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The Savoy – London

1 Jun

The Place

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My good wife and I were lucky enough to head to stay at the Savoy over the weekend.  There is no way I would every consider paying £500+ a night for a hotel of any description but this was free so I had no problem saying yes to it.

I have to say I don’t think it is a huge step above some of the nicer, if far more reasonably priced hotels I’ve stayed in across the UK.  The attention to detail from staff was exceptional but beyond that the room and the food in general etc was all of a very high quality but not of the standard that I would think would make me stump up that sort of cash.

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There is a cake and patisserie shop at the Savoy called Melba and we stopped in for some carrot cake.

The Carrot Cake

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I had a carrot cake cupcake on this visit.  The decoration was great with a very authentic looking marzipan carrot topper.  There was a huge amount of cream cheese icing, perhaps a bit too much if anything.  This was extremely fresh and enjoyable.  The texture of the cake was excellent, very moist and bitty, but for my pallet not spicy enough for a carrot cake.

Overall it was very good but not quite great.

The Drink

Not hot chocolate was consumed on this trip sadly.

The Rest

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Not being such a fan of carrot cake Lauren opted for a salted caramel eclair.  I’m really sorry to say that this looked and sounded that bit better than it actually tasted.  Although the texture was nice it lacked the strong flavor to back it up, which was a shame.

 

HaLLEWeen

2 Nov

Growing up Halloween was never a big deal for me.  Bonfire night was always something to look forward to but trick or treat would basically mean getting the gift of being told to ‘do one’.  I’m not sure if it is because now I am a father or if our culture is just becoming increasingly Americanised.  There certainly seems to have been a bigger push towards Halloween as a holiday over the past few years.

Last year Gryff insisted on dressing up as a witch.  Not a wizard.  He was very specific about that.  A witch or nothing.  I’m not one for gender stereotypes for my children so he was the best damn witch Tonypandy had ever seen!

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This year, from absolutely nowhere, he has spent the past few weeks saying how he is going to be the flash this year.  This is a three-year old with no knowledge of the flash other than a supporting role in a few of his superman/batman books.  He is obviously a child that spots the minor parts and can visualise taking them centre stage.

So….if the Gryffalo wanted the flash the flash is what the Gryffalo was to get.

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The boy is a diva mind so the flash was his day time outfit but there was a quick change to BuzzLightyear for the evenings trick or treating.

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My little Llew cub is too young to be able to voice his preference which handily allows me and my good wife to be able to set the agenda for him.  For his nursery Halloween party he went as Frankenstein, or to be more specific he went as both a confused and somewhat sad Frankenstein.  Monsters have feeling as well you know.

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Trying to instill pride in the Llew name (mind the pun) he went out as the Halloween lion.  He was Prrrrrrfect. (sorry)

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Happy Halloween all.  Now we can truly start the countdown to Christmas.  I don’t care how cynical some of you may be out there. I cannot wait!

40:1

8 Oct

At the start of the year I embarked on a process of trying to make the literary world a little smaller.  That’s PR speak for saying that I took the books I read in 2014 and have been leaving them in random locations (on trains, in parks, in coffee shops etc.) for strangers to find, read and pass on.

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The way I see it I am not one to re-read books so it is better to let others enjoy them.

In January I had this naïve view of being inundated with tweets from people who had stumbled upon my offerings.  As more and more books were recycled I feared I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the praise and demand.  That bubble was quickly burst.

5 books in with no reply I was humbled.  15 books in I feared the worst.  25 books in I was depressed.  35 books in and my heart was no longer in it.  But low and behold, God loves a trier and 40th time lucky, 10 months after I began this, I reaped the rewards.  Finally someone has responded to a book by tweeting me.

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When I had this yesterday it made my day.  My only regret is that after passing on some fantastic reads throughout the year including Nathan Filer’s The shock of the Fall, We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, and Hilary Mantel’s The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher the one that was discovered was a run of the mill John Grisham.  Please don’t judge me.

I only have about 8 books left from the class of 2014.  My stockpile from this year however is both larger in quantity and certainly better in quality.  With this life affirming moment to boost me I can crack on again.  Hopefully you (yes you the person bored enough to read a blog about Welsh education and carrot cakes) will pick one up.

The Difficult Second Album

28 Aug

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12 months of pure happiness

On Wednesday my little Llew cub turned one.  This is unbelievable to me.  I know it is a cliché to say that time flies but it feels like just yesterday I went on a family holiday as a trio to Tenby and came home a day early as a foursome after Llew decided to turn up a month before his due date.

In many ways the second child has been a lot easier.  You become a far more relaxed parent due to the experience of the first child.  There has been no second guessing every action.  Every cry isn’t met with a huge amount of panic but rather more of an understanding of what the baby wants.  What is more Llew, I’m sorry to say Gryff, has been a far easier baby.  He has fed better, slept better (in the day at least) and developed quicker.

On the other hand, you really don’t anticipate just how much harder having two is compared to one.  When Gryff came along I remember thinking to myself that I couldn’t understand what I used to do with my time now that my days were filled with child focused activities.  Now Llew is here I hark bark to the days of having just one son and think how easy life was.  With the second there just isn’t any let up.  When Llew is asleep Gryff is still there to be entertained, fed, developed.  That is brilliant of course, I love spending time with both boys together and individually, but it can be exhausting.

