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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Da Paolo’s Eatalian

May 2015 In my AA Editorial Services capacity I’ve recently been working with another client of Outset Swindon on web copy, press releases and marketing letters. My client’s business is called High Street Hero, the thrust of which is to give a superpower, or same-day delivery service, to independent retailers allowing them to offer a service that sets them apart on the high street.  When the client and I were working on the web copy we talked a lot about the whole shop local initiative and how it fits in with what he is trying to achieve.

Everyone wants a vibrant high street that is a place for socialising as well as shopping. But that doesn’t happen by magic. We all have the choice between using independent retailers and food outlets or the national and global ‘big -boys’. Sometimes one has to go to the ‘big-boys’ – but if we always do that then we’ve only ourselves to blame for high streets full of pound stores and charity shops.

And of course, in shopping locally you are supporting British entrepreneurs in all manner of ways. As this article in The Guardian says: ‘Artisan markets help foster the talents of the next generation of British designers and retailers. “[They] are hotbeds of innovation,” says Mike Cooksedge, founder of SeeMyLocalMarket. “There is a constant turnover of new products, and sellers listen to customers’ demands. If a certain pie filling is popular, for example, a pie company will respond to that and quickly supply more of them – and you can suggest things too, so you can even have a bit of influence over the products on sale.”

So of late I’ve been trying to shop locally myself where ever possible and use Swindon’s many independent coffee shops every chance I get. In recent months I’ve bought gifts from Catherine Jay and Pink & Green – two start-up artisan businesses that I’ve met via Outset Swindon and even, to get to the main focus of this blog post – Da Paolo’s Eatalian delicatessen on Commercial Road in Swindon.

As well as being a lovely deli from where I purchase luscious olives and tasty cheeses among other things, they also serve the most delicious coffee and at a fantastic price – I visit quite a lot for that alone! I have mentioned the place before in an overview post of Swindon’s coffee scene but doing the research on shopping locally prompted me to put this post together as Da Paolo’s is an embodiment of many of the espoused benefits of supporting independents. You get specialist knowledge of their goods and you get personal service and a relaxed shopping experience. And you can even have a coffee while you do it. This past Christmas I decided to purchase a hamper of Italian goodies as a gift for a friend. So, with delicious coffee in hand, together with Debbie (partner of Paolo) I selected an assortment of goodies to fit my budget. Then, shortly before Christmas, I collected my hamper all beautifully arranged and packaged with red ribbon. Now THAT’S what I call shopping.

“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.”  ― Erma Bombeck

One of the many benefits of shopping locally is that our custom enables the businesses that we patronise to support the community in which they are based in various ways. Darkroom Espresso, one of Swindon’s fabulous independent coffee shops for example, supports local artists by holding exhibitions of their work. Da Paolo’s does what it can for charity. Its current charity of choice is Brighter Futures: http://www.gwh.nhs.uk/support-us/about-brighter-futures/ which which supports the staff, patients and families of Great Western Hospital and community health services across Wiltshire.  So if the fab coffee and the delicious Italian groceries are not good enough reasons in themselves to hot foot it to Da Paolo’s then this surely is?

Bites and Bottles

May 2015

Food and drink are two things very close to my heart. Indeed I’ve written about my favourite coffee shops, restaurants etc on this blog. See more of that here: http://swindonian.me/category/eating-drinking-coffee-etc/

Thus I’m more than happy to give a shout-out to a new blog that is concerned with both those things: Bites & Bottles.  The owner of the blog is @ThomasLittleUK on Twitter and he is looking for appropriate contributions to it. TWITTER HANDLE FOR THE BLOG: @BitesnBottles

The content of the blog is not necessarily Swindon-focused but of course it can be – and when I send some contributions to it – then it will be! 🙂

But as the blog is ‘owned’ in Swindon and can be about Swindon eateries and drinkeries I reckon it merits a slot on Born again Swindonian. So below is some information from Thomas about his new blog. He’s absolutely right that great food and drink doesn’t necessarily have to be fine dining. That very sentiment is the ethos behind Eggelicious and E2. Indeed, painted on the wall in E2 is a quote that sums up this very notion: “You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” (Paul Prudhomme) And, in the case of E2 and Eggelicious, never was a truer word spoken.

