EDitorial ± 25-May-2010

Man Baits Dog

Hottest day of the year and next door's radio (I was going to show my age and use the word "tranny") is playing Lazing On A Sunny Afternoon by the mighty Kinks. There's some loose talk of a late afternoon BBQ. Fresh meat is required. Best I point my pannier and assume the saddle. But to where?

  • Sainsbury's -- nearest, pricy
  • Asda -- good value, unpleasant main road
  • Tesco -- ditto Asda
  • Waitrose -- 15.3 miles to the closest branch

I know. Let's do Morrison's for a change. Down Riverside Road then take the riverside cycle path: not done that before. All very hoop-la alongside the murky water, though no obvious way to enter the industrial estate. Keep going and it'll all work out. Under bridges, over bridges, and still not reached my destination. Past the sugar beet weir by the back of the defunct beet factory and waddya know, here we are at Sproughton.

Man, I need a cold Coke or summat. Thinks: new village shop has recently opened. There's the sign up the road, with offers of pasties and ice creams. Super. Round the side we go ... and it's closed, apart from a beer festival. Pint of Coachman's Whip or a lukewarm Kia-Ora. I'll pass.

Back along unpleasant main road to Morrison's and in we go to secure some lurid red Chinese marinated loin pork and a litre of apple & raspberry juice. Ah, that's better. Decide to cut through nearby new development, an option not available to cars.

Right into Cadmus Road, idling along, and I pass a dog sitting in a tiny front garden. As I go past, it feigns an interest and gets up. I look round and the bloomin' animal -- bulldog? -- is following me. That's fine, there's plenty in the tank and I'll speed up. It speeds up too. Sharp left into Jovian Way and surely it's come too far and will give up. Nope, those legs and that breath seem to be gaining, maybe scenting my butcher's treats. More than a bit concerned now, fast right turn and it's still on my back wheel. Amazing what a little adrenaline can do to enhance your performance as I blur those pedals and switch 90 degrees once more. Finally, three streets from home, it lets me go: it's had enough fun for one sunny afternoon.

EDitorial ± 21-May-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Cafe Tempo

Not content with Monday's jig at O'Briens, we sync-ed diaries for that elusive Friday feeling. Usually, if we're due to meet in Ipswich, I'll work from home that day: easier for everyone, esp. me. But at noon, I found myself at RAF Martlesham. Quick, only 4.5miles back down the infamous Grange Farm cycle path.

Arrived greatly glowing and badly in need of 500ml of Oasis citrus punch from Cafe Tempo opposite ambulance liaison. Where? It's the caff, maybe one of several, within Ipswich hospital on Heath Road. Sells tea and cakes, open to the public, has seating, therefore qualifies for inclusion. Favourable first impressions: lots of light and minimally furnished. Half expect a telly on the wall, like the place in Felixstowe library.

For eats -- yes, it's hospital food -- there's some sad-looking sausage rolls and life-support jackets, plus a chiller cabinet of prepacked goodies. I'll take the meal deal with a Lincolnshire Sausage Breakfast by Premier. Bit soggy and not up there with the handmade equivalent at Enjoy. On the walls, it'd be good to have a bit more artwork and not just the odd A4 sheet warning about only consuming food purchased on the premises.

Sweet stuff is similarly South Mimms lacklustre. Those muffins and pastries are a cry for help and the unfortunate by-product of a captive audience, methinks. Americano was OK, and my retro eye plumped for a Cadbury Snack, those small choccy biscuits that I thought had gone the way of the Texan bar. Now I'm h-a-p-p-y. Seriously, Cafe Tempo, isn't it time to get inspired?

If it was a car -- Hyundai Amica.
If they were passing by -- Brenda Blethyn.

EDitorial ± 20-May-2010

Son Of Ipswich Film Theatre

Tonight Matthew, I got my kicks at the flicks. For hoorah, the Ipswich Film Theatre -- one of the town's precious few cultural jewels -- is back from the dead.

