23. Napo Lemon and Vodka

23. Napo Lemon and Vodka

Okay – this Napo lemon and vodka drink is a bit of a Swindon in 50 drinks cheat in that this business is based in Bradford On Avon. Buuuut I did meet Robert Hobbs of Four Friends Drinks at The Foundry launch event in Workshed. And that’s very much in Swindon and it’s something different so …y’know. Here we are. With something that’s not bloody gin – Lord I hate that stuff. I had a bad experience with it once – ’nuff said. And I don’t like tonic either.

Napo Lemon and Vodka
Napo Lemon and Vodka

A 100 year old recipe

Right then – some info on Napo from their website – see link above.

Napo lemon and vodka takes its inspiration from a 100-yr-old Polish recipe. Each and every bottle has over five lemons squeezed into it – cytrynowka’ (Cit-Rin-Oov-Ka’) derived from ‘cytryna’ meaning lemon. Sounds like sunshine in a bottle doesn’t it?

Poland has a long history of making different vodka flavours and is one of the world’s leading vodka producers/consumers.

 Napo Lemon and Vodka

The drink uses only fresh lemon juice for a fruit-infused sprit that packs a refreshing punch. It’s free from the artificial flavourings, sweeteners or preservatives so often found in other flavoured spirits.

Its alcohol content of 25% gives it a lower alcohol content than standard vodka. That means you can enjoy it straight, chilled or on the rocks.

How it came into being

Well the Covid pandemic lockdown influenced a lot of things didn’t it? I bought leopard print loafers and vowed never to wear an underwired bra ever again. Other people .. well other people invented drinks!

A Polish couple in the UK, seeking to cheer up two close friends made a lemon-infused drink inspired by … yep … you got it! Now it seems this drink went down really rather well – no doubt better than the gin of my experience. Indeed it went down soooo well that these four friends became Four Friends Drinks and Napo was born!

What Napo isn’t

What it’s not is a shot to down in one. Napo is, we’re assured, a drink for you to enjoy straight and super-chilled or poured over ice.

So … cheers and Twoje zdrowie!

Find them on social

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sharethenapo/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100086212595935

Napo Lemon and Vodka Facebook

Arthur Carron Blue Plaque

Arthur Carron Blue Plaque

November 2022

Arthur Carron Blue Plaque – the work of Swindon Heritage – you can see some images of Arthur in his full operatic majesty here. You can find the plaque at: 79 BATH ROAD, SWINDON, WILTSHIRE, UK, SN1 4AX

The house on which the Arthur Carron Blue Plaque is situated
The house on which the Arthur Carron Blue Plaque is situated – squint and you might see it!

So amongst Swindon’s famous sons and daughters we can count an international operatic tenor. Who knew? Well not I. Ralph Bates, Swindon-born writer and chronicler of the Spanish Civil war I knew about. But Arthur Carron, or Cox to give him his given and legal name, I’d not heard about.

Arthur Carron Blue Plaque
Arthur Carron Blue Plaque on Bath Road

About Arthur Cox/Carron – 12 December 1900 – 10 May 1967

From Opera Arias.Com we learn that Arthur studied under Florence Easton, making his operatic debut in 1929, at the Old Vic in the role of Tannhäuser.

1931 saw him become the Old Vic company’s leading tenor when it moved to the Sadler’s Wells theatre. His roles there included Fra Diavolo, Manrico of Il trovatore, Radames of Aida, Cavaradossi of Tosca, and Otello.

In 1936 our man Arthur went stateside. There he won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air and made his debut with the Metropolitan on May 29, 1936, as Canio in Pagliacci. Further he was chosen to sing the role of Nolan in the world premiere of Walter Damros-ch’s The Man without a Country on May 12, 1937. Carron remained on the roster of the Metropolitan until 1946 when he returned to England.

Arthur spent the last six years of his career at London’s Covent Garden before retiring in 1952. The same year he was a founding member of the Swindon Amateur Light Operatic Society (SALOS). It’s worth having a browse of their website past productions page to see a host of fantastic production posters. Find them all here.

Swindon Christmas Toy Appeal

Swindon Christmas Toy Appeal

Accountancy firm opens collection point for Swindon Christmas Toy Appeal

The team at Haines Watts Swindon have volunteered Old Town office reception area as a collection point for the annual Christmas Toy Appeal.

