Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Good Afternoon Newlyn

'First thing' became ‘nearly lunch time’ and our planned trip to Town to buy a replacement for the ageing Chinos that had failed me last night started late. The first and last shop we went to was Burton's and there it was that I discovered that there is no longer a 'standard fit' that I'll ever get in to. It took 3 changes of trousers of various descriptions to realise this. I don’t shop for clothes well and three changes were trying my patience. Why aren’t companies making trousers for men of my shape? I know it’s a sizable market because I see them in pubs wherever I am. How hard are short and pot belly sized trousers to make?
I eventually left Burton's in a pair of jeans 2 inches larger in the waist than my M&S Chinos and 2 inches longer in the leg to boot. As we walked down a damp Market Jew Street I realised that the legs were far too long to be practical. We swung left down New Street prompted by an ‘A’ board inviting us to an ‘All Day Breakfast’, then left again into Princes Street for a 'proper' breakfast which we found at Country Cousins Café (there’s bound to be a story behind that name). The Café is a wonderfully traditional cafe serving everything with chips, toast or fried bread and pots of tea.
The search for a seamstress began following breakfast and was concluded when Wonder Web was purchased in the Sewing and Craft shop where we'd enquired after a seamstress. Quick bit of shopping in the Co-op and back to the 'self-catering' to iron in the Wonder Web ready for our day's adventure (Coronation Street on TV and is winding me up).
Plan - get to The Fisherman's Arms before the forecast rain arrived. The reason I wanted to visit The Fish, as the regulars have it, was that I had met a man from Newlyn called Perren in The Coeur de Lion in Bath and had been advised to visit the pub and say ‘hello’ to Brian his father.
It was a pleasant walk we took down the back lanes to the Boating Pond before strolling along the seawall into Newlyn, past The Tolcarne Inn, through the village past the fish docks and up the hill towards Mousehole. The Fisherman's Arms is a revelation of local community togetherness.

Quite apart from the atmosphere the beer was the trustworthy Trelawney and Proper Job from St Austell Brewery. Closed from 4-6 Monday to Thursday 'out of season' it was a delight as every conceivable inappropriate comment could be squeezed out of today's Daily Mail. Raw and hilarious, we and the pub were in stitches. 4 o'clock came too soon and as we left, the rain established itself for our walk back to The Red Lion.

Its only 50 yards way and we were already wet as we entered. We were customers 2 and 3 and ordered Addlestones Cider and Dartmoor Brewery's Jail Ale. After acquainting ourselves with the pub cat (Milo?) and this week’s copy of The Cornishman we started back toward Penzance. A quick detour left off the main road took us through a collection of lanes, unreachable with Google Earth, which proved to be a delight to us both, before coming out by the Swordfish Inn. Across the road and thoughts of chips entered our conversation, ”If I can see a 'chippy' from over here we'll nip back for some”. Alas the wooden buildings by the Fisherman's Mission obscured my view back up The Strand. Turning and walking back toward the Penzance road there it was in all its delicious signage, 'Fish and Chips'.
The smell of fresh cooking oil and batter met us as we entered. At the top of the Menu on the wall was Fish of the Day £3.70. As soon as we were asked, I quickly responded with "Fish of the Day please, with Chips". "What fish?" the girl replied. "Fish of the Day" I repeated. I didn't mind what it was but after a dig in the ribs I realised there was a choice. We could have had Scallops or John Dory and even Lemon Sole 'huge ones'. Embarrassed I chose the Lemon Sole. Once it was cooked and packed with salt and vinegar we left the shop with several “Cheerios”'. The rain was coming down in buckets as we walked back round by The Tolcarne Inn toward the seawall I tore open the paper wrapping the food and we got stuck in to beautiful chips. After a few mouthfuls and while the rain began to wick its way up our trouser legs we grinned at each other and walked on. Having made some space in the styrene tray, the golden batter on the sole was beckoning. With an inviting crunch the batter gave way to the most delicious Lemon Sole I have ever eaten. It just oozed essence of sea with every bite of the soft white flesh. Soaked and in taste heaven we smiled our way along the seawall toward the bottom of Alexandra Road.
We didn’t dawdle once the last of the food had been devoured and the rubbish was stuffed into the bin at the bottom of Alexandra Road. Hurrying now, in our soggy trousers we puffed and panted our way back up the lanes to Morrab Road and on round to the ‘self-catering’
The kettle went on as soon as we could get across the living room without tramping rain across the carpet.
Wasn't that a day and a half!!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Slow Cooked Beef Brisket in a Dark Ale

This little treat came to me when I was thinking about a 'winter warmer' in The Raven of Bath one evening over a few pints. I'd recently been experimenting with Fennel, since Russell Ham at the Devon and Cornwall in Millbrook, Cornwall had introduced me to the deep flavour that adding Tarragon could give to Beef and Onion Stew. I chose Fennel for the same aniseed like  flavour that Tarragon has and the similarity in structure to Celery that would add to the vegetable bulk. When Fennel is out of season I'd use Parsnips and a good quantity of Fennel Seed roasted and ground.

