Fuel-saving fallacy…

Right, can we please lay to rest, once and for all, the nonsense, being dusted off for recirculation now fuel is so pricey, that filling your car at night gets you more fuel for your money – no it doesn’t.

It is true that chilling a fluid reduces its volume, but it takes a massive drop in ambient temperature to lower the temperature of a storage tank full of petrol, as the underground storage tanks are either double-skinned, or physically insulated, then set in concrete. It’s highly unlikely that ambient temperatures will affect anything, beyond the small amount held within the pump and, even then, it would have to sit unused for a long time.

All filling your tank at midnight will get you more of is sleep deprivation!

Food first – or biofuels?

If you think, as I do, that we should be concentrating on growing foodstuffs, and not biofuels, then you might want to register your opposition to the EU’s 10% biofuels proposals here.

The priority has to be feeding the people, we can live with maybe having to drive a bit less, we can’t live without food. And yes, I know we aren’t experiencing food shortages yet, but give it time, that’s all it needs. Farmers here are already discussing the prospect of feeding farm animals the ground-up carcases of their fellows – the very same practise that brought us BSE in the eighties – because feed prices are rocketing. Won’t that be wonderful? It’s only chickens under discussion right now, but that’s almost certainly the thin end of the wedge…

Ending, or greatly reducing, the growing of biofuels, before we get to depend on them, will put more food – human or animal, it doesn’t matter – into the system, and that’s what’s important.

Ending the practice of set-aside (whereby farmers get paid for not growing crops), is long overdue in these times of increasing shortages, but that’s an issue for another day…

Knife crime and civil liberties…

I’m getting awfully tired, here in Britain, of everyone who carries a pocket knife being branded as a rabid psychopath – it’s just not so – carrying a knife does not automatically imply a willingness to use it to butcher my fellow man, despite what our god-awful government and the Daily Mail would have you believe.

I grew up at a time when every male carried a pocket knife from a relatively early age – certainly, by the time I reached my teens it was quite normal for me to have a knife in my pocket, as did my peers, almost without exception and, 50 years later, I still do – I can’t remember a time when I haven’t carried one. Oddly enough, the number of corpses littering my course through life are zero. I would be, however, should I ever be searched by the police, considered just as guilty as some scum-bag hoodie with a 9″ pig-sticker.

In 1960, I routinely travelled to and from work with a large sheath knife hanging on my belt (I needed it in my job and, had I left it in work, it would have disappeared), and nobody batted an eyelid. Of course, in those days there was the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, whereas now the presumption is automatically of guilt, regardless of whether a crime has actually been committed – if you look as if you might commit a crime, especially if you’re black, you’re nicked, sunshine!

Right now, I have a small, very sharp (no point in a blunt knife), pocket knife with a 2″ blade and, were I to be stopped by the police, for any reason (and if I was black, I’d really need to worry about this*), it may well get me 4 or 5 years in the pokey. I can’t tell you how much that pisses me off. It is, I suppose, theoretically possible to kill someone with it, but it’d take a hell of a lot of work!

* Mind you, it has to be said that knife crime is predominantly a problem of the black communities – maybe we’d all be better off if that was where the police focused their attentions, instead of criminalising perfectly innocent people, like me.

I can hear the Mail readers in the background, muttering “Nobody needs to carry a knife – if the do they MUST be up to no good!” Bollocks! Have you ever tried to open a CD wrapper with your nails (in the interests of instant gratification, I like to play mine in the car as soon as I buy them), or open a magazine which comes in a plastic, possibly Mylar, bag, without something sharp (I like to read mine in the pub – at home I’d use scissors), as many seem to these days, particularly my digital photography mags? It saves glueing the accompanying CD or DVD to the cover, and tearing it when it’s removed – I’m not paying a fiver for a mag to have it trashed before I’ve even opened it. Then there’s opening mail – yes, I could go and get a knife from the kitchen, but why, when I can just slip my hand in my pocket? I could just stick my finger in the envelope, I suppose, and tear it, but paper cuts are not a good way to start the day!

There are a great many uses for a small pocket knife (not pen-knife, please – no-one has needed to trim a quill pen for centuries), and I see no objection to carrying one. And consider this – if I was a pipe-smoker, part of my kit would be a sharp-bladed knife with which to scrape carbon from my pipe, and as well as a blade, it would have a spike, for poking out blockages. Just as potentially lethal as my little knife, but no-one is pillorying pipe smokers (and let’s face it, they deserve persecution just for being pipe smokers!). Likewise anglers – especially sea and game anglers – routinely travel with a knife in their kit, possibly even in a pocket, and sometimes by public transport, which makes them automatically criminals. Does any of this make any sense to you? It sure as hell doesn’t to me. Do Boy Scouts, I wonder, still have a knife as part of their kit and, as they’re teenagers (shock, horror!), are they going to become the focus of unwarranted police attention some time soon? (Sorry – no pun intended!)

Carrying a knife is not prima facie evidence of intention to commit a crime – it’s not evidence of anything other, than, perhaps, the intention to clean my fingernails at some point, and it’s high time the people of this country focused on matters like this, which could potentially lead to the undermining of all our civil liberties if extended into other areas – who knows where it will stop? We could wind up with a police state, in which the government has to approve our every activity, and no-one is allowed to deviate from the Daily Mail-approved norm.

We’re not too bloody far from that now, in some areas of life. You can’t even enjoy a drink without posters and beer mats – even bottle labels – preaching at you to drink responsibly and, whatever you do, don’t you dare enjoy yourself! And why do you think cannabis has recently been upgraded? Yep – to pacify the Daily Mail, as many commentators mentioned at the time. Watch your backs, people, it could be your turn next…

COPD and DLA…

One of the search terms that brought someone to this blog was “What rate DLA will I be entitled to with COPD?), so I thought I’d try to address the question. Then I realised it was well nigh impossible without sweeping generalisations – ah well… Note: I am not an expert!

First of all, benefit rates:-

Incapacity Benefit (IB) (for as long as it remains!), has a long-term rate, I believe, of £84.50 per week (others rates are lower, short-term, for example, is £63.75), payable weekly, with supplements payable based on previous National Insurance contributions. It’s an earnings-related benefit, despite what the Daily Mail likes to scream, you have to have worked, and then become to ill to continue, to qualify – it’s not free money handed out to all and sundry on demand. The website below clarifies the eligibility situation.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is rather more complex, but the rates are as follows; it’s paid every 4 weeks:-

Mobility Component

Lower rate £17.75 per week

Higher Rate £46.75 per week

You need to qualify for the higher rate to be eligible for a Motability vehicle.

Care component

Lowest rate £17.75 per week

Middle rate £44.85 per week

Highest rate £67.00 per week

How do these benefits apply to COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)? It depend very much on how ill you are. I have COPD and some people get less than me; conversely, some get more, and it’s not unfair to say that it’s a bit of a lottery. A good place to start is this website, which deals with financial support for disabled people. That’s where I got the rates info.

Your IB claim is based on a points system – check out this website for details. You can also download the information as PDF document – see foot of that page.

If you have become unfit for work, then once your Statutory Sick pay runs out, you should transfer to Incapacity Benefit, after completing a form which, to put it bluntly, is a minefield – get help from a benefits expert if you are at all unsure. Officially, there may also be a medical examination – given the current demonisation of IB claimants, I think you can guarantee being summoned for one.

My advice would be to insist on being examined at home – the reasons you give depend on your personal situation – because how you live (how well you cope day-to-day), is central to your disability. Turning up at some hired-by-the-day office, to be confronted by a person who has no idea of who you are, and how well you cope, can be extremely counter-productive (and, of course, you’ve no idea how well qualified the private-enterprise doctor is to assess you – he may be so rubbish he’s unemployable in the real world, or some old, retired, doc working for pocket money; there are many reasons why these people work for DWP contractors, instead of themselves or the NHS, and being the best doctor in the world certainly isn’t one of them!). So, get them on your home turf, and make them see how badly you are affected on a day-to-day basis.

That applies to DLA as well – I had my DLA examination at home in 1986, I never even considered not doing so (I’m affected by several other factors as well, not least the damage done by being struck by lightning in 1983), and it was so rigorous I spent the next three days in bed. Had I driven to a venue for my examination, it’s extremely unlikely I would have been able to drive home again. That’s something you need to bear in mind, as is the fact that you have the right to decline to perform any action that you believe will be harmful to you.

If the IB form is a pain, you won’t like the DLA form – it’s huge. The main problem with DLA is that you can’t apply for a specific component, like mobility, you have to submit a blanket application and wait to see what you get, and how long you get it for. I get the impression that awards “indefinitely”, like mine, are scarce these days, and many people have to reapply every couple of years – this will make it almost impossible to obtain a Motability vehicle (on benefit, it’s pretty much the only way to afford a car, and for many disabilities, a car is essential; I’d be completely housebound without mine, as I can’t use public transport or taxis – long story). You need the higher mobility rate for at least three years to qualify for Motability.

When completing the DLA and IB forms, resist the temptation to flannel – be honest and concise. Always tell the truth – lies will drop you in the mire – but tell the truth that benefits you. For example, you describe how you are on your bad days, NOT on your good days, nor do you expand on that to say, for example “But some days I feel a lot better”. Sounds obvious, but I know people who have done just that, and talked themselves out of benefits. It’s also a bad idea to exaggerate how badly your ability to walk is affected, because they are very likely to take you for a walk – they did with me. At the moment, I’m completing a DLA claim form in the hope of getting the middle care rate, as I really need to employ someone to clean for me, and the “how far can you walk” question is multi-choice for time and distance – so I went out with a stopwatch and timed myself. The result was a lot worse than I thought. So had I guessed, I’d have done myself no favours.

There is a question about how far you can walk without pain. If, like me, you can’t stand without pain, then the answer that goes there is “Zero”. Don’t fanny about with “Oh, on a good day maybe a few yards,” if it’s zero, then say so unequivocally. And the same applies to all the questions.

Going back to IB for a moment, I’ve just had a re-assessment, and the IB50 form is a bad joke, so I suspect the application form may be too (some sources suggest it’s the same form). What I did, then, when I felt the multiple-choice questions just didn’t apply to me, was write “None of the above,” in each case, and submitted my answers to the entire form typed on 12 sheets of A4 paper, suitably keyed to the questions to which the answers referred*. I’ve done this several times, as it allows me to give a fuller picture than ticking boxes does, and as long as your name and national insurance number is at the top of every sheet, there won’t be a problem. I’d also advise signing and dating the final sheet. Doing this is also a god idea if, as in my case, writing is painful and, consequently, illegible – if they can’t read it, you could lose money. Why this form isn’t available as a download, like the DLA form, I’ll never know.

* Just one example of the stupid, inappropriate, questions was “Can you tie a bow in a piece of string?” Why would I want to? My answer said that this was irrelevant, but I can’t tie my shoe-laces so that they’ll stay tied, which in the real world is far more important than tying bows in bits of string!

Obviously, for anyone with COPD (or any other illness supported by substantial medication), how well you are will depend on how assiduous you are with your meds. You may think that, on the day of your medical assessment (if you have one), that it may be a good idea to omit or reduce some, or all, of your meds – I couldn’t possibly comment!

And that’s pretty much it, without getting deeply into each benefit, which has been done elsewhere online, though I can’t find any advice specifically regarding claiming DLA with COPD, so my advice would be to get yourself a claim pack and give it your best shot. You’re almost certain to get something.

Photo outing…

As you may have noticed, I recently acquired an Olympus E-500 digital SLR. After a trip to local woodland to familiarise myself with the camera (still learning!), several things became apparent. The most disturbing being that an intention tremor I’ve had for some years is getting worse, making it very difficult to hand-hold the camera in the woods, and exacerbated by the light weight of the camera (low light levels = slowish shutter speeds, even at ISO 400, and at that level noise begins to creep in).

My solution to the tremor problem appears on the Photography page, but a sunny day last Thursday, after a cold snap, encouraged me to drive out to a small lake a few miles away at Royden Park, Wirral, and check out the birds – usually mallards, Canada geese and the occasional coot. Mercifully, anglers were few – maggot-drowning is no sport for a grown man! – so the birds weren’t disturbed too much.

Knowing of the tremor problem now, I tried to avoid the long end of my zoom lens (400mm in 35mm terms), so here are a few of my photos from that trip. Not fantastic, but bear in mind I’m still working my way around the camera’s learning curve.

This first couple are of a very obliging Canada goose, drifting in close to see if any bread was forthcoming but, as usual, I forgot to take any – I must remember next time.

Canada goose

p

p

A Mallard, in full breeding plumage. The second shot, showing the head to better effect, is a small segment from a much larger picture, hence the somewhat lower resolution.

Mallard in breeding plumage.

p

This is a close-up in an ornamental laburnum tunnel which, in the past, I’ve failed to catch at its best – this year, I caught it…

Laburnum

p

Finally, on the way out, I couldn’t resist a close-up of this flower – no idea what it is, I’m afraid – next time I go, I’ll make a note.

All in all, a worthwhile outing, the camera works well and, once I get used to it, my photos will improve.

Freeview and rain…

I can’t afford satellite TV and, even if I could, Sky don’t have a package I’d willingly pay for (and I watch little TV, so Sky isn’t economically viable anyway), so I’m stuck with Freeview which, since its inception, has had a major problem – it doesn’t work in the rain (yes, I do have a suitable aerial, and two boosters in tandem, too). Checking with friends and contacts, it soon became clear that it was a nationwide problem, and in inclement weather, for the last few years, I’ve had no digital TV, which is where my favourite programmes live (OK, a few channels survive – BBC News 24, for example – but isn’t 24-hour rolling news the dullest thing out there?). Needless to say, this didn’t thrill me too much. It’s not just rain, either – snow (remember snow?), fog, even heavy dew, would all wreak havoc with reception.

Last night, then, about to settle down to watch House (a programme so formulaic it should be dire, but it’s pretty damned good), discovering the rain was bucketing down did nothing to cheer me. I put it on anyway – the fall-back channel is News 24 when all else fails – and, amazingly, apart from the occasional pixelation and sound stutter, both really very low level, everything was fine, and for the first time ever, I got to watch House on a wet night. I also watched Grey’s Anatomy in the hope that someone will eventually give George the kicking he so richly deserves, but they let me down again. Well, actually, I watch it to drool over Katherine Heigl, but that’s another story…

So what’s happening then? Still the same aerial, so the only other possibility is that the signal strength has been substantially boosted, but if it has, no-one’s admitting it and I’m baffled. Anyone out there have any ideas?

Rip-off Britain, one more time… maybe

To be fair, I don’t know that this problem is unique to Britain.

I’m a disabled driver, and I need an automatic gearbox (actually, I’m fine with a semi-auto, which is what I have now), but whenever new car time comes around, the premiums charged by manufacturers for auto gearboxes make my blood boil – it can be £1,000 or more. OK – Motability, from whom I lease my car, don’t pass on the whole premium, but even £250 is impossible to find on benefit. Why, though, does this charge exist at all?

I don’t understand the logic, it makes no economic sense, and yet we’re continually shafted by this surcharge on disability. Actually, it’s a surcharge on common sense, too – an automatic allows you to focus much more on piloting the car, rather than on shifting gears – you can be busted for taking your hand of the wheel to eat a Kit-Kat, it’s happened, but not for constantly, around town, taking a hand off the wheel to change gear. That makes no sense either.

Almost all manufacturers target the USA, where auto gearboxes are the norm, rather than the exception, so it’s not as if they’re in short supply – they must make them in millions, yet, two years ago, there was a several month wait for an automatic Ford Focus. (I don’t know about other countries, but I suspect the UK is in a minority with its prejudice against the automatic gearbox).

So how many disabled drivers, I wonder, are forced to accept an automatic car they don’t really want (if you’re happy with a thirsty Vauxhall Astra or Corsa, then you’re well served), but can just about afford, because of the high gearbox premium on the car they’d like? Or live in hope that at least one manufacturer, with a local dealership, has a decent automatic on special offer. Had I been up for a car this year instead of next, Renault had a great Motability deal on a 1.6 auto Megane. Fingers crossed for next year…

I wonder if, in the US, there’s a surcharge on stick-shift cars?

Arthritis nonsense…

The following was announced today:-

The correct diet and proper exercise routine should be adequate for managing arthritis, according to the UK’s largest organisation supporting arthritis sufferers.

Arthritis Care has therefore suggested that supplements only be used to enhance a diet where there are elements lacking and with the blessing of your healthcare team.

‘A lot of supplements are expensive and their effectiveness unproven,’ said an Arthritis Care spokesperson.

‘They can react with your medication so always check with your doctor or pharmacist for potential interaction with prescription drugs.

‘A fresh, healthy diet generally contains of all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed by the body.’

Arthritis Care suggests that omega-3 rich foods such as oily fish can help manage the disease and also recommends foods such as fruit, vegetables, pasta, brown rice and white meat.”

Rarely have I read such ill-considered nonsense. Almost no-one eats such a well-balanced diet in this day and age – if, in reality, they ever did. And, of course, people labouring under the burden of arthritis, as I know only too well, are not best placed to work hard in the kitchen, cooking meals from scratch with ultra-fresh ingredients – wherever you get them.

I quite agree that many supplements peddled for the treatment of arthritis are expensive and, very often, pointless. Anyone, for example, who believes a capsule of cod liver oil a day is benefiting them is deluding themselves. It does have some slight anti-inflammatory properties, but only in large quantities, sufficient to make you puke it right back out again. The same with oily fish; yes, it has benefits, but in amounts larger than would normally be eaten

I believe that everyone needs, at the very least, a good daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, and they will NOT conflict with your meds. Experts – god preserve us – claim that supplements aren’t as good as fresh fruit and veg, but who get that these days?  Most fruit and veg is positively elderly by the time it’s bought, so screw the experts and take a supplements.

Supplements containing collagen are best avoided – it’ll just be digested, as is the natural collagen in red meat. You actually want collagen? Make a stew with shin beef – you’ll have the stuff in huge quantities, but it won’t do your arthritis the slightest good. Nor do I believe – and here research bears me out – that glucosamine and/or chondroitin do any good; these, too, will be digested. That research? Oh, it says that they are at least as good as a placebo which, effectively, means no bloody good at all. Very little that you can put in your mouth, other than drugs, will genuinely benefit arthritis.

I have a test for supplements – if, when I first take them, I feel better, that’s fine, but when I run out, and suddenly the next batch isn’t as effective (or not effective at all), then what we have is our old friend the Placebo Effect. It’s purely psychological – you feel better because you did something new. When it ceases to be new, its effectiveness diminishes. When that happens I stop taking whatever it may be – if it was having a beneficial effect, I should feel worse, if I don’t, I stop buying it. It’s a simple test, and works for anybody.

As for analgesia, I know people who refuse to take analgesic tablets (or any tablets), because they make them “feel funny”, or sick, so they never take them again. Foolishness. When I first took DHC I was high for a week, but I came down, persevered with them, and now there’s no problem. And it’s the same with most drugs – persevere and they’ll stop bothering you, wimp out and, well then, you get to live with the pain. I know what I prefer…

I have to admit that I remain unconvinced by the exercise argument – based on experience, I know full well that if I, for example, manage to go for a walk today, it’ll be a week before the pain and swelling in my knees subsides and I can walk again. Just how is that beneficial? Likewise, my hands hurt, and swell, when I type, but if it’s good for me, the more I type – and I type a lot – the less pain and swelling I should experience. That just doesn’t happen. It’s a nice idea, mostly promulgated by people who are pain-free, I suspect, but for me, at least, it simply doesn’t work. Never has.

The best things you can take for arthritis are analgesics for the pain, and anti-inflammatories, if you can tolerate them (they are one class of drug you should stop if they cause problems; I had to stop mine because they caused gastric bleeding, which is the usual problem). Just – please – don’t rely on your diet for vitamins and minerals; it’ll let you down.

Incapacity Benefit – the lies…

Sicknote culture costs risen to £16bn a year … but two-thirds of claimants ARE able to work screamed the headline in the Daily Mail and, as so often with the Mail, it’s complete bullshit.

The scumbag Mail hack, Steve Doughty, goes on to say “Many claim to suffer from mental or behavioural disorders, in other words, stress,”. Lumping the entire spectrum of mental illness together and just calling it stress is an opinion so crass that the only sensible response would be a bloody good kicking, with a swift prayer to whatever gods there may be that Doughty succumbs to a hugely disabling mental illness as soon as possible, and that everyone he goes whining to tells him to bugger off, it’s just stress!

