement ring –  a diamond between to deep blue saphires and cost a hefty £28.  I still have the handwritten receipt and of course the ring!

 

Turning off the High street into one of the many side alleys we just had to go and see where our second rented house once stood – now demolished and the site occupied by a Lidl supermarket.  This picture is all that is left of 30 Grosvenor Terrace.  (I am the one on the bike and as you will notice beards were very much in fashion then!)

 

Our previous house called simply ’58’ was out on the Prestbury Road, which back then was a rather fine row of large semi-detached Regency properties with our very shabby student house letting the side down.  It now stands looking very grand and much more in keeping with its well maintained neighbours who have managed to keep their beautiful wrought iron canopies intact.

This house holds very special memories –  this is where I met both my life long friends and my husband – this is where we packed more fun into the few years we lived here than the rest of my life.  In all the time we lived here we never had a key – there was no lock to the front door so the occupants and everyone else just walked in and out – quite unbelievable now but I can assure you as poor students on very frugal grants we certainly had nothing of value to pinch so it was never a problem!!

 

 

The Art College at the top of Pittville near the racecourse has been demolished in places and rebuilt – this is how the fashion block looked when I was a student there from 1972 to 1975 …

Google image University of Gloucestershire

 

…and this is me leaning out of one of the upstairs windows – being young and slim I always got roped in to modelling both my own and other students creations for photo shoots and shows so I thought it might be fun to show you fashion in the seventies.

 

 

 

It was usual during our course to be involved in projects with fabric manufacturers like Courtaulds promoting their new fabrics.  We would be sent rolls of various fabrics and had to design outfits to suit.  This one was a hit with ICI fibres and was featured in the trade magazine Fashion Weekly – I remember that seeing my outfit in print was quite exciting – I think I even wore the coat a few times afterwards.

 

 

Below was a project for Heathcote fabrics in fine wool crepe and I made the coat for myself afterwards in grey wool for a trip to London – I thought I was the bees knees at the time!

Oddly whilst we were in Cheltenham I actually saw someone wearing an almost identical coat (now 40 years later – which just shows how fashions just keep coming around).

 

As well as the very stylised line and ink drawings I was very much into experimenting with pastels back then and drew large A3 sized freehand drawings onto coloured pastel paper which were so different to my fellow students that I worried the examiners might frown upon them.

 

 

Luckily not – but all my drawings do seem a bit crude now – with all the latest technology Fashion students today produce work that looks much more professional.

When I started work at New Look patterns in Bradford I was asked to design a simple range of patterns for the fabric manufacturers Landau Sekers to team up with our Special Offer patterns – I found these old drawings the other day.

 

I wondered if any of the patterns I designed back then might still be available now and Googled vintage New Look patterns and sure enough among the hundreds that are featured on Google images there are many designs that I remember doing –  though in general they are not my drawings on the envelope fronts as we used a professional illustrator called Alan who lived near Warrington and each week we would send him a pack of sample clothes we had made with fabric swatches and colour guides and he sent the hand painted drawings back to be used on the envelope fronts.

So that is my recent trip down memory lane and it was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be – I just wish I could go back and do it all over again and yes I certainly do miss Cheltenham.

back soon x

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drEAming, general chit chat, mEAndering, out and about

mEAndering…goodbye to Uncle P

It has been a bittersweet few days.  We travelled down to Cirencester on Thursday morning for my Uncles funeral, he died suddenly, leaving the whole family shocked and upset at his passing.  You may remember this picture of him that I included in my mum’s Family Album recently.

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Uncle P was married to my late dad’s younger sister (the one here with the cake tin) – he was always full of life – ‘a happy chappy’ I guess – full of wit and wisdom and well-known for the occasional practical joke.

All our side of the family wanted to attend the funeral even though we had long journeys to get there involving a night in a hotel.  Those going from North Yorkshire chose to go down after work on Wednesday evening, stay in a hotel overnight and then go back home after the funeral.   Those of us here in the west of Yorkshire chose to journey down early on Thursday morning and stay over coming back Friday.

Even though it was a sad affair it was lovely to see all of the wider family, some of whom we have not seen for months or in some cases years, and catch up with all their news and the latest arrivals.

As is usual at these events there are many cousins –  first cousins, second cousins and third cousins and not forgetting all the once removed ones – I am never sure how the heirarchy of cousins fits together but we were all there.  Little L discovered her third cousin (possibly removed, possibly not), Little H – they are of similar age and even though it was the first time they had ever met got on so well to the point that little L did not want to leave her new playmate and go home and had a bit of a sulk on at home time!