So here it is, Slow Cooked Beef Brisket in a Dark Ale, takes 2 days to produce and serves loads of people.

I bought a piece of Brisket from the butcher In Green Street ready rolled that cost about £16 and at about £7 per Kg must have weighed just over 2Kg which is about 5lbs in 'old money' . When I got it home the first thing I did was untie it and lay it flat; I wanted to see how large a pan I was going to use. What I wanted to achieve was to have the beef cook slowly on top of a thick bed of vegetables and stock. I found it was going to need my largest deep (6cm) roasting tin. I filled the tin to about 4cm with equal parts of Carrot, Onion and Fennel cut to about a half inch (12mm) dice. The tin then took about a pint and a half of rich dark ale, one of the following would suit - Plain Ales, Inncognito; Stonehenge , Old Smokey ; Wooden Hand, Black Pearl; St Austell, Black Prince.
Next I heated my largest frying pan 'til it smoked and placed the brisket fat side down in it and left it to crisp up (ruined the Teflon - getting a Green Pan next). Turning the brisket to ensure that all the edges and the back were partially sealed took 2 pairs of tongs, and it was bit of a struggle to get it into the roasting tin on top of the vegetables. I topped the whole lot of with a liberal quantity of fairly course ground pepper and a scattering of Thyme sprigs.

Now the easy bit; seal the roaster with a double layer of foil and make sure there's a little space above the meat and the edges are crimped tight. Put in a warm oven and cook for eight hours on Gas Mark 'a half' (130°C).

Once the cooking has been completed, remove the roaster from the oven, take off the foil and remove the brisket which will fall apart without care. Place it on a sheet of foil and wrap it tightly and set aside to cool before putting it in the fridge. Separate the vegetables and stock and allow to cool before chilling overnight.

The following day I separated off half of the vegetables and combined them with the stock in a liquidiser to produce a rich sauce. Now that the meat had chilled it can be carefully cut into thick slices and placed in a dish on a bed of some of the remaining vegetables and covered in the sauce for reheating in an oven while potatoes are roasting. There will be loads of beef left and it's great in rolls or baguettes with horseradish sauce. Enjoy, it's well worth the time and effort.

Monday, 27 August 2012

August Bank Holiday and Wet

I was out this morning with my camera, dodging into doorway to avoid the worst of the rain.
I liked this one
I hear September's going to nice...

Friday, 3 August 2012

The destruction of Britain's social fabric

http://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/General-News/London-2012-Olympics-Pubs-in-central-London-suffer-as-West-End-becomes-ghost-town and the Forum comments http://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/Forums/News-Article-Comments/London-2012-Olympics-Pubs-in-central-London-suffer-as-West-End-becomes#660180

I think Phil Johnson's comment says it all - supermarket culture has destroyed swathes of the British social fabric.

RE: London 2012 Olympics: Pubs in central London suffer as West End becomes
Phil Johnson - 02/08/2012 14:45:27

And that's because Brigid et al simply don't live in the real world anymore. I can guarantee what will happen here on Saturday morningwith large family 2 doors away from me:
9am - 'X' will drive to ASDA and return approx 40 mins later with £60's worth of cans. Sons will cart the lot to refurbished covered area in garden.
10.30am - extension lead rolled out and laptop & TV plugged in (under cover)
11.30am - rest of large family will start arriving (probably with more cans) and the partying will begin.
??pm - spotlights will go on
??pm - Olympics sacked long ago and Gem AM Gold blasting out.
Just over 5 years ago, these hardworking people would all have happily been ensconced in the local pub spending in the region of £300.
They no longer care what the sporting event is, they no longer care where it is, their normal entertainment has been curtailed -and that is why our local boozer has dropped from £12,000 per week --> £3,000 per week. So where do these people draw their conclusions from that the pubs will suffer great upturns in trade just because athletes are doing their thing for a fortnight-at God only knows what cost to our already financially beleagured country!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Besterist Chilli Recipe

