Posts Tagged ‘Alton’

Lunch at Italian coffee shop Bottega dei Sapori

October 25, 2014
Bottega dei Sapori

Bottega dei Sapori

Excellent pumpkin tortellini at Italian coffee shop Bottega dei Sapori.

Followed by cioccolato creme brulee and tea.

I am no great fan of Italian cakes.

Tea, tea pigs, rubbish tea from Tetley.

For a restaurant that prides itself on sourcing quality, they really must do better than tea pigs.

Coffee is single sourced from Monte Sion Estate in El Salvador.

For quality food, need quality ingredients and a skilled chef to weave his magic.

Why can people not see the same applies to coffee? Yes source quality coffee beans, but also need a good espresso machine and someone skilled in making coffee.

Bottega dei Sapori is in Alton, next door to the building that once housed the bank belonging to the brother of Jane Austen.

Afternoon in Alton

October 25, 2014
Lord Nelson on loan from  the National Railway Museum

Lord Nelson on loan from the National Railway Museum

A few days cold, a few days warm. Tuesday and Wednesday were cold. Thursday and Friday warm. Today warm, but not as warm.

On arrival at Alton Station, steam trains.

A gang of bikers outside Station Cafe. I helpfully told them Wednesday night, Bikers Night. But why not ring ahead? They would probably have stayed open. And as there was a lot of people milling around for a steam rally, seems foolish not to have been open.

Dropped in Alton Books, quick word. Mentioned Guildford Book Festival last week, bookseller WHSmith. Do they appreaciate the extent to which they are alienating people? Do they care?

Brock’s Butchers, used to be Brock’s Farm Shop, closed. They close at four o’clock. Maybe I may have made it had I not dallied. But I was there before four o’clock. Their loss, simply means I called in Waitrose later.

Small retailers whinge they lose out, but they are their own worst enemy. Do they want businesses or not?

Late lunch at Italian restaurant.

Whilst there, sun was shining, clear blue sky. When I left, cloudy, already getting dark,

Although getting dark, I decided to walk through the water meadows. Source of the River Wey.

I was surprised how dry the river, a mere trickle.

I cut up the hill, via St Lawrence Church. I do not know why, but this route always seems shorter, as it brings me out at the top end of town.

Lights on in the church. There was last time I passed by, even music playing, and yet the door closed. This time open. As I entered, two young musicians left. I had the church to myself.

In the corner by the door, an ugly plastic monstrosity. Sacrilege this was allowed to be built to desecrate the church.

A stage set, high quality microphones, mixing deck, speakers and yet no one about, no indication what for, no posters.

I looked on a table and found flyers for a concert tonight at 7pm. It was 6-15, I did not fancy hanging around.

The set up would be ideal for Jewelia to give a concert.

I looked in O’Connor’s Secret Garden, and said a quick hello to Peter O’Connor. He was hosting a private party. Fortunate I am not wishing to eat, I said. He offered to serve me in the front parlour should I wish to stay.

By now dark. It feels like late night, and yet only 6-30.

Unbelievable greedy selfish bastard in Waitrose, scooped up everything priced down and piled up in his trolley.

Station Cafe

September 10, 2014
Station Cafe breakfast

Station Cafe breakfast

Station Cafe Wednesday night bikers night

Station Cafe Wednesday night bikers night

As I learnt two weeks ago at Station Cafe, Wednesday night is Bikers Night.

The place was packed outside and inside with bikers.

Apart from the charming young lady serving, I was the only non-biker there.

As I had 35 minutes to wait for a train, I decided to have something to eat, and chose the smallest breakfast, egg, bacon, beans, fried bread and sausages. Not wanting egg, I asked could I have something else. I chose mushrooms, a mistake, as tinned mushroom not fresh mushrooms.

The breakfast came surprisingly fast. I also added chips, which were brought as a bowl of chips, plus I had a mug of tea, served from a great big tea pot.

The breakfast was good, apart from the sausages and the mushrooms, excellent bacon. No excuse for the sausages and mushrooms, not when Alton has an excellent butcher and greengrocer. It would probably cost a little more, but I am ok with that.

I missed the next train.

Station Cafe is a black shed by Alton Station.

Bikers night is Wednesday night, in winter last Wednesday of the month.

Ceramicus 2014 at Allen Gallery

September 6, 2014
Ceramicus 2014

Ceramicus 2014

I would not expect to find Allen Gallery open in the evening.

A private showing of Ceramicus 2014.

I asked could I look in.

Very interesting ceramics. Vastly superior to what is usually seen at craft markets, which tends to be overpriced tat.

