Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Avoid UK Airport Tax

I am surprised that no company has jumped on the idea of flying to Amsterdam or Paris and then flying to the   Caribbean or any other long distance destination. After all in the UK the tax on a family of four flying to the Caribbean is nearly 500 pounds! When my wife went to the USA to visit her sick mother last year the tax was MORE than the air fare! With a bit of work it could easily happen that London becomes an isolated airport which caters only to local flights. What a shocking state of affairs. I have written to my MP about this and his reply stank of London politicians lack of care for anyone but themselves.

Harvest Time

While the farmers are out in the fields with their huge tractors trying to salvage something from this years rained on disaster, we gather a more modest harvest. Our garden has been a mess this year with the rain so consistent we have hardly had time to weed or clean, so the garden is a total mess with weeds 3 feet high. Despite this disaster we were able to crop this week and got in about 250 onions laid out to dry plus 5 whole supermarket bags of broad beans which are a hardy crop and survived and even thrived on the nasty weather. Broad beans are a big operation and it took my wife and I all day to pod them, then blanch in boiling water and strip off the outer bitter hull, leaving the nugget of wholesome goodness that is the core bean. We managed to freeze about 15 bags with enough in for four of us at a serving each. That will help with the winter bills. Still to come is the runner beans which are just starting with small beans and the potato which died from fungus but we hope to get some crop from when we dig it up and of course the wonderful carrots, still growing strong and looking good. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Scottish Education System

Scotland has its own education system managed by a large number of people near Edinburgh and Glasgow (two locations) called the SQA.
It is VERY hard to understand versus other countries, even England right next door. Much worse its evolviong so one year does not equate readily to the next, a nightmare for HR Managers.  The EU says:-

According to the EU, the Scottish SQA Standard grade General level is equal to level 2, which for England is GCSE grade D and below
Standard Grade Credit is  EU level 3 which in England is GCSE A - C
Scottish Higher is equal to level 4 which for England is GCSE A level
Scottish Advanced Higher is level 5 for which there is no English school equivalent (although its equal to an HNC/D)

Now I am not sure this is even accurate, for example based on the first two, one might surmise that a Scottish Higher grade 1-3 might be an A level grade D, which is why Universities demand Advanced Highers, otherwise why would they? it isn't clear even on the EU site.

There may have been many complaints about GCE, but I have traveled the world and I know that in hundreds of countries it is the standard of education, one knows what it means. More importantly HR managers the world over know what it means.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Coach and Horses - Lubbenham

Their Web Site
Coach & Horses

Had Sunday Lunch here and it was awful. "Daily Roast" that was really catering packs of pre cooked and reheated meats....nasty stuff. I hate places that do this when you looking forward to a nice slice of roast beef. The vegetables were not bad but the total meal was awful. AVOID

Friday, August 17, 2012

Foxton Locks - Leicestershire


Lovely pub and restaurant right by Foston Locks, which according the BBC is one of Britains seven wonders, see below. The food is good quality honest British fayre and reliable. Nothing fancy, good steak, gammon, fish, excellent large chips and salad, a great place with a lovely view.

Foxton Locks
The Foxton Locks on the Midland canal system are a unique example of 19th Century engineering synonymous with the famous British waterways.

Back when the locks were first built there were no roads to speak of, and literally everything had to be moved by water.

With its unique staircase of 10 locks, traversing 75 feet (and two inches) from bottom to top, the Foxton Locks were unique in that they took boats up and over a steep incline, linking the North and South of England by canal.

The Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift was opened in 1900 to widen the canal, speed up river traffic and save on water.

Great Place to stay in South Leicestershire


Victorian Barn holiday cottage near Theddingworth in Leicestershire

While visiting family in Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire recently we rented a cottage called the Victoria Barn. It turns out we were the first renters as the lovely couple who own it Sarah and Michael Skinner have just finished it and put it on the market. I can highly recommend the place. It is very private, located in the corner of a wheat field down a private drive. Surrounded by flowers and fields. The cottage itself has been very well done with quality fittings throughout, and is fully equipped, right down to tablets for the dish washer. There is a double bedroom with private wet room downstairs and twin beds with private washroom upstairs. The main lounge/ dining area is open plan so the upstairs is galleried. The location is very convenient being just off the M1 and not far from Market Harborough, a lovely small market town with a weekly antiques market. It pretty, private and comfortable for us, wife and I and two boys 13 and 15. We had a week there and loved it.

Fife Property - East Neuk

We went to see a house today in East Neuk near St Andrews. We like the area. The estate agent told us that the area has not only survived the UK general downturn but house prices are increasing. In the Borders we were told by the leading agency (Rettie) that expectations are still too high and houses are selling at 25% discount on ask. It was interesting but although we like Fife, this time we came home saying we are better in the Borders, the country is prettier. It may not have the tourism and cute gift shops, but its nice quality farming land with good people.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rural Payments Agency

Their Web Site
I was amazed one day in our little rented barn in South Liecestershire to see a man walking around the fields with a laser measuring stick. I approached him and he told me he was measuring the edges of the field of rape as farmers get PAID by the government through this agency to leave a strip of fallow ground for bees and flowers. They are paid by the square metre.

Now I am one who does not believe in "poor" farmers. I saw one recently being interviewed about his loss of milk revenue and he had his foot on his 2012 Range Rover....tell me about it!  I cannot believe with the country in recession and people suffering that we are still paying farmers NOT to plant fields.

This is a quote from their web site if your not convinced.
The Rural Payments Agency continues to pay out Single Payment Scheme cash to farmers in England at a record rate. As at Wednesday 15thFebruary, payments had been made to more than 99,300 customers. The value of the payout to date was £1.61 billion., 93.1% of the current estimated payment fund.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Piercebridge Farm shop and Cafe

I have written before about this excellent place. We stop there on the way up to Scotland every time from the South. It is about 5 miles from Scotch Corner, off the next exit. They have a lovely clean cafe with all home made organic food from their own shop. For example I had the farmhouse breakfast and what distinguishes it from its peers is the use of home made bread toast, organic baked beans from Suma, organic bacon and sausages and free range eggs. The shop sell a wide range of meat and vegetables and specialty flours. We got a free range chicken yesterday not cheap at 15 pounds but we roasted it today and had the best roast chicken dinner we have ever had, the meat was just so tasty and the gravy hmmmm.


Dour Face of North

Our family spent a week in South Leicestershire, near Market Harborough, visiting family. The towns and villages of the area are so much nicer and prettier than our dour Northern climes. Scottish villages on the average are sour dour places, houses built up to the road, no pretty front gardens, no flowers. Thats is why places like Strathpeffer, Pitlochry and Aviemore stand out as "attractive". For example in my area Greenlaw is such an awful ugly place, and this was once the county town of Berwickshire. Earlston is dour, so Melrose is lovely in contrast as is St Boswells, what a difference a bit of green makes. How much nicer Keso with its outstanding central square over Galashiels with it industrial centre. The country of Scotland is superb of course, but the villages frankly mostly suck.