I may have too high an expectation of University, never having attended one. I meet lots of uni graduates who often make me wonder whether the current methods of ‘lectures’ and ‘tutoring’ really do prepare young people for the real world as much as they ought to, given what we now know about how people learn and how the brain works. I drove my eldest to her Bedford Uni interview today, we arrived to find a building that was still clinging onto its FE roots on the outside but with a vibrant makeover on the inside. I didn’t see all of it but it felt very much like a college and not a Uni to me. but I might have been grumpy having not had breakfast and having to negotiate the M25 midweek. (but hello M1 I have missed you, it’s been so long).
Uni interviews are a serious business to applicants and you’d think a University would be better prepared than they seemed to be in the media recording department today. There was only one script for a ‘voice test’ (photocopier not working then?) which was blatantly cut and pasted from radio and tv transcripts to the point where it no longer made sense. Obviously it wasn’t my interview and I glean these facts second-hand but I can’t help thinking it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the media depts approach, like I said, maybe my expectations are too high.
Luton depressed me, it lacked architectural soul and seemed grey perhaps that coloured my view as well, it’s only 22 minutes by train to London, that’s a plus – isn’t it? My impressions should not detract from the impressively qualified staff but for a town that grew up because of the airport and the M1 someone should be hauled over hot coals for allowing it to happen in the way it has.
No matter, on the way home we stopped at the Little Chef at Popham Services on the A303 for a break and food. If you’re ever passing, do yourself a favour and pop in, it’s the best Little Chef I’ve ever eaten in. Well, yes, those of you who saw the Channel Four series will know that Heston Blumenthal waded in and made changes, indeed even its sign boasts “we’ve changed, give us a try”.
These days the burgers come from a farm nearby, the pork belly from free range pigs grazing in the shadow of Stonehenge and the hot chocolate pudding is made with pure belgian chocolate and is very, very good. Plus it boasts, amongst others, an Egon Ronay award and it’s in the good food guide http://www.little-chef.co.uk/promo/goodfoodguide.
If you’re lucky you’ll meet Phil the deputy manager (as featured on TV) who used to be in the catering corp in the army and is the best marketing tool you could wish for. My semi-complaint (still grumpy then) that the side order of vine grown tomatoes soaked in olive oil with garlic and thyme tasted and looked just like an ordinary large grilled tomato with no trace of garlic or thyme, was turned on its head. We ended up ordering pudding (Oh yum) listening to the history of the Blumethal epiphany, the story of the Little Chef T-shirts that read ‘I heart Charlie’ (think about it) which as a result of a court case at one point sold on ebay for much more than they’re worth and the frankly heartwarming story of how last summer a young man walked in, having just proposed to the love of his life, looking for a venue for his low budget wedding reception (I know, I know but people tell me things). It turned out that the bride had been seriously injured in Afghanistan and was now wheelchair bound. Phil being an ex-army man spoke to HQ and the happy couple got their wedding venue, four volunteer staff and the chef did them proud with a Little Chef set menu of sustainably sourced and tasty food in a unique venue, an American Diner setting and hopefully they’re still living happily ever after.
Do you know, never mind the good food, we left with a smile on our face, an address for applying for paid work experience for the eldest and more knowledge about Little Chef Popham than you’ll ever read on the website AND I filled in a customer feedback postcard, which I always avoid in normal circumstances. I really liked the one I read that said “…the food is great and the staff are fresh….” Really, you should go and like I said earlier “good things come to She who waits”