Bites and Bottles blog - picture from website

Bites and Bottles blog @BitesnBottles

Bites & Bottles is a brand new blog dedicated to everything food and drink. Great food and drink might come from fine dining or out the side of a van, it doesn’t need to have a label or price tag, what it does need to do is to pass the lips and deliver amazing flavours that you won’t forget in a hurry.

TWITTER HANDLE FOR THE BLOG: @BitesnBottles

 Whether it’s world food, craft beer, fine wine or just a combination of food and drink that you would never have thought of, Bites & Bottles aims to cover it all. Glossy magazine and TV chefs are great at making people feel like they can’t cook or that certain ingredients only belong in pricey restaurants or are reserved for high days and holidays, Bites & Bottles is here to help dispel those assumptions. We’re actively looking for people to contribute to the blog on anything from restaurant reviews, recipes, articles on producers, photos and more! Just drop a line to: bitesnbottles@hotmail.com

 If you have something to submit please get in touch, if you love food and drink and want to know more or share what you’ve learned then Bites & Bottles is the place for you.’

Discovering a place in the natural world

Or: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

May 2015

“I dressed and went for a walk – determined not to return until I took in what Nature had to offer.”
 – Raymond Carver, This Morning.

Suffering for my art – yet stoic in the execution of my Festival Chronicle duties I arrived at Swindon Arts Centre in a sodden and sorry state after the third drenching of the day and it was still only midday.

I’d been dispatched there by Festival Chronicle HQ to cover the Swindon Literature Festival appearance of Bruce Fogle – and if the name sounds familiar you’re not wrong – but more of that later.

Bruce Fogle book cover

Bruce Fogle book cover

Bruce Fogle is a former zoo worker, practicing vet and best-selling writer. Not on the face of it the kind of ‘thing’ that would be high on my list of things with which to engage – I’m not exactly at one with the natural world at the best of times. And especially not after mice in the conservatory, rats infesting the loft and more than the occasional frog startling me in the garden. Or maybe that’s more a case of me startling the frogs. Anyway. This all goes to prove the old adage about not judging a book by its cover – literally in this case because, despite my trepidation, Mr Fogle’s talk turned out to be an enchanting prequel – his words – to his book Barefoot at the Lake: A boyhood summer in Cottage Country.

Speaking in an accent he immediately clarified as being Canadian, Mr Fogle kicked off by apologising for not being his famous son Ben Fogle. He then went on to deliver a slide show that, together with his talk, was a charming transportation back to 1954 and the 10 yr old Bruce holidaying, as he did every year, at the family’s lakeside cottage in Canada: a period that defined his latent interest in, and affinity with, the natural world.

As we looked at the slides of lovely family snaps taken in a time and a place that were, by his own admission, idyllic, I was transported back for a short time to my own childhood. Not that I was lucky enough to spend it fishing and generally having jolly japes by a Canadian lake. Very Famous Five! No, far from it. But I grew up in a similar era – that of the late 1950s and early 1960s in a corner of rural Derbyshire which, if you ignored the slag heap and the pit winding wheel on the edge of the village was really very lovely. As Mr Fogle’s childhood was spent in the woods and lakes of his corner of Canada mine was spent wandering across the fields and the country lanes. I used to know the names of many flowers and trees – all long forgotten now that I’m a well-established softy southern urbanite. So it was lovely to be reminded of a softer, gentler, somewhat more innocent time, a time when I wasn’t quite so at odds with nature as I am now – especially on a cold and blustery day in May.

Perhaps unsurprisingly on such a wet, windy weekday lunchtime the audience was small and mostly senior. Maybe it’s only the unemployed, the self-employed and the retired that have the time and opportunity to attend lunchtime talks. Which is a pity because this was a delightful, thoughtful and engaging hour with a charming gentleman who, in festival director Matt Holland’s words, delivered a well-told story. A tale of the beauty and bounty of nature and also its awfulness – in the older meaning of that word as being something that inspires awe. Which he did. And were it not for Festival Chronicle I wouldn’t have given it a second look.

