Posts Tagged ‘books’

Coffee tasting Blue Bear Bookshop

October 3, 2020

Passing by Blue Bear Bookshop, oh just who we need, would you please come in and give your opinion of two blends of coffee we are trying?

Yes but first I am going for lunch. I checked when closed and said I would pop back.

When I popped back after lunch at Gail’s bakery it was less busy, earlier very busy, too busy.

I had given some thought and decided would have four coffees, two as expresso and two as cappuccinos.

I decided to be a little more professional, asked for pen and paper to make notes.

I would emphasise this was coffee tasting, not coffee cupping which is a formal method of tasting and evaluating coffee.

Of the two, one a slightly smoking aroma and a slight fruitiness, the other insipid by comparison. Not a lot in it and neither were pleasant as espresso.

My cappuccino was intended for a customer, too hot, too much foam and horror of horrors, chocolate on top. Not a very good cappuccino.

My opinion, neither of the two blends were good.

I was also not happy with coffee beans being bagged as Blue Bear Bookshop. No reputable roastery would do this. Coffee, specialty coffee, traceability, transparency, through roastery, to region to the farm.

Blue Bear Bookshop need a good blend as a basic workhorse for espresso based coffee.

I recommended visit DT Roastery in Winchester, speak with Dhan Tamang and recommended their espresso blend which they serve in Coffee Lab.

An idea, try the Congo coffee from Waitrose. By the till. At the front no, but that at the yes, beautiful aroma.

Coffee at 33 their espresso blend is excellent.

If going to sell bags of coffee, there are many excellent coffee roasteries to choose from spoilt for choice, but ensure does not sit on the shelves.

I suggested an Ethiopian from Cartwheel Coffee very unusual as an espresso.

Cakes are far better than Gail’s.

I would suggest Blue Bear Bookshop stock high quality bean-to-bar chocolate from Luisa’s and Bullion.

The only downside of Blue Bear Bookshop they are in a lousy location, on a busy congested polluted road.  Long overdue the centre of Farnham was pedestrianised.

Unlike Gail’s in Farnham, Pho in Guildford, no issues with covid-19 biosecurity, but then that is the difference between an indie business that cares about reputation and customers and a corporate chain employing bored zero hours minimum wage temporary staff.

 

Tired & Suzanne

August 2, 2020

We’re tired of being white and we’re tired of being black

Tired

We’re tired of being white
and we’re tired of being black,
and we’re not going to be white
and we’re not going to be black any longer.
We’re going to be voices now,
disembodied voices in the blue sky,
pleasant harmonies in the cavities of your distress.
And we’re going to stay this way until you straighten up,
until your suffering makes you calm,
and you can believe the word of G-d who has told you so many times,
and in so many ways, to love one another,
or at least not to torture and murder
in the name of some stupid vomit-making human idea that makes G-d turn away from you,
and darken the cosmos with inconceivable sorrow.
We’re tired of being white and we’re tired of being black,
and we’re not going to be white and we’re not going to be black any longer.
We’re going to be voices now.

— Leonard Cohen, Book of Longing

Tired by Leonard Cohen from Book of Longing, followed by Suzanne.

From a live concert Who By Fire?, First Aid Kit and friends, a concert of poetry and music Stockholm 2017 to commemorate the life of Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen on Hydra

July 20, 2020

In 1960 Leonard Cohen bought a house on the Greek Island of Hydra.

Once you’ve lived on Hydra you can’t live anywhere else, including Hydra. — Kenneth Koch

Leonard Cohen wished for somewhere quiet to write. He left Montreal on his first trip outside North America with a Canadian Arts Council Grant of $2,000 and one published book of poetry. He was writing a novel or trying to, blackening the pages three pages a day. Hydra seemed the ideal place, warm and sunny, especially compared with cold and grey and damp London. He arrived on Hydra with his green Olivetti. He had taken up an offer of Barbara Rothschild to stay on the island, only when he arrived at the house and mentioned her name, he was turned away by the housekeeper ‘we don’t need any more Jews here’. Leonard Cohen put a curse on the house and within six months it had burnt to the ground.

Prior to the purchase of his house, Charmian Clift and George Johnston offered a room in their house. He would sit writing on their terrace.

It was on Hydra he met Marianne and where he wrote ‘So Long Marianne’ and ‘Bird on the Wire’.

