EDitorial ± 31-Mar-2010

TT0910, Week 19

Penultimate match of what seems to have been a long season -- and the ultimate match for our Indian buddy, Anshul, who's heading home in a couple of months. Up against Pickwicks, a mere two points above us in the table but with not 1, not 2, not 3 but 4 games in hand.

So, how did we all do?

  • Anshul -- out with a whimper, zero points: that lad need his sleep
  • Andy -- what might have been, zero points: was up 9-3 against Alan in the 5th
  • Ed -- star for a night, 2 points: 5 end scraped wins v. John and Mark

Thank goodness for a doubles win for Ed and Anshul to gain that 3rd point. Need every one at this stage of the season to keep us up. So long, Anshul, and thanks!

EDitorial ± 29-Mar-2010

Derren Brown, Enigma

Watching the annual Christmas ghost stories (Crooked House by the versatile Mark Gatiss) on BBC Four a year or so back, a large-nosed Satanist was glimpsed performing some ghastly ceremony. Said character's name was Sir Roger Widdowson. Hey, I said, isn't that Derren Brown? Didn't know he acted too.

Watching the return of Channel 5's Flash Forward last week, a cigar-smoking man popped up who proclaimed himself to be a villain. Said character's name was Flosso. Ooh, I said, hoping to impress whoever was in the room, that's Ricky Jay. Who? replied the room. He's a magician, I said, a card sharp. Bit like an American Derren Brown. He turns up in the odd David Mamet film too. You wouldn't want to play poker with him for money.

Watching the stage of the Ipswich Regent last Thursday night, a well-dressed lightly bearded showman walked out to much applause. Said man's name, as it stated on the ticket bought six months previously, was Derren Brown, and this was the first of three sell-out nights.

Watching the show, titled Enigma for reasons that may become clear, was a-ma-zing. It's a procession of one unbelievable feat after another, a panoply of prestidigitation (I'm morphing into Leonard Sachs). He hurls the Frisbees into the crowd, up gets one or more seemingly innocent individuals, and Mr Brown has complete control of them simply by shaking their hand and touching their shoulder. Scary. Wish I could say more but we were swore to secrecy, you understand. Unless I'm still in that trance.

EDitorial ± 26-Mar-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Marks & Spencer Cafe Revive

On arrival, there's what the Dutch call a hooj koo with Grenvyle towards the front row of the grid. It's busy-busy, so I go bag a table for two with hoodie and rucksack combo. Only after inverting the demographically spot-on Daily Mails by the entrance do I join the back of the line. Much, much later I attain the giddy heights of the hot drinks counter and see this small poster:

We opened our first cafeterias in 1935

Yeah, methinks, and by the outbreak of the war someone finally got served. To be fair, Gary, the hot food lady apologised for keeping me, and the serving staff were all v. pleasant, and I got thanked not once but twice when I returned my tray. That's what you get when you opt to meet up in the M&S Cafe at 12:30 of a Friday.

Sound selection of pre-packed sarnies, toasties to reheat, smoked salmon salads. My eye didn't stray beyond the personal favourite of jacket with chilli. I gave the apologising lady my order and she gave me a gizmo. That's your pager, she said: it'll go off when your food's ready. Raymond Baxter was right. More minutes drifted by, and I'm about to hand over some cash when there's a horrendous noise. Grinding coffee? Blending frappucinos? No, my electronic device has mutated into a Mexican jumping bean on my tray. I hand it over and she hands me my grub.

Glad I secured our seats among the pushchairs and highchairs. Jinx: G's got the same as me and is on his second review of the week. Ready for the inevitable line? This is not just food. Chilli is tasty, salad is fresh, and there's even a tiny juglet of vinaigrette by the spud-u-like. Almost worth that aeon spent pushing along my tray. Original top floor caff here was far more open plan. Now it's walled off and the natural light is kept at bay by blinds. There's a restrained quantity of M&S ads on the walls. While we're chowing down, a nearby lady comes over all peculiar when her pager begins to vibrate.

Time it all wrong and waste another six minutes queueing for the sweet course. Belly is seduced by the sight of a monster triple layer choc cake. There's a quid off if I buy it after 2pm, which is becoming more likely every second. Coffee -- a crazily large latte -- is excellent, and Fairtrade too. They're doing a good job here in Revive, though you may need the patience of Job.

