CORONAVIRUS: Local businesses salvage hen weekend for intensive care doctor

CORONAVIRUS: Local businesses salvage hen weekend for intensive care doctor

LOCAL businesses have answered the plea to surprise a young frontline NHS doctor who was forced to cancel her wedding and hen weekend after two years in the planning.

Melissa Hood and Mat Park, who have lived in Warwick for six years since meeting at Birmingham University, were devastated to learn they’d have to call off their big day in Tuscany, Italy, on May 25th.

COVID-19, Coronavirus, Flamenco, Tasca Dali,
Melissa Hood and Mat Park take delivery of their Spanish five-course taster menu and wine from Tasca Dali.

But unbeknown to the bride – and determined not to let COVID-19 completely ruin the celebrations – her five bridesmaids reached out to local businesses from 200 miles away in Melissa’s home town of Newcastle, to cook up a series of special surprises for the couple.

And on Sunday they took in a steady stream of deliveries including food, drink and pamper treats. Central to the celebration was a five-course feast and wine courtesy of Tasca Dali Spanish restaurant in High Street, Warwick.

Other arrivals included complimentary cocktails from The Square and even a temporary hot tub from Lovely Tubbly, both businesses based in Warwick.

Twenty-eight-year-old Melissa, who works in ICU at Warwick Hospital, said: “It’s been the perfect storm of everything happening together like the wedding being cancelled, not being able to see family and this intense time at work.

“Mat and I were both gutted about the wedding. We felt bitter, upset and angry, almost like you’re mourning something. But when it started to become apparent how serious the pandemic was and you hear stories from other people in worse situations, you feel guilty for being upset because we’ve got it good compared to a lot of people.

“We started to look at rescheduling it for next year but because two of our bridesmaids and my dad are all teachers we are quite restricted. It has to be in the summer holidays.”

She added: “I’m so lucky to have such thoughtful and kind best friends. I feel humbled. It’s really taken me aback. We’ve been there for each other over the years but this has really brought home how much I love and miss them.”

“They managed to keep all the plans very quiet. I didn’t even know where the hen weekend was going to be. A lot of planning had gone into it and I was very excited about it but I’m so touched by their kindness and the kindness of these local businesses.”

COVID-19, Coronavirus, Flamenco, Tasca Dali

The makeshift hen party plans have been led by bridesmaid, and friend since school, Anna Gardner, who said: “Melissa is working so hard on the front line as a doctor, with her annual leave for the time being postponed, and all of her wedding dreams turned upside down. We wanted to show them both how much we love them and appreciate everything Melissa is doing for the NHS.

“We wanted to do something special for Melissa on what should have been her hen weekend, as we know how much she was looking forward to it.

“It was hard to think what we could do as us bridesmaids are in Newcastle, so I thought I would post a message in a group I found on Facebook and straight away I got messages, shares on the posts and offers of support, it’s been lovely and has brought some joy to a really hard time.”

The owner of award-winning Spanish restaurant Tasca Dali, Alex Clayton, said: “When I heard about Melissa and Mat’s story I was delighted to be able to do my bit to make their day special with a delivery of Tasca Dali’s delicious five-course taster menu, plus a bottle of wine.

Alex, who also owns Flamenco Spanish Restaurant in West Street, added: “Melissa is among our local frontline NHS team working so hard to protect us against the worst effects of this pandemic and, even though it is challenging times for the hospitality business, this is something I wanted to do, to say thanks.”

Dawn Blakemore, co-owner of Lovely Tubbly in Warwick, who arranged free hot tub hire for the day, said: “I really felt for Melissa. As if being a doctor in these times wasn’t challenging enough – and we sure appreciate the NHS now more than ever – we wanted to play our part in helping to give her a special day.”

COVID-19, Coronavirus, Flamenco, Tasca Dali
Richard Barrett-Constantinou prepares the cocktails from The Square outside Melissa’s front door.

