Why Did the Gazette & Herald Single Out Trowbridge Takeaway with Zero Rating?

Working five years or more as a delivery driver for a local butcher, you witness some pretty awful hygiene practises while passing through numerous commercial kitchens. Yet via this experience I conclude, bad hygiene is not confined to any particular sort of eatery or of any class of establishment.

I delivered to everything from greasy spoons to London’s top hotels and restaurants, and in some standards are exceptionally high, whereas others are dreadfully dirty and pertain some terrible practises. I’ve walked through dog turd infested backyards, told to leave raw meat under the baking sun, I’ve seen a fish flipped onto the floor from a frying pan and promptly picked up and put back into the pan, and I could go on putting you off your tea, but never could I suggest such shocking things are only found in lower-priced establishments, the “posh” hotels and restaurants were equally as bad, often arguably worse.

Three days ago, freelance reporter, Beth Gavaghn broke news of four Wiltshire establishments which “have been given a zero rating by food hygiene inspectors,” published in the Gazette & Herald. Nothing wrong with this, you might suggest, it’s handy for the public to know these places rated low, and if you do suggest, I’d agree. My issue is with the structure of this, quite frankly, shoddy journalism, and if not shoddy, some bad choices made it undeniably bias.

The headline reads, “Trowbridge Chinese takeaway Happy Valley gets zero rating.” Aside grammatical errors, three of the four establishments are cherrypicked to be fleetingly noted, while Happy Valley took the brunt of the report, and was singled out in the headline. Billy Batchers Butchers in Shrewton and Sprinkles Gelato in Salisbury both scored equally low following an inspection, five months AFTER Happy Valley, but barely got a mention. The Bell at Great Cheverell also received a zero rating but mention of it was rushed through, despite being assessed at the same time as the Chinese Takeaway.

Not forgoing these inspections were made in March 2021, for The Bell and Happy Valley, and in August of the same year for Billy Batchers Butchers and Sprinkles Gelato, so for all their sakes, some update on work they’ve done to improve since would be handy to know, but I feel impelled to ponder, just why the one establishment was singled out? Did the reporter receive an adverse fortune cookie there, perhaps?!

It’s no good asking you guys, who are understandably as much in dark over this as me. I despatched a direct message to Beth via Twitter, two days ago and await a reply; just wanted to throw it out there, really, being there was plenty of time to reply, and that what I asked isn’t too OTT. That being: If other establishments also received the same low rating, why have you focussed and highlighted one in particular? That hardly seems fair. Well, are you with me? Does it sound fair to you?

Any reasoning would be speculation; I could, but I won’t go there. YetI’m not holding out much hope of a reply, unless she was to read this and shudder, oh, nasty blogger; I’d best dream up and despatch a quickfire excuse, but I had to note, further scrolling on the Gazette & Herald Facebook page revealed a sponsored advertorial for, coincidently, the Bell at Great Cheverell. “Paid partnership,” being the professional term, indicating backhanding cash to get reapproval, an avenue perhaps the Chinese Takeaway couldn’t afford to take, will get you off the hook; and you thought TripAdvisor reviews were skewered.

Conflicting, or simply the answer to our query, I’m not sure, but evidently, money talks. It should be importantly noted, a zero rating doesn’t mean an establishment must close, rather make significant improvements, and I would see no reason to be put off eating at any of them, the Bell is a rather splendid pub, and I’m certain they would have strived to improve on this rating. The others I am unaware of, but I’m sure in these uncertain times for any small business this exposure was superfluous and unwelcome; if all establishments scored equally, so should the balance of the report.

It is not your job, Newsquest, to wreck one business in favour of another. Heck, guys, I’d have given you a glowing review for a bag of prawn crackers; don’t bow to this injustice!

And readers, you’ve got your own mind, use it; accepting unedited and unsolicited submissions makes a newspaper look cheap and nasty, and I don’t believe that is what we want from local press; we’ve enough from Wiltshire Live, don’t stoop to their level, G&H.


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Battle of the Best Devizes Breakfast Round 1; The Condado Lounge Vs New Society!

Ladies and gentlemen, live from the Market Place, through ongoing bouts, it’s high time to discover who will be the title holder for the heavyweight Devizes breakfast champion. Tonight, in the Little Brittox corner, a newcomer to the competition, weighing in at twelve pounds seventy-five pee, all the way from the The Condado Lounge, the Big Lounge Breakfast!

And in the erm, middling corner, the undefeated heavyweight champion of Devizes’ breakfasts, weighing in at nine pounds and seventy-five pee, ladies and gentlemen, I give you, all the way from New Society, the High Society Breakfast; let’s get belly to rumble!

No messing around, we want a good, clean, fight. There’s gonna be blood, sweat, toast, and perhaps a few tears, but my belly and I are determined to, by left hook or crook, find the best breakfast in ol’ Devizes town; or die trying.

And I feel it goes without saying, first rule of breakfast club, is we talk about breakfast, and secondly, breakfast means breakfast. If I’m patriotic about only one thing, I stipulate it HAS to be a full English breakfast, a large one, without avocado or maple syrup, plated, not squelching from the sides of a bread roll.

Don’t get me wrong, I like pancakes, on Shrove Tuesday, I like a pain au chocolat, as a snack, I like a selection of marmalades, cooked meats and bouncy cheese, for lunch. And for breakfast, yeah, I do every cereal from muesli to Coco-Pops, at home. But when I’m out to eat, in the a.m., there isn’t, and never will be, anything better, worldwide, than a full English cholesterol-hugging breakfast. Correct me if I’m wrong, pancake consuming Yankee-doodle-do.

With something to prove, new kid on the block, The Condado Lounge came out fighting. A wide, open-plan restaurant with décor a fusion of English pub furnishings and Mexican design, it’s colourful and welcoming. There’s comfy sofas and generously distributed seating.

Putting up their décor guard, New Society is equally welcoming, with a cross between wine bar and grand home kitchen, the partial antique look is wonderfully fitting with the town, and includes the stunning stained-glass window bearing the Devizes crest; evidence this was once the tourist information building. Yet they never did serve sausages, so to hell with them. It is as it has been since it opened its doors two years ago, homely and snug.

The Big Lounge Breakfast dealt some serious body-blows; this was an exceptionally tasty breakfast, tomatoes sprinkled with basil, it struck out with herby double-sausage, eggs and bacon combo, with black pudding, mushrooms, toast on the side and that little pot of baked beans. I must say, all these we’re cooked to perfection. Though it promised hash browns, they didn’t deliver, thus the Big Lounge Breakfast left itself open for retaliation.

Please note, I was too hungry to time out and take snaps, these images are taken from the respective websites and Facebook pages!

Spotting its opportunity, the High Society Breakfast served up a less spiced but equally scrumptious breakfast, with precisely the same items, but posher condiments. While it was clear this was going to be a tough fight, it managed to deliver everything it sworn to, and low and behold, with the addition of hash browns, especially when so crunchy and golden-brownly cooked, it put the Big Lounge Breakfast on the ropes.