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A usual ‘relaxing’ day at home. Double daddy attacks.  This will only get worse as they get older!

Time management has certainly become a crucial part of the day.  The importance of family structures and support have also been made abundantly clear to me.  I simply can’t imagine how people take care of children as single parents let alone without the amazing support I get from my parents and my in-laws.  Those people are incredible.

I don’t recall ever being as sleep deprived with Gryff as I have been with Llew.  I get up at 5:20am every day to go to the gym before work and my weekends are always determined by what time the boys get up.  The result of that is that I have probably not slept later than 7:30am in the last 12 months.  Having two means that you never get a late morning.  Added to this that there simply is no downtime and the accumulative impact is one worn out set of parents.

All this of course is the negative stuff.  The positive is that me and my good wife are amazingly lucky to have not just one, but two brilliant people in our lives.  The development of Gryff from having a brother has been phenomenal to watch.  He has radically changed, becoming more outgoing and interactive.  My fears that he could be jealous of a new arrival were instantly forgotten and there is no one that cares or loves Llew as much as his big brother.  Seeing them interact is fantastic and I think a large part of why Llew is up and about walking is down to the fact he constantly wants to chase after, and play with, Gryff.

Over the last three years Gryff has comfortably been my best friend in the world.  Llew is on a joint mantle with him now.  I don’t say that as a throwaway comment but because I genuinely mean it.  They both bring me so much joy.  It really is what life is about.

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These two are becoming best friends

Llew turning one accompanies another Hathway family milestone as Gryff starts school a week Monday.  I am amazingly proud and terrified at the same time.  It feels like my boy is growing up too fast and I am genuinely scared that I can’t control everything he does to make sure he is always happy.

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Just look at those shoes

I know that Gryff is going to love school.  I am biased but he is such a lovely, polite, likable and eager to learn little man.  My only fear is that he is too sensitive.  Gryff takes after his dad in that he is just too soft, bless him.  It is absolutely a quality in him I adore but nonetheless, it isn’t always the strongest attribute for the rough and tumble of school life.  In contrast Llew is as tough as old boots.  I’ve no doubt he will be the one sorting out any disputes involving the brothers in years to come.

Time is passing me by as a father and it upsets me a little.  They are quickly moving from babies to boys and I can already feel myself blinking and missing it all as they become men.  Still, at least then I could get some sleep!

 

 

The Next Generation

14 Aug

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My little Llew cub eating a carrot cake bar for babies. The future of the carrot cake diaries is in good hands

You, Me, Coffee and Cake Boutique

31 Mar

The Place

This little coffee shop was tucked away in a side alley just off the main area of Bath town centre.  The outside appearance looked lovely and unique. Inside there was some nice quaint decor but also it appeared a little tired.

The cafe was utterly boiling inside. I’m sad to say the staff were not the sharpest on the ball. We were left waiting at the counter for some time, which I wouldn’t mind but for the fact there was no apology and from the somewhat zoned out waitress when we eventually were acknowledged. Service was also very slow after making the order. The cafe was relatively busy but not so much to justify the wait on food, especially when the majority of what was ordered simply needed to be sliced rather than cooked.

The Hot Chocolate

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There was no hot chocolate on this occasion.  Instead I matched the cake with a flavoured latte. I’m considering changing this section to hot chocolate or lattes in future as I’m opting more and more for a coffee these days. In terms of lattes there was a wide array of syrups available. I went steady with caramel.

The Carrot Cake

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Overall this was a slight miss for me.  The frosting was overly creamy with a texture that just wasn’t firm enough. The cake itself was not spicy enough and lacked that punch of proper cinnamon and ginger coming through. On the positive it was incredibly moist which made up for some of the other short comings

The Rest

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Satay chicken, crispy beef, spicy spring rolls and beef ribs for taps starters

I was in Bath for a birthday weekend and in the evening visited Koh Thai Tapas. This was an epic experience. As authentic as any Thai food I’ve had since I was there. Generous portions and unbelievably tasty. Well worth checking out if for the ribs alone which were sensational.

Rosie’s Vintage Tea Shop – Leamington Spa

17 Dec

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The Place

Rosie’s Vintage Tea Shop is a little boutique cafe off the main street in Leamington Spa.  A welcoming little venue that made for a pleasant break after the just under 3 hour drive to get there.

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The decor is lovely, and particularly appealing to my good wife’s taste.  In fact much of the wallpapers and decorations could have come direct from our living room.  Indeed, given the shop also sells little ornaments many of them will now, sadly, be filling even more shelves in the Hathway residence.

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The staff were very attentive and interested and a credit to the place.  There were a lot of staff on the day so no delays and while I don’t know if it was or not, it did feel like a family run business.

The Hot Chocolate

This was an absolutely delicious hot chocolate.  The flavour of the drink was a strong and bitter dark chocolate which really hit the spot.  However, it was the cream that was the star of the show.  Velvety and smooth and sprinkled with tasty coco.  A top-notch hot chocolate.