In the appeal’s six year existence, thousands of children from low income and vulnerable families have received gifts. And all donated by the people of Swindon.

‘Organiser Dawn Prosser said: ‘The aim is to bring a little hope and happiness to families struggling to give their children gifts. Well, not without resorting to loans, especially this year when the cost of living is such a challenge.’

The kindness of Swindonians

‘Due to the kindness of the town in 2021 we were able to help 373 referred families. A total of 923 children received a complete gift sack, including two main presents, a book, soft toy (0 – five year olds) and two stocking fillers!

‘It’s our belief that the need will be greater this year so we’re asking for help from all across the town.’

Anna-Marie Healy, regional marketing manager for Haines Watts South West said: ‘We were so thrilled with the response and generosity of our community last year. And this year we have a mere two weeks to gather presents to support the most needy in our town.

Swindon Christmas Toy Appeal - Anna Marie Healy
Swindon Christmas Toy Appeal – Anna Marie Healy

‘We want to do our bit to spread some joy when much of the news around us is a little gloomy. Every child deserves to smile at Christmas.’

Participating agencies

Between Monday and Friday December 2, churches, businesses, schools, and organisations will collect donations of new toys for children aged 0-16.

Agencies and participating churches and schools in the town will nominate families to receive gifts. This year, due to the lifting of Covid restrictions, families will again be able to choose gifts for their children. They can do that by visiting their chosen church venue who’ll open their doors in the Christmas run up.

Haines Watts

The Haines Watts’ office is at Old Station House, Newport Street, Swindon, SN1 3DU. Opening hours are Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. You can direct any questions to the team by calling 01793 533838.

Across the nation, Haines Watts is a top fifteen firm of Chartered Accountants. They specialise in advising and supporting business owners, individuals and not-for-profit organisations in the local area. And throughout the UK.

The firm has been at the centre of the Swindon and Wiltshire business communities for more than 25 years. For more information visit https://www.hwca.com/accountants-swindon/

Advent Calendar Style Audiobook

Advent Calendar Style Audiobook

Author keeping the magic of Christmas alive with  advent calendar-style audiobook

Advent Calendar Style Audiobook – Author, Helen S Michaelsen, has released an advent calendar styled audiobook, to inspire and keep the magic of Christmas alive. It’s inspired by a little-known book her mother read to her as a child.

Helen who lives in Dorset, has spent months during lockdown and beyond bringing her audio book project to life. 

Advent Calendar Style Audiobook - Helen with her vintage book
Advent Calendar Style Audiobook – Helen with her vintage book

A Christmas story

The Call of Mektoub is a Christmas story that opens with the antagonist from an old Christmas fairy tale stealing Father Christmas’ sleigh and two young novice reindeer.

The story tells of how two of the book’s characters, enlist a mother and daughter, the keepers of a book called The Land of Never Grow Old. Emma and Lucy.

They meet characters from the old book, including those from diverse folk tales and traditions such as Mother and Father Christmas, Jack Frost, Tweeny Bunting and many more. All-in-all an adventure that harks back to Enid Blyton and a more innocent age.

The audiobook has twenty-four chapters. Each lasts up to twenty-nine minutes. And, although you can listen to the book in any time frame you wish, Helen thinks the perfect way to do it would be to listen to one chapter a night through December, finishing on Christmas Eve.

‘My wish is for people to hold on to the magic of Christmas,’ Helen said. ‘I thought, it’s a Christmas story and there are 24 chapters. It would be perfect as an advent calendar-style story. Something listened to as a family, at bedtime, one chapter a night. Who knows – it one day could become a tradition. That would be my dream come true!’


Helen has adapted The Call of Mektoub from a story she began writing in 2008. That enjoyed a brief e-book release in 2012 with a revised edition in 2013. The idea for the book though has a much longer history and a deep family connection that she hopes to revive.

It’s based on the characters and ideas from The Land of Never Grow Old first published in the 1930s – long out of print. One of the characters is a polar bear, named Mektoub – an Arabic word meaning Destiny or It is Written.  Stella Mead was a well-travelled English writer and Helen assumes this was the source of inspiration for the name.