After a bite to eat and a lot of catching up, a few tears and a few laughs, we set off to find our Premier Inn hotel at Little Witcombe – just outside Gloucester – only to be directed by the Google place finder to the one at Barnwood.  We didn’t even know it was the wrong one until the lady on reception could not locate our booking.  We then had to run back to the car in the lashing rain with all our luggage – repack it into the boot and set off with a few vague directions from the polish receptionist to find the right one.

All we knew was there was a lot of left turns and roundabouts involved – but more by sheer luck than management we eventually came to Little Witcombe – only to discover the hotel is in the middle of nowhere without a takeaway or chip shop in sight and the restaurant next door had stopped serving long ago for the night.

So after dumping our luggage in our room it was back into the car again to find a local takeaway – we ended up a few miles away on the outskirts of Gloucester at Domino Pizza – my first ever and although I am not a fan of takeaways and fast food it was surprisingly good.

On Friday morning before heading homeward we had our trip to Cheltenham where both DH and I met and lived for a few years whilst at Art College – it is many years since we had been there and I was a bit hesitant about going back – sometimes just having the memory of how it was is better – but I really enjoyed trying to spot buildings and places we remembered and what had been knocked down or changed.

I will fill you in on our visit on my next post.  I am experiencing some computer problems at the moment so posting is a bit intermittent.

Back soon x

bEAching, celebrations, cottage garden, crEAting, fEAsible, fEAsting, holidays, mEAndering, taking stock, trEAsury

drEAming…January – did I blink and miss it?

I feel like I have been ‘off the circuit’ for months rather than days and January has whizzed past so fast that I never got to post the list of my intentions for the month but I will try to capture the best bits in a quick summary.

 

  • fEAsting –

    Celebrate Burns Night – as you can just about see from the Polaroids above a great night spent with 6 friends, 3 Haggis (one vegetarian), 12 Scotch pies, 2 Macaroni pies and a heap of tatties and neeps not to mention plenty of gravy and wine whilst singing along to the tunes of bonny Scotland –  I even made the Cranachan this year – it was delicious and although hesitant at first everyone gave it the thumbs up – just a touch more Whisky next year!

 

  • trEAsury –

Buying a new car – after much deliberation and contemplation and counting the pennies – here she is my new car ‘Hetty’ Hyundai.

 

After 16 years driving the same car day in, day out she is taking a bit of getting used to especially as she is much higher than my old Citroen Saxo and at times I am feeling a little travel sick.

I am sure we will settle in together soon!

  • crEAting –

Making birthday cards for January birthdays – they had to be quick and simple so I used some brightly coloured ink pads and these tiny flower stamps and just dotted the flowers around – each one is slightly different.  They also made good Thank you cards too.

 

  • fEAsible –

taking stock and planning but first the reading and researching – with the long dull winter days what could be more perfect than getting warm and cosy and reading – most of the books below have been borrowed from our local library.  I am interested to cut down our spending as much as possible both to save money and to simplify my life by owning less stuff.

The book titled Deep Country by Neil Ansell is an excellent account of a man who takes himself off to live in a cottage in a remote part of the Welsh Hills for 5 years where he has no modern conveniences such as electricity or running water, no transport and no phone.  His nearest neighbours are just the wild creatures – fauna and flora of the surrounding woods and fields – I was captivated by this book – not only because he describes in detail the amusing behaviours of the birds and animals he comes across on his daily walks, but part of me was envious of this simple but rich lifestyle.

 

 

  • mEAndering –

The ‘Italian Job’ – booking the accommodation and flights for our trip to Italy in April for our niece’s wedding.

This task was both a chore and a delight – looking at the beautiful pictures of the region from Venice to Verona and deciding where we wanted to stay and what we might do and then the difficulty of making all the travel arrangements to get everything to join up.  Now everything is booked apart from a taxi to take us to the wedding ceremony – for that we will have to email the hotel for advice.

  • bEAching –

My final intention for January was to have a few days at the cottage (caravan) in Scotland – to check the place over and also begin clearing out the undergrowth in the upper wood – not forgetting buying the haggis for Burn’s night.  We set off on the Friday with snow lying on the ground in Yorkshire and we heard on the news it was bad at Shap but the M6 was still flowing so we decided to risk the journey knowing that we could turn back or put up in a hotel if need be.

