The Anonymous Widower

Trafford Centre

In my view there is only one good reason to go to the Trafford Centre in Manchester and that is to go to Carluccio’s for some nice gluten-free pasta.  The place was designed straight out of the if it’s got crap statues on it, then it must be good school of architecture.

The Trafford Centre

The Trafford Centre

Look at them all around the roof.

At least I had a chance to take a picture of the Lotus in the car park.

Lotus Elan at Trafford Centre

Lotus Elan at Trafford Centre

I’d been to the Trafford Centre before and then I’d tried to buy something in Selfridges.  So I’d asked where the Store Directory was and was told that they didn’t have one.  Either the girl was having me on or they have one of the most warped marketing philosophies I’ve ever heard of.  And then there was the shop where I wanted to buy some new shoes for real tennis.  I use indoor court shoes and he couldn’t show me anything at all, so I left.

No wonder retail is in meltdown with methods and training like that!

But still on this visit, I saw some wannabe footballers wives preening themselves outside the restaurant.  I didn’t like the pink stilettos.

July 6, 2009 Posted by | Food, Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Bolton West Service Area

Is this the worst service area on Britain’s motorways?

In my view, yes!

The place looks like it hasn’t been painted or cleaned for some years and all of the roads around the place are of genuine third world standard.  I was only able to buy some Coke!  Couldn’t find any coeliac-friendly crisps or nuts at all.

Perhaps though it owes it all to Bolton.

July 6, 2009 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Biking Along the Beach

When I travel, I often travel with my Brompton bicycle in the boot.  These are the Rolls-Royce of folding bicycles and they ride just like something best described as proper.  Mine is about seven or eight years old and was a present from my late wife.

Brompton Bicycle by a Lotus Elan

Brompton Bicycle by a Lotus Elan

I’d already ascertained that there was a cycle path all the way along the front, so I cycled all of the way to the South Pier and the Pleasure Beach.  It wasn’t a great distance, but it was enough to stimulate and wake up my body.

Blackpool is in desperate need of a makeover and it is getting one.

Amusement Arcades

Amusement Arcades in Blackpool

This shows the rebuilding on the front, where they are smartening it all up and Blackpool’s problem; endless tatt and amusement arcades.  They ought to put a wrecker’s ball to most of them.

But things will be better.

Blackpool's New Promenade

Blackpool's New Promenade

It’s all steel and nice finishes.  It should be as they’re spending £174 on it according to the ReBlackpool web site.

But I wonder if they’ll get it right.  The cycle path is long and very useful.  But it has gaps and is badly signposted so that visitors like me aren’t sure where it goes.

July 6, 2009 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Hotels and the Internet

The reason I was going to Blackpool was to see a hotel partly owned by a cousin of my late wife’s and her family.  They had Internet issues as the person, who’d run the hotel before they did, still had control of the web site and it rated above them on Google.  The e-mail address and domain on that site didn’t exist, so how many bookings had they lost.

So the first thing I did was to buy the domain for the cost of £6 for two years from Low Cost Names and setup the e-mail address so it forwarded to the hotel.  I then took lots of pictures and in the next few days will put them up on Trip Advisor.  I’ll be honest about what I found at the hotel, as to do anything else would be unethical.

Just as to give the name of the hotel here would be.

July 6, 2009 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Federer Roddick and a Lotus Elan

As I left Suffolk yesterday at the same time as the Wimbledon Final started.  It was a lovely day for a drive in the Lotus with the top down and I sped up the A1 to see my old boss in York.  I’d actually worked for him at ICI and I’ve known him since before our first child was born, almost forty years ago.

The A1 has been improved over the last year or so and I made Doncaster in just over the two hours, when before all the roundabouts had gone, it used to take two hours and a quarter.  You wouldn’t have thought, that just removing these five bottlenecks would have improved things so much.  But then you would sometimes wait for perhaps up to ten minutes at either the Gamston or Worksop junctions.  Now you just sped through.

I should say a bit about my transport.