Richard Barrett-Constantinou, who runs The Square in Warwick with his sister Joanna, said: “We provided some cocktails, a bottle of fizz and beers for Matt too so they could enjoy a private hen/stag party together and both feel special.”

Despite the huge disappointments, every shift in ICU acts as a reminder to Melissa, 28, to count her blessings as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to tighten its grip on communities. But she is also quick to reassure.

“It is a very intensive environment because we’re waiting for the full storm to hit. But there has been a lot of planning and preparation gone in to trying to make things as safe as possible and lots of rearranging of the hospital.

“For me, actually, the most important thing is for those people who are genuinely sick with other medical problems that are not COVID related, like chest pains or stroke, not to be scared to go to hospital because of COVID, because they still need medical attention. I have noticed a significant difference in numbers and it does worry me.”

She added: “There’s been a lot of talk about lack of PPE but I haven’t had a problem with it personally. A lot of work has been put into amending the rota so that we minimise exposure. The hospital is looking after us and we are being well supported.

“It is very touching to hear the clapping every week and we’ve been receiving lots of donations of food and cake from the public.”

COVID-19, Coronavirus, Flamenco, Tasca Dali
Melissa and Mat link up for a remote celebration with the bridesmaids.

Throughout it all, Melissa says she manages to keep herself grounded with regular running and Mat’s support. And, despite the pressure on her profession, still looks forward to making a difference every day.

“I’m actually really grateful that I’m able to do this job. Despite all the sadness, it’s given me the opportunity to do what I came into this profession for and help people. It’s rewarding work.”

Melissa says she is looking forward to being able to visit her friends and family again after lockdown. But in the meantime, her overriding message is a familiar one.

“I want to say thank you to everybody for adhering to the lockdown measures. We all know it’s really hard but what they’re doing by being at home is really important and we are so grateful. We can see every day that it is making a difference.”

Twenty-nine-year-old Mat, who is working from home as a purchasing controller, said: “I do worry about her but Melissa is so keen to get in. She really does love her job. I’m here to support her to make sure it’s as easy as possible at home so she can do everything she can at work. I’m very proud of her. I stand outside and clap every Thursday much to Melissa’s embarrassment. To see her go off and make a real difference does make you feel proud. It’s really good they’re getting the recognition they deserve.

“I just hope it’s not just a World Cup for the NHS but that everyone will always remember this period and realise what they do all day, every day and every week of the year. Hopefully long term there will be more of an awareness and an appreciation for the best healthcare service in the world.”

CORONAVIRUS: Restaurateur launches emergency Care Packages in response to virus

CORONAVIRUS: Restaurateur launches emergency Care Packages in response to virus

AS WELL as pledging to continue serving his customers during the Coronavirus lockdown, an award-winning restaurateur has gone one step further to help.

Alex Clayton, who owns Spanish restaurants Flamenco and Tasca Dali in Warwick, is launching Care Packages, including cleaning and food shopping services.

Flamenco, Tasca Dali, Alex Clayton, Warwick, Coronavirus
Alex Clayton outside Flamenco in West Street.

While available to everyone, the new pick and mix-style packages have been designed to particularly support the elderly and vulnerable who are being asked by the government to self-isolate for three months.

From Monday, food can be ordered by all customers direct from the restaurant as well as through Uber Eats – with free delivery in Warwick.

But vulnerable members of society can also take advantage of weekly cleans being organised by Alex, as well as a free grocery shopping delivery.

An additional 10% discount is being offered on any orders for the Over 70s and for NHS staff (with ID).

Alex said: “As a local business that provides amazing food and service to those who live nearby, we want to give back as much as we can to people in these trying times and for that reason we are now offering a full delivery service so people can still enjoy our food from home.

“We are trying to adapt in a complex environment and help those loyal customers who have supported us over the years.”