As it turned out the worst bit of the journey was actually only 6 miles away from here going over the moors to Manchester and the stretch of the M62 by Scammonden – there was nothing around Manchester itself.

As you might expect it was a very cold night in the caravan – the temperatures had dropped to almost freezing but thankfully we have double glazing and central heating.  We put the electric blanket on to air the bed and even after we switched it off we stayed toasty warm all night.

On the Saturday it was a gloriously sunny day with blue skies and an even deeper blue coloured, calm sea.

 

We had a leisurely breakfast and a trip into our nearest town Stranraer to change the empty spare gas bottle – with the cold weather it is always best to be well stocked.

We had a potter around the town – I bought a couple of birthday gifts for the January birthdays and a very large family sized pack of Persil on offer at Tesco for £9 (Morrisons had it on offer at £10!) – I like a bargain.

Back at the caravan the sun was out and it was such a lovely afternoon we put on our gardening gear – fleece joggers, padded jackets, hats, scarves and boots and looking like arctic explorers went up into the upper wood to do some clearing.  We have to do the wood clearance at this time of year whilst the undergrowth is not growing.  We pruned the elders that spring up in any bit of a clearing and had a go at the brambles.  Elders make good shredding or should I say Elder branches go through the shredder easily, they are straight thin branches and not thorny like Hawthorn.

The large spider legged pond cover we bought last year in a sale from Agriframes seems to be doing the job of keeping the leaves off the pond – I presume the wind from the recent gales must blow straight through the structure as there is no way to anchor it down but yet it had not moved an inch – luckily.

 

 

There are bulbs coming up everywhere in the garden and snowdrops well in bud.  To my horror though the three-cornered leek is everywhere you would not even know I had dug up so much of it last year even to the point of digging out every last tiny bulb over a 2 metre area – even the ones that were like microscopic beads.  To no avail – it has spread over winter with a vengeance.  So it is back to searching the internet for a remedy – surely there is a pesticide for this persistent pest of a weed.

 

There was a surprising amount of colour around the garden –  the Mahonia Charity and Viburnum in flower…

 

 

Berries still remain on the Hypericum…

 

 

and elsewhere evidence of shoots bursting into life…

 

or about to…

 

 

The light eventually faded and we had to come inside – I made a nice hot 2 day lentil curry for tea to warm us up whilst OH promptly fell asleep and snored blissfully on the sofa after a job well done!

Opening the curtains on Sunday morning confirmed the weather we could hear from inside the caravan – wet, windy and cold – not a day to venture out and certainly not a day for the garden.  We had to turn our attentions to amuse ourselves inside.

For me it was plotting and planning as well as reading a stack of magazine articles I had clipped in my recent clear-out interspersed by just watching the waves as the sea crashed around at the bottom of the garden.

By the end of the afternoon the weather was a little warmer and calmer but the light was fading fast so still no chance of gardening.

At tea time I began to collect our bits and pieces together ready to pack for leaving on the Monday.  We had to be in town for 11am as the local Osteopath (with the magic touch) was going to work on fixing my bad shoulder before we travelled home.

I know the main problem with all my muscles is due to lack of exercise and I will be taking small steps to address this soon.

I actually feel quite pleased with myself that I completed all my intentions for January – I decided this year I would try and focus on one project at once – unfortunately it was unavoidable that planning the Italian Job and buying a new car collided a bit but thankfully they both got sorted.

In a day or two I will be posting my intentions for February so stay tuned.