Mead’s book holds a special place in Helen’s heart. Her aunt won a copy in 1943 for making the best calendar at her small Devonshire school. She passed it on to Helen’s mother who was then aged seven. Helen’s mother, Margaret, loved both the book and Christmas, and read it to Helen when she was a child. Helen has since read it to her own children, reading a chapter a night in the run-up to Christmas. A definite inspiration for the audiobook advent calendar.

The family loved the book so much that Helen wanted to write her own story. One that worked around the original version with some of the original characters and new ones of her own.

And Helen’s children have played a part in its realisation: ‘When I started writing, my children were 7 and 5. And by the time I was ready to publish they were 11 and 9, which is the age range I had in mind for my readership. They shared their thoughts and crucially pointed out parts they didn’t understand – that helped the editing process. But the story is for big kids – like me – too! Especially those who love Christmas and enjoy a little magical escapism!’

The disappearing ebook

Helen’s e-book disappeared from sale when its publishers went bankrupt in 2016. But a year later, a meeting with professional voiceover artist Greg Marston led to the idea that he could record some chapters for posting on his website.

From there, the idea of recording the full book took on a life of its own. The audio book boasts an impressive cast. Some are friends and colleagues of Greg’s and others whom Helen found online herself. Recording took place during the lockdown period as most of the cast had their own professional studios at home.

‘My children also make a brief appearance in the audiobook,’ said Helen. ‘Sophie as Little Mektoub and Luke as a distracted doctor in a Glaswegian hospital!’

Many of the musical pieces started off as Helen’s ideas. They were then adapted and expanded by musicians whom Helen had met on the music hosting platform Soundcloud. Other pieces were the musicians’ interpretations of her ideas. With most of the editing undertaken by Helen, with Greg providing his skills in seamlessly dropping the character audio into his narration, sound engineer Eddie Delag then worked his magic to produce the final chapters.

The publishers

USA-based Lantern Audio are the publishers of The Call of Mektoub. It’ll cost $15.95 in the US, which is around £13 in the UK and you can find it from online digital retail and library platforms. https://lanternaudio.com/the-call-of-mektoub-an-enchanting-christmas-tale/

On the topic of Advent:

Swindon Literature Festival is 30!

Swindon Literature Festival is 30!


Swindon Literature Festival is 30!
Swindon Literature Festival is 30!

Swindon Literature Festival is 30! Planning is now underway for the next — the 30th no less — Swindon Festival of Literature, due to take place 1st – 7th May ’23.

‘You go to litfests not because you’re a book lover but because you want to show that you’re a book lover.’

Nitya Prakash

Hmmm … not sure that festival head honcho, Matt Holland would agree with that! Anyway ….

The festival will begin with its now traditional dawn chorus event on that high ridge in Lawn Woods. We’ll watch the sun rise over Swindon, with all manner of entertainment al fresco, including storytellers, acrobats, and singers.

For subsequent days of the live in-person 30th anniversary festival, organisers are planning to bring a great line up of national and international authors and speakers. You can see them at the Arts Centre, Central Library, Town Hall, Lydiard Park, and Lower Shaw Farm. All will offer fascinating, informative, and entertaining talks and workshops. Plus performances for people of all ages and backgrounds.

The festival will end with an exciting children & families day and a fabulous festival finale at Swindon Town Hall.

Swindon festival of literature logo - Swindon Literature Festival is 30!

If any festival followers have an author or speaker they’d like to see and hear in Swindon in May, now is the time to let festival organisers know. Please send your wish list or recommendations to swindonlitfest@lowershawfarm.co.uk

The Swindon Festival of Literature is grateful for funding from:

  • Arts Council England
  • Swindon Borough Council
  • Lower Shaw Farm and …
  • … in-kind support from many other individuals and local organisations.   

Ours is a Festival, which, to only slightly paraphrase T S Eliot, ‘boldly assumes the existence of a public . . eager to be kept in touch with current good reading, writing, and ideas.’​ Matt Holland – festival organiser.

PPS. Virtual Festival events that took place in 2020 and 2021 are still available to enjoy online.

About the arts centre – aka the Bradford Hall here: