Monthly Archives: June 2014

Colombia demonstrate belief through adversity

Like many I was disappointed yet not really surprised by England’s exit at this years World Cup. The manner of which we went out was slightly bizarre despite some encouraging signs against both Italy and Uruguay. The final match against Costa Rica gave our future and past a chance to sign off the group on a high, the bizarre bit was that nobody really wanted that chance to shine.

Rio 2014 is proving to be a carnival of goals and never say die attitude, it is hardly a surprise that England failed. There have been some pretty amazing moments, Brazil have managed to cling on amongst the consistent belief and pressure put on them by their home crowd. Last nights dramatic penalty shoot out success against Chile being the latest chapter in their fairytale story. All teams that win a World Cup will inevitably have to get through a shoot out, the earlier the better for Brazil.

The standout country for me so far is not one of the glamorous ones, sure Holland, Germany and France have dazzled where many European teams have failed like England. Argentina, Nigeria and Algeria have either stumbled through or have exceeded their own expectations. For me, the stand out country is Colombia.
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Colombia have been an absolute delight to watch, last nights professional disposal of a Uruguay side with no bite (excuse the Suarez pun) was executed in style. Fast flowing football and a never say die attitude has seen them reach their first ever Quarter Final. Brazil will be thinking that their pathway to World Cup glory couldn’t get any harder.

Their stand out player was without a doubt James Rodríguez. Already a contender for World Cup goal of the tournament, the way he made space and executed his volley in off the crossbar was class. So how have Colombia done this and is this surge into the last eight really that much of a shock?

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From the UK sitting down watching I really can’t answer that question as I’m not that close to South American football. Colombia have had a checkered past and after the 1994 campaign in the USA and the shocking murder of Escobar, they have been away from the worlds main stage. One thing I would say, is that I have never been so drawn to another country in the way Colombia has drawn me in. I genuinely love watching them play and have made sure I have seen all 4 of their games so far.

So for the remainder of Rio 2014 I will be cheering for Colombia. It may only last one more game but unlike my Sweepstake side The Ivory Coast it has lasted longer. Well done you have certainly made this guy in the UK take note, I’m pretty sure it’s not just me that has!

DarcyB

BBQ Beer Chicken

One of my bucket list items were checked off last week when we had the sunny weather that seems to have deserted us in recent days. I have always wanted to BBQ a whole chicken and since the purchase of the Jamie Oliver kettle BBQ I couldn’t wait to try it.

There is a handy device that I purchased from B&Q for cooking chicken on a BBQ. It allows you to place a can of beer on a metal plate which is under some metal arms. The chicken slides over the arms which allows the can of beer to sit inside the chicken. As the chicken is cooking on the BBQ the can of beer allows the chicken to maintain it’s moisture preventing a dry chicken.

The beauty is it allows the chicken to crisp up nicely on the outside whilst giving the chicken an amazing flavour. I used a can of Hobgoblin which is a favourite Ruby Ale of mine. The medium sized chicken took just over 2 hours to BBQ cook and the smells coming from the Kettle BBQ were delightful.

I used a couple of bags of self lighting charcoal to create a white hot base which heated up to a suitable temperature after 30 mins. The photos below show the stages explained above. The beauty cooking with the can of Ruby Ale is the chicken melted away from the bone when carving it. This is the best way to cook chicken and it is certainly something I’ll be doing again.

1. The chicken in place on device with Hobgoblin can sat under it.
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2. The chicken after an hour on the Kettle BBQ, it’s starting to brown.

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3. Just over two hours later and it’s ready to come off the BBQ.

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4. Carved up and ready to eat.

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This is an amazing way to cook chicken and one that could be replicated when entertaining a group of friends. It’s certainly more cost effective than that of burgers and sausages.

DarcyB

Midsummer Music 2014 in Towcester

Towcester hosted it’s annual Midsummer Music event this weekend. The town was transformed into a showcase of local musical talent as various buildings, pubs and restaurants became stages for the acts to perform in. The weather was delightful once again as a sunny Saturday evening provided the perfect backdrop for this popular event.
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We started our musical adventure at The Saracens Head where Krissy Matthews and his three piece band performed in the courtyard. All of the tables were full as locals enjoyed his mixed playlist of self written and covered blues inspired tracks. Krissy was very vocal and despite joking that he had smoked something he shouldn’t have, he produced a set which kept the crowd going and opened up the event with punchy energy and style.