But for our first time in there, we were welcomed at the Condado by manager Joel, who expressed his dedication to his customers and staff; the hospitality was convivial despite the busyness. This forced the boxers to the centre of the ring, clinching.

For a moment there was a notion of level-pegging, being New Society also put their baked beans in a pot. I sigh, seemingly standardised practice these days. Warming to concept I originally deemed sacrilege, on the grounds tipping them out is optional. Which I did at the Lounge, to soak up the goodness and bind the meal with their sauce. Though I figured I give leaving them in the vessel a try at New Society, it only ended with flaking bits of dipped hash brown floating in the pot, which was uninvited; I’m tipping them from now on! Fat was good for you, then it wasn’t, now it is again, who knows what’s what, and when in consumption of a full English, who really cares?

The main thing is taste, and I’m having trouble deciding, both were great, and both replaced the eggs I don’t care for with another item of my choice, without asking, and this is always a point-scorer for me. But admittedly my tummy felt fuller at New Society, and it’s a biggish one to fill! The Big Lounge Breakfast is forced to the ropes once more!

It is a shame, because The Big Lounge Breakfast put up a good fight, but price-tag has to come into play, and for the consistency in baking a splendid breakfast, it could have gone either way. It must be said, heftily weighing in at £12.75 against the middle-weight £9.75, three quid goes a long way in the finale. Therefore, New Society’s knockout High Society Breakfast dealt the final uppercut, sadly, The Big Lounge Breakfast hit the deck with a thud, the ref threw the baked-bean-stained towel in, and in assuming the hash browns watched helplessly from the kitchen, it was all over, save those cores of the tomato which no one finishes.

Please note, I was too hungry to time out and take snaps, these images are taken from the respective websites and Facebook pages! This is the vegan breakfast at New Society. Very unprofessional of me, I accept, but I didn’t know at the time I would write this; blame a slow news week!

An impressive bout puts New Society top of our leader board, and will go up against the winner of round two, which maybe sometime what with the cost of Christmas to cough up. Unless, of course, your Devizes café or restaurant wishes to rise to the challenge sooner and can invite my better half and me to taste your lovely breakfast; do let me know, before I prep porridge!

Wherever there are sausages, you will find me. Wherever bacon is suffering from being undercooked, we’ll be there. Wherever liberty is threatened by beans in pot, you will find… Devizine’s Battle of the Best Devizes Breakfast; it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.


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Fun & Food at Devizes Food & Drink Festival’s Market

Crowds gathered in Devizes Market Place today, for the pushed back grand market and street food festival, all part of the fantastic Devizes Food & Drink Festival, a fabulous start to the series of events happening over the coming fortnight. It’s been a great success, most events sold out already, but as this is a freebie provided by the organisers for many townsfolk it’s considered the icing on the cake, pardon the pun!

I’ve always enjoyed this day, food and festival being two of my favourite things and to combine them is music to my ears; this year’s was no exception. It was the usual bustle of stalls either selling street food, drink or things to take home. Yet the operative word is usual. Perhaps it being later in the year due to obvious circumstances, but I felt stalls were lesser this year compared to previous ones, and, more importantly, there was nothing which hadn’t appeared before.

Gin was the order of the day, drinks wise, and predictably Wadworth sold the ale, Rutts Lane brought the cider, the ever-popular Cosy Kitchen attended with their fantastic gyros, but all these are stable elements to the market, including the Chinese food stall, bratwursts and Coal’s smoky barbeque, the latter of which rustled me up one darn fine lamb & mint burger. The previous year had more choice, the baozi stall so popular in the past wasn’t there, neither was a number of others. I recall with fondness innovative stalls, such as the guy selling ravioli, because it’s a rare thing to have as a street food, and that is what makes the market interesting.

The Gourmet Brownie Kitchen being something I was looking forward to, (to take home for the kids you understand!) but from Poulshot Lodge, only Holychocs attended, fabulous though they are. Likewise, last time the Muck & Dundar mobile bar stole the show for me, but their absence wasn’t missed, as I wandered down the Brittox for a quick rum from their new bar, which was just what the doctor ordered!

Quick Mount Gay rum at the Muck & Dundar!

Another unpreventable shame being Daydream Runaways had to pull out of playing some music, due to frontman Ben having lost his voice. Agreed Frome’s eclectic-influenced folk four-piece, The Decades made for the perfect entertainment, but again, they were the same band which played there in 2019.

I’m sorry to be the burden of bad news, though tis but a niggle, but as great as it was, it felt “samey.” I do hope next year’s will provide some different stalls, be progressive, as the amazing effort which goes into organising such a fantastic annual event on our calendar thoroughly deserves it.

We should though, consider the market is only a small part of the overall Devizes Food & Drink Festival, and there’s many other events still to come, from craft cider making to teddy bear’s picnics, and at the end of it all, the grand finale being The World Food event, free at the Corn Exchange on Sunday 3rd October from 12.30. There you can explore the globe on a plate. An event for all the family, where local residents with far flung roots invite you to sample a family favourite from their homeland. Basically, you get little taster portions for 50p a pop. Such a novel idea, and wonderful way to end the festival, one I’ve not yet tried, so I’m certain it will re-raise the bar.


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Devizes; The Only Thing with Brains Here, is a Pie!

Not as eminent as the Yorkshire pud or the Bakewell tart, Devizes does have its own pie; who knew? Furthermore, what kind of monstrosity could the filling be; a generous helping of 6X, farmer Perkin’s old boot fished from the crammer, perhaps?! How offal could it possibly be (see what I did there?)

I’ll tell you, shall I, as that’s a lot of questions to digest? Though when I do tell you, you might favour digesting them instead. Basically, it’s cold calf’s head, complete with brains, some pickled tongue, sweetbreads, lamb and veal added, with bacon, and hard-boiled eggs; nice.

It might not sound very Devizes, being it’s got brains, but the final couple of questions for today are, can we modernise it, with, I dunno, doner meat and chips? And why all the fuss now about some fifteenth century pie recipe?

While I’m happy to hear many events of The Devizes Food Festival have already sold out, they’re keen to bring back the pie, least with an opportunity to create a new Devizes Pie.

Yes, keen cooks and pie enthusiasts are being invited to create a new recipe for the celebrated Devizes Pie, which will appeal to modern tastes at this year’s Devizes Food and Drink Festival.

There will be two categories – a meat pie and a vegetarian pie – and an entrance fee of £3 per pie.

Sponsored by multi award-winning West Country Devizes based butchers, Walter Rose & Sons, the winner of each category will receive a £100 voucher to spend on Rose’s exceptional locally sourced meat, fresh fish or choose from their extensive delicatessen products.

Entrants will be asked to create a pie containing any assortment of meat, vegetables, and other flavourful ingredients encased in pastry and suitable to be served and eaten cold [as was the original].  Imagination and taste exploration is the order of the day!

