Archive | May 2013

Eggelicious: A cracking good place to eat!

I’ve mentioned already on here that eating out in Swindon has got more interesting of late. Which is great news for me cos good food and the worship of Bacchus is one of my chief pleasures in life. ¬†ūüôā

A relatively recent discovery (following personal recommendation) is Egg-e-licious located in the covered market.¬†¬†I’m not exactly a gastronome but I know good food when it’s put in front of me and this place does just that!

Run by Ash and his friendly crew, Egg-e-licious does the best wraps you can possibly imagine stuffed with all manner of deliciously divine fillings. There’s something for every taste, meat eater or vegetarian, and all cooked before your very eyes. And there is¬†much, much more than the name implies.

Ash cooking at Egg-e-licious

Ash hard at work!

Ash is a great guy and has the most amazing memory Рnot just for faces but also for what you ate on your previous visit! My first visit to Egg-e-licious was on Shrove Tuesday when I had a savoury fenugreek pancake followed by a sweet cinnamon pancake Рboth utterly delicious. It was quite some time before I got back there and was staggered and impressed to find that not only did Ash remember me, but also that I had eaten a fenugreek pancake many weeks previously. Just amazing. More recently I went in on a Friday, often a fish day, again simply ambrosia.

Check him out on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eggelicious/ and on their website: http://www.eggelicious.co.uk and discover how he made the transition from pharmaceuticals to paneer, porcini and much more besides.

So if you haven’t been there yet, I urge you to do so – I’m not yoking, it’s really eggcellent! ¬†Sorry … really couldn’t resist that ….

 

#eggelicious #tripadvisor #pancakeplace #panasianwraps #coveredmarket #eggelicioustripadvisor #slowfoodfast

 

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Ten things to celebrate about Swindon No 4: The sculptures. A – ‘Looking to the future’

sculpture of three figures in swimwear relaxing by a pond

Looking to the Future 1989

‘Looking to the Future 1985. Artist: Jon Buck. Material: Glass Fibre Resin.¬†Project Details: This sculpture was completed by the first artist in residence during the development of West Swindon and funded by¬†Thamesdown¬†Borough Council, Southern Arts and Property 3.’

Swindon is home to¬†an assortment of statues and sculptures – more than I know of I’m sure. Some of them are not to everyone’s taste and arguments rage about whether the council should spend money on such things when services are always crying out for funding. It was ever thus. Whatever the merits or otherwise of that argument, on a personal level, I rather like the fact that they exist even if I don’t find all of them to my personal taste. ¬†They are¬†often tucked away with nothing drawing attention to them – one just chances upon them when walking the many foot/cycle paths around Swindon.¬†This one being a case in point. It’s so long since I walked this particular route I’d almost forgotten about it. Called ‘Looking to the Future’ it was installed in 1989 when the area of West Swindon was developing. It’s somewhat appropriate that I should ‘chance upon’ it today being as how, now I’m two-thirds of the way through my degree, looking to the future is what I’m beginning to do.

Part of ¬†the West Swindon Sculpture walk, this one is located between the West Swindon Centre and Ashington House pharmacy. From the road one can see the pond and the footpath¬†but not the figures as they are tucked away in the corner. It was nice to see it again today – it’s been years. It’s a pity though that the fountain in that pond is no longer working.IMG_0345

There’s a PDF file on the internet that has a map of the walk and some information about each sculpture.

Apropos this particular sculpture, the excellent Swindon Viewpoint  have in their wonderful archive collection a film of the artist, Jon Buck, talking about the sculpture and showing it being created. Art comes to life! just wonderful!

 

#travelwriting #publicart #publicartswindon #scultptures #art #swindonblog #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian

Ten things to celebrate about Swindon. Number 3: The buses

Yes, I know. More prosaic than poetic, but as a non-car-owning-non-driver public transport kinda matters.

Not that the bus system in Swindon is without its drawbacks:

1) Come Sundays and Bank Holidays living in my area of West Swindon is akin to being electronically tagged with the last bus out to town being around 5pm. Now as far as I know every bar/pub/restaurant in town doesn’t shut on a Sunday evening – though they may as well because, unless I get a taxi, I’m going nowhere.

2) The ‘spokes-of-a-wheel’ set-up of the Thamesdown¬†Transport routes: from whatever point around Swindon you are travelling, there are no (as far as I’m aware) circular routes to anywhere. One has to go into the town centre and get another bus back out to wherever you want to be. As a result, for me to get to somewhere like, say, the Orbital centre in North Swindon can take an hour or more depending on time of day etc. I can get to Bristol in that time. ¬†This for an area that is 15 mins by car. So I just don’t go.

3) And I really, really, bitterly resent the ‘Fast Fare’ system. It’s not fast¬†and it’s not ‘fare’. In fact¬†it’s a right, royal pain in the bum having to have the correct amount of change the whole time. I no sooner get money out of the cash-point than it disappears into little piles of money¬†ready for bus-fares. Not good Thamesdown Transport. Not good at all.I’d love to see the back of that system!

