Coffee Culture In 2016

Like most cultures, coffee culture is no different really. A group of people brought together by a common interest. What better place than a coffee shop. There is always a buzz, and hive of activity. It attracts in some ways, so many like minded people, and in other ways such a variety. From businessmen, to housewives, students to teachers. Hundreds of years ago, they were popular meeting places for artists. A few years ago, Wine Masters were popping up everywhere, and now the latest trend seems to be becoming a Barrister. We were fortunate enough to be able to interview Winston, one of the top up and coming Barristers in the Country.

These days no matter where I am, or what I am doing, coffee seems to be screaming out at me! Coffee culture, coffee culture! Most people have coffee making machines, and there are shops dedicated to selling only coffee. We are so spoilt for choice, that it is difficult to know which coffee to drink, when, where and why? I am attending a Barristers course early next month, and will be back with loads more information on what all the different coffee beans are, and how to choose between them.

Meanwhile, not sure about you, but I am getting extremely confused between the different ways to drink coffee. Gone are the days when we only had the choice between an espresso and a cappuccino. And worse still, when I grew up, we either had instant or percolated coffee. Now we have a whole range of ways to drink our coffee:

– Latte: A coffee mixed with a frothed milk foam.

– Americana: Made by adding hot water to a mug with a tot of espresso coffee in it.

– Iced Coffee: Chilled coffee with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

– Cappuccino: A cup of coffee covered in a layer of frothed milk foam.

– Skinny Cappuccino. The same as a cappuccino, but made with fat free milk.

– Flat white: A cup of coffee with milk.

– Espresso: Extremely strong, and dense, with «crema» (coffee foam on the top). Hence, café crema being an alternative name for an Italian espresso.

– Macchiato: A cup of frothed milk, filled up with an espresso coffee.

– Moccachino: A café latte with chocolate added to it.

– Frappe. A coffee with ice, served black or white.

And to make coffee even more enticing, many Countries around the world have their own special coffees, such as:

Caffe Au Lait: France

Egg Coffee: Vietnam

Turkish Coffee: Turkey

Café Bombon: Spain

Café Cubana: Cuba

Wiener: Vienna

Palazzo: USA

Caffe De Ola: Mexico

To top it off we have alcoholic coffee drinks, like an Irish coffee, Bavarian coffee, Café royal, Kalua coffee, and even coffee liquors.

I have to say that my favourite is still a cappuccino. It has to be made with the best quality coffee beans, and brimming over the top of the mug with foam. If you can convince me otherwise, please share with me the way you love your coffee.

Winston’s Interview..

How did you get involved with espresso coffee. How did it all start?

Without romanticizing too much, there was a complaint in my local newspaper about the bad coffee served in my town. That was about 5 years ago. After reading that I started tasting different coffees trying to figure out what a good cup of coffee really was. This eventually led me to Origin Coffee Roasting where I did a barista course while studying in 2013. I worked part time at a roaster in Somerset West and a market in Woodstock until I completed my studies in June 2014. I started working full time at Origin in August 2014.

What makes you continue to work as a barista? Is the job repetitious?

No it’s not repetitious. It may seem that way because, on the opposite end of the bar, it looks like we’re just pouring coffee every day but that’s far from it. We’re using different coffees every day so there’s a lot of tasting involved, the weather is always changing which means the coffee pours differently throughout the day so we have to work accordingly, we meet different people every day, face different challenges on a daily basis etc. So far from repetitious. And that’s exactly why I continue to work as a barista.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find my inspiration by looking at all the people involved in the coffee cycle. From the farmer, to the green coffee buyer, the roaster, barista and finally the consumer. To know that I play a role in this process gives me the inspiration to try my hardest to serve the best cup of coffee possible. To justice to those who have played their part before me.

What is the new «in» in the current coffee industry?

To be honest I think that quality has become the new «in» in the coffee industry. More and more café are trying to produce better coffee, which makes things very competitive in terms of quality. This drives the industry in a positive direction. More cafés are also beginning to use alternative or filter brew methods like the aeropress and v60 pourover to make filter coffee. This is best enjoyed black without sugar to ensure that the nuisances and characteristics of the coffee can be picked up.

What kind of coffee do you like/not like to make

I like making all kinds of coffee. There is espresso based coffees like your typical Americano and latte and there is filter brew like the French press or aeropress. I can’t say I dislike making certain types of coffees but I do sometimes cringe when customers want an unusual order that takes away the emphasis of the coffee. For example a large milk based with a single shot and soya milk will completely overshadow the flavor of the coffee. But at the end of the day coffee is subjective and we cannot tell the customers what it is they like or dislike, we can only give advice and hopefully guide them.

What is the most time consuming coffee to make?

I’d say the filter methods we use in our café is the most time consuming. The French press takes about 5 minutes to complete. Whereas espresso based takes roughly 2 minutes.

What can you tell me about Coffee Culture?

Coffee Culture. Where do I start? Well right now in the coffee industry (worldwide) we’re experiencing what we call «Third wave.» «First wave» would be defined as the way our parents might’ve had their coffee. Instant coffee or a dark roasted Italian blend in the household filter machine. There was no real coffee or café culture. Then, with the arrival of Starbucks and other commercial coffee chains, the «Second wave» of coffee individuals evolved. People became more aware of what they were drinking and the trend of takeaway espresso based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos started.

Right now we’re experiencing «Third wave» where people in the coffee have become more conscious of the quality of the coffee they buy. Some companies going as far as establishing direct trade with farmers so they contribute to improving farming methods, exporting etc.

Green coffee beans are roasted with precision and a lot of care is taken in preparing both espresso based and filter drinks. Along with this, consumers are also conscious of the quality of coffee in cafes. Consumers know what they want when buying coffee, more so than before. And they are also a lot more educated. Because of this you find more cafes opening and more consumers visiting cafes thus a growing café culture. Bigger than before.

Tell me about the competitions you have won and what lies ahead for you.

Most recently I’ve won the South African National Aeropress title. The aeropress is basically a filtering device used to make coffee. And I won the national competition so I’ll be competing in the World Aeropress championships in Dublin, Ireland in June. I also came 2nd in the Western Cape Barista competition and 8th in the National Barista competition. In the future I’d like to enter more competitions with the goal of winning and competing at the World Barista Competition.

Your dream?

My dream is to put Africa on the map for coffee. As a continent we produce some of the best tasting coffees in the world but, other than in South Africa, we don’t necessarily serve this as it should be served. Most of the high quality coffee produced in Africa is exported and lower grade commercial coffees are left. I’d like to change this. Coffee was founded in Africa so I feel that we have a responsibility to be serving the best tasting African coffees in our cafes.

The Tea Ceremony Around the Globe

2737BC. The passage of time from 2737BC to 2014 is almost incomprehensible to me. The change, the modernisation, the evolution. What is the significance of this date?

This is the year tea was discovered.

Yes, in 2737BC, in China, the Chinese emperor stumbled across a mysterious potion after leaves from the camellia sinensis plant accidentally fell into the water his servant was boiling for him to drink. As a herbalist, he embraced the opportunity to try a new concoction, sipped the delicate liqueur and immediately fell in love; a love that has been shared by billions of people since.

But it is mind blowing to think that tea has been consumed by people for over 4000 years. And perhaps even stranger to think that in Britain, we have only been drinking tea (our saviour, our comfort, our ‘pack-your-kettle-last-so-it’s-the-first-thing-out-the-lorry’) for a short 400 years.

Even so, this is an incredible amount of time to develop the traditions and conventions associated with drinking it, and the tea drinking ritual is one steeped in cultural customs.

It is perhaps a generalisation, but when we think of tea drinking rituals, it is the Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies that immediately spring to mind: formality, silence, connections to nature, tea as a gift, a way of offering thanks or apologies to a relative.

Rule-governed and purposeful tea drinking? The officialism appears alien to us.

On reflection though, perhaps there is ritualism in our own tea consumption. Doesn’t tea follow meal times, help calm our nerves, welcome us home after work, or welcome friends over (imagine not offering a friend a brew after knocking on your door. Ultimate social faux pas), lift our spirits and console us? Although we do not wear robes or kneel down, tea does have significance: comfort, safety, friendship. If this isn’t our tradition, then I don’t know what is.

Tea is not just enjoyed in the countries mentioned above. Tea has successfully bewitched people in every continent across the globe, which has led to it being branded as the second most widely consumed beverage on the planet after water. Tea’s ability to permeate cultures has arguably enabled it to survive these 4000 years, each bringing their own traditions and quirks in which to celebrate this distinctive liquid.

