Wakehurst Place is a visitor attraction just off the M23 in West Sussex. It is owned by the National Trust and managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. As National Trust members, we had 'free' admission but had to pay for parking. This is resented by locals in prosperous safe Tory voting areas who object to Kew seeking to make up its budget shortfall, oblivious to the real life consequences of Austerity.
While I was there I noticed a local scheduled service bus turn into the car park to pick passengers up, so that might be worth investigating if you're car free. I wouldn't rely on the National Trust to give you any useful information about car free travel.
Coffee shop - definitely one to avoid. They have captive customers with no competition for miles; this seems to be justification for serving crap. I don't mind paying over the odds for a quality product but do resent it when they can't even provide a half-decent tea bag. National Trust, dedicated to serving poor quality beverages to the undiscerning tastebuds of Middle England.
As a positive, the site is dog free (except for guide and assistance dogs). This should be a thing at more of these places. This was one of several similar visitor attractions I have visited in the past few years which are markedly busier in the café/shop area than the central gardens and significantly busier in the central gardens than in the peripheral woodland areas. This is so predictable that I have created a narrative of people who 'prove' their cultured credentials by boasting how often they go to National Trust-style visitor attractions, but only actually go to the café to drink dubious coffee, or spend ten minutes strolling around the gardens engrossed in conversation. Of course, what other people do is none of my business: an individual may have mobility problems; they may be killing time before they have to be somewhere else. But I am increasingly convinced that the vast majority of people, including those who spend a fortune on gym membership or jogging clothes, don't ever actually walk. I have mentioned before another blogger (and semi-retired GP) who has a theory that few people venture more than '100 metres from the car park'.
If you look for a map of Wakehurst on the Kew Gardens site, you won't find it, unless you search under: Explore > Exploring Wakehurst with children > and scroll right to the bottom for a sentence that reads:
Our Adventurous Journeys play spaces are located throughout the gardens. Find their locations on the Wakehurst visitor map.
Slow handclap for accessibility - here's the direct link.
These places have to market themselves as being child friendly, but I think it's a bit of a con. I don't see this as a place you would want to take kids. If parents want to come and, inevitably, bring their children with them, I think that's great. The children will benefit from looking at the range of gardens and woodland, and simply from being in a different environment, and able literally to expand their horizons. But the marketing seems determinedly child-centric and focused on providing entertainment for children to consume, often quite passively. Fortunately, it being a school day, there was an absence of children.
Whenever I visit gardens such as this I struggle to describe them, and in a sense it would be futile to do so. We started off by looking at the formally planted gardens and the pond close to the mansion and progressed to the Himalayan Glade, but not as far as the lake before walking back through Westwood Valley and the water gardens. After eating our picnic in the car park we finished our day with a walk in the woodlands to the north west of the site. Outside the formal areas we barely saw a soul. I don't have a 'My Tracks' record of the route. Either I forgot to set it or I forgot to turn it off when I got back in the car. But my pedometer suggests I walked about 4.5 miles in total that day.
The weather forecast had been bright and fairly warm, but it turned out to be mainly overcast with a bit of a chilly edge. It threatened rain more than once. It wasn't until after I loaded my photos onto my PC that I remembered I had meant to clean my camera lens, so some photos have a smudge on them. I have struggled for a long time with 'blown out' skies. Later in the summer I hit on a solution to this (exposure, basically!) but on this visit, despite the overcast skies, the photos were all marginally over-exposed - I partly compensated in editing.
Despite the criticisms above I would strongly recommend a visit to Wakehurst. It differs from Wisley or indeed Kew itself in that it doesn't aim so obviously to be educational- much less labelling of plants, for example. I liked the layout of the grounds. always nice to visit somewhere when the rhododendrons and azaleas are blooming, although I always struggle to get decent photos of them: so much colour distorts the lens!
In the more remote part of the grounds we spotted both grouse and pheasant.
Below are some more photos I took, and the rest are in my Sussex photo album.
This blogpost was posted the day after I visited - perhaps we were there at the same time kew in the country – wakehurst place, water gardens, wetland, woodland and wildflower meadows…
A couple more worth looking at
A holiday in North Northumberland is incomplete without a trip to Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island. But you have to plan your trip. Not only for the weather, which of course, in an English summer is essential, but also for tides. Access is across a causeway. The causeway is about 5 miles long and there are safe and unsafe times posted on the internet and throughout the area. Normal people abide by the times. Arrogant arseholes don't. I did fancy doing a Pilgrims' Crossing, barefoot across the sand. You should only do this with a guide. I checked with Footsteps but because the tide times were not in our favour, needless to say the guided walks weren't!
We parked in a massive car park and strolled into the village. I was immediately struck at how Touristy it seemed compared to everywhere we'd been: local produce being sold from roadside stalls. Shops in the village geared up for mass tourism. Even people looked different: on average, significantly less gormful.
We walked to the castle. There are two ways to do this. Trudge along a concrete path with everyone else, or, like us and almost ten other people, have a look at the beach. To be honest, I don't think most of the people who started on the path got as far as the castle. Probably too far from the car park. Couldn't bear to be so panic inducingly far from the flock. Imagine parking your car, walking for five or ten minutes, gawping blankly at something you'd heard was a tourist attraction, and then going for an ice cream, and calling it a day out!
We didn't go in the ruined Priory for the pragmatic reason that it is run by English Heritage and an admission is charged, and we had just joined National Trust at enormous expense.
It was quite a climb up to the castle, which was worth it, for the view
The castle dates from the 16th century, and was built for defence purposes. In the early 20th century it was inhabited and much altered by Edwin Lutyens. It wasn't that interesting unless heritage homes make you moist. I'm sure that many of the people who get orgasmic about stately homes won't have heard of Lutyens or have any sense of his significance. But they get to coo and sign over crockery.
Outside yet some distance from the castle is a garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll. Unfortunately just a few days previously I had read a comedy tweet that said "I quite like Gertrude Jekyll's gardens, but I prefer her Mrs Hyde ones". (It seems that Robert Louis Stevenson was a friend of her brother so not so silly a joke!).
I strolled into the garden and tried to take a few photos. Big mistake! I had stirred the nest of the self-important man with a big lens on his camera. He had been sitting on a bench until he arrived but he was determined to go through an elaborate and pointless charade of mansplaining the taking-of-photos-with-a-phallic-lens. I don't see snapshots as being a competitive sport.
We returned to the car park, past the sheep, and were able to access the Causeway long before the end of safe time.
We went for dinner at The Craster Arms in Beadnell. I'm not sure what to say. Sometimes a complacent mediocre place can be almost worse than a bad place.
Food served on cold plates. The same chopped to death salad they'd served the previous week with crab sandwiches. And a fish dish made up of disparate elements. Basically, on the one hand, you have the fish element. On the other hand, the choice of potato, and the steamed vegetables of the day. Not horrendous, but the same vegetable was served for every main. Not with it, but in a separate bowl. Brought to the plate by the customer. But not brought together. Just there. Like the chippies that serve you a piece of stale processed white bread with your fish and chips, even though it bears no relationship. Bland dried veg sitting alongside a few pieces of fish/sea food. But no sauce to bring them together. As I say, it's not awful, it's just...actually, quite unappetising. I don't know, do they expect people not to eat vegetables? I'm not surprised, if that's the way they think they should be served! There was some bloke in the kitchen who fancied himself as chef. Hmm. Not really. How difficult is to plan a dish where each element complements the other? But, no, just throw together some poorly prepared random ingredients and call it a meal.
I have had two three week holidays in the USA. In 1989 I went with my mother and brother, and stayed with my Aunt. In 1999 I went with a friend. On both occasions I went to Niagara Falls. The first time on a coach tour. The second time, we flew to Buffalo-Niagara airport, caught the local bus to Niagara, NY, USA, and walked to Canada. On both occasions, I took more photos than on any other day trip to one attraction in the days of film - I take more on digital now, but there isn't a marginal cost to taking a photo as there was with film!
This is a slightly unusual blogpost in that I haven't bothered renaming most of the photos, so the "Alt" text is just a strange number. And there are so many photos I thought it worth setting up an entire album and posting most there!
But I thought I would post a selection of my most favourite here.
More photos in Niagara album
Short version. The weather forecast for London (and Essex, I was reliably informed) was not the same as the weather forecast for the Sussex Coast.
Slightly longer version. We packed our beach wear and headed off somewhere that was overcast, and a bit chilly. I didn't pack a cardigan or jacket. That was a mistake. We arrived back into London in the early evening, to see people basking on Commons, lazing outside pavement cafés and colonising beer gardens in shorts and flip flops.
Thankfully, despite the weather, it was a lovely day. The drive down was easy. The worst part was when we pulled over into a layby on the trunk road and gazed forlornly at the black clouds ahead and in the distance where we were heading. The breeze felt chilly. My phone app said it was 13 degrees locally, and 18 in London. Great choice! The best bit was the awesome drive through a valley in an area around Long Furlong, north of Worthing. Almost like a plain, the beautiful green fields of rural England. I noticed a lack of housing or farm buildings and suspected that this fertile agricultural land is owned probably by one rich land owner and the landscape is man made to maximise the crop yield. But coming so soon after a visit to Cyprus's bleak landscape, it seemed like beauty.
We timed our arrival in Littlehampton with perfection. We were told that the council have been hard landscaping the Riverside Walk for two years and it had just opened up the previous month. The seafront was quiet and I was reminded of songs by Morrissey and Chris de Burgh but neither quite describes an out-of-fashion seaside resort at season's start.
