Archive for March, 2012
Tristan Gooley picks me up at the quiet, rural railway station in a tangerine-coloured Land Rover equipped with a snorkel. The snorkel goes from the engine through the bonnet, so that the vehicle can traverse “deep waters”. There is also an “expedition roof rack”, an alarming array of headlights, and a winch. This, I think to myself, will be a ramble to remember.
First, a few words about the Gooleys. Tristan’s father, Mike, a former SAS officer, founded Trailfinders, the largest independent travel company in Britain. Tristan, 36, is vice-chairman of the business, and every two years takes time off to have adventures of his own. He has climbed Kilimanjaro, hiked from Glasgow to London, and parachuted off a building in Australia. Most impressively of all, he is the only man alive to have crossed the Atlantic solo both by sea and by air.
The man himself, however, is dismissive of his accomplishments. “I am no longer motivated by extremes,” he says as we roar down country lanes into the South Downs. “In my twenties I got my thrills out of mountains. But now I get them out of a gentle walk.”
This new, mellower Gooley – who has young children, a wife and a country home – has restyled himself as a “natural explorer”, the title of his latest book (his first was the popular The Natural Navigator). His basic principle is that the everyday world can offer up a wealth of exhilaration if we only open our eyes to it. “It’s a more daunting challenge to find wonder in a hill than a mountain,” he tells me, quoting his new book. “And a great achievement to find it in a molehill.” The tough guy car, he says, was bought third-hand and has never been used in an expedition. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
City people believe that pigs can fly. At least, that’s if Anne Cianchi, one of the founders of the independent pig farm, Emma’s Pigs, is to be believed. “Many people have absolutely no idea where their food comes from,” she says. “At farmers’ markets, we often get asked for pork wings.”
This, she says, is symptomatic of the modern trend towards packaged, processed food. In contrast, emblematic of the counter-trend – in which more and more people are seeking to reconnect with their food’s origins – is Emma’s Pigs’ “pig-your-own” service.
Here’s how it works. You pick a piglet. The farm sends you monthly photographs of it, and updates you on its progress. You can even come and visit. Six to seven months later, once you have indicated how you want the meat butchered, piggy arrives on your doorstep in a polystyrene box.
Demand for the service, Anne says, is growing. Similarly, as modern man strives to reforge the broken links of his food chain, butchery courses are springing up all over the place – even in the heart of the city. Off London’s fashionable Marylebone High Street, for example, can be found the Ginger Pig meat shop, where people congregate by night to be initiated into the ancient art of butchery. Some participants are dreaming of rearing pigs in the countryside; others are considering putting their skills into practice on the kitchen table. The majority, however, simply want to regain a hands-on insight into meat: where it comes from, the different types of cuts, how to wield a knife properly, and how to tell the good from the bad. And, given reports that Austerity Britain is swapping beef for pork, amateur butchery is more popular than ever.
On the evening that I attended a course at the Ginger Pig, it started off on the wrong foot. One of the participants, a chap called Andy Brampton who worked at the All England Tennis Club, volunteered to take the carcass down from the hook. As he hoisted it over his shoulder, one of the trotters scythed through the air and nearly knocked out a 21-year-old engineer called Gemma. In response, our jolly instructor hammed it up. “That’s what we like,” he said. “Start as you mean to go on.” Continue reading on the Telegraph website
This will be a triumphant year for campanologists. Bells have been rung to mark major celebrations since Roman times, but never can there have been a more spectacular year than this. The two landmark British celebrations of the decade – the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee – are going to have bells on.
The Jubilee flotilla of a thousand boats, which will sail from Battersea Bridge to Tower Bridge on June 3, will be led by a “Belfry Barge”. This will house eight bells made especially for the occasion, each named after a member of the Royal family (the heaviest, at half a tonne, will be Elizabeth). These will be rung by members of the Ancient Society of College Youths; churches along the route will provide an answering peal, echoed by those throughout the land.
Eight weeks later, for the launch of the Olympics – at an unfeasible eight o’clock in the morning – all the bells in the UK will be rung simultaneously for three minutes. This includes church bells in more than 5,000 locations, school bells, town hall bells, bicycle bells and doorbells. This stunt, devised by the Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed, aims to send “a massive signal that something is happening”.
And that is not all. Bells will be rung along the route of the Olympic torch, as well as in central London during the entire four hours of the marathons (of which there are three). According to Alan Chantler of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, plans are also being considered to let out a peal whenever Team GB wins a gold medal. During the Cultural Olympiad, which begins on June 21, a mobile bell tower on London’s South Bank will perform a new piece of bell music called Wild Bells to a Wild Sky, which has been especially written by composer Howard Skempton. Even more extravagantly, the £27million Olympic opening ceremony will be kicked off with the tolling of a 27-ton bell cast especially in the Whitechapel Foundry, where 13.5-ton Big Ben was cast in 1856. This new bell, the heaviest in Europe, will be inscribed with the words of Caliban: “be not afeard, the isle is full of noises.”
All this means that an army of bell-ringers will need to be mobilised. According to Barrie Dove, chairman of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, there are around 40,000 ringers in the UK. As one might expect, many of those are aged 50 and above. But there are a significant number of energetic university groups, Dove says, and more young people are joining all the time. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Britain’s most expensive, luxury rental properties fail to attract interest for the Olympics (from the Sunday Telegraph)
In recent months, there has been a rash of reports of luxury properties being rented out for the Olympics for eye-watering sums. Leading the pack was a seven-bedroom house in Brick Street, Mayfair, which came complete with a cinema, games room, bar, gym, swimming pool, solarium and sauna. This, at £100,000 per week, was set to make history as the most expensive London let ever. Close on its heels was a penthouse at 116 Knightsbridge, next door to 1 Hyde Park. It boasted a 150-foot frontage with panoramic views of the Serpentine, 9000 square feet of lateral living space, and 2000 square feet of terrace and roof gardens. The price? £75,000 per week. Former Arsenal and England footballer Sol Campbell is offering his Chelsea pad – which has a separate mews house for the housekeeper, connected to the main house by a tunnel – at the same rate (he and his wife will be roughing it in another of their properties, a 2,400 sq ft apartment down the road).
All of these prices have been massively inflated for the games. “Normally, a short-term let would be 30 to 50 per cent higher than the long-term price,” says Lisa Simon, Head of Lettings at Carter Jonas. “In the Olympic period, however, we are seeing increases of up to 300 per cent.” The penthouse, for instance, normally goes for a weekly rate of £25,000, and the Mayfair house for £40,000. Clearly, these high-end landlords had their eye on a different sort of Olympic gold.
But things are not looking good for the property moguls. With the games only months away, Carter Jonas has received not a single enquiry for the penthouse. Sol Campbell’s house remains on the market, too. And although Knight Frank says that the mansion in Brick Street, Mayfair, is “no longer available,” the lack of fanfare from the agents makes it doubtful whether it achieved the asking price. Continue reading on the Telegraph website