In a letter to his mother:

It has a huge terrace with a view of dramatic mountain and shining white houses. The rooms are large and cool with deep windows set in thick walls. I suppose it’s about 200 years old and many generations of sea-.men must have lived here. I will do a little work on it every year and in a few years it will be a mansion… I live on a hill and life has been going on here exactly the same for hundreds of years. All through the day you hear the calls of the street vendors and they are really rather musical… I get up around 7 generally and work till about noon. Early morning is coolest and therefore best, but I love the heat anyhow, especially when the Aegean Sea is 10 minutes from my door.

What more could an unknown writer ask for?

He was part of a group of writers and artist and poets who used to meet at Κατσικάς Katsikas.

One of his friends Charmian Clift wrote Peel Me A Lotus her account of living on Hydra in the late 1950s.

They were all cursed. Charmian Clift killed herself after leaving Hydra, George died a year later.

His first concert in Australia was dedicated to the couple and he opened with ‘Bird on the Wire’.

We have photographer James Burke to thank for a series of photographs of these days in 1960 on Hydra.

A Theatre for Dreamers a fictional account by Polly Samson seen through the eyes of an 18-year-old girl, who with a thousand pounds left to her by her mother escapes from an abusive father. She reads a book Peel Me A Lotus by Charmian Clift, sent to her mother by the author a close friend of her mother, of life on Hydra. She remembers the friend of her mother from when she was a child and writes to her asking if she can find her a room to rent.

We start in 2016, Leonard Cohen has recently died, a very sad loss, and Trump has won the US Presidential elections. Word reaches Hydra ‘and spread rapidly like a stench along the agora. There were horrified groans, even from the donkeys, disbelieving splutters from every table, passer-by and boat. For a moment it was a comfort to think at least Leonard had been spared this.’

Waterstone’s the J D Wetherspoon of the book trade

March 22, 2020

Boss of J D Wetherspoon Tim Martin was more than happy to put staff and clientele at risk by forcing sick staff into work under threat of no sick pay.

The same irresponsible attitude, encouraging going to the pub, failure to heed advice on social distancing.

Waterstone’s are showing the same contempt for staff and customers during coronavirus crisis. No ban on cash, no hand sanitiser, no social distancing. Office staff sent home, staff in book shops forced to carry on working.

Waterstone’s where greed rules ok. There should be hand sanitiser by the door, everyone walking in required to use. Contactless card only. Close early at three every day. This was the norm in Sheffield last week.

Contrast last week with Steam Yard coffee shop in Sheffield. Hand sanitiser by the door, close at three.

Or contrast with fish n chip restaurant Elite on the Bail, restaurant closed takeaway at the back, social distancing, hand sanitiser on offer to use.

Waterstone’s destroyed Ottakar’s. I had hoped James Daunt may improve, but no. Still the rubbish dumped by publishers piled on tables, staff treated badly.

Why is it always the big corporate chains that treat their staff badly?

Indie coffee shops as always leading the way. Coffee served in takeaway cups, no reusable cups, hand sanitiser by the door.

Talking to an employee of 200 Degrees a small coffee shop chain before they were forced to close, she said refusal to put hand sanitiser by the door, no interest in health and safety of staff or customers.

When the ban on pubs, bars, coffee shops came in, I walked down Lincoln High Street, indie coffee shops closed, Caffe Nero and Starbucks open.

Use contactless card. I prefer cash, cash is anonymous, cards are traced and tracked, inflate profits of banks, but these are not normal times, cash is dirty. Similarly, good coffee is to be appreciated, sit and relax with coffee served in ceramic or glass, but not normal times, takeaway protects staff and customers, minimises contamination.

Support your local indie bookshop

  • P&G Wells – Winchester
  • Lindum Books – Lincoln
  • Blue Bear Bookshop – Farnham
  • Ideas on Paper – Nottingham

and indie coffee shops

  • Marmadukes – Sheffield
  • Steam Yard – Sheffield
  • The Specialty Coffee Shop – Nottingham
  • Cartwheel Coffee – Nottingham
  • Outpost Coffee – Nottingham
  • Madame Waffle – Lincoln
  • Coffee Aroma – Lincoln
  • Krema – Farnham and Guildford
  • Coffee Lab – Winchester

By no means an exhaustive list.

Tuesday of last week, UK was two weeks behind Italy, one week behind Spain, with one big difference, Italy and Spain already had measures in place before they introduced ever tighter measures. In UK, too little, too late.

If you wish for something to read, stuck at home, read an e-book.

Paulo Coelho has made available several of his books for free download.

Something other writers and filmmakers could do.

Mark Thomas has made available for almost free download one of his shows (he asks make a donation to a food bank).

