Super Slow #Superfast Cornwall

Superfast-vanNormally, I can be unbelievably patient and reasonable if I know what’s going on. I have a child with a Global Developmental Delay so I’ve grown accustomed to not having my expectations met. He won’t catch up and be ‘normal’ I understand that. However, in the last year an iPad has become his best friend as it allows him to join in with the rest of the world  for a bit, and technology is moving at such a pace there are communication programmes that will help him, eventually, to speak to us.

So please don’t get me wrong,  I’m not some hot-headed Mrs. Angry who spits her dummy out if not placed at the top of the queue.  But, every so often I have spat with my internet connection which drops out from time to time and grinds my pace of work (I’m self-employed) to nothing.  It has been an ongoing ‘promise’ for some time now. Superfast Cornwall shout about themselves all over billboards for us to get connected and I’ve been screaming “yes, yes” and registering my interest of “keep me in loop” for three years now. But even though I’m keen….I’m apparently shouting from a black hole right in the centre of St. Austell that keeps missing getting connected.

The whole sorry tale is best told here by my other half:

In terms of superfast communications time travels ever faster.

The summer of 2011 is so far behind us in technical history that it ranks on the timeline alongside Noah and the building of the Pyramids.

Back in June of 2011, about the time Noah was fitting the rudder, we were offered, as part of the pioneering surge for Cornwall spearhead the nation into BT infinity and beyond, to have the fibre optic link brought to us at the speed of light.

Our driveway was dug up and a conduit laid, with impressive efficiency but with nothing in it, just a short wait for the superfast cable to be pulled through.

We’re still waiting.

A few phone calls, with words like, ‘soon’, ‘shortly’ and ‘imminent’ were uttered with reassuring tones, but we’re still waiting.

Snow fell and melted away, the ark was probably afloat on the melt-water by now. The imminent time scale similarly drifted by, and we carried on – waiting.

Our house was demolished, and its replacement was built with a conduit to the site for the proposed junction box, the piece of blue rope inside waiting to pull through the superfast link. But we’re still waiting.

Then burst of activity, a brand new telegraph pole was erected, next to the proposed site of the proposed junction box, the piece of blue rope was nailed to it along with nothing else. It too is waiting for a continental drift to tip the axis of orbit. The Olympics came and went with numerous world records being broken … but we’re still waiting.

A BT Open Reach manager, a Mr Smith, took it upon himself to ‘Personally take possession of the case’ and to drive things through. Vans turned up, the drivers all got out, looked at our proud new telegraph pole, shook their heads and drove off; three in one day. ‘It’s only got to come across South Street’ – Were still waiting. And Mr Smith retired, the manager who replaced him gave all the same platitudes with justified embarrassment of his organisation’s impotence.

There wasn’t any snow in the following winter, it forgot to come along with the speed of light Superfast fibre optic cable.

Then in summer 2013, a burst of activity in South Street, traffic lights, digging the road three nights in succession till 2am, outside a block of flats, such was the urgency to progress the job with utmost efficiency. The noise was horrific, perhaps the ark was running aground. Then with great anticipation – nothing. We’re still waiting.

Time moves on, the new manager has been transferred to the Isles of Scilly, perhaps it’s part of the continuing hex spreading to those who dare to try to help us, one retires and another is exiled to far off-shore archipelagoes.

So we’re ending the third year since we were invited to grasp the dangling super fast carrot….. but silence has once again fallen on our ‘case’ that had been given an escalated status by Mr. Smith this time last year.

I suspect a lot of money has already been invested on not quite getting us connected. An underground conduit dug to drive the fibre optic cable through and straight into our house; a brand new telegraph pole to also connect us overhead as well; three nights of road works interruptions on South street to bring the cabling across the road and under the pavement….

Alas, we’re still waiting.  The wait might not be as bad if we knew we weren’t forgotten, or a date (however distant) was on the horizon,  but my emails about my issue don’t escape the black hole void we dwell in and get connected to superfastcornwall.org either now it seems!

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Knightor Winery and Restaurant, perfect for the Cornish mizzle.

