EDitorial ± 30-Apr-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Star Express

And so, in the arterially clogged history of light lunches, we enter the post-Grenvyle era. It won't, it can't be the same. If we're heading out of town, who's now gonna be mug enough to drive?

Our travel restricted by the Icelandic volcano, we're meeting up next to Iceland frozen foods. As it happens, I recall that our dearly departed colleague pre-visited today's venue, the Star Express, popping in for a crafty cuppa while waiting for a bus. He said as much while we sat in the sun's rays outside the Sunrise, a mere scone's throw over the St Matthews roundabout. Here, in the old Newsteads premises, all seats are inside and are firmly fixed to the floor. Layout is long and thin, a la Al's. When I swan in, Andy's clearly on a timetable and ploughing headlong into his grub.

There's no shortage of menus -- three different laminated beauties, paying homage to Little Chef, one for breakfasts plus two others. Stunned by the choice (compare & contrast Origo), I copy Andy and go for the egg & bacon baguette, enhanced by the non-branded squeezy condiments. Accompanying thick banana milkshake, available in a trio of sizes, is surprisingly good and delivered with a cheery smile.

Talk is of A's walk to work (one of the 50 ways) earlier in the week, through the woods, along the UFO trail and straight on 'til mid-morning. While he's busy sketching his route on a bit of scrap paper, I return to the counter to order coffee, obviously, with pancakes and maple syrup. Had I consulted the desserts menu more closely, I'd have had to try the brown derby -- ice cream on a doughnut? Eye was also bruised by the grocer's apostrophe of "PARTIE'S". Nice. Pancakes put down and syrup slurped, I'm glad of the digestive possibilities offered by the ride home.

If it was a car -- Morris 1100.
If they were passing by -- Kerry Katona.

EDitorial ± 26-Apr-2010

More Than A Nerf

Saturday afternoon and I'm trying to cajole The Boy into coming out with me on two wheels. In and of itself, this would be No Go. Dangled before him, however, like a stick of beta carotene, is the prospect of acquiring a new Nerf gun.

His Nerf habit began about six months back with the chance purchase of a Maverick, your standard issue foam dart six-shooter, suitable for taking out a single sister on the stairs. Later, some Christmas money was burning a hole in his pocket until it was exchanged for the Recon CS-6: nothing says New Year like a fully configurable night sight blaster.

Cuts in the defence budget forced him to dig deep and ebay a bunch of PS2 games, giving him the financial leverage for an even scarier Raider CS-35, complete with drum magazine. Each move up the Nerf food chain required both parental consent and a new Ikea hook or two on his bedroom wall.

In pursuit of the next weaponized high, and having exhausted YouTube of all related videos, he then suggested that his remaining cash would be better spent on the Havok (known as the Vulcan in the US, he informed me), "the Nerf gun to end all Nerf guns." At a cool £50, Dad finally said NO. Cue County-level sulking. Dunno where he gets that from.

As with any child, if they're happy, you're happy. Much hurried Googling later, I suggested that he might like to switch brands and cut costs by opting for an Air Blasters model, the Rapid Fire Foam Air Rifle, a snip at a tenner and with automatic ejecting shells. Sounds good, he said, when can we get it? Er, I had to order it online, I said: pick it up on Tuesday from Mr Tesco. That was a mighty long wait over that weekend. He's been a jolly little soldier since then, sniping us from left, right and centre.

Back to this Saturday and there's renewed Havok murmurings. Ain't gonna happen, I point out. Throwing him a bone, I say that he could buy the relatively cheap Nite Finder. Previous research tells me that Argos are sold out: let's bike up to Toys R Us, I say -- they're bound to have it, they've got everything.

Some 2.9 sunny miles later and we've made it, father and son. In we stroll -- by now, you could blindfold both of us and we'd still go straight to the end-of-aisle Nerf display -- and I'm right, they've got everything. Everything, that is, except the Nite Finder. I've come all this way for nothing, he says. For nothing.

EDitorial ± 20-Apr-2010

Grenvyle Scott RIP

— [opening song: Lindisfarne, Fog On The Tyne] —

Way, way back in ol' BT as a fresh young graduate, I discovered that there was more to lunch than heading up to the canteen. There, by the tennis courts that greeted you as you came through the main gate, was a glorified portacabin. If nearby, you didn't have to listen too carefully to hear the constant plink-plonk of ping-pong.

