Twixmas for Singles from Lancashire

Twixmas : Thursday December 27th to Sunday 30th December 2012

Twixmas – was there really such a great a need to coin a single word phrase to describe the period between Christmas and New Year? Well it’s better than just calling the whole festive season “The Holidays” I suppose like they do in the US. Twixmas is more precise anyway, it’s less than a week long for a start whereas “the season” can go on for months, starting from when all the mad shopping and planning begins and continuing right through the January Sales and pantomime season. I’m not terribly keen on the whole build-up and fuss myself, but I’m not opposed to the idea of taking a holiday at this time of year, if only to get away from all that.

I’ve spent several Christmases, late Decembers or Twixmases in Spain where they don’t make quite such a big deal of it all, or at least didn’t used to, until three Kings on January 6th by which time most of the UK has thrown away the tree and been back at work for a few days, and some have already started booking up next summer! It’s all just about bearable as long as you have somebody to spend the time with, usually. I spent a few festive seasons as a single person alone on alternate years during my kids’ childhood, mercifully not too many though. I hung about with own parents and their friends once, at a bit of a loose end, and I’ve also used the time to throw myself into new work projects with the promise to myself of a better holiday in the springtime. That can work, but one thing I never took advantage of is the opportunity to join a group on a package holiday type thing, to go away with a bunch of strangers where everything is laid on and just take it as it comes. A change of scenery, away from the same old four walls, somebody else doing the cooking and washing up, with a little bit of luxury and cultural interest are what’s on offer with one such North Wales Twixmas 4 day coach holiday offered via Omega Holidays and TBM Readers Offers, which is a new site in addition to our existing Theatre Breaks offers.

The Dreaded Single person Supplement

The single person supplement is only £40, that’s just £10 per day1 for a single room instead of a double in the 3 star Celtic Royal Hotel, at Caernarfon. I know, it feels a bit like persecution to have to pay any single person supplement at all, especially if it applies to travel – that just doesn’t seem fair – so to find one so low is almost like finding a specially designed single person package – except it isn’t – and that’s probably just as well because you can imagine what some of those might be like. No, on this one there are likely to be mainly couples and small groups as per usual, but with a good smattering of single people taking advantage of the much more single-friendly pricing than that often offered more as a disincentive than an enticement.

Things to do In North Wales

Welsh Highland Railway in Snowdonia

Welsh Highland Railway in Snowdonia

It’s not just about the pricing though, what exactly is there to do in North Wales at the top of the year? Well if it was me I’d be keen to take a ride on the newly restored Welsh Highland Railway which can take you from Caernarfon itself right down alongside Mount Snowdon, through the wonderful Aberglasyn pass all the way down to Porthmadog by the sea. That would make a brilliant day out. You’d have to find a way of fitting it in with the busy itinerary already laid on for you though, with visits to Llandudno, Conwy, Bets-y-Coed and Llanberis. I suppose it all depends how you get on with making new friends quickly in such a conducive environment. There’s nothing to stop you opting out of the coach tour day trip and go off on your own instead. There’s still the evening entertainment to catch up with everybody else on the Twixmas holiday. It’s a lovely part of the word and I think this would make a deeply enjoyable winter holiday break for anybody regardless of family status.

This has been an advertorial post by Andy Roberts about Twixmas in North Wales – 4 days by Coach via Theatre Breaks Magazine Readers Offers.


Celtic Royal Hotel, Caernarfon - Theatre Breaks Magazine - Omega Holidays

Celtic Royal Hotel, Caernarfon

The prestigious Celtic Royal Hotel is a 3 star luxurious hotel in the famous town of Caernarfon, near Bangor in Gwynedd. It’s right in the town, between a nice green open space behind and the little harbour/marina in front and  has 110 en-suite bedrooms, a fine dining restaurant, a chic Art Deco bar, conference/meeting facilities, and a superb leisure club. Also:

  • Gym
  • Indoor heated pool
  • Sauna, Jacuzzi & steam room
  • Wi-Fi in public areas
  • TV
  • Tea/coffee making facilities
  • Hairdryer

Forget the trouser press, this is meant to be relaxing!  The 4 Day Coach Package designed by Omega Holidays can be joined from any of the following departure points, mostly in East Lancashire, North England:

Accrington, Blackburn,Blackpool, Burnley, Chorley, Clitheroe, Colne, Darwen,

Leigh, Leyland, Nelson, Padiham,

Preston, St Helen’s, Wigan.