Judging will take place at 12 noon on Saturday 25th September, the opening day of the weeklong festival, in the Corn Exchange, Market Place, Devizes. The Walter Rose Devizes Pie competition 2021 will be judged by Lisa Markwell, editor of ‘Dish’, the Sunday Times food magazine, Steve Cook, director Walter Rose & Sons and Chris Gay, Mayor of Devizes, who said, “this is such an excellent competition. I have eaten a Devizes pie made from the original old recipe and it is certainly not a pie that would appeal to many modern pie eaters! A new and delicious Devizes Pie, to add to all our other tasty, local specialties, is a wonderful idea. Well done, Devizes Food Festival.”

Quite; you and Terry Wogan alone, Chris!

TO ENTER: Enter on-line via the festival website or via Devizes Books, tickets will be available from 16th August. Entrants will need to register their interest, complete the entry form and purchase a £3 ticket per pie [link on website]. Each person may enter as many pies as they like, with each pie attracting a £3 entrance fee.

PIES must be served cold, measure about 20cm/8” in diameter and be enveloped in a pastry case. An ingredients list should be provided highlighting any known allergens. Two categories: Meat and Vegetarian.

But away with all this, sounds far too nice for a Devizine article, I want to get the lowdown on exactly why we have a calf’s brain pie in the first place, why we couldn’t be famous for an ice cream sundae or something like that instead!

The cookery book of one Mrs Dalgairns holds the answer, and she’s not even local, God dammit!

She was born in 1788 on Prince Edward Island in Canada, the location of the Anne of Green Gables books. Mrs Dalgairns was of American\Scots heritage and had family in India; she didn’t even know where Derrick’s Deals come from, let alone who Ruth Peirce was!

She produced a prodigious volume of recipes, 1,597 in total, in multiple editions, dating from 1829-1860 and with culinary influences that reflected her origins, but Devizes Food Festival explains, it is not at all obvious how she came by the recipe for Devizes Pie. She just stuck a pin in a map, I’d presume, a pie with brains after all is hardly apt!

Though the Food Festival say, the lack of clear connections can only allude to the fact that our pie was popular and is therefore a good one. You be the judge of that, I’m off down the Rowdey Cow, and would rather look forward to an updated recipe; the original recipe is below:

Cut into very thin slices, after being dressed, cold calf’s head, with some of the brains, pickled tongue, sweetbreads, lamb, veal, a few slices of bacon, and hard-boiled eggs; put them in layers into a pie-dish, with plenty of seasoning between each, of cayenne, white pepper, allspice, and salt; fill up the dish with rich gravy; cover it with a flour-and-water paste; bake it in a slow oven, and when perfectly cold, take off the crust, and turn the pie out upon a dish; garnish it with parsley and pickled eggs cut into slices.


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September Munchies: Return of The Devizes Food & Drink Festival

A festival of gluttonous magnitude descends on Devizes, as the market town welcomes the return of The Devizes Food & Drink Festival. As per-usual, with the exception of the write-off year last, no corner has been left unturned in order to burst the box office when tickets go live on in fortnight, Monday 16th August.

Running later this year, Saturday 25th September to Sunday 3rd October, The Devizes Food & Drink Festival has a full schedule and a variety of interesting food and drink related events, of which I will attempt to sum up here, without getting the munchies and having to nip off for a fish finger sandwich… what? Nothing wrong with a fish finger sandwich, staple diet, mate!

The celebrated Street Food & Artisan Market kicks the show off, its’ free, it’s my favourite in years gone by, primarily because of the free F’s; Food, Festival and Free! From 10am to 4pm, on Saturday 25th September, Devizes Market Place will be “cheese toastie oozing deliciously,” with a generous selection of stalls, sampling wonderful dishes and take-home buys from local producers and traders, not forgetting the Wadworth Bar and live music.

Soul food, also on that day, as author of two successful cookery books and currently cooking up a storm on Weekend Best, ITV Saturday mornings with Martin and Roman Kemp, Shivi Ramoutar will be demonstrating pulled pork shoulder tacos with a pineapple salsa and jerk mayo, 10.30 at the Corn Exchange for £3.

Food writer and columnist for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Great Taste Award judge and author of several cookery books, Xanthe Clay will help save on the washing up with a demonstration of delicious one-pan dishes at midday, for another £3.

Kitty Tait, the teenager from Oxfordshire who’s setting the baking world alight at The Orange Bakery in Watlington, Oxfordshire, is on from 2pm at Corn Exchange.

And the evening can be spent at Belle Bathrooms on Sidmouth Street where you can dine somewhere different.

On Sunday, forget the Wurzels, you can get some scrumpy ‘round ‘ere; it’s all down to Bromham’s Cider Shed at 11.45, where craft cider maker, Roger Blake conducts you through the cider-making journey from apple blossom to bottle, seeing orchard, press and end product.

Later, for the younger, Hillworth park has a teddy bear’s picnic, for just £2.50, for storytelling, games, and a healthy picnic. There will be a special guest, possibly the largest teddy in all Devizes – the Julia’s House Bear.

Salem Chapel, on New Park Street is where to dine somewhere different on Monday 27th September, lunchtime Loaves & Fishes, and Eve’s Pudding and enjoy a glimpse of days gone by in Devizes courtesy of local historian Dave Buxton.  

Peter Vaughan shows you how to prepare some deliciously fragrant dishes from Goa, at his Cookery School, on Hopton. The cuisine is a unique mix of Mediterranean with a tropical Indian blend.

And Monday evening could be spent at The Literary & Scientific Institute for the Great Foodie Quiz, or stargazing in a pod at Erlestoke for an out-of-this-world five course meal.

Zooming back to earth Tuesday, to have lunch among the flowers of Superior Plants in Market Lavington, and an evening meal at the Bear Hotel. The five-course menu will be created by Wadworth’s Executive Development Chef, Andrew Scott, who has worked in several Michelin starred restaurants as well as appearing on BBC2’s Great British Menu, and the meal will be paired with wines chosen and described by experts from Wadworth’s wine supplier Bibendum.

Gin masterclass, is a wise way to end Wednesday 29th September, at the The Vaults on St John’s Street. Local distillery Scout & Sage invite you to learn all about gin, or Devizes Books presents readings from Kipling, Tagore, a Plain Tale from the Raj and some Spike Milligan, with three courses of the delicious cuisine of the sub-continent, at St John’s Parish Rooms.

Cheese Hall, at Devizes Town Hall has foodie written all over it. An illustrated talk by art historian Clare Ford-Wille on Food in Art from the Romans to Cezanne on Thursday 30th September. Or perhaps a murder mystery dinner might be your thing? Also at Devizes Town Hall, with The All Cannings Players, bringing you a murder story, Rough Justice, involving an amateur dramatics group, and, naturally, a three-course dinner.

Friday 1st October, is foraging day, meeting points will be supplied with tickets, as small group walks search for edible and usable plants within the boundaries of Devizes. Lunch at the studio of Devizes contemporary artist, Bee Thomas, or take an expert tutorial at Wadworth’s Brewery in signwriting with Wadworth’s sign painter, Wayne Ritchings.

Then the firm fixture on the festival calendar, Friday, the Come Dine With Us experience without the cameras and annoying narration!

A new weekend upon them, there’s an invitation to Horton House Farm on Saturday 2nd October, and the grounds of Parkdale House has a steam engine, on the old Devizes Branch Line; you could be dining underneath the arches, barbecue style.