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“What is it that’s quintessential about an English wine?” it’s a question that James Thomas, wine maker at Knightor Winery, and I are pondering. My nose, at this point, has just been given a polite introduction to Knightor’s own blended aromatic white wine called ‘Trevannion’. A mix of Siegerrebe, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Grape varieties suited to the vagaries of the British climate. If I’m to use English character to describe its taste, quintessentially speaking, it is definitely worthy of respect. This just might be the Stephen Fry of wines: pleasantly aromatic, a little fruity and refreshingly acidic.

“For example, Aussie wines,” James, says, “are frequently described as being robust in character. All that sunshine boosts the grapes and apparently packs a healthy punch of fruity flavour into their wines.” However, rather like the British character, “Grape varieties suited to the English climate and the wines they produce are modest, understated and much more subtle.

Knightor is a brand new winery just a mile from the Eden Project. Being situated high above St. Austell Bay on the edge of the clay country is perhaps not the most obvious location for a new boutique winery producing its own high quality wine. However there is logic, “Knightor is actually equidistant”, explains the owner, Adrian Derx, from each of their two vineyards. Currently, Knightor has 16,000 6-7-year-old vines in production across 5 ½ hectares on one location, to the west near Porthscatho, and the other in the east near Downderry.

Harvest from these two vineyards is not all that Knightor relies upon. “We also work with other English growers to ensure we can maintain quality supply in poor seasons,” James reasons. “At Knightor we use predominantly ‘whole bunch’ pressing which gives a very fine, high quality juice, then the fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, with small parcels also aged in French oak barrels”. In addition to two white wines, Knightor also have a First Vintage Rosé 2010 which won a gold medal in the United Kingdom Vineyards Association awards, “and our sparkling wine is going through secondary ferment in bottle to be ready next year,” James adds.photo[2]

James’ parents have their own vineyard on St. Martin’s on the Isles of Scilly which started his interest in wine making, although it wasn’t his initial intention to follow a wine making career. It just happened that he found himself in Australia working his visa on a number of Australian vineyards, most notably Bannockburn Vineyards and Pettavel. However, one winemaking mentor encouraged James to go back to university and properly study the winemaking process.

“The process of making wines in the New World is ultra scientific to ensure consistency and I have certainly been very influenced by winemaking techniques from Australia,” James tells me, “but it doesn’t mean that I plan to conform to this sort of ‘New World’ model for mass-produced supermarket wines. At Knightor, we take a more ‘artisan’ approach to winemaking that comes from working with small parcels of fruit, from known vineyards.  It’s a leaf out of the Old World, letting each wine say something about it’s own origins, to be it’s own point of reference and not mimic anything else. It’s too early days for English wines to talk about that elusive concept of terroir, however, we can still make wines that are honest and true to their origins. Wines with a certain precision and elegance displaying character as well. Our wines are ‘English’, first and foremost and by combining the two approaches, we will be able to produce distinct vintages of very special wines.”

Knightor is not just about wine. Uniquely it’s also a winery with a restaurant. The winery-restaurant concept is widely known in the New World, where the aim is to promote the synergy between the two, but it’s a relatively new in Britain. The chef, Angelo Bruno, who has had experience from working in top restaurants in London, Italy and the Balearics, brings an eclectic mix of Mediterranean flavours to his dishes and the dishes always compliment the wines. “Some people will come here because it’s a restaurant and will be pleasantly surprised to be able to order a glass or a bottle of our own wine,” Adrian explains. “Other people will come for the wine first and foremost but when they eat freshly prepared tapas and mezze dishes they’ll discover a new element to the wine.”

Outside its typically Cornish ‘out of season’ weather. You can almost taste it on the tongue: A chill drizzle, damp earth and a misty grey sky. The cool fermented Madeleine Angevine 2011 that James has just given me to try is light and very refreshing but at the same time infused with aromatic floral flavours. A glance through the window has me thinking, could be that English wines taste like our climate? In the case of the Madeleine, it’s like elderflower blossom drenched with Cornish crisp, coastal mizzle.

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Not only are these English wines refreshing, I’m actually glad to be enjoying a crisp white on a winter’s day. Food and wine matching is obvious but maybe the English quirk would be to also match wine with our weather?

For more information:

Knightor Winery and Restaurant, Trethurgy, St. Austell, PL26 8YQ

Tel: 01726 851101