Monday, 30 March 2009

The Midas Touch - Part 2

The Midas Touch - Worcester ParkThe transformation of The Huntsmans Hall into The Midas Touch is nearly complete and they were finishing the signs when I was coming back from the station this evening. Whether you give them much of a chance or not it does look pretty smart and all they need now are customers. Hopefully there'll be a grand opening and the chance to have a good nose around some time soon.

While you're here I HAVE to recommend that you read the three part story from fellow Worcester Park blogger The Noble Savage who relates how, in her pre-parental days, the story of how she nearly got stranded in Europe while trying to get back to her home in the US via Germany. There are adventures aplenty I can highly recommend it as a great read so if you're game it starts here.

Noble Savage’s European mishap
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Friday, 27 March 2009

There will be blood!


On 14th April there'll be a session for blood donors old and new at St Philip & Wesley Halls in Ruskin Drive (KT4 8LH for those needing to use Satnav) with the session being split into two halves, the first between 14.00 & 16.30 and the second from 17.30 to 19.45 . If you're organised you can make an appointment by calling 0845 7 711 711 to avoid hanging around but those who can't tear themselves from the computer for long enough to pick up the phone can book online here. If you can't make that one there's a session at North Cheam Sainsburys on the 20th April.

I notice that The Drill was recently looking for a new chef so hopefully we'll see the food get even better sometime soon. If you're interested in trying for the job yourself there's a number on there to call.

And thanks for the mention BrickTop! :)

Give Blood

Give Blood - Online Registration

The Drill

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Something Spectacular

Congratulations to the Parkerilla whose Monday post on the boat in Kingston beat this morning's Metro by a full four days. If you are a Metro reader it's on page 12.

Now, if anything in this post comes across as being even vaguely snobbish then I implore you to immediately banish that thought from your mind and just accept that I'm a normal person with simple tastes, and if you don't believe me then you can ask my butler.

Followers of my Twitter feed will have noticed that I took Brinkster Junior to the Royal Albert Hall last Saturday for a thing called the "Classical Spectacular", produced by the dubiously named Raymond Gubbay, which promised a show with all kinds of popular classical pieces accompanied by a lightshow, lasers, pyrotechnics and gunfire.... our kind of thing in other words. In my youth about the only classical music I would listen to was the theme from Star Wars and my father's attempts to bring some more general classical enlightenment fell on deaf ears.... more often than not genuinely deaf in the post-loud-gig ringing sense. Roll forward a few years and now I'm a bit of a classical/opera fan and it's now my turn to torture my own children with classical music.

Miss Brinkster has accompanied me on some of my operatic trips to ones I thought she might enjoy as she can be impeccably behaved when necessary but I thought that would be a hurdle to high for the eight year-old Brinkster Junior to leap so I thought that I'd take him to something where his fidgetings and murmurings might be covered up by the sound of gunfire i.e. a bit more relaxed than your average opera.

Booking tickets was a surprise as I first tried and failed to get tickets last for last November's show (Classical gigs selling out? Who'd have thought it?) so plumped for March but what I hadn't grasped until we got there was that the raison d'etre of the whole thing was basically The Proms for the over-60s complete with end-of-the-pier banter from the conductor.

It wasn't lacking in quality though with the London Philarmonic Orchestra, band of the Welsh Guards and Royal Choral Society all playing their part but sometimes the fact that they were playing through a massive PA made me feel like I was listening to a CD and they might all be miming. The high points were many with the noisy 1812 Overture and extracts from Barber of Seville being amongst my personal favourites but inevitably Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Brittania prompted massed Union-Jack waving (free with the programme) and heralded the descent of hundreds of red, white and blue balloons into the audience. It was a bit of a romp through the classical catalogue rather than a calming stroll but was fun and I can recommend it if you like that sort of thing, and particularly if you're old enough to remember when Britain had an Empire.

As for Brinkster Junior? He thought the music from Fantasia was best with the 1812 close behind and wants to go again next time. Result!

Classical Spectacular

Royal Albert Hall

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Local issues in the national news

A pleasant surprise today to find that The Parkerilla, a "sometimes" Worcester Park blogger, has returned from his posting vacation with an excellent, and funny, post about a boat for sale in Kingston. I'm not presuming this is a return to full time blogging for him but t'internet can always benefit from astute observations such as his!

