29 December 2010

No trimmings at Alfie's in Bermondsey

I had my Christmas dinner this year with friends at Alfie's, the restaurant on the ground floor of the Bermondsey Square Hotel.
Well I say Christmas dinner, but that's not what was put in front of me, even though it was Christmas Day and it was my main meal of the day.
Hmmm... so what went wrong?
At £35.00 for 3 courses plus drinks etc and a 'discretionary service charge of 12.5%' call me a fool, but I was expecting something reasonably good. But what I got was tiny and tasteless.
My terrine starter was nice but then the main course was placed in front of me. I waited for side dishes or something but nothing came – that was all I was going to get – a few bits of pan fried turkey on a bed of cabbage with 3 or 4 strands of carrot and some one inch cubes of potato, all drenched in an over-powering gravy, served in a pasta bowl, yes, a pasta bowl...!
Where were the parsnips? The cranberry sauce? The proper roasties? It certainly did not fulfill the description on the menu as being "with all the trimmings". I ate it in about 7 mouthfuls in less than 5 minutes (nutritionists say the main meal of the day should take approx 20 mins to eat).
Then the pudding arrived. It was an unattractive individual blob of a thing about 6cm in diameter and 3cm tall. I cut it half. It was squishy and one tiny mouthful confirmed that it was barely cooked and watery. I don't recall any brandy sauce coming with it.
It was too much to take. I was so disappointed. I complained and got my main course removed from the bill and agreed to a little sticky toffee pudding as a replacement for the wet blobby thing. It was OK but it wasn't very sticky.
Needless to say I shall not be going to eat at Alfie's again.
Here's another not so good review.
Oh, I almost forgot, the male and female signs on the toilet doors are horrible – they are bronze casts of a woman's bra and a pair of Y-fronts. Due to the colour of them and their crumpled-ness both items lead one to think that the hotel is promoting casual sex in the toilets or is renting the rooms by the hour!
Ah well... The streets in and around Bermondsey are littered with interesting gems... all of pics above are less than 10 mins walk from the restaurant.

Poison Apple

Season of goodwill and all that but here comes another rant...
I work on an AppleMac. Years ago Macs were only used as work tools by designers like me. But Apple had to pull it socks up and appeal to a wider market and now it seems everyone and his mother owns something with an i in front of it.
My latest gripe involves upgrades and unhelpful advice. Here goes:
I can't have an iTouch until I upgrade my Mac to 10.5 or higher. It seems I need to be running Snow Leopard. For those of you who are confused about that, you're not alone... read on...
After two hours of checking specs and forums on the web I was none the wiser as to which SL product I needed to buy so I booked a 'Genius' appointment at the Apple Store in Cov Gdn.
When I got there the place was packed – after all, it is just an internet cafe without the food and drink. There is no signage to say where the Genius Bar is; one has to keep asking. There is also no signage anywhere to say where anything else is either.
Two red-shirted numpties came up to me and asked if I had a one-to-one booked. Er. Yeah? Dunno? What? My name wasn't on the list. When I explained why I was there they looked me like I was the most stupid person in the world and and told me (d'uh!) that I had a 'technical' query, and then mentally patted themselves on the back for being so jolly and obsequious yet perversely condescending and patronising.
This did not put me in a good mood. And I had to wait ver 20 mins before I was seen. My grinning nerd, sorry, genius, said I needed Snow Leopard. It occurred to me at this point that he just assumed I knew what this was – Apple seems to think that we know about every Apple product they sell in advance, both in-store and on-line. It's not very helpful.
I explained my problem and my genius asked what system spec I was running. Had I not had the foresight to take with me every bit of info I could find he would not have been able to help me. Ooh dear reader, how further pissed off would I have been then?
But, good news – the diagnosis is that I only needed to spend £25 to upgrade my system. Phew!
So... as I'd only used 5 mins of my 20 I thought I'd quiz him about other things, and bloody glad I did because I needed some info about upgrading my iPhoto. (In order to create the montages for this site I have set up a lot of cross-referenced files for the 16,000+ images I have on file – I have hundreds of folders and sub-folder in there – a bootscraper pic may be filed in 'Bootscrapers', 'Bloomsbury' and, due to its cat shape, in 'Animals' too. It's an old package and is suffering with overload.)
BUT, get this... hold onto your seat... he told me when I upload Snow Leopard my old iPhoto won't work! And, furthermore, if I upload the new iPhoto (part of iLife, which contains 3 other things I don't need) it won't retain all my existing folders. Aaaargh! I almost self-combusted.
The genius gave me nothing in the way of advice how best to get around this but instead just looked at me as if to say, 'that's it, I am done... next!".
It's like throwing the whole contents of a metal filing cabinet into a skip.
Yes, I have the originals all backed-up chronologically but what an uphill struggle it's gonna be... once I get iLife, I will have to re-make my folders (see you all in February when I have finished) and then load SL, and then possibly get an iTouch. Or not.
Or I may just give up and go and live in a hut on a wi-fi-less beach somewhere...
What really annoys me about this is that Apple have made us all their puppets. Once hooked, we have no choice but to keep upgrading*. Hard to believe that not so long ago Mac-users were derided by PC users convinced, as these people were, that Macs would be phased out. But thanks to Mr Jobs, what was once a piece of kit that I used to do my job on is now a toy for the masses, complete with family and friends.
The i in iTouch, iMac, iPhone etc is obviously a reference to Steve Jobs, not us – there is no me or you in Apple; it's themMaster, themControl, themBoss.
Thoughts... I can't help but think that we are losing a lot here; where are we going with all this in the future? Backing-up to DVDs and CDs is all well and good but discs have a short shelf life, yet a vinyl record can still be played, a Box Brownie will still take pictures, 35mm film can be scanned to any size...
What would happen to my photos on Flickr and this blog should I drop down dead tomorrow?
And finally, it just occurred to me that I create these montages using Quark... don't get me started about that other bully, Adobe...
*until the next must-have system comes along...

