Sobar So Good

It is now two months since Sobar opened in Nottingham. Our first alcohol free bar is on Friar Lane, between the Old Market Square and Nottingham Castle. The concept is a welcome one and the fact that it is a social enterprise (helping those recovering from alcohol or drug abuse), it will certainly get the goodwill of the Nottingham public.

I had passed the place a few times, and could see that it had been set out with a relaxed feel to it. I had heard that they were using the bar for a wide variety of events. I had formed a team for a recent quiz night but had to postpone at the last minute.

My first visit, therefore, was overdue. Mothering Sunday was fast approaching and Sobar came to the rescue. Having made the reservation, I was convinced it was the right choice. I recall Sunday lunches of my childhood as ‘alcohol free’. A jug of water accompanied almost all meals. My mother would have approved!

As we stepped into Sobar, Its large open-plan room had a light, airy and relaxed feel. We were early for lunch and had the pick of the room. Most commercial restaurants, in order to attract passers by, will look to seat early diners near the window. No so Sobar staff, who have a more laid back attitude. 

We settled in and ordered our aperitif, a locally sourced sparkling spring water from The National Forest. The music was as chilled as the room and played at the right volume; something I find is an exception rather than the rule these days!

We had a look around, made a donation for one of the many second-hand books on display. We admired the table decorations and plant holders, made from recycled drink cans. There was local artwork displayed on the walls.

A young family arrived and made use of the play area at the back of the room. Other diners began to fill the room. There were plenty of staff around and all seemed under control.

The starters came on time and were well presented on ‘slate’ plates. The main courses were roast dinners, well portioned and piping hot.

We ordered our desserts, which sounded great. Unfortunately, I am unable to say whether they tasted great!

Even more unfortunately, the continuing air of calm was clearly masking some issue in the kitchen.

The desserts didn’t arrive, despite two reminders that coincided with the waitress serving the wrong meals to the table next to us. 

So three desserts short, I decided to settle the bill with the manager. Naturally, the service issue needed mentioning. During the discussion I also commented that my daughter, who had announced that she is vegan, had nevertheless been served butter on her meal. The manager commented that the vegan menu would have been a better option!

How true, and potentially; how enjoyable our dinner could have been! We had been provided with the Mothers Day but not told of the alternative available.

Whether it was down to communication or staff training, something went awry. The member of staff serving us, could also have mentioned that a couple of ingredients were missing from the meals served.

That said, I stand by the title of this post. Sobar so Good.

My goodwill for Sobar remains and so should it for readers of this post. Do not be put off. On the contrary, visit Sobar and enjoy! Honest staff making errors will always be forgiven.  



Giving Blood – The Facts

I am going to donate blood today. The first time I did this was a few years ago when a big Blood Service bus arrived at my workplace. I realised that if a big bus comes to you workplace and asks for help, then it must be important.

I have given blood over 24 times. I know that because they gave me an enamel badge as a reward. The badge is now in a drawer at home with all my other badges, mainly from the 1970’s when they were really popular and had band names like ‘Buzzcocks’ and ‘The Jam’ on them.

Nottingham’s blood donor centre is on Castle Boulevard. There are two ways of getting there. Drive and park outside or take a walk along the canal. I prefer the walk along the canal for two reasons.

  • It relaxes you and lowers your blood pressure. This is useful because if your blood pressure was high, they would probably say ‘Not today thank-you’.
  • It makes you feel good and when you see a duck on the canal you can say to it. ‘I’m going to give blood duck!’

I have been donating blood for over 10 years. Not continuously of course. That would be a miracle and I would be really famous. I would probably have changed my name to ‘Billy Bloodbank’ and toured the world.

I will now stop being silly and get to the point of this post; which is to explain to those who have not given blood, what actually happens during the 30 minute visit. 

Over the years I have noticed that we blood donors have certain things in common. Our blood is a nice red colour and more significantly, having donated; we all choose the orange Club Biscuit to eat with our cup of tea! Both these common traits may only relate to Nottingham donors, I’m not completely sure.

