How Sturridge’s fairytale goodbye may help others escape ‘the roads’



He chose the path that led to a significant role in Liverpool’s Champions League fairytale.

Daniel Sturridge might only have made cameos in what has transpired to be his last season at the six-times European cup winners, but demonstrated a trademark quality – making his chances count.

They include scoring the opening goal against Paris St -Germain in the 3-2 win during the group stage in September.

In total, the gifted striker has 67 goals to his name from 160 appearances since joining The Reds in January 2013.

His departure this summer, when he becomes a free agent, has been garlanded with confetti and goodwill.

Sturridge, however, could have chosen another path in life, one favouring the way of guns, drugs and gangs.

Growing up in Hockley, Birmingham, he narrowly avoided a life of crime, concentrating on music and sport.

The prodigy would kick a ball around the house and front garden under the watchful eye of his God-fearing parents Michael and Grace.

Surrounded by gangs and drugs, he stayed on the “clean route” with his older brother, Leon, as another positive influence.

Manchester City’s academy beckoned when Sturridge was aged 13, but he remains a local lad.

He still sits down for Sunday dinner with his family and attended a celebration assembly in December when his aunt, Ava Sturridge-Packer CBE, retired from her headship of St Mary’s C of E Primary School in Handsworth.

It’s a story that has huge resonance with young people trying to escape ‘the roads’ as they look to brighter futures.


David Johnson, a senior co-ordinator at Sport 4 Life UK, a charity helping young people in Birmingham to find their way in work, education and training, views the 29-year-old footballer’s story as one of hope.

Mr Johnson, whose parents moved to the UK from Jamaica, said: “He is a role model for a lot of young people having grown up in one of the most deprived areas in Birmingham, Hockley, which has attracted headlines for gangs, guns and crime.

“Young people look to Daniel as someone who made it from a similar neighbourhood to themselves and it gives them hope.

“He found his way out through football and a lot of young people from deprived areas engage through sport before they find positive pursuits.

“His story shows that they can follow their dreams.”


While at Liverpool in 2014 the devout Christian founded The Sturridge Foundation, a charity dedicated to helping underprivileged children in England and Jamaica.

Sharing a love of ‘dancehall’ music with Usain Bolt, he has shown that traditional Jamaican values of family and thinking of others can help young people escape a seedier existence.

Sturridge has said: “The thing about Birmingham is you can go down two paths.

“You can go down the clean route, you can sometimes end up going down the wrong route and get involved with the wrong people and you end up being involved in the wrong type of lifestyle.

“That could have been me… It’s easy because it’s there, in front of you, day by day.”

The former Aston Villa youth player grew up in a neighbourhood where gangsters were strong influences on impressionable youngsters.

“The environment you grow up in, there’s a lot of drugs sold and that’s what was going on in a close environment,” he told Vice Sport.

“Obviously I looked up to footballers but in a close vicinity the things you see were loud music, gold and the glorification of ‘this person’s made it’.”

But the Birmingham-born striker credits his upbringing for allowing him to relate to people from all walks of life.

“I had an older brother who kept me out of trouble and a lot of it went on around close quarters, you see things first-hand going on,” he has said.

“A lot of things were normal.

“You can be in an environment you deem normal but someone from a completely different environment can come and spend one day and say, ‘this is crazy, get me out’.

“You grow up around a whole array of characters and you know how to deal with sketchy people because you met someone like that 15 years ago.

“I felt like I met so many different people and I was around so many weird characters as well as the gang culture.”

Sturridge, who reads the Bible every morning, has urged young people to shun the ‘gangsta’ lifestyle.

“There’s so many other things you can put your passion and your anger into,” he has said.

“You don’t need to pick up a knife or a gun or start selling drugs or start doing bad things or committing robberies or whatever it is.

“There’s a studio, there’s boxing gyms where you can not be fighting people, or UFC gym these days. Train.

“There’s loads of things that can take your mind off the pitfalls.”

Sturridge speaks fondly of the land of wood and water, the home of his grandparents where his family join him every year for his charity’s ‘Foundation Day’, giving thousands of young people a chance to play sports and enjoy live music.