Everywhere at the seafront had that sense of being all prepared for the rush that hadn't quite started. Stalls with a fresh lick of paint laid out their bright toys despite the noticeable absence of children. The colourful funfair beckoned to people too old to want safe rides with slight excitement.
There were few people on the beach. Despite the signs barring dogs from May to September a couple took their dog onto the beach. A disembodied amplified voice rang out, telling them not to. I was impressed. They might have thought that the rules didn't apply to them, or, given the absence of anyone sitting on the beach, let alone children, the rule was in abeyance. But it wasn't. Because seaside towns know - or should know - their economy is dependent upon clean beaches attracting incomers. No one wants to unearth decaying dog doings dating from a dreary day in May.
We walked to the boating lake. I had a weird feeling that I had been here before but I have no memory of visiting Littlehampton and nowhere else seemed familiar. It was only when I got home and read up on the town I realised that this boating lake had featured in an early episode of The Inbetweeners, which I watched before it became fashionable.
There was a family not far from us. Father and toddler pretending to fish in the lake, mother on her phone. We walked down to the lake's edge, unconsciously choosing not to end up standing right next to them. The father saw us, glared at me and dragged his child up the grassy bank. I can only assume this was because I had my camera round my neck.
He might have had very good reason not to have his child photographed in an identifiable public place (eg he's a loving stepfather, and Mother and kid are in danger from a violent biological father). I respect that, although I'm sure not all amateur photographers do. I had no intention of photographing them, but, again, some other amateur may have been attracted by the sight of the attentive father teaching his boy to 'fish'.
But I still think he was rude. Put simply, there is no law against photographing random strangers in a public place. If I had taken a zoomed shot of them, there is no law to prevent me blogging it. But their right to freedom from violence is more important than my right to free expression, I just don't see where my responsibility lies in this assumed scenario. And I don't think it warrants his hostility!
We stopped for coffee in The Contented Pig. Odd place. I had a lovely chocolate and cherry cake. Nicely decorated, if slightly clichéd - carefully arranged junk; table decorated with a bottle of flowers, a Kilner jar of sugar lumps, a metal bucket of cutlery.
But their menu looked dated, straight from the 1970s. Laminated green cardboard, text in ALL CAPS in a dated font, and poorly described food eg cheese and tomato sandwich was a turn off. Yet, looking at the sandwiches delivered to other customers, I was pretty sure they would be South Downs or Sussex artisan cheese on 'proper' wholemeal. The waitress slopped both coffees as she brought them to our table. "D'you want me to clean up?" she asked, expecting the answer to be 'no', when she should have said "I'm sorry, shall I replace those?".
We spent most of the rest of the day strolling around the town. A soulless uninspiring place. I presume it's prosperous - politically Conservative, commutable to London, house prices comparable to South London - but the people looked as depressed and rundown as the town itself. Similar to what I observed in Chertsey. The English town centre is dead and needs reinventing.
We crossed the River Arun to West Beach. The original purpose of the day was to go to Climping Beach, recommended by both the internet and a friend as being one of the best beaches, so I now can't remember why we ended up in Littlehampton Town, rather than Climping Beach car park, a couple of miles from where we parked, and strolled around as the temperature plummeted.
The beach and its immediate surrounds are a nature reserve, but just inland is the inevitable golf course, with its unnaturally mown grass and its men posturing in garish age inappropriate hobby specific clothing.
The tide had turned, so we watched boats coming into harbour.
But the weather wasn't improving, so we went home.
We passed a new housing development outside the town. This was on elevated ground and should have afforded a decent view of the estuary. But, bizarrely, the houses were all oriented wrongly. the windowless gable ends faced the sea, the habitable rooms looked over a busy road.
It's an ironic coincidence that I am summarising my impressions of food in Cyprus just after posting about the amazing variety of food in Streatham.
It's not a fair comparison, because we ate almost exclusively in Kapparis, a residential area with just a few shops, restaurants and bars positioned along the main road. However, when we ventured elsewhere, we saw pretty much the same repeated. I didn't scrutinise restaurants in Ayia Napa, but have been told that there are decent restaurants there.
I found the same problem with Cypriot food as I have with Spanish. I don't eat meat, so end up eating a great deal of fish when I am abroad. In Cyprus's favour, the freshness and quality of the fish was excellent. I particularly liked the fact that menus highlighted which fish, seafood and meat were fresh and which were frozen. But, once you've chosen your fish, the rest of the dish is entirely predictable, and pretty much interchangeable from one restaurant to another. We ate in two decent restaurants outside Kapparis, including Onassis on the road to Pernera. Jimmy had the lamb stew that the owners (mother and son) were eating; he said it was the best meal of the holiday. We also ate in a place in the mountains, that was nice, adequate and just like the offer in Kapparis (except that the fish was trout, not seafish). I photographed neither.
There were two contenders in Kapparis for 'best restaurant'. Faliros had the widest variety, and entertainment two nights a week; at Karas you could choose your own fish from the display and it had been caught by a family member; they were attentive and personal (in a good way) in their service.
We went to Karas on the first night and ordered the seafood mezze. Jimmy was overtired and ordered large, without consulting me. It was too much, it kept coming out, too fast to photograph (and I was tired and mildly anxious at being in an unfamiliar environment). Plates and plates of fish and seafood, without sauce, and with a 'Village salad' to accompany. Twice they did us an off menu special - the second time was identical to the first and they had clearly forgotten we had already had it. I suspect they offer it to anybody who doesn't immediately plump for steak and chips or deep fried fish. This squid - or was it octopus - was a highlight: lightly fried in a light batter
We had a very good fish and chips at The Pig and Whistle and I thoroughly enjoyed my strawberry mojitos. We went back the following night, which was the owner's night off. For pudding Jimmy ordered strawberries with ice cream but instead got strawberry ice cream, which wasn't actually on the menu. He raised this with the staff and she was really quite aggressive, more or less accusing him of lying. He decided not to pursue this but ordered a strawberry mojito, which looked nothing like mine from the previous day - all churned up and dull coloured, and no strawberries to decorate. Barmaid with an attitude said accusatorily that they had run out of strawberries, because that was obviously Jimmy's fault for having ordered strawberries. We didn't go back. He murmured to me "You know who she reminds me of?" and I replied with a name. The right name. Someone we used to know who used to run a pub with an attitude, and we were not alone in disliking. They could have been sisters. We didn't go back.
Then there was Just Italian. We had gone for a plate of pasta the evening of the lunch at Onassis and it was fine. We went back another time and I made the mistake of ordering prawns in sauce.
I was pretty annoyed at what was offered.
Where to start! The prawns hadn't been cooked in the sauce which had clearly been thrown onto them lukewarm. In order to eat the prawns I had to shell them and get the gloopy sauce all over my fingers - I had to request a finger bowl! The potatoes and the steamed veg were the standard accompaniment to every dish. It seems standard Kapparis custom to serve food in three vertical lines, so kudos for putting the veg under the prawns in the lukewarm sauce on the cold plate. Now, I'm not a great one for salt, in fact, I'll go as far as to say I have a mild aversion to salt eg I don't put it even on chips, but even I noticed a complete lack of seasoning for any element of the food. And, ultimately, it just tasted of nothing. We didn't go back.
Then there was Avgoustis. I found the decor gorgeous and the owner was a sweet, warm and welcoming woman; I had heard from my source for village gossip that she lost her husband suddenly and too young, last Autumn. There was a good atmosphere from a party of British immigrants, possibly the local WI or similar. And the food was okay. But only okay. I was satisfied, but Jimmy wasn't really.
We went to Faliros three times. Once when they had a Greek night, once on International night and once when there was no entertainment. The Greek night featured two male dancers and the highlight was how one balanced a pile of glasses on his head. Various women were plucked from the audience to add the next glass. The International night featured a group of dancers. They weren't awfully good - poor posture etc - but they were pleasantly entertaining. Before the dancers appeared a man with a guitar and, alternatively, a flute and a guitar, performed well known English, Swedish and US pop songs with a background track. He was very good for the occasion. Not outstanding but competent and a good sense of what songs would suit the audience, especially as we finished off with a sort of disco for the middle aged. Made me laugh watching two young women barely out of their teens and well out of their comfort zone.
Again, the food was fine, inasmuch as it was as advertised, eatable, flavoursome, fit for purpose etc. Just about every restaurant had a menu that was far too long, and seemed to work as many Chinese/Indian restaurants too - endless different combinations of fairly few elements. No flair, no imagination and every restaurant basically serving the same. You have three elements - protein and sauce, and alongside that steamed vegetables and potato. Irrespective of what you order, it's steamed vegetables and potatoes. No attempt to combine the different elements, or to create a dish that combines protein and vegetables from the start and a sauce that is based on, or complements those elements. Apart from baked beans for breakfast and the occasional appearance of green beans, pulses (or legumes) were conspicuously absent from any restaurant menu. One of my favourite food groups, and so versatile.
Cyprus is known for its potatoes. In late April/early May, you really want to eat Cyprus potatoes. Surely the best way to eat them is boiled, and dabbed with butter. But it was devilishly difficult to get Cyprus boiled potatoes. Chips, yes. Baked potatoes, yes. Mash yet. But boiled, no. So disappointing.
As for breakfasts. We went to several places for a full English breakfast. In my case, a veggie breakfast where the meat was substituted by halloumi cheese, a Cypriot delicacy. In several places I asked for 'real' coffee. Not available. It was Nescafé instant or nothing - I opted for tea. Tea that was made out of poor quality teabags in some circumstances. I also asked if I could have wholemeal bread. In one place I was practically laughed at. Processed white sliced or nothing. These were British places, catering for British people. I can't believe we've got to 2015, and there's no demand either for coffee from ground beans or brown bread. It's sixteen years since I erroneously asked for a latte in Hull and the young woman - girl - behind the counter said I was just like the people in American TV shows!