Flamenco, Tasca Dali, Alex Clayton, Warwick, Coronavirus
Alex Clayton at Tasca Dali in High Street.

Alex is also quick to reassure people that strict hygiene measures have been implemented at both Flamenco in West Street and Tasca Dali in High Street.

“In this time when there is much worry about the effects of COVID19, I would just like to reassure everyone that at Flame’nCo and Tasca Dali, we follow a strict cleaning regime disinfecting all tables before and after use as well as all cutlery, glassware and plates. We go above and beyond current WHO guidelines.”

He added: “In addition, many of our tables in Tasca have copper tops which have strong anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. The air in our restaurants is filtered via a UV recirculation filter which is the same technology as that used in hospitals. We also have reduced the maximum capacity of the restaurant by 50% so that there is plenty of space between diners.

“I am personally here to look after you. We have been here now seven years, were awarded Best Spanish Restaurant of The Year and I do hope, with your support, we shall be here another seven years at least!”

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Paella is among the favourite dishes included on the new fast track takeaway menu.

In a further measure to try and sustain business, customers are being encouraged to support the restaurants by buying gift vouchers. As an incentive, a 10% discount is also being offered on all vouchers purchased until April 30th.

Visit: https://flamencowarwick.com and www.tascadali.com for further information. Visit https://flamencowarwick.com/uber-eats-menu for the takeaway menu. Visit: https://www.tascadali.com/takeaway-homecare for the Care Package and visit: https://flamencowarwick.com/covid19 for full Covid-19 for full hygiene statement.

Official WHO (World Health Organisation) guidance on Coronavirus is available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

Charity music nights set to strike the right chord

Charity music nights set to strike the right chord

A SERIES of new live music events will raise the right notes for local charities at a venue in Warwick.

Flamenco Spanish restaurant at Tudor House in West Street is hosting the Friday night music quizzes as part of its new regular weekend live music offering.

And on Sundays youngsters are being encouraged to showcase their talent in the Flamenco Factor, where prizes are also up for grabs.

Alex Clayton and The Miacats with Rachel Ollerenshaw from Molly Olly’s Wishes. Photo by David Fawbert Photography.

The music is provided by, among others, The Miacats, made up of musicians Mia Rose from Stratford and Leamington’s Stephen Boyer and Rob Cooper who play a variety of instruments including guitar, bass and cajon (drum box.)

Mia said: “We’re trying to offer something that’s unique in the sense that we want people to take part and have fun. Music is largely about building communities through song so that’s our aspiration really. It’s to encourage people to express themselves, not to be brilliant but about going away with a sense of having enjoyed it and felt like they were a part of something.

“We bring loads of percussion, such as bongos, tambourines, shakers, bells and put it all out on the table and invite people to explore it. If you do it like that you build a really nice rapport with the audience. It’s about getting the audience on board, not just about doing a quiz.”

Flamenco, Tudor Inn, Warwick

The quiz will take the format of Name That Tune with prizes and free drinks on offer, followed by a further hour of fifties, sixties and Motown music.

Rob and guests also perform A Bagful of Soul set at Flamenco on Saturday evenings and, on Sunday afternoons, Stephen and guests perform jazz and sixties tunes.

Proceeds from weekly raffles throughout the month will be donated to a number of local charities, the first to benefit being Molly Olly’s Wishes.

The Warwick-based charity was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

It works to support children with terminal or life-limiting illnesses and their families and help with their emotional wellbeing as well as grant wishes and donate therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

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Molly Ollerenshaw just a few weeks before she passed away, aged eight.

Mascot of the charity is a therapeutic toy lion called Olly The Brave who has his own Hickman line and a detachable mane which helps to explain and normalise the effects of chemotherapy. These form part of an Olly The Brave pack that has now been handed out to more than 40 hospitals, along with a book from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.

Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “Molly Olly’s Wishes are very grateful to the team at Flamenco for their support. Quiz nights are always good fun and great for different age groups. The local support is really important to the charity so thank you to everyone involved.”