When I donate in a couple of hours, I anticipate the following routine:

I expect to be greeted with a smile and asked to complete the donor questionnaire. Having done that, I will be given an information sheet about the National Blood Service. I will have a drink of water while I pretend to read the information sheet. Being a regular, I already know this information, so I can pretend to read it. That means that I can check my smartphone or watch daytime TV on the wall mounted television. Personally I stick with the smartphone, but you have a choice.

After a couple of minutes, I will go to a consultation room where a member of staff will ask me for the first line of my address and my date of birth. I have never got either of these questions wrong, but I have heard that if you do, you are made to sit on the ‘naughty chair’ next to Michael Gove! For those that don’t know, Michael Gove is the current Education Secretary who is mis-behaving a lot. As a result the Prime Minister has had to make him sit on the naughty chair several times.

Having passed this test, they will prick my finger and test my blood for iron. I assume this is really important, otherwise there would be no point.

I will then return to the waiting area, and after a couple of minute, be called to make my donation. This involves sitting in a specially designed chair that tilts back into a relaxing position. The member of staff will then try and catch me out by asking me for the first line of my address again. They will then prepare my none writing arm, the blood being taken from a vein just below the inside of my elbow. My donation probably only takes 10 minutes. During it, you are asked to flex your hand in order to help the flow of blood. After donation, they put a plaster over where the blood was taken from.

I will then go to the refreshment area where another member of staff will offer me tea, coffee or a soft drink. While they make the drink I will look in the bowl of biscuits. There will be a wide selection. It is possible that someone may have hidden the orange Club biscuits at the bottom. In the unlikely event of there being none, I will complain and suggest that I will never donate blood again. Within a few seconds, more orange Club biscuits will arrive. I will drink my tea, eat my biscuit and walk back into town.

Please note; I tend not to walk back via the canal. Having done my good deed of the day, I have more important things to do than strike up a conversation with duck!  


Photo courtesy of


Traffic Gridlock – The Solution (Part 2)

Most of my working life I have worked around the conurbation of greater Nottingham. I have walked, jogged, cycled,  driven and used public transport on a variety of routes. I currently walk a brisk 4 miles to West Bridgford. This takes me 55 minutes, door to door, rain or shine, any day of the week.None of the other methods can be timed as reliably.

My mindset is to enjoy the commute, and not to see it as a chore.

A study published by the Mail Online  shows the average UK worker spends 41 minutes commuting every day, but the number spending a total of three hours or more travelling has risen to 1.84 million (9% of the workforce). That figure has risen by 50 per cent in the last 5 years.

The report found that the car is Britain’s most popular method of transport, accounting for more than half of work-related journeys. Around one in 10 people will take the train, but only one in 40 choosing to cycle.

We have to accept that, whilst we enjoy owning and being settled in our own homes, this can adversely affect our commute as we change job locations.

We also have to accept that many people are nervous about cycling on busy roads.

So let us take 60 minutes as being a standard commute time. This being a reasonable amount of time.

Now consider those lucky people who only have a 10-20 minute, 4 mile journey in their car. People who tend to leave home at the last minute and who get complacent with their timekeeping. With a simple adjustment, they can turn their short and boring commute into an enjoyable and healthy start/end of the working day.

All that needs to be done is:

Get the map out, study the options, and dependent on  current fitness level, break the journey into sections and a combination that suits the individual.

Walk + Bus or Drive + Walk or Cycle + Bus or Cycle + Bus + Walk.Photograph of Raleigh cycle Nottingham courtesy of Bicyclesafari

Another option may be to drive to work and walk home, doing the opposite the following day.

Once the mindset has changed, the commute can become a pleasure, and something that, with basic planning, can be varied and something to look forward to.

For those readers in the Nottingham area, join the revolution, for others elsewhere, it is time for a rethink.

A 2010 report published in The Guardian suggested that Nottingham was already leading the way.

