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Birmingham

    Birmingham

    Do you like your men like you like your coffee?

    Some times I get some really random, but curious emails. My favourite one recently was about the Carte Noire Man Café which appeared in Birmingham for today only. Sadly I was working from home all day so didn’t get to pop in and see it, but it’s an interesting concept.

    The idea seems to be that all women need a bit of ‘me time’ and what better way to experience this than at a Man Cafe? A Man Cafe! My inner feminist is getting a little angsty about the concept, but I do like the whole marketing schtick around the “Men should be like coffee, hot sweet and strong” saying. Although I’ve been trying to figure which of expresso, cappuccino, latte macchiato, and creme intense relates to the choices at the Man Cafe of Mr Confident, Mr Romantic, Mr Cool and Mr Continental. I’ve also been trying to figure out if my choice of coffee also says anything about my choice in men too, but that’s probably not something for a blogpost.

    And because this song has been in my head for the last two days since getting the email, here’s a video for Supersister’s song Coffee; “I like my men like I like my coffee…”


    Birmingham

    Co-working venues: Costa Coffee, High St, Kings Heath

    So after a bit of a break in our co-working, Liz and I thought we’d try the newest kid on the block – Costa Coffee which opened fairly recently. One of Liz’s friends had said that Costa was a good place to work from, so it seemed like a good enough endorsement to check it out.

    Costa Coffee, High St, Kings Heath

    Opening recently in the site of the old Clarks shop store, which has moved a few doors down, Costa is the first real chain coffee shop on Kings Heath High St in amongst all the little independents.  Kings Heath was once the barometer by which the recession was supposedly being measured, if the flurry of national interest was to be believed, so the fact that we’ve now got a chain coffee shop (although we’ve had a chain pub for a while, good ol’ Wetherspoons) surely means something, but who knows what.

    Internet
    Well this is going to be a short section. We initially thought there was internet. After all if the little coffee-shops up and down the High St can manage it, surely a national brand like Costa would consider it akin to offering milk with your tea. Apparently not. Which is a great shame, as Costa is by far the best venue we’ve found for plug sockets and had plenty of tables that looked perfect for a laptop and mug of coffee.

    And anyone that knows me know that I tend to want to know why something isn’t as it should. So I checked the internet on my phone (thank goodness for 3G), the internet was a bit unsure whether Costa offered wi-fi….their website certainly didn’t say. However it did lead me to the number of their PR manager. Hey, I was writing a blog on Costa and I couldn’t find a lot of contact info on the rest of the site, so maybe their PR manager might like to comment. Except they were on holiday – what if I found a rat in my tea?! Yup this is utterly ridiculous but it seems kinda odd way to run a press office to me. Still, I know that Kings Heath Costa doesn’t have wifi, but I still don’t know what the official position is on the matter. And seriously, it’s 2011 and if both Mc Donalds and the little indie cafes on the High St can manage wifi why on earth can’t Costa. Bad Costa, bad.

    Food and drink
    Costa is probably my favourite coffee shop of the big coffee-shop chains. When I had to cut caffeine and dairy out of my diet for a while one of the Costa chains were really accommodating and that’s the kind of thing you remember. And they actually manage to make reasonably decent tea, even if it is just a tea bag, but it comes in a tea pot so win for them. Oh and they do skimmed milk, which makes Liz happy.

    Food wise I didn’t partake this time round. I’ve always found the food on offer a bit typical of coffee-shops and honestly, trying it would be a bit like reviewing Mc Donald’s – it’s going to be the same wherever you go. Except its sandwiches and cakes and stuff and all perfectly pleasant, but I just find them a little uninspiring. But the same goes for Starbucks, Costa, Nero and whatever other coffee shops I’m missing. Nice, but nothing new and exciting and also feels a bit pricey when over the road I can sit in and have a baguette, crisps and can of drink for about the same price as their sandwich or a freshly made sandwich from one of the indie cafes.

    General atmosphere
    I’ve always preferred Costa over the over coffee-shop chains, so I’m glad that if we had to have one on the High St this would be it. And it seems like other people like it too. Even though we were in early afternoon on a weekday it was pretty busy with lots of different people, but nicely busy which is probably helped by the fact it’s got a good sized floor space. There are some comfy sofas for heart-to-hearts which are a bit rubbish to work from if you have a laptop, but thankfully there are plenty of normal tables and chairs for that. But only if you’re writing a novel or something that doesn’t require the internet (I know, broken record, but come on this is 2011 every coffee shop should have wifi by now). It’s got that kind of cosy coffee shop atmosphere and isn’t too noisy, even with a good number of people inside.

    So, to sum up; it’s your usual chain coffee shop, but one of the better ones. Co-working wise it would be good for a meeting, but the lack of internet really lets it down. Everything else, is fine.

    Check out what Liz thought here.

    Birmingham

    Vampires, boybands and writing for a magazine with a rather dodgy name

    So, last Saturday night I spent the evening with the fellow writers, artists and editors of the second issue of local literary mag, Dirty Bristow.

    It’s probably worth mentioning now that Dirty Bristow isn’t exactly your typical literary magazine (the name should be the first hint). They actually describe themselves as “dedicated to resurrecting the magazine as a fetish object, giving creative people the room to let their minds go. No ads. No rules.”