Further information about Molly Olly’s Wishes or how to donate can be found at: www.mollyolly.co.uk

Alex Clayton, proprietor at Flamenco, said: “Music and the arts is a great way to raise awareness for local charities that have a message to send and we’re delighted to be supporting this wonderful cause.”

In another new feature for 2020, The Flamenco Factor, the restaurant hosts a series of talent heats leading to a grand final later in the year.

Alex said: “We are keen to make Flamenco a creative space for music and food. I think music is something children don’t have enough exposure to so the whole idea is that parents can come, have their Sunday lunch and then can showcase the talent of their children. It’s something no one else is doing around here.”

Flamenco, Tudor Inn, Warwick

Flamenco is the second project for Alex Clayton who recently won Best Spanish Restaurant Award for Tasca Dali which opened in High Street seven years ago.

Following a refurbishment and with more exciting plans for the year ahead, he now hopes to replicate this success at the new Spanish restaurant, marking the latest chapter in the rich history of The Tudor House Inn in West Street.

https://flamencowarwick.com

New Spanish restaurant retains plenty of the old spirit(s)!

New Spanish restaurant retains plenty of the old spirit(s)!

IT’S a new chapter for a well known Warwick inn which has recently reopened as a Spanish restaurant and cocktail bar.

But, while the team and interior may be new, there’s no doubting the building still retains its original spirit – in every sense!

The 17th-century former manor house in West Street, regarded as one of the most recognisable buildings in the town, is now home to Flamenco restaurant – and a resident friendly ghost called Jennifer!

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Julia Correderas Orozco; Sweetie Sohal and Alex Clayton are joined for the photo by a ghostly guest at the haunted rocking chair! Photo by Soft Focus Productions

Spooked staff at the business have reported a series of unexplained sights and sounds over the years, from shadowy figures to flying glasses and self-rocking rocking chairs.

Former manager Sweetie Sohal, whose family have owned the building for 18 years, recalled her first ghostly encounter in the winter of 2010.

“I remember I was pregnant with my first child and, on two occasions, I came through the door and heard a young lady say ‘hello’ even though I knew there was no one else in the building.

“A lot of people would say to me that when you’re pregnant your brain plays tricks on you so I’d put it down to that and didn’t think any more of it.

“Then, a few years later when my daughter was about five, we were here on a Sunday evening with friends who were having a birthday meal. One person was taking lots of photographs and video. There’s a small window going up the stairs and, in all the years, I had never seen anything in that window. But the camera shots revealed a face in the window. It was a young girl of similar age to my daughter with olive skin. And it looked like there was a skull shape next to her which was freaky.

“Everyone was shocked when they saw the picture. She looked very sullen and sad like she wanted to play with the children but couldn’t come out.”

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Julia Correderas Orozco; Sweetie Sohal and Alex Clayton. Photo by Soft Focus Productions.

One of the town’s oldest inns, The Grade II Tudor House was among only a handful of buildings to survive the Great Fire of Warwick in 1694, which destroyed most of High Street, Church Street, Sheep Street and parts of Jury Street and New Street.

From a manor house it went on to become Sunnyside Apartments in 1888, an auction house in the early 1900s, Tudor House Café and then Tudor House Inn bed and breakfast, as it’s best known today. It’s this rich history – and tales of the supernatural – that still attract ghost hunters from across the country.

Sweetie’s spiritual encounters continued throughout the years including glimpses of ghosts and sinister activity.

She said: “One day I caught the back end of somebody going up the stairs and no one was in the building. I believe I saw the tail of a black skirt.

“Three or four of our older customers tell us how they used to come in as a child 40-50 years ago, and they remember seeing a maid standing here in black and white. And it was always in this room on those stairs.

“A few years ago there was a lady in here who sketched a picture and she said: ‘I’ve just seen this lady and wanted to sketch a picture for you.’ It made me jump out of my skin because it was the maid wearing the black and white outfit!”