He has said: “I love Jamaica, it’s my favourite place on Earth, I go there every year. It’s in my heart.”

Turning 30 in September, Sturridge is already being linked with other clubs, including in the MLS, after being bid farewell by Jurgen Klopp. 

The footballer will not walk alone after Mersyside, taking the hopes of many in his home city with him.

By Yunzy


Swim, bike, run, repeat: Why I keep going back to world’s biggest triathlon


The exhilarating London Triathlon has a draw quite unlike any other mass-participation event. Here, Much Ado’s writer reflects on why he is going back for a fourth time this summer.

the tri swimmm COVER
Action stations: The swim start and (inset) Yunzy with medal and road bike after the event

Bobbing up and down in Royal Victoria Dock, I wonder what on Earth I’m doing here.

Floating around me are the swim-capped heads of dozens of other triathletes, all under starter’s orders.

Then the hooter goes, and we’re off.

I’m fairly consistent on the West Midlands running scene, taking part in the annual Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10k for the second time in 2019, and having 101 Parkruns to my name, most of them in Coventry and Warwickshire. Then there’s the annual Vélo Birmingham & Midlands, a kind of tour-de-Midlands for all-comers taking in 100 miles of  closed roads.

The region offers a great proving ground to train for bigger events – the running and cycling clubs are friendly, sociable and plentiful.

I’ve never tried organised swimming other than trying to stick to my lane in the local pool, but I’m sure the same applies, with the Midlands Open Water Swim Centre near Sutton Coldfield and Ragley Hall in Warwickshire providing unheated training.

The world’s biggest triathlon, however, has always been my bigger bite.

This year I’ll be jumping in to that enclosed dock for a fourth time, taking on the Olympic distance on July 28, the second day of the weekend event.

I’m far from a Lycra-nut or some kind of high-level athlete. For me, it’s more about the jokes you share along the way, especially in training, and ‘the beer after the game’.

At the London Triathlon, I began as a relative newcomer to the sport – it was my first ever shot at the full Olympic distance, having completed a single sprint event beforehand.

That’s a 1,500 metre swim, a 40km bike ride and a 10k run, in that order.

Before my first London Triathlon, my training partner and fellow participant Kasper and  I looked at our ‘tri suits’ – the ones you wear under the wetsuit – and dubbed them ‘Lycra mankinis’.

Then came the training.

Cycling is my least-able discipline, and I trailed along while Kasper freewheeled sympathetically or disappeared over a hill.

There wasn’t much rhyme, reason or expensive featherweight carbon involved.

Much like the Olympic-winning Brownlee brothers – more on Jonny and Alistair in a bit – there was a sense of camaraderie and more than a few jokes that eased training along.

Someone calculated the swim was equivalent to 60 lengths in a 25-metre pool and together with another friend, Justin, who made up our trio on the day, we did the entire lot with Kasper hanging off my foot – the classic triathlon trick of slipstreaming while someone else does the work. At least, that’s how I remember it.

I had to get used to cleats – which hook your cycle shoes into the bicycle pedals – and came a cropper on one occasion when I failed to detach at a junction on time, falling sideways to earth.

“Let’s hit this like the lost Brownlee brothers,” was a tongue-in-cheek line before some of our fairly improvised training sessions.

But such is the beauty of triathlon.

The Olympic sport is more than accessible to beginners and amateurs – even fairly slow cyclists like me – and everyone has different strengths, weaknesses and quirks.

My training was basically one swim, one run and one cycle every week. I’m not hung up on times and targets, as long as I feel energetic, chipper and ‘good-drained’ afterwards, I’m happy.

Joining a club or group is a big advantage, too, and Birmingham Running, Athletics and Triathlon club is a great place to start.

Mastering the kit for the first time is one of the trickiest parts for beginners, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s great to have company.

There’s the wetsuit –  I always ask someone at the start to do the zip up at the back – the running shoes and, of course, the road bike.

My second-hand Bianchi, which has dropped handle bars and a fairly lightweight frame, cost £600.

Before triathlon events, bikes are checked by event staff to make sure they are in working condition with functioning brakes, and they are hooked onto metal rails with the rest of the kit underneath.

This is called the transition zone. That first year, I seemed to spend ages there after the swim, the first discipline.

