Thursday, 26 February 2009

Cleanest & Greenest?...I Don't Think So.

As a business the tartist and I (unlike domestic households) have to pay for our refuse collection in addition to our already substantial business rates. Now, we have an 1,100 litre wheelie bin at both of our cafés these cost us £10.90 per week to empty plus £3.30 hire charge. This equates to £738.40 per café, per annum. In addition to this we are required to sign a 'duty of care certificate' (usually just an A4 photocopy) and for this we get charged £30.90 per premises. A total cost of £1,538.60 per year... I guess what we're doing in effect is purchasing 1,100 litres of landfill per week for each café.

Until recently (approx. 18 months ago) all our cardboard was collected along with the other businesses in Church Road from the kerbside each Tuesday morning. As for all our glass bottles, I was dutifully carrying several boxes of these to our local re-cycling point each week until we opened our second café and it became too much for me to handle.

Now, around this time (Jan. 2007) we were informed with a letter from Colchester Borough Council that our cardboard would be an 'additional' collection at £556.20 per year, completely knocking our cardboard re-cycling on the head so to speak. When we enquired about glass bottle/can re-cycling we were simply astounded by the reply...there is no facility for re-cycling bottles and cans from businesses by Colchester Borough Council. Even if we wanted to pay handsomely for this service they simply wont do it! We are are relatively small business in the scheme of things so, imagine all the pubs, clubs, cafés etc. around the Colchester Borough having paid for their 1.100 ltrs and having nowhere to put their bottles and cans. What would you do? My guess is like us, having paid such a premium for the wheelie bin, you'd stick the bottles and cans in with the rest.
In the end when it comes to running a business it simply makes economic sense to fill up the bin doesn't it?

As a householder I've been an enthusiastic re-cycler for years and I suspect like me, most other householders who do their bit each week at the kerbside will be horrified to learn that Colchester Borough Council's setup for re-cycling is so lamentably inadequate at present. We could all be forgiven for thinking 'where is the point?'

It seems ironic to me that on many of the lorries the slogan reads 'cleanest and greenest' and I suppose what I would like to see is adequate collection of re-cyclable materials from Colchester's businesses by the Borough Council because the present setup is causing tonnes and tonnes to go unecessarily to land-fill, which according to 'The draft joint municipal waste management strategy for Essex 2007 - 2032' will be full up by 2017!

Waste management is an enormous business and it seems strange to me that our council simply can't or won't do what the private firms do quite profitably.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

'The Monkey House' Watercolour

Cunning Plans Are Here Again

After reading Juliet's musing this morning I was prompted to a little musing of my own concerning the current state of affairs surrounding the banking débâcle. I may have missed a trick somewhere along the line, but as I understand it, the current state we find ourselves in is almost entirely due to the banks lending far too much money, far too easily, to far too many people. Now we are bieng told that the plan to solve the problem of the stealthily rising river of fiscal poo we find ourselves in is to get the banks to start lending lots of money again. That's a very cunning plan Baldrick!!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Another Trip To Orford

The tartist and I have just got home from another of our battery re-charge visits for a few days to The Crown & Castle in Orford, Suffolk. As you may recall from a post last year on this blog the C&C is run by Ruth and David Watson, Ruth you may know from Channel Five's 'The Hotel Inspector and more recently Channel Four's 'Country House Rescue' and they seem to instinctively know how things ought to be done, both on the accommodation side and the restaurant. Unfortunately for this visit the weather stayed extremely grey and drab so I can't share too many great pictures with you.

On Monday we arrived about 3pm and read in companionable silence in our room as is often our wont, until dinner at 8pm. The artist with 'Mother Tongue' by Bill Bryson, the tartist with Kate Colquhoun's 'Taste', the story of Britain through its cooking, which is a foodie 'must read' in our opinion. After a typically good dinner in the 'Trinity' restaurant and a better than average bottle of sauvignon we turned in.

In the morning I took a walk through the village down to the quay where there is a good view across to Orford Ness and although the weather has been milder in recent days the wind was still biting and I had trouble drawing for more than ten minutes before moving on.

So, off up the gentle hill past rows of beautiful cottages many of which must be hundreds of years old, back towards the large church of St. Bartholomew, like many East Anglian churches it seems nowadays out of all proportion to the village where it stands, but I guess years ago Orford really was a very important port on the East Coast. Until this visit I'd never ventured inside but this time I'm pleased I did.

I was really taken with the beautiful large font with stone carvings all around

particularly this one of god the father shown as an old man holding god the son on a cross between his knees

and inlaid lettering around the base.

On Tuesday we took ourselves off to Snape Maltings, just a few miles up the road from Orford and a lovely drive through Tunstall Forest. Snape Maltings is always worth a visit as it has lots of departments that are right up our street, from a good gallery exhibiting some interesting work by mostly East Anglian Artists including the wonderful Maggi Hambling to a really well stocked kitchenware department...

where the tartist is in her element.

There are also a couple of fairly good cafés too for when the urge for a pot of tea and a lemon tart gets too much, shame about the lack of cake forks though.

