No 6: Hop Kettle Pilsner Lager

No 6: Hop Kettle Pilsner Lager

For this post and this drink, Hop Kettle Pilsner Lager (brewed for the Eternal Optimist) we make a return visit to The Eternal Optimist bar on Devizes Rd above Los Gatos.

See also in this series, No 5: Gin & Tonic for more on the Eternal Optimist.

Love these glasses! And the contents was pretty tasty too.

Two halves of Hop Kettle brewery Pilsner lager and the Timbers Pizza menu. The BEST pizza ever.

Pilsner Lager in general

According to the Beerwulf website, lager is bottom-fermented – whereas ale is top fermented. So ALL lager is beer but not all beer is a lager.

Lager, the website tells us, is a collective name for many bottom-fermenting beer styles. The colour of them can vary from dark brown to light blonde and the alcohol percentage can range from alcohol-free to over 10%.

Origin of the word Lager: the word’s root is in the German word lagern – meaning ‘to store’. Bottom fermentation beers need a longer rest period after the main fermentation that occurs in cold conditions (around 0 degrees) compared to top fermenting beers. This rest period (or storage) is called lagering and that is why we call all these beers lager.

See also:

The difference between lager and Pilsner: Pilsner is a type of later. It’s named after the Czech city of Plzen. Bavarian brewer Josef Groll first brewed Pilsner in 1842, when the good folk of Plzen asked him to brew a good, stable beer. He brought with yeast from Bavaria – the yeast used to brew lagers.

The Hop Kettle Brewery

Hop Kettle Pilsner Lager  - the tap in the eternal optimist

You can find out more about the Hop Kettle brewery on the About Us page of their website here.

Founded by Tom Gee, the brewery is based in Swindon and Cricklade.

The Pilsner that we drank in The Eternal Optimist is a special brew for the bar. And, I have to say, it’s jolly nice. I’m not an expert at all but I thought I detected a malty hint to it. Either way, I liked it a lot.

The Hop Kettle in the Ether


Swindon Folk Club

Swindon Folk Club

So Friday 6th December saw me at the Swindon RAFA club in Old Town for a Swindon Folk Club evening.

Now, before I go much further I have to confess that folk music is not particularly my ‘thing’. I’m more than happy to confess that my tastes are middlebrow in all things: music, art, literature, theatre. There’ll be odds and sods that I like from other genres – but for the most part I remain middlebrow.

But ages back now, Bryony Gramont messaged me on my Born again Swindonian Facebook page asking me to come along. And because Born again Swindonian aims to be all things to all people I was delighted to agree. But then life got in the way as life does. And then I got ill – for ages ….but at length I managed to get it together.

Thus, thanks to the kindness of club member Alan Rothwell who gave me a lift, I made a visit to the club.

Swindon folk music - black and white graphic of musical instruments.

Swindon Folk Club: Traditional, modern and accoustic folk music in Swindon.

About Swindon Folk Club

I was somewhat surprised to discover from the club’s website, that it came into being in 1960! Who knew?! Not me. As the website says, ‘Founded by Ted & Ivy Poole and friends in 1960, the club (formerly Swindon Folksingers’ Club) has a long history of keeping traditional music alive in this busy town in north-west Wiltshire.’

Anyhow, off I went with eyes peeled for beards and fingers and ears!

So what did I find?

Well listeners, there was a noticeable and, slightly disappointing, lack of fingers in ears. But, you’ll be pleased to hear, good news on the beards front. Phew!

Aside from beards though, the other thing I found was a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The night I attended was an open mic affair with a guest band. It being an open-mic-everyone-that-wants-to-having-a-go evening some of the voices were not – how shall I put this – recording contract quality. Not that I can talk mind you – my three year old granddaughter tells me to stop when I sing!

Anyway! That didn’t matter at all. Because what shone through was what a wonderful, welcoming, inclusive and safe environment Swindon Folk Club offers. This group is a wonderful place for anyone with an interest in folk music to have a go. And that’s a wonderful thing wouldn’t you say?

So if having an interest in folk music – whether listening or participating – I’d urge you to pay a visit to this lovely bunch of people.