I put a T-shirt on over my Lycra mankini and generally fiddled about – something I’d never do now.

run leg
The Olympic-distance run leg is 10k at the London Triathlon. Inset: Yunzy in the transition zone.

So, back to that first triathlon.

The hooter sounded somewhere on a gangway outside the ExCel Centre, where the transition zone and event hub is based, and I tried to swim.

I say tried, because to begin with there is a mass of arms and legs, especially if you are in the middle of the ‘wave’, as the starting pack is called.

I’ve heard horror stories of people being kicked in the face and having broken noses, but personally I’ve never seen anything remotely like this.

That said, I tend to start on the outside and work for myself, breaking the water with my stroke rather than slipstreaming behind other swimmers.

After a while, I relax and look around.

The swim is my strongest discipline and while I frequently get overtaken in the pool by people doing breast stroke, my emphasis on technique came good and I began overtaking packs and the the more nippy individual swimmers.

After ploughing round the giant red buoy and nearing the finish of the oblong-shaped circuit, I pulled level with another triathlete and we seemed to be on level pegging, matching each other stroke for stroke on the way to the pontoon.

I enjoy the little in-race battles, even though you wonder if they are just in your head.

It’s always a struggle to get the wetsuit off as you clamber out and back into the transition area, never like the seamless delivery that has top exponents like Katie Zaferes practicing moves such as putting her helmet on before the race has even started.

Kasper managed a cartwheel after clambering out the water  – and got a big cheer from the crowd.

On the bike it feels like a real thrill, especially as the confines of the hanger-like ExCel Centre meant we couldn’t see what awaited outside.

Spectators line the route as I head out into a prime sweep of East London stretching almost to Tower Bridge at one end.

Building up a rhythm, I’m overtaken by what feels like most of the entrants in my swim wave, some of them looking like sci-fi creations in the latest areodynamic helmets with the visors down.

Wobbling off after the cycle, I arrive back in transition, change my cycling shoes for running trainers and head back out on the run on a specially-designed course at the side of the centre.

The noise, expectation, music and commentary reach a crescendo.

From here, it’s all about that finish line, where my exertions meet with a fabulously chunky medal.

Stiff legs afterwards means a plod of a cycle back to the train station, and then on to inhale a Toby Carvery buffet.

But conversation always turns to the next event in the calender.

In the end, bragging rights went to Kasper. While I edged ahead by a few minutes
in the swim and the run, I can’t master that shiny carbon fibre thing on wheels.

tri course
Turn at Big Ben: The London Triathlon passes many of London’s most familiar landmarks

That first year, I finished in 2:51:42, made up of a 00:29:29 swim, 01:16:49 bike and 00:54:13 run.

The following year I went 2:41:29, with a 00:28:15 swim, 01:19:52 bike and 00:42:22 run.

Another PB came in 2016, when I finished with an overall time of 2:36:20.

But even if I ended up walking at the end, I’d still be hooked.

In fact, a fleeting encounter with the Brownlee brothers at a work-related function had me telling them, in rather star-struck tones, that they were the reason I started triathlon.

“Which ones have you done?,” asked Jonny.

“I’ve done London three times,” I replied.

We parted ways after that brief encounter at the noisy function – an enthusiastic amateur having told two of Team GB’s greatest-ever Olympians about his appearances on a second-hand Bianci.

But this is an event I’d encourage anyone to try.

This year there are different distances available, including super sprint, sprint, Olympic and Olympic Plus.

I’ll be on the Sunday route, where the cycle takes in Big Ben.


All that remains is to get stuck into those beckoning West Midlands hills and lakes – before taking my spot on that pontoon.

More information and entry details here 

By Yunzy

Healing hands are among a flourish of touches ushering in summer at splendid Bowood

Days out: Bowood House, Spa and Golf Resort, Calne, Wiltshire 

A spacious relaxation room with an indoor fire is the latest addition to Bowood’s tranquil spa

Stroll, sip, dance or marvel at its array of curiosities, the Bowood Estate has a flourish of touches to welcome guests from far and wide this summer.

Set amid parkland designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the rolling country estate has evolved into a first-class resort with a spa that has mastered the art of relaxation.