Back soon x

mEAndering, out and about, sEAsons

sEAsons…a living Advent

Saltaire

As some of you may know I live in a small market town in West Yorkshire, that is really no more than a large village, where the Pennine Moors rise steeply above us and mill chimneys are dotted around the landscape.   Like many similar places that you may be familiar with such as Holmfirth (Last of the Summer Wine country), Hebden Bridge and Halifax these places expanded from nothing more than small hamlets during the Industrial Revolution with the building of the ‘dark satanic’ mills for the woollen, cotton and silk industry.
Titus Salt was one of the many people of this era, often influenced by a religious faith, who not only built mills and factories but also provided decent housing for their workers.  Titus Salt went one step further and created a whole village namely Saltaire which is near the city of Bradford.
When we first married we lived in an old 4 storey terrace of similar mill worker’s houses over the other side of our village and they are now quite rightly listed.  There is a small park called the ‘People’s pleasure grounds’ accessed by the bridge over the stream at the bottom of the gardens – all part of the provision for the mill workers.
I mention all this because yesterday we braved the weather to visit Saltaire Village, we hadn’t been for some years, it is now a world heritage site and I desperately wanted to see the Living Advent windows. Every year 24 of the houses take part and a window is illuminated with a festive scene with one scene being ‘opened’ daily in sequence from 1st of December until 24th December and then remaining to view until 5th January.
As you can see from the first few photos the mill is enormous and no longer used for textiles but houses an Art Gallery including a collection of David Hockney paintings, a large restaurant and three floors of books, homewares, furniture and clothing.  The homewares section has display cabinets of design classics – crockery, cutlery and glasses that most people will remember from the different eras that are now very much collectible.
 The china, dishes, pots and pans on sale are all selected for their design and quality and although some items are very expensive some are much more affordable (especially at the moment whilst certain items are much reduced).  I was in absolute heaven – I could easily have come home with almost everything in the shop but decided that I would make a mental note of anything that I felt might be useful or just plain beautiful to have and plan another trip there another day.
Before going in the mill we had a wander around the streets – there is a stretch of shops along the main road down to the mill with craft shops, restaurants and cafes – beyond this is the tight network of terraced housing built on a grid system and all the streets are named after his wife, sons and daughters, Caroline, William Henry, George, Amelia, Edward, Fanny, Herbert, Whitlam, Mary, Helen and Ada.

Some houses had larger gardens, some smaller and some of them open straight onto the pavement – I expect this represented your standing in life and the importance of the work you did at the mill.  Every house was looking very festive and I particularly loved some of the wonderful colour combinations.
What would have been little corner shops and general stores are to be found at the end of many of the streets.  This one has been turned into a Bridal shop and we also discovered the local Spa.

It was so bitterly cold and wet but we walked up and down the streets with me snapping away every time we came upon another Advent window.  As it was only mid afternoon the first few were not yet illuminated but I wanted to capture as many of them as I could.  But scroll further down and you will see they come alive after dark when we went out again after the lights had been switched on.

   

 

Even the ordinary stained glass in the windows and doors of these houses look extremely festive.

And lastly we came upon Victoria Hall, originally named Saltaire Institute, such a grand building for a village I thought it deserved a photo before we came home – apparently it cost £25,000 when it was built between 1867 and 1871 and contained a main hall seating 800, a lecture room, two art rooms, a laboratory, a gymnasium, a library of 8,500 books and a reading room.
It is currently used as a venue for weddings and conferences.

This is now my last post of the Christmas season – tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and then the start of a whole new year stretching ahead of us.  I have a few ideas in mind, a lot of reading still to do and plenty of decisions to make. 
2018 feels like it might be a good year.

Happy New Year to all my readers. x

drEAming, mEAndering, out and about, random thoughts

autumn journeys…

Fond memories of times past.

On our way to Edinburgh last weekend we took a detour off the A702 to visit the pretty historic conservation village of West Linton.  Fifteen miles outside Edinburgh and at the foothills of the Pentland Hills this tiny village, steeped in history, with evidence of pre-historic occupation is one of the oldest market settlements in Scotland.

In 1974, a mere twenty years of age and studying Fashion and Textiles at Cheltenham Art college I stayed here for a weeks holiday with my then to be husband (with his long curly hair) in this tiny caravan that we had hired.  The same caravan site we found is now a housing estate!

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To say all the other vans on the site were larger than this is no lie – we booked the caravan through an advert in the local Cheltenham paper and had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for other than it was affordable for two ‘impoverished’ students.  On arrival at the site we wandered around every caravan looking for the right number and kept disregarding this one until after eliminating all the others it finally dawned on us that yes this tiny 2 berth was our home for the week!!

We had no transport of our own as we had been ‘dropped off’ by my parents who were on their way to Pitlochry for a holiday in their own touring caravan.   To get anywhere we had to rely on the local bus service going either north to Edinburgh or south to the little town of Biggar.

Each morning we would walk into the village of West Linton and wander round taking in the history and scenery and always ending with a coffee in the Old Bakehouse where the waitresses all dressed in long Victorian styled Laura Ashley print dresses complete with white mop caps and aprons.

 

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It is now a Bistro and looking more like a pub inside than a tea room.

We could still recognise most of the shops – the post office, the chemist and especially the newsagent where we bought a jigsaw to do during the evenings and had to sleep on top of it when we made the bed up at night as there was no other table top.

 

 

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We remembered the quaint cottages and unusual street names…

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the intricate wall plaques and historic artefacts dotted around…

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and the curious central clock tower…

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We had a pleasant walk around reminiscing about those few wonderful days – going back after so many years  was quite emotional.