One peculiarity of living in Worcester Park is that it's a bit of a no-mans-land as far as councils, secondary schools and hospitals are concerned. If councils are going to build something expensive they usually want to do it somewhere near the middle of the borough and not 400 yards from the council boundary, which is a painfully myopic viewpoint to hold. I gather that if you're unfortunate enough to require an ambulance round here you can pretty much choose whether to go to Kingston Hospital, Epsom Hospital or St Helier Hospital to be treated though after the news today you may want to review your options.

Kingston Hospital - Picture from the Surrey CometAll of the newspapers and news sites are running the sad tale of Martin Ryan, a 43 year old man with Down's Syndrome and epilepsy who starved to death in Kingston Hospital after 26 days without food because of failures in the hospital processes back in 2005. He had suffered a stroke which left him unable to swallow and communicate and it was only 18 days into his stay that they realised he needed a feeding tube fitted, but by then he was too weak for the procedure and he died 8 days later.

The Surrey Comet has recently run a story on the bid to privatise elective surgery at the hospital being reduced to one applicant, effectively killing it as a competetive process, but in the process has cost around £300,000 in management and legal fees.

I know that this all happened back in 2005 but perhaps you can relate your own more recent experiences at any of those hospitals, either positive or negative?

The Parkerilla

Man with Down's syndrome dies after starving for 26 days in hospital

One firm left in Kingston Hospital's privatisation bid

Friday, 20 March 2009

Top parents in Worcester Park

If you've been around the internet for more than ten minutes you'll realise it's full of "top" lists and by way of proof Googling for "top 100 blogs" returns 133 million results but having said that I'd like to congratulate fellow Worcester Park blogger The Noble Savage for making 19th place in the Tots 100 list of "Top 100 Index of British Parenting Blogs and Bloggers", which does actually seem to be based on some coherent metrics rather than somebody's personal opinion. She is married to The Noble Husband and is mother to two small children and her blog is an honest and thought-provoking account of parenthood and I'd recommend you giving it a read and no matter whether you agree everything she writes or not I think you'll find she'll make you think about why you do some of the things that you might do as a parent.

One entry in the Top 100 that caught my eye was "My boyfriend is a Tw*t" which instantly reminded me of one of my oldest, most favourite sites on the internet, namely Mil Millington's fabulous site "Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About" which catalogues his multitude of disagreements with his German girlfriend Margret. I'll pick one to give you a taster:
"Margret thinks I'm vain because... I use a mirror when I shave. During this argument in the bathroom - our fourth most popular location for arguments, it will delight and charm you to learn - Margret proved that shaving with a mirror could only be seen as outrageous narcissism by saying, 'None of the other men I've been with,' (my, but it's all I can do to stop myself hugging her when she begins sentences like that) 'None of the other men I've been with used a mirror to shave.''Ha! Difficult to check up on that, isn't it? As all the other men you've been with can now only communicate by blinking their eyes!' I said. Much later. When Margret had left the house."

And as for the the Tots 100 Index? I came 50th :)

Noble Savage

My boyfriend is a Tw*t

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Oh happy day!!

This is the kind of day that anyone with even the slightest trace of geeky blood in their veins can really look forward to. I was just perusing the Streetview additions to Google Maps when Simon emailed me a link with Brinkster Central on it!! London Streetview has gone live on Google Maps so from the centre of London to our beloved Worcester Park you can virtually drive down the streets and avenues and peer in the windows to see what everybody's been up to. Let me know if you see anything potentially salacious or controversial!!

I'm sure you'd rather get on and browse so why not start here on Central Road

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Midas Touch

Yes, according to the signs that's going to be the new name for the Huntsmans Hall when it reopens. I haven't decided whether I like that idea or not yet because although the Huntsmans has had a bad reputation it's also one of the most long-lasting names in Worcester Park so for me it'd be a shame to lose a part of Worcester Park history. The other part of me thinks that as long as they make a success of it I'm not really bothered what they call it as having successful business in Worcester Park is more important.

For a little diversion the photo below appears to show the head of a giant, bearded man in the middle of the picture but can you tell what it really is? The phenomenon is known as "pareidolia"

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

A dose of the 'craic'

Well, I'm back in lovely Worcester Park after a week of sun in Phoenix and the more generous-spirited may suggest that I brought the sunshine back with me, though all I seem to have got out of the bargain is jetlag. It seems to have done something to my internal thermostat though as I've been leaving the house in the early (and cold) mornings minus coat or hat, which I wouldn't have been without ten days ago.

