Monday, 30 January 2012

It's Curtains, Babe

Saw a wonderful piece of Essex nomenclature on a recent trip to Grays – a shop called CURTAINS BABE. The sign is in upper case, of course.

Does it mean it’s curtains suitable for your babe, or is it run by a babe with a penchant for curtains? Or is it simply named after someone shouted out “Curtains Babe!” at the brainstorming session on deciding a name? Whatever the case, it’s got lots of curtains on offer and much Essex credibility.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Essex integrity

Blimey. Essex is a centre of Integrity. A new Essex Centre for the Study of Integrity, based at the University of Essex has just released the results of a survey revealing that Britons are less honest than they were a decade ago. The online survey, which repeated questions asked in the year 2000 in a large-scale study of citizenship, reveals the public are now more tolerant towards misdemeanours such as having an extramarital affair, drink driving or failing to leave a contact after damaging a parked car. 
It seems Essex is now the moral arbiter of the nation. After all, the county has long been well integral. The joy of Ethics indeed. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

All aboard HMS Towie

The Queen might be struggling to get a new yacht, but the Daily Mail claimed Towie's Mario Falcone had bought a £5.2 million Sunseeker yacht at a boat show. Surely Lucy's boutique in Ongar Road isn't selling that many 'I Love Mario 'bags?

It was left to Mario to Tweet: "I have not bought a Sunseeker yacht.... But I have put a deposit down to charter one for the summer... I do well but not that well, hahaha!” Still, maybe the Queen, Prince Philip, Kate and Wills will be invited on board for cocktails. 

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Celebrity big lover

Good to see that Kirk Norcross has still got that charm with the ladies on Celebrity Big Brother. The Brentwood lothario has already snogged Natasha Giggs and asked Georgia Salpa (dressed as a Playboy Bunny) for a hot date.
"Do you like me? You gonna let me take you on a date?” asked Kirk hopefully. When she said yes, Kirk declared: “Georgia Norcross, good s**t. We need to go for a dinner before our holiday with Frankie and his bird." Well classy, Kirk, me old son.  

Friday, 13 January 2012

Amazing mazes in Saffron Walden

Visited Saffron Walden after Christmas, and what an interesting bit of upmarket Essex it is. Just over the border from Hertfordshire it’s full of Tudor houses (27 Grade II listed buildings), has two mazes, a castle and Oliver Cromwell’s headquarters.

You know it’s posh because it has a tourist office with a list of dates for tea dances. As Her Indoors says: “The houses are painted in shades of ice-cream flavours and the rubbish gets put out in Waitrose bags.”

The crossroads at the Old Sun Inn has timber-framed buildings on all four corners. The Old Sun Inn was Oliver Cromwell’s headquarters in 1647.  Here Cromwell and his Roundheads made concerted efforts to ban dancing at Sugar Hut (or was it the Zero 6 or Canvey Goldmine in those days?)

The town museum reveals the story of how the town took its name from the fields of saffron used to dye wool. It’s also got a mammoth tusk, a couple of skeletons and geological anomolies on sale called the Devil’s Fingernails, because they look like, well, the Devil’s Fingernails. Next to the museum is the atmospheric ruined keep of the old castle, built by Geoffrey de Mandevile the third Earl of Essexin the early 12th Century, but trashed by Henry II in 1153 after someone mugged him off.

The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin is more like a cathedral and is an early example of a bling church reflecting the wealth of the town. In the grounds is the grave of famous Tory politician R A B Butler, aka “the best Prime Minister we never had”.

 And there’s two mazes, the Victorian Hedge Maze at Bridge End Garden and the Turf Maze by the short stay car park. The Turf Maze could be 800 years old. It’s cut into the ground and one of only eight turf mazes surviving in England and is circular with 17 circuits in a labyrinth design. It’s not dissimilar to a crop circle created by aliens, which is quite fitting as the town also has a clothes shop with cutouts of Matt Smith and a Dalek in the window.

Plenty of CAMRA pubs too, such as the Olde English Gentleman, that allows dogs in one bar, and children in the other. Bit of a problem as we arrived with both children and a dog...

Saffron Walden is a taxi ride from Audley End station so can be combined with a trip to the famous stately gaff there. We managed to squeeze a massive amount into a three-hour car parking ticket. Even the Youth Hostel is 600 years old. Worth a visit.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Jamie's Essex

Look at the inside cover of Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Great Britain and you'll find a picture of the Essex border sign near Clavering. We ventured there from deepest Herts at Christmas and here is that very same sign. Followed by a trip to Trevor Oliver's pub, the Cricketers, to sample Jamie's Tipple. Can also vouch for Jamie's courgette and Lincolnsire Poacher cheese pie having road tested it on New Year's Eve...