May is the real heart of an English spring. It is the month when we realize that winter is finally over and summer is before us. The birds and bees are doing that which birds and bees do, blossoms and blooms are fresh and bright. The month holds such promise,…and yet it could also be cold and wet and windy. Who knows what this May holds in store ? We can only hope that our first open day of the year at the New Hall Water Mill will bless us with a fine day. On Sunday the 13th we invite visitors to come and see the mill working as it has for the last three centuries. Grinding local grain by water power into fresh bread making flour. There is no charge to visit , a field to park in and a tearoom to enjoy. If you have not yet visited us please try this year, we are open on the second Sunday of May, June, July, August and September. You will not be disappointed. On the June open day we will be taking a walk into the Valley to search out and try to identify the many varieties of wild flowers that now have established in a couple of the meadows. Come and join us and see what we can discover. The range and diversity of wildflowers seems to have increased greatly since the mowing regime of “cut and collect” has been used over the past couple of summers. This means that while seed has time to drop to the ground ,the cuttings which would enrich the soil if left ,are collected and used for hay. Wildflowers dislike good soil and thrive on poor ground.
Whilst on the subject of poor ground, I trust that you voted in the local election. Boring as it seems, it remains the only voice that we civilians have. If you do not vote then do not moan. Remember, we get the politicians and government that we deserve, local or national
New Hall Water Mill
This article appeared in the May 2012 edition of Walmley Pages Magazine, delivered to 8,000 homes in
Walmley and surrounding area’s
The average adult in Sutton Coldfield now sleeps for less than 7 hours per night, but most of us need 8 hours. Even a minimal reduction in sleep affects your mood, efficiency and energy levels. Sleep is made up of stages and cycles which restore and refresh the mind and so, to stay healthy and perform optimally, getting 8 hours sleep is a necessity rather than a luxury! (more…)
The news in the property market makes pretty grim reading. Average prices have fallen slightly over the last year and are predicted to stay flat in 2012; mortgage lending is still subdued while minimum deposits remain high and sales volumes are close to an all time low. The strange thing is it really doesn’t feel like that to me; it feels like spring is in the air. (more…)
What a traditional March we have just had. Worked at the Mill in hot sunshine, walked in freezing sleet across the Valley with the grandkids, went to work in thick fog, took my vest off and put it back on , been warm and wet, cold and dry. Now we have changed the clocks and I hope April is kinder to us all. We have just passed the spring equinox so let`s see if this spring lives up to our expectations (ignoring, of course, the last Budget!) Already the snowdrops and crocuses are over for another year and the daffodils are at their last gasp. Must just mention the Walmley Get Real group who organised last years daffodil planting. To all who took part many thanks, the village centre has enjoyed a great spring show.
Lots of things to remember this month. Let`s make a show of a few flags for the 23rd , St George`s Day. I realise that George is not a good role model , what with killing endangered species ( dragons ) and running off with maidens but at least he is ours , or Turkish or Maltese or whatever. Early Easter to celebrate in the usual way, Church and chocolate, buns and bunnies.
Down in the Valley the spring surge and urge is there to be seen and heard. From the increase in song from our many and varied birds (70 species so far) to the flowering of first the blackthorn , followed by the hawthorn. It always gives a lift to the heart of everyone who is alert enough to notice these subtle changes and rhythms. Remember that you have to get out there to fully experience and enjoy a real British spring, it only comes once a year!
This article appeared in the April 2012 edition of Walmley Pages Magazine,
delivered to 8,000 in Walmey and surrounding area’s
Unusual recipe for readers of Recommended Sutton Coldfield and Walmley Pages
1 tsp salt
100g peeled & chopped parsnips
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp fenugreek seed
2 granny smith apples
Method Start by making the parsnip puree; toast the cumin, fenugreek and coriander seeds in a pan, then add the chopped parsnip, milk & cream. Cook this mix until tender, then puree in a food processor until it is smooth and lump free. For the apple salad, just grate the apple on the coarse part of a grater, or cut into match stick sized strips.
