Beautiful Walking

Our garden is a blaze of colour at the moment, with blue coming to the fore as the Buddleia and Lavender are in flower. Walking near Castle Combe today we enjoyed the hot sunshine (followed by the obligatory pub lunch) and saw lots of butterflies that I don't usually notice, including Marbled Whites.

“Wait here to be seated”

Today we enjoyed some orienteering (I last did so when I was a teenager) and had decided to go to Polly's Tea Rooms in Marlborough for one of their famous cream teas. The orienteering took less time than we had anticipated, so we chose lunch instead. Polly's Tea Rooms have a great reputation, so we were looking forward to this with some anticipation.

When we arrived we were met by a sign which said, “Wait here to be seated.” A family of three were ahead of us in the queue and we wondered how long we would wait. Nobody attended to us to welcome us or give us an idea of how long the wait might be. Nobody seemed to have that role or to feel that such an action was important. Meanwhile we watched the bustle of waitresses clearing tables, and a queue of people alongside us waiting to pay for their table gradually reducing.

After what seemed like half an hour, but was probably five to ten minutes, and by which time there was a significant queue behind us, the waiter finished collecting money and told us we would have to wait a few minutes.

I suggested to him, probably more aggressively than I should have done, that it would have been nice to have been greeted earlier. When we were politely pointed towards a table a little later I wondered why we had all been queuing as there seemed to be quite a few empty tables around.

I found it interesting how this experience diminished our enjoyment of the restaurant. Does it take a lot to say “hello” to people rather than line them up like cattle? Perhaps what felt like a poor welcome was not intentional – maybe half the staff had phoned in sick, and the difficulty for service industries is that people rate them on the whole experience and not just on what they think their core product is.

Perhaps as I get older I become less tolerant, or perhaps I am just more aware of what good service can look like. I also find myself surprised at the number of businesses who do not seem to have a way of encouraging feedback from their customers. Good feedback provides testimonials that help with marketing. On the other hand complaints are a gift to draw attention to the way things can be improved, and to prevent the diminution of reputation and sales that can be caused by disatisfied customers.

When the meal came it was good – scampi and chips cooked to perfection – however next time I'm in Marlborough Polly's Tea Rooms will not be the place I have been looking forward to going, rather it will be one of a number of possibilites alongside the other pubs, hotels, and restaurants.

Avatar Film

Last night Toni and I went to see the film Avatar in 3D. It's one of the most breathtaking and moving films I have seen. Some people seem to think that this is a film without a plot, however I would say that not only are the visual effects amazing, but there are many plots cleverly interwoven. I can't say more without spoiling it for you!

The Earth from the Air

Enjoying the Christmas season with friends, we spent some time visiting our local historic city of Bath and were impressed to discover an amazing exhibition of photographs around the city centre and in particular at Bath Abbey.

These fabulous photographs are by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and mostly taken from the air by helicopter. See the links for the brochure of the exhibition in Bath and more information about the Earth from the Air project including pics of some of the photos. The exhbition is in Bath until the end of January – go see it!

The exhibition encourages sutainable development, and the first few lines of accompanying text are arresting. “Since 1950, economic growth has been considerable, and world production of goods and services has multiplied by a factor of 7. During the same period, while the world's population has only doubled, the volume of fish caught and meat produced has multiplied by 5. So has the energy demand. Oil consumption has multiplied by 7 and carbon dioxide emissions… by 4. Since 1900 fresh water consumption has multiplied by 6, chiefly to provide for agriculture.” Most of this increasing consumption is by the fifth of the world's population who live in industrialised countries.

I wonder about some of the data and conclusions to do with climate change, and consider whether by talking about climate change we risk missing key points by inappropriately conflating partially related issues. However this kind of information  leads me to think that whatever else is going on our consumption is out of control, which points to an underlying cause of greed.

Green Cone

We've been working hard this weekend digging a hole for our new Green Cone, subsidised by Wiltshire Council. It does not look much, but much of it is buried underground: we had to dig a hole over 2 feet deep and about 3 feet in diameter.

We can put food scraps in the Green Cone, which will “digest” them and create just water which will drain into the soil. Impressive, huh? This saves filling our dustbin and landfill sites with food waste. We'll see how well it works.

We considered doing composting, which we did in our last house, but don't have a large garden and the composter equivalent to the green cone (the Green Johanna) requires balanced quantities of food waste and garden waste all year round, which would be a challenge.

Hornets are rare in Britain?

While enjoying lunch in the garden recently, before the wave of wet weather set in again in Wiltshire, I was distracted by a large wasp on a nearby plant. This turned out to be a hornet. Further investigation revealed hornets coming and going from a nest in our neighbour's roof space.

I'm not sure whether to be pleased that we have rare insects in our garden (to complement an impressive variety of butterfly species this year), or look forward to our neighbour having the nest destroyed before the wasps become overly pervasive later in the year.

Sailing in Falmouth

Last week I enjoyed sailing in the Falmouth area with friends. We chartered the yacht Alcyone from Cornish Cruising. The winds were Force 4 to Force 6, which gave us some exhilarating sailing at sea. We also enjoyed the beauty of harbours such as Fowey and the Helford River, as well as some tranquil sailing up the River Fal: we reached Truro on a high tide. Of course we found some good pubs too. “Glad to be alive 2!”

See album for full set of photos of sailing and scenery.