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The Carrot Cake

I’ve been on a bit of a health kick in recent weeks.  I’ve given up alcohol (or at least I had for 4 months until a weekend ago) and I’ve eaten a lot healthier.  Overall I’ve lost about 16lbs and in the process I’ve eaten no carrot cakes.  I’m pleased to say then that the first one back was well worth it.  Not just an ordinary carrot cake but a triple layered caramel carrot cake.

The frosting was creamy with caramel drizzled throughout giving it an indulgent lift.  The cake itself was full of flavour and moist with excellent texture.  A real contender.

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I also liked the little touch of providing specific cake eating folks.  Delicate little utensils that stopped me from gobbling this cake in quite as speedy fashion as I otherwise would have done!

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The Rest

I was in Leamington for a uni reunion.  I went to Aberystwyth uni but we all met there as one of my former university friends who lives in Leamington organised it.  Fair play we all scrubbed up well, even if our nights out are far more timid these days.  Middle age has got the best of us I fear.

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The best baby present

15 Sep

I haven’t blogged for a while due to the birth of my second son, Llew Rhys Hathway.  We were fortunate to have loads of lovely gifts from friends but a batch of these carrot cake cupcakes may very well have been the best!

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I will hopefully be posting a few education pieces up over the coming week to get back into the swing of things.

The South Beach Shack – Tenby

28 Aug

We went to Tenby for a little family holiday over the bank holiday. The plan was for one last trip as a trio before the new baby arrived. It is fair to say the weather wasn’t the best.

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Still, even in the miserable drizzle Tenby was more than picturesque.

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Fortunately we ended up having a really lovely first day as the sun eventually came out. The Gryffalo had the time of his life on what is a fantastic beach.

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The Place

Location wise you couldn’t want for a better place. There was a lovely little cluster of facilities all together. Bar grill/ice cream parlor etc

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The view from the outside decking was spectacular even on this over cast day. I imagine it is second to none on a bright afternoon.

There ends the positives of this story however. Service seemed to missing the smile (and the please and thank you in fact) and there wasn’t much else to write home about in complimentary tones.

The Cake

No carrot cake available.

The Hot Chocolate

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As you can see the setting for the drink was very special. The drink itself…not so much. The hot chocolate was tasteless. There was no strong flavors and in general a real let down.

The Rest

I had planned on a few reviews from this trip. There was a real nice looking 1940s afternoon tea venue in the center of Tenby town that I was looking forward to trying. Llew (my new son)had other plans and decided to turn up 4 weeks early and say hello, thus cutting short our holiday at 2:30am on the first night.

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So we went to Tenby as three and came back as a foursome. 

Time to give a little praise to the teaching profession

25 Aug

The last few years have been tough on those working in the education sector in Wales.  Polices have been implemented which conflict with the views of the profession, often with little regards for their expertise and input. Changes to the terms and conditions of teachers have left them continuing to work unsustainable hours but for less pay and pensions.  The narrative and language that has been used by Government’s at both end of the M4 has been highly emotive and not always conducive to supporting practitioners.  The perception of teaching has not been great.  The way teachers are reported in the media at times has fuelled this view.  All this has, unsurprisingly, lead to poor morale.  However, there is a sense that the tide is turning and we should start to demand a more hopeful view of our system.

There’s no doubt that the current Education Minister has set about renewing respect for teaching as a profession.  The fact that respect for the role of a teacher was a central theme of Huw Lewis’ first real keynote speech did not go unnoticed.  He has also backed that up with the language and thrust of his arguments about creating a new deal around professional development for teachers.  Now, that isn’t to say that this is all a silver bullet.  Let’s not forget that this ‘new deal’ has not actually been accompanied by any new money.  Talk does not necessarily equate to action.  Still, we should not underestimate the importance of the language that has been used.

We have also seen the introduction of the Schools Challenge Cymru initiative.  Now there is no denying that there has been an element of scepticism around this policy since questions were raised relating to the way in which it is to be funded.  However, it is still something that, for now at least, seems to have buy in from the sector.  A crucial element that has been missing from a number of Welsh Government policies in the past.

Perhaps the biggest shot in the arm has come from the excellent A Level results we saw recently which included the number of individuals receiving the top grades increasing and the gap closing with England. A week later there was more good news with our GCSE results  being pretty spectacular.  Not only has the attainment gap closed with the rest of the UK but Wales saw its best ever A*-C grade results.  This against a backdrop of changing specifications and the fiasco we saw around the January English exams.

The results were also a positive in terms of the next round of PISA testing which will focus on science.  While this cohort will not be going through that process the fact that there were improvements at GCSE Chemistry, Biology and Physics as well as in the percentage of individuals receiving the top grades at A Level in those subjects is something to take forward.

The focus given to the good news stories is not always comparable with the bad.  Sensationalism sells I guess.  While in other years my phone has rung off the hook on results day there were no clamours for me to do any radio phone-ins following these results days to praise teachers.

What we must do internally within the profession and publicly, is to acknowledge the positives we are seeing.  It is important to still identify the challenges and work collaboratively and constructively to address them of course, but there should be nothing stopping us all from saying well done in the meantime.