Robert Adam, CR Cockerell and Sir Charles Barry have also left their marks on the manor and grounds, which began with the main house being built more than 250 years ago.

Fruits of such labours form a harmonious medley on the 4,000-acre estate, which has been home to the Lansdowne family since 1754 and is as busy as ever, with the 43-bedroom county house hotel marking its 10th anniversary this year.

Rollys royce
A classic Rolls-Royce seems to be calling for a day out on the lawn of the main house at Bowood

A stroll in the landscaped grounds reveals gems such as Lord and Lady Lansdowne’s award-winning private walled garden, Bowood’s Arboretum with more than 700 species of trees, an adventure playground and a cascading rock waterfall.

Idyllic it may be, but there’s also a running festival, an Ibiza party and an Instagram workshop in the calendar at the ancestral house and grounds in Calne, Wiltshire.

The unimposing but stately Georgian House, set in 100 acres of Capability Brown parkland, is home to the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, but is open to the public, private groups and film crews alike.

Elegant rooms and marble-floored walkways house treasured family heirlooms, including art and antiques, dating back nearly 300 years.

The present Marquis, who took on management of the estate in 1972, has continued to diversify and enhance what has become a four-star leisure resort.

The Marquis commissioned architect Dave Thomas to design an 18-hole golf course which has its own academy and the distinction of being the PGA’s official green for the South West.

Bowood flowers
Coming into bloom – a water fountain amid the Italian-themed terrace garden at Bowood

Relaxation without 7 irons can be found at the luxury spa, where my partner and I lapped up an infinity pool, gym and a newly-opened relaxation room where time stands still by a chic indoor fire and tinted windows looking out to the academy golf course.

In the spa’s inner sanctum, health therapies include signature treatments from Eminence Organic Skin Care, Ytsara and Jennifer Young Defiant Beauty.

Trips to a state of glowing calm include the Tranquil Journey, a 90-minute, full-body massage enhanced with a herbal poultice, and the Garden of Deep Calm, which combines Thai and western massage techniques with Malabar grass, sweet orange and vetiver with oils of rice bran, sweet almond, soy and wheat germ.

My partner drifted away as she underwent the Pink Himalayan Salt Scrub, expertly delivered by spa manager Angela Covey in the scented room.

Bowood Spa – the perfect escape to relax and unwind 

Reunited after I lingered in the steam room and adjoining open-plan café, we sipped lavender tea dispensed from a stove kettle and admired the circular indoor fire, set under a chic transparent funnel in a crowning touch by Lady Lansdowne, an accomplished interior designer.

“The relaxation area is designed by Lady Lansdowne and she has done a superb job, it’s our latest feature,” Angela said.

“The size of the spa means that we can offer different types of spa days, together with an overnight stay at the hotel, but we still have that personal touch.

“The spa was added 10 years ago and in the last eight years it’s really grown.

“The relaxation area was added at the beginning of April with the bespoke fire – the glass was sourced from Sweden and sent to Germany before being finished over here.

“It’s a lovely relaxing atmosphere.”

Casting light on byegone times – the main house has endlessly fascinating collections on display

For those that want to make a longer break of it, spa mini-breaks combine pampering heaven with a stay in the four-star hotel. Brunch, afternoon tea and a light supper in a twilight setting can also be indulged away from the whirl of everyday life.

On the day we visited, a classic car and motorcycle show was underway on the vast lawn under the main house and terraced gardens.  A suave and rather playful white Rolls-Royce 20/25 – 1932 Park Ward Saloon seemed to be calling for a jolly day out.

Wrapping up our visit, we just about managed to prise ourselves from the expansive lawns and weathered stone in the gardens and headed back to the real world.

*A full version of this article can be read in June’s issue of Wiltshire Living – find out more here:

By Yunzy

Hallowed start line almost in sight for runners taking on the 2019 Virgin London Marathon

Runners across the West Midlands are gearing up for the world’s greatest marathon with a host of good causes set to benefit from their exertions.

At the head of the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon, elite athletes taking part include Eliud Kipchoge, Sir Mo Farah and Tola Shura Kitata.

