Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Sutton Council at it again

You talkin' to me?? YOU TALKIN' TO ME?

Mrs Brinkster reported last night that De Niro's Pizza was shut and has a big sign saying that it's going to be opening under new management. Undoubtedly inspired by the Huntsmans Midas Touch transformation they'll be aiming to corner the market for Italian food at the top end of Central Road, as opposed to the bottom (La Mama) or the middle (Cafe Picollo, Pizza Express, Papa Johns).
De Niro's Pizza, mid-left, on Central Road, Worcester Park in 2006

Now for those Worcester Parkians in the Epsom & Ewell or Kingston council parts please excuse me while I rave incoherently about Sutton Council and mop up the blood spilled from the repeated concussion of my head against my desk. Just when I thought that they'd exhausted themselves in the money-wasting stakes with the horrendously conceived Sutton Life Centre they've managed to top it with, as the local Guardian reports, "Multimillion pound plans for a green Sutton High Street unveiled"
As we've seen with a variety of Sutton Council proposals they enter into a "consultancy" exercise worthy of the Vogons in "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" where they'll put up a turgid and uninteresting document (116 pages in this case) and when nobody can be bothered to read it and write in to object they assume that apathy is the same as enthusiasm. If you want to see the plans for yourself you have to go either to Sutton or Carshalton as they won't be visiting any other council-tax paying location in the borough.

For the sake of brevity I'll not go through all of my objections but will instead highlight point 9.12 which, to my mind, illustrates the gap between ideal and reality:
"Sutton town centre is served well by public transport services. There is direct rail access to London Victoria, London Bridge, Croydon, Epsom and Wimbledon."
Now I don't know about you but if I want to go shopping, and by that I mean proper browse-around-the-shops-have-lunch-and-make-a-go-of-it shopping, I'll go to Kingston. If we don't fancy the crowds we might vary that with Epsom or Wimbledon and if we have a particular need we'll head over to the Purley Way in Croydon but rarely, if ever, will we think of going to Sutton any more. If I was at London Bridge or Victoria I wouldn't be thinking to myself that a trip to Sutton was going to be a retail revelation and if I was at Croydon, Epsom or Wimbledon I'd just walk straight out of the station and go shopping there instead. Now that Woolworths and Gamleys have gone from Sutton there's precious little to bribe the little Brinksters with so as far as they're concerned it's akin to a desert wasteland in the "fun" stakes, which does not a good shopping trip make. For me the the only useful thing that Sutton has which the others don't is a Computer Exchange (CEX) which comes in handy sometimes but I can nip up to the Tottenham Court Road branch from work instead.

And if you read to page 72 of 116 in the consultation document you'll find how they propose to integrate trams into Sutton Centre, namely by sodding up the existing traffic arrangements. Trams around the one-way system? That'd be interesting.

Quite why the Council think that Sutton residents are going to welcome this is beyond me when even the chairman of the Sutton Environment Network has called it "wrong-headed" and coming from a corporate environment that has a honed and toned PR department this stuff wouldn't even have cut it in the 90s (or earlier) and isn't what they should be spending our Council Tax on (the outsourced PR, the outsourced research or the actual proposal).

For me one of the best things about the Guardian article was the first comment at the bottom, which I'll reproduce here as I love it:
"sfocata, Sutton says... 11:46pm Tue 21 Apr 09
So let's see... the Village Quarter is the scummy bit and the Exchange Quarter is, er... the shops. Then the Civic Quarter is the bit around the Civic Centre, and the Station Quarter is (I'm getting the hang of this now) the bit around the station! Just how much of these multi-millions was spent on this ludicrous branding exercise? Why not give each quarter its own unique swirl logo as well? Who's going to be first to submit an FOI to find out just how much has been wasted on all this "quarter" nonsense? It's a high street in a suburb, for God's sake! Make it green with proper policies, not with a rebrand worthy of Pseud's Corner."