When Primark, McDonald’s announced they are closing, we know it is game up.

Waterstone’s announced they were closing. But will staff get paid. Staff who were off sick, suspected covid-19, told to take out of their annual leave.

James Daunt the Tim Martin of the book trade. Shops closed but more likely no one on the streets, no one buying books, shops losing money, than consideration for the well being of staff and customers. Plus with shops closed staff on furlough government will pay 80% of their salary

But what does this say of Pepsi Trump? China gave us time, we squandered it. Tuesday of last week UK was two weeks behind Italy, one week behind Spain. With one big difference, both countries had measures in place, and have since tightened those measures. It was sporting bodies which decided to close, led the way. Now it is shops closing, taking the initiative. Still no lockdown of London. Bars and pubs serving drinks.

Derelict mansion

December 3, 2019

An essay in Walking in Athens, A forgotten staircase beside the Acropolis, features this derelict mansion behind the back of the Acropolis Museum.

I pass by the derelict mansion on my way to Little Tree to pick up a copy of Walking in Athens.

Yogurt and cappuccino at Little Tree

November 27, 2019

Wednesday four weeks ago, end of October, I was intending to climb Hill of the Muses, last warm day before the weather changes.

Last warm day end of October before the weather changes to cooler weather. I got as far as Little Tree, and no further.

AirBnB causing major problems in Athens and other major cities. In Athens dirty Turkish, Russian and Chinese money buying apartment blocks, local residents forced out creating ghettos.

Graffiti most apt.

Synchronicity: Passing by the derelict mansion behind the Acropolis Museum a lady stopped and spoke to me, asked was I interested in buying as she had similar properties for sale. I learnt such properties were protected, could not be demolished, expensive to buy and would cost as much again to renovate. She was on her way to an appointment, could not stop and chat.

I regret I did not ask how much to buy?

Derelict mansion featured in Walking in Athens, a collection of essays by Nikos Vatopoulos, in an essay A forgotten staircase beside The Acropolis.

Yogurt and cappuccino at Little Tree bohemian bookshop cum coffee shop located behind Acropolis Museum.

I made a mistake ordering a freddo cappuccino not a cappuccino. Waiter brought me a freddo cappuccino before I could correct my mistake. I said a mistake, he took away freddo cappuccino, brought a cappuccino, billed me for both.

A chat with a young lady who had a white e-scooter, her own not a rented e-scooter. She agreed the dumping of e-scooters everywhere is a menace.

I mentioned Mallorca was now taking action on e-scooters. We agreed long overdue Athens did the same.

Then a very long chat with a young guy, H G Wells, democracy, AirBnB, Greek financial crisis.

By then it was dark and turning cool.

Little Tree

November 22, 2019

Coffee at Little Tree. Saturday it was packed.

Note to self: Avoid Little Tree on a Saturday.

Walking to Little Tree passed a derelict mansion.

Flipping through a book in little tree, it fell open at an essay about the very same house. Walking in Athens, a collection of essays by Nikos Vatopoulis, A forgotten staircase beside The Acropolis.

Little Tree a bohemian bookshop cum coffee shop is tucked behind the Acropolis Museum.

Blue Bear Bookshop opening launch party

November 16, 2019

Serendipity I was in Farnham passing by Blue Bear Bookshop during their opening launch party.

For the last week or more, dreadful weather, cold, raining, never sure what the weather will do as check the day before then within less than twelve hours the weather has changed again.

I have gone out when it looks like it is not about to rain.

This week and last week, I have popped into Farnham midweek, thus no need to visit today, but on the spur of the moment, I changed my mind, even though no need to visit Farnham.

Usually I alight from the bus and walk into Farnham along the River Wey and up Downing Street. I also cut through alleyways, avoiding The Borough.

The Borough is unpleasant, heavily congested, narrow pavement jostled-into the road, very heavily polluted.

Today though I was walking through The Borough.

I noted Oxfam had swapped shops, the bookshop now in The Borough. A very professional job, remove the Oxfam sign and would never know it was an Oxfam shop.

Past WHSmith, a dreadful store, a huge mistake relocating tho Post Office into WHSmith.

I then noticed a new bookshop, Blue Bear Bookshop, a new bookshop packed with people.

I looked in and happened upon the launch party of the Blue Bear Bookshop.

Food, cakes, flutes of Champagne or at least fizzy wine. In a corner a young lad knocking out poetry on demand on an old typewriter.

I went in search of the Big Issue seller, could not find her, by the time I got back, the food had all but gone.

Whoever did the catering did an excellent job the food and cakes excellent.