When we returned from holiday, we discussed the food and concluded. One of the reasons we go on holiday is to enjoy eating out, savouring food we might normally eat, enjoying each other's company. But yet again, abroad, we failed to get anything as good as we got in Northumberland, Cornwall, Dorset, Cotswolds, Kent or other places we have visited. I'm not applying the standards of expensive London fine dining restaurants, but pubs and bistros in small English towns.
Last year, Stockwell Bus Garage held an open day and I went along. A slightly strange thing to do, but it's not far from here, and on the way to town. I had a slight curiosity and thought there would be worse ways to spend an hour or so.
The garage is said to be architecturally interesting - at the time of construction it was Europe's largest unsupported roof span. The building is listed as Grade II*.
The main attraction for me was to see B2737 – the Battle Bus. Here, it looks shiny with bright paint; for war work it was painted khaki. I recently read a history of London Underground which, commenting on the Inter War boom, mentioned that the Underground got a competitive edge over the buses that had been commandeered for war. Those that returned didn't so in great nick (an analogy for participants).
Unexpectedly, there was a chance to take a ride on an open top Routemaster through the streets of South West London. Probably more exciting for people who had come from further afield but pleasant.
This is definitely a subject I should have blogged straight away, rather than waiting until it creeps up my to-do list! For three years, Streatham Food Festival has featured the Streatham Food Tour and it has captured the imagination locally. The idea is that local restaurants offer a mini version of a signature dish, for about £3-£5 and you stroll up and down the High Road, sampling the fare of several places and earning a stamp. If you get more than 3 stamps, you can vote for your favourite and enter into a prize draw.
I wrote briefly about the 2013 tour last year. In 2014 and 15, the tour took place over the first weekend in June. Last year, Friday evening and Saturday from noon. This year, Thursday evening was added. Last year, we only did Saturday, because after our adventures in Shepperton it was just easier to pop to our local Indian on our (Brixton) side of the Great Divide!
Interestingly, in both years our first stopping place turned out to be the eventual winner. In 2014 this was Fish Tale, the fishmongers on Leigham Court Rd just by Streatham Hill station. Despite not being a restaurant, they have an on-licence and put out chairs and tables on the wide pavement. We didn't get round to going this year, deterred by the queue. Above is their charcuterie plate that Jimmy had. These are my oysters. For some reason I didn't photograph the Prosecco.
This year, we started at Hood, the exciting new Fine Dining restaurant on Streatham Hill. It's not that long ago that 'fine dining' & 'Streatham Hill' would not have gone together. But this year, we started with a stone bass ceviche and chilled tomato soup.
We finished there on the Saturday, because I intended to finish with English strawberry snap,crackle & pop, but they persuaded me to leave the Food Tour menu and select the chocolate tart/clotted cream tart from the normal pudding menu. I liked it so much I had it when I returned a few weeks later for dinner.
Our second or third stop was Hamlet. In 2014, garlic prawns. In 2015, goat's cheese salad. A dark place, making photography difficult, and a mistake to cover the feature item with greenery. But on both occasions I couldn't fault the food, and liked the atmosphere.
We hadn't long returned from holiday in Cyprus, and, finally, at Troy, we got what we hadn't got in Cyprus. For me, a decent mixed mezze - this was described as veggie, but, containing taramasalata, it wasn't. Not a problem for me, but not veggie! We also had a very decent 'house' wine. Jimmy enjoyed his spicy lamb skewers (not photoed).
We didn't eat at the White Lion either year but did pop in for a drink, and to photograph their unusual quirky lampshades
Streatham is the longest High Road in Europe. We live north of the north end of Streatham Hill, so the far south is a long way and we never quite got there. I suspect that the main place we missed was the Earl Ferrers, which I still haven't been to despite its good reputation.
On the Friday we took a tortuous bus journey to Streatham Green. Our bus was delayed for about ten minutes while a crashed car was removed from the pavement near the bus stop just south of Streatham Hill station. As we walked down 'the dip', I saw one sick bitch deliberately stop her car to impede an Emergency Ambulance on a shout. I saw the self satisfied grin on her face as the ambulance stopped to manoeuvre round her. People like her shouldn't be on the road. I can kind of understand the logic of impeding a police car, particularly if you're ignorant and don't empathise with victims, but what kind of maladjusted cow deliberately blocks an ambulance? I hope she dies a slow and painful death while waiting for paramedics herself. But I know no health workers would agree with me.
Glamorgan sausage at Deli Lama who weren't 'officially' on the tour, but, newly opened, decided to embrace it anyway. Cashew nut, carrot & coriander falafel wrap at Hideaway - Jimmy enjoyed his lamb burger. Everything I've ever had at Hideaway has been full of flavour, but I was a little disappointed at the slow service. Can't really complain, but when we arrived we sat outside in sunshine and before our food arrived we had retreated inside from the cold and dark.
With disappointment we skipped Cafe Barcelona. It was the wrong stage of the evening for Churros con chocolate, and they were packed, it being their first birthday party. Blessings had run out of goat curry, the reason Jimmy wanted to go there. It turned out he's known the Blessings people forever. Onto Rice Republic. I liked my salt and chilli tofu more than I thought I would - at £3.50 it's worth taking risks on ingredients you're not quite sure of. He wasn't so taken by his beef in black bean sauce. I'm sorry I didn't photograph the decor.
Next was Indian Nites. Jimmy moaned about it not being value for money, until he realised it was much cheaper than anywhere else. My chana masala was only £1.50 and I found it just right - flavoursome and good consistency. After there we tried to go to Bravi Ragazzi, but it was nearly 11pm and the tour was advertised as up until 10pm.
On Saturday we started at the Holland Tringham, the Wetherspoon's to the south of central Streatham. We live much nearer the Crown & Sceptre, often called London's best Wetherspoons, but they weren't participating - they're quite a walk from the northernmost participants. I don't really like the Holland, always a bit seedy. Years ago, I was in there one afternoon with Jimmy, and slightly randomly, my former Audit Manager. Some drunk got stroppy and started intimidating the lone bar staff. Jimmy & John intervened to march the bloke off the premises. It could happen anywhere, but does rather summarise the place. The mini serving of fish and chips was actually surprisingly good, but I do think Wetherspoons have made a mistake introducing such hideous crockery which interferes with the visual display of, surely, just about every food they serve, even beige food!
Next was Pratts & Payne, the idiosyncratically Streatham named pub. I wondered how many of the denizens could even guess at the origin of its name*. Two years ago, their goats cheese tart was stunning; last year, the equivalent was a let down. This year, their hummus, different from what was advertised, was lovely. And then I went to the Ladies and shuddered and kicked myself for eating in a place with such a lax attitude to hygiene. Awful to think that such a grubby place serves food.
Maria's Kitchen was closed for the food tour on Saturday, catering a wedding. It had some excellent feedback on Twitter and is situated in what was Franco's. My American friend and I had discovered Franco as a great place to line the stomach for weekday drinking, and Jimmy and I had loved the place for casual dining. I think Franco worked himself too hard in what was obviously a labour of love, and my American friend is long back in the USA.
Instead we walked onto Perfect Blend, a place we have often been for brunch but never for dinner. I had mushroom burger. The young man explained in a non-patronising way that they were meat free. I knew that, but it was thoughtful to say so, just in case. Tasty. I stuck to red wine rather than mixing my drinks but Jimmy went for St. Reatham beer (available as Export outside SW16).
We finished at Hood, me on the chocolate tart and more red wine, and Jimmy having several cocktails from the talented cocktail barman.
Streatham Food tour - a brilliant way to sample a range of restaurants, mainly independents, along a mile and a half (according to Google) of Streatham Hill and Streatham High Road, as wells as roads off. There are several restaurants we vowed to return to, in fact, we have only been back to Hood for dinner and the conveniently opposite Streatham station Deli Lama for outstanding coffee. I'm sure many younger people and those new to the area will have found places to their liking that the Food Tour gave them the confidence to sample.
Maps contain clickable links to websites
These weren't from the Food Tour, but this is as good a place as any to blog them.
Last summer we went to the exciting new Brighton Way restaurant open on the A23 in Streatham. This restaurant is owned by the Exhibition Room in Crystal Palace, which always delivers on good quality fresh food. I really liked the menu, as well as the cocktail menu. It was clearly more casual than Exhibition Room, acting as much as a bar as a restaurant.
I started with a prawn cocktail, and moved onto a goats cheese tart. I followed with cheese board, which, of course, in hindsight was a mistake, but it was my mistake, not the fault of the restaurant. I don't remember what Jimmy had but he enjoyed it. We both found our food tasty,
I was amused by the sweetie that came with the bill, it seemed like a little touch of class. We vowed to return soon. Now, I realise there is a massive irony coming up here. Life got in the way. Over the winter we ate out less, and, when we did, we generally opted for upmarket. So we didn't return until early Spring. We chose Brighton Way as somewhere we could eat a decent meal and also drink large numbers of cocktails, to get really quite drunk and yet still not be far from home.
