EDitorial ± 29-Jan-2010

Light Lunches: Popins, Holbrook

In and out of my Chambers (11th edition), I learn that a "peninsular unit" is another term for a breakfast bar. Question: why wasn't the author who lived on a remote strip of land more widely read? Answer: because he used to pen insular novels. I'll stop now.

Out, then, to the Shotley peninsula in the fashionably late ReneMobile. Via Manningtree or Freston? With me in the car, we'll have the latter. Glance left at what's left of the Suffolk Food Hall after last week's fire, past Das Boot, then no sleep 'til Holbrook. Somewhat easier to park here than our recent trips to downtown Ipswich, helped by the adjacent post office. Ebay business done and clutching proof of postage slips, pop in to Popins, though the sign outside says The Tea Shop. Whatever, or as we say in this house, wevs.

Phew: Grenvyle's beat us and put towels down on a table for four. Actually, there's a bulb of lunching ladies in the other corner plus us green onions, and that's shallot. Informative and helpful waitress stroke chef stroke helper-outer spells out today's options since there's no obvious menu (later, I spot it on an obscured chalkboard, coincidentally the name of a 1970s Dutch prog rock band). As in life, we make our choices. Rene goes all Hollywood by ordering off-menu: he'll have the full English breakfast, please.

Not sure how they scratch a living out here on the 'sula -- they also sell local cards, etc. -- but the grub is good and the service is super. Vic Marks for my chilli jacket. Given the role of understudy and clearly desperate to play the lead was an outstandingly dressed side salad. Eyeing up everyone else's platters, I'd have happily swapped with any of 'em. With us piling in, the ladies paid up and were ogling Rene's bacon and eggs:

[Them] (jealously) We didn't get offered that!
[Rene] (cool as a cucumber) Did you ask?

It's Friday, it's 1:10pm, it's pick-a-cake! Choco-fudge for me, please. Also ordered a macchiato from the wall-mounted beverage menu, then had to describe it. Er, double espresso with a bit of foam, thanks. Mighty fine combo. Settled up, said sayonara and scooted off.

If it was a car -- Toyota iQ.
If they were passing by -- Jeanette Winterson.

EDitorial ± 27-Jan-2010

TT0910, Week 17

We hammered this lot 8-2 first time round, in what was Anshul's first game. It did help that they could only field two players that night.

We got hammered by this lot 8-2 tonight, in what was Ed's first game for three weeks. It didn't help that both sides had the full number of players.

Very good of Rene to step in at the last minute for winter-vomiting Andy W. Shame that he played and lost his three games upfront.

Which left Ed and Anshul to (a) both lose to Mark, who was on fire, (b) both lose to Malcolm in five ends, and (c) both beat Richard for our only points of the night. Bizarre game of doubles: we thrashed 'em 11-1 in the 4th only to suffer a reverse 11-1 thrashing in the decisive 5th. Night best forgotten.

EDitorial ± 25-Jan-2010

Jasper Fforde, Norwich

Tuesday and we're taking the 5:08pm loco to Norwich, having run away from home before the babysitter (hello Mum) turned up. Fingers crossed she made it. Will call later once we're there. It'll be fine.

There's a good turn out in the "teenage issues" corner of the impressive Minnellium Library. Smacking of the premier meet-up for the Norfolk women's creative writing group, we're in fact here to see a scribe, a penpusher, a novellist, none other than Jasper Fforde. Who? That bloke who writes those books about Thursday Next -- no, that's her name -- who ends up ... er, never mind. As The Strokes pointed out and Mr Fforde agrees, it's hard to explain. There might be dodos, mammoths, airships, you name it.

On he comes, instantly recognisable to us from when we saw him last way back in Ip-Art 2006. Sounds like Hugh Grant and looks like that poshy-washy officer from It Ain't Half Hot, Mum. Poor ffella was on a multi-city tour of the US (DC, Atlanta, Coral Gables, Albuquerque, Capitola, etc) until three days ago. Now he's on a less glam multi-town tour of the UK (Lincoln, Sheffield, Cardiff, etc). If it's Friday, this must be Edinburgh. Or Dundee.

