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Rainbow Cup gives Munster a new gold dream to chase after

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No Munster player, coach or supporter has ever dreamed of winning the Guinness Pro14 Rainbow Cup, nor targeted the trophy at the outset of the season, not least because it didn’t exist.

Even so, those initial wins over Leinster and Ulster had left Munster atop the northern half of this ingeniously formatted tournament and well placed in the foot race over five games against random opponents to top a table of 12 teams for a place in the proposed final against the leading South African side.

Munster’s selection at home to Connacht last Friday week, when 18-point favourites, was a statement of intent, but the 24-20 defeat means they are no longer in control of their own destiny.

Benetton, winless in 16 games over the regular Pro14 season, are the only team for whom that applies after backing up their commanding 46-19 home win over Glasgow by completing the double over Zebre.

Munster still head a six-strong peloton with two wins out of three but, like the others, they need Benetton to lose at home to Connacht (also still in the mix) this Saturday or away to the Ospreys on Saturday fortnight. Munster also need to beat Cardiff at Thomond Park this Friday (kick-off 7.35pm) and Zebre away a fortnight later, probably with a bonus point or two.

They will be without Conor Murray, whose minor leg injury is not expected to sideline him for longer than this week, Chris Farrell (groin), Roman Salanoa (ankle), Thomas Ahern (illness), RG Snyman (knee) and Neil Cronin (knee), but Gavin Coombes and Paddy Patterson are back.

Drought

Winning the Rainbow Cup would at least ensure Munster’s trophy drought would not extend into an 11th season, so removing that monkey from their collective backs.

“I said from the outset that we want to win this tournament, we took it very seriously,” maintained forwards coach Graham Rowntree on Tuesday. “I think our selections have reflected that as well, and certainly our performances up until the disappointment against Connacht, and that last third of the game in particular. But we are taking it very seriously.”

Friday’s game against the Blues, a point behind Munster after 17-16 and 29-28 wins over the Dragons and Scarlets, is effectively a knock-out tie. “Very much so,” agreed Rowntree. “That’s it, literally; it’s a knock-out game.

“We’ve played against them twice this year, they’re a good team. Dai (Young) has made a change there going in. They’re a physical team, good defensively, good in the breakdown, massive attacking threat as well, a running ‘10’ and running ‘9’ threat,” added Rowntree in reference to the dangerous Tomos Williams-Jarrod Evans combination.

Cronin is not the first to discover that this was an unfortunate year to be out of contract for, at 30, he should be entering a prop’s prime years

“We’ll have our hands full, which is exactly what we need. We’re ready for it. We’ve certainly trained with this in mind and our preparation has gone really well.”

Munster confirmed last week that they are releasing James Cronin. Munster wanted to keep him but with budget cuts also contributing to compulsory redundancies elsewhere in the organisation, couldn’t afford to do so.

Cronin is not the first to discover that this was an unfortunate year to be out of contract for, at 30, he should be entering a prop’s prime years.

He has played 142 games for Munster (and won three caps for Ireland), including 13 starts this season, more than the other four loose-heads in the squad combined, in what has probably been his best campaign to date. Cronin started the Pro14 final against Leinster, the Champions Cup win over Harlequins and was on the bench against Toulouse.

Admiration

Contractual decisions are not part of Rowntree’s remit, and he was reluctant to add any more to Munster’s statement last week other than making his admiration for Cronin clear.

“I think he has been very good for us this year and I think, in any career, you’ve got to experience something new, which he will be looking to do. I can’t speak highly enough about working with the guy and wherever he goes, he will be successful.”

Injuries and Irish call-ups have restricted the 32-year-old David Kilcoyne to just three starts out of seven appearances for Munster this season, so the province have certainly made a statement of faith in Liam O’Connor (25, two starts this season), Jeremy Loughman (25, one start) and Josh Wycherley, who will graduate from the academy this summer.

The 20-year-old made four starts this season and performed manfully when pressed into a full Heineken Cup debut in the comeback win away to Clermont last December. He played 77 minutes that night, although he has been restricted to just 72 minutes since, in part due to several niggly injuries.

“It’s a very, very competitive position,” said Rowntree. “I think we’ve seen that this season with the performances of the guys there, Jeremy Loughman and Liam [O’Connor] in particular. Then Josh [Wycherley] took his chance; that game he had in Clermont was incredible. Stocks are good there. Guys do come through and guys leave the club, that’s just the nature of clubs.”

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Ireland ‘one of world’s best five places’ to survive global societal collapse

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Ireland is one of the world’s five places best suited to survive a global collapse of society, according to a new study. The others are Iceland, Tasmania, the UK and, topping the list, New Zealand.

The researchers say human civilisation is “in a perilous state” because of the highly interconnected and energy-intensive society that has developed and the environmental damage this has caused.

A collapse could arise from shocks such as a severe financial crisis, the effects of the climate crisis, destruction of nature, an even worse pandemic than Covid-19 or a combination of these, the scientists says.

To assess which nations would be most resilient to such a collapse, countries were ranked according to their ability to grow food for their population, protect their borders from unwanted mass migration, and maintain an electrical grid and some manufacturing ability. Islands in temperate regions and mostly with low population densities have come out on top.

The researchers say their study highlights the factors that nations must improve to increase resilience. They say that a globalised society that prizes economic efficiency has damaged resilience, and that spare capacity needs to exist in food and other vital sectors.

Billionaires have been reported to be buying land for bunkers in New Zealand in preparation for an apocalypse. “We weren’t surprised New Zealand was on our list,” says Prof Aled Jones, at the Global Sustainability Institute, at Anglia Ruskin University, in the UK.

“We chose that you had to be able to protect borders and places had to be temperate. So with hindsight it’s quite obvious that large islands with complex societies on them already” make up the list.

The study, published in the journal Sustainability, says: “The globe-spanning, energy-intensive industrial civilisation that characterises the modern era represents an anomalous situation when it is considered against the majority of human history.”

The study also says that environmental destruction, limited resources and population growth mean civilisation “is in a perilous state, with large and growing risks developing in multiple spheres of the human endeavour”.

New Zealand was found to have the greatest potential to survive relatively unscathed due to its geothermal and hydroelectric energy, abundant agricultural land and low human population density.

Jones says major global food losses, a financial crisis and a pandemic have all happened in recent years, and “we’ve been lucky that things haven’t all happened at the same time – there’s no real reason why they can’t all happen in the same year”.

He adds: “As you start to see these events happening I get more worried, but I also hope we can learn more quickly than we have in the past that resilience is important. With everyone talking about ‘building back better’ from the pandemic, if we don’t lose that momentum I might be more optimistic than I have been in the past.”

He says the coronavirus pandemic has shown that governments can act quickly when needed. “It’s interesting how quickly we can close borders, and how quickly governments can make decisions to change things.”

But, he adds, “This drive for just-in-time, ever-more-efficient economies isn’t the thing you want to do for resilience. We need to build in some slack in the system, so that if there is a shock then you have the ability to respond because you’ve got spare capacity. We need to start thinking about resilience much more in global planning. But, obviously, the ideal thing is that a quick collapse doesn’t happen.” – Guardian

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Couple who bought coach house reveal transformation on George Clarke’s Remarkable Renovations 

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A couple who bought a 19th-century coach house for £284,000 reveal their transformation of the property into a stunning family home on tonight’s episode of George Clarke’s Remarkable Renovations. 

Childhood sweethearts Laura and Adrian, from Staffordshire, sold their own home, moved into a caravan and began renovating the derelict building into an Insta-worthy three bedroom house, with an added granny annex for Adrian’s parents Andrew and Elinor.

The couple, who appear on the Channel 4 programme tonight, initially wanted to renovate the 900 sq ft property within a £350,000 budget. 

But the build was hampered by difficulties from the outset, including delays with planning permission and the Covid-19 crisis, pushing their bill up to £450,000.   

BEFORE: Laura and Adrian, from Staffordshire, reveal their unrecognisable transformation of a 19th-century coach house into a stunning family home on George Clarke's Remarkable Renovations tonight. Pictured, the home property before the build

BEFORE: Laura and Adrian, from Staffordshire, reveal their unrecognisable transformation of a 19th-century coach house into a stunning family home on George Clarke’s Remarkable Renovations tonight. Pictured, the home property before the build

AFTER: At the end of the build the couple unveil their stunning contemporary home which oozes charm and character. The living space blends modern style with traditional features, keeping the building's style alive

AFTER: At the end of the build the couple unveil their stunning contemporary home which oozes charm and character. The living space blends modern style with traditional features, keeping the building’s style alive

BEFORE: Having been used as a coach-house for other people's caravans for the past decade, the building is in poor condition with rotten timbers and mismatched brickwork at the start of the project. Above, a room that becomes the living room

BEFORE: Having been used as a coach-house for other people’s caravans for the past decade, the building is in poor condition with rotten timbers and mismatched brickwork at the start of the project. Above, a room that becomes the living room 

AFTER: The couple went £100,000 over budget on the build after unexpected costs sprung up but were delighted with the final result, including this stylish living room complete with pops of colour and plush furniture

AFTER: The couple went £100,000 over budget on the build after unexpected costs sprung up but were delighted with the final result, including this stylish living room complete with pops of colour and plush furniture 

The property is situated in the grounds of what was the Cliff Hall estate in the village of Kingsbury, near Birmingham.  