I began to head over there on a semi-regular basis to try and get a game on one of the two permanently set-up tables. Such was the demand from 12 to 2, you had to wait your turn and then play doubles. Nearly everyone was better than me but that didn't matter. Turned out that the company had any number of teams in the local league at all levels and were always looking for new players: was I interested? Er, why not.

Week or so later and I played my first competitive game for the BT Defiants down at St Thomas' church on Bramford Lane. One of the other team members (we had 6 or 7 players back then) was this friendly if slightly odd bloke by the weird name of Grenvyle. With the table tennis, football and an employer in common, we hit it off and would arrange to (a) have a 30 minute knock, then (b) eat sarnies. That would be 1988-ish.

— [middle song: Hollies, The Air That I Breathe] —

As time went by, a kidney problem caused his health to deteriorate, not that this stopped him running out to play for the team. More than once, though, he'd visibly wilt during a game and then collapse, holding on to the table for support. Quite the drama queen. And very worrying too, both for us and the unprepared opponent.

Around 1996, his number came up and off he went for a kidney transplant. First it worked, then it didn't, and eventually he ended up back on the list with dialysis three times a week, keeping the nurses busy with his ultra-low blood pressure. And still, once in a while, he'd put in an appearance for the Defiants, as he did only last month.

In the past three years, Grenvyle tirelessly acted as chauffeur for our many Light Lunch outings, first to Woodbridge, then Felixstowe, before moving on to Framlingham and Ipswich. Must have visited over 100 places in that time, watching him scoff prawn sandwiches and work his way through endless pots of tea. Medical retirement mid-2009 didn't dent his enthusiasm, allowing him to make full use of his new Ipswich Buses free pass to meet us in the town centre. Fortnight back, we did the new Martlesham chippy, and he was the one happy to sit outside on a bloomin' chilly day.

An enormous shock, then, to get a phone call on 8th April saying that he'd passed away. A true friend, we shall miss him greatly.

— [closing song: Monty Python, Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life] —

EDitorial ± 16-Apr-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Starbucks

One of the joys of the Dylanesque never-ending Light Lunches tour is the week-by-week unpredictablity. In an unfamiliar town centre and in need of a cuppa and a piece of cake, Josephine Punter might well play safe, understandably, and stick to a t&t name -- your Costa, your Nero, your M&S. Whereas we feel it's our duty to seek out new lives and new civilisations, hence our unexpectedly boffo trips to the likes of the Barn Cafe, Sangha, and Kitty's. No chance of that today: come in, Starbucks, the missing link between Moby Dick and Battlestar Galactica.

We already know that Jack's has been going strong for a good 50 years. This particular SB branch sits within the 500 year old Great White Horse Hotel, home at one time to George II and Nelson (Lord, not Muntz). GWH2 also pops up in Pickwick Papers. Course, old Dickens was no stranger to a coffee-house, and I like to think he'd approve of the current caffeine contagion.

Ordered within the L-shaped innards -- minimal queues, plus good pre-packed wrap / sandwich / salad / croissant choice -- then opted to sit outside on the old main drag of Tavern Street, all the better to watch the beautiful people float by. Sipping cranberry & raspberry This Water and nibbling a steak & cheese panini (brought out to me) makes for an agreeable Friday lunchtime. Free Dickensian street theatre in the form of a policeman and a town ranger chasing down a ne'er-do-well. He went that-a-way, officer.

Can't tempt friend M. with any baked goodies but sure doesn't stop me re-entering The Franchise. A product recall for a potentially lethal own-branded coffee grinder has all the hallmarks of Phase 2. Gotta love a flat white -- they're velvetty smooth, ya know -- even more so with a stem ginger muffin. Nearly had the lemon and poppyseed. Ipswich town centre chain store scores on the doors read Starbucks 2, Nero 1, Costa 3.

If it was a car -- Dodge Ram.
If they were passing by -- Stephen Colbert.

EDitorial ± 12-Apr-2010

VHS 1990

VHS tape 1 listing While plumbing in the new Humax the other day, separating my Scart from my RF from my HDMI, I stumbled across a modern antiquity. Nestled among the wires was an old orange school notebook, a Summit "rough work book", ruled feint.

