Thursday, 11 February 2016

Carluccio's in Hale (Altrincham), Cheshire: a Review

I have been an habitué of Carluccio's for years: initially visiting branches in London; then, with their diaspora throughout the kingdom, the Trafford Centre restaurant became my eatery-of-choice. However, as a resident of Altrincham, I was thrilled when on 29th August 2014 what was the American Grill in Hale re-opened after a thorough refurbishment as my local Carluccio's.

Initially I felt somewhat disloyal to the Trafford Centre outlet, which had served me so well for several years, but very quickly settled in to the new one. The staff from the launch have all been affable, professional and always with a can-do attitude.

When in England, I average a visit approximately every four to six weeks. In all the meals, I have not once had reason to complain. Nor has chef tried to kill me by failing to take account of my serious food allergy. I love the food so much, that I generally tuck in as soon as it is served and have thus missed the opportunity to photograph the dishes and so write a review. On my last visit I ensured I had camera to hand and all plates were preserved for posterity.

[Image description: my chum at table]

On this occasion I was not in my wheelchair. However, the step-free entrance has double-doors that swing outwards providing ample room for access and there are plenty of tables on the lower level at which a wheelchair can be accommodated. I have never needed to use the conveniences, so cannot aver whether or not there is a disabled WC.

The ever amiable maître d', Antipodean Matthew, greeted us and showed us to table. Pleasantries and memories of our ultimate visit were exchanged. His selection was perfectly acceptable, but there is no snootiness here about requesting an alternative if one should prefer same. Menus were proffered and a few moments later the English sommelier-waiter was over to take our drinks order. In some ways my companion and I are creatures of habit, as we invariably plumb for a glass of fine Prosecco as our apéritif of choice here.





Rico selected the "bread tin" (@ £4.50) with dipping oil for his starter [top image] and I the chicken liver pâté (@ £5.95) served with lightly toasted ciabatta and red onion marmalade [bottom image]. The latter was smooth, creamy & delicious, but also very generous; so there was sufficient to share with my comrade. Every scrap of pâté and every crumb of bread was wolfed down. Mmmmm… REAL bread! The Prosecco complimented the spread with no flavours overpowered or subverted.




My first choice of mains, venison tortelloni (@ £9.50) was off bounds to me due to my allergy, so I opted instead for Milanese di pollo (@ £11.95) served with green salad [upper image]. My chum chose the chicken saltimbocca (@ £13.50) which came with rosemary & garlic roasted potatoes [lower image]. My driver had to settle for sparkling water; but I had a superb glass of sparkling red Lambrusco, Vecchia Modena - absolutely divine! Once again our plates were returned to the kitchen scraped clean.



We were far too full to take dessert there; so, whilst my friend paid the bill (£45 for two two-course meals, three alcoholic drinks and two bottles of water), I popped into the attached deli [image above] to pick up some delicacies. The lovely, Spanish bar-keep also serves as the shop assistant. I selected from the choice of Valentine's Day specialities [images below]…




Thus far we have noshed on the love-bears (recalling fond memories of school-day "chocolate concrete") and the shortbread & the chocolate heart-shaped biscuits. Yet again delicious - and not overly sweet, as many British confections tend to be. We are yet to consume the raspberry meringues and the cupcake, but anticipate that they will taste equally gorgeous.

Do I recommend Carluccio's in Hale? Hell yes! %DDD


*

Please note that there are two towns named Hale in Cheshire. The site of Carluccio's is in Altrincham.



Sunday, 31 January 2016

Fine Art Tattooing












[Image description: upper arms, torso, neck and head of a bearded & moustachioed {mustachioed} man. Across his upper torso is an open-winged barn-owl in flight; a thin, aqua ribbon streaming from its beak; in its claws, a heart with a key-hole centred above the chap's actual organ. His right upper arm has a lobster-red fish or sea-beast in stylised waves.

I have no idea who the © copyright-holder is, despite an image-search; the photograph appears to have been originally posted in the tumblr-blog of carlokali.]

