Sunday 31st July 2011 15:41
Despite the fact that I lived in the north west of England for almost 40 years, I'd only ever visited the area of Saddleworth on a handful of occasions, so when my parents suggested that we all went there today, we were more than happy to. It's an absolutely beautiful area and such a shame that the names Hindley and Brady still haunt the area, even though it's 46 years since they laid claim to their last victim. Anyway, I shan't put a downer on the day.
Soon off the M62, we headed for Denshaw, unbeknown to me, my Dad wanted to take us to the Rams Head, a pub that once served its real ale in enamel tankards. Strangely enough, it's now served in standard glasses and we all enjoyed half a pint of Timothy Taylor 'Landlord', before checking the adjoining farm shop out, to see what sort of food and drink it sold. When I first walked through, I spotted numerous bottles of wine and all kinds of delicatessen food, but no bottled real ale. This did surprise me, especially when the pub itself had a good range of cask ale… ah well. No, wait, no sooner had I given up, I noticed a shelf with several ales I'd never seen before… bargain! Three were brewed by Lancaster Brewery, 'Blonde', 'Red' and 'Black' whilst the other was very interesting indeed… a small 330ml bottle brewed by Harviestoun Brewery, an 8.0% ABV ale matured in whisky casks that goes by the name of 'Ola Dubh'. It wasn't far short of £5.00 for the one bottle but I hadn't seen it before and was therefore worth it.
To find out more about the pub and the farm shop, please click on the pub's logo above.
From there, we then carried on through the pretty village of Delph until we reached Dobcross, an idyllic village on a rather steep hill. We'd been hunting around for a viewpoint to park at and ended up having to choose a spot on the side of the village road so that we could enjoy our 'picnic'. Seemed such a shame that we hadn't been able to find somewhere but it was a nice enough spot I guess. After we'd eaten, we had a short walk around the village before making our way to another little village called Diggle (with all these villages beginning with 'D', shouldn't the area just be renamed as Daddleworth? - Ed)
Whilst at Diggle, we enjoyed a short stroll around Diggle Fields in the Tame Valley before making our way to 'Grandpa Greene's', an ice cream parlour just yards further up Ward Lane. We all ordered an ice cream and watched the world go by on the banks of the Leeds Liverpool Canal.
Grandpa Greene's have been making ice cream in Saddleworth since 2005, using locally sourced milk and cream from Pedigree Friesian Cows that graze on the rolling hills above Diggle. The recipes of today have been based on Grandpa Greene who made his own ice cream using a wooden churn in the back yard of his corner shop in Salford… that was in the 1920s.
To find out more about the company and the flavours they create, please click on the logo above.
From there, we then had another drive around the Saddleworth area, the route taking us to Uppermill and beyond, with us eventually stopping at a very popular pub called 'The Cross Keys Inn', just outside of Uppermill. Owned by J.W. Lees Brewery, it had many familiar ales on, although there was one that I hadn't tried before, a 3.8% ABV ale called 'The Governor' the recipe being agreed by chef Marco Pierre White and Michael Lees-Jones. Brewed with an all-malt British grist, the cask and bottled beer is named after Marco's family's greyhound that his father rescued, which then went on to break track records at Stainforth, Doncaster and Keighley stadia.
For more information about the ale and J.W. Lees Brewery, please click on the logo above.
Saturday 30th July 2011 19:30
Since we'd had such a torrid time of it driving up north yesterday, we felt that a day of doing very little was on the cards, particularly as the weather was being exceeding kind. We couldn't believe how glorious it was and happily spent a good few hours soaking up the sun and enjoying lunch, al fresco.
Mid-afternoon, we made the decision to go to Borsdane Wood, an ancient semi-natural woodland found in both the Metropolitan Boroughs of Wigan and Bolton. It is believed to have been present since before 1600 AD and is made up of native tree species that have obviously not been planted. In 1986, the 90-acre site was designated a Local Nature Reserve and has since been protected. Over six acres of the reserve consists of mixed broadleaf trees with species such as oak, ash, birch, cherry, hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn and dog rose.
To find out more about the parks in Wigan, please click on the logo above.
Later that night, we met up with our friends Ian and Janet and went for a meal at La Salsa in Horwich (they own a restaurant of the same name in Bolton which we ate at almost two years ago). Joe and Vicky, who we also usually meet up with were otherwise engaged. For once, we were early, so sat down and enjoyed our first drink before Ian and Janet arrived. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the food and drink was flowing all night, to the point where we then went up to The Jolly Crofters, a pub just across the road from where Ian and Janet live, and enjoyed a couple of drinks in there too. A cracking night full of chat and laughter, topped off nicely by my Dad agreeing to pick us up, as well as drop us off.
For more information about the restaurant, please click on the logo above.
Friday 29th July 2011 14:55
One of my most hectic days in a long time. Since both Tanya and I were going to be off for a week, we both worked today and I'd asked to leave an hour early and the overtime I'd done yesterday, be struck off my timesheet. As it happened, I still ended up working half an hour over the time I wanted to leave, but it did give me enough time to stop off at Morrisons and fill my tank up, get home and empty my boot (trunk to you Americans) and check my water levels. I knew my oil level was perfectly okay because I'd asked Lillywhites in Emsworth to do a complete oil and filter change yesterday.
More importantly, it also gave me time to do a quick amendment to the latest Irving & Co. Brewers Ltd pump clip, this one being another seasonal ale, by the name of 'Albion'. Malcolm's brief asked that I include The Needles on the Isle of Wight, especially as the word 'albion' is probably of Celtic origin and related to Latin 'albus' meaning white (in allusion to the White Cliffs of Dover). The nearest 'white cliffs' to Portsmouth that meet the sea are The Needles. Obviously the name is akin to the naval theme that Malcolm has throughout the majority of his ales, this one being HMS Albion. He did also ask that I include a helicopter about to land on the lighthouse helipad, yet there just wasn't the room… some say that this is the best design yet.
