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Sutton Wakes Up to Spring

As we cast off the dark days of winter and emerge blinking in to the sunlight, what’s going on in Sutton Coldfield to make ending our hibernation worthwhile?
Time Travel in Sutton Park
First stop, as spring is asserting itself, is Sutton Park. A great way to explore the park is to take one of the Friends of Sutton Park Association (FOSPA) archaeology walks. Would you have known that the park (long before King Henry Viii gifted it to the town) was inhabited by our bronze-age ancestors? Or that over 800 years ago it was a prestigious deer park, owned by the earl of Warwick. Pick up the FOSPA leaflet which contains 3 different walks and charmingly weaves in these stories of old.sutton park
Springtime Arts
What to do in the evening after a bracing day out in the fresh spring air? How about a dip into a Turkish bath? At Sutton Arts Theatre, Neil Dunn’s ribald classic Steaming is running from 20th to 29th March.
The Royal opera House comes to the Empire cinema with an “as live” screening of A Winter’s Tale on 28th April and there is a great line up of other London productions following. It’s as near to the real thing as you can get, without the expense of trekking to London.
Also not to be missed, and with more of a local feel, is Swinging on a Star, a big band music night with the fabulous Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra at Sutton Town Hall on 21st March.
Made in Sutton
If your winter hibernation has left you more in a shopping frame of mind, choose Saturday 15th March to make your trip into the town centre. That’s when local arts promoters Made in Sutton take over the shopping centre, presenting a day of arts, music and dance activities to accompany your retail therapy.
This spring it’s all about getting out there and enjoying all that Sutton Coldfield has to offer, from the natural oasis of Sutton Park to the vibrant arts and culture of our Royal town. Enjoy!

This article appears in Recommended magazine, delivered free to 40,000 homes and businesses in the Sutton Coldfield and surrounding areas.


Bhujon – The most fabulous restaurant you must give it a try.

bhujon 2

When we stepped inside Bhujon Restaurant in Sutton Coldfield, we immediately knew that we were in for a great evening.

Whilst walking into the sophisticated Bhujon Cocktail area where diners can indulge in classic and a bespoke selection of cocktails. Our eyes were immediately drawn to the spacious and attractive dining area below that just oozes class, comfort and style.

As were a family of six we were seated in a booth which was ideal, it was our own comfortable segment of a larger impressive restaurant, we perused the menu and were given advice and recommendations from the helpful staff.

bhujon 1

It was nice to see not only a good selection of traditional Indian dishes but also some very innovative choices that were something a little different to what you would find elsewhere.

We chose a variety of starters from Lamb chops adraki perfectly cooked and spiced to Chicken Tandoori tenders, chicken delectably seasoned, the starters were a taste of what was to come as each starter was delicious and the attention paid to the presentation was exquisite.

The highlights of our main courses proved to be a Bhujan speciality Tawa Chicken Jalfrezi cooked with onion green pepper strongly herbed and spiced with home-made sauce, it arrived on a piping hot pan and was sizzling as it was placed on the table, it was simply the best Indian dish I have had in a long time. We also tried an old favourite Chicken Massala a mild dish which was perfectly cooked and full of flavour accompanied at the recommendation of staff by fresh okra.

There was a great choice of deserts I personally had the Caramel Royal which was the perfect finish to a great meal. .

Owners Mr Miah and Mr Zaman strive to offer the highest quality food with a first class ambience and excellent service, something they are definitely achieving. They are certainly bringing a new first class dining experience to Sutton Coldfield.

Bhujon offers a terrific dining experience for couples,  families, friends and  large parties.  It’s creative with delicious food, great service and stylish but comfortable setting, it really is a fabulous restaurant and we recommend that you give it a try

Bhujon Cocktail Bar and Diningbhujon 3

290 – 292 Lichfield Road, Mere Green, Sutton Coldfield, B74 2UG 0121 308 0930

This restaurant review appears in Sutton Coldfield Recommended Magazine, delivered to 40,000 homes and businesses in Sutton Coldfield and surrounding area’s.


Christmas Time in Sutton Coldfield

December already, and another merry Christmas is ringing in. Have you started (or finished!) your Christmas shopping. Are you planning a special night out? Or perhaps you are planning a less commercial, more meaningful celebration? Here’s a taster of what Sutton Coldfield has to offer this Christmas.

Christmas gift ideas

The Gracechurch Centre, Sutton Coldfield, under new ownership, will have the usual seasonal cheers with bright lights, late nights and lots of little extras to put pleasure into your gift hunting. It’s open every day and right up to the wire on Christmas Eve – apparently the traditional time for men to start their shopping!

Or for something completely different, start early, on 1st December, at the Sutton Vintage and Arts Fair in the Town Hall.  Find unique and quirky Christmas gifts, vintage and handmade clothes and enjoy some festive fun.

Christmas concerts and events

Sutton Coldfield Town Hall plays host to some musical extravaganzas in December including Musical Memories, Past and Present on Friday 6th December, The City of Birmingham Brass Band in concert the following day and two Family Christmas Concerts at 4.15pm and 7.30pm on Sunday 15th December, which promise to be uplifting and heart-warming in equal measure.

Of course, Christmas is not Christmas without panto, but this year the pantomimes are not exactly at Christmas! Snow White runs at the Sutton Arts Theatre until 15th December and Aladdin plays at the Town Hall from 14th January to 19th January 2014.

 

London comes to Sutton Coldfield

Fancy something a little more highbrow? A quiet revolution has been happening in cinemas across the country, where “as live” screenings of National Theatre and Royal Opera House shows are beating blockbuster films at the box office. The obvious hit for Christmas is the ROH production of Nutcracker on 12th December at 7.15pm, showing at the Empire and a number of other cinemas near Sutton Coldfield. Last year’s Nutcracker beat Skyfall in cinema box office takings!