Before we left we had a final look at this little building in the square, today it is used as the Village Centre – but back then it was a registry office for births, deaths and marriages.

 

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This tiny building evoked such strong memories for us tinged slightly with sadness of what might have been.  We were young, in love, and like many, full of hopes and dreams for our future and each day as we walked past we were so tempted to go and get married – just the two of us with no fuss.  The only thing that stopped us in the end was the fact that my mum would never have forgiven us!

This is the same building in 1974 with me stood in the doorway.

West Linton 1974

We finally married in 1976 during the July heat wave a church wedding with sit down reception of ham salad and trifle for 60 guests with disco afterwards.  We had the full works – wedding dress and veil, bridesmaids, cake and all the trimmings (which pleased my mum) and although so far it has been happy ever after we do wonder what course our lives would have taken had we married in West Linton.

beach cottage, bEAching, cottage garden, drEAming, general chit chat, mEAndering, sEAsons

what we didn’t do on our holidays…

Hello – I’m back – well I have been back at home for over a week but soooo busy that blogging has not been an option for me.

To say I was a little disappointed on holiday is probably an understatement.  All was going to plan, we got off on time and ambled our way up country stopping for lunch and tea and arriving at the cottage early evening.  After a good nights sleep we had a lovely day in the garden the following day with the sun shining down on us and the sea so calm with a beautiful silvery cast and then the next day it happened – my back went into spasm, I couldn’t move and I spent the rest of the holiday in pain and discomfort unable to do any gardening!! We also had to abandon the visit we had planned to go up to the Cowal Open Studios at Dunoon. (Sorry we missed you Freda if you are reading this).

OH plodded on as best he could all week in the garden trying to do as much as he could inbetween the rain and the cooking.

One or two of you asked me to bring back some pictures of the garden so I thought I would show you the progress so far to the stream bank.

Remember the flood – this was the original view at the bottom of our garden with the little wooden bridge.

After the flood we were then left with this gaping void where the sea had taken not only the bridge but a slice of both our garden on the right of the picture and the farmers land on the left.

This is what it looked like back in January this year (looking from the other direction) when the engineering work had been completed and the boundary of our garden re-established using gabion baskets to form a stable edge and then black mesh laid over to create a more natural looking banking.

This is how it looks today – the grasses and wild flowers are beginning to grow back through the black mesh and the gaping void we were left with is narrower and much less obvious now and… we have grass – you can hardly call it a lawn but it looks better than the mud heap we had up until Easter.

There were pockets of colour dotted here and there in the garden – the bright orange of the nasturtiums and Monbretia, the glossy red berries and hips and the bobbing white daisy heads of the chamomile, and of course the Hydrangeas and White Anemones.

 

 

We had bought a pond cover to install over our pond to try to minimise the amount of leaves that fall into the pond at this time of year.  It was not an easy thing to put together and seemed to have a few basic design faults which added to the frustration, but it is now in place so we will have to see how it goes.

On my only day in the garden we managed to clear a patch and sow the grass seed where we wanted to extend the lawn on the wood side garden.  Once this has taken we will plant a few shade loving shrubs along the banking to give it some structure.  I am not sure the netting is going to keep out the wood pigeons.

 

Whilst indisposed for most of the holiday there was little to do (with no internet or TV) other than read.  I had taken a number of library books and one in particular I found quite thought-provoking and I will come back to this another day as the ideas are quite useful.  I also made use of this time reading all the diet and health articles I had clipped from my pile of magazines and taken with me on holiday. I learnt a lot and will be putting my findings into practice over the next few weeks and will share this with you.

On the last evening after having been straightened out by the local osteopath ready for the journey home the next day we celebrated with a meal out at Henry’s in Stranraer and then took a detour on the way back to the cottage to Portpatrick a delightful little harbour village.  The white-painted Harbour Masters cottage by the lighthouse with its mustard yellow window mullions and contrasting blue shutters (that are often tight shut against the winter storms) is one of my favourite houses.

As the day was drawing to an early close I captured the last of the sun setting over the Irish sea.

 

Back at home it has been a busy week and a half as we have been going up and down to North Yorkshire on my days off to help my younger daughter move.   She is now renting a place further away from Masham but this one has central heating and double glazing.

Luckily my back has fully recovered and I have been scrubbing cookers (she has two – an oil-fired Rayburn which they have had difficulty keeping lit and the back up electric oven in the adjoining laundry room).  I have no idea how to work a Rayburn but I hear they have already made pancakes so must have overcome the lighting problems.

I am ever hopeful that one day they will be able to afford their own home but the prices in the area are far too high for first time buyers.  Each time she rents we end up fixing things that really the landlord should be doing but typically never do.

At work it has been a round of appraisals and notice of forthcoming changes that will be implemented soon.  Since the appointment recently of two new directors we have been told to expect plenty of change.  On average I believe we have had some kind of change every three months for the past 3 years even before the new directors!  As they say nothing ever stays the same and the family feel our firm once boasted has now disappeared.  I meet people in the corridor and I don’t even know they are new employees.

Onwards and upwards.  I need to have a good catch up with everyone now.

 

drEAming, general chit chat, mEAndering, out and about

chef of the year – cook off…

I had an unusual and exciting day on Tuesday.  I should have been at work but booked the day off at the last-minute and headed off to Birmingham with my OH for the day.  We met my younger daughter and granddaughter down there at Birmingham University College for the grand final of the Anchor Care Homes Chef of the Year competition.

Our son-in-law works as a chef in one of the Anchor homes and was one of the seven finalists in the competition and we had been invited to go and cheer him on.

Getting into Birmingham was a bit of an ordeal and we passed the turning we required a couple of times ending up firstly in Solihull and then Edgbaston both on the south side when we actually wanted a street just off the North of the centre!

The competition was stiff and the conditions tough too.

It was held in one of the training rooms at the University and each participant only had a preparation surface of about 3 square feet plus a hob, the ovens did not have a temperature gauge (so a bit of guess-work required) and there was a severe lack of spoons and other useful pieces of equipment.  It was the first time they had been in this kitchen and so had no time to get familiar with it or the equipment on offer.

The two course meal had to be appropriate to feed an elderly resident in one of the care homes and had to be both nutritious and fall within a strict budget as well as being imaginative but not over the top – no Heston Blumenthal creations!  Each meal had to be presented 3 times – one plate for the judges, one for the photographer and one suitable for a resident on a dysphagia diet so the chosen menu had to be adaptable to make as a pureed version.

The whole 2 hour competition and then the judging afterwards was filmed and shown live on Facebook which made it even more tense.

Whilst the judging was underway we got to taste the food that had been photographed.  As I am vegetarian I headed straight for the puddings and skipped the main meals that were mainly meat or fish.  This was the only vegetarian option made by the only female chef.

Son in law had made a beautiful creamy Creme Brulee but unfortunately it had curdled slightly just at the bottom due to the difficult conditions and no doubt lost him a few marks but it still tasted heavenly.

The winner was one of those chocolate puddings with a melted centre, equally delicious – oops sorry in my haste to taste I forgot to get a snap of the winning dish!

Sadly son-in-law (2nd from the left) did not win but he did a tremendous job and everyone was a winner.

Little L was so good throughout and kept saying ‘that’s my daddy cooking’ – you can tell who stole the show!

She was the only child there and in fact the University security staff had to be persuaded to let her in.

She brought her own brand of ‘Granny’ and Mr Fox with her to watch!

When it was all over we headed for the nearest coffee bar to relax and then just had time for a wander through the Grand Central shopping centre on New Street.

Birmingham is a very vibrant city and has come a long way from the Birmingham I remember back in the 70’s when we visited from Cheltenham.  The architecture was particularly interesting to us.

 

It was fascinating to see shops that we would never have up here in Huddersfield… 

in particular I liked the pop up Ice Cream roll shop where they shaped and froze down ice cream mixed with fruits on a flat cold metal plate and then cut and served this in rolls.

The Killer cereal cafe also caught my eye…

with their vast range of very unhealthy but colourful boxes of cereals to choose from…

and the Not Dogs vegetarian hot dog stall…I know I could not live in a city now full-time but it was nice to go for the day and experience the hustle and bustle and see different shops I didn’t know existed – but at the end of the day I was glad to leave it all behind.

In comparison to the revamped and impressive shopping and city centre we stopped off at the Tamworth Motorway services for a drink on the way home and found it to be really run down since our last visit a number of years ago and due to the heavy rainfall that evening came complete with puddles of water all over the seating area from the leaking roof.  They had large recycling bins against the walls for customers to scrape their unwanted food into which probably added to the very unpleasant smell that permeated throughout the place – absolutely dire.

In all though it was a pleasant change from going to work and I look forward to Son-in-law being part of next years competition.