Sunday, 31 July 2016

Mocktails July 28th 2016 (a first)

Who's this then?

You may think you're looking at Chris Ogle; Watford boy and passionate about community and Link4Growth...

But suppose this is the guy who taught Tom Cruise how to shake and stir? Whose mixology is legendary?

Suppose - or pretend - this is true. Either way we took it on trust that this was something he'd done before (and the hat surely says it all?)

Chris's skills were put to the test on Wednesday July 28th at the first ever Mocktails evening. Held at The Kitchen Croxley this was Link4Drinks with a twist. And a slice of pineapple, a maraschino cherry and a bendy straw...

The event was well attended by the keen, the curious and the downright dubious. A night drinking with no alcohol - what was that all about?

Quite a lot in fact! Some great flavours for starters, have you ever enjoyed a Watermelon Cooler? Fresh fruit blitzed with lime juice and topped up with sparkling water - refreshing on a balmy evening, Or how about a mojito - muddled mint and brown sugar, ice and ginger ale. A pina colada is known for its coconut and pineapple so who needs rum really? And a Sea Breeze can be just as refreshing without the vodka. Even the snakebites were well received - alcohol free beer is not what it used to be blended with some apple juice and a shot of blackcurrant is all the kick you need!

So why Mocktails and not Cocktails? Well for starters The Kitchen is not a licensed premises. We've considered it but the costs involved can be quite substantial. As a family friendly community hub we're happy to be serving great coffee, a decent pot of tea and healthy shakes and juices. It's more than fine to bring in some beers on a comedy night, or a bottle of bubbles for a celebration tea. But we're not sure licensing is the route for us just yet.

We're also conscious of the benefits of reducing the amount of alcohol we consume, and want to help people do this by offering delicious alternatives. We've all sat in the pub with fizzy water whilst our mates enjoy a fruity red wine or draft ale. Perhaps because we're driving, expecting, on medication or simply wanting to keep a clear head. Getting older doesn't seem to help with the morning after headaches either!

It's not all about avoiding things either - there are lots of positives to eating and drinking more fruit and fluid - Mocktails make that an absolute pleasure.

The customers certainly agreed with us. Over the course of the evening many of them tried two if not three of the drinks - with the comments overwhelmingly positive!

We're looking forward very much to the next event on August 24th. The evening is open to everyone so put the date in your diary now and we hope you will join us!

Independent Coffee Shops 'R' us... 3 great stories this week...

We are incredibly lucky in South West Herts with an absolutely amazing group of diverse, lively and unique Independent Coffee Shops. Not only are they providing an oasis of community vibrancy but through the #CoffeeShopUnion now extending themselves to offer comedy night, mocktails evenings, book launches, discussion groups and art galleries for local artists to name just a few of the activities.

The #CoffeeShopUnion is part of the UNION's concept of Link4Business a way of empowering local companies to work together and support each other even if in a similar business area. There is enough for everyone, we are all different and the joy of working as part of a team is so much better than battling it out alone... if you are a local business give it a go, come and find out more, lots of events coming up ...

Three local Coffee shops have been in the news this week for different reasons...

Picture courtesy of the Watford Observer
Reason Coffee Shop & Bookstore

Mysteriously a piece of topical, satirical, political graffiti has appeared on the signage above the shop. This has caused quite a stir in the town. The Reason Coffee shop (in the Parade) is a well known meeting place for those that are campaigning for a fairer, more sustainable and more equitable, tolerant society and so the graffiti is well placed.

It reads 'Freedom from War is no crime' highlighting the plight of refugees around the world and that we should be showing compassion not demonising them for the situation in which they find themselves. Often fleeing from a war inflicted on them by the so called 'civilised nations' of the west. Article in the Observer can be found here. More details from +Neal Emery owner of the Coffee Shop.

The Kitchen Croxley

A well kept secret was revealed last night at about 10:15pm on mainstream TV. A trail for the #Casualty30 year anniversary was aired for the first time. Guess where the cake featured in the 40 second trail was sourced from? ... yes... you've got it, our very own Bakery and Independent coffee shop here in Croxley Green.

