Sunday, April 24, 2011

more big six supermarket stuff

It was depressing to see and read recent news of the “Bristol Riot” over a new Tesco Express store. According to reports in The Guardian: “Police were left guarding a severely-damaged Tesco Express store in Stokes Croft as local residents complained that heavy-handed tactics had provoked a night of violent rioting. It seems that police were responding to reports that petrol bombs were being assembled in a squat opposite the new store and were acting because of the “real threat posed to the local community”. I obviously don’t know if this was true or not and I don’t condone violence in any circumstances but, in some ways, I’m not at that surprised by the turn of events (note: local campaigners have made it perfectly clear that they are against any form of violence and I’ve read a categorical denial from the four squatters who were occupying the building at the time). People feel completely powerless against the financial might of the big-six supermarket.
The sad fact is that it’s REALLY easy for ANYONE to get a change of use for such stores (Tesco’s agents made the original change of use application without having to mention Tesco’s name). Indeed, under current planning legislation, you don’t even need planning permission these days to obtain any change of use to A1 shop classification (or post offices, funeral directors, dry cleaners, travel agents for that matter!) from any other “A class” establishment (eg. banks, building societies, betting offices, restaurants, cafes, public houses, wine bars, hot food takeaways etc). The only planning application that a supermarket might need to submit (depending on the store’s location) would be for a new shopfront and/or signage – by which time the deal is already done. In Bristol, Tesco alone already has SIX stores within half-a-mile of the city centre and FIFTEEN within a two-mile radius of the city. We’re about to have a Co-op Express (or whatever it calls itself) open here on North Street in Southville/Bedminster – approximately 70m from a Tesco Express. Apparently, the Co-op is promising us that it will have its own in-house bakery. Just brilliant – don’t they know we already have FOUR bakers within 350m? Absolutely ludicrous.
Of course, this is all set alongside the “support” for local communities from our beloved national politicians. Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has stated:
“For far too long local people have had too little say over a planning system that has imposed bureaucratic decisions by distant officials in Whitehall and the town hall. We need to change things so there is more people-planning and less politician-planning, so there is more direct democracy and less bureaucracy in the system. These reforms will become the building blocks of the Big Society.”
Greg Clark, Minister for Planning and Decentralisation, clearly agrees:
“Most people love where they live, yet the planning system has given them almost no say on how their neighbourhood develops. The Coalition Government will revolutionise the planning process by taking power away from officials and putting it into the hands of those who know most about their neighbourhood - local people themselves. This will be a huge opportunity for communities to exercise genuine influence over what their home town should look like in the future. It will create the freedom and the incentives for those places that want to grow, to do so, and to reap the benefits.“
I’ve previously expressed my frustrations and fears about the big-six supermarkets taking over our local communities but, frankly, they’ll continue to do so unless some form of planning legislation is introduced to limit their numbers – but, even now, you feel it’s too late.
Be afraid. Be very afraid!

Friday, April 22, 2011

good friday

I’ve just been to a thought-provoking and stimulating three hour “preaching of the cross/Good Friday liturgy” service at St Mary Redcliffe. Last Tuesday, I sat in the church’s Lady Chapel for twenty minutes or so reflecting on my own spiritual journey into Holy Week (I’ve been reading Tom Wright’s “Lent for Everyone: Matthew” during Lent). The stained glass east window is absolutely stunning and provided a fitting backdrop to my contemplations. Our weekly “Ithaca” group has also been studying great friend Ian Adam’s excellent book “Cave, Refectory, Road” during Lent. This week, the chapter we were reading (“the way of rootedness – learning from the vow of stability”) talked about becoming “willing to be shaped by our setting, to root ourselves somewhere specific, to engage with a small piece of the world”. Well, I’ve been reflecting on this since Tuesday and think I might have discovered a couple of potential “rooted” places for me (Ian might not agree with having more than one such place, but I could envisage me ending up with three or four!!). I found the Lady Chapel very conducive to quiet reflection and my other “thinking” place could well be No.1 Harbourside (cafĂ©/bar overlooking the harbour) – I drop in there quite regularly and think that it’ll become a regular source of “refreshment” as I enter retirement.

Photo: Easter detail from the east window at St Mary Redcliffe church.

Monday, April 18, 2011

mini irish tour reunion

Ken, Steve, Simon+I met up for a game of golf at Ogbourne Downs, near Swindon earlier on today (Barry+Christian were the only Irish tourists missing). Ken+I beat the Eyre brothers by four holes (or something like that) but we all had a lovely time and the weather was just about perfect. It was my first game of 2011 – in fact, it was the first time I’d touched a club since our Irish Tour in October – and, not for the first time after a prolonged absence from golf, I played “out of my skin” for the first nine holes (just five shots over the course’s scratch par!). The second nine weren’t quite up to that standard – although I did birdie the 17th hole! It was great meeting up again and the others are already talking of more golf trips to Ireland (I don’t think my pension will stretch that far unfortunately!).

Photo: Steve teeing off on the 12th, watched by Ken+Simon (the wonderful "long valley" hole is in the background).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

london marathon 2011

I just love the London Marathon. Pathetically, I’ve even cried watching it on television. I’d been to watch it “live” twice before. I took Ruth, Hannah+Alice to the event some 20 years ago (blimey!). It’s simply a brilliant occasion and the crowds are just fantastic. This year, I specifically went along to support great friend Helen (from school) - I also hoped I’d be able to cheer on Rob (Deering) from our days in Thame. Pathetically, in the event, I didn’t see either of them (well, at least I don’t think so)…. afterall, there were nearly 36,000 runners. IF Helen was wearing a black baseball cap and a purple vest, I might just have seen her from behind at about 30m distance…. but, by the time I registered that it COULD have been Helen, the moment had passed and I wasn’t confident enough to shout out “COLLEY!” (as we’d previously agreed). As in previous years, I took my place at the northern end of the Tower Bridge. I arrived there at 9.30am; got myself a coffee from Starbucks; and stayed “at my post” for well over four hours. Along with the rest of the crowd, I spent the entire time applauding enthusiastically (and taking the odd photograph). The atmosphere and camaraderie amongst the crowd was simply wonderful. I take my hat off to ALL the runners – Tower Bridge marks the 12 mile point and, clearly, there were many who were already suffering (but obviously encouraged by the crowd!).

Photo1: the elite Men’s athletes (the winner, Emmanuel Mutai , is in the green vest closest to the camera). Phopto2: I particularly enjoyed the support provided by a group of spectators perched on the roof of the adjoining Tower Bridge Hotel – especially the encouragement provided by a couple of women using a megaphone (eg. shouting such things as “come on Bella, you can do it!” to very surprised runners as if it was the voice of God!)…. absolutely precious! PS: I also saw Denise Lewis at close quarters - but she didn’t seem to see me!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

the clog and billycock

While we were staying with Alice+Co, she treated us to a meal at their favourite restaurant – The Clog and Billycock at Pleasington. It’s one of the four Ribble Valley Inns established by Nigel Haworth (of “Great British Menu” fame) and wine buff Craig Bancroft. Moira+I had a lovely evening. The food was excellent – wholesome and remarkably good value (you could get a main course for £10) – and I particularly liked the fact that the walls had been entirely decorated with photographs of all their local suppliers. Well worth a visit.

Friday, April 15, 2011

lovely leyland family

Moira+I have spent the past 4/5 days in Leyland with Alice+Mikey+Dan+Jemima. Dave was away drumming in a band (as you do!) and so it was an opportunity both to see them and to provide some child-minding services. It was great to have the opportunity to spend time with them all. Lots of boisterous play with the boys (who seemed entirely happy to launch themselves into mid-air from the backs of sofas – “safe” in the knowledge that granddad would catch them every time!); lots of singing to Jemima; and great to be able to spend time with Alice over food+wine once the children had disappeared to bed. Alice had booked a brilliant, free “gym” (complete with ball pools, slides and various other pieces of activity equipment ) for a couple of afternoons at Broadoaks. She invited some of her friends who also had children with disabilities and it was truly humbling to meet the children and their amazing parents. We aren’t able to get together half as much as we’d like to but this proved to be a really lovely few days. Lots and lots of laughter, songs and Cbeebies!

Photos: some of our memories. PS: Just hope that the “cuts” don’t result in the end of Broadoaks.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

sad sad man

My family and some of my close friends already know that I’m a bit of a list-maker. Actually, I’m a LOT of a list-maker! This year’s SouthBank Arts Trail is only a few weeks away and I was well aware that I’d done absolutely NOTHING thus far to prepare for it. Yesterday, I thought I’d scribble down a few notes and come up with a rough timetable between now and 20 May. I found the folded envelope this morning with my so-called “scribbled notes” and thought.... “oh you sad, sad man”!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

7% of the population attend independent schools, but….

Just 7% of the population attend independent schools, but the percentage of Vice-Chancellors who attended such schools is 24%; 32% of MPs did the same; as did 52% of the “top Medics”; and 54% of the “top Journalists” – and 54% is the same percentage of the FTSE 100 Chief Executive Officers who attended independent schools; as did 62% of members of the House of Lords; and 68% of “top Barristers” and 70% of High Court Judges. Just remember: “we’re all in this together”. Source: BBC website.

Monday, April 04, 2011

BABE's oxford luncheon

The long-standing, and hugely enjoyable, Barnes-Adams-Broadway (BABs for short) birthday lunch tradition continued yesterday in Oxford, but this time with added Eyre (sounds like an inflated balloon?) – lovely friends Diane+Steve joined us to make it a BABEs weekend! I hope you’re keeping up? This time we got together in The Red Lion, Gloucester Green. I must say that the prospect hadn’t filled me with massive anticipation as a venue – my memories of the place, from our Oxford days, were of a somewhat seedy, drinking pub! But it turned out to be a beautiful meal in delightful surroundings (and we effectively had a room to ourselves too, which was an added bonus). It transpired that the pub had been taken over and expensively refurbished by the owners of The Trout. Moira+I arrived in Oxford early so we could explore the Ashmolean museum/gallery. I hadn’t seen it since it had been remodelled and was hugely impressed. We’ll certainly be going back on a regular basis.

Photo (from left to right): Steve, Gail, Ken, Debby (sorry Debby!), Moira, Diane and Ian.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

"these boys are from security..."

We drew the curtains this morning to find a rather sinister gang of men dressed in blue uniforms patrolling outside our house (see photograph of just a small proportion of them from our on-the-spot reporter!). Obviously, my first instinct was to grab our pistols and for Moira+me to make a run for it in a sort of Butch Cassidy-Sundance Kid style. Fortunately, we don’t have any guns, so I tentatively emerged out of our front door (without a white handkerchief, I might add) and demanded some sort of explanation from the only man wearing a suit. “You’ve got nuffink to worry about sir… it’s nuffink to do with your property… these boys are from security”. Did he expect me to say “oh good” at this point, I wondered? I queried if the police were aware of their presence. “Well, yes, they’ll probably be along at some stage”. I told the man that if they weren’t, then I’d be phoning the police myself because I thought we were due some kind of explanation. That’s when the man came clean (I put this down to my vast experience of getting naughty children to "own up" at school): apparently there had been a rave in the former bingo hall last night on North Street and the owners (Corals) wanted to ensure the place was empty and that the building “didn’t pose a threat to the general public”. As I write this, the gang of blue have just trudged off down the street. “Steve Broadway, Channel Four News… now back to Jon in the studio”. Oh, how exciting!

all things pig....

Moira+I spent a lovely evening with great friends Lal, Chris, Gareth+Alan yesterday. Eating, drinking+chatting with friends is definitely one of life’s great pleasures, but the evening was definitely a first for us – a pop-up restaurant created for just two evenings in St Aldhelm’s Church, Bedminster by Bristol chef and charcutier Vincent Castellano. A really impressive seven course “all things pig” dinner, plus live music, for £28 (bring your own wine!)… don’t worry, the cheeses and desserts didn’t contain pig! Really good to bump into foundation friend Brett too. A great idea and a really enjoyable evening.

Photo: Gareth, Chris, Lal+Moira in full flow.