The only time I have seen ceramics of this quality was in Athens.

I thought, excellent location for Jewelia to play.

Allen Gallery has the most impressive collection of ceramics outside the V&A. Out the back, a lovely walled garden.

Ceramicus is a group of ceramic artists based in the Surrey and Hampshire area.

Ceramicus 2104 is on all this month and well worth a visit.

Waterstone’s Alton: Paulo Coelho’s latest book

September 6, 2014


If Paulo Coelho’s latest book was on display, I could not see. I asked at the counter.

They did not know, and I was asked for the title.


I was taken to where it was spine showing not cover, with new titles.

They said they had sold a few. I would assume, people in the know, as not on prominent display.

I would have expected a bookshop to know of an international best seller from an international best selling author, but they did not.

Last Sunday, Adultery entered the New York Time’s best seller list at No2. The Alchemist was at No2 in the charts for paperbacks. Sunday, Paulo Coelho is a guest of Oprah Winfrey on Super Soul Sunday.

Lunch at Italian coffee shop Bottega dei Sapori

September 6, 2014
mushroom tortellini

mushroom tortellini



Bottega dei Sapori is a lovely little coffee shop in Alton, serving excellent food, with a lovely walled garden out the back.

Mushroom tortellini ordered. I was lucky, one table in the walled garden.

A very pleasant afternoon, sitting under the shade of the beech tree.

After my mushroom tortellini, which was excellent, I had a pine nut and honey tart, plus a pot of tea. The tea though was teapigs, not quality tea.

Bottega dei Sapori pride themselves on the quality of their ingredients, locally sourced from local suppliers, the local butcher, the local greengrocer. Teapigs is an anomaly as it is neither, it is not the indie tea company they pretend to be, it is part of Tetleys.

The rambling rose, which I saw in June (hard to believe it was three month’s since I was last here) has been pruned hard back.

Had I thought of it, I would have raised Guildford Independent’s Day.

Afternoon in Alton

September 6, 2014
diesel-hauled train at Alton Station

diesel-hauled train at Alton Station

Swan Hotel

Swan Hotel

Old Town Hall

Old Town Hall

food banks fastest growing sector of the economy

food banks fastest growing sector of the economy

Church Mice Cottage

Church Mice Cottage

A very pleasant warn and sunny afternoon.

I quite surprised, a very impressive schedule running from Alton Station, but not steam trains, only diesel-hauled, which probably explained few people on the platform, few passengers on the train that pulled in.

I looked in Alton Books. I usually stay and have a chat, but time was pressing. I let the lady know about appalling behaviour WHSmith re Paulo Coelho’s latest book Adultery. She said she was not surprised. I let her know Paulo Coelho was a guest of Oprah Winfrey on Super Soul Sunday.

Lovely mushroom tortellini in the little Italian coffee shop. It was very pleasant stay under a tree in their walled garden. So pleasant, I stayed and had a pine nut and honey tart and a pot of tea. For teapigs, it was about acceptable.

By now way gone five.

I was lucky, I thought maybe the excellent greengrocer would have closed, but still open. It gave me time to catch Waterstone’s before they closed.

Under the despised and hated ConDem government, food banks are the fastest growing sector of the economy. A new one has just opened in Alton.

Then a walk to and through the water meadows, the source of the River Wey.

I walked the back way, up a hill, and via the Parish Church. I do not know why but this always seems shorter.

I was surprised to find the Allen Gallery open. A private showing of a ceramics exhibition, Ceramicus 2014. I blagged my way in. I was pleasantly surprised, very high quality ceramics on display.

I was surprised to find O’Connor’s Secret Garden closed. Last time I passed it was closed, but that was for holidays. Worried it may have closed, which would be a grave loss, I asked a little corner shop. No, on holiday. I recommended a note to that effect, otherwise people will think they have closed.

Chips from the local fish n chip shop. Enough chips to feed a family.

A diesel-hauled train departed as I arrived at Alton Station. It was now dark and I could not see what it was.

Station Cafe

August 27, 2014

Station Cafe black shed

Station Cafe black shed

In the forecourt of Alton Station, a black shed with a couple of benches outside, never found open before.

As I had forty minutes to wait for a train, I decided to take a look inside.

I was pleasantly surprised, nothing what I would have expected from the outside.

At one end, bookshelves lined with books, very tastefully decorated. I expected a scruffy transport cafe.

I said, I had never seen it open before.

Bikers night, every Wednesday night in the summer, last Wednesday of the month in the winter.

I cannot have been in Alton on a Wednesday before.