Those who frequent the shop often might have noticed a month back or so, strange goings on in the shop with cake dropping seemingly becoming a popular distraction. Watch the video to understand why... If you want to know more of the shenanigans behind this story then do go down and chat with +Linda Anderson who will share all the gossip from 'on set'/

Fred & Ginger - Kings Langley

Alfie Engin and James Sanders co-owners of the popular coffee shop in Kings langley High Street are no strangers to famous visitors popping in from nearby Leavesden Studios.. but...

To learn that 'big fan' Zack Snyder was so impressed with the coffee shop that he intends to build a replica to star in the 2017 blockbuster superhero movie 'Justice League'.

So if you like your movies and fancy bumping into the likes of Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe and Amber Heard just some of the celebrities that might be checking out the real Fred & Gingers... then do get down there and check it out!

What an amazing part of the world we live in and congratulations to all our independent coffee shops that are doing some amazing work in bringing our communities back together again. I have a feeling there will be more awesome stories to come in the coming months... so keep it up teams!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Reporting the news and thanks to Watford Red Watch!

This is one of those rare and rather surreal situations where you find yourself wrapped up in a story that unfolds during the day (Thursday 28th July) and then you find it in the local newspaper later on pointed out to you by a friend.

Actually my mother (81) had been trying to get hold of me early in the morning, and with a new phone I hadn't noticed the calls. At 8:00am my sister called with the news that mum had fallen in the bathroom and had severely cut her leg and that the emergency services were on site. Apparently she had called 999 at 7:30am after managing to walk to one of the upstairs rooms and use the landline. The mobile phone with all contact numbers was downstairs.

 This incident comes off the back of a 14 week spell in hospital which ended on the 4th July, when my mother returned home to recuperate after a stent had been inserted. Only the day before, Wednesday, mum had said that she was beginning to feel her old self again... and now this.

My niece fortunately off work for the day got around to the house in Leavesden by 8:30am to be on hand to keep us abreast of the situation... I spoke with mum who was coherent although weak through losing a lot of blood and with low blood pressure. Clearly shaken and aghast at causing so much trouble for everyone she was still in the bathroom at this time. With a stair lift installed in the house and access difficult and growing urgency due to mums condition it was decided to get mum out it would have to be through the upstairs window, crane and harness. Not my mothers preferred method of leaving the house, but needs must.

I arrived 9:00am a bit after the event, mum was already in the ambulance, doors back on downstairs and just the upstairs window that needed to be refitted. A combination of Watford Red Watch, paramedics, ambulance crew and the Air Ambulance (not required on this occasion) all combining in difficult circumstances to extract mum and get her down to Watford General A & E for much needed medical attention.

At the hospital the diagnosis has been to operate tomorrow on severe blood clots and with a probable week or so in the hospital for recovery before returning home. I want to personally thank all the emergency services involved in this operation today, without which the day would have ended very differently. We don't call on these services very often in our lives... but when we do, like on this occasion, it can be the difference between life and death.

The Watford observer did get this story in the newspaper (with some errors) but it is nice that this service where we can report the news ourselves is now becoming available...

Pictures all courtesy of Watford Red Watch (via Twitter @ redsfirewatch)

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Paddock Wood Allotment

Fabulous local project. Some great work being undertaken by unsung heroes like Sandy... We will be hoping to feature Sandy more often in other aspects of what is happening on the sustainability front +Debi King if he is willing... lots of great stuff to share with the local community and ideas that I am sure can be replicated elsewhere.

Watford Remains United march 2016

On Saturday 23rd July 12pm the Watford Remains United group marched from +Reason Coffee Shop & Book Store down the town and then back to the Pond in the parade where speeches were made.

The group is defiant about the Referendum result and seeks to bring to peoples attention the effects that they believe the decision will have.

Watford was the closest result of all the ballot boxes across the country, once more Watford being a strong indicator of the mood of the nation with just a few hundred votes being the difference between bremain and brexit.

Nicola Gorb an activist for the remain vote shown below speaking at the march on Saturday.