And this is what we will here explore; how tea drinking traditions differ in some of the top tea drinking regions of the world.

China

As mentioned above, in China the consumption of tea is ceremonial. Not only do the Chinese people celebrate tea, but they use tea to formally celebrate or consolidate occasions, such as serving tea at family gatherings, as a symbol of formal apology and as a way of politely addressing and thanking parents for the giving and receiving of partners at weddings.

It is the tastes and aromas of the tea which are at the heart of the ritual. Each utensil is carefully washed or cleansed using the first infusion of the green tea leaves to ensure that the second infusion’s taste is not coloured by any foreign bodies, like dust particles, so the tea is pure.

Importantly as well is the way the tea is poured; slowly, in one motion, across all cups (which are small clay pots) and only half full. The other half of the cup is said to be filled with friendship and affection; therefore binding host and guest in their tea drinking experience.

Japan

In Japan, the tea ceremony centres around the making of Japanese Matcha tea; a green tea ground to a fine powder which is world renowned for its excellent healing powers, high concentration of antioxidants and rather bitter taste.

The ceremony is named Chanoyu and focuses on the aesthetics of tea making rather than the taste or smells, making the experience more of a choreographed performance than a quenching of thirst.

The ceremony’s composition dates back to the twelfth century and involves the host’s serving of the tea, as well as the presentation of the utensils and ceramics used to prepare it, the arrangement of flowers in the space and calligraphy. These items can all be modified by the host to best fit the occasion for which the tea is served. It is also the host’s task to have considered their guests’ view of the tea at every angle in the space, to ensure that their experience will be one of purity, serenity and tranquility: a weighty responsibility.

The thoughtful consideration that is required for a successful ceremony often ensures that the bonds of friendship between the hosts and their guests are strengthened after the experience is concluded.

India.

In India, tea is served on the streets by Chai Wallahs, or ‘tea makers’, who blend their spicy chai tea on their stalls at train stations, bus stations and on every street corner.

Authentic chai is milky, sweet and spicy, made from thick buffalo milk, Assam tea, cardamom pods, ginger, cinnamon and often what seems like a ton of sugar. The ingredients can vary, but the ritual of serving generally stays the same: the Chai Wallah brews up all of the ingredients in a large metal pot over open coals which are placed on the stone ground. Once simmering, he pours the liquid through a sieve into a teakettle, then pours the chai into small terracotta pots from a great height. The drinking cups are only used once; consumers throwing them to the ground once they have finished, smashing them to pieces, to allow the clay to get trampled back into the ground.

Chai’s popularity in the UK has steadily grown in the past year (it’s one if our best sellers!) and it’s easy to see why. Chai tea is delicious; warming, spicy, soothing, it’s like Christmas in a cup and yet I drink it all year round! OK, we like to have it our way- we tend to brew Chai with hot water rather than in hot milk and individual consumers choose whether to sweeten delicately with honey- but the resulting comfort is the same.

Equally, much of India’s tea is renowned for its medicinal properties, mainly because of the strong ties to Hinduism and Ayurvedic tradition: a system that inspires us to live by alternative medicine, ultimately governed through a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Tea blends are therefore steeped in a philosophy that inspires the ‘art of living wisely’.

Russia

Rather like the UK, Russia was introduced to tea in the mid-1600s, but whereas we strove to steal the idea from China, the Russian Tsar was given tea as a gift from the Chinese ambassador to Moscow. Of course, he loved it (who doesn’t), and quickly a line of trade was organised between the two countries.

Tea in Russia is not just about the liquid itself but about the heat that brewing the tea gives rise to, and the warmth felt through consumption (Russia can get a little chilly at times). Russia’s tea ceremony is therefore centred around the use of a samovar; a large metal tea urn with decorative handles and a spout.

Typically, the samovar has more than one layer to it. Simple samovars have a bottom layer housing the hot water, which is actually heated by filling the small soldered pipe that runs through the centre of the urn with hot coals. Above this sits a small metal teapot, often of the same metal material, and a concentrated form of brewed tea, zavarka, is made here before being diluted by the hot water from the urn.

Russian Caravan tea (so named as a result of the camel trains that first brought tea to Russia) must be mentioned here. It is the perfect blend to brew in a samovar as the teas used have strong, dark flavours: Chinese Keemun and Formosa Oolong tea, sometimes with hints of Indian black teas like Assam to add a maltiness to the blend.

Morocco

Inshas Allah, ‘with god willing, all good things come with time.’ This is the proverb by which Moroccan people brew their tea and signifies the respect they show to the timely process of making the perfect cup.

Morocco is famous for its Moroccan Mint tea; a blend of Chinese green tea, fresh mint leaves and a lot of sugar (often five times the amount of sugar to the amount of tea!)

The tea making ritual is one of leisure in Morocco and if invited to assist in making the tea, you are honoured. Incense is lit and those who are taking part in the serving wash their hands in orange blossom water before they begin.

Firstly, loose green tea leaves are placed in a round bellied teapot with a conical top and long curved spout, and hot water added. Much like in China, the first infusion (left to brew for just one minute, before being poured into a tall glass) is used as a cleanser, this time for the leaves rather than the flasks, to rid any impurities the leaves may have picked up through travel. After this, the loose tea is brewed before adding the sugar and mint.

The spout is one of importance to the teapot. Curvature to the spout allows for the server to pour the tea from a height of around half a metre into the small glasses below, to create a frothy foam on the tea’s surface.

Tea is served often in Morocco: after each mealtime, when entering some shops, to welcome guests in the home and even to mark business deals.

Iran

Tea is also the national beverage in Iran, with tea drinkers enjoying mainly green tea and black tea to quench their thirst or as a comfort, respectively. No occasion can take place without tea being served and, in many regions of Iran, light coloured tea is a marker of disrespect from the host to the receiver. Principally, Iranians like it strong.

Perhaps it is the liking for a keen strength to tea that has led the people of Iran to discount the water as a part of the tea. Through the use of a samovar, Iranians heat the water and simply use and see it as a way of extracting the aromas and flavours thickly from the leaves.

Typically, tea is drunk from glassware and this is held by the rim of the glass between the thumb and forefinger with the pinkie used to balance. Often, held in the other hand, is a large pipe connected to a hookah, or qalyoon as it’s locally known; a tall, ornate smoking device that uses hot flavoured tobacco and water. In the absence of alcohol, tea houses, where tea and the qalyoon are served hand-in-hand, act as a social hub where young Iranian people can relax and socialise, much like us westerners would do in our local pub.

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is another of the world’s biggest tea-drinking countries, with its tradition once again being rooted in the giving and receiving of tea as an act of welcoming and politeness. Guests are offered tea on arrival into a host’s home and it is considered impolite to refuse the beverage.

Kazakhs are known, much like the Russians and Turks, to use samovars to brew and serve the tea; however, differently to the Russians, the server only fills the kasirs (which are small, wide-mouthed saucers), to around half full. This ensures that the tea is always served hot: no one likes a cold cuppa (unless it’s iced, of course).

The guests to the ceremony are then required to pass their empty kasirs back to the female host as a way if thanking her and showing her respect for that which they have received. She then ‘re-half-fills’ the cups and passes them to her guests once more; a process which continues, creating a graceful, rhythmic and visual ceremony, beauteous to behold.

Britain

In Britain, (one might have known!) our tea traditions involve food. These customs were developed in the early 19th century, first by the upper classes who championed Afternoon Tea as a way of bridging the gap between lunch, at 12 o clock, and dinner at 8 o clock. Tea was served at around 4 o clock in the afternoon along with small sandwiches, scones and cakes. Heaven.

High Tea is different, although sometimes (incorrectly) the terms are used interchangeably.

In industrial Britain, workers home from the factories and mines would require immediate sustenance after a day of physical hard labour, and so a substantial meal would be served to them accompanied by a cup of strong, sweet tea at around 5 o clock. This became known as ‘tea’ (which us northerners still to this day sometimes use), and the ‘high’ aspect is a reference to high backed chairs and higher table the lower classes would sit at to enjoy their tea (whereas the upper classes would be seated in low lounge chairs and have their tea served on smaller, occasional tables.)

