A Room with a View

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In just over an hour, Prime Minister Theresa May will deliver a Brexit speech in Florence. In the city where E M Forster penned A Room with a View, the only view the PM will have is the transcript of her 5000 words and a manspreading Boris Johnson in the front row. 

There’s a general understanding of what the PM is expected to set out; a transitional offer for two years after we leave the EU in March 2019 and payment of 20 Billion. Let’s wait and see. 

I would suggest Brexit has radicalised thought across many of those following the negotiations closely. Prior to David Cameron’s clumsy stumble into the referendum, I had rarely given the EU a second thought. The UK joined it’s continental neighbours a few weeks before I took my first steps in 1973. Its always been there. 

Only since the announcement of the EU Referendum date did I start to think about the EU. I’ve not stopped thinking about it since 23rd June 2016. 

The Referendum Campaign was not our finest hour. Remain focused on the dangers of leaving rather than the achievements of membership. Leave were much more strategic, they simply lied through their teeth and took 17.3 Million people with them. 

16 Million wanted to stay members. It is amongst these 16 Million, the radicals exist. It is these individuals who will help shape the next decade. I’ve proposed one possible outcome below. 

You will have seen the new ten pound note, it has recently been introduced following the new fiver and ahead of the new £20 note. It is physically smaller, and post referendum, considerably weaker. It has not reached parity with the Euro, but exchange it at any airport, and you will be forgiven for believing it has. 

Sterling presently has the Queen’s portrait printed and hologrammed into it.  With the greatest of respect, at 91 years of age, the Monarch will not be with us for many more years. She will be succeeded by Prince Charles who as King Charles III will have his face on the money. Or will he? 

I’m not a Republican. I’m a big fan of the Royal Family. But, I question how popular the younger Royals are compared to the Queen. What if five years down the track, our new status out of the EU is not as rosy as Prime Minister Johnson suggested? 

What if those radicalised by the Brexit process and those embittered by the failure to deliver hollow promises propose we join the Euro instead of printing new notes with Charles III embedded on them? 

If post Brexit Sterling hovers around the same value as the Euro and King Charles III fails to capture the nation’s hearts and minds, the transition to joining the Euro is no longer a quantum leap. 

An energised young electorate, given the choice in a Euro Referendum would out number older Eurosceptic voters. Brexit will be remembered as the elastic on a catapult pulled back to full taut before launching the UK into a closer union with the EU. The problem with radical ideas, occasionally they bear fruit. 

Good luck in your speech Prime Minister.

 

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer. @jassansi 07930 837 505

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Andy Street to take the Midlands Engine to Manchester

Midlands Metro Mayor, Andy Street was guest speaker at last night’s Asian Business Chamber of Commerce Patron’s Dinner.

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I’m looking forward to the Conservative Party Conference next month in Manchester. Its going to be an eventful four days as the Government heads North to address the party faithful. 

Conference will be an opportunity for the Northern Powerhouse to reignite their campaign. George Osborne is attending, juggling his role as Evening Standard Editor and Northern Powerhouse Partnership Chair. Social Media is reporting his presence may upset the call for unity across the party at an immensely challenging time for the Tories. 

The Prime Minister, back from Japan where she was adamant about leading the Conservatives into the next election, surprised those running bets on whether Jacob Rees-Mogg or Boris Johnson will be Tory leader come 2022 or 2019, whatever comes first. 

I suspect both of these figures are too divisive to halt the momentum Jeremy Corbyn is enjoying. My bets are on a Cabinet Minister to step into the limelight as we approach the exit date from the EU; 568 days and 15 hours, but who’s counting?

The reason I’m looking forward to the conference has little to do with what’s happening in Greater Manchester or party manoeuvres in London, and everything to do with what is happening here in Greater Birmingham and the West Midlands. 

There is always a strong delegation who head up to Manchester to represent the region. This year it will have a Conservative Metro Mayor driving the bus. Andy Street defied all odds of winning in a region the Labour Party consider their own. 

Mayor Andy Street’s election is a result the Tories will be eager to shout about in an otherwise calamitous year. The party gambled and lost its first outright majority in a quarter of a century following the snap election. I remember listening to the exit poll at 10pm whilst driving home from work. It was an unnecessary gamble at a time focus should have been on securing the best Brexit deal possible. But, we are where we are. 

I photographed the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce Patron’s dinner last night at Malmaison, Birmingham. Andy Street addressed the room as guest speaker setting out his first 100 days. 