When George first met the couple in June 2019, they had already been living in a caravan on the site for 18 months in order to save money.   

Laura, a project manager in forensics, revealed the family have already ‘put a lot of effort’ into the building given it was originally intended to store horses and has been completely empty for 10 years.

Having been used as a coach-house for other people’s caravans for the past decade, the building was in poor condition at the start of the project, with rotten timbers and mismatched brickwork. 

But it was ripe for renovation, with Adrian and Laura seeing it’s potential and pipping a developer to the post to buy it for £284,000. 

KITCHEN BEOFRE: The couple appear on the Channel 4 programme tonight as they reveal their hopes to transform the 900 sq ft property with a budget of just £350,000. Above, one of the derelict rooms with crumbling and uneven floors before

KITCHEN BEOFRE: The couple appear on the Channel 4 programme tonight as they reveal their hopes to transform the 900 sq ft property with a budget of just £350,000. Above, one of the derelict rooms with crumbling and uneven floors before

KITCHEN AFTER: Features including the exposed brick walls and wooden beams add a touch of character to the space, which is otherwise kitted out as a modern home perfect for family living

KITCHEN AFTER: Features including the exposed brick walls and wooden beams add a touch of character to the space, which is otherwise kitted out as a modern home perfect for family living

Laura and Adrian end up living in a caravan on the building site for three years in order to get the project finished - but they insist it has all been worth it

Laura and Adrian end up living in a caravan on the building site for three years in order to get the project finished – but they insist it has all been worth it 

The ground floor had two large spaces, with two small rooms squashed into the middle. Meanwhile upstairs is a wide open space.

Laura and Adrian planned to build a modern timber frame inside the old brick shell, allowing them to configure the space exactly to their needs. They also wanted to build a self-contained two bed annex connected to the main house, where Adrian’s parents Andrew and Elinor will live.

Andrew says: ‘It was one Saturday morning they came up and they bought pictures of this place they’d looked at. 

‘In the past, we considered a wild pipe dream of building  something as a family. They said, “If you sold your house and we sold ours and we steal your pension, we could do this”.’

Meanwhile Elinor jokes: ‘They said can we have your money basically.’

Understandably, the couple have high expectations, Elinor tells George: ‘I’m not compromising on kitchens and bathrooms.’

Meanwhile Andrew, who uses a mobility scooter, says the property will need to be on one level. 

The family carefully stockpiled everything from the demolition of the barn, including over 70,000 bricks, to save money.   

With planning permission finally granted, and the family aimed to get everyone in in 10 months, enlisting local contractors to help. 

They quickly spent £15,000 reinforcing the current foundations and pouring concrete into the building’s floor.    

HALLWAY AFTERWARDS: The stunning space is flooded with light, while Adrian's clever design and craftsmanship brings together contemporary elements with the traditional features of the barn (pictured, the hallway)

HALLWAY AFTERWARDS: The stunning space is flooded with light, while Adrian’s clever design and craftsmanship brings together contemporary elements with the traditional features of the barn (pictured, the hallway) 

However it was not long before they feel their budget dwindling, with Adrian confessing he had to let go of his local builders.

He says: ‘It’s a shame I haven’t got another £50,000 to let the guys crack on. Not at the rate they’re on. The problem was never going to be getting someone to build it, it was going to be me doing as much as I can to get my hands on.’

Meanwhile Laura confesses: ‘We’ve been here so long, it’s like what’s another few months to get it right.’

Two months later, winter arrives in Tamworth and living in a caravan begins to take it’s toll on the family.

Elinor says: ‘Caravan is getting a bit tired now, it’s looking a bit worn. It’d be nice to have space.’

Meanwhile Andrew adds: ‘Things  are going reasonably well, but things are looking a little bit tight. Adrian has been busy – it’s a compromise between how much time he’s at work and being justified to get others in on the budget.’

MASTER BEDROOM AFTERWARDS: The couple build timber beams into the property, creating a stunning barn style master bedroom. The luxurious space is a welcome change after months living in a caravan

MASTER BEDROOM AFTERWARDS: The couple build timber beams into the property, creating a stunning barn style master bedroom. The luxurious space is a welcome change after months living in a caravan

With the budget and schedule slipping, Adrian is doing more and more of the work himself.  

Andrew jokes: ‘Time is a big problem,  we said it would be finished by Christmas…but we didn’t specify which Christmas that would be.’