Unfortunately, the place had changed. I was the second youngest of not very many customers, in an almost empty crepuscular barn having to endure unfamiliar processed music too loud for a restaurant. The food that was served was fine - it was as described on the menu, prepared properly (although lukewarm and served on cold plates). It just wasn't interesting. The sort of stuff that needs no skill to prepare, probably pre-prepared and using frozen or tinned ingredients more than fresh/seasonal. The choice wasn't great, mainly focusing on burgers, and looking like every other mediocre restaurant in every mediocre town. A far cry from the place we had visited earlier. If you want to run a decent restaurant you have to desist from aiming it at the youth market. Pretty much every decent restaurant I have been is attracts a mixture of age ranges; places that are bars with loud music and serve food as a sideline tend to attract a very narrow range of customers. But I do understand that a place close to a busy commuter rail station will do better from serving overpriced cocktails to regulars, than serving food to people who visit only every few months.
At the other end of the range, we made a couple of visits to Tiger. Tiger serves Vietnamese and Chinese food. Jimmy's daughter-in-law is British Vietnamese; her father, who was a refugee from Vietnam, shares a birthday with Jimmy. So we got together for a meal, when the baby was just three months old. We were also joined by Jimmy's nephew, who lives in Serbia with his Serbian wife, but grew up in Australia with his South African father and Australian stepmother. I took lots of family photos of course, but also took photos of the food; we liked it so much that we returned not long after. It's a BYO place, which is fine! And the food is really very good indeed and not pricy at all.
*Pratts was a John Lewis which closed down in 1990 and is still cited as the reason for the decline of Streatham; Payne is Cynthia, a one-time Parliamentary candidate for Streatham. One day, there won't be a pub called Mediworld and Umunna
Crystal Palace Park is one of the not-so-hidden gems of South London yet I have been there very few times. It's not quite on my doorstep yet too near to be a destination day out. A sunny Sunday afternoon in May and we headed to Crystal Palace Park. So did many other people, although it never really seemed busy and people seemed aware of those around them and understood that other park users had different needs - kids on scooters didn't career into the elderly and infirm, dogs were under control for the benefit of the nervous, people conducted conversations among themselves and not for the benefit of an audience. This is South East London, not South West that's increasingly infested with people whose main (sole?) hobby is 'showing off'.
Previously run by the Greater London Council and before that the London County Council, Crystal Palace Park is entirely within the London Borough of Bromley. LBs Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Croydon have boundaries on or close to the park and some interest in the surrounding areas.
It contains many of the features you would expect in a large neighbourhood park, and several more besides. For example, a boating lake. For boating purposes it isn't as good as Battersea Park, let alone Regent's Park, none of which are a patch on Nottingham's University Park. But it's nicely landscaped, and I spotted this modern day sculpture.
If you're 'not from round here' and you hear Crystal Palace, you probably think of the football team, or maybe the Great Exhibition of 1851, or the Athletics stadium. But if you are local, you know that Crystal Palace Park is home to The Dinosaurs. The only place in the UK where you can roam among dinosaurs in their natural habitat, and there are few recorded incidents of children being attacked.
The lakes and ponds are pleasantly, if unexceptionally, landscaped
The park is easy to get to, as Crystal Palace station, now served by London Overground as well as Southern, is right next door. We popped into the café Brown and Green, which is exceptionally good and, given its location, decently priced. We had coffee and cake, both of which passed muster - the cake being handmade and fresh. Their website is user unfriendly, a pity, because they have an excellent menu for breakfast, brunch, light lunch and afternoon bites, and their kids' menu seems to have the right balance between tasty and not-too-unhealthy. If I lived locally I'd be in every week - or more often. Stupidly, I took no pictures of the café but I liked this mural near the station.
Crystal Palace Park is unique because not only does it has the dinosaurs but it also has other singular features.
It's called Crystal Palace, as is the station and, unofficially the local area, because Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace was moved there from Hyde Park after the Great Exhibition, although sadly it burned down in 1936. Paxton is commemorated locally with a Primary School, a health centre and a pub. And, in the Park, a bust, somewhat neglected, on the historic but derelict Italian terraces with its vandalised sphinxes. I suspect that LB Bromley doesn't take its custodianship of the park too seriously, given that it's at the corner of their borough away from the prosperous areas, and is probably used more by people from the poorer Inner London boroughs.
Crystal Palace is like a campus for sport. It struck me that the designers of Olympic Park must have been influenced, especially by the bridge next to the Athletics stadium. I know there's a swimming pool there, and I think it's Olympic size and allows for diving.
We stood and watched some beach volleyball. There were signs saying that it is home of the Team GB beach volleyball team. I don't know if these people were Team GB, and, to be honest, I don't think that beach volleyball is any more interesting than the bog standard version.
But, hey, pictures.
There's an Athletic stadium, which has now being somewhat overshadowed by the Olympic stadium in East London - it used to host Diamond League fixtures until recently. There was some sort of athletics going on there, a handful of people and a man on a very loud public address system which boomed out inappropriately across the entire park, imposed on and to be endured by the hundreds if not thousands doing other things, for the sake of the few tens doing this. And the organised sporty types wonder why they're so hated by normals!
There was a triathlon partly taking place in the park, but it was low key, discrete and well stewarded, without the need for all the showing off to all-and-sundry.
We sat for a while on the grass, which happened to overlook the children's playground. Busy, and decorated in primary colours (ie not enforcing artificial gender role differentiation), with some dinosaur theming.
One day last summer, I got on a boat that took me from Seahouses to to Staple Island on the Outer Farnes, a leisurely cruise and some photogenic sights. We landed on the island and stayed for about an hour. I took 175 photos, so you have to admire me in whittling it to fewer than 20 on this post, with a few more in my Northumberland photo album.
When I was a child I had several books on seaside life eg I Spy at the Seaside but I was never really into birds. No, let's stake a step back. All these books were designed to give children the confidence to go and explore. To wade through rock pools in wellingtons and carrying a fishing net. But they assumed that by the age of 9 or 10, parents would allow children just enough freedom to do that, either engaged with one or both parents, or with an adult watching from a safe distance. But, as you may have gathered, my childhood wasn't exactly like that. We didn't do things like. They weren't sufficiently intellectual, or perhaps it was simply that 'people like us' don't do such things, dismissed in a condescending gesture. At about 17 I was gutted to find that people study Marine Biology at University, but by then it was too late - I had been discouraged from doing Biology or any other Science at O Level. and anyway, I hadn't been one of those children wading through rock pools at age 11.
Actually, pause there.
The woman in the ticket office was grumbling in a negative way about all the people who don't do it. I commented mildly that it was quite expensive. "No it isn't, don't be ridiculous". Hmm, we paid £30 for two of us, landing for 'free' because of our National Trust membership. If we had 3 kids and weren't NT members, it would have been £77.50. From my point of view, it was good VfM. I was very nearly that middle class Londoner explaining to a working class person from a deprived region how tight budgets can be. Or perhaps in these low cost regions, they do actually have nearly £80 to spend on a half day excursion.
Some good sights to see en route to Staple Island.
Basking seals. I always enjoy seals, because Jimmy hates them to a point of irrationality. Yes, they're smelly, but other than that, they're pretty harmless.
Lots of opportunities to take photos of puffins, but I didn't manage a 'money shot'
Lovely views of the cliff sides - or Pinnacles, as they're known - with cormorants atop: I was stunned at how similar they look to penguins. I also learnt the difference between cormorants and shags.
We passed the famous Longstone Lighthouse. Grace Darling was the daughter of the lighthouse keeper and became famous for her role in a rescue from a ship wrecked paddle steamer in 1838. When I was young I visited the Grace Darling museum in Bamburgh & she featured in the sort of books that flourished in the 70s & 80s of women role models. At the time, I thought, she didn't do that much, handing over to men at the first opportunity. I have a more nuanced understanding these days. And yet, despite the example of women like Grace Darling, men persisted in avowing despite no evidence, that no woman is capable of physical tasks.
It was fun being on Staple Island. It's an uninhabited island and is quite difficult underfoot in places. I think people with limited mobility might be better going to Inner Farne.
There's not a great deal to do, except look at birds, and take photographs of birds. I enjoyed it and there was a nice feeling of camaraderie.
I used a compact camera, albeit a top of the range one, but if you're serious about getting stunning bird shots, you need more equipment. You also need patience and know how to use your equipment, to frame shots and use the light. Just about everybody on my boat was wearing sensible shoes, and all but one with cameras had proper cameras - half decent (or better) compacts or SLRs.
One annoying man used his Apple pad to take indifferent photos. I sat next to him on the boat, something he begrudged, misbelieving he could take the space of three people. He spent some of the time on the boat making work-related phone calls. I know, needs must, but when everyone else is trying to get away, relax and recharge, and in a packed space, it's quite intrusive.
On the way back we passed Inner Farne, an alternative venue for the boat trip. I hadn't fully understood when booking that there was a choice of islands to go to; this photo shows St Cuthbert's chapel, and going there might be an important part of your visit. St Cuthbert was exceptionally cool: according to Wikipedia:
Among other acts, Saint Cuthbert introduced special laws in 676 protecting the eider ducks, and other seabirds nesting on the islands; these are thought to be the earliest bird protection laws anywhere in the world
If you go to Inner Farne you are advised to take an old hat or headscarf that you can bin afterwards, to protect you from the worst of the bird droppings!
August, A Level year. My father had had a heart bypass earlier in the year, so the 'family' holiday was booked for not far away, North Wales. A chalet park, owned by Hoseasons, and, naturally some distance from any wild hedonistic seaside resort. I'm not sure but I think it was Ogwen Bank Country Park, miles from the corrupting decadence of Caernarfon, Bangor and Llanfairfechan.
The parents remarkably acknowledged I was an adult, so I was allowed to stay at home for half their holiday. I travelled by train from Altrincham to Bangor, changing at Chester, and they met me in Bangor, shielding me from the tempting seediness of its hectic nightlife.
