The Day Tour de Yorkshire came to Silsden

9 05 2015

Hot on the heels of the Yorkshire leg of the Tour de France, there is now The Tour de Yorkshire. I shit you not!

Here’s a write up from the 3rd of May, when it passed through my home village of Silsden: The Day Tour de Yorkshire came to Silsden | news.silsden.netnews.silsden.net.

news.silsden.net: Tour de Yorkshire

I confess I sat patiently through the entire scroll of 68 photos just to be amazed alternatively at (i) how much the village has changed since I left for university back in 1982, never to return and (ii) how much it was just the same as I left it.

The old millstone grit houses and sagging stone (not slate – sandstone) rooves made me briefly homesick. The sight of Ilkley moor in the background of the photos pointing up Bolton Rd. was a particularly fond memory. With or b’aht ‘at.

 





A Furple

25 01 2015

Libraries are wonderful institutions. If you aren’t a member of your local library, or you are but don’t use it… why?! As well as everything else… it’s free!

As a kid I earnt my “librarian” badge in cubs. I remember part of it involved covering a book to make a dust jacket (a skill that came into great effect when I had to cover umpteen text books at grammar school). I covered my dad’s book on fishing. Rather wittily, I thought, I used wrapping paper depicting various floats and lures. Smart-arsed little 8 year old, wasn’t I?! It was called “The Compleat Angler” and I was puzzled by the apparent misspelling, even then (which is why I remember it more than 40 years later). Turns out it was first published in 1653… so I’ll let them off, since it was before Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary.

Anyway, I became a frequent visitor to the local library in the village where I grew up, and was encouraged by Mrs Spencer, the local librarian. Over the years she even let me borrow several “for reference only” books to help with my homework. There weren’t a lot of takers for A-level organic chemistry books in our little corner of Yorkshire.

The highlight was being allowed into the hallowed “stacks” where books are kept that are not actually on the shelves. Here I found the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology. I was allowed to serially take home each of its weighty 20 tomes and yes – I did read them all! It was a seminal moment.

I learnt two key things about myself as a teenager at that time:

(i) I loved science and technology

(ii) I was a complete nerd (see i)

(iii) Maths wasn’t my strongest subject 😉

So anyway, last weekend I visited the local library here in South Surrey and borrowed a few things. Shakespeare, Backpacker magazine, Canadian History magazine, a book on colour correction. You know – the usual stuff. (Eclectic? Moi?) The latter reminded me to update my copy of GIMP, a totally free image manipulation tool that provides many of the features of PhotoShop. Of course, I haven’t opened the book yet, but I couldn’t wait to reacquaint myself with GIMP. I took a few random images to play with. One included an orange. And then I though. Why is an orange called an orange? Well, obviously it’s because it’s orange!

This then must be a furple, because it’s flippin’ purple, innit?!

A Furple

A Furple





Of Death Star and Doncaster

31 03 2013

So we all trekked off to the Auto Show on Friday. Quite a pleasant day out. We then went to the Bellaggio Café for lunch, opposite Canada Place in Vancouver. Near the Giant Blue Sperm. (It’s Art. It’s also German. Just sayin’…)

I have to say that the food was pretty good. The spelling though?! Interesting at the very least. It’s no connection at all with Bellagio (one g) in Las Vegas. There were no fountains or Dale Chihuly glass art.

Now I’m a big fan of Eddie Izzard‘s work. Mainly his stand-up, but also his straight acting. Up there with the best bits though is “Darth Vader in the Death Star canteen”. So famous in fact that it has been done in Lego and re-enacted word perfect by pre-pubescent boys a thousand times on YouTube. If by some fate of nature you’ve made it through life thus far without having seen it, try this video. If you’re well aware of Jeff, Sir Lord Vader of Cheam, then read on. Or eat cake. Your choice.

Now, I’d never actually heard of Penne Arrabbiata prior to Eddie Izzard, and I’ve never seen it on a menu. I thought it was one of those made up names. I once tried ordering the popular-in-Canada Alfredo sauce with my pasta on a trip to Northern Italy to howls of laughter and questions as to who in the name of all that is edible was this Alfredo chap?! Same with Latte – unknown in small town Italy.