Promoting your latest book -- Shades Of Grey -- day in, day out, can't be a ffiesta of ffun, but JF is good value. He mentions that people in the new work are afraid of lightning and swans, and that works of art are freely distributed throughout the land in parks and private houses, and that every animal has a barcode though nobody knows why. He's often cited alongside Douglas Adams, and that's high praise.

He gamely ffields any number of questions -- no, he hasn't met his former headmaster but his mother has -- then metaphorically cracks his knuckles before announcing that he'll happily sign anything. An hour later, from our tasty vantage point in Pizza Express, he's still cranking out the signature.

EDitorial ± 22-Jan-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Colours Continental Cafe

It's said that there are people who visit Ipswich to go shopping in the town centre and have no idea about the waterfront. It's also said that there are people who visit Ipswich to patronise the waterfront area and have no idea about the main shopping area. Navigating between those two disparate parts of town takes skill and cunning to avoid the Monte Carlo racetrack of Key Street and College Street. Hint: take St Peter's St every time and admire the Obolensky statue, Curson Lodge and, er, the Novotel. I Scream!

I'm prep-ing to leave home and head dockwards when there's a stereotypically efficient call from Herr Schwarz: where is everyone? He's on time, we're late. Damp and dismal as I pass the now defunct Neptune Cafe, shortly to relaunch as That Chocolate Place. Underneath the new Salthouse extension and left a bit to Colours Continental Cafe, a big name for a small place. Tree fellers are there already, well into their savouries. Well-stocked soft drink fridge has a range of Frobishers juices including "bumbleberry" -- that'll do. Like a scene from Heroes, time must then have stood still since my mixed-fruit drink was waiting for me when I made the six-feet walk back to our table. Curious.

C3 is a cube of a caff, fittingly, with an unsquare atmosphere. Elegant clock on the wall, papers, and doing plenty of takeaway trade for the resident pinstripes. My sweet cured bacon sarnie was OK; would opt for a freshly-made salad next time, maybe even a veggie alternative. Memory tells me that they're one of the older establishments on the waterfront from the new developments, if that makes sense. They definitely pre-date Coffeelink, a Usain Bolt stroll away. Credit to them for surviving.

Let's get serious and talk Kaffee und Kuchen. Caffeinated beverage has to be the macchiato, served in a poncy (can I say that?) cup. When I sip, I look like Eric Bristow on the oche. Cake has to be the Victoria sponge, a mercifully smaller slice than last week's monster at JaCey's. Last few crumbs and we pay up before dispersing like Spooks. You ain't seen us, right?

If it was a car -- Suzuki Swift.
If they were passing by -- David Singmaster.

EDitorial ± 19-Jan-2010

TT0910, Week 16

Guest review from Mr Andy Cassy (ta):

The signs were ominous: the league's remaining 100% player on the opponents' side, guards not got the full list of names "but that doesn't matter" and then I have to awake our star player from his slumber at his desk to jolt him in to action... Then everyone miraculously turns up. So, let game commence - parallel processing on both tables too.

Andy's strategical approach to play Anshul first backfired when their #1 played second, drat he has to play him first then. So, two nil down before we'd even warmed up - Anshul still wiping the sleep out of his eyes. Then Rene and Andy make it level and somehow manage to pull ahead to a 5-4 lead going in to the doubles. With Anshul on the sidelines and still a bit groggy he watches in despair as Rene and Andy lose the first end after a very tough fight then we crumbled. Still a good result overall and excellent play from two of our three players on the night.

A bit like Ipswich, just managing to keep ahead of the relegation zone. Then Rene danced off in to the night and Anshul slunk back to his bed for a good night's sleep.

