Rust, dust and lust: a cautionary tale of resilience.

Once upon a time there was a castle which was crumbling from the foundations upwards. The white ants had been busy over the years and whilst the facade looked stable, the foundations had powdered to ashes and the ashes had powdered to dust and the dust had blown away in the cruel winds of fortune.  One day, with the townsfolk looking on and attending a gigantic carnival in the middle of the splendiferous grounds, the castle, once so proud and austere, so demanding of its audiences and towns folk, decided to call it a day and crumbled away to very little in the space of a couple of shocking seconds.

Gasps wouldn’t do justice to the sounds the townsfolk made when they saw their castle disappear in front of their eyes.  Something that had appeared so steady and so reliable had been shaken to nothing in the blink of several thousands’ peoples’ eyes.

To be continued…

Give Us This Day: a Toast to GB Cafe, Nottingham

GB in name, Great Breakfasts and more besides in nature.

The concept of Great Britain or GB in these Brexit fuelled times can be a particularly contentious one for many people, opening up as it does questions of nationality, culture and identity. There’s nothing quite like debates about food and who eats what and why and when. What we don’t eat exercises us as much as what we do.

The beauty of the GB cafe in Sneinton Market is its tolerance for a wide selection of tastes. It has a diverse offer of meals at some very satisfying prices and in an atmosphere which is warm and welcoming, if not a little heavy on the GB theme. Big pictures of London are all very well in London, but in Nottingham it would be great to see something a bit more of a Nottingham focus – which isn’t about Robin Hood.

But it’s a real find down in the up and coming Sneinton Market area and something to visit at any time of day.

Lords, Ladies, Gentlemen and Members of the Jury, please raise a toast to GB Cafe in Nottingham.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Toast: read all about toasting here

Poetry on the Hoof: Soz.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry,
I’m very, very sorry,
For the delays, the disruption, the chaos, we’ve brought
To your daily routine.

We’re sorry the tram stopped running,
We’re sorry the bus driver forgot to turn up for work,
We’re sorry the road’s been dug up over night,
We’re all sorry, sorry, very very sorry.

Sorry your tickets out of date,
Sorry your life style made you late,
Sorry you look the way you do,
Sorry your dog demanded a poo
On the high street before your very eyes,
Sorry you forgot to clean it up,
Sorry you have to listen to this.
It’s nothing to do with us, sorry.

Sorry for having to apologise.
Sorry we’ve got to listen to this.
Sorry for being sorry.
We apologise. We really do. Soz.

Tips for Travellers: Epoca Restaurant, Craiova, Romania

If you’re staying locally in a hotel which will remain un-named at the moment, you will soon get fed up with their potential promises of restaurant food and head off to an actual restaurant which actually serves real, high quality dinner where the promise of potential is not only reached but surpassed.

This is a superlative dining experience, made even better by the waiter’s introduction of their home made Țuică (Romanian Rakia) – a pure pleasure.

A colleague and I braved the wintry conditions (minus 15 degrees and a biting wind) to find Epoca and we didn’t regret it for one minute. The only regret was the thought of returning to the un-named hotel which promised so much potential but delivered so little on the actuality front.

Tips for Travellers: Hotel Plaza and Restaurant, Craiova, Romania

.. as it hides a myriad of sins. The Hotel Restaurant Plaza has an impressive front and beneficial location. It has a hard working staff and a large spacious restaurant in which you might imagine all kinds of wonderful meals would be served up. Its bedrooms are warm; its shower-rooms come equipped with everything you think you might need for a comfortable stay. “It has potential!” as an estate agent might say when they show you a dilapidated town house whose ceiling is falling in and whose water pipes refuse to stop clanging when you turn the water off.

However, the Hotel Plaza’s reality has a long way to go before it meets its potential.

True, its front is impressive: but it is just that, front and nothing behind it. Seriously, hardly anything. True, its staff are very hardworking: they have to be as there only ever seem to be two of them on duty and they’re rushed off their feet most of the time, tending to several different duties all at once.

Breakfast is a variable experience and a bit of a lottery: one morning there’s a bit of cooked food which is over an hour old and no-one to serve anything else; the next morning the breakfast is much busier and staff who are only too happy to help and get you anything you need.

On the last night of my stay, our work group saw one poor member of staff taking food orders, drink orders, rushing in and out of the kitchen, back to the reception, back to the bar, and probably all points in between trying to find a cork screw. She found one eventually but it took a while. As did my meal, which, by the time it had arrived, was over cooked yet cold and consequently inedible.

True, the shower-room is decently equipped: but it takes for ever to get a decent running shower, by which time this traveller had to give up as he had a schedule to meet and hanging around for the shower to make up its mind and fulfil its potential was no longer an option.

Potentially, this hotel could be a real asset to the city of Craiova but with one member of staff openly admitting that she had no idea why people would visit the City, let alone the hotel, there’s a long way to go before the hotel can consider itself on the assets side of the cultural balance sheet.