Now for the scallops; mix the curry powder with the salt and season the scallops well, heat a pan until very hot, then add a little olive oil and allow this to come up to temperature. Add the scallops and cook for just one minute each side, then remove from the heat and allow to cool a little – 2 minutes should be long enough. Add the butter and lemon juice; shake the pan to emulsify the butter with the lemon juice. Serve with a little of the pan sauce and fresh coriander sprouts.
Daniel Jimminson Restaurateur
Recipe featured in Walmley Pages Magazine,
delivered to 8000 home in Sutton Coldfield
The appeal of a convertible is plain to see – good looks, especially with the top down, and the joys of wind in your hair motoring. Most of us need to use our cars all the time, though, and need practicality too – space for four passengers and their luggage, good build quality and reliability and, most importantly in this day and age, low running costs. Here are four ways to have your cake and eat it.
Volvo C70 (2006 to present) Based on the S40, the C70 is undoubtedly the best looking Volvo you can buy. It has an all singing, all dancing folding metal roof, all the safety features you could wish for and the ride, handling and refinement of a luxury saloon. There are some hugely powerful Turbos in the engine line up but I’d go for Volvo’s excellent 2.4 litre D5 diesel; it delivers all the performance you could wish for but still manages 40mpg around town. Better still, there’s plenty of room for 4 adults and a commodious boot. A 2007 model with 75k on the clock can be yours for a very reasonable £8,500. For: Looks, quality, refinement, performance Against: Antique dealer connotations
BMW 320d Convertible (2000 to 2005) I still maintain that the last generation 3 series was the best that BMW has ever made and the convertible version totally proves my point. It is a stunning looker, particularly with the top down, and still sets the benchmark today as an all-round dynamic package. The silky smooth 3.0 litre straight six is hard to resist but I’ve gone for the most excellent 2.0 litre diesel which will punt you up to 62mph in 9.7 seconds but still give better than 50 mpg on a run. They are surprisingly expensive; £8000 puts you in a 05 plate with a hefty 85,000 miles under its belt. For: Lovely looks, great to drive, very economical Against: Last year’s model
Audi A4 Cabriolet (2000 to 2005) Ever since Princess Di bought one, the A4 Cabriolet has been an Audi icon. Underneath the celebrity glamour it is actually a very good car. It combines timelessly elegant looks with peerless build quality and precise handling. Audi makes the best diesel engines in the business and the 2.5 V6 is one of their finest. This is a car that will hit 140 yet still average 39mpg in mixed motoring. The Diana effect is still noticeable in the prices; you will need to stump up £8k for a 2004 version that has covered 60,000 miles. For: Style, build quality, performance. Against: Pricey, overly firm ride
Saab 9-3 Convertible (2003 to present) Saab has had its ups and downs over recent years but the 9-3 soft top has been a consistent success story. The styling is still crisp 8 years down the line and it retains several of the quirky features that Saab loyalists cherish so dearly. Mechanically it has been left behind though; the 150bhp 1.9 diesel takes a painful 11.2 seconds to drag it up to 62 and the scuttle shake and under steer are relics of yesteryear. On the plus side, it is a reasonably well built old bruiser and there is plenty of room in the cabin. It’s relatively cheap too, a four year old with a mere 45,000 miles on it will cost you £7,500.
For: A handsome old brute, Saab individuality, value for money Against: Poor performance and economy, handling
Have you been persuaded? Perhaps we will be seeing more convertibles in Sutton Coldfield soon.
This motoring feature appeared in Walmley Pages Magazine,
delivered to 8000 home in Sutton Coldfield
I first heard about Riga from friends who had been for a stag weekend there; like Prague and other ex-Soviet Bloc cities, it is well established on the lad’s stag circuit. Unlike my friends, I decided to go for a romantic weekend with my girlfriend and, also rather differently, we went in February when the temperature routinely plummets to -25°C. An act of madness? – let’s find out!
Riga is the capital of Latvia, a country I had never heard of, which lies on the other side of the Baltic from Sweden. Until 1991, it was part of Soviet Russia but it doesn’t feel like a Russian city, although you sometimes sense a world of gangsters and black marketers lurking beneath the surface. In fact, some of the bars are run by gangs and exist solely to fleece unwary male tourists – a pretty girl will get chatting to you and ask you to buy her a drink; when the bill arrives it will be for several hundred pounds. It happened to a friend of mine so beware!
