Tuesday, 16 March 2010

What I Did On My Holidays: Aberaeron

As a birthday treat the girlfriend booked us a weekend away on the coast in Aberaeron. She got us a lovely little thatched cottage through Under The Thatch.

We got there on Friday afternoon, and were pleasantly surprised that the owners (or whoever) had left us a pint of milk and some amazing pics (welsh cakes, not pictures). The cottage itself was great, the outside was lime-washed pink and the inside was really nicely done up with a sleeping area on a mezzanine floor, and a wood burning fire stove in the living room area. We wandered into town and had amazing fish and chips with mushy peas at The New Celt, and a pint of Rev James in The Monachdy. Town was pretty quiet actually, considering it was a Friday. Hadn’t really realised that the population would be so seasonal. After that we went back to the cottage for a relax. A short while after she’d booked it, my girlfriend received an email informing her that the cottage now had a hot tub installed in a small outhouse, so we gave it a go. It was set at 40 degrees Celsius, and we couldn’t get the temperature to drop any lower despite frantic jabbing at the minus button. Neither of us are particularly great with heat. I don’t think we managed to stay in there for more than 20 minutes, it was just too hot. We had the windows open and everything, by the end we were sitting on the tub’s edge with just our legs in the water and it was still horrible. Need to stick to a luke-warm tub in future.

On the Saturday we drove down to Newquay and had a walk along the beach. Again, a lot of things were still shut for the season, so we ended up driving north to Aberystwyth. We had a walk about the shops and along the front, had a pint and watched half of the Wales game, had a cup of tea and a toasted sandwich, and played on the 2p machines in the arcade. Then we drove back to the cottage. In the evening we went to the Harbourmaster, which is a gastropub of sorts I guess. We ate in the bar (didn’t really fancy paying the restaurant prices). Girlfriend had a nice bit of grey mullet on linguine pasta; I had the burger which, whilst being tasty enough, basically fell foul to every ‘chefs trying to over-poshify their burgers’ cliché. The bun was really crusty, the cheese was too strong and didn’t melt properly, and the whole thing was too big to actually take a bite out of. In the end I had to abandon the bun lid and eat it with a knife and fork. Every chef considering burger cooking should be forced to watch Heston Blumenthal’s In Search Of Perfection where he makes the perfect burger. The man understands. They also served it on a chopping block. A trendy double bluff at appearing rustic that a lot of restaurants seem to be doing – it’s better than serving it on slate though, nothing worse than the scrape of a knife against a sheet of slate. After that it was back to the cottage for a couple glasses of wine and I finally finished reading China Mieville’s The City & The City, which I’d been reading since around Christmas time. Short review: it’s good, but as with all of his other books, it’s got more ideas than story.

Then we came home on Sunday to do Mothering Sunday stuff with assorted mothers, and then won £125 at the pub quiz. All in all, it was a lovely relaxing weekend. 10/10.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

The Pizza Slice: Pizza Express and Strada

Sorry, have been falling behind on my Pizza Slicing. I’ve got 2 to tell you about.

Had an Al Tirolo at Pizza Express. Speck Ham, and a medley of various mushrooms. Really enjoyed it. It was topped with some fresh parsley after it had been cooked, though I would have liked a little more of it. It was on the Romana base which I am a fan of. Was considering going for their new ‘hottest ever pizza’ from the new range from the guest chef, but I wasn’t in a spicy mood and I quite like a bit of veg on my pizza. I’ll give it a whirl next time. I had a nice lemon tart for pudding.

Then about a week later we went to Strada as we were in the Bay anyway to watch Richard Herring at the Glee Club. Was once again impressed with the weight of the glasses and the pop-top bottles of table water. I ordered the Bresaola, which features thin strips of cured beef and huge dollops of ricotta, topped with fresh rocket. It was nice, though the ricotta was a bit rich, and there wasn’t that much flavour to the beef itself. Had a nice macchiato coffee after.