Taking time to enjoy tea has always been important in this country regardless of class, right up until the invention of the teabag. When the teabag was born, a dip in quality occurred. Beautiful unfurling leaves slowly releasing layers of flavour no longer existed: a throwaway pouch of powdery black dust, bitter to taste and quick-to-brew lay in its place. We are committed to changing that. Lovers of loose leaf, we are promoting taking time out from your day to enjoy the perfect cup of tea, slowly brewed from high quality leaves. We are bringing back the ‘good old days’.

How to Kill Depression Before It Kills You

Depression kills.

Sadly, these people did not live to tell of its horrors – 16,467, aged between 45 and 85 +, almost half of the total deaths by suicide, across all ages, in the US in 2014, making it the country's 10th leading cause of deaths .

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention believes the figure could be higher if some families were not hesitant or reluctant to report a suicide in the family. Already traumatized by the loss of a loved one, they did not want to be stigmatized as a family of loonies.

What drve them to end their lives? Mostly depression.

What makes it sad is that depression can be cured. What makes these deaths tragic and unnecessary is that depression usually starts from harmless "blues" we all experience in any given day. For failure to plug a leak, a deluge was created.

They did not recognize it coming or too complacent until things have gotten way over their heads. By then, they thought blowing their heads off was the only way out of their misery ..

Can it happen to you? Will you become a part of this morbid statistic?

It depends on how you value life; on how you cherish your family who will grieve over your death, on how strong is your belief that no matter how bad things are, they will soon pass; that the storm ravaging you now will soon be pushed away by sunbeams that will fill your heart and soul with joy.

It depends on your awareness that you are not alone. That somewhere, right now, others are also suffering as you are.

They, too, are:

o Feeling sad or low;

o Suffering from loss of interest in activities that normally enjoy doing;

o Having eating problems, losing or gaining weight for no apparent reason;

o Having problems sleeping or not wanting to get up;

o Feeling tired or lethargic;

o Restless (hand-wringing or pacing); slow in movement and speech;

o Having concentration problems or making decisions

o Thinking of committing suicide.

We all feel these things every now and then. Normally they will pass in a matter of days or a couple of weeks. They usually go away after a good sleep, a hearty meal, a good conversation with family or friends, or a change in scenery.

If they do not, then do your darndest best to kill them before they kill you.

DIY Tools to Kill Depression:

It's normal to feel down once in a while. It is not because of age but because our lives have become so routinary, so boring – like a hamster spinning in its wheel.

It is because we are so self-obsessed, forgetting that there is a whole wide world out there to learn, explore, experience, and conquer.

Depressive behavior is fed by your own thoughts, which puts imaginary barriers around you, making you see nothing but four walls closing in around you every day until it becomes a prison.

For some, breaking free from that prison is difficult, even impossible.

Those who did, did so by simply discarding their own self-destructive thoughts; they simply unshackled from themselves from the chains of their own making.

I did it by picking the lock of my harmful thoughts using these simple DIY tools. You can use them, too

1. Do a Forrest Gump:

Remember the movie Forrest Gump? The movie revolved around Forrest, sitting on bench while waiting for a bus, and telling his story to anyone and everyone who came along to sit next him.

Kind of stupid, but is an easy and cheap way of killing depressing thoughts.

My late Mom was a Forrest Gump, sort of. She visited me each time she felt the world crushing her in. The moment she got settled she immediately rattled off her problems, like a machine gun, while I just sat there listening to her.

When she was winding down, I offered her snacks. It immediately changed her mood, and set her off doting on my children (my daughter was her favorite).

Find someone you can be a Forrest Gump to. I am, to my daughter-in-law. It works all the time.

But you can not do it all the time. Your sounding board may not be around when you need them, or you may bore them to death or, anger, infect them. Depression is as infectious as a virus.

So you need other tools to kill it …

2. Visit or call a friend who can pull you up:

Not just any friend. But someone who can pull you up, not press you down.

Avoid a friend who will make your innermost fears and insecurities become a part of the neighborhood's breaking news the following day.

Keep away from a friend who will casually brush with an "it will just pass," comment without helping you make it pass, or one who will cut you short by saying, "your problems are nothing compared to mine."

Call or visit a friend who is interested to know how you made your garden the envy of your neighbors, or who wants to listen to your collection of love songs, circa Romeo and

Juliet, or who wants to leaf through your book of cloth-bound books; someone who wants to cuddle your new-born grandchild.

A friend who finds value in you and knows how to take your thoughts off yourself and shunt them somewhere else.

3. Take a hike of discovery:

Go to the beach and take a dip, or just walk along the shore, barefoot, and feel the sand tickle the soles of your feet; pick up sea shells or bits of corals and ponder on the genius who sculpted them into such spectacular shapes and forms.

Then face the horizon and, with arms outstretched, fill your lungs with the salty breeze until it's about to burst, slowly exhale through your mouth and say, "God, life is good." I am so blessed to be alive. "

If the beach is not your cup of tea, try the park.

Find a bench in the cool corner of your town park, under the shade of a giant tree, and fill your senses with the sights, sounds, smells around you.

For a moment be mindful.

Empty your mind of everything and delight in being on a tiny piece of earth where everything has a purpose – from the tiny ants scurrying about with bits of food between its pinchers, to the grasshoppers nibbling a blade of grass, to the butterflies and bees flitting from flower to flower, to the squirrels clambering up and down trees storing nuts, to the fallen leaves around your feet, to the tree under which shade you saved refuge, and YOU.

Together, you combine the delay balance of Nature, of Life. Remove one and you offset the balance.

For a clincher, be a child again .

Take the swing, or ride the Ferris wheel, the merry-go-round, or throw Frisbees.

Never think, even for a moment, that these are for children. No matter how old we are, a certain part of us, buried under tons of adult things, remains a child.

Bring it out and be a child again. Have fun; laugh. You might save yourself.

About a month ago, I tried the hoverboard and the merry-go-round just for the heck of it. I looked silly (and almost twisted an ankle) but I did not give a hoot what others thought. I had fun and that's all that mattered

4. Do not be afraid to seek professional help:

If, after having taken all the Paracetamols you can lay your hands on, you still have the colds, see a doctor before you get pneumonia.

Depression is either "from the mind" or "in the mind."

The above tools work well for the "from the mind" type, but can not do much if it is "in the mind."

If your depression lasts for long periods of time, say months or years, then that falls under the worrisome category of Mental Illness, and close relative of anxiety, bipolar disorder (this drave Robin Williams to commit suicide), schizophrenia and many others.

It is "worrisome," not hopelessly disastrous because modern science has the tools to help out, or cope with them. Provided you nip it in the bud.

So if you have been seeing blue for a long, long time, seek professional help to clear it out.

Shortly after my wife died, I went into depression. My daughter, who is a doctor, took me to one of her doctor friends. After the usual series of questions, he prescribed me some anti-depressants which I was to take twice daily for two months.

As a good patient, I bought them despite their being depressively expensive and started taking them. After a couple of days, out of curiosity, I surfed for anti-depressants and their side-effects.

To my horror, I found out that some anti-depressants can cause erectile dysfunction. "Oh, God! I can not allow more sorrow upon my sorrows," I said to myself.

I stopped taking it and started tinkering with my thoughts to take them off my painful loss. That's how I came upon these. They can help you, too.

Top 3 Rookie Cards of the 1954-55 Topps NHL Set

1954-55 marked the first ever NHL hockey card series from Topps. Three significant, albeit working class, rookie cards came out of that set. Combined, the three played 2,915 regular season games in the National Hockey League. Two had played junior hockey together with the Barrie Flyers of the OHA. The same two would start their NHL careers with the Boston Bruins. One would be awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as NHL rookie of the year while two of the three would go on to win the Lady Byng Trophy once in their careers.

Doug Mohns

The number 18 card in the 1954-55 Topps set is the rookie card of Doug Mohns. Mohns played his rookie year with the Bruins in 1953-54 after playing junior for the Barrie Flyers. The defenseman was an immediate success with 27 points while playing all of Boston's 70 regular season games.

Doug played in the National Hockey League from 1953-54 to 1974-75 with the Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota North Stars, Atlanta Flames and Washington Capitals. He played 1,390 regular season games. During the 2013-14 season, Teemu Selanne will pass Mohns on the list of players with the most games played, pushing Doug to the 36th position.

As a pre-Bobby Orr era defenseman, Doug's numbers are very good. He scored 248 goals and assisted on 462 for 710 points. Over 94 playoff games, he added 50 points. However, despite the high number of playoffs games, Mohns was never a Stanley Cup champion. Some say that the missing championship was the one thing keeping Doug from being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. It may be the one thing in the vintage hockey cards world that keeps the value of his rookie card at a still respectable $ 125, book value.

