EDitorial ± 29-Sep-2009

TT0910, Week 4

New ping-pong players: none for ages, then two come along within a month. First we acquired surrealist Rene on a Bosman, and now we've added Anshul. Story is that Andy bumped into some Indian fellas having a casual game one evening, and promptly invited them to be part of the Defiants experience. One declined, pleading lack of match practice -- like that stops us -- and one, Anshul, accepted.

His first match for us tonight, and he was straight in at the deep end against cack-handed Mark. I felt sorry for him as he was trounced in game one, then mightily impressed as he showed some backbone to win game two. Down to the wire and our man pulled through to gain a fine scalp. There's quality.

As if that wasn't enough, he won his only other game too (opposition could only muster two players). That'd be one hundred per cent to Anshul, going straight to the top of our internal rankings.

Meantime, Mark gained some revenge by beating both me and Andy, who'd popped in after puppy training. As I was caving in to Mark, Roy Keane's ITFC were throwing away a two-goal lead up in Sheffield. Double bummer.

So, me and newboy Anshul to contest the doubles, and we whooped 'em in straight ends, Big A landing some fine winners. Might not be such a bad season after all.

EDitorial ± 24-Sep-2009

Ipswich Lunches: Neptune Cafe

It's a little disorienting doing the Friday thing on a Thursday. Upfront, we'd agreed on an Ipswich venue, exact location TBA, thus it seemed prudent to work from home. And who really believes in the "W" part of WFH? There's the dishwasher to empty, post in the porch, and that Gaggia device won't press its own buttons, you know.

Bare bedrock of me and Andy: both on bikes (mine's got bigger wheels, his is better at folding) and starting from opposing sides of the town. Oh so many possibilities but my vote is for the Neptune Cafe. Despite my inate knowledge of The Swich, forming a legit route to Fore Street presents a puzzle. Our one-way system could make Jack Bauer weep, and I'd rather keep the total Highway Code offences to below double digits. Through town, cycle path by dead Odeon, down The Wash (Upper Orwell Street to you) and cut dodgily past the Record & Tape Exchange, taking crossing by Lord Nelson. Sorted.

An oddity in that I'm the first to arrive. Sip of Dr Pepper while perusing the menu that's written entirely on chalky blackboards. Jacket & chilli, please -- er, no chilli today, or pasties -- OK, ham/egg/chips if you'd be so kind. Good choice, says the lady enigmatically. Sitting down, you gotta love the Marilyn & Audrey prints on the wall that counterpoint the wipe-clean squirty condiment containers. I bet they have brand-name sauce bottles on the posh side of the docks, though The Salthouse would no doubt disapprove of such vulgarity.

Andy arrives seconds before my large white plate of goodies, quickly doused with blood-coloured sauce. The food, that is, not Mr C. Once upon a time, this was Wolsey Cabs. The stories it could tell, though you'd struggle to hear them WITH ALL THAT BLOOMIN' NOISE from the endless lane-switching traffic outside. It's rumoured to be part of the Jacks/Jeffs empire, hence the Mega Byte similarities.

Savoury done, and noticing (a) the (discarded?) machine in the corner and (b) the Es___sso window lettering, I ask the lady if she does any fancy coffee. Well, she says, I can do you a nice milky coffee in the microwave. You don't say no to an offer like that. Accompanying slice of fruit cake was top notch; she'd made it that very morning. Pedalling away, it hit me that I should have come along the Waterfront and used the path by the river. Next time.

If it was a car -- Zodiac Mark IV.
If they were passing by -- Robert De Niro.

EDitorial ± 22-Sep-2009

Ipswich Coffee Shops

Done and dusted:

Let's get serious and head to the town that wants to be a city: Ipswich.

Story so far:

  1. Al's Cafe
  2. All Fired Up
  3. Applaud, St Peter's Street
  4. Arlingtons dinner and afternoon tea
  5. Artizan, Silent Street
  6. Asda
  7. B&Q
  8. Baker & Barista, St Peter's Street -- renamed as Applaud
  9. Bella Napoli
  10. Bernie Lee's -- gone 2011
  11. Berridges
  12. BHS
  13. Billsberry's -- gone 2013
  14. Blends
  15. Blackfriars, Fore Street
  16. Bourne Bridge
  17. Brasilia Cafe -- gone 2012
  18. Burger King
  19. Buttery Bar, High Street -- gone 2016
  20. Cafe Giardino, Buttermarket
  21. Cafe Jam, Upper Orwell Street -- now Sweet P's Soul Food
  22. Cafe Marina, Waterfront
  23. Cafe Moda, Buttermarket
  24. Cafe Siena, Tower Ramparts
  25. Cafe Tempo, Heath Road Hospital
  26. Cargo Coffee, Waterfront
  27. Caffe Basso, Tacket Street
  28. CC's Sandwich Bar, Bixley Road
  29. Central Canteen
  30. Chapters, Ipswich Institute
  31. Coffeelink waterfront and station plus the roastery
  32. Coffee Moment -- gone 2013
  33. Colours Continental Cafe
  34. Cool Beanz, Russell Road
  35. Co-op Education Centre
  36. Cult Cafe, Waterfront
  37. DanceEats
  38. Danny's Sandwich Bar -- gone 2012
  39. Debenhams
  40. Delice, Pownall Road
  41. Doorsteps
  42. Edward's -- gone 2014
  43. El Loco Taco, Buttermarket
  44. Enjoy! -- gone 2015
  45. Fishface, The Walk
  46. Flavours Of Portugal, St Helens St
  47. Fresh Fry, Grimwade Street
  48. Gaskins Coffee House, Woodbridge Road East
  49. Glasswells
  50. Go Manila!
  51. Greggs
  52. Grumpy Mole, Queen Street -- gone 2015
  53. Half Moon Foods, Ransomes Europark
  54. Holywells Stable Block
  55. Isaacs Coffee Tavern
  56. JaCey's Coffee House
  57. Jack's Cafe
  58. Janet's -- gone 2012
  59. Just Eat, Ipswich Hospital
  60. K's Coffee Lounge -- gone 2013
  61. Kai, UCS, Waterfront, now Cult Cafe
  62. Karibu's Luncheon Club
  63. Kenny's Cafe
  64. The Key
  65. Kings Coffee House
  66. La Tour Cycle Cafe, Tower Street
  67. Ladies That Lunch, now Blackfriars
  68. Laurel Farm, Henley Road
  69. Mansion Tea Room
  70. Marks & Spencer Cafe Revive
  71. Mega Byte Cafe
  72. The Mermaid
  73. Morrison's
  74. Momentum, St Nicholas Street
  75. Munch -- gone 2011
  76. Munchies Burger Bar, The Drift
  77. Museum Street Cafe
  78. Neptune Cafe
  79. Neptunes, chip shop on Tye Road
  80. New Wolsey
  81. No.16 Bar and Kitchen, Tacket Street
  82. O'Briens -- gone 2013
  83. Oggy Oggy -- gone 2012
  84. O Portugues, Norwich Road
  85. The Orangery -- gone 2010
  86. Patisserie Valerie, Buttermarket
  87. Penny Corner Cafe, Farthing Road Industrial Estate
  88. Pickwicks
  89. Princess Bakery, Cliff Lane
  90. RaRa's
  91. The Range
  92. Rendezvous Cafe, Queensway
  93. St Lawrence Centre
  94. St Nicholas Stores
  95. Saints
  96. The Sanctuary
  97. Seasons Deli -- gone 2011
  98. ShakeAway, Buttermarket
  99. Shelley's, Suffolk New College
  100. Smokey Joe's, Coytes Gardens
  101. Snobs -- gone summer 2013, sadly -- now Town Hall Tea Room
  102. Something Yummy -- replaced 2016 by Delice
  103. Star Express
  104. Starbucks
  105. Suffolk Origo -- gone 2012
  106. Suffolk Ski Centre, The Lodge
  107. Sweet P's Soul Food, Upper Orwell Street
  108. Sunrise Cafe, St Matthews Street
  109. T Junction, Carr Street
  110. Taste Community Cafe
  111. Tastyfill, Felaw Maltings
  112. Tea Boutique -- gone 2014
  113. Theta, UCS -- replaced 2016 by Cargo Coffee, Waterfront
  114. Town Hall Tea Room
  115. Travelodge
  116. Truly Scrumptious, Wherstead Road
  117. Upper Crust, Ipswich station
  118. Waitrose, Futura Park
  119. Wicked Cafe, UCS
  120. Wigglywoo's Craft Emporium
  121. Willy's And Milly's
  122. Xpresso, Staples Car Park

And undoubtedly more to follow.

EDitorial ± 21-Sep-2009

TT0910, Week 3

This is novel. I'm writing this without knowing how we, the BT Defiants table tennis team, did tonight. I had to leave, you see, to go fetch The Boy from his own Monday evening sporting activity, so don't know how it turned out.

I can tell you that the Wherstead Comets were mighty hospitable, letting me play three out of the first four games. Shame that the first one took a full 20 minutes, scraping back from 2-0 down to edge a 3-2 win. Over to Andy for a fine win -- his first of the season -- then back to me again for a quicker win.

