Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Sands of Time

Wow, has it really been so long since I posted anything?

Something of a testament to how busy I've been, how frustrated and angry I've been. Earlier in the year I started house-hunting. Stressful at the best of times but trying to fit it in around other commitments, I was wondering whether I'd chosen the right moment to go down this path, especially since I had a small window in which to ensure completion, should I find something, and move.

Unfortunately people are particularly unscrupulous at the best of times, never mind when they're trying to flog you their house. What's prompted my writing today is that the property I had to pull out of buying has just gone under offer. Oh I hope the buyers have a solicitor who's on the ball.

When I had viewed this property I was talking to the vendor about future plans for loft conversions and renovations, and through price negotiations, things like the rotting sash windows were used as leverage to try to reduce the price. The vendor maintained that there was nothing wrong with the windows (or the roof or the guttering) and was reluctant to bring the price down.

Anyway, long story short, a price agreed, my solicitor receives a single piece of paper which states that the freehold is owned by Newcastle Council.

The vendors do not in fact even own the roof, the roof space or the guttering, or even the windows. The council does. And all the money they're asking for the property is essentially for renting the empty space between the walls.

Nice of them to mention that. This piece of paper didn't even go into specifics - I had to ring the council direct for that and was told a special pack should have accompanied their solicitor's paperwork - it hadn't.

So I pulled out, what else could I do? The survey I'd had done which confirmed issues like the roof had been rendered useless as the vendor wasn't in a position to carry out any repair works - all repair work was down to the council, and the surveyor intimated that the situation with the lease/freehold had made the flat practically worthless.

Unfortunately the law of caveat emptor, means the law is somewhat on their side (how can that be), and now the next lot of poor unsuspecting buyers will have to negotiate their way around this nasty situation.

Friday, 28 March 2014

20 Gun Salute for Café 21

A tardy review on account of the migraine that's plagued me all week. It would be easy just to skip it but I feel it has to be written; I'm not easily pleased and as my Valentine's night out was distinctly under-whelming on the food front, when we try again a month later, I'm more than pleasantly surprised.

Feeling somewhat apprehensive as I made the online booking, after all, this was another foodie venue awarded 5 stars by the region's Secret Diner and we all know what I thought of the last place I went to based on his review, but buoyed by positive comments from friends, I went ahead, pleased that my first choice of time was available, and making a few extra requests about the table. The confirmation email arrived, followed up with a telephone call the day before to confirm arrangements. So far, so good.

Friday night arrives, my friend picks me up and we head off into town. Fall Out Boy are playing the Arena so it's busy and traffic's slow but we make it to the Quayside unscathed and settle on a quick drink in the Slug - and a quick one it is too. The place is packed and noisy, so drinks downed we pop around the corner to the Broad Chare for another more leisurely drink before making our way to destination food.

I'm hungry, really hungry now, and hoping I'm not in for artfully arranged vegetable peelings atop a sliver of meat passing itself off as haute cuisine. As we're ushered to our table I relax, noting that requests have been fulfilled and settle down to peruse the menu. What a menu. Both myself and my dining companion chose the Scallops to start. If I hadn't, I'd probably have plumped for the Crab Lasagne, but I do love a good scallop and boy were these good. Served in one half of a shell, the 3 enormous scallops sat, drizzled with plenty of chilli and garlic. I love the fact that they came with their coral attached; so many places discard this but it's tender and bursting with flavour, who cares that it might affect the symmetry of the plate?

Empty plates whisked away by attentive but never intrusive staff, we moved on. My companion decided on the Braised Shoulder of Beef, which was so tender it truly was melt-in-the-mouth, whilst I had the Grilled Calves Liver. Sniffed at by some no doubt for being offal, this much maligned dish was 'offally' good, soft and delicate and served pink. A million miles from the tough, chewy liver I remember from childhood (Nana saying 'it's good for you')trying to wash it down with as much gravy as possible. None of that needed here. A couple of sides of spinach, beans and fries and it was a most delectable meal.

My companion chose his dessert carefully - Doughnuts, to ensure he'd have them to himself; I, feeling rather full, opted for sorbet, melon and raspberry - the fruitiest I've ever tasted. A couple of coffees later, we leave, very happy customers.

Things about the restaurant: the staff are great, as I said before, attentive but not intrusive, polite and friendly, knowledgeable about their dishes. Other establishments should take note.
Toilets - really good, clean, plentiful, with the best disposable hand towels I've seen outside the States.

And now I'm going to complain, the tiniest of complaints - my chair was hard and uncomfortable. 20/21

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Die on Your Own Time Please

When exactly did (some) people become so uncompassionate? It's long been the norm that one daren't take leave to recover from illness without fearing the wrath of the boss, leaving us with a workforce performing consistently below best, coughing and sneezing their germs around til even the usually most hale and hearty succumb; what about compassion that should be due all of us to deal with bereavement?

Standard Leave of Absence policies seem to indicate that one might have paid time off work for the funeral of a close relative (parents, children etc) with perhaps a day or two longer if one has the responsibility for making the funeral arrangements, but then it's expected that you chivvy yourself along back to work. No allowances made for wanting an extra hour or two to attend a wake and offer sympathies to other family members, share a moment remembering the good times.