This is the besterist chilli recipe you'll ever find. It's a batch chilli which means that you make a lot eat it all at once or freeze it in portion sized portions. (* see footnote)
On the day before you decide to make your chilli, soak 800g of dried Red Kidney Beans. In my case I did know I was making a chilli so I followed this instruction but in case you don’t know you’re making a chilli you’ll need to add several tins of pre-cooked Red Kidney Beans to your shopping list. Dried beans tend to take on over twice their weight in water, so when soaked and cooked my 700g became just over 1.5Kg of prepared beans. As you will see this chilli is one of equal parts so there is mostly the same amount of each of the main ingredients.
Start off by skipping to the end of this essay and make sure you have all the ingredients you need. Once you have everything laid out on a work surface start the peeling chopping and unwrapping. I start with the garlic; peel it crush it and roughly chop it. Peel your onions and cut them into chunks. The chillies, I just slice whole up the length holding on to the stalk end which I discard. The green peppers I deseed and cut into 2cm pieces.
At this point I realised I needed something to cook my chilli in. This chilli is a big one so if you don’t have a good sized pan you’d best get a calculator out and reduce the amounts below by some proportion. When I started this one I knew I’d not get it into one pan but I went for it anyway and got all but about a quarter of it cooking in “The Big One”. My two large pans are both 28cm diameter, one being 15cm deep with a pair of handles and my usual stew pan, the other is only 8 cm deep and a sauté pan.
Taking the bacon and after roughly cutting it up, I put it in a large frying pan on a high heat. Pretty soon all the water and some of the fat started to run out, which I spooned into my sauté pan and heated to drive off the water. I had to do this a couple of times as the bacon was the cheap stuff. While the bacon was browning to just short of crisp I put about half the Onion into the sauté pan to soften in the bacon run-off. Once the bacon was ready I added the rest of the onion and the garlic along with the jar of ground cumin and gave it a stir before adding the chopped chillies.
In the sauté pan the onions had softened nicely so I added the jar of Oregano and stirred both pans, lowering the heat to allow the herb and spice to cook through. Once done I tipped the whole lot into the big pan on the lowest flame on the small back ring of my stove, to gently warm up.
The Green Peppers came next which I wanted to fry off until soft and the edges were browned slightly. In retrospect I might have roasted them to add a smoky flavour or perhaps just put them straight into the big pan, anyway I digress.
Now it was time to fry off the mince. I had three 500g packs so I put one in each of the two pans I’d been frying in, and broke it up. I didn’t want to find lumps of meat in my chilli later. Once coloured and separate I tipped the mince into the big pan and gave it a stir before doing the same with the last pack of mince.
Finally I poured a good slug of red wine into each of the frying pans to lift off all the stuck on flavoursome goo that had accumulated. This then went into the big pan too. I gave the whole lot a good stir to mix everything properly and shift anything that had stuck to the bottom.
Leaving the chilli on the stove to do its thing for a while, I cleared everything I had used away and washed up the frying pans and binned the rubbish.
Back at the stove there was a nice gloop sound beginning to come from the chilli as all the juice from the meat and vegetables was starting to mingle. At this point it was time for the first tasting. I had got the richness I wanted from the Cumin and the background heat from the salsa chillies was coming through nicely. Last Christmas I’d been given a bar of chocolate covered in Chilli Flakes. I tried a piece at the time and immediately decided the rest of it would go in the next chilli I cooked. This was that chilli; I broke it up and in it went with a quick stir.
At this point I needed to decide on the final heat of my chilli. I wanted something with a bit of a spike but not so much that neither the other ingredients couldn’t be tasted nor the guests leave it on the plate. That would be a waste. Either way there’s always a bottle of West Indian Hot Pepper Sauce in the cupboard for anyone to use. So to add a little heat I took 5 Bird Eye Chillies and rolled them gently in my hand to loosen the seeds, then holding each by the short stalk I split them from top to tip keeping both halves attached to the stalk and carefully removed the seeds. The deseeded chillies then went into the pan as they were. I figured that if the chilli started to get too hot they’d be easy to find and take out.
It was now time to add the Chopped Tomatoes. After tipping the tomatoes into the pan there was barely an inch of room left in the pan and I still had nearly 2Kg of cooked Red Kidney Beans to add. I left the pan to bubble away for half an hour, spattering the splash back with drops of sauce and stirring it every 10 minutes to keep it off the bottom of the pan until it had reduced a bit and was thickening nicely.
Now for the beans; using a Kebab Skewer I measured how deep the chilli was in the pan, then I transferred a third of it into the Sauté Pan I’d used earlier making sure that not all the Bird Eye chillies ended up in one pan. Then spoon by spoon I measured the Red Kidney Beans 2:1 into the respective pans and stirred them in. A quick reorganisation of the hob, placing the larger pan on a larger ring and the smaller pan on the smallest ring and simmering continued. The pans bubbled and I gently stirred for another 10 minutes before stirring in the Tomato Puree, a whole tube in the big pan and the ½ tube in the small pan. Stir and simmer for another 20 minutes and the chilli was done.
• 1.5Kg of Cooked Red Kidney Beans
• A couple of plashes of Vegetable Oil
• 1Kg Smoked Bacon Rashers
• 6 Large Onions (about 1.5Kg)
• 5 Small (it’s all they had) Heads of Garlic
• 46g Jar Cumin
• 14g Jar Oregano
• 1.5Kg Green Peppers
• 150g Mixed Chillies (the kind you use for Salsa)
• 4 Dessert Spoons of Soft Brown Sugar
• 1.5Kg Lean Minced Beef
• 5 Bird Eye Chillies
• 4 x 390g cartons of Chopped Tomatoes (about 1.5Kg)
• 1½ Tubes of Tomato Puree
• 1 Bar of Chilli Flake covered Chocolate