12 December 2010

The state of my health in ghost signs

Less than 2 weeks after shaking off the last headcold and I've somehow picked up another one.
This isn't funny. I have been coughing and sniffing and sneezing for 3 days now and I am really not happy about it. I can't remember the last time I felt like like this. Oh gawd.
I read somewhere that there are over 147 common colds... we don't stand a chance... perhaps I have been mixing with the dirty public too much lately...?
Ironically I am working at the British Medical Journal this week!
So stay healthy, build up those antibodies, wash your hands, fight those germs, but don't get silly! I fear that in the future the human race won't consist of the survival of the fittest, but instead people will be cocooned in head-to-toe latex, and babies will be made in laboratories.
All of these and more here.

8 December 2010

Festive Fair at London Docklands

This is where I will be showcasing my Amelia Parker clay pipe jewellery...
It's just occurred to me that some of you may not have taken in that this not at the main Museum of London, but at the sister museum here.
If you are planning on coming, the museum galleries are open as usual during the day but the fair does not start until 6pm.
Stalls will start clearing up 8.45pm.
And a really big thanks to the guys at Londonist for writing such a brilliant feature about Amelia Parker clay pipe jewllery in today's Santa's Lap.

3 December 2010

Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street

The home where Charles Dickens wrote The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist is getting £2 million from the National Lottery Fund.
The house in Doughty Street, WC1, is now home to The Charles Dickens Museum and they intend use the money to store more than 10,0000 books, manuscripts etc relating to Dickens' life.
Dickens lived in the building for only two years (1837-39) and this brings me to my blue plaque bugbear... how long does someone need to have lived somewhere for a blue plaque to be deemed appropriate?
OK, in this instance, a few novels were written on the premises, but has anyone else noticed how many blue plaques in London represent Dickens because he slept on someone's sofa one night, popped in for a cuppa, or lived 'nearby'!
But the museum is well worth a visit, and Doughty Street and the adjoining Bloomsbury streets are worth a stroll down any day as the area is a mine of wonderful architectural features, as shown in the montage below.
And here are 15 interesting facts about the man.