Tag Archives: manchester

The final meal at Café Rouge

What is it that Café Rouge does not understand about service?

Last Friday I visited their Manchester branch (next to the National Football Museum) for breakfast with my family. They had all travelled up from Hampshire to support Team GB in their first Olympic football game – me and my wife had come all the way from São Paulo in Brazil for this game.

We entered the restaurant and waited, and waited, and waited. I eventually went to fetch menus, but found they were the wrong menus – only featuring lunch items. Us having the menus finally meant the staff gave us a correct menu, and the waitress apologised and said she was running the entire café this morning all alone.

We finally placed our order and waited. And waited. And waited. Our coffee and juice had been served, but was all finished because we had been still waiting half an hour when I decided to ask where our food is.

I asked the waitress, who just brushed me off with a ‘it’s on the way’ – I said in the mildest possible way (given that I was now fed up with this café) that if they do not serve us in the next few minutes I’m leaving and I don’t expect a bill for the coffee.

Soon the food was being served and all was well. I asked for the bill and paid in cash immediately. It came to £48.10 and I left £48.20 – really not interested in giving a tip for such poor waiting service, then the change came back all in coppers.

So the manager decided that because I was a difficult customer, she would be difficult when giving change.

Well I can see that Dana was my server. Now let’s see if Café Rouge has anything to say about the way their manager behaved? I’m hoping they can tell me how this reflects great British customer service and what visitors to the country should expect.

Then again, whatever they say I know I’m never going back. Or my family, or my friends, or anyone else who reads this.

Team GB - Game 1

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Smiths Indeed

I spent much of the 1980s listening to The Smiths. Today they are eulogised as one of the seminal English bands, the Beatles of the 1980s, the only band of the era that managed to combine incredibly poetic lyrics with a bright sound that was at odds with the pop music of the time.

But I have vivid memories of the Smiths, buying ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ on vinyl the moment it arrived at Our Price records, taking a bus to London to buy ‘Strangeways…’ because it would be quicker to go to London, rather than waiting for the album to get to stores in Surrey and Hampshire, spending an entire holiday in France listening to the first album, especially ‘Suffer little children’… I just regret never seeing them live. I probably could have managed it, but I was only 17 when they split – maybe if I lived in London I might have seen them on the final tour, but it was never to be.

So, it’s always fun to see a Smiths tribute band. I’ve seen the Smyths several times now and they are very good – also doing a lot of Morrissey solo material as well as Smiths – but last night I went to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire to see ‘Smiths Indeed’. I had never seen them before this gig, but if they had the guts to book a 2,000-capacity venue as a tribute act then they had to be worth seeing.

They didn’t fill the venue. When I arrived it was still quite empty, maybe 100 people were in there and I was worried it might be a disaster. The crowd filled out eventually to something like 500-600 (my guess), which was good enough to fill out the standing area in front of the stage. By the end of the evening, the crowd were having so much fun, it felt as though the venue was packed to capacity. In a pub that kind of crowd would have been huge, a packed pub heaving to the rafters, but in this venue it felt a bit empty until the crowd really got into the gig.

The smaller crowd meant they cut back a bit on security – there were several stage invasions, which isn’t really much fun for the band or the fans who want to hear the band as some loon runs around the stage trying to grab the mic.

They were really good though. They should have sold out the venue and I’m not sure why it didn’t happen. Maybe it’s too close to Christmas. Maybe it’s because The Smyths had just played in London at the weekend, so old Smiths fans chose that gig instead because it was on a Saturday night. Maybe they just did not do enough promotion – it’s always tough to promote gigs and when the venue is much larger than normal that just makes it even harder.

BUT, forget my moaning about the venue size…

If you closed your eyes, it could have been Morrissey and Marr up there. All four of the guys were very good, but particularly the ‘Marr’ who did a great copy of Marr’s style, and ‘Morrissey’ who really captured the voice and affectations, even if he only bore a passing resemblance to Mozza. They produced a really nice rich sound that was well mixed and sounded a lot better than many bigger gigs I have been to recently.

I’d definitely go to see them again, it was a really great night out!

Smiths Indeed @ Shepherd's Bush

Cycling the A30

I live in Ealing and just down the road from me is the start of the A30, skirting around the south side of Heathrow airport. I know the A30 road pretty well as I grew up on the border of Surrey and Hampshire in Blackwater – a small town with no real claim to fame other than Surrey, Hampshire, and Berkshire all meet there so you can be in three counties in minutes.

