Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Rooms B&B, Lytham St Annes: Review

A traditional English country garden with a splash of contemporary modernism is what one first espies when approaching The Rooms: well, gardeners will. Architecture fans will probably note the late nineteenth century suburban Gothic façade. One enters an über-chic palace of modernity with carefully preserved original features enhanced by cooling Nordic hues. Our habitation for the night was room 3, which can be either a double or, for my companion and myself, converted into a twin.

A 32-inch wall-mounted television set with integral DVD-player faces the beds. What is rare, is that it is actually set at a comfortable height and angled perfectly for both beds - no-one needs to lean at an odd angle! Hanging space, storage, drawers and the drinks-making facilities are all hidden behind a floor-to-ceiling, well-padded headboard. There is a console-table serving as a desk cum dressing-table next to the window, above which hangs a large mirror. A DAB radio, tissues, water and glassware stand ready for use.

The beds have extremely comfortable mattresses, firm and supportive and comfy. Bedding linens are of a high quality and are soft on the skin. A choice of soft and firmer pillows or both are available on each divan.

Unfortunately, next to one of the main roads into the town-centre with double-glazing that failed to insulate from external noise, I hardly slept at all. When it was time to rise, I was totally shattered.

The completely tiled bathroom is a wet-room set-up with Grohe taps and Roca santitaryware. Plenty of thick non-scratchy towels were stacked available for use. Two towelling robes were also at our disposal.

Draw-backs and criticisms to the room:

* not sufficiently sound-insulated
* main light-switch only partially worked
* my bedside light-switch did not function at all
* no functioning light in hanging space
* two light-bulbs in the sleeping area were non-functioning
* thick cobwebs above the curtain-pole
* large cracks between tiles in en suite
* NO WIFI !!!

[Image description:
the breakfast room;

The breakfast menu is quite extensive. One helps oneself to juice and cereal. Tea-/coffee-pots are brought to table. My companion sampled the fishcake and ordered some toast; I the home-cooked ham & poached eggs. We were not asked if we wanted anything else. However, we were offered Bucks Fizz’, but we declined. The cuisine justly deserves its various plaudits.

On checking out we were not asked, “How was everything?” or anything similar. This makes me suspect that the proprietor is aware there are issues, as we were not asked for any feed-back or for reports of any issues.

We paid £125 for bed & breakfast, but most rooms are more expensive. Whilst The Rooms is quite lovely, it is certainly not value for money; we could have stayed in an hotel for a similar price.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Yishaq's Bequest

No poetry for months and then two poems in a row. My ditties tend to be my less than most popular jottings from a statistical perspective. Nonetheless, they are a part of me: of who I was and, thus, who I am.

This one was written about a decade ago about the person I have most loved thus far in my life-span. Today I publish it to mark the young man's birthday.


Yishaq’s Bequest

The mansion rose from the waters,
towering above the settlement;
the river, its moat;
on closer look
its wooden façade appeared
charred, ebonised
or covered in a layer of soot.
Even as he approached
the journalist was startled
for laughter was heard
tinkling, coruscating
cutting the pendulous air;
his jaded heart
let down the barriers,
shed its studied cynicism
a gleeful chortle
slipped out

Inside: blinds wouldn’t go up;
windows’ shutters remained stuck shut;
plaster flaked in discomfiting chunks;
soft furnishings grew mouldy;
woodwormed furniture lay collapsed
where once it had proudly stood;
no pictures hung on the walls;
gilded treasures and objets d’art abandoned,
all hideous grotesquerie;
chrome and acrylic minimalist items,
installed here and there,
festered unused, unpolished
and coated in dust.
The servants tottered, torpid:
marionettes with strings half cut.
Her ladyship and the paterfamilias,
in Edwardian morning dress,
greeted the reporter:
the lugubrious formalities
and so-called pleasantries
cut short by laughter -
the joyous sound of a child.

Behind the ark spread the mooring,
a flowerless alpine garden.
Freikörperkultur was the fad:
the writer shed his inhibitions
and all in which he had been clad;
he reposed on his front,
bathed under the bright clouds
in the unfiltered UV-rich light,
his milky skin warmed;
laughter suffused his being;
his tightly controlled humour relaxed.
And finally the child emerged:
laughing merrily;
yawned once,
and shivered.
The man jumped up;
grabbed a rug;
swathed the boy.
The blanket, holey,
let in the cold.
Laughter died.

A steam-train rumbled in;
quaking shook the land,
the station’s promontory;
root vegetables spilled from a barrow
to the shaking ground.
Almost silently,
almost with dignity,
the mansion fell in on itself,
a house of playing cards,
and sank.
The dreamer, somnambulantly
made his way to his carriage,
clinging on to a solitary root;
a memento of love’s demise;
a promise of love’s future fruit -
an unconventional marriage.
But no more laughter.


with my love…


Friday, 24 October 2014

postcards (from Málaga)

[Image description: the Mediterranean from Málaga]


postcards (from Málaga)

wish you were here:
          on the Paseo del Parque
          sitting on this bench
          colour bleached
          olive, satin green, bare wood
          watching the red and black ladybird
          crawl up the leg of my jeans;
          pigeons herding by
          on the white marble plain
          dappled with guano
          stained by age
          and accidents' cracks;
your hand on my thigh.

wish you were here:
          an unblemished azure sky;
          the salt-air of a calm sea
          cerulean and aquamarine
          bejewelled with gems
          of coruscating sun
          the chanting wavelets
          lap the honeyed sand gently;
          mid-distance fishermen
          trawl for their morning catch;
          while hirsute joggers limp past -
          here, they do not run -
          ectomorphic flesh
          posturing machismo
          mesomorphs are prized so dear;
          palm trees rasp against the breeze
          shivering in the unwelcome chill;
you come to mind, and
I horripilate to the thrill.

wish you were here:
          in the Alcazabar ruins
          fragments of Roman lore
          Moorish exotica restored;
          setting for nuptial reminiscences;
          literally breath-taking panoramas
          of this Legoland city
          from towers and look-out points,
          and timeless vistas
          quite unexpectedly
          tell of half-remembered historias;
          lunching on a marble tombstone
          unpeeling my oranges
          as those spectres once did
          savouring the thirst-quenching liquid
          trickling down my throat
          my fingers all sticky
          from this self-indulgent fest;
          in the future I believe Hope, lest…
but you are there, my very own.

wish you were here:
          on the mountainside
          in the fir and rowan woodland;
          the fresh scent of pine
          absorbing my nostrils
          in olfactory delight;
          the harsh glare of the sun
          defused and blurred and softened;
          calming tones
          of clover, sage and unripe lemons
          an intoxicating verdure;
          marred by the detritus
          of trysts and assignations
          of the echo of al fresco coitus
          and juvenile masturbations;
and I want you, need you now
of that I am so sure.

wish you were here:
          at the El Telón bar;
          the wondrous aroma of coffee
          its unique woodiness
          its heady spiciness;
          perhaps the only
          proof of God's existence;
          every time I pass a café
          experiencing a spiritual epiphany;
          and my prayers
          turn to
          are for

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Urban Burger Bar, Altrincham: Review

[Image description: dinner is served à la table]

Andrew Cleary, the affable maître d' at House in Goose Green, Altrincham, has finally realised his dream and opened his brain-child, a gourmet burger-bar. He forewarned me a couple of weeks back about its imminent launch, but mid-week my facebook feed received a reminder of the news via our latest (long-needed and most welcome) local news-source, Altrincham Today.

My dining companion and I did not make a reservation, but just turned up around six-thirty. The joint has been cleverly retrofitted to use the features of the edifice and enhance them by constructing matching bare brickwork, butcher's tiling and reclaimed timbers along with factory-style and ship's lighting: utilitarian with panache. I was lucky enough to bump into the builder, who is rightly pleased with his handiwork. He too was thrilled that the restaurant had kept original features. He even admitted to having a hand in constructing some of the furniture. There are school-/church-hall style stacking seats, stools, cushioned banquettes of different heights and dimensions; so seating for most folk.

Wheelchair-users would require assistance up the two very small steps, but inside there is room to accommodate at table. There is also a large door access to one of the three unisex WCs: however, I did not need to use the conveniences, so cannot on this occasion report on facilities.

We were welcomed with a broad smile and permitted to choose where we wished to sit. I like a firm chair to support me, but the table I initially chose was a wee bit small for me, my companion and all my paraphernalia. However, it was not an issue that we wished to change table. We sat on a very comfortable banquette at which I did not suffer from my habitual muscle-cramps, so did not have to stand up to stretch my legs. Both tables we sat at were clean - yes I did brush my hands over to feel for detritus and stickiness - so another tick in the box from my pernickety self!

Apéritifs were offered whilst we mulled over the menu. No-one attempted to rush us. I made my servers aware of my food allergies and they were happy to report that chef Drew would make anything I wanted from scratch to exclude said ingredients. WoW: one cannot say fairer than that.

[Image description: menus & apéritifs]

At this point I should point out that the eatery remained at all times busy without being ram-packed whilst we were there, with a constant flow of diners. Music was sufficiently discreet that one could hold a conversation; but not so quiet that one could not hum or whatever along to a favourite track. The ambience was definitely upbeat. It is rare to see so many folk smiling and laughing in a restaurant, which is testament to the all-round good experience of dining chez Urban.

A couple dined next to us with their two offspring. The children's food went down a treat with them and certainly kept them quiet whilst they scoffed it - bet mum & dad were relieved/pleased!

The parents enjoyed a bottle of fizz from the good selection of drinks, including an alcohol-free Bitburger for the designated drivers (in this instance, my companion) and very reasonably priced glasses of wine (for me!). There is a selection of flavoured Absolut vodkas and various other spirits (including Cheshire's Hunters gin!), which can be mixed with diet tonic for those watching the calories.

Now to the main event - the FOOD. My companion opted for the Firecracker and I the Urban Stack. The former consists of two beef patties and cheese; the latter, one beef patty, a chicken breast and smoked bacon. Both came with fries, but we upgraded to the truffle fries - and so glad we did as they were to die for. We both even ate the bits at the bottom of the bowls! We also ordered a side salad. This consisted of: extremely crisp (when was the last time you can recall being served crisp lettuce in any eatery?) salad leaves, which because they had not been shredded, were easy to pick from the plate; tomato wedges; juliennes of cucumber and a dressing. Personally I should have preferred that I had been given the option of a simple dash of balsamic vinegar or to at least hold the dressing; but this is relatively trivial. The beef patties were incredible: they actually tasted of beef - like a steak or roast beef - rather than beef-burger. On my next visit I am plumbing for the double beef patties option! On my dish, whilst the chicken was æsthetically browned, moist and cooked just right, it lacked any real flavour. My friend sampled and agreed. However, the mildly smoked bacon was a perfect match with the beef flavour, so that neither flavour overpowered t'other. A taste sensation to be sure. And we were both fully sated - so no room for dessert this time.

Service throughout the meal was friendly, attentive and, in respect to my food allergy, very professional. Greetings and salutations came with smiles. We certainly left feeling content and happy. We shall be returning very shortly with friends who are looking forward to the experience. Urban Burger Bar is a great fit in the market quarter. I sincerely hope it goes from strength to strength. %)

[Image description: empty plates, etc.; a sure sign of an excellent repast]