If it was a car -- Daimler Super Eight.
If they were passing by -- Twiggy.

EDitorial ± 24-Mar-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Willy's And Milly's

[thanks to Andy Cassy for a hastily assembled guest review]

A step back in time:

Firstly as a revisit since the original expedition to this cafe back in the summer of 2009 just hours before the school holidays meant the review never got written. So on a week when we have a split availability, have the original surveyors return with the promise to arrive early and get a seat as space is cosy and not that abundant.

Secondly the 1970's decor led our conversation back to the era of three-day weeks and energy crisis.

Our trusty scout having arrived ahead of the main party secured a prime seating position to survey the premises. Orders were promptly taken and just as promptly delivered. Two identical jacket potatoes (hot) with prawn filling (cold) and a salad garnish. Apparently the best yet according to our foreign correspondent. Proper pots of tea too, all round, and in typical '70's style dribbled as you poured. The bacon buttie was tasty as well, though Sainsbury’s brown sauce was a bit out of kilter with the venue.

Then cakes for all – pecan slice, rocky road and apple strudel (you guess who had which). And all for change from a fiver. Just like the good old days.

If it was a car -- Singer Chamois.
If they were passing by -- Leo Sayer.

EDitorial ± 23-Mar-2010

TT0910, Week 25

And it's welcome back to Grenvyle for his first match of the season. He enters late, though still comfortably before Cassy-time, holding aloft a freshly glued bat. Is that within the rules? All this while Ed flitted between the TT hut and the office, some out-of-hours work that should have finished by 7:30pm going on until 10:30pm. Not good for concentration.

Funny old game tonight, Anshul losing to Robin (what has he got on that black rubber?) from 10-8 up and Ed winning against Robin from 9-5 down. Our Kings XI man then did really well to beat Tony Clarke in straight close ends, who then scraped past Ed in a similar fashion.

Meantime, Grenvyle was scaring Michael (who'd already lost two) by winning an end and going to deuce before youth prevailed. Little bit of coaching, and maybe a practice knock or two, and Grenvyle could win a game or two.

EDitorial ± 22-Mar-2010

TT Championships 2010

This weekend, I are been mostly watchin' ping-pong. I'd liked to have been taking part as well, but that venture didn't last too long. Though the one guy I managed to beat was himself beaten by the division 2 winner, which kinda sorta makes me runner-up. Ish.

Event was the (deep breath) Ipswich & District Table Tennis League 2010 Closed Ipswich Championships. Big tip o' the hat, once more, to Jimmy "Oussa!" Farrow for pulling it all together. Takes some skillage to navigate through more than 400 games over one weekend and not lose too much hair.

Finals night on Sunday -- here's the best rally of the evening:

On Sunday, I found myself umpiring an early round of the mens' singles between two left-handers: first bloke was very good, second bloke was awesome. Found out later that this chap, Neil Charles, was (a) the number 1 seed and (b) among the top 50 players in the country. Wow. He's the only person to have beaten Ryan Collins (seeded 2) in the league this year, and repeated that feat in the mens' final.

Inspirational and aspirational stuff, watching all the finalists, from barefoot Andy Warner to Trinder & Branton in the cadets. Must mention Janet Faiers, runner-up in the womens' doubles finalists, who was a previous title holder ... back in the late 1960s. There's hope for us all.

EDitorial ± 19-Mar-2010

Ipswich Lunches: DanceEats

Way back in July 2004 there was a BBC article about a proposed new building on the rapidly changing Ipswich waterfront. This project would include a flotilla of flats, a dance studio and have as many storeys as David Beckham's shirt number. Finished development finally opened last year and has an uncanny resemblance to the artist's impression. Move aside, Cumberland Towers, there's a new landmark in town -- The Mill -- and you cannae miss it.

Facing the murky waters at the base of the tower is the Jerwood DanceHouse, the groovy new home of DanceEast. De rigueur these days to run those words together withoutaspace. Like any arty space worth its Saxa, Jedward House has a cafe, sweety. Does the name DanceEats work for you? Consider my boat floated.

