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25/05/2011 20:54

Flowers and Fire That was the Spring that was! It must have been the shortest season ever but that didn’t stop it being one of the most colourful and pleasant for some years. After having such a cold and early Winter it does seem that the spring was a long time arriving but when it came it was spectacular. From the first showing of snowdrops through to the end of the daffodils was a shorter period than usual and it’s concentration increased the intensity of colour and scents. Of course the dry sunny weather enhanced our enjoyment, making the fresh greens brighter and whites and yellows more vibrant. Did you notice the shoe of Community planted daffodils and narcissi along Wylde Green Road? One downside is the very short time we had to appreciate things like the May blossom which was only showing for about ten days instead of the more usual month. Another downside became apparent on May 1st when down in the Valley a brush fire started under the power lines and then engulfed a large chunk of the boardwalk. Once again an appeal for volunteers to assist in cleaning up the area was answered with enthusiasm and energy. We are now considering our options for the future of this patch. Rest assured that we shall strive to gain a positive from this negative and try to restore access through this interesting area. Have we finished with days off and Bank Holidays? I thought that the country was in dire straits and we needed to strengthen the economy. Some lucky folk seemed to have gained another fortnights holiday. Even a certain William went back to work a couple of days after his wedding. That’s the sort of spirit we need, mind you he followed it by a £4000 a night break to recover.

Jeff Gilbert Jeff’s Useful Shop

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Asparagus risotto with crisp Parma ham

Asparagus season is here again; I am not sure what happened to the last 12 months! It’s a welcome sight on the veg stalls as we find spring in full bloom and lazy days of summer just around the corner. Preparation: 10 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Serves 2 Ingredients 1 Shallot, sliced 1 Garlic Clove, crushed 2 Basil leaves, chopped 200g/ 7oz Arborio rice 200ml/ 7floz Chardonnay 500ml/ 18floz Vegetable stock, hot 6 Asparagus spears, blanched and chopped 25g/ 1oz Butter 50g/ 2oz Grated Parmesan Ground Salt and Black pepper 4 slices of Parma ham

Method 1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic. 2. Add the rice and gently fry for a minute, cover with the wine and simmer until it’s all absorbed. 3. Add one ladleful of vegetable stock at a time, stirring continually and allowing the stock to be absorbed by the rice. Continue this process until the rice is cooked and the stock has been absorbed. 4. Stir in the Asparagus, Basil, Parmesan and Butter, then season. 5. Place the Parma ham on a non stick tray and place in a medium oven for a few minutes; this will drive out moisture and crisp up the ham. 6. Serve the risotto in large bowls with a couple of crisp ham slices and a fresh green salad; enjoy! R Wood Restaurateur

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My Next Porto Call

Infamously tempting for golfers, garden lovers and hikers, Portugal has been branded as the perfect holiday destination for travellers above a certain age. Whilst the views from the Northern hilltops do make for a rewarding hike and the Algarve is the spiritual home of the golf course, let’s not forget that this small country is awash with culture and adventure too. Portugal combines a Mediterranean climate with Moorish history and architecture, not unlike Cadiz in Spain, and with it brings vibrant people with an appetite for life’s pleasures.

