EDitorial ± 31-Jul-2009
Light Lunches: Milsoms, Kesgrave
So this is how it ends after 22 years of commitment, professionalism and an unswerving dedication to the tea point. Grenvyle's last day at the ex-GPO, and that ticking you can hear is his Ratner's carriage clock. With that pay-off burning a hole in his crinolines, the gang of four -- the G/E/A/K squad -- is off to somewhere a bit special.
Less than 5 minutes in the car, a short stroll past the Park & Ride, nip down Hall Road and it's bienvenue a Milsoms. Formerly the Ryes School, the Milsom Group took over Kesgrave Hall a year or two back, adding it to their poshy-washy portfolio that already included Le Talbooth and The Pier at Harwich. We haven't been anywhere this out of our league since the Waterfront Cafe at Woodbridge.
Along the driveway, find a spot to park (wot no valet?), walk down the steps and behold the welcoming white hall. Quite a site, what with its huge lawn of which Mr Fussy would be proud (presence of a helipad is unconfirmed though there's definitely a windsock) and its enormous covering/parapet arching over half the patio. Brilliantly sunny today causing the bright white tables and chairs to scorch your retinas. Eat inside, eat out, it's up to you. We grab a table outside and it's not long before we're batting away the odd wasp.
Milsom manners dictate that you, the punter, scribble your order using a humble pad and paper, and either take it inside or hand it to a waitress. This we do, then sit back, sip long OJs and smell the money. Service is, shall we say, unrushed. Let's say that I'm glad I've booked this afternoon off. Food arrives and is fantastic, my braised lamb shoulder falling off the bone into a pile of Provencale puy lentils. I've a feeling we're not in Kenny's any more.
Time's up -- no pudd, alas -- but there follows a positively Glasswellian wait for coffee. Platitudes are exchanges, pleasantries said, and the G-man, like Shane, drives off into the mid-afternoon sun.
EDitorial ± 25-Jul-2009
50 Ways To Adastral Park
That was the week that was. For a while I'd been planning to set aside one particular week, each day trying to travel to work by a different means.
Done it. Full story is here on my new blog, 50 Ways To Adastral Park. Story so far:
- Monday -- bike, as usual
- Tuesday -- organise a ride using the LiftShare website
- Wednesday -- bus on the infamous Route 66
- Thursday -- new shuttle bus from Ipswich station
- Friday -- walked the 7.5 miles
EDitorial ± 24-Jul-2009
Ipswich Lunches: Glasswells
Late July and naturally the weather is foul: spitting when the Light Lunch Limo leaves Martlesham, showering when we enter the borough of Ipswich and simply stair rods when we alight. Our driver must have thought that HGV stood for HereBe Grenvyle's Vehicle (thanks, Andy) since that's the entrance he took. He's not one for convention.
It's an edifice of swell glass, is Glasswells. We're here on the promise of a £4.99 main meal and pudding offer in the local paper; we're evidently not the only ones as we stand in line at the Wait Here sign beneath lettering proclaiming this to be The Place To Eat... Drop that ellipsis, boys. There's a lot of tables and they're all taken. A-ha, someone's leaving, and we land a prime window seat, ideal for admiring (a) the rain and (b) others' parking skills. Busy busy, hence the 10 minute waitress wait. Niftily, she takes our orders using a wireless gizmo and a DS-type stylus: kewl. Or she could be playing Cooking Mama.
It's now as busy as it gets, I'd guess. Consider that:
- it's Friday,
- it's 1pm (nope, not Crackerjack),
- it's hammers and nails and cats and dogs outside,
- and it's the last day for the top-value voucher
Which is prob'ly why it takes our grub 25 minutes to appear. At least the lady is good enough to say sorry, and the chicken caesar salad (c/w anchovies, yum) is pretty good. Though, by that time, a plate of beans on toast would have done the job too. It's yet later when we order pudd: Eton Mess for one and all, please, like lunchtime at The Oaks. These also take a while giving the ideal moment to have a quick word with some oldie diners at the next table -- hello Dad, hello Mum (who provided an earlier review on these pages. 'Tis a small town, to be sure. Finally desserts materialise and are wolfed down.
Apparently Glasswells is also "the perfect place for furniture and furnishings". Food's OK too.
EDitorial ± 19-Jul-2009
Had a fine time at the burgeoning Latitude festival in 2008. Was determined to go again for a day this year, but Friday, Saturday or Sunday? Three to pick from, but wasn't grabbed by any of the headline music acts.
Then I happened to see a weird headline on the local news section of the BBC website:
Radiohead frontman to play Suffolk gig
You what? Apparently, one of my heroes would be making a rare solo appearance at Latitude on the Sunday. Quick, to the ticketing website! Having ordered my ticket that morning, met G. for lunch and told her I'd be off to Henham Park to see Thom Yorke. Ooh, she said, can I come?
11:45am, Sunday 19th July and we're standing in an ever-growing crowd before the magnificent Obelisk Stage. Rain is off and on. Typically it clears up as Mr Yorke's appearance gets nearer.