Camille Henry

Camille 'The Eel' started his NHL career off with a bang in 1953-54. He scored 24 goals and totaled 39 points over 66 games with the New York Rangers to earn the Calder Memorial Trophy. The Camille Henry rookie card appears as number 32 in the 1954-55 Topps set and has a book value of around $ 80.

Despite his rookie success, Henry found himself playing just 21 games in 1954-55 before being sent down to the American Hockey League to play for the Quebec Aces. Camille then played all of 1955-56 with the Providence Reds in the AHL before making his way way back up to the Rangers midway through the next season.

Henry played in the NHL from 1953-54 to 1969-70 with the Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and St.. Louis Blues. He was teams with Doug Mohns in Chicago for the last half of the 1964-65 season. Like Mohns, Camille never won a Stanley Cup championship. However, he was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy as the league's most gentlemanly player in 1957-58.

Over his career, Camille played 727 regular season games. He scored 279 goals and assisted on 249 for 528 points. In the Stanley Cup playoffs, Henry appeared in 47 games and added 18 points.

Don McKenney

Despite number 35 in the 1954-55 Topps set being the rookie card of Don McKenney, he played the full 1953-54 season in the AHL with the Hershey Bears. Another product of the Barrie Flyers, McKenney did become a regular with the Bruins in 1954-55. He played in the NHL until the end of the 1967-68 season with the Bruins, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings and St. Paul. Louis Blues.

Don played in 798 regular season NHL games, scoring 237 goals and assisting on 345 for 582 points. He played 58 more games in the Stanley Cup playoffs, adding 47 points. McKenney was a member of the Maple Leafs in 1963-64 with Toronto winning their third consecutive Stanley Cup championship.

Like Camille Henry, McKenney was a one time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy, taking home the hardware in 1959-60 as a member of the Bruins. His rookie card is valued the same as Henry's, as well.

1954-55 Topps

The 1954-55 Topps set was the first NHL collection for the long-time baseball card producer. A common card from that set is valued at $ 40. There are 60 hockey cards in the collection with the book value for a complete set at $ 4,500. The most valuable card belongs to Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings.

How to Become a Powerful Influence On People

How Influential Are You?

Have you stopped lately to think about what level of influence you have on people? To put it another way; Do people listen to you and respect your opinion? This is especially important on your job, whether you are rank-and-file or in management. People follow leaders, whether they hold a title on their job or not. If you are not able to persuade people, and win them over to your way of thinking, you may be relegated to the lower rungs of society.

Every day we are presented with opportunities to influence others. It may come in the form of a law enforcement officer ready to issue you a ticket, or your boss challenging parts of your presentation, or when you have to return a pair of shoes to the department store without a receipt. How you handle these everyday challenges, in turn, help or hurt your ability to shine in high profile situations, where your persuasive skills are on display for all to see.

Your Most Powerful Tool

Do you want to know the most powerful tool you have at your disposal when it comes to influencing people? I learned and perfected this strategy over a 4 year period, while working as a contracts negotiator for the Department of Defense. I must have learned my lesson well, because I was named one of the top negotiators in my area, and received the coveted sustained superior performance award for high level achievements.

This tool is so powerful, most people (on all levels of organizations) completely miss it, yet it has been proven to be extremely effective in studies after studies. What is it you ask? It is the "psychology of a smile." That's right; a smile. Why is it so powerful? Because it has no language barriers-none. I have tested this theory all around the world. No matter where I travel, every single person, in every language understands its message. A smile is the universal language of winners. The reason I call it a tool is because, like any tool it works in the right situation.

It was President Abraham Lincoln who said that a man is extremely responsible for the condition of his face. How true this is. So the next time you are tempted to use the tool of anger during one of your daily challenges, try employing a simple smile instead, and see if the results are different. I have used it on flights across the country, and witnessed flight attendance to be more attentive to me v. others. I have used it when I really should have gotten a ticket for speeding, only to get a warning to slow down. I have used it at restaurants and watched servers be just a little kinder to me and my party, over all others. I have watched frowns turn to smiles, simple because I took the time to smile.

The Smile Strategy

Do not dismiss this as some flaky strategy used by flakes and geeks. The "smile strategy" has been used effectively by such greats as Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Oprah Winfrey, Melinda Gates, Nelson Mandela, Richard Bronson, Warren Buffet, Barack Obama, Napoleon Hill, Angela Merkel, Michelle Obama, Laurene Powell Jobs, and so many more.

Do you want to become a powerful influence on people? Then start with a smile. Watch stunningly successful people (even in your immediate circles) and you'll see that they have a tendency to smile more than others. Frank Irving Fletcher wrote that; a smile cost nothing, but creates much. It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give. It happens in a flash, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.

Conclusion

One of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal when it comes to influencing people is simply to smile .. A smile is the universal language of winners.

© 2014 Cubie Davis King. All rights reserved. Unlawful to duplicate or use in any way with the express written permission of the author.

Soccer Fixture: Chelsea Versus Arsenal

Chelsea and Arsenal met in the First Division of the Football League at Stamford Bridge for the first time on the 9th November, 1907 – 30 years after the stadium had first been opened for use by the London Athletic Club. Chelsea won 2.1 with both goals scored by George Hilsdon. Arsenal’s reply came from Charlie Satterthwaite.

George Hilsdon was the first player to score 100 goals for Chelsea and a weather vane modelled on him can still be seen at Stamford Bridge. Legend has it that Chelsea will suffer ‘great misfortune’ if it is ever removed, as it was during ground works in the late 1970’s when Chelsea were in financial and football decline. Hilsdon was the victim of a gas attack on the Western Front in WWI and never played professional football again, dying in 1941. His grave is unmarked.

This first match was watched by a then record crowd for England’s top division: 65,000. Arsenal were still known as and based at Woolwich Arsenal at the time but they had a huge away following for this match due to it also being the 66th birthday of King Edward VII. The munitions factory – where many of the workers who followed the club were based – was closed for the day, hence they were free to travel to West London.

In fact, Arsenal could have been more local rivals of Chelsea than Tottenham Hotspur. A local businessman – Henry Norris – had a significant role in the development of both clubs. Amassing a fortune from property Norris became a Director and then Chairman of Fulham. Another Edwardian businessman called Henry – Henry Augustus Mears – had acquired Stamford Bridge with a view to it becoming one of the finest venues for association football in the capital if not the whole country. He offered Norris the chance to move Fulham FC to the ground but Norris refused to pay the annual rent of some £1500 and so Mears created his own team – Chelsea FC – in 1905. Had Norris not been so careful with his money, there might not have been a Chelsea football club at all.

Five years later Norris, still Chairman of Fulham became a majority shareholder of Woolwich Arsenal which had gone into voluntary liquidation. Becoming Chairman of that London club too, Norris proposed merging them with Fulham to form a super-club. The move was blocked by the Football League and so Chelsea and Fulham remained local rivals rather than Chelsea and Arsenal.

This match between the two teams in 1907 was the first ever to be played by two London clubs in the First Division and so the first major ‘London derby.’ All subsequent league meetings between the two sides to date have been in the top tier of English football (the old First Division and now the Premier League).

Woolwich Arsenal got their revenge the following season with a 2.1 win on 28th November, 1908 – Chelsea’s goal coming from George Hilsdon again. The Gunners won on Chelsea turf in the season after that as well, before the first draw – 1.1 – in this league fixture on 15th February, 1913. This was the last time the two sides met before Woolwich Arsenal moved to Highbury and changed their name to Arsenal.

Indeed, after that win in their first meeting, Chelsea did not win the fixture again until 13th December, 1919 when they won 3.1 with goals from Robert McNeil, John Cock and Henry Ford in front of a huge post-war crowd of 60,000.

The fixture on 12th October, 1935 was played in front of another enormous crowd: 82,905, which was the second highest recorded attendance for an English league match. It finished in a 1.1 draw. Joseph Bambrick scored for Chelsea and Jack Crayston for Arsenal.

Arsenal’s record league win at Stamford Bridge came in front of 74,667 football fans on 29th November, 1930 – a 5.1 victory, with David Jack scoring a hat-trick as Arsenal moved closer to their first League Championship win and domination of English football in the 1930s. They scored five times again on 24th November, 1934 – in a 5.2 victory this time – with legendary Arsenal centre-forward Ted Drake scoring four of Arsenal’s goals. Drake would go on to manage Chelsea in 1952 and was largely responsible for changing their nickname from The Pensioners to The Blues.

