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The Avenues Cafe in Sneinton

The Avenues Cafe Sneinton

I am not often moved to write a review of a cafe, but today I am – of the Avenues Cafe in Sneinton.

The Avenues Cafe Sneinton

Bunting! Value! Customer Service!

After stopping  my reviews of fish and chip shops in Nottinghamshire, I weigh eight kilos less. Still, I do eat a heck of a lot of all day breakfasts and curries as this seems to fit into my range of foods that don’t make me a bloater. (Skip the bread / toast / naan and you can gorge on grease).

The morning started by a failure to secure my bike in a CityCard enabled storage locker – a great idea but the implementation is woeful. I’d got a new card from the Travel office in Market Square after being told the one I had was useless. Today I went to the Travel centre in the Broadmarsh Bus Station to be issued a new card after being told my other new card was useless. And that the lockers don’t work any more as they’ve been turned off. Hooray! More useless plastic cards that don’t do anything.

Customer service in the UK, I decided, is awful. One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing, but both hands are giving out redundant cards on non-integrated systems with conflicting advice.

Today, I wait for a call back from a mortgage broker (2 weeks with repeated calls from me), a solicitor (2 weeks), someone to haul away a tree (doesn’t answer either of the phones that he lists on his flyer he’s just paid to deliver to my house). After ten years in the US, I’m surprised that any of these people stay in business. Unless UK customers are just accustomed to being treated as inconvenient by-products of a business.

Upon arriving at the Avenues I was fairly foul tempered and disappointed as a customer. That’s when the sun shone on the disgruntled cloud darkening my furrowed brows, the rainbow appeared, and the mythical customer focused UK unicorn appeared – her name is Caroline.

The Avenues CAfeNot only did I get salmon, rice and peas and a sweet chilli sauce for £3.95, I was offered a side salad. Less than four quid, cooked to order, fresh, tasty. The breakfasts on which I frequently feast are also amazing value. Caroline came round to check that I liked my food, and gave me several hugs when I asked if I could take the above photo. The food was outstanding, the portions generous as ever. I felt well treated and well fed. I felt as if my opinion mattered, and that Caroline and her crew wanted me to come back.


Apparently the cafe used to be called Tasty Bites and she showed me the old location in Sneinton Market, and where they’re going to be once more in November. They’ve been in business for twenty years, and I’m sure with the attention they lavish on customers like me, they’ll be in business for another twenty. Thanks for proving that my sweeping generalisations about UK customer service are just that, and for treating me like a visiting Duke.

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What Should I Do With My Life?

If you’re wondering what you should do with your life, you might be tempted to take the easy option and play some kind of search engine roulette to figure out the answer. Or you might be addicted to self help books (research shows that the person most likely to buy a self help book is someone who bought a self help book in the last 17 months – it must be true I heard it on the internet). The temptation is to reach out to the tiny box on your browser to find out the direction to put your energy and focus and the expiring years of your dwindling life.


What to do? Google suggests ask Po Bronson

On the plus side, through a bewildering array of stored information that is transmitted every time you ask the great oracle a question, the oracle knows enough about your habits and searches to form an opinion about you. Google is more of a learning artificial intelligence than a robotic answer butler.

While humans spew exabytes of new information into hyper connected magnetic storage every day, you might think that the growing body of publicly available internet data is asymptotically moving towards a complete expression of human consciousness. More web pages, more emoticons, more knowledge. But you might be thoroughly wrong. If watering plants with gatorade isn’t the right thing to do, (see Idiocracy – it’s got electrolytes), then maybe pouring more unmoderated vomit of consciousness into the continuum of the world wide web might not create a better knowledge repository.

Sucking up a canned answer might not allow you to grow in the ways you might need to in order to ask a better question which will move you forward. Even if the canned answer is just a search engine experimenting with you.

What, wait a minute, the search engines are testing theories on humans? Yes indeed. They are trying people on different answers to questions we pose them to see which ones stick.

So if I search for “What shall I do with my life?”, I might be directed to go and be a subsistence farmer in Alaska, whereas you might be directed to set up a cult, or try investment banking. Maybe when SkyNet becomes self aware they won’t bother sending indestructable robots from the future to kill the humans that seem most likely to damage the new ruling power or the planet.

When Google becomes self aware all it might do is send people in large spurious loops and force them to lose themselves in a holding pattern until they run out of life force through natural causes like planes running out of fuel circling an airport that Air Traffic Control has told them is full. Maybe Google will just perhaps send people to buy new superfood supplements which will further diminish their reasoning capabilities, until they just wilt into quivering blobs of unsentient loss.

If you have a feeling that typing a question into a box might be a substitute for looking inwardly to reflect on your life’s purpose, I would suggest these places as a start:

Five Steps To Finding Out What To Do With Your Life

I’m hoping that you didn’t actually click on the first link. Why? I’m hoping that you can actually appreciate that looking for a one hit idea to one of man’s greatest questions might not involve clicking on a link suggested on a blog that a search engine threw up. That even if you’re not paranoid about your relationship with the internet which is primarily moderated through a search engine, that you can learn to reflect and find other places to look.


I Planted a Tree

It’s not even out of February and I’ve achieved my goal of planting a tree in 2015. Even my daughter has planted a few. It was much easier than expected, and there were biscuits on the way.

On a cold Saturday morning, we arrived at the car park for a joint event put on by The Woodland Trust (a charity) and The National Forest (a company partly funded by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). We were there just in time to be interviewed by BBC Radio Leicester alongside a bunch of other nice folk who turned out to be the CEO of the National Forest and some of the big wigs from the Woodland Trust.


The National Forest – Not Where I Thought it Was

I was thrilled to be able to quiz them all on how to get trees planted, and my own little aim of buying a bit of land and filling it with trees seemed one step closer. It was also dwarfed by the realization that the National Forest has planted 8 million trees in the last 25 years, and that a commercial tree planter averages about four trees a minute on the job. It made me think about the scale of my ambition and also the selfish needs to be able to visit the trees again in years to come.

Both organizations have schemes to help you get trees in the ground – you can also dedicate trees or pieces of woodland to people, and they provide materials and skills for community groups and schools. We talked a little about how some of the larger tracts of land have been sucked up, how trees are literally changing the landscape of towns famous for pits and open cast mines. My dreams of planting a small urban forest might be supported by both groups, and the location of The National Forest was revealed to me – not just a sign on the M1, but now tangibly linked to a map:


Old school Time Lapse Photography Set up

Another challenge to replace the void in my life after officially becoming a Tough Guy veteran is the National Forest Way – a 75 mile long stretch of path within the forest itself. A great warm up for the Parish Walk on the Isle of Man – only without so many hills. I hope it can be done in a (very long) day, and I plan on finding out first hand, and possibly second leg.

My daughter and I planted maybe a dozen trees – oak, alder and willow, and I hope that we get to see them age gracefully at the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Wood. It’s truly an amazing wood – over 400 acres filled with trees, trails and wildlife. I’m going to go back for some bird watching, and to use the nifty camera tripod – it’s a pillar of stone which you can use each time to take a photo and make your own time lapse photography series documenting both you and the landscape aging. The place in which the photo subject stands says “Legacy Portrait Position”, and the first word sums it all up for me – legacy. That’s why I want to plant trees, that’s why I want to take my family with me to do it.

Maybe the most effective way for me isn’t just to plant a tree and convince a few others to do so. Maybe I need 8 million trees under my belt and to join forces with a few woody organizations. Food for thought.