Taken from the group’s Facebook page is their own write-up of the evening which will give you a good flavour of one of their events:

‘On Friday 6th December at Swindon Folk Club, we welcomed The Marsh Starlings, a folk/bluegrass trio performing a range of songs as well as their own material. A great mix of laid back and up-beat folk tunes. Singer & guitarist Lynn Marie Bateman, Banjo player Kevin Starling and Guitarist & singer Ian Marsh. Thank you, we really enjoyed your two sets, and are still chuckling at Kev’s solo singing spot, ‘In the Morning!’

The evening started with the usual singaround from club members, starting with Dave our MC for the evening. It was nice to have one of our youngest members Lucien (12) singing for us whilst his older brother was at home ill. Great to see Trevor back again to play and sing for us now that his hand is healing well. Che gave us a couple of numbers and was joined by Lynn and Kevin for an impromptu session for his second one. 

The dreaded lurgy was still playing havoc with some of our singers but Steve Anderson managed a couple of beautiful instrumentals on his guitar and a vocalzone for Chris Turpin helped him give us a rousing song in the second half. 

Bryony, who usually prepares this write-up, is also still under the weather so this one is much shorter than usual. Despite the inclement weather the turnout was quite high and an enjoyable evening was had by all, even those that just came into the RAFA club for a drink, paid, stayed and enjoyed, made favourable noises about returning.’

A few photographs of the night

When and where and all that stuff

Swindon Folk club meets on the FIRST and THIRD FRIDAY of every month from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm.

The venue is the RAFA Club, 41-43 Belle Vue Rd, Swindon SN1 3HN. The club has a licensed bar, car parking (at the rear) and level access.

You can e-mail the club at

And now a few short video clips

Alan Rothwell at Swindon Folk club

Alan Rothwell does a much-loved blast from my childhood past, Messing about on the River:

And Goodnight Irene

Alfred Williams

If you’re not aware, Swindon polymath Alfred Williams took it upon himself to cycle around Wiltshire transcribing Wiltshire folk songs before they were lost. They’re all on stored on this database.

I wrote about Alfred’s life in Secret Swindon. And Ranikhet featured in Swindon in 50 Buildings.

More on Alfred Williams here in this petition opposing proposed development in front of Ranikhet.

We Are Swindon: Positive Swindon

We Are Swindon: Positive Swindon

It’s so fabulous to meet another Swindon enthusiast. Which is why, the other week, I enjoyed having a good chat with Michelle Jones – the power behind the Positive Swindon social media campaign, over coffee in DaPaolo’s on Commercial Road.

Michelle Jones - We are Swindon in front of the bandstand in Swindon's Town Gardens.
©Calyx Picture Agency Michelle Jones who has run Positive Swindon twitter account for last three years Michelle runs this twitter account Positive Swindon for people to share photos and positive things about Swindon. She gets a lot of photos sent in from Coate Water and places at the Lawns.

Four years ago, in 2015, Michelle wanted to do something to help local people to speak in positive terms about Swindon. She also wanted to encourage more pride within the town.

 At the time Michelle had two young daughters and she didn’t want them to feel embarrassed about the town of their birth. She also felt the need to reduce the amount of negative press the town received.

From living in Portsmouth and London for a few years, Michelle realised that most of the negativity was actually aimed at Swindon came from some Swindonians. But then working on Swindon economic development marketing campaigns showed Michelle the opposite side of the coin. People that want to combat the negative perceptions by being positive about the town.

The We Are Swindon Instagram account was born and the hashtag #we_are_swindon became tagged on more and more positive photos. By sharing local people’s own positive photographs of Swindon, Michelle has been able to share over 1,000 photos. The #we_are_swindon hashtag has now been used over 5,000. 

Michelle said “I remember when I first started #we_are_swindon on Instagram and got stuck on 17 followers. In the main my friends. I felt so frustrated and almost gave up. 

In the end though, my determination and belief in Swindon kept me going. I’d like to thank all the 2,415 followers we now have. The campaign would be nothing without them and I’m so proud that it is giving people with positive things to say and photography to share a platform”.

Some of Michelle’s photographs

Find Michelle’s work in the ether


A Swindon Wordsmith – George Ewart Hobbs

A Swindon Wordsmith – George Ewart Hobbs

A Swindon Wordsmith: The Life, Times and Works of George Ewart Hobbs

Well here’s a bit of a novelty, as Graham Carter himself commented. What is? Me attending someone else’s book launch for a change. Rather than them being at mine – info on my own publications here.