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We headed to the town square to see the Mayor officially open the festival at 7.15pm before quickly heading to St Lawrence’s Church to watch the Towcester Choral Society perform. This was truly breathtaking as the Choral Society performed famous songs from the movies which included Raindrops keep falling on my head (Burt Cassidy & The Sundance Kid) Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera and a selection of songs from Mama Mia. St Lawrence’s Church is a beautiful building and the tall ceilings and open halls created an acoustic delight.

As there were many acts performing in the evening it became apparent that we would be rushing around nipping in to see various parts of acts. We quickly made our way back to The Saracens Head to watch the Giocoso Concert Band in the Pickwick Room. From Swanbourne in Buckingham we heard them play the theme from Star Trek before they took a break. Once again we were back on foot to The Dolphin Cafe to watch Nathan & Katrina.

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Katrina Harris certainly delivered with her powerful vocals including a pitch perfect cover of Katie Tunstalls classic Black Horse & A Cherry Tree. Nathan Digby & Nial Hoggarth completed the three piece act who went down extremely well. Their songs were original, exciting and fresh with a mixture of classic and modern blues, soul, pop and rock pieces.

The next destination was Towcester Mill to watch Craig sing and play acoustic guitar. Craig was extremely quirky and delivered a high energy filled performance which included a couple of amazing covers including Crowded House – Weather with you and Queens – Don’t stop me now.

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We spoke to Craig after his performance and found him to be extremely pleasant and slightly humbled by the compliments we paid him for a fantastic show.

The Midsummer Music Festival then held it’s Firework Display on the Mount which lasted around half an hour and was typically exciting and didn’t disappoint.

The music didn’t stop there as we headed to The Brave Old Oak to watch The Band Isabelle. This six piece edgy pop and rock band are from Bedford and were the highlight of an amazing day/night. With a twist of funk and soul the lead singer ended a high temp medley of music with a flawless performance of the hit by Moloko – Sing it back. The place was filled with people enjoying the fresh vibes produced as the music went on past midnight.

It certainly was a success and I can’t wait for Midsummer Music to return in 2015.

DarcyB

Yorkshire Phoenix Blast Away The Steelbacks

Friday 13th was the day I went to watch my first live 20/20 cricket match. Not one for the cricket purists, 20/20 cricket is designed for those who enjoy attacking cricket. The promise of big shots, high risks and fast ticking score boards it certainly promised to be entertaining. The game was between my local side and defending champions the Northampton Steelbacks and my home team the Yorkshire Phoenix. As soon as I got into the ground my Yorkshire roots took control and there was nothing stopping me from cheering on Yorkshire.
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The atmosphere was good and before the game started we walked down to the end where Yorkshire were preparing and spoke to a couple of our players. Had it not been for someone’s inability to take a photo correctly, I would have had my photo taken with Ryan Sidebottom who is one of my favourite Yorkshire players. I am still hopeful that another opportunity will present itself before it’s too late. Disappointment aside, I was very much looking forward to the game.

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Yorkshire batted first and after losing 3 early wickets, a 90 run partnership between Jonny Bairstow and Adam Lyth saw The Vikings post an impressive 181-3 off their 20 overs. Some lovely bit hits saw the crowd subdued and me going crazy applauding each one with as much enthusiasm as the last. It was at this moment I realised there was probably only a handful of Yorkshire supporters in the ground.

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Northampton needed to start fast and despite also losing 3 wickets early their South African batsman Levi was in fine form. He hit numerous boundaries including a couple of long sixes before a breathtaking catch deep on the boundary by Lyth ended his innings and with it Northampton’s chances of chasing down the runs needed. Rightly applauded for his 76, the Steelbacks regularly lost wickets and fell short on 165-9.

It was a fantastic nights entertainment which looked visually stunning in the dark under the floodlights. I was extremely happy and it showed what a fantastic effort it was by the Vikings. I will be back again for sure!!

DarcyB

Towcester Food & Drink Festival

The weekend of the 7th/8th June saw the inaugural Towcester Food and Drink festival which was held at Towcester Racecourse. This was the first time I’ve been to the venue and the sunshine was out in force after the mid morning thunder storms. This event was extra special because one of our family members had his homemade cider on sale after receiving the seal of approval from the organiser of the event.

Situated amongst the iconic Racecourse there were plenty of Food Tents showing off a fine selection of locally produced produce including cheeses, cakes, pickles and spices. There were cooking demonstrations and live music creating a varied number of things to see and experience.
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At the Champagne Bar Andy had his Cider on sale. His dry cider was called “Two Faced” which came in at a tasty 6.5% ABV. This was a truly awesome achievement, one that we are all extremely proud of. On the Saturday Andy sold just over half of his bottles and the remainder were cleared out by the large crowds on Sunday. Up against some well known and established local Ciders, Andy held his own and looked very much at home next to them. Selling at £3.50 a bottle I asked a couple of people who purchased Two Faced what they thought of his cider.