 

Whatever your plans, enjoy a happy Christmas in Sutton Coldfield, and here’s hoping that 2014 is your best year ever

This article appears in Sutton Coldfield Recommeded, a local magazine delivered to 40,000 homes and businesses in Sutton Coldfield and surrounding area’s.


It’s Carnival Time in Sutton Coldfield again!

After fears that there would be no carnival at all in Sutton Coldfield this year, now there’s a bigger one than ever. It takes place over two days at the end of June, proving that this 50 year old event has a special place in the life of the community.

The fun starts on Saturday 29th June at Meadow Platt in Sutton Park with a giant children’s picnic. The will be food, fun and games for up to 200 local children and their families.

The Carnival is the following day, Sunday 30th June, and it looks set to be a vintage year with all the usual favourite stalls and activities, including the final of the WOW Factor singing competition and the Sunday Afternoon Laze acoustic sessions; plus the addition this year of a beach!

August Antics in Sutton Park

It’s a fantastic line up but we’re the first to admit that one carnival does not a summer make. So what else is happening this summer in Sutton Coldfield?

Look no further than Sutton Park. We sometimes forget how lucky we are to have this oasis in our midst; an historic landscape covering an area of over 2,000 acres and attracting more than two million visits every year. Special activities this year include the Sutton 6 Pack and August Antics – ranger organised events which will keep the whole family happy. Pop into the Visitor Centre at Town Gate to find out more.

Whatever the Weather

There may be the odd rainy day, not too many we hope; so what’s happening away from the weather? A trip to the newly re-opened library is a good start, where you’ll find a brand new children’s section and an exciting “Once upon a time” story area.

There’s a family festival at the town Hall on 16th June from 12pm to 4pm, called Mum’s the Word, celebrating family life. Also, check out the summer’s blockbusters at the Empire, Sutton’s wonderful art deco cinema.

There’s plenty going on, so enjoy your Sutton summer, 2013.

This article appears in Sutton Coldfield Recommended Magazine, delivered free to 40,000 homes

and businesses in Sutton Coldfield and surrounding area’s. 


Have a spectacular Sutton Coldfield Christmas

The festive season is upon us; the Mall is all a-twinkle, office Christmas parties are in full swing, and there seem to be carol concerts on every corner. To help you make the most of it all, here’s a roundup of some of the Sutton Coldfield Christmas highlights.

Started your Christmas Shopping?

Or maybe you’ve already finished it? Whichever is the case it is well worth heading for the town centre where the lights are sparkling and Christmas bargains are everywhere. On 14th December there’s the added attraction of the Christmas Farmers’ Market, where you can stock up on some special treats. Don’t forget that Sutton has many other lovely little High Streets, such as Boldmere, where you will find lots of independent shops with some fresh and unusual ideas for Christmas gifts.

Where’s Santa?

The most important question for children is “Will we see Santa?” Well, no fear, Santa’s here. He’ll be in the Mall all through December, right up to Christmas Eve – hope he’s got the reindeers primed for a quick getaway! After Santa, keep the excitement levels high with a trip to the panto; no need to schlepp into Brum, the Sutton Arts Theatre has a wonderful production of Cinderella, right here on our doorstep, from 7th  to 22nd December. There are also some great Christmas films showing this year at the Empire, Sutton’s 1930s listed cinema. Try the new Hobbit film, An Unexpected Journey; or showing right now is Nativity 2 – Danger in the Manger, a funny festive follow up to the original Nativity! movie, back in 2009.

And finally…

You’ve shopped, you’ve eaten, you’ve drunk, you’ve seen Santa and visited the panto. All that remains is…. a nice cold, ice cold Christmas dip in Blackroot Pool at Sutton Park. Any knowledge of this century-old tradition is strongly denied by the park authorities, but as of last year it appeared to be still going strong! However it is really only for the brave or the foolhardy, and a cosy Christmas at home sounds much more appealing.

To all our readers and advertisers, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

This article features in Recommended Sutton Coldfield, a local magazine and business directory delivered

 to 40,000 homes and businesses in Sutton Coldfield.


LOW COST CHAIR COVERS in Sutton Coldfield

 

First Impressions Last

If anyone knows how important first impressions are, it’s Gerry Bryan, owner of Low Cost Chair Covers.  Every day Gerry is providing Low Cost Chair Covers that look like a million dollars, for weddings, proms, parties and conferences around the West Midlands.

“That moment, when people walk through the door and see a venue in all its glory, is the moment the tone is set for the whole event” says Gerry.

A brilliantly simple and effective way to create that “wow” moment is by using beautiful chair covers which will bring a theme together and add class to any occasion.

“Our chair covers, loose or lycra, will fit almost every chair; choose white, ivory or black, plus a coloured organza sash, hood or bow to complete the look.”

It’s all in the name – or is it?

There is a clue in the name if you are worried about the cost.  It’s unbelievable but true; Low Cost Chair Covers are just £1 each, including the sash, to transform your wedding, prom, party or event into something that will be talked about for a long time afterwards.

That name is only half of the story, though. Low Cost Chair Covers are also professional venue decorators with over 15 years’ experience, and offer a design service for your whole event, including backdrops, table centrepieces, flowers, balloons and much more.

“We can dress the venue to create whatever theme or atmosphere you want” says Gerry.

“We offer a full venue decoration package for weddings, summer balls, parties and events.  Prom parties have been particularly popular in more recent years.”

Low cost just got lower by 10%!

Low Cost Chair Covers are offering an exclusive 10% discount for readers of Sutton Coldfield Recommended, for the following packages:

  • Prom Package: balloons, table runners and chair covers/sashes (starting from £17.75 per table based on 10 people per table)
  • Wedding package: table runners and chair covers/sashes

(starting from £13.00 per table based on 10 people per table)

This offer applies to confirmed bookings for events from 1st December 2012 to 1st December 2013. You will need to book by 31st March 2013 and a 30% deposit is all that’s needed to secure your booking.

Simply quote code SC310313 when you call, email or complete the enquiry form via the website. See the ad for contact details.

This article appeared in Recommended Sutton Coldfield a local magazine and business directory

delivered free to 40,000 home in Sutton Coldfield and surrounding area’s.


Social Media Good or Evil?

It’s hard to turn on the TV nowadays without hearing about social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. All large internet based public publishing services
allowing open communication between people, companies, celebrities and more.  Although still in its infancy it is the fastest growing phenomenon of the modern age. From inspiring revolutions and reuniting long lost lovers to breaking up marriages and fueling riots.  With the time old balance of good and evil it stands to reason there is always going to be an argument for and against social networking, so why are some people still so fearful of it? and does the good outweigh the bad?
It must first be noted that social media is only a reflection of individuals freedom of speech. If an individual spray paints his thoughts on a wall, would we blame the individual or the wall? A common perception is that people do not want everyone knowing what they are doing, however this usually stems from a lack of understanding. It is your choice to publish social media, if you don’t want people to know something then simply don’t post it. Problems occur however if a friend uploads a picture telling the world he is at the zoo with you, which is fine unless you are having a ‘sick day’ and your boss then finds a photo of your fun day out at the zoo. Far fetched
as it may sound many people have already lost their jobs due to cases such as this. But is this social media’s fault? Or does it stem from the the individual’s choice to be dishonest?
A recent advancement in social networking is Geo Targeting, this allows a user to tag themselves at a specific location (via gps) and is quickly being adopted by many companies for advertising. Word of mouth has always been the best form of promotion so when a girl tags herself at a hair salon for her 500+ friends to see this is priceless marketing. For this reason many high street companies are now offering discounts and offers for tagging in at their location. Although if the same girl then mentions what a terrible haircut she received at the salon then this could clearly have an adverse effect. So is it worth the risk? Through experience in providing social media solutions to a number of companies the same question is always raised ‘Do we really want users talking about us online? My response is always the same “Those users are talking about you anyway, maybe even geo tagging themselves there as we speak.” A quick search of a company name often proves this. Social media simply provides the means to engage with these people allowing you to reward the good comments and even turn around negative views. Monitoring social media is usually a better option than ignoring it.
Social media is less than a decade old and has not shown us all it has to offer just yet but its effects on companies and individuals cannot go on being ignored.  There are many arguments both for and against social media each right in their own way, but whatever the correct answer there is no stopping its growth and no way
of predicting what it will evolve into next.

 

 

This article appeared in Recommended Lichfield Magazine


Love Lane Interiors – Give your home some love

“Love Lane interiors would DEFINITELY love you to save us a whole page in your new Lichfield edition of Recommended Magazine.

Fantastic news is we have had such a great response from the Sutton Coldfield one!!!!!!!!!!!

Can’t wait for the next edition to go out!”

(more…)


Recommended Lichfield Launch

After three years of publishing Recommended magazine in Sutton Coldfield and following many requests from our loyal advertisers we have just launched Recommended Lichfield.

The first edition has been printed and delivered to over 19,000 homes including Lichfield, . Kings Bromley, Alrewas, Fradley, Armitage, Handsacre, Shenstone and Whittington. Testimonies are already being received from happy advertisers proving that Recommended Magazine is going to be equally as successful in Lichfield as it has been in Sutton Coldfield.

Recommended Lichfield will keep readers up to date with events in Lichfield and surrounding areas and also include articles of general interest.

Only reputable business’s with a proven track record can feature in Recommended Lichfield, of you know of such a business or trades person, please call and let us know.

We are now taking bookings for the September quarterly editions of Recommended Sutton Coldfield and Lichfield magazines please call soon on 0121 351 6513 as spaces going fast


Active Camps in Lichfield

If its high octane activities your kids are after aspire Active Camps could be the answer for you. They’re Ofsted registered and run throughout the summer break in Sutton Coldfield, Solihull, Bromsgrove, Lichfield, Hagley and Coventry. Each day is packed with sports and physical activities ranging from basketball to dodgeball and from electric quad bikes to circus skills. Furthermore in this year’s Active Camps your child can also try their hand at some Olympic and Paralympic themed sports such as fencing or archery. Children can also pick from specific sport camps like, Razzamatazz, Ian Taylors Football Academy, Chris Woakes Cricket Academy and Dance Beats Academy. Activities run from 10am-4pm and wrapped around care from 8am-6pm. For further information and bookings visit http://www.activecamps.co.uk or call 08455 08 27 34.

The Active Camps are just one of many services aspire Sports have to offer. To find out more information about Active Learning or PPA Cover and many more services Aspire have to offer go to their website http://www.aspire-sports.co.uk/

This article featured in Recommended Lichfield Magazine


Fun Fitness Found In Lichfield

Hi I’m Kate Shaw and I’ve been working in the fitness industry for over a decade now. I’ve seen it all come and go, Step, Pilates, Aerobics, even Hoola Hoop, I’ve taught them all. I am aware more importantly, what people enjoy doing, and what actually works! 

So Zumba, is getting everyone talking, and I can see why.  It is actually based on Latin type music and has the ‘fun’ element to it, and of course it’s quite dance orientated. I’m so excited that I’ve got the chance to combine teaching Zumba and Salsa together with my background experience of working in top International Spa resorts. I currently run http://www.SalsaPeople.co.uk dance company. 