Not needed for years, I used it to keep track of the contents of around 35 VHS tapes. Rather than scrawl on every individual Scotch E195 (re-record, not fade away), each tape was numbered and had its own page in the book. I'm sure you had your own schemes but that was mine.

First page, unsurprisingly, is for an obviously well-used tape number 1. Here's what I can make out:

  • Tampopo : arty foody film
  • One Hour With Jonathan Ross : chat show?
  • Sl*** : can't deciper this one
  • True Stories : ?
  • Halfway To Paradise : ?
  • Film 90 : yay for Barry Norman
  • Cheers : Norm!
  • Jazz 625, Big Joe Turner : nice
  • Fry & Laurie : whatever happened to them?
  • Wide Angle : local arts show
  • Chart Show : C4, I think
  • Married With Children : US sitcom
  • The Beast With Five Fingers : Peter Lorre horror
  • Jazz 625 : nice again
  • The Goalkeeper's Fear Of The Penalty : arty Wim Wenders film
  • thirtysomething : era-defining
  • 1900 : arty Bertolucci film
  • That Was Then, This Is Now - Joe Jackson : music doc
  • That Was Then, This Is Now - Martin Fry : music doc
  • Inspector Morse : Lewis!
  • Little Dorrit - Little Dorrit's Story : what the Dickens
  • thirtysomething : Michael & Hope
  • Goals Galore : local footy
  • Video Diaries : maybe Loch Ness bloke?
  • World Cup 90 : Gazza and Nessun Dorma
  • Hamlet Goes Business : arty Finnish film
  • Citizen Kane : arty Welles film
  • Punk : music doc

That's me, that is. Highbrow subtitled foreign films, lowbrow footy from ITFC to In-ger-land, a few tunes, some quality drama, and, not forgetting the wonder of the age, the magnificently lowercase thirtysomething. Good times.

EDitorial ± 6-Apr-2010

Mother Nature's Son

You know me. First sign of good weather and it's on with the knee-lengths and into the garden, for I do so love to be outdoors. Really don't know how I manage to spend/waste all that time powering away on the qwerty. Sure don't do my vitamin D levels no good.

OK OK, I confess, that was me, laptop in the dining room, Googling the latest bleeding edge PVRs and carrying out umpteen un-necessary online price comparisons while the sun shone leaving G. to weed, mow and edge. That greeny grassy stuff makes me sneeze and that yellowy sunny object makes me squint.

Nonetheless, out I eventually went to have a darn good think about the patio table and chairs. Badly weathered and in dire need of a coating of something highly flammable -- like many other green souls, I'm very concerned about reaching teak oil. Love those eco-puns.

Cranked up the Flymo Hover Compact 330 since it fell to me to finish off the awkward bit down the end of the garden. It came to life with all the subtlety of a Vulcan bomber, piledriving into nettles, splintering obstreperous branches and getting medieval on discarded Swingballs. Tuning out the white noise, you could pick out Robert Ransome tutting vociferously.

Cranked up the Outback Omega 200 early evening since sun equals barbecue. Wasn't a great surfeit of sunlight by that time, it's true. That wire brush made a fine job of revealing glints of silver among the blackened grill. As ever, though, there are casualties, and one poor snail won't be returning home tonight.

EDitorial ± 3-Apr-2010

Light Lunches: Admirals Fish And Chips, Martlesham Heath

That Easter, eh? Harder to pin down than one of Wendy Craig's butterflies. Light lunch law (more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules, yarr), paragraph 11, article 7, states that:

If all parties consent that the appointed Friday is no-go due to vapours, funny turns or Bank Holiday, that day will be deemed "sine die" and alternative arrangements may be made for a day earlier in that period of seven days

Thus our previous Holy Thursday devotionals to Kyries Kitchen (2008) and Saints of Bury (2009). Doesn't get any more appropriate than a trip to the chippy on the day before Good Friday, so arranged via the ongoing miracle of Outlook to meet The Boy Grenvyle outside Admirals on The Heath. Five minutes on two wheels for me, twenty minutes on four wheels for him.