There is, it seems, a great deal of paranoia over the fact that many Incapacity Benefit claimants are 35 or under, as if there’s some magic cut-off age, below which you can’t possibly be disablingly ill. Complete bollocks, of course. When I left school, having been seriously ill since the age of 2, and missed about a third of my schooling (though I still did moderately well academically – well, as well as you could do in a secondary school in 1959), I was told by my doctor, that I must never work, as the risks of infection were too great, but if I felt I had to, I must never work in the winter. Advice, almost 50 years on, I wish I had taken. So you see, age is no bar to disability – just ask all the disabled children.

I started work the day after I left school – no gap years in those days, folks, we had to get out and earn a living – and worked until I became unable to continue, in my forties, during which time I lost almost every job I ever had through excessive sick leave. I have no compunction at all about claiming Incapacity Benefit (or DLA), though I have to say that the attractions of poverty are minimal. Luckily, I have a frugal lifestyle, or I’d not be able to afford luxuries like food, or clothes! Seriously, I do live frugally – if I had three meals a day, instead of just one, I’d really feel the pinch.

For the record, Incapacity Benefit amounts to approximately £4,500 per year, with minor variations depending on previous earnings. With DLA it comes in at something over £7,000 a year, depending on the rates of DLA claimed (compared to a minimum wage annual rate of around £11,500). This is, by any definition, poverty, yet we’re asked to believe that people in their many thousands are fraudulently claiming this when they could be working (I could, perhaps, more readily believe it if the claim was that they were working as well, but it’s not).

Before you start screaming that the minimum wage isn’t a fair comparison, bear in mind that income tax would be minimal – in fact there may well be tax credits – so I think it’s fair enough. After all, we all have the same outgoings – in fact, the disabled, being in many cases housebound, will have higher heating and lighting costs as they’re not out at work all day. So if the constant cry that the minimum wage isn’t high enough is credible – and it is – what does that say for benefit rates?

Here’s something that’ll wind up Daily Mail fruitcakes – readers and writers – I get free prescriptions. If I didn’t the bill would be £1,363.20 per year minimum. No doubt pillocks like Doughty would far rather I footed the bill myself, but at least getting older has some benefits. Mind you, that’s been a bone of contention most of my life. I have a life-threatening illness** that, without constant medication, would very likely kill me, yet like very many people in my position, until I turned 60 I couldn’t get free prescriptions. I could if I had one of a wide variety of unpleasant, painful but not necessarily life-threatening conditions, but not for one that at best could drastically shorten my life, and at worst could kill me at any time (if I live to draw my pension I’ll take that as a win – 2 years to go, watch this space!). That was, and continues to be, completely unacceptable.

Ah well, I seem to have wandered off the point, but those things are relevant to the chronically sick and disabled. But to get back to the alleged fraud, and the scale of it, which in my view is minuscule – we’ve been here before, with DLA some years ago, and many thousands of sick and disabled people had their lives blighted by Benefits Agency storm troopers, to find just a few “frauds”, and many of them were overturned on appeal. The level of benefits fraud claimed by wankers at the Daily Mail, and by failing politicians, eager to drum up the support of the more rabid sectors of their electorates (yes, you, Gordon, ya great gowk), just isn’t there.

There’s a very simple check – compare benefit records with tax and national insurance records. If many thousands of people are working and claiming, a lot will turn up in that search. Has that ever been done? To the best of my knowledge, no. On the other hand, maybe it has been done, and so few fraudsters were caught, just as with DLA, that it was hushed up as embarrassing and, of course, contradicting government propaganda (Goebbels would have loved these fuckers!).

So here’s a challenge for the Daily Mail – instead of publishing lies, distortions, and prejudice, SHOW US THE EVIDENCE! Or – and here’s an original thought, guys – get off your fat, overpaid arses and come and talk to us, the people you fuckwits are continually demonising – we ARE real people you know, not just cyphers. The crap you publish is seriously detrimental to us as individuals, and were it addressed to an individual instead of a faceless group, would quite definitely be libellous.

** From the age of 2 I had bronchiectasis and asthma – simultaneous measles and whooping cough really did a number on my lungs (note to idiot parents; get your kids vaccinated!!) – and at 17 was told I’d be doing well to get to 40. This, now I’m older and have emphysema, is all lumped together as COPD which, despite what many people think, is not exclusive to smokers – it is exacerbated by them, though! If smoking in the workplace had been banned 40 years earlier, I’d be a lot better than I am now.

