The Lancaster Social

In a week and a bit time I am organising, with a crew of others, the first Lancaster Social. It is going to be fun and I get to speak and present at it, which will be less fun for me. If you are in Lancaster then please contemplate joining us. A little bit more about it:

The LancSoc Organisers and your hosts, the White Cross Business Park, would like to invite you to the first Lancaster Social.

120px-square-lancs-soc copy

What is the Lancaster Social?

The Lancaster Social is an open network event. There are no restrictions on entry, no requirements. We aim to meet three times a year.

Is it just for businesses?

Perhaps we didn’t make the word open clear. the event is aimed at everyone and encourages people to grow their contact circle outside of professional, personal, cultural restraints.

Where is it?

The first event is on Monday, 24th February, at the Chapel, White Cross Estate, Lancaster (LA1 4XQ), between 5p.m. and 7p.m.

What does it cost?

The event is free. There will be a small charge for refreshments, but if you wish you may bring your own.

What are its aims?

There are a number of membership based, group based, society based social networking events in the city. The Lancaster Social wants to cross-pollinate from all sectors.

We hope to bring together business, government, academia, communities, network organisations and interests groups in a single location to encourage interaction.

We also hope to introduce low cost/freely available tools to help businesses and social groups to use digital media and have a section called ‘bring your problem, where people can suggest an issue and the whole group can suggest an answer’. This is peer-based learning, encouragement and interaction.

Do I need to be a Member/have obligations?

Nope. You can join as a member, this is also free and membership just indicates support of the idea.

Can I bring stuff to market myself/organisation at the event

Hell, yes. We actively encourage it, go ahead. This isn’t about restricting but enabling and supporting. A community as rich as Lancasters survives on diversity and we hope to enhance that.

I can have a page on a website?

Yes. We have a website at www.lancastersocial.org, you are free to sign up and we will allow you to post on the site as a member

Are there tickets:

We are using eventbrite to judge numbers – sign up here: http://bit.ly/1eCDBwP

If you forget, turn up on a whim, or are just as disorganised as us, don’t stress we’ll still let you in.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Nice Morning For it

When I woke up this morning it was raining quite hard, but as I stepped out of the door the clouds were clearing, the wind was dying to a cool, and refreshing, breeze and there was a smell of Autumn wafting in the air. So I decided to take a longer walk to work along the canal. I also turned on the pace keeping app. so I could measure the time it took me to get to work and the distance as it was something that intrigued me.

Below are the images from the walk and the pace stats.

So I did 5K steps in 48 minutes, which was almost 3 miles (I average 1800 steps to a mile) with an average mph of 3.6 miles – a good speed for walking at I feel.

 

Happily in Happy Mount

We got back from a fortnight of traveling yesterday in which several countries were passed through[1] and several theme parks also[2]. We had a great time but now we are safely back home and in our home environment.

Today is turning out to be a bit of a scorcher, sun is out, sky is mostly blue and the kids need airing and entertaining, so we have come to Morecambe and Happy Mount Park.

A little of the Park’s recent history
A few years ago Lancaster and Morecambe Council in their infinite wisdom decided to run a deal with the bouncy-blond-basta… Television personality Noel Edmonds and build a theme park in Morecambe. So they cut a beautiful park in half and built Blobbyland. It was a total, expensive, failure.

The people of the district were not happy. They never wanted such a silly thing and it had destroyed a once magnificent public space. The fiasco meant there was less funds for parks available.

But the council and the people of Morecambe were not to be beaten.

Thanks to the efforts of volunteers and some local representatives who would listen, time (quite a considerable amount of it and it is still on going) and some money was put back into the park. The result is the space we now have.

Happy Mount Park is once again a treasure for the local area and people. A large space with several free park areas for children of varying ages and some low cost areas as well.

Free:

  • The grounds and gardens
  • The Adventure play area
  • The fields and forest walks
  • The Splash Park (which is awesome)
  • The small park
  • Tennis Courts

Low cost (prices where known):

  • Pitch and Putt
  • Deckchair hire
  • Bowling
  • Racket Hire
  • Large Swings (2 pounds)
  • Under 7s park (1 pound per child) – filled with cars and tractors and bicycles and enclosed within a gated area
  • Train – three loops for one pound per rider

Happy Mount also has a cafe which has a children’s soft play area where parties and events can be held in a comfortable space.