I dis-/like tattoos: so many are æsthetically &/or artistically unexceptional if not downright mediocre (which is not to disparage their personal significance to the bearer; I comment only as an observer). These tattoos above are examples of why tattooing is de facto a branch of the Fine Arts: composition, texture, colour, style, beauty… Stupendous! I should love to see the subject's full arm too. WoW! %O

My personal favourite tattooing styles are those of the Japanese Irezumi artists. A search for the word will bring the interested reader a panoply of wondrous, delightful and stimulating imagery.

One of the pleasures of tattoos, for me, is that - at least where the bearer permits - one can actually touch the artwork. Personally, I find the addition of touch sensation adds to my appreciation of the piece.

Do I have any tattoos myself? Alas, no. My health is too precarious to risk having one. I remain, however, ever hopeful that one day…! %DDD



Monday, 11 January 2016

Take



Whether due to serendipity or subconscious plan, it appears that my first blog-post of each new year is a poem. This year's offering is overtly sexual, so if the reader might be offended, read no further. Whilst I may occasionally toy with Machiavellian machinations, I should never manipulate anyone into a sexual liaison. This is merely me daydreaming a fantasy.

*

Take


big feet
hmm, nice
solid columnar legs
well-proportioned torso
tall
sandy locks cede to reddy curls
bushy blond eyebrows
arc over penetrating orbs
gems set in an alabaster vessel
cracked as dimpled cheeks
break from a hearty resonant laugh
your tongue like an oyster
squirming in its shell
but discomfort of homosexuality
before your deep
almost husky, estuarine voice
broaches the void
your discomfiture most appealing
cute like a little boy
downcast eyes
time-lagged movements
as if in slow motion
brick-red lips soften to a broad smile
we embrace
I feel you
a back of solid muscle
no fat excess at all
speech slowed to the stop
just before stuttering
hesitancy at overt sexual overtones
but you ease into the passive rôle
and I hope you have a large hole
to fill

with an eat-as-much-as-you-want
guffawing
your eyes widen
to a familiar smile
comfort zone
a fabulously wide mouth
with thick labia
elastane I hope
and the pinky
fleshly
red
draws me back
to your velveteen
the white of talcum'd skin
after a steamy bath
and I’d sponge you there
is that the trick
to accentuate the ‘caracol’
to transmute it into
a hardy, oaken stick
long and broad
as of old
a knight’s favourite sword
and also that of Col
currently sheathed in denim

but I’m certain given the right circumstances
I could get it out of him!

*

Sunday, 27 December 2015

400K+ Blog-Views


Thank you all so, so much…

My blog has breached

400,000

viewings.

Blimey & WoW!

%DDD




P.S. Being a tad OCD, I love the fact that I snapped the image of the count when it had attained a palindromic number, i.e. 400,004! %D

Thursday, 3 December 2015

International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2015

Today is the United Nation's International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD2015).


United Nation's Perspective 

According to the UN's webpage:

Theme for 2015: Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities

The estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. As a result, people with disabilities do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others, which includes areas of transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation.
The right to participate in public life is essential to create stable democracies, active citizenship and reduce inequalities in society.
By promoting empowerment, real opportunities for people are created. This enhances their own capacities and supports them in setting their own priorities. Empowerment involves investing in people - in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities.
The sub-themes for the 2015 observance of the International Day are:
  • Making cities inclusive and accessible for all
  • Improving disability data and statistics
  • Including persons with invisible disabilities in society and development
More information about the International Day and the UN Enable programme is available at UN Enable.


Retrogression of Rights

Wonderful aspirations to be sure. After the United Kingdom signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and in the preceding few years, matters were ameliorating little by little. Unfortunately since the ConDem co-alition from 2010-2015 and the Conservative government elected this year until 2020, our gains have been disappearing at an alarming rate. Search my blog or the internet for fuller details. However, I list a few examples below:

* The restriction in the number of benefit awards via tightening of eligibility criteria as people are re-assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for adults, and Employment & Support Allowance (ESA), which replaces Incapacity Benefit (IB).

* The introduction of a "Bedroom Tax", the Under-Occupancy Penalty, which massively & disproportionately effects families with a disabled member - two-thirds of those effected!

* The reduction in local councils' budgets has had a concomitant knock-on effect in the amount spent on social care, with many more folk unable to access help with toileting, bathing, cooking, etc. The English Law has even ruled that care can be removed from individuals as long as they are placed into adult nappies, whether or not the individual concerned is in/continent!