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  1. a bit more per night, as it’s only three nights. []
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Charing Cross Theatre

There are lots of little theatres and theatre-pubs in London as well as all the well known West End theatres, and this is one of them – the Charing Cross Theatre located under the arches near Embankment tube station.

Charing Cross Theatre

If you come out of Embankment towards Charing Cross and immediately turn left into the underneath the arches section, then the Theatre is just after the South African shop where I sometimes buy my Laager rooibos (redbush) tea.

It’s a 275 seater theatre with a restaurant and a bar licensed to 2.30am, the current show being a production of “La Boheme” by Puccini.


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Blog Action Day – Why I Won’t be Taking Part This Year

It takes place every October but this year I won’t be involving myself in Blog Action Day at all.

Blog Action Day is an annual online event that aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of lots of people all blogging about the same topic on the same day. This year  2012, it all happens on the 15th of  October.

Previous year’s topics have included:

2007 Environment

2008 Poverty

2009 Climate Change

2010 Water

2011 Food

The topic is chosen each year by an authority who decides what the subject shall be and then informs everyone taking part. This year they have plumped for the headline: “The Power Of We”.

Call me grumpy if you like, but from my point of view this topic is at best ambiguous but more probably meaningless, and what irritates me is that it’s monocultural, devisive and most worryingly of all, totally ungrammatical so for that reason, I’m out.

Grumpy about BAD2012

Grumpy about BAD2012

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How to move a WordPress site to another host

This is one nice simple way to move a WordPress installation, usually a blog, from one hosting service to another. Web hosting companies can turn flaky anytime, so it’s always good to know your escape route.

1) Login to the CPanel at the existing host. Always keep this login handy, at least be able to find the original welcome message from when you bought the hosting, or do a password reset to your original email address.

Compress and download

Compress and download

2) From the file manager, navigate to public_html, then to the files for the domain name in question, and highlight the wp-content directory.  Click on “Compress” , Compress files, then highlight the resulting file and “download” to download it to your computer.

3) Now go back to the main CPanel tab and scroll down past File, Logs, Security etc to Databases and go into “php MyAdmin”. Select the database that belongs with your site. If you have multiple domains on the one account, created the WordPresses with a script and don’t know which of the many databases it should be then you’ll need to go back into the file manage and view the wp-config  file to find out. Select “Export” and “Go”. This will download a file called something like “database_name.sql” in your downloads folder on your computer.

4) Now is a good time to switch over the DNS records for your domain name at your domain registration account so that they point to the dns servers for the new hosting. That’s just like buying a new domain name and pointing it at your own hosting, except that you are amending your existing record there to replace one pair of nameservers with the new set. The exact entry you need to put in for the nameservers will have been sent to you when you purchased  the new hosting account.

5) Log into the cPanel for the new hosting and choose “Add On Domains” to set up the transferred domain there.

6) Now use Fantastico or Scriptaculous or SimpleScripts, whichever is provided under Software/Services  to set up a brand new WordPress install into the top level directory just created by adding the domain. This will create a new database, database user and WordPress files and directories for a new empty site with just one “Hello World” post.

7) In the File Manager at the new hosting, go into the domain name top level directory and upload the file from step 2. You should see the wp-content folder created by the script and now the there as well, a bit further down.

cPanel File Manager

cPanel File Manager – WP-Content









Highlight and “Extract” to overwrite the contents with the plugins, themes and media files from the old installation.

8) Now go into “php MyAdmin” at the new hosting and find the new database set up by the installation script. You might like to make a backup, but then blank it by choosing operations, Structure, check all and “Drop”.  Now select “import”, choose the file created in step 3 and  away you go. All the settings and tweaks and options and things will have been duplicated in the new site from the old one, but in a nice and clean new WordPress installation.