We went up Snowdon by train (no photos), because my father was not yet fully recovered. It rained
One day we went to a slate quarry. It rained. Probably the most interesting slate quarry I have ever visited, twice. It rained.
One day it didn't rain, so we went to look at the David Lloyd George museum in his childhood home. We gazed out over Cardigan Bay from outside Criccieth, obviously avoiding the town centre because of its disreputable dens of iniquity.
I don't remember spending any of this holiday on the beach.
It wasn't a nice day, and the weather forecast for the next three days was mediocre. Not beach days. We set out for a walk, but it wasn't warm, and we hadn't brought the right clothes for a serious walk. We'd already spoken with the local car hire people, so it was obvious what to do next.
With very little planning, we cruised down the coast. This map is a summary of where we went, although we took the coastal route rather than the main spinal route
Our first stop was a nearby beach, known in English as Trinity Beach. Practically deserted because of the weather. I imagine it being teeming on lovely days. In the distance we could see Famagusta.
We retraced the route we had walked earlier in the week. When we walked, I was disinclined to take photos. As we sped along at a modest 40 kmph I spotted many opportunities to take photos that would, somehow, capture the essence of that corner of Cyprus. It's an eternal problem for a photographer. I'm sure that if I had asked Jimmy to stop, he would have, but I didn't.
We arrived in Pernera. Pernera is not the busiest town in Cyprus, even in Paralimni Municipality, but it was as a shock after several days in Kapparis, a residential area with a small shopping parade either side of the main road. Quite alien to see in-yer-face commercialism, the Neon signs stressing the Englishness of the offer - even though several of the pubs and restaurants in Kapparis are English and make sure you know that.
We strolled for a while on the seafront, the weather fine, bright and dry, but not warm. I saw some young women who, I suspect, had tumbled out of bed, looked out the window, seen it was bright and headed straight for the beach for sunning or swimming. They would have been on their own!
The seafront was well tended and neat, with intense planting of flowers, pleasant if a little uninspired. In Spain and Greece, and now I was seeing this in Cyprus, local authorities invest in their seafronts and beaches, understanding that a welcome to tourists boosts the local retail economy and jobs (while acknowledging that seasonality presents its own problems).
Back where we were staying, we had free unfettered access to sun-loungers and umbrellas in April. In May we had to pay. But in England, even on exceptionally hot days we have been told: you can't hire deckchairs after 3pm. You can't hire deckchairs on weekdays. Many English beaches are virtually impossible to access in a wheelchair or with a buggy, and lack showers or taps, changing rooms, children's play areas or facilities for light refreshments.
We took brunch in a café whose name I now forget. Spotlessly clean - as was everywhere we went in Cyprus (this place was sparkling!), nice friendly atmosphere of locals (Brits) who didn't resent our presence as visitors, and decent food - I had a salmon burger.
Bypassing Protaras, we headed down the coast, but dark clouds and droplets of drizzle made us worry we'd be caught in a shower. We saw a couple in late middle age, who had hired a quad bike, without a roof or walls. We saw them several times during the day, they obviously had the same idea as us to sight see, but they looked bloody miserable, open to the elements and buffeted by the wind.
From there we went to Ayia Napa but didn't stay long, just enough for a stroll round the Marina. Ayia Napa's a busy town and known for its party atmosphere. Our taxi driver said they know which blocks to dread pick ups from, larey parties, often single sex, of young people. That having been said, talking to people where we were staying, there are decent restaurants in the town, if you know where to look. It seemed a poor relative of Benidorm. Much maligned, but popular for a reason. Densely populated, so not using much land, and easy to have a week or two's holiday without a car. (I presume there are ferries to Cyprus but all holiday I didn't see one car whose number plates weren't Cypriot).
It took me ages to figure out what was wrong with this second picture, then I remembered the definition of 'submarine'
From Ayia Napa we escaped to the hills, specifically Cape Greco, a headland and National Park outside the town. Where we first parked, in rocky, steep scrubland, there were strict signs forbidding any photography. I'd probably get away with it, but the hassle of the penalty for being caught, however remote, wasn't worth it. We were close to radio masts - this photo was taken later, from further away - which reminded me of the strategic importance of Cyprus to Britain, Europe and NATO, so close to Syria and the Middle East.
Further down the road is a car park by a chapel; an ice cream van was also parked up. A nice opportunity to stroll, enjoy the view, and take photos. I was realising I have a similar problem with Cyprus that I do with Greece*. I have previously been to three different Greek islands and I simply don't like the scenery. I've never stopped and caught my breath and wondered at the beauty of it. It's down to personal taste and conditioning/familiarity, but I do so prefer the scenery in parts of Northern and Central Europe I have visited.
We attracted a plague of feral cats. I'm not usually bothered by them - I prefer not to get too close or pet them, but see them as like pigeons in England. But these creeped me out. Half a dozen tiny kittens scurrying around and a couple closely following me. I took a step and, just in time, realised my foot was about to come down on one of them. I really didn't want inadvertently to kill one of them, so I had a sort of anxiety attack. Jimmy decided they were my 'pets', and, later in the week, when we saw feral cats foraging in paladins, he looked at me reproachfully and told me I was a monster, not looking after my pet cats properly and forcing them to hunt through waste bins for food.
The mother cat looked listless and disinterested. She was alive but didn't move while we were there. Presumably other mammals die of postnatal sepsis, like humans who lack(ed) modern Western hygiene and medicine. Some people would try to rescue her out of sentimentality but I try to allow wild animals to be, and to let Nature take its course.
From Ayia Napa we went to Deryneia, to see the Ghost City of Famagusta. Again, no photography allowed at ground level. It was a dreary day, and soon to rain, so the view was not as clear as it might have been. Even so, it was strange to see. We were benignly held hostage at the cultural centre - no cup of tea unless you watch the video. "Very interesting" I said politely to the woman, after a twenty minute propaganda film.
I can't imagine much worse than being forced to flee your home, taking only the clothes you're wearing. People who can't go home are sorrowful, even when it was their choice to leave. That story plays out yet again as it has throughout the 20th Century and time immemorial.
It's rude to express an opinion about other people's territorial and ethnic disputes, unless you have reasonably informed yourself. It's stupid to use Wikipedia to get the 'facts', unless you apply a healthy dose of scepticism. However, there is a difference between the Greek Cypriot propaganda which implies that 'suddenly out of the blue without provocation the Turkish Army invaded and oppressed Greek Cypriots' and a narrative of events that causes a Wikipedia page Cypriot intercommunal violence. All I can conclude is that many ordinary people have suffered while the minority of power hungry/sociopathic/nationalistic agitators jostle for advantage.
*NB I stress that Cyprus is a sovereign state that's a member of the UN in its own right and is not part of Greece. However, the main language is Greek, the dominant religion is Greek Orthodox, and the culture - including food - is similar to Greece. I found the scenery (and feral cats) to be similar to what I experienced on Kos three years ago. Irish Times article: Cyprus, a small country heavily reliant on Greece, is facing its own fragile recovery
It's bugged me for a few months, now., and I should have blogged it back then. Sport England launched a campaign to encourage more women to get active, and thus fit and healthy. Some fun posters and videos, and a catchphrase/hashtag This Girl Can.
I tweeted at them asking why they used the word 'girl' and only included images of young women. Were they implying that exercise wasn't for the vast majority of women who are middle-aged or elderly, or younger than that, but not 'girls' Their answer was that the gap between male and female participation is narrower in older age groups.
Oh that's alright, then, that must be because of the hordes of perimenopausal women suddenly taking up jogging after a lifetime of inactivity.
It doesn't mean that women who've been inactive for decades suddenly take up physical activity. Some do, but statistically, it's a lie. It doesn't even mean that older women are proportionately more active than young women. They're not.
Look around you at the park joggers, the swimming pool, any gym you may be a member of or spot from the swimming pool. The women in there aren't middle aged and older, on the whole.
It was a stupid answer. A better answer might have been - we have limited resources so decided that this campaign was aimed specifically at young women, using language and images they can identify with. We chose this age group because we want to get them into a lifelong habit of activity, which will reap benefits for them as individuals and for the health budgets for many decades.
At least it would be realistic and honest.
But no, they didn't say that. They pretended, using statistics in a spectacularly asinine way, that the 'problem' is with young women. They implied that there isn't a problem with older women, or if there is, they're not bothered.
Cool, let's take the sexism out of activity. That's a positive. But let's make absolutely sure that we retain ageism, and we ignore the long lasting effects of the sexism they are now, belatedly, wanting to tackle.
My generation thought we had invented 'The Gym', but only a minority of my contemporaries took them seriously. I don't remember Gym Membership being a desired lifestyle accoutrement when I was in my 20s, although that changed slightly with the installation of a workplace gym. This was cheaper than a commercial equivalent, and, being in the office building, meant that many of the office rules about harassment and intimidation applied just as in the other communal/social areas.
A few people swam, others occasionally went to aerobics or step classes, until the novelty wore off, but I don't recall any sense of exercise being something you incorporated into your everyday life. I knew someone who rowed competitively, and there must have been people competing at high amateur levels in various sports, but they were unusual.
I don't recall my school friends' mothers doing exercise. A few attended yoga classes for a short period when it was briefly fashionable, similarly aerobics - remember Jane Fonda and the Green Goddess? Some girls at school and my next door neighbour were members of Sale Harriers, but that was the equivalent of Stockport Youth Orchestra, only for those who were talented and ambitious. People's Mums and older sisters didn't enter 5ks or 10ks, let alone marathons.