Of the wine courses on offer, I recommend the slightly more advanced ‘Port of Flavours’ as the introductory experience is a little too basic. Let’s be honest, to travel to Portugal and spend your days trying different wines you’d have to at least know your Landot Noir from your Lambrini. The Port of Flavours is very reasonably priced, at around £40, and allows you to taste and discuss port from the extra dry whites through to the 10 and 40 year old Tawny varieties and extends to the remarkable premium, late bottled and vintage Rubies. Each was paired with an appetiser that I travelled to a lodge at Vila de Gaia in the demonstrated the coupling of wine and food Northern region of Portugal, where some of in each case; shellfish and game I had the most prestigious port wine estates make heard of before but a specific wine for their produce. Booking myself onto various Octopus and pineapple certainly intrigued courses to taste and learn about grape everyone. varieties and wine regions, I was eager to discover something new on my travels. My By the 5th or 6th variety I proudly hadn’t first excursion was to take a trip along the spat out a drop. I must admit that this river Douro to Regua and Pinhao. It was a wasn’t the first glass of wine I had drunk fantastic way to view all of the terraced that day either; I’d enjoyed a couple of delivineyards that line the hills, stopping to cious glasses of house wine with my lunch. enjoy a lazy lunch of fresh sardines, salad, By this point I truly was struggling to give ham and wine in a vineyard by the river, an articulate description of the grape other delicious! I didn’t envy Aleixo whose job it than to say, “Nice, any more?” was to help us all on and off the boat. Every vineyard offered a snifter of something or For a holiday in a country that has a another and the boarding of our vessel took reputation for entertaining the older longer each time as glasses were levered generation, you certainly wake up with a thick head! The only difference I can see from fingertips to keep to the schedule. between Porto and Ibiza is that instead of It seemed sensible to begin my wine tasting vodka red bulls and drum and bass, we got journey on the broader sounding Wine sloshed on delicious fortified wines and didn’t have to traipse from bar to club as Experience, 3 hour course. This offered an our lodge became whatever venue we introduction to the world wine regions and wanted! It seems that Portugal does attract varieties of grape with the opportunity to taste examples of sparkling, red, white and party animals after all, they are just a bit older and a damn sight better at it that fortified wines. At £75 I felt a little cheated as I probably could’ve learned the same off most twenty-somethings! Catherine (hic!) the back of a bottle of Blossom Hill. I did, however, recognise Jerez sherry which seemed to startle some of the other members of the group; I wasn’t sure whether they thought I was remarkably cultured for a 26 year old or had just written me off as another binger and anticipated me bringing my own wine box to dinner.

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Road Test

Jaguar XJ 3.0 Diesel Luxury

For many years Jaguar had a problem, it made cars that were driven by old men. In the case of the previous version of the XJ, Jaguar’s flagship luxury saloon, the company didn’t just acknowledge this fact, it actively catered to it with the unfortunate retro styling and gentleman’s club interior. Everything started to change in 2006 with the launch of the sharply styled XK and then improved dramatically in 2008 when the excellent XF arrived. Now that the new XJ is upon us, Jaguar’s transformation is complete. I sense that this car is trying to lure younger, more dynamic drivers from their Audi A8s and BMW 7 Series rather than going head to head with the XJ’s traditional rival, the Mercedes S Class. Looking at photos of the car it resembles a stretched version of the XF, but when you see it in the flesh it is something else again. From the front it is massively imposing with that enormous, if controversial, front grille. The side profile with the aggressively curved roofline blending into the squared off back end puts me in mind of the Fab One Rolls Royce from Thunderbirds. This is certainly not a safe design and not everyone is a fan, but I think it makes the right kind of statement and the attention to detail is incredible.

trim is actually the base spec, I couldn’t think of any gadgets or gizmos that I desperately felt the lack of either. However, all this is a mere aperitif to the Jag’s real tour de force, the driving experience. The first thing to note is that the XJ is made out of aluminium and so it is light, around 200kg lighter than most of its competitors. The next thing is that Jaguar has moved away from the magic carpet ride of old towards a more driver focused set up. This results in a firmer ride than Arthur Daley or even John Prescott would be used to but compensation comes in the form of minimal body roll in the corners or wallowing over the bumps. The handling is superb with astonishing levels of grip and remarkably precise steering; this big brute of a car goes exactly where you point it.

There are three engines, a 3.0 litre V6 diesel with 271bhp and a 5.0 litre V8 petrol that kicks out 368bhp in standard form and 503bhp with the help of a supercharger. The diesel I drove is smooth, refined and massively powerful thanks to the 443 ft/lb of torque. It propels this hefty car to 60 in 6 seconds and, yes, it really does need the speed limiter to keep it inside 155mph. At the same time it manages 45mpg on a run; it really is hard to see the justification for When I first sat in the XF I said that it was a buying the petrol version. truly wonderful place to be. Well, I have to tell you that the XF is an Ikea furnished The new XJ really is a brilliant car and puts living room compared to the new XJ. Jaguar in fine shape to face the future. Yet There’s so much space, even in the rear, strangely, even though it has been on sale that that the long wheel base version is for 9 months, you see precious few on the really an irrelevance. The bejewelled dash roads. I might have an explanation for this; coupled with the funky mood lighting make they are all made to order with a typical you feel that you’re in some über cool waiting time of 6 months. Give it another nightclub rather the year and you will see one in stuffy St James club every executive car park. that the previous XJ invoked. All the materials are suKit Johnson Car tested was Jaguar XJ 3.0 premely classy and Diesel Luxury the craftsmanship is on a par with a Rolls £55,500 OTR or a Bentley. Even though the Luxury