Third and final game and I found myself needing one more end to finish the match and get away. Clock was ticking and I was already about 10 minutes past the advisable time to depart. Lose that 4th end and I'd have gifted him the 5th, victory and all. Finally nailed the point, grabbed my stuff and floored it over the bridge. Poor lad was in tears when I arrived, around 10 minutes later than promised. I am a Bad Dad.

EDitorial ± 18-Sep-2009

Ipswich Lunches: Pickwicks

Unique location, today, sitting under "the oldest circle of church bells in the world": those words are lifted directly from the BBC website, I'll have you know. Yes, these are the bells that Blatchly heard as a boy. Even our Grenvyle looks like a babe in comparison to these pealers. Ding dong.

We're sitting among the graves of St Lawrence church on Dial Lane. It's a delightfully sunny day but we've managed to bag a shady table. Over there, near Craftability, the solar rays are beating down. Over here, near the folk eating their McLunches, the Ambre Solaire is not required. This stretch of glebe has been claimed by Pickwicks, another one of those places (like Enjoy!) that I first mentioned back in the time of the Space Odyssey:

"... Pickwicks (formerly Boodles?) has been at the same location for years preaching the good news about ground coffee and good tea"

I've got happy memories of coming to Dial Lane many times when I was first earning some money. Upstairs, flicking through The Indy, nibbling a toasted sarnie, then sipping a cappuccino and eating a slice of passion cake: tres Chic, i.e. Good Times. Judging by today's outing, Pickwicks hasn't moved on. There's still a comprehensive selection of teas and coffees, and the menu still offers Brevilled bakery items. Cheese and pickle for me, and that's what you get, no more, no less, no leaves.

Unlike the food, the service had more than a little personality. Bit of to and fro is always welcome. Having asked the lady to rattle through the cakes on offer, I stopped her after item 1, the passion cake. Gotta have that retro experience in full. Made the mistake of opting for a cafe creme, comprising an espresso topped with squirty cream and sprinkles. Not great: should have stuck with the 80s cappuccino.

If it was a car -- Austin Montego.
If they were passing by -- Romeo Zondervan.

EDitorial ± 15-Sep-2009

TT0910, Week 2

Only the second week and already the excuses are tumbling in -- v. v. low blood pressure, pleads sicknote Grenvyle, so low my sight has gone. Yeah, yeah. Tell the nurses when you're up at dialysis tomorrow night, matey.

Which left me and Rene to ply our paddles and raise our rubbers, as it were, against the nouvelle Novas of bad/worse/Wherstead. They ain't no pushovers, and we started the night three points down. Quite a relief to be playing in wintry conditions once more, the rain chucking it down unlike the hot & sticky conditions of last week.

I saw none of Rene's games; he saw none of mine. But the scorecard (and the man himself) tells us that he went the full 15 rounds -- well, 5 ends -- against both Scott and Willie, a most creditable performance. Few more games on him and he might be demonstrating Magritte (kind of meant to sound like "more grit" but doesn't really work).

I had the skillz and the breakz to take the pointz off that same Scott and Willie pairing, but came unstuck against Martin, not for the first time. He beat me in the championships last year, he beat me in the league, he beat me tonight, though I did nab the first end. To finish, when you've got only two players, the doubles team picks itself, and waddya know, we won. Well done, us.

EDitorial ± 11-Sep-2009

Ipswich Lunches: Al's Cafe

Everyone, at some point in their lives, has passed Meredith Road. Maybe you've dipped under the landmark Ferodo Bridge heading out towards the A14, then got held up at some traffic lights: to the left a park, to the right a pricey BP garage. That petrol refillery stands sentinel to the Whitton estate, a part of town you've been told to avoid. Don't turn your engine off, they'll have told you, half-jokingly. It's an urban jungle out there.

Course, being a local lends a somewhat different view. Which is why I unflinchingly suggested that we meet up at Al's Cafe on mean Meredith Road, sandwiched between the Bekash Tandoori and Quality Kebabs. Parking up there is an event predictable only by Derren Brown, but we landed a greengage of a spot right outside the caff. Handy for the odd over-the-shoulder check for the car, not that it goes with the neighbourhood.