But thus, this sees the end of The Devizes Food & Drink Festival, with one of the most ingenious events the festival has launched. The World Food event, free at the Corn Exchange Sunday 3rd October from 12.30. Explore the globe on a plate. An event for all the family, where local residents with far flung roots invite you to sample a family favourite from their homeland. Basically, you get little taster portions for 50p a pop. Such a novel idea, and wonderful way to end the festival

 I’m hungry mentioning all this, anyone got a biscuit? No, not a garibaldi, I want nothing less than custard cream, thank you! More info, and to book tickets, click here.


T F I Thaiday Friday

Checking out the little Thai cuisine delivery service in Devizes, Thaiday Friday; why am I the last to know about these things?!

I’ve no gripe with Andy, I couldn’t have, he’s standing at my door clutching some takeaway Thai curry. And my grumble certainly isn’t with his partner, Som, who’s lovingly cooked it. It’s with some of you, you know who you are! I do have bad moods, and they can be known to last for anything up to thirty seconds. The Thaiday Friday Facebook page has received over 400 likes, and not one of you thought to tell me about it. Well, your dirty little secret is out!

Thaiday Friday is the “lockdown project” of Andy and Som of Devizes, each Friday they deliver a different homecooked Thai dish to your door. While we have some great established takeaways in town, variety lacks, Thai cuisine one of them, and you know what they say about variety; aptly, it’s something about spices.

If they’ve found a gap in the market, and set up as a registered business, Andy seemed ambiguous with the prospect of expanding the project. He’s worked as a DJ for over 35 years, and Som is the breakfast chef at The Bear Hotel, so they’ve their hands full already. Besides, overthinking something can be its downfall, the beauty of this idea is its simplicity.

“We sell out most weeks,” Andy told me, making me wonder why we need review it at all. But I’m not about to argue, as I said, he’s standing at my door clutching some takeaway Thai curry! After hoofing it down, and cleaning my plate dry, (which I may/may not have licked,) I see why it needs a mention, deffo. Though I’ve not a great deal of experience with Thai cuisine, ergo nothing to evenly compare it with, I knows what I likes, and this was simply delicious.

Those few times I have had Thai curry, it’s always been green, like it’s an English set standard. This Friday though, it’s a welcoming, warm orange tint; chicken Massaman curry, apparently, with chickpeas, sweet potato and cashew nuts, accompanied with soft Thai Jasmin rice. “We rotate five dishes on weekly basis,” Andy explained, “Massaman, yellow curry, Panang curry, red curry and green curry, all with Thai Jasmin rice.”

Choice maybe limited, no restaurant menu here, rather a quaint homecooked operation of which you can check to see what’s cooking and order via their Facebook page. If you have to hold your hands up and praise the ingenuity here, the proof is, as they say, in the pudding. You can choose if you want it hot or just lightly spiced, of which we opted for the latter.

Like Marilyn Monroe, without the legs for it, I do like it hot, but lesser so, I considered, you can really taste the quality. And it is quality, restaurant-standard. The chicken fresh and succulent, the sweet potato smooth and the whole combination of cashews, chickpeas and the incomparable sauce were to die for.

Massaman is a rich, relatively mild fusion dish, not over-sweet, savoury, and just, velvety. Is this the cinnamon at work, the palm sugar or cardamom? Do I look like Jay Rayner to you? That was rhetorical, you don’t have to answer it. To compare to Indian curry though, this was far more delicately composed and lighter; it was sweet, to a degree, savoury to another and creamy, just a bit. With Indian curry I find it’s either one end or the other, here curry is balanced to perfection, from someone proficient and obviously passionate about bringing you a taste of her home; that’s my amateurish opinion!

Thanks Som and Andy, but I couldn’t finish it all!

Portions were plentiful, but size is unimportant compared to the notion; here’s something unique to our little market town, and for which Thaiday Friday thoroughly deserves top marks, and a little more. This is undoubtedly the completion to a perfect Friday night in.


The Naan Guru of Old Devizes Town

Not one for needles, but one for Indian street food, thought I’d better treat myself, and the good lady wife too, mind, after being jabbed.

Yep, vaccination accomplished, the excellent service at Devizes Corn Exchange did not advise eating Indian street food was completely necessary, but did advise waiting fifteen minutes before driving. So we took an unsuspecting wander.

Not that I’d have imagined to find such a curiosity along our Brittox. But to our surprise, there stood a colourful graffiti facade where a bakery was once situated. Intrigue drew me inside. The fantastic decor was executed by Glimmertwin Graffiti Murals of Brighton, and had this been the lanes of Brighton, or the markets of Camden, such a delicatessen would have blended right in.

Here in Devizes, it stands out, but unlike a sore thumb and more like the tucker it purveys, it’s darn gorgeous.

A bizarrely wonderful addition to our precinct, Naan Guru opened today, Friday 23rd April, and was already attracting attention. The owner also has a pie shop in Trowvegas, hence some rather splendid looking pies on show, but this new venture is something rather different.

We’re talking sourdough naan kebabs of chicken tikka, lamb, sharmi or vegan shish, or morning visits might be enticed by a full English breakfast naan.

We’re chatting curry of similar meats and vegan options, we’re rapping homemade samosas, and drinks like sweet or salty lassi, chai, and thick kulfi frozen shakes, pistachio or mango, and gulab doughnuts, waffles for pudding. We’re talking some seriously appetising aromas ascending from this new place, twisting my arm.

We went for a sharmi (beef) kebab in naan, and it was fresh, with crunchy salad, exotic sauce and I’m pleased to report back to, Devizions, it tasted blooming gorgeous!

It’s kind of hard to walk past it and not notice it. But I’d judge this book by it’s cover; the tucker is as good as it looks, and finding my spiritual nirvana usually through my stomach, Naan Guru appeases my best karma. They’re six quid a pop, but six quid well spent; I’m smitten.


Getting Cosy with the Gyros; Greek Pop-up Catering Coming to Devizes & Melksham

For the love of Eros, what’s the plan for your Valentine’s weekend in this restricted era? Just a language of love suggestion in view of limitations, because I’ve not tasted a Greek gyro, yet, but boy, the ones at The Cosy Kitchen pop-up takeaway look scrum-diddly-umptious! And word on the street is; they’re heading our way. Find them at the Wiltshire School of Gymnastics on Friday 12th and The Moonraker Pub, Devizes on the 13th February.

I’ve been chatting to these SBS winners, finding out how it works and asking them, why Greek. The foremost is simple, just rock up, order and obviously adhere to social distancing measures. They don’t offer pre-orders or deliveries, it’s collection only, “we find it’s not fair to the people queueing to then stop serving them when they’ve been waiting, for someone who has called up,” they explained.

The Cosy Kitchen started in 2019, on the events circuit, which is probably what jogged my memory of their popularity at Devizes Food & Drink Festival that year. “It has been difficult as we have had every event cancelled and I feel most of this year is going to be the same,” they told me, “so we’ve had to adapt to how things are to ensure we’re adhering to guidelines by putting things in place to keep everyone safe, it’s not been easy but all our customers have been amazing!”