Once I'd sent all the relevant files off for pump clip production, we set off for the north west of England, Bolton to be precise, at 15:15 and, because we chose to drive through the northbound Hindhead Tunnel, that had just opened today, we ended up getting stuck in traffic congestion on the M25, then around ten miles of tailbacks on the M40, similarly the M42 until we finally took the M6 Toll… brilliant until we joined the M6 and suffered further frustration just north of Stafford… eventually arriving at my parents just after 21:00. A dreadful, dreadful journey…. six hours non-stop, both of us having to prise ourselves out of the car.
It was great to see them both again.
Thursday 28th July 2011 14:36
As well as many other roles, one I have where I freelance is to 'invent' new t-shirt designs, piss-takes and insults are usually the way to go, although anything patriotic goes down a treat. I suddenly became inspired today and started to think of the possibilities surrounding Microsoft.
As a designer, I despise programs such as Word and Publisher, especially as people think it gives them a licence to design in them. There have been numerous occasions where I've specifically asked for a vector-based PDF and it's clearly been a JPG saved in Microsoft Word and then converted to a PDF and it makes me angry. Very angry. I've never understood why there are people who go about their jobs in a workplace without anyone interfering in theirs, yet they feel they have the God-given right to tell you how to do your job, because they have experience in Word. I very rarely use this word on my blog, but they're cunts.
Rant over and I can now share my t-shirt design with you, especially as it makes me feel a whole heap better.
Wednesday 27th July 2011 22:32
Everyone who's a film buff would no doubt have compiled a ten ten favourites list at one time or another. And obviously, as the years go by, along with new releases, the list would have a tendency to change. No matter what, I very much doubt that 'Jurassic Park' would ever be shunted out of my top ten, because at the time, it was an incredible step for CGI plus I have a ridiculous fascination with dinosaurs.
At one time, 'Primal Fear', the film we watched tonight, was unmistakably in my top three all-time favourite films… now I'd say it's still in my top ten. Since 1996, when it was first released, films such as the Matrix and Kill Bill series have edged it closer to the bottom of my top ten; that doesn't mean to say it isn't as good as I first thought, more a case of there have been better ones since.
The only downside to the film is that Richard Gere plays the main part, a very successful lawyer who usually acts on behalf of the defendants, not the accused. His acting is more than acceptable, considering his usual role is usually the romancer. The performance that shines like a beacon though, is the first major role that Edward Norton made, playing an altar boy, accused of murdering a priest… although the truth is buried under several layers, with twists and turns throughout. Nominated for an Oscar, the film did succeed in winning nine other awards and five other nominations.
To find out more, or to watch the trailer and some of the clips, please click on the movie poster above.
Tuesday 26th July 2011 13:30
I have been fortunate enough, as a graphic designer, to have followed the progress of Adobe Illustrator, ever since 1988 when, strangely enough, it was called Illustrator '88 and was the third release of the program. Since then, it has evolved, with some radical changes along the way. From then, I've used Illustrator 3, 5.5, 7, 10 and then CS (11), CS2 (12), CS3 (13) and the most recent, CS5 (15).
Although Illustrator 8 saw the gradient mesh tool for the first time, it isn't until very recent that I've paid much attention to it. Up until then, I'd coped very well with using the simple gradient tool, which allowed me to alter the colours, angle and orientation of the gradient, as well as having the option of making it linear or radial. The gradient mesh tool however, allows you to almost add a further dimension, making it possible to select the various points of the mesh and deciding upon the colour shade and opacity of each one, individually (this precise facility only became available in CS5).
Rather than baffle you any further, please click on the gradient mesh tool icon above, which will then download an actual vector-based PDF that you'll be able to preview in Illustrator and other compatible programs, both as an outlined drawing and then preview the colours within.
Monday 25th July 2011 14:14
As you've probably noticed over the years, I love a challenge to research and draw something, especially if it needs to look 3D. My biggest challenges ever have been the 3D illustrations for Straightpoint UK and obviously the more recent work for Irving & Co. Brewers Ltd.
A week or so ago, one of the clients where I freelance, asked that I create a visual whereby it looked as if the wearer of a t-shirt had some flying goggles on. They sent over a rough mock-up of how they wanted it to look, but the quality of the jpg was diabolically bad. I then went on an internet hunt for a decent pair of goggles to then create some artwork from. After around two or more hours, I'd completed the artwork and everyone who saw it all commented on just how realistic it was. More about the possibilities of Adobe Illustrator tomorrow…
Sunday 24th July 2011 13:19
There are many superb file hosting sites, some far better than others, especially when you take the size of this particular company into consideration. Founded in 2006, but operating as a file hosting site since at least 2005, Swiss-owned Rapidshare is one of the world's largest file-hosting sites, by far, with an estimated 10 petabytes-worth of files on its servers.
Founded by Christian Schmid, the one-click host site is amongst the 50 most popular Internet sites, handling up to three million users at any given time. You have the option of registering or just searching for that elusive file you've always wanted.
Rather than sound any geekier, just click on the logo above to find out more for yourself.
Saturday 23rd July 2011 11:30
Had a relatively relaxing morning, despite being wide awake between 03:30-05:30. I did finally get back to sleep for another couple of hours before deciding that enough was enough. We all enjoyed some toast for breakfast, made from the exceptional bread bought from Westbourne Bakery, which I've mentioned on numerous occasions.
