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Kittiwakes, But No Posada....

A first overnight stay away from home since before lockdown took me back to Newcastle, with the aim of re-visiting some favourite haunts before catching up with family....


A familiar sound was in the air last Sunday afternoon when I left my hotel and walked down the riverside towards the Tyne Bridge. I was in Newcastle on my first trip away since February. Up above, the kittiwakes were back, nesting on ledges and in the nooks and crannies of the high bridges and other tall buildings along the Quayside. This is the world's most inland breeding colony of this medium-sized gull, with the urban architecture of the Tyne riverside replicating the cliff tops of their usual habitat. They return every summer, a screeching backdrop to this special riverside scene, with their presence requiring a daily high-pressure hosing down of  the streets and chares around the Quayside. It was, though, a reassuring sound, a reminder that the lockdown hadn't changed everything.

Around the corner from…
Recent posts

The Random, The Company, and The Laugh....

As the pubs hit the fortnight mark since they were allowed to re-open, there are signs that amidst the check-ins, the one-way systems, and the plastic screens, some things are returning to a kind of normal....


"Quiet".That has been pretty much the universal answer from each establishment I have visited over the past week or two when I have asked how busy they have been. The odd one may have added a comment like "Saturday was steady away" or "Monday was actually pretty good for a Monday" but the consensus seems to be that it has been pretty quiet for most pubs since le grand réouverture, with many customers having not yet ventured back. And that view was backed up by a report in the Morning Advertiser which suggested that business was down by 40% in the first week back compared to the same week last year.

I can't say I have visited too many different places but they do seem to be each slipping into their own rhythm, and I haven't found any that hav…

The Day of The Slight Return....

The pubs - or at least some of them - opened up again last weekend. So face mask appropriately donned and hands sanitised, your intrepid blogger caught the bus into town to check out the situation....

Halifax was busier than it had been on the few previous Saturdays when I had been there during lockdown. It had had a weird atmosphere in those early days, a few people trying to cling to the last vestiges of life before the curtain came down, as the few shops remaining open tried to get their heads around the new-fangled concepts of organising queuing and social distancing. Familiar, favourite, places were closed, with no indication of when they would open their doors again, if ever. The town was enveloped in a post-apocalyptic gloom, which a few years ago would have been how the less charitable may have said it presented itself to anyone casually visiting the place. But in 2020? Halifax, revitalised by the Piece Hall, a new breed of bars and small businesses, a touchstone of town centr…

No Free Nuts, No Skulking Loafers....

And so the announcement came and pubs can open from the 4th of July, although there remains a lot of uncertainty about how it is all going to work....


There has been a great deal of speculation over this past week about what pubs will look like when they re-open: booking in advance, signing in, having your temperature checked, leaving your contact details, ordering via an app, table service, contactless payments only, one-way systems, outdoors only, no standing at the bar, no standing in the bar, one at a time in the toilet, disposable menus, face masks to be worn at all times, keep-to-two-metres-if-possible-but-if-not-it's-ok, no bowls of free nuts on the bar, no newspapers or magazines to be shared by pub users, sanitising each table every hour, pool tables to be out of bounds (apparently the ball is a "vector of disease"), etc, etc. Some of those listed I may have imagined, but I am sure that for many of those responsible for running pubs and bars who managed to wade …

And All The Time The Clock Is Ticking....

The oft-quoted date of July 4th as being when pubs, restaurants, and other social spaces could re-open is fast-approaching, but with no clarity from the government it is looking increasingly likely that that date will not be achieved....
We shouldn't really be surprised.
The government's overall response to the pandemic has often been complacent, at times haphazard, riddled with inconsistencies, and sometimes downright confusing. It has regularly undermined its own advice with a succession of own goals and mixed messages emanating from a cast of characters that have contradicted themselves and shown in most cases that they are way out of their depth. A government, who on that form you wouldn't trust to organise a p!$$ up in a brewery, is continuing to cause massive uncertainty not just amongst breweries, but also pubs and the communities they support. Three weeks has been regularly stated by those in the industry as being the minimum time needed to get beer brewed, pubs fe…

More Words About Walking and Beer....

In which I take a few tentative steps into the world beyond the reaches of the Calder Valley....
I decided I needed to have a change of scene.

Over the past couple of months I have only been to a small number of places, all within a few miles from home, apart from a necessary trip into Bradford to get my car serviced. Although the rules on travelling to exercise were relaxed a week or two ago I hadn't felt the urge to venture too far. Yesterday though, amidst a succession of squally showers, I decided I would go somewhere different for my walk. I really fancied a walk on the tops, but in light of the weather I opted to go for a low-level walk from Slaithwaite (aka Slawit) along the canal towpath to Marsden and back. Another walk in a distant valley. Well not really, Slawit is only 8 miles from home.

I went the pretty way, dropping down into the village from the Scammonden side, with the hills stretching away in the distance, the fields and moors an invigorating and enticing panora…

Moving from a State of Separation....

There has been a lot of talk and speculation this week about pubs re-opening as two brewing giants agree to join forces....
The Government hinted the other week in one of their infamous daily briefings that from July it may be possible for some establishments in the hospitality trade to begin to open, particularly those with beer gardens or some other outdoor drinking area. Under strict guidelines of course, and maintaining social distancing protocols. But how? Suggestions have included no drinking at the bar, plastic screens between tables, single use glasses, contactless payments, table service, time limits customers could spend there, staff deployed to clean and uphold social distancing, one way systems, etc, Plenty of thoughts have been circulating over the past few days about how it could all work.

Whatever form it takes it is almost inevitable there will be financial implications. The social distancing rules as they currently stand seriously limit how many people could be on the…