Festival Chronicle on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/FestivalChronicle?fref=ts

Festival Chronicle on Twitter: @festchronicler

Swindon Festival of Literature on Twitter: @swinlitfest

http://www.swindonfestivalofliterature.co.uk

Bonny Prim: Health and Wellbeing Coach

May 2015

Here we have yet another start-up business who has started out via the services of Outset Swindon. After many years caught in the yo-yo dieting trap Bonny sought help from her Doctor who helped her to understand how to eat and exercise properly. This epiphany led Bonny to study nutrition and life coaching which has equipped her with the skills and knowledge she needs for her work as a health and well-being coach.

Email: bprimhealthcoach@gmail.com

Phone: 07725 811774

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Bonnyprimhealthcoach

Website: www.healthcoachingwithbonny.co.uk

photograph of blonde woman

Bonny Prim

My journey to become a health and wellbeing coach started officially back in 2013, but, if I’m honest, I think most things that have happened in my life have led me to this point, so let me give you a bit of background.

 When I was at college, at the tender age of 16, I tried a well-known diet shake in my bid to lose a few pounds. After about three days I couldn’t stomach it for breakfast anymore and promptly gave up with that idea! So now let’s fast forward a few years. I’m twenty-four and  planning for my wedding. I try a weight loss group this time, but it’s not long before I’m completely lost and fed up with weighing food, counting points and paying to queue for an hour just to stand on the scales in front of someone. But I lost some weight for my wedding and was happy, but soon gave up again.

Then, through the rest of my 20’s and most of my 30’s I tried lots of different diets in my vain attempt to lose a few pounds quickly and easily – some of which worked but only for a while –  the weight soon goes back on again. I’m officially a yo-yo dieter!

Now we need to leap to 2011. By now my body had decided enough was enough and I found I could no longer lose weight by following one of these plans and exercising, so I went to my Doctor begging for help. I was at an all-time low – eating to make myself feel better, then feeling fed up because I had put more weight on. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing wrong, so I didn’t have a clue how to put it right. My Doctor was amazing and really supported me to understand how to eat properly (something that previous diets had never done) and do the right type of exercise as well. I’m so lucky to have had his help as I know not all GPs are so understanding.

 Soon, the weight started to drop off and I was feeling great; people were asking me how I did it and I started to share the knowledge I had gained through educating myself more about food and exercise. I loved it and loved helping others too. The weight has stayed off ever since and I’ve never looked back.

 In late 2013 I underwent planned surgery which unfortunately led to further unplanned surgery. it was these events that made me take stock of my life and what I really wanted to do. I’d already had about twenty years of experience coaching people in various jobs, and had enjoyed helping others by sharing what I’d learnt about food, but wanted to attain some certification to give credibility to what I knew and to demonstrate my expertise in the field.

So, to that end I studied as a nutritionist and life coach.  This has enabled me to build on my skills and knowledge and use them to help people like me. People who need to find a way to break out of the cycle of losing weight and then putting more back on, through a poor understanding of food, and the beliefs they’ve developed over time about themselves.  I’ve now gained a certificate in Nutrition and am currently working toward becoming a Nutritional Therapist. additionally I’m an accredited life coach with the Association for Coaching.

 I love working with my clients – it’s such an uplifting experience to see them achieve their goals and I’m so happy that they have all lost weight and made the lifestyle changes needed. They tell me they don’t feel as though they are depriving themselves of anything and are enjoying their new-found knowledge. I hear their families have benefitted too, so that can’t be a bad thing.

Coaching is offered one-to-one as a three-month package as it can take this long to get clients to work through any potential blocks they may have, and also educate them about their nutritional choices.  I take this time to look at current eating habits and make recommendations on how to make better choices. I give my clients recipes, nutritional advice and answer any questions as we go on the journey together. I also get my clients focused on their goal and the actions they need to get there at lightning speed, whilst dealing with the blocks that we will uncover along the way.

 I’m also about to launch the ‘Healthy Life Blueprint’ group coaching programme which will take place in Swindon for groups of up to 10 people as an 8 week programme, I’m really excited about this one! Contact me if you think this might be for you!