9) When the dns changes have propagated through the new version of the site will be visible with very little noticeable changes. There may be a new “Hello World” post at the top of the lastest posts which can be moved to trash.

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London’s West End Theatres

Last Saturday we went wandering around London’s West End theatre districts photographing a number of the theatres dressed up for their current shows. We were armed with the theatreland map, in case of memory lapses, but we didn’t plan a meticulous route to take in as many as possible. We arrived by bus from Liverpool Street and got off at the top of High Holborn, near to the Shaftesbury theatre where Rock of Ages is still going strong.

Shaftesbury Theatre with Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages at the Shaftesbury

The Shaftesbury Theatre is a large fronted  building and you need to cross to other side of the road to even attempt to fit it all into one photograph.

From there we went down into Covent Garden, diverted around to see the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and a few restaurants in the area. The Fortune Theatre, where Woman in Black is just to one side also, but we somehow missed the New London Theatre on the way out, but managed to catch Warhorse on the way home as it happens.

Down on Aldwych and the Strand, there’s a nice cluster of theatres including the Novello, The Duchess, Lyceum, Savoy, Vaudeville, Adelphi, the Aldwych theatre itself but the Strand Theatre must be dark? After that lot we needed more coffee and after rejecting a few suggestions ended up at the Cafe Rouge in Villiers Street.

Refreshed we headed back up to weave our way around Trafalgar Square past the Duke of Yorks, Garrick and Noel Coward theatres and around the side of Wyndhams, currently dark, through into Leicester Square and Piccadilly circus. At this point I had a sudden memory lapse disorientation and lost the Haymarket, chasing off in the wrong direction. We’d already found the Harold Pinter theatre though. Time for lunch in Chinatown, and a bit of food shopping for later. Where else can you but two salmon tails for a couple of quid?

Eating rice and fish for lunch is not such a great idea on a working day though, and after a few more theatres visited and photographed the feet and legs started to feel heavier. One thing you can always do in central London though, as an Oystercard holder, is to jump on a bus. Any old bus, as long as its headed in the right direction. No actually, we made sure it was going to Victoria, a long enough rest and a remote cluster of West End Theatres, well two. The Apollo Victoria for Wicked  and The Victoria Palace Theatre where Billy Elliot has been on for years as well.

Nearing the end of our sensibilities, we walked down Vauxhall Bridge road for some reason, then hopped on another bus heading back to Aldwych just in time to catch the coach breaks parties parking up outside Shrek, and mopped up War Horse at the New London Theatre.  That was a pretty comprehensive round trip of the theatre districts in Central London but which theatres did we miss that we need to plan a route more carefully to take in another time?  Well there is the London Palladium, out on its own up there by Oxford Circus, the two theatre in the Haymarket: Her Majesty’s and the Theatre Royal Haymarket, the Piccadilly Theatre we did cover, because that’s where Viva Forever posters are up already, also the Criterion for The 39 Steps and The Prince of Wales for Let It Be were on part of our route, but we never went down to the the river so that leaves the Playhouse Theatre (what’s on since Dreamboats?)  and anything on the South Bank such as the Old Vic.  We also managed to avoid Tottenham Court Road this particular time, leaving out the Domion for We Will Rock You, The Phoenix where Blood Brothers is ending a long run, and the big umbrellas outside The Palace Theatre, Singin In The Rain.

Agatha Christies The Mousetrap

Agatha Christies The Mousetrap at St Martins Theatre

Also saved for the next time out were The Arts Theatre, St Martins Theatre and the  Trafalgar Studios.




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Negative Interest Rates

Negative Interest Rates

Negative Interest Rates

The following news snippet about negative interest rates made me sit up and think:

A curious auction of German bonds this morning saw investors agree to negative interest rates, but more than half the debt was left unsold.

The Bundesbank sold €1.17bn of 12-month bonds at a yield of -0.0184% (which means buyers will receive slightly less than they paid when the debt matures in September 2013).

A total of €3bn of bills were on sale, but despite receiving €6bn of bids it held back €1.83bn which it now plans to sell in the secondary market.

What does it mean to have negative interest rates? It means that the lenders (institutions) are actually willing to invest their money into these bonds, knowing that the risk of losing a tiny fraction of their money is 100%

They are in practice paying a small fee to the German government to keep their money safe for them.  All investments carry a small risk of losing money, share prices can go down as well as up, and banks, financial institutions and governments can go insolvent and renege on their debts. The people who bought these bonds perhaps considered all other possible investments as riskier than the German bonds, but they have to put their money somewhere, so were willing to pay the price.  Either that or they have some kind of portfolio management policy which requires a particular spread of investments and risks, and this was the only way they could make it balance on that day.

The precarious state of the world’s economies is such that despite governments printing money, energy prices rising and other inflationary pressures, the debt crisis and austerity policies being implemented may result in real monetary deflation, where wages and consequently prices fall in real terms and it may be worth trading  €1  One Euro for the promise of  €0.9998  ninety nine point nine eight cents in a year’s time. Where else can you keep your money safe?

The psychological effect of this on financial confidence and market stability should not be underestimated.

Are there any other examples of negative interest rates out there?

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Orbit Tower blogging the Olympics and Paralympics

Blogging the Orbit Tower during the Olympic Games and Paralympics

Orbit Tower Media Centre

Orbit Tower Media Centre

For the duration of the London 2012 Olympic Games and the run up to the Olympics and Paralympics I’ve been blogging daily over at The Orbit Tower  1 . It’s been quite fun and a little bit exciting at times such as one particular weekend when a post about the Yorkshire Medals Table went viral on Facebook and Twitter. I’d prepared the site beforehand for big surges in traffic and I’m pleased to say it held up really well.

I learned or rather re-learned the practice of rapid interaction spread over multiple channels feeding back into developing more content on the main site. Success breeds success in this respect, so it seemed to work better for me when I was concentrating on the same topic every day for an intense period rather than spreading myself out over multiple diverse areas of work.

Realtime Analytics

One new tool which came into play was the Google Analytics Realtime beta service. This shows how people are finding and navigating a site on a minute by minute basis, rising from a dozen or so at a time during the main period up to over 120 simultaneous visits during the peak. When you have that amount of traffic you can really see what the hungry visitors are trying to find at that particular juncture in the developing story.

Paralympics to come

It’s all quiet again now, almost, and there isn’t as yet any sign that the Paralympics are going to be anywhere near as high profile as we would like, but that may change once the TV coverage gets underway again on Channel 4. The actual number of Paralympic athletes themselves is 4,200 competitors from 147 nations taking part in 21 sports compared with 10,820 at the Olympics from 204 nations in 26 sports, so the amount of buzz generated by participants, coaches, trainers, entourage and families etc might be just under half, it all depends whether the inspirational trailers such as “Meet the Superhumans” really do deliver a brand new audience around the world and not just in the host country UK.

The US is a waste of time of course, with their NBC only scheduled to show a few short edited highlight programmes. They didn’t even show the whole of the epic Opening Ceremony from July, so we can forget about them.

The Orbit Tower

Searching for Orbit Tower Tickets

Searching for Orbit Tower Tickets

And what of the Orbit Tower? Well the ticketing has been a major complicating factor, restricting the number of people who could manage to navigate the obstacles to obtain the correct combination of orbit and olympic or park tickets to a mere trickle, but millions of people around the world caught sight of the sculpture on the Olympics coverage and many formed instant opinions about the artwork. I even quite like the way the very presence of the Orbit seems to cause a little bit of outrage in some people. They want to know what it’s for. What purpose does it have? And in that respect it is doing its job as a piece of art to make people question what a tower can be.

People who fell in love with the Olympic Park while they were there tended to learn to love the Orbit Tower a little bit as well. What will become of it after all the sport is long finished and forgotten, only time will tell.

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