Further back, the pace may not be as earth-shattering but the effort and self-sacrifice to conquer the 26.2 miles is no less as impressive.

Eliud elit
Record breaker: Eliud Kipchoge is returning to the Virgin London Marathon in 2019

Sir Andy Murray will make sporting history, this time in a motivational capacity, when he gets the entire field of 42,000 entrants underway on Sunday, April 28.

Roxanne Ball will be among the sea of runners as she takes part in her first marathon to overcome a brain condition and raise money for a good cause.

The 30-year-old, from Warwick, has Arnold-Chiari malformation – and wants to prove that it can be overcome.

She said: “I decided I didn’t want it to rule my life any more so I decided to pick charities and run for them.

“I did a half marathon last year and this year I’m lucky enough to have landed a place in the London Marathon.”

Roxanne with kids
Roxanne with her biggest fans after a run

The mother-of-four is raising funds for the Royal Society for Blind Children, which ensures no child grows up to be poor or lonely just because they are blind.

Roxanne can be sponsored here

Clare Whetton, from Atherstone in Warwickshire, will also have a cause close to her heart when she takes her place on the start line in Greenwich on Sunday, April 23.

Clare is trying to raise £1,700 for Muscular Dystrophy UK, which funds research into treatments for muscle-wasting conditions and provides help and support to the 70,000 children and adults who are affected.

Clare, who belongs to the The Badgers running club, said: “I am running in memory of my auntie Jackie and I am sure she will be with me every step of the way.

“I can hear her saying, ‘you must be mad’ but I know she would be super-proud.”

Clare Whetton is among the fundraisers

Clare had a slight set back with her training at the tail end of last year which was only the beginning of her marathon plan.

A stress fracture to her ankle meant no running at all with a minimum of eight weeks off. Pulling out or deferring was not an option, and the runner only became more determined to rest and come back stronger.

She plans to buy everything that says  ‘I ran the London Marathon’ and never wants to take off her medal. She is joining a team of over 100 runners for Muscular Dystrophy UK who, together, are on course to raise more than £250,000 for the charity.

Sponsor Clare here

farah alone
Sir Mo Farah will run on home turf as he takes his place among the elite

Annette Belcher, from Walsall, is supporting Macmillan, a charity which has long been been affiliated with the marathon.

The journalist said: “The charity has been kind enough to provide me with training gear and their invaluable support during the press coverage for Virgin London Marathon.

“Decathlon and the Premier Inn are also on board.

“Macmillan is close to my heart, as my mum made use of the service as part of her end of life care.

“Many have been touched by this charity and know the sheer hard work and dedication these nurses put in on a daily basis.”

Macmillan supports people with cancer and their families, offering emotional, physical and financial support from the moment a patient is diagnosed.

Annette’s charity push is also being supported by Myprotein and Ariel #EarthHourUK, which together with the WWF is asking runners to protect the planet.

Her sponsorship page for Macmillian can be found here.

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Annette Belcher is running as part of Team Macmillan at the London Marathon

Sir Andy Murray will bring his formidable sporting personna to the event, including two Wimbledon titles, when he starts the world’s greatest marathon.

The tennis star said: “It’s an honour to be asked to start the London Marathon.

“It’s such an amazing race that means so much to so many people. It raises millions each year for charity and helps inspire people to get active.

“I have nothing but admiration for everyone who runs – I may even run it myself one day.”

By the day of the event, The Virgin London Marathon will have raised £1billion for charity since it was established in 1981.

Battle of Britain hero whose road to the skies began in Edgbaston


Tim Elkington
Wing Cdr Tim Elkington quickly proved a formidable defender of the realm

Wing Commander Tim Elkington’s path led from the suburbs of Birmingham to the white vapour and arcing cannon fire of the Battle of Britain.

The Royal Air Force pilot had quickly proved a formidable defender of the realm, registering his first kill, a Messerschmitt Bf 109, at the age of just 19.

Commissioned into RAF No1 Squadron just a month previously, his next encounter with the Luftwaffe would come 24 hours later and be on a far grander scale.

The Hurricane pilot was among British airmen who intercepted a major force of German fighters along the coast near the Solent in August 1940.