"I woke up to the Brexit, advisory referendum result in dismay and panic. The Germans no longer have referendums as they are a flawed, simplistic, binary way to come to a decision on complicated matters. The last one they had got Adolf Hitler into power and as we know, that didn’t begin, or end very well. 

I jumped into action. I became involved with Remain groups, such as The 48% on line, read everything I could about it  and sought out local support. This support was found in the Reason Bookshop and Cafe in Watford. Neal Emery runs the cafe and is a Humanist, Green and  thoughtful and creative activist.
He linked me up with the Young Green, Emma Brading. The three of us set out to organise a march to show our solidarity with our EU and immigrant community, say no to racism and xenophobia, to protest against Brexit, as we believe the UK should remain in the EU and to protest about a flawed referendum  driven by lies and propaganda.  We did the Watford Remain United March on 23rd July, as part of the the Movement For Europe national march.  It was a fantastic event and brought our political parties together with local people and we spoke with one voice.  The group will arrange further events and action to unite our community and continue our fight to remain within the EU.
More information about the group and talks can be seen on the Facebook group referenced at the end of this piece.

Why was I so pushed to action on this?   

My family were refugees in the early 20th century, fleeing Russian, Jewish pogroms.  My grandfather and his family came to the UK,  changed their name from Gorbilevski to Gorb, to hide their identity and blend in… Only English was spoken. Their native languages lost to their descendants, as well as their Eastern European culture and home. 

My son’s father’s family came to the UK  as a result of a more calamitous event.  The good Jewish doctor in his German town stayed too long as he wanted to help his patients in his community. The family got to the Czech republic and the two eldest children sent to England, via Nicholas Winterbottom’s kinder-transport programme. The parents and younger sister were murdered by the Nazi industrialised killing machine, known as the Shoa, or Holocaust.  The words ‘Never Again’ are imbedded into my DNA. ‘Never Again’ is showing strong signs of being ‘Again’. 
Jews were scapegoats for the broken Germany society. The Germans, trampled on by the Versailles Treaty led to the rise of fascism. The population drawn to a charismatic personality, who promised to make them feel great again and Germany great again was just too hard to resist.  Who doesn’t want to feel great?! ’The Other’ was identified, primarily as the Jews, who for decades  had been dehumanised by vicious propaganda and lies.  The Brexit referendum result didn’t happen overnight, but came  about through years of neglect of many sectors of our society, Austerity, mistrust in politicians,  Euro-sceptics and a lack of institutional and cultural identification of being a European and part of the EU.  There is also a strong racist element to this result, stoked up by anti-immigrant propaganda  through the media (Murdoch press, for example) and Teresa May’s strong anti immigrant policies.    The tactic of the powerful to focus their population’s rage and distress on ’the other’ has been used again and again over history, each time with catastrophic consequences for those who are the chosen scapegoat. It plunges whole regions into chaos and takes years to recover. Racist attacks are sky-rocketing in the UK; the referendum a green light to opening the Pandora’s Box to racism.

Brexit and the possibility of Trump getting into power and the widening blanket of fascism spreading across Europe is the greatest risk to world peace and a stable environment.  We need to be united to deal with our world’s problems, not divided.  ISIS, Putin and Le Penn cheered this result. The rest of the world are aghast…

I will not sit back and just let this happen.  Small groups of people and loud voices can change the world.  Think of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Harvey Milk (Gay Rights activist and politician USA) , Podemos (Spanish grassroots party). I want to be part of those small groups or a loud single voice..."
- Nicola Gorb
Whether you agree with the result of the referendum or not, the key surely must be to have open, attentive, understanding communication between everyone in the community. When someone does not agree with your view there is opportunity for conversation, debate and a chance to get to know your neighbour better. This is about providing a framework where everyone has a voice, not just those who can shout loudest enabling everyone to be heard and respected. Then and only then, we may get to "first seek to understand then seek to be understood".

Right now we have a fantastic opportunity to enter into open dialogue. To start to look at community, why it is so vital for stability and long term happiness, and perhaps question why did we let it slip? ... how could we have been so blinkered and allowed community to be sacrificed all for money and profit.