During the course of the morning, I spent a little more time creating the new pump clip for Irving Brewery, this one being 'Albion', more about that very soon. Later in the morning, we all went round to Abbi and James' house so Liz could have a look at what they'd done to their house since the last time she visited.
From there, we'd planned to have lunch at one of our favourite pubs, although I've since found out something about it and will not be frequenting it any more. Let's just say that if someone is unable to fulfil a commitment with regard to business, they're not worth the time of day, and for that reason, I'm not even going to name the pub. All I can say is that I did enjoy my meal and the three pints of Ballard's 'Golden Bine' that accompanied it, a very refreshing 3.8% ABV golden ale, with plenty of taste to suggest something considerably stronger.
Please click on the pump clip above to find out more about the ale and the brewery.
Liz headed off back home soon after we'd had lunch so that left the rest of the day to ourselves. We just sat and chilled out for the rest of the afternoon and then watched was is vastly becoming one of our favourite television programmes at the moment.
Now then, call me a snob if you must, but I really don't have much time for commercial television channels; although with the likes of Sky Sports, I've learned to put up with it, and after all, the commercials are only during half time of football, so it's not as if they're on every five minutes. However, ITV has to be the worst… it's very rare indeed for me to watch anything on there, unless it's really good, and that's what the show I'm about to talk about is.
Since being knee-high to a grasshopper, magic has always enthralled me. You'd expect the likes of Paul Daniels to put anyone off anything, but at the time of his success, he was good. 'Fool Us' is the modern-day equivalent of that show I guess, although the main act, Penn & Teller, are the ones who are watching the acts of other magicians, and it's the magicians' job to fool them. If Penn & Teller are unable to successfully guess how the magic act has been done, they win a place to perform in Las Vegas. How cool is that?
To watch the latest episode of the show, please click on the programme logo above.
Friday 22nd July 2011 10:58
Tanya's Mum, Liz, had invited us to an art exhibition by two Mexican artists, one of which was one of her icons, Mexican Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), the other being Diego Rivera (1886-1957). Both Tanya and I love any kind of art, and although neither of us had heard of the two artists whose work was being exhibited at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, we were still very much intrigued to see such acclaimed work 'in the flesh', so to speak.
We arrived there with plenty of time to look around the other exhibits there, having some lunch and then saving the main attraction until last. Works by Patrick Caulfield and Colin Self particularly caught my eye. There's also a relatively large exhibit of Eric Gill's work there, not that we saw it today but it still deserves a huge mention since he created one of the most famous fonts in the world, Gill Sans which, bizarrely enough was used on the "Keep Calm and Carry On" posters (I applaud you on the link - Ed).
Once we'd spent a good hour or more, we sat down in the gallery's restaurant, 'Fork and Field', for lunch. Both Tanya and Liz were all for having the rib-eye steak, only to be told that the butcher had been late delivering the meat, so they would have to choose something else, both opting for the Roasted suckling pig, spring greens, roasted carrots, saute potatoes and apple sauce instead. I'd already made up my mind, choosing the breast of duck, with roasted figs, leek and paprika mashed potato. I wouldn't say we all thoroughly enjoyed our meals although there were only two things that slightly spoiled it for me, one was the fact that my duck was very pink, bordering raw in places (I do know that duck is meant to be served slightly pink) and the other was the fact that I ended up being incessantly hassled by at least one wasp, almost through the entire meal.
Anyway, if you're thinking of going to the Pallant House Gallery and having lunch whilst there, please click on the logo above.
So, on to the main event, the exhibition of Mexico's two most famous artists, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, the first time that their two works have ever been brought together in the UK. Entitled, 'Masterpieces from The Gelman Collection', the exhibition runs from the 9th July until the 2nd October and does come with an additional supplement, if you choose to see it. We all enjoyed viewing the pieces but felt that there was going to be much more work on view, nevertheless, it was well worth it, particularly as both are so iconic.
For much more information about the exhibition and both artists, please click on the graphic above.
We completed our fairly hectic day by having fish and chips from Mother Kelly's in Emsworth and just chilling out and watching some Friday night television.
Thursday 21st July 2011 15:27
Mention the sentence, "Keep calm and carry on" and it may well evoke different ideas or feelings with people. Some might immediately think of the 2009 album by the Stereophonics, whereas most would probably think about the rediscovery of the 1939 British government poster that was produced during the beginning of World War II.
At the time, back in 1939, it was intended to boost the morale of the British public in the event of invasion, although two-and-a-half-million were printed, it was only distributed in small numbers. Remarkably, the designer of the poster is not known. This was actually the third design in a series of three; the previous reading "Freedom is in peril. Defend it with all your might" (400,000 printed) and, "Your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution will bring us victory" (800,000 printed).
All were issued and used throughout the country for motivational purposes, since the Ministry of Information assumed that the events of the first weeks of the war would demoralise the population. Planning for the posters began in April 1939, designs prepared by June (I thought you said they didn't know who the designer was? - Ed) and by August 1939, the first copies were on their way to the printers, to be put up within 24 hours of the outbreak of war.
In 2000, however, a copy of the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster was rediscovered in Barter Books, a second-hand bookshop in Alnwick, Northumberland. Since Crown Copyright is no longer valid on artwork created by the UK government after 50 years, the image is free to use within the public domain, hence why there are posters, memorabilia and merchandise available. Since then, the store's owners, Stuart and Mary Manley, have reprinted copies at customers' requests, as did others, both inside and outside of Britain.
Now there are ranges of clothing, mugs, doormats, baby clothes and other merchandise from various vendors.
Parodies of the poster have also been printed and sold, such as one with an upside-down crown, with the words, "Now Panic and Freak Out".