Award-winning bus services, a European-style embrace of the tram and a bias against out-of-town shopping centres were cited as powerful incentives for residents of Nottingham to leave their cars at home, according to a report by the Campaign for Better Transport


Nottingham takes top spot for independent business

More good news for Nottingham’s creative and entrepreneurial spirit. I urge people visiting Nottingham to change how they access the city. Park somewhere different and walk an alternative route into the City Centre. This will help them discover the architectural and creative gems that are all over the city.

CBJ News Reports

iba1Nottingham has overtaken Manchester and Birmingham with over 205 independent retailers now operating in the city centre.

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Plains Road is Blogged – Saul Deeney

Guess who I bumped into the other day on Mapperley Top?


None other than Saul Deeney, former Ireland International, Notts County, Burton Albion and Derby County goalkeeper.

On the eve of the World Cup finals, where the world greatest mercenary footballers will strut their stuff, it is refreshing to hear from someone at the modest and loyal end of the sporting spectrum.

Having got talking to him, it transpired that he had recently left the Rams ‘by mutual consent’. I got the feeling that he was a bit wary of my request for an interview. I think he ‘smelt a rat’ so to speak; that I was looking for an exclusive from the corridors of power at Pride Park!

Once I’d convinced Saul that (as far as the A52 to Derby was concerned), my interest extended only as far as Canning Circus; he was happy to talk.

Now I knew that Saul had represented the Republic of Ireland before, but you never know what accent footballers are likely to have. They have a habit of surprising us don’t they? After all, former Forest goalkeeper Lee Camp played for Northern Ireland; although I’m not sure he knows his poteen from his vodka!

Saul’s accent is a soft North of Ireland accent. His home town being Derry. Now 30 years of age and having lived in Nottingham since he was 14, he could be forgiven for adopting the language of the Nottinghamian. Having chatted to Saul for an hour, it is clear that as professional footballers go, his loyalty to family and club are more important than single-minded ambition.

To hear that he is one of 13 brother and sisters and that all his siblings are settled in Derry, is refreshing to hear. He does manage to get them over for Nottingham’s Goose Fair every year! He also remains in touch with his host family in Nottingham, whom he lodged with as a teenager.

Prior to moving to England, Saul  played for Foyle Harps. After a few trials at clubs in England, he had several offers to consider. I asked Saul how a 14 year old can make such a big decision; and what made him choose Notts County.

In context, Notts County were managed by an ambitious ‘Big Sam’ Allardice (now at West Ham United). Saul noticed that the set up at Notts was impressive and expectations high. On the goalkeeping side of things, Saul was impressed with the coaching of Bob Shaw and Steve Sutton. Sutton having been the understudy to a certain Peter Shilton at Nottingham Forest in the 1980’s.

What also impressed Saul was Nottingham as a city. He liked it. He warmed to its sporting legacy, the location of its two clubs, separated only by the River Trent.  Forest were back in the top flight and ‘Big Ron’ Atkinson at the helm. Whilst ‘Old Big Head’ himself had retired, his son Nigel Clough had just started as a player manager at Burton Albion. To help with the historical context, Clough junior had recently been released by Manchester City, after their relegation to the 3rd tier of English football!

So Saul Deeney arrived in Nottingham.

Day one at Notts County was a historic for two reasons.

Local schoolboy Jermaine Pennant signed for Arsenal  in a £2 million deal!

Saul Deeney was on the bench for Notts County in their cup match against Bury!

The optimism of that first day at the club did not continue at the same level. In the next 7 years, Saul would play under as many managers, all at Notts County.  At the age of 22 he took the opportunity to sign for Burton Albion where Nigel Clough was making  a name for himself in management. Saul did have another short spell at Notts County but remained loyal to Nigel Clough, latterly rejoining him at Derby County, but leaving as part of the recent managerial changes.

Saul’s attitude is that whether you are playing first team football or on the bench for the reserves, the club are your family and you need to respect and look after each other.

The big question, what next? Now that this loyal ‘family guy’ is without a football club. Life as a goalkeeper is a lonely one and surely without an ‘extended family’ around him, he must be tempted to return to Derry.

‘We’ll have to see. I’ve had a shoulder injury for some time. I’ll keep myself fit and see what happens’

‘Do you see yourself returning to Derry?’