His mother, Isabel, was among the thousands of civilians watching the dogfights from the ground

Staring  upwards through binoculars from her balcony on Hayling Island, near Portsmouth, she watched as her son was shot down by Luftwaffe ace Helmut Wick in one of the best-known fighter-to-fighter encounters of the Battle of Britain, when ‘The Few’ faced overwhelming odds.

Despite coming off worst, the RAF pilot-officer felt no bitterness towards his adversary.

Tim’s son, John, said: “Tim always said he felt rather less bad about being shot down by such a skilled enemy. As it was, Helmut Wick would himself be shot down and drown in the Channel some time later.”

Tim Elkington at the back seat controls of a Spitfire in July 2011 (picture: Richard Paver)

John Francis Durham Elkington, known as ‘Tim’, was born in Edgbaston on December 23, 1920.

He went to primary school in Hockley Heath,  Packwood Haugh Prep School in Shropshire and Bedford School.  While there were ties to Birmingham’s esteemed Elkington silver family, the schoolboy’s upbringing far from guaranteed him a place in the RAF’s officer class.

Isabel made dresses to make ends meet but her fortunes took an upturn in later years, particularly when she married her second husband, Dr Carey Coaker.

Enrolling as a flight cadet at the age of 18, the new recruit would look to the RAF as a second family in the face of his upheaval at home.  He painted a picture of Eugene the Jeep, a mysterious Popeye character who can see the future,  on the nose of his Hurricane for good luck.

If it was meant to ward off the Luftwaffe’s deadly intentions, it worked.

On the day he was shot down, Elkington was a ‘top weaver’ flying above his No1 Squadron comrades as a lookout before they engaged the force including Stuka dive-bombers and 100 Bf109s closing in on their target, an RAF base at Tangmere, near Chester.

Watching through binoculars on a sunny afternoon, Elkington’s mother trained her eyes on his Hurricane and its distinctive nose art as it was hit by cannon fire from Major Helmut Wick’s Bf 190. The prone fighter plane burst into flames, with the RAF pilot having to make two attempts to bale out over Portsmouth.

“He was quite an experienced chap, so I’m not too put out,” Elkington would say later.

Tim Elkington was part of an indelible RAF family (stock image from Wellesbourne Museum)

Ever stoical, he would also remark on the fine view he had of Portsmouth before losing consciousness on the 10,000ft descent.

The miraculous escape was completed by Elkington’s flight leader and mentor, Sergeant-Pilot Fred Perry, using the slipstream of his aircraft to blow the parachutist onto land and away from the certain fate of a water death in the Channel.

Undeterred, Elkington dusted himself off and went back to score two more kills, outliving both the average Battle of Britain fighter pilot’s survival time of 87 hours and the war itself.

Other war time roles included training assignments that took him to Russia in September 1941 as part of RAF 151 Wing, where he again took on the Luftwaffe, helping to destroy a Ju 88.

Fortune favoured the brave once more back in England when Elkington survived hitting a 440,000-volt power cable across the Tyne, which caused a blackout in nearby towns.

Elkington’s remaining war service included flying Typhoon ground attack fighters with No1 Squadron, serving during the Battle of the Atlantic and postings in India, during which he rose through the ranks. Yet another scrape came when he was forced to crash land in 1945.

With his Mustang’s engine having failed after take-off, Elkington had to escape the fume-filled cockpit by breaking the canopy. Retiring in 1975 with the rank of wing commander, he would go on to receive the Ushakov Medal from the Russian ambassador in London.

In 2016, he joined other remaining Battle of Britain veterans for a tea at Clarence House, hosted by the Prince of Wales, patron of an association for pilots who served in the pivotal conflict.

Only three members of the association remain, with the wider number thought to be no more than ‘a handful’.

Elkington’s others honours include being part of the British defence on the day he was shot down, an encounter in which the RAF lost eight pilots and gained a Victoria Cross.

Chief among the veteran’s prized possessions was a speed dial from his yellow-nosed Hurricane, which was found near West Wittering beach in the year he retired.

