Category Archives: It’s the weekend

Baking, gardening, doing up the house, living and stuff

A ‘gateway’ for Winchester: nice gate, needs to go somewhere

A ‘drop in’ event organised by Winchester City Council, Lifshutz Davidson-Sandilands and other experts showed a model and plans for the Station Approach in Winchester, including (clockwise from left) an office block divided by a colonnaded walkway, a plaza into Station Hill flanked by a micro brewery, Gladstone Street, level access across the site, and a ‘gateway’ from the tracks to the town.

Winchester has been struggling with two, large development sites. The first was at the ‘bottom’ of the High Street, where an area called Silverhill. This was earmarked for 74 shops with single aspect flats hung around a car park above them; but it fortunately collapsed in the face of widespread public disquiet (and the online revolution/retail downturn/coming recession that has collapsed demand for shops).

The other is up around the station, where there is a proposal for offices on what is currently a temporary car park, albeit with some trees on it. A proposal a couple of years back for huge, glass faced, blocks was abandoned. Since then, architects, public realm and movement experts have been in and trying to come up with something better.

Which, to be fair, they have. Local residents had the chance to look at the ideas – and rather a nice little plywood model – last weekend. And there’s a fair bit to like. The offices are still very, very big, and there’s no doubt they will impose on the street scene, even if Winchester’s hills mean they don’t impose on longer views.

But the latest proposals are for two blocks, rather than a single one, in natural materials, separated by rather a clever, flat walkway through the site flanked by colonnades (the view coming out of the station will be not dissimilar to the one you get coming out of Turin railway station, which would be a novelty for the south of England).

Also, the plans retain rather a sweet ex-pub and ex-register office (the architects would like am micro-brewery: wouldn’t we all?) and create a new public space/cafĂ© with terrace at the bottom of the site, where it lets out onto the Sussex Street/main road (this looks a bit yummy mummies do Costa outside Waitrose, but we can’t have everything).

However, the constrictions of the site mean that a lot of the public realm proposals, while nice in themselves, don’t really go anywhere. So, there’s a new plaza outside the station. But there’s nothing to connect it with a ropy walkway over to a car park to the north east, which actually functions as the main route into town for a new student block and people living at that end of town. Or with an even more ropy underpass that takes people to the London side of the station.

The plaza lets down to a road called Station Hill, where there are some decent trees. That should at least give bewildered tourists some idea of how they are supposed to get into town, which is not at all clear at the moment (although it’s not the most direct route to the catehdral or military museums).

However, at the bottom of the hill they will still be faced by a scrubby set of lights that only occasionally and grudgingly let people through traffic that comes from all directions. While anybody who uses that nice, flat pedestrian route through the development will similarly find themselves at a road which, if they can get across it, leads only to the dead bulk of the county council’s offices.

The experts at last week’s event seemed well aware of, and frustrated by these problems; which require engagement from Network Rail and Hampshire County Council if they are going to be addressed (neither body is known it town as a model of responsive citizenship). The advice of local councillors was to keep going and to keep raising the issues

Because we now have plans for a city gateway. And it’s quite a nice gateway. But it’s in danger of not leading anywhere…

Lovely morning for it…

It’s a bright, spring morning here in Winchester; which wouldn’t be worth commenting on if it wasn’t also the last week of February. It’s so nice, in fact, that many of the runners gathered outside the Guildhall for the city’s annual 10k were in T-shirts rather than long sleeve tops or jackets.

And there were a lot of runners. The event has grown hugely over the years, and one of the most striking things is how many of the additional participants are women. Back in the ’round about an hour or thereabouts’ finishing slot where I started from, there were probably more women than men.

There was a new course as well. No Nations Hill, which was a nice surprise for those of us who have wept, slogged, sleeted and boiled our way up it in previous years. But a long loop back towards the finish, which wasn’t great for morale.

And a new finish over a narrow bridge by the leisure centre, which totally didn’t work, and will hopefully be tweaked again in future. Flash medal, though. Very 1990s retro…

Where is the exit from Brexit?

Saturday (9 February 2019) saw another day of action against Brexit, with the People’s Vote and other campaign groups encouraging local marches in support of a second referendum, with revoke article 50 as an option.

Winchester had a short march, which started at the top of the High Street, wove its way past the buskers and market stalls that proliferate at the weekend, sidestepped the increasing number of empty shops, and finished outside the Guildhall.

Around 2,500 people took part, according to the organisers and the local paper, the Hampshire Chronicle. Around 50 pro-leave protesters heckled speakers Vince Cable and Andrew Adonis. And a few people yelled “you lost, get over it” at stragglers blocking the way to the bus station and its adjacent betting shop.

Is there any point to such marches, with just 50 days or so to go until the UK leaves or, as things are going, crashes out of the EU? Necessarily, the crowd and speakers found reasons for optimism: the polls have moved in favour of remain (perhaps marginally); the small band of hecklers notwithstanding, there are no ongoing, spontaneous rallies for leave; and it has to be possible for Parliament to find some way to reflect the new reality – or just what it has learned about what exit will really mean.

However, if the Brexit referendum and its outcome was the result of a series of accidents (prime minister David Cameron lazily offering his right wing an in/out vote, the blocking Lib Dems being kicked out of the coalition in the general election of 2015, a poor remain campaign failing to get its boots on while a corrupt leave block made off with the truth) then another series of accidents (May triggering article 50 immediately, while laying down red-lines that the country failed to back in a general election that cost her the authority to face down the ever-more extreme ERG) has ensured that little has gone right since.

In fact, the past two years have been a depressing round of elected leaders failing to heed Pierre Mendes-France’s dictum that “to govern is to choose” and to admit that the UK can either remain, or leave with a worse deal than it has at the moment (with some kind of guarantee for our treaty commitments in Ireland) or crash out (and still risk smashing the Good Friday agreement).