For today saw the launch, at Swindon Central library of a new Swindon book by Noel Ponting and Graham Carter: A Swindon Wordsmith: The Life, Times and Works of George Ewart Hobbs.

And a wonderful addition to Swindon’s own, extensive, literary canon it is.

In this short video, Darryl Moody of Swindon’s fab Local Studies and Noel Ponting talk about the book:

Who was George Ewart Hobbs?

A Swindon Wordsmith - George Ewart Hobbs - front cover of the book.

The blurb on the book’s back cover tells us that George Ewart Hobbs deserves a place in the hallowed ranks of fellow Swindon writers, Alfred Williams (see Secret Swindon for some information about him) and Richard Jeffries – see also Secret Swindon and Swindon in 50 Buildings.

Our man Hobbs was no exception to the general Swindon rule: for over half a century he worked as a Great Western Railway engineer.

That aside, he wrote prolifically – largely in weekly columns for the Swindon Advertiser.

This book then is more than an account of his life and times. It also, as the title suggests, republishes some of his works. Including articles about religion, philosophy and more.

As the book blurb says: ‘George Ewart Hobbs’ vivid writing provides us with a unique and brilliantly observed insight into everyday and so-called “ordinary” life in Swindon a century ago.’

A Swindon Wordsmith - George Ewart Hobbs - Graham Carter and Noel Ponting

A few words from Graham Carter:

A few more photos – and for once we have visual storyteller Royston Cartwright in a photograph. A rare sight indeed.

See also – Other recent Swindon books:

Last Orders – by John Stooke

Legacy of a Rag & Bone Man – Eastcott community

From aviation to digital: Wiltshire woman in line for business award

From aviation to digital: Wiltshire woman in line for business award

A Wiltshire businesswoman, who enjoyed one high flying career in aviation before embarking on a second in technology, is in the running for an award.

Lara Barnes, Business Development Manager with leading website and software development company Digital Trading, has received a nomination for a Women’s STEM award at the Women’s Business Conference 2019. 

Run by Women’s Business Club, the conference and the STEM award recognises the outstanding contributions of women in STEM. The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. There’ll be an announcement of the winner at the Cheltenham conference on December 4th.

Lara barnes business award nomination - laura barnes at a computer

Lara, 34, from Highworth, exclaimed her delight at her nomination. She said too how proud she is that her two careers show what women can achieve industries that tend to be male-dominated.

“I felt surprised yet honoured to get this nomination,” said lone-parent Lara. She juggles her career with looking after her two boys, Thomas, aged six, and Joseph, three. “It’s my belief, as a single Mum, that it’s so important to show what one can achieve and to have a career that I and my children can be proud of.”

Lara embarked on her first career at 17 when she fulfilled her long-held ambition to join the RAF. After her basic training, she moved into flight operations and became an air traffic controller at Brize Norton.

In 2007, Lara left the RAF and her upward career trajectory continued. She moved into operations in private aviation at Oxford Airport, becoming responsible for a fleet of aircraft and a large workforce.

It was only when Joseph was born that she took a mini career break, but even then threw herself into a new enterprise. Before joining Highworth-based Digital Trading in 2018, Lara ran a successful crafting-based enterprise.

Now Lara is loving getting to grips with a second career in technology and immersing herself in the digital world. At Digital Trading, the team focus on software solutions that can save time and effort within a company, as well as lead to increased business growth and sales – something that greatly appeals to Lara’s entrepreneurial spirit and business brain.

“I joined as office manager in the first instance, but I could see what great work the team here at Digital Trading do. And I knew I could help develop their client base,” she said. “I enjoy learning all about the technology world alongside understanding how an App can change the way you work. Before I joined, I had little idea of what coding meant! It shows what doors can you can open if you knock on them.”

Women’s Business Club is a national network of businesswomen. Its members are either business owners or working at a senior level within an organisation. WBC’s mission is to help women succeed in their professional lives. It does this through empowerment, support and the collective experience of the membership. 

Anyone wanting to vote for Lara can do so at

For more information about Lara’s career at Digital Trading – based in Highworth – visit

Also on the topic of STEM see this post about Scoosh.

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