EDitorial ± 30-Sep-2008

TT0809, Week 3

Infighting at BT: nothing new there -- welcome to an officially sanctioned GPO joust, a telecoms tussle, a Busby battlematch:

  • in the blue corner, the Defiants, newly promoted from division 3
  • in the red corner, the B52s, newly relegated from division 1

First blood to the younger pretenders as holes 'n' poles Andy, MPG2 Ed and optical Rob each take two points to create an unassailable 6-2 lead. Nil points for opponents BM and DJ, the latter not taking kindly to Andy's ill-timed nets and edges. Deux points for doughtily defending Dave, digging in like a Nizlopi single.

Final singles match sees unbeaten Rob v. unbeaten Dave, pimples v. push, Lucozade Alert (Mental Edge) v. Lucozade Sport (Isotonic). Dave edges the first, sneaks the second, and takes the third: no disgrace to lose to someone who won nearly half his games in a higher division last year.

Rob graciously lets the sounds-like-crack team of Andy and Ed do the doubles. Despite more than one matchpoint, we manage to carry on our hundred per cent record ... of losing. Still, a first win of the season merits a quick milkshake at the Tiles. Mine's a vanilla with honey roast nuts.

EDitorial ± 26-Sep-2008

Light Lunches: J's Fish And Chips, Martlesham

Down to the hardcore, the quorum: that'd be me and the boy Cassy, occasional doubles players for the BT Defiants. Talking of all things aeronautical, here's an oddity: today's outing takes us to the site of a plane crash (an EE Canberra) which happened in 1956. That was also in September, and also, spookily, on the last Friday of the month. Welcome to the Twilight Zone.

Wrap right trouser leg in the secure velcro of the grassroutes.info luminous strap, climb on saddle and within five minutes we're at J's Fish And Chips, a pickled egg's throw from the Red Lion. Proximity of this plaice (ouch) means that it's been our fallback destination for blinkin' yonks. Official signage calls it "J's At Crown Point", by the way (see map), and as the sign adds, you can Eat In or Take Away, though sitting inside will cost you an additional 10%.

Similar to an idealised Tibet, it used to be Chinese. Not any more. Friday equals fish, and there's few spaces to be had in the car park, whether or not you're car sharing. We join the queue inside which gives us time to buy a cold can from the vending machine and make our selections. Service is friendly and efficient -- double fish cake and chips, plus 15p Heinz ketchup, please -- and out we go to grab one of the picnic benches. Quite the life, snarfing down good freshly cooked chips from locally grown spuds under a September sun.

What else? Best watch yourself on the multi level steps, much like Andy's young son didn't. There's not only children's portions but also cheesy chips on offer, yum. Plus tea or coffee from a little machine. And a freezerful of small Ben and Jerry's tubs, if that's your bag: we were sorely stuffed after our dejeuner sur l'herbe. Well, a bench. J's: just right.

If it was a car -- Peugeot 206.
If they were passing by -- Adrian Chiles.

EDitorial ± 25-Sep-2008

Doughnut Day

For a while in our regular workaday office, one word and one thought had been uppermost in our mentalist minds: doughnut. Yep, come a certain time of day -- 11am, 2pm, 4pm, say -- we'd start to fantasise about sinking our teeth into a deep-fried piece of sweet batter. American yum yum, Spanish churros, French beignet: we saw all these pictures and more on the Internets. Mostly we made do with a Tesco jam-filled.

So when I heard that our kindly Boss was to visit us the next day from her base in London Town, my BSc brain fired into life: wouldn't it be super if she brought us some City doughnuts? In fact, how's about some Krispy Kreme?! No such stores in this vicinity but one, coincidentally, in Liverpool St station itself. There followed a pleading email kindly requesting a glazed raspberry, a chocolate dreamcake, a maple iced glazed, et cetera.

Into work expectantly the next day ... and by the Lord Harry, behold a delightful dozen of the nutritionally questionable items in a KK box. Life does not get any sweeter, quite literally.

Felt good after the first: my, that is more-ish maple. Slightly sugar rushy after the second: love that vanilla cruller. And a tad unsettled after the third: original glazed, yes sirree. Nice to get a taste of life in the NYPD.

EDitorial ± 19-Sep-2008

Light Lunches: No 10 Teashop, Framlingham

In a complete 180 from last week's Butley bunfight, this week's outing was easy to find, splendidly sunny, crunchingly low cost and featured a far less contentious drive(r). I could end it there; naturally I won't, not while the words are flooding out like Tetley tea.

Back before Beijing, we spent all of 15 seconds in the No 10 Teashop, leaving when we couldn't spot a spare table, only to land on our feet in the great Goat That Dances. Today the tide parts and we secure three seats plus a spare. There's a tiny A5 laminated menu with no mention of the cafe's name, and nothing that needs explaining: no Moroccan specialities here, ta very much. Grenvyle orders a pot of tea and, maybe using mirrors or sleight of hand, it turns up while the waitress is still jotting down our order. Nifty.