The Cosy Kitchen at 2019 Devizes Food & Drink Festival

I’m reckoning it’s great for towns like Devizes, despite awesome Italian, Chinese and Indian restaurants, the choice is mostly limited to these. But why did the Cosy Kitchen decide upon Greek cuisine? I asked if there was a connection.

“We love Greece,” they added, “it was the first place my partner and I went on holiday and we fell in love with the place, since then we go back a couple times a year, to a little village where we are friends with everyone! We would come home, wanting gyros or Greek food and would drive long distances, and not be 100% happy with it, either not tasting right or the wrong atmosphere. So, we thought, let’s just do it ourselves!”

With a chef in the family, a connection to Greek suppliers, and friends who had restaurants (one called The Cosy Corner, influencing the name) to teach them recipes, The Cosy Kitchen was born and it treks Wiltshire towns and villages, bringing them a taste of Greece; what’s not to like?!

Cyprus is as close to Greece I’ve been, personally. An island which seems to cater for the majority English tourist by offering, I found tiresomely, chips with every meal. Much to my initial delight, at one point we tried an Australian bar where the owner proudly acclaimed in broad Sydney accent, “today we’ve got the Sunday roast.” But to my horror, even this was served with chips!

Due to this, the sustenance experience of my life occurred there, and I’ve been a fan of Greek food since. Yep, we’re talking the meze, a boundless round of courses until you drop. Honest, I’m a big eater, but this broke me. There’s a photo I’m not sharing, of me at this conjunction, reddened in face and blotted beyond compare. The waiter noted my faltering and tapped me reassuringly on the shoulder, “not long to go now!” But it was a big fat fib, as they covered the table in traditional Greek dishes, and I’m not one to excuse myself. They were all so fine, I had to try at least a bit of each!

The Cosy Kitchen found my recollection amusing, “ha-ha! Greeks do not understand portion control!” Which led us nicely onto the details of what a gyro is. Akin to the Turkish kebab, its meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, typically served wrapped or stuffed in a pita, along with ingredients such as tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce. “In Cyprus,” those Cosy Kitchen folk informed, “they mostly don’t put chips inside their gyros, whereas in Greece they do.” I zoomed in their photos, story checks out, there be chips in there; fortunately, I’d just had my dinner, still got a tad eager though. But the Cosy Kitchen get only good feedback on their brand of “herby fries,” “people just love them!”

It all sounds good, and in my mind, I’m already queuing at the Moonies! But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, of which, incidentally, you can order cheesecake for £3 a slice, and I think we should report back on how they taste on the day, if you’re not tempted already!


Trending…

Massimo’s; Locale Pizza Paradiso

Talking Pizza today, why? Why not?

Who remembers BT’s friends & family scheme in the nineties, reducing call charges for five selected favourite phone numbers? If you didn’t submit your favs, BT would select them on your behalf based on calls to the number you made the most. Mine, living in Swindon at the time, I’ll confess, went: 1. my mum and dad, 2. my best mate, and 3. Domino’s Pizza. Four may’ve been a girlfriend, it’s dubious but not impossible!

Some years later I moved to Marlborough, where given Ask, Pizza Express and so many others operate today, you couldn’t get a pizza for love nor money. Enter the incredible, if slightly hazardous, Fronkie Fritzheimer, a legend in his own time. From his own kitchen and later progressing to working out of the football club, a move only the fire brigade grumbled about, he serviced Marlborough’s pizza lovers with, darn it, some of the most heavenly pizzas to have blessed my lips.

Fronkie on the move in the late 90s.

I posted on a Marlborough Facebook group, to see if bods recall his presence, or if I dreamed it, and much to my delight, while Fronkie moved to pastures new some years ago, his memory is stamped as firmly in Marlborough’s cultural history as the Earl of Cardigan. From an A4 photocopied leaflet we’d regularly phone our order, and some weeks after his arrival, the delivery operative arrived at our door with complimentary desserts. “Between you and the rugby club,” they thanked us without jest, “are our best customers yet!” We were honoured, proud we ate as much pizza as an entire rugby club!

My case study justified; trust, I know a good pizza when I see/smell or taste one, from a distance of anything up to three hundred yards. With Fronkie fertig, me now living in the Vizes, and Domino’s, face it, is an acquired taste, there was a social media much ado about nothing concerning news of Pizza Express closing in town, which left me wondering why. I am sorry to hear the news for the sake of the staff, but with mixed reviews in the comments, some moaning of the loss is bemusing to me, and I’d wager to anyone else who has sampled a Massimo pizza.

Pizza Express closing is not the end of the world, as overpriced as the mighty Dominos anyway, unless with the latter you take out an offer, where you’re bundled with a pot of watery coleslaw or barely-cooked fries which droop like an impotent greasy baboon’s todger! I’ve moved on from Domino’s, as you can see by my unpolished comparison, I’ve matured.

No, no, no; Massimos will cost you no more, but it is a house of quality, and I guarantee you’ll taste the difference, heck, you’ll smell the difference through the box! If it wasn’t such a generous portion and the sort of taste you have to savour, making it filling, I’d probably have eaten the box too.

You Beauty!

Look, see here, this is no advertorial, they’ve no idea I’m writing this, much to their surprise. Buying local and all that aside, Massimo makes one tasty, fresh pizza, with topping to die for and even the crust is moreish. He’s undoubtedly stolen my homegrown crown from Fronkie. And lockdown is not stopping them, takeaway is available. It’s a crying shame there’s a ristorante left unopened until a better day, a day I was waiting for until I wrote a review for them, but sadly seems we’ve lost the immediate opportunity once more.

So, think this not as a review, do I look like, Jay Rayner? Actually, don’t answer that. Just saying, I love a Massimo’s pizza, the family does, I’d wager Devizions-in-know do. Treat yourself, there’s a full menu to takeaway, the lasagne, ah, the lasagne, speaks for itself. You can call them 01380 724007, message them on Facebook, or, there’s a little bell at the door in Swan Yard, just ring it when they’re open, 5-8:30pm. They’re fantastically welcoming and will bring you takeaway Ring Donuts, Nutella Donuts, Cartoccio with sweet Ricotta filled, Nutella Croissants, any two for three quid… whoa, I apologise; getting a tad over-excited. But, right, the guy won the coveted Gold Star for 2020 for his own Napoletano sauce; how much more convincing do you need?!

hot dang!

@ The Southgate

Devizine’s Review of 2020; You Can’t Polish a Turd!

On Social and Political Matters……

For me the year can be summed up by one Tweet from the Eurosceptic MEP and creator of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage. A knob-jockey inspired into politics when Enoch Powell visited his private school, of which ignored pleas from an English teacher who wrote to the headmaster encouraging him to reconsider Farage’s appointed prefect position, as he displayed clear signs of fascism. The lovable patriot, conspiring, compulsive liar photographed marching with National Front leader Martin Webster in 1979, who strongly denies his fascist ethos despite guest-speaking at a right-wing populist conference in Germany, hosted by its leader, the granddaughter of Adolf Hitler’s fiancé; yeah, him.