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There was a lot of ground to cover including the Birmingham Commonwealth Games bid, Coventry’s ambition to be awarded City of Culture, the Metro Extension, talk of Channel 4 moving to Brum, trade delegations to North America and his ambition to create stronger links to Mumbai, not least because of Tata’s investment in Jaguar Land Rover. Andy Street spoke of this being ‘our time and our turn’ paying tribute to the business community represented in the boutique hotel’s refurbished ‘Work + Play’ conference rooms. 

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I asked Mayor Andy Street if he would be leveraging his election result at next month’s party conference as the poster boy of success, for the benefit of the West Midlands. He explained his campaign was about bringing all of the West Midlands together to produce a devolution deal for the region irrespective of party political affiliations. And yes, he had already exercised leverage in delivering this. 

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Andy Street emphasised his campaign set out a positive story, avoiding the mud slinging we have become accustomed to. 

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So there you have it, this is why I’m looking forward to attending the party conference in October. The West Midlands has a voice in Andy Street who can articulate the ambition of our region. This is an incredibly exciting time to be here. 

The Conservative Party Conference, Manchester 1st – 4th October 2017

Asian Business Chamber of Commerce is part of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce. ABCC 30th Anniversary Dinner is on 2nd December 2017 at ICC.

Book tickets at: https://www.greaterbirminghamchambers.com/networking-events/events-calendar/listing/abcc-30th-annual-dinner-awards-2017/details

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Greater Birmingham @jassansi 07930 837 505

Full set of images from last night: https://www.flickr.com/photos/92331272@N06/sets/72157686221621794

 

The Uberisation of the World

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I was in Prague last week, I’m enjoying access to EU passport lines while we still can. I glanced at the non EU member’s line, half would have given their right arm to be in the EU queue and here we are embracing the opportunity of being left out in the cold. 

I slept in an airport hotel the night before flying out. The shuttle bus to Terminal 3 was a tenner. I downloaded the UBER App onto my smart phone. Mohammed, the driver, turns up seven minutes later in a Prius and drives me there for six quid. 

Uber is a intriguing app; the passenger can rate the driver, the driver can rate the passenger. It’s like Tinder, but with clothes. Mohammed tells me, if an Uber driver averages less than a 4.5 (out of 5), they are called in for customer service training. It’s a call they cannot ignore for fear of being shut out of the booking process. I like this app, very much. I also liked Mohammed, I gave him a 5* rating and a tip. 

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I’ve been in Prague before and a cab driver over charged me, I know this because a woman staying at the same hotel, who’s cab pulled up behind mine, and who had left the same venue I had travelled from, was charged considerably less. 

So this time, I decided to use public transport instead of a cab. Roaming charges were recently dropped across the EU and along with Google Maps, this has transformed getting around for all of us (until 29th March 2019.) 

I opened Google Maps, entered the hotel name and was given clear directions on how to get there. Number 119 bus from Prague Airport, transfer to the Metro B line, change at the station Muzeum to the A line. Get off at the next stop, turn right and walk for three minutes. Total travel time, 25 minutes, total cost, £1.50.

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For the next three days, I zipped around the capital of the Czech Republic by Tram, Bus and Metro. It was great value, less than a tenner for a three day pass. It was easy to navigate. With Google Maps and no roaming charges, it was incredibly efficient. 

A successful integrated transport system is one where Government, Transport Providers and Tech firms operate together. Getting from A to B is seamless when all three collaborate. 

I photographed the temporary removal of a public work of art in Birmingham yesterday. Iron: Man is being placed into storage and cleaned before returning to the city next year a few metres away from it’s previous site. The move was necessary to accommodate the expansion of our own Tram system. 

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The art work by Sir Anthony Gormley OBE reflects the industrial heritage of the West Midlands, and I suspect the six ton piece would smile at the irony of being shifted for reasons of progress. And an expansion of a public transport system is exactly that, progress. 

One of the objectives of the West Midlands Metro Mayor, Andy Street is to tackle productivity. Germany does in four days, what we do in five. One sure way of increasing productivity is tackling congestion. The Government’s commitment to this region in funding the Metro expansion sends a clear signal they are willing to invest in the region. This is a good investment. 

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Throw in a city that embraces smart phones, Google Maps will get citizens and visitors around the place easier and quicker. Productivity increase can be ticked off the Mayor’s ‘to do list’ as he heads into the Conservative Party Conference next month. 