And woe betide if it's the misfortune of a less 'close' relative to pass away (how dare they, what were they thinking). Uncles, Aunts, in-laws; hey, if it's not 'your' relative, don't even think about putting that LOA form in, never mind that these relations can be just as close.

Today's lifestyle - social mobility can mean that a friend, a neighbour, could be closer that some relatives, but again we're expected to be robots - take 30 seconds and then get back to the grind - work will save you. It's belittling the life of a Mother, a Father, a Son or Daughter, a Friend.

Try to ensure your loved ones die in as uncomplicated a fashion as possible, have the funeral at the weekend (assuming your not working then as well).

In a world where we're constantly striving to put meaning in our lives, in the eyes of some, life has ceased to have any meaning at all.

DEATH RIDES AN UNCARING HORSEIllustration: Sherwin Schwartzrock & Jonathan Koelsch

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Wrinkled noses at Rasa

So this review is a bit late - ok, read very late, having gone out on Valentine's Day, but you know, sometimes life just gets in the way.

With high hopes we set off to Rasa on Newcastle's Quayside. Our usual fail-safe is Sabatini's but having been there twice pretty recently and as I'd not long since read the Secret Diner's glowing report, we thought a change of scenery in order.

We declined the 'special' menu, opting for their regular option, and to begin with things looked quite promising. The staff were attentive but unobtrusive and knowledgeable, providing extra information about the dishes and as I polished off my Konju Fry starter, I was feeling confident about the choice we'd made. Unfortunately it was all downhill from there. The service all but disappeared, they staff seeming to prefer standing around the corner chatting to paying attention to what was happening in the restaurant, whilst my main dish was very nice, my partner's was completely tasteless and although we wanted coffees, the staff took so long coming back to the table that we just asked for the bill and went for a drink in the Akenside instead. In fact, I can probably say the best thing about the whole experience was the Malabar Paratha bread. Far nicer than the Naan breads one usually receives with Indian food, but I didn't go out to just enjoy bread.

Do the restaurants reviewed by the Secret Diner know he's coming? Do they up their game during the visit? I absolutely cannot see any reason for the 5 stars awarded in his review. My view? I'd be struggling to give it 3 out of 5.
On a positive note, the pre-dinner drinks at the Slug, and the post-dinner drinks at the Akenside were just lovely.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

What's the story, Soap & Glory...

One of the best things about Christmas 2013 (and there weren't many) was the £100 Boots gift card I received compliments of Boots themselves. Having spent the past 4 months in a state beyond stressed and tired, the old peepers were beginning to look less radiant jewels and more like they had matching luggage. I'd always seen the 'Soap & Glory' brand as a bit gimmicky and cheap, with their reasonable prices and twee slogans, but when looking for an eye cream that didn't cost as much as my monthly rent and something different (I've tried a lot, and a lot haven't worked) I thought, "What the hell, let's give it a whirl." (And it was 3 for 2 on all S & G in Boots) I found myself with with the 'Puffy Eye Attack - Turbo-boost Hydragel, which sounds a little like it should be applied to one's car, the 'You Won't Believe Your Eyes - Tied eye brightening serum' and the 'Make Yourself Youthful - Rejuvenating Facial Serum', all for less than 35 quid - bargain. Does it work? The Puffy Eye Attack is a potted wonder. Cooling, working instantly and a little goes a long way - I've even been able to ease up on the Touche Éclat, especially when followed with the You Won't Believe Your Eyes serum. This iridescent serum is applied via 3 small rollers and makes the whole eye area appear lighter and brighter. The Make Yourself Youthful Serum, well, I can't say I'm the world's biggest fan. There's nothing really wrong with it, I've not been using it exclusively so can't really say whether it's making a difference, but for this time of year, the stress our skin undergoes with the weather, central heating, chocolate and alcohol, I guess my skin is better than this time last year. The one thing that lets this product down is the smell. It smells faintly of chocolate orange, and much as I love a good Terry's Chocolate Orange, and I've eaten two this Christmas, I wouldn't want to cover my face in one.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Fielding throws a curve ball

So, Mark Darcy's dead - is he? Is Helen Fielding for real? All we (the Bridget adoring female population) have to go on is an extract published in The Sunday Times, where we find the heroine aging, widowed and dealing with the singles (toyboy)scene with two children in tow. Hardly full confirmation, and I'd hope the book might have a little twist, even a predictable one such as this: Mark Darcy was a humanitarian lawyer. Suppose he went to see a client abroad in some godforsaken hellhole and there was an incident. All presumed dead. Perhaps even remains have been repatriated and buried. But it's not him. He's a prisoner somewhere. Perhaps even when he escapes and comes home, he observes Bridget at a distance and can't bring himself to intrude on the life she's forging since his 'death' - after all, he is a little bit of a drip, perhaps it's all only revealed on the cusp of her marriage to someone else...
Pic: The Guardian

Sunday, 8 September 2013

So not a one off for Esso

Since I mentioned on this blog and to anyone I came across about the practices of Esso appearing to register one amount at the petrol pump which 'magically' increases by the time one arrives at the kiosk to pay, several people have confirmed that this has also happened to them, to the point that they will no longer use Esso. As previously stated, a pump clicking an extra penny seems hardly newsworthy, but given the number of customers passing through every day, this sharp adds up. Unfortunately I can't see Esso doing anything about it unless the public push for it. Their prices seem obscenely inflated anyway, without factoring in an extra rip-off.