He tweeted “Christmas is cancelled. Thank you, China.” It magically contains every element of the utter diabolical, infuriating and catastrophic year we’ve most likely ever seen; blind traditionalist propaganda, undeniable xenophobia, unrefuted misinformation, and oh yes, the subject is covid19 related.

And now the end is near, an isolated New Year’s Eve of a year democracy prevailed against common sense. The bigoted, conceited blue-blooded clown we picked to lead us up our crazy-paved path of economic self-annihilation has presented us with an EU deal so similar to the one some crazy old hag, once prime minster delivered to us two years back it’s uncanny, and highly amusing that Bojo the clown himself mocked and ridiculed it at the time. I’d wager it’s just the beginning.

You can’t write humour this horrifically real, the love child of Stephen King and Spike Milligan couldn’t.

Still, I will attempt to polish the turd and review the year, as it’s somewhat tradition here on Devizine. The mainstay of the piece, to highlight what we’ve done, covered and accomplished with our friendly website of local entertainment and news and events, yet to holistically interrelate current affairs is unavoidable.

We have even separated the monster paragraphs with an easier, monthly photo montage, for the hard of thinking.

January

You get the impression it has been no walk in the park, but minor are my complaints against what others have suffered. Convenient surely is the pandemic in an era brewing with potential mass hysteria, the need to control a population paramount. An orthornavirae strain of a respiratory contamination first reported as infecting chickens in the twenties in North Dakota, a snip at 10,400km away from China.

Decidedly bizarre then, an entire race could be blamed and no egg fried rice bought, as featured in Farage’s audacious Tweet, being it’s relatively simple to generate in a lab, inconclusively originated at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, rather spread from there, and debatably arrived via live bat or pangolin, mostly used in traditional Chinese medicine, a pseudoscience only the narrowminded minority in China trusts.

Ah, inconsistent pseudoscience, embellished, unfalsifiable claims, void of orderly practices when developing hypotheses and notably causing hoodwinked cohorts. Yet if we consider blaming an ethos, rather than a race, perhaps we could look closer to home for evidence of this trend of blind irrationality. Truth in Science, for example, an English bunch of Darwin-reputing deluded evangelicals who this year thought it’d be a grand and worthy idea to disguise their creationist agenda and pitch their preposterous pseudoscientific theory that homosexuality is a disease of the mind which can be cured with electro-shock treatment to alter the mind inline with the body’s gender, rather than change the body to suit the mind’s gender orientation, to schoolchildren!

Yep, these bible-bashing fruit-bats, one lower than flat earth theorists actually wrote to headmasters encouraging their homophobia to be spread to innocent minds, only to be picked up by a local headmaster of the LGBTQ community. Here’s an article on Devizine which never saw the light of day. Said that Truth in Science’s Facebook page is chockful with feedback of praise and appreciation, my comments seemed to instantly disappear, my messages to them unanswered. All I wanted was a fair-sided evaluation for an article, impossible if you zip up.

Justly, no one trusts me to paint an unbiased picture. This isn’t the Beeb, as I said in our 2017 annual review: The chances of impartiality here, equals the chances of Tories sticking to their manifesto. Rattling cages is fun, there’s no apologies I’m afraid, if I rattled yours, it just means you’re either mean or misguided.

Herein lies the issue, news travels so fast, we scroll through social media unable to digest and compose them to a greater picture, let alone muster any trust in what we read. I’m too comfortable to reside against the grain, everyone’s at it. I reserve my right to shamelessly side with the people rather than tax-avoiding multinationals and malevolent political barons; so now you know.

February

If you choose to support these twats that’s your own lookout, least someone should raise the alarm; you’d have thought ignoring World Health Organisation advise and not locking down your country until your mates made a packet on horseracing bets is systematic genocide and the government should be put on trial for this, combined with fraud and failure of duty. If not, ask why we’re the worst hit country in the world with this pandemic. Rather the current trend where the old blame the young, the young blame the old, the whites blame the blacks, the thin blame the fat, when none of us paid much attention to restrictions because they were delivered in a confused, nonsensical manner by those who don’t either, and mores to the pity, believe they’re above the calling of oppressive regulations.

If you choose to support these twats, you’re either a twat too, or trust what you read by those standing to profit from our desperation; ergo, twats. Theres no getting away from the fact you reep what you sow; and the harvest of 2020 was a colossal pile of twat.


Onto Devizine…. kind of.

For me what started as a local-based entertainment zine-like blog, changed into the only media I trust, cos I wrote the bollocks! But worser is the general obliteration of controversy, criticism and debate in other media. An argument lost by a conformer is shadowed behind a meme, or followed up with a witch hunt, a torrent of personal abuse and mockery, usually by inept grammar by a knuckle-dragging keyboard warrior with caps-lock stuck on; buy a fucking copy of the Oxford Guide to English Grammar or we’re all going to hell in a beautiful pale green boat.

We’re dangerously close to treating an Orwellian nightmare as a self-help guide, and despite fascists took a knockdown in the USA and common sense prevailed, the monster responded with a childish tantrum; what does this tell you? The simple fact, far right extremism is misled and selfish delinquency which history proves did no good to anyone, ever. Still the charade marches on, one guy finished a Facebook debate sharing a photo of his Boris “get Brexit done” tea-towel. I pondered when the idiot decided a photo of his tea towel would suffice to satisfy his opinion and convince others, before or after the wave of irony washed over his head in calling them Muppets.

I hate the term, it’s offensive. Offensive to Jim Henson’s creations; try snowflake or gammon, both judgemental sweeping generalisations but personally inoffensive to any individual, aside Peppa Pig. I wager you wander through Kent’s lorry park mocking the drivers and calling them snowflakes rather than tweeting; see how far you get.

So, the initial lockdown in March saw us bonded and dedicated, to the cause. We ice-skated through it, developed best methods to counteract the restrictions and still abide by them; it was kind of nice, peaceful and environmentally less impacting. But cracks in the ice developed under our feet, the idea covid19 was a flash in pan, akin to when Blitz sufferers asserted it’d all be over by Christmas, waned as we came to terms, we were in it for the duration.

Yet comparisons to WWII end there, lounging on the sofa for three months with Netflix and desperate peasants delivering essential foodstuff, like oysters, truffles and foie gras is hardly equivalent to the trench warfare of Normandy. Hypocritical is me, not only avoiding isolation as, like a nurse, my labour was temporarily clapped as key worker in March, I figured my site would only get hits if I wrote something about Covid19, and my ignorance to what the future resulted in clearly displayed in spoofy, ill-informed articles, Corona Virus and Devizine; Anyone got a Loo Roll? on the impending panic-buying inclination, and later, I Will Not Bleat About Coronavirus, Write it Out a Hundred Times…

The only thing I maintained in opinion to the subject, was that it should be light-hearted and amusing; fearing if we lose our sense of humour, all is lost. Am I wrong? Probably, it’s been a very serious year.