For an unsettling couple of minutes, it seems as if I'm the first to arrive. Then I overhear the waitress mention "two gentlemen on a sofa upstairs". Dur, hadn't realised there were two levels of seating. Arranged on soft furnishings overlooking the lobby & shop are Andy, the green man, and Rene, the sultan of ceroc. G's missed his bus. Back downstairs to order from the chalkboard. Jackets and salads a-plenty, plus a neat design your own sandwich / baguette / panini / ciabattini by choosing ingredients from columns A, B and C. In my case, chorizo, applewood cheddar and rocket.

There's the odd toddler toddling about, Times or EADT to flick through, free WiFi (thumbs aloft), some lean-looking light-lunching dancers, and here's my posh panini with a handful of balsamically dressed leaves. Drinking a Bertram's blueberry smoothie; should have had a Tango.

Re-descend to admire the cakes on display -- I'll have that square wodge of coffee cake, please, and an Americano. Will add their loyalty card to my wallet alongside those for Coffeelink, Caffe Nero, Costa and, er, McDonald's. Quality coffee here on the quayside. I rather like it. As Bowie said, Let's Dance.

If it was a car -- Tesla Roadster.
If they were passing by -- Michael Clark.

EDitorial ± 16-Mar-2010

TT0910, Week 24

Having last week played the only team below us in the league, tonight we're up against the team immmediately above us, i.e. third bottom. These are relegation dogfights, and none of us think we should be in this position -- like Newcastle, we're too big to go down.

Andy unwell so v. good of Rene to step in and join Ed & Anshul up at The Dome. Bad news from the off with the sight of Chuggington Boyland and Looping Colin. Gonna be a tough night, esp. with Anshul's get-up-and-go having got up and gone.

In brief: none of us got close to Mark or Colin, but we all took the points off a despondent Bill. Rene's point gained him automatic entry to the doubles, joined by Ed on a coin toss. Only five-ender of the night ... and we lost. Not a great result as we continue our fight for survival in division 2.

EDitorial ± 15-Mar-2010


Another one of those Writers' Cafe wajoobies tonight at Starbucks and the usual ground rules about reading aloud have been defenestrated. Rather than the "me me me" approach, it's now:

Reading places will be allocated by names being placed in a hat on the night

Locked and loaded with a new short story, I sign a piece of paper. There being no sign of a hat, I place it in the tin. Organiser chappy comments that there's a good chance of being selected: 15 slots, only about 12 names so far. OK, thinks me, time to rewrite that ending. More people arrive, then off we trot and here's the opening quintet:

(Alison, Sarah, Kate, Mary, David)

Varied bunch of short stories, an extract from a soon to be published novel and even a charming kids' story from an Alan Bennett-alike. Next fivesome are announced before the intermission:

(Nancy, Ben, Helena, Steve, Suzanne)

Plenty o' poems here plus the first few pages from a promising supermarket western. Another break looms and my plans are gelling. I'll order a flat white and use it as a visual prop for that line: "Looks good, smells good and tastes amazing." Will go down a bomb with the Starbucks staff too. They're gonna love me.

(Martin, Angela, Isabel, Mike ... and ... John)

Wot no slot?! Sorry, they say, to the others on the list who didn't make it tonight, and better luck at the next one in the summer.

EDitorial ± 10-Mar-2010

Ipswich Lunches: The Key

It's a broad church, is olde Ipswich, from All Hallows to the Zoar and most points inbetween. Foodwise, we've sat in the sun of The Sanctuary at St Nicholas, seen the psalms at the social enterprise of St Lawrence, and sat on the sofa at Suffolk Origo. In our tastes, we're nothing if not catholic with a lowercase "c".

Flippin' frozzed cycling down Fonnereau Road by Bethesda. Dear me, am I glad to get inside the ex-Running Buck pub, now home to The Key, a "Christian outreach centre." Tons of tables within, a tad like the Ipswich Institute, all taken by good folk. Oh, and Grenvyle's nabbed one too. Him and the Brompton Boy are already sipping a warming brew. Today, Matthew, I'm Alberto Frog with my banana milkshake. Disappointed not to get a straw, the nice lady fetches a yellow one for me.

