The Cobden Hotel and Birmingham – Don’t stay there

So a few months ago, Emma was planning to attend a networking event in Birmingham. I hadn’t ever been to Birmingham before, so it was going to be the first time for the both of us. Emma needed a hotel that was reasonably priced, within distance of the venue and one that needed on site parking. This seemed to rule out a number of hotels in the city.

We eventually found one called the Cobden Hotel in the Edgbaston area. It ticked the necessary boxes and seemed quite reasonable with some fair customer reviews. The journey was just over 3 and a half hours, so we left late morning. The drive wasn’t too bad until we got closer to the Midlands. People think drivers down this way are crazy, you simply haven’t seen some of them up in the Brum.

Anyway, having eventually arrived at the hotel, all seemed ok. We went in and to be honest it wasn’t the most welcoming hotel reception. Dour and drab and not exactly welcoming. The reception staff were hardly the most chirpy. We let that go as we know reception staff are only human and have all sorts of customers to deal with.

We got into the lift and boy did it stink, it was hard to guess or even want to take a guess at what the aroma was. Thankfully it was only three floors. I’m was almost sure it couldn’t get any worse… We arrived at the room and er well, it wasn’t the greatest. Just like the reception, there was no life. Yes I know it was a reasonably priced hotel, but you would still expect more warmth than a mortuary. Well there was warmth in fact too much. Two radiators giving out more warmth than either of the receptionist.

The remaining interior of the room was much to be desired too. The desk was slightly damaged and could have been patched up, the mattress was a bit springy in fact too springy.

We decided to head out to the Bull Ring  ventured to TGI Friday down the road and after a 45 minute wait which turned out to be more than an hour and a disappointing meal. I ordered a chicken burger, thought I’d go for something different, sadly the chicken burger was disappointing, disappointing to the fact that I had tasted better from a local chip shop in St Peters, is quite something.

Having returned to the hotel room, which yet again sounded an alarm when using the key to open we flicked the tv on. What choice we had on Freeview, BBC1, BBC2, BBC3,Red Quest, ITV and other usual channels seemed to have ‘No Signal’. I know you don’t go to a hotel to watch tv but when you want to relax before sleeping, limited tv doesn’t help. I guess though with the walls being not so thick that we could hear the people in the next room talking away as loud as they could.

There was no fridge either. Some may say so what, but I have stayed in a £20 a night B&B that had a room with a fridge. In order to keep the milk cold that we bought, we had to fill up the basin. That of course didn’t help when we wanted to make a cup of tea as not only did we have to empty the basin, but because of the tap size and angle, I ended up having to fill the kettle with a plastic cup that we were provided. The water needed running a while so it became clear. Talking of water, the toilet hardly flushed properly. I would have complained but I had dread to think what the alternative could have been.

Sunday faired better, a trip to the Sealife Centre was enjoyable. For all the fuss of being a city, it seemed no busier than a Sunday in Canterbury. We had lunch in the Smoke Haus. A fab meal and a mocktail. The burger was freshly made and had the home made feel about it. The Smoke Haus though is something that I would recommend for anyone going to Birmingham.

Come Sunday evening an attempt at going to bed early disappeared quicker than a Kent batting line up. We decided to check out before midnight even if it meant a 4 hour journey home in the early hours with added thick fog every so often.

Safe to say we won’t be making another leisure visit anytime soon.

Just to sum it all up, just down the road was a Premier Inn WITH PARKING!!!!!!

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Beginnings – Hannah’s Yard album review

Beginnings, the debut album from Hannah’s Yard came out last year but it’s only now that Ive actually managed to sit down and listen to this album and I have to say it’s a great album from a talented young artist. Beginnings is a great way to start a career and young Hannah Layton Turner,who is 21, yes 21 has had a busy but amazing couple of years. With the support and guidance from her fellow musicians and writer and I can only imagine that Hannah a will continue to have more success.

When you read that Hannah’s Yard has featured on various BBC regional radio stations whilst getting high praise from well known stars such as Paul Carrack,  you know this artist and  her supporting musicians are certainly going to do very well under the Yard Name .Not only that they have been asked to record a video session for the radio and tv legend that is ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris and that is something to be proud of.

The album  covers more than one genre, but don’t let that make you think that Hannah is trying to find her way, far from it. Hannah has a voice that easily carries over well.  The track Make Your Mind Up features Hannah’s vocals from when she was 15, yes only 15, a remarkably talented young lady. Closing the album with the classic hymn Amazing Grace that  is one that is  a great way to finish. The her take is simple with no big effects or bagpipes to accompany her, just her voice backing from her fellow musicians. It beautiful and gentle and can be taken with great credit.

The rest of her album consists of some really fine songs, where you find yourself either singing along or just chilling to her tracks. The tracks Baby I’m There, Dream With Me and Dance Our Way back Home are three tracks that definitely give you a happy and chilled vibe. Hannah along with the Yard, is a young woman who has fab voice and has a long career ahead of her and one that is heading only upwards. You might not have heard of her before, but you have now and will definitely in the years to come.

 

Nailed it 100km in a month – but never again

Hooray! yesterday (Sunday 25th) I completed the February  100km challenge in amongst beating a personal record on the gym bikes. I chalked up 103.7 placing me in 87 ( as it stands) although their listings seem a bit jumbled and I could be a couple of places higher. It’s not the end of the world though to be honest it was just nice to get the target reached and with the entry and evidence being approved, it’s just a few days and I a medal shall be received.

It was of course in aid of charity and the chosen charity for this event was Challengers (disability-challengers.org). It’s a charity that helps disabled children to be able to have fun through inclusive exciting and challenging play and leisure opportunities. They have schemes that cover ages 2-5, 4-12, 13-18 and 18-25. Currently they support disabled and young people in Surrey, Hampshire and a few other places. It’s good to know that I have helped contribute to a worthwhile charity whilst keeping relatively fit….

Whilst I did it, I have to say I will not be anytime soon doing another 100km in a month event. I did challenge myself but trying to fit it all in amongst other events, it was very close to the end. I will be though doing more short distance events and have two in March and one in April. March sees the 5km Run like a Time Lord and the Italian Jog which is a minimum of 10km. In regards to Run Like a Time Lord, Im not sure if there is any specific way of running is it a general run or as if being chased by a Dalek or another Dr Who baddie? Of course I could always run like the Master maybe….. This charity is the National Autistic Society. The Italian Jog 20% minimum of  every entry will be donated to Solidarity Sports.

April sees one the RAF Virtual Challenge for the RAF Benevolent Fund. Thankfully this one has no limit, so I can clock up as many miles as I can through the month of May although it will be more than just one mile. This year marks 100 years of the Royal Air Force. Could I do 100 miles? probably not but it will be as many as I can during the month.

Nothing else  is planned as yet, but who knows, it might just be standard gym time. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

 

time-lord-640x640Spitfire-medal

Happy Birthday Out of The Blue – ELO Flashback 40

It’s a Happy Birthday to me and a Happy Birthday to Out of The Blue as I share a special Flashback 40. It’s a big 40 for Out of the Blue by Electric Light Orchestra. This peach of an album was released on same day I was born. It sadly wasn’t released in honour of me, but Im quite happy to share my my entry into the world with its release.

Out of The Blue was released as a double album and is home to a number of it’s well known tracks that we still love and play 40 years on, the likes of Sweet Talkin’ Woman, Turn To Stone and the absolutely epic mood lifter Mr Blue Sky. This track has to be one of my favourite songs of all time. They had released another two singles from the album, those being Wild West Hero and the track It’s Over. As well as the album being fantastic, their album cover has to be one of the most familiar and recognised covers over period it’s been released. The registration number on the side of the docking space craft, is the original catalogue number for the album.

