Archives Month: November 2015

Who thought up the term “Black Friday”? Do folk not realise how language affects our minds and attitudes?

Moving on – the “boss” and I travelled to Bath on Wednesday to concentrate on some Christmas shopping. By mid – morning we were in Shires Yard, watching the world go by and supping coffee at Jamie’s Deli, before the big shop.

The whole city felt relaxed and festive and the shop staff were still chipper before the last minute rush drains them. By the end of the day I looked like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman – arms full of smart carriers and a smug look on my face because the present list was all ticked. Result!

We always stay at the Queensberry Hotel in the centre of Bath and usually dine in their Olive Tree Restaurant downstairs. This time it was better than ever and the staff were up for the banter I so enjoy while I am dining.

After a good night’s sleep and a “full English” we were ready for the first day of the Bath Christmas Market. Over 170 chalets dotted around Bath Abbey, with all their twinkling lights and bonhomie creating a brilliant seasonal mood.

Happy shoppers, relaxed and cheerful tradespeople, good quality crafts and the finest food purveyors in the South West all joining forces to make the visit memorable. Many of the food producers can be seen on the Armada Pinterest boards and our Instagram.

Above the sound of piped Christmas music I could hear children singing, so of course I had to find them and watch and listen. In front of Bath Abbey the choir of The Academy of Trinity were entertaining the sea of visitors. Thirty 8/9 year olds had moves as good as any on Strictly and when they took on “Hey Jude” my first thought was move over McCartney, you and your chums were never as good as this. On looking around the adoring crowd, all you could see were tourist and locals wiping away their tears. Priceless!

I may have to pay a little more to do my Christmas shopping in Bath but those who use Black Friday will never enjoy the beauty and joy of Bath or add these experiences to the memory locker.

With Christmas fast approaching you may well hear a few wives asking, “What do you give a man who has everything?”

You could ask a similar question of Paul Gray, MD of Beechwood Beds in Newport. “Your company has been bringing husbands and wives together comfortably for 38 years. Are you going to retire any time soon?”

Far from thinking of spending every day on the Championship Course at Celtic Manor, Paul has expansion on his mind. Together with his wife Debbie they have just opened a retail unit in the new Friars Walk development in the centre of Newport.

Their neighbours are mostly national operators such as Next, Debenhams, New Look and H&M. The food outlets include TGI Friday, Prezzo, Las Iguanas etc. If dad and the children can’t cope with shopping after lunch, or more likely, mum wants to get rid of them for a couple of hours, she can send them to Cineworld.

Great idea mum, now you can get all the Christmas shopping done.

Paul and Debbie were really astute when they opened their shop in the middle of November, because although folk may suppose they have another bed emporium, in fact their new enterprise is devoted to selling Yankee Candles.

“Go on mum, one for granny, then there’s Auntie Flo, Auntie Gwyneth, Cousin Megan and your eight girlfriends. There you go then, that’s half your Christmas shopping done. There’s lovely!”

Not only were Paul and Debbie foxy about the timing of their opening, they were discerning about their choice of funding for the fitting out of their premises.

If you are looking for finance to fit out retail, leisure or office accommodation, come to Armada. We have been helping start-up businesses for over 40 years.

Exeter, the regional capital of the South West is a modern dynamic retail and commercial centre set in a Georgian and Medieval past.

With its Norman cathedral and its coffee shops and ale houses which were trading in Elizabethan times rubbing shoulders with Starbucks and Weatherspoons, the city blends its past and present beautifully.

The Guildhall, sitting comfortably in the High Street is a Grade 1 listed building which is the old municipal property still in constant use in the land.

A short walk down the street heading towards the River Exe and you will arrive at St Nicholas Priory, a Benedictine monastery that was founded in 1087 and still standing after nearly a thousand years. Those westcountry brickies built them to last!

Further down Fore Street and you can find the Tudor district of the city. At the bottom of West Street is a 15th century timber-framed building which found itself in the wrong place just after WW2. It survived the blitz but could survive the building of a new city ring road, so in 1961 this glorious medieval building was jacked up and moved a short distance to its current position. It now appears to have always been there.