The main tourist area is centred around the old town which is incredibly pretty and looks like something from the lid of a chocolate box. If you are into your architecture, it is apparently the best example of art deco architecture in Europe. There is a nice mixture of museums, bars and restaurants in the old town and it’s a lovely place to have a wander around. All of Northern Europe had been experiencing a seriously cold winter when we went and it was so cold in Riga that people were skating on the river. We knew what to expect though and had brought ski clothes along and it was actually good fun wandering around in the snow.
Latvia has its own currency, the Lati, and one of them is worth about £1.20. Everything in the old town costs twice as much as anywhere else in the city but, even so, a beer is still a very reasonable £2.40. We stayed in a small independent hotel in a lovely old building just outside the old town and it was charming and incredibly friendly. Our extremely comfortable double room cost just £48 per night. The restaurants in Riga serve just about every type of food you can think of, though quite a few specialise in Russian or Latvian food. On our first night we pushed the boat out and went to a place called Vincent’s and had a fantastic meal – not bad for £25 per head. The following night we went to a Russian place and ate our fill of stodgy but delicious grub, essential to soak up all the vodka they ply you with.
Our second day was taken up with a visit to the central market which sells all manner of things, many of them a bit dodgy, so I stocked up on suspiciously cheap Marlboros. The covered area of the market is built from a recycled hangar that used to house Zeppelin airships, not something you see in Sutton Coldfield. In the afternoon we did probably the most terrifying and exhilarating thing I’ve ever done in my life, went on a genuine bobsleigh ride. We were the two passengers in between a professional driver and brakeman. I doubt that they go at full speed but you still hit 80mph and it is a huge adrenaline rush – not for the faint hearted!
Riga is a great place for Sutton Coldfield residents to go for a short city break; just try to avoid the tourist bars and, if you go in the winter, make sure you wrap up warm!
This article features in Walmley Pages Magazine, Sutton Coldfield
I’ve recently watched the two episodes of Kevin’s Grand Design. Kevin McCloud, the Grand Designs presenter, has previously confined his efforts to observing other people’s attempts to build their dream home. Now he has put his money where his mouth is and has invested in a project to build 42 homes on a new development in Swindon. This development is not just about building a few houses; it is an attempt to build a sustainable “happy” community. Some of the houses are to be sold; can they be sustainable and still fetch the market price?
The sustainable features differed from a standard new build in a number of areas. Each house would have a huge “chimney” which was in effect a ventilation shaft. All the houses would be rendered in “hempcrete,” a highly insulating material which is also carbon neutral. The lofts were insulated with sheep’s wool which is sustainable but also bulky and expensive. Other eco-friendly ideas included a boggy common area that would soak up rainwater, a communal allotment and the concept of parking your car in the garden so that it didn’t clutter up the shared area in front of the houses.
The extra cost of the sustainable elements had to come off the budget in other areas; the kitchens were very cheap and nasty and there were no built in storage areas at all. The net result was that the houses earmarked for sale could not be sold at the break-even price of £160,000. As an estate agent trying to sell one of these houses a few years down the line, I’d have a number of problems. Hempcrete is an unproven product so any surveyor is bound to have issues with it. An upmarket kitchen invariably adds value and makes a house easier to sell. Family homes with no storage space are notoriously hard to shift and off road parking that takes up your garden is never going to work.
I love Grand Designs but if I want a few tips on property developing I’ll stick to Sarah Beeny.
Craig Brown – Estate Agent
Article features in Walmley Pages Magazine, Sutton Coldfield
The latest internet scam to affect Sutton Coldfield residents comes in the form of Android apps that contain illegal malware. What happens is this; you download a popular App such as Angry Birds from Android Market, which is Google’s version of Apple’s App Store. The download appears to fail but that’s okay as you haven’t been charged for it. What has actually happened is that you have just given your phone “permission” to send a text message that will add £3 to your phone bill. This is a fairly widespread problem; a security consultancy identified 27 apps on Android Market that contained this malware, its name is RuFraud, and estimated that they had been downloaded some 140,000 times. Google has now removed all the infected apps.