* Following the tubbing exercise I can confirm that the above recipe will produce 30 portions.

Friday, 22 June 2012

One of my favourite places

One of the most iconic views in Cornwall and Penwith in particular is across Porthcurno Bay toward Logan Rock. There is a picture that is much used on greetings cards of a heart shape pierced by an arrow scratched in the sand on the beach which may be be familiar to many.
Tuesday was a beautiful day, the sun shone all day and the breeze off the sea was gently cooling.
We took the Lands End (1A) bus from Penzance Bus Station and after leaving Penzance headed out through  Newlyn and up the very steep Chywoone Hill. The bus crawled up in first gear at about 3 miles an hour. From the top and through Sheffield the view of the whole of Penwith and across to The Lizard was spectacular. The dishes of the Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station were clearly visible across Mounts Bay.
Up hill and down dale we went bouncing around on the top deck of the bus past the top of several lanes leading down to tiny coves on the coast to the south. Back up on the top and down a lane that was barely wide enough for the bus before reaching St Buryan. Reaching St Buryan Church there was instant recognition. I turned to BathZena, jumping up and down in frustration at my poor memory and desperately trying to remember the name of the film starring Julie Christie and ... Sensing my obvious frustration the women in the seat in front of us turned and restored calm, "Straw Dogs", she said before turning back to the next view. Sam Peckinpah made Straw Dogs with Dustin Hoffman and Susan George (not Julie Christie) in 1971 and filmed it in St Buryan.

Once in Porthcurno we walked straight up the hill to the Minack Theatre perched on the side of the rugged granite cliffs overlooking the sea. Peter Pan was playing in the afternoon so the theatre was closed to visitors but they did offer a viewing platform for us to take in the full extent of the view.

After the obligatory snaps had been taken we walked back down to the village. We had an hour or so so stopped for a a beer in the Cable Station Inn - not the best pint of Betty Stogs I've tasted.
The bus arrived all too soon and back to Penzance we bounced.
I just manged to get a shot of St Michael's Mount lit by the setting sun but it could have been better. I'll try again if I get a chance.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

What Happened to St Ives?

I've visited St Ives in Cornwall several times over the years and it's changed. All places change over time. Many change for the better but I suspect that in general places that find themselves destinations for visitors suffer a creeping sickness that leeches the life out of them.
St Ives from the Malakoff
Over the forty odd years that I've lived in Bath I've seen it and sad to say the same thing has happened to St Ives.
Gradually 'destination' (I hate that) type places lose their individuality and essence and end up being a whistle-stop caricature of themselves.
We're not yet at the peak of the season and yet the pushing and shoving along Fore Street was intolerable.It was such a relief when we could slip left into Salubrious Terrace off The Digey for a few moments calm looking up Virgin Street.

Virgin Street, St Ives
There is never going to be an end to it but it makes me sad.

A Classic British Railway Journey Lives On

Sleeper train from Penzance to capital is saved
Common sense has recognised over the question of the Night Riviera Sleeper that runs nightly to and from Penzance, Cornwall and London Paddington. 
Quite by chance as we were on our way back to the flat I heard a diesel growl from Penzance Station and had to get pictures so here are a selection.

Class 57 - 57602 - Restormel Castle waiting to leave Penzance 17/6/2012

Class 57 - 57602 - Restormel Castle waiting to leave Penzance 17/6/2012
Class 57 - 57602 - Restormel Castle waiting to leave Penzance 17/6/2012

Class 57 - 57602 - Restormel Castle waiting to leave Penzance 17/6/2012

Monday, 18 June 2012

Good Morning Penzance

What a wonderful start to the day.