As I cruised down the wide Phoenecian roads and surveyed the vast shopping malls with their enormous parking lots I did wonder what it would take to recreate something on the same scale in London. According to Wikipedia Phoenix has a population density of 2,937.8/sq mi and its upmarket neighbour Scottsdale is even more spread out with a density of only 1,305.2/sq mi. Contrast this to London with a whacking 12,331 inhabitants per square mile and you'll quickly understand why our road system doesn't work any more. In order to get London to the scale of Phoenix you'd have to more than quadruple the size of it from its current 607 square miles to 2,549 square miles... making it 57 miles across (about the distance from Trafalgar Square to Oxford). I wouldn't recommend Phoenix airport (aka Sky Harbor) though as with all the official xenophobia that's now in place for our own good it took us 90 minutes to get through passport control.

Moving on, few of you will have failed to notice that today is St Patrick's Day with Google sporting its themed banner and everywhere proclaiming the joys of 'craic'. Although I am one-eighth Irish my only participation in the day will probably be to watch the special Simpsons episode (first one to premier outside the US) and then find something useful to do around the house. If you want an alternative Irish view of the day then read Eamonn Forde's article in The Times, entitled "‘Irish pubs - the Disneyland of the Dipsomaniac"
"Probably the wrong sentiment to express today, but St Patrick's Day makes me embarrassed to be Irish. My ruddy cheeks burn with shame as green, white and orange bunting is draped listlessly on every pub with extra-cold Guinness on tap and all talk turns, inevitably, to “the craic”."

Once you've applauded or derided that you might want to read up on the word 'craic' and why there are dissenters to its modern usage:
"[T]he spelling craic causes serious nausea among intelligent people. This glib spelling of the word was invented in the 1970s ... it is the context of the use of the (recent, modern) Irish spelling of the word that is the issue - if craic is to be used, it should be used while writing in the Irish language, OR placed in parentheses or in italics when writing in English. I stress that this is a word which was NEVER in the Irish language"

Whether you agree with those views or not it'll give you something on an Irish theme to talk about this evening!

Friday, 6 March 2009

Upcoming events!

If you're the parent of a 4-8 year-old and at a loose end on the 21st March you might want to take them to Worcester Park library where they can enjoy an hour of arts and crafts from 9.30 to 10.30 making a card and a box for Mothers Day, or as they put it:
"Come and make a card for mum and a pretty box to put her present in. For ages 4-8."
All for a nominal fee of £2. Bargain!!

Mothers Day Craft

More immediately tomorrow is the 4th Worcester Park Scouts Auction and Alex emailed me to fill me in on what I've been missing:

Here's something that may be of interest to everyone enduring the credit crunch blues. This Saturday, 7th March, the local scout HQ at Balmoral Road is holding the next of its six-monthly 'Grand Auctions'. I first heard about these about 18 months ago and imagined that it would largely consist of unwanted kids' toys and outgrown clothes, changing hands for a couple of quid a throw. But I was wrong!

On the day, I happened to be passing and put my head in. It wasn't what I expected at all - there were all kinds of things on offer, including items that were clearly of some value, so I stuck around. The scout hut was full of bidders and business was brisk. I was really impressed - full credit to the scouts! Since then, every six months, I have entered 8 or 10 unwanted items in each auction (basically things that I would have previously given to a charity shop, without giving a second thought) and have been pleasantly surprised to receive (after the scouts' deductions) around £50 each time for them. Naturally, like 'real' auctions, there are no guarantees, but if two people want the same item, you're on to a winner! It's worth a try.

How it works is this:
10am - 11:30 - Bring items along to the scout hut for sale. It costs 20p to enter each item as a handling charge.
1:30 - 2:30 - Viewing
2:30 - 4:30ish - Auction (I don't recall if there was an admission charge, but if there was, it was a notional one)

For bidders and buyers, there is no surcharge. If an item sells for £6, you pay only £6
For sellers, the scouts retain one-third of the sale price, so if an item sells for £6, you keep £4 and the scouts keep£2.
At the point of entering an item, you can also set a reserve price for an extra fee of £1

There aren't any details on the web but the Scouts web site is here:
4th Worcester Park Scouts

As for me, I'll be at Terminal 5 waiting for a flight to Phoenix again.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

In praise of small business

For a change I thought I'd tell you about a good experience I had with a small business which, although not in Worcester Park, is reasonably local.