So what’s good about it then? Well for a start, generally speaking, the buses turn up. Where it says on the timetable there will be a bus – by and large there is a bus! I know you’d think that is stating the obvious but I happen to frequent a certain university city just down the motorway and the bus services there are shockingly bad. They bear no discernable relation to the timetables and are dreadfully expensive as well. There are a number of bus companies in Bristol.¬†One of, if not THE, most expensive is First buses – unsurprisingly as they are a subsidiary of a well-known train operator that runs in this region, one renowned for its high ticket prices. Though at least here there is no hateful fast fare system!

Secondly – in Swindon we have two bus companies, who, with a measure of ¬†‘joined-up’ thinking, allow a travel pass or day-rider bought on one to be used on the other. Also sadly lacking down the motorway. So well done Swindon on that.

Thirdly – the prices – again, really not too bad. Though I would like to see an interim fare for when you are only going to town and back. The ¬£3.60 day rider is brilliant value when you are going to town and then on to Red House or Orbital or the hospital or wherever. But couldn’t there be something in between for those of us just wanting to nip to town and back rather than this ‘one-size-fits-all’ fare? ¬†Yes, I know there are weekly, monthly and three-monthly travel passes but they are only viable if travelling for four days a week or more. It does actually put me off going into town sometimes. Whilst that’s good news for my credit card, if there are other people like me that are similarly put off then it’s not good news for the town centre.

4th September 2013 – I should add that there is now a multi-day rider thing which lets you buy five day-riders and get the 6th free. This is a great help for sure but I maintain that ¬£3.60 is a lot to go to town and back. I can get to Oxford and back for just under ¬£6…

Ten things to celebrate about Swindon. No 2: Arts and Culture – The poetry bus 2012

I have often heard it said that there is no culture in Swindon. Of the arts sort that is rather than the bacteria type. I daresay there’s a lot of the latter around but I know for certain that there’s plenty of the former. It might be well hidden, one might have to root it out – but it is there nevertheless. For starters Swindon has hosted, for many years now, a first-class literature festival:¬†http://www.swindonfestivalofliterature.co.uk

front of a vintage bus.

The vintage bus from Swindon poetry festival 2012

Moreover, it is a little known fact that Swindon is the world capital of poetry – oh yes indeed!¬†https://www.facebook.com/SwindonFestivalofPoetry¬† Last year I went on a journey on the festival’s Vintage Poetry bus – an actual embodiment of a magical mystery tour. I’ve never done drugs, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that an acid trip is similar to my experience on that bus. It was, quite simply, the most stupendously, superbly surreal experience of my entire life! Collecting its passengers at the bus station, the tour had two guides: Barry Dicks (aka Michael Scott) and Mabel Watson (aka Hilda Sheehan) who

'Mabel Watson' standing by vintage bus.

Mabel Watson welcomes travellers to the Vintage Poetry bus.

between them provided hysterical commentary, banter and badinage interspersed with poetry readings. The journey took us around corners of Swindon that we might rarely see and highlighted some surprises Рthe view of the Marlborough downs from Penhill for one of many. We stopped for refreshments and a comfort break at Lower Shaw Farm,  http://www.lowershawfarm.co.uk, in West Swindon before returning to the bus station where, somewhat dazed (well I was anyway!), our journey ended. A truly fabulous and fun experience.

10 things to celebrate about Swindon. No 1. Lots of parks & green spaces. A: Lydiard Park and house

November 2014: Sadly the stormy weather of Christmas 2013 destroyed the ancient walnut tree pictured below.  Go here for more information about it. Below is a picture I took just the other day of how this once proud and ancient tree looks now. Such a shame but such is life.

fallen walnut tree

 

Swindon is a town blessed with a huge amount of green space ranging from the formal Old Town Gardens with its lovely bandstand, to large green areas, including a stately home and park in West Swindon: Lydiard House and Park. I live just a hop, skip and a jump from Lydiard Park but don’t go nearly as often as I should, which is a bit shameful really. ¬†However, even if I don’t utilise it too often many people do. It’s popular with runners, families out on bikes, dog-walkers, strollers and, in the summer months, picnickers and BBQers. If only more people would take their blasted litter away with them. How hard can it be? Grrr!

The park is, as their website says:

” … a beautiful historic estate on the western edge of Swindon, with the Palladian House, Church and¬†Walled Garden, set in¬†260 acres of parkland.¬† The children’s play, Cafe¬†& Tea Rooms, events and education programmes¬†make Lydiard Park a¬†great destination for a family day out …”¬†As ¬†it goes on to explain,¬†the park and house host lots of great events and I’ve been to many of them over the years: classical concerts, pop concerts, Bonfire night, the Big Arts Day and the Victorian Christmas in the big house. I like saying ‘big house’ – it reminds me of Bill and Ben. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then Google it. ūüôā There are umpteen paths around the park, more than one children’s play park, large open spaces for the playing of ball games, a BBQ area and a visitor centre amongst the facilities.