For more information about the history of the poster and all the merchandise that seems to have swept the nation by storm, please click on the poster above (notice I'm the only one who has created it with the right font, all the other twats have used that wanky Arial font).
Wednesday 20th July 2011 20:59
I had a couple of software update alerts on my Mac tonight, one of which was for the iWork package. As with every alert, I always check to see what the alert refers to and why the update is being made… may have something to do with how paranoid I become about such things.
Whilst checking on the details of the update, I noticed that the iWork one referred to the compatibility of Mac OS X Lion version 10.7. Even though I asked to be reminded of it's release date by Apple, I still thought I'd check up its release date… which was today.
Normally I weigh up pros and cons with regard to 'first' releases of software, especially as they're often riddled with bugs, yet for some reason I just headed straight for the App Store, looked at the price, yes £20.99 was more than reasonable, and clicked 'download'.
It seemed to take an eternity to download (two or more hours) and once downloaded, it then took a good three quarters of an hour before it finally finished installing.
I had to take a screenshot of the installation pane for prosperity… please click on it if you're interested in embracing the upgrade.
Tuesday 19th July 2011 17:19
At the moment, I'm in the midst of designing a new logo for a company that's being going for a good number of years, their headquarters being based in Kent. In a nutshell, they offer pest and hygiene services, covering both the commercial and domestic sides of the business.
Whilst in a meeting a couple of weeks ago, they expressed that they wanted to concentrate on the area in and around the M25, choosing to deal with customers who had a London post code. Other than that, the other main criteria was the fact that they were very much a 'green' company and didn't want to convey the image of pest control 'butchers', more a sympathetic view to their clients, solving the problem quickly and efficiently.
So, I've included a couple of ideas I had above, the first very much concentrating on the outline of the M25, developing it into an app graphic, giving it a contemporary look. The other idea was using the 'o' of 'Protec' and creating it into a prohibition sign, using green colours with the whole logo explaining exactly what the company are about (besides the rat, I substituted it with a cockroach, a pigeon and a wasp).
Monday 18th July 2011 09:21
I'm sure the rest of you receive a fair bit of spam, regardless of how careful you are about who you choose to share you email address/es with. I know I certainly do. Not only do I receive a barrage of shit on a regular basis, I often wonder how the hell certain people and companies have ever managed to acquire my address. There are a good deal of 'companies' (I say that loosely because half of the 'companies' probably don't even exist) that email me on a regular basis despite the fact that I've asked some politely to leave me alone, shoved a spam filter on their IP address or, if those methods failed, told them to 'fuck off and die'.
Even though I've never been in direct contact with Scoot (a business directory similar to Yell), they've acquired my email address and asked me today whether they 'had my details correct'. I've not bothered answering, purely because it then seems to give their sales team a good enough reason to contact you in a way that they pretend they're not trying to sell you anything. For me, that fucks me off more than someone being upfront with me. Cut all the "How are you today?" bullshit, it just doesn't wear with me, like they give two fucks.
Anyway, the thing is, even though I feel as if they've invaded my privacy by contacting me, even though I hadn't asked them to, I do like their logo. It's fun, the colours work and it makes me smile. And for that reason, I'm going to include a link on my blog. Well done Scoot. What's even better is the fact that they have a whole library of their font, eyes pointing right, left, looking up and looking down and they're all available for free as vector-based EPSs. So well done Scoot for the second time. I like Scoot. Scoot for world domination.
To find out more about Scoot, click on their logo above that I downloaded for free (Send the white van round - Ed).
Sunday 17th July 2011 08:13
I know, I know, this week sounds as if nothing else other than beer and fonts have made any sort of impression on me… its not like that, honest. (Bullshit - Ed)
Trouble is, I have to let the world know about one of the most amazing apps ever (Not another one! - Ed) this one being brought to you by MyFonts, possibly the biggest font website around. Maybe if I explain it, you may actually agree with me.
Firstly, it's compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad and requires iOS 2.0 or later. So… time to think of a scenario… well, say for instance you see a font used in a magazine, on a billboard poster or even on television and you think it's a great font… trouble is, you're either not near a computer or just can't be bothered turning your computer on.
So how does it work? Well, again, it's really easy. Firstly you take a photograph on your camera via the app which then gives you the opportunity to crop the image down, just by dragging your finger around the text in question. You then upload the image and 'WhatTheFont' will then go through the process of identifying the letters within the word, giving you the option to delete or change any that may have been identified incorrectly.
It's then just a simple case of tapping 'Identify!' and it will choose the closest font matches to your upload, listing the most relevant at the top of the page. Now that's what I call amazing.
To download your WhatTheFont app, please click on the app graphic above.
Saturday 16th July 2011 16:34
Talk about making a name for yourself in a few years… I am of course talking about a New Zealander by the name of Tonie Prins, who once had a crack at a batch of homebrew at his student flat in the early '80s. Since moving to England, Kent to be precise, he developed a passion for traditional English ales and brewing methods. Since then, the brewery has received a good number of awards for their modest range of real ale.
The 'Brew Kettle' was first fired up in 2000 and since then, Hopdaemon have never looked back, with the brewery growing considerably, supplying award-winning ales to more than 70 pubs and restaurants throughout the county of Kent. Their beers are brewed in Newnham, near the famous Faversham-based Shepherd Neame brewery and they use their unique strain of yeast, traditional malted barley and true zymurgy along with generous amounts of hops, their favourites being Goldings, Challenger and Kentish Cascade.
So there's a little insight into the brewery, what about their ale? Well, having only tasted one that is gracing the shelves of ASDA, I can confirm that their 4.5% ABV Skrimshander IPA not only has a very intriguing name and bottle label, it tastes superb as well. With spicy and hoppy aromas, this malted barley ale is certainly very moreish with a distinctly fruity taste, yet the maltiness is perfectly balanced, giving it complex but not complicated mix of flavours. A really excellent bottled ale.
