Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Night-time pursuits

I met a woman in a lay-by outside Dorking last night. She was already there when I arrived and from the moment I stepped out of the car it was clear that we were both looking for the same thing. What drove us to be there it's hard to say, be it some desire to push beyond the mundane or some dark character flaw that brings people like us to lay-bys on dark country roads on a cold December night.

Oi! Behave! We are both hobbyist astronomers and we were there to see the Geminid meteor shower that occurs at this time of year. She'd turned up on a whim having seen the clear sky which was defying the weather forecasters dire prognostications and I'd been planning to go since the weather radar showed the rain passing by and leaving a clear sky behind it and I'd chosen that place from looking up good spotting locations on the Stargazers Lounge astronomy site. Although we'd never met before and despite it being coincidence that had caused our paths to cross we were soon chatting like we were old friends, partly about Messier objects, Global Catalogue numbers and how bright Orion was but also through her parents recent separation, the end of her own seven year relationship and her new job in Salisbury which she would start in January. I found myself talking about my family and my battle with cancer, a subject initiated by her saying that her Grandfather had died of pancreatic cancer 24 hours after being diagnosed at the beginning of the year. She said that from her experience it was a popular spot for star-gazing but nobody else turned up while we were there and she said that was probably due to a combination of car problems, colds and the grim weather forecast. We rarely looked at each other in the dark while we talked but kept our eyes fixed on the sky and were periodically rewarded with the fleeting trail of a speck of stardust spectacularly hurtling to its fiery end against the atmosphere many miles above us, much to our delight. I feel slightly bad that today I couldn't pick her out of an identity parade if you held a loaded gun to my head but then I find that meteorites are mesmerising things.

For some reason if you give me something to do, for example write a blog post, some kind of attention-deficit thing will kick in and within minutes I'll be distracted by something else much less important, but fleetingly engaging. Profound speeches, famous rock bands, impressive presentations, I've tired of them all, but if you ask me to sit out in my garden or a cold field for an hour or two staring at a patch of sky in the hope of seeing a fleeting astronomical event then I have no problem. I never have understood quite how that works, and nor do I expect to...

I remember when I was much younger my Dad taking me to cricket matches after school and while he would sit and chat with his friends they would keep half an eye on the field of play and it seems to me that astronomy is similar in many ways in that it's a social endeavour where rain also stops play but instead of men in white outfits to look at you have most of the universe! Did you know that 92% of your body mass is made up of the debris of ancient stars? At the beginning of the universe only Hydrogen, Helium and Lithium were present so any element heavier that than came into being in the heart of an ancient star and was ejected when it died. Think about that the next time you look up into a night sky or wonder about the meaning of life.

In the end some high and wispy clouds eventually came to spoil our fun, in combination with a particularly bright moon, so we packed our kit away and said our goodbyes. We may meet again on the hills above Dorking but probably not, though I'm certainly happier for having been there on that cold December evening. I will remember it.

The Geminids peak tonight and if you miss those then the Quadrantids start on Dec 28, peaking around Jan 3rd/4th.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Last stop for the One Stop Party Shop

Earlier in the week I heard rumour that the One Stop Party Shop had been closed down and the notice in the front door this morning would appear to confirm that.

Apart from the obvious loss of another Worcester Park shop it's sad that it should have come just days after owner Terry Dobbs had organised one of the biggest and best Christmas evenings that Worcester Park has seen for years. Unless someone takes up the reins for Worcester Park business it may be the last Christmas shopping evening we'll see in Worcester Park for some years, and the Brinkster clan won't take well to that news.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Turkish Delight

I was happy to see signs of life in the former Avventura/Cafe Piccolo and the signs say that the restaurant is going to be the Sheesh Mangal and the cafe part is going to be Cafe Medusa. In conversation with one of the owners he said that they're going to be traditional Turkish food competitively priced to draw in customers and if the prices aren't all you're interested in then there's the promise of belly-dancing as an added bonus.

They're hoping to be ready by end of November/beginning of December so we haven't got long to wait!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Daddy. Why's that man crying?

