EDitorial ± 29-Apr-2008

All The Cake You Can Eat

Sunday chores: dump dead dance mat, recycle green glass, reaffix homespun latch to gate, fail to fix loo seat that won't stay up, and walk dog The Boy & his friend. Fire up some Particle Man in the motor and point the wheels at Woodbridge. specifically Kingston Field, home to The Pavilion.

Competitive Dad guides young 'uns to the mini five-a-side pitch for (i) a penalty shoot-out, casting himself as Laurie Sivell from the 1975/76 Topps sticker collection, then (ii) corner practice, encouraging the chaps to "hit it first time". Lionel Messi started out this way, almost certainly.

Just gone twenty to five -- Battle Of Edgehill time, if you like -- dragged 'em back to their seat belts for the short drive into town. One thought is dominant: Dad Needs A Cup Of Coffee. Before the outbreak of the Great Northern War, gotta reach the chain coffee shop whose name is an anagram of:

  • a Puccini opera,
  • a Berkshire racecourse,
  • and a place in Pratt County, Kansas

Drove, parked, sprinted into Costa to find girl mopping floor and nearly all chairs on tables. Aaargh! Fear not, she reassures, we're still open. Fur-yew. No free shot today but the serving area is bedecked with cakes. I tentatively ask: are these going spare? Er, yep, she says: what would you like?

Agog, awestruck, gobsmacked, I meekly point to a triple chocolate muffin each for The Boys, and a slice of carrot cake -- make that two slices! -- for me, ta very much. Patisserie paydirt.

EDitorial ± 28-Apr-2008

Felixstowe Coffee Shops

Following closely on from our 2007 tour of Woodbridge coffee shops, we reprogrammed the SatNav -- Grenvyle's red Rover -- to Felixstowe. Danger UXB! They've got sea, they've got stones and they've got stacks of all-day breakfast sarnies.

Andy's done his best to maintain his official map of Felixstowe cafes.

To date reviews are as listed:

  1. The Alex
  2. Anchor Bakery, High Road East
  3. Angel Inn Coffee House, Walton
  4. Bakers Oven
  5. Bloomers -- gone 2010, replaced by Anchor Bakery
  6. blue & berry
  7. Bonnet Cafe & Chocolaterie -- gone 2012, replaced by Crafty Coffee
  8. Cafe 7, Beach Station Road
  9. Cafe Bencotto
  10. Cafe Kitsch -- gone 2013
  11. Cafe Libra
  12. Cafe On The Corner
  13. Caffe Nero
  14. Cliff Top Tea Rooms
  15. Coffeelink
  16. Coffee Shop in the station
  17. Comptons -- gone 2014, replaced by Lillie's, Orwell Road
  18. Corner House Cafe, Undercliff Road West
  19. The Conservatory, Undercliff Road West
  20. Crafty Coffee
  21. Crow's Nest -- gone 2012, replaced by the View Point Cafe
  22. The Dip, Cliff Road
  23. Dock Services
  24. East Coast Quilting -- gone 2011
  25. Family Cafe
  26. Ferry Cafe
  27. Fish Dish, Undercliff Road West
  28. Froffee Coffee -- gone winter 2008, replaced by The Triangle -- gone 2016, replaced by blue & berry
  29. Fludyer Arms
  30. Hamiltons
  31. Jack's, Beach Station Road
  32. Jackie's Coffee Shop
  33. Joe Crowley's -- gone 2013
  34. Leisure Centre Cafe
  35. The Little Ice Cream Co., Undercliff Road West
  36. Lillie's, Orwell Road
  37. McDonald's
  38. Mrs Simpson's Tea Rooms
  39. North Kiosk, Martello Park
  40. Oaks Tea Room
  41. Orwell Fisheries
  42. Regal
  43. River Of Life
  44. Ruby's: gone in 2012, then back in 2014
  45. The Sands
  46. Sangha -- gone 2012
  47. Sally Jane's Pie and Mash
  48. Silks -- gone winter 2008
  49. Spa Pavilion
  50. Tchibo -- gone Autumn 2008
  51. Tea & Antiques
  52. The Triangle -- gone 2016, replaced by blue & berry
  53. View Point Cafe
  54. Walton Coffee House
  55. Wimpy
  56. Winkles At The Ferry
  57. Winnies Cafe

James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only.

EDitorial ± 25-Apr-2008

Light Lunches: Wyevale, Woodbridge

It's a sure sign you're turning into your parents when you find yourself having a spot of light lunch at the local garden centre; and with the Felixstowe eateries all but done, a trip to the skirts of Woodbridge seemed in order. Welcome to Wyevale, one of only ... er, 100 or so such places in the country. Practically unique (i.e. one of seven) within the greater East Anglia area.

Within the seemingly ever-expanding green-fingered enclave, turn left past the half-price orchids and bargain books to enter The Conservatory. Woah, hold on there: isn't this Springles from the Ashes To Ashes era of Debenhams? Take a tray, slide it round the rails, hop the gaps, you get the picture. Obliged to mention the gamut of cold soft drinks, from Fruit Shoot to Luscombe to my bottlegreen blackcurrant & blueberry presse.

Food choice is nearly overwhelming: all bases covered from peckish sarnies to gutsy full roast meals. Dimly recalling that "light lunch" tag, I eventually chose a chicken & bacon granary bap. Freshly made and with a handful of leaves on the side. Tad overpriced at £4.79, IMHO, but the prices weren't deterring the polyester-clad punters from their plates of turkey & ham pie piled high with roasties and smothered with gravy.

Chop chop busy busy inside so out we went into a pleasant seating area to feel the warmth of the sun. Not quite as bright as the River Of Life though similarly urban what with the over-the-hedge A12. Briefly back in to purchase pudd in the guise of a pretty good scone -- love those little pots of jam -- and a frankly awful cuppa coffee. Evidently the nice girl had pressed the button labelled "lukewarm brown water". If you check out the Wyevale careers website, you too could soon be playing a vital role in a "high volume catering outlet".

If it was a car -- Volkswagen Sharan.
If they were passing by -- John Shuttleworth.

Update: 18-Sep-2015

Seven long years later and the 'Vale is vamped. Goodbye "the Conservatory", hello "Botanic Kitchen" and a Little Diggers play area. Dare say that a few quid is lining the pockets of catering creatives yet there's still that '80s department store feel.

They didn't have what Andy wanted. Nor his second choice. Nor his third choice. Meanwhile, for his sarnie, Kev was offered white bread only to hear the lady behind him given the option of granary. To wash down your £8 burger, why not splash out on a bottle of prosecco for £22 or some champers for £48? If you billed it, they will come.

In all florid fairness, my £3 slice of rhubard and custard cake was probably just about worth it, and, unlike '08, the coffee kicks butt. Roll on the return visit in 2022.

EDitorial ± 18-Apr-2008

Felixstowe Light Lunches: Jackie's Coffee Shop

Collins? Stewart? Milburn? Chan? Who can say? At Jackie's Coffee Shop, by their first name only shall ye know them.

Hadn't heard of this particular cafe until a tip-off from Kev, who I'm sure would have joined us had it not been for his intravenous drip: get well soon, KC. His Doc wouldn't advise it, but crane your neck here and you'll glimpse the dock cranes, plus the unlamented Anzani House. For Jackie's, as the menu says, is next to Morrison's.

Don't wait for a waitress: in keeping with the Cliff Top, a sign shouts Counter Service Only. There's a lower-case dinnerladies feel to the place, and that's a good thing. Anne Reid took my order for ham 'n' double egg 'n' chips 'n' banana milkshake, then brought it out in double quick time. I'd barely had the time to register the many coffee sacks adorning the wall. Straight from Colombia to Felixstowe: I bet that name sounds dead exotic in Medellin. Must mention the free to browse newspapers. Best selection yet, from broadsheet to redtop to loo-cal news.

Tasty savoury (doused with sugar-free ketchup) dispatched, returned to browse the pudds. Trifle was tempting but lost out to an appealing super sponge coated with 100s of 100s & 1000s. Other lady -- Bren Furlong -- also did me proud in producing an off-the-menu white Americano: strong, no foam. And, despite being busy taking other orders, she took the time to check back with me that everything was in order. There's service for you.

If it was a car -- Renault Clio.
If they were passing by -- Duncan Preston.

EDitorial ± 17-Apr-2008

TT0708, Week 22

Well Arvind, I do believe we've done it. Way back on 20-Sep-2008, the Defiants TT-ers opened their division 3 account with a stonking 9-1 win. After which The Viper proposed that we should aim to win the league, finishing first "at least". Hands up who believed that we could do it? Hands down, Arvind.

We were aiming to go one better than Arsenal in 2003/2004: sure, be unbeaten, better still, win all our matches. Then Kev rang at 5pm from an ambulance pleading an unspecified head injury. With Andy on another continent, that meant losing three points straight away and turning up with only two players, one of whom was Grenvyle. Always good to face a challenge.

Supershaky start, G. going 2-0 down to The Kid, then saving several match points in a 15-13 fourth ender. Saved his luckiest until last with a net-scraping drop shot to win. Phew. Later, G. came unstuck against WW, going down in straight ends including an epic 17-19 middle game.

End of singles: 5-4 to us. Needed a doubles victory to claim our record. Poor opening by the pair of us, and that was before I thwacked Grenvyle's hand with the serrated edge of my crumbling bat. That's gotta hurt, and it did. Defiant we stood, however, winning the next three ends on the bounce. Game over.

EDitorial ± 12-Apr-2008

Love Thy Neighbour

Windows, we all know, can be a pain. Not so much the blue screen of death this time, more the dropped pane of doom. Car's passenger side electric window conked out last weekend and, despite an entry on my list saying "fix car window", has yet to be sorted. For shame.

Out this pm, alas, the glass glissandoed gently down until it had disappeared completely into the door. How low can you go? Low enough to be out of reach of the pliers. If we'd have listened hard, we might have heard a tiny tinny voice shrieking "I'm falling!"

Until the garage boys can do their stuff next week, not much option but to paint over the cracks. Plastic sheeting, scissors, masking tape, here we go. Then, from nowhere, a phone call: would I like to use a sheet of thin ply? 'Tis the street's very own Professor Branestawm on the line. In a flash, he's outside brandishing tools and materials.

If you find the time please come and stay a while
In my beautiful neighbourhood
— Space, Neighbourhood

We draw an outline and he's off with the saw, the noise of which attracts one of the Professor's gang, one of those people from the "odd" side of the street. He starts chipping in too, sagely advising the deployment of a bin liner. Heath, this is Robinson. Robinson, this is Heath.

Before you can say Ricky Butcher, out comes the Prof's wife and we're starring in our very own Eastenders extended trailer. Number 21 finds a trestle table, number 30 brings out a massive plate of chicken drumsticks while number 9 wires up overhead lights. How number 17 rolled out that upright piano, I really couldn't say. Stoppers of crime and full to brimming with the Dunkirk spirit, them's the neighbours, bless 'em.

EDitorial ± 11-Apr-2008

Felixstowe Light Lunches: Leisure Centre Cafe

With the Corner House Cafe remaining firmly shut on Fridays, we're starting to wallow in the shallows of the 'Stowe light lunch list. Q: if you're sitting in The Conservatory, The Little Ice Cream Co. or Joe Crowley's, what's staring you in the face? A: today's unlikely venue, the Leisure Centre Cafe.

Can't be too many eating establishments which demand an entrance fee. We pooled our resources and each splashed out a 75p "spectator fee" to gain admittance. Good news is that it's refundable against your food & drink, thus turning a 95p cup of tea into a 20p cuppa, if Grenvyle is to be believed.

Baguettes / burgers / salads on offer. Oh, and handmade birthday cards, unnaturally. Tick for including a children's menu. You could have a jacket though it's already plenty warm enough in here. Seating is either (a) behind the glass, protected from droplets, or (b) through the looking glass, enjoying Maureen's chlorine. We went waterside.

Short wait for my chicken burger -- pure breaststroke -- with untouchably hot chips and thirst-quenchin' Pepsi. Welcome burst of colour from the small side salad medley, featuring a nano-thin red onion slice of a rather Goodhew. Driver enjoyed his pot of tea plus Ginsters prepacked prawn sarnie, then found enough flume for a cheese & ham toastie.

Recalled how I felt after overdoing it at the Cliff Top Tea Rooms -- since last week, my knowledge of what my stomach can stand has deep end -- and so ignored the various prewrapped muffins and choccy bars crying out to me. No handmade sponges obviously on show, not even a butterfly bun.

If it was a car -- Rinspeed sQuba.
If they were passing by -- David Wilkie.

EDitorial ± 8-Apr-2008

In A Kent Churchyard

I see dead people. It's late one Sunday afternoon, not long after Easter, and we're in the garden of England ... in a graveyard. Specifically this belongs to the church of St Peter & St Paul in the village of Boughton-under-Blean. Near Faversham, if that helps.

Happened that the in-laws had hired a cottage for the week not far from Canterbury. On the way to our holiday pad, I'd suggested -- well, insisted -- that we take a minor detour through Boughton. Never been there before, but my dad's uncle (grandmother's younger brother) used to live there in the late 1940s. I had the exact address and wanted to check it out.

Which we did. There stood the tidy row of tiny Church Cottages on South Street: my great uncle Stanley Freston (!) inhabited number 2. He'd served in the war, been a PoW in Singapore, and gone into the fire service afterwards. Sadly he'd died young-ish in 1951, maybe in a car crash, leaving a wife, Jessie, and no children.

Decided later that couldn't leave Kent without a traipse around the churchyard, a mere pebble's throw from the cottages. 'Cos you never know, and there's the slim chance he might be buried there.

Fair few graves here, from new to old, from unreadable to overgrown. Was about to admit defeat -- this was a longshot from the off -- when I looked down to my right. There was the final resting place of Stanley Frank Freston, died 1st July 1951, and his wife Jessie Florence Freston, died 18th March 1998. It was as if he'd been calling out from way beyond. RIP Stan & Jessie.

EDitorial ± 4-Apr-2008

Felixstowe Light Lunches: Cliff Top Tea Rooms

As anyone with a faultless memory will recall, twelve weeks back saw us visit The Spa: we'd intended to alight for lunch at today's venue only to find it closed. Though, to our credit, we did indeed find it, which ain't that easy. Locals will know that the nearest entrance by road (see map) is opposite the Bartlet(t) Hospital. Is that one T or two? Even the BBC website isn't sure. Any Undercliff Road up. Made it, at last, to the Cliff Top Tea Rooms.

Through the door and you'll find what appears to be a hotel dining room, albeit one with a NAAFI-style serving area. Helps to know that the Clifftop Tearooms, as their business card has it, occupy Cliff House, once an annexe for the grand Cotman-designed Felix Hotel (now remodelled as Harvest House). Sign on the wall says "Counter Service", so we secured a table, chose our grub and ordered.

Bags of time to admire (a) the for-sale paintings adorning the wall and (b) the impressive garden stroke sea views, rivalling The Spa and Mrs Simpson's. Seems like we'd turned up at the tail end of the lunchtime rush, and joined the end of a long queue. Could have eaten a seahorse by the time our food arrived. Thankfully my large plate of two eggs & sausage & saute pots & bacon & fried bread & toms & toast & beans was worth it, and arguably the best all day breakfast yet. G's fish pie floated his boat too.

Tock ticking along but we demand pudd. One of the old-fashioned desserts caught G's old-fashioned eye, the apple & raspberry crumble with custard, ideal for a wintry day. My individual cafetiere would have been far too wet without cakestuff, hence my brick of chocolate biscuit cake. Had I been out with the kids, we'd have shared it and all had ample. As it was, I scoffed the lot. And so, despite the near-freezing climate, I was grateful to gulp down some oxygen outside.

If it was a car -- Bristol Blenheim 3.
If they were passing by -- Connie Booth.

EDitorial ± 3-Apr-2008

Dolmio, March 2008

When oh when will WiFi be free? Not for home use -- that'll take a while, even for the Google machine -- but in my locale of choice, the coffee shop. Sure, some are leading the way (step forward Woodbridge's very own Tea Hut and Browsers), with kudos to the megalithic McDonald's for showing the others how to do it. Seriously, come on, Caffe Nero. Sort yourself out, Starbucks. Get a grip, Costa. Here endeth the rant to make room for last month's Dolmio (Doings Of Last Month Innoparticular Order).

That is to say, an attempt to capture past(a) events before they slip... my... mind. March 2008 was spent:

  • catching up with the fab Gavin And Stacey: all six series 1 episodes over three nights, then each series 2 episode as it happens
  • schooling the boy in his 3 times table, handily up on the kitchen wall
  • being drawn in to Michael Chabon's brilliant Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay
  • playing ping-pong in Boyton village hall
  • taking the Kent & East Sussex Railway from Tenterden to Bodiam
  • introducing the kids to the first three Indiana Jones films in preparation for this summer's fourth
  • setting up the garden basketball hoop
  • collecting Dr Who DVDs from, ahem, The Sun
  • switching the Tuesday footy from the closed multicourt to the wide open spaces of Martlesham Heath

And that was March 2008.

EDitorial ± 1-Apr-2008

IKEA To Open Ipswich Town Centre Store

IKEA is delighted to confirm that today, 1st April 2008, we have submitted a planning application for a new store in Ipswich town centre. We intend to build the new IKEA Ipswich on Upper Brook Street in the former Gold & Silver Discount Centre between Joywheel Amusements and the Can Can bag emporium.

Instead of yet another waterfront-style skyscraper, IKEA Ipswich will take a revolutionary approach to city centre development: we will not be aiming higher, but lower and deeper. To meet guidelines set by the town's civic society, our innovative store will go a full 20 floors underground. For adults, access to & from lower floors will be provided by paternoster lift, reclaimed from Civic Centre, while children will use a brightly coloured Tate Modernesque tubular slide.

By digging deeper, IKEA Ipswich will accommodate up to 78 furnished room layouts within its 38,010 square metres of floor space. Our subterranean approach will also enable us to install a Greyfriars-inspired travelator direct to the existing underground spiral car park on Civic Drive. In addition, to emphasise our commitment to public transport, we aim to build the first new station on the Ipswich Underground Railway for over 50 years.

Such significant engineering works in a confined site will require the widening or possible demolition of St Stephens Lane to allow for the use of a 120-tonne Tibbott Class 3 telescopic crane.

Benito Rubinan, IKEA area representative, said: "Ever since sampling a Portman Road Pukka pie in 2001 as a visiting Helsingborg supporter, it has been no secret that we have been trying to find a suitable location in your ancient yet go-ahead town. And when we heard that both Waitrose and John Lewis had all but booked their slots, we had to act fast. We're very keen to form a sizeable fraction of the Mint Quarter, perhaps as much as five-eighths."

Councillor Peter Morris from Ipswich Borough Council added: "This is terrific news for everyone in our fine university town who needs a pack of tealights. Our design team is already working closely with IKEA on a new range of shelving units to be called the Viljoen, the Thijssen and the Osbjorne. I'm confident that this giant Scandinavian hardware shop will more than fill the gap left by Martin & Newby."