The abolition of roaming charges across the EU is something the UK needs to buy into post Brexit. Visitors from the continent will be able to access the ever increasing public transport network without having to think about eye watering overseas mobile data charges. 

Landing back at Heathrow, I took a black cab back to the hotel instead of an Uber. I clipped the passenger door and cut my eye. As I paid the cabbie the £12.80 fare whilst holding a tissue to my bleeding eye, he short changed me and drove off. I still have the scar, what I don’t have is his name or the ability to rate him. I’ll stick to Uber from now on.

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham @jassansi 07930 837 505

Henry Wong Harborne

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It’s been a year since the family flew to Shanghai. I think about the Far East a lot, we brought back many fond memories. 

China isn’t up there as a family holiday destination. You need a visa to enter, English isn’t spoken anywhere outside of international hotels, its a communist country embracing capitalism and no one I know has ever been for reasons other than business. Instinct told us not to go whilst curiosity packed our bags. 

Flights arranged, visas purchased and hotels booked. A day later, we arrived in Shanghai, a city with a population of a country. If you rank countries by population, Shanghai would be number 50. It’s not even the capital of China and yet housed a bewildering number of people. 

For city lovers, Shanghai is a place you should visit. It is the ultimate city. There are residential skyscrapers that disappear into the horizon. The iconic waterfront presents a faceoff between the old Shanghai of timeless elegant architecture on the Bund and the super modern corporate towers. Here you find the second tallest building in the world. 

The sky top bars are breath taking. The Huangpu River snakes around these confident towers  catching shards of neon light which shimmer on the water’s surface. It is a photographer’s dream city scape. 

But memories are discarded fragments of the past we recall at our pleasure. Being there, in that moment was equally unforgettable and indescribable. Memories are something we continue to create. Some are better than others, we savour the good ones and distance the bad ones. Collectively memories colour the canvas of our lives. 

We returned to Henry Wong Harborne this evening to create another happy memory. Celebrating exam success warrants a special place and there are few as special as this Chinese gem of a restaurant in one of Birmingham’s most desirable neighbourhoods. 

The front of house service at Goodfellas in Shanghai reminded me of the warm welcome you receive at Henry Wong Harborne. The interior here in Brum is one of the city’s most contemporary and elegant fit outs. 

The reproductions of Buddha cast serene eyes over diners, some of whom are in the midst of eating whilst others eagerly await gastronomical nirvana. How do I know this? I swim at the same pool as the Chef, Ricky Wu. You learn a lot from someone when you share the same space with few clothes! 

We polished off Chicken Satay, Crispy Spring Rolls, Honey Lemon Chicken, Sizzling Lamb with Ginger and Spring Onion, Fried Chicken with spicy bean sauce with Rice and Noodles. There’s a Spanish beer on draught called Mahou (5.1%), simply sublime. Background music was supported by the popping of bubbles on a glass of Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose Brut.  

I would challenge anyone to identify any choice from Henry Wong Harborne’s carefully designed menu that doesn’t delight them. You don’t need a special occasion to eat here, being here is special enough. But if you are celebrating, book a table at Henry Wong Harborne, memories are made like this. 

Henry Wong Harborne 

283 High Street

Harborne, Birmingham 

B17 9QH

0121 427 7666 

henrywongharborne.co.uk

 

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham.

@jassansi 07930 837 505

Keep Cask & Curry On

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Cask and Curry at Hen & Chickens – Expect empty plates

They say life is short. Banged up in Winson Green at the pleasure of Her Majesty, life can be tediously long. Reincarnation as a fruit fly and life is 24 hours short; imagine being born, recreating and meeting your maker all in one day. Thankfully, few of us occupy either of these extreme measures. With God’s will, we can expect four score years, 2.4 children and around thirty five tax returns. 

There are a fixed number of dinners you will enjoy in your life before the gas runs out. It’s important to enjoy them all. One of these will be your last supper and it’s important to go out on a high. 

So if life really is short, its important the food you introduce to your digestive system is prepared with passion, garnished with love and served with a smile. If you consider this holy trinity to be sacred, head over to Cask & Curry occupying the pub known locally as Hen & Chickens. You will thank me for it. 

The pub has just been sympathetically refurbished. The planning process took a long time but the end result illustrates just how important it is to preserve heritage. This is a traditional English pub with a new lease of life. If customers from the old days popped in, they would approve.  

There’s a great selection of ales, beers and lagers on draft. Take a seat in any of the three rooms that make up this place on the very edge of Colmore Business District. Order from a wide selection of Indian food. Place your order at the bar. Wait for your food. Eat. Enjoy. Smile. 

