EDitorial ± 30-Apr-2007

Cycle Path Through Grange Farm, Kesgrave

My regular reader will know that I bike from Ipswich to Martlesham Heath most days, come rain or shine. Sometimes into the wind, like this morning's slog, other times with the wind, like this afternoon's supersonics. More than once, I've been asked what route I take, and that's when things get tricky. Turn off at The Bell, head past the school, left into 12 Acre Approach, and so on.

Time for a play with Google Maps to plot my particular path through Grange Farm, the Kesgrave estate that has a smaller Tesco at one end and a whacking great Tesco at the other.

There's a dead handy cyclepath -- or should that read "segregated pedestrian/cycle highway" -- known as Pilbroughs Walk, running between the houses and twice passing under Ropes Drive. Takes you all the way to Dobbs Lane and beyond. Follow the directions past the Gorseland Primary School and the Control Tower, keep going over the A12 pedestrian bridge, and you can pop out within spitting distance of BT.

Worst bit is the 200m stretch of unmade road (Grange Lane) leading to Dobbs Lane, comprising more potholes than tarmac. I gather from this chap's website that there are plans to convert this into an all weather surface, rather than the current collection of craters. Let's go with those compulsory purchases!

EDitorial ± 29-Apr-2007

Wouldn't Have Happened With Instant

Finally ushered The Boy upstairs, though it was my fault for wanting to show him bits of Run Silent, Run Deep just before bedtime. We'd walked through HMS Ocelot, the Chatham docks submarine, on the Bank Holiday Monday, and I thought he'd appreciate seeing the reality of life on board. Well, as viewed in a Hollywood film starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. Dive, dive!

Girls (x2) were also spoken for, most of the way through milk and a biccy, so cue the best time of the evening: sitting down for an hour's Sunday night telly. Double anticipated bonus of:

  1. Easter choc chicks "found" in an undisclosed location,
  2. and that nice Stephen Fry in Kingdom -- shot in Swaffham

Live ITV nicely paused -- love that Humax -- time to load dodgy dishwasher and make some coffee. Need ... strong ... coffee. Two mugs plus cafetiere, and in we go to back room, glancing at the frozen Talk Talk ad. Floor littered with The Boy's Lego creations. Putting down tray, decide to clear some space, sweeping hand towards the multicolour brick house ... and collide with top of cafetiere, causing contents to inundate a large patch of carpet. Nooooooo!

G. not impressed with my simulation of the Norfolk coastline in fifty years.

EDitorial ± 27-Apr-2007

2007 Tour: Wild Strawberry Cafe, Woodbridge

Life's pretty darn good when you're sat out in the April sunshine of a Friday lunchtime, enjoying a mighty tasty crayfish & rocket sandwich and sipping a carbonated beverage. No need to hurry back to work just yet.

And so it came to pass, thanks to a 100W (energy efficient, naturally) lightbulb hanging over Andy Cassy's head, that the BT Defiants ping pong team embarked upon a rigorous pre-season training programme. Employing a radical "no bats" technique that would have delighted Mr Miyagi, it was decided that this should take the form of a summer tour ... of all the coffee shops in Woodbridge. Need a map?

When the weather's this good, you need to lap up some vitamin D, so let's find somewhere with outdoor seating: step forward the Wild Strawberry Cafe on Market Hill. Handily placed between the King's Head pub and the Galley restaurant, everything from the sign's lower-case lettering to the whitewashed interior screams fresh and hip. Which suits us down to the ground, oh yes.

For someone who seeks out non-standard soft drinks, the Strawbs' chilled cabinet is an Aladdin's cave -- I um-ed, I ah-ed, I chose a Chinotto from San Pellegrino. Marvellous. Service is laid back and unhurried, in a good way. Place your order, take your wooden spoon, and watch the world amble by.

Latte lacked a caffeine kick -- Americano for me next time -- but the cakes are good. There's even, I believe, free wi-fi if that's your bag, obviously being enjoyed by the guy in the back with his Apple laptop. A tiny taste of Seattle in sleepy Suffolk.

If it was a car -- Mini Cooper Convertible.
If they were passing by -- Lily Allen.

Update: 23-May-2008

One change of management later, the Wild Strawberry remains a class act. My chunky ciabatta, crammed with back bacon (from Creasey's of Peasenhall) and rocket was, for me, the best bacon sandwich ever. I've had more than my fair share of carrot cake, too, but theirs was up there with the best. Sadly, though, the Chinotto has been and gone: I'm hoping that an Ipswich deli can come up with the goods. Watch this space.