“This is really nice, it tastes fresh and I’ll certainly be buying another bottle today”

“I do like dry cider and this one ticks the right boxes”

One guy joked when I asked him how he found the cider, he replied by saying in the bar through that door. He must have thought I was trying to sell him life insurance! A very funny line if ever I heard one.

The evening saw us take part in the Towcester Food Festivals “Real Ale Trail” the event allowed customers to purchase a glass tankard and visit five local pubs/restaurants to try out new ales. These were provided by Crispin who had organised the festival over the weekend. For £7.50 we were set to have 5 x free quarter pints followed by another half at the Towcester Mill Brewery, our new tap house.

We had some great tasters of Golden Ales and some Darker Ales. Sadly one venue didn’t buy into the spirit of this event. The Plough is a pub we have not visited before and it’s safe to say the way they made us feel as we entered the venue was not pleasant. They told us that they had sold out of the Ale and were not prepared to give us an alternative. Apparently according to the rather bullish lady who greeted us “they weren’t big enough to give us another option” the near packed front bar was a very poor alibi to her claim.

Needless to say I’d like to thank the barman at The Brave Old Oak who had ran out of Pitstop (Silverstone Brewery) who gave us a couple of other options, thank you. The numbers taking part suggested that there was a good take up on the offer to sample local Real Ales, so that was a positive. I would also like to thank The Dolphin Cafe who made us feel extremely welcome in comfortable surroundings. The evening concluded at our new local tap house, the Towcester Mill.

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As we arrived at a packed Towcester Mill we were able to sit under the moonlight amongst the peaceful fields the Mill is set within. The odd bat flickered across the moons beams in a lovely tranquil atmosphere. This was certainly the best place to conclude this night and we enjoyed the last hour in the bar as the temperature started to drop.

This is our new favourite pub and one place we will certainly be enjoying our weekend evenings in. I would like to thank Crispin for an amazing food festival which has put Towcester on the map. I would also like to congratulate Andy on his successful debut launching Two Faced. It has been a pretty decent experience, The Plough aside!

DarcyB

Saints victorious at Twickenham

Northampton Saints won their first ever Premiership Trophy after a titanic battle against Saracens. This was an amazing experience, one that I don’t think could ever be bettered.

I left Milton Keynes at 9am for destination London. Despite numerous delays including the part closure of the District Line, we were not to be denied reaching our destination of Richmond. I met some other Saints fans on the way as we descended upon our first pub The Orange Tree. The party atmosphere was unrivaled as Northampton Saints painted a picture of Green and Gold.

Twickenham village was full of fun packed activities including the opportunity to hold the Aviva Premiership Trophy. We met Lawrence Dellaghio and saw Claire Baldwin amongst others who gathered in anticipation for Rugby Unions showpiece of the season. The sunshine was providing a cheerful backdrop as just under 82,000 fans gathered together. There were fans from other clubs including Leicester Tigers and Bath who had hoped to be taking part in the final.

Saracens were the local team and after a terrific season finished top of the league campaign. Northampton Saints finished 2nd and were here not just to make up the numbers. After the breathtaking last minute Semi Final win against local rivals Leicester Tigers, Saints backed it up with their first trophy of the season beating Bath in the Amlin European Cup Final in Cardiff last week.

Saints edged the first half 7-6 and found themselves winning 14-9 with ten minutes to go thanks to George Psisi touching down in the corner. A game full of controversial moments saw a Saracens try disallowed by the Video Referee for a forward pass in the build up that ironically saw Farrell injure himself kicking the ball away in celebration just before it was scratched off.

Saracens did get their first try to tie the game but we couldn’t believe it when the simple conversion striked the post and bounced clear. The game headed into Extra Time and both sides exchanged penalties in the first half at 17-17. Saracens regained the lead up until the final seconds before the dramatic end. Trailing 17-20 with the clock on zero, Saints forced Saracens back and with one final push Alex Waller drove the ball over under a defensive wall. The referee referred back to the video official who after 4 replays awarded the winning try.

The party atmosphere was immense as the final whistle went and Saints clinched their first ever Premiership Crown. The whole experience was hard to describe but it’s one I will never forget. Come on You Saints!!

Some photos from the day:-
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DarcyB