Sunday, 21 August 2016

Colchester Vegan Fair, The Waiting Room, Queen St, Colchester CO1 2PJ

Yesterday was the 3rd Vegan Fair to be held in Colchester and the chaps that organised it would have to be happy with how it turned out. It was packed! I am not Vegan BUT, you don't have to be to enjoy Vegan food. One thing I have learned since moving to Colchester, apparently Vegan Capital of the Universe, is that Vegan food is actually pretty tasty and is clearly growing in popularity. It's not all mung beans and dandelion squash you know! In the last couple of years 2 places have opened up in Town which are really very good and worth trying out if you can:



The Fair was at 'The Waiting Room' in what is sometimes referred to as the 'Cultural Quarter' in Town. In the shadow of the Firstsite Art Gallery (currently showing Martin Parr), and the soon to be opening Creative Business Centre, is a community run 'space' set up in the old Bus Station Waiting Room. We came here a lot when we first moved but haven't been for a while. They have lots of things going on, and are one of the few places in Town that do advertise their events fairly well. You can find some previous posts below:

I miss Gunpowder Gertie...sigh.

Anyhow, we have guests here this weekend (family from Stockholm to be precise) and they were very impressed with the stalls on offer at the Fair, particularly the cakes. And we all know how much the Swedes love cakes. The event ran all day and in the evening there was a party, which obviously I didn't go to as I gave up any rights to a night out when my son was born, but I'm sure it was a success.

Anyway, here are some pictures, well done everyone involved and we look forward to next year's Fair.

AMAZING cakes.

Fish and Chips looked very popular despite my terrible photograph.

We bought some Caramelised Mulberries from these guys. Fancy.

Eggless Scotch Eggs.

Lush were also there doing 'Bubble Bar' demo's that the kids could get involved in.
My son made this to bring home (free of charge) and it smells amazing!

And just check out the Cheesecake 
.If the queue hadn't been so bog I would have nabbed this. 
It looked awesome! Next time.

Bravo one and all.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Local Counsellor Allowances - Suggestions for the Dutch Quarter, Colchester, Essex

I recently found out that our Ward Counsellors have an allowance of £2K (per year I believe), to spend on whatever they choose in their designated wards. One would hope it would be spent on improvements to their particular ward that would in some way benefit the residents. There are 3 Counsellors in the Ward I live in which makes a potential of £6K sloshing around in their bum bags. (I don't know if this is the same with all Counsellors in all Councils but its definitely worth looking into if you care about the area that you live in).

I have the odd communication with 1 of our Counsellors so emailed him to ask him what he intended to spend his cash on. He has committed some of his allowance on a Defibrillator for the Park (great idea) but for the rest, he was undecided. So, I thought I would take a wander around and see if I could come up with any suggestions.

The Dutch Quarter, where I live, is a really old part of Colchester. I have been told, that two of the main roads in the area that lead onto the High Street (West Stockwell Street and East Stockwell Street) are 2 of the earliest roads in Colchester. The Dutch Quarter certainly has some very old buildings and much of it is built on top of a Roman Amphitheatre. 

You can see some pictures of it on this post when I was moaning about lampposts...:

If you dug down deep enough under the Dutch Quarter I'm sure you'd find some very juicy treasure. We have found several bits of old glass in the garden which I believe to be Roman and the previous owner found a glass vase which he kindly left for us (along with a basement full of shit, old wardrobes, a hole behind the wardrobe, an immovable piano and the entire coat of fur from his dog. Its a good job he moved to Australia thats all I can say). 

Glass from the garden.

However, you wouldn't be allowed to just dig down willy nilly, as the Dutch Quarter is a Conservation Area. Or is it? I was under the impression that it was but from my experience of living here it does not seem remotely protected by the Council. Since I have been here:

* Solar Panels have been approved on roofs.
* Traditional black lampposts have ben removed and replaced with modern ones
* New houses have been built, in no way sympathetic in size or style to the surrounding area/buildings.
* Painting has been allowed on an old Church in a garish colour and the job has only been half done.
* Building work has taken place with no planning persmission and again inappropriate to the surroundings.

So you see, its a bit hard to know, what the 'Conservation Area' status means round here. I think perhaps I believe it means more than it actually does. I would expect the Local Conservation officer to do a regular walk about to check nothing untoward is occurring and at the very least have an approved colour palette for exterior paintwork. But I don't think either of things happen/exist.

Anyway, I digress. Yesterday I had a quick mooch around and came up with a small list of improvements that may or may not be acknowledged. I didn't want to suggest anything too grand as there would be no chance of them happening, but a few small, hopefully reasonably priced, ideas might get taken on board and would go a long way in improving things not just for residents but also Visitors to Colchester.

* This overgrown patch is on St Helens Lane. I don't know who it belongs to but its totally neglected. However, its quite a big area and could be cleared as a Community Garden Space for Wildflowers and we could get some 'Seedbombs' There quite a lot of flats in the area and those residents / children may enjoy the chance to get involved with some gardening.

* Or the space could be used for growing vegetables 'for all' and we could tap into the 'Incredible Edible Network. Check them out here:

* Repaint all the lamp posts and bollards, most are peeling as you can see here.
*Also, remove all the out of date Planning Application Notices. 
CBC love sticking them up and almost NEVER take them down. Sloppy.

*Remove the Modern Lamp posts and reinstate the Traditional Style ones. 
This thing looks like something from 'Mars Attacks' and sticks out like a sore thumb.

* Repair this damaged chain on Shortcut Road.

* Maybe repair these damaged slabs on Stockwell.

* Fill a few potholes. West Stockwell Street got resurfaced but none of the surrounding streets did and are in very bad states.