The Gunners also scored five goals in a 5.3 win on 29th October, 2011 with Robin Van Persie scoring a hat-trick for the victors.

Chelsea’s largest win in the fixture came in a 6.0 win in the Premier League on 22nd March, 2014 which was also Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger’s 1000th game in charge. This is the highest number of goals Chelsea have scored against Arsenal in a league fixture at Stamford Bridge and also represented the biggest margin of victory by The Blues. Oscar scored two goals that day alongside one each from Samuel Eto’o, Andre Schurrle, Eden Hazard and Mohamed Salah in front of an attendance of 41,614.

The sides are neck and neck in terms of wins in this fixture. In the years when Chelsea have gone on to win the League Title they have never lost at home to their rivals from North London, drawing the matches in the 1954/55 and 2004/05 seasons and winning each of them in 2005/06, 2009/10 and 2014/15.

For Arsenal, in the 13 seasons where they have finished as League Champions, they have only lost at Chelsea on two occasions (Chelsea were in the Second Division in the 1988/89 season so there was no fixture) – on 29th August, 1970 when Paddy Mulligan and John Hollins scored for Chelsea and Eddie Kelly got one back for Arsenal – and on 2nd February, 1991. Kerry Dixon and Graham Stuart scored for Chelsea that day with Alan Smith replying for Arsenal in front of a crowd of 29,094. This was the only league defeat of the season for George Graham’s Arsenal team and their first in 27 First Division matches, stretching back to a 2.0 loss at Luton Town on 21st April, 1990.

Danjeon Breathing for Depression

Danjeon breathing is one of the most effective methods to bring relief to those suffering from depression. Depression places heavy burdens on the family, individual and society and the number of cases of depression are increasing around the world. Economic uncertainty and lack of direction are some of the largest reasons for depression but solutions have been few and far between. Until now.

Danjeon breathing has been a great solution for depression for thousands of years since its discovery around the beginning days of acupuncture. In fact, it's been rare to find many cases of depression through Korean history, and danjeon breathing is one stronger reasons. But first, let's look into the origins of depression to see how danjeon breathing can help.

One theory of depression is that it comes from runaway emotions and negative thinking. At times we have a negative situation in our lives and we do not know how to respond to it, and it leaves an emotional scar or trauma. Or we have problems with our co-workers or friends or loved ones and we end up blaming or criticizing them. Unresolved trauma, months and years of criticism and blame make one tired, exhausted, dark and over time can lead to depression because of a misplaced view of a dark future. Depression often follows from this sequence.

Danjeon breathing is the way out of the darkness and the way to keep one from falling into the cave in the first place. Danjeon breathing rings in 7% more oxygen to the body; not only that, it extends one's breathing and expends the lungs. Slower breathing, deeper breaths allows more oxygen to penetrate to the brain. Longer breathing slows down one's brain waves, producing calm, clarity and happiness.

One then starts to smile naturally from the inside. One begins to have happier thoughts and to see the world with a positive outlook. "The cup is half full," you begin to say. Your understanding of others widens and you can easily put yourself in others' shoes and give them the benefit of the doubt. You think of a bright future, and even if things do not go well today, you see them as merely pebbles on the road rather than a huge barrier. Your positivity overflows and you begin to attract more positive people and prosperity into your life.

With happiness, brightness and understanding, your confidence grows and fears decrease. You step out of the cave of blame and darkness into a field of hope and beauty.

There is really no better natural aid to depression than danjeon breathing.

How Sports Psychology Can Improve Your Sales

Learn from the Habits of Highly Successful Sportspeople

I am often asked «How can sports psychology help salespeople, surely they are totally different areas of expertise?» and my answer is simply this:

Every sport has different skills sets & disciplines and requires different areas of knowledge – yet most, if not all, now accept that mental strength and readiness is the single most important factor that separates the winners from the also-rans.

I’m sure you will accept that at the pinnacle of any sport the top athlete’s skill levels and abilities are extremely close?

My sport is golf. In any given week there are 20, 30 even 40 players who could win a tournament – if it was all down to their inherent ability to hit a golf ball. But it’s not! Every week it’s the player who thinks right and plays right that wins – not necessarily the most skilful player on show!

If you follow football; does the best team always win the match? No.

This demonstrates how you think matters!

And as someone who’s been involved in Sales and Sales Management for many years and is now actively involved in the training and development of sales forces throughout the country, I believe the same is true of our industry.

How salespeople think, matters!

Sales success is all in the mind. Yes you need selling skills. You need product knowledge. You need the ability to plan and prepare. As does the golfer; he needs to be able to drive the ball, play out of bunkers, play flop shots and putt. BUT! That all said; it’s how he thinks during the round that will determine his success and so it is in selling too. How you think during the day, during the call, ultimately determines your success.

So here is a brief glimpse into some of the areas that highly successful sportsmen and women excel at and how they would benefit us in the sales game too.

Practice, Practice, Practice… but in right way:

The top echelon of sportsmen and women make every second count when practicing. They work all areas of their game to the maximum, not just the points they’re good at. They dissect their sport into its smallest components and ensure they are world class in each and every one of them.

Take a long jumper. The UK Olympic qualifying distance is 8.20mts. If an athlete is coming up short of this target – let’s say 7.90mts, he doesn’t just keep practicing by running and jumping over and over hoping to get longer – he practices in the right way. He and/or his coach analyses every area of his performance and works on it in order to improve.

Technique: Take-off and landing – is his method right?

Physical: Does he have enough power in his legs for an explosive run up? If not – into the gym!

Diet: Is he eating properly, is he carrying a few pounds too many?

Mental: Does he have the belief in himself and his ability?

Technical: Is he using the whole run-up area – jumping too soon before the board?

You get the point? They don’t just keep doing the same thing over and over hoping it will get better.

The first thing to do in order to get better at selling is to think about the way you practice and rehearse your selling, your pitch, your selling style (if you even do it!) and create a solid routine.

First Impressions: Approach to the customer, Appearance? Do you adapt to what you see?

Presentation: Do you establish customer objectives? Translate selling points into benefits? Do you tell rather than ask?

Profitability: Do you always look to up-sell? Provide add-ons?

Closing: Do you make saying «yes» easy? Ask for referrals?

I’ve worked with many golfers and salespeople of all abilities and the thing that correlates most to improved performance is the way you practice. To keep motivated, create a Personal Progress Log – break your sales role into all of its different facets and mark whether your own performance in each area is Not Good Enough, Good Enough or Excellent and then work away on each area no more than a few at a time – to get them all up to Excellent.

Study, learn and rehearse – in sales this is your practice – the equivalent of going to the driving range for golfers. And like I tell all golfers, if you want to improve don’t make practice routine, make practice hard and challenge yourself. What can your team do to become dedicated to continual improvement?

Stay Focussed and in the Moment:

Staying in the present means that you give whatever you are doing your complete and undivided attention. In sport, this means you’re not thinking about your score, why you think you just mishit that shot or 3 putted the last hole. All your energy is on the task at hand. This is also true when selling. No point reflecting on missing out on that last sale, being caught out by an objection or forgetting to up-sell your add-ons and accessories – while you drive to your next appointment or await your next customer coming into the store. The last sale is over!

Yes you will and should have time to reflect later on, when the selling day is done but DON’T do it on the way to the next call or while you wait. Don’t bring yourself down. Focus on the positives in your abilities and think how the next sale will happen successfully.

It’s counter-productive not to be in the present!

If you play golf for example, just think back to the last time you started playing well and subsequently thought about shooting your best score, «if only I can keep it going for the last few holes» – only for your game to unravel!

Staying in the present is easier said than done, I appreciate that; and like everything else it takes practice but it can and should be done.

Create a highly repeatable routine – follow your Sales Process:

In golf, the top players in the world all go through the exact same routine before every shot, even down to the number of practice swings. Watch them and you’ll notice that the number of seconds it takes to go through their pre-shot routine is the same every time. This helps them stay focussed on the process of shot-making and not get too caught up on outcome thoughts such as; «This putt for the Open» or in football when they think «This penalty to get through to the World Cup Final» (Many football supporters will be all too familiar with what happens when a player focus on the outcome of the penalty!)

What’s your routine when selling? Pre-sale or during a sale? Post sale? Don’t have one? Do you factor in your Sales Process and plan and prepare accordingly?

Well unless you are perfect – take leaf from the Pro’s and get a routine that makes you feel comfortable and confident so you perform at your best when selling.

