The Best of 2021

That title seems like a bit of misnomer, doesn’t it? “The Best of 2021“. Following the unprecedented nonsense of 2020, last year we were all anticipating returning to normal, or as close as possible. Small victories were made during that time, but here we are again: a pandemic that seems to loom ever worse; the threat of lockdown and restrictions still a possibility; working from home if you can; vaccination after vaccination; and the same bumbling charlatans in charge of it all.

Hopefully it will all get better. It can’t get much worse (at least in terms of the virus, the post apocalyptic hell of Brexit is still to be reckoned with).

During 2021, Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub still aimed to entertain and inform. Sometimes we made it, sometimes we ballsed it up. But much of the blog content shone through regardless.

In the spirit of sharing success – and smiling in the face of adversity – here are the blog posts from 2021 that were most successful, in terms of views.

10. The Halloween Horror Fest Don’t Die

Halloween Horror Fest was another October highlight this year; this review featured The Dead Don’t Die and Hammer’s The Mummy.

9. Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock & Metal Albums of 2020

My other gig is writing reviews for Ever Metal – many of my reviews cropped up on this 2020 album list of favourites.

8. The Plague of Halloween Horror Fest

The last mini horror mvie reviews of 2021 featured The Plague of the Zombies and The Crow.

7. Bucket of Halloween Horror Fest

Another Hammer classic, with this review of The Gorgon.

6. Ryuko Interview

Published back in January 2021, this interview with alt rock band Ryuko at last years Pentre Fest originally appeared on Ever Metal, before it graced the Virtual Hot Tub.

5. Sci-Fi Weekender – Back to the Future

SFW was sadly destroyed like Alderaan due to the pandemic – but I dug up a few unseen pics from previous years to ease the pain.

4. Liverpool Comic Con 2021

As the year progressed and we appeared to be making a tentative return to events, I filed this report from Comic Con in Liverpool.

3. How Do Fossils Form? by Eloise Jones

The third most popular blog of the year was written by my super talented daughter. I might just hand the whole thing over to her…

2. Hawarden Limerick

A silly limerick about a local village, it proved popular for some bizarre reason.

And the number one, most popular blog of the year was…

  1. Millennium Falcon – The Greatest Toy Ever

Photos and memories of my vintage Star Wars Millennium Falcon toy, I think this blog is a justified winner! A fantastic toy and something I’m very proud of.

With a lack of events again in 2021, it’s no surprise that other blog subjects rose to prominence. Maybe the escapism of movie and toy reviews appealed to our audience this troublesome year.

We don’t know what will happen in 2022. Fingers crossed, the future looks brighter. But rest assured, Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub will be here for you. If you need a friend, or just some heavy metal reviews and photos of old toys, we’re never far away.

Hawarden Limerick

Several years ago, I wrote some poetry on a course I attended. Nothing serious, just having a bash. I’ve posted some of them before. This time, I thought I would share with you a limerick, which I hope will both amuse and entertain. And don’t worry, this composition is family friendly.

As a note of explanation, the village of Hawarden is situated near where I live, in North Wales. The name is pronounced “harden”, to rhyme with “garden”. It’s a nice place. Here is my poetic tribute:

 

Hawarden Limerick

There was an old man from Hawarden

Who had a monkey in his back garden

The monkey, so rude

Played with his food

And he never once said pardon.

 

I thank you.

 

HawRADen 2015 – BMX Fun Ride

HawRADen BMX Ride

Saturday 24th October 2015

Hawarden, Flintshire

My mate Danny is into BMX.  He gets BMX bike parts, builds the BMX bikes, rides the BMX bikes too.  Proper, old school BMX bikes – Haro, Mongoose, Raleigh – all the vintage legends.  He was into BMX when he was a kid in the 80’s, and a few years ago rediscovered his passion.