Wirral Pubs, Part 2 of an occasional series…

The Traveller’s Rest, Mount Road, Higher Bebington.

This used to be a regular Saturday afternoon venue 7 or 8 years ago (the constant hassle with taxis, and the smokiness of the place eventually proved too much), and we were very happy to see it hadn’t changed a great deal, except that it now focuses more on food than it did previously and, of course, it’s not full of smokers trying to kill everyone around them.

The old no-smoking area

k

The food looks pretty damn good, though we haven’t ventured beyond sandwiches and toasties so far (I, these days, have a very small capacity for food, sadly, and the portions are large – one day, though…), and it can get very busy. What we’ve eaten so far – apart from one unfortunate cheese and ham toastie with really dire, greasy, cheese (though a previous one had really good cheese and was toasted to perfection) – has been fine, so maybe that was just a glitch. The ham in the ham sandwiches – my usual choice – or in the H&C toasties, is excellent and not stinted. Portion control, that profitable wet dream of parsimonious managers everywhere, seems not to exist here, which is a refreshing change. From what I’ve seen – empty plates coming back to the kitchen is always a good sign – the food is as good as it looks

The service is prompt and friendly, and we never have to wait for long; or at all, mostly. Indeed, getting served is laughably easy, unlike some other pubs I know, where first you have to find the staff!

The Bar

k

The beer is almost invariably in excellent nick – in fact so far I haven’t had to send a single pint back, either because the beer was faulty or because of a dirty glass – the glasses, by the way, are immaculate. And yes, that is unusual enough to warrant comment – some pubs shut be shut down, their glasses are so horrible. There are seven hand pumps (plus a selection of keg products for those who know no better!), with six regular beers – Greene King’s Abbott Ale, Tim Taylor’s Landlord, Flowers’ IPA, Charles Wells’ Bombardier, Wychwood’s Hobgoblin, and Old Speckled Hen, also from Greene King, Morland’s having been consigned to the cellars of history – plus a frequently-changing guest beer, usually from one of the independent brewers; at the time of our last visit on May 15, it was Master Brew, from Shepherd Neame.

The “Back Room”

k

Take care with the Gent’s toilet; the statutory double doors are very close to each other, pushing in though the first one, it’s all too easy to catch somebody on their way out through the inner door.

There is, I was very glad to see, a decent toilet for disabled customers, like yours truly. There’s plenty of room for a wheelchair in there, too, though the handrails around the toilet are pretty rickety, I’m afraid. Whichever contractor installed them clearly hadn’t a clue (whatever they were paid was too much), and a side-transfer from a chair is impossible – you really do need to be ambulant, at least a little.

The bar is amply equipped with stools – though not so many that other customers can’t get served – and has it a brass rail for leaning or, in my case, parking my crutch. That’s my walking aid – do try and keep up! For me, stools are essential. I prefer to drink at the bar – it’s a generational thing, I’m pretty sure – but standing at the bar is agony, and no longer an option

During the day most of the pub is given over to the lunch trade (food runs from noon to 19:00, though the evening menu kicks in at 14:00), but I don’t think anyone would object to anyone taking a table just too drink – just so long as they were drinking and not just taking up space. Call me picky (I spent over 20 years in the pub trade, and things like this annoy the hell out of me), but I don’t think it’s acceptable to take up space in a pub, and sit there for hours spending little or nothing. That happens more than you might think, too, pretty much everywhere.

The downside – well yes, there had to be one! – is the absence of a car-park, the only option being to park on one of two busy roads (the pub’s on the corner); be sure to tuck your mirrors in wherever you find a space!

The Traveller’s is just across the road from Storeton Woods. On a good day it’s a pleasant place to spend an hour birdwatching before going to the pub – on a bad day there are so many sodding dog-walkers who, despite the requirement to keep their mutts under control, do nothing of the sort. Mostly the dogs aren’t a problem – it’s the dumb owners who lose sight of them and wander along bellowing their name and scaring off every vestige of bird life. Several witless pillocks like that, and a pleasant woodland walk becomes purgatory. It’s enough to drive you to drink…

One of the many brasses throughout the pub.

Note: The pics were taken with a new camera – I’ll get some better ones shortly.