Know how to calm yourself down when the pressure is on.

How do you cope with the pressure of hitting demanding targets? Or dealing with a tough customer who’s giving you a hard time? In sales, nerves can and do kick in when the pressure is on and once again we have an area where selling can learn directly from the sports arena.

I’ve worked with enough golfers to know that the good ones know powerful techniques to calm themselves down to prevent nerves turning into panic and negatively affecting their performance. They use nerves to their advantage. Because if you are nervous it’s really a good sign – it shows that what you are doing matters! You care!

There are many ways to control nerves such as breathing techniques or using your peripheral vision or having special thoughts/places to go in your head. I recently read that Jesper Parnevik would try to solve math problems in his head when it all got too much when playing. So there are countless ways to do it! You just need to find a technique that helps you.

Remember, nerves cannot be eliminated totally IF what you are doing matters to you. If it’s not important or way below your level of ability and skill – you probably won’t be nervous. But when it matters – then you need the awareness to appreciate that feeling nervous is «normal» in fact it’s desirable – and then have a way that suits you in dealing with it and let the nerves help your performance, rather than hinder it.

The power of acceptance and moving on:

No one is successful 100% of the time. Mistakes happen. Sales are lost. But beating yourself up about it won’t improve your next performance!

By all means, at the appropriate time analyse what went wrong and take steps to ensure it won’t be repeated again if it’s within your power to do so but being able to accept a setback and not let it cripple you mentally is imperative to peak performance.

In golf, being able to accept the outcome of every shot is a trait that all the top players possess. Although almost impossible to achieve, the optimal state for golf would be if you could become emotionally indifferent to good and bad shots and remain on the same level throughout – but show me any sportsperson who’s not emotionally charged and pumped up for winning and I’ll show you a loser!

It’s a balancing act. Remaining in emotional control when it matters most can be done but once again it takes practice, discipline and the finding of techniques that work for you. Then you need the ability to let it all go – when it goes wrong!

Padraig Harrington tells himself as part of his pre-shot routine that although he has a positive intention for the shot, if it doesn’t go where he wants it to, it’s better to accept it and move on, than get upset. He wants his mind to be clear, ready for the next shot – wherever it may be from – not harking back to the previous swing that put him in trouble.

Try giving yourself that same pep talk before your next sales call. Don’t let setbacks drag you down!

Conclusion

Ensure your sales people make every second of selling time count! That’s when they are performing their trade, their skill, their chosen career.

Encourage them to put the above ideas into practice and you will see continuous improvement in their sales ability and performance.

The sports industry has spent millions of dollars and decades of research fine tuning these techniques. Use them. They work!

Should you wish to discuss how Sports Psychology can help you and/or your Team improve Sales Performance please feel free to drop me an email or give me a call.

Here’s to successful Selling!

The Inner Coach

You can find more information on ways Sport Psychology can help your Sales right here:

Develop Your Inner Coach Series

5 Star Luxury Hotels in Scotland

If you’ve got the cash to splurge, or if you just fancy dreaming, Scotland has a number of top luxury hotels to match its spectacular scenery. Here are ten of the best. Some of these are famous names you may well have heard of, other perhaps not so. All of them however are amongst the most opulent accommodation you’ll find in Scotland.

The Marcliffe Hotel & Spa

Situated on the outskirts of Aberdeen amongst 11 acres of woodland grounds, this privately owned hotel is a lovely blend of the traditional and contemporary. The spa boasts aromatherapy, massages, and body treatments, whilst hunting, shooting and fishing are available on the local estates via the hotel’s agents. There is a strong focus on local and regional cuisine in the Marcliffe’s Conservatory Restaurant, with lunch often being served outdoors in summer. This is a hotel strongly focused on comfort and relaxation.

Kinloch House

This is a truly authentic Scottish country house hotel, elegant with an old world romance. Kinloch House is located a few miles outside the town of Blairgowrie in rural Perthshire amongst 25 acres of grounds. Family owned and run, it’s a popular wedding and big business meeting venue. The rooms echo it’s days in the Victorian era as a luxury sporting lodge, with intricate period details and lavish furnishings. Its restaurant is thought to be amongst the best in Perthshire, with top quality locally-sourced ingredients always on the menu.

Turnberry Resort

A famous name in Scottish accommodation which, like a couple of other hotels on this list, has a strong golfing association, having hosted four Open Championships on the course which it overlooks. Turnberry, located in rural Ayrshire, has received numerous accolades, including the Scottish Hotel of the Year award and the Golf Tourism Scotland award. It has a strong Edwardian feel, with the rooms boasting spectacular views across the golf course and the Firth of Clyde. There’s also a luxury spa with 20 metre swimming pool, fitness studio, sauna and steam room.

2121 Restaurant with Rooms

Something a little different – 2121, located in Edinburgh, is a Michelin Star restaurant which also sports four lavishly appointed rooms, each with a different theme and with fine views across Scotland’s capital city. As well as said Michelin Star it’s received a plethora of accolades for its cuisine and accommodation from the likes of the AA, the National Restaurant Awards, the Scottish Tourist Board, and the Scottish Style Awards.

Old Course Hotel

Another golfing Mecca in Scotland (indeed it’s the home of the game) is St Andrews, and just like Turnberry here you’ll find a another grand hotel perched by another famous golf course. The Old Course Hotel offers a 3 AA rosette restaurant alongside several other acclaimed (but less formal) bars and restaurants. There are 144 beautifully appointed rooms, including 35 suites, featuring amongst other lavish touches, silk lined walls, whilst a number possess private balconies. The hotel’s opulent spa features a 20 metre swimming pool with cascading waterfall, hydrotherapy pool, rooftop hot tub, steam room and sauna.

The Witchery by the Castle

At the top of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town, hidden amongst a muddle of historic buildings, you’ll find this little gem. Established in 1979 in the basement of a then derelict building, such is the reputation The Witchery has built over the years that it’s been said it’s ‘almost a famous as the castle itself’. Its reputation is built on an excellent restaurant, boasting the best of Scottish cuisine, which has proven a real hit with local residents, not to mention a plethora of celebrities. Its eight captivating suites have been described as ‘one the seven wonders of the hotel world’, each totally unique, filled with antiques and historic fixtures and fittings. This is a place to stay like no other.

Loch Ness Lodge

Recently the recipient of a prestigious UK & Ireland small hotel award, this exclusive, intimate venue is located on the banks of Loch Ness a couple of miles from the village of Drumnadrochit, and is particularly geared towards romantic escapes, weddings, and small house parties. Rooms are individually named and styled, taking inspiration from the lodge’s natural surroundings. There is excellent fine dining on offer, with the hotel always striving to source local, organic and ethically prepared produce, whilst also boasting its own kitchen garden. There is easy access to many local activities, including kayaking, fishing, shooting and pony trekking, and you certainly won’t find anywhere more sumptuous to stay for a spot of Nessie hunting!

Gleneagles Hotel

A most famous name in Scottish hotels, this world-renowned Spa & Golf Resort is located on an 850 acre Perthshire estate. It’s 232 rooms are all opulently appointed, with a choice of the traditional or the modern, whilst there’s also 26 suites available, the top one of which, the Royal Lochnagar Suite, is the absolute last word in luxury. The hotel’s spa is an incredible experience, designed to be the most tranquil space possible. Additionally there are two swimming pools, gym, saunas and Turkish bath. Outdoor activities provided include shooting, fishing, equestrian, 4 x 4 driving and of course, golf – Gleneagles has three championship courses and is set to host the Ryder Cup in 2014.

Inverlochy Castle

If you ever wanted to stay in a castle in Scotland, here’s how to do it in style! Located just outside the town of Fort William, Inverlochy is an incredible luxury hotel and restaurant located in the most spectacular of settings, among the glens and mountains of the West Highlands. In its former life as a 19th century private residence Queen Victoria once spent a week here, and as a hotel it very much retains that massively grand Victorian flavour. There are 17 individually styled and named rooms, all very spacious and sumptuously appointed, with facilities including laptop with internet access, and a personal safe. The restaurant is internationally recognised and boasts a Michelin Star. Sporting and Country Pursuits can be enjoyed on the local 75,000 acre Achnacarry Estate, as well as golf on Fort William’s 18 hole course, mountain biking, and winter sports at the nearby Nevis Range.