“The House That Moved” is now a bridal shop. Sir Francis Drake may well approve that bridal gowns haven’t changed that much since his days in Exeter.

Maybe it’s time to take a break and check out all those photos you’ve taken. Let me suggest that you stroll up West Street, you are now back in Fore Street. Look opposite and you will see @ Angela’s Restaurant, one of Exeter’s finest, rated by Trip Advisor as 26th best in the city out of 462.

Angela Valder herself will greet you while husband Richard is busy preparing Devon’s finest fish and meat. Maybe you would like to try the seared Brixham scallops followed by pan fried local Aberdeen Angus steak and strawberry Eton Mess to finish. @ Angela’s will not break the bank but hurry. As Shaun from Rome said “Suggest you get there before the secret is out.”

Exeter has something for everyone, great shopping, a café society and excellent dining, ship loads of history, murals and statues and an award-winning museum. In other words the Jewson lot.

November is a time for reflection for many – the summer is over, winter is a couple of weeks away and Armistice Day is the 11th, next Wednesday.

I am very fortunate that I have never lost a friend or family member in a conflict and I can celebrate a dear friend’s birthday on the 11th, so I can contemplate the significance of this time of year and proudly wear the poppy without the emotional turmoil of loss.

Not only am I grateful to all our service people who have given their lives in war and those who have been injured, I am lifted up by the amount of support and effort given to the many services charities by caring, grateful Brits across the kingdom.

The Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes, Walking with the Wounded and the many other laudable charities would not exist but for the generosity and appreciation of the great British public (not forgetting the inspiring help given by our children).

This week I have been particularly touched by reading the story of Kirstie Ennis, the 24 year old American marine who, with 5 others, walked 1000 miles from Scotland to Buckingham Palace, to raise money and awareness for Walking with the Wounded.

Kirstie was severely injured when her helicopter was blown up in Afghanistan and has had 38 operations to reconstruct her. In the summer she was due to have her left leg amputated but she postponed the op in order to participate in the 1000 mile walk, helping other wounded service personnel be retrained for careers outside the military.

How inspiring is Kirstie and many like her yet how easily do we forget the courage and sacrifice of others in order to complain about the weather or the failure of our rugby/football team !!

Ps How proud must Diana be as she looks down on her fine sons who have matured so much in her image?

Having spent a lifetime lending to businesses, originally in the South West but now across the UK it isn’t surprising that I have an interest in the history of banking.

During the 18th century the woollen industry brought about one of the wealthiest periods for England. With Devon being a significant sheep rearing county and Exeter being close to the sea it explains why in the latter part of the 1700s there were five private banks in the centre of the city, most situated in magnificent properties overlooking the 12th century cathedral.

With just a few years starting in 1769, first the Exeter Bank was founded, followed by the Devonshire Bank and then the City Bank. Some of these august bodies were able to print their own bank notes.

It was the Baring family from London that opened the Devonshire bank with brothers John and Francis giving the bank its title of Baring Brothers. Yes, the very same bank that under the Chairmanship of Peter Baring saw the dramatic collapse known as the Nick Leeson Affair. Eventually, the oldest bank in the country was sold in 1995 to the Dutch ING Group for £1.

Ninety years before Barings was founded, Richard Hoare opened his C. Hoare & Co, private bank, in Cheapside, London. In 1690 the bank moved to Fleet Street, where it still trades today.

Obviously the bank prospered because Richard’s son Henry felt able in 1717 to purchase a country estate in the South West, where the river Stour rises, close to Mere. The magnificent gardens were created by Henry’s son, Henry and in 1946 Stourhead was passed the The National Trust for the whole nation to enjoy.

Stourhead is one of the Trust’s most visited and photographed properties in England. The photograph above was taken on 2nd November 2015 so put a note on your phone to visit Oct/Nov 2016.

When we see the magnificence created by past generations one can only hope that in 300 years from now our descendants will be able to enjoy something left behind by our current tranche of bankers.