The Christmas Markets Holiday 2017

The last few blogs of this November effort find me on my last holiday of the year, drinking and discovering the Christmas markets of North West Germany. 

Last night we arrived in Dusseldorf and today, Saturday 25th, we have spent time in Wuppertal, Hagen, Bochum, Essen.

Wuppertal’s main feature is it’s transport network of the suspended railway system named the Schwebebahn (spelling to be clarified later) which really is an engineering marvel of steam punk levels. Whilst the trains are not particularly large, they are frequent and combine both old and new designs of ‘trains’. The header photo is of a scale model I saw in a brewpub.

Hagen was sadly nothing to do with the ice brand, but did contain one of the best German Christmas markets I have had the pleasure of visiting.

As for Bochum and Essen, both were larger cities offering a great experience in the cold. Bochum saw us arrive in the dark and sampling an excellent local spirit. Essen offered a larger market in the city centre.

The concept of the Christmas market has arrived in the UK over the past few decades, and now there are a number of efforts in the UK at a Christmas market, but it’s worth the effort to see how it’s done in a number of small towns. 


The End of Black Friday

Add Black Friday to May Day riots and Christmas Jumper Day, it’s another day that was embraced for a while and swiftly forgotten.

The video ( from Curry’s PC World on London’s Oxford Street showed 2 people waiting to go in at the opening. The days of fights for a cut price flatscreen and long lines for a bargain seem to have lasted only a matter of a few years, with the majority of offers now online for the savvy shopper.

The concept of Black Friday goes back to the 1950s in the USA but here in Europe, it’s more of a new concept. Therefore, if the evidence does suggest that what was a short boom for retailers and it is now over. I don’t think this is a surprise though, the concept of black Friday was it was equivalent to the British Boxing Day, after the celebration comes the shopping and the retailers are all too keen to cash in.

So is it because of a lack of acknowledgement for Thanksgiving in the UK that Black Friday has apparently ceased to be? Perhaps yes, but also shopping is mostly done online these days for reasons of availability, convenience and because some people just prefer not to go through the process of shopping in person.

So RIP Black Friday, a lot of us will not miss you.

2:1 Graduate to sue Oxford University

I saw this news on the BBC last night, that an Oxford University graduate, who got a degree with a 2:1 grade, is to take legal action over the grading.

As someone who came out of education with grades much lower than I should have achieved but with a pretty decent career so far, I wonder what precedent this could set. For example, in the unlikely event that this even sees a court room, if the plaintiff is successful then what example will this set for others who were unsatisfied? Will be taking legal action be the new way to get a qualification reviewed?

To date, I don’t know if it’s even possible to get a degree grade reviewed and what are your chances of getting a reviewed? I went through a process of getting an A-level grade reviewed and was given a completely unsatisfactory response by the company responsible, in particular that they named the wrong book in relation to what I had studied for A-level English.

For me, the marking and grading process is far too hidden, and even though it has been over 20 years since I did those exams, I regret not kicking off more of a storm regarding that lousy review which would have set more of a precedent for those suffering the same problems.

As for this person taking legal action against Oxford University, this may be for the press attention, but even if it shows the shadiness of marking and grading which has such an effect upon a person’s life, then it will be a success.

RIP and Remember Jana Novotna

There is a case in news of the overshadowed death. It’s not a pleasant thing to report, as often someone who has lived a great and prosperous life dies on the same day as someone who the news focuses on.

The current case is that of 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, who stole hearts in 1993 after shedding tears after losing to Steffi Graf, who died yesterday on the same day as serial killer and sometime musician Charles Manson. As it turned out, the news deemed the death of Manson to be more newsworthy and a larger reporting issue than that of Novotna.

There’s been others through history: take Groucho Marx and Elvis Presley, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, or even Mother Theresa and Princess Diana (who died a few days apart) and of course Dodi Fayed. In those cases one person’s death was practically overshadowed by the other. Is it nice to have to pick one? No of course not, but ultimately it’s choice of the editor to pick the one that will draw the bigger headlines or audience.

In cases of Manson and Novotna, many people may not have thought about either for years, and one person had a great sporting career winning a pinnacle tennis tournament, the other made some bad music and murdered a group of people, including a pregnant woman.

Of course its a tough decision, but ultimately the news editor has to make the choice on which to focus on and the results will not always be popular.

30 Years since the King’s Cross Fire

This weekend saw the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the King’s Cross fire. I was 11 when this happened and living a long way from London, but my dad had been in London regularly and it’s amazing to hear that there was a time when you could smoke on the trains and commuting areas, and the conditions were so filthy that a stray lit match caused this disaster.

I now travel through Kings Cross every morning and whilst I don’t alight here every day, I have seen the various memorials in the station and the reality of what happened never passes me by.

While many lives were lost and others changed forever, this was another example of how the emergency services are so crucial to the transport system. The enusing investigation led to changes that are now enabling a safe and secure London underground.

This also gave the country a fair understanding of the effects of PTSD which was suffered by those firefighters caught up in the disaster.

There was a lengthy documentary made by Channel 5 which interviewed several survivors. If you are able to see this it’s not an easy watch, but it shines a light on one of the great disasters of the 1980s in London.

The byline of Wise

This week the full line up for annual TV extravaganza that is “I’m Celebrity – get me out of here!” was announced. Or as some may call it, “I can’t believe it is still getting commissioned, who else is left to appoint?”


I haven’t watched the show regularly in a long time, save the odd episode, and it’s a format that works and I assume, provides ITV with a lot of column inches with the more outrageous the participant. While it lacks Big Brother’s amateur talent, it doesn’t require the talent-learning that Strictly Come Dancing, Celebrity Masterchef or Dancing On Ice demand.


However among this week’s new crop of jungle guests was former footballer Dennis Wise. In a couple of articles that I read, Wise was described as a “football hard nut”. Now he may have been a hard tackler, but what bothered me was this is a former England international, two-time player of the year for Chelsea, three time FA cup winner and winner of the 1998 UEFA Cup Winners Cup.


I’m no big fan of Wise, but to have your career summed up as “hard nut” for those who are possibly not aware of his career, is a great shame upon him and his career. After all, was a part of the 1988 Wimbledon side who shocked Liverpool with a win, he’s a former manager of Millwall (and less to say about spells at Leeds United and Newcastle).


We all become a byline in the pages of history eventually, but to categorise him simply as a hard nut, is a shame as far as I am concerned.

Once upon a Spurs blog post, a wish came true

Some years ago I wrote a blog for the Spurs fansite The Fighting Cock about how Tottenham Hotspur were not attending the local remembrance Sunday service on the Tottenham High Road. 

I published the blog, I wrote the club letters, I made requests by social media and did get something of a response via the official supporters trust. They flagged to me that the club had attended a remembrance Sunday service at the war memorial nearer to Haringey council in Wood Green.

I had given up some hope that the club cared, and now further away than ever before in Wembley as the new stadium is being built, I assumed we had seen the last of the club showing to the Tottenham memorial service.

However, walking along the Tottenham high road this morning I took a moment to look at the wreaths that had been laid. There amongst them was one from Tottenham Hotspur, and it was the largest (we will over look the fact that it was upside down!)

There is a real sense of satisfaction here, that the club listened and acknowledged the community that it is such a strong part of structurally. I just hope that this leads to further activity from the club in the local community, but this counts as another day that I’m proud of my (soon to be) local club.