My age group, with a few exceptions, are past childbearing age; our mothers are of the age of being actively involved in community volunteering, teetering into dementia, or onerous caring; some, of course, have passed away. Both these generations have been discouraged from being active - even school sports* was largely aimed at those willing and able to play team ballgames rather than the majority who could have benefitted from aerobic and strength building work outs.
But no, Sports England blows its advertising budget on the group of women who least need encouragement to exercise, and in doing, risks further stigmatising the older women who fit into these media images of what an active woman...sorry "GIRL"...looks like.
This is a classic example of intersectionality - where sexism is exacerbated by ageism. And you wonder whether a well meaning campaign with cool images is actually counterproductive and damaging to those it has deliberately excluded.
* we did some Jane Fonda and Scottish dancing for a while, which was popular and fun, but that was put a stop to by parents - no doubt just one or two, possibly male, and definitely evil - who didn't consider it 'proper' PE
I drafted this following the announcement of Labour's London Mayoral candidate and I'm editing it after announcement of Labour Leadership & Deputy results. In response to many tweets bemoaning the male clean sweep of the posts.
Women make up just over 50% of the population, are underrepresented in most spheres of influence and are overrepresented in most disadvantaged groups. I read an article based on research that suggested that when people see a TV programme or a conference where 17% of the participants are women, they perceive this as equal numbers of men and women. When women comprise 34%, this is perceived to be female domination.
These perceptions are backed up by numerous comments I have observed over the years eg someone declaring in 1997 that, right, there are enough women MPs, we don't need any more, when there were barely a hundred out of a total 650. Even now, there are more current women MPs than there are women former MPs going back a hundred years or more.
In the 2015 General Election the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates in my constituency were both women, and the Labour candidate was male. I voted Labour, for political and ideological reasons, and no one suggested I should choose either Tory/Lib Dem on gender grounds.
I apply a similar logic to posts at the top of the party. In the Mayoral contest I voted for Christian Wolmar, then Diane Abbott, knowing they would be eliminated early and the contest would be a two horse race between Sadiq Khan and Tessa Jowell. I picked Sadiq, because on balance, he is closer to me on policy grounds than Tessa, and Tessa was supported by people with a very different vision for the Labour Party than mine. In the end I voted with my head for Yvette Cooper despite serious reservations (eg a reluctance to oppose austerity) rather than my heart for Jeremy Corbyn (I'm very pro-EU, and I worry that Jeremy is too influenced by what feels right rather than what is evidenced - his support for homeopathy is a tiny example but a huge symbol of this). I didn't vote for Yvette because she is a woman, but I have followed her career closely partly because of that.
There are still too few women MPs, and, despite some all women shortlists, too few women are selected for 'safe' seats where the incumbent (usually male) is retiring. All women shortlists are a decent attempt to tackle this, but not enough.
To have more women vying for the top offices needs a greater supply of women at all levels. There's been some talk of north vs south of England, and much debate about the over-concentration of candidates who are graduates of just one or two universities. And, as it happens, there were equal numbers of men and women in the leadership race, and the Mayoral front runners were one of each.
Now people are talking about Keir Starmer as the favourite for the next Labour Leader, based upon his ability to bring his experience of being a former Director of Public Prosecutions, and his lawyer's ability to speak clearly. I was about to write, but there aren't women with equivalent experience - except of course that his successor as DPP is a woman. but I think my point stands.
Many MPs, male and female, start off as councillors but local government is still male dominated, even though active users of council services are disproportionately female. That women remain statistically the prime carer of children explains to some extent why there are fewer women, but many councillors are retired or semi-retired from their day job (and thus presumably their children, if they have some, are grown up), and roughly half of women of child bearing age don't have children. When I was a woman councillor in my 20s I was a statistical freak. Not unique, but rare outside trendy politicised metropolitan areas - and I found myself subject to unwanted sexual advances from male Labour councillors at gatherings such as Local Government conference.
The process for selecting council candidates favours people with skills that are categorised as male - standing up and speaking confidently in front of a room of people and being seen to be an active campaigner in visible settings - and downplays the characteristics categorised as female, such as building and nurturing relationships, listening and empathising. Of course, these skills are not actually exclusive to either one or the other gender, but we are socialised in a society that tries to genderise such attributes.
I can't target individuals on Twitter and ask them what they have done to encourage women into politics: knowing my luck I'd target someone with good credentials. And I have done very little in recent years.
But it's like the board of a company or a government department. You can shout loudly about encouraging more women to be directors, even imposing quotas, but it misses the point. If there were equal numbers at the next level down, and the level below that, the law of averages means that the best person for the job is just as likely to be a woman as a man, and proportionately likely to be BAME. But when there are obstacles that deter women from getting onto the lowest rung, you're losing a lot of potential. And, often the women that do rise above that level have all the same faults as too many men - ambitious, and determined to be in position, but not necessarily with the right skills and experience to do the job.
It's better than 20 years ago, in politics and in workplaces. Prior to 97, young women MPs (and especially BAME ones) stood out for their rarity. I'm getting older, so 'young' is a relative concept, but every few weeks I come across some young woman MP I hadn't been aware of, and older women too. I sense there are more women councillors, including relatively young ones at least in areas I notice.
But it's not enough just to encourage or role model and mentor. There are artificial obstacles - the criteria for selecting councillors aren't those that make a good councillor - and it's a truism that women are hesitant to brag and project themselves. The political ambitions that drive politicos - and I include my former self, because it's not a gender split - do not make a good councillor or MP . These require relationship building and insight at the casework and 'pothole' level, and analysis and scrutiny at the strategic level. I was fairly good at the latter back then, and would be even better now, but I was hopeless at the former and probably worse now. You rarely see prominent politicians praised for their relationship building (unless it's tactical, building up favours and loyalty) or their skills at challenge, and perhaps if more excelled in these area, politics would be different.
The skills that make a good politician aren't the skills that win votes. Policy areas with big challenges, such as Social Services don't win votes, and doing the right thing is often an unpopular vote loser.
And I don't know what the answer is, other than a gradualist increase in women participating at all levels.
I started writing an explanation on GoodReads as to why I was abandoning Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell but it became very much not about this book.
I have decided to abandon not only this but all 19th century fiction.
I've read some Elizabeth Gaskell in the past and enjoyed them, a couple of them very much so. Ditto a couple of Brontes and one or two Dickens.
Over Christmas, I was tempted by free Kindle copies of numerous 'Classics' & thought, given that they're free, there's no reason not to read them.
On a close but separate track I set up my GoodReads account and my random book selector spreadsheet, and populated it with Freebie classics, and various Booker shortlisted books, and recommendations from broadsheet newspapers of 30 books to read before I die and similar nonsense.
I've been having a glorious time reading books. I've mainly read crime and psychological thrillers, but I've read a few history or geography books, a splattering of literary fiction, and even some children's books. And you know what, I chose books because I wanted to, and, apart from a very few exceptions, I enjoyed them.
But I was still plagued with this ridiculous pretension to be an intellectual, or a feeling of guilt that I 'ought' to read certain books of literary bent.
Why should I? There's more than one definition of intellectual. One involves pretentiously and publicly reading classic fiction and Booker shortlisted pretentious crap.
The other sort involves questioning every fact conveyed, understanding the relevance, sufficiency and reliability of the evidence that supports it, asking whether the person conveying the fact is biased or is trying to further an agenda. And also, knowing when these rigorous standards can be relaxed. It's a bit like walking - do I set my apps to measure my progress and monitor them to ensure I'm reaching my target, or do I stroll along the river for a bit before adjourning for tea and scones or a pie and a pint?
Why do I read? Because I want to see the world, or my little bit of it, through the eyes of others, I want a bit of entertainment or a thrill, or a laugh, or a cry.
I'm not stupid and arrogant, so I know there is a reason why certain 19th century writers are still widely read today. And yes, they tell us about the world and how it used to be. But hey, guess what, so do history books and TV documentaries. And, anyway, why do I need to know all this stuff? I've long finished my Higher Education and my Professional training, what am I trying to prove?
Of course one should be undertaking Lifelong Learning, but what's this book going to tell me - unmarried mothers suffered because of Misogyny, Patriarchy and Christianity in the 19th Century. Wow, you don't say. On the other hand, my reading of a different Ruth, the Ruth Galloway mysteries by Elly Griffiths, which are not by any means great books, have told me just a little bit about saltmarshes, and Celtic and Roman ritual, because she has stood on the shoulders of those who have bothered to study these things. And that little bit of extra knowledge I have picked up from a middle brow thriller is of so much value to me.
All I will learn from reading 19th Century literature is about 19th century literature, a self-fulfilling circle. I have spent 35 years being bullied into thinking I ought to read this stuff by the English Literature industry, who have tried to define 'intellectual' as 'the ability to enjoy long winded fiction' because they don't have the ability to analyse information and data, to make decisions that have an affect on people's lives (possibly devastating) or to speak truth to power, simply to write about writing and sit around perpetuating each other's self importance.
I'm not saying 'never' and it's entirely possible that a Classic work or a pretentious fiction book will suddenly appeal, or have some relevance to a place I'm due to visit. It's possible that I might end up hospitalised or housebound but still with sufficient cognitive powers to struggle through a difficult book. But until then, I really can't be bothered with circumlocutory purple prose and books full of flat and binary characters.
When I was a student I saw a film called Hope and Glory. The film is actually about the film-maker's memories of being a small boy during the blitz in London, but the upshot of that was being evacuated to his grandparents' opulent riverside residence. For some reason I have long assumed this to be Maidenhead. It was only after I had finished this walk that I realised that it was actually filmed in the Shepperton area.