EDitorial ± 18-Jan-2010

Then There Was Light

You know what we haven't had in a while? Something we always used to have? Sorry, 2 Unlimited -- sometimes there IS a lyric:

Tell me something that you do like
Tell me something you think rules
— MJ Hibbett & The Validators, Tell Me Something You Do Like

Here's something that I do like and that I think rules -- my Really Tiny Book Light. As a night owl married to a morning person, it solves that conundrum caused by going to bed in the darkness yet still wanting to read. Turn on the bedside 25W? Methinks not.

Instead, slip that RTBL onto the outside cover of your Richard & Judy paperback -- or, if you're dead literary like what I am, Thomas Pynchon's massive opus Gravity's Rainbow -- and you're away, though not with the fairies. Maximum LED lumos for you, minimal disruption for your literally sleeping partner. Freshly loaded with three AG3 watch batteries, it'll flood your page like a UFO's tractor beam.

I'd tried a couple of other models before, but they were either too heavy or too inflexible. Then I discovered this little fella, maybe in Waterstones, made by That Company Called If. Under a tenner and I love it. Available in all colours of the rainbow -- I'd recommend the pea green -- specifically to match your duvet.

EDitorial ± 15-Jan-2010

Ipswich Lunches: JaCey's Coffee House

That there Christmas break caused disruption all over the shop, not least to our light lunch ligging. Ages since Asda. Thought: if a planned cafe trip was called off, could there be some sort of pools panel to study the menu/ambience/location, then provide a probable verdict? More likely, and I speak from experience, that the gig will go offshore.

Righty-ho. Shuttled down to Ippo central to tick off another of the Nine Caffs. Representing the letter J was JaCey's, jointly owned by Jarvis Cocker, Julie Christie and Joe Calzaghe. Not Strictly true. Here's some informed op-Ed from an anagram of our current year:

"They offer a wide selection of hot snacks and drinks. Recommended is the ciabatta brunch, which is your basic English breakfast in some fancy Italian bread. And with a pot of tea thrown in."

They're obviously doing something right since it's busy busy inside when the Bicycling Burrito Bros arrive. Lots of footfall here, being on the same latitude as the Ipswich Institute, Berridges, St Lawrence and Pickwicks. Even the more recent extension into the ex-chocolate shop next door is full. Punctual Grenvyle has raised his flag on a downstairs table for three, and we're settling in nicely when in walks Rene, our new best amigo. Rucksacks and drinks grabbed, upstairs we trek for that extra place.

Lots of options, quite a few specials too. That all day brunch, still sitting pretty on the menu, lures in G. I can't get past the chilli & chips, which is served in a pair of matching bowls. Most satisfying. Andy's rarebit (with extra bacon) bemuses Rene who can see no trace of Bugs Bunny. Notable is the proper tea, with table-hogging paraphernalia of pot and milk and strainer. While here, should also mention the associated takeaway offspring, JaCey's 2 Go, opposite the Corn Exchange.

Considering the crowds, service is excellent. Shifting tables, paying early, changing orders is hassle free. C&C consumed, gotta fill that pudding shaped gap. My little joke to the waitress about not ordering a whole cake backfires in a good way when a mahoosive family-sized slab of carrot & orange cake turns up, momentarily throwing the room into shadow. That, and the accompanying cafetiere, make me smile inside before waddling out.

If it was a car -- Peugeot 807.
If they were passing by -- Helen McDermott.

EDitorial ± 11-Jan-2010

The Back Of Jack

Our trusty Scenic has been on autopilot for the past month. Press the START button, wince at the temperature -- zero or below -- and it'll take you through town before indicating right, like a French Herbie, at the bottom of Woodbridge Road. Out the driver gets to type magic numbers into a keypad, and gates swing open to welcome you into the slushfest that is the car park of the Ipswich Regent theatre.