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Children’s Book Review


Rooktime by A.W Stewart Rooktime was sent to my parent’s offices by local author A.W. Stewart. When I first got the book and read the blurb I thought it wasn’t my thing but, after just two pages, I was really into the story. Rooktime is well written and easy to read and the storyline is not too complex. It is probably a little young for anyone over twelve but still enjoyable for adults to read to their children. It is also a good recommendation for anyone who has finished reading the Enid Blyton books and is looking for something a little more challenging. Rooktime is probably not the kind of book I would usually pick up off the library shelves whilst in search of a good read. However, do not be put off by the fact that Rooktime does look a little bit babyish. Some of Rooktime’s themes and characters are a little darker George and Timmy... The storyline is about two siblings who go through a magical hedge at the bottom of a familiar road into a magical land – does this all sound a bit Narnia? Well, after they arrive, they are tricked into slavery by evil creatures with the faces of rooks and the bodies of men and thrown into a hollow tree with seven other slaves. Over the course of a year or two they make friends with the other children and a bird named Jack who speaks his own variation of English. However, there are many dangers the children will have to face and fight. But will they make it? Rooktime is an often funny, sometimes slightly frightening book that is guaranteed to keep you wondering what will happen next. The clever ending leaves the possibility of a sequel open without being unfulfilling. I certainly hope A.W. Stewart does decide to write a sequel and, if she does, I, for one, will be reading it.

Scarlett Age 11

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Discovering Your Family History Are you interested in discovering your ancestors? I can find out what they did for a living, the children they had and where they lived. As a genealogist I have experience in tracing ancestors and providing detailed information about their lives. One of the most interesting was a man who was the Kings astrologer in 1479, sadly he was later imprisoned! (presumably he predicted bad news!) Many families historically worked on the land and only came into the cities in the early 1800s. Tracing your ancestors clearly demonstrates how the changes in industry, transport and culture affected YOUR family. There are often secrets to be uncovered - in one family I discovered an illegal marriage, a change of identity and cases of infidelity which wouldn’t look out of place in the latest soap opera! I can trace your ancestors and supply a display folder containing a brief history of each branch of the family - both male and female lines - I include copies of the documents I have used in the course of the research and a family tree. Please contact Katharine Telephone - 0800 953 0615

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Bumble Bee’s I find that many people confuse bumblebees with honeybees. Species of Bumblebee come in various shapes, sizes and colours but are generally the large and round (ish) ‘furry’ ones, unlike honeybees which are the same size and shape of wasps. They do not produce honey as such, so unfortunately beekeepers are not interested in removing them. Bumblebees like honeybees, are diminishing in numbers and should be left alone if possible. Although they look rather intimidating, they are in fact quite placid and very rarely sting. They are also difficult to kill using the conventional methods, as their ‘fur’ protects them from the insecticide. A common place for them to nest is in garden rockeries or compost heaps, and if a customer decides that they cannot live with their presence I am able to dig out the nest and re-locate it in places such as Sutton Park ,

New Hall Valley , or Plantsbrook. If however they are nesting inside a wall cavity or under a floor (often using an air brick as the entrance) it is extremely difficult to deal with them. There are sometimes ways of getting round this though. I’ve had instances where they were nesting under the floorboards and accessing through an airbrick near to a door or window. A simple solution to this was to temporarily cover the air brick thus forcing them to use another air brick further round the house and away from the door/window.