People, kids, dogs. Barely able to move.

The books aesthetically arranged on the shelves, though means fewer books.

Very much work in progress.

Currently a wider selection in the Oxfam Bookshop.

And therein lies the dilemma, stock best sellers which are the bread and butter, but in doing so will be undercut by Waterstone’s and the supermarkets, or stock more interesting titles which may not sell.

Worth a visit to P & G Wells in the backstreets of Winchester behind Winchester Cathedral, the bookshop Jane Austin used. Always interesting titles in the window, how bookshops used to be, books tempted to buy, not the best selling hyped rubbish the publishers dump on Waterstone’s.

Blue Bear Bookshop not only a bookshop, also a coffee shop. The coffee shop side very much unfinished business.

I ordered a cappuccino. My expectations were not high. To my surprise drinkable, on a par with Krema in Downing Street, thus now have two excellent coffee shops in Farnham.

The coffee Wogan Coffee I have never heard of, nor has anyone I have spoken to, a coffee roastery in Bristol.

The image on a box resembled a 1960s Soho gangster.

Coffee served in takeaway coffee cups not good. But I was assured a temporary measure for the opening and they will be serving coffee in ceramic.

The staff trained, but training a barista does not make, learn by employing a skilled head barista, who acts a mentor. Small changes make all the difference.

I did though note the coffee freshly ground, coffee carefully weighed.

The girl who served me had worked in a coffee shop in Finland.

I know not of Finland, but Sweden has a high reputation for coffee, as does the Baltic States.

Currently only from the espresso machine. Future maybe pour over. I strongly recommend source from Coffee Gems as local to Farnham and very high quality coffee.

I am reminded of Little Tree, a bohemian bookshop come coffee shop where sit drinking coffee under the shade of the trees, later in the evening craft beer.

At Little Tree, a far greater choice of books, philosophy, poetry, literature, politics. Not that I have ever seen anyone buy a book. Though I am told people buy books in the morning.

Having said that, I recently bought Walking in Athens, a collection of essays, little vignettes of Athens. And in the past have bought music.

Something Blue Bear Bookshop may wish to copy from Little Tree, bookmarks featuring writers, writers of literature not best sellers, the bill for the coffee, always brought with a glass of water, attached to the bookmark with a paper clip.

On the coffee counter by the cakes was a pile of a magazine I have never heard of, Chapter Catcher.

Chapter Catcher launched in June by John Bird, the guy behind Big Issue, a selection of reading, samplers to encourage people to read if not buy books. It cannot have gone beyond the launch issue as it was the launch issue on the counter.

But who is going to pay a fiver for a magazine never heard of that is sealed in an envelope and cannot browse the content?

I suggested they may wish to sell high end magazines, Standart, Drift, Ambrosia, Cereal, or at least dot around for people to browse.

In the centre a large communal table. Good for discussions, poetry reading, and they are planning events.

Possible future events Dhan Tamang UK latter art champion on latte art, a talk on The Alchemist.

A must for the large communal table, The World Atlas of Coffee.

Down wooden stairs a cellar. Appearance of a store room. More work in progress.

Opening an indie bookshop or even a coffee shop, is a risky business, especially in today’s failing High Street.

The location not good, a very polluted street which is best avoided, but may have been all that was available.

We hear much of the failing High Street, of towns turning into ghost towns, each week of another corporation chain gone into liquidation.

But chains have brought it upon themselves. They focused on expansion, not on profitability, paid ludicrous rents, and in doing so drove up rents for everyone and put local businesses out of businesses and are now paying the cost of their unsustainable businesses practices.

When chains collapse, we should welcomes the news, as it provides the opportunity for local small business.

I have seen too many good bookshops close, Thorpe’s in Guildford, Readers Rest in Lincoln, to name but two.

To see a new bookshop open is good news, and a double reason for celebration, a coffee shop too serving speciality coffee.

It is now for local people to support. If you see a book in Waterstone’s not discounted then buy from Blue Bear Bookshop. And unless you really enjoy drinking disgusting undrinkable coffee from tax dodging chains that have to be doused in syrups to make palatable, there are now two coffee shops serving excellent coffee in Farnham, Krema and Blue Bear Books.

Cappuccino al fresco at Little Tree

May 15, 2019

Located beind The Acropolis Museum, little tree is a bookshop cum coffee shop. I have though yet to see anyone buy a book.

Great place to relax with a coffee or later a craft beer. They do food too.

Something though needs to done about the near continous convoy of noisy pollution belching tour buses, like close and pedestrianise the roads.