I love motor racing. I've watched it for years and Mrs Brinkster will attest to the magnetic pull that it has on my viewing and social habits with many a happy hour spent watching racing cars in their circulations on TV or for real. My earliest memory of seeing motor racing though is somewhat different. As a 6 or 7 year old I remember seeing a Formula 3 race live on BBC's flagship sports programme Grandstand on a Saturday afternoon which was being commentated on by Raymond Baxter, those being the days before Murray Walker and "Go, go, go!". Disaster struck and one of the cars veered off the circuit and burst into flames at the side of the road and the BBC, who presumably had no experience or contingency plans for this kind of thing, kept the cameras rolling while the car burned with its driver still inside and the safety crews fighting vainly to save him with Raymond bursting into tears. Hence the question that came from my childish lips "Daddy. Why's that man crying?".

Over the intervening years a number of my motor racing 'heroes' have died in motor racing accidents. Ronnie Peterson, Gilles Villeneuve, Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger on one fateful weekend at Imola, Greg Moore, Dale Earnhardt and more recently the freak crash that took 18 year old Henry Surtees at Brands Hatch when the loose wheel from another car landed in his cockpit. It's always shocking and sad when these fatalties happen but happen they do so part of my growing up experience was to understand that time is precious and every moment should really be enjoyed to the full.

Last Sunday I spent two hours watching a motor race where nothing happened. Not, before you go for the easy gag, the Formula 1 race from Korea but I'm referring to the Indycar season finale from Las Vegas and sadly the reason for the inaction was because everyone at the track and at home was waiting for news on the condition of Dan Wheldon who been the most seriously injured participant in a 15 car crash on lap 12 of the race. It turned out that the concern was entirely justified as it was announced after the long delay that Dan had succumbed to "unsurvivable injuries" and as a result the race was abandoned and the remaining drivers staged a slow 5-lap tribute to Dan as a mark of respect.

Much has and will be said by people far more qualified than me about whether the race should have taken place with 34 cars on that particular circuit, whether the 5 million dollar prize money promoted unnecessary risks and whether cars or tracks can be altered to minimise the chances of this kind of incident happening again but one thing seems certain, it won't stop people racing. Tony Kanaan, a team-mate and close friend of Dan Wheldon has pulled out of a race next week in Australia but has stated his intention to race again in Indycars and going further back racer Alex Zanardi lost both legs in an horrific Indycar accident but came back to race touring cars using a specially adapted car. I sat down with a racing driver for half an hour on Monday morning and we talked about the accident, the risks and whether he'd be racing again next week, to which his immediate and unblinking answer was "of course".

What is it with some men and women, four of Sunday's 34 drivers were women, and racing cars or danger in general? I've thrown myself out of an aeroplane attached to a parachute before and a large part of me would love to be in the position of dicing wheel to wheel, focusing on a single goal and understanding the physics of how the components of the car interact with each other, with the track and with the airflow of the cars around them but I suspect that feeling isn't likely to be mine so instead I anaesthetise the urge by watching it happen on TV or spending time around racing cars and their drivers.

The fact that motor racing is a dangerous sport I can tell you because it says so on the back of every ticket when you attend a race but while we love to see our heroes walk away from their crashes and disappointments it doesn't always work out that way so while striving for safety there is an underlying acceptance that bad, and sometimes fatal, things do happen in our beloved sport. I have a recollection of once reading that the two reasons to have pets are firstly for companionship and secondly to teach children about death, which is morbid but arguably true having myself grown up with a house full of cats.

So what's my point? I'm not sure I have one other than trying to join together the threads of a thousand recollections into a coherent tapestry. In his 33 years Dan Wheldon accomplished things that many other people can only dream of and I think that I would have to side with the Roman philosopher Seneca when he said "Life, if lived well, is long enough" or to quote the recently departed Steve Jobs:
‎"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new."

RIP Dan Wheldon, a life lived well.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

What have I let myself in for?

I spend a lot of time thinking. Thinking, for instance, about what the PCSO's were doing in the old Avventura the other Tuesday evening. Thinking about whether the signs of activity in the old TV repair shop means that the new dentist is going to open sometime soon. Just normal thinking stuff.