I always describe my Lotus Elan as the second best car in the world.  That is not an arrogant claim, as in many terms, now as the car approaches it’s late middle-age, it is maturing like an old bottle of wine.

My late wife bought the car new in 1991 to travel to courts all over East Anglia in her work as a barrister and somehow it never got sold as she replaced it first with an Audi A4 Avant Quattro, a Mercedes sports car, a Mini and finally a Porsche Boxster. 

When she died, it was sell the the three year-old Boxstern or the sixteen year-old Lotus.  It was no contest.  As the guy who services my cars, said after driving the Lotus back from it’s MOT, if you gave him the choice, he’d take the Lotus too.  He wondered if anything handled so well?

I suppose an Elise does and my wife did try one.  But as she tended to wear a skirt most days for work, an Elise is a no-no, as a lady can’t get out of one in a skirt, without showing all and sundry to passers-by.  It will be interesting to see what the new Evora is like.  I can afford one, but whether I want to spend over £55,000 on a car is another matter. 

But knowing Lotus, I might get seduced at some time.

In my rules on what is the best car, you can’t judge it as of now.  So if you think that your car is best, what will it be like when it is twenty years old, has nearly 110,000 miles on the clock.  Will it still perform in the same way as it did, when you first bought it?

The Lotus does.  Last summer, I let her (Lotuses or should it be Loti are all female) loose on the German autobahn.  You’d be stuck in a queue of traffic doing seventy or so and there’d be some German hard on your bumper, flashing you to get over.  (It is actually not a good idea to do that to any Lotus, as when they stop, they stop a hell of a lot faster than most cars and totally under control.) When the traffic cleared, it was just a matter of flooring the throttle and the car behind was left standing.  Usually I’d pull over into the slow lane after a mile or so, as I don’t want to trash the engine.  (I suspect I won’t incidentally!  Like most Lotus engines they are tuned just as much for reliability, than power!)  My tormentor would pass after a minute or so, with a German version of “What’s the fuck’s that?” on his face.

But perhaps where the Lotus is so different to other cars, is that drive anywhere and heads turn.  Admittedly mine is Norfolk Mustard in colour, but what other car that is a twenty year-old design does that?  I once remember a Lamborghini P400 Miura doing that in the 1960s in Oxford Street.  But then that was possibly the noisiest car ever made.

So there are two things in my life, that I will protect with everything; my Rolex and my Lotus.

I stopped at York for tea with my ex-boss and his wife, admired their lovely garden and then set off over the Pennines towards Blackpool.  Incidentally I filled up with petrol at York and the Lotus had averaged just over 31 miles per gallon.  Not bad for a sports car, that hadn’t been driven for economy on the way up.  I’d done the 171 miles from my home in two hours forty minutes, which is perhaps about twenty minutes faster  than the last time I drove to York for the races.  But then we’re back to the A1 roundabouts.

As I started off for Blackpool, Federer and Roddick, were still at it and it was 3-all in the fifth set.  They were still at it, as I skirted Leeds.  As I left the centre of Bradford on my way towards Keithley and Colne, the good weather was holding and the Lotus was still top down, but Roddick had finally succumbed.

What a match!

I was pleased though that Federer won, as he is such a gent and he deserves to beat the record of Grand Slams. 

Will Murray ever get one?  Probably!  But nothing in this life is certain.  Don’t I as a widower just know it?

If there is one problem with the Lotus, it is rain. 

There I was driving through Colne in the sunlight and all of a sudden, just as I was about to join the M58, it started to rain.  And it wasn’t drizzle.

Luckily, I was able to put the car into a side street within about twenty seconds, so I didn’t get that wet.  And remember too, that to put up the hood on a Lotus is possibly the fastest of any car.  You do need to get out, pull one handle, lift the roof from under the hard cover, throw it forward, jump in and click the latches.  Usually, I can do it in a third of the time, it takes one of those fully electric jobs.

I didn’t get as wet as I might have!

Finally at the allotted hour of eight, I pulled up outside the hotel in Blackpool.

It had been a drive that I won’t forget.  And all because of two modern and civilised gladiators.

July 6, 2009 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , | 1 Comment