A break in the pollution belching bus convoy, it is lovely and peacefull and quiet under the shade of the trees, then along comes the next pollution belching bus convoy.

Excellent cappuccino, coffee supplied by Taf.

Pleasant and friendly staff. Nice comment when one said you are one of us. In other words an Athenian.

Last time I visited, there was music I fancied, and I regretted that I did not buy. I did not know what it was, neither did they when asked.

I took a chance and picked up the sole remaining copy of Amorgos by Ada Pitsou.

111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss

December 3, 2018

Why 111 coffee shops, why not 100, why not 120?

That is what I hate about these series of books, an artificial list, someone hired to fill the list, rather than someone writes and publishes a guide to London coffee shops.

Having said that, 111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss exceeds expectations, excellent guide to coffee shops in London.

Each coffee shop occupies two pages, a page of text, a picture.  What to expect, the coffee, roaster used.

At the back, a couple of pages of maps. The largest concentration of coffee shops Soho, north of Oxford Street second. Strange therefore Bar Italia, located in Soho, one of the oldest, if not the oldest coffee shop in London, a Soho icon, Soho as once was, does not merit a mention.  Nor Monmouth Coffee in nearby Covent Garden, one of the first artisan coffee shops in London, well before they became trendy places to be.

A couple of coffee shops I am familiar with, if not visited. Pufrock I am told I should visit, but have not, Taylor Street Baristas I have not visited in London, I have the one in Brighton, which sadly closed a couple of years ago, the excellent Curio Cabal the only coffee shop listed that I have visited.

I would have liked to see as with The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide, telephone number, web address, twitter and facebook.

I like the hot tips. A place of interest nearby worth a visit.

How to get there, nearest station.

Coffee roasteries are not included, and no guide is complete without. All the more surprising when often mentioned in the description of the coffee shops.

Noticeable by their absence, Bar Italia, Ethiopian Coffee Roasters on the South Bank street food market, little coffee kiosk at foot of Hungerford Bridge on London South Bank, Monmouth Coffee.

At the back, a useful glossary of coffee terms. One term that was new to me, espresso flight, a single-shot espresso,  a single shot cappuccino, served side by side. Only one coffee shop have I been served this though not given a name and not side by side, in a line, was Coffee Aroma, an espresso, a cappuccino and a glass of water, served in a line on a hollowed out wooden board.

A QR code to pull up an interactive map. At least I assume it was, but is not. At least can see where the coffee shops are. It would though have been better if each pin had pulled up information on Google Maps. There is a menu, which takes through to a list of all 111 coffee shops. Click on any entry, and that does take through to Google Maps. A somewhat indirect route.

The problem with any guide, even on-line, is dated as soon as writ, if not before.

Taylor St Baristas no longer use Union-Hand Roasted, they roast their own beans at Taylor St Roasted and their excellent Brighton coffee shop has closed.

An indication of how things date, as I wrote this review, I learnt Taylor St Baristas were returning to Brighton. I miss the one that closed, I will look forward to their new coffee shop.  Or at least that was what I initially thought. Actually they will be supplying the coffee. Maybe one day.

111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss puts to shame the utterly useless Where to Drink Coffee.

An excellent well researched guide, a must if visiting London and appreciate good coffee.

I prefer to wander and discover, if not, reservations aside 111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss is an excellent guide to coffee shops in London.

Although I prefer to wander and take me where my feet take me, I have to admit, several of the coffee shops intrigue me and I am tempted to visit next time I am in London.

Also check out London Coffee, an account of London coffee culture rather than a guide to coffee shops.

Book in hand, I did attempt to visit one cold misty day in London at least a couple of the listed coffee shops. I managed all of one, Algerian Coffee Stores, and that only because my lovely Russian friend Tatyana told me it was a must to visit if I ever found myself in London.

I was not that I did not visit any other coffee shops, it is that I tend to go where my feet take me.

I found Four Corners a kiosk outside Waterloo Station. They told me they have a coffee shop in Lower Marsh. Beany a kiosk at the foot of Hungerford Bridge, excellent coffee but no time to stop. Grind in Covent Garden I looked in did not like and walked out. The Espresso Room, a tiny coffee shop in Covent Garden serving excellent coffee. I looked in Bar Italia in Soho, excellent coffee, but no time to stop. Jacob the Angel an English Coffee House, a new coffee shop in Neal’s Yard, serving Square Mile which is a good sign, but about to close. Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden I stopped for a cappuccino.


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