At the heart of the park is Lydiard House: ‚Äď a striking Grade I¬†listed Palladian house, that for 500 years was home to the St John family.¬†The ground floor state apartments of Lydiard House have been beautifully restored and are open to visitors all year round to view the ornate plasterwork and original family furnishings displayed alongside portraits and photographs of the St John family.¬†¬† You can purchase a ticket to visit the State Rooms and the Walled Garden, or just pay to visit the house”¬†Something that is well worth doing! As I say, I’ve been several times to things.

A few years ago (okay a LOT of years ago) I was given, to celebrate a special birthday, a hot air balloon flight from the park. ¬†It took place on a perfectly clear, warm, sunny early September evening. The balloon was inflated in front of the house and when we ‘took off’ and floated right over the house it was so, so magical. One of the loveliest experiences I’ve ever had. It was just amazing.

Just behind the house is the Parish Church of St. Mary’s, Lydiard Tregoze. This is a gorgeous little church. It has closed in pews – something I’d not come across before. You can read more about it on the website but to give you a flavour:“St Mary’s is one of England’s finest small churches and dates back to the 12th century. It is¬† packed with fascinating monuments to the St. John family including¬†St¬†John Polyptych,¬†erected by John St John in 1592¬†and¬†the Golden Cavalier, a full-size effigy of Edward St John, who died in battle in the English Civil War in 1644.”

There are a couple of really good historical blogs, written by a Swindon historian and writer, centred on the house that are well worth checking out:¬†Status, scandal and subterfuge¬†– “For five hundred years the influential St John family lived at Lydiard Park on the outskirts of Swindon. Read about the St. John ladies and the people whose lives they touched.”¬†And also¬†Good Gentlewoman:¬†“This blog began life as Status, Scandal and Subterfuge, a story about the St John ladies of Lydiard Park, Wiltshire. However, the Ladies have proved so fascinating that I have extended my research to other branches of the family and launched this new website Good Gentlewoman.”¬†

I went up there for a walk just before Christmas (2013) and here a few pictures I took. It was a lovely sunny day and was even relatively mild.   The house always looks very lovely in the sunshine.

Sunday 29th December 2013 – more photos:

In no particular order, just some of the other parks/green spaces Swindon boasts are: Old Town Gardens, Queens Park, Faringdon Road park, the Polo Ground, Coate Water, Shaw Forest Park and Barbary Castle – a misleading name as it’s not actually a castle at all. All of which I hope to post about in the fullness of time.

January 2014 Рupdate: Sadly the stormy weather of Christmas 2013 destroyed the ancient walnut tree picured here. Go here for more information.

#swindon #wiltshire #swindonblog  #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #whattodoinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian #swindonia #walkinginswindon #healthwalksswindon #parks #openspaces #nature #gardens #swindonparks

Keema Rice and Tarka Saag Dahl

In my capacity as a literature student I’ve been coming across quests quite a lot of late. In ‘A Handful of Dust’, Evelyn Waugh has one of his main protagonists going off on an ill-fated quest to find another Eldorado. In ‘Coming up for Air’, George Orwell sends his protagonist off on a nostalgic quest back to his childhood.

I have a quest of a different sort in mind: to find the second-best Keema Rice and Tarka Saag dahl in Swindon. Yes, I guess you might just be detecting a theme here. Food. Well it is something that is close to my heart. But I won’t only write about food and restaurants here I promise. It’s just with eating out last night it’s currently uppermost in my mind.

Anyway – back to the rice and dahl quest. I say second-best because I think I have found the best of these dishes in Monsoon on Faringdon Road. I’ve tried a number – though not all – of the curry houses in Swindon over the years and I almost invariably order keema rice and tarka saag dahl as they are two of my favourite things. But so far I haven’t come across any as good as those to be had in Monsoon. I have such a weak spot for theirs. It’s just yummy. I’ve eaten some fabulous asian food ¬†down Tooting Bec High Road – some of it to die for it’s so good – but I still prefer Monsoon’s version of these particular dishes. It just always hits the spot.

I’m not given to ordering take-aways very often (student income, blah, blah, blah – plus I do try to eat healthily most of the time and I’m not sure that barrel-loads of ghee qualifies) but when I do I always order from that particular establishment ¬†just so I can order extra portions of the said dishes to put in the freezer for another time.

So, of there are any other keema rice and tarka dahl lovers out there I’d love to know of anywhere ¬† ¬†(in Swindon this is) they have come across that is, in their considered opinion, particularly good with these two dishes and I’ll aim to give it a go sometime.

http://www.monsoon-swindon.co.uk

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