Nowadays, in addition to hunting down vintage bike parts to build his dream machines, he also meets up with other enthusiasts for a ride.  Apparently this is what these BMX geezers do: all over the North West, even all over the country, they meet up and go for a ride together.  There’s usually breaks in the ride for refreshments (ie they stop at a pub or two – soft drinks, obviously…). IMG_20151024_130248497_HDR

Dan decided to organise a local gathering for riders, which would take place in and around the home area of Hawarden in Flintshire, North Wales.  This all sounded like good fun to me.  I was invited and decided to tag along.

My only problem was the fact that I don’t own a BMX bike, at least not anymore.  That left me with two options: my mountain bike or my Schwinn low rider.

It had to be the low rider.  The Schwinn is a retro styled bike that looks like a Harley Davidson chopper, but pedal powered.  I figured this bike was my best bet, it has a cool look and was a little different.  Also I decided to kit myself out in heavy metal/biker gear – rock t-shirt, bandanna, mirrored shades.  Not taking the mickey, but I thought I might as well go the whole hog, on my hog.

So off I went, a Happy Shopper Dennis Hopper, to join the ride.

The meet up point was the Fox and Grapes pub in Hawarden village.  Luckily they were a friendly bunch, so although I only knew Dan, I wasn’t left out.  With a few stragglers to round up, we just made the train from Hawarden station up to Buckley.  It was just one stop and a free fare for most of these BMX bandits.

A short ride then up to the Shamrock in Buckley, where the owner, also a BMX aficionado, laid on some food.  Good stuff, great boozer.  More BMXers met up with the original party here and the group grew a few more.

By the time we left the Shamrock on the ride across Buckley, there must have been twenty odd BMX riders (plus one Easy Rider interloper).  The ride was through the streets and finally the first downhill stretch of the day, which was a relief.  It’s hard work without gears, this bike riding malarkey.

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A short break at the Parrot in Drury and we were off again, this time a nice long downhill stretch to Ewloe.  I think a few heads turned as drivers and passers-by clocked the throng of bikers rolling down the road.  One rider got a little too rad and ended up with the only injury of the day – but we all have to pay our dues some time.

The final stop, for me, at any rate – was the Running Hare in Ewloe.  Never my favourite pub, never the less the open space outdoors for bikes and riders was ideal.

Throughout the afternoon, there were stories told and memories recalled of bikes and adventures from our youth.  There was a very positive and fun atmosphere.  It was all very light hearted and I was made to feel welcome, despite not having a BMX bike.

The group then rode on to complete the circuit back at the Fox.  I bailed out and rolled down the hill to home, having enjoyed a great afternoon of nostalgia and banter.  These BMX bike rides are a great idea – here’s to all the Rad Dads and other forty somethings keeping the dream alive.

My Christmas list this year will feature a BMX bike, for the first time since about 1984.

Food Quest – Greek Night at The Gallery Coffee Shop

The Gallery Coffee Shop, Hawarden

There is a small piece of the Mediterranean, like a little Greek island, to be found in North Wales.  I’ll take you there in this edition of Food Quest.

In the village of Hawarden in Flintshire, right there on the Highway, you will find the Gallery Coffee Shop.  It’s open daily offering refreshments exactly as you would expect – tea and coffee, breakfasts and lunches in a cosy environment.  Once a month, however, the Gallery transforms into a Greek taverna, with all the food and vibrant atmosphere that entails.

I have been to the Greek night at the Gallery on a few occasions.  Each time has provided excellent Greek cuisine with the right summer holiday vibe, helped by the music and dancing!Greek flag

The premises are not licensed, so you will need to take along your alcohol if you wish.  That wasn’t a problem for me, as I could easily pick up a few bottles of Mythos from Tesco.  Hunt around and you’ll find retsina – Tesco no longer stock it so Lidl is your best bet.

Greek music welcomed us in to the Gallery, and we were soon seated.  There wasn’t long to wait before the hors d’oeuvres were served.  This began in traditional style with some pitta bread, olives and various dips such as tzatziki and garlic.  These were shared enthusiastically amongst our group.