The stakes are high, and if we don't believe they are then this article below (10 minute read) might give a little insight into how what appear to be quite innocent acts can lead to events of great significance. Whether Brexit is the catalyst for such a seismic event who knows, but it is a wake up call, and time to take action and play your part, or....

Facebook Group for the SW Herts Remains United Group can be found here.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Coffee Shop Union supports local artist's first exhibition.

This lovely young lady is Ciara Paulo. An incredibly talented young artist whose vibrant, fresh work is currently causing a stir at The Kitchen Croxley.

On Friday evening Link4Growth supported the preview of Ciara's first ever exhibition. This is exactly the type of event Link4Growth is keen to be a part of. Something that engages the community, encourages the next generation of leaders, and gets people talking to each other. Taking place as it did in an independent coffee shop there was another reason for L4G to engage with this.

The Kitchen Croxley is a member of the Coffee Shop Union. One of many initiatives designed to bring together small business owners, enabling them to collaborate for the benefit of both themselves and their customers. Within the Coffee Shop Union, owners of independent coffee shops meet, talk, share ideas and suggestions, help out in times of busy-ness or crisis and, or course, enjoy a cuppa together.

Many of these independent coffee shops have a space that is perfect for hanging pictures and photos. Standing in The Kitchen last Friday, glass of craft beer in hand and viewing these delightful drawings, you could have been forgiving for thinking you were in Camden or Hackney. A trendy white-walled gallery full of young people enjoying a great first night. This experience will now be repeated elsewhere, not just in City Centres but also in the suburbs, smaller towns and villages. Coffee Shops that previously operated alone can now benefit from the links with other similar businesses, building a circuit of venues to be used by artists, musicians, comics and many other creative individuals.

To read more about the launch night take a look here And to enquire about joining the CSU, or exhibiting at one of our venues do get in touch.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Coffee Shop Union - update

Hi everyone - Linda here from The Kitchen Croxley. Hope everyone is well this sunny Sunday afternoon.

There's a lot going on in the news just now - the EU referendum, terrorism in Baghdad and the shootings in the US spring to mind immediately. There have been interesting political issues and leadership contests arising as part of the fallout from "Brexit" and many people seem unsure as to where we are headed in these uncertain times.

I'm no expert in politics or world affairs, but from where I sit one of the most important things we can do at times like this is to look out for each other. Sadly the referendum result seems to have set people against each other and finding a way forward that accepts we didn't all agree can seem almost impossible. Some feel that voting in a certain way means you're a certain kind of person - whatever that is. But dig a little deeper and I believe we all want what we believe to be right for our community - we just see the way there differently.

What does all of this have to do with the Coffee Shop Union?

I joined Link4Growth after hearing someone say that many of the places where people used to make connections no longer exist. Living in the same street as your family, having a job for life, frequenting the pub on the street corner, visiting the library or community centre. Link4Growth brings people together in their local coffee shop, where they get to know and trust each other, talk and understand each other better. If this happens all over the country - in every community - surely it will impact society and lead to better understanding and agreement. Coffee Shops can become community hubs, improving communication and reducing loneliness and exclusion.

Linking Coffee Shops in our Union is already making this more effective. Those of us involved are sharing stories, support and suppliers. We're holding events that can then move onto another CSU member's premises, and customers already like the idea of somewhere that comes with a guarantee of service with a smile and locally sourced ingredients.

Two concrete examples this week when I met with Jackie from LJ's Coffee House in Bushey. Over a coffee - what else? - we discussed the issues I've been experiencing with a food supplier. Straightaway I have the number of another company that I can talk to - who have been reliable and good value.

We then moved on to Mr Kitchen's absence at the cash and carry. How had I not realised they now deliver - saving us time and petrol? Off to set up an account - thanks Jackie :-)

Working together in this way, building a network of independent businesses all aiming to rebuild community, is surely where we do best to focus. Do we really want to be at odds with our neighbours when it's so much more satisfying to connect and get to know others, working out how together we can be the change we'd like to see in the world. If things do go a little pear shaped for a while I like to know there are people who have my back, that I can depend on, live and work with.

So thanks Link4Growth for everything I've learned and gained so far and here's to much more to come!