This is because not thinking has a habit of getting me into more trouble than thinking does. For example if someone from Worcester Park FC asks me if I want to play in some matches they're arranging the logical answer would be "over my dead body" but without the luxury of thinking time my obliging side comes to the fore and says "erm, yes". This coming from someone for whom running for a train requires a ten-minute recovery period and 'exercise' is a euphemism for 'walking upstairs'. No backing out now though so if you see an ambulance on Green Lane in the not too distant future spare a thought for me...

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Misty morning in Worcester Park

It's going to be a hot one today according to the forecasts but until the sun breaks through there's a misty morning out there to enjoy. Now where did I put my flip-flops?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Monday, 12 September 2011

Return of the Roadworks

After the mixed results that met their first attempt to mess up the traffic in Worcester Park the two fine men assigned to this important task are having another crack at bringing work to underemployed psychotherapists and anger management counsellors of the area. Anyone know why the magic number for workmen seems to be set at two? Is there some complex algorithm at work that means that having more than two would cause twice the congestion... or halve it...

Sunday, 11 September 2011

More gadgets

On the subject of new gadgets Blogger has just released an iPhone app to allow myself and any fellow Blogger users to update on the move rather than the somewhat clunky 'post by email' thing that I've had to rely on in the past. Hopefully you'll be able to tell whether it makes any practical difference soon.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Time for a new gadget?

As anyone who knows me can testify I love gadgets and web widgets of all shapes and sizes. For instance on a working day I rarely leave the house in the morning without having checked the weather page, the rain radar and the train times with a passion verging on the obsessive/compulsive so imagine my joy when I found out that TFL are providing live bus times from a bus stop of your choice! All you have to do is head to and stick in your postcode and it will let you select the nearest bus stop, like the example shown below:.

It's almost a shame that I rarely need to get a bus, but perhaps you might find it useful!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Impeccable Timing

With the unerring ability to get up the noses of Worcester Park residents the roadworks are due to seal off the end of Balmoral Road today... the day before he new school year is due to start at Cheam Common Infants and Junior Schools. Parents trying drop off their children can expect a new level of traffic chaos and if you're thinking of going to Sainsburys anytime soon have a quick think about how they're going to get their deliveries with the roadworks in place...

Monday, 1 August 2011

Would you like a flake with that?

Mrs Brinkster brought the following to my attention from the Sutton Guardian and it rates fairly high on the yuck-o-meter....

"Police pounced on an ice cream man who was caught on camera performing a solo sex act while on duty in his van.

Vincenzo Coffaro, 81, was filmed on a mobile phone when he was spied in full view through the serving hatch of his van pleasuring himself while parked at one of his regular pitches in Overton Road, Sutton."

So far, so disgusting. It doesn't get any better.

"But after being released from custody Coffaro, from Sutton, was spotted selling ice creams the next day.

When confronted by the Sutton Guardian he insisted he would continue to ply his trade around the borough’s schools and parks – despite hygiene concerns.

Sutton trading standards said it could not stop him working because his offence was not sufficient for an immediate trading ban."

So when you hear an ice-cream van plying it's trade in Worcester Park stick your head out of the window and check it's not Vincenzo before you send the kids out.

Monday, 18 July 2011

As one door closes

As I came home on Sunday afternoon from a trip to London I noticed that work was going on in the former Megabytes premises to transform it into something else. By this morning the transformation seemed to be nearly complete and the shop wasn't just sporting one door as before but a whole variety of them, indicating that all of KT4's door requisitioning needs may soon be met closer to home than before. Megabytes get premises close to their old one and Central Road gets another unit occupied so it could be described as a win-win situation. At least it's not another hairdresser's...

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Megabytes on the move

If you've been wondering where Megabytes, the computer shop, has gone they're moving across the road to 3 Windsor Road because their current lease has expired. Passing the old shop last night it was in the process of being gutted so are we getting a new shop there?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Beechdean Motorsports - Brands Hatch 2011

Hopefully you'll have seen from my recent posts that the newly-opened Nonsuch Pantry has taken on a range of Beechdean ice creams so in probably one of the most tangentally connected posts you're likely to read on a blog I went to watch the 007 car of Beechdean Motorsports compete in the Brands Hatch round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship.