Running from 19-Dec to 10-Jan has been this season's pro panto, Jack & The Beanstalk (see BBC review), starring Dancing Middler as Rabbit Number 1 -- when I say "starring", I mean "featuring". Every other day, that is, 'cos the kids aren't allowed to work two days on the trot. Split into two groups, the hard working junior tappers and shufflers have dutifully shimmied their way through two shows a day, grinning relentlessly and shaking their tailfeathers.

For their efforts, the Stacey Pepper Dance Academy scraped a below-the-fold mention on the official poster, top billing going to:

  • Ken Morley, aka Reg Holdsworth from Corrie, a great dame
  • Antony Costa from Blue: didn't know him from Adam; saw this stubbly bloke smoking outside one of the early rehearsals, and assumed he was one of the dads
  • and, most excitingly for the kids, James Mackenzie, aka Raven from CBBC; walking in town on Saturday, penultimate day of the run, me and Eldest accosted the poor wee mannie for an autograph as he struggled to open a Somerfield sandwich

Life and soul of the show, though, was Carl Johns as Simple Simon, leading the audience participation and eating an unhealthy quantity of marshmallows twice daily.

Quite an experience for all concerned, especially given the atrocious weather at times. Middler's group finally got to see the show from the stalls on the very last performance. As we walked out of the foyer afterwards, a large white van had just parked outside, big letters on the side advertising The Sooty Show. One show ends, another show begins. That's theatre, darling.

EDitorial ± 5-Jan-2010

TT0910, Week 14

There was talk of maybe using an orange ball and perhaps asking volunteers to come help clear the ice from the pitch so that today's game could go ahead. Hang on, that was the lunchtime footy, called off after an 11am pitch inspection. Let's focus.

Unlike the Carling Cup semis, our ping-pong match was unaffected by the sub-zero temperatures. And after slugging it out over five ends in my first game, it felt good to be wearing the shorts and wiping the sweat. Unlike last time, had a much better experience due to:

  • right shoes,
  • earlier cycle to/from work,
  • good lighting,
  • warm hall,
  • playing their worst player first,
  • and not dwelling on Christmas shopping.

Only me to blame for not arriving earlier for a decent warm up and still using an old jalopy of a bat.

Pats on the back all round tonight, back to winning ways following four straight defeats:

  • 2 for Andy, coming back like Lazarus to land Brian with a duck
  • 2 for Ed, labouring to beat Bob and present him with another mallard
  • 3 for Anshul, star player as ever, taking four ends to beat everyone

Previously unbeaten pair of Ed and Anshul in the doubles. That record is now gone.

EDitorial ± 1-Jan-2010

Twenty Ten

Any number of crumpled paper slips turn up in the kids' schoolbags, eg:

  • there has been an outbreak of head lice in your child's class, or
  • sign & return this slip to indicate that you have received your child's report, or
  • your child's year group is planning an educational daytrip to Dubai

One such note reared its wrinkled A5 head in mid-December, caught my eye, then was promptly filed and forgotten in The Pile Of No Return before it could be returned to whomever it may concern.

FF to New Year's Eve and Broom Acres is abuzz with lamb & lentils, rocky road, We Sing and the inescapable / inevitable / unbeatable Sock Game. Late evening and down-the-road Jon turns to me and asks:

(him) You still on for that bike ride tomorrow?
(me) Er, which one is that?
(him) You know, the sponsored one to Felixstowe for the juniors.
(me) Er, sure: what time are we off?
(him) Oh, around 8am.
(me) Er...

Chinese lanterns and snowball fight gone midnight, most folk gone by half one ish, sleeping arrangements and tidying up for another hour, into an unfamiliar bed around three.

Beep! Beep! Beep! Lo, it came to pass that my first proper glimpse of the new decade found me a-saddle, pointing the skinny Boardman tyres down the thin strip of un-iced road like a pier maniac rolling pennies into a Crompton Cakewalk. Only with less fun and much, much colder. Comfortably reached Felixstowe Leisure Centre by 9:45-ish, everyone's toes uncomfortably numb. Maybe take the easy option next year and go for the Christmas Day dip in the North Sea.