March, 2013

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The search for the perfect pub

As part of my blog I will be posting articles I have written for other sites, as examples of my work. Below is a recent example I created for an online blog.

history-of-pubs-1If you’ve ever tried to organise a large gathering of people in one place, you will know how difficult it is to please everyone. The location, the time, who should and shouldn’t be invited – all of this is however forgotten (eventually) if you pick the right place to meet.  In 1949, George Orwell wrote a short article for the Evening Standard listing the requirements for the perfect pub.  The Moon Under Water, Orwell’s mythical perfect drinking establishment, has sadly dated. Pewter and strawberry-pink china mugs have disappeared, and the less said about liver sausage the better. Inspired by his search, I have compiled the updated top ten requirements when looking for a pub to meet everyone’s needs:

1. Fixtures and fittings

Any bar or pub that has been professionally designed will not give your evening an authentic feel. A wine bar is for dresses and suits, leaning on high tables discussing work whilst avoiding hitting your head on pink chandeliers that are hanging almost to the ground. A good pub should be eccentric, and preferably in it’s original condition. Floors must be made of wood, as a glass will be dropped at some point. A selection of tables and chairs should be bagged early in the evening – firstly for coats and bags, and latterly for respite from alcoholic endeavours. The pub should be spacious without being large, otherwise you will suffer constant barging. Most importantly, in my view, is a working eclectic jukebox.

Not enough screens!

Not enough screens!

2. Games and televisions

Boxed board games signal a place to drink coffee – the caffeine appeases you when you discover the slices in Trivial Pursuit are missing. Pool tables should be in a separate area; too often I have been hit in the stomach by a rogue cue (usually accidentally). You should be aware of sporting events. If you are there to watch one, make sure there are screens visible at most angles. Try to avoid supporters’ clubs, as these are a closed entity that dont take kindly to interlopers. If your group hate sport, find a pub with no screens.

3. Sound levels

There should be some background noise, but it shouldn’t be so loud that it interferes with your conversation.  If the place is too busy, the sound and the bustle will make it impossible to talk or even stand together.

4. Bar staff

Speed is a must.  That and being able to work the till quickly. I often find surly bar staff the best as they want you at the bar less than you want to spend at it.

5. Smoking

It may be banned inside, but you should consider the poor individuals who crave cigarettes rather than alcohol. A pub with an adequate area to stand outside, preferably with heaters and some cover from the rain is a must. Pubs surrounded by narrow paths, or penned areas, should be avoided – let us roam free, we are not nicotine veal!

This is not the food you are looking for. Move on.

This is not the food you are looking for. Move on.

6. Bar snacks

A good range of crisps should be available behind the bar at all times. Scampi Fries and Pork Scratching’s are also a good sign of a quality establishment. A bowl of chips for a warmer snack is also acceptable. Cheese boards, sausages in glasses, and battered calamari is gastro food hiding as snacks. They also take up too much room on your table, which will lead to problems with where to put empty glasses later.

7. Meals

Treat gastro pubs as a restaurant in disguise (and with disgust). Pub food should be hearty, traditional and inexpensive. This is not to be confused with cheap! Meals are there for those who are hungry, and should not interfere with conversation or drinking. Braised cheeks and oxtail should remain in discussions on the latest Masterchef.

8. Beverages on offer

A selection of tipples (not to be mixed)

A selection of tipples (not to be mixed)

Although a bar may offer a wide range of spirits and wines, it leads to a messy night very quickly. The perfect pub however must offer a wide range of beverages: ales; lagers; ciders; spirits; and, a small range of wines. The more wines, the pricier the alcohol. Having a range pleases everyone, and also guarantees a varied clientele who will be more accepting of your group’s presence.

9. Glasses

Every liquor has an appropriate glass. Anywhere that serves cider in a stemmed glass, or coke in a wine glass should be avoided. Straws should be available if the drinker wants them. Above all, glasses must be clean.

10. Pub gardens

Unless you live in a village, such sites are becoming rare. Often the garden is a few picnic tables on the path in front of a pub. Gardens should be secluded (i.e. contained). Tables and chairs should be made of wood; metal freezes the parts not even Guinness can reach. If you are offered blankets my advice is to move on – unless you are Miss Marple or live in Sweden, it is needlessly excessive and pretentious.