Sutton Guardian

Sutton Life Centre - The 'anti' Group on Facebook

Sutton Council - Sutton Town Centre Area Action Plan

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Het is een mooie dag voor feesten!

The Worcester Park Blog already has a post about the new Acacia hair and beauty salon that opened last night on Central Road but didn't have a picture so if you're really that interested here's mine, and for the record the phone number's 020 8330 4164.

For our part the Brinkster Clan will be making the most of the fact that the trains are actually working today to go to Holland House 2009 this afternoon in Trafalgar Square to celebrate everything Dutch and the upcoming Koninginnedag (Queen's birthday) so while Brinkster Minor will be indulging his love for chips with fritesaus, the rest of us will be scoffing poffertjes and there may be beer... possibly... well, definitely.

There will be plenty of other things to do than eat and drink and whether it's taking a tour of the Dutch paintings in the adjoining National Gallery, meeting Bert and Ernie from SesamStraat (Sesame Street), listening to the live bands or watching the Dutch football skills there should be enough things to keep us out in the rather promising-looking weather. If you're at a loose end today and looking for something to do outside that's a bit different you could do a lot worse! Plus it's free.

Tot ziens!

Holland House 2009


Friday, 17 April 2009

No Bikehut? No problem

Readers who've been with me for a while may remember the whole Bikehut fiasco back in 2007 where they were due to open a store in the old M&S store by the Huntsmans Midas Touch and got as far as advertising for staff, only to pull the plug on the whole idea. Yes?

Well, it turns out it wouldn't have made much difference anyway as all of the Bikehut stores are either being closed or 'rebranded' as Halfords, their parent company. With a big Halfords in New Malden it's pretty certain a Worcester Park one would have got the chop. The Times reports on the whole thing, including some spectacular management-speak:

Halfords has scrapped its chain of standalone cycle stores just two years after launching the shops. The start-up formats — trading as Bike Hut and Cycle Republic — will either be rebranded as Halfords or closed at a cost of £1.2 million.

Prepare yourself for some euphemistic corporate-cobblers:

Halfords said the pilot chains “have been impacted by the increasing success of our superstores in the premium market segment and the migration of sales to the web, particularly for accessories. Consequently, we no longer believe that the stand-alone concept will deliver the absolute levels of financial return demanded for Halfords investments”.

We don't care, we've got Cycle Power!

The Times - Halfords axes specialist shops after two years

Cycle Power

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Mr Fog

Our beloved internet has thrown up an amusing story* from a Worcester Park resident who relates the tale of how he (allegedly) attracted the attention of the Police whilst taking his pride and joy for an early morning spin on a gloomy day:

Policeman: You were driving far too fast for the conditions, what would you do if Mr. Fog came down suddenly?
Me: I would put Mr. Foot on Mr. Brake.
Policeman: Let me say that again... more slowly. What would you do if mist OR fog came down suddenly?

*I know it's old but it's still good...

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Beauty or talent?

The Brinkster Clan was away in the countryside for much of the Easter weekend feeding milk to orphaned lambs, hunting crabs in rock pools on the beach and other non-suburban stuff but apparently back in the land of TV reception something quite interesting has been happening. As The Noble Savage has already posted "Britain's Got Talent" produced an immense surprise in the most un-Beyonce shape of Susan Boyle, aged 47 and in every way an almost stereotypical spinster complete with Pebbles the cat as companion.

Picture from the Daily Mail websiteShe blew away the judges and the audience with a performance entirely at odds with her appearance which, if you missed it like I did, can be seen here. To quote The Noble Savage's final paragraph
"She was phenomenal, no question. The arrogance of those who judged her made Susan’s success all the sweeter. But why did they judge her talent based on how she looked and her marital status? Are we so shallow as a society that those two things are primary criteria for ascertaining whether or not someone will have talent or the ability to be successful? Ridiculous"

Are we so shallow? Apparently we are.

