Friday, 20 October 2017

Country Matters-October 2017

Greyhound Inn Siddington
Country Matters
By The Hodge

“Let’s get out of these wet clothes and into a dry Martini!”
Anonymous 1920s

Nobody likes change. It’s a fact but it’s also a fact that change constantly happens so we must learn to live with it. As I get older I am saddened by the decline in an institution that has been around for centuries; something just about unique to Britain but more especially to England and Wales – the country pub.

Pubs evolved from inns that were the mainstay of the traveller using horse-drawn transport. For any long journey by coach it was necessary to break every so often to rest and change horses and inns thrived and prospered as part of the mix.

Most of these developed into hotels and pubs and flourished during my younger life as independent, individual establishments. Many were full of character, (and characters!), and relied on selling ale and beers. For most, food beyond a packet of crisps with a twist of salt in a little blue paper wrap, was unheard of.

Then came the big brewers and began the decline by forcing everyone to drink chemical beers for their convenience and sales of bitter in the form of Watney’s Red Barrel and the like began to give way to continental lagers.

The downward spiral continued in the late 1960s when the Barbara Castle’s breathalyser arrived and suddenly remote country pubs saw their trade fall overnight.

But despite all this the village pub mostly survived and food began to make an appearance to supplement beer sales. To begin with, it was just sandwiches but soon we began to learn to love chicken in a basket or scampi even!

Then big companies started to take over individual pubs and make harmonised chains so that you could have the same experience in Cheltenham or Chippenham. Food got more adventurous and then children were allowed in. The days of the working man’s alehouse were over.

Tony Blair introduced almost unrestricted opening times and independent pubs struggled to stretch limited resources to compete with chain pubs. The EU banned smoking and another big chunk of the country pub’s custom fell away, finding it easier to drink cheap supermarket booze at home and smoke in peace.

The poor old village pub has had everything thrown against it. It’s adapted and many have survived despite business rate rises just coming in. But many have gone and once gone seem never to return. The Red Lion at Ampney St Mary is likely to become a private house. The Royal Oak at South Cerney has been closed for weeks – will it ever reopen? The Tavern at Kemble is in a similar state. In recent years The Woodbine in town has gone as have two pubs in Ashton Keynes; The White Horse at Frampton Mansell and The Crown Inn at Tetbury. And those are just the ones off the top of my head. There are doubtless many more.

Of course businesses that are no longer viable must close but it seems that of all businesses the pub has had more to compete with than most.

The country pub is a part of our heritage, a unique part. It’s often the centre of village life, where people go to drink, eat and socialise. To play skittles, cards, darts and other games; to compete in quizzes and even karaoke nights. Of many things that are changing in our lives, to me at least, the country pub is one worth preserving. To my mind, we won’t half miss it once it’s gone.

The Hodge is a countryside writer with a series of books to his name.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Kettlercise at Nailsworth Strength and Fitness with Louise Norden

Louise with one of the many 6kg Kettle Bells
Kettlercise at Nailsworth Strength and Fitness with Louise Norden
Evan Burgess tried out Kettlercise in Nailsworth.
I have known about the value of kettle bells for about 10 years now. They are a very old invention commonplace in strong man shows. They had a slightly different design in the past, with an empty space that allowed different amounts of weight to be chambered. Today they are expertly forged into a single unit with a soft outer layer over the metal core. Stylish and fun, they are cheap but work best when you know what to do with them! Kettlercise is one way to get the most out of these amazing tools.
Kettlercise sessions appeal to all body types and ages, because it really doesn’t matter how strong you are to take advantage of the kettle bell. Louise’s session at Nailsworth Strength and Fitness is fun and challenging. The itinerary includes 50 minutes of intense kettle work. It is preceded by a warm up and ended with a cool down.
Essentially every minute of the work period has a different exercise. This is demonstrated by Louise, and involves complex and simple movements. However, the simple movements can have subtleties to them such as hip alignment and head position.
A cheap and excellent way to home exercise, but
first find out how in class!
Good form is encouraged, but this does get a bit harder beyond the half way point. When I was presented with a 6kg kettle bell, I though there must be some mistake. However, like a rifle in basic training I was not going to put this thing down for the entirety of the session. Even though I could have done a lot more weight with the Russian and American swings, the 6kg became heavy and off balancing with lunges and shoulder presses.
Could you look this good?
The moves were good and forced work in multiple plains of motion. Small muscles didn’t escape and my ankles and toes even had to put some work in. Balance is a big part of the lesson, and this will not only be great for people wishing to tone up but also for those who just want more coordination.
This type of exercise is great for people who do other sports that might use a dominant side like boxing or football. For example the shoulder press is split between left and right equally. Some of the core stability exercises will translate to pretty much anything. Doing a sit up with a kettle bell is fun and the Russian twists are good for hip movement. I was quite tired after this session, but I didn’t feel many aches and pains from it in the days after.

If you want to try out Kettlercise there is an array of times that might suit you. Visit more details. You can also book sessions through the MindBody app on your smart phone.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Evening Courses at Foodworks Cookery School by Carlo Vuolo

Yum yum, samosas can be homemade!
Evening courses at Foodworks Cookery School By Carlo Vuolo

Foodworks Cookery School in Colesbourne run day and evening courses covering a wide variety of cuisines from around the world. I went along to an Asian Street Food evening course presented by professional chef Erin Baker. To get us in the mood Erin cooked the course participants a bowl of delicious Pad Thai, which was enjoyed with a glass of wine. Then it was our turn, and as a group we prepared and made a variety of vegetarian dishes, including samosas with a lime and coriander chutney, Vietnamese spring rolls with a lime and chilli dipping sauce, Malaysian mushroom and aubergine satay, and Gyoza or Japanese dumplings with a soy and ginger dipping sauce.

