The Library Courtyard Project

Courtyard Concept Drawing

(NB: The project was suspended when the Covid project struck as heritage project funding was re-directed to securing the future for museums and heritage attractions reliant on visitor income. It will recommence when that ceases to be the case – Summer 2020)

If you missed the April consultation on the Library Courtyard project, here is a quick digest of what it is about.

I am taking a lead for Knowle Society on this project, working with colleagues to support the Council’s Libraries team to transform the Courtyard. The forced removal of the tree last year, for health and safety reasons, and the uneven surface of the courtyard leading to the Library entrance, have given the opportunity for a complete re-think.

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Stunning Sand Sculptures

Typical Sand Sculpture

For anyone lazing on the Algarve in summer, a trip to see the annual International Festival of Sand Sculptures in Pêra should be a must.

Each year an army of sculptors shape and carve around 40 tons of sand into a startling outdoor exhibition of people, places and scenes, embracing the jaw-dropping, the admirable and the downright humorous.

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Dickens with Distinction

Bleak House - First Edition Illustration

The BBC has just released onto iPlayer, until late 2019, all fifteen hours of one of their greatest productions of a classic book, that of Bleak House.

I must confess that it is my favourite classic, and, at 928 pages, one of the thickest. Some rate Christmas Carol as their favourite Dickens, and certainly is highly accessible and its central, elongated metaphor matches the spirit of Christmas (as it were) perfectly. Others prefer Oliver Twist (oh, Lionel Bart, what did you do?), David Copperfield or Great Expectations, but these are simpler, lighter fare than the Towering achievement typeset through the pages of Bleak House.

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Bowled Over in Budapest

Parliament Building, Budapest

In a trip that took in Prague, Vienna and Budapest, I expected the last of these to land in the ‘after the Lord Mayors Show’ category. How wrong I was. It was Budapest that surprised and delighted the most and stuck longest and fondest in the memory.

Exactly why that it is I remain unsure. They all have their list of sights to tick off, bridges to cross over wide rivers that flow through, individual atmospheres, foods and music. Budapest, though, was the quietest and most serene, the least packaged and the most compact. Unlike the Castle in Prague and Stephansplatz in Vienna, particularly, there was nowhere in Budapest where it was a grind to penetrate through the crowds.

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The Baxterley Rose

Meal - Rose Inn

Traditional comes with a capital ‘T’ in this rural haven of rustic pub grub. The antithesis of Scandi-interiored, lino and aluminium gastro, the fare here comes oak panelled over carpet. So reminiscent is it of the good ol’ British pub of yesteryear, you expect to see an old geezer flipping beer mats in the corner whilst a waitress buzzes around delivering chicken in the basket. In other words, this is no chain pub, conveyor belting out the same menu as three or four other clones within an half hour’s drive.

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Gorgeous Gower

Rhossili Beach

Buffeted by the breeze coming off the Atlantic, some of the most magnificent beaches in the country, spectacular cliff walks and narrow country lanes with tiny villages that seem to take you back in time, this must be Cornwall, right? No, this is a relatively unsung corner of Wales, accessed from the M4 by navigating between the urban, industrial sprawls of Swansea and Llanelli. This is the Gower Penninsula. Read More

Just Chicken and Chips?

Chicken and Chips at the Farm“It’s just chicken and chips, after all” said an enthusiastic, fresh faced young server at one of KFC’s increasing number of branches in the first episode of the BBC documentary “Billion Dollar Chicken Shop” this week.

Whilst the programme revealed an impressive commitment to customer service and quality standards, it tended to confirm one’s worst fears about the animal husbandry behind the scenes and general healthiness of the deep fried fare.

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Must See Once

Scene from 'Once'
Thinking of a Spring trip to London? Why not consider adding in a visit to the Phoenix Theatre on Charing Cross Road to catch a performance of the musical ‘Once’.

If you do, you will need to be hard of heart indeed not to leave the auditorium with the warmest of glows at the end of this innovative staging of a charming tale.

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Served in a Fine Manor

A huge mistake has been made. Having dined at Hogarth’s in Four Ashes last night for the first time, or rather for the first time in the many years since the former Moat Manor was purchased by the Hogarth family a decade ago, I know that I should have tried it before now.

It has been, at the end of its long drive and the far side of our local horsey country, out of sight and out mind when it has come to those ‘where shall we go tonight’ decisions

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Loving Loulé

Loulé - Market and Arcade

Loulé – Market and Arcade

In booking a holiday for this year I have broken the habit of a lifetime and agreed with the others chez nous to return the same place for a second year running. I have only ever returned for a second time to a few select places (Wyoming, Colorado, New York, Lanzarote, Amsterdam) and then only after a number of years in between.

However, I am persuaded that there is sufficient not yet seen and done in the Algarve to return and enjoy more of its welcoming ambiance, particularly inland in general and around the delightful, less spoilt resorts of Portimeo, Tavira and Olhao.

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Nicola’s Silver Violin

Nicola Benedetti’s Silver Violin is getting worn out, at least it is at my place.

Silver VoilinI am already wearing out a Christmas present, ‘The Silver Violin’ by Nicola Benedetti, who must be the stand out violinist of her generation and one with a wide cross genre appeal.

Who can forget her performance of ‘Loch Lomond’ at the Opening Ceremony of last year’s Commonwealth Games (, from one minute in, and on her current album ‘Homecoming’)?

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