Over at The Times the Alpha Mummy blog has a post entitled "It's time to be more American with our children's teeth" and uses the latest figures on UK tooth extractions for children as a springboard to launch into why only a neat selection of pearly whites is the only acceptable form of mouth furniture. It quotes a piece by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker back in 2005 which says:
"And those struggling to get ahead in the job market quickly find that the unsightliness of bad teeth, and the self-consciousness that results, can become a major barrier. If your teeth are bad, you’re not going to get a job as a receptionist, say, or a cashier. "

The Times seems, somewhat ironically, to ignore the New Yorker article being about those who can't afford health insurance in the US and how much better European systems of healthcare are but leaving that aside it seems to have gone beyond encouraging basic dental health and seems to be holding up cosmetic perfection as the norm. After go-karting on Friday we went to Chessington (World of Adventures, not the fine garden centre next door) and I happened to comment to Mrs Brinkster that it did seem like a convention for the dentally challenged as I had never seen so many poorly treated sets of nashers in one place at one time with displays of teeth akin to neglected tombstones in a graveyard before the Health & Safety people arrived to flatten them for being 'unsafe'. It obviously doesn't tell me anything about their intelligence or personality but would suggest that they've not followed the recommended dental practices, and I know a number of people who haven't been to the dentist for years but don't have any problems with their teeth because they follow the basics. My take on it is that having been written off as a lost cause by my orthodontist in my teenage years as much as I, in some way, would love to have Hollywood teeth with which to wow my fellow commuters I'm just happy to have healthy teeth and not get hung up about it...

Many years ago I had the joy of working with a lady by the name of Pat Erridge who, it could be argued, would make Susan Boyle look like Keira Knightley but was one of only a few people to appear on Mastermind three times, and I believe was a finalist in the Brain of Mensa competition back in 1999, not to mention numerous other quiz and gameshow appearances including her most entertaining one with her euphonium playing sidekick Gary on a Michael Barrymore quiz show that I can't quite remember the name of. Hidden behind her somewhat strange and unconventional mannerisms and demeanour she had a highly developed and agile mind and if she could have sung as well as she could think would have put the angels to shame.

Down with the cult of perfection and let's here it for real talent!

Noble Savage - Spinster's Got Talent

Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent

Alpha Mummy

New Yorker - The Moral-Hazard Myth

Pat Erridge

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Pictures of the Brinkster Clan

As a recognised parent blog I know some of you have been wanting more pictures of the Brinkster Clan so today I though I'd oblige you with some candid shots of the family at play.

What is parenthood for if not for getting small children to hurtle around tarmac on a tin-framed incendiary devices on wheels? Friday morning saw the Clan arrive at the hidden gem that is Surbiton Raceway, which should really be called Worcester Park Raceway if location is anything to go by, just opposite the Hogsmill and with much excitement Miss Brinkster and Brinkster Junior donned overall and helmets and headed for the junior track. After paying a surprising amount of attention to a short safety briefing they took to the track for fifteen minutes of petrol-powered pleasure and as she swept past Miss Brinkster could just be heard exclaiming "I am mini-Stig!"
Miss Brinkster leads Brinkster Junior round a corner
Time completed and adrenalin well and truly pumped we headed down the slope to the main track and Surbiton Raceway's real treasure.... the two-seater kart. This enabled me to take each of the small Brinksters around for a few laps and judging by the whooping and broad smiles it was a big success. We spent the rest of the day at Chessington World of Adventures and they still preferred the go karting.

Of the two tracks the Junior track is more technical and interesting though with the main track the big challenge is keeping your speed up and not scrubbing it off in the corners, particularly the higher speed corners. It's not a particularly cheap hobby, but then how many are, but if it's the kind of thing that takes your fancy and/or you want to introduce your kids to it then Surbiton Raceway is a great place to start.

Pardon the music. I thought it'd be better than background chatter and kart engines

Surbiton Raceway

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Boom and bussed.

