A gust of cinnamon from a pine-wreathed glühwein stand while the carousel plays Frosty the Snowman, and neon snowflakes decorate the neoclassical columns. A Pavlovian sense of festivity fights with my inner Scrooge. On the journey, there were still smudges of autumnal ochre on the wooded hills outside the train window. But Oxford, an hour’s ride from London’s Marylebone station, is in Christmas mode. I’m planning festive cultural tourism in my old home city, including visits to places in Philip Pullman’s books; His Dark Materials is currently enlivening Sunday nights as a BBC One drama. First stop is the Ashmolean Museum, 10 minutes’ walk from Oxford station. The world’s first museum has had a £61m revamp in the last decade and ancient treasures are newly revealed. The Last Supper in Pompeii exhibition (adult £12.25, 12-17s £6, until 12 January 2020) recreates Roman feasts from mosaics, rusty pruning hooks and carbonised … [Read more...] about Oxford at Christmas: a car-free trip to a city of dreaming spires
I was in Venice when the acqua alta struck on 28 October 2018. I noted in my diary: “It happened today. The first big acqua alta of the year, with a siren at 09.17, followed by two steady tones. One tone is for 1.1 metres, two 1.2 metres, three 1.3 metres and four 1.4 metres or more. The tidal chart says the level should peak just after noon. At 12.30 I put on my green rubber boots. Stepping out along the canals, I found the water above my ankles and immediately had to re-learn how to walk. Walking at normal speed causes the water to splash over your boots and on to your legs. I slowed down, finding I also needed to watch out for little waves from the boats on the canal, which rode up right over the submerged pavement. “Tourists used bin bags or fluorescent pink plastic booties over their shoes, walked barefoot or just got their shoes wet. Judging by the laughs and picture taking, high water looked fun, but not for the tourists who held heavy suitcases to their chests to … [Read more...] about Deep trouble: can Venice hold back the tide?
My granddaughter started at Leicester University in September. There was a Starbucks on the campus so I bought her a £20 gift card. She has told me the branch will not accept it. Starbucks verified that, although this outlet comes up as one of its stores on its website, as it is a franchise it will not accept the card. It was suggested she use a city centre branch over an hour’s walk away. I can’t find anything on Starbucks’ website that warns gift cards are not acceptable at all stores and I was not told when I bought it. I have asked for a refund since the card is not fit for use. Now I have been told to send photographic ID and a bank statement with my full name and address. The refund will then take 45 business days to process. JB, Birmingham Starbucks confirms this was a franchised, or licensed, store typically on campuses, CenterParcs and so on, accounting for about 30% of its UK outlets. It says it was unfortunate the barista who sold you the card had not … [Read more...] about The Starbucks gift card I bought is useless
Roman Kemp will be returning to work before the week is up and Capital Radio bosses are hoping his new-found popularity will continue to bring in new listeners. The 26-year-old reached the final of I'm A Celebrity, eventually finishing third behind Coronation Street star Andy Whyment and winner Jacqueline Jossa. This has brought him a new army of fans with his social media following trebling from 213,000 to over 766,000 as viewers embraced his personality. After taking just a few days to luxuriate in the surrounds of the Palazzo Versace hotel after three gruelling weeks in the Australian jungle, Roman is reportedly jetting back to London so that he can take up the reins of the show on Thursday, December 12. He is hoping that tens of thousands new listeners will tune in after impressing in the jungle. Roman's co-host, Sonny Jay, surprised him by pitching up Down Under to support him in his bid to win the ITV show. He has been broadcasting the breakfast show from Australia and appeared … [Read more...] about Roman Kemp to make triumphant return to Capital Radio as his followers treble