A lasting impression of the film was its superb cinematography, especially beautiful shots of endless summer days on lawns leading directly down to the river. The River Thames but a bucolic relation of the industrial behemoth that churns through London and generated the industrial cityscape. I've always known that I would never afford to live with a lawn rolling down to the river but this image has stayed in my head as somewhere to go to in my dreams.
I had planned a linear walk, and linear walks are best done by public transport. It seemed straightforward to catch a train to Chertsey; I thought it would be a short stroll to the river. Nothing is ever that simple! It's a long walk, along the high street and through residential areas along a main road. Dispiriting. We stopped for a decent coffee and snack in a café, which I think was Portuguese, and I would recommend. Some people were sipping wine outside.
Chertsey High Street was yet another I have found in otherwise prosperous areas that look tired and rundown, dominated by betting and charity shops and convenience supermarkets. More evidence that the High Street as we knew it in the 20th century is dead, and we have a choice of tolerating this, or entirely re-imagining the High Street as somewhere that isn't just about daytime drinkers and fixed odds betting machines addicts.
To access the towpath we were obliged to cross a bridge, not really designed with people in mind. I had to stand flat against the wall with stomach squeezed in to allow a woman with a pram to pass me in the opposite direction. The 'engineer' who 'designed' the bridge obviously wanted one of us to step into the path of the constant churn of traffic. The Surrey side of the river was built over with recently developed flats. This looked like the privatisation of public land, although I can't be sure.
As we crossed the bridge we spotted an unusual site - a houseboat being towed. I have to confess to not having previously considered how houseboats reach their moorings, now I know.
What is the purpose of a walk? What is the purpose of a riverside walk? And what is the aim of me taking photos and blogging about my walk? Moderate exercise in the open air on a sunny day that became quite hot is obviously good for one. A change of scene, new vistas, seeing new ways of living. I took a lot of photos but am dissatisfied with the overall quality of the set. I was trying to capture that golden sunshine on rolling lawns from Hope and Glory. I think my favourite photos are of small close-up details or of urban scenes. The focus of these is all the wrong size and distance. I'm sad that the feeling of well being I experienced didn't inspire my pictures.
We passed few people on the towpath, And those that we passed were mainly doing what we were doing, or walking their dogs. Two people jogged past, obviously suffering in the surprisingly intense heat. I didn't envy them and I barely pitied them.
We reached a parking area beside the river. A woman sat in her car reading. I was puzzled. The temperature was officially in the mid twenties. In the direct heat my phone measured it as being mid thirties. I can understand the attraction of driving to the river to sit and read. If it's cold or raining, sitting in the car to watch the river is preferable to sitting at home watching four walls close in. I don't know why she didn't leave the car and sit on one of the numerous benches.
As we walked along the towpath, on our left were houses that had obviously been affected by the serious floods of Winter 2013/14, and across the water to our right lay Pharoah's Island, again where the houses showed signs of flood damage. As an incurable romantic I loved the idea of being dependent upon a rowing boat to go anywhere or even to pick up one's post from a mailbox on the mainland. I didn't know the sad story that had happened three years previously Music executive among two feared dead after Thames boat capsizes
We stopped at a lovely pub right next to the river. It seemed lovely, anyway, although the ratings on Google seem a bit indifferent. The plus point was a large beer garden rolling down to the river. We even took a Selfie Opportunity. I later considered this to be our downfall!
The walk back to the station was a good mile and a half, but not unpleasant. Unfortunately, we saw the back of a train disappearing as we approached the station, and the next wasn't for another half hour, then delayed, then cancelled, with doubts about whether the one after that would run. We ended up sharing a minicab to Walton, and catching a fast train into London (rather than one that stopped at Clapham Junction for a sensible connection). I still feel that we hadn't messed around with a pointless selfie, we would have been home hours earlier.
We did also see a pleasure cruiser locking and sailing away.
There are so many articles and TV programmes about obesity and what we can do to reduce it, personally society-wide. I have some thoughts, based upon extensive non-academic reading and personal experience. Neither method is scientific or foolproof; neither method proves anything. However, it's a contribution to a debate.
Everyone knows that the way to lose weight1 is to eat fewer calories than you expend.
It's not quite that straightforward, because the body deals with different nutritional elements in different ways. I'm not doing science, but it's probably fair to say that if I am currently eating 2500 calories a day (say) made up largely of vegetables, pulses, fish, dairy and wholemeal bread, and replaced it with 2400 calories of pure sugar, over time I'd lose weight, but before that happened I'd be dead. If I continued to consume 2500 calories by cutting out alcohol, cakes, white pasta and replaced those with more veg, pulses and fish, I think I'd be healthier but I'm not sure I'd lose (much) weight, all other things being equal.
It annoys me when people write in Guardian comments "I reduced the amount of lard I ate and started walking so it's simple and people who don't do that are lazy and stupid". I think that developing insight and demonstrating empathy are easy, so I don't know why they can't!
It's a truism that any sort of weight loss diet is successful for 3 or even 6 months. This therefore doesn't mean that people should pursue the latest fad diet promoted in the media to earn someone a nice little fortune. This is because of novelty and focus. If you start a new hobby, job or relationship, it tends to be the centre of your enthusiasm for a while.
As time progresses, your fervour changes. You might stay in the job or relationship for years, or the hobby becomes a frequent activity. But it's not consuming your attention all the time. If you've been with your partner a long time you spend less time thinking 'he (or she) is utterly marvellous, I hate it when we're apart, I'm the luckiest person alive to be with them' and more time thinking 'what shall we have for dinner tonight, must remember to get the car serviced, we're invited to someone's party at the weekend'.
Or 'stuff' gets in the way - a busy or stressful time at work, a close family/friend hospitalised, a different hobby becoming prominent (eg political activists leading up to an Election, opera fans when their favourite singer's in town, the arrival of better weather for walking/cycling/open swimming).
It's easy to maintain a healthy, calorie reducing diet for a time. Spring and summer - you don't feel a need for so much stodge; cutting out beer is no big deal; it's enjoyable to cook meals from scratch. Hyper-awareness of everything you eat. Then, you go on holiday, it's Christmas, or you've been invited to a series of parties in close succession, and one or two puddings, some more wine, a cheese sauce won't make much difference. Your favourite singer is in town or the Election is imminent, and you have time only to grab take-aways or Ready Meals. And more drink, because of being sociable is nice. You go for a long cycle ride. You deserve cake at the half way point, and fish and chips and cider at the end. Calories eaten on holiday or at Christmas don't count.
You plan your meal: nutritionally balanced, calorie counted. Appetising, delicious. You eat it, but you still don't feel full. I saw something years ago that people with a specific gene mutation have difficulty feeling full even after apparently stuffing themselves. I identified with that. I'm not saying that I have that gene mutation, or even that I feel less full than the average person. But it was a pause for thought - maybe wait 20 minutes before having seconds, extras, pudding.
That's fine when you're feeling good. I'm lucky that I don't have chronic mental illness - I'm only depressed as a result of an easily identifiable event. But if I'm low with a cold or fed up that things aren't going my way, I find it easy to comfort myself with food. Not necessarily whole packets of Mr Kipling cakes, not nowadays, and I'm not an emotional drinker, but sometimes a cheese sandwich is easier to make than a vegetable soup. So I assume that that is also true for people with clinical depression, especially that which takes a hold or recurs.
Having fibromyalgia, and more especially, chronic fatigue, has the same effect. The sensible voice in your head tells you the benefits of a fish and veg dinner but when you don't have the energy to shop or cook, ordering a pizza delivery is far easier and less draining.
Fibro and CFS affect my ability to move around. So do lots of other medical conditions. Some of them may only be temporary - broken bones, twisted joints - and others may be more entrenched - eg rheumatism, asthma. I know that exercise is good for fibro (but, confusingly, not good for CFS), and I assume that a moderate amount of appropriate gentle exercise is advised for many other medical conditions. Easier said than done.
If you already hurt, why on earth would you do something that hurts even more. Similarly for fatigue. Fear of either becomes a mental block. If you get over that mental block, you're less fit and your exercise session will be shorter and less intense and have fewer benefits than habitual challenging exercise.
I saw a video of some psychopath American personal trainer who yelled at the camera thinking he was refuting everyone's excuses for not working out. It was funny and sad, because he clearly lacked emotional intelligence, and didn't know that not everyone is like him. If your excuse for not working out is that you've kids to look after, you should work out, because if you die young from not working out your children will suffer. But life doesn't work like that. 'Not working out' is unlikely to kill many people before their kids are old enough to fend for themselves. On the other hand, not attending to the immediate basic needs of children now - supervision, food (and everything else) - is unconscionable to any decent parent. As humans we make choices, often driven by necessity. If we risk assess, we prioritise imminence and probability over impact. So, yes, if I'm fit and healthy it will lengthen and increase my earning power in decades to come, but if I don't finish this report tonight, I will definitely suffer consequences tomorrow.
Many of us under-estimate what we consume, and over-estimate how active we are. I speak for myself and from observing people. When I go out walking I see people gathering in a central point. I read a walker's blog (she's a retired GP), and she commented that most people don't venture more than a hundred yards from the car park. I saw her point, but felt she was exaggerating for dramatic effect. Until I noticed the same.
On occasion, individuals have valid reasons for only taking a small stroll...indeed what other people do in this respect is not my business. But I think many will talk of how they went for a walk or took the kids to the park and genuinely believe they are being active.