* Have a good old fashioned Noticeboard somewhere central i.e. by the Church on St Helens Lane for all Local things going on. I am still amazed about the lack of PR for most things in the Town and the amount of things we seem to miss. I would be happy to keep an eye on this, update flyers/leaflets, hold the key etc. It might add to the sense of Community but would certainly help disseminate information about local events.

* There is very little information around about the history of the Dutch Quarter if you walk around. So we could get some Information signs like the new ones outside the Castle to put at Historic places in the area i.e. St Helens Church / St Martins Church / Signs to let people know the history of the Dutch Quarter / The house where 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' was written.

* And finally, probably my biggest bugbear of all. I don't know if this is in the Ward or not but basically, someone needs to paint this bridge. The Council have spent a lot of money trying to highlight the walk from the Station to the Town yet completely missed painting this bridge, which by the looks of it, is pretty important! Important enough for a sign in the pavement but not important enough to preserve, protect and enhance with some paint. Bonkers.

So there you have it. Nothing ground breaking, nothing that a quick walk around the area wouldn't seem obvious to most people I'm sure. Hopefully, none of these ideas are too expensive and as I have said, I am happy to help where I can, so Counsellors, it's over to you.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Healthy Homemade Energy Bars with Dates, Coconut and Honey.

The child is ill. The adult is ill i.e. me. The only thing to do in this situation is stay indoors, wear comfy, and publicly unacceptable clothing, make food and eat food.

So, this morning I made some Energy bars which are super easy to make and keep for up to 1 month in the fridge. They require virtually no effort so are perfect if you are feeling under the weather and will give you a good boost of energy. They are great for the other half to take to work in the morning and great for the child to eat as a snack during the day.

The original recipe was on The Guardian website however, I adapted it very slightly today to take into account what I had hanging around in the back of my cupboard. I think as long as you stuck to the dates, coconut and honey you could add any dried fruit or nuts that you have to hand.


250g Dates with stones removed
80g of chopped nuts of your choice
25g of Porridge Oats or dried Muesli mix
Handful of pumpkin seeds or other seeds of your choice
1tbs Honey
1tbs Water
60g desiccated coconut

This made approximately 12 breakfast bars

* Put dates in a food mixer until they are mashed up and sticky.
* Add the nuts, oats, honey, seeds and mix again.
* Mix the water and honey together then slowly add to mixture until it all comes together but isn't too sticky. Remember, you can always add liquid but can't take it away so do this slowly. You may find you do not need all the liquid.

* I'll be honest, it doesn't look that tasty at this stage but it does improve.
* Put the mixture onto some baking parchment which has been scattered with the remaining coconut.

* Roll the mixture in the coconut so its covered. This will stop it sticking to the rolling pin.

* Roll the mixture out to a thickness of about 1cm.

* With a sharp knife, cut the mixture into individual portions. 
You don't have to cut them into rectangles, you could go crazy and do squares!

* I then wrapped each 'bar' individually in baking parchment and put them all the fridge to harden up.


Monday, 15 August 2016

Museum of East Anglian Life, Living History Fayre, Stowmarket Suffolk IP14 1DL

I have not felt like this since I went to see Turin Brakes at the Colchester Arts Centre a few months ago. Yesterday we had a day out that was so wonderful I can't stop thinking about how good it was! We visited, the frankly astonishing, Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket. 40 minutes in the car from Colchester, but easily accessible by train, it was a very special day out indeed.

Obviously I had not heard about this place from anything publicised in Colchester (boo), despite it being relatively close by,  I read about it on Facebook and knew it would be right up my strasse. The Museum is set within 75 acres of Suffolk countryside yet within strolling distance of Stowmarket Town Centre.


The Museum celebrates history and proudly exhibits the acquired artefacts and building's it has built up its collection. The amount of stuff they have is pretty incredible and everything is so well displayed and there is so much information we actually didn't get a chance to see everything despite getting there when it opened and leaving when it closed.

This weekend was particularly special however, as the Museum held an Event, the first time ever I think, called the 'East Anglian Living Fayre' which celebrated 2000 years of history.There were people dressed up depicting Romans,  Tudors, Georgians, the Land Army and everything in between. There were 'battles', Falconry displays, Letterpress printing, Punch and Judy and the most wonderful 'Palace of Curiosities'. It was fabulous. There were lots of toilets (a massive bonus in my eyes), a great little gift shop jam packed with leaflets of local attractions, and a cafe on site selling home cooked food at very decent prices.

We booked our tickets online which saved £2 off the ticket price and at £10 per adult (£5 for children from 4 years old) its was exceptional value. There was something to look at around every corner. Sadly, we never made it to the WW1 trenches or the Victorian School House complete with extremely strict Teacher but hopefully they will do this event again.

Needless to say I took load of pictures and have tried to edit them down a bit for you here, but all I can say is try and go if you can.They have all sorts of events on throughout the year so keep an eye on their website and prepare to be amazed.

Son dressed up standing infant of the Procession.

Archery, Catapult and Crossbow practice for the children.

Viking Camp.

Birds of Prey.

Battle reanactment. 

I particularly loved seeing people from different time periods hanging out together.
It was magical.

Farm Labourers.

Funeral Cart.

Working Printshop which they use to print all the Museum posters on. Brilliant.

Working Steam Trains.

Traveller Caravans.

Wartime Kitchen.

Suffragette tent.


Tudor (?) music.


Son trying on replica helmet and sword for size.

The Storyteller in the woods.

Punch and Judy in the Farm.

Another reenactment. 

The Brilliant 'Palace of Curiosities'.

Getting nicked. 

Mermaid Exhibit.

London Bomb Disposal Unit.

Unexploded Bombs!

Elizabeth I