 You can see more about me and what I do on my website and Facebook page, or contact me via phone or email if you want to chat about how we can work together.’

Email: bprimhealthcoach@gmail.com

Phone: 07725 811774

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Bonnyprimhealthcoach

Website: www.healthcoachingwithbonny.co.uk

Swindon Arts blog

This post is just by way of highlighting a lovely blog called ‘Swindon Arts Blog‘: https://swindonartsblog.wordpress.com

I love the strapline on it:

SWINDONARTSBLOG: Living in an unexpected creative hotspot…  

Image of text and buildings

Swindon Arts Blog

because we do – and the author of this blog, Benjamin, Twitter: @swindonartsblog – is not alone in having noticed that Swindon is a steaming cauldron of creativity of all kinds: dance, art, music – you name it really – it’s all here. I’ve written about lots of it here on this blog as does Benjamin on his. And he has some great photographs on it too.

Indeed the unexpected hotspot aspect is something that was highlighted in one of the guest posts on this blog, Out of the Centre, in which the author expresses this:

“Before I left Sydney I was having a conversation with a lecturer of the painting department. Shane and I were talking about the ‘art world’ and what artists do to get ‘out there’. Shane turned the conversation around by saying to me ‘Don’t go to the centre’. What he meant was don’t go to New York or Berlin. I sort of laughed and didn’t think much of it. 

But it makes sense now.”  I rather think that echoes Benjamin’s tagline.  And really rather gives the lie to the all too common perception that the only kind of culture to be found in Swindon is that in a yoghurt pot. 

Richard Jefferies Refreshed

Friday 1st May 2015

I’ve written about Richard Jefferies and the museum dedicated to his life and works on this blog before. Last summer the museum starting putting on cream teas in the garden and the Mulberry tea room so I put out a post about that. More recently, together with a friend, I went out on an EXPOTITION following a Richard Jefferies trail around Old Town. I’ve so far only got round to publishing Part 1 of that adventure  as life and my AA Editorial Services business have rather got in the way. But I will get to it soon.

So I was really pleased, earlier this week, to attend a lunch event to celebrate the re-launch of the museum. Lunch and launch in one event. Fabulous! Over the winter the Richard Jefferies society and the museum trust comprising such wonderful people as Mike Pringle and Hilda Sheehan have worked hard on new display boards in the museum, the Mulberry Tea Room and the gardens. Below are a few photographs from the event – yet again I’m stalking Madame Mayor! 🙂

If you haven’t been to the museum you really should go. It’s another of Swindon’s hidden gems being tucked away at the back of Coate. On a sunny day the garden is an absolute delightful place to be and is much bigger than you might at first think. Earlier I mentioned cream teas – well the jam for the teas is often made with the fruit from the mulberry tree in the garden about which Jefferies wrote a poem. How wonderful is that? If you are interested in reading any of Jefferies’ works you can find them all in Swindon Central library. I even have one of his childrens’ books ‘Bevis’ on my E-reader.

In his day Jefferies was a celebrated author. He was something of a big-shot in his day. Indeed his childrens’ books were illustrated by none other then E H Sheperd, the man responsible for the delightful illustrations that we know and love from the Winnie the Pooh stories.

The man and his work: “(John) Richard Jefferies (6 November 1848 – 14 August 1887) is best known for his writings about nature and the countryside. His birthplace and home at Coate, now on the out-skirts of Swindon, provide the background to all his major works of fiction and for many of his essays.”

Wikipedia: “His childhood on a small Wiltshire farm had a great influence on him and provides the background to all his major works of fiction. For all that, these show a remarkable diversity, including Bevis (1882), a classic children’s book, and After London (1885), an early work of science fiction. “

Curry favour at Pappadams

Sunday 26th April 2015

It’s a funny old thing really. When I first came to Swindon – about twenty years ago – I used to bemoan the fact that eating choices here were largely limited to curry houses and Italian restaurants. In recent years that’s most certainly changed. Not only can Swindon proudly boast numerous independent coffee shops  there are some great independent restaurants too such as Rio – the Brazilian place – my favourite Eggelicious and my favourite curry house (so far), Rangoli.  And there are quite a few more worthy of your time and attention.

