Country Ways, Devon holidays

I had to write a little bit about the place I’ve been staying in just outside Great Torrington in Devon, called ‘Country Ways’ .

I arranged a very last minute trip to the west country to try to find a relaxing space to do some thinking and a bit of work. The Country Ways web site came up with a late availability, and I thought it looked good. I was not mistaken – this is a collection of small cottage buildings within a farm that offer the visitor a really good standard of accommodation. The units are all converted out buildings, by the look of them, and inside they are very well appointed. My residence for the last few days has been the ‘Dray’ – big enough for two people, with one double bed a bathroom (en-suite) and a modest but very comfortable living area complete with kitchen.

The ‘resort’ (if you can call it that) also has a laundry facility, a gym, pool room (the table based game, not a swimming variety!) and a whole load of open space, swings and walkways, etc.

Located between Dartmoor and Exmoor, south of Barnstaple, it is ideally located for North Devon walking and trips to some of the best coastal resorts, such as Westward Ho! and Bude, amongst many others.

The units are self catering, so bring food! There is no supermarket nearby – the closest being in Torrington which is around 8 miles away. There is no nearby petrol station either – again, you go into Torrington. This suits me, but if you are hoping for all the mod cons of living in the London area, or any urban area for that matter, you’ll be left wanting! This is Devon, and life is different here!

Just to add, last night I was able to see more stars in the night sky than I can remember ever seeing – a truly awesome sight – no light pollution, just the outer spiralling arm of our galaxy. Wow….

Supermarket price madness

A lot is being said lately about supermarket prices. Mostly, it’s about the false claims on packaging to do with better value.

Today was like most other Sundays for me – I go shopping. And like most shopping days I end up on Sainsburys where I go through the rows of shelves looking for items I need.

Tomatoes in tins were the amusing items today. Actually, the price of tinned tomatoes was the issue.

Look closely at the image – you’ll see two prices. On the left is the price for a single tin. On the right is the economy pack of four tins together. You think you know the big pack will be cheaper, but just check…

Yup. It really does cost much more! And this is one small example of dozens I could have pointed out today.

Should supermarkets be held to account for this? Probably. Will they? I very much doubt it.

Jamie’s Italian, Westfield

Today I had the pleasure of travelling to Shepherd’s Bush in West London to visit the Westfield shopping centre. I am not a keen shopper, to say the least, and the prospect of walking arund a shopping mall doesn’t fill me with glee. However, there are times when it is important to do something that pleases your ‘significant other’, and today was that time. Or so I thought.

The plan for the day included lunch at Jamie’s Italian – a small chain of restaurants run by Jamie Oliver. Now, I rather like the cheeky chappie and enjoy trying out his recipes. I was actually thinking the day would be rescued by a trip to a half decent lunch stop. I was not disappointed.

Jamie’s Italian is a stand-alone building on the south terrace at Westfield. It is quite similar internally to the ‘Fifteen’ restaurant in East London, but not quite as plush. The menu is ample, with plenty on there for all tastes and as it turns out the service is also rather good, too. We didn’t have to book, and just walked right in. We were shown to a table almost immediately, and I’m glad we got there when we did – the place certainly began to fill up around 1pm, with customers waiting for tables for around half an hour.

So it was I found myself ordering a pasta dish of prawn linguine. It was simply awesome. Plenty of flavours, texture was great, enough to fill a good sized bowl and amongst the best lunches I’ve ever had! I can’t really explain the balance of flavours in this meal, but suffice to say there was a great blend of garlic and chilli, some fennel, a rich tomato sauce and the most succulent prawns… pasta was freshly made and the entire dish was just fab.

So, if (like me) you are a little reluctant to go shopping, but you enjoy a nice plate of food, I can thoroughly recommend a trip to Shepherd’s Bush. Imagine the delight when you actually suggest a visit to a shopping centre… she’ll not know what’s come over you, but you will be making her very happy, I’m sure. I think I’ll certainly be suggesting it again soon, and heading for lunch at Jamie’s Italian once more.

Nike Slingshot Irons on Test

It’s been quite a while since I last played golf with anything like regularity. In my last post I wrote about the new Nike Slingshot irons I was given as a gift, and the Taylor Made Burner driver that went with them.

For the last week or so I’ve been going to the driving range (the rather excellent Elsenham sports and leisure centre in Hertfordshire) and spending an hour at a time smacking golf balls up the range. So what’s the verdict?

The Nike irons are a joy to hit. Simple.

In the time since I last played regularly and now, I have lost some flexibility and probably picked up some bad habits. However, I was delighted to see the ball generally flying straight and largely to the place I intended it to go! As a guide, the seven iron was landing at roughly 150 yards and rolling on well past that. I don’t consider myself a long hitter by any means, so seeing a seven iron go past 150 was quite pleasing. I’m sure that in more experienced hands it would go even further, but I’ll settle for all I can get.