It was my first pandemic-related mention, hereafter nearly every article paid reference to it, no matter how disparate; it’s the tragedy which occupied the planet. But let’s go back, to oblivious January, when one could shake hands and knew where the pub was. Melksham got a splashpad, Devizes top councillors bleated it wasn’t fair, and they wanted a splashpad too. They planned ripping out the dilapidated brick shithouses on the Green and replacing it with a glorious splashpad, as if they cared about the youth of the town. I reported the feelings of grandeur, Splashpad, I’m all over it, Pal! A project long swept under the carpet, replaced with the delusion we’ll get an affordable railway station. As I said, convenient surely is the pandemic.

So many projects, so many previews of events, binned. Not realising at the time my usual listing, Half Term Worries Over; things to do with little ones during February half-term… would come to an abrupt halt. Many events previewed, the first being the Mayoral Fundraising Events, dates set for the Imberbus, and Chef Peter Vaughan & Indecision’s Alzheimer’s Support Chinese New Year celebration, to name but a few, I’m unaware if they survived or not.

March


On Music……

But it was the cold, early days of winter, when local concerns focused more on the tragic fire at Waiblingen Way. In conjunction with the incredible Liz Denbury, who worked tirelessly organising fundraising and ensuring donations of essentials went to the affected folk, we held a bash in commemoration and aid down that there Cellar Bar; remember?

It was in fact an idea by Daydream Runaways, who blew the low roof off the Cellar Bar at the finale. But variety was the order of the evening, with young pianist prodigy Will Foulstone kicking us off, opera with the amazing Chole Jordan, Irish folk with Mirko and Bran of the Celtic Roots Collective and the acoustic goodness of Ben Borrill. Thanks also has to go to the big man Mike Barham who set up the technical bits before heading off to a paid gig. At the time I vowed this will be the future of our events, smaller but more than the first birthday bash; never saw it coming, insert sad-face emoji.

We managed to host another gig, though, after lockdown when shopping was encouraged by In:Devizes, group Devizes Retailers and Independents, a assemblage of businesses set up to promote reopening of town. We rocked up in Brogans and used their garden to have a summer celebration. Mike set up again, and played this time, alongside the awesome Cath and Gouldy, aka, Sound Affects on their way to the Southgate, and Jamie R Hawkins accompanied Tamsin Quin with a breath-taking set. It was lovely to see friends on the local music scene, but it wasn’t the reopening for live music we anticipated.

Before all this live music was the backbone of Devizine, between Andy and myself we previewed Bradford Roots Music Festival, MantonFest, White Horse Opera’s Spring Concert, Neeld Hall’s Tribute to Eddie Cochran, and the return of Asa Murphy. We reviewed the Long Street Blues Club Weekender, Festival of Winter Ales, Chris O’Leary at Three Crowns, Jon Walsh, Phil Jinder Dewhurst, Mule and George Wilding at The White Bear, Skandal’s at Marlborough’s Lamb, and without forgetting the incredible weekly line-up at the Southgate; Jack Grace Band, Arnie Cottrell Tendency, Skedaddle, Navajo Dogs, Lewis Clark & The Essentials, King Street Turnaround, Celtic Roots Collective, Jamie, Tamsin, Phil, and Vince Bell.

The collection of Jamie R Hawkins, Tamsin Quin and Phil Cooper at the Gate was memorable, partly because they’re great, partly because, it was the last time we needed to refer to them as a collection (save for the time when Phil gave us the album, Revelation Games.) Such was the fate of live music for all, it was felt by their newly organised trio, The Lost Trades, whose debut gig came a week prior to lockdown, at the Pump, which our new writer Helen Robertson covered so nicely.

For me, the weekend before the doom and gloom consisted of a check-in at the Cavy, where the Day Breakers played, only to nip across to Devizes Sports Club, where the incredible Ruzz Guitar hosted a monster evening of blues, with his revue, Peter Gage, Innes Sibun and Jon Amor. It was a blowout, despite elbow greetings, I never figured it’d be the last.

It was a knee-jerk reaction which made me set up a virtual festival on the site. It was radical, but depleted due to my inability to keep up with an explosion of streamed events, where performers took to Facebook, YouTube sporadically, and other sites on a national scale, and far superior tech knowhow took over; alas there was Zoom. I was happy with this, and prompted streaming events such as Swindon’s “Static” Shuffle, and when PSG Choirs Showed Their True Lockdown Colours. Folk would message me, ask me how the virtual festival was going to work, and to be honest, I had no idea how to execute the idea, but it was worth a stab.

One thing which did change, musically, was we lowered our borders, being as the internet is outernational and local bands were now being watched by people from four corners of the world, Devizine began reviewing music sourced worldwide. Fair enough, innit?

The bleeding hearts of isolated artists and musicians, no gigs gave them time on their hands to produce some quality music, therefore our focus shifted to reviewing them, although we always did review records. Early local reviews of 2020 came from NerveEndings with the single Muddy Puddles, who later moved onto an album, For The People. Daydream Runaways’ live version of Light the Spark and Talk in Code’s Like That, who fantastically progressed through lockdown to a defining eighties electronica sound with later singles Taste the Sun and Secret.

We notified you of Sam Bishop’s crowdfunding for a quarantine song, One of a Kind, which was released and followed by Fallen Sky. Albums came too, we covered, Billy Green 3’s Still in January, and The Grated Hits of the Real Cheesemakers followed, With the former, later came a nugget of Billy Green’s past, revealing some lost demos of his nineties outfit, Still, evidently what the album was named after.

Whereas the sublime soul of Mayyadda from Minnesota was the first international artist featured this year, and from Shrewsbury, our review of Cosmic Rays’ album Hard to Destroy extended our presence elsewhere in the UK, I sworn to prioritise local music, with single reviews of Phil Cooper’s Without a Sound, TheTruzzy Boys’ debut Summertime, Courage (Leave it Behind), a new single from Talk in Code, and for Daydream Runaways’ single Gravity we gave them an extensive interview. This was followed by Crazy Stupid Love and compiled for an EP, Dreamlands, proving they’re a band continuously improving.

April

Probably the most diverse single around spring though was an epic drum n bass track produced right here in Devizes, featuring the vocals of Pewsey’s Cutsmith. Though while Falling by ReTone took us to new foundations, I ran a piece on the new blues sounds locally, as advised by Sheer Music’s Kieran Moore. Sheer, like all music promoters were, understandably, scrambling around in the dark for the beginnings of lockdown, streaming stuff. It wasn’t long before they became YouTube presenters! The Sheer podcast really is something special, in an era leaving local musicians as dry as Ghandi’s flip-flop, they present a show to make ‘em moist!

Spawned from this new blues article, one name which knocked me for six, prior to their YouTube adventures, was Devizes-own Joe Edwards. I figured now I was reviewing internationally; would it be fair to local musicians to suggest a favourite album of the year? However, Joe’s Keep on Running was always a hot contender from the start, and despite crashing the borders on what we will review, I believe it still is my favourite album of the year.

Other top local albums, many inspired from lockdown came flowing, perhaps the most sublime was Interval by Swindon’s reggae keyboardist virtuoso, Erin Bardwell. The prolific Bardwell later teamed with ex-Hotknive Dave Clifton for a project called Man on the Bridge.