For more information about the brewery, please click on the bottle label above.
Friday 15th July 2011 13:58
Had a very busy Friday again, this time putting the finishing touches to three publications for Straightpoint UK. Two of them were for their use, both a catalogue and a price list and the other was for an Australian-based company who will be distributing Straightpoint products but under their own name. Each publication was 20 pages and each one had to have bleed added to each page and then collated in such a way that a printer could use. All very involved.
Once I'd completed one, I decided it best that I sent one print-ready file over to the printers so they could check that everything was present and correct before completing the other two. As I've touched on many times before, there are a good deal of sites out there, all of which allow large file uploads, some with sign-up fees, others with certain restrictions such as how much space you can use and how long they're available for download.
Conveniently, there are quite a few sites that allow free uploads/downloads and remain available for download for some considerable time, despite the service being free and 'mailbigfile' is one of those. Firstly, there isn't any software to download before you start and then it's a case of three easy steps… choose the file you want to upload, add the recipient and then send your file. You also have the option of uploading more than one file at a time, with every file uploaded being scanned for viruses. So what's the catch? Well, you can sign up for the 'Pro' service which obviously gives faster uploads and downloads, allowing up to 2GB in size.
Please click on the logo above to find out more.
Thursday 14th July 2011 19:56
Something rather amusing happened tonight, although up until it being amusing, it was the total opposite. My mate Lee, who resides in Carrboro, North Carolina, has had a damned shitty year so far. I won't go into the details of how shitty, all I need to say is that rest-assured, life couldn't have been any shittier.
As good as a week had gone by and I'd become increasingly concerned about the state of Lee, especially when one of his last texts had read, "Feeling kind of pointless". It was as good as a cry for help to me, so I made sure that I either emailed or text him on a regular basis, just to make sure everything was alright. The last actual text I'd received from him was on the 14th June and the last email had been the 27th June. Regardless of texting and emailing him since then, I'd heard nothing so on the 11th July, I sent an email, "Getting very worried now. Please would you let me know you're okay?" Nothing.
The whole thing had bothered me since then, and as the days passed by, the more it was affecting my sleep, especially as I'm probably one of the only people to make regular contact with him. Tonight, I'd decided enough was enough and phoned 118 661, international directory enquiries. Once through, I asked for Carrboro Police Department, after all, I'd tried on more than one occasion to contact him via his work, only to have emails ignored and telephone conversations terminated. I was given the number almost immediately and proceeded to phone the Carrboro Police Department. Rather than sound like some maniac (No chance there then - Ed), I explained the predicament I was in without elaborating too much. Luckily, for me, Charlotte Lewis, the woman on the other end of the phone was more than accommodating, expressing as much concern as I was. I know my actions probably seemed extreme, but when you're faced with the prospect that a good friend has possibly taken their own life, you have no option but to do what I did.
For more information about international directory enquiries and 118.com, please click on their logo above (which I ended up having to redraw).
Despite having had Lee's address at one time, I hadn't transferred it from my old computer to this one, although I did remember that he'd sent a Google Earth picture of where he was in Chapel Hill, so I had no option but to email it over to Charlotte. Whilst on the phone, she said she recognised exactly where that was and an Officer would be sent round there right away. I also had to provide a description of Lee, and any other information that would help the Officer recognise him. Literally within half an hour of me providing the information, I received a phone call… from Lee!
Two Officers had called round since the area he lives in is actually covered by two police forces and one Officer was dressed in the usual Carrboro Police Department attire, whilst the other, as described by Lee, was dressed as if he's been training with a SWAT team, bullet-proof jacket, rifle, the lot. Lee was quite flabbergasted that I'd gone to such lengths to make sure he was alright, and when told by one of the Officers that a friend of his in the UK was concerned about him, he replied, "Well I emailed him two weeks ago".
Anyway Lee, glad to know you "Appear healthy and fine", as described by Officer Hobby. What's even more brilliant is the fact that if I visit the USA, I've been invited to stop by and visit Carrboro PD.
Please click on the Carrboro PD badge above to find out more about the department and the town of Carrboro.
Wednesday 13th July 2011 20:33
It wasn't my intention to talk about two font sites on the trot, however, I just couldn't ignore this one, for two reasons. Firstly, it appears as if this site has been built via CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and a handful of PNGs (Portable Network Graphics). Other than that, as far as I can see by the page source code, that's it, yet it's incredibly clever.
Not only is the website clever, the font foundry, HvD fonts, have some outstandingly sexy fonts, particularly Pluto their newest addition. Supria Sans, Brevia and Klint are also perfectly formed and remarkably contemporary. The foundry is based in Berlin and was founded by Hannes von Döhren in 2005; since then it has gone from strength to strength, receiving a Certificate of Excellence in Type Design from the Type Directors Club in New York.
As well as all of this, there are several free ones that are well worth bagging, if needs must. I find it amazing to this day that there are distinctive fonts being developed, anyone would have thought that the mould couldn't be broken any more.
For more information, please click on the logo above and then click on their logo (top left) to start the website moving.
Tuesday 12th July 2011 09:26
As you know, there are many free font sites out there, the following being no exception… only this one claims to be 'The World's Biggest Fonts Collection', called AllMyFonts.
Here is a collection of 114,326 True Type Fonts (TTF), probably even more than that, and they're all compatible with practically any operating system in the market. All the fonts within the site are available for free and they can be previewed before downloading, defining a custom preview string to see if the sleeted font suits your needs.