There have also been sightings of a man who used to sit smoking at the bar wearing a distinctive hat adorned with a long feather.

But Sweetie is quick to reassure customers that the ghostly guests mean no harm. Jennifer is a friendly young spirit whom, she believes, is just keeping a watching brief on her former home.

She said: “I was told by a spiritualist that the spirits within this building like me and I will not have a problem. She gave me advice that if I made changes and I felt something was going wrong in here, like the electrics or water etc. just to stand in the middle of the room and talk to Jennifer and say ‘today, this is what we’re going to do and I will make sure I am on top of it and no one damages anything.’

“Any time we would have a party of, say 50 or more people, the Coke hose on the bar would stop working. After the last person had left, I would say ‘try the Coke gun now’ and it would be working. It’s because she doesn’t like that many people in the building.”

She added: “She was here before me and I am just a passer through. I think she just wants it to be recognised that she’s there. It’s nothing to worry about. She is a nice spirit and is not here to cause anyone any harm, it’s more a blessing really.

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Julia Correderas Orozco; Sweetie Sohal outside haunted Room 10. Photo by Soft Focus Productions.

But three years ago Sweetie’s nerve was first tested when, whilst staying in one of the bedrooms with her daughter during building work on her home, she was forced to take action.

“We stayed in Room 10 and one night the television came on and it went ice cold at the bottom of the bed. I turned it off but it came on three times! I woke up my daughter and did the only thing I could think of and got the Bible and started reading a Psalm out of the New Testament. I left the Bible open, and all of a sudden that freezing cold feeling had gone and that’s when I personally experienced what some customers will talk about that happens in Room 10.”

Bar manager and waitress, Julia Correderas Orozco, from Spain, admits she was not a believer in ghosts – until she started working at Flamenco three months ago.

She said: “Customers recently reported seeing a glass just fall off a table that had no one was sitting at and I saw for myself one fly off a shelf while I was pulling a pint.

“I also help clean the rooms here and have heard the TV turning itself on regularly. And guests have asked about the presence of ghosts because they hear noise in the night and their rooms suddenly go deathly cold, despite their radiator being on.”

Flamenco opened in April and marks the second project for new restaurateur Alex Clayton who recently won Best Spanish Restaurant award for Tasca Dali which he opened seven years ago.

 

Flamenco, Warwick, Alex Clayton, Halloween
The 17th-century former manor house is regarded as one of the most recognisable buildings in Warwick.

He now hopes to replicate this success with his authentic and traditional cooking methods specialising in tapas, paella cooked over flame and hot stone cooking (meat is cooked on a hot stone) – plus live music and cocktails. This cooking style was the inspiration for the restaurant’s new name Flame’nCo.

But Alex Clayton is yet to get the approval of his ‘special guests.’

He said: “I believe this place has an energy. The good news is that all the indications we have from the experts are that the ghost is benign and there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Despite that, there is still one feature of the business he is reluctant to change – a decrepit rocking chair that is believed to be haunted with the ghost of Jennifer.

Sweetie said: “I have told Alex not to move the rocking chair in the back room. Every time we had a party and I’d have to move it I would gently pick it up and place it somewhere else and would reassure her: ‘Jenny, you sit here and keep an eye on everybody. It’s going to be a good night and we’re going to have a great party.’ Nothing would ever seem to go wrong then.

“I remember once, three years ago, moving the rocking chair to the balcony in the bar while we were redecorating and had a massive water leak gushing through from upstairs and I blamed it on the chair. When I moved it back to its rightful place nothing ever happened again.

Alex respectfully added: “It will be kept here. It is part of the furniture of the place. It’s part of the building and in the same way we respect the building we try to respect the history that comes with it.

“People can come and ask the chair if it will let them sit in it and we will see how it responds!”

https://flamencowarwick.com