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Another common place is underneath garden sheds and I had some last year that were flying in and out from under a shed right next to the children’s sandpit, and the householders were concerned that their kids may get stung. The simple solution of placing a plank along that side of the shed meant that the bees instead used the other side, well away from the children’s play area. If you wish to take any of these actions yourself, do not under any circumstances block the entrances of bees or wasps unless you are certain that they have an alternative way in or out. I’ve lost count of the number of cases I’ve come across where someone has blocked a hole thinking that everything inside will then die. Instead they will almost certainly find an alternative and very often one that leads to the inside of the house, and before they know it their house is full

of very angry and desperate bees or wasps. With one such case I came across a couple of years ago, a lady had over a thousand bees inside her kitchen. Another reason to consider leaving bumblebees alone is that unlike wasps which are active until October, bumblebees are not around as long and have usually finished by mid to late August. If you would like any advice regarding bumblebees, honeybees, wasps or in fact any pests, please give me a call and I will be glad to help. Neil Barnett Complete Pest Management, Sutton Coldfield Tel 313 305. Director, National Pest Technician’s Association

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Property Are we becoming a nation of renters? Here’s an interesting statistic; in January of this year almost 40% of properties sold were bought for cash, meaning that the buyer did not have to raise a mortgage to fund the purchase. As an estate agent I’m all in favour of cash buyers; the sale goes through remarkably quickly and I don’t have to worry about the mortgage lender chopping £40k off my valuation, resulting in a fresh round of price negotiations. The cash buyers seem to fall into three camps; there are older homeowners looking to downsize, cash rich individuals looking for a long term investment that yields a decent return and professional landlords. Of these three groups, two of them are almost definitely going to rent out the property they’ve just bought, which leads me to another interesting statistic. In 2004 71% of us were owner occupiers but by 2010 this figure had slumped to 67%. Is this a trend that is set to continue? Will Britain become similar to France or Germany where the majority of people rent their homes?

Let’s look at what is driving this trend. Interest rates are at an all time low and the stock market is exceedingly volatile which means that the buy to let property market looks like an attractive investment right now. Lenders are imposing low loan to value ratios which excludes a sizeable portion of the population, mainly first time buyers, from the market. Neither of these things is going to change dramatically any time soon, but over the next couple of years interest rates will move upwards and the deposits demanded by lenders will shrink. My guess is that the proportion of owner occupiers will continue to drift downwards but will stabilise over the next year or so. Don’t worry; an Englishman’s home will continue to be his castle. C Brown Estate Agent

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INDEX OF ADVERTISERS Aerials Stockton Satellite & Aerials

Dentist 11 Whitehouse Dentist

Beauty Therapy Body and Sole


Blinds Phoenix Blinds Star Blinds

39 Driveway Cleaning 11 A Clean Drive

Builders Premium Building and Maintenance Boss Construction

39 14

Builder Merchants E H Smith Car MOT/Servicing Car Care Autos Palmer & Douglas


Domestic Appliance Repair The Kitchen Mechanic

Electrician V Electric


Carpets J & B Carpets Steve Hobday

Holiday Accommodation 5 Aberdovey Breaks 23

Garage Doors West Midland Garage Doors

Landscape Gardeners P J Services

Carpet/Upholstery Cleaners Safe clean 29 Spotless Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning Lofts Specialists 15 The Loft Company J P Techni Clean 17


Cleaners Quality Time


Computers PC Doctor



Financial Advice XL Finance


Children’s Activities Jo Jingles



33 Funeral Directors 7 Stephanie J Mason



Family History Katharine Davenport

Carpentry J A Carpentry

Carpet Whipping Carpet Whipping & Fringing

Picture Framing Service 21 Grays of Shenstone Plasterers Paul the Plasterer


Plumbers Halpin Plumbing P D Plumbing Services

26 31

Property Maintenance Premium Building and Maintenance Premier Property Services

39 21

Roofing Adam Askey 20 A1 Roofing 1 Premium Building and Maintenance 39 Proclad 26 & 37

36 Skip Hire Wasted


Storage Blue Box Self Store


Tax Advisers Hill Lillis


Tool Hire Hirelink


Upholstery Atease Upholstery






Mobile Hairdresser Mandy Fryer


Oven Cleaning Ovenu

Will Writing & Probate Svs 23 Roskell, Davies & Co

Painter & Decorator Robert Whiteman Premium Building and Maintenance Andrew Wills

Windows 17 Sutton Coldfield Glass and Glazing 39 35 Window Cleaners Tony Lee Windows

Pest Control Complete Pest Management



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Walmley Pages Example Copy  

Walmley Pages Sample Issue Local Advertising Magazine for Walmley, Sutton Coldfield area

Walmley Pages Example Copy  

Walmley Pages Sample Issue Local Advertising Magazine for Walmley, Sutton Coldfield area