As I previously mentioned a large amount of the maintenance of the park and its evolution has been a partnership between the local authorities and the volunteers of the region. This has led to a wonderful park, it is a fantastic place to bring children of all ages. It is a testament to the fact of a need to have a wroking relationship between the community and the authorities where there is not just ‘having a say’ but being able to ‘make a change’. This feedback loop creates areas that are desired by both and appropriate for the greater enjoyment of everyone.

I should also say that the small cafe outside of the park, in front of the golfclub and next to the car park on the prom[3], does a mean line in low cost snacks and a great breakfast/brunch bun. Make sure you order the tea and not the coffee!

[1] We went from England to Paris, to Germany to Romania and back by various routes, some of us driving and some of us flying.

[2] Disneyland, Paris and Chessington World of Adventure were both visited.

[3] Turn left as you exit the park.

20120811-191329.jpg

20120811-191147.jpg

Coffee Tasting: Ethiopian Yingacheffe and “Yule Love It” Blend

For today’s coffee tasting[1] I wandered for the first time to The Music Rooms which is located in Sun Square in Lancaster and is the new Café owned by Atkinson‘s coffee shop and rightly deserves to name itself as the “finest coffee in the North West”[2].

The Taste

[Please note this is not a professional tasting guide, just an enthusiast, I have used language that is in the register of food & drink tasting only to sound coherent, even if there is some debate as to whether this is fully cogent]

Ethiopian Yingacheffe

I drank this coffee as a filter coffee.

Gentle on the nose which entices with scents of sweet milk chocolate notes and a roast hazelnut essence. Smooth on the palate with a nice backtaste that reminds me of caramelised prunes.

With milk this becomes beautifully choclatey. Would make a nice latte and feel more like a mocha with that milk chocolate nature on the nose and palate.

Yule Love It

A blend of:

Old Brown Java
Ethiopian Yingacheffe
High Roasted Salvador

This was today’s espresso chaser 🙂

Zesty and sharp on the nose on a deep sniff but the blend hides the dark riches to come as the Java is hidden in the chocolate-scented Ethiopian and the Salvadorian, there was a feeling of citrus present, but it was a little more astringent than usual, a little lime perhaps or more a sharp grapefruit.

The Java in this blend makes this a powerful espresso. A rich strong kick that lingers on the tongue leaving an impression of licorice and to my mind losing most of the other two coffees. Perhaps there is an impression that the Java is smoothed by the addition of the Salvador but it was lost on me, maybe because the standard “office” coffee we use is Old Brown, or maybe becuase I greedily drank my expresso down and didn’t linger too long in the smelling. To my disadvantage with both of these coffees that I tasted today was that I wasn’t able to sniff the beans both ground and unground beforehand which always helps me to scent out the delicate smells (not that I am in any way correct about what I can smell 🙂 ).

The aftertaste lingers and leaves a note of bitterness and a hint of acidity displaying some of the citrus impressions felt on the nose.

I liked the “Yule Love It” and once again I am awed by the skill of the coffee producers, i have to say that it didn’t quite ‘blow me away’ as the “Santa’s Dark Secret” (but I am a strong dark coffee whore), but it is a worthy drink nevertheless.

Sun Square as always is a quiet seclusion in a busy town, I do hope many other Lancastrians find their way there as the cafes/restaurants on the square are all excellent in value and experience and different to each other in what they offer so that one has no guilt over which to frequent and patronise as you can visit each of them.

The staff in The Music Room deserve a special note as they were friendly, helpful and chatty. it is nice to go to a shop where you are invited to sit and make yourself comfortable as they are only to happy to bring a drink to you.

[1] [1] Please note that this is an Unsolicited Blog, okay I do use the same coffee shop, and the cafés in Sun Square, but they are in the city where I live, they provide a quality local service, not a manufactured chain store customer service guidelined response, and they are a very friendly and helpful group of people, so yes, I do gush about them in glowing terms. And, if by reading this blog you visit them and purchase some of their produce I say Huzzah, one for the local businesses with dedicated and talented professional employees.