Hurricane large
Guardians of the skies: Hurricane BE505 shot by Vic Powles at an air show in 2011

After the war, he married Patricia Adamson and they would have four children who, along with John, also included Caroline, Gray and Tessa. After a spell living in Cyprus, Elkington was posted to RAF Little Rissington, near Cheltenham, settling his family in the local village where, on retirement, he set up a picture-framing business.

The wing commander, who still had shrapnel scars on his legs from the duel with Major Wicks, was reunited with his airborne past for a Spitfire flight just before his 91st birthday.

One of the last members of ‘The Few’ died after a fall on February 1, 2019, aged 98.

A memorial service is planned for May, when the couple would have marked their 71st wedding anniversary, with the RAF’s Chaplain-in-Chief having offered his services.

“After his service in the Battle of Britain, Tim would fly across many different  parts of the world, before settling in the Cotswolds with his beloved wife Pat in 1959,” John said.

“But Birmingham was where his extraordinary story began.”

Remembering ‘The Few’ – The Battle of Britain Memorial 

The closest high street gets to a rum-soaked reggae party

Review: Turtle Bay, 36-38 Station Road, Solihull, B91 3SB

Rating: ★★★★★

turtle kitchen

Smuggling a unicorn birthday cake with pink iced ears through the doors of Solihull’s house of rum and reggae was not our finest hour in subversion.

My partner and I had hoped to be the advance guard in our party of four but found our guest of honour and her husband already parked in the spotlit bar area.

Exchanging waves, we shuffled the package into the hands of manager James, who discreetly conveyed the fairytale-themed afters to the kitchen

Not the kind of entrance one of the dancehall superstars whose music featured on the restaurant’s playlist during the night would make, but then Caribbean culture is all about improvisation.

Carnival speaker stacks booming from flatbed lorries are one example that springs to mind, given the well-judged party feel at this Turtle Bay.

Shedding winter layers under the slow-rotating ceiling fans and bleached, rum-shack themed furniture and décor, we set sail with a happy hour offering two-for-one on cocktails from 7pm.

No rush, no fuss, as they say in Jamaica.

Deviating from script again proved no problem for the staff after I asked for the alcoholic ginger beer I’ve knocked back at other branches, only to find it was no longer on the drinks menu.

Head barman Cameron, a loanee from the Derby branch, had one made up, and an olde glass bottle with a neck of foam was soon fizzing away at the table. A plumage of cocktails beside it included my partner’s Jamaican Mule, consisting of Sailor Jerry spiced rum, fresh lime, ginger beer and bitters, and an Electric Boogie, born of Amaretto, Cockspur gold rum, blue Curacao, lime and apple juice.

One of our party, a designated driver, chose from the alcohol-free cocktails, starting with the Virgin Kolada, a frozen, refreshing breeze of coconut milk and syrup and pineapple juice.

A square beach bar large enough to swing a deckchair in keeps the house stocked to the gills with rum, Red Stripe, Firewater beach shooters and pretty much anything else you could sip with your toes in the sand at an Ocho Rios all-inclusive.

turtle wall art

Drifting across the floor past a wall display fashioned from old speakers, we were shown to our seats under draped beach rugs and retro posters advertising shows headlined by Jimmy Cliff, Toots & the Maytals and other greats.

An imaginative but uncluttered two-sided menu that has fused the best from Jamaica, Trinidad and their island neighbours invites diners to share, jerk or ‘one pot’ a helping of Caribbean flavours.

It’s perfect for a group happy to mix-and-match, and my fork was soon roving the plates like dancehall star Beenie Man working the crowd at Sunsplash.

My own dish was a West Indian wrap with a filling of coconut callaloo and curried chickpeas, which came sliced in half on a wooden board. Lightly toasted, it was a delicately-textured affair with the bulging veggie innards and a warm afterglow of spice.

Vegan and vegetarian options are neatly denoted on the menu along with new items.

drinks snip

My partner chose an exceptional jerk salmon, the pale pink steak falling away at the fork under the seared skin in a dish that had the ocean-fresh flavour you might expect at a beach shack together with the refined approach of a more formal restaurant kitchen.

Coconut rice and peas, sweet plantain and dressed salad made up her plate.

Completing our island-themed mains was a brown chicken stew with light, crisp dumplings and a spicy jerk belly of pork.