Although we were greeted by a break in the cloud on Saturday afternoon the weather still managed to remind us that the sun doesn't always shine in Cornwall. After dropping our cases off we stepped downstairs to enjoy alfresco Fish and Chips at the Fat Fish Restaurant. Minutes after sitting down we were driven inside by a brief but wetting shower and a stiff breeze.
A Penzance Morning

Sunday morning was a delight. The view from our balcony, across Mounts Bay was stunning.

After sorting ourselves out we went up into the town for a few essentials, Sun Cream, stuff for my cold (it just hit me on Saturday night) and another UV filter for the camera.
Some of the Newlyn Fishing Fleet

We managed to walk all the way to Newlyn and saw the fishing harbour and the few boats still operating out of there. Mostly decimated by rubbish EU legislation. Who in there right mind would consider throwing bycatch back in the sea - total waste.
After stopping for a pint at the Swordfish while my leg rested (a great excuse) we carried on back to Penzance, stopping off for a dinner of Roast Cornish Beef and a pint of Skinner's Betty Stogs followed by a Sharps Own at the Alexandra Inn. BathZena acquainted her self with a pint of Healey's Cornish Rattler - lovely cyder.

3 pubs later and a surprise pint of Blue Anchor's Spingo Middle at the Dock Inn and we found our way back home.

What a great start to our holiday.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

All of Europe's data in US servers? We're OK with that - EC bod • The Register

All of Europe's data in US servers? We're OK with that - EC bod • The Register

The US Department of Homeland Security will be knocking on your door extradition order in hand.

Watch what you commit to the Cloud for secure storage, it may come back and bite you.

It seems the US Patriot Act trumps all other sovereignty.

OMG these pages are hosted in the US...

Friday, 1 June 2012

Where did this email come from?

One of the most annoying things about using Outlook 2010 is the apparent inability to see the Full Email Headers - you know the bit that tells you which servers it's passed through on its way to your mailbox.

Well here it is from the marvellous Slapstick Systems site How to View Internet Headers.

It's too simple for words but so helpful when diagnosing problems and of course spam sources.

2p Worth

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Close Encounter with an Olympic Flame

Yesterday afternoon we were allowed the opportunity to witness the passing Olympic flame.

I think this is the best I could get out of the limited opportunity, though I had initially thought I wouldn't go and wait and watch, but it occurred to me that this was the only chance I'd ever get to see the flame.

Sunday, 20 May 2012


Cassoulet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassoulet
This is my second attempt at Cassoulet which I wanted to try again since my first attempt was pretty good and well received.
As is usually the case I have cooked far too much so I would expect to get 6-8 portions out of this.
I started on Friday night by soaking about 150g of dried Haricot Beans (White Beans, Navy Beans) in cold water. On Saturday Morning I drained the beans and put them in a pan with a quartered Onion, 2 cloves of Garlic and a teaspoon each of dried Thyme and Rosemary. This was brought to the boil and allowed to simmer on the lowest setting on the smallest (1kW) ring on my stove for about 90 minutes. The beans were then tipped into my French Casserole Dish along with the residual cooking liquor.
Cassoulet in my French Casserole Dish
To the casserole I then added 2 Sliced Onions, 4 Cloves of Garlic, 4 halved and quartered (⅛ths) Ripe Tomatoes and a teaspoon each of Rosemary and Thyme.
For the meat I would have preferred to get a piece of Smoked Streaky Bacon but since I've found nowhere in Bath that sells bacon sliced to order I had to get imaginative. I purchased a 750g Gammon joint. After removing all the packaging (including the paper like wrap holding it together) I placed in a large enough saucepan and brought it to the boil before simmering for 5 minutes to remove some of the salt. I then sliced it across the grain to give me a piece weighing just over 350g. This I cut into about 12 or so bite size pieces and placed in the casserole. The remainder I put back in the pan and continued to simmer until fully cooked ready to slice and eat later. Before putting the lidded casserole into the oven, preheated to Gas Mark 3 (325°F, 170°C), I gave the whole lot a good stir to mix it all up with a good slug (100ml) of White Wine and lots of freshly ground Black Pepper.
For the sausages I chose to use the traditional Toulouse Sausages with their course texture, Garlic, Red Wine and  Herbs. The ones I found at the Bath Farmers Market were produced by Castellanos. The previous sausage I used had been from the Bath Sausage Shop which use smoked bacon as well as raw pork. Bath Sausage Shop is further from home so to avoid more delay I bought Castellanos' instead. After browning the sausages in a frying pan I halved them and added these to the casserole after the first hour. At this point I noted that there was rather less bean than I'd hoped so I tipped in a regular can of Baked Beans just to bulk it up a bit. Next time I'll soak and cook 250g of dried beans.
After 2 hours the smell was delicious, I removed the lid gave it a good stir and covered the top with bread crumbs and dots of butter, then put it back in the oven for a further hour. Once the breadcrumb topping has browned the dish is ready.
Dinner was served with Garlic Bread baguettes and several glasses of Sainsbury's amazing Cabernet Sauvignon appropriately sourced from the Pay D'Oc. Oddly the wine is not listed on Sainsbury's own web site although the Merlot in the same packaging is.
Inevitably I ate far too much and this morning (Sunday) I am writing this with a remaining slight discomfort.
Now what am I going to do with the rest?