[2] This accolade is used on their signage and I believe was awarded to them, no doubt they could tell you who declared it, I am happy to second it. I haven’t in fact found a coffee supplier as good in the UK as yet. I suspect the accolade comes from FFNW (Fine Foods North West) whose awards ceremony I believe Atkinson‘s have been winners at for a few years. See the blog article here (http://www.atkinsonsteaandcoffee.co.uk/page.php?Page=100).[3]

[3] Note that this coffee is reviewed by me here (http://www.markkeating.me.uk/2010/11/24/coffee-tasting-santuario/)

Coffee Tasting: Santa’s Dark Secret Blend

Once more I wandered to Atkinsons[1] to purchase some of their Xmas special blend, Santa’s Dark Secret and oh Santa you are a little naughtier[2] in the cup than suggested by your cover:

which looks likes every other Atkinsons cover as if they employed staff tutored in the nineteenth century. Atkinsons has an old world charm, every time I walk into the shop I think that if Dickens were to be stood at the counter discussing the novel Hard Times and it’s relationship to Preston and Lancashire he would not be out of place, and I could quiz him on Messers Chokeumchild and Gladgrind.

Also, to some of my readers who know I am a fan of decaf coffee as I sometimes like to sleep at night, you should note that this is a caffeinated blend, being neither neutered, broken, nor having as one might put it, “all its f*cking life sucked out leaving a no fun cup of p*ss replacement”.

The Taste

[Please note this is not a professional tasting guide, just an enthusiast, I have used language that is in the register of food & drink tasting only to sound coherent, even if there is some debate as to whether this is fully cogent]

The smell of this coffee completely blew me away when I first sniffed the freshly ground beans, it was so complex I really couldn’t work out what I could smell. So many scents were vying for my attention and this was not eased when I brewed a fresh pot.

The scents were not overpowering, they were all just…present…omnipresent even, each one a distinct and tantilising aroma that mingle and entice the sense and distract the attention. I personally felt there was a sense of Government Java and maybe some African coffee aromas (I thought I could detect Ethiopian but am probably way off the mark). So it would be guess work of the first order to try and decipher the beans/types. So instead I will tell you there is more than a hint of citrus in the nose, really reminiscent of orange oil mixed in with brazil nut and cocoa.

The cup quickly brings up a moderate crema, no doubt a machine would produce a satisfying top, and the first mouthful shocks you. The taste on the tongue is nowhere near as overpowering as the nose. Those distinct scents are lost and instead we have a smooth dark coffee that tastes full bodied and would, to my mind, confuse people if they hadn’t smelt it first. it does not taste like a blend, it has more of a feeling of a good blue bean coffee, reminded me of a coffee I had in Florida that was from a select Jamaican farm. It is fresh and rich and thoroughly Christmassy.

For once I am not going to try this coffee with milk, it would in my opinion completely kill this magnificent coffee. Have this coffee black or as an espresso, and have it quickly before Santa leaves for another year.

To summarise, while he’s not, quite, the Messiah, he is a very satisfying Santa, so bravo to the master mixer/roaster at Atkinsons once more.

[1] Please note that this is an Unsolicited Blog, okay I do use the same coffee shop, but they are in the city where I live, they roast their own beans and they are a very friendly and helpful group of people, so yes, I do gush about them in glowing terms. And, if by reading this blog you visit them and purchase some of their produce I say Huzzah, one for the local businesses with dedicated and talented professional employees.

[2] Middle English noughti, wicked,

Nathan and Sarah: the Announcement

Yesterday I went to a friends announcement/proclamation at the Yorkshire House in Lancaster. It was a Pagan event wherein the couple announced their intent to marry close to Midsummer 2011 and expressed their love for each other. Afterward we retreated to the comfort of H&N’s house for a festive Blót.[1]

What follows below is a series of images from the event (please just click on the thumbnail for a larger image).

[1] Note that this didn’t involve much sacrificing of Equine livestock, unless you count the threat to Dexter one of my son’s cuddly toys.

Walk to Work 3: In 3D

(Well it was in 3D for me as I was there).

Once again I had my camera in my bag and once again the walk to work was worth photographing as there was a layer of snow on the ground and snow in the air. This being Lancaster of course it was only a dusting, but it is rare enough to see snow in November in Lancaster that it is worthwhile taking and showing the snaps.

Snow on the cars on the street where I live
Just liked the angle
Skerton Bridge with a light snow fall
Wintry colours in the clouds
The quayside

(Sorry for the captions, they are a tad ordinary, maybe even lame.)