Under Erin’s guidance, we all succeeded in folding the samosas, rolling the spring rolls and crimping shut the Japanese dumplings without any of the fillings escaping. Satays were grilled, sauces were mixed and samosas and dumplings deep fried (the spring rolls did not require cooking) before we sat down to enjoy the results. The flavours were delicate and not at all overpowering, and only the chutney was hot, as we had encouraged Erin to use two green chillies against her better judgement, but this complimented the samosas perfectly.

These two and a half hour courses, covering styles of cookery including Lebanese, Moroccan, Thai, tapas and curries, are excellent value and all the recipes are provided following the course so that dishes can be practiced and perfected at home.

For more information contact Foodworks Cookery School on 01242 870538 or go to

Monday, 2 October 2017

Beware the Telephone/Computer Scam

You could unwittingly allow someone on your computer!
Technology can be confusing! Jeremy Smith attempts to help you navigate a current scam...
I have felt compelled to write something after my father was the victim of a telephone scam last week, and was conned out of £3500.  Last Tuesday morning at about 8.30 he was called by somebody purporting to be from BT.  They said that there had been a host of hacking attempts on computers in his area, and that it was important that he let them clean up his computer.  Although he is quite elderly, he is a reasonably competent computer user, but unfortunately, he was convinced.  They then asked him to download a program called TeamViewer, which allowed them to take remote control of his computer.  This is a perfectly legitimate piece of software, that I have used myself sometimes, to help people without having to go out to them.  However, in the hands of someone you don’t know, it allows them to do all sorts of things on your computer.
He was on the phone to them for about three hours, all the time while they were remotely controlling his computer.  They did a lot of things that he was expecting, running anti-virus scans and cleaning up the computer. He said the whole thing was extremely convincing, and the guy seemed to be able to predict exactly what would happen.
They then asked him to pay them £12 by bank transfer, and watched as he set up the payment.  Unbeknownst to him, they added two further payments of £3500 and £1500. Luckily, I spoke to him about half an hour later and said that he must contact the bank immediately.  Unfortunately, the £3500 had already gone, but the £1500 was stopped.  At the moment, we don’t know if he will get the money back.
The message I want to get across is never to let anyone take remote control of your computer, no matter how convincing they are.  They particularly target the elderly and unsure. It’s ironic that they are claiming to protect you from hacking, but are doing exactly that to you themselves.
Jeremy Smith, Computer Support for Home Users.  07837 754939 
STAMP DUTY LAND TAX – Residential Property

What is SDLT?
The most substantial fee involved in a purchase of residential property is very often the stamp duty land tax (SDLT) charged by HMRC following completion, on buyers of property.
Major changes to the regime were made in the 2003 Finance Act and more recently in 2016. Stamp duty was a relatively simple calculation on the price of property bought, and required the submission of a one page document. Stamp duty Land Tax, now in conformity with other taxes, involves more complex calculations and a form resembling a tax return.
When and how it is paid
SDLT is a self assessed tax and it is the taxpayer’s responsibility to pay the correct amount of tax within 28 days of completion. Normally this is done through the taxpayer’s “agent” e.g.  their conveyancing solicitor.
How it is calculated
SDLT is charged on the acquisition of a chargeable interest in land in England Wales and Northern Ireland, however that acquisition arose, i.e. by purchase, court order, inheritance etc. It is immaterial where the parties live.
There are exemptions for deeds of gift, for some leases from social landlords, for some transactions involving divorce and dissolution of civil partnerships, and variation of wills. These exemptions are not available to companies buying from a connected seller.
If the main subject matter of a transaction consists entirely of residential property the residential rates apply. These may be the standard rates , the surcharged rates, or occasionally the higher 15% rate.  
What counts as residential property
Residential property is
a)      A building that is used or suitable for use as a dwelling or in the process of being constructed   (i.e. the walls have been started) or
b)      Land that is or forms part of the garden or grounds of such a building or
c)       An interest in or a right over land, which is for the benefit of such a building
If a single transaction involves six or more separate dwellings this does not count as residential property
The rates
Standard rates are 0% for prices or parts of prices up to £125,000, plus 2% of any additional part of the price up to £250,000, plus 5% of any additional part of the price up to £925,000, plus 10% of any additional part of the price up to £1,500,000, plus 12% of any additional part of the price over this
Surcharged rates are 3% above the standard rates
The higher rate is 15% on the total consideration

When the surcharged rates apply
It is safest to assume that the surcharge applies, unless one of the exemptions below applies
a)      The purchase is of a dwelling which is not an “additional” dwelling. If there is an existing dwelling anywhere in the world the new purchase will attract the surcharge. If land only is being bought, e g part of a garden, there will be no surcharge. There are other exclusions also. The legislation is ambiguous where the taxpayer already has a “major interest” in another dwelling because the definition of “major interest” is unclear
b)      The dwelling is to replace the buyer’s main home
These exemptions do not apply to companies
When the higher rate applies
This will apply when the price exceeds £500,000, where the property is a single dwelling, and where the buyer is a company
Other provisions
The legislation contains provisions for linked transactions, multiple dwellings, purchases by trusts, and other considerations. Wales is due to have its own SDLT rules from next year.

The above is a brief summary of quite complex law. For further information see HMRC guidance or contact Alison Fielden & Co The Gatehouse Dollar Street Cirencester GL7 2AN, 01285 653261 or your own solicitor.