Now, these requirements are elusive in any one pub. You will have to sacrifice some in any location, and endure the disquiet from a small portion of your group. By following them however you can make the moaners a minority. If you ever do find the perfect pub, above all else, tell no one. Sometimes even you need a perfect secret place to hide from the masses!

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Where were you when…?

As part of my blog I will be posting articles I have written for other sites, as examples of my work. Below is a recent example I created for an online blog.

We all remember where we were when JFK was shot – right? How about when man landed on the moon? Unlikely.  For many in my generation these are phrases which we cannot relate to. I was neither alive nor a glimmer in my mother’s eye. There are moments more recent however that have resonated on all our lives, so even our generation has a “where were you…” question to ponder. These are the ones that I remember exactly where I was, and why.

ReadyTerrorismThe 9/11 attack

Rather than a moment, this was the day the world stood still and watched the story unfold on 24 hour news services. I was sitting in work, editing proofs, when I received an email from my friend. She had heard something had hit the World Trade Center. I asked those on my desk and my friends on email, receiving much mockery at my gullibility. Luckily our small work kitchen had a television, to which I escaped – my first image was watching footage of the second plane hitting the tower. It was a moment when time stopped. One moment far away suddenly drew everyone together in disbelief and panic. The internet froze, emails rushed over the sea to check any one you knew in America was safe, people put down their work and went home. Images of people climbing out of windows, falling bodies, towers falling – it was a Hollywood disaster that stopped us all for a moment in unison.


live_aid_wembleyLive Aid

It was a boiling hot day, yet my entire family spent the day indoors – apart from the brief dash into town to get more Beta-max blank videos (in my Uncle’s bright blue Robin Reliant – I had never felt so cool). Up until this time I had been exposed to Top of the Pops, and my parents rather limited record collection – Dire Straits, Wham!, The Rolling Stones and Elvis Costello. A peculiar mix. With the windows wide open, a BBQ choking up the backyard and a whole bottle of fizzy pop (a rarity) it was a day when music suddenly seemed to matter. I could hear my neighbours shouting out of their windows “Hurry up, Duran Duran are on!”, and the same music buzzed out of every window and car. Through our tiny television, I felt as if I was in the crowd. There was an angry scarecrow demanding people to listen (I am still scared of Bob Geldolf) – and he swore! And then there was Queen, Bowie, Jagger with Tina Turner…I’ll admit, I was even excited at Dire Straits doing Money for Nothing with Sting. I was young! It was probably the first and last international telethon that drew everyone in, with its novelty and naive hope.

dessieThat sporting moment

Everyone has a sporting memory that defines a moment in their life. For my friends it includes: the 2005 Ashes; England beating Germany; Johnnie Wilkinson’s drop goal; or Arsenal’s Invicibles season. Mine however is Desert Orchid winning the 1989 Gold Cup. This was a great horse with all of the odds stacked against him – he couldn’t handle muddy ground or left-handed tracks. As a massive fan, I hoped rather than expected a win. Rushing home from school (I may have bunked a class) I sat in front of the TV to witness the grittiest come back I had ever seen. He went eyeball to eyeball, and with pure will pushed on to win despite it all. It is a moment that still makes me shout and punch the air, that cold March day when I saw sometimes anything is possible. I may have also accidentally bounced on a cat, who never really recovered. I’ve seen many unbelievable moments live since – Denman’s Gold Cup, and Frankel’s demolition of the Guineas, but that day in a living room in Newmarket (where Dessie would later retire) was the most exciting. It was the year the Berlin Wall came down, and Torvill and Dean won gold with Bolero. It was a year of hope. Almost…

Hillsborough disaster


The Hillsborough disaster

I did not grow up in a house that watched football. My secret love had to be satisfied watching the scores come in as tea was made, or switching channels when people left the room. It was on one of these diversions that my sister and I stumbled upon the Hillsborough disaster, live. Commentary was not as sophisticated as it is now, so you had to rely on what you were seeing. It was like a jigsaw of people, slowly as they were unfurled on the pitch it began to dawn on you – this isnt a pitch invasion, something all too familiar in the 1980s. The idea that a trip to the football could end in this was shocking. This moment however only grew in significance as the press coverage, accusations and eventually the truth was revealed. Like the slow reactions on the day, this is an event that built into something very different. My memory is just watching my own ignorance get stripped away – never act on your first assumption.