Dysfunctional public transport

August 27, 2014
Alton Station bus stop

Alton Station bus stop

No 64 bus leaving Alton Station is timed to depart at exactly the same time as the London train arrives.

What brain dead imbecile designs a bus timetable that the bus departs as the connecting train arrives, that guarantees you miss the bus, leaving passengers half an hour to wait for the next bus?

Does Stagecoach hate bus passengers?

Ten minutes before the bus was due a 64 bus arrived.

I do not know why, but I asked was it the bus for Winchester?

No, replied the driver, this bus goes around the estates yours is the next bus.

How can you have two different routes, each with the same number?

I looked again at the timetable, no, no bus shown going around the estates, just a bus every half hour to Winchester, timed to depart that you miss it as your arrive by train.

I then noticed there was a second timetable, and yes, it too was No 64.

I then noticed the bus timetables were the new schedule, not valid until 31 August 2014.

The sign at the bus stop shows this to be a bus train interchange.

Stagecoach which owns the buses, also owns South West Trains.

Canon Andrew White at Alton Maltings

June 20, 2014
Andrew White Alton book signing

Andrew White Alton book signing

I never knew Alton had a Maltings. Signposting needed from the town centre.

An excellent job done on the interior of the building. Strangely, you enter at rafter level. A large meeting hall (ideal for concerts) and a cafe. I did not explore the lower levels, but was told contained meeting rooms.

Tea was served in paper cups. Not good for the environment. The coffee I was told was single sourced.

Following a blessing in Aramaic, Canon Andrew White started by giving the background of how he came to be in Iraq.

At age ten, he was asked by his teacher, what would he like to be.

An anaesthetist and a priest.

You cannot be both, and you are a Pentecostalist, and they do not have priests.

Andrew was an anaesthetist at St Thomas in London, where he headed the cardiac arrest unit, then gave it up to be a priest.

Christian theology he did not find very interesting,and changed to oriental studies, part of which included studying in Israel at an Ultra-Orthodox University.

He became a curate, then a priest, and was then sent to Coventry, to be part of the peace and reconciliation unit. It had until then focussed on Europe. With his background in the Middle East, it changed focus to Middle East.

He was sent to Iraq, to St George’s Church, an Anglican Church that was derelict.

At first he was not wanted, you are bombing us. No, it is not I who is bombing you.

He had a minder. One day, the minder told him he was invited to dinner. He was to be guest of the two sons of Saddam Hussein. He at first decided to decline the invitation, but his minder pleaded with him to say yes, else he and his family would be executed.

Originally, St George served the diplomats, the military, but when it proved too dangerous, the Iraqis.

First week one hundred, second week two hundred, third week, three hundred, fourth week four hundred. Not bad growth rate, one hundred a week. Eventually six and a half thousand.

More than just a church. A food distribution centre, a school, a clinic.

Several types of service: wacky for the children, Anglican for the Embassy, very formal Catholic for the Iraqis.

The service at St George’s is in Aramaic

Iraq had a very good education system, Iraqis were well educated. It has now collapsed, those with education and the means, have fled the country, leaving behind the poor and uneducated.

More than looking after the church, also involved in peace and reconciliation.

Prior to 2003, there was not a problem of sectarian violence. One was an Iraqi. Now one is a Sunni or a Shia. Under Saddam Hussein, Sunni minority ran the country, now it is a Shia majority.

ISIS aka ISIL is an insurgency and a terrorist organisation. It is well funded, paymasters are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

The country has de-facto broken into three.

In the last year, over 1200 of the congregation of St George has been killed. In the last two weeks, 1000 have been killed.

People fled Baghdad as deemed not safe, back to their homeland, back to Mosul. Minerva is a Christian area. It is this area that has been overrun by ISIS.

Churches need to take much more account of what is happening in the Middle East.

Next week, Andrew returns to Iraq, to begin reconciliation talks with Sunni leaders.

Running the church, its various programmes, reconciliation, all costs money. It is only made possible by the generosity of people in the UK. If every church, held but one collection for the work that is being done, it would make a huge difference.

Sales of books went very well.

The meeting had been publicised in other churches. Farnham Parish Church had a poster in the porch. More though needs to be done communicating with the wider community. The press invited.

The dire situation in Iraq will only improve if the government changes, and is inclusive of all Iraqis, including the Christians, who are the minority of the minority.

The talk was filmed, and it is hoped once edited, to have uploaded to the net possibly as early as Sunday. It will be added here once available.

Andrew White is author of several books, including Vicar of Baghdad and Faith under Fire.

Andrew White is recipient of the Wilberforce Award.


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