Perhaps the most spacey, Devizes’ Cracked Machine’s third outing, Gates of Keras. Top local singles? Well, George Wilding never let us down with Postcard, from a Motorway, and after lockdown reappeared with his band Wilding, for Falling Dreams and later with a solo single, You Do You. Jon Amor was cooking with Peppercorn, which later led to a great if unexpected album, Remote Control.

There was a momentary lapse of reason, that live streaming was the musical staple diet of the now, when Mr Amor climbed out onto his roof to perform, like an ageless fifth Beatle. Blooming marvellous.

Growing up fast, Swindon’s pop singer Lottie J blasted out a modern pop classic with Cold Water, and no one could ignore Kirsty Clinch’s atmospheric country-pop goodness with Fit the Shoe.

Maybe though it wasn’t the ones recorded before, but our musicians on the live circuit coming out with singles to give them some pocket money, which was the best news. I suggest you take note of Ben Borrill’s Takes A Little Time, for example.

I made new friends through music, reviewing so many singles and EPs; Bath’s Long Coats, and JAY’s Sunset Remedy. Swindon’s composer Richard Wileman, guitarist Ryan Webb, and unforgettable Paul Lappin, who, after a couple of singles would later release the amazing acoustic Britpop album The Boy Who Wanted to Fly. Dirty and Smooth and Atari Pilot too, the latter gave us to cool singles, Right Crew, Wrong Captain, and later, Blank Pages. To Calne for End of Story and Chris Tweedie, and over the downs to Marlborough with Jon Veale’s Flick the Switch. I even discovered Hew Miller, a hidden gem in our own town.

May

But we geographically go so much further these days, even if not physically much more than taking the bins out. Outside our sphere we covered Essex’s Mr B & The Wolf, Limerick’s Emma Langford, London’s Gecko, and from the US, Shuffle & Bang, and Jim White. Johnny Lloyd, Skates & Wagons, My Darling Clementine, Micko and the Mellotronics, Typhoidmary, Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass, Mango Thomas, Beans on Toast, Tankus the Henge; long may the list continue.

Bombino though, the tuareggae artist really impressed me, but I don’t like to pick a favourite, rather to push us onto another angle. I began reviewing stuff sent via my Boot Boy radio show, and covered a ska scene blossoming in South America. But as well as Neville Staple Band’s single Lockdown, The Bighead, the Bionic Rats, and Hugo Lobo teaming up with Lynval Golding and Val Douglas, we found reggae in Switzerland through Fruits Records, the awesome Cosmic Shuffling and progressive 808 Delavega.

So much music, is it going on a bit? Okay I’ll change the record, if you pardon the pun, but not until I’ve mentioned The Instrumental Sounds Of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue, naturally, Sound Affects’ album Ley Lines, Tunnel Rat refurbing their studio, and Bristol’s freshest new hip hop act The Scribes. Ah, pause for breath.

Oh, and outside too, we did get a breather from lockdown and tiers, all Jamies for me, Mr R Hawkins was my first outing at the Gate and followed by Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective. Sad to have missed Two Man Ting and when The Big Yellow Bus Rocked the Gazebo, but hey, I thought we were out of the deep water.

June

Splashed straight back in again; “tiers” this time, sounds nicer than lockdown. Who knows what 2021 will bring, a vaccine, two vaccines, a mesh of both despite being ill-advised by experts? Just jab me, bitch, taxi me to the nearest gig, if venues still exist, by spring and I’ll shut up about it.


On Arts…..

Bugger, I’m going to need Google maps to find my local boozer. But yeah, they, whoever they are, think we’re all about music, but we cover anything arts and entertainment, you know? We previewed Andy Hamilton coming to Swindon’s Wyvern, Josie Long coming to Bath, The Return of the Wharf Theatre, and the county library tours of Truth Sluth: Epistemological Investigations for the Modern Age. Surely the best bit was being sent a private viewing of a new movie, Onus, by the Swindon filmmakers who gave us Follow the Crows.

I shared poems by Gail Foster, and reviewed her book Blossom. Desperate for subject matter I rewrote a short story Dizzy Heights. I featured artists Bryony Cox and Alan Watters, both selling their wares for the NHS, Ros Hewitt’s Glass Art open studio, Small Wonders Art Auction in aid of Arts Together and Asa Murphy published a children’s book, The Monkey with no Bum! I dunno, don’t ask.

July


On Food…

Despite my Oliver Twist pleads, we never get enough on the subject of grub. January saw us preview Peter Vaughan’s Chinese New Year dinner party in aid of Alzheimer’s Support and with music from Indecision, we covered DOCA’s Festival of Winter Ales, and looked forward to the Muck & Dunder’s Born 2 Rum festival, which was cancelled.

From here the dining experience reverted to takeaways, and I gave Sujay’s Jerk Pan Kitchen at big shout, and thought it best to wait until things reopened before singing Massimos’ praise, but I guess for now I should mention their awesome takeaway service next.

The Gourmet Brownie Kitchen supplied my welcomed Father’s Day gift, even nipped over to Swindon, in search of their best breakfast at the Butcher’s cafe, and recently I featured vegan blogger, Jill. Still though I need more food articles, as restaurants should take note, they’re extremely popular posts. Sadly, our while self-explanatory article, “We Cannot Let our Young People go Hungry; those locally rallying the call to #endchildfoodpoverty,” did quite well, at third most popular, the earlier “Eat Out to Help Out, Locally, Independently,” was our highest hitting of all; giving a sombre redefining of the term, dying to go out.

Back to my point though, food articles do so well, I’m not just after a free lunch, or maybe I am. But here, look, the fourth most popular article this year was our review of New Society, which was actually from 2019. Does lead us on nicely to the touchy subject of stats this year.

August


On Stats, Spoofs and the Future….

As well as an opportunity to review what we’ve done over the past year and to slag off the government, I also see this rather lengthy article which no one reads till the end of, a kind of AGM. It should be no surprise or disappointment, being this is a what’s-on guide, and being nothing was actually on, our stats failed to achieve what we hit in 2019. Though, it is with good news I report we did much better than 2018, and in the last couple of months hits have given me over the stats I predicted. Devizine is still out there, still a thing; just don’t hug it, for fuck’s sake.

I did, sometime ago, have a meeting with the publishers of Life In, RedPin. You may’ve seen Life in Devizes or various other local town names. The idea to put Devizine into print is something I’ve toyed with, but as it stands it seems unlikely. My pitch was terrible, my funds worse. If I did this it would cease to be a hobby and become a fulltime business, I’d need contributors, a sales department, I’d need an expert or ten, skills and a budget for five issues ahead of myself, and I tick none of those boxes. A risk too risky, I guess that’s why they call a risk a risk, watching the brilliant Ocelot reduced to online, publications suffer, the local newspaper house scrambling for news and desperately coming up with national clickbait gobbledygook, I know now is not the time to lick slices of tree with my wares.

So, for the near future I predict trickling along as ever. Other than irrational bursts of enthusiasm that this pandemic is coming to an end, I’ve given in updating our event calendar until such really happens. And it will, every clown has a silver lifeboat, or something like that.

September