Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Green Room, Altrincham, Review

Can hardly wait till my next visit to this bar and live-music venue, The Green Room in Goose Green, must be one of the hottest spots in the Altrincham area.

[Image description: outside & inside The Green Room; © the latter]

***** What a stomping evening! Enjoyed the Veuve Clicquot served in eponymous glassware and ice-bucket. Thrilled to the sounds of Vienna Blood (or one of their off-shoots). Met some lovely, affable folk including the delightful owners & bar-staff. A mixed crowd from youngsters to oldies and all us inbetweeners. Great atmosphere. So much fun! %D

[Image description: video of Vienna Blood from 2012 on YouTube ©]

The House Restaurant, Altrincham, Review

My review for Tripadvisor (q.v.) of The House Restaurant in Goose Green:

[Image description: inside the dining area; © T.H.R.]

4 of 5 stars

We managed to get squeezed in at eight-thirty. Barring a minor contretemps with the wine waiter, the staff were efficient, helpful, polite and friendly.

The Emotivo rosé Prosecco, which accompanied well all three of our courses, was a find and worth a trip just to quaff a glass!

[Image description: a tantalising dish; © T.H.R.]

My thanks especially to the chef who produced absolutely mouth-watering and scrumptious dishes that worked around my (true) food allergy. He prepared the most perfect scallops: neither soggily undercooked nor overcooked to a rubbery consistency; they just hit the orgasmic "oh" mark. Silenced by the scallops but not by the lamb. The lamb-meat, without being the lightest bit bloody (not that I should have minded) was juicy, tasty and one's knife just slid through the flesh without the slightest effort. We shared the lightest of light Eton-Mess for dessert.

At around £75 a wonderful repast and well worth every penny. We shall return soon. I cannot recommend this bistro enough. %D

Visited September 2013
    • 4 of 5 starsValue
    • 3 of 5 starsAtmosphere
    • 4 of 5 starsService
    • 5 of 5 starsFood

Saturday, 14 September 2013

BlogSummit: Part 4

"5 things to make your food blog better"

Emily Leary, & @amummytoo.

"The more you cook, the better you become…and the more creative your output"

Look for the community and get involved and that way one will pick up lots of tips and ideas.

Give credit and link to those whose recipes one uses. Ask first if one wants to reproduce a whole recipe.

Use props to give a more complete ambience for the dish.

Sort out the white-balance on photographs - remove the blue sheen. White needs to be white.


"So you want to be a food blogger"

Helen Best-Shaw,, @fussfreehelen

Are you passionate?

Do you love food?

Do you think about food all the time?

Content: recipes; restaurant reviews; baking; cooking; etc.

Do you want to be niche? Vegan; gluten-free, etc.

Ensure recipes do actually work.

List the ingredients in the order they are to be added.

Never plagiarise!

No need to be intimidated by photography.

One can work with brands, but it can be boring both for oneself and one's readers. If one goes to an event then add a conclusion at the end including some comments about the event and its relation to the recipe being blogged about.

BlogSummit: Part 3

According to the agenda we are to expect:

"an inspiring session with Sarah McIntyre, who will talk about how she uses blogging to build a community, to keep creatively inspired and provide a platform for her very successful illustrated books."

As a big fan of children's literature I was sitting expectantly, eyes and ears totally zoned in. Sarah is an author and the illustrator of Morris the Mankiest Monster, You Can't Eat a Princess and her latest release, Oliver and the Seawigs. She is based in London at The Fleece Station. Her blog Jabberworks can be found here.

She uses illustrations to engage readers of her blog and help direct them to her commercial allies. For example using an internet neme.

If one sets oneself a challenge, it stimulates the creative juices. For example blogging hourly about what one is doing. Interacting day-to-day with another blogger. Suggest folk draw, write, photograph badly so that it takes the pressure off people from thinking things have to be perfect or not attempted at all. If one can create a sense of fun, folk will engage.

Mine old diaries for ideas. When abroad produce travelogues of details, sights and sounds. If attending an event, give it a simple blog title that readily relates; folk tend to look for articles that most match their search criteria.

Video can also attract folk as well as being something to stimulate one's own creativity. Sarah used iMovie.

Getting folk to vote on items can increase engagement with one's blog. Similarly step-by-step photographs of how one reached one's goal also is of interest to individual's as this can be a learning experience.

If one wishes to leave an impression, always dress to impress, as photos might be taken and appear online.

Link to one's other social media.

Acknowledge the input from readers.

If one must criticise, be constructive. Negative criticism could lead to an awkward situation in the future.

WoW, Sarah was so full of enthusiasm and overflowing with ideas and notions. %D

BlogSummit: Part 2

Ruth Arnold, @geekmummy, then came on to talk us through the most important elemants in blogging.

"Cool Geeky Stuff you can do with your Blog…
…that isn't as hard as you think it is"

There is a whole page on the blog giving supporting material on her blog.

Images: resize images to below 640 pixels as this makes downloading one's blog-page quicker for the user.

If one stores too many photos on blogger for example one can easily end up exceeding the free storage limit.

Watermark the images to protect copyright.

One can check whether one's content has been copied elsewhere.

Reblogging: try to be courteous and request permission prior to doing so; ensure if someone reblogs one's own page that they include the link back and can follow back one's own blog.

Blog-button's or blog-badges can be used on other folk's blogs to link back to one's own blog. There is a tutorial on TOTS100's site.

Back-up! It is possible to break your blog, data can corrupt or one's blog can be hacked. On Blogger for example one can press the "export" option to ensure there is a back-up copy for emergency use.

Analytics or statistics can be useful. For example what is one's most popular content. If one uses more than one analytics, one will get different results. The highest is always right!

Consider obtaining one's own domain name - find a friendly geek to assist one in setting up (initially only). If you are on blogger, do not purchase via Google as renewing can be difficult. Find others to recommend their favoured domain host.

BlogSummit: Part 1

Firstly we were welcomed most warmly by Sally to BlogSummit and then introduced to:

Elizabeth & Ruth from Volvo who are here as part of their blog-outreach; and,

Katy & Jen from Cow & Gate to launch their new fruit pouches.

"How to Deal with Criticism and Promote Your Book
(or, how to be a tosser* and still sell things)

[*tosser in British English has several meanings around the multiple uses of toss; the implication here is 'masturbator' cum 'idiot']

Next up was hunky blogger ( & author, Ben Wakeling, @benwakeling, who advised us that he has not been a tosser since marrying despite being named "the highest tosser in the land"

He advises to write as if no-one is reading; simply scribe for oneself, express your own thoughts.

Whilst he appreciated the positive comments, he was stung by the very occasional negative strike. One needs to develop a thick skin if one does not already have such. There is no need to respond. Try to embrace criticism.

"It is okay to offend people." We have freedom of speech in the UK. It is NOT okay, however, to harass somebody. Folk like to be riled. Controversy stimulates. But debate requires that one believe in what one says so that one is able to justify the position in debate.

The amount of attention a post receives is not proportionate to the amount of effort put in to crafting it.

Blogging may eventually lead one to write a book. But on a blogger's funds, one probably does not have much of a budget to market an e-/book. So, one needs to have a very focused mind.

Write a marketing strategy.

Tweet sensibly.

Add the personal touch - such as including a hand-written note.

Find someone renowned to write a comment about it.

Send copies where they will make the most impact.

Blogging should not be a chore; it should be FUN! %D

BlogSummit Agenda

Alarm has ensured I awoke in plnety of time to have the essential two coffees to wake me up, catch up on social media, shower and prepare to travel. I am so excited, as I learned so much from last year's BlogCamp, which I live-blogged (q.v.) during the event, and I am again hoping to do similarly.

I have been sent an agenda - but till I actually get to the venue and the session opens - who knows what might happen! Here it is, in case you have misplaced your own copy...

"The day will kick off around 10am with a welcome from our sponsors, Volvo Cars and Cow & Gate. The support of these brands is what allows us to keep BlogSummit free of charge for bloggers, and we encourage you to say hello to the brands attending on the day, if they're relevant to you! 

In the morning, we will be opening up with an inspiring session with Sarah McIntyre, who will talk about how she uses blogging to build a community, to keep creatively inspired and provide a platform for her very successful illustrated books. 

Next up, Ben Wakeling will be sharing his story of working with a charity to co-publish a book, as well as offering insights on dealing with online negativity and criticism. 

Ruth Arnold of Geek Mummy will be running a tech clinic, with tips for bloggers at all levels on blogging essentials that aren't as tricky as you might have thought! From backing up your blog to personalising your blog design, we'll have user-friendly tips to make you a fully fledged blogging ninja.  

After lunch, our sessions will kick off with a panel of expert food bloggers sharing tips on how to present food content that will get your readers' taste buds tingling. Our bloggers will be sharing tips on working with food brands, presenting recipes, getting great photos for your blog - and much more. 

Finally, we'll be looking at the ever-popular issue of working with brands, with tips from the Tots100 and Foodies100 team, followed by a brand panel featuring PR guests who will be chatting about opportunities to work with their brands and clients.  There will be plenty of time for Q&A and sharing of your own experiences in this session."

[Image description: TOTS100 logo]

Thanks to TOTS100 for inviting me! %D

By the by, the Twitter hashtag ( # ) for the event is #blogsummit.

See you all shortly - I'm the shy, disabled guy...

WoWpetition Facebook Farewell

I have certainly enjoyed working on the WoWpetition facebook page.

I have learned about myself that I am far more tolerant and patient than I had in the past thought myself to be.

I have learned so much about social security, disability issues, welfare reforms, and support groups, and so on; more really than I ever wanted to know. But needs must in the current situation under this ConDem government.

However, at the same time I have been saddened to be an on-looker to internecine squabbling between disabled folk who really ought to be working together for the common-good.

Trolling has also been an eye-opener. There are obviously some nasty individuals out there who take some kind of twisted pleasure out of attacking disabled folk.

I am a firm believer in karma, in that if one lives by the sword one dies by the sword. Still, I should rather such offenders were blessed with discovering the errors of their ways and making attempts at atonement for their own amour-propre.

Still worse miscreants have to be the neo-liberal politicos and their acolytes in the main-stream media (MSM). They deliberately lie, misrepresent, fail to represent or cover. I am shocked at the bias at the BBC. I had previously always considered it a bastion of impartiality. I now realise I was misguided. Thankfully we have #Channel4News, RT & Al-Jazeera, and, to a lesser extent, ITN. Obviously there has been bias on this page towards the Indy, Guardian and Mirror - but out of necessity. Most national newspapers at some point though have had a plug or two.

Of course the worst malefactors are the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) and their off-shoot fiefdom, the Office for Disability Issues (ODI). Caitiff, insincere, hypocritical, mendacious... downright evil to be honest! The unquestioning wraiths carrying out the edicts of their respective high commands deserve their own circle of hell, methinks. Today I heard of a case of a person being sanctioned for applying for too many jobs! Madness. It’s Kafkaesque incarnate.

The folk of these fair isles have compassion - for furry creatures and those that might be trapped in fishing nets. Very laudable to be sure. But the nation has demonstrated its misanthropism and insecure tribalism: the sick; the dying; the disabled; the elderly; the poor; children; the starving; the homeless; the unemployed; the underemployed - all are looked down upon as well as being metaphorically and in some cases literally spat upon. Shameful and shaming! My view of my own people has forever been altered, and not for the better.

[Image description: the writer in wheelchair sporting WoWpetition T-shirt, leaflets, placard & paraphanalia]

I am in a fortunate position to have some essential social care provided by my local authority. Despite an unsupportive family, I have a brilliant network of friends and neighbours. Social media itself has given me access to a whole new world of possibilities. I can do this lying on my back in bed, in the dark, at times that suit me and fit around my various conditions, illnesses and issues.

I am so grateful to have had the chance to inform, provoke, stimulate, support, answer, share, joke and so on with so many of you lovely folk.

I do hope that some of you will decide to follow me on twitter, @criquaer, or continue to occasionally take a peek at my blog, .