What’s interesting though is that this road beginning close to my present home, and running past the town I grew up in, stretches on for about 500km to Land’s End in Cornwall.

Why not cycle the whole length just for fun?

So that’s what I’m going to do in late July. Hopefully the weather will be nice. I’ll take it easy and just do it over 5 days so I can enjoy some of the pit stops along the way. Two years ago I was bored one day and jumped on my bike and headed for Manchester… I stayed in Northampton the first night and Derby the second then got there the following day.

This will be a bit more planned and at a more leisurely pace, but it’s quite exciting to just head off on my cycle with a long journey ahead taking several days and only the kit I can pack into one backpack for the entire trip… As I plan some more I’ll blog it here.

Bike being repaired

84-year-old hoodies

Sometimes I wonder if there are people out there who were born without any common sense at all. Take a look at this story about a shopping centre in Cambridge. The shopping centre has a ‘no hoodie’ policy. So a security guard instructed an 84-year-old woman that her hood had to be lowered. She was shopping with her husband, also 84. Did they appear to be a threat to other shoppers?

I remember facing the same problem myself last year in Manchester. I was with a friend and we had been out to see Ricky Hatton’s comeback fight at the Manchester City ground. The fight was over by around 10pm, so we went into the city to get a drink and have a chat. I had a hoodie on, but I don’t think I’m all that threatening… and I’m closer to 40 than 20. But we found it so hard to get into the pubs with their ‘no hoodie’ policies that I just had to take it off and walk around in a T-shirt.

Everyone seems to be covering their back with the blanket enforcement of ridiculous rules. The age checks for alcohol sales are another example. I can understand stores having a policy of checking people who look under 25. That’s sensible and protects their staff, but why do some places have a blanket enforcement policy – no alcohol sale without ID? Take a look at this BBC video. There are stores out there with blanket bans on serving people without ID, even if they are clearly in their 70s!

When did people in the UK lose all common sense whatsoever?

Oasis RIP

So, on Friday, Noel Gallagher posted this message on his blog:

“It’s with some sadness and great relief to tell you that I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.

Apologies to all the people who bought tickets for the shows in Paris, Konstanz and Milan.”

And now, Liam has taken off on holiday – along with Andy from the band. The newspapers see it as the genuine end of Oasis, a journey that started 16 years ago up in the north-west of England. Some commentators with connections to the band have suggested that the brothers have always had a fractious relationship, and this will be no different, but from the direct approach Noel has taken, and after listening to Noel a lot on the radio over the past couple of years talking about his work, I suspect this really is the end of the road for the band.

In much the same way as the rivalry of The Beatles and Rolling Stones created a musical dynamic for the 1960s, the interplay between rough working-class Northerners Oasis and university-educated Southerners Blur formed the bedrock for an entire music and art movement in the early 1990s – Britpop. The emergence of these bands, along with others such as Suede and Pulp, all at the same time created an enormous creative scene in the UK and I remember that even just as a fan, it felt as if the eyes of the world were all trained on what music would come from Britain next.

The impact of Oasis on rock and pop music cannot be understated. Yes, they themselves were heavily influenced by the writing partnership of Lennon and McCartney, but their first couple of albums helped to defined British music in the 1990s. Their third album in 1997, went on to be the fastest-selling album in British chart history, but it proved to be the beginning of a long fallow patch. In my own view, their output from 1997 to 2002 was ruined by the excess of too many Champagne Supernovae… and good old Charlie.

Many fans gave up on them – remembering them only for their Britpop classics, but once they settled into the new decade with a new line-up that focused on the two Gallagher brothers plus Gem Archer and Andy Bell, they created a new unit with shared writing responsibilities – though Noel always remained captain of the ship. From 2002 onwards, their output started becoming stronger and stronger – proving that as they matured, they could also improve.

Now, it seems Liam has not been able to apply himself to the life of a professional musician even after all this time – preferring the hotel-burning life of a rock star and model – thanks partly to his new clothing line. It’s a shame it had to come to this when they were creatively working so well together.

Noel will do well as a solo artist though. He is still writing well and he can focus more on the music itself if he can shed the concern that Liam will smash up his guitars at every gig.