You will find me wacky, chatty, and very outgoing I love meeting new friends and I’m looking forward  to getting you into that swim suit and looking great for those hot days of summer.  If some of you have already done Zumba great! However I am offering that little bit extra to my Zumba program, mainly because, if I had a penny for everyone that asks me ‘how do you get your tummy that flat’, so one of  the  tracks  will be doing  ‘abs blast’  if you are up for some fun and fitness do join me for Zumba in Lichfield.

Lichfield Football Club, off Eastern Ave, Brownsfield Rd, Lichfield, WS13 SBT (look out for the Zumba/Salsa sign on the side of the road and turn in on the same side as the sign.  Classes are:- 7pm Zumba 8pm Salsa  Kate  www.SalsaPeople.co.  0750 655 7692

This article appeared in Recommended Lichfield Magazine


Sutton Coldfield Olympic Games

The 2012 Olympic Games isn’t just being celebrated in London….it’s on its way to Sutton Coldfield!

The Sutton Coldfield Community Games (SCCG 2012) will commence on Saturday 14th July with an opening ceremony involving local school children and all residents of Sutton and the surrounding areas are invited to join in the fun.
The event to be hosted at Wyndley Leisure Centre and Clifton Road Youth Centre near Sutton town centre will offer visitors the opportunity to take part in up to 50 sporting, musical and cultural activities throughout the weekend of 14th and 15th July.

Visitors to this FREE event will be able to watch demonstrations or try out Zumba, football, tag-rugby, sailing and tae kwon-do, amongst many other others activities.

Dennis Kennedy, founder of SCCG and a long-term Sutton resident has been planning the event for nearly two years in a bid to celebrate Sutton’s rich source of sporting and cultural clubs. Now, with the backing of Birmingham City Council and the financial support of Sutton Municipal Charities the event promises to be a spectacular opportunity for everyone.  Dennis himself comments,

“I have lived in Sutton for most of my life and have really benefited from the many sports clubs on offer. This is a chance for people who run clubs and societies in Sutton to show off what they have to offer local residents.”

If anyone is interested in finding out more about SCCG, please visit the website at www.sccg2012.co.uk

This article appeared in the June – August 2012 edition of Recommended Magazine


Easter Fun at Bathrooms4All

Come and hunt for an Easter Egg at Bathrooms4All, Erdington from 6th – 9th April.  Everyone who finds an egg will receive a free Easter Egg and, if you order in store after finding one you’ll receive an extra 10% off your order (in addition to the sale discount!) or a free bathroom mirror!  Kids and parents will both be happy.  So if you’re looking for a new bathroom and some Easter fun, why not visit Bathrooms4All in Erdington.

Bathrooms4All, 1163 Chester Road, Erdington, Birmingham, B24 0QY     0121 382 0403

Bathrooms4All are featured in Walmley Pages and Recommended Sutton Coldfield


Sutton’s Kidz UK Sponsored Skydive

A number of willing volunteers will be jumping out of an aeroplane at 10,000 feet and freefalling for 5000 feet before floating back to earth on a tandem skydive.  They are doing this to help raise the funds to enable Andi Markham and the Sutton Coldfield based KidsUK team to continue to share the great message in the unique, fun and unforgettable way they do with thousands of children in our local schools.  Many children in Sutton Coldfield will recognise Andi and of course his friends Jack and Grandad. They’re hoping to raise £2000 by doing this.

Can you help?  You can donate online by visiting www.KidsUK.org

Can You help by becoming a KidsUK SkyDiver Yourself?  (There are still a couple of SkyDiver places left. For information please email Andi on info@KidsUK.org)

Kidz UK appreciate any support you are able to offer

 


Style Envy in Sutton Coldfield

 

There are few of us who don’t look forward to having our hair cut and styled, a perfect manicure or a spray tan. A little pampering makes everyone feel wonderful and is worth its weight in gold.

However, people lead such busy lives it is not always possible to visit a salon when you work until late or have small children. There are also many people with limited personal mobility or without transport.

After four years working as a hair stylist in a salon and spa, Siân Bridges of Sutton Coldfield, decided that everyone deserves an ‘elite’ experience.

She explains: “Style Envy was created for busy people and those who aren’t able to travel or arrange childcare. Our client base includes executives who work long hours, older people who are unable to leave their homes, and small children whose parents work full time.

“I believe everyone deserves to be pampered and think of us as inclusive – not exclusive. We offer everything you would expect from a luxury salon in the convenience and comfort of your home.”

Although the variety of services and products is extensive, Style Envy pride itself on a full range of pamper packages for weddings, proms, and special occasions. The Sutton Coldfield team will even travel to wedding venues to ensure brides look perfect throughout the day.

Hair Style Envy Aveda-trained stylists use only Aveda hair products, which are made from plant and flower extracts and completely natural. They specialise in ‘hair up’ for special occasions and offer an impressive range of styles for all lengths of hair.

Nails Style Envy manicures include Shellac varnish, which is applied like a polish, set under a UV lamp, and lasts for up to two weeks. Most importantly, it doesn’t dull, smudge, chip or damage the nail and can be removed easily.

Body Style Envy use Sienna X, which is the leading tanning system in the UK. It contains moisturising ingredients that nourish the skin and is available in varying strengths.

To make an appointment or find out more about Style Envy packages: call 0121 308 4196 or 07712  671161 email sian@styleenvyuk.com or visit www.styleenvyuk.com

Style Envy also feature in Recommended Magazine Sutton Coldfield


IT’S A CHALLENGING TIME FOR THE CANCER SUPPORT CENTRE

 

 

It’s that time of year when peoples thoughts turn from cosy night’s in front of the fire finishing off the Christmas chocolates to bright mornings and summer holidays.  And the realisation that this year they may have over done the festivities yet again.  So what to do about it

 Why not sign up for a challenge and raise funds for the Cancer Support Centre – a local charity based in Sutton Coldfield, working to help local people affected by cancer. 

