Rules are made to be broken, said Bernard!

D Day CollageAccountants and stocktakers like Jon Rutter will tell you that there are rules for a reason and that they should not be broken. Like making sure that for every credit there is a corresponding entry in the debit column, or something like that. He will tell you that without the rules in place the wheels of a business can quickly fall off.

Sometimes ordinary folk will look at rules as something some “jobsworth” has invented to spoil our fun and restrict our freedom. One of those occasions is the ruling that has put a stop to what has been going on for 900 years – yes, Morris dancing cannot continue from Nottingham to Southwell. The Nottinghamshire County Council traffic manager has said, among other things that“…a need to recognise the complexity of managing old events safely on today’s roads which carry high volumes of fast-moving traffic.” Why they don’t just close the road like they do in Monaco, or on the Isle of Man or in half of France when sporting events happen. But then I don’t suppose Morris dancing brings in as much cash as racing does.

Sometimes the rule breakers just take the view that they’re going to do it anyway and the consequences be damned! Like Bernard Jordan who told the staff at his care home, “I’m going out for a while …” after they told him that he couldn’t go to Normandy for the D-Day memorial events. But he went anyway and those who told him “no” welcomed him back with applause! Bernard’s day out saw him negotiating a bus and ferry trip to pay his respects to those who fell in the events and after D-Day. No regulations and rules were going to stop him – that’s the spirit that won the war! If some of the present day ‘elf-and-safety’ crowd were around in 1944 they’d have had the whole fleet wearing high-vis jackets and “Mae Wests” in case they fell overboard en route to the Continent.

It is also fitting that Mr Jordan hails from Brighton and Hove – the town where Rutters Stocktakers is head-quartered. Mr Jordan was also mayor there once and moves are afoot to have the Freedom of the City bestowed on him. I suppose it was easy for Mr Jordan to sit at the care home and ponder his moves seeing as you can virtually see Normandy from Brighton. Sometimes breaking the dictats of others is a no-brainer.

One wonders what the safety officers will make of the chef in Grantham in Lincolnshire who has invented a curry that is three times hotter than pepper spray. Apparently the customers who want it are made to sign a disclaimer warning of the consequences of eating it. For those hot food aficionados, this brew is 12 million on the Scoville heat measurement scale. What other stocktaker has to include goggles and gloves for the chef and gloves for the customers in his customer’s inventory?

It would be curious to know why people put themselves through that type of heat-experience … but hats off to the chef whose seen ‘an opening‘ in the market for this type of nuclear curry dish, boldly going where no gastronome has been before.

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“Does my bum look big on this bar stool?”

vegetablesA recent Oxfam report indicates that the Netherlands is the best place to eat. But before all the gastronomes rush to cross the Channel from the country in 13th position (Britain) the report is not referring to the quality of the restaurants. No, the study is taking all kinds of other factors into account like access to food and produce, affordability, and diet-related diseases etc. It’s referring to ‘healthiest diet.’ Other countries in the top 12 were Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Australia, Luxembourg and Portugal.

But the report indicates that the Dutch show tendencies towards obesity with nearly 20% of the population having a BMI (body mass index) of more than 30. In case you didn’t know, the ideal BMI is between 18 and 25. But just how the average person measures this is not made clear … “he looks like a 23 to me.”

“Never! Much closer to a 20… hardly any wobble at all!”

The good news for those who are watching their calorie count is that the JD Wetherspoon chain have made it easy to pop down to the pub and have a meal of under 500 calories. They haven’t limited the calorie count on their drinks yet, so it’s up to the diner to watch that part of their intake. Their dishes sound quite appetizing – not at all like a friend who was on a 500 calorie-per-dish diet and remarked that the pile of leaves on his plate served up by his missus didn’t look like it was enough to keep a slug happy!

Hopefully the kitchen staff in the Wetherspoon pubs have one of those ultra sensitive Blumenthal-style scales that measures everything to the grain. All they need is someone in their eating area whipping out their own Propoints scale and checking that their Caeser salad (sans bacon) is not a fraction over “the allowance for the day” and then kicking up a fuss. One wonders whether ‘calorie count’ is in Jon Rutter’s stocktaker’s brief when they comment on profit margins and discuss ways of maximising value.

More good news (of sorts) for punters is that the Government plan to extend opening hours beyond the final whistle when England play in the World Cup. (Remember the concern a while back about closing times and the relationship to when England play their matches in Brazil?) The curve ball regarding the relaxing of the hours the pubs can stay open is that the Whitehall spokesman said that they have allowed for England being in penalty shoot-outs. Let’s hope it doesn’t come down to that!

And for those pubs who don’t have sports channels to share football or other sports with their customers, Money-Makers have come up with some ideas of pulling in more business. One is that you could install a cinema room in your pub to keep the kids happy and occupied while mum and dad socialize with friends (… or weigh their salads). Another idea is to introduce ‘tribute dishes’ that let you share favourite meals or cuisines that famous people enjoyed. These, and other ideas have already been implemented by some establishments and they can attest to their success. Reports are that some of these moves “stimulate customer interest and also generate strong emotional attachment to the pub.”

If England have to go to penalties at 1 in the morning it would be hard to imagine what the “Roy Hodgson tribute meal” might be. The “strong emotional attachment” to certain pubs might backfire on the landlords!

Hold on to your ‘toque’ … the Chefs are on the run!