Please click on the somewhat cheesy logo above to find out more.
Monday 11th July 2011 12:37
Stumbled upon a very interesting website today, especially if you need to keep a track of how your competitors are faring with regard to their keyword campaigns. With clients such as Toyota, American Express and IBM, this company are obviously good at what they do, as well as knowing the market perfectly.
KeywordSpy is a search engine tool that generates keywords for ad campaigns, using the internet's most popular search engine sites. It then generates information by using keywords in identifying key competitors that may also be advertising using the same search engine. With over 100 million entries, it is the most comprehensive keyword database in the world.
To download a plug-in, test a free trial, or sign up with one of their packages, please click on the logo above.
Sunday 10th July 2011 12:26
It's quite some time since I woke up and thought, "never again". Today was one of those days, anything 'sudden' made the palpitations ten times worse than what they were and, unlike me in every way, I actually stayed in bed until gone midday. Yes, I was THAT bad… 11½ pints isn't the route to take at my age… there wasn't any sympathy in this household, although Tanya did actually make me two cups of tea, so she must've realised how shite I felt.
Even after getting up at midday, there were those moments throughout the day where I began to sweat profusely and have that continual watery mouth syndrome where your body is preparing itself for a vomit fest. Somehow, I finally found myself the other side of certain death and I actually ended up cooking us a nice evening meal that actually made me feel almost human again.
So what else happened today? Well, very little to be honest… apart from Tanya sending me a link to the Merriam-Webster website where you can take a ten-question quiz as to how strong your vocabulary is… needless to say, neither my brain nor body felt like any sort of activity.
Please click on the logo above to test yourself...
Saturday 9th July 2011 12:06
Although the agenda of today had been mentioned some time ago, it was only whilst being with Damien yesterday that he started to make firm arrangements about going to the Real Ale And Jazz Festival at Priory Park in Chichester today. Last night, we thought, "What the hell" and before we knew it, it was all arranged; Damien was coming to pick us up at home and then we'd walk to Havant Station where we'd then meet Jamie and Ken (sure I've mentioned Ken before… he's a Morris Dancer and a massive real ale fan).
Once off the train at Chichester, we proceeded to go on a wild goose chase, Tanya being adamant (and betting Ken a pint) that it was being held at Festival Park, near the Festival Theatre, whilst the remaining four of us were 100% certain it was being held at Priory Park, particularly as the official website stated this, yet Tanya had read an article in the Chichester Observer that clearly stated it was at Festival Park… of course us four guys listened to the one girl until we arrived at the Festival Theatre only to be told it was at Priory Park… the less said, the better. Tanya had also phoned the pub last night to make sure there were tickets available for the afternoon session… the pub called the Park Tavern, that happened to be directly across from Priory Park… (WTF?! - Ed)
We all bought our tickets from the pub and then made our way into the RAJF… exciting stuff. I'd asked Malcolm last night if he had any ales on at the festival, only for him to explain that he's never managed to get in there… so I decided I'd have to ask on his behalf, hoping they may well choose to have some of his ales next year. All in all, we tried 10 of the 31 ales available, some of which we'd already had before, so it made our choices much easier to make. Rather than try and include our reviews of every single ale, I'll create a downloadable PDF for you to read… watch this space.
For the moment though, please feel free to click on the logo above to find out much more about the event.
Throughout the afternoon, we sat, chatted, listened to some great jazz (one of the bands performed a superb rendition of 'Stray Cat Strut' by the Stray Cats) drank some exceptional beer, stuffed our faces with hot dogs and the like and generally had a thoroughly good time… five and a half pints later, we then decided to go on a pub crawl around Chichester… probably not the best decision we'd ever made, especially as we were all pretty bollocksed anyway. Let's face it, rhyme and reason goes out of the window with a few pints down your neck.
First pub was the Park Tavern, the pub we'd bought our festival tickets from. Ended up having two pints in there, since there was some live music and the atmosphere was good. I took some shots on my iPhone of us in the pub so thought I'd share them here. I did take one of Tanya as well, only I don't think she'd appreciate me making it public for she looks totally out of it.
From there, we then went in The Bush, (Oo-er - Ed) for a pint… strangely enough, despite its name, apparently it's the only gay pub in Chichester and I think we had a pint of Youngs Bitter, if memory serves me correctly. We then proceeded to go to The Fountain, one of the oldest public houses in Chichester where we enjoyed a couple of pints of 'Golden Delicious', a 3.8% ABV ale from Burton Bridge Brewery, a brewery I'd never heard of before. Somehow, we ended up having several games of pool which is quite remarkable since I was now in double figures pints-wise and yet I somehow managed to win a few games on the trot.
To find out more about Staffordshire-based Burton Bridge Brewery, please click on their logo below.
Our final port of call was The Eastgate Pub, relatively near to Chichester train station… I'm fucked if I remember what beer we had, despite me being the one that ordered the round - I've been told it was Fuller's 'Honeydew'. Nor do I particularly remember what I talked about… just as well it was our last drink before making our way home…
Friday 8th July 2011 14:55
Had a very busy day today, sorting out various bits of work, yet the main bill of the day was visiting Irving & Co. Brewers Ltd to sample my first taste of 'Shipmate' their totally new 4.5% ABV Summer Wheat Ale. I'd asked in advance whether Tanya's brother, Damien, could come with me, especially as he's recently had yet another operation on his knee, in the hope that it will rectify the cock-up the surgeons had made previously.
It also meant I could pick up the final pump clip (a few changes had been made since I shared the first design on my blog a couple of weeks ago). Malcolm had expressed how good the sample looked which he'd received earlier in the week so I was as equally excited to see the finished article as I was to taste the new beer (You're particularly sad - Ed).