The hotel management need to take a long hard look at how to invest in their staff and premises: otherwise that impressive front will soon falter as other more attuned hotels offer what customers actually need, not the promise of its potential at some time in the future.

Stories on Whall’s: King Arthur’s Hall, Tintagel, Cornwall.

King Arthur’s Great Hall was built in the 1930s by a custard millionaire whose company is thought to have invented the confection “hundreds and thousands”. The Halls of Chivalry are built from 53 different types of stone and are big enough to hold 1000 people. Whall designed 72 stained glass windows which tell the story of King Arthur and show the Coats of Arms and weapons of the knights involved. (List of works by Veronica Whall)

Stories on Whalls: St. Marys Church, Bleasby, Nottinghamshire

St Mary’s Church, Bleasby. Nottinghamshire 1910,  known as the “Magnificat” window and the easternmost window in the south wall of the nave, this window is a memorial to Henry Lewis Williams, who was the vicar at St Mary’s for twenty-two years, from 1888 to 1910. It has three lights with St Mary with the child Jesus in the central light. The two side lights feature angels playing musical instruments. The principal inscription on the window is the opening words of the Magnificat: “My soul doth magnify The Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour”. In the bottom right hand corner an inscription reads: “To the Glory of God, and in loving memory of Henry, Lewis Williams: for twenty-two years Vicar of this parish 1888–1910”. (List of works by Christopher Whall)

There is something mournful about seeing a solitary maypole in a field outside a church. Despite the cheerful “Welcome to Glebe Field” sign on the gate which leads to it,  the solitary maypole spoke of pleasures long since past whilst it resolutely stood upright in a small bit of pasture which seemed not to mean much to anyone.

They’re called orphan spaces in some parts of the world: not large enough to be anything particular and usually un-noticed and unloved, even though they may be used for a variety of purposes like walking the dog (although not here), fireworks, bonfires and camping (although also not here).

The Nottingham arts production company, Excavate, for example, work on how to create interventions in spaces which draw attention to the histories and identity of orphan places, amongst others. They use the atmospheres and challenges of spaces to interrogate their value and potential future use; and find ways to create spaces in those places where people feel able to sit and talk and share ideas and stories.

Whilst St. Mary’s Church hasn’t orphaned its Whall windows,  the maypole in the field next door is looking a bit unloved. Perhaps one day the church will be able to extend the hand of friendship to the field and bring the orphan space, complete with maypole, back into the fold.

Stories on Whalls: Leicester Cathedral.

“Christopher Whall completed two windows for St Martin’s Cathedral in Leicester. These were an East window and a West window in the inner South Aisle. The three-light window was installed in 1905 and has St Martin in the central light. The East window, dating to 1920, is a war memorial window. In “The Buildings of England. Leicestershire and Rutland” this window was described thus “In an Expressionist style with many Pre-Raphaelite memories”. The lower left-hand light features St Joan of Arc.” (List of Christopher Whall works in cathedrals and minsters)

Two windows were completed by Veronica for the Cathedral’s St Dunstan’s Chapel(List of works by Veronica Whall)

Imagined conversation between Christopher and Veronica, any time between 1905 and 1920.

“Veronica, go and tidy up those glass splinters, there’s a good girl.”

“Dad, I’m busy. It won’t take you long. You do it, if it’s so important to you.”

“Veronica, I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.”

“You can’t order me about.”

“I’m not ordering you about. I’m asking you, as I would ask any apprentice of mine to tidy up after themselves.”

“Yeh but no but yeh but no but I’m not any old apprentice am I?”

“That’s besides the point. Just do as I ask.”

“You’re not my boss.”

“Yes, actually, I am.”

Look, I’ve got this window to finish. Just put a sock in it. If you’re stressed about a few pieces of glass, go and get a cleaner.”

“Veronica, I will not be talked to like that.”

“Whatevah.”

Plus ça change.

Give Us This Day: a Toast to Toast at Gray’s in Leicester

What’s for breakfast?
Tea and toast? Well…
Fry up? Er…
Organic muesli and yoghurt? Hmm.. not sure.

All of the above plus lavish helpings of the most idiosyncratic contemporary music around complete with references to Delia Derbyshire, Kevin Coyne, Flaming Lips and all points bezerk? Ah yes, that’s for me, definitely.

If you’re one of those people who need an aural fix in the morning alongside their habitual brew, then Gray’s is for you. Snuck in off one of the main precinct streets in the City of Leicester, right in the heart of its cultural quarter, Gray’s is open from 8.30 and is guaranteed to open up your sound and taste buds from the off and get you in the swing for the day.

It’s a heartening change to the diet of greasy spoons and predictable chains that are scattered through the rest of the city and consequently is one of those businesses which defines Leicester’s character. And you get a decent bacon barm into the bargain.

My Lords, Ladies, Gentlemen and Members of the Jury, please raise a toast to Toast at Gray’s in Leicester.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Toast: read all about toasting here