It’s not just been Theresa May, much as she has been responsible for article 50 being triggered when it was, for the red lines, and for being willing to argue against her own positions whenever it will buy her time. Other members of the Tory party have been a disgrace. Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, obviously, but also the likes of Jeremy Hunt, who has proved willing to go along with the charade in return for a promotion and the honour of being spoken of as a potential future leader (we might also mention Winchester’s own MP, who has been silent on the clear views of his constituents since being made public health minister).


Jeremy Corbyn has been, at best, missing in action, to the deep disappointment of the non-Momentum wing of his party and its supporters. At worst, he’s been on board with the May project as a not-so-secret leaver. Parliament whiffed badly on the chance to try and divide along Brexit rather than party lines when given the chance a couple of weeks back.

And we won’t mention the BBC, which has shifted from tacitly supporting Leave by failing to document properly its consequences, to quoting people who “just want to get on with it” and giving airtime to those who seriously seem to think that subjecting a first-world economy to an enormous economic and cultural shock will be “good” for the place and a chance for everyone to show “Dunkirk spirit” (when there is no war… and Dunkirk was on all rational analysis a disaster).

Given all this, the chances of getting to a People’s Vote, or even May’s deal, and avoiding the disaster of no-deal or hard-Brexit don’t look good. But the arguments against May’s deal remain (it fails to protect even our services sector, never mind the educational, cultural, legal or political benefits of EU membership). And crashing out isn’t seriously countenanced by anyone with any knowledge of what it could really mean (the government itself is drawing up plans to stockpile medicines, prioritise drugs over food, get the Navy to take over cross-channel ferry duties, put troops on the street and evacuate the queen as its ‘contingency planning’ gets more gob-smackingly surreal by the day).

In which vein, many of us marching in Winchester were doing so in what might be called the Galaxy Quest spirit: it’s not over until it’s over, so “never give up, never surrender”. And failing that, channelling the Iraq War mantra: you might do this, but “not in my name.”

Snow shoes…

New (running) shoes for old….

I’ve worn Brook’s Ravenna 6 running shoes for years. I bought a pair full price and then hunted down additional pairs in sales and online until even the more obscure corners of the internet ran out and could deliver no longer.

At which point… I had to go back to the wonderful Run and Become in London to check out the updated Ravenna 9 or pick an alternative. The Ravenna 9 turned out to be far too narrow in the foot. So I’ve moved over to the Bedlam (terrible name, by the way: who names shoes after England’s most in/famous mad house?)

So far, I’ve found the Bedlam’s are a different ride. There’s more push from the toes, and the ‘guide rail’ system definitely works, because it’s stopping my left leg from turning in to follow the right. The very flat base also grips the road better, which has been a blessing this weekend, with so much snow, frost, and black ice out on the roads. Shouldn’t matter, but have to admit I love the look and colour, as well.

The office has survived January: and that calls for a celebration cake…

Jam tomorrow: but courgette and ginger marmalade or kiwi conserve?
Victoria sponge with innovative jam to go…

It has been a long January, and there are still two days to payday. The office has demanded cake!

Recipe: for the Victoria sponge: Cream together six ounces of butter (or margarine) and six ounces of sugar (I’ve used white and golden caster sugar). Beat in three eggs. Fold in six ounces of self-raising flour and one ounce of chocolate shreds. Bake at 180c for half an hour, or until golden and a skewer comes out clean.

For the filling: Leave the cake to cool, then fill with butter cream made of one ounce of butter and eight ounces of icing sugar, beaten with a teaspoon of cream, and jam of choice…

#adventrunning 2016

In the run up to Christmas, I’ve been #adventrunning. It’s an exercise streak – it started as ‘run every day of advent’ but this year relaxed the rules a little bit, to allow for other forms of exercise (as long as you did at least 30 minutes per day).

The rule change meant I could count in my pilates mat class and studio session (although, to be fair to myself, my mat class does the full classical mat at this time of year, which can be exhausting – why Joseph Pilates felt it necessary to include so many teaser variations will always be a mystery…)

A streak is interesting. You do get tired, quite quickly, as you don’t get the recovery days that you would following, say, a marathon training programme. On the other hand, the daily discipline is good.

It was particularly good for me this year, as I found myself leaving my job in December; and the running worked off some stressful meetings, got me out of the office and, latterly, out of the house.

Also, the body does adjust. First week, I did three mile runs in the week, with two six milers at the weekend. Second week I was up to four miles in the week (one of them substantially downhill to recover!) Third week, I was back on the four, six, four pattern.

In total, I did just over 80 miles on the #advent running, and I’m now determined to make it to 100 miles by the end of the month. This may or may not be enough to run off the Christmas cake that also got baked, marzipanned and iced over the four weekends… but it should kickstart 2017. Bring on the next challenge!

Yorkshire Parkin, for Halloween

Parkin is a Yorkshire tradition at this time of year: a treacly gingerbread with oatmeal. It’s generally made as a tray bake about a week before it’s needed, so it goes sticky, and eaten on bonfire night.

But I’ve updated the idea by making individual cakes, drizzled with lemon icing to represent cobwebs, so it works as a Halloween treat…

[Recipe, from the BBC website: 110g of butter, brown sugar, self raising flour, 220g of oatmeal, syrup (I recommend half and half golden syrup and ginger syrup from a stem ginger jar), pinch salt, teaspoon of ginger, mixed spice (or more, for a bigger punch).

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan, pour into the dry ingredients, add the eggs beaten with a tablespoon of milk, pour into a tin, and bake until just firm and golden. Leave for a week or until sticky, and ice if desired].