EDitorial ± 23-Apr-2007

Bouncing Babies

Down the bottom of the garden where you can go to eat worms if that's your bag, the grass is scuffed, the plants go untended and the nettles reach out for your bare legs. Not the most attractive play destination for kids with access to CBBC and a half-decent DVD library. So, all change:

  • out with the dead cherry tree, recently maniacally chainsawed by father-in-law
  • over the fence with the Little Tykes slide, donated to the neighbours
  • away with the swing, Freecycled to a good and grateful home

Encouraged by watching the kids make endless use of the Family O's skip-scrounged 8ft trampoline, we too jumped in and, after careful bamboo stick measuring, opted to go rectangular. Quadrilaterals are very in this season.

Took delivery of two mighty long cardboard boxes: this, dear reader, was a (full scale) model of elegant elasticity, the TP Nairobi. Fair bit bigger than their other model, the Tokyo: Out Of Africa outstrips Lost In Translation.

For the benefit of Mr Kite
There will be a show tonight on trampoline
— Beatles, Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite

Had it assembled PDQ thanks to some enthusiastic helper children. First, a good read of the doom-laden instructions: blah blah paralysis blah blah death. Yikes. Plenty of printed Dos (supervision, one at a time) and Don'ts (knee drops, somersaults) on the blue padding too. And my, look at the height of the thing!

A while back, I'd had a chuckle at some friends who'd made a similar purchase: they'd decided to minimise injuries by sinking the trampoline in the ground, necessitating the excavation of a huge pit. Didn't seem so daft now. Hit upon the idea of Time Team type trenches for the legs. Can you dig it?

Worked a treat, kids still having ample clearance. On steps Dad, egged on by Middler saying "Try a seat drop". Let's just pass over the posterior pain and point out that there's now a further dugout directly underneath.

EDitorial ± 20-Apr-2007

Memorable Quotes Of Mr. Potato Head

Usual post-work Friday routine, meeting between 50 and 100 per cent of the family at Crown Pools for The Boy's swimming lesson. He is, I believe, a duckling: OK on his front, less so when flipped on to his back.

Deal is that father & son go for a dip straight after his lesson, floundering around in the leisure pool (newsflash: wave machine now fixed!) until I can lure him out with the promise of a Friday night takeaway.

Earlier today he'd lost an upstairs tooth -- during assembly -- and was proudly showing me The Gap. He was also jiggling another wobbler, this one in the basement.

Down he disappeared, yet again, into the pleasantly warm water, emerging like Esther Williams and holding up an unattached teensy tooth.

Spitting out a forensically significant blob-let of blood, he announced, "I'm Picasso!"

EDitorial ± 14-Apr-2007

Attendance 24,319

(NB Long-ish build-up, but worth it for the pay-off, in my humble opinion.) So, a sunny Saturday saw the homecoming of the Kent kids: it had to happen. Stuck to the fridge for a few weeks had been an invitation, for The Boy, to a party to take place that very afternoon. He'd pre-warned us that:

  1. the hostess of said party was A Girl (!) in his class,
  2. and that he & best mate Ryan might be the only boys there

Thought we could pick up Ryan en route. Rang his mum to discover that she'd forgotten all about the do -- d'oh! -- and that her son would be at the Ipswich-Derby footy game instead. Parental dilemma: (a) inform The Boy that best mate won't be there and risk him wussing out, or (b) say nothing. We voted to keep schtum.

Three-fifteen comes around and into the car we go, carrying a suitably girly present plus card. I drop him off and thankfully I see at least one other lad through the hall. He's happy enough so off I pop into town for combs, a mixing bowl and a medio Americano.

Coupla hours later, I'm back, catching the tail end of a hired magician's act: he hands out cards to the queue of waiting parents declaring himself to be called Colin. Oh no, that's Colini, with an I. The Boy seems to have had a good time and I suggest popping round to my mum's: good idea, he says.

Outside Nana's, and father & son are idly kicking a ball back and forth:

[Dad, affecting insouciance] Who was at the party?
[Boy] One or two boys in my class, but not Ryan.
[Dad] Oh. Well, I know he likes football -- perhaps he was at the match?
[Boy, thoughtfully] Could be. He does like football.

A minute or two later, and a girl walks past wearing an ITFC top. Good match?, I ask her. Yep, she says, two late goals won it for us.

Shouts The Boy to the girl: "Did you see Ryan?"