Ann Mckeown, Fundraiser at the Cancer Support Centre says “There are probably lots of people out there thinking about the need to tone up and slim down this year. They may even be thinking about ‘challenging themselves’ in some other way.  It’s also a challenging time for the Cancer Support Centre.  We moved to new premises in Sutton Coldfield, February last year and extended our opening hours so knew we would be able to support more people.  However new client numbers are up over 40% and we have already provided more treatments so far this financial year than we did in the whole of the previous year. So it’s putting a real strain on our resources.”

 The Cancer Support Centre is asking people if they have set themselves a New Year’s resolution if they would also add a charity challenge to this as well and raise some much needed funds for the Cancer Support Centre.  There are lots of ready made opportunities that people can take part in.  For example the Great Midlands Fun Run 2012 opens its registration for this year’s event on Friday February 3rd and the Cancer Support Centre has a small number of guaranteed places for the Birmingham Half Marathon later in the year.  The Centre would also love to hear from anyone who may be undertaking a more gently challenge as they can help with ideas and materials such as sponsor forms and posters.

Ann says “We need to raise £110,000 this year in order to continue to provide support, advice and complementary therapies to the many local people diagnosed with cancer this year.  It’s a been a challenging year in lots of ways with high and low points but without more funds the number of people we can support will always be limited.  So if anyone is signing up for the Great Midlands Fun Run don’t forget to support the Cancer Support Centre.”

 To find out more about how you can help The Cancer Support Centre, Sutton Coldfield and local people living with cancer call Ann Mckeown on 0300 012 0245 or email fundraising@suttoncancersupport.co.uk for details of the latest activities.


OLYMPIC SWIMMER URGES SYNCHRONISED SUPPORT FOR 2012 ST GILES HOSPICE SOLSTICE WALK

A 2012 Olympics hopeful from the Sutton Coldfield is encouraging women across the region to grab some glory of their own this summer by taking part in the St Giles Hospice Solstice Walk. Synchronised swimmer Yvette Baker has begun the official countdown to St Giles’ biggest single fundraising event of the year by calling on women to sign up now – and help raise thousands of pounds for the care of local people living with cancer and other serious illnesses. The 2012 Solstice Walk, sponsored by Lichfield-based Florette, the UK’s leading prepared salad specialist, is a high-spirited night-time 9-mile stroll through the streets of Lichfield taking place on Saturday 23rd June. Yvette (20), who is from Sutton Coldfield, says: “Coming from the local area, I’m well aware of the superb work that St Giles Hospice does for people in need – and the Solstice Walk is a fantastic opportunity for women to get together, have a great time and raise money for a really worthy cause.”

 

The Solstice Walk is open to women aged 16 and over, and entry is £15. To sign up, visit http://www.stgileshospice.com/solsticewalk, calling Jenni Dawson on 01543 432542, email jenni.dawson@st-giles-hospice.org.uk.


Travel – Goodbye to Ag Nik

Does anyone in Walmley remember the TV advert that features a chorus of alarms going off at 5:00 AM immediately followed by a stampede of German holidaymakers going out to put their towels on the sunbed? Meanwhile, a plucky Brit saunters out to his balcony and hurls his Union Jack towel so that it arranges itself neatly on a sun lounger. Sadly, the art of dawn sunbed reservation is alive and well, only now it is the British who are the culprits.

 

I mention this because it was probably the only black mark against my family holiday to Agios Nikolaos in Crete. We stayed the Hotel Hermes   located on the seafront near the centre of town. It was built in the 80s and it has vast sweeping lobbies and foyers occupied only by the         occasional sofa. Our suite was equally vast and featured flat screen TVs, a double width balcony and a separate bedroom for the kids. The Hermes is a trifle bland, though reassuringly efficient, but this was easily countered by the view over the vivid blue sea to the towering mountains across the bay. From my  balcony I could look down on the bustling port and watch a procession of cruise liners dock and then promptly sail away again.

 

The food in the hotel restaurant was good quality if uninspiring, but this did not matter because five minutes’ walk away was the centre of town and literally hundreds of restaurants. During my stay I enjoyed lobster, lots of freshly caught fish, a passable steak and the inevitable meze, all at reasonable prices by English standards. Ag Nik, as it is affectionately known, is a strikingly pretty town. It is built around a lake which is actually a lagoon connected to the harbour by a narrow canal. The lake is surrounded by cocktail bars and restaurants and is home to a Heath Robinson array of fishing boats. I cannot think of a better place to sit and watch the sun go down while sipping a Long Island Iced Tea and pondering what to have for dinner.

 

Although there is a disco boat that returns noisily to the   harbour each evening, packed to the gunnels with slightly intoxicated teenagers, Ag Nik is by no means Crete’s answer to Ibiza. In fact it is a resolutely middle class resort and decidedly cosmopolitan; I even encountered several examples of that very rare thing, a French tourist outside of London. I was puzzled by the plethora of shops selling Prada handbags, Rolex watches and even fur coats – hardly standard tourist tat. The mystery was explained by the presence of Elounda, one of the most exclusive resorts in the Med, a few miles up the coast. Ag Nik’s two main beaches are spotless, sheltered and surrounded by a pleasing plethora of bars and restaurants. Better still, there is not a jet ski hire or sunglasses sales tout in sight.

 

Crete has plenty to offer to the inveterate sightseer. We hired a car for a day, promptly got lost and discovered just how mountainous the island really is. Some of the mountain passes are truly hair-raising but the views make it worthwhile and the villages remind you that Crete had a culture before the tourists came. Eventually we made our way to Knossos where they have excavated an entire 3000 year old city. Sadly, little was left standing and it was just a  jumble of old stones; we didn’t stay long. A more worthwhile excursion is a visit to Spinalonga, a medieval island fortress that was used as a leper colony until the fifties. It is a poignant and slightly eerie place, fascinating to look round and you also get a boat trip and a swim.

 

So it is not goodbye to Ag Nik, but adieu. I will return someday soon.

 

Howard Clemmow

 


IT and Media – Hack Attacks

For the past couple of weeks the media has been dominated by stories about the hacking scandal. Of course, this story is all about the illegal hacking of voicemail on mobile phones rather than computers or websites, but that isn’t to say that hacking websites isn’t a major issue at the moment. In fact, as part of the phone hacking scandal, the Sun’s website was hacked and a false story about Rupert Murdoch being found dead was planted on the site.

Of far more significance is the hacking of the Sony PlayStation site a few months ago in which the account details of over 100 million users were taken. More alarmingly, thousands of credit card details were also allegedly stolen. At the same time, one of the CIA websites was hacked as was that of SOCA, the Serious Organised Crime Agency. The question is should Sutton Coldfield residents  be worried?

On the face of it, there are serious grounds for concern. Millions of us use internet banking and, with the unstoppable growth of online shopping, there are countless online credit and debit card transactions every day. Surely, if it is so simple to hack into commercial websites, we are at constant risk of having our money stolen. In reality there is no reason to panic. The first thing to consider is the motivation of the people doing the hacking. Most of the large scale attacks reported in the news recently have been performed by a group called Anonymous, a loose alliance of hackers located all over the globe. In the past couple of years a faction of Anonymous called LulzSec has emerged; LulzSec claimed responsibility for the Sony attack, hacking the Sun website and several others besides. The hackers’ aims are political rather than criminal; invariably they are targeting the organisation that owns the website rather than its customers.

The next issue is the level of security on the websites that are targeted. Sony was hacked by means of an SQL attack, a fairly unsophisticated technique that has been around for years. To have credit card details stored on a site with such a low level of security is not going to inspire a lot of confidence but Sony argue that the primary purpose of the PlayStation site is to enable users to play games against each other, not to conduct ecommerce. Internet banking has an extremely high level of security. As well as username and password protection there is usually a one time code security device and, in addition, most banks also provide free anti fraud software to stop the baddies getting their hands on your hard earned loot. Ecommerce sites are similarly secure. As long as there is a padlock sign to the right of the URL bar you can be confident that the site is pretty much un-hackable. Once again, most banks and credit card companies offer additional security software; Capital One, the credit card provider, is currently working on security software that will be future proof for the next twenty years.

Of course, if someone can steal your card details without your knowledge, from the Sony PlayStation website for instance, they could potentially use your card to buy goods and services online. First they would have to get through the anti fraud security and, even then, the liability for any losses would lie with your bank or card provider. The greatest danger still lies in fisching, sending fraudulent emails to get Sutton Coldfield residents to provide their account details. Remember, no bank or card provider will ever send an email asking for your logon details. The only people who are really at risk from the hackers are the owners of the websites who may well not want their dirty laundry aired in public as Wikileaks is prone to do. It is little surprise that Anonymous and Wikileaks are closely aligned.
Graham
IT Consultant


Travel – Tequila, Tradition and Tentacle Tacos

Mexico is a collision of different civilisations and their traditions. From the Aztec Mayan Ruins and Colonial towns to Spanish oriented music and dance, you will definitely get value for money when it comes to Mexican culture. Cancún has transformed over the years from a small fishing town to Mexico’s most renowned visitor destination since Acapulco. It boasts searing sunshine, white beaches, Margaritas, Tequila and Pina Coladas! Although it is a sunbather’s paradise, I was venturing to a part of Mexico that promised to have retained its authentic feel whilst still attracting the tourists from around the world, including Sutton Coldfield.

Playa del Carmen has kept its buildings almost all ‘low rise’, retaining the local town feel. Amongst the global brands are boutique hotels like Luna Blue, La Tortuga and Fusion that are well worth a cocktail visit, even if you are staying elsewhere. Despite the resort catering for huge numbers every season, Cancún’s fishing village heritage is still evident and is mirrored heavily in the work produced by a number of artists exhibiting there.
The south of Cancún is much more cosmopolitan, so you really have a style to suit all; however, neither extremity beats the history and architecture of colonial Valladolid. You can even choose from salt and fresh water snorkelling lagoons at Xcaret and Xel Ha, such is the variety on offer. Tempting as it may be to lie on the white beach and roast, I cannot advocate travelling around and exploring enough; within an hour you could be in a fishing village or a cocktail bar and, from there, visit colonial churches and even ancient Aztec ruins.

‘Playa’, as the locals call it, is the perfect place to kick back and relax with a Tequila ‘boom-boom’ (a shot containing Tequila, Grenadine and Lemonade slammed down in front of you) followed by a Pina Colada. The food is abundant and wonderful; hotels usually provide a 24 hour food and drink service but if you are feeling adventurous there is plenty to choose from: La Cueva del Chango has a fabulous outdoor jungle setting for the restaurant and Playa Maya serves up a tantalising Octopus Taco!

Aside from the historical exploration, there is an ample selection of organised day trips on offer. We chose one based at a theme park, organised by Xplor, which boasted 2 miles of zip wiring, driving a 4×4 through the jungle and cave rafting. Health and safety is really kept to a minimum so you can get on and have some fun but, just for the record, hitting two trees and a couple of rocks is pushing it when defending your driving ability.

Leaving Mexico, and dreading the eight hour long flight home to Sutton Coldfield, I wondered whether I had forgotten something. The region has variety in a way I have never found in just one country before and its past is so well preserved that you can plainly see each stage of its development. I kept going through in my head the details of each and every temple, town, village, lagoon and beach I had visited but, somehow, it always feels like Mexico has a little bit more tucked away, ready and waiting for your next visit.

Carrie Cartwright-Owen


Fuerte-not so ace-Ventura?

Corralejo, in the north of the island, has a main strip not unlike Blackpool that comes complete with a veritable extravaganza of Chinese, Indian and Italian restaurants; you would have to walk at least fifteen minutes to find paella. When you do finally reach the end of the glittering runway, you are rewarded with views over the marina which melt the trip down the promenade into a distant memory. Go to the top end of the town with its white stone buildings, small tapas bars and yachts at every turn and you realise that this is where the brochure pictures were taken.

If you are looking for lush, extravagant evenings in  traditional restaurants, then you are in the wrong place. Thinking we’d made a terrible mistake, we wet-suited up and flippered our way down to the beach where my whole attitude changed. Within minutes of starting our snorkel we   spotted Parrot Fish, white and Zebra Sea Bream, Sargo and a Culebre (an eel that looks just like a sea snake!) Fuerteventura, literally meaning strong wind, is  perfect for wind surfing, kite surfing and sailing. Once you have hurdled the porpoise-like, russet coloured bodies on the beach, the coastline is a cocktail of vessels, sails and boards with which you can harness the area’s best asset.

After a few days of water sports our legs were aching. We had tried to get onto a coach trip to Jandia on the south of the island, but   unfortunately this was too complex an arrangement for the hotel staff. Luckily the car rental people were much more agreeable and we were behind the wheel of a Nissan Micra before you could say ‘shoddySpanishholiday’. As chief map reader, I decided to shun the main roads in favour of the scenic route. Driving on the island is very much like an extremely  limited safari, goats everywhere and a few   camels tied together by the side of the road with the occasional chipmunk squashed in the middle. Our progress was broken only by my partner’s occasional whimpering as we climbed rapidly and realised that we really should have hired a 4×4. Quashing this thoroughly non-British attitude we continued, at times in fear of our lives, onwards and upwards. The reward was impressive; a vast, empty national park complete with bronze statues of Ayos and Guize and views over the sea to the land masses beyond.

Reaching Moro Jable, and contemplating events over a beautifully grilled bream at Leo’s fish bar, I felt somewhat cheated that its Palm Beach presentation was not mirrored up North. I am very open-minded; I had looked for canaries with my camera, eaten goat (fatty lamb), tried the local speciality (unbelievably salty baked potatoes) and yet I still couldn’t figure out why Fuerteventura is a year in, year out favourite destination for Sutton Coldfield residents.

It’s fair to say that the North has three attractions; the Sirena beach bar for its  seafood and sumptuous  Moroccan décor, the water sports and the unconscious sense of the comic. Only in the North would you be  introduced to a man who dubs himself a wine connoisseur, after describing his tipple as “er, red.” They are comfortingly generous with spirits measures though, especially in el Blanco café – supplier of the strongest Mojitos known to man. Maybe this is         deliberate as everything did seem a little easier on the eye as we walked back. The West African heat is obviously addictive for  travellers who return year after year but surely that isn’t enough to be losing your head over? My advice is to enjoy the water sports and the sun but take the rest with a good pinch of Canarian salted potato.
Carrie Cartwright-Owen


Tresco: Every Little Helps

The Isles of Scilly are theUK’sTreasure Islandparadise. Tresco is located about 30 miles off the coast of Cornwall; just drive south west until you run out of land and then find a helicopter! This may sound a bit dramatic but, trust me, the journey over the beautifully sculptured granite islands affords you the best views of the white beaches and turquoise waters that you’ll see all holiday. This death defying arrival at the Heliport in Tresco captures the care-free attitude of the island perfectly. With no cars and a minute population, all of whom work in the tourist industry; you can absolutely leave everything behind you and relax.

Airport transfers are thrown in; a tractor towing a passenger trailer arrives, in its own time, to deliver you at your chosen spot of respite for your stay. Our cottage was gloriously wonky, sparkling white and furnished to the standard of a glossy interiors magazine shoot; we were well stocked in the throws, cushions and quirky kitchen equipment departments. Even though the weather was fine we lit our wood burning stove as soon as we arrived, simply because it was there. Soon afterwards we were forced to fling open the French windows for fear of boiling alive, only to discover that we had a spectacular sea view, something I cannot recall paying any extra for. 

Tresco has an art gallery, a gift shop, a pub and a post office and… that’s it! I certainly wouldn’t recommend this holiday to frequenters of another well known ‘white isle’. Despite being extremely quiet, for better or for worse, it is easy to see how this island has had such an impact on literature, art and film. It is dramatic in its range of botanicals and there is no greater example of this than at theTrescoAbbeyGardens. The tropical plant life, June’s average of 229 hours of warm sunshine and the crashing sea make for a real desert island experience. Optimistically, I bought some seeds of the island plant varieties from the gift shop; realistically, I can’t see them growing under the grey skies of theMidlands.

The island offers little in the way of choice restaurant-wise. If you want a selection of exotic global cuisine right on your doorstep then you’d better give the Scilly Isles a miss. The few pubs and hotels it does have, however, are excellent. The New Inn, Tresco, does pub food very well indeed and is enough of a restaurant to provide a luxurious break from self-catering; especially when it is your partner’s turn to cook. I was pleasantly surprised with the service too, I expected a ‘this is the best your going to get, where else are you going to go?’ sort of attitude but instead the staff were well versed in addressing customers’ needs and provided a wealth of advice on things to do during our stay.