Still can't decide which of these 2 high street titans is my favourite. Think Pizza Express slightly pips it, as it’s slightly tastier and the menu has more depth. However, I find Strada a nicer ‘dining out’ experience, and I also prefer their bases.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

BBC 6Music

Like a lot of people, I was pretty disapointed to read about the BBC's proposals to shut down BBC 6 Music as part of their 'strategic review'. Here is the letter that I emailed to the BBC Trust to add my name to the thousands calling for them to reconsider. I adapted it from another letter I saw on the internets (can't remember where sorry, probably linked from DiS) but added some more of my views etc. It's not brilliantly written, but I hope I got my message across coherently and I'm glad I managed to not slip into "you should get rid of Chris Moyles!" territory - a slightly elitist argument that just makes you come across like an indie/middle-class/Guardian reading/leftish version of the always hilarious spEak You're bRanes comments that litter the internet.

I didn't really mention the Asian Network as it's something I have no knowledge of, or interest in (if I'm being honest), though I'm sure it provides a fine service:

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to address proposals announced this morning which suggest the possible closure of BBC 6music.
On the whole I am a loyal supporter of the BBC and the licence fee, and understand that the way in which the organisation is funded places it under a unique pressure to appeal to mainstream and niche audiences alike.

I have been a semi-regular listener to the service since it was first launched in 2002, originally through Freeview and the Listen Again feature online, and more recently through DAB radios, and feel that the station has really grown into itself – the recent additions of Lauren Laverne and Jarvis Cocker to the schedule have further complimented the station.

It is my belief that this station fulfils a remit that the commercial broadcasting sector does not. The Strategy Review itself states that 6 Music "plays a wide range of music that listeners do not hear elsewhere and it introduces many listeners to music that is new to them", and the website
http://comparemyradio.com/compare - which compares unique songs played by various radio stations – shows little overlap between 6Music and it’s nearest competitors (such as the various XFM stations, NME, and Absolute). The same website also highlights 6 Music’s uniqueness when compared to the other BBC stations playing ‘popular music’ (which is itself an out-dated term, which fails to grasp the shear breadth of music falling under this banner). Trying to shoe-horn 6 Music’s shows and values into either Radio 1 or Radio 2 would mean cutting back on some of the programming which currently makes those 2 stations currently successful.

I also find it disheartening that the BBC, having spent the past 8 years encouraging people to upgrade their old FM radios to the newer DAB technology (which I did a few months back, at a cost of roughly £80), are now retreating from this sector with the closure of 6 Music and the Asian Network.

I understand that these proposals have to be considered and approved by the BBC Trust before any cuts are made, and so would like to add my voice to those requesting that the Trust strongly consider rejecting the call to close these stations. Their very existence proves the validity and necessity of both the license fee and the BBC, especially in an age when commercial pressure on broadcast media is stronger than ever.
Kind regards,


If anyone reading this cares about 6 Music then please email your concerns to the BBC Trust, and if you can find the time to fill out the online consultation response then that'd be great as well (I've not done this yet myself, but we've got 'till near the end of May to do so). Twibbon, #save6Music, online petitions, and Facebook groups are all lovely gestures, but you need to send the message direct to the BBC for it to have any kind of impact.

I noticed a curious semi parallel last night as well when I was reading an interview with Toby Whithouse, the creator of BBC3's Being Human - a programme highlighted in the BBC strategic review as an example of the success of BBC3.

The pilot episode of Being Human was first broadcast on BBC3 as part of a package of pilots designed to encourage new drama or something. Out of that package, it was a programme called Phoo Action that received a full series commission. Phoo Action was a kitsch, 60s style martial arts programme, from the creator of Tank Girl and Gorillaz, that was slightly reminiscent of the Green Hornet. However, it was Being Human that had received the higher viewing figures on broadcast, and more importantly it was Being Human that resonated with viewers. There was an internet outcry (which past me by, I never saw the pilot), and a full series of Being Human was eventually commissioned (though with a slightly altered cast).

The 2nd series of Being Human ended a week ago, the finale received viewing figures of 1million plus (brilliant for BBC3), and the format has been sold on to an American network for a remake. Phoo Action has, so far as I remember, never progressed beyond the pilot.

I think there's an important message in this for the BBC management to remember; sometimes the fans know better, and the customer is often right.