You also have the option to follow the offical twitterfeeds, @wowpetition and @wowpetitionchat; view the website; or, get involved with chat/discussion at .

Tonight I leave the page with 1,352 page-likers, that’s 19 new folk this week - actually it’s more as, unusually, we had a few unlikers, circa 4.

The #WoWpetition signature tally stands at 54,164; meaning we need 45,836 to reach our 100K target by 12th December. Anything you WoWriers can do to attract signatories, is appreciated. Keep sharing fellow WoWers! The campaign continues…


Colin-Roy Hunter aka criquaer

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Perilous Politics of Envy

I am disabled - hence the "crippled' in the name of this blog. I also live in the Manchester area (in North-West England). Our local newspaper is titled Manchester Evening News, which is locally and within the press sector abbreviated to M.E.N.

[Image description: a screen-shot of part of the cited article]

Today the paper published an article authored by Jennifer Williams and entitled: Revealed: Human cost of hard-hitting welfare cuts in Manchester.

Below is an extract:

The first detailed study into how benefits changes are hitting Manchester has revealed the ‘human cost’ of swingeing welfare cuts.

New research warns of overcrowding, new social ghettos, soaring levels of debt and mental illness – with minorities bearing the brunt.

The analysis – by the council, housing providers and Citizen’s Advice Bureau – examines a string of policies, including cuts to legal aid, the ‘bedroom tax’ and the benefits cap.

It finds minority groups – including the disabled, women and certain ethnic groups – are being hit disproportionately hard by the policies.

As far as I am aware this is the first time our respected rag has printed such an item since the creation of the UK's ConDem coalition government. Most of the the twenty-odd comments were rather reactionary. This stimulated me to submit the following commentary.

"I am simply appalled by some of the comments listed under this article; but wish to express my gratitude to M.E.N for publishing the item.

It looks like many commentaors (sic) have bought into the insidious polemic in the mainstream media: the rhetoric of divide & conquer and the politics of envy.

I am non-partisan. I am disabled. I worked for the Civil Service in the 1980's where each year under Thatcherism I was a recipient of annual salary cuts due to below-inflation 'rises'. I retrained as a teacher, a job I loved until disability forced me to retire on ill-health grounds. I have no regrets: life took me where it took me.

However, I have no compunction about claiming the benefits to which I am entitled. I paid and still pay thousands in taxes (income tax, duties, VAT, etc.) as well as National Insurance Contributions. There's a clue in the latter's nomenclature - 'insurance'. I paid into the scheme and now, due to circumstances beyond my control, I am making claims on that scheme; in the same way one makes a claim against car insurance, home insurance, health insurance, credit-card insurance, warranties, and so forth.

Some commentators seem to be under the impression that I should exist in penury just because I claim social security payments. Instead of envying that to which I am entitled, I should suggest such commentators support moves for all citizens to be paid a living wage (not to be confused with the minimum wage) including our pensioners, who are some of the worst looked after in Europe. Additionally, I should suggest that folk sign up to campaigns, such as, that are attempting to ensure that our treasured social protections are not removed.

British culture has long had the values of fairness and justice at its heart: I sincerely hope we don't lose such treasures. %)"


A commentator retorted:

"Colin, the majority of people have no problem with people like yourself. As you I and millions of other people have a problem with those who have not contributed put it you have "Paid In". 
a single bean, but expect to be given something for nothing.
I managed to retire at 48, having been sensible and making provision to have a decent pension. I hate to think how much i have paid into the system, and will continue to pay into the system as i am taxed on my pension.
The only benefit i will get is the oap, thats if the goalposts are not changed in the next 15 years or so."

So I responded:

"Disabled children have not paid into the scheme; youngsters in local authority care have not paid into the system; qualified unemployed youth and young adults cannot get jobs, so cannot pay into it either; then there are the carers who save the nation a fortune (usually estimated at £Billions) in care costs, their insurance is paid for them by a grateful nation.

On your logic, these folk should not receive benefits to which they have not directly contributed.

I iterate that this is against British values of fairness & justice."