Home cookin' American style

If you like recipes, check out my American 'cousin' Ross Pipes's blog www.grandpashomecooking.typepad.com. A bit on the meaty side for me but I expect he'll come up with some good old veggie ones soon. ;)

Over on Blogger, he also reviews books - he used to own a couple of bookshops in the past. I'm heading west to Ireland in July, and then further west to Tralee where I hope to meet up with Ross, who will staying in Dingle. I have already met his cousin Jerry, and his nephew Matt, here on home soil in Brighton.


Worthing Open Houses

St Paul's Centre by fred pipes
St Paul's Centre, a photo by fred pipes on Flickr.
It was a lovely day on Sunday so I decided to head west to Worthing. When I cycled down to the pier, however, it was shrouded in sea mist! So I headed east, past Coast Cafe des Artistes to the first Open House on my list. One of the best things about the Worthing Open Houses is the lovely logo by Teresa Stewart-Goodman (who also designed the Ukelele Festival logo), and you can find her work at 8 New Parade (venue 6), the home of Alison Milner. See the 50s style tables she did for Habitat (and maybe buy one or two in their closing down sale!). Also of note were the amazing botanical cut-out drawings of Sin Mui Chong-Martin and of course my old mate from the Dragonfly House, queen of the scraperboard Vanessa Rattray.

Red phone box gallery

Alison recommended I visit venue 2, 9 Eldon Road and I wasn't disappointed: four 'mature' students from Northbrook exhibiting together, including photographs and engravings of demolished and threatened Art Deco buildings by Laurence Olver and 3D photographic sculptures by Barry Williams. Then it was back to the sea for a coffee at Coast, where I bumped into Brighton artist Nick Orsborn eating cheesy chips! People at the next table said they'd had trouble finding venue 12, the red phone box, but I saw it straight away on the corner of Marine Parade and the Steine, where forces day was going on. I was looking inside, when I was joined by the curator of Phonie Art (Facebook link), Leona Angus. The phone box had been adopted by the council and the exhibition had all been created using mobile phone cameras! Another one is planned for Shoreham.

Frink sculptures from first-floor Alexander Terrace flat

Time was running out so I cycled over to Alexander Terrace, to the first floor apartment at number 5 (venue 13) for a close up view of the Desert Quartet by Elisabeth Frink, and bumped into illustrator and ex-BiG member Nadia Chalk, who was exhibiting her exquisite pen and pencil drawings there. I was going to pop into venue 14 also on Alexander Terrace (which claimed the world's smallest cinema), but I was expected to take my shoes off, so I didn't bother. I spotted something else that Brighton Open Houses didn't have - it's own car!

Open House car!

It was nearly 5pm so on the way back to the station, I had a quick look inside St Paul's centre (venue 17) - an amazing church (mostly a cafe!) with a splendid alter piece... and the mixed display of art there summed up my afternoon (so I did get to see some Sarah Young images after all!). Round the corner I just caught the end of the Secret Back Gardens, and bought a strawberry plant! Great day out, and despite my moby battery being almost gone, managed to check in some Gowalla and Foursquare locations! It's on next weekend too, so give it a go.


Follow up to Daily Moan #18: Southern's sale

Well, finally, after two weeks a reply from Southern about them sending me the wrong tickets. This is most unsatisfactory - how many other organisations, when guilty of supplying the wrong goods, would put the onus on the customer to claim  a refund? The refund (of 70p) is not worth the effort anyway, so I won't waste any more time with them... disgusted of Brighton.

Dear Mr Pipes

Thank you for contacting us on the 07 Jun 2011 regarding the tickets you booked via our website during the 90% off sale. Please accept my apologies for the delay in our response.

We apologise to any customer who experienced problems with booking a ticket online over the weekend. We extended the 24 hour sale to 4 days to allow as many people as possible to find the 90% discounted tickets they were after. Like most online travel sales, the number of fares available at the discounted price were limited.

Unfortunately the customer service advisor you spoke to over the phone gave you the correct information. You must apply for a refund and then re-purchase the tickets you require. I am sorry I cannot assist you further on this occasion.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us directly at: comments@southernrailway.com or www.southernrailway.com/your-journey/contact-us/contact-us-form/ You can also contact our Customer Service team by phone on (08451 27 29 20), fax (08451 27 29 30) or in writing (Southern Customer Services, PO Box 3021, Bristol, BS2 2BS).

Kind regards

Naomi Altass
Southern Customer Services


Silver citizen

Yours truly is featured in the latest newsletter of Brighton and Hove (and Portslade) Age Concern! See a PDF of it here.


The Thames estuary and Leigh Folk Festival

Man in nighty

Despite it being so close, I've never really explored the Thames estuary (except for my trip to Margate last year, and driving through Essex to get the ferry from Harwich) so the Leigh-on-Sea folk festival was a great excuse to visit that part of the coast. I stayed in Southend, which has attractions of its own, at my first ever 'boutique' hotel, Hamilton's, on the recommendation of TripAdvisor. I wasn't disappointed... but first, back to the trip itself.