The Beechdean Motorsports car is a black and yellow six-litre Aston Martin DBRS9 capable of 0-60 in under 4 seconds in the GT3 class with ice-cream company director Andrew Howard and professional driver Jonny Adams behind the wheel. Things were looking promising after a good run in qualifying but on an alternately sunny and rainy day in Kent it'd be fair to say that they had a bad day at the office. Starting from 4th on the grid an early spin dropped them down the field and a later puncture, slowing them to a crawl for an almost complete lap of Brands Hatch's Grand Prix circuit, and a couple of trips into the gravel meant that it was not going to be their day. They finished the race in a disappointing 20th and will be hoping to regroup before the next race in Spa, Belgium in three weeks time.

Nice car though. And nice ice cream.

*n.b. They don't sponsor me and didn't get me into Brands Hatch. Promise!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Two car crash on Central Road

As I made my way home up Central from work yesterday afternoon I came on the scene of an accident. A large BMW, driven by an elderly gentleman, had uprooted two very sturdy metal bollards from the pavement and he was seated in a chair waiting for the arrival of an ambulance. I noticed that his airbag had deployed so it must have been quite some whack to set that off and uproot the bollards.

Slightly further down the hill at the bus stop there was another car, with a young man in attendance, showing damage to its front left and seemed to have been involved in the accident, but I couldn't quite work out the chain of events. Any ideas anyone?

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Nonsuch Pantry - update

If you saw my post about the Nonsuch Pantry the other day you'll know I had a couple of questions and I've got a couple of answers.

Firstly there's loads of outdoor seating as, in addition to the tables I saw on Thursday they had some nice round wooden tables and chairs.

Secondly if you're not into artisan lemonades and the like then you can still get a can of Diet Coke!

Thirdly Brinkster Minor's very impressed that he could get a "Bambaccino" (Pizza Express customers should know what I'm talking about).

We didn't get as far as ice creams but their Twitter feed says they're going to do cones so I think all should be good there.

Brinkster Minor and myself sat on the benches in the entrance hall to have our drinks and it was interesting to watch people's first reaction when they walked in, which was normally "Wow", followed by "WOW" when they saw the main cafe itself. Prices compare favourably with the Starbucks and Costas of this world so if you've been do let me know what you think in the comments below.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Nonsuch Park - The new Nonsuch Park cafe

Tap, tap.

You still here?

I'd have thought I'd have shaken off even the most devoted reader by now with my prolonged silence but I guess there's no accounting for taste.

Main cafe Anyway, we're not here to talk about me, we're here to talk about the the new cafe in Nonsuch Park, called the Nonsuch Pantry which is replacing the old cafe in the house and they're planning to open tomorrow, Friday 26th May.

They kindly let me in to take some sneak pics today as they're ready to open tomorrow and it'd be fair to say that they've changed a lot, as the photos show.

They've redone it in the style of the renovation of the Mansion interior and it certainly is spectacular. The counter and shelves are laden with all kinds of lovely things from Bovingdons, the caterers, that I'm looking forward to sampling but there are a few questions in the Brinkster household which, at this time, I'm singularly unable to give a conclusive answer.

Those questions are, in order,
1) "What about ice-creams?" (It does mention ice creams on their Twitter page but I didn't see any), and
2) "What about the slushee machine?"

Sorry. I can't help. I'd really like to, as those are two things that figure prominently in our Nonsuch walks so if those don't happen then the young Brinksters might be driven to head down there with pitchforks and blazing torches to give the management a seeing to. The arrangement inside is also different and I'm not sure whether there's more or less seating than before as I almost always used the tables outside , and I'm not sure if there's as much of that as before, but it's early days and I know they're feeling their way into this so what is there on day 1 is not necessarily the finished product and things will undoubtedly change. Helpful suggestions will, I'm sure, be welcomed.

In the meantime you can follow them on Twitter here and enjoy the jumble of pics that I'm left with because I've forgotten how to format the layout .
Main cafe Entrance hall