It was glaringly obvious that this problem was going to occur. Google has never vetted any of the apps that are listed on Android Market and even made a big deal of it, claiming they wanted to create an “open” marketplace. They may now have to rethink this strategy, particularly when you consider that Amazon has put its financial weight behind its own app market where every app is vetted before it can be listed.
Let’s put this latest scam in perspective though; admittedly, 140,000 people have each lost £3 and that is annoying, particularly for Google, but it is hardly the end of the world. Compare that to some of the other plagues that have stalked the internet over the years and it pales into insignificance. The most prolific internet scam that has generated the greatest losses has to be phishing which has been around for an astonishing 15 years. This is where you receive an email purporting to be from your bank or credit card company asking you to enter your account details, user id and password. These details are then used to transfer money out of your account or buy things on your credit card. Countless people have lost thousands of pounds through phishing scams; globally losses are estimated in the billions of dollars.
Then there are computer viruses, normally transmitted by email, that do anything from slowing down your operating system to wiping your entire hard disk, many of which seem to have been created simply for the malicious pleasure of causing the maximum amount of inconvenience to as many people as possible. Or what about malware – spybots, worms and Trojans that can hijack your computer and use it to send spam emails, or record your keystrokes, or enable someone to spy on every email you send or website you visit.
The thing is, all of these threats are receding and I put this down to three developments. The first is the creation of anti-spam software that is selective, effective and inexpensive. Computer viruses and phishing scams operate via email so anti-spam software greatly reduces the threat from them. Secondly, anti-virus software is now highly developed and free versions are available online, from AVG for instance. This means that even if a virus should evade your anti-spam software or arrive on a memory stick, it will be detected and quarantined before it can do any damage. Finally, anti-malware software is now extremely sophisticated and is usually incorporated in anti-virus software; Windows 7 and the latest version of Internet Explorer also have malware protection built in. Malware is not transmitted via email but rather via the internet – you can pick up a Trojan Horse simply by going on the wrong website – so this is a major development.
I admit that there are issues around social media these days but these are more to do with privacy than internet security. There’s a simple solution, don’t post information online that you wouldn’t be happy for anyone to see.
The Wild West was eventually tamed. It is my firm belief that one day the internet will be to.
Graham Iek – IT Consultant
Article featured in Walmley Pages Magazine, Sutton Coldfield
Smokers in Sutton Coldfield don’t worry – this article is not going to be another lecture about stopping smoking! You have to want to give up the cigarettes yourself; without a strong desire and determination to stop, you won’t achieve it, however much your partner would like you to. These days, we are all aware of the health risks that come with cigarette smoking; if and when you decide to quit, smoking cessation can occur with or without assistance from health care professionals or the use of medication, but there are a few things that can make life a bit easier:
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), in the form of patches, inhalers, gum, nasal spray, lozenges or microtabs can be really helpful. Your GP, pharmacist or your local NHS Stop Smoking Service can help you choose the treatment that will be most effective for you. This is dependent on many factors, such as how many cigarettes you smoke or whether you light up first thing in the morning. NRTs are a temporary aid to help you through the tough initial withdrawal period. Some smoking cessations treatments, such as Bupropion Hydrochloride are available on prescription only.
Cigarette withdrawal can also be aided with complementary therapies such as acupuncture, hypnosis and meditation. These can be used alone or in conjunction with NRT or other smoking cessation medications. Hypnosis has become known for its ability to change behaviours quickly by relaxing the mind enough to identify unconscious triggers. Acupuncture is a technique derived from traditional Chinese medicine that uses tiny needles to stimulate certain points on the body; for smokers, the idea is to help reduce cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms throughout the body. Meditation is intended to relax the body and refocus thoughts; it is claimed that meditation releases dopamine in the brain, a process similar to nicotine triggering, the relaxing feeling that smokers crave.
If you are ready to quit, well done to you! Keep strong and motivated and enjoy a healthier and wealthier 2012!
For further information see www.smokefree.nhs.uk
Article featured in Walmley Pages Magazine, Sutton Coldfield
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
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.
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.
Style Envy also feature in Recommended Magazine Sutton Coldfield
Pest control advice for Sutton Coldfield residents.