Another nice lady takes a while to take my order for sardines on toast, brown bread, please, for a bargainous £1.75. Brief conversational interlude then G&A's orders arrive, kind of: G's crisps didn't make it (sorry, we don't do loose crisps) and A's rarebit is buck-less -- typical for Andy not to get the yolk. Soon-ish sorted with a whole pack of Seabrook's and a poached egg.

Five mins, ten mins, still no little fishies. Lady catches my eye and comes over to confirm my selection. Super. On its way, she says, we've re-found your order. As visions of Froffee Coffee swim around, I contemplate slipping a scrawled PostIt into the nearby prayer box (hello, River Of Life) or having a quiet word with the "listening service" on offer. Other chaps' savouries long since vamooshed, we all order pudds, like buying Glastonbury tickets in November. Whereupon my first course presents itself: ta-da!

Service for seconds is much improved as three bowls of custard-topped goodness materialise simultaneously. Top treacle tart. Coffee's ho-hum, though Andy's off-menu choice of a "milky coffee" further destabilises the waitress. Today has been a trying day for these worthy volunteers.

If it was a car -- Citroen C1 with a sardine on the back.
If they were passing by -- Sandi Toksvig.

EDitorial ± 9-Mar-2010

TT0910, Week 23

So that'd be three wins on the bounce. Well done, us.

Anshul / Ed / Andy (ordered by average) on parade again and in full effect. Mostly. First five games to us, bish bosh.

That was before Mighty Mick Talbot (already beaten by Ed) stepped up to be counted. Biff, he outpointed Andy in the fifth end. Bam, another five ends against Anshul, who pulls away in the decider to go 10-4 up. Nothing can go wrong now as Anshul's on for his hat trick. Unbelievably, Mick drags it back to deuce and saves yet another matchpoint before putting Anshul out of his misery. Quality comeback, that one.

Doubles turnout for Ed and Andy. Did our best to make a game of it, and won.

EDitorial ± 8-Mar-2010

Natural High

Finally they'd get a solid night's sleep now that he'd replaced the smoke alarm battery. She should also be pleased that he'd touched up that dark spot on the ceiling. Such were the dual benefits of (a) working from home and (b) being able to float.

Unusually, he had his mother-in-law to thank. Returning from another once-in-a-lifetime holiday, she'd presented him with a fancy tin of coffee: Afro Espresso, "for that natural high!" He'd thanked her, of course, and put it in the cupboard to await its turn.

Weeks passed and he found himself ploughing through emails one sunny morning. Half-ten, and there was that familiar pang -- need caffeine now. Blast, he'd finished his tried and trusted brand the day before and had meant to buy some fresh stuff. Anxious, desperate, clammy rifling through the cans and jars ensued until he pulled out the scarlet and gold Afro can. Hopes weren't high, but coffee was coffee.

Machine primed, he'd watched the black gold ooze into his pre-warmed cup. Looks good, smells good ... and tastes amazing. A wave washed through him, tongue to toe, as he oscillated between woozy and razor-sharp. Hang on, why was that spotlight level with his eye? Don't look down, they say. He did, and remained aloft, feet dangling over the sink.

Before he could get anywhere near coming to terms with whatever was going on, the back gate opened and a long ladder appeared. At the precise moment that he spotted the window cleaner's arm, he fell to earth, landing heavily as knees hit laminate, bam. There he stayed, awkwardly propped up against the washing machine, bruised and confused.

After several minutes, he heard Mr Squeegee move round the back and felt himself slowly rising again. He was barely off the floor when he caught sight of his ungainly self in the gleaming tap: crunch, down he came. Up once more, this time with eyes shut tight. Breathing hard, he opened one eye: there was the cat. Reflexively, he flinched, expecting another rapid descent. Hardly bothering to look up, the cat tucked in to its dry food.

Pressing his palms against the Artex, he eased his way into the hall. By avoiding all reflective surfaces, he was able to enjoy a good hour's worth of cloudlike hovering before the caffeine buzz subsided. Such a relief to have finally replaced that smoke alarm battery.