Naturally, he's very good. If I used the word awesome, I'd deploy it here. Dressed like a hobo, voice like an angel. Interesting mix of stuff from his solo album, a few Radiohead tunes and even a brand new song. He switches from guitar to piano to John Shuttleworth style keyboard. Bless him, he even did a mini encore of two great songs: There There -- "Why so green and lonely?" -- and True Love Waits, which is the definition of loveliness. I nearly cried.
Later that day:
- cabaret: Penny Dreadfuls: silly, funny
- film/music: Samphire Band with Molly Nyman and Harry Escott: classy film scores
- literary: Stuart Maconie with Jonathan Coe: wit with free biscuits
- music: Tricky: wow, what a noise as we watched the sound levels approach 100
- cabaret: La De Dahs: crowd pleasing covers in a 40s stylee
- music: Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds: intense from the get-go
- music: Gossip: big Beth Ditto oh so far away urging security to let the crown through to dance
... and missed Sean Lock, Peter Blake, Saint Etienne, etc. But did manage to find the car in the dark -- almost entirely thanks to G's sense of direction -- and we were off the site within 15 minutes thanks to the festival's vg organisation. Good day all round.
EDitorial ± 11-Jul-2009
After The Fire, Martlesham
Ah, the late '70s slash early '80s. Options, CB radio, OneCal, cola cubes, a 1:24 Airfix Stuka and my trusty radio cassette recorder. A friend of mine -- Nick -- put me on to a band called After The Fire and lent me one of their records. How old does that make me sound? Home taping was killing music at that time, so I bought a TDK AD90 and helped it along.
This would have been Laser Love, their second album. I played it and played it and played it. I liked the tunes, the synths, and could vaguely relate to the lyrics. Kudos to any band who can incorporate the line "I'd like a little time to cogitate" into a three minute pop song.
Time wore on, and a couple more LPs came out, and I stayed with them. Then I guess other stuff (sixth form, John Peel) came along and those ferrous oxide tapes fell by the wayside.
By chance, a year or so ago, I stumbled across an Amazon page offering a bargain priced CD containing over 40 of their tracks: gotta have it! Onto the iPod it went, and I was mighty happy as the fast-paced pop of Check It Out filled the car. Quality.
Moving on, I was glancing through a list of bands lined up to play at this year's Music On The Green at Martlesham, just over the road from the office. Does that really say After The Fire? Oh yes. Dragged Eldest and her mate out there late on Saturday afternoon. World and his wife were already there, camped out on their picnic chairs. We sat through an OK covers band (Killers, Coldplay, Snow Patrol) and then the once mighty ATF took the stage, belting out a 45 minute set. Looking around, I saw that I have become one of them, an OBMTW: Old Bloke Mouthing The Words.
EDitorial ± 10-Jul-2009
Ipswich Lunches: Kenny's Cafe
Ipswich: like the continent, it's closer than you think. Rev up the Red Rover and let's roll right past the Orwell Crossing, leaning left afore the bridge to go down the A1189. Maths fact: 1189 is not prime, being the product of 29 and 41. There, we've all learned something. Past the airport, past future Ikea, over the mini roundabout and pull over.
Nicked a last-gasp parking space and it's a short saunter into number 348, the not at all hard to find Kenny's Cafe, "breakfasts and roast dinners 7 days a week". Not my manor, this part of The 'Swich, though I believe this is the former Portman Cafe. To further confuse, the laminated table menus are plastered with "The Full Monty", also being the name of the fill-yer-plate monster breakfast. Various wimpy options are also available numbered 1 to 5 if you care for your arteries.
I took it as a good omen that Trapped by Col Abrams was playing on the radio as I ordered from the other handwritten options pinned to the counter: for me, the quintessentially English chicken curry and rice. Oh, and chips. That's very nearly your model eatwell plate, nicely balanced with an ice cold Dr Pepper. My spicy protein starchfest arrives on a big ol' plate and is guiltily gutfillingly good. As we're tucking in, Grenvyle drops the P-bomb: he'll v. shortly be riding off into the sunset and Picking Up His Pension. Countdown is on for his last few weeks of gainful employment. Like that Live Aid song by The Cars, Who's Gonna Drive Us Home?
Kenny, who may or may not be related to Jeff or Jack, has his walls hung with mirrors and the odd exotic photo of faraway Venice. There's that community caff feel much like the Mega Byte, a place populated by blokes who work with their hands. Time for us moisturised men to move along and mosey into the nearby Cottage Loaf Bakery for dessert -- that fresh cream-filled Eccles Cake was divine.
EDitorial ± 6-Jul-2009
When I lock my bike, they'll be wondering why I wasn't there earlier for the 6pm prize-giving.
When I walk towards the waterfront doorway, they'll point through the window and mouth the words There's Ed, Ip-Art Short Story Winner in 2007.
When I enter the swish new UCS building, other attendees will knowingly direct me upstairs to tonight's Writers Cafe event.
When I climb the stairs to the 3rd floor, they'll ask if I'm reading tonight, then say Oh You Must.
When I push through the double doors, the judges will catch my eye and rush over to talk to me.
When I say hi, they'll say But Didn't You Get Our Letter Confirming That You'd Been Shortlisted?
When I deny seeing any such letter, I'll point out that some post -- a Lovejoy DVD, a PS2 game -- went AWOL at home recently.
When I witness the confusion clearing, they'll pull out the winners' cheque, shake my hand and say I Think This Belongs To You.
I lock my bike, walk towards the waterfront doorway, enter the swish new USC building, climb the stairs to the 3rd floor, push through the double doors and say hi to the judges.
EDitorial ± 5-Jul-2009
The Bean Counter
The iridescent floating girl was ladling more cassoulet on to his plate when the fire bell sounded. Bee-yip! Bee-yip!
He half-opened an eye and tried to focus. Of course, Friday, aka bin day. Couldn't that lorry reverse any quieter? Muscle memory made his left arm snake out and pre-emptively cancel the alarm. Another 30 minutes wouldn't amount to a hill of beans, not today. Mmm, beans. He loved beans.
"Your tea's there."
He semi-stirred. "Ta," his lips stuck together. Had it been his idea to switch to tequila? Madness. Thursdays, Queen's Head works outing, never missed it. He always left at 9:40 to catch the quarter-to. Last night they'd manhandled him into a cab gone midnight. Somehow he'd made it upstairs in the darkness, feeling his way past domestic landmarks: newel post, doorway, airer. Brushed his foot against an unfamiliar pile, then safely to bed. Toasty. Beans on toast.
"Half seven, you know."
He rolled over and considered propping up his pillow. Hang 'em, they'd seen the last of him. About time that Jarvis earned his keep within accounts payable at Lupin Marketing. He pondered his plans: legal? - certainly; decent? - debatable; honest and truthful? - not as such.
Seven years back, office apathy had caused the syndicate to fold. Come the following weekend, he'd wasted a pound playing the same numbers. Monday morning, the place was simmering with self-recrimination. Five of the six had come up, plus the bonus ball. "Hey, Mr Bean, know what we could have shared?" Jarvis had yelled. "Three hundred grand!" He'd slumped, stayed schtum, tried to think where he'd put that ticket. Thankfully he'd found it nestled in the sports section before it had been chucked. Left it a week then quietly claimed his prize: no publicity, thanks. Was he absolutely sure he wanted it all in cash?
With not a word to the wife, that briefcase had burned a hole under his bed. Then, flicking through a catalogue, he'd found it: a miniature safe disguised as a can of beans. Bingo! After ordering half a dozen online, he'd spent a nervy hour decanting the notes before placing the tins at the back of the pantry, hidden among the wastelands of quinoa and flax seeds.
Biding his time had been a picnic. Today, he'd wait for her to go to work, pack a holdall and jet off to see the world. He might send her the odd postcard as he sampled the local cuisine: Spanish fabada, Nicaraguan gallo pinto, American succotash, ...
"Are you going in today or not?"
He rubbed his eyes, pulled himself up and ignored his tepid tea.
"While you were out boozing, some of us were having a bit of a spring clean. There's a bunch of your old clothes down there, for starters. And you should have seen the state of those kitchen cupboards. Your bloomin' beans: way past their sell-by date, no ring pull, light as you like, and what with the recycling coming this morning ..."
EDitorial ± 3-Jul-2009
Light Lunches: The Seal, Woodbridge
Nestled among the Lidl and kebab shop leaflets the other day was a flier for a company promising to remove the green algae from my conservatory. Not much use to me, then. Beneath that was a promotion offering Two Meals For £10 for somewhere we ain't yet patronised. And patronising is what we do best. Aren't you a sweet li'l waitress?
Turn off the A12 onto the Ipswich Road, codenamed B1438, and pretty much the first place you'll hit in Woodbridge, yay even before Notcutts, is The Seal. It may be my wild imaginings, but I thought this place sprang up overnight some years back. Boom, it's a fully-formed pub with an odd sign depicting a seal in a rowboat (not Max Von Sydow playing chess). There it sits, guarding the road into The 'Bridge with a series of strategically placed picnic tables. Having confirmed that our voucher is current currency, we choose from the range of "pub classics" and retire to the sunlit garden under a reassuringly extensive Artois parasol.
Kudos for providing a quality answer to the non-trivial question Do You Have Any Interesting Soft Drinks? They've got some syrups, make unknown, with flavours such as ginger & lemon, which they mix up into good size glasses. Pomegranate & raspberry and lemondate and lime: with ice, v. nice.
Weather doesn't quite know what to do with itself after last night's 2:30am thunder and lightning. In no time, food is served in a friendly fashion. Lovely chunky salmon fishcakes with a dressed salad and a bowl of fries. For £5, that's a crazy-like-a-seal price. Sign on the wall proclaims Inn Keeping With Tradition: narf.