Isn't long to cast your eye over the minimally decorated interior (couple of Fram pictures, that's your lot) before the remaining items promptly appear. Tuna bap on brown for me: good size, freshly made, non-controversial side salad, enough said. This is plain food for People Who Know What They Like. Judging by the healthy turnover of customers, they do a good trade with the locals.

Dessert -- for we have oodles of time today -- is a simple slice of bakewell tart, plus cafetiere of OK coffee. Far too full to fancy anything from the sweet shop which occupies the front of the premises, though Andy has space to merit buying a quarter of Pontefract Cakes, to remind him of home and also 'cos the kids won't touch 'em. There's a shelf of fine china for sale, too. No, me neither.

If it was a car -- Triumph Acclaim.
If they were passing by -- Peter Sallis.

EDitorial ± 16-Sep-2008

TT0809, Week 2

Uncannily, not more than 24 hours after Andy stretched too far, an email arrived out of the bonny blue ethernet asking if we'd like an extra occasional player. Sender was none other than Rob, who accompanied Andy and me to Sketchley's fully eight months ago, relieving us of the burden of a three digit average. We ain't proud: come aboard.

Hadleigh Condors comprise Dick Van Dyke and the Jonas Brothers, a generation or three apart. That familiar scraping sound was me edging past big-hitting James and elaborate-serving Josh. Final singles saw the Secretary Smackdown as the div 1 TT sec (me) took on the div 2&3 TT sec (Ken). Match inevitability went to five full ends: I had it won at 10-6 up, he clawed back to deuce, then I was pathetically grateful for a net and one other point. Div 1 reigns. Go me with my enjoy-it-while-it-lasts 100 per cent.

What of Rob? Well, first We Need To Talk About Kevin. Egged on by Arvind's encouragement to "keep thinking that all your shots are landing perfect", against Josh he was on fire for the first end ... then the pilot light went out. No matter: the flames leapt back to life, and Kev found himself 9-6 up in the fifth end against Ken. Surely he'd bag his first point of the season? Five in a row saw canny Ken come out on top, alas. Dig in!

Mysteriously, just the solitary point for newboy Rob, coming unstuck against Ken and Josh. Despite the Lucozade Caffeine Boost and Red Bull chasers, those pimples weren't performing tonight. He will return.

EDitorial ± 12-Sep-2008

Light Lunches: Barn Cafe, Butley

I'm invariably a few minutes on the drag for our Friday outings, even more so on this particular Friday due to studying the map and directions provided by "OS" Andy. We're going where? Which is near what? Scott, our regular chauffeur, had also been perusing this same info. And could we agree whether to turn left or head straight at the Wilford Bridge roundabout? No sir, we could not. Left!, I strongly suggested. On your head be it, paraphrased the driver.

Pootling down the B1084 in the persistent precipitation, we eventually passed the Butley Oyster pub -- not to be confused with the Butley Oysterage (at Orford, of course) nor the Butt & Oyster pub (at Pin Mill). Right down Mill Lane at the Butley Barn sign, and The Barn Cafe is to your left: can't miss it, as I made a "told you so" face to Stanley SatNav at the wheel.

Met by Mr and Mrs Andy, we headed inside to the dry. This is a barn of a place -- clue's in the name -- all exposed beams and not-quite right angles. With no menus on the tables, it's eyes right to the blackboard behind the counter. Unsure what's meant by iman bayildi? Ask Jacki Smith, the barnstorming proprietor and one woman band, who held our hand and talked us through the deliberately limited options, changed daily. We um-ed, we ah-ed, we chose. And here's a basket of home-baked lavender & walnut bread to keep us going. Impressive. Having demolished that, out came an equally tasty thin cut soya & linseed loaf. Double yum.

In contrast to last week at the Cafe Bencotto, that "unhurried atmosphere" (as stated on the flyer) is very much the intention. Can't say we minded, esp. when our food emerged. Kidney bean goulash with minced beef for me, Moroccan chicken pie elsewhere. Hang on, she said, I'll fetch your veg. Our veg? Behold a large baking dish of exotic goodness, with shredded potato and rice and ginger and saffron and almonds, et cetera. That warm feeling in your stomach is foodie nirvana.

No time for pudd -- some of us have work to do, dagnabit -- though surely time for a quick jolt. Espresso, please, I asked the nice lady. We don't do fancy coffee here, she replied, this is Butley! Hang on, we're just off the edge of nowhere and we've just eaten a truly memorable meal. Any B-road up, the no-nonsense cafetiere was perfectly OK. Message of the week: visit the barn, but call ahead first on 01394 450800 to ensure they're open. You'll love it.

If it was a car -- BMW M5.
If they were passing by -- Miriam Margolyes.

EDitorial ± 9-Sep-2008

TT0809, Week 1

And they're off. Page 18 of this year's Coventry blue TT handbook clearly shows the occasionally conquering BT Defiants -- us -- in division 2 of the Ipswich & District League, our highest placing ever. Grab some cotton wool, it's nosebleed time. Aiming realistically, let's try to stay up.

In an attempt to get in the pre-match zone, I donned my Rave T-shirt, grabbed a spotty banana and banged on some up-to-11 Queens Of The Stone Age. Also treated myself to a new 47p 500ml bottle of Co-op Fairbourne Springs water. With sports top, naturally. That lottery funding will kick in anyday now. No Arvind -- our Indian's done a runner -- leaving the cracked line-up of Andy, Kev and me. Plus Grenvyle when he's not on dialysis.

Britannia Dome tonight against a team who, apparently, should have been relegated. Rusty nervy start for me against their young lady before my spin prevailed. Kev came unstuck playing big Paul, leaving me to do battle with Vlad: scraped through that one too, somehow. Half eight, must be time for Andy to turn up .. who promptly pulled something he shouldn't and spent the rest of the evening hobbling around awkwardly, doing a fair impersonation of our fourth player.

Luckily, left-handed Paul caved in against both Andy and me, even playing the odd right-handed shot. Kev went 2-0 up on Nic and lost the next three; she also outflexed Andy over five ends. And me/Kev turned in a dreadful doubles. Going down 6-4 to low ranked opposition wasn't quite the dream start. Quoting D:Ream, Things Can Only Get Better.

EDitorial ± 5-Sep-2008

Felixstowe Light Lunches: Cafe Bencotto

Light lunch ligging is back after a late August layoff, and conditions are September sad for the (car)ferry to Felixstowe. Just when we think it's behind us, it keeps pulling us back for one last job: picture the 'Stowe as Don "Yes! Yes!" Logan to our Gal "No, No" Dove.

There's a new joint in town on which we've had our all day breakfast eye for a goodly while. Now the summer's gone, Tim Yeo's simple-as trio of meeting & eating places is complete:

  1. A is for Alex, Felixstowe -- been there, done that, will go back
  2. B is for Black Tiles, Martlesham -- not a million miles from the office
  3. C is for Cafe Bencotto, Felixstowe -- "Mediterranean fayre venue", it says here

According to my recently used Collins Italian phrasebook, "Ben Cotto" means ... what? Anyone? Well done if you said well done. Which is apposite since the interior is precisely that. Dead classy, lots of light, loads of space: a far cry from when the old Bencotto Steak House was the haunt of my grandparents. There's plenty of tables too, though precious few free ones this particular lunchtime. We're allocated a semicircular bay, most comfortable, and given menus to peruse. Pizza? Pasta? Anti pasto?

Drinks ordered, prevarication ensues, so much so that we seem to lose our waitress slot. It's a while before we can place our food orders -- time to eye today's newspapers -- and we've all got a keen appetite when our grub finally turns up. Hey presto, I don't think so. Just about worth the wait for my smoked pancetta and avocado salad with tasty dressing; Andy's veg platter and Gren's spagbol also look the part.

Would very much have liked to try their macchiato, maybe with the lemon tart, but time was against us, largely due to the "unhurried" (if we're being kind) service. They sure didn't move that slowly when these premises used to be the fire station.

If it was a car -- Fiat Ulysse.
If they were passing by -- Matteo Sereni.

Update: 06-Feb-2009

150 days later and we're back at the Bencotto thanks to some cut-and-snip coupons offering selected main meals for a fiver. Pleased to report that service is ace, and plates-o-food are before us in two shakes. Maybe shouldn't have added chilli oil to my already chilli-laden pizza, but hey: v. tasty and Pizza Express-ish, which is good. Grenvyle's seafood linguine looks great. And to follow up my whole litre of chilled Bencotto brand water, a potent kerpow of a macchiato. Nice one, Bencotto.

EDitorial ± 1-Sep-2008

Italia 08

Agosto, Umbria, Italia -- rented Astra estate (curiously, this means "summer" in the local lingo) tells us today is "martedi" -- and we're on a day trip to somewhere I've actually heard of.

Today is destinazione Perugia, a name dimly remembered from the glory days of Football Italia on Channel 4. Fabrizio show-us-your-belly Ravanelli started and ended his calcio career here. Head past nearby town of Castiglione del Lago and onto the soothingly named E45 road. Ah, smooth, apart from the odd pothole. Several tunnels later we've taken the correct exit and, after a bit of a climb, somehow found the right car park.

Now to follow the signs to the escalators. Of course! 'Cos that's the way you reach the oldest part of town. Up one covered moving walkway, then another, quick walk and up the next, et cetera: there's five or six of 'em. Fantastically, the penultimate riser brings you up into the underground remains of the city.

Saunter along the Corso Vannucci, past the Apple store, and admire the Palazzo dei Priori (tick), Fontana Maggiore (noted) and Duomo (cross it off). Etruscan Arch can follow once we've had a macchiato and some gelati.

Much later, all sapped by the heat and the walking, we're struggling to find the way back out in the car and find ourselves in the wrong lane, not for the first time. What's that? A McDonalds sign? And there's a parking spot outside? Come on, kids! Watch your Dad as he struggles gamely to order various items before discovering that the young lady server speaks perfectly good English.