* The reduction in access to Motability vehicles, due to the reduction in the amount of disability benefits paid out, the benefits that were handed over to the charity in exchange for the lease of a car or motorised wheelchair. This effects tens of thousand of disabled people, some of whom have thus had to give up working!

* The reduction in access to justice in the jurisprudence system via Legal Aid, due to drastic cuts to its budget and eligibility criteria.

* The closure of the vast majority of Remploy factories, places where disabled workers could work in a supported environment. At last count most of the employees had not found alternative employment despite government's promises of every assistance being made available.

* The removal of part of ESA benefit to those classified as NOT being fit for work, but able to work in the future, so that they are paid the same as job-seekers - this group includes groups with cancer, degenerative diseases, fluctuating conditions and even folk with issues such as cystic fibrosis - which will NEVER go away nor ameliorate, save for a miracle or wonder-drug!

* The reduction of Access to Work grants, despite government insisting that they want and that disabled folk ought to work.

* The abolition of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) which supported the most severely disabled to live &/or work as independently as possible.

* The removal of the obligation to conduct impact assessments, which determine whether a proposed or planned action will be advantageous/neutral/detrimental to various groupings, one of which is people with disabilities.

* The removal of assistance to support prospective, disabled MPs, in order to increase the woefully tiny number of MPs with disabilities.


Cumulative Impact Assessment

There have been so many changes that disabled people and their carers & supporters gained over one-hundred-thousand signatures for the WoWPetition to request a cumulative impact assessment (cia) of all the cuts and changes. The government refuses to do so, despite other organisations having done the best they could without access to governmental data. One of those is the Centre for Welfare Reform. In the following four-minute video, "Counting the Cuts", Dr. Simon Duffy gives a brief overview.



Localism

In a single example of how the changes in the UK have effected me this year, my local town ran a survey to determine residents, workers & visitors' attitudes and desires for the run-down town-centre, nationally embarrassed in the media for same. I replied as a disabled person, expressing concerns for others like myself and also for the elderly with whom there is a commonality of needs, such as seating and toilets. I also contacted my local council and requested under FOI for details of what account, if any, had been taken of the disabled/elderly needs & requirements. Despite two requests they refused to respond. Alterations have gone ahead, including the removal of parking, and replacing conventional paving with cobbles. I now can no longer visit parts of the town centre due to my inability to walk very far. I, and presumably those in a similar position to myself, have lost amenities. Only yesterday I read that Southampton is planning on removing ALL its disabled-parking spaces. Ay - overt disability discrimination!


Legal Perspective

The UK Parliament's Human Rights Joint Committee, in their report "Implementation of the Right of Disabled People to Independent Living", stated:

The impact of current reforms
While we recognise the exceptional economic circumstances facing the UK, we conclude that there is a risk of retrogression of the UK's obligations under Article 19 as a result of the cumulative impact of spending cuts and reforms. There has been particular concern about the effects of reductions in funding for local authorities, changes to Disability Living Allowance under the Welfare Reform Bill, caps on housing benefit and the closure of the Independent Living Fund, and the way in which these might interact to restrict enjoyment of the right to independent living.
Many local authorities are restricting eligibility criteria for social care support. We argue that this risks breach of Article 19. We recommend that the Government's forthcoming Disability Strategy includes measures to monitor the impact of restrictions on eligibility for adult social care on disabled people's access to independent living.

Since the aforementioned report, matters have pejorated for those of us with disabilities.


Governmental Attitude to IDPD2015

The government seems not to care, but obdurately continues steadfastly with its dogma of permanent austerity. It is therefore unsurprising to view the government's disdain for even acknowledging IDPD2015. Today is the United Nation's International Day of Persons with Disabilities Day. I shall iterate, as they cannot be bothered. The UK government, as per previous years (see relevant blog-posts), appears to be ignoring it as per usual. Below is today's page from the Office for Disability Issues (ODI):



Apparently broad issues for folk with disabilities on access & empowerment across all levels and areas of society are of no concern to the agency supposedly looking out for disabled people interests.

Is it any wonder that the UN is investigating the UK for serious breaches of UNCRPD?