I filled in a quiz that classified me among the most active third of the population. I reckon that there is a third of people (ie half of those less active than me) who are inactive for very good reasons - age and other mobility limiting medical reasons. But I did wonder about the other half of people who are less active than me. I recognise the constraints of working full-time or longer (plus commute), of child care, of elder care. People with time-consuming hobbies, often contributing to the community, who are far from lazy. But I thought, it's only expecting you to do 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or 20ish minutes of brisk walking a day.
I aim to do 20ish minutes of brisk walking or similar a day, but I know it can sound daunting to people. It's daunting to me, on off days or recovery days. If you don't think you can manage 20, try 10. If not 10, 5 as a starter. I've broken off writing this to do my weights and sit-to-stands in my living room. Actually, I haven't. I'm lying, but you get my point! And, anyway, I know I am more active in March - October, providing it's not raining, so I might not be in the most active third of population.
I live in Inner London so am surrounded by easily accessible public parks and commons, busy enough to make me feel safe. If I lived in the country half a mile from a public footpath, would I use it if I have to walk down a 60mph bendy road with no footway. It's raining, I leave for work in the dark, come home in the dark, and I'm anxious that the only person I'll meet will be a crazy with a knife looking for a lone female who's gone out walking because some moron in the Guardian comments has declared that people who don't eat a little bit less and move a little bit more are lazy and stupid.
So, as everyone knows, losing weight just requires a bit of discipline about what you eat and a bit of will power to exercise. So what's the big deal about obesity, it's only a problem for stupid lazy people!
1 I think I actually mean 'lose fat' because reducing muscle is generally not a good idea; furthermore someone who eats less and moves more may well increase their muscle mass and increase the numbers on their scales. But I'll say 'lose weight' because most people know what it means in a general sense.
Last year I went to Berwick on Tweed. I had also been there in 1976, the family's first experience in a Hoseasons chalet park. That one had quite a bit of entertainment on site and was within walking distance of town. The parents learnt from that, and in future years we stayed at various sites without entertainment, each far enough away from the towns of Skegness, Tenby, Holyhead, New Milton, Lowestoft, Brixham, Dunoon and Bangor to avoid contamination. I don't remember much from that holiday, although I now have the family photos buried in the Tardis-under-the-stairs (scanning will be a winter task). I do remember:
For this 2014 visit we checked the weather forecast and it was set fair and mild, with the chance of a light shower. When holidaying in England, do not be deterred by 'chance of a light shower' - either take waterproofs, or, if visiting an urban area, there will always be somewhere to shelter.
I was surprised at how run down the town centre seemed, albeit while trying to make a contrast with a faint memory from nearly forty years ago. One of the few significant towns between Newcastle and Edinburgh; I suppose focus is now on the out-of-town retail park; a familiar story from around the country.
After a decent coffee and brunch we set out to circle the town by the walls. We started by looking at the bridges, and the trains crossing the bridge to cross the border.
We popped into the town's museum and art gallery for an exhibition on LS Lowry. As a Mancunian I had grown up with Lowry, of course I didn't know about his links with the North East. I was struck by his sketches on industrial cityscapes, scenes that would have been taken for granted as unchanging back then, but have largely vanished. Until fairly recently most people's photographic efforts were concentrated on portraits and shots of group of posed people rather than documenting the quotidien. It's often only by looking back at old photos or sketches that you realise quite how significantly the cityscape has changed, but often in increments you barely notice as they happen.
I managed to leave my walking stick in the museum (I'd had to leave it at Reception) and Jimmy went back to get it while I stood at the junction of the riverside path and a road bridge. I looked down on a derelict shop that nevertheless announced it was the home of Berwick cockles. It had closed four years earlier: MORE than 200 years of trading in Berwick will come to an end this week when Wm Cowe & Sons closes its doors. Lowry had painted it, so I felt no need to photograph it!
We walked around the walls, which is an experience you don't get in many towns - they form fortifications to keep out the Scots. If you look at Wikipedia there is an long tedious narration of how Berwick swapped between England and Scotland, and there is an urban myth that Berwick is technically still at war with Russia. Sadly, it's not true. But I've learnt that the Second World War didn't technically end until 1990.
We stopped for coffee and ice cream (local, artisan, good quality) in the Loovre café, recently opened after conversion from a derelict public toilet.
There's a lot to see as you walk the walls: views out to sea and into people's back gardens.
It's always interesting to see how people use the space for leisure, such as safe cycling for small children.
Lots of (presumably) older people efficiently using a small green space for crown green bowling. And far fewer people using the land hungry golf course.
Imagine how much nicer that land would look if the golf course was returned to nature and used by greater numbers of people.
Picture of barracks
An interesting building looking oddly derelict - surely ripe for conversion to Yuppie flats: easy commute to Edinburgh
Just before we left the town, we popped into the supermarket for supplies. I couldn't help noticing how different the people seemed from those we had seen in Seahouses and Alnwick. the indoor pallor of skin, the flabbiness of bodies rarely exercised. And the dead look behind their eyes.
So many people have written stories about their childhood/teenage family holidays, and I am sure I could write a whole book of my memories. Suffice to say that, by the age of 17, you really don't want to be going on holiday with your parents, especially when your parents are old-fashioned, and absolutely want to avoid doing anything that inferior people would do, or that a teenager might like, or indeed acknowledge that a 17 year old is not a child.
We stayed in a 'lodge' on a Hoseasons Park 'near' Dunoon. It still exists and now has facilities that might appeal to a 17 year old and a 10 year old. Back then, it was just a pool table and table tennis table. It rained a lot. Yes, it was August, but it was the West Coast of Scotland. I say it was near Dunoon, but the parents never stayed in a resort - and you'd be really pushed to call Dunoon a resort back then. It's one thing avoiding Skegness or Tenby, but Dunoon?
Back then, I had a Boots 126 compact camera: obviously, I have subsequently scanned those photos. Given the limits of the technology, I'm actually quite pleased with this collection!
It has struck me that the brother is exactly the age there his son will be when school breaks up.
In April, not long after I left my job, we went on holiday to Cyprus, to the small town, or village, of Kapparis, in the Paralimni area, not far from the border with Turkish Cyprus and Famagusta. Almost everything about the holiday was mediocre and adequate. A rented flat that was as advertised and met our needs, but with a distinct feel of shabbiness, cheap equipment, and a roomy but uncomfortable bed. There were several mediocre restaurants in the village, shops that met your basic needs (except that the bakery and highly-rated ice cream parlour immediately below our flat had closed down and was only reopening for summer on the day we left!).
The beach near our flat was lovely, but I didn't take any photos! It was called Fireman's Beach. I can imagine it gets very busy in high season, but we never found it too much, except on the May Day Public holiday. In April, we were able to use the loungers and umbrellas for free.
It wasn't a great holiday but it wasn't in anyway awful .Nothing went wrong. We had ten or more days of glorious warm sunshine, and hired a car for three days when the weather wasn't so good - but good enough. There was only one meal that I could honestly say was uneatable, and there wasn't a single incident one could describe as unpleasant. I spent a lot of time on the beach, in and out of the sea, loving the sensual pleasure of swimming, or floating, or gently resisting the gentle current and negligible waves. When I wasn't in the sea, I was able to lie on my lounger reading my way through several books:
Oddly, I didn't take any photos on my first couple of days. Perhaps I remembered too many other holidays when I have spent the first few days snap happy, and, on reviewing the photos, have realised that most of them were repetitive or insignificant.
On the first evening we ate at Karas Village Taverna, one of the two better restaurants in Kapparis. We chose a fish mezze. Given the choice of medium or large, Jimmy chose large. Medium would have sufficed. Each course came so quickly that I felt rushed and didn't get round to photographing them.
The next day was a beach day; when we had finished on the beach I got very drunk (by my current standards) on three cocktails and ate at Tony's Tavern. I suspect we didn't get it at its best; not yet geared up for the season, each of the dishes we initially ordered wasn't available. And it was far from exceptional.
The following day we walked almost to Pernera. That wasn't our intention, but nothing was open, even for coffee, once we had left Kapparis. We ended up in Onassis as the only customers. they suggested we went off menu, and Jimmy said that his lamb stew was his best meal of the holiday - it was what the owners (Mother & Son, I assumed) were having for their own lunch. I had a decent piece of fish.
Much later in the evening, we had quick plate of pasta at Just Italian which was flavoursome and nicely served. I actually got my camera out
I don't really like doing a blogpost with so few photos and thought I might add a few random photos which might be my 'best from Cyprus'. But there aren't really any: not ones that I can publish without an explanation of them.
After we got home we agreed that it wasn't by any means a horrible holiday, but it was a lot of money to pay for such mediocrity. I tried to like the landscape but I just can't. I wasn't sufficiently interested in any of the touristic or historic sites. And I didn't have a single meal that I thought was in anyway memorable; everything seemed dated and uninspired; every Cypriot style restaurant had just about the same menu, the same plain dishes and boring salad, or steamed vegetables, rarely with a sauce, and with no demonstration of the 'chef's' culinary skills or appreciation of ingredients. I guess they provide what they think the tourists want; perhaps that is what the tourists want, but when people have to eat out, they tend to take what's given and don't complain - it would be too rude - nor inform management of what is lacking. You order it, eat it and pay for it, because it's eatable and nutritious.
We concluded that we keep making the mistake of heading to Southern Europe in order to swim in the sea. But in every other aspect, we find holidays in Britain to be preferable - nicer beaches, much better food, and culture we're actually interested in, as well as trivial aspects such as having access to British TV.