EDitorial ± 5-Mar-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Sunrise Cafe

Let's say we were to take this whole light lunch gubbins to a media consultant. Mr Clifford, we'd say, how can we best publicise these cafe outings to a mostly uncaring public? Ah, Max would say: what you need is a celebrity. Oh, we'd reply, we nearly had that Fabio Capello at Origo. No, he'd explain, you need someone there at the time, a personality, a household name. OK, we'd say, shuffling off, we'll think about it.

So there we were soaking up some early March sunlight outside the south-facing Sunrise Cafe, fittingly enough, when Andy looked over my shoulder and said, "Isn't that Mark Murphy?" No no no, says Max, I don't care how many Sonys he's won, some local radio bloke won't cut it. Think bigger, think national. Minute or so later, Andy glances up and remarks, "That bloke who's just walked in: isn't he that Blue Peter chap from way back? Not John Noakes, the other one." In I went to order a coffee and sure enough, putting away a big breakfast is, drum roll, Peter Purves. Says Max, I guess he'll do.

Many are the choices at the Sunrise -- bit like Jack's -- and that's excluding the multitudinous specials described on the lumo cardboard stars. To demonstrate our diversity, G. had the chicken curry, A. the (neatly presented) breakfast and E. the Spanish omelette & chips. Muchos eggy goodness. As I splashed on the brand-free ketchup and we deployed cutlery, a seemingly dodgy lookin' fella at the next table acted as doorman for folk who couldn't deal with the pig-of-a-door, and so proved himself a perfect gentleman.

Mid-terrace 70s setting is reminiscent of the 'Stowe's Family Cafe, while the friendly and helpful staff (mayo? sauce? how was that?) took me back to the Central Canteen. No wonder it's busy, and we were lucky to grab our prime open air seats with their wondrous view of, er, Tesco's. Those with more wrinkles, inc. me, may remember Hedley's Grill Cafe facing onto St Matthew's Baths.

I'm sipping my milky coffee as PP ups and leaves, returning by the looks of it to Radio Suffolk. Thanks, Pete, for coming and providing a cool way to kickstart this week's review.

If it was a car -- Suzuki Grand Vitara.
If they were passing by -- Peter Purves.

EDitorial ± 4-Mar-2010

TT0910, Week 15

Good to have the full quota of three fit players, unlike last time, and better still when that threesome comprises Anshul/Ed/Andy. Sorry to everybody else who's paid their subs, but we need the points.

Signs weren't great when starman Ansul went down 3-1 in a cracking match to M_Ramsey, who turned out to be their best player (at least on the night) by a long way. Andy lost by the same score in another big-hitting stonker, while I couldn't get anywhere near him.

On a happier note, all three of us won our other singles games -- Ed in straight games (natch), Andy and Anshul scraping past Tracy and Scott respectively. That, plus an Ed/Anshul doubles win, meant we fully deserved our celebratory drinkies and Nobby's Nuts at the coffee-less Oyster Reach.

EDitorial ± 1-Mar-2010

Over The Rainbow

To quote the Big O, it's over. After some three months, I finished my book. Reading that back, sounds like I'm writing one (not yet, come back, do not be alarmed) when actually I've been reading one. Quarter of a year? One entire season? Did I run out of crayons?

Nope, the faithful book light has been pinned to the back cover of a minor tome called Gravity's Rainbow by a chap named Thomas Pynchon. This whopper weighs in at a stonking 902 pages. That's a papermill of papyrus. Mightn't be so bad if it was a rollicking page-turner; instead, it's bloomin' hard work, so much so that separate readers' guides are available. Being honest, there were times when I didn't have a clue what was going on.

Central character to emerge is Tyrone Slothrop, a WWII GI with a bizarre link to the German V-2 rocket. Other fantastically named individuals include Pirate Prentice, Roger Mexico, Jessica Swanlake and Ronald Cherrycoke, and that's just in the first 200 pages. Interesting man, Mr Pynchon. Avoids all publicity yet has appeared in The Simpsons a handful of times, his character always shown with a paper bag covering his head.

Immediately prior to this epic, I'd read a charming book called All Of My Friends Are Superheroes -- quite large text and a grand total of 108 pages. It'll be good to return to reading paperbacks that won't crush you if you fall asleep, though I shall miss the Rocketman.