EDitorial ± 28-Jan-2019

Daniel Kitson, Keep

Talking to a culturally clued-up guy in the office last week, I chanced my arm. Later this week, I said, I'm off to see Daniel Kitson. He looked straight back at me. Who?

Let's not get too hipster here. Few years back, I came across this fella's name from various trusted sources. Go see him, they all said. Not really a comedian and doesn't really tell jokes but you'll laugh, you'll cry. Bit later I nabbed some tickets for a rare nearby performance in nearby Essex. There'll be no interval, he announced that night, so grab a drink now and buckle up. Quite an evening.

Quickly assembled DK gig list since that time:

  • June 2013 at Colchester Arts Centre -- After the Beginning
  • January 2015 at the Old Vic, London -- Tree with Tim Key
  • March 2016 at Cinema City, Norwich -- It’s Always Right Now Until It’s Later
  • October 2015 at Theatre Royal, Margate -- Stories for the Starlit Sky
  • December 2017 at Norwich Playhouse -- Christmas Show
  • January 2019 at Battersea Arts Centre -- Keep

Good Lady Wife's birthday happened to coincide with his most recent show in that London so we made a night of it and caught the 344 from Southwark Street to The Latchmere. Fantastically atmospheric place, the Battersea Arts Centre. Both of us had forgotten our specs so grateful to secure a second row seat. On the stage, a lone table, chair, and index card cabinet. Said cards in said cabinet were an itemized list of all, er, items in DK's home that he read aloud. A ceramic urinal. A birdfeeder. A brick. A brick. A brick.

Fifty drawers, two minutes a drawer gives a two hour-ish show. Would be a shame to give any more away. Crowd was enthralled. DK paced to and from the cabinet until all was revealed. I think. Get a chance, go see him. You'll laugh, you'll cry.

EDitorial ± 21-Jan-2019

Mention Ipswich on TV and Film

Consider the name Ipswich. Sounds a bit funny, perhaps, and I've met any number of people who'd be hard pressed to place it on a map. Ideal, then, for insertion into any script for comic effect.

Time to gather together some of these TV and film mentions to see what we can learn.

— I'm Alan Partridge —

Back over 20 years to the first series of I'm Alan Partridge. Four episodes in and N*rwich's very own Alpha Papa is caught stealing a traffic cone. Questioned by the law, he gives a false name and improvises madly when asked for his address:

[Policeman] "Where do you live, Bill? What's your address?"
[Alan] "King Road."
[Policeman] "Is there a number?"
[Alan] "10 King Road in Ipswich."

Not a massive stretch to mentally motor down the A140. Slightly disappointingly, the closest we come to such an address in the 'Swich is King Street in the town centre, home to the wonderful Ipswich Film Theatre and the currently dead Swan. Oh, Alan.

Read the IMDb entry for I'm Alan Partridge.

— 15 Storeys High —

Dug out my DVD box set (and then spent quite a while figuring out how to connect the redundant DVD player to the telly) to retrieve this one. Let me come out and say that 15 Storeys High is quite likely the best sitcom you've never seen. Essentially a two-hander, Sean Lock is Vince and future Hollywood character actor actor Benedict Wong (Moon, The Martian) is Errol, uncomfortably sharing a high-rise flat:

[Vince] "Just think how many millions upon millions of people got 'em right. The only people who won't know them are either dead or in ... Ipswich."

Here, Errol believes he only has to answer a few simple questions to win a BMW. Sample question: what's the capital of Germany? Vince, as always, puts Error right. Great writing from Mr Lock and about time that the BBC bunged it on the iPlayer.

Read the IMDb entry for 15 Storeys High.

— Toast of London —

Darkplace, Boosh, IT Crowd, Vic & Bob. Wherever the cool kids gather, there's Matt Berry. Inexcusable that I've never seen an actual episode of Toast. Thus was completely baffled while trying to find this scene. In a pub we find eponymous character Steven Toast with Blair, his ex-army older brother, and the oddball Dennis Thwaites sporting his Household Cavalry regalia:

[Blair] "How was your journey from Ipswich, Dennis? Come down on Farage, did you?"
[Toast] "On who?"
[Blair] "Farage, Dennis's horse."
[Toast] "What, did he ride a horse all the way from Ipswich?"

Very effective use of character names, there. Should mention Berry's latest album, a set of fourteen reworked television themes including The Good Life, Rainbow and World in Action. Wonderful stuff.

Read the IMDb entry for Toast of London.

— Outnumbered —

Good old Outnumbered, genuinely funny to the end. First shown in 2007, it took until that Christmas special in 2016 for Ipswich to get its long-awaited namecheck. With the children very much grown-up, the Brockmans regroup in a pub after a minor accident with Ben at the wheel. They'd been planning to scatter Grandad's ashes and start to swap stories:

[Ben] "Actually, I'm pretty sure Grandad told me he met Grandma at a dogfight in Singapore."
[Jake] "I think he told me it was a bus stop in Ipswich."

From an exotic sovereign city state to humdrum Ipswich. Twas ever thus for the comedy scriptwriter.

Read the IMDb entry for Outnumbered.

— The Office —

Opening episode of the second series of The Office -- probably no need to clarify we're talking the original UK version -- and David Brent (Gervais) has the pleasure of meeting Neil (Patrick Baladi), his new boss. With Dawn (Lucy Davis) having a grandstand view, things get off to an all too predictable bad start:

[Neil] "Um, we have met before."
[David] "Have we?"
[Neil] "Yeah, Ipswich conference?"
[David] "Oh, God."

Of course, if you were serious about hosting your conference in downtown Ipswich, you'd be spoilt for choice from IP-City to Trinity Park through to Portman Road itself. FYI.

Read the IMDb entry for The Office.

— Informer —

Terrific drama from the veritable BBC first shown in October 2018. There we were on a week away in Lyme Regis watching the tiny telly when lead character Raza -- the excellent Navhaan Rizwan -- idly referenced my hometown when chatting to his mum:

[Sadia] "Remember Anara's boy, he walked all the way to Ipswich, thinking he was Jesus."
[Raza] "Of course, he had to be high to go to Ipswich."

Unlike some other series, Informer kept going to its conclusion with much tension along the way. Hoping that Navhaan lands some other big roles as a result.

Read the IMDb entry for Informer.

— What We Did on Our Holiday —

Essentially the film version of Outnumbered, What We Did on Our Holiday also features a married couple and their three precocious kids. Here, though, Abi (Rosamund Pike) and Doug (David Tennant) are busy breaking up. Stuck in a traffic jam en route to Scotland, mighty Mickey (Bobby Smalldridge) makes observations about the SatNav:

[Mickey] "Can we change it to another voice? Can we have it in Italian like we did last time?"
[Doug] "No, that's how we ended up in Ipswich."

Well worth 95 minutes of your time with lots of laughs. Plus things happen that you will not expect, let's leave it at that.

Read the IMDb entry for What We Did on Our Holiday.

— Dr Who (The End of the World) —

Take the Tardis back to 2005 for the long-awaited return of the timelord with two hearts. In only the second episode of the only series with Christopher Eccleston, the Doctor transports Rose (Billie Piper) to the year 5,000,000,000 in an episode entitled The End of the World. Fighting a rogue computer, Rose is about to be burned alive due to a sun filter not working:

[The Doctor] "The whole thing's jammed. I can't open the door. Stay there, don't move."
[Rose] "Where am I gonna go - Ipswich(?)"

Must tell you the following line spoken by the computer: "Earth death in five minutes."

Read the IMDb entry for Dr Who (The End of the World).

— The BFG —

Spielberg's 2016 big screen version of another Roald Dahl classic. Screenplay was written by Melissa Mathison, ex-wife of Harrison Ford. She wrote E.T. too, natch. This scene has The BFG himself getting a bit mournful about a boy who taught him how to read:

[BFG] "Then he seen me, like you did. So I had to take him, hipswitch."

I presume they're talking about the county town of Suffolk.

Read the IMDb entry for The BFG.

— Stardust —

Top man, Neil Gaiman, and a top story. Matthew Vaughan went from directing gangster filled Layer Cake to a rather sweeter confection in the form of 2007's Stardust. Written for the screen by the powerhouse that is Jane Goldman:

[Victoria] "Do you know he's going all the way to Ipswich just to buy me a ring?"

Almost as if there was money at stake, Ipswich is mentioned four times in this single scene. Notable that director Matthew Vaughan lives with Claudia Schiffer in the fair county of Suffolk.

Read the IMDb entry for Stardust.

— Inside No. 9 (The 12 Days of Christine) —

Blink and you'll miss it mention within the second series of the dark delight that is Inside No. 9. Sheridan Smith is fantastic as Christine whose life seems to be on fast forward for reasons not revealed until the very end:

[Christine] "But they didn't have them in my size?"
[Bobby] "Well, someone rang Ipswich and got them DHL'd."

Don't mind telling you that I had something in my eye as the credits rolled.

Read the IMDb entry for Inside No. 9 (The 12 Days of Christine).

— Monty Python's Flying Circus (Parrot Sketch) —

December 1969, episode eight of the very first series of Monty Python's Flying Circus, and the British public gets its first glimpse of a skit written by Chapman and Cleese. Palin as the shopkeeper and Cleese as Mr. Praline in one of the most famous comedy sketches ever that just happens to slip in a reference to olde Gippeswyk:

[Praline] "This is Bolton, is it?"
[Shopkeeper] "No, no, it's, uh, Ipswich."

Scores based on number of mentions: Ipswich 3-4 Bolton.

Read the IMDb entry for Monty Python's Flying Circus (Parrot Sketch).

— The Little Drummer Girl —

Late 2018 and the BBC push out their latest Le Carre adaptation in the form of The Little Drummer Girl. An early-ish scene sees Charlie (Florence Pugh) whip out her acoustic guitar to sing an old folk tune, "Murder of Maria Marten", based on the events up the road in Polstead:

[Charlie] "I will take you to Ipswich town and there make you my wife."

Bad lad, that William Corder.

Read the IMDb entry for The Little Drummer Girl.

That's more than enough mentions of Ipswich.

EDitorial ± 3-Dec-2018

Bath, Story Friday: Feast

Some 250 years ago, Thomas Gainsborough, a wizard with the Winsor & Newtons, took the National Express from insular Ipswich to beautiful Bath. Not content to wait for one to appear at 777 Woodbridge Road (7am to 10:30pm), he wanted a spa there and then. Last Friday, 30th November, I undertook that very same journey.

See, I done put some worms together and made up a tale. Every couple of months, canny Clare Reddaway (writer, playwright: website) runs Story Friday (website) and invites stories on a particular theme. November's was "feast". My own 2000 word entry was selected -- yowzah! -- and so I, along with seven others, was invited to come and read it. Aloud. In Burdall's Yard. A centre for the performing arts. Before an audience. Who'd forked out actual Bath bucks to get in. Nothing to worry about there.

Come 8pm, Jack Patterson from W1A (actually Olly from Kilter Theatre) introduced the first four runners and riders:

  • Doc Watson (website), playwright and writer, with wake-gone-wrong "A Feast for all Seasons"
  • Ali Bacon (website), writer, with the fruitily autobiographical "The Day of the Peach"
  • me (!) with the saintly but smelly "Out of Office"
  • Elaine Miles (website), playwright and performance story teller, with the tense Nairobi-based "The Housekeeper"

Interval time and a chance to breathe and find out that Doc's first job was at the old Ipswich Arts Theatre, now the Old Rep pub, and that I'd seen him on stage there in about 1972 in a panto version of Captain Pugwash. The world she is small, no? Back for part the second, quiz results from Olly (the 2018 version of Beau Nash) and the remaining quartet:

  • Nicolas Ridley (website), playwright, with the confectionery laden "A Sweet Refrain"
  • Debbie Beale with the bloodsoaked "The Wedding Feast"
  • Tony Kirwood (Facebook), comedy teacher and Fickelgruber and Death Eater, with the ghoulishly Oedipal "Monster"
  • Philip Douch (website), playwright and performer, with the ribald "The Restaurant"

Afterwards to the neighbouring King William for a wind-down glass of white with Clare who made it happen and has been making it happen for the last five or six years. Hats off. Could it happen here in the 'Swich? Did Gainsborough ever return? Cheers, Clare, for quite the night.

EDitorial ± 16-Nov-2018

Woodbridge Lunches: Coffeelink

We've followed Coffeelink, East Anglia's coffee kingpins, from their ahead-of-its-time Ipswich waterfront location up to the nearby station, then up the A12 to Darsham and to the seaside at Felixstowe. Azzouz, the main man, was also good enough to invite us along to sample the goods direct from their roastery.

Next stop? The Bridge of Wood. Yes, indeed. Amid the snazzy Whisstocks boatyard redevelopment and sited behind a hopefully state-of-the-art floodgate sits the latest branch. Behold Woodbridge Coffeelink. Early doors just yet -- we were there a few days after a "soft opening" -- but there's already a fridge holding six different San Pellegrino flavours, enough to impress YT.

Grabbed our prepacked sarnies and headed to a corner table. Yes, one of us may have hit his head on a trendy low-level light. Furniture's dark in keeping with the original branch, ditto the bookcase, and there's half a boat to wonder at. Sidenote: vg selection of newspapers, bit of a dying art in coffee shops these days. Be sure to take in the colourful mural by local artist PC.

Highlight for me was the excellent flat white from a highly knowledgeable barista who came to check on our orders. Probably didn't need that slice of carrot cake, TBH. Quiet for now but should become quite the hub once the weather's back and more units fill up.

If it was a car -- Wallys Izis.
If they were passing by -- Anthony Horowitz.

EDitorial ± 2-Nov-2018

Light Lunches: Newton Hall Equitation

While the Three Amigos continue to iron out the finer points of their upcoming restaurant franchise, they sometimes like to further their research by visiting existing eateries. Trio are in Andy's LoveBug and zipping past Wyevale, Grange Barn, and, er, Williams Stores of Grundisburgh. Stick that one on the list for later.

Well out in the sticks and the (sadly not Werner Herzog) SatNav suggests following that no through road to Toad Hall. Werner knows best and leads us into Newton Hall Equitation. Here be horses. Website claims there's a place called the Gallery Kitchen too. Through the mud, yonder!

Half a dozen cars and handy boot scrapers outside while breezeblocked innards resembles a less sophisticated version of First at Clopton. Minor difference would be that large window giving a widescreen view of the inside area where the horses trot around. Great with words, me. Plenty of tables and plenty of choice, all (by the looks of it) prepared by one very capable woman. She's offering three specials today: chilli, bacon & brie, or sausage & red marmalade. Two out of three for Kev and Andy and a cold-blooded fish finger sandwich for me since it's a Friday. Chips all round. Novel strawberry and mint drink on the side by Heartsease Farm.

Food takes a while, clearly, but is well worth it. Big old thumbs up for the Stokes sauce and mayo on offer. Unusual posters are offering a quiz night and the chance to hire a pony. Aim low, they're riding Shetlands! Very different proposition from our previous equine visit to the Camargue Cafe but if you're in the area, it's Champion.

If it was a car -- Sangyong Rexton EX.
If they were passing by -- Leona Lewis.

EDitorial ± 26-Oct-2018

Felixstowe Light Lunches: Laydens Community Cafe

Waiting outside a windy reception. Several minutes past our appointed meeting time. How long to give the undisputed prince of punctuality? Thinking this and of course he arrives in the Fiat Lux. On the 400m drive to the first A12 roundabout and not yet decided on a destination. Well done, us.

An idle Friday morning browse had turned up all the usual pre-visited suspects. Left here, expand that, and an unknown one popped up. To Felixstowe, driver, and off on the docks road to turn off by Morrison's. Guessing that Jackie's has vanished since our visit ten years ago? Unknown 'Stowe now, pastures new. Behind that group of kids, apparently, sits our source of food. Literal good sign sat outside says that the Laydens Community Cafe opens Monday to Friday, 9am to 3pm. Thanks, Google Maps lady, for those directions.

Getting that commcafe vibe previously experienced at Claydon with local info, WiFi and a toy box. Kev would have loved it. Pro set-up here with a sizeable menu. Snap as we both opt for the six item breakfast for £3.50, neither of us capable of dealing with the twelve item big boy's version. Especially true for Andy since he's been stuffing himself at Aldeburgh while "helping out".

Plate comes loaded with bacon and egg and fried potato cubes (yum) and beans with toast and juice. Like Hanrahan, I counted them all out. Staff are super friendly and clearly doing a fine job. That same sign outside is encouraging you to volunteer here too. Meanwhile I'm volunteering to finish Andy's FPCs since those Yorkshire eyes are too big for their belly. Now I'm full up to the brim too. No time and very much no space for cake.

If it was a car -- Leyland-Triumph 2000.
If they were passing by -- Hayden Christensen.

EDitorial ± 28-Sep-2018

Ipswich Lunches: Nosh

An effulgent Friday and there's been vague promises of an outing. Quick mid-morning check on Mr Jobs' FindMyFriends reveals that our driver's Somewhere In Saxmundham (not a bad title for a short story, that). Follow-up text to find out that, despite this, he's still up for an excursion. Andy's in. I'm in. Ditto Kev. For the first time in three months, the gang's all here.

Challenging visual kick-off, neither Kev nor myself recognising the Boyton fleet Fiat sitting outside reception, and nobody expecting Andy to be on time. My suggestion to nip down Foxhall Road to the firework shop on the outskirts of The 'Swich. Diagonally opposite for some years used to be CC's Sandwich Bar but now it's nosh. Note deliberate lower-case stylings, part and parcel of their quality chain-like branding (reminiscent of The Turtle and The Bear) with that friendly pea-green font, classy pricing -- eg latte 2.5 -- and rhymin' Simon tagline:

"If you can't stay - take it away"

Most of their trade would be "to go" as the kids call it, but if, like us, you're staying, there's two tables plus three convenient light lunch-shaped window chairs. Eye was drawn to their mega blackboard of paninis with more fillings than Shane MacGowan. Corned beef bap, please, with chunky pickle. Chicken and pesto panini for K, caramelised sausage roll and salad for A. All v. happy with our choices until I spotted the far smaller specials board advertising halloumi fries, chilli and other interesting bits. Darn.

Perched atop one of those window seats is all you need, harking back to the platinum days of Enjoy, and an excellent place to put the world to rights: hello, Brett Kavanaugh. People are in and out -- they can't stay so they're taking it away -- and I discover it's only me for summat sweet, not for the first time. That sizeable jammy muffin covered with 100s and 1000s is calling to me, not half bad washed down with a kicking mug o' flat white. Nice peeps, nice natter, nice nosh.

If it was a car -- Toyota Noah.
If they were passing by -- Arabella Weir.