Now that we’re well and truly into winter the insects have by and large died off or hibernated, and the mice and rats have begun to seek warmth and shelter, and your house could well be a target.
Try to spare a few minutes for a quick look around the outside of your house and garage. Any gap that you can put a pen through is large enough for a mouse to get in and should be filled in with filler or cement.
Pay particular attention the rendering around pipes or cables, under door-steps, around drains, door frames, under doors, inside meter cupboards. Don’t just look at ground level either, because mice are very agile and excellent climbers.
Garages are a common place for mice infestations as they are easily accessible and provide warmth and shelter. Garage doors invariably have a gap underneath, and the fitting of brush or rubber type strip along the base is usually enough to keep them out. If the garage is attached to the house don’t forget to check the dividing wall for holes, cables and pipes too.
Mice can also enter your house from an adjoining property, usually under the floor or into the loft, into the wall cavity and then into your house. It would be virtually impossible to find every hole or gap between the properties, so it is advisable to give your home a thorough internal check too. Sutton Coldfield householders are also advised to check pipes and cables, boilers, airing cupboards, under the bath, toilets, and the base of walls particularly under kitchen cupboards, in fact any small hole you find should be plugged.
Prevention is the best form of pest control of course but if you already have an infestation the mice should be dealt with before the proofing of any holes is carried out. This is because having established your home as their home too, they will go to extraordinary lengths to get back in and they will either breach where you have filled or will find another way in.
Treating it yourself can sometimes be straightforward and baits that you can buy sometimes work, but mice can be very fickle, and a professional will not only have extensive knowledge of their feeding and behaviour patterns and the best places to bait, but also a winder range of more attractive and more palatable baits. Trapping usually has only limited success, as it is very random and may not eradicate the whole colony, and soon the infestation increases again. Many people think they just have a mouse but this is extremely rare as mice are very gregarious.
Mice infestations vary considerably. They can occur in the cleanest of Sutton Coldfield households, and less hygienic ones can get away with it. I’ve come across many with mice, who have lived in a house for years without any previous problems so please don’t think it could never happen to you. By taking these few simple steps you will considerably reduce the chances of suffering an infestation.
Complete Pest Management
Walmley Pages has been serving the local communinity in Walmley, Sutton Coldfield for 6 years. Promoting local businesses, events and news. Special thanks were given to Jeff Gilbert of Jeff’s Useful Shop who contributes an article each month, most of which will put a smile on your face although some have more serious content. Jeff is keen to promote our local parks and nature reserves in Sutton Coldfield and encourages us to appreciate the flora and fauna. The ethos at Walmley Pages is Run by Local People For Local People. Anyone wishing to contirbute an article, charity event or advertise can contact the editor Richard Barnes on 0121 351 6513.
For over a hundred years Rolls Royce has produced cars that are the last word in luxury, quality and exclusivity. Have you spotted any recently in Walmley or Sutton Coldfield? Naturally, they are extremely expensive but, if you shop carefully, you too can join the millionaires club and own a car that is also an investment. Here are the ones to go for:
Rolls Royce Silver Shadow (1965 to 1980)
As stately as the queen and as understated as a Barbour jacket, the Silver Shadow was the first modern Rolls Royce. This car was an exercise in craftsmanship; the Connolly hide seats were hand stitched, the burr walnut dash was hand polished and only the finest lamb’s wool would do for the carpets. The self levelling suspension gave a ride that is a match for a modern day Jag. Power from the huge 6.75 litre V8 was described as “adequate,” certainly enough to waft this hefty car along in near silence. Prices start at £2,500 but a pristine 1977 model with a scant 80,000 miles under its belt can be yours for £8k.
For: Luxury, presence, value, quality
Against: Doesn’t do corners, too many are used as wedding cars
Rolls Royce Camargue (1975 to 1986)
The Camargue is a 2 door coupe based on the floor pan and mechanicals of the Silver Shadow. The Pininfarina styled body is timelessly elegant and hugely luxurious. In 1976 this was the most expensive car in the world and the fact that only 500 were made makes it extremely collectible. Even so, I found a truly immaculate 1982 model with 64,000 miles on it for £43k. That may seem like an awful lot of money but this is a car that is only going to increase in value.