Me and her were regulars back in the day, taking in a Steve Martin double bill before tucking into a perfect pizza at the much-missed Noble Romans (don't look for it now, kids). Or catching the latest Coen Brothers. Or going dead arty in screen 2 for Le Samourai. Or thrilling to Reservoir Dogs, or Blue Velvet, or a challenging Peter Greenaway. Or even Hoop Dreams, an amazing basketball documentary: OK, that was me and me alone.

Out popped those kiddies and the cinematic outings dried up like a flannel on a patio. Maybe everyone else was also reproducing, 'cos audiences dropped off and the IFT kind of disappeared, morphing into the more mainstream Hollywood Cinema. That too conked out, leaving the town with the popcorn delights of Cineworld. 3D, sir?

Evidently after much slogging by a bunch of fine volunteers, Ipswich's arts cinema re-opened tonight. I felt obliged to go along -- use it or lose it -- and was gobsmacked by A Single Man. Everything looks better on the big screen, but that is one classy film. Especially enjoyed the ultra slo-mo scene with Colin Firth driving away from home, pointing a pretend gun at his neighbour's kid, and also when he pulled up at a liquor store in front of a huge blue Psycho poster. And you have to see the colours of those sharpeners to believe them.

Nice one, Ipswich Film Theatre Trust. Fancy having a go at Broomhill Pool?

EDitorial ± 17-May-2010

Ipswich Lunches: O'Briens

Didn't pan out last week for an officially sanctioned light lunch excursion. Catching up to be done -- determined to hit 40 reviews for Ipswich -- hence today's outing on, of all days, a Monday. I know. Radical. Maybe we'll form a Monday Club? Ooh, little bit of politics. Easy.

Bike safely moored by Ant & Dec's huge Wii poster outside Debenham's, a 30 second stroll takes us to O'Briens. Sandwiched between Snappy Snaps and a colourful red door -- I can't believe it's not the Buddhist Centre -- is this petite Pret-u-like promising "gourmet coffee and handcut sandwiches". Andy favours taking his soup & sarnie outside: three tables, six seats. Glancing up at the darkness above, I favour sitting inside: three tables, six seats. This time, I win.

Now, I didn't see the young lady actually deploy her knife, but it's highly probable that, true to their mantra, she did indeed cut my sandwiches by hand. Tuna and sweetcorn on granary, as fresh as a can of Dulux, with a skimpy dash of crisps on the side. Singular soft drink alert: bottle of Juice Burst Ace, blood orange, c/w vitamins A, C and E. Riboflavin levels undeclared. All good.

Nearly all the trade here is takeaway. Plenty more seating round the corner at The Orangery, up at Enjoy, down at Central Canteen, etc. Besides the jackets, there's a bewildering array of fillings, plus a fair few sweet options too. Tempted by one of Kate's (prepacked) Cakes, I'll have a huge choc muffin with a regular Americano (wot no macchiato on the list). Was that a gourmet coffee? Had worse, to be sure.

If it was a car -- Honda Jazz.
If they were passing by -- Colm Meaney.

EDitorial ± 11-May-2010

Gummered Up

Ipswich candidates outside polling station You know you're getting older when you're the same age as the prime minister. Old salmon chops achieved the highest station in the land -- about three hours ago -- aged 43. That gives me about two more days to make something of my life. Gotta set your sights high, 'cos they ain't always riding Shetlands.

Back in the time of Arthur C Clarke, our little local by-election was contested by the admirably monosyllabic Mole, West and Munt, three characters straight from The Wind In The Willows. As time passed, our incumbent insectivourous MP failed to move with the times: surnames, like hair, have lengthened. Chris Mole, get thee to the deed poll. Would have taken a mere five letters to morph into Molesworth.

This time around, then, no chance for red Mole up against yellow Dyson and blue Gummer. Nope, not John Selwyn, he of the BSE brouhaha, but his son, Ben. Did you watch The Thick Of It? If not, go and buy those DVDs now. There's a couple of episodes featuring an aspiring politician called Ben Swain. Facing Paxo on Newsnight, he performs disastrously and starts rapidly opening and closing his eyes. Thereafter he's forever referred to as Blinky Ben.

Ben Gummer's dad, John don't call me Selwyn, was one of the many MPs all over the papers last year in the expenses scandal. Super ