Out of the Ashes

Welcome to Phoenix One, the new Ordinary Decent Laptop

Eighteen days after the Great Fire of Plymouth (not to be confused with the fire of 1902), I am typing on my brand new Dell Inspiron 16, and what a computer it is. The specifications roughly matched my old laptop, but were updated, and the only deficit (if you can call it that) is the substitution of a 4K display for a 3K one. It is a gorgeous screen though. The power button doubles as a fingerprint reader, too, which is a nice touch.

The Dell Inspiron 16

The newer hardware is definitely noticeable though, as I’ve been bumped up from the Intel Core i7-7700HQ to the i7-12700H, an upgrade that will help with photo and video editing on the go. My old laptop was by no means a slouch, but any boost to speed up render times is more than welcome. The graphics card has been changed from the GTX 1050 to the RTX 3050 which is also a significant upgrade, and I’m looking forward to getting into the Xbox Game Pass.

This one goes to 11

And 11 is one better than 10, right? Right? I don’t know if anyone of the current generation appreciates This is Spinal Tap, but it’s still a favourite of mine. I’m in the process of adjusting to a markedly different user experience. One of the frustrating things about Windows 11 is getting started. It took an age of clicking through pages offering different services and personalisation options before I got to something that resembled a desktop. The user interface has become Mac-esque, adopting a central dock instead of the left hand aligned task bar of previous iterations. The Windows logo has disappeared from the left hand corner too, and I’d be lying if is said I didn’t miss it. It has been with me for the majority of my life, so let me mourn for a functional setup that didn’t really need changed.

There is one particular positive I’ve noticed, though. So far the Windows search function actually works, unlike Windows 10 which was less effective than a chocolate teapot (and not nearly as delicious). Although we’ll see if that continues to be the case after it becomes bloated with a bunch of programs and random files.

A sad departure

I’ve been extolling the virtues of Barrel & Still, Plymouth’s upmarket wine and spirit shop, since discovering it a little while ago. It first opened in 2019 and, unfortunately, hit the rather rocky combination of Covid-19 followed by the cost of living crisis. Although the owner was hopeful for recovery and had a plan to diversify, offering talks and various tastings in the cellar below the shop, it was not to be.

Barrel & Still on St Andrews Street, Plymouth (Photo Jan 2023)

Barrel & Still closed its doors for the last time today, and the loss will be felt by the community that embraced it. Having such a specialised shop meant the prices weren’t as competitive as buying in the supermarket or online, but it had the personal touch. You could go in and get a recommendation for some excellent wine, or find spirits for a cocktail you wanted to try out. I even managed to get some umeshu (Japanese plum wine) and a really delicious yuzu sake which I never would have tried had I not seen it on the shelf.

The presence of Barrel & Still on the high street in Plymouth made me hopeful for the future of the city, with more and more independent retailers and cool cafés settling in. The closure is definitely a move in the wrong direction, and I hope that more of us will realise just what we have lost in embracing Amazon wholeheartedly. The convenience is great, but where are the vital human interactions and experiences; an Amazon customer service chatbot is hardly going to recommend a spirit or wine you might like based on a short conversation, nor is it going to tell you about the community projects its involved with. This is coming from someone who was fully for the expansion of Amazon in the beginning, but now the effects of a virtual monopoly are being becoming more and more palpable.

So I’ll lift a glass Barrel & Still. Perhaps it will be filled with a Pisco Sour (made with the Chilean Pisco I bought there), or a Singapore Sling (with the Benedictine alternative I was recommended by a friendly staff member), or a Negroni made with the vermouth I found on the shelf of that excellent shop.

Barrel & Still has a shop in Kingsbridge, too, and is still operating online. It’s not quite the same, but you can still support this small business and who knows, maybe someone else will take over the reins of the Plymouth establishment.

2 responses to “Out of the Ashes”

  1. Good wee blog Adam, great result about the Dell. Your next project could be to resurrect the Barrel & Still; only joking. You have enough on your plate.

    1. Thanks. That might be a bit of an expensive plan, though!

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