Murder most horrid

Everyone’s life is marked by a murder that has happened somewhere in the world. In the 60s, people were disgusted by the Moors Murders.  Sutcliffe and the Manson Family added madness to the 70s. The two cases that impacted on my own psyche were both connected to children: James Bulger, and the Soham murders.

Bulger_cctvWhen James Bulger was kidnapped I was spending my first holiday away from my family, a week with my pen pal in Manchester. We sat in horror watching the news, with the grainy CCTV images showing scenes no one could imagine. As naive children, we tried to find reasons or excuses for what we were seeing, as our parents constantly called and worried. It was an event that defied explanation, and shook many people out of their childhood into the horrors of the world.

The murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman was much closer to home. During the search, I was staying with my family in the Fens. My sister lived just outside Soham, so every journey across the flat horizon you would see lines of police scouring the landscape. No children were ever on the streets, and every village sat in eerie silence, watching their televisions and guessing who among their neighbours could be involved. Rumours and truths ran rampant. On the day of the funeral, I was driving back home. Van loads of police were parked in silence at petrol stations, who I vaguely amused as my pet rats ate their crisps. My lasting memory is of the voyeurs undertaking a murder tour of the village, stopping outside the church to take pictures. It was the day I saw how murder affects a community, compared to the curiosity the world demands answers to. It also showed me the truth in an event, compared to the press coverage that appears.

What about you?

These were my “where were you…?” moments, although there are many more that could be shared these had the most impact on me. Strangely in my most formative years. Now, where were you? What did I miss out?

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Reference board for Artists

New Forest poniesFTO has created a reference board for equine artists and enthusiasts. Using Pinterest, this board can be followed or photos repinned, so it is easy to access and refer to. It is also cheap to maintain and add to. It already has over 100 followers, and is being linked to by a number of artists.

It currently covers:

  • Anatomy
  • A range of breeds, including all Mountain and Moorlands
  • Examples of equine colours

Should artists have ideas of other areas to include, please write to me at:



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Using Facebook to sell your riding stables

ridingschool1There are many ways to exploit existing places on the internet to sell your business – places that are not only free but easy to maintain. I have created a number of business pages on Facebook, integrated with special apps and linked to social media. Once the building blocks are made, all you need to do is update it!

I have created an example of how Riding Schools can use Facebook to keep in touch with prospective and existing riders. This can be integrated with Twitter, YouTube, and linked to by other online sites (such as feed suppliers, lecture tours, accredited groups for riding schools etc.) FTO can create the page, insert specific apps, design logo’s as well as identify places to link to to attract prospective clients.

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Nail biting – tic or mental disorder?

As part of my blog I will be posting articles I have written for other sites, as examples of my work. Below is a recent example I created for a medical query website.

Nail bitingWith news in 2012 that the American Psychiatric Association was reclassifying nail biting as “an obsessive compulsive disorder”, should we start to take this nervous tic more seriously, or is it another case of overreaction?

Why do people bite their nails?

Nail biting originates from natural grooming behaviours, taken to an extreme level – this is known as pathological grooming and includes nail biting, skin picking and hair pulling. It tends to start during childhood, with over 45% of teenagers biting their nails compulsively at some point. While a number outgrow this, it does continue into adulthood. Sometimes it is triggered by stress or depression – it has been proved in studies that nail biters feel an instant reward when biting the “right nail”, control in a world of chaos. Other times the habit becomes attached to other behaviour, such as reading a book. Continuous nail biting however forms part of an OCD diagnosis, and is usually linked with other behaviours such as compulsive hand washing.  The habit is not triggered by anything external or emotional, it is just compulsive.

Is it dangerous?

This depends on how extreme the condition is. Many people bite their nails with no long term effect. However extreme cases can cause bleeding, infection, and the nail to become deformed over time. Cuticles are often damaged, which is painful and can potentially lead to viral infections. It can also damage teeth, chipping enamel, or scratching gums. If the urge becomes compulsive however, it can take over your time, making tasks difficult to complete quickly or causing situations where you avoid activities.