Anyway, on to the beer, 'Shipmate'. It appeared, and I hope Malcolm doesn't mind me saying, that he felt a few tweaks to the flavour needed to be made. Both Damien and I thought it was absolutely spot on. The ale, brewed with Wheat Malt, Oat Malt and Styrian Bobeck Hops has the addition of roasted coriander seeds and dried orange peel to give a citrus orange note. I think that there's a very fine line when it comes to citrus ales, and they can steer towards being way too orange or lemon flavoured, 'Shipmate' having the perfect balance.
Please click on the pump clip above to find out more about the brewery.
Thursday 7th July 2011 14:48
Some time ago, I signed up to an organisation called '38 Degrees'. Launched on the 26th May 2009, their almost immediate success is down to the fact that they are actually able to put pressure on this country's government, mainly because they attract the people of Britain to sign petitions about generally disgraceful decisions made by them. It brings you together with other like-minded people to take action on issues that matter to you and bring about a positive change in the UK. Recently the government lost the case to privatise ancient forests and woodlands, all down to the fact that 38 degrees didn't give them any other option.
Today I received an email from them asking to stand up against Rupert Murdoch, by voting against his BSkyB powergrab. Murdoch has since flown in to take charge of his fightback, however it appears him and his evil empire have acted in a totally despicable way, so whether or not his plans come to fruition or not, remains to be seen. A phone-hacking scandal has been revealed this week, forcing Murdoch to shut down his Sunday publication, 'News Of The World'. I'm sure I don't need to go into the details of whose phones have been hacked, you'd literally have to be a hermit to have not heard about the story.
All I ask is, since Murdoch is a totally devious bastard with disregard to human emotions, just sign the fucking 38 degrees petition and hope he plummets to gutter level like the sack of shit he is.
Wednesday 6th July 2011 11:47
Despite spending 29 years of my life living in a village called Blackrod, part of Bolton Metropolitan Borough, there's an event that I never witnessed, since it's only in its fourth year now. Back in the days when I was a kid, Blackrod Carnival used to be excellent, that was until the village's community spirit died. It seems to have turned itself on its head though, since the introduction of the 'Blackrod Scarecrow Festival', organised by St. Katharine's Church, the festival raised over £2000 for local community projects and saw over 90 scarecrows on display and the event attracted thousands of people to the village.
This year was an even bigger success and even attracted a brand new local television channel called Lancashire One. Their aim is to screen some of the best events the county has to offer, from tractor pulling in Leyland to the Scarecrow Festival in Blackrod.
There's plenty more to find out about the channel if you click on their logo above, but before you do, please watch their coverage of Blackrod Scarecrow Festival and their interviews with some of the Blackrod folk… even though I know my accent is still distinctly northern, some of the people here sound totally weird to me now!
Tuesday 5th July 2011 10:32
There are many cool t-shirt websites out there, yet I haven't come across a funnier one than the one I'm going to talk about today. Developed by Push Merchandising, 'ShotDeadInTheHead.com' is full to the brim with funny t-shirts ranging from categories such as TV and Film, Music, Banksy, Festivals, Tasteless Tees and Viz, to name just a few.
They understand the value of ethical manufacturing too and offer other products such as mouse mats and mugs as well as other gifts. Oh, and they do quite a lot for charity, particularly British primary schools that often need extra cash on top of their standard school arts budgets. As well as all of that, you can submit your own designs and earn a bit of dosh in the process.
To find out more, and have a good old laugh, please click on the logo above.
Monday 4th July 2011 20:12
Not talked about iPhone apps for quite some time; not that the novelty of having one has worn off or anything, far from it, it's probably more a case of overdosing myself with so many at once, it's taken this long to digest everything. Anyway, if you're on Facebook and an iPhone user, I thoroughly recommend you 'Like' App Store, for it alerts you to what new apps are out, mainly incredibly cool ones, this one being no exception.
Developed by ABBYY, TextGrabber allows you to capture any part of printed text from a magazine, book, document, etc. in more than 60 supported languages, directly on your device. The recognised text can be immediately edited, forwarded by e-mail or saved onto your iPhone. The application is compatible with the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS.
To download your own version, for just £1.19, please click on the app logo above.
Sunday 3rd July 2011 14:05
Apologies that this particular day's blog has taken so long to compile… I wanted to talk about two things, the first being the Wimbledon Men's Final, the other was to have some tasting notes of the accompanying beers I drank whilst watching it. As it turned out, the graphic I created for the Wimbledon Men's Final took some creating and obtaining the beer bottle labels for the three beers I drank also proved a bit of a quest.
The Men's Final this year was battled out between the Number 1 and 2 seeds, Spain's Rafael Nadal against Serbia's Novak Djokovic. Strangely enough, as of this-coming Monday, Djokovic would become the world's number one, despite the outcome of today's match.
I was going to write a full review of the match, had I not received an email with the bottle label artworks of the three beers, although I have to say it was a thoroughly entertaining match, with Djokovic managing a break in the first set to make it 4-6 and taking it quite comfortably. The second set was an absolute disaster for Nadal, losing it by 1-6… what had happened to the current title holder?
Sure enough, the third set came and Nadal amazingly turning it on its head, taking it by 6-1… Wow, we were suddenly witnessing a classic final. Strangely though, uncharacteristic for Nadal, he totally lost his way and lost the fourth set 3-6, handing the title to Djokovic. Not a classic final but certainly one that would definitely be remembered.
For more about Wimbledon, please click on the graphic above that I spent ages creating!