By February 2020, Laura is also feeling the strain of caravan life – having lived in one for over two years.

She says: ‘It is hard work. these past few months, we’ve really struggled with the weather. It’s the mud more than anything.’

Meanwhile the mother-of-two admits she feels the burden of building a home for her in-laws as well as her own dream property, saying: ‘I’m really lucky, we got on really well anyway but we’re feeling a huge sense of responsibility towards them. Basically they’ve invested everything they’ve got in us and the vision we had.’

She continues: ‘I’ve known Adrian since I was about eight and we’ve been together for 17 years. We lost Adrian’s brother a few years ago and it makes you re-evaluate things and you realise how important it is to have family around you. It puts a different perspective on life. This has bought us closer together for sure.’

One month later, the family were knocked sideways as the pandemic shut the site down. 

The couple ended up spending £100,000 over their initial budget in order to complete the stunning family home for their children and in-laws. Pictured, the dining space leads on from the kitchen and has an industrial-style picnic table

The couple ended up spending £100,000 over their initial budget in order to complete the stunning family home for their children and in-laws. Pictured, the dining space leads on from the kitchen and has an industrial-style picnic table 

Elinor tells the camera: ‘We’re doing okay, it’d be nice to move in. We haven’t all fallen out completely but there’s  been some arguments.’  

Laura and Adrian struggled to get building supplies amid the pandemic, with Laura saying: ‘It’s reordered the schedule of things. Some of the busy jobs we’d been hoping would happen, just haven’t’ been able to.’

By July 2020, the building was finally watertight. But the budget was gone. ‘A family member has managed to lend us £50,000…but there’s only £4,000 of that left,’ Adrian says on the programme.

‘But there is another £10,000 that will get the build done…It’s my mother’s own secret stash that was going to pay for her kitchen just to get the house finished.’

George says there was a ‘massive challenge’ to get the family into the building within two months and admits he is concerned about how much work there is still to be done. 

Meanwhile Laura and Adrian also create cosy single bedrooms for their two sons, which are joined together with a mezzanine for the children to play on (pictured)

Meanwhile Laura and Adrian also create cosy single bedrooms for their two sons, which are joined together with a mezzanine for the children to play on (pictured) 

However two months later, the couple unveiled their stunning contemporary home which oozes charm and character. 

The living space blends modern style with traditional features, keeping the building’s style alive.

Upstairs, the space is divided to give the children their own mirror image bedrooms with a mezzanine between the two.

Meanwhile the gorgeous master bedroom acts as the perfect upgrade from caravan living.

And downstairs, the adjourning annex for Adrian’s parents is an elegant new-build structure connected to the main house with a glazed walkway.

The couple confess the three year long build has been ‘more than worth it’, with Adrian saying: ‘I think we’re going to be around £450,000 build cost. I’ve done it for a reason, I’ve done it for the family. That’s what it’s about.’ 

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Dusty Hill, bassist for rock band ZZ Top, dies aged 72

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Dusty Hill, bassist for rock band ZZ Top, has died at the age of 72.

Hill, who had recently suffered a hip injury, died in his sleep, as confirmed by a statement on Instagram from band-mates Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard.

“We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX,” it read. “We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the ‘Top’. We will forever be connected to that ‘Blues Shuffle in C.’ You will be missed greatly, amigo.”

His recent injury had meant that Hill was forced to miss performances as part of the band’s summer tour. There have been no further details on cause of death.

ZZ Top’s first single was released in 1969 after the demise of Moving Sidewalks, the band that Gibbons had previously formed. Their first concert, with Hill included, was in 1970 and the year after their first album was released.

The band would go on to find fame with 15 albums and were best known for hits including 1983’s Gimme All Your Lovin’ and 1984’s Legs. In 1984, Hill also accidentally shot himself, something he remained lighthearted about years later.

“My first reaction was ‘s**t!’ and then ‘ouch!’ ” he said in a 2016 interview. “I couldn’t believe I’d done something so stupid. To this day, I don’t know how I could do it.”

As well as playing bass guitar, Hill also played keyboard and sung backing and lead vocals for the band. They were all inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

He made appearances in Back to the Future Part III and Deadwood and also played himself in King of the Hill.

“I don’t believe in regrets at all,” Hill also said in 2016. “What’s the point? There are things I’ve done that, if I had my time all over again, I would do differently – or not at all. But I am the sort of person who, once something’s done, just brushes it away and gets on with life.”

Tributes are coming in from the industry, including from Flea who referred to Hill as “a true rocker” and Go-Gos member Kathy Valentine who tweeted that Hill is “a Texas icon”. – Guardian

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