Seasoned festival goers

I'd very stupidly booked a ticket to Victoria - I should have gone to London Bridge - cos crossing London was a nightmare. First the tube only went as far as Embankment, so I had to detrain and drag my bags up to Trafalgar Square which was in complete gridlock - waste of an Oyster card credit. Eventually it cleared and I pushed my way on to a Routemaster 15 to Tower Hill, along with hundreds of perplexed American tourists. On the way it bucketed down, but eventually I got to Fenchurch Street station where I took the train to Southend via Basildon. After leaving my bags at the hotel, I searched out the funicular, but it was out of order. So I got the new lift down to the pierhead and bought a (return) ticket for the train to the end of the pier. Southend pier is supposed to be the longest pleasure pier in the world - it's long, but there's not much pleasure at the far end, except the thought of getting out of the high winds and back to shore. Then it was on to Leigh-on-Sea. I got the wrong bus (only went to Leigh Elms) but caught another one to the church, where Modeste was singing under a small gazebo. I had a pint of Hobgoblin from the beer tent and watched The London Bulgarian Choir bopping along to the African beat. Then it was down the steps to the Old Town and a fish supper (hake) at the Crooked Billet, along with a pint of Brewdog Alice Porter, and outside it was raining stair rods again! A walk to the station past the cockle sheds and home on the train.

Sunday lunch

On Sunday, after a great veggie breakfast at the hotel, I caught the first bus to Canvey Island, only it went nowhere near the seafront! Hmm, so I caught it back to Leigh and alighted at the station. The High Street was one big street party with Morris men and clog dancers everywhere - and every pub car park had a stage. To be honest, I'm not sure exactly who I saw... but I did enjoy the Punch and Judy at the east end of the Old Town. After a £2 tray of Leigh cockles in the Peterboat car park, I was joined by Nick to see John Otway, who is always good value. Martin Carthy had apparently lost his voice so as Nick headed back to the smoke for a gig at the Barbican, I sat myself down in the Clarendon scout hut to watch Helen Arney. Unfortunately after Matt Boulter (of the Lucky Strikes) finished his set about 2/3 of the audience left! Being top of the bill isn't always what it's cracked up to be! So it was back to Sarfend on the train and some sweet chilli noodles and a pint of Brentford Best at The Last Post, a good old Wetherspoons pub.

Gravesend ferry

Monday I waved goodbye to Southend and got the train to Tilbury. The 99 shuttle bus to the ferry terminal was not well signposted, but after I asked at the station I was told it was outside the dentist's over a footbridge containing many steps to lug my bags up. Now, if you like urban decay, take this trip! I found the actual ferry terminal by following two chaps who seemed to know where they were going, over an ominous iron bridge down to a wooden car park. The ferry Duchess M was about to leave, so I jumped on, paid my £2 and enjoyed the journey from the bow (I love ferries!). Gravesend ferry terminal, near a Victorian looking pier, was no better, with piles of rubbish dotted about and no signage to the station. But I found it and got the train to Rochester, then a new high-speed train to Sittingbourne, then finally a train to Whitstable where I dragged my bags down a straight boring road to the harbour and Maxine's lovely house. We had lunch at the Tudor Tea-rooms, haunt of actor Peter Cushing (I had soup) then it was back to the station (another one with a footbridge!), thence to Victoria and back to Brighton, and finally the short hop to London Road and home. Seven trains and a ferry - the Thames estuary in a day!

Many more photos on Flickr.


Daily moan #18: Southern Railways' 90%-off sale

I haven't had a good moan for a while, so I'll enjoy this one.

Like many of my friends, I was looking forward to Southern Railways' 90%-off sale on 26 May. In my head I was planning trips to Southampton, Ashford, Rye, even London - for the Tuesdays that the Off Beat Cafe would be closed. Come the day, however, and their poor computer couldn't cope with demand and everything ground to a halt - impossible to buy tickets. So, they extended the sale and on 27 May, after many many attempts, I managed to buy a return ticket from Brighton to London: 45p up on the 11.19 on 14 June; 70p back to Brighton at 15.51 - a quick visit to go see the Aesthetics show at the V&A. I opted to receive the tickets by 1st class post and received an acknowledgment by email.

Some days later I received my tickets in the post. But, instead of my return ticket, however I received a day-return ticket from Dorking to London for 22 June! So I emailed them via their online form - twice - with no reply. On 7 June I called 08451 272920 and was told that I could claim a refund - which would presumably be for the 70p - which still left me having to buy another ticket for £5.90. Swizz! I felt cheated! So I sent off a letter of complaint - and as yet have not received a reply.

I did get a reply to one of my emails though on 9 June. I was told I could 'amend my journey' on the website but 'There is a charge of £2 per transaction for changes of journey on Southern services plus the cost of any difference in fare.' Well, there was nothing wrong with my order, it's there in black and white in my account history (and I have the original email to prove it) - it was Southern that sent me the wrong ticket!

Ok, the amounts may seem trivial, but I am complaining more about the level of service. First for the 90% off sale for which their website clearly couldn't cope and on which it was almost impossible to buy tickets, second for their lousy online form that gives no acknowledgment that an 'email' has been received, and third for a customer service call centre that puts the onus on me to claim a refund when it was clearly their fault that I received the wrong tickets!

I use Southern a lot to buy discounted rail tickets and every other transaction has worked perfectly - every time you but a ticket online you get an instant acknowledgement by email - nice reassuring feedback - the tickets usually arrive next day by post - or you can pick them up from a machine at the nearest station (I picked up tickets for my July trip to Dublin from Uckfield, a station I was just passing the other day), so what went wrong?

My faithful Topfield PVR, bought in 2005, is finally on its last legs, it freezes and then I have to wipe the hard drive to get it going again (capacitor problem according to the Toppy forum) so I have ordered a Tivo from Virgin. Now I have had problems with Virgin in the past so I hope I haven't made a rod for my own back!


How to Design Websites

The latest booky wooky wot I wrote (that's been six months with the translators!) is now available for pre-order on Amazon! How to Design Websites (Portfolio Skills) was originally called Designing Websites. It'll be out in October.