Category Archives: Thoughts

My Bucket List

2016 was a difficult year, which saw many changes, including divorce, a new job, the loss of my mum and then my dog, Ravi, all in the latter part of the year.  So I decided that 2017 would be more positive.

Taking a leaf out of mum’s book, I’m doing more by living each day as it comes, taking pleasure from the little things, never looking back and rolling with life’s punches.  Mum had such a positive attitude and she saw only opportunities.

I’m not going to sit back and watch another year pass, instead I’m being pro-active and have signed up to a number of Meet Up groups for films, walking and socialising and so far have been very pleased with how it’s turned out, meeting lots of new and interesting people.

I get out at least once a week for a long walk and have seen many new and interesting places in Bristol, Bath and the surrounding areas.  An added bonus being that many organised walsk are dog friendly and Ruby, my other dog, has been very popular as she’s so well behaved.

Soon, I’ll be camping with the Avon Outdoor Activity Club (AOAC) which I’m looking forward to and will get along to some of their summer evening walks too.

But what else do I want to do?  What have I been putting off for whatever reason – economic, time or just not brave enough?

How about more scuba diving?  I qualified in PADI many years ago so am definitely rusty and will need a refresher, time to find a venue for that, what else?

I’m sure most people’s lists include some amazing things, but for me they’re fairly simple to achieve, I just need to get out there and do them.  It’s not extensive, but they’re enough to go along with and are achievable.

  1. Hot air balloon ride
  2. Dive in the Maldives
  3. Swim with Dolphins
  4. Driving experiences
    • The Amalfi Coast
    • A day on a track – fast cars and Brands Hatch
    • Learn to ride a motor bike
    • Drive a tank
  5. Where in the world?
    • New York
    • The Grand Canyon
    • Vegas
    • San Francisco
    • Australia
    • New Zealand
  6. Europe?
    • Barcelona
    • Salzburg
    • Alsace
    • Tuscany and the Italian Lakes

My first article for CAMRA, I have a feeling it won’t be my last

Published again! This time in the CAMRA Pints West magazine.

After a number of conversations over a few pints of cider I was asked if I’d like to write a cider article, slightly tongue in cheek I suggested a training guide to cider thinking they’d want something more serious – apparently not!

So here it is in it’s original form…

Training Guide 1 – Drinking cider in Bristol

Aims
This guide is designed to help you discover or re-discover a love of cider and where to find it in Bristol and the surrounding areas.

Whether you’re new to the area or need a refresher as to where to go, the following training topics will guide you through the best drinking holes for cider and how to recognise your favourite cider.

These sessions will build into a compendium of tastes and experiences which will form the basis of a love of cider.

Pre-requisites
None, just an open mind.

What do you need?
Comfortable shoes.
A notepad and pen.
Drinking buddies – nice but not essential.

Objectives
At the end of this session you will be able to ascertain who serves cider, who has a good selection, how to recognise different ciders and how to appreciate them as well as what suits you best.

Overview
There are many types of ciders (apples) and perry (pears) made from natural ingredients with varying strengths, in the end it is your choice what you will enjoy drinking.

Most pubs will serve the usual such as Bulmers, Strongbow and Magners which, to many, are not ‘real’ ciders, so why not try something different.  What you’re looking for are traditional hand pumps or boxes with a choice of styles ranging from cloudy to clear where some have a more natural colour than others, which one is for you?  There’s also the flavour, sweet, dry, medium or a mix?  The only way to find out is to try them.

If you’re not sure what to have, ask to try before you buy, most places will accommodate your request.  They can vary in strengths and some are very strong so may be served in halves, so if you’re planning on trying a few then pace yourself.

Assessment Criteria

Before beginning any tour of local cider houses it is important to work out a schedule, one in which you are able to complete the research required and to be able to submit the assessment on time.

E.g.

The following were all visited on 1st August 2015 and were in the order as follows:

The Orchard Inn
Hanover Place, Harbourside, BS1 6XT

They were selling a large selection of ciders both on hand pump and in keg.

I started with a Cheddar Valley, cloudy and orange in colour it’s a still cider.  It was a little colder than normal so the flavours were not so pronounced
Score: 3/5 this time.

I then tried the Black Rat which was lovely, it’s a little sweater than Cheddar Valley, also a cloudy and still cider but with a natural colour. It wasn’t too cold which brought out the flavours nicely and, to be honest, is one of my favourites.
Score: 4/5

The Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Place, Cumberland Basin, BS1 6XL

They had Thatchers Traditional and Thatchers Haze on pump and I tried the Haze.  This is a still, cloudy cider, medium sweet and very nice to drink, it was the right temperature and was so nice I had a second.
Score: 4/5

The Grain Barge
Mardyke Wharf, Hotwell Road, Hotwells, BS8 4RU

There was one cider on pump, Reveller by Orchard Pig.  This is a clear cider with a medium to dry flavour.  Very refreshing on a hot day and very tasty.  It was served at just the right temperature so the flavours were all there.
Score: 3/5

The Bag of Nails
141 St George’s Road, Hotwells, BS1 5UW

For anyone who likes a friendly, cosy, cat friendly pub, this is for you. A favourite with the real ale drinkers and just so happens to serve a cider, today it was Elderflower Cider.  Very unusual flavour and you could really taste the elderflower.  Quite dry, relatively clear and still, it was quite refreshing.
Score: 3/5

The Lime Kiln (formerly Horse & Groom)
17 St Georges Road, BS1 5UU

This was definitely one of my favourite places for the night, run by someone who knows how to keep a cider at the right temperature and definitely worth a visit.  They had 6 beers and 2 ciders on, Hecks and Black Rat, so I went for the Black Rat to see how it compared to the others previously tasted and it was lovely. At the right temperature with the flavour to match, cloudy, still and definitely moorish, I was definitely happy to stay and would have tried Hecks at some point too.
Score: 4/5

The White Lion
Colston Avenue, BS1 1EB

The last stop for the evening and very popular, not just for the beers and ciders but also because of its central location.  It had 2 ciders on pump, Thatchers Traditional and Thatchers Gold.  For the last drink I went for the Thatchers Traditional, a cloudy, still fairly dry cider with lots of flavour.  It was served at the right temperature and very drinkable.
Score 3/5

The Outcome

After completing your assessment you will recognise where cider is sold, who sells a good selection, what to look for in a good cider and how to choose.

This session has provided you with the tools to help you to enjoy cider and to not necessarily see it as something for the summer only.

Assessment

Repeat the harbourside walk, these can be completed in any order, and grade the ciders accordingly to the following criteria:

Pubs required:

The Orchard Inn
Hanover Place, Harbourside, BS1 6XT

The Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Place, Cumberland Basin, BS1 6XL

The Grain Barge
Mardyke Wharf, Hotwell Road, Hotwells, BS8 4RU

The Bag of Nails
141 St George’s Road, Hotwells, BS1 5UW

The Lime Kiln (formerly Horse & Groom)
17 St Georges Road, BS1 5UU

The White Lion
Colston Avenue, BS1 1EB

At each pub ask yourself the following:

  1. Do you want a still, cloudy or clear cider?
  2. Sweet, dry or medium?
  3. Do you need to ask for a taster?

Rate each cider you drink to the criteria below.

What do I need to record?

  • The location and name of the pub
  • The date you visited the pub
  • A score out of 5
  • The name of the cider

What do the scores mean?

  1. No cask or hand pump cider available.
  2. Poor. Cider that is anything from barely drinkable to drinkable with considerable resentment.
  3. Average. Competently kept, drinkable pint but doesn’t inspire in any way, not worth moving to another pub but you drink the cider without really noticing.
  4. Good. Good cider in good form. You may cancel plans to move to the next pub. You want to stay for another pint and may seek out the cider again.
  5. Very Good. Excellent cider in excellent condition.
  6. Perfect. Probably the best you are ever likely to find. A seasoned drinker will award this score very rarely.

Did you discover any others?  If so, which and why should anyone else try it?

And here it is in it’s published form, now all I have to do is some research for the next one – it’s a hard life!

An exercise in de-cluttering

It’s amazing how much you can accumulate over time, items which seemed so important to have, the must have’s or were needed and absolutely essential!

Suddenly your running out of space for it all, you’ve upgraded to something better which relegates it to the attic because you can’t quite part with it.  It’s up there so long, you forget about it except when sudden cracks in the ceiling because of the weight.

Well, the time has come, as the walrus said, to de-clutter and make some money if possible.  Get rid and make some space!  It’s time to move on…

The list is endless, open a box and there’s more!  But what should I do and which is best Gumtree, ebay or Shpock?

So here goes…all on ebay at http://www.ebay.co.uk/usr/amandaj7uk, and we’ll wait and see what happens.

Life’s Crossroads

What happens when you reach that time in your life when it all becomes routine?

How do you break out and just do something different?

For many years you commute between Bristol (home) and London (work) and start the working week at 05:20 on a coach and returning at 19:00 to a full weekend with quality time to spend together.

But the commuting takes it’s toll, it puts a strain on the relationship, 5 days a week your single, doing your own things, then it changes for the weekend. How can any relationship survive?

So, too improve your life you change jobs to get closer to home and end up seeing even less of each other!  How did that happen?

You swap walking to work for driving.  The hours spent for work is longer, eating in to your social time.  You start putting on weight so to feel better about yourself you join a gym to get fit but you do that alone and spend even more time apart.

You get home tired and no longer keep up with your joint interests let alone anything else.

Then something happens to make you take stock of your life, in fact 3 things:

  1. Your mum gets diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and you spend many weekends away from home.
  2. Work becomes difficult and not what you hoped it would be, skills obtained over 10 years are not being utilised and frustration sets in.  You’re unable to keep up with the learning community you were once a part of.
  3. Things at home go wrong. Have we drifted too far apart?

Stop, it’s time to get your life back.

No more sloathing and watching too much TV, it’s time to think about what you want from life.  After all you have only one!

It’s time to make some changes, de-clutter, get rid of the gadgets accumulated over time that are just not needed any more.  It’s time to get serious and get sorting!

I’ve also seen some interesting classes at the community college, it’s time to get back to photography or maybe do something different, perhaps some woodwork or upholstery classes would be good?

Then there’s stuff to do together, walks, squash and increasing the social circle.  Perhaps something different like salsa classes – anything is possible.  Making time for each other is the key.

So to that end its time to get proactive, New Year coming with new opportunities.  Get creative and do more…