My Christmas haul

Christmas is over, and the January blues are sinking in. By now, most of us have broken our New Year’s resolutions, pay day is still a long ways away, the nights are long and cold, and Springtime is still just a glint in Mother Nature’s eye. On top of all that, we have Trump’s inauguration and the triggering of Article 50 to look forward to. So I would like to look back with fond memories to the many generous gifts and cards I received from my lovely Anipal friends on twitter- when all is going wrong, they are there to remind me that the world hasn’t quite gone to hell yet.

So please enjoy my slideshow, and thank you again to all my pals for making my Christmas very special. See if you can spot your card in there, and shout out in the comments if you do!

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The Chocolate Show

Today we have a special edition of #JezzerChecksChocs. Thanks to Zara Chocolates (and my twitter furiend and #Caykclub hostess Mogsbear who introduced me to them), I obtained free tickets to The Chocolate Show at the Olympia in London. Armed with knowledge on how to “taste” chocolate handed down to me by my other twitter furiend Honey Dog‘s mom, herself once a world travelling chocolate expert, I giddily skipped to Kensington (as much as I could skip on The Tube without get strange looks at any rate) and as a result here are some snaps from the day:

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Waiting outside in the rain
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First one inside!
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Lots of stalls
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Still quiet as I got in very early
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Duffy’s chocolates are bean to bar

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Best tree EVER
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Thank you Zara’s for inviting me!
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#chocolateroses selfie
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Nice hat

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Booze!
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Cumby!!
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Must taste the booze
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*bows*

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I’d date this stall
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Pigeons! (Just because)
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Sexy chocolate dresses
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Time to buy chocs!!

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Cocoa and sausage rolls!
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Mmmm… (not the bloke)

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I also enjoyed a lecture on the history of chocolate and how to “taste” chocolate like wine tasting. A great day out! So I guess the diet starts tomorrow *kicks jezzdad*.

Checkin’ Chocs for Jezzer.

A Jezzer Checks Chocs guest special!

Benni & Hicks & Chloe

Our awesome ted-mate and fellow blogger Jeremy Bear from Jezzer Checks Chocs has asked us to do a review of some choccie we came across the other day that isn’t available where he lives.   Needless to say my brother and I jumped at the chance to eat Chocolate in the name of helping a friend out!!

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The chocolate we’re reviewing for Jeremy is Cadbury’s Apple Crumble and Cadbury’s Lamington Chocolate Blocks…we had to force Mummy to go to two supermarkets for these as the Apple Crumble Block was only available through Coles and the Lamington was only available through Woolworths.

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We decided to give the Apple Crumble a try first.  Opening it up it sure looks good…smells okay too…our resident baker bear Benaud has stepped up to investigate this one closely.  We were expecting a bit more “bits” of apple crumble.

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The first bite…not too bad…but the second and a…

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Has The Southall Big Plan been a Big Cock-up?

Jezzer Checks Chocs

The definition of a council: “A body of people elected to manage the affairs of a city, county, or other municipal district”.

Ealing Council is a London Borough Council, and is lead by Julian Bell and Chief Executive Paul Najserek of the Labour Party. The urban district of Southall forms part of this Borough. In the 2001 Census it was recorded that about 60% of the population is Asian, Black or Mixed race. The vast majority of this percentage is Asian at 47.8%.

Around 2013, Ealing Council instigated something called the “Southall Big Plan”, a multi-million pound regeneration project with the aim of:

  • Upgrading Southall’s streets
  • Improving community facilities
  • Improving safety and tackle crime
  • Promoting healthy living
  • Encouraging better social behaviour
  • Elevating civic pride
  • Boosting investment
  • Improving homes and neighbourhoods

It is now 2016, and the majority of the road changes and “improvements” around the Southall Broadway, High Street and Market area have…

View original post 872 more words

Has The Southall Big Plan been a Big Cock-up?

The definition of a council: “A body of people elected to manage the affairs of a city, county, or other municipal district”.

Ealing Council is a London Borough Council, and is lead by Julian Bell and Chief Executive Paul Najserek of the Labour Party. The urban district of Southall forms part of this Borough. In the 2001 Census it was recorded that about 60% of the population is Asian, Black or Mixed race. The vast majority of this percentage is Asian at 47.8%.