Now then, on to the beers I 'sampled' whilst watching the match… what's more bizarre is that I'm probably going to be the first to do an 'official' review of these, since I cannot find anything anywhere about them on the net. They're all brewed by Leek Brewery on behalf of Cottage Delight, also based in Leek, Staffordshire. Cottage Delight are a family company passionate about good food. Nigel Cope, their founder, couldn't be any more passionate about food and is also the director and chief taster for Leek Brewery.
For more information about the company, please click on the logo above.
So, I think it's time to start reviewing the three ales I sampled, all based around a sporty theme, the first being 'Armchair Referee', a 5% ABV golden premium beer. This summer wheat beer is a refreshing ale and doesn't actually taste as strong as it suggests. Very quaffable. I also liked the comedy aspect of each one of these beers, creating a spoof brewery name for the label, this one being the 'Robbed Brewery', when referees often rob you and your team of certain victory… something easily identifiable to, being a Bolton Wanderers fan.
Next up was 'Going For A Birdie' by the 'Rough Brewery' (I see where the humour is going - Ed), a light golden ale, almost and IPA really. Hoppy in flavour and an incredibly thirst-quenching ale and at 3.8% ABV, it's asking to be a session ale.
Finally, the last ale was 'A Real Hooker', surprisingly my favourite of the three. This 4.5% ABV smooth dark stout was absolutely superb. The sweetness and maltiness perfectly balanced and despite it being a stout, it was refreshingly light and incredibly moreish. Could drink this all day. By the way, in case you hadn't guessed, the fictitious brewery name is the 'Drop Kick Brewery'.
So there you have it - click on any one of the beer bottle labels (kindly provided to me by Galia Davies of Cottage Delight) to find out more about Leek Brewery.
Saturday 2nd July 2011 13:28
A few weeks ago, we'd tried to plan a visit to Tyneham, a village in Dorset, only we'd chosen one of the three weekends of the year where it was shut. You might ask how a village could be shut, well, it's because it's owned by the MoD and the surrounding area is used as a firing range during the week, as well as being used on infrequent weekends.
It was once any ordinary village, with a close-knit community that comprised of a school, a church and a shop that seemed to stock almost everything. However, in December 1943, the village and 7500 acres of surrounding heathland and chalk downland around the Purbeck Hills were commandeered by the then War Office (now the MoD) for use as firing ranges for training troops. It must have been devastating for the 252 people who were about to be displaced and the whole disruption was only meant to be a temporary one for the duration of World War II, yet the Army placed a compulsory purchase order on the land in 1948, and has remained in use for military training ever since.
It took almost two hours to drive there and the plus side of it is that there is a huge car park and entry is free, although they do suggest you make a donation of £2, but it isn't compulsory. I was particularly surprised as to just how many people were there, especially when the official website just doesn't do the attraction justice.
There are a good number of houses to look at, most of which are literally shells of their former glory, nothing but the four walls of each property standing, although there is a very interesting information board in each property, explaining who the house belonged to, what the family did for a living and old black and white photographs showing how the building once looked.
We spent quite some time taking everything in, as well as photographing every property before we then walked a short distance down to Worbarrow Bay, part of Dorset's Jurassic Coast, before heading off to Corfe Castle for some lunch.
For more information about the village and its opening times, please click on the logo above.
After arriving in Corfe Castle, we could only find one parking spot that was free, otherwise it was pay and display, and since neither of us had any change, the free parking spot it was… the downside being that it was only for an hour… this was going to be a slightly rushed meal.
We opted for the Bankes Arms Hotel, which has the strange URL of corfecastlehotel.co.uk… it may well have been known as that at one time I guess. The sixteenth century building has recently undergone extensive refurbishment throughout, offering them a contemporary coaching inn.
Although the menu there had a good range of meals, none really leapt out at either of us, nevertheless Tanya went for the Moroccan lemon chicken whereas I played safe with the Real beer battered cod with chips (and plenty of salad I hasten to add). Both meals were enjoyable and mine was a huge portion, some of which Tanya polished off. Service was excellent, despite me having to let the waitress know where we were sitting.
To find out more about the hotel, please click on the logo that appears on their menus but not on their website.
On the way back, we stopped off at the New Forest to just chill out, let our food settle and to break up the journey a little. As we were driving through, I noticed an ice cream van and we both set out hearts on having one, only we didn't have enough money to buy two, let alone one, so we went on the hunt for a cash machine. We found a shop that had locked up but luckily the owner spotted me peering through the window and opened up to see what I wanted. I asked if he had a cash machine or did cash back, "No" was the answer, however he pointed me in the direction of where the nearest one was… three miles later, we found it. I drew out some money and then raced back to where the ice cream van was… the bastard had gone. Bollocks.
We chilled out a bit more before heading home after quite a knackering day.
Friday 1st July 2011 10:05
What a manically busy day I had today. It all started with a meeting at the other side of Chichester regarding a website we should be creating for a company that deals with pest control. Luckily we'd given each other an hour's window in which to start the meeting, especially as one of the other people present was making his way across from Southampton. I set off in great time, only to be caught in a major tailback, four miles outside of Chichester… only to realise that I was in the midst of everyone making their way over to the opening day of 'The Festival of Speed' at Goodwood. Luckily, I managed to arrive before the other gentleman… phew!
Once I'd finished in that meeting, I then had to make my way back over to Havant for a meeting with Tanya's boss, finalising some work and going over some more work… I do like being busy, despite the stressful journeys to and from Chichester today.
Later in the day, I started to look into the best way of showcasing the portfolio galleries on my new website. Although I'd used some CSS script to show the corporate gallery, Tanya felt it wasn't being shown to its best potential and suggested downloading some software called Highslide. I have to agree, it would be good to have everything looking as if it's part and parcel.
Please click on the logo above to find out more.