250g Dried Haricot Beans
3 Medium White Onions
6 Cloves Garlic
2 tsp Dried Rosemary
2 tsp Dried Thyme
3 Ripe Tomatoes
100ml White Wine
325g Smoked Pork (ideally unsliced smoked streaky)
4-6 Toulouse Sausages

Monday, 7 May 2012

Punch Taverns do it again


Another day and another great british pub gets written off.

Punch Taverns once again prove that they have absolutely no interest in running pubs.

To deprive the community of Southstock, Bath and the whole district of this wonderful pub is sheer bloody vandalism.

How can this be permitted under planning guidance, to turn an ancient public house into accommodation and offices.

Hey Punch you bastards, rip the heart out of our communities would you? I hope you all rot in hell. Don't your bond holders realise you're only in it for the short term? Take your weekly salaries and go home Friday's to your snug little homes while the destruction you leave is a testament to the triumph of capitalist immorality. F*** off  and leave us alone.

Packhorse - Southstoke
 Image shamelessly stolen from Bath Pubs and Bars

Wake up Britain - between H.M.G. and the pub owning property companies your heritage is being destroyed by narrow minded politics, greed and immoral capitalism.

Sign the e-Petitions and get your voice heard.

As yet a planning application has not been published on the B&NES planning site and H.M.G has amended guidance on change of use of pubs and community assets.

You'll have no one to blame when the only place to get beer and food will be a Mitchells and Butlers / Stonegate / Spirit style branded 'offering'. Nasty over priced precooked frozen and reheated crap served in a building with less character than my big toe.

Come on someone put a stop to this bollocks!!! Please!!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Noisy Neighbour Problem

...or a classic legislative nonsense!! 

Once upon a time there was a New Labour government. Now this government had already been in power for a while and was scratching around for ideas to turn into new laws. Governments do this when they've been in power too long and run out of ideas. They have to do something if only to justify their existence.
Some years ago it became apparent that with modern audio technology getting louder and more available people were beginning to have issues with their neighbours playing loud music at inordinately high levels and at anti-social times. In addition noise undisciplined behaviour and modern DIY tools could if occurring repeatedly and at anti-social times be included.
The answer was to bring in laws and guidance for local authorities to use to deal with issues that couldn't be resolved with mediation and sound proofing. Very often sound proofing in the 'victims' home was expensive and impractical and the perpetrator too may well have been unable or reluctant to install it.
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA) arrived and made local authority Environmental Health Officers (EHO) take "all reasonable steps" to investigate a noise complaint. Once the EHO has judged that a noise constitutes a 'statutory noise nuisance' by reason of it being "noise emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance", the EHO has the duty to notify the perpetrator of the offence and advise on ways of reducing the nuisance. If this fails then the EHO issues a notice requiring the perpetrator to cease the nuisance activity. Failing to comply meant that fines and confiscation of the noise making equipment could be applied to the perpetrator.
This is all very laudable as it gives individuals a means of restoring a life free from the stress and often aggravation caused by noisy neighbours.
In 2003 the Anti-social Behaviour Act amended the Noise Act 1996 to specify the period between 23:00 and 07:00 for action against noise as Anti-social Behaviour with its associated penalties and restraints, where noise is emitted from dwellings and gardens. We're still talking about problem neighbours here. What has occurred since is that the term neighbour has been extended to include any premises and not just the house next door. Worse, the Noise Act was extended in 2008 to include noise from licensed premises.
None of the above takes into account a preexisting premises that have traditionally produced noise. These could be an engineering works, workshops and other light industry. Leisure and religious premises such as dance halls, churches as well as pubs and clubs.
We now have the ridiculous situation where a person moves into a house next door to a pub advertising live music 3 nights a week and can destroy the business and livelihood of numbers of people through repeated complaints culminating in the service of a Noise Abatement Notice by the EHO.
This absurdity has finally been crowned with the news this week that Wrington All Saints Church in Somerset has had a Noise Abatement Notice served on it, preventing the clock from chiming every quarter hour between 23:00 and 07:00. Unfortunately this isn't possible due to the fact that the computer driving the chimes isn't capable of the variation.