‘Maybe. Derry City is a massive club back home, but I’m in no rush. I enjoy my life here.’

‘What makes you stay in the same area of Nottingham?’

‘I love this area (Mapperley Top). I like how you can take a short walk to shops, restaurants and pubs’

What is your first memory of Mapperley?

‘Well I’ve been eating at The Plains Fish Bar ever since I came here. My Dad took me in there and I still visit. I like places where you are made comfortable. They become part of your family. I got to Deli-icious and Brown Bettys for the same reason’

‘What about Nottingham’s lively music and club scene?’

‘I like to get to shows, musicals and family shows.’

Saul went on to say that he is not into loud rock music which, to be honest, threw me off my stride a bit. I had been waiting to talk about The Undertones, one of my favourite bands as a teenager and undoubtedly Derry’s finest musical export.

Through The Undertones I had hoped to impress him with my knowledge of Derry, but his lack of interest, (coupled with the fact he hadn’t been born when The Undertones were touring the world) meant the topic was pointless.

Having now written this post, I couldn’t resist including the following clip about Derry and featuring Undertones band member Michael Bradley

All I need now is some time off. I have a couple of reasons to visit Derry.

The John Snow (Soho, London)

Some historical context for us in this post by Albert Jack. For those of you who haven’t been on the guided tour of the caves beneath Nottingham Castle; you will be told a similar story of poor sanitation in England during the Industrial Revolution. No wonder we’re a nation of beer drinkers!

Traffic Gridlock – The Solution Part 1

The news last week was dominated by disgruntled commuters getting stressed out with the NottinghamTram works near the University of Nottingham and the congestion it has caused. The words ‘Stressed’ and ‘Congestion’ could be replaced by ‘Hysterical’ and ‘Gridlock’.

I think out of all the news reporting, I read only one upbeat comment, from a woman who, whilst I’ve never met her I’ve decided I want to marry!

Should I be sympathetic towards these commuting automatons? Well clearly not by the tone of that question!

According to my 1975 school dictionary, automatons are humans that act like machines and without intelligence.

According to me, there are thousands of these creatures travelling into the city via University Boulevard every day. All of them have their journey timed to the minute.  The slightest variation to this arrangment throws the whole thing out of kilter. 

‘What! I’m only at Dunkirk Flyover and it’s the 8.30 news! Oh no! I should be at Canning Circus by now! The day is ruined! The chap in the Nissan Qashqai will have taken my parking space and I’ll have to miss out on my ‘Cuppachino’.

Maybe I’m not being very sympathetic, but this is a typical example of commuter stress that takes place a million times over; admittedly not all on University Boulevard!

These are intelligent and productive people. People who work in the city but who choose the wrong way to access it. These are the people who will drive the school run (the one that they chose for their child and who now hates it), who will drive to their favourite supermarket in their lunch-hour (the one with the parent and child bays right outside and sells hot chickens), who will drive to the out of town gym (the one that was £5 per month cheaper and makes fruit smoothies), who will drive home, stopping for a last minute purchase at a shop (the expensive one but with a parking space directly outside), who will finally drive home to the village. You know the one. Just off the A52. The one where the Corner Shop and Post Office are now houses, with names like ‘The Old Post Office and ‘The Old Corner Shop’.

Crikey! My blood pressure’s gone up just writing this!

It’s easy for those of us living in NG1-5. Its even easier on Plains Road Mapperley. The city centre just a couple of miles away, everything on our doorstep. I say it’s easier, but it still needs a change in attitude, and, in most cases a change in routine. After all Plains Road owes its existence to the motor car. I wouldn’t want to contradict my first post on this blog.

I had intended to tell you my experiences as a kind of ‘Case Study’. Something positive to counteract the ‘gridlock groans’ of the last week. This ‘Case Study’ will have to wait until my next post. My day has just been ruined,describing the commute above. And that was just in my head!

Thanks for reading, especially to those parked in the outside lane of Queens Road Beeston!

Traffic at the roundabout where University Boulevard meets Queen's Road

Photo courtesy of Nottingham Post