For: Glorious looks, immense style, a sound investment
Against: You’d probably never drive it
Rolls Royce Silver Spirit (1980 to 1998)
The Silver Spirit was a new car for a new age. The 80s were all about brash, go getting entrepreneurialism and this new Roller reflected that with its monolithic, in-your-face styling. It was as big as the QE2 and as luxurious as Donald Trump’s penthouse suite. The owner was more likely to be boss of his own company than a titled landowner and more likely to be behind the wheel than sitting in the back. Unfortunately, it was based on the same mechanicals as the Silver Shadow and retained the same aversion to corners and lack of performance. This might explain the falling rock depreciation – these days you can pick up a ’93 model that has been barely run in over 49,000 miles for £7,500.
For: Huge comfort, road presence, the bargain of the century
Against: Rather ugly, massive running costs
Rolls Royce Silver Seraph (1998 to 2002)
By the time the Silver Seraph came on the scene, Rolls Royce had fallen into Volkswagen ownership (they kept the Bentley brand and sold the Rolls Royce name to BMW). The engine was a 5.4 litre BMW V12 that finally gave the car the power it deserved. The electronics, equipment and running gear were all state of the art, but a lot of the craftsmanship that was a Rolls Royce hallmark had been lost. Visually, it was sleeker, curvier and more compact than anything that had gone before. Unfortunately, those compact dimensions also extended to the interior. You can pick up a ’98 model with a minimal 74k on the clock for £28,000; not bad for a car that cost £155k when new.
For: Looks, sophistication, ride comfort, road manners
Against: It’s really a high end Beamer
Tequila and orange juice are poured into a glass of ice. Crème de Cassis is then carefully added. Being denser, it falls to the bottom of the drink. A less alcoholic version can be made by substituting grenadine syrup for the Crème de Cassis. Serve with a Maraschino cherry on a stick.
Other spirits can be used to replace the tequila and pineapple juice can be mixed with the orange juice.
Why not relive the hazy summer days in Sutton Coldfield with this colourful cocktail.
Article provided by Walmley Pages Magazine, Sutton Coldfield
ome would argue that our weather has never been the same since we started putting things up in space – including tons of metal ‘cans’ and the odd (and slightly reluctant) chimp and stray dog. Others would blame the wrath of the gods demanding some sort of sacrifice, or even an aberration of the sunspot cycle. I had this very debate only the other night in the local pub when, after much mirth and nine pints of foaming ale, it was finally decided that Wayne Rooney was the most likely culprit!
As I write this, it is a gorgeous August day outside – perfect for lazing in a deck chair with an ice-cold drink and a decent paperback – but absolutely hopeless if you’re trying to nurture a newly planted border. I can’t remember the last time we had a consistent downpour to quench the ravenous thirst of my herbaceous borders. The Phlox and Helianthus are not looking good at all and most of the shrubs, such as Camellias, that enjoy a dampish root run are looking decidedly miserable.
Clearly I’m not the only keen gardener lamenting the lack of rainfall this summer in Sutton Coldfield and the rest of the UK, the topic is probably second only to the re-launch of Big Brother in the ‘irrelevant conversation’ rankings. People are also talking about an early autumn this year – presumably because all their trees and shrubs are busy shedding leaves to help preserve any last vestiges of moisture. Realistically, it is a persistent drought that we are experiencing but, thankfully, in most cases the damage is normally only temporary and most plants should recover next season with few apparent problems. In much the same way as last winter’s devastation of anything slightly tender, where plants have been left in situ they normally show dramatic signs of recovery given time.
The problem is what do we do in the future? Do we keep persevering with our typical English garden favourites, or do we throw the towel in and accept that we really have been “globally warmed?!” In that case, we might as well start stocking up on sun-lovers such as Lavenders, Cistus and a few Cactii for dramatic interest. Personally, I’m not convinced that our fair land will become the first European desert, but I do think that our weather has been ‘Wayne Rooneyed’ and we are in for more erratic and dramatic weather patterns. This shouldn’t mean that we necessarily have to change what we grow, but it will mean that we have to be more aware that we could get caught with our trousers down with intensely cold weather or, as is currently happening, longer periods of drought conditions. With a bit of judicial planning it will still be possible to garden the ‘English’ way and the use of organic matter in the soil, mulches and companion planting will certainly help fight the effects of reduced rainfall. Equally, by having the right sort of protection measures such as cloches and some rolls of horticultural fleece, we can save some of the more tender species, provided you remember to keep an eye on the weather forecast/ pine cone and don’t mind a bit of extra work to wrap your charges up nice and snugly!
Apologies to anyone who thinks I’ve just joined the predictable ranks of the “English Weather Whingers” – I try to be a bit different but, when it comes down to the welfare of my precious plants, then I probably do get a tad defensive. Not sure if it would help but I may even go so far as enlist the local Druid faction to organise a proper Rain Dance – partners please!
Garden Consultant and Rain Dancer
Article provided by Walmley Pages Magazine in Sutton Coldfield
During the first half of the twentieth century, people started using cars more and doing less physical jobs. Food shortages during and after the second world war meant a decrease in food consumption, but by the 1960s food became plentiful again and, within a decade, levels of obesity had risen sharply.
A problem that was originally limited to rich western countries is now sweeping across the globe. An estimated 500 million people across the world are now classed as obese. In the UK, one in four is currently obese and this figure is predicted to rise to 40% by 2030. Across the Atlantic it is even worse – a third of adults are already obese and this is expected to rise to half within 20 years. It is estimated that obesity-related problems now account for between 2% and 6% of health care costs in most countries.
With the increasing availability of fast food, this global issue needs to be urgently addressed. Researchers at The Lancet believe tough legislation is needed, such as a tax on unhealthy food and drinks and traffic light labelling on food. This would ultimately save money by reducing health care costs. Hungary has just introduced a tax on pre-packaged foods containing high salt and sugar content, such as crisps and chocolates; similar taxes are already in place in Finland and Norway. Restrictions on junk food advertising and school-based education are also recommended by the researchers.
So how will our health benefit if we reduce weight to within a healthy range? Being obese can put you at risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis in weight-bearing joints, sleep apnoea and heartburn and urinary stress incontinence.
Residents in Walmley are advised that a simple first step to reducing your weight is to reduce consumption of sugary foods and drinks and fatty foods, whilst eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. It must also be noted that under eating to achieve a ‘size zero’ figure is not a healthy aim. All things in moderation for a happy and healthy life!
Phoebe Hodge Further reading http://www.thelancet.com/series/obesity
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.
Nights are really drawing in and Autumn is upon us. This year the leaves started to turn to their fall shades in early August. This was a result of our very very dry June and July. It seems that the rest of the country was getting drowned while we just got drier and drier. However there seems to be plenty of food in and on the hedgerows for our feathered and furry cohabiters. How do blackberries, plums, damsons and sloes manage to be so juicy and plump eve when there is hardly any rain? It is one of Mother Nature’s miracles, like the turn of the year and the daffodils in the spring. Oh did I mention Daffodils? Funnily enough Getreal Community Group are again having a Saturday Daff Planting Day. They’ve got the Bulbs now all they need are the bodies to do the planting. Look out for the Gazebo in the village on October 15th, grab some bulbs and plant, complicated it aint. Last years bulbs were a delight this spring and you can add to our display for next year. The cycle path extension through to Pype Hayes and Eachelhurst Road seems to be a great success. A sunny Sunday stroll showed happy groups, all genders, all ages, all promenading a la continent. A delightful sight to see as part of our community. The Valley Boardwalk, in Newhall Valley Country Park, Walmley, has now been reopened and rebuilt thanks to this community. Many turned up and many worked. The sound of sawing and hammering was interspersed with the sound of laughing and coffee slurping. Not only is it a stunning achievement but a good time was had by all. It was a big task but we are a big hearted community. Pat yourselves on the collective back. (if it has stopped aching by now)
Jeff Gilbert – Jeff’s Useful Shop, Walmley Road, Walmley, B76
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.
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.
he departure of Steve Jobs from the position of CEO in August due to ill health puts Apple in something of a quandary. Apple is currently the biggest company in the world by market value so it seems absurd that one person can have such an impact on the business. However, Apple has been inextricably linked with Steve Jobs for most of its existence.
Jobs was one of the cofounders of the company in 1976 and oversaw the spectacularly successful IPO in 1980 which created 300 millionaires in the business. Next he headed up the team that developed the ubiquitous Macintosh which still forms the backbone of Apple’s offering in the PC and laptop sectors. A year later he was ousted by the board following a dispute with the CEO. He set up his own software firm, NeXT. Although Apple enjoyed a brief golden age between 1988 and 1991, by 1997 it was on the verge of bankruptcy following three years of heavy losses. Jobs returned as CEO and effectively saved the company, first by redesigning the Operating System around his own NeXT software to create a credible rival for Windows, then by going in to partnership with Microsoft to create a version of the market leading Microsoft Office that was compatible with the Mac.
The rest is history; the spectacularly successful iPod revolutionised the world of personal stereos, the ubiquitous iPhone made everyone want a smartphone and the iPad turned the tablet computer into the world’s must have accessory. But how much of this is down to the influence of Steve Jobs and how much is down to having good product development teams and simply being in the right place at the right time?
Jobs has delivered some basic but ground breaking ideas. Firstly, he understood the need to combine hardware and media. It was iTunes that made the iPod such a huge success and turned downloading music from an illegal fringe activity to the principle media of the music industry. The App Store was what made the iPhone the definitive smartphone because it allowed users to download numerous software applications cheaply and easily. It has also helped make the iPad the definitive tablet computer. Jobs also recognised that form is just as important as function. Every device Apple makes is sleek, minimalist and stylish – they are the Bang and Olufsen of the computer world. Finally, he realised that the way people use computers is changing; they are no longer just a work tool, they are a multimedia portal, a games console, communications device and much more besides. The iPad is all these things; just don’t try and type up a memo on it.
Most importantly, Jobs has never been afraid to take risks. Before the iPhone Apple had never made any kind of mobile phone; before the iPad they had never made a tablet computer. Every gamble Apple has taken in the past 10 years has paid off – and paid off big! Jobs is known for his single mindedness and his arrogance; it’s my way or the highway is his maxim and he is a tough taskmaster. He doesn’t compromise and he doesn’t learn from others; a good example of this is the way he pushed ahead with his own operating system at a time when over 90% of the PCs in the world ran Windows. Arguably, if he had adopted Windows in 1997 instead of developing a Mac compatible version of Microsoft Office, he would have sold a lot more laptops and desktops. Then again, perhaps he wouldn’t have created the mobile operating system that made the iPad and the iPhone possible.
My feeling is that Apple will become a much safer and more conventional company and the world of IT and media will be all the poorer because of it.
Amazing how a year can fly past. It is already September but it seems like only yesterday that we were anticipating summer. Kids back to school, holidays now just a memory, travel plugs back in that drawer and plans to be made for Christmas. Even our politicians will soon be back at work, for a couple of weeks at least. I wonder which bit of our lives they will want to fiddle with next? I suspect that the majority of us carry on and survive in spite of politicians not because of them. I think we are lucky in Walmley in our choice of city councillors regardless of their political affiliation. They are very much hands on and supportive of our efforts in the New Hall Valley. Recent work on the boardwalk rebuild has been part funded by the Community Chest, with our application endorsed by all three or our Newhall councillors. Other developments in the valley are as a result of the boardwalk fire earlier this year and have emerged from discussions with the emergency services. For example, the bridges over the brook are now painted in bright colours so that should a member of the public wish to phone in an incident requiring the attendance of Police, Fire or Ambulance the colour of the bridge nearest will be an easily communicated location. Also, the entrance under the rail bridge in Ebrook Road has been identified as the best way into the centre of the valley. A couple of sharp corners have been widened and strengthened and some overhanging brushwood cut back to facilitate the passage of any emergency vehicles. All of this work has been done by the Community Payback team. A great example of justice being seen to be done and completed to our advantage. Many thanks to them all.
Finally, have you got on your bike yet? The new part of the cycleway is now open from Penns Lane through to Eachelhurst Road and is an easy level ride or pleasant walk. Like I said earlier, we are lucky in Walmley. Enjoy.
Jeff Gilbert – Jeff’s Useful Shop