Update: Couple in Somerset withdraw church bell complaint

Regrettably  the couple who brought the action against the Wrington bells have withdrawn their complaint due to threats and abuse through the mail and social media. My use of the case as an example of poor legislation should not be used to condone personal attacks on those using this and other legislation for their protection.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Daily(ish) Millbrook–is nodding off

Dear friend The Millbrooker is hanging up his blogging pen.

It was he that prompted me to start this little expression of me and my thoughts and I will continue to do so.

It would have been nice if his blog had metamorphosed into something else but I suspect The Millbrooker himself is undergoing some sort of metamorphosis.

Cheers Millbrooker for all the fun and stimulation you have given so many. Over 52000 hits is pretty damned good.

PS – Give my regards to Russell when you’re next in the D&C

The Daily(ish) Millbrook

BBPA Beer Barometer– Claiming that pub beer sales suffer under increased tax on beer

For those who haven't heard of it, the British Beer and Pubs Association (BBPA) is the organisation supported by the largest brewing and pub owning companies in the UK to lobby on their behalf. There sole interest is to ensure that local and national government bodies are ‘properly’ advised on actions that affect their membership. That membership produces 95% of the beer produced in the UK and owns half of the 51,000 (and falling) pubs in the UK.

Yesterday (20/04/12) the latest BBPA Beer Barometer was published. The piece opens with statement that “Pub sales down 6.0% on same quarter last year, with off-trade sales up 4.7%. Swing shows lasting damage of Beer Tax hikes”, BBPA’s Chief Executive - Brigid Simmonds. It seems they’ve shot themselves in the foot. It is their membership who own the pubs that are being bled dry by unrealistic rents and tied beer pricing. The tax ‘hike’ is levied at the brewery gate and the impact is the same for all retailers whether they are ‘on-sales’ in pubs or ‘off sales’ in supermarkets and shops. The fact that ‘off sales’ trade is up by 4.7% shows by a simple addition that beer sales have only fallen by 1.3%. This little bit of spin is devised purely to deflect public and official attention away from the continues stream of pubs closing and publicans being fleeced by the pub landlords, the BBPA’s paymasters.

Research from Begbies Traynor published recently shows that after football clubs, pubs are suffering the greatest amount of ‘business distress’ (going bust) compared with any other business area in the UK. In the case of pub businesses the figures show that up to 50 are folding every week. It’s a good bet that the majority of these businesses are individual tenants and lease holders in pub company properties who have been driven out of business by the long term attrition of unrealistic rents and tied beer pricing.

It is clear that the ‘elephant in the room’ that the government refuse to see is the BBPA’s paymasters who continue to butcher the great British pub industry with impunity. The total liabilities of Punch Taverns and Enterprise Inns stand at £6.7bn and this debt has to be serviced month by month at the expense of their tenants and leaseholders, those people who are going to the wall at the rate of 50 per week. If their income from beer sales is falling at the rate of 6% per year you can be sure that the shortfall in their profits is being even more aggressively bled out of their struggling tenants and leaseholders.

As you walk down most streets it can be seen by all that the pubs that are doing well are selling their beer cheaper than the tied houses. This includes managed houses who are a separate case, but the independently owned properties without the outrageous levels of debt to service are able to compete and are a success.

End this farce now – force the indebted pub companies out of business and put their bondholders assets in the hands of the professionals who know how to run pubs successfully for the benefit of both landlord, tenants and leaseholders and of course the consumer.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Stop the beer duty escalator - e-petition

Soapbox time again. This a very simple thing but it could make a world of difference to pub freeholders, tenants and lessees everywhere.

For years now the government have been loading tax onto alcohol in an alleged attempt to curb excessive consumption. The result has been to drive more and more people away from safe and controlled ‘on-trade’ premises – your local pub - and in through the supermarket door where beer is less than a pound a pint and you can destroy your liver for less.

Nice one New Labour and now continued by the other lot who are in charge.

SIGN THE PETITION and get your voice heard.

Stop the beer duty escalator

Stop the beer duty escalator - e-petitions

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Negativity is good, negativity is right - or a clear view from inside

Negativity is good, negativity is right
From Robert Sayles writing in The Publican’s Morning Advertiser (PMA)

Picking up on my last piece about the destruction of that iconic British institution – the British Public House as exemplified by Russell at The Devon & Cornwall in Millbrook.


Its good to see that although I find my words falling on deaf ears much of the time, when I get started on the demise of the British pub, it’s heartening to know that within the trade publicans can really support each other when they're not competing to be the last pub in the village.