Long and thin is Al's with no shortage of seating. Like Kenny's, on the other side of town, the menus are lengthy and laminated. Yes, there's omelettes and jackets and baguettes and roasts, but a man comes here for an All Day Breakfast: it's merely a question of choosing which one. Each of the "set menus" offers a different combination of ADB staples and quantities. Black pudding? Beans? Tea included? Double egg? Prob'ly a sign of my inner geek that I'd have preferred a tick list. Any road up, unassuming 1 for Andy, modest number 2 for me, gutbusting 8 for Grenvyle. This being a no-frills establishment, we ordered at the counter and awaited our fry-ups. I think, ironicaly, that these premises were once home to Peachey's, a sports equipment shop.

Not two shakes before a single saucer of toast emerged as tall as Cumberland Towers, swiftly followed by our big white plates. This is what we're talking about -- a meal worthy of a write-up on Egg Bacon Chips 'n Beans, except for the curious lack of chips. And with piping hot mushrooms. I'd got my eye on that last round of toast to mop my plate before Grenvyle dubiously nipped in to claim it: I demand a recount.

That missed triangle of dough left me space for pudd, my eye having been fruitily drawn to a blow-up photo of apple pie and custard (summer is gone, as we've already concluded). Up again to the counter -- mind the gently sloping floor -- and a mug of tea too. Cuppa char comes with a spoon to fish out the milkily floating bag, as per all classy joints. My hot pie is drowned in custard, in a good way, and is sweetly satisfying. I was grateful for the cycle ride home.

If it was a car -- Hillman Hunter.
If they were passing by -- Bob Hoskins.

EDitorial ± 8-Sep-2009

TT0910, Week 1

Second week of September al-bloomin'-ready and it's a hot one. Too hot to wear a long-sleeved cycling top -- poor decision on my part -- and far too hot to have a semi-serious 2-a-side kickaround at lunchtime. It follows that if indulging in outdoor sports isn't the cleverest idea, indulging in indoor sports is dumber still. What better night to start the 2009/2010 ping-pong season?

Not sure if it works to compare the BT Defiants team to Oasis. Nope, they've stopped completely, at least for now. Maybe The Who? Point is that the 2009 line-up intersects but is not equal to the 2008 line-up. Certain members, with good reason, have been reluctant to commit this time around, and that's put our winter tour of minor UK colleges in jeopardy. Having placed a small ad in the back of the Melody Maker, we ended up siging a new bass player in the guise of Rene -- Willkommen! I know who we most closely resemble: Metallica.

Up at a sticky Ransomes Sports Club tonight, and it doesn't go exactly to plan. We all come unstuck against Bob, who's evidently using up his entire year's supply of nets and edges in one match. I manage to get past the other two, including ever-awkward Brian, but Andy has an absolute mare and cannot play the simplest shot. One to forget for Mr C.

Thank goodness, then, for debutant Rene, landing us a point in his Bondi blue sleeveless top. Later, in a fashion first for the Defiants, he changed into a Bond Bug orange top. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough to see us through the doubles.

EDitorial ± 4-Sep-2009

Ipswich Lunches: Museum Street Cafe

Forty-odd years ago at 14 St Nicholas Street -- now home to the Kwan Thai -- you'd have found Marnos Food Reform Restaurant and Health Shop. That name was a bit of a mouthful, like their locally renowned vegetarian meals. Where's the meat? There isn't any.

Now, in oh-nine, I suspect that one or two of the veteran veg-heads have relocated to a new joint by the cartographically clued name of the Museum Street Cafe, possibly in lower case. Up the road from Arlingtons, next to the Real Nappy HQ, look out for the fetching white-on-red understated Courier sign. Bikes parked, in we go and the house is humming. No waiting for waiters here: order at the counter and take your plate back to your table and complimentary iced water carafe. Simples.

This being a lunchtime, hot meals are on offer, inc. onion and gruyere tart, aubergine lasagne, and, for me, a bizarre sounding chickpea "cake". Anything with a pulse. Comes with green salad and I go for an extra haricot beans in molasses salad. At this point, Andy and I are both recalling last year's trip to the unique Butley Barn. This, let me tell ya, is quality grub. Others enjoying their platefuls include a lady with a shiny silver Mac laptop and the odd yummy mummy. Us IT pros are right at home.

Rudely pinned to the otherwise blank walls are random Bartholomews Revised Half Inch county maps, and we're seated on pleasingly haphazard ex-church chairs, prayer book holder to the rear. A set designer couldn't make this up. For pudd, what else but a large slice of lemon-filled courgette cake, a further kick in the teeth for those who think it's wrong to make cake from carrots. Plus one "strong" coffee in a big mug.

Asparagus aloft for the M.S.C. -- go patronise them and enjoy vegging out.

If it was a car -- Simca 1100.
If they were passing by -- Julia McKenzie.