This is not our bed, or our bedroom!We had to buy a bed recently and because the clock was ticking on that particular part of our redecoration project we had to have it in two weeks and it had to be a different length to the average bed. We haven't bought a bed for at least ten years and I had forgotten what a miserable experience it could be. We tried every bed shop we could find (scrupulously avoiding Dreams, who I've heard bad things about from so many people) casting the net further and further afield but they either didn't have what we wanted or didn't have it in the size we wanted, or if they did they couldn't get it for 6-8 weeks. Gloom was setting in when I stumbled across the website for a company by the name of Warren Evans under Clapham Junction station who were advertising the kind of thing we were looking for so one Saturday morning, more in hope than in expectation, I took Miss Brinkster to take a look.

The shop itself was tucked away in a couple of railway arches of the station and at first glance it was very imposing with an array of very cool looking beds throughout and didn't look at all like the kind of seedy bed showroom/warehouse I'd been in before, so the style box was ticked from the start. I knew from the website that they had a long list of celebrities who'd ordered from there, but did they have the size we wanted for delivery in time? First signs weren't too encouraging. All of the beds in the store were standard sizes and it was at that point that a very helpful assistant asked me if he could help (but not in a way that made me want to beat him to death with his own leg). I explained to him our desire to have the length adjusted;
"No problem. We can adjust the length of the bed and the mattress in 3 inch increments", 3 inches being the size of the mattress springs, and that it would be stained to the desired colour to match the other bedroom furniture.

It sounded too good to be true so I asked him how long that would take;
"We could have it to you by Thursday" he replied.
My jaw hit the floor.
"That's actually TOO soon" I said, "But we'd like it a week on Friday" (between the carpet being laid and the other furniture arriving).

A matter of minutes later I almost literally skipped from the store with the not-too-painfully-numbered receipt for an adjusted super-king size bed and mattress in my pocket and my pleasure only increased when the delivery men arrived on time with everything required and put it all together for us in a matter of minutes.

Other things you might want to know is that they're the only bed maker in the UK to be FSC certified, meaning that all wooden products are made from sustainable resources, and that they have a no-quibble return policy. They were also honoured in last year's Observer Ethical Awards, the Sunday Times Best Green Companies Award and BCE Awards.

If you have a need for an customised bed for any reason, or just want to see the beds some celebrities buy then I can thoroughly recommend Warren Evans to you.

Apologies if this sounds uncharacteristically 'gushing'. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Who do you think you are?

Who'd have thunk it eh? No sooner does St Johns Church blog appear on the scene than he's touting celebrities on it!?!? Tipped off by The Parkerilla I made sure to watch Who Do You Think You Are last night featuring Kevin Whately, aka Lewis of Inspector Morse fame (that's him on the left) and Kevin Scott, vicar of St johns (that's him on the right). Not only does it turn out that one of Kevin Whately's ancestors is buried in St Johns graveyard but a family member actually owned Nonsuch Park back in the 18th century. If you didn't see it last night I'd recommend you watch the repeat on BBC2 tonight at 7pm or look it up on iPlayer and jump to about two thirds of the way through if you're the impatient type.

In other news the Huntsmans conversion to lounge bar heaven continues with the addition of multi-coloured scaffolding.

Lastly if you knew an R.D.W. French who lived at 44 The Avenue back in the 70's then you need to see this blog post.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Starter for ten?

When I was younger, so much younger than today, about the only things worth watching on a Sunday lunchtime were Thunderbirds and/or University Challenge, the former boasting wooden acting but cool explosions while the latter gave us an outlet for all of those facts we'd gleaned from reading pile after pile of books.

Being busy with something else last Monday night I only caught the last fifteen minutes of University Challenge where the much-celebrated team of Corpus Christi College Oxford overcame a first half deficit to pull level with Manchester in the second half and then comprehensively bury them 275 to 190 in the last five minutes with a finish that had the normally composed and proper announcer almost screaming into his tightly-clenched microphone. It was an excellent piece of TV, watched by 5.3 million viewers, and is well-worth watching on iPlayer if for no better reason than to understand the Gail Trimble phenomenon, who is the highest points scorer in University Challenge history and accounted for two-thirds of her team's 1200 points from the series.

But all is not well. It turns out that one of the Corpus Christi team had finished college and for the last few rounds was employed by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and wasn't a student at all!?!? Some are crying "foul", others suggest that it didn't make any material difference because of Gail Trimble's performance and the third camp couldn't care less either way.... it's a TV programme... get over it.

By now you may be wondering what on earth this has to do with Worcester Park so I'll refer you to the blog of St Johns, Worcester Park, where vicar Kevin Scott recollects that he prepared Gail Trimble for her confirmation some thirteen years ago. If you want to read that, and see a picture of a former Blue Peter presenter, then head over to St John's church blog.

Ermmm... anybody spot the Beatles lyric?