But to return to the subject of curry. My Indian born son-in-law has often complained about the lack of actual Indian restaurants – given that most curry houses in most places are actually Bangladeshi establishments. Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Bangladeshi food. Heaven forfend! It’s perfectly delicious and I’ve eaten my body weight and more in it over the years. It’s just that it’s not Indian. So when we discovered Rangoli  – oh my – the smile on his face was wider than that of the Cheshire Cat. He was thrilled. And now in Swindon we have another restaurant of the actual Indian variety by the name of Pappadams down on Regent Circus – in what was La Dolce Vita.  I was fortunate enough to attend the official opening a few days back and below are a few photographs of the occasion. It was a sparkling event in every way. There was a drop or two of very nice Prosecco, (and failing the presence of Bollinger I like a drop of Prosecco), a trio of tiaras, and an MP of the town.  I’ve been trying to think of a good collective noun for the tiaras. A ‘glitter’ or a ‘shimmer’ perhaps? Madame Mayor was also present to cut the ribbon – the second time in a few days I’ve bumped into the lovely lady – the first being at the official opening of Bunny Pumpkins and the Emporium of Loveliness. I’m not following her – honest!

Anyway, I wish Pappadams every success and look forward to trying the place out ‘properly’ before too long.

Bunny Pumpkin Boutique and The Emporium of Loveliness

Sunday 26th April 2015

Last Saturday, together with my good friend Sam (aka Little Miss Cakemaker) I attended the official opening of this delightful little shop. I rather fear that Madame Mayor and Miss Wiltshire will be feeling stalked by the pair of us as we were at another event (the official opening of Pappadams) also attended by them later in the week. It does rather seem that wherever they go we are sure to follow!

Anyway, back to business – in every sense of the word. This latest post in the Swindon in Business section of this blog is about the eponymous shop now open for business in unit 40, in the tented market in Swindon town centre – yet another business facilitated, along with my own AA Editorial Services and many others, into life by the wondrous Outset Swindon.

And isn’t that just the most fabulous name for a store? And indeed not only is it a lovely name it’s a lovely shop full of lovely things set up with a lovely aim: 20 percent of the takings from the Emporium of Loveliness will be donated to a charity called Empower the Gambia (Reg Charity: 1161200) to support their training and sourcing projects for the benefit of women and children in rural Gambia. The people behind this gorgeous shop hope they’ll be able to support more projects in the Gambia in the future. You can keep up with their news on:

www.facebook.com/Emporiumofloveliness

www.facebook.com/EmpowertheGambia

Jo Heaven who set up the shop and the charity had been running pop up fashion events for the last three years at different venues across Swindon including The Spot, The Core and Harris + Hoole. More recently she teamed up with Jen Burton of Bunny Pumpkin Boutique to run a market stall at Oxford before realising a permanent shop was needed.

Bunny Pumpkin Boutique and The Emporium of Loveliness opened for trading on the 13 April and was officially opened by The Mayor Teresa Page and Miss Wiltshire Nicole Analise Cox on Saturday 18 April 2015. With beautiful new and cherished designer and unusual fashions and home ware our loyal supporters have been joined by lots of new fans of our fabulous stock. From evening wear, pretty dresses, outfits for the office and casual wear; hats, jewellery, hosiery and shoes;  retro furnishings and beautiful gifts; beauty products and make up – there is something for everybody. Children and men are also catered for and women’s sizes range from 6 to 26.
So not only can you browse and buy some fabulous things you can support a worthwhile venture into the bargain – and that has to be a bargain wouldn’t you say? From a personal viewpoint the location of the emporium is simply perfect being that it’s in the market, home of Eggelicious – one of my favourite eateries and only a hop across the road from the Italian deli , Da Paulo EatItalian, at the bottom of Commercial Road where the coffee is really quite lovely – and great value for money.
Find me – Angela Atkinson – AA Editorial services and Born again Swindonian:

Tune up for Swindon Community Choir

As my regular listeners know, the guest blog posts on Born again Swindonian often occur as a result of interactions on social media. This post though is the exception that proves the rule as I met Mandy, it’s author, via Outset Swindon both of us having been through their programme. Me of course for the setting up of my business, AA Editorial Services. 