Number 11 (twixt the chemists and the post office) used to be an estate agents but is now far more gainfully employed serving pizza slices, jacket spuds, and shedloads of chips. Big G. goes for the nuggets - thought he'd have the frying-today rock eel -- while I go for the dream combo of chilli and chips. What with the wind outside, would have been ideal to sit inside at a table (like J's down the road). Friendly folk running the joint say that planners wouldn't allow any seating: boo to the clipboard kings.

Instead, it's a short walk across the concrete plaza over to the Douglas Bader pub to borrow the use of an outside table, tut-tut. Here's a turn-up: I'm freezing, Grenvyle's fine, though we're both reminded of the f-f-freezing Woodbridge riverside shelter. Sitting at that bench, in the shadow of the clock which is right six months a year, I learned that the least efficient way to eat chilli and chips is with a small free wooden fork.

Most grateful when the last tasty kidney bean is gone and we mutually agree to retire to the Tesco caff for warming beverages, where they managed to burn my giant hot cross bun. Set sail for Admirals on the Heath: four stars.

If it was a car -- Opel Admiral.
If they were passing by -- Sean Connery.

EDitorial ± 2-Apr-2010

TT0910, Week 26

Out to capable Capel for game 24 of a 24 game Sep-Apr run. PC Andy's back for his first game in two months -- Defiants' second game in two days --is there anything left in the tank?

Playing in Capel's village church hall: high ceiling and the walls covered with inspirational messages. Also a handy prayer room which perhaps we should have taken advantage of.

  • Andy C. -- 5 end victory v. unlucky Ben
  • Andy W. -- no points, no ends, but some half-decent shots in there
  • Ed -- star for a night, two nights running, 2 points: two unlikely wins against unfortunate Ben and niceguy Matt, and was pleased to get one end v. the hard-looping Luke

Capel's pub closed up and up for sale, so retired to the bizarre Holiday Inn for end-of-the-season drinks. Nuts were underwhelming, a bit like our season.

EDitorial ± 1-Apr-2010

iPad For iPswich

IPSWICH, England -- April 1st, 2010 -- A Suffolk town today found itself at the eye of a hi-tech whirlwind. As the new financial year started, a rumour swept through the Twitterverse and Blogosphere that Apple, the California computer company, had finally decided to launch its much anticipated iPad product in the UK. In a carefully planned publicity stunt, the story continued, Apple had planted five "Golden Delicious" tickets -- each one redeemable for a brand new 3G iPad -- in and around one particular location in England. That location, it went on, would have "some connection with the product name."

There were shocking early morning scenes at Paddington Station, London where crowds overturned the lockers, and at Padstow, Cornwall where a mob upturned the lifeboat. By mid-morning, attention had switched to Ipplepen, Devon and (St) Ippolyts, Hertfordshire. It was not until lunchtime that Ipswich station reported a dramatic rise in incoming passenger numbers as a surge of Gap-wearing young people battled their way through the automatic ticketing barriers. Police were called to help besieged WH Smith staff who had sold out of the Ipswich / Felixstowe / Woodbridge A-Z street atlas (2005 edition).

Those individuals fortunate enough to exit the station were quick to hail taxicabs with their iPhones and pick the brains of the local drivers for possible or probable locations. Popular destinations included:

  • the Mac Market store (pictured) on Lindbergh Road
  • the Plough, due to its IP4 1AD postcode
  • Brownes Menswear, a suggestion of cabbie Fred Chadwick: "one of the few places in town where you can buy a Mac"

Others went in search of beer, specifically for bottles of Ipswich Bright IPA from St Jude's Brewery, hoping to peel off the label and reveal a ticket, or to the Evening Star HQ to flick through the latest edition of the freebie Ipswich Advertiser. One Twitter tourist, Dave Bell, commented: "We figure these golden slips could be hidden anywhere with an IP address."

Later, online forums speculated that the placement of the tickets had been timed to coincide with the visit of Google's Street View car. A spokesman for the search engine would only make this statement: "It's true that the Ipswich area maps are among the most popular on the planet right now." Bloggers confessed to examining the images inch by inch in the hope of spotting a man with a black polo neck and jeans.

Apple would neither confirm nor deny the story. However, Waterstones staff in central Ipswich believe that thumbing through the O'Reilly manuals upstairs was none other than Kingdom's Stephen Fry.