Glenapp Castle

Of course if you prefer your hotel castles in the south of Scotland, the Ayrshire village of Ballantrae to be precise, this one might fit the bill. Glenapp Castle, like Inverlochy above, is a an incredibly luxurious, opulent and sumptuously appointed Scottish hotel. To give you some idea, even the smallest of its 17 individually named, themed and styled rooms is big (198 sq. feet) and features an original fireplace with real flames. It boast one Michelin Star and four AA Rosettes for its fine dining restaurant, with an emphasis on the highest quality local Ayrshire produce. 36 acres of gardens are available for the exclusive use of guests, who can also can also enjoy access to a nearby normally private members spa.

Creditable or Calamitous? Reflections of a Derby Fan on a Season That Promised Promotion

As this 2014-15 Championship season races toward its conclusion, it’s hard to determine whether it represents success or failure for Derby County Football Club. Perhaps any individual assessment depends on one’s glass being generally half-full, or half-empty. As a Rams fan exiled in the Middle East, but able to see many of their games live or recorded in full afterwards, I haven’t made up my own mind on the matter just yet. This article is intended as a means toward that end.

Last season ended in play-off heartbreak. Derby were, of the play-off quartet, comfortably the form side going into the end-of-season event, and swept aside sixth-placed Brighton 6-2 over two legs. In the other semi-final, a dangerous Wigan side, who had earlier defeated eventual Premier League champions Manchester City in an astonishing FA Cup result, were edged out 2-1 by QPR, whose own form had been anything but convincing during the second half of the season. Derby controlled the Wembley final, and seemed almost certain to win when Rangers were reduced to ten men for a professional foul early in the second half; however, not for the first play-off final in their history, the Rams were defeated by a late winner, the product of two substandard pieces of defending and a wonderful finish by Bobby Zamora.

Such was Derby’s style and momentum, so impressive their individual performances – midfield starlet Will Hughes and prolific target man Chris Martin the most prominent among them – that the bookmakers installed the Rams as pre-season favourites this time around. Prospects were boosted still further when George Thorne, composed loan signing and Wembley man of the match, was signed permanently during the summer. Within days, however, Thorne – already no stranger to injuries in his short career – was ruled out for most of the season after damaging his knee in a friendly against Zenit St Petersburg. Appearing not to trust a whole season’s work to his natural replacement, the experienced John Eustace, Steve McClaren was delighted when the club’s player recruitment team snapped up Omar Mascarell, a stylish holding midfielder on the periphery of Real Madrid’s squad. It appeared to be a real coup, although all parties recognised that the Spaniard would need time to adapt to the greater speed and physicality of the Championship.

The season began with a 1-0 win over newly promoted Rotherham United, courtesy of a fine late strike from Irish midfielder Jeff Hendrick; a victory earned, in no small part, by the exciting contribution of new full-back Cyrus Christie, acquired from Coventry City to replace the solid, but now departed Liverpool loanee, Andre Wisdom. Christie’s defending was at least adequate (if not as impregnable as his predecessor), but it was the newcomer’s marauding runs that led many fans to feel hopeful that, far from the position being weakened, Derby might attain to greater attacking impetus from defence this season.

Of more concern, with Eustace out of favour, was the decision to play Hughes in the team’s apparently non-negotiable holding midfield role. While the player was undoubtedly good enough to play there, it was clear that neither of the more advanced players – Bryson, who many had expected to begin the season playing his football for a Premier League team, and Hendrick – could do exactly what Hughes was capable of further up the field. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the slight Hughes was not as comfortable with the physical side of the position as either the stocky Thorne or the guileful Eustace, and found himself almost sharing the position with substitute Mascarell from very early in the season. The Spaniard’s passing and energy did much to compensate for the evident weaknesses that many had predicted in his game: opponents gave him little time on the ball, and he quickly found himself on the receiving end of some rather combative challenges.

There were warning signs for Derby in a spirited but disjointed second league match at Sheffield Wednesday, which ended goalless. A first defeat followed in the next match, as stylish Charlton outplayed their more fancied guests, winning 3-2 and leaving many to wonder when the Rams would hit the performance levels of the previous season. They were encouraged by a merciless second-half display against Fulham, as Derby pummelled the plummeting Cottagers 5-1. Welcome to the Championship.

The Rams then embarked on an unbeaten run that spanned twelve games, including wins against expansive Bournemouth (2-0), Blackburn (3-2), Bolton (2-0) and Reading (3-0) (the latter three away from home); and resilient draws against early leaders and local rivals Nottingham Forest (1-1), and Cardiff (2-2) at home, a match in which the Rams had trailed by two goals. Derby’s comeback that day was begun by a debut goal from a new season-long loan signing from Liverpool: the fleet-footed and direct Jordon Ibe, whose contribution, with hindsight, seems as significant in Derby’s fortunes as was his premature return to Anfield in January.

That unbeaten run was curtailed by dogged Wigan, who belied their poor early season form by coming from behind to win 2-1 at the iPro Stadium. Derby then played two games in West London, hitting Fulham for five again (this time in the League Cup) before once again throwing away a lead against Brentford who, it seems, have never looked back since their last-minute win that day, courtesy of a fine goal from Stuart Dallas.

Derby needed to find their form – and find it they did, deservedly seeing off Huddersfield 3-2, before arguably their finest performance of the season in the annihilation of Wolves, 5-0 at the iPro. In the next match, Craig Bryson, who had so far struggled to reproduce his high standards of the two preceding seasons, scored a beauty to edge out Watford on their own turf. Suddenly Derby looked ready to seize their opportunity and run away with the league, just as their East Midlands rivals from Leicester had done the previous year.

It wasn’t to be so straightforward, unfortunately. The Rams went into their away match at Leeds, a team Derby had beaten for fun in recent seasons, seemingly unprepared for the grit and graft that would be needed to return with the points. They were outfought, and defeated, 0-2. But Steve McClaren prided himself on a team that could bounce back from disappointment, and Derby erupted out of the blocks against Brighton, winning the game with three first-half goals. In the opposing eleven that day was loanee Darren Bent, a wily, seasoned striker unable to convince then manager Paul Lambert of his right to a place in the Aston Villa side. Derby fans would be glad to see more of the discarded Bent very soon.

The following week, Derby were conquered at the summit by Middlesbrough, after a dour display in the North East demonstrated the worst they were capable of; Boro were organised and clinical, and undid Derby in their first attack, with former Rams loanee Patrick Bamford celebrating his opener gleefully – much to the annoyance of Derby fans, who had always had to overlook his affinity for their hated rivals, Forest. The Rams showed more fight and no little skill against a tidy and pressurising Norwich City side a week later, but were fairly denied a win when they conceded another late goal. The pattern of the previous season, in which Derby had become famed for their indefatigable spirit and late goalscoring, seemed to be shifting in the other direction.

The Rams began the festive period with a thumping win, 4-0 in the Birmingham snow. That was backed up with a revenge reversal of their 2-0 defeat at Leeds, and an excellent 1-0 win at Ipswich. John Eustace, hardly a fixture in the team, was immense in front of the back four, but his late dismissal and injury – from which he has yet to return despite two operations – would lead the Rams into the East Midlands derby once again relying on the unconvincing Mascarell. Even Forest fans approached the match fearfully. Their side had lost the previous season’s fixture 5-0, and the early season pacesetters now found themselves on a run of eight games without a win. Derby, fortuitously ahead but easily the better team before the break, gave a sickening validation of the phrase «game of two halves», and Forest exulted in a deserved shock win that would prolong the tenure of manager Stuart Pearce for a few more weeks. (This represented a bright side for many Rams fans, who were convinced their rivals’ progress would remain stagnant with the former England legend at the helm). Stunned at forfeiting local bragging rights, Derby fans demanded better, and were rewarded with three straight wins against Blackburn, Cardiff and Bolton.

The January transfer window had brought Bent in without a recall clause for his parent club, as well as Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard, and Hull City’s Tom Ince, who made an instant impact with a fabulous brace in the 4-1 destruction of Bolton. Leeds United captain Stephen Warnock, still not fit after being injured in the Rams’ 2-0 win over his side, came in to «add experience» to the squad, and presumably to spur the unspectacular Craig Forsyth to higher performance levels. An interesting further addition was the Spaniard Raul Albentosa, who Derby’s recruitment team appeared to have been stalking for some time, and who arrived in Derby having bought out his own contract with La Liga team Eibar, for whom he had offered some impressive performances throughout the season. Unfortunately, a niggling injury would delay Albentosa’s league debut for over a month.