Around 2013, Ealing Council instigated something called the “Southall Big Plan”, a multi-million pound regeneration project with the aim of:

  • Upgrading Southall’s streets
  • Improving community facilities
  • Improving safety and tackle crime
  • Promoting healthy living
  • Encouraging better social behaviour
  • Elevating civic pride
  • Boosting investment
  • Improving homes and neighbourhoods

It is now 2016, and the majority of the road changes and “improvements” around the Southall Broadway, High Street and Market area have now been completed after much disruption to local business and traffic. So let’s see how your millions of pounds have been spent, and what actually has been achieved by Ealing Council.

Firstly, the Broadway pavement has been widened, with islands at the centre of the busy road in an attempt to reduce pedestrian fatalities. This has been at the expense of a cycle lanes and bus lanes, and has made things more difficult for the emergency services as they try to navigate the always very busy Uxbridge Road. Unfortunately, pedestrian deaths continue, as seen recently here. Ealing Council failed to take into consideration that, from a cultural perspective, the method of crossing roads in the home countries of the 43.4% of the Southall population that were born outside of the UK takes no heed of central islands and widened pavements, and they continue to just raise their hand and cross the road in the blind hope that traffic will stop.

Not only has public crossing safety remained unchanged, but it does not help that the Council’s own employees are happy to drive on the pavement when they feel like it. If it was you or I of course, we would be banged up, penalised, hung, drawn and quartered, but not if you’re a Civil Enforcement Officer (aka Prime Money Earner) for the Council:

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So a big fail for The Big Plan’s “increasing safety”.

There is really only one Multi-Story Car Park in Southall, Herbert Road MCP, and it can get rather busy as many people from out of town come specifically to shop here. In their infinite wisdom, and for reasons unbeknownst to anyone, Ealing Council has changed the road infrastructure around the MCP, diverting traffic through a (now reversed) one-way system. This new access road is a narrow residential cul-de-sac (Beachcroft Avenue and Orchard Avenue) and has resulted in massive, dangerous queues into and out of the car park, and increased traffic and pollution in a previously quiet residential area. As the road is narrow, access to the car park is very difficult, and because the one-way system is reversed, the road is dangerous as sat navs continue to send out of towners and delivery drivers the wrong way. Also, the resultant very long queues into and out of the car park has simply put many shoppers off coming here, causing much local business decline. Instead of reducing Business Rates to reflect this, of course they’re being INCREASED, because Ealing Council is selfish and anti-business.

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There are virtually no public toilets in Southall, and since the ones in the Car Park have been closed, people just relieve themselves in the stairwell (a favourite place for drug addicts and alcoholics to also hang out, as Ealing Council does not have any monetary interest in moving them away) and in alleyways. Bizarrely, this sign outside the MCP does not lead to any actual toilets:

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So a big fail for The Big Plan’s “improving community facilities, promoting healthy living, boosting investment, and improving homes and neighbourhoods”.

So what of Ealing Council’s hope of “encouraging better social behaviour”? Well, since completion of works on The Broadway, there has been increased vagrancy and anti-social behaviour here. It has got to the stage where rival begging gangs are openly fighting over their “turf” along The Broadway. Many beggars hang around the Herbert Road MCP and actively follow you into quiet stairwells/ upper levels. No one at Ealing Council cares, because, you guessed it, there’s no money to be made out of combatting the problem. Ealing Council employees, labeled “Civil Enforcement Officers”, happily turn a blind eye to anti-social behaviour and continue slapping Penalty Notices on cars and earning their bonuses. Their fellow citizen’s safety means nothing to them.

In my opinion, Ealing Council’s Big Plan for Southall has been an unmitigated disaster. It has left terrible congestion into and out of the town’s one car park, diverted traffic systems around the Broadway so that junctions are now dangerously intersecting with each other, created more traffic to previously quiet residential roads, left little space for cyclists, buses and emergency vehicles, and has not made the crossing of the busy Broadway safer for pedestrians. Stupidly, even previous Keep Clear boxes on The Broadway have been removed. The Results? Congestion, business decline, people urinating on the street and in stairwells due to lack of public toilets, reduced civic pride, people openly begging on the streets, and most recently the death of a pedestrian.

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The only response from Ealing Council? They are “monitoring the situation”. How much more business decline, open crime and pedestrian deaths must Southall tolerate before the council admits that they made many mistakes, have wasted a great deal of the public purse, and, ultimately, just don’t care about Southall? And it has to be asked- why this obvious lack of care with public money in an area with a high level of population born outside the UK and a high level of ethnic minorities? Is this a local Labour Party-led Council that is reflecting its hard left national leadership by showing utter disdain for local business and wasting tax money without careful forethought? Or could this be something more sinister- plain old racism? I’ll let you decide.