Jeff Lynne wrote the album in three weeks over in a Swiss chalet, influenced by the rain lashing on the door. It is I have to say the testament to fantastic writing, to create a piece of musical joy. An album which would appear to feature some musical influences from the great names of the 20th Century ranging from the Beatles to the Bee Gees.

This album the last of the progressive/Symphonic outing created by Jeff Lynne, is certainly a fine way to end one musical direction, Im not sure there could be a finer way in doing so without doing it cheaply and of course that would not be Jeff Lynne’s manner or style.

The album sold 10 million copies and was the first double album in UK char history to produce 4 top twenty singles a hardly suprising fact given the releases from the album. The album itself was one that simply didn’t really want to leave the chart, top ten in ten different countries and in the UK and US album chart it peaked at number 4. Come the end of 1977 it was outside the top 40, only to speed up the chart come the end of 1978 to the position of number 7. The thirtieth anniversary reissue even charted in at number 18. Can’t imagine many albums charting a top 20 on an anniversary release.

Out of The Blue had six single releases of which the first single released was Turn To Stone a romantically themed song of someone struggling when their love has left them but with the hope that they will return some day. It was the lowest charting release from the album reaching only number 18 even though it is quite a catchy tune. It reached top ten in both Sweden and Canada, whilst pitching up in at number 13 on the US Billboard chart. It is another one that is still a popular play and back in 2008, Lynne was awarded a certificate by the BMI for the track reaching one million airplays.

Mr Blue Sky was the second single and  there is nothing much that needs to be said about this glorious track of foot tapping joy. It is surely hard not to enjoy this timeless track. Perfect for any moment. when the mood needs lifting or indeed you just want to play it. I guess though we should thank the change in weather for this. In a BBC interview Lynne had said that in the preceeding two weeks there was gloom and mist but when the sun finally appeared it was a case of wow at the beautiful alps. This track made it to number six in the UK charts and despite being released in the January, by the end of the year it had only just left the top 40 finishing 1978 with a position of 43.

Mr Blue Sky is for those that don’t know,  the finale of the third side of the Double Album which consists of the Concerto For A Rainy Day. It was the only track from that to be released. The opening track titled Standing In The Rain includes recordings of actual rain. The idea of wet gloomy weather continues up until of course Mr Blue Sky, but it is indeed a good piece of music to listen to all the way through.

The song has featured in many tv programmes and films including Dr Who, CSI, Waterloo Road and most recently Guardians of The Galaxy Vol.2 as well as being used in the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. I very much doubt it will ever stop being used given how joyful and cheery it is.

Sweet Talkin’ Woman was another top ten hit for the band as it hit a high of number six in the UK chart, it wasn’t as popular as the other notable releases in the other charts although it did mostly chart in the top 30.

So wrapping up, for me ELO and this album was my earliest introduction to the band and in my own opinion, it should be an album that every music lover has in their collection regardless of the music genre you like.

So happy 40th birthday to this fine album that ages so well and long may it be listened to.

Some Love Whinging – From Ramsgate to Herne Bay

Royal Pavilion Ramsgate – Wetherspoons

pavilion2

It seems that some people have nothing better to moan even when there is something good happening. Take for example the newly refurbished Pavilion in Ramsgate. The building had been dilapidated for a good few years, when pub chain Wetherspoons, took over the building to renovate it and turn it into an operational building. God forbid that it was bringing jobs. competition and choice to the area, but still.

Saying that though it wasn’t necessarily the fact that there was a new wetherspoons, but in fact they apparently weren’t allowing dogs into the restaurant. I mean who would have thought dogs not allowed in a busy pub/restaurant. Of course The Belgian cafe allows dogs in but that is a whole different kind of atmosphere to be honest. Generally though apart from guide dogs Ive not seen too many dogs in restaurants. pubs yes but not really restaurants.

In a certain facebook group celebrating Ramsgate, there were a few that were not too happy. although one dog lover stated that whilst they loved dogs, they didn’t believe that a busy bar and restaurant was suitable for dogs. whilst one said it didn’t bother them. Funny thing is that many eating establishments have not allowed dogs in, so why should Wetherspoons, who I don’t think allow dogs in their other establishments. In other local Wetherspoon establishments  I believe it is down to manager discretion. The Pavilion will apparently lose some custom of the dog walkers in the group. I wonder if they will stop using Asda, Tesco other stores, the cinema etc.

Of course though the conversation moved from dogs to kids and moaning about the moany screamy kids and how kids should be banned etc etc. There seems to be no pleasing people sometimes. People have pointed out about other establishments that allow dogs in, that’s good, why not go visit them instead and stop trying to be clever when in fact you are just making yourself look quite silly.

I mean hey, the Wetherspoons group didn’t have to acquire the Royal Pavilion and turn it into an operating building, creating jobs, contributing to the economy, giving visitors and locals varied choice and competition for various establishments.  We should be as many people are, pleased to see that the building is looking alive and a back in business once again.

 

Last Saturday Herne Bay played host once again to the Airshow. Another well organised event. The Bay Promo team once again put their all into organising this FREE SHOW for people in the local area and anyone who wanted to attend from further afield. Myself and Emma didn’t get down there till late but were there in time to catch the Aerosparx afternoon display onwards. A walk the stalls and through the crowds, we were then 20 were settled on the pier for those awesome Red Arrows. I don’t know how many times Ive seen them fly in my life, but I will never tire of watching their breathtaking displays. Some of our finest RAF pilots, who during their time have learnt to fly at the Ted Girdler School of Flying and gone on to join the RAF and eventually take up a seat in the hawk jets.

Anyway back to the main subject, whingers. Apparently there were some people a bit annoyed at the fact that people were having to wait inbetween displays. This in course contrast to no doubt the very same people complaining that there wasnt enough time between displays to do anything else. I mean come on, surely it is possible to go find something to eat and still watch an aerial display? Well apparently not it would seem.

Issues beyond organisers control were at the route of the issue. Saturday was a bit breezy which meant that not all participants were able to fly, not only that but the Merlin engine issue which grounded the BBMF flight which thankfully wasn’t a major disaster as alternative aircraft were used instead. The organisers at the last minute managed to get a Dakota into the days proceedings, so a big thumbs up to them. It did though mean large gaps. Is that really such an issue seeing what was available on the ground and hey there was that good old fashioned thing called chatting amongst friends/family, I mean who’d have thought that extra waiting time would mean not talking to anyone else.

There were other moans because it wasn’t strictly free and prices were high. Well what do you know, a public event where food and gift outlets are slightly higher than anywhere else. Well here’s a thought, there is that little old school thing called the picnic. You know, the thing where you buy various things to add to the basket or cooler and take a long to eat. It is after all something that people have done for many many years.

The team at Bay Promo over the years have worked hard to bring events such as the air show and Sci Fi by the sea to Herne Bay, giving up shed loads of time and money without a complaint, just so people can have a free air show or a Sci Fi event with actors and actresses from past and present shows. A little appreciation wouldn’t go a miss especially when all you have to do is turn up, so next time the airshow is on either don’t go or come prepared like the several groups of people with picnics and windbreakers

Doctor Who – The Next Doctor

So with one episode of series ten and a Christmas special to go, Peter Capaldi’s period as the Time Lord is coming to an end. It is a shame to see Capaldi leaving as he has been a good Doctor, some of the stories might have been disappointing, but an actor of course can only work with what is in front of him. When he has had a good story, boy has he played a blinder.

As I write this, the next Doctor is not even known. Names have been bandied about, conclusions have been made, but no official announcement has been put out by the BBC or Moffatt himself. With  just under six months to go until the Christmas Special, we can only speculate as to who it could be and who it couldn’t be. So that is what Im going to do, but before that Im just going to share a thought or two on the direction of the sex of the Doctor.

For me its a shame to see Peter Capaldi leave the show as I have enjoyed his portrayal of the doctor, it was good to see an older person to play the doctor after Tennant and Smith. From this latest season I have also enjoyed the companions Nardol and Bill. Whether we see Bill again is all in the air, but who knows what will happen.

 Historically the Doctor as we know has always been played by a male actor. Some of Britain’s finest actors to grace tv and stage have portrayed the Gallifreyan, the likes of Troughton, Pertwee, Tennant,Pertwee,Davidson, Eccleston, McGann, Baker and Baker. Matt Smith of course is still breaking out into the film world but that isn’t to say he is rubbish. He was relatively unknown to the world when he became the doctor. Let’s though return to the point. We have yet to see a female play the Time Lord, why is that? I don’t know. After all we have seen a female lead in Star Trek for example.

I wouldn’t have an issue with a female Doctor, after all we have seen a female take on the Master, which to be honest has been an interesting turn. I’m sure opinion has been quite mixed up and down the country and around the world where there are viewers of the iconic tv show. What I would though have an issue is for a female doctor just for the sake of it just to tick a box as it were. It should also be about who is cast. You could have a really good female actress or one that ends up coming over poor. To be the doctor regardless of sex, they ultimately need to be able to portray the doctor in the typical comedic moments, but also have the convincing ruthless side that the character has and has been seen throughout the various portrayals.

So let’s kick off with some of those who have been linked  for the next Doctor and unfortunately the leading name is one that somehow could ruin the role.

Kris Marshall

Why should we be even considering this man as the next Doctor, I’m sure many of you will not need to know why he shouldn’t be anywhere near this iconic role. He featured in My Family, a tv sitcom that in reality should have been really good given the leading cast members, but sadly it was purely average especially when they started bringing in extra characters who were about as funny as getting a parking ticket. When he did leave, he said he wanted to go onto better things. Those better things turned out to be BT ads. Of course he did star in Death in Paradise, but admittedly I havent seen that so can’t judge on that. Even if he did pull off a good performance in Death In Paradise, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he would be able to pull it off performing as the Doctor.

Ben Wishaw

Ben Wishaw is one who has been linked with the doctor. Known for his portrayal of Q in the James Bond films, he could be putting it the 007 role behind him and move onto another iconic role. Wishaw of course is a well trained actor and has appeared in the cinema, on tv and the stage. He could quite easily fit into the role of the doctor. He as featured in both comedic and straight roles. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he were to be chosen given his previous links after the departure of Matt Smith as the Doctor. If he can master Q, then he can easily take on the mantle of the Doctor.

Richard Ayoade

Another popular candidate, famous for the role of Maurice Moss in the IT crowd. His geeky character and persona would help. The only issue now though is that he is now fronting the Crystal Maze, so it would be unlikely that he would have the time to commit to becoming the new Doctor, that is unless Channel 4 were to suddenly drop the show. This of course may cause fans of that show to be slightly miffed and all too late for Ayoade. Having seen the first CM show, he could easily pull off the sarcastic and droll side of the Doctor.

Anthony Head

I also heard that Anthony Head was linked to becoming the next Doctor. Now that would be interesting, the actor isn’t shy of appearing in sci and fantasy as we know. He’s been in Buffy, Merlin, Warehouse 13 and of course Doctor Who itself as the Headmaster back in the Tennant era. Given that Peter Capaldi once appeared in the show and went on to become the Doctor, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for Head to join the ranks. I think it would really work with him as the doctor although I imagine the fangirls  would not be happy with another older actor portraying the Doctor. I imagine though he won’t be in the top three.

It’s not just about the men, during the final two episodes there have been hints as to the next doctor being female with different lines coming out regarding female. Naturally it could be a red herring but it could be time for a female doctor. There has been talk that a female doctor would bring the show to the 21st century, which is weird as we have seen a lesbian companion, a bi character, same sex companionship albeit one human and one alien character. At the same time whilst it would be great to see a female doctor, it should be done naturally, not because people are calling for one.

 

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

One of the leading female candidates is Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I don’t know much about Phoebe, although I did see her in the fantastic Broadchurch series, where she appeared as Abbey Thompson, who was the junior barrister to Joe Miller’s Defence QC. Her series Fleabag is quite successful an a second series is being filmed late in 2017 to be shown in 2018. I imagine that should she become the new doctor, her Fleabag show may have to be rescheduled if filming for Doctor Who and Fleabag clashes. Not only that, but she has the little Star Wars spin off film that though is a one off so wouldn’t conflict with further filming. Should Waller-Bridge be the new Doctor, she would be one of the youngest actors to portray the much much older Doctor.

Olivia Colman

Olivia Colman is another name that has been linked and would be an ideal candidate, having had a career in comedy and drama, she would seem perfect for the role. Like Phoebe Waller-Bridge, she appeared in Broadchurch thus working with Chris Chibnall who will be taking over from Moffat. We have seen her wide range of output comedy wise along with a wide range of straight roles including the previously mentioned Broadchurch and the popular drama The Night Manager.  She has also funnily enough previously appeared in the first episode of the Matt Smith era in Doctor Who.

It will be interesting to see who is the next doctor and how long we will have to wait until the announcement. Maybe just maybe they will keep it secret so we don’t find out until we see the regeneration take place towards the end of the Christmas Special.

 

 

Lets get digital – Electronic voting & ID cards?

As the fallout from the 2017 General Election continues, it’s an opportune time to look at voting in the 21st Century. As the young turned out in force, there has also been talk of the use of technology and voting via electronic methods. As many of us either own a laptop/pc, tablet or smartphone, is it not time to think about using these to vote in future elections? Whilst there would still be the time period on election day, people could vote from their phone or their pc/laptop without having the need to go to out to a polling station. Shift workers will be able to cast a vote without having to worry about trying to reach their polling station in time or taking time out.

Not everyone though will have access to a computer or a smartphone, so it would be possible for people to have a postal vote if they so wished if they weren’t able to have the electronic version. Of course the Postal vote system would need  tightened and made more secure as there have always been concerns regarding the method.

With the option of electronic voting, everyone would have an individual code that they would take with them regardless of where they are living. The voter would just need to register the code when they move and the system would update. By having electronic voting and a more secure postal vote system, it will mean a less costs for the local authorities as they wont need to pay for Presiding officers or polling clerks in the day time or counters for the evening/overnight. It would make things easier for Electoral Services departments up and down the country.

It will be interesting to see what readers have to say, comments completely welcome.

Now to something more controversial. The ID card has always been something that brings cynicism and distrust. There are naturally big concerns regarding the idea of the ID card. The Big Brother notion is something that people aren’t keen on seeing. They see a distrust and possible abuse of the system.

If a bio ID card could consist of a thumbprint/DNA set up. The card would hold travel permissions, driving permissions. It would not only reduce the need for multi levels of identification, but will of course reduce the levels of staff in the Passport Office and DVLA. The savings would allow money to be invested elsewhere. but it would naturally also help reduce the crime level and crime detection time. Using thumbprint/DNA would naturally make people jumpy, but as much of a cliché it is, law abiding citizens would have no need to worry.

The Conservative and Lib Dem of course saw the end to the National ID project back in the beginning of the Coalition Agreement with the repeal of the 2006 legislation and destruction of the National Identity Register. This will never see the light of day as a mandatory option. What though if people would like to have the option of one card with all information held on?

For myself the idea of having one card with all the info on it, sounds great and sounds useful, but it would only ever be voluntary.

Again, it will be interesting to see what readers think.