Is it curable?

As with all habits, it can be broken – as long as you have the will power to do it. There are many methods. This includes:

  • Painting your nails – there are many bitter tasting nail treatments that discourage you from attempting to bite your nails. Painting with coloured nail polish also physically shows the damage you are doing. As this behaviour is about physical grooming, it can help reinforce the urge to quit.
  • Wear fake nails – this protects the growing nail, and also are too strong to bite.
  • Putting plasters over the nails – if you cannot get to the nails, it stops you biting them as well as helping the skin and nail recover.
  • Replacing it with a different activity – keeping the hands busy, such as knitting or using a stress ball, can help distract the urge to bite nails.  Some people find eating carrot sticks help replace the need, although you should be careful not to replace one habit with another.
  • Setting a goal to give up – will power is a strong requirement to stopping any habit. Set yourself a goal, first to stop biting one specific finger. Slowly build this up, rewarding yourself as you hit each target.
  • Find out why you bite – sometimes knowing the cause helps stop the behaviour before it starts.  If it is caused by stress, you can try meditation or yoga to help curb the tension. If it is depression, you can look at the specific cause and address the problem directly.
  • Seek treatment – if your condition is extreme, you should consult a Doctor. Treatment for OCD can range from prescription drugs to cognitive behavioural therapy.
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115 Thoughtful Cardinals

As part of my blog I will be posting articles I have written for other sites, as examples of my work. Below is a recent example I created for an online blog.

popeNow to many of us the election of a new Pope seems very similar to the appointment of a new England manager – except with slightly better costumes. So what are the key things to know about choosing God’s representative on Earth…

Firstly the 115 Cardinals who are voting must be locked in the conclave throughout the voting period. No television, newspapers, or phones are allowed – the WiFi is turned off and jammers are used to stop any communication with the outside world. With the sheer volume of Cardinals on Twitter, this must make the atmosphere more like a modern, twitchier 12 Angry Men, than the traditional Borgia feast. Poison or itchy Twitter fingers…both hard to live with.

Every Cardinal gets one vote per ballot. To elect a Pope, two-thirds of the Conclave must agree on one individual. For the first three days, four votes can take place per day. This can extend on for an additional 24 days until the vote is cut down to the two front runners; then the deciding vote is cast.

After every vote, a fire is lit to tell those outside whether the Pope has been selected. Black smoke follows every failed vote. Once agreed, white smoke is released through the chimney on the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. Stoves are brought in specially to produce this smoke, which is created by chemical smoke bombs. This protects the Sistine Chapel from any damage, and also ensures the correct colour is released. Even the flume is preheated, and additional fans added to ensure the smoke is immediate and visible. This is undoubtedly a new method for the Catholic Church, it is unlikely that science would be so embraced in the early days of the papal, where wood and zinc would most likely have been used.

What is unclear is how the Cardinals will vote. Prior to the lock down, speeches are given to instruct the conclave of the points that should be considered. This would cover advice on what a leader needs to address, whether they want a progressive or steady approach. Clearly, a powerful steer will influence many Cardinals – but should it? Should each man not represent their diocese, their beliefs in what needs to change? There is a rule that omits anyone over 80 years of age voting, but to achieve the height of Cardinal requires a number of years’ service – this can hardly promise anything but incremental change. Very few bodies in or followers of the Catholic Church address these concerns, even though it is expressed in the media frequently.

So what, if anything, should change? New technology has been introduced to ensure privacy and clear communication of the vote. The choice however is clandestine. This is a process that has existed for hundreds of years, with minor improvements to stop bias. No one seems to question the process or the result. It is of course very difficult to argue with the man nearest to God, who is also the only one who can endorse any changes to a process that elected him to the position.

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Life before FTO

Before I created FTO, I worked on a number of websites. Below is a list of them for potential customers to review, with links provided where possible.


* = All of these sites are now being migrated to GOV.UK, which replaced all Government online information websites in 2012. Links have been provided to the National Archives historical copies.

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Website under construction

ConstructionHello – if you have discovered this site, it will become clear that it is under construction. We are looking to launch over the next few weeks, but up to date information on For Tomorrow Online can be found on our Facebook page. Come back soon to see our range of services, as well as to keep up to date with our blog on work underway.

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