Over the years many chefs and restaurants have striven to emulate the standards set by the French in the field of cuisine. In the background there has been a cultural war going on as to which nation produces the best food, the best plating, the best techniques. And the perception has been that cost’ has reflected quality – if it costs less, “… then it can’t possibly be as good as Monsieur Chef down the road whose food is frightfully dearer.” Most people have heard of the Michelin Guide and some will glibly boast of having eaten at a 2-star restaurant without really knowing what that means.

modern-table-setting-1013tm-pic-1185Not many have heard of the Gault-Millau culinary ‘rankings’ (pronounced: “go meeyo”). Among the French some even regard this as the food Oscars but compare the Michelin Guide as being the mere Cannes, Palme d’Or of food – still glitzy but not as significant. But those in the know are suggesting that the halcyon days of charging a small fortune for a smear on a plate with a scallop or two and some flowers are over. Restaurateur Jean-Claude Vrinat indicates, among other things that restaurateurs “Re-examine your economic policies, and think of the consumer’s pocketbook.” Cheers from all the consumers out there! (This is what good stocktakers have been doing for their clients for years – constantly examining, re-evaluating and adjusting to keep the client and the consumers happy).

Some trivia here: apparently the Gault-Millau culinary ‘rankings’ work on a score up to 20 and then the restaurant/chef may display from one to five toques (five being the highest). A toque is the correct name for the headgear that a chef wears. Which possibly explains why the Aussies rate their chefs as “1, 2 or 3-hatted” – maybe they just don’t speak French that well.

Looks can be deceptive. This was borne out by the police in Nottingham who nabbed a beggar for something and discovered the chap was carrying £800.00 in notes and small change on him. The proceeds of his three days work. The police also don’t believe that he’s homeless, as he claimed. However they had to let him go, with the dosh. So if a pub or restaurant in that area happen to have what might look like a dodgy character pitch up and ask for a brew and a nice meal, don’t be so quick to move him on. He could be loaded and just wanting a bit of peace and quiet!

The security at Tesco had no difficulty in identifying a horse in their shop in Co Durham though. The recent craze that has been sweeping the world, “neknominations” was played out by the lass on the horse downing a Pepsi (instead of alcohol) as she accepted her nomination and then challenged some friends of hers to upload their own videos within 24 hours. (The “neknomination” challenge is to nominate someone to down a drink in one go while having it videoed, then to nominate two others to do the same within 24 hours). While some of these challenges have been accepted by the nominees with fun and good grace, there have been some tragic events in the aftermath of the craze as people seek to do more and more outrageous things to better those who have nominated them for the challenge. Others have turned their nominations into opportunities to engage in acts of kindness to others less fortunate, making the video and then challenging others to do similar things instead of consuming alcohol.

Organisations and clubs like Rutters Stocktakers, Brighton Rugby Club and others are always up for a bit of harmless fun in the same way some have used the “neknomination” opportunities given to them to help those in their communities – all it takes is planning and dedication – just like making any business a success.

Nearly 500 years old … and NOW it’s a fire concern?

English is a funny language in the sense that it has words that have originated from other languages but are regarded as “English words” – like booze, bungalow, shampoo or magazine! The English also like to use the names of people or events for naming places – like The Fawcett Inn, after Lieutenant Alexander Fawcett of the 95th Regiment who was killed in India in 1853 or “The Eagle and Child” based on a local legend in Oxfordshire.

Many pubs are named after some seemingly insignificant people. Insignificant to us today, but notable enough back in the day when their celebrity was such that a place was named in their honour. Such places abound in names of soldiers like Fawcett (above) and Alfred Herring, who won a VC for his role at the battle at Montagne Bridge in 1918. There’s also a fair number named after authors, sportsmen and captains of industry from bygone eras. One wonders what factors were taken into account in the naming process. It was probably a combination of favouritism, respect, popularity, notoriety and patriotism.

You’d expect people like Jon Rutter and his team to have crossed the thresholds of some of the most interestingly named establishments in their quest to look after the stocktaking interests of their customers. And their stocktaking role would play a significant part in keeping many of these places operating efficiently in this competitive industry.

You’d also expect, as you enter some of these places, that the landlords would be able to tell you about the origin of the name and the history of the place he proudly calls his patch. Or at least, there would be some kind of plaque, or sign or display for interested patrons to read that would help them enjoy the atmosphere or significance of the place.

But if red tape and bureaucracy have their way, patrons entering the Minerva Inn might think that they were only entering a pub named after the Roman goddess of wisdom and not Sir Francis Drake’s favourite pub! It contains woodwork and artifacts from some of the spoils of the Armada! It is the place that press gangs operated from! It is Plymouth’s oldest serving public house, circa 1540!

Revenge plate

No. If “health-and-safety” had their way then the historic, Grade II listed building that has survived unscathed since the 16th Century, that has also survived the bombing of the blitz, and countless re-development around it and having been redecorated in 1999 would have to have all the beams and woodwork painted over with fire-retardant paint, leaving nothing to be seen of its rich history.

This would mean that original woodwork (possibly some that even Sir Francis himself leaned against) and all the signatures of soldiers going off to war (some never to return) would all be obliterated. The fire service have indicated to the owners that it is their job to “safeguard heritage from the ravages of fire.”

Owners Mr and Mrs Jones put it very well when they said, “… it’s a 16th century timber framed building. If it catches fire, I’m not sure a coat of paint is going to do it much good.” They are trying to find a solution in a type of varnish that won’t be opaque.

Sir Francis wouldn’t be amused! He’d probably be thinking, why is all this happening now and not in 1999 when the place was redone? A fire service officer wouldn’t have lasted long on the deck of the Revenge.