You can park on the street for free outside during the day for an hour, and it’s free after six. If you’re drinking, there’s a metro stop over the road, bus stops outside and an Uber cab service on your mobile. 

The owners have been running the place for five years, If you haven’t been, pop in and try it. I’m definitely going back just as soon as I give birth to this food baby I’m currently nursing under my shirt. 

Cask & Curry at Hen & Chickens 

27 Constitution Hill

Birmingham

B19 3LE

0121 236 3121

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham.

@jassansi 07930 837 505

Hotel du Vin Wine Dinner with Sir Ian Botham

Hotel du Vin invited Sir Ian Botham to host a full bodied wine dinner at their Birmingham hotel ahead of the UK’s first Day-Night Test at Edgbaston.

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Sir Ian Botham transcends cricket in the way Pele transcended football and James Hunt transcended Formula 1. You don’t have to be a cricket fan to know who Ian Botham is. For my generation, he was a hero. It was a pleasure to meet him tonight as he hosted a wine dinner at Hotel du Vin in Birmingham. 

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Hotel du Vin host monthly wine dinners at their Colmore BID hotel and if you have never attended one, put it on your ice bucket list. They are one of Birmingham’s best nights out.   If you love good food (and lets be honest, who doesn’t?) and love great wine, get booked on.

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They are usually hosted by wine producers who along with Hotel du Vin’s General Manager, Tony Elvin welcome guests for an intimate and enlightening evening. 

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Tonight’s host, as well as being a wine producer also happens to be a sporting legend. Sir Ian Botham is one third of the wine brand ‘Botham Merrill Willis Wines.’ Sir Ian welcomed guests telling them a lot of pretentious nonsense is written about wines but ultimately they are there to be enjoyed.

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Sir Ian shared some background on his wines telling a packed room he first thought of the idea in the late 70s. It wasn’t until 2004 the idea was bottled, corked and labelled. 

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Sir Ian is an ambassador for Hotel du Vin and in Birmingham to commentate on the Test Match cricket being held at Edgbaston. England have only suffered one loss in Test Match cricket at Edgbaston so expectation is high.

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It’s also the first ever Day / Night Test match in the UK. Great to see history being made in Brum, a city that continues to smash visitor experience out of the stadium. 

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Enjoy the full set of images at:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/jassansi/albums/72157685193549850

Jas Sansi @jassansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham.

 

We’re Not Going on a Summer Holiday

Can you name one benefit of exiting the EU? Jas Sansi finally discovers something positive. Read on. 

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A Staycation in Birmingham

Summer and especially the summer holidays when schools banish their pupils for six weeks is known in media circles as the silly season. News is light on the ground; Parliament is in recess, MPs go off on their holidays, the rich and the famous jet off to wherever the rich and the famous jet off to, business leaders and the professionals are out of town. 

Those who are relied upon to provide comment, make news worthy decisions and feed the news channels are otherwise engaged. 24 hour channels are consequently fed a series of light entertainment stories and public relations releases scraped from the bottom of a shallow barrel. Hence the expression, the silly season. 

It’s a poor reflection that ‘news’ and ‘comment’ is sourced from the upper end of society. As if, those who are left in the UK over summer are not worthy of tapping into, extracting opinion or relied upon to generate content. 

Exactly the same thing happens over Christmas. The holiday season in December sees the same old stories churned out; the celebrity lighting of Christmas trees, the mayhem of last minute shopping, the tensions of being cooped up with family, the over eating, the weather, the strains on the transport network as people hit the roads, trains and planes, the New Year’s Eve celebrations and finally the countdown to receiving our credit card statements on blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year. 

This is the first time in years I’ve been in the UK for summer. I’ve always known its a slow time of the year for news but experiencing it has been painful. One story I’ve noticed is the economic projection that the Pound will reach and lock into parity with the Euro. A quid being worth a Euro effectively means we have joined the Euro. Yes, I know we haven’t but if our notes look like Euros, sound like Euros and have the same value as Euros, then chances are they are Euros. 

And if the value of the Pound remains the same as the Euro, staying in the UK over summer is something a lot more of us are going to have to get used to. I have finally discovered a benefit to leaving the EU; we’ll have better news content over the summer break as more of us find it financially impossible to holiday on the continent…! 

 

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham. Husband of one, father of two and owner of three (Cameras)

@jassansi