The five iron shot to about 170 and rolled on from there, and the hybrid irons were simply awesome. A hybrid 4 was reaching nearly 200, and the hybrid 3 was just a touch longer as far as I could see. It is actually quite difficult to assess the actual distance that far away – and I am only talking about where the ball landed first, not where it subsequently rolled to.

The Tour Burner Driver was frequently breaking 220, and at times I could have sworn it landed nearer 260 (but was probably 230).

My biggest issue was that I enjoyed hitting the balls so much I got through them at a rate of knots. The other slightly annoying niggle is that I normally have a very slight draw, but was pushing a lot of shots wide to the right (as a right handed player). The driver was prone to slice. I adjusted my grip, slowed down the swing (lost some yardage) and got some very straight and true shots. I don’t know about you but I’d rather use a 3/4 swing and lose 20 yards than be forever digging a ball out of the right hand side of a fairway.

I then took the pitching wedge out onto a pitch and put area, and was very glad I did. This wedge is superbly forgiving and I found I was more accurate with it than any other I had used before! Working from ranges of just a few yards to approximately 70 or 80 yards I was dropping the ball right on the apron of the green with apparent ease. If I knew how to apply back spin I’d be very happy to drop the ball right near the pin. I can say that boldly because I believe this pitching wedge allows me to be far more accurate. I can’t imagine I have somehow managed to get more accuracy through not playing the game for ten years…

All in all these irons seem to suit me very well indeed. They hit longer than I expected and they seem to be very forgiving. Having worked on my grip a little and stopped pushing everything wide, I am confident these irons will help me take quite a few shots off my game. A very, very minor issue is that the grip on the irons doesn’t have those very useful lines that help you form your grip consistently. This means I have to stop and think about the grip every single time, which itself is no bad thing. I still have much to learn about golf, and am in no way a ‘good’ player with a low handicap, but I would say if you are looking for some new irons, and think you’d benefit from some forgiveness, go and try out the Nike Slingshots. American Golf have them in stock, and should allow you to test them in store, too. I am very pleased I got them.

PRSformusic Respond to Parliamentary Questions, PRS complaints, Keep Music Free

Well, it seems to me that PRSformusic have failed to answer the questions asked in a clear manner, evading the essence of the question. It also seems that they may have mislead people in the answers they gave. I’ll happily stand up and be counted here – they *DID NOT* send a letter to my business before phoning up:

Before we call any business, as part of a licensing campaign, we always send a letter. Our letters explain clearly who we are, whom we represent and the licensing requirement. A typical licensing letter to prospective customers is attached as Appendix A.

And when they did call us, they *WERE* aggressive, suggesting most strongly that we would need a license come what may. Failure to purchase a license would result in action being taken against us. They did not enquire whether or not we listened to music, but asked whether we were aware that by listening to music in the workplace we were obliged to buy a license. Only later in the call did they bother to ask if we actually listened to music.

On the notion of double taxation (note, the question held the phrase in quotes, implying it was not a specific phrase, but a colloquialism):

Secondly, there is certainly no ‘double-charging’ when we license workplaces for the use of music, made by any means including radios. Copyright is a bundle of rights including copying, communication to the public (broadcast) and public performance. These rights are usually licensed separately, with a separate licence fee. To suggest there is ‘double-charging’ undermines the entire basis of the bundle of rights defined in the statutory framework.

So – evading the essence of the question, lets point out that it isn’t a tax. Where do PRSformusic state that they DO NOT collect money from radio stations for broadcasting copyright music? No… I didn’t see it either. So we are left wondering whether they collect from the station AND from the listener… a double collection if you will – a double ‘tax’ on listening to music.

On the question whether their activities have had any effect on reducing the number of people who now listen to music in the workplace:

There appear to be many reasons why commercial radio audiences have declined but we are not aware of any data or analysis that suggested that workplace public performance licences are an issue. Indeed, we have not found any published research on declining radio audiences which cites our licences as a factor.

I will say this again and again and again – it is *PRECISELY* because of your activities, PRSformusic, and the heavy handed way in which you are interpreting and applying the rules as you describe them, that has stopped me from listening to music at work. Period. I attribute this entirely to you, and your activities alone. It’s all very well quoting how good it is for people to listen to music whilst they work, but to encourage them and then charge them for the privilege is tantamount to obscenity, in my opinion. So as far as research goes, yours isn’t very good. There is at least one instance where your activities have reduced the amount of music in the workplace. I would guess there are many, many more examples. On the other hand, I bet there are untold numbers of plumbers, painters, chippies, sparks and other tradesmen who couldn’t give a flying one for your license fee… and still listen to music as they happily go about their otherwise very law abiding ways.