EDitorial ± 11-Apr-2007

Dolmio, March 2007

Easter weekend and very kindly received a ginormous dark chocolate egg from mother-in-law. As The Boy might say, it's mahoosive. Cracked it open yesterday as an accompaniment to The Daily Show on More 4, and barely made an impact. Walls as thick as Fort Knox and a high level of cocoa solids. Plus a dozen or so truffles on the side. You need a large cuppa Taylor's Rich Italian, then a 50cl bottle of Buxton. Meantime here's 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 2007 was spent:

  • rewatching the marvellous Three Days Of The Condor with Redford and Von Sydow
  • relishing BBC4's Reichenbach Falls, a treat for Rankin and Rebus fans
  • struggling through We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
  • welcoming the return of Life On Mars
  • loving the strong coffee and warm choccy cake in Felixstowe's Little Ice Cream Co.
  • catching up with the delightful Little Miss Sunshine
  • learning lots from Garrison Keillor's daily podcast, the Writer's Almanac
  • experiencing a lifetime's worth of interviews (er, that's two)
  • whizzing through Nick Hornby's Polysyllabic Spree and discovering he'd also read Raise High The Roof Beam
  • overplaying and overwatching Grandaddy's Nature Anthem

And that was March 2007.

EDitorial ± 6-Apr-2007

Ipswich, You're Our Favourite Town

Doncha just love those fine upstanding folks behind the WKD alcopop? Not content with those guffawing ads along the lines of "Put a ring on her finger. A pineapple ring." that are causing mass hilarity up hill and down dale, they're now trying their multi-talented hand at regional advertising. This one's on show outside the Cricketers:

Ipswich, You're Our Favourite Town. And We Haven't Done Posters Like This In Norwich And Colchester, Honest.

How we laughed. Until we stopped. The moment I saw this, I was reminded of last year's equally baffling Alfa Romeo local ad, Mediocrity Is A Sin. What is it that we, the simple burghers of Ipswich, are meant to think when we see these billboards? Ted, stop the tractor and look-ee yonder: isn't that the name of our fair borough, loike?

Didn't we say that things were "wicked" back in the 1980s when Antmusic was all the rage? Still, least the WKD brainiacs have slapped on their noxious blue variant in preference to the toxic red and bilious orange "flavas". If this is Ipswich, then bingeboozer blue is the colour.

EDitorial ± 5-Apr-2007

TT0607, Week 26

Only 202 days since our opening match and already it's goodnight Vienna. Not even time for one last look at the weather: shame 'cos it was a lovely sunny day, inc. a lunchtime outing on two wheels to Woodbridge. Had to return that library book else that darn Council will be hunting me down in their black helicopters.

Return match against bottom-of-the-league Kingsfleet tonight. That's right, latest table shows us second bottom, yay, the highest we've been for a while. And waddya know, it ended with the same score, the Defiants ending the season with a hat trick of 6-4 wins.

We all beat their replacement player, who understandably wondered why we weren't doing any better, a question we've asked ourselves often enough. Me and Arvind played to potential in beating their best guy, the kid in the side, and very satisfying it was too. And I stood alone in toppling tenacious Cyril, who epitomises the words "spry" and "canny". Good of Andy to turn up and buy a round, cough cough.

That's that for 0607. Roll on September and the new Defiants, aka the Vipers.

EDitorial ± 3-Apr-2007

West End Girl

After rehearsing for the last 43 years -- well, several months -- Middler's big night out arrived. Her chance, along with 29 other be-leotard-ed girlies, to grace the stage of Sadler's Wells in London's busy West End. Coo blimey.

She's been tap-tapping for yonks at the local Stacey Pepper Dance Academy and The Gals have, to a man, been putting in some serious hours. Like Stephen Fry said, if I don't misremember a speech of his from a while back, dance is their life.

Long day too: coach departed at 8am, yet more practice at the theatre, show at 7:30pm, returning to Ippo gone midnight. Some stamina required.

As per their last performance at the Corn Exchange, I drew the short-ish straw in playing parent to The Boy, leaving Ma plus Eldest plus Nana to catch the Liverpool Street train. I'm told by these impartial observers that the Peppers more than held their own among the other dance schools, being well-drilled and sharp. Go girls.

Mighty proud of her.

EDitorial ± 2-Apr-2007

TT0607, Week 13

If it's Monday, this must be Felixstowe. A rare trip down the old Langer Road for a real 20 pointer against Kingsfleet, the team immediately above us (yeah, I know that all other teams in div two are above us) in the table. I had an odd set of games:

  • game 1 -- went 6-1 down in my first end before winning the next 10 points in a row, then didn't look back
  • game 2 -- couldn't do a thing right against Nice One Cyril, including bouncing the ball before serving, an ingrained habit of mine. Two-one down, then somehow won the fourth end 15-13 to go into an even more excruciating fifth end. He landed various edges and had maybe five matchpoints, yet somehow I sneaked through 14-12. Dreadful game.
  • game 3 -- their best player, and another five ender; he deservedly won

Business as usual elsewhere: customary couple for Andy, solitary single for Arv, generously throwing his last match so I could play the doubles. Net result, a 6-4 win, most likely keeping us down where we belong.

Deep and meaningful discussions ensued post-match in the Bodrum Grill over various forms of grilled meat.