Ince found the net again in an encouraging 2-2 midweek draw at top-of-the-table Bournemouth, where the most significant moment of the match would prove the early replacement of nineteen-goal Chris Martin. He would not return for eleven games; suddenly Bent’s loan signing seemed very important indeed, although a slightly different system of attack was needed to accommodate the latter’s style. The Rams approached the following midweek match at struggling Rotherham knowing that a win would take them back to the summit. Yet, once again, they failed to take their chance, with only a spirited fightback earning them a 3-3 draw, having trailed 1-3. Inspired by the return of George Thorne after seven months on the sidelines, Derby then won back-to-back home games against Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton, and found themselves on top of the league for the third time this season. Despite having repeatedly failed to press home the advantages they had gained, the bookies still made McClaren’s dangerous Derby side favourites for the title. They were to be proved emphatically wrong.

What followed resembles the stuff of nightmares for Derby fans. It began with a lacklustre defeat at Fulham, in which now pivotal loan signing Bent limped off, forcing the industrious and vastly improved Johnny Russell to assume a central striking role that he would retain for the next four games, without once finding the net. In addition, Thorne was again out of action, replaced in West London by the still-misfiring Mascarell. Typically, after the Fulham defeat, McClaren demanded a response. He got one, but not a result; the Rams battered Brighton but somehow contrived to lose the match 0-2. The focus intensified on Derby’s defence, arguably culpable for both goals. A performance and a win were needed when Birmingham came to the iPro, and the Rams picked them off easily, strolling toward a 2-0 victory as the match entered the third of four added second-half minutes. A few hearts were aflutter when the unspectacular Blues won, and converted, a penalty; Rams fans redoubled their whistling for full-time, the match length having already surpassed the additional time indicated. Nevertheless, a team with pretensions of winning promotion would surely be able to see the game out. Birmingham equalised in the seventh minute of injury time. The day ended with four teams on 66 points, separated by goal difference. Derby were still «in the mix», but nobody was quite sure how they were going to stay there on current form. And the games were only getting harder.

Derby went to resurgent Norwich the following Saturday with assistant Paul Simpson vowing that it was time to «win ugly» if necessary. Realistically, most Derby fans would have taken a draw, and when debutant Jamie Hanson’s corner was spilled into his own net by England goalkeeper John Ruddy, that’s exactly what they got. Hanson retained his place for the crucial midweek home match against Middlesbrough. Derby were toothless, loanee Lingard missing the best chance to fall to a white shirt. Once again, Boro were resolute; once again, it was Patrick Bamford, object of fear and loathing in Derby, who settled the match with an excellent finish. Derby were rocking.

The final game before the latest international break would take them to Wolves, hapless victims of the Rams’ finest moment of the season to date. McClaren and Simpson warned that the returns of Thorne and Martin may not be risked before the international break, but Bent was back to take his place at the centre of a truly astonishing refereeing controversy. Through on goal, the returning striker was fouled by Wolves captain and last man Danny Batth. Ince swept the ball into the net. The referee, who had already whistled for the foul, disallowed the goal and awarded a free-kick just outside the area. Rams fans watched in horror as the official, smiling sickeningly, refused to find any card in his pocket for the offender, much less the red one he clearly deserved. In some sort of grotesque tribute to John Ruddy, the normally reliable Lee Grant punched the ball into his own net to help Wolves wrap up a 2-0 win and move to within two points of Derby, who were slipping further from automatic promotion with every match. Fans picked the team apart, looking for an XI who could win the next match at home to high-flying Watford, thereby dragging the Rams’ promotion wagon back on track. Full-backs came under fire most of all, and here it was difficult to make a case for the defence. Left-back Forsyth, far superior defensively than in attack (perhaps surprisingly for a former midfielder), had compounded the injustice at Wolves by facilitating their first goal, inexplicably passing the ball to an opponent in a dangerous position. It was by no means the first time the Scotsman’s distribution had been found wanting during the season.

On the other side, Cyrus Christie was a nerve-shredded shadow of his early-season self. His first-half gift to Watford’s Vydra was cancelled out on the stroke of half-time by a Bent penalty, as the Rams’ opponents were reduced to ten men. Christie would not re-emerge after the break. Sadly, nor would George Thorne, attempting his second comeback of the season but lasting little more than twenty minutes. Once again, Derby contrived to throw away a winning position; Watford celebrated their 2-2 draw with delight, strengthening their own push for automatic promotion, while Derby retained their play-off place only on goal difference. The solitary silver lining seemed now to be the brief substitute appearance of Chris Martin, to whose absence so many had attributed the Rams’ slump.

On Easter Monday, with over four thousand Rams fans roaring them on, Derby finally picked up their first win in eight matches, as the talismanic Martin came off the bench to sweep them ahead at lowly Wigan. A typically opportunistic strike from Bent wrapped up the victory, leaving the Rams fascinatingly poised before the following weekend’s home match with Brentford. On paper, it seems the most difficult of the Rams’ remaining five fixtures, of which three are to be played at the iPro. However, with second-placed Norwich already five points ahead, and Watford and Middlesbrough much better placed to take advantage of any slip by the Canaries or leaders Bournemouth, only the most optimistic of Derby fans could reasonably expect automatic promotion at this stage. On the contrary, with Wolves in the best form of the current play-off place occupants, and Brentford able to overhaul the Rams with a win in their head-to-head, Derby still face a fierce battle to ensure their own place in the end-of-season competition that has already caused them so much heartache.

How has it come to this? And does the season represent a success or a failure for the Rams?

On reflection, it is important to consider the weight of expectation that has hung over the team all season. It is true that Derby were formidable during the latter part of the 2013-14 season, playing some scintillating football, and with an embarrassment of (injury-free) riches among their playing personnel. Yet arguably only Hughes and Russell have improved on their performances of the previous season; the immaculate Thorne has managed only three starts; Martin’s contribution has been blunted by the disastrous timing and duration of his injury; and the likes of Hendrick and Bryson have failed by some distance to match their performance levels of the previous season. Some loan signings have contributed much – particularly Ibe – while others have offered mixed fortunes: the injury-hit but prolific Bent; the frequently fantastic but oft-frustrating Ince, whose ball retention has been disappointing but who has scored some wonderful goals; and Mascarell, possessing all the vision and passing prowess one would expect of a Madrid graduate, but without ever providing a satisfactory solution for the role he was brought in to play.

Most attention has centred around the defence. In stark contrast to last season, during which the names of Andre Wisdom, Richard Keogh, Jake Buxton and Craig Forsyth seldom left the team sheet, McClaren has constantly tinkered with his defensive personnel this time around. Some fans have shown little patience with captain Keogh – possibly something of a hangover from his Wembley shocker – but in reality, the full-backs have proved a weaker link for most of the season. Christie, especially, seems particularly low on confidence, while the more self-assured Forsyth perhaps remains optimistic that his own form is solid enough and will improve still further; however, those who have endured his substandard performances throughout the season will likely have been glad of Warnock’s competent league debut at left-back in the victory at Wigan.

Another bone of contention relates to formation. While Derby have been more than a little unfortunate to experience long-term injuries to three holding midfield players (Thorne, Eustace and Mascarell), the lack of alternative playing styles and formations have also been mooted by fans as sources of frustration and failure to overturn teams that have set up defensively against the Rams and gained their rewards by doing so. The recent switch, through necessity, to a 4-2-3-1 has only added weight to this argument, not least because the defensive contribution of Mascarell has been questionable all season, and has almost certainly exacerbated any problems among the defence personnel. The use of Chris Martin behind Darren Bent has been used only fleetingly (albeit injuries have undoubtedly reduced the scope for this), while there is also a strong case for positioning the incisive passing of Hughes behind the front man, a move that has not been tried at all. This is not to suggest that the fans know better than McClaren; yet fans are certainly in a position to recognise what has not been working for long periods of the season. Managers, like players, can be «lucky» – not just in what they and their teams do, but in how they are perceived. Most things McClaren touched last season turned to gold. Such has been the man’s redemption since his ignominious England denouement, perhaps supporters had become over-confident in his ability. His true managerial performance, perhaps, lies somewhere between those two extremes of appraisal.

The mantra from the club, and the local press, remains that a Derby side returning to their best form are capable of ensnaring a promotion place this season. Some will fear that the likes of Will Hughes will be heading to the Premier League very soon, irrespective of how the Rams fare from now until the end of May.

It is never an easy ride being a Derby fan; one cannot sit back and get comfortable.

Derby have never been about coasting, but the rollercoaster.