On wednesday we decided to take a drive out to the old market town of Woodbridge by the river Deben and what a nice little town it happens to be, with lots of independently owned interesting shops to browse, and a nice salty-marshy thing going on down by the river. No sooner had we parked the car when we bumped into Patrick

who owns a lovely delicatessen called The Woodbridge Fine Food Company

selling really excellent local produce; vegetables, pies, fish, meat, dairy, the lot (and we have to thank Patrick here for the sample sausages). Parick wasn't backward in coming forward and said 'if you like what you see here you should try our café down by the river'. So, with Patrick's directions we headed down to the Waterfront Café where we enjoyed a spot of lunch, homemede chicken and ham soup and potted shrimps with organic brown toast and butter, yum!

I can't leave Woodbridge figuratively speaking without telling you about another gem in the High Street we discovered called Browsers Bookshop and Café. They are just what most of our provincial towns need right now and describe themselves as 'a one-off independent bookshop and the antidote to bland high-street chains'. They were well stocked with a wide range of books particularly local titles and lots of 'arty' cards with the added bonus of a good little café. I think if we didn't have our art cafés the tartist and I would be tempted start something similar where we live.

So, quite content and with tired feet we headed back to the C&C for our last night, I think we could actually have done with a couple more nights away. Once again we've found more interesting places to visit just a short drive up the coast in Suffolk.

Friday, 13 February 2009


Is The Food On Your Plate What You Think It Is?

The other day I decided to have a look around to see if I could find a cheaper supplier of the ingredients we use for our cakes and desserts etc. At the moment we use Brakes who are not too bad if you ignore the short deliveries, the fluctuating prices, the often broken packaging and the delivery seemingly timed to coincide with lots of customers. I did wonder if another supplier might have a slightly different way so I had a look on Google for 3663, another famous name in the world of catering.
I never did make it to their site because I was riveted by this piece from The Independent. It showed completely the theory that I have, that too many restaurants are using food that sounds as if it was made by a person using fresh, real ingredients but in actual fact the dish is bought in and is a fraud. The descriptions are worded in such a way as to be very close to dishes that have previously be developed by truly talented people. For instance Sticky Toffee Pudding is a most delicious pudding. Created in The Lake District by John Tovey some time in the 70's it is now copied by most mass producers and comes in a little pot with the sauce included. It is a recipe which is so simple that everyone could make it if they wanted to...if they don't that's fine with me but if they do here is the recipe I use:-

Sticky Toffee Pudding

8oz Dates
4oz Butter
6oz Caster Sugar
3 Eggs
8oz Self Raising Flour
8 fl. oz Boiling Water
1 tsp. Vanilla Essence
1 tsp. Bicarbonate of Soda
3 tsp. Strong Coffee
Gas 4 / 180 - 25 minutes

Chop the dates and put into a bowl with the bicarbonate of soda, vanilla, coffee and boiling water. Set aside.
Cream together the butter and the sugar. Gradually beat in the eggs. Fold in the flour and then the bowl of dates, water etc.
'Plop' into a lined tin and bake.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

'Beach Stroll' a favourite spot ~ Pencil

In The Studio Again

I managed to get a little bit of time in the studio today and as usual it's quite hard to get back into 'studio mode' after the frenetic activity of refitting the artcafé. I have a small watercolour and a pastel in progress and a couple of quite large commissioned pieces to start so I really have to knuckle down in the next couple of weeks.

The studio this afternoon

The new canvasses for the artcafé kitchen...they need completing too

The small watercolour is almost finished .

Monday, 9 February 2009

Full English Sir? ...I'll Open A Tin.

I think I must have been living a very sheltered life, because there isn't too much that brings me and my trolley to a grinding halt in the supermarket. Yesterday while I was doing my rounds at the co-op I caught sight of a product (let's call it that shall we) in a tin that dismayed and amused me in equal measure.

One of the finest things anyone can eat for breakfast in my opinion is a well cooked English Breakfast, by this I mean locally produced sausage, bacon, with bubble & squeak from real mash and cabbage/greens with a good amount of 'crisping', mushrooms fried in butter as opposed to oil or any of those hydrogenated substances posing as 'healthy alternatives'...I'm not a big fan of this type of industrial chemistry at breakfast, fried, poached or scrambled egg, and grilled tomato (sprinkled with cracked pepper and sea salt). This list could justifiably be enhanced by the addition of 'Heinz' baked beans, although I'm not as enthusiastic about these with my fry-up as at teatime with toast, black pudding or indeed haggis if you find yourself further north.

Imagine my surprise to find the bold claim of 'All Day Breakfast' printed by messers Crosse and Blackwell on their can. I'm as indebted as anyone to Nicholas Appert and Peter Durand for the discovery of the canning process to preserve food but really do flinch at the idea of the institution that is the English Breakfast being bastardised in this way. I realise this rant is not in the least bit scientific as I didn't purchase one to sample (to be fair it could well be delicious, and I may now have to buy one and write a future post about it) also there are many factory made comestables that I have to confess to eating and enjoying from time to time but somehow with the 'All Day Breakfast' in a tin I sense a certain line has been crossed...and blackwell'd.

Thursday, 5 February 2009