Check these out – lovely.
I used to love the film boxes…
Sorry, I couldn’t resist that.
My good friend Jonathan is a farmer and we’ve got to know each other through the medium of meat. He raises cattle for his own farm shop on the border between Leeds and Bradford (we call it bandit country round here) and from time to time he can get hold of some ‘special stuff’.
On this occasion it was a wild hare. I’ve had rabbit before so I kind of knew what to expect but nothing prepares you for the size of a wild hare: it’s bright eyes on steroids.
Those of you who know me well and follow my tweets will know I’m up for anything unusual from a food perspective and a wild hare is no exception. I have to confess the thought of a jugged hare with all its skin still attached was slightly daunting, so Jonathan kindly offered to skin and draw the magnificent beast.
Game is usually hung for quite some time with all it’s guts still in there to ripen the ‘high’ flavour which is much sought after by aficionados. I, on the other hand, bottled it after hanging it for 7 days or so after following Hugh’s sage advice in the River Cottage Meat Book (my bible in these matters).
Jonathan made pretty swift work of the gutting and skinning of the hare and after keeping the liver and ‘jugged’ blood for the sauce, the head and feet were chopped and we had a rather grisly looking carcass. It’s on these occasions it’s handy not only to have a farmer on hand, but a trained butcher too and of course Jonathan is both.
Next job is cooking the bad boy and that’s a weekend job – this post is the first instalment. Hopefully I’ll be able to do the hare justice and cook it to perfection.
Those of you of a sensitive disposition, look away now…
Given that I promised to cut down on my alcohol intake by not drinking midweek, it made my recent trip to the Scotch Whisky Experience all the more painful.
We’d been invited in to talk about a potential new project and part of the day included a guided tour of the impressive and recently refurbished visitor attraction.
Situated right next to Edinburgh Castle, the Scotch Whisky Experience (I’ll call it SWE from now of if you don’t mind) should be on every tourist’s to do list when visiting the Scottish capital, regardless of whether you like a wee dram or not.
Whisky can be as complicated as wine and an entire industry has grown up around it in terms of the appreciation and understanding of the amber liquid. I certainly wouldn’t profess to be an expert but my favourite malt whisky has to be Laphroig Quarter Cask from Islay. Smoky, peaty and containing more than a hint of petroleum (really) it sums up all that is lovely about the art of making really great whisky.
I digress. Next time you’re in Edinburgh, pay a visit to one of the city’s most impressive attractions – particularly the room above which contains the largest whisky collection in the world.
And try not to do as I did, go in the middle of the week when you’re trying to lay off the drink…
The wait is finally over.
British Sea Power release their new album Valhalla Dancehall *stifles cheer*.
It has a reassuringly bonkers cover featuring a three-legged horse set amidst a three coloured triangle. For the first time ever, the CD has a plastic tray and a booklet (Rough Trade have splashed a bit of extra cash here) complete with lyrics and everything.
Regular readers of this blog will be well versed in my obsession with the indie rock band cum national treasures that are BSP. I first saw them live in a small tent at a festival, surrounded by foliage and stuffed birds of prey – and the rest is history. I’d go as far as to say that they are my favourite band (am I too old to have a favourite band, I sound like a teenager…?) and I’m listening to the new album as I write this.
Predictably, I’d say that this could be their breakthrough album, but do I want it to be?
Sure it would be good to see the band receive some commercial success to go along with their critical accolades (the last album scraped a Mercury nomination), but I’m not sure that’s really why the band do what they do. I think if they made a shedload of cash with this album they’d only go and buy some dilapidated hill fort somewhere and record the next album there, with Victorian recording equipment, in the depths of winter, probably.
But if they became too successful, I wouldn’t be able to get tickets for the small, quirky gigs they play in social clubs and caverns and the camaraderie the fans enjoy would disappear. They’d play bigger, more soulless venues and I’d just get annoyed.
So even though I think this album is a work of genius, I’ll be keeping it QT. Unfortunately there are some rave revues for this album in the national press that are doing exactly the opposite.
If anyone asks me if I can recommend incandescent, richly textured music chock full of hooky tunes, I’ll shrug my shoulders in a non-committal way and point them in the direction of Arcade Fire.
I think this record is pitched perfectly: good enough to broaden their audience considerably, whilst at the same time it will never be palatable to the mainstream music hoi polloi.
Starbucks have done some pretty interesting things with their brand in the last few years.
I remember reading Naomi Klein‘s powerful and iconic book ‘No Logo’ a good few years ago. In that book, she named and shamed Starbucks as one of the main corporate aggressors in the continued pummeling of independent coffee shops.
Fast forward a few years and it seemed like Starbuck were on the run – struggling in the increasingly competitive space in the UK and their ubiquity seemingly becoming a noose around their neck. They even launched a range of unbranded coffee shops as part of their bid to mitigate the corporate beast tag.
Interesting, then to see the latest iteration of the Starbucks brand…
The brand has developed over time (as does pretty much every major brand) and this latest iteration has completely dropped the word coffee from the brand. Of course, it’s all in the application and I’d be very interested to see how this one rolls out. But it’s quite dramatic in my opinion – clearly they have big plans for the brand and it’s not just in the coffee arena.
I’ve seen Starbucks moving increasingly in the retail arena and suspect this is the main reason: brand extension and where else might we bring the powerful Starbucks brand to bear? I’m not entirely convinced the brand has enough of the right kind of equity to stretch into other areas beyond food and beverage, but I’ll be following its progress avidly.
Interesting to see that the launch of the new brand was via webcast to barista, at least they got that right – launch to the key internal audiences first.
On reflection, I do feel like it’s the kind of brand development that will get the brand pundits twittering endlessly and probably leave the consumer shrugging their shoulders, wondering what the fuss was about. It does look like a logical evolution and I’m sure the surrounding visual identity will make a lot of sense of it.
Interesting to compare this approach with the complete mess Gap made of their ill-fated rebrand and backtrack last year.
The Starbucks brand has been around for 40 years and on this evidence, they look to be moving with the times, carefully nurturing their hard-won brand equity and staying relevant to their customers in 2011 and beyond.
Here’s something that made me smile.
And wish that our filthy, uninspiring underground system in London was even vaguely close to this in terms of style, gusto and imagination.
These are shots of Sweden’s new subway system – it reminds me of a cross between a James Bond villain’s headquarters and something you might see at Disneyland. Both of which are no bad thing in my book.
I love how it plays with the notion of modernity and antiquity and the sense of being buried deep underground. The lighting plays a big part too: delivering, I suspect, great moments of drama as each corner is turned.
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how my blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary my overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.
A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 9,500 times in 2010. That’s about 23 full 747s.
In 2010, there were 93 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 108 posts. There were 248 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 38mb. That’s about 5 pictures per week.
The busiest day of the year was June 11th with 1,822 views. The most popular post that day was Brilliant.
The top referring sites in 2010 were twitter.com, blog.hardgraft.com, espn.go.com, theglobetroffers.com, and facebook.com.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for letraset, deanoblog, pantone markers, simple star wars posters, and pantone catalogue.
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
Brilliant June 2010
Hard Graft June 2010
Letraset April 2010
Brilliantine Mortality April 2008
A morning in the Henry Moore Institute March 2010
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how the blog has come along this year and I was genuinely surprised at how many visits I’ve had. I’m dead keen to up the ante in 2011 and deliver more of the same!
I’d welcome any tips on how I can keep the content coming – I find the hardest thing is to keep up to my blog when I’m so busy.
Here’s to a blogtastic 2011!