Monthly Archives: April 2010

Michelin stars and the Coastliner 700

It was my birthday this week so I added a couple of lieu days to the end of my 5 day rest so had a whole week off work! My missus gave me a wonderful birthday treat by booking two nights away at 36 On the Quay, a Michelin starred restaurant with rooms in Emsworth. On the first night we had the 7 course tasting menu and on the second night the regular dinner. The food was outstanding and it was only one out of the total of eleven courses eaten over the two days which disappointed. It was also the course which most jumped out at me from the menu as sounding terrific – Three types of pork which were loin, belly and cheek. The spoiler for me was the sauce which was so strong on the flavour of 5 spice powder (not mention in the dish’s description) as to overpower each piece of meat and to make them all taste the same albeit with different textures. The best dish off all was a starter from the second night’s menu – a very large duck egg yolk sitting on top of of a small mound of puy lentils, some very intensly flavoured funghi and a portion of fois gras! The bright yellow duck egg yolk when it broke flooded into the green lentils and not only looked great but tasted sublime. The fois gras melted in the mouth as if it were butter. That dish was a triumph.

The Coastliner 700 runs within a few hundred yards of the restaurant so we decided to have a day out on the bus and go to Brighton. All I knew about this service was that it’s one of Stagecoach South’s pride and joys getting new buses every couple of years. The timetable on the stop showed that the frequency was every 30 minutes and we decided on the 09:36. What I didn’t know was how slow this route is! It never leaves residential areas, once one place has ended the route planner spotted another road with houses along it and sent the bus down there. It never got a bit of open countryside where it could pick up speed for even a mile! Not only are urban areas naturally slow but stops are set at 100 metre intervals – I wonder if anyone can tell me how many stop there are on the entire Coastliner 700 route? We’d boarded at 09:36 and two and a half hours later had only reached Worthing! The bus was a new 2010 decker but the legroom was less than the worst a charter flight could offer and we were travelling long haul in bus terms! I couldn’t take any more so we terminated our journey at Worthing having guessed, correctly as I found out later, that Brighton was still an hour away. I didn’t dream that Emsworth to Worthing could be 2.5 hours and Brighton 3.5 hours! The main road route to Worthing is 28 miles, obviously the bus drove more than this, around 35 miles would be my guess. This makes the average speed around 14 mph! The whole route, Southsea to Brighton, takes nearly four and a half hours.

The route is shown here

Got that one wrong

Mystic Malc is as useless as Mystic Meg was in predicting the lottery results! Schools went back after the half-term break on Monday but all the week traffic levels have hardly changed from how they were during the holiday. Traffic flow into the City has been very light but oddly I’ve twice had major problems exiting the City around 08:45. This is normally peak time for inbound traffic, not outbound! I’ve been 15 minutes down by the time I’ve reached the City boundary. Maybe it’s down to the glorious weather we’ve had all week – Mummy isn’t driving little Jimmy to school?

Mystic Malc predicts …..

….. chaos in Winchester tomorrow. The new Park and Ride car park opens at 07:00 tomorrow. I made a prediction in May of last year that it will become a white elephant. We’ll have to wait a bit to see if that comes true but tomorrow will present a different set of problems. The reason for chaos tomorrow (and for the next 3 months) is the closure of Andover Road for 3 months whilst bridge rebuilding takes place.

For those who don’t know Winchester there are three roads into the City from the west, north west and the north, Andover Road is the northern route into the City. Traffic which normally uses Andover Road is being ‘shunted’ across to the road from the north west, Stockbridge Road, which is already overloaded and has delays at peak times. I think it will go without saying that regular Stockbridge Road users will then ‘shunt’ themselvesacross to the road from the west, Romsey Road. And it’s Romsey Road which would be the Achilles heel of the new Park and Ride service without the increased traffic it will see for the next three months. Romsey Road is used by the Stagecoach local number 5 service which runs the length of Romsey Road every 10 minutes in both directions. It’s not uncommon for the number 5 buses to bunch up during peak times, 3 or 4 within a few hundred yards of road space. Add even more traffic to Romsey Road and all the P+R buses could end up in virtually the same place at the same time.

Unavoidable but it could end up as terrible PR. I say this because I’m sure the Council big wigs will be out there to see their super new P+R service commence together with invited media. Heaven knows why they didn’t open it 1 week earlier, before the schools go back tomorrow. During the holidays everything has been running smoothly and the launch would have looked like a success – for a week at least!

I’ll report back on the accuracy of this prediction tomorrow.

Zimbabwe – 30 years of Independence

Cathy Buckle’s most recent letter.

Three months before Zimbabwe’s 30th anniversary of Independence I happened to get lost in the vast urban sprawl that characterises the outskirts of the capital city, Harare. A huge shanty town lay on both sides of the road and stretched as far as the eye could see. Shacks and shelters made of tin and plastic were surrounded by mounds of rotting garbage which had even been scraped into contours in an attempt to demarcate little vegetable plots. Stinking streams of sewage ran right outside people’s shacks and children ran barefoot through the waste and the filth. Hand painted signs were everywhere, on pieces of battered, rusty tin and written in charcoal on strips of warped cardboard: ‘Floor polish,’ ‘Cement,’ ‘Tyres,’ ‘Abattoir.’ One sign said: ‘Hot Recharge’ and a line of people with cellphones in their hands stood waiting for their turn to plug onto a car battery and get a precious top up of electrical power into their telephones. A near naked man with no legs was dragging himself by his hands along the road and I looked away but his image has stayed with me. How can this be Zimbabwe 30 years after Independence, I keep asking myself.

Two months before Zimbabwe’s 30th anniversary of Independence I went to the local electricity supply office to hand in an up to date reading of my electricity meter. I needed to bring accuracy to the wild guesstimates they kept making on my monthly bills and the even wilder amounts they were charging. The man at the desk was eating a sausage and when I told him I had a reading I would like entered into the computer record, he looked wildly around at the piles of papers covering every inch of his desk. Eventually he chose one pile and placed the sausage on top of the papers. He looked at his greasy fingers for a moment, picked up a piece of paper from another pile on
his desk, wiped his fingers on the paper and entered my figures into his computer. Can this really be Zimbabwe 30 years after Independence?

Last month I went with a friend who needed to have fingerprints taken at a government office. One by one each finger is squashed into the black ink pad and the digit then rolled onto the paper record. ‘Wait for your form,’ the government official announces and you stare at the filth on your hands and look around – no taps, no water, no
cloth, nowhere to remove the ink all over your hands. When you ask if there is a public toilet you can use, the official mutters angrily that they are locked, they don’t work anymore. People wipe their inky hands in their hair or in the sand. Can this be Zimbabwe 30 years after Independence?

Last week a friend got a quote for a new garden tap but decided against installing it because they get stolen so regularly. Stolen to be melted down and made into coffin handles. Talking about coffins, I attended a funeral a few days ago and was reminded that you have to dig your own graves now as municipal workers don’t, or won’t do it
anymore.

Can this really be Zimbabwe 30 years after Independence? Can this really be a free and independent country when unarmed women are arrested and held in Police custody for handing out yellow cards in protest over electricity prices. Happy birthday Zimbabwe.

Another oldie

Have all newspapers run out of current Stagecoach pictures with which to illustrate their stories? This picture is from yesterday’s Times online. I’m not sure exactly when that livery was dropped but it was years ago.

The article is obviously based on a Stagecoach press release. The PR department need their backsides kicking if they don’t include a few up to date pictures with each press release leaving it up to the newspaper to find one in their own archives if they’d like to illustrate the article.