The island is almost too beautiful as it seems to have had a Siren effect on ships throughout history. There have been hundreds of shipwrecks on the rocks around Tresco. You can visitValhalla, a strange and melancholic gallery of the figureheads recovered from these vessels. Although visually impressive, the stories behind them are poignant. This shouldn’t put you off from exploring the stunning waters around Tresco. The sailing club has dinghies or day boats for hire for competent sailors to use. 

Tresco may be tiny but it is the little things that make a difference. Every person we met, whether resident or tourist, was having a splendid time, everything we did turned out to be far better than we’d anticipated and every time we faced a longish walk we were picked up in a golf cart and whizzed off to our destination. The island is still owned by one family – you can tell because it was like staying over at a relative’s.

Article supplied by Recommended Magazine, the Sutton Coldfield community magazine advertising local business to the Sutton Coldfield public.


Golf coaching at the Belfry

 

Golf coaching at the Belfry – Recommended Magazine  Sutton Coldfield review

 As a beginner to golf I took the opportunity to have a 60 minute hi tec computer quintec video lesson at thePGAAcademyat The Belfry.

The lesson was with Derek Simpson who has been the senior teaching professional at The Belfry for the past 17 years and so I knew I was in good hands. We started the session with Derek asking me some questions about my past golfing experience and other sports I had played, he also enquired what goals I had in golf and if I would be able to practice and play as this is a huge factor in the development of my golf  swing. I warmed up then hit some golf balls with my pitching wedge followed by my 7iron which were recorded on the quintec computer video analysis machine. The cameras recorded my swing from 4 different angles, Derek and I then sat down to discuss the improvements to be made. We could quickly identify that my posture was poor and I was standing too close to the ball, I was shown some TOUR PROFESSIONALS on the monitor and could immediately see the areas to work on .Derek explained that if I improved my posture and got my distance better from the ball then my swing would have more chance of working in a natural way for me, otherwise I would find it very difficult to get any consistency. I was then given a routine to get my posture correct and to judge the distance I should be from the ball and continued to hit some shots with the video camera recording my swings. My new posture was compared to my old posture and I was amazed at the difference this made to my swing and the contact the club made on the ball. Whilst hitting shots under the guidance of Derek I was made to feel at ease with encouragement throughout the entire session .Derek wrote down some practice drills and points for me to work on with advice on how and when to practice .I really enjoyed the session and can understand why so many golfers use the quintec video analysis for golf lessons as you can compare positions with 50 tour professionals and see the improvements. If you are new to the game of an experienced golfer looking to improve I recommend having some coaching sessions with Derek on this machine because it was a fabulous experience.  

Feel free to email info@recommendedmagazine.co.uk for more details

Recommended magazine (Sutton Coldfield) review of The Belfry Golf Coaching

Richard Barnes editor


The Internet – coming soon to a TV screen near you

The Internet – coming soon to a TV screen near you

For a long time it has been possible to connect your computer to your TV using a variety of cables or, more commonly these days, via some kind of wireless connector. This is great, you can watch films you’ve downloaded off the internet without the hassle of burning them to a DVD or you can, of course, play your favourite computer games on a glorious 42 inch high definition screen – you can even play them in 3D. What you haven’t been able to do is watch one of your favourite websites, for instance YouTube, on your TV.

The advantages of being able to view the web on your TV are considerable. For starters, forget Freeview with its measly 50 channels, there are around 2400 free internet TV channels available, though admittedly many of them are foreign language or of limited appeal. If you want some higher quality TV output, you have all the more popular recent TV programs available through the likes of iPlayer, Four OD and ITV player. This frees you from the shackles of TV schedules and allows you to watch whatever you want at a time that suits you – the latest edition of Top Gear at four in the morning? Not a problem! You don’t even have to remember to set your recorder.

Then there’s the ubiquitous YouTube. Even if you subscribe to the appropriate Sky TV package and have 7 or 8 music channels available, you still have to watch whatever videos or interviews Sky are choosing to broadcast at the time. There is now a Sky channel available that allows you to choose from several thousand music videos and stream whatever you want to watch but it costs £4.99 per month. Compare this to YouTube where you can watch virtually any music video ever made, people filming themselves doing ludicrous things and much more besides completely free. All the online movie rental outfits such as Love Film now offer video streaming services so you can watch whatever film you choose without having to wait for the DVD to turn up in the post.

The big TV manufacturers are now offering internet ready models and these are starting to pick up a fair chunk of market share. However, the path they have gone down is to set up partnerships with the giant websites rather than simply make the whole of the internet available through your TV. Hence, a Sony Bravia IRTV will provide access to iPlayer, YouTube, Love Film and Sony’s in-house video channel. If you haven’t got an IRTV, you can achieve the same result using a PS3.

But what if you just want to view whatever is on your computer on your TV screen? The best device I have found is a Veebeam which retails for £99. This connects your PC or laptop wirelessly with the TV and operates in two modes. In desktop mode you just see whatever is on your computer screen. As well as all the advantages I’ve described above, this is also very handy for giving presentations at a venue where the only facility available is a television set. In play-to mode you can play a downloaded film from your computer in HD quality while still continuing to work on the laptop at the same time – handy when working from home and trying to keep the kids entertained.

There is an increasing concern about the convergence of TV sets and the internet. The main worry is children being exposed to adult material while just watching TV in the living room. The government is trying to introduce legislation where you have to actively opt in to view adult content rather than using parental controls to screen it out. I think this makes a lot of sense but, in the meantime, with a Veebeam the parental controls you’ve set up on your laptop also apply to your TV.

Computer advice atricle provided by Recommended, Sutton Coldfield community magazine advertising local business to the Sutton Coldfield public.