The latter, which also came with coconut rice and peas as well as chilli pineapple salad, was given a clear-headed nine out of 10 by our table’s driver.

One love prevailed as we dipped into each other’s dishes and sides of curried chickpeas, spiced fries and sweet plantain, every grilled, toasted or stewed element having retained the heat and flavours bestowed in the firing open kitchen within our view.

Server Morgan and her  team sprinkled some more sugar and spice on our evening when the unicorn cake re-appeared, this time in full glory with lit candles. After we’d interrupted the Afrobeats to sing happy birthday, the toast of our night blew out the flames on the treat we’d fumbled through the doors on arrival. I demolished a giant slice topped with a chewy unicorn ear and washed down with the rest of my spiced pepper, cloves and lime-infused ginger beer.

We toyed with ordering the Rudegirl and Rudeboy cocktails, both based on Wray & Nephew and Wood’s 100 per cent overproof rums, purely for the names.

While there were no takers, my partner and I could resist the bouncy soundtrack no more, and broke out into a kind of shoulders-upwards dance, continuing once we gathered to our feet towards the end of the evening.

All we needed was a dancefloor.

We did order a Rum Runner, a frozen blend combining the spirit with Amaretto, blackberry, brandy, banana liqueur and lemon juices, among another round of drinks.

The bill came to £81.55, including the discounts during the two-for-one hour.

With the Afrobeats and reggaeton-heavy soundtrack in full sway, we returned to the board game-themed tables front of house for a Jamaican-style nightcap.

This is the closest the high street gets to a culinary reggae party, and we only took our seats to allow the growing crowd some space around the the cool runnings at the bar.

I chose not to ask for a Kingston Kiss from the barman, passing over the ‘beach shooter’ for a humble Red Stripe shandy I shared with my partner.

We left a restaurant that had conjured up some of the best of the Caribbean, while still finding room for a sing-a-long around a sugary unicorn.

By Yunzy

Love, alwayes: Message of undying bond has defied the ravages of time

alwayes one

A buckled ring has retained its mystery after being plucked from the earth around 500 years since it was cast. At a time of giving, the gold-lined token and its romantic inscription show how a declaration of love can see off war, upheaval and development.

Wrested from the earth after hundreds of years, the slip of jewellery bears witness to a love that endures in chipped metal.

Lined with gold and bearing a mysterious inscription, the token was found in December 2011, probably by a metal detectorist.

Thought to be a post-Medieval engagement ring, it made its way from the ground in Wiltshire to the British Museum.

The identity of the original owner is unknown, but the confirmation of love resounds through the sands of time.

ring pics

The declaration of love can be traced to a 16th Century penchant for condensing romantic sayings into phrases short enough to engrave on jewellery.

Caroline Barton, assistant treasure registrar at the British Museum, said: “The inscription is also known as a posy, hence these types of rings are commonly called posy rings.

“Posies are romantic or moral mottos or poems that were commonplace on rings exchanged between lovers.

“Posy rings were used as a lover’s token, wedding ring or as a means of showing regard.

“The motto on this ring has romantic connotations and could very well have been a lover’s token.”

The declaration of undying love has traces of gold gilding on the inside surface.

On the outside, the intricate metalwork features a quatrefoil pattern within a circle interspersed with two horizontally-arranged crescents, arranged curve against curve, with a pellet at either end.

Squashed into a thin loop, it is 22.2mm in diameter and weighs 1.50g.

Perhaps compressed in the ground, the hoop has a width of 5.5mm.

Far from being a priceless relic, it was given the ‘unique ID’ WILT-8FB813 and valued at £80 by the Treasure Valuation Committee in 2013.

Posy rings are popular at present-day auctions, however.

The ring also attracted an expert eye when the story was covered by detectorist writer and editor John Winter on his blog to mark Valentine’s Day 2015.

Of the two people whose union is symbolised, we know nothing, and it seems no further research will be conducted into the token’s background.

The Old Town Museum and Art Gallery in Swindon, had hoped to acquire the ring, which may have shed further light on its story.

However, British Museum records show it was subsequently returned to the finder as the museum was unable to acquire the piece.

The expression of love remains enigmatic to the last.

By Yunzy