Significant in this story as pointed out in a subsequent PMA Forum post is that of the other pubs in the village, one is ‘Free of Tie’ and the other is  also a Punch Taverns pub being operated rent free under a management agreement. Hardly the level playing field that the government seems to think it is.

If you haven’t read Robert’s piece in the PMA now’s the time to do it.
Negativity is good, negativity is right

Hang in there if you can Russell.

Picture taken 12/5/2011 20:58 – The Cornish Wreckers Morris side outside Russell's ‘The Devon and Cornwall’

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Pub closures: why 'pubcos' leave landlords Punch drunk - video | John Harris and John Domokos | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Well it doesn’t get any plainer than this.

Hi Russell, I  am so sorry to hear this. I count myself very lucky to have met you and hope to see you again soon. Once again, thanks for the recipe for that wonderful slow cooked Beef and Onion dish I loved so much. I have Tarragon growing outside my front door now. Millbrook and the people of Rame would be so very much the poorer if you and the D&C were not there.

Several years ago, while on a visit to friends in Millbrook,  Russell and I had a chat about the methods of the ‘pubcos’ and how one-sided their partnership turns out to be. These companies were playing this game then and no amount of TISC, BISC or BIS persuasion and cajoling have done anything to curb the immorality of this bunch of usurious bastards. They are still proving on a daily basis that self regulation was never going to work. When Ted Tuppen unguardedly described MPs as ‘moronic’ just prior to one of the several BIS Committee appearances, it came as no surprise to people working in the industry. He has no respect for anyone but himself and his ill-gotten gains so why are the government so naive as to believe that ‘self regulation’ will work – it hasn’t since the first TISC 2004.

Between Enterprise Inns and Punch Taverns these companies are carrying something in the order of £6bn of debt in bonds, loans and overdraft facilities. This debt is being serviced by property sales and the ‘Churn’. The executives of the these ‘busted’ companies with their bankrupt business model are systematically destroying the social fabric of rural and suburban Britain. Following these companies behaviour through the pages of The Publicans Morning Advertiser and their performance on the Stock Market tells the story. Neither company has paid a dividend to shareholders (ETI 2008) because the only profit in the business is keeping them just on the right side of the Covenant agreements. The ‘Churn’? Week after week you can read of how yet another publican has been forced into bankruptcy, only to be replaced by a fresh one with a redundancy cheque or some such pot of cash to sink into the progressively more dilapidated properties and so to be bled dry and spat out.

There are currently 103 pubs businesses for sale in Cornwall alone. Nationally this figure is 4005 this morning. Some of these are freeholds where the Landlord Publican is free to operate his business and make a living but the majority are ‘pubco’ leases and tenancies being driven further into destruction.

The ‘Cafe’ culture is a lie. It’s all very well when the sun‘s out and a cup of coffee or tea with friends is a nice thing to do, but for real social intercourse, openly expressing one views and feelings, sharing good news and celebrating family good times the British Pub cannot be bettered.

It comes as no surprise that we hear that David Cameron has broken his election promise to do some good by the pub trade and is now defying the will of parliament over the issue of providing an independent review body to monitor the on going performance of the pubcos. Without our suburban and rural community pubs Mr Cameron's ‘Big Society’ will have nowhere to meet, to care, to give and support our communities.

While all this is going on the executives of these companies are walking away fat cheques bought with the life savings of good, honest, hardworking publicans like Russell in Millbrook.

Chin up mate and hang in there.

Pub closures: why 'pubcos' leave landlords Punch drunk - video | John Harris and John Domokos | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

BBC News - Extradited Briton Chris Tappin denied bail in US

BBC News - Extradited Briton Chris Tappin denied bail in US

Isn't it good to see that the US are as fair as ever. When a case is so clearly 'incitement' it would be thrown straight out of an English court. Why do the citizens of the US let their government get away with so much rubbish. Perhaps they don't give a damn. Well I may just tell them to push off next time I see one.

If the US is so trusting of their 'agents', it's no wonder they're in such a mess. Not enough judicial oversight I think. We might find out what happened to US integrity and honesty.

The sooner the extradition treaty is reviewed and repaired the better.

What the heck is 'probable cause' anyway? He could be a criminal so we'll destroy the rest of his life on the off chance of a conviction? Well of course now we've got him we can engineer anything we like to prove our case.

In the UK we have to provide evidence to a judge that a person has committed a crime before extradition can take place but apparently not the other way round.

There is an awful lot wrong with the way the US is using their 'local' law to police the rest of the planet.

At the end of the day, why should anyone trust the US?
Renegotiate the Extradition Act 2003 now.