My definition of Ealing Council: “A body of people elected to mis-manage the affairs of a city, county, or other municipal district”. Or, to paraphrase Morrissey, the world really is run by idiots.

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Summoned Ealing Councillors unable to vote on YOUR behalf.

Bear Beer Special 2016

It’s Olympics time again, and what better way to celebrate these feats of stamina, strength, athleticism and patriotism than with…. beer!! Let us all be inspired.

So first it’s time to find out if Ade Adepitan (paralympic athlete, TV presenter, journalist, world traveler and all round nice guy) likes chocolate:

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So there you go chaps. Depends on what type. I think you will agree that never have truer words been spoken. Thank you Ade.

1. The White Hag “Oatmeal Chocolate Milk Stout” 5.2%alc

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This was kindly given to me by Tourguide Ted at our last tweetup in Greenwich earlier this year. When I say given, I meant it had to be forced from his brofur Theo’s clutches, but eventually I won. The White Hag is an Irish brewery and is named after a witch/ creature/ Mother Nature (delete as appropriate) who shaped the form of the land and is present in everything through the water of the earth. I think the brewers need to stop inhaling the fumes of their own brewery.

This stout was very smooth and full-bodied, with no hint of smokiness. Couldn’t taste any chocolate though, so it loses a paw point. 3 paws out of 5

2. Austmann Sjokolade & Kirsebaer Porter (chocolate and cherry porter) 7.5% alc

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Austmann Brewery is a small Norwegian craft beer company based in Trondheim. My friend Camilla very kindly brought me a bottle on her last visit to London, and I have previously tried their “Three Old Ladies” pale ale and enjoyed it very much. That beer was named in honour of three ladies who financially backed the company when no banks were able to give them a loan! Cheers to that!! Stupid banks.

Austmann were recently at the Bryggeri beer festival and I am sure they made a great success there.

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Oh dear, all the label blurb is written in Norwegian. I may actually have to rely on my tastebuds *gulp*.

Words that come to mine as I sip this lovely porter are… smooth, well-balanced, tasty, strong, so very strong… did I mention it was 7.5%abv? I enjoyed this beer very much, but I think I might need a little lay down now… zzzzzzzz.  5 snoring beers out of 5

Jezzer’s Albums of the Year So Far (2016)

Slightly late this year. Coming in at number 5, pop pickers….

5. Michael Kiwanuka- “Love and Hate”

Only out for a week, this is a very good album with Marvin Gaye-esque soul and R&B influences. I was initially put off with its lead single “Black Man In A White World”, which suffered from the twin misfortunes of mediocrity and being played to death on national radio. However, give the album a chance and you’ll find some very strong song writing and great production. Unfortunately, I suspect Love and Hate is destined to be played only as backing music to middle-class dinner parties across suburbia, which is a shame.

4. Kendrick Lamar- “Untitled Unmastered”

Kendrick Lamar is a Californian rapper who is rightly causing established popular artists such as Kanye West some sleepless nights. This compilation of unreleased demos and outtakes is short and has some rough around the edges recordings (as is to be expected). However, seek out the diamonds in the rough, such as the almost jazzy number below, and you will be greatly rewarded.

3. David Bowie- “Blackstar”

What can I say that hasn’t already been said?

2. Bat For Lashes- “The Bride”

For me, Natasha Khan is way up there among artists such as Kate Bush, Bjork, Peter Gabriel and David Bowie, as a singer who’s creativity stretches beyond just the musical art form. Her latest album is (dare I say it) a concept album which follows the story of a bride who’s fiancé dies on the way to their wedding. That simple sentence hasn’t really sold it well, but listen to the album (as a whole) and a beautiful piece about love, loss and overcoming trauma will emerge. Really wonderful.

1. Radiohead- “A Moon Shaped Pool”

Continuing to march to beat of their own drum, Radiohead turn out an album of mainly ethereal ballads. In this humble bear’s opinion, beautifully constructed songs with lovely melodies that only reward the most patient listeners (as it should be). Interestingly, they have finally recorded a studio version of True Love Waits, a song that has been knocking around since the 90s, and which they use here as the closing track. Worth the wait.