I’m a bit late with my monthly review this month, so apologies to my reader. The problem is April has been a busy month so far – I will no doubt be blogging about that later if I get the time, or you’ll have to wait until next month’s review to hear about it.
Meanwhile, this is what I made of March:
The World at Large
At last I don’t have to start my review talking about the weather. Oops, looks like I already did! But things picked up this month and the country has pretty much dried out, so the news had to turn to other things: it was dominated by two main stories.
Firstly things in Ukraine were hotting up. Tensions had already started building between pro-EU and pro-Russian factions last month. This month the Russian’s decided to settle things by sending in troops and, after a widely disputed referendum, Putin absorbed Crimea into the Russian Federation. The EU and US have refused to accept the legitimacy of this annexation and have imposed sanctions on key Russian and Ukrainian officials. It is not clear that these sanctions are being particularly successful and there are fears that Russia may be eyeing up other parts of eastern Ukraine.
The other major story was the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines passenger jet MH370, which vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. It seems that the tracking systems on board the Boeing 777 had been deliberately turned off and it was last seen heading into the Indian Ocean. Despite extensive searches and sightings of possible debris, its final whereabouts has not yet been ascertained. It is only a matter of time before crazy theories start appearing about UFOs or a new Bermuda Triangle, or a new series of Lost is commissioned.
Other news that caught my eye was the death of not just one, but two old school socialists: Bob Crow, the General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, and former Labour MP Tony Benn. People were all queuing up to say nice things about them, even their political opponents, which was much more dignified than the unedifying spectacle that surrounded Margaret Thatcher’s death last year.
March 12th was the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee: something for all of us bloggers to celebrate.
Finally, plans for a new 12-sided pound coin were unveiled. Expected to come into use in 2017, it has been likened to the old pre-decimal threepenny bit. Billed by the Royal Mint as the “most secure coin in the world” it has been designed to defeat counterfeiters as currently 45 million forgeries are estimated to be in circulation.
A good number of things of general local interest this month – in no particular order:
A Richard III exhibition came to Gloucester Museum, igniting renewed interest in a former Duke of Gloucester and an important monarch for the city. Inspired by and built around the reconstruction of the King’s head, which was based on the remains found under a Leicester Car Park last year. The exhibition ran for ten days before the head was returned to leicester. Visitors included the current Duke of Gloucester, HRH Prince Richard, and hopefully scotched some of the adverse Tudor propaganda perpetuated by none other than William Shakespeare.
On-going demolition of the much-hated Golden Egg building in King’s Square revealed “hugely important” remains of a Roman townhouse. How this escaped the attention of builders when it was constructed in the first place has not been explained, but much more of this should be expected as King’s Quarter development finally gets underway as King’s Square is on the site of the north-east corner of the Roman city and the bus station was built on Whitefriars, the Carmelite friary.
And it looks like development on King’s Quarter may actually get underway. Director of Stanhope, Martyn Chase, has said that development will now be complete by December 2018. However, things seem to hinge on the success of a bid for Government funding for a new city bus station. If that comes through, plans will be submitted by the end of 2014. There was no mention of what happens if the bid fails…
Staying with the Romans for a while, plans have also been announced to open up the King’s Bastion Chamber. I had never heard it called that before, but that is the bit of Roman wall that lies beneath King’s walk. I visited it once when I was a child – at that time there was a permanent stairwell down to it, albeit that it was locked almost permanently. It has been flooded and inaccessible for many years and the stairwell is now covered by a large metal plate.
Back in January I mentioned that the city council had decided to propose Gloucester Cathedral for recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This month cold water appears to have been poured onto the idea by Gloucester MP Richard Graham, who makes some good points about whether it is worth the money and effort given that UNESCO have said they don’t want any more cathedrals on the list and those that are listed have seen little benefit.
The Citizen announced the big news that the council is to splash out £100K on new toilets in the centre. Perhaps I just haven’t yet reached the age where this affects me too much, but I fail to see why people get so worked up about this subject. If you believed the Citizen letter writers you would picture halcyon days of pristine and readily available public conveniences, whereas my memory conjures up dirty, smelly, disreputable places which were frequently closed due to vandalism. There are plans to get over this problem by charging 20p per visit to pay for an attendant, which is bound to cause howls of protest.
And of course, last but not least, I can’t have a review without pub news. The biggest news was to be the re-opening of the Northend Vaults. Unfortunately it was delayed until the 4 April, so maybe it shouldn’t properly be in this review, but plans look very good. More details next month once I’ve had the chance to visit.
The New Inn also has new landlords (again!): Michael and Marion Sage have taken over and reportedly have “grand designs” to bring it “back to its rightful place as a thriving city centre attraction”, including plans for a micro brewery. I wish them well and hope they get the support they need from their landlord, Chapmans.
In less good news, both Voltage and the Union closed, although it looks promising that there are plans for both to re-open. It looks like a name change to “Molly’s” is on the cards for the latter, which dampens my enthusiasm somewhat, especially when there is talk of an Irish theme. Groan.
March was a busy month, starting with a friend’s birthday on the 1st. He had hoped to celebrate at C&W’s African Experience in St Catherine’s Street, but unfortunately it was closed so we went to Marinades in Cheltenham instead. Of course I prefer to support Gloucester businesses, but Marinades was excellent and I would definitely recommend it if you have to desert our fair city.
The following couple of weekends were gloriously sunny, giving plenty of opportunity to get out on the motorbikes, visiting Abergavenny and Hay on Wye. The good weather meant that we also managed a little work in the garden: an initial assault attempting to tame the jungle. We really need to sacrifice some riding time for gardening, but my motivation for that is not high!
Whilst on the subject of motorbikes, we also started planning for our trip of a lifetime across American on Harley Davidsons. It’s a long time to wait, but I’m already very excited.
During the month there was also a great house party at another friend’s house, conveniently within staggering distance, and one evening we had a couple of friends around for a very civilised dinner party at home, which always makes me feel uncomfortably like a grown up. I also went to the Guildhall for the Roving Crow’s annual St Patrick’s Day gig, which was excellent as always.
CAMRA activities also came to the fore: as well as the monthly social, which this month was at Portivo Lounge in the docks, the very end of the month saw preparations toward the annual Gloucester CAMRA Beer Festival. The last two days of the month saw me helping with set up at Blackfriars: mostly lumping heavy beer casks about. More on the beer festival itself to follow.
Because it has been a busy month, I haven’t had much time for blogging, managing only 9 blogs in March. Unsurprisingly, therefore, my number of hits for the month have also dropped, but at 919 hits for the month it is still not too bad by my standards – certainly significantly more than the same time last year.
Seven of the posts published in March made it into the top ten for the month, with the most popular being the review of February – it was still pipped into second place, though, by… you guessed it, Fighting Political Apathy (not providing a link!)
So that was March, bring on April…