Imagine my surprise then to see Penne Arrabbiata on the menu in Bellaggio’s. I opted in the end to share a proper Italian-style pizza (less crust than topping, unlike typical North American 2″ deep doughy monstrosities) with Mrs E., so can’t attest to the quality of the Arrabbiata sauce. Nor, I’m afraid can I attest to what a chocolate mouse tastes like. Even if serverd with ice-cream. Look carefully at Royal Chocolate in the photo…

Chocolate rodents on the menu at Bellaggio Café

Chocolate rodents on the menu at Bellaggio Café

Our waitress was very attentive but unfortunately it was other staff who delivered the actual orders. These others seemed to think it odd that we might want side plates in order to share our chicken wings, or regular plates off which to eat our pizzas. On the first attempt we were given teacup saucers!
The actual waitress, as I mentioned, was very attentive though. She was also English. Better – she was from Yorkshire. I know this because she told me so. Years ago, a French Canadian once told me that one need never ask if someone was from Yorkshire, as they’ll have already told you. C’est vrai! She’d married a bloke from Leeds it seems.

Over the space of our lunch we both politely circled around and determined our origins. I’d been in Canada 12 years, she 4. I was from “near Bradford” (in galactic terms at least – actually Silsden), she “from Doncaster”. My sister was born in Doncaster. Later, I said I’d spent my first 4 years in a village called Skellow, but couldn’t recall how close to Donny it actually was. It’s a suburb, she said. It’s where she’s really from! We agreed it was indeed a small world, and went our separate ways.

I just checked on Google Maps at what the old street looks like now. The one I spent my first four years on. Learning not to eat Play-Doh, alongside other life lessons. Watching the Vietnam war on black and white TV.  The old house is still there – and yes: that’s the A1 in spitting distance over the road. The Great North Road built by the Romans, and used ever since for moving untold volumes of goods North/South in England. “Go play in the fast lane of the A1” was a common repost when I was at school in later years. It really was incredibly possible…

Where QE spent his early years

Source: Google Maps – Where QE spent his very early years





Customer Service

18 03 2013

I rang my folks yesterday (Sunday).  My dad answered. We don’t speak that often these days. Father/son/alpha-male kind of thing I suppose. My parents still live in the house I grew up in. They moved there when I was 4 years old. Silsden still had cobbled streets back then. It’s been a while since I was 4 years old…

Source: Random Thoughts from the life of a Random Thinker

The conversation subjects were quite diverse, which was pleasant. As I said – we don’t talk often, and usually if it’s he who answers the phone I am promptly passed to “yamum”. I gather the mater wasn’t in, as he kept talking at length. At last I brought the subject around to their recent holiday trip up the Norwegian coast in search of The Northern Lights. They’d originally planned to see the lights off the coast of Alaska, and stop in to see our little outpost on the way. I guess Norway was significantly closer in the final analysis.

My dad recounted a tale of one fellow passenger who was loudly demanding his money back for the entire trip since he’d not seen the Aurora Borealis. Ignoring for a second that, as a natural phenomenon, it doesn’t appear on cue for tourists, the phenomenon had in fact been sighted several times during the trip – three by my own dad, and potentially other times in addition. The cruise itinerary makes it perfectly clear that – though likely – a sighting is not guaranteed. Some people…

As they arrived in Norway, they were told by the tour courier that the ship was delayed further North, as there had been heavy storms preventing its progress. They were to fly North to meet it and continue as planned from there. No biggy. They were pampered and enjoyed the transfer reasonably well. My parents were travelling with Titan Travel, and they have greatly enjoyed adventures all over the world with them for no less than 12 years! They recognised the  tour guide from a previous trip to New Zealand, and he asked what adventures they were expecting on this trip. My pater is no spring chicken at 73, but he and mum had pre-paid for 5 day trips along the cruise including such adventures as dog-sledding and snowmobiling. Jealous, or what?!

This then caused a stir because the tour guide only had them on his lists for two of the five trips they were expecting. Obviously a cock-up, but weird they were on some of the lists rather than none/all. The fees had been pre-paid (£1,100 or about $1,700), receipts issued, blah, blah, but no explicit confirmation that they’d been booked on the five trip… and they weren’t.

Now, given that this guy’s sole role on the cruise is to be the contact for his little tour group, he was by all accounts next to useless. After actually uttering the words “what do you expect me to do about it now?” he basically shrugged his shoulders and told my folks they’d have to claim their fees back once they got home. As my dad said to me though – he’s knocking on a bit, and the chances of him having an opportunity to go dog-sledding or snowmobiling ever again are slim to nil. He was sure to tell me that they did enjoy the cruise itself, but obviously were left at a bit of a loss on three days they’d expected to be “living large”.

Not a great customer service win there, Titan! Mistakes happen, but it’s how you deal with them that matters.

One of the reasons I’d called though was that the other Sunday was Mothers Day in the UK. There, it’s all part of the spring festival vibe, daffodils being sent home with kids in their droves, that sort of thing. I’d arranged a small package from Betty’s of Harrogate, and both Betty’s and the Royal Mail had sent me a steady stream of (no doubt automated, but never-the-less…) emails telling me my order was confirmed, was ready for shipping, had been shipped, and ultimately had indeed been delivered on the day I requested.

Gift Box

Source: Bettys

As an ex-pat with a mum several thousand miles away, this sort of service (on the few years I remember to invoke it!) is a Darwin-send. I was in no doubt that they’d extracted money (which seemed painless at the time), had kept their side of the bargain and sent something, and ultimately had ensured that it had arrived as agreed. I half expected them to let me know my mum had made her first cup of tea with the contents of the parcel, and report she was refusing to share the biscuits!

A small thing in the end. Just a few highly automated emails. But I felt I’d been kept “in the loop”. So much so I’d use them again. Customer Service. With capital letters!

Fast forward to yesterday (actually – it was he same day. I’m messing with your mind!). Mrs E and I found ourselves in Vancouver visiting the Bloedel Conservatory. My camera greatly enjoyed the outing.

Orchid in Bloedel Conservatory

Orchid in Bloedel Conservatory

Regular readers may recall that on Friday the 8th, myself and a couple of colleagues visited Romer’s Burger Bar in SW Burnaby. If not – it’s blogged here. Well it was kinda-sorta on the way home and Mrs E seemed a little peeved I’d been off enjoying myself without her. She was driving, so we made a small detour and headed to Kerr St for tea. It was a pleasant evening, but I’d forgotten (being a Brit!) that it was St. Patrick’s day, and everyone seemed to find it amusing to dress in green and offer lurid drinks to passers by. I don’t expect such exuberance on St. George’s day, unfortunately.

We were seated immediately and ordered our burgers and chips. We went for some fancy chips with garlic and other poncy trimmings. Mrs E’s got a bit of an allergy thing with vinegar and studiously avoids dressings such as mustard. She also dislikes cheese. So, when she selected an impressively meaty option she carefully told the server to skip the Gorgonzola cheese. A few minutes later our appetising burgers arrived, and we were off to the races. Except…

Mrs E is a little more cautious than most, and lifted her burger bun to see… mayonnaise! Her face grimaced and was still holding the pose when the server returned to ask how things were going.

“The menu didn’t say there’d be mayonnaise” was her statement.

True enough, but it’s not exactly a shock to discover it lurking in a North American burger in my experience. (Mine had undisclosed mustard, just for the record). In a heartbeat the server whisked the burger away, promising another – sans sauce.

True to her word, another burger unsullied by dressings was delivered, and she said the manager “had taken care of the fries” because of the mistake. I protested that there had been no mistake, just a misunderstanding, but to no avail. ‘Twas done. I was so impressed by the attitude, and over-correction of the very minor incident that I didn’t even mention that she’d failed to return my wife’s cutlery, forcing her to eat her burger in a most un-English way! 🙂

This was definitely “up there” in positive Customer Service experiences. No push-back or argument from the server – just a rapid resolution. And to get a little off the bill to-boot.  Sure a plate of fries isn’t going to make much difference to their bottom line, but it was the gesture. Deliberately going beyond what was strictly necessary.

Would I go back? Of course! Would I recommend it to others? I think I just did.

Now, if only Titan Travel executives ate there too…