Wednesday, 26 March 2008

My attention has been drawn to local publisher, Northern Eye Books - isn't it weird how you can live somewhere for ages and not know that on your doorstep is a publisher producing books of local interest. It's largely because of the death of independent booksellers, who were reliable stockists for local books. Northern Eye has an interesting catalogue covering Chester, Cheshire and north Wales.

Northern Eye also has a blog, which covers a range of stuff. Books, obviously, but also walking in the great outdoors (we have such beautiful countryside on our doorstep), nature and climbing. There are some great photos, too. Looking at some of the posts, I realised we actually have a few Northern Eye titles on our bookshelves at home. A good reason to follow the blog.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Pressing matters - when papers get blogging

Two of our local newspapers, the Chester Chronicle and the Chester Evening Leader, are now offering blogging facilities on their websites to readers.

Of the five on the Chronicle's site, one looked potentially interesting as it seemed to be about the Literature Festival but it has only one entry from last November and appears to have been abandoned. Of the others, two were by out-of-town readers (Runcorn and New Zealand), one is by a pair of Chester-based screenwriters - the Drama Queens - and is quite entertaining, and the fifth is the personal blog of Chronicle columnist John Buckley.

Over at the Evening Leader, there were more blogs to choose from. However, as the paper is based in Wrexham on the other side of the Welsh border, unsurprisingly most of the blogs were not about Chester. Martin Wright, the paper's deputy editor, has a fairly eclectic personal blog on the go, while colleague Steve Graves, focuses more on the business of journalism.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Regents and princes

Chester being such an ancient city, it's steeped in rich pickings for those interested in local history. Modern-day Deva has quite a few local writers publishing books on various aspects of Chester's past. But so far, I've only found one blog. Sue Wilkes is a Chester-based writer who has already published one book and is now working on her second, which will be about Regency Cheshire. This should be interesting reading and will fit well with the various tomes already on the shelves covering Chester's industrial past and more ancient times.

Sue's blog is still in its infancy but her posts on literature in between updates on her career as a published author are well worth a look.

An amusing diversion is Nelson's Column, an intermittent but very funny blog by a pedigree cat living in Chester in constrained circumstances with a moggy he doesn't get on with.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Mustn't grumble!

Ever wondered what it might be like to have a living, breathing Victor Meldrew type living on your doorstep? I have one as a near neighbour, as I'm sure many of you do. But not many local Meldrews are blogging. So, a big hello to Simon Brattlel of the Grumbles blog in Farndon.

Simon has an eclectic line in grumbling and carping, from rodents to capacitors and Tom Cruise to Terry Pratchett (sort of). He's also very funny, with a nice line in dripped sarcasm.

Modern life being as it is, I can identify with quite a few of Simon's rants, as I'm sure many others do.

Simon, any chance you could take a few pops at our local authorities?

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Digging up a gem

I really like the Chester Amphitheatre blog. It's not updated terribly frequently - most updates occur in the summer when the excavation work is ongoing.

What marks it out is its connectivity to local life. Chester being a good 2,000+ years old, we are surrounded by history at every step of the way. The Roman settlement here was one of the most important in the UK - Deva very nearly became the Roman capital of our country.

The amphitheatre was half-excavated several decades ago, but a recent grant means that over the last few summers the archaeology team has been in town to do more digging. The blog reports on their progress as well on other Roman-related news.

For Cestrians, the dig and blog are part of the living history around us. I doubt there's a person in Chester who dislikes the amphitheatre - it's a public place where people go to sit in peace or just hang out, or even just walk past it thinking of what had taken place there two millennia ago.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Cats and ducks

Time to shine the spotlight on Cat on the Mac.

This blog is not updated very regularly but it is extremely well written and very witty in places. It's really nice to read about a Chester that the author is so enthusiastic about. My eye is caught by the various foodie posts, as she describes visits to various restaurants in our fair city. As I'm used mainly to reading local food news and views on the excellent website Chester @ Large (dedicated to our pubs and eateries), it's refreshing to see this covered elsewhere. And the duck entry was enlightening! A pity there was no follow-up about the duck meal...

Monday, 19 November 2007

File under...

I admit to being fascinated by Red Kite's blog, Adventures in Records Management. It's a very interesting glimpse into the working life of a civil servant responsible for data management. For those working in the same field or affected by such issues, there's some pretty solid info in there, but Red Kite also has a wry sense of humour and a deft touch with words, as evidenced by his latest post.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Wine, wit and the sommelier

Grazza, who works at the Michelin-starred restaurant the Arkle at the Grosvenor Hotel, has been spilling his Tales of a Sommelier.

If you're a wine fan, you'll love reading his detailed tasting notes - mostly of bottles many of us could never afford and can only dream of sampling. There's also lots of behind-the-scenes gossip about the reality of life as a leading sommelier, told with wit and sparkle (just like my favourite Champagne). He offers a very interesting glimpse into a world inhabited by few and envied by many.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Sifting through duds and dross

I've been spending spare moments hunting for Chester blogs. A "Chester" search on indicated that there are around 200 registered bloggers in our fair city. That sounded very promising and so began the task of checking out each and every one.

Sadly, it has quickly become clear that as many as 3 out of 4 bloggers have only registered a profile but no blog, or a profile and one sole blog entry. And then there are the blogs that exist but are so badly written (as well as illiterate) that they are not worthy of inclusion.

At the moment it feels like searching for the proverbial needle. But there are some gems out there and they are gradually being added.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Democracy on the web?

I thought it would be interesting to have a look at the blogs of Chester city councillors. There is an increasing trend towards openness on the internet by our institutions. For example, a number of police chiefs are blogging these days, as are some MPs.

Chester City Council has a fairly good website, as council websites go. A recent innovation has been to set up a special political website where councillors can blog about what they are doing on behalf of ward constituents, and there's also a BBC news feed on recent political news.

Unfortunately, while Chester City Council has 60 elected councillors, only 6 have blogs. And of these, only 2 are actually blogging, in the sense that they are keeping their local residents updated as opposed to posting a "welcome" blog then falling silent. So, just 3.3% of Chester's councillors are blogging - how are they faring?

John Price's blog is pretty impressive - he represents Blacon, an area of Chester that has a difficult reputation, and it's good to see that he is proactive, using his blog to give advance notice of local meetings and to report back on hot issues. Richard Short is also posting fairly regularly. A shame that the others who signed up have not followed through their commitment. But it's an interesting attempt, nonetheless, and if I find any more council blogs from around the county, they will be added.