In the course of conversation with Mandy and her husband I discovered their involvement with a community choir and felt it was something that should be shared on here. And I absolutely can’t sing – I only wish I could. My daughter once offered to buy me singing lessons suggesting I look at it as a service to the community. Harrumph!

Anyway, here now is Mandy’s post about the community choir and teaching Swindon, if not the world, to sing:

” ‘I can’t sing’ – the most common reaction received when I suggest singing to people who want fun, more social life and to raise their happiness quotient!

My name’s Mandy.  I have always loved singing with other people – I am a willing and enthusiastic enjoyer of the shared results.   In an interesting twist of fate, my first awareness that a community choir existed in Swindon occurred in 2002.  Lots of wonderful, new things started that year….  At the time, my husband Pete and I were keeping an African Drumming Group ticking along in Wroughton.  On the particular week in discussion, I happened to be away.

 After the session, Pete (who had always laughed at me because I can hardly hear a song without adding a harmony) said that I would have loved the events of that Wednesday evening.  A young Polish man, doing some “WWOOFing” (Working Weekends on Organic Farms) at Lower Shaw Farm, had joined in for the evening, asking at the end of it if the group would like to learn a harmony song.  Being the agreeable types, they did exactly that.  I was very glad that the following week, Pawol turned up again, drummed a smile onto his face and went on to share a song with us.  ‘You like harmony sing?’ he asked. Oh boy, did I.  “You know there is a choir at Lower Shaw Farm?”   How on earth did I not know that?  It’s on my doorstep.  I love the farm.  Yet, this young man came all the way from Poland to an African drumming group to tell us that a local lady called Linda and her husband, Martin, not finding the desired choir, started one up themselves.  Funny how it works, sometimes, isn’t it?  The group has grown and grown, moving from place to larger place and branching out to a Tuesday afternoon group at Lower Shaw Farm as well, singing eclectic songs old and new and from the world over.

Well, we are still there with the group – and extending the reach of the joy of A’cappella (voices-only) singing.  Linda and Martin have shown us the ropes of leading groups and we love it.  Repeatedly, we see people come in, looking for an outlet for their voice – and often wondering if they will be ‘good enough’ (everyone is; this is for fun, fun, fun!) and going away smiling. They are invigorated and usually more energetic than when they arrived.  There is a crazy idea around that a ‘singer’ is already publicly renowned or has to be good enough to be so.  One idea suitably scuppered, then!

Swindon Community Choir has over forty smiley singers turning up on a term-time Monday night.  (www.singtastic.co.uk).  We meet at the Central Community hall, in Emlyn Square, in the famous Railway Village.  The free car park is very well-used and the art of triple-parking has become the group’s knack!  The bus stops just at the corner. We have had singers as young as 9 and well into their 90s.  Let’s have some centenarians!

Singtastic website

Singtastic website

I love meeting people and discovering their loves, their ambitions and drives – and the amazing richness of past experiences.  The Monday morning drop-in, facilitated by our Community Engagement Worker, Kati Wood, is a great place to indulge that love.  In discussing my own, people asked us about what we do (‘we’ being Pete and I).  “Can you run a choir here, for us?”   Well, all things are possible if you really want them to be….

Singtastic on YouTube: https://youtu.be/sDqATbWnxl4

https://youtu.be/KUlbu7idVKM

Kati stepped in quickly and told us about the ‘New Shoots” grant that’s available for local group activities.  Our local Swindon Councillors waved the magic wand.  Today, I am glad to announce that in April, on Thursdays 23rd and 30th, there are opportunities to experience this for oneself, free of charge, between 10am and 12pm.

As we are holding this in the Haydon Wick Parish Council offices, adjacent to the Haydon Centre, there will also be disabled facilities and outside, free parking.  (Just in case you might consider that I meant inside…)   If a song stirs you to join in at times, why not come along and experience the fun of group singing, too?  If you need more information about it, you can contact me on 07736 314912 or by email; info@theflowzone.co.uk.” 

Mandy (Parsons)

 

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