It's nearly Easter Bank Holiday weekend and those of us who aren't jetting abroad might take a look at the somewhat gloomy-looking weather forecast and decide to forget the beach and the sunny walk and think that it'd be a good opportunity to get up to London to, perhaps, visit a museum, stroll around the shops or maybe take in a show.

Ermmm, no. Think twice.

SW Trains are celebrating the weekend by extending their recent weekend engineering activity across the whole Easter weekend, meaning that the only thing arriving or leaving from Worcester Park station between Friday and Monday will be the buses of the rail replacement service. If you have the bright idea of getting to Wimbledon and escaping the bus service on the District Line don't bother, that's out between Wimbledon and Wimbledon Park as well with the ever-present bus service as a replacement. You could always catch the bus to Morden and go on the Northern Line, but only as long as you didn't want to go any further north than East Finchley as the rest is closed for... you know what's coming... engineering works.

I hope that news hasn't dampened your weekend plans and I do hope you have a great weekend!

SW Trains Engineering Works

Monday, 6 April 2009

An open and shut case?

More shop activity in Worcester Park recently with another hairdressers opening to join the abundance of others, which will draw a wry chuckle from those who've met me in real life. This one glories in the name of Hotheadz and was a hive of activity when I passed it on Saturday but although they advertise a website on their sign it doesn't seem to go anywhere.

A few doors away Fab Collections (aka The Betty Boop shop), previously known as the Treasure Trove, is having a closing down sale.

There have been closing down sales in that shop before but I think this is the first one under that name, unless my memory's deserted me.

Meanwhile Gosletts is closing down.... still.....

Saturday, 4 April 2009

St Jude's Day

It's not really St Jude's Day as that's supposed to be on October 28th but St Jude is the "patron saint of desperate cases" (aka "lost causes") and I'm sensing his presence particularly closely today, the reason being that I've always seemed to be on the side of the underdog. When I was growing up I lived in Brighton so it was compulsory to support "The Albion" who, apart from an FA Cup Final appearance (which they lost) have never really done anything. At the age of nine I discovered American Football (not discovered in the true sense as other people had known about it for years) and chose the Minnesota Vikings to be my team. Apart from three Superbowl appearances in the 70s (which they lost) they haven't done much and haven't been back to "The Big Game" since then. You can see a trend developing here can't you?

Fast forward the Thursday this week and my friend, and fellow Worcester Park resident, Neil sent me a text:
"Do you want to go and see Southampton play Charlton on Saturday?"
For those who haven't been following the sports news this week Southampton FC's parent company went into administration this week which is a very bad thing for a football team indeed. Neil is A True Supporter™ of Southampton from boyhood days and remembers their seasons in the top echelons of English football but their current financial situation means that they may not make it to the end of the season. My only experience of seeing them play was going to see them in a pre-season friendly at Woking with Neil a few years back. I understand his plight. I empathise entirely. After discussion with Mrs Brinkster I texted back and said "yes". It's what mates do.

That means I'm off to Southampton at lunchtime to see if the faithful can summon the presence of St Jude to rescue their desperate case and, perhaps, even win the game. Time will tell but if they're lucky they'll be around to celebrate the next St Jude's day.

Jude The Apostle

Southampton FC

Friday, 3 April 2009

The Green Tardis comes in peace

Having spent much of the week avoiding flying glassware in the City I'm glad it's the weekend, but I'll put that celebratory cup of coffee outside a cafe on Central Road on hold if the Sutton Guardian's got its facts right

"Pollution levels in Worcester Park, which are already running at alarming rates, would be further increased by the Hamptons development, new figures show. Research for Sutton Council, by traffic consultants Atkins, found that Central Road in Worcester Park was already exceeding national and European standards for nitrogen dioxide by 3 per cent. Work by the consultants has revealed St James Homes’ plans to build the new housing development would push this to 5 per cent. At 3 per cent, the public’s health is already at risk. Breathing in raised levels of nitrogen dioxide can increase the chances of respiratory problems and can have particularly harmful effects on people with asthma "

Sutton Guardian

The Green Tardis