    Basically some time last year they announced the topic, Beast, and then let us write away for several months. I ended up writing an article on why vampires are the new boybands. Actually it was a bit of a continued rant I’d had at my housemates about why first boybands then vampires appeared to be pushing this really disturbing idea of need-you-forever-die-without-you kind of love that seems to be so toxic. So maybe I got a little feministy, but that’s not a bad thing.

    And the guys were good enough not to laugh at me (at least not to my face) and print it. They also printed some other cool articles and some copies even have a cassette – remember those?! I’m yet to find something in the house that will play it, but I’m looking forward to listening to the four cover-songs on there as soon as I get to my mum’s (aka the land of antiques) where I’m hoping she has a tape player.

    If you fancy reading my article or if you hate the sound of it and want to read everyone elses or if you want to look really cool and have a magazine they don’t sell at Smiths, then go here my good friends!

    Birmingham, Books

    Birmingham Book Bloggers and Tweeters

    Just over a couple of weeks ago I attended a meet up for Birmingham Book Bloggers (#brumbookmeet), hosted by the lovely Jen (@BhamLibrarian) and Zoe (playingbythebook) at Cafe Blend.

    The basic idea was a loose one – a meet up for people who are interested in books and bookish things who blog, tweet or review them online and are near the Birmingham vicinity (here‘s the original blogpost at playingbythebook).  As someone who occasionally blogs about the books we read at book club and a few other book reviews I figured I could justify popping along.

    Six of us turned out for the first meeting and had a great chat about Birmingham, books and bookish things in Birmingham.  From that we’ve created a Google calendar to collect together bookish things in Birmingham.  I’ve added the events from the Waterstones website, a couple of book groups and some other events.  But I’m sure there has to be more events in Birmingham about books and bookish things.  So if you know of any please let me know (comment or email).

    Next meet up is Sunday 24th July from 6-8pm at The Victoria, John Bright St.  Join us?

    Birmingham

    Co-working venues: Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath

    On the back of the success of the first co-working venue review that I did alongside my friend Liz – and inspired others to do the same, we thought we’d chance a second.  We ended up picking another venue quite close to the other one, more out of ease for us, but at some point we will venture further a’field.

    Kitchen Garden Cafe, York Road, Kings Heath


    The KGC can pretty much be summed up as a hidden oasis off a busy High St.  Part garden shop, party cafe it’s really got this quaint, magical quality to it.  Artwork for sale adorning the walls, a programme of live folk and craft in the evenings, a play area for children and an environment of quirky it’s really very cute and a bit of a hidden gem – though thankfully fairly well known amongst locals.

    I met Liz there around 11am, who bumped into a friend who was already working there.  The cafe has a reasonable number of tables, but does get very busy.  We sat in the back of the cafe, in order to find a plug for charging the laptops (note to anyone thinking about co-working anywhere, generally it’s wise to charge up before you go) and there were plenty.  Unfortunately this is also the area with the toys for children.

    Internet

    Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath

    Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath

    Kinda hard to judge this one as I’ve been a few times and so my computer picked up the net no problem.  Then again, even if you’ve not been before they usually have little slips of paper with the internet password freely available.  And it’s your standard way of finding the network, enter the password and away you go.  No complaints from me.

    Food and drink
    Food wise, the KGC is a little pricer than your usual cafe, but then again this is because the food is freshly made on site (from the counter you can just about see into the kitchen) and where possible they use seasonal, fairly-traded, local and/or organic food.  And there’s a notable level of quality to the food because of it.

    A while ago they removed sausage sandwiches from the all day menu and I never really forgave them for it (though they are on the breakfast menu served to midday), so I couldn’t tell you what breakfast or dinner at the KGC is like, but lunch wise its pretty good.  This time I had the Home-made Haddock Fish Finger Sandwich which at £5.95 is pretty pricey for a sandwich, but the fresh battered fish is delicious and in all fairness I rarely feel it needs another side – although I have ordered a side of chips with it before.  It’s the kind of sandwich which is just so delightful that I never really mind the fact that its £6, it kinda feels worth it.

    General atmosphere
    The KGC really is a delightful place.  Unfortunately it isn’t great for co-working.  Why?  Easy answer is children.  It’s an incredibly child-friendly place, which is fine if you’re there for food and a catch up, but if you’re planning on working there it can be problematic (particularly when kids are crying for periods of time, but cafe etiquette is another blogpost).  Generally I can work through most noise, but if you plan on taking any calls it just won’t work.  I had to go outside to call anyone and whilst I could leave my laptop with Liz, it was a pain and whilst there’s a very safe, comfortably atmosphere to the KGC its not exactly recommend behaviour leaving your stuff.  The music is a little louder than it needs to be too.

    I love the KGC for lazy lunches, tea and cake, folk on a Sunday and somewhere to show off when friends come to visit the city.  But for co-working, it just doesn’t really feel like its really up to it.

    Check out what Liz thought here.

    Birmingham, Books

    Asked to write my first ever guest blogpost!

    I completely forgot to mention it here, but I’ve written a guest blogpost over at Urban Coffee Company‘s website on how to survive a book club.  Its about what to look out for if you’re new, have been going to book clubs for a while or are running one yourself – as well as trying to dispel the idea that book clubs are just retired old ladies discussing stuffy historical romances.  Kind of apt timing really, given my previous post here was about attending another book club.

    It has been up since last Wednesday, but check it out here and let me know what you think.