Next up were several meze dishes.  On my last visit, this included dolmades (stuffed vine leaves); feta sagnaki, Greek salad and calamari.  I’m no fan of squid – on other visits a different option had been offered.  However the food was both well prepared and delicious.

The main course has also varied on different visits, with usually a couple of options to choose from.  On this last visit I chose chicken with ouzo and cream; this was served with potatoes and vegetables.  Again the meal was excellent; combined with the atmosphere I could have been in a Greek taverna enjoying a pleasant holiday evening.

After the food, the fun really gets under way – with table balancing from owner Spiros and plenty of music to dance to!  The Gallery really manage to capture the fun of a night in Greece and everyone was happy to let their hair down.

The Gallery Coffee Shop manages to create an enjoyable and authentic Greek night that will liven up anyone’s weekend.

Please be aware though that they are very busy and often booked up months in advance – book your Greek night soon!

Yiammas!

Food Quest Test

  • Food: No menu as such, but no need to worry as food is both delicious and authentic
  • Drink: Not licensed, so take your own
  • Service: Excellent
  • Environment: You will be magically transported to your own Greek island
  • Cost: Very reasonable – no bar bill, plus a full evening’s entertainment

The Gallery Coffee Shop, 10 The Highway, Hawarden CH5 3DH

01244 533446

I can’t find a website for The Gallery, there is a listing on Facebook if you search.

Food Quest: The Shared Olive

The Shared Olive, Hawarden

It was a special occasion: time for a special venue.  Mrs Platinum Al’s birthday demanded an experience that was to be savoured, and the Shared Olive would be perfect.

This restaurant is set close to the heart of Hawarden village, and offers a safe haven for food lovers in the area.  The Shared Olive offers a homely, but contemporary atmosphere – it is a welcoming refuge that somehow also manages to feel both relaxing and vibrant at the same time.  Offering tapas and Mediterranean food, the meals at the Shared Olive are both exciting and varied.  so1

We began our gastronomical journey with some olives and a glass of wine; with a beer (Estrella – good stuff) also for me.  The restaurant was particularly busy on this evening, yet the staff managed to cope well with the pressures and were very attentive.

Our starters were extremely impressive.  We decided to go “tapas style” for the first course, though making a choice from the dishes on offer isn’t easy.  Chorizo and manchego croquettes, with goats cheese pesto, for her.  Seabass and chorizo paella for me.  I was looking forward to my starter, and the dish honestly exceeded my expectations!  The croquettes were also popular, I managed to get a taste before they disappeared…

A glass of wine and onto the main course.  We had decided to choose different courses on this evening, rather than go for a few tapas selections to share.  I’m glad we did. SO2

Mrs Platinum Al’s choice was a very nice chicken and wild garlic risotto with dolcelatte.  I went for pulled pork tortiglioni, with plum tomatoes and caramelised fennel.  I’m quite a fan of pulled pork these days; it’s often served USA style on burgers, so I was keen to see how this meal would work.  Work it did: the chefs performing an Enzo Ferrari style example of finely tuned skills and passion for their craft, in admirable Italian style.  shared olive

Having said that, I also tried some of the risotto.  Now I’m not the biggest risotto fan in the world, but found that this was very much to my taste!  Possibly even better than the tortiglioni..?  Dare I say it?

We are extremely fortunate to have a restaurant like the Shared Olive in the local area.  Quality food, well prepared with skill and obvious enthusiasm – yet without being too exclusive price-wise.  Great atmosphere; though you’re definitely eating in a restaurant, it can feel like you’re in your own front room.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: excellent, authentic Mediterranean food with a wide choice
  • Drink: varied and affordable
  • Service: a little slow at first on this visit, though it was extremely busy – the staff soon turned it around
  • Environment: friendly and down to earth with a splash of glamour
  • Cost: great quality food makes it a good deal

The Shared Olive, 68 The Highway, Hawarden CH5 3DH

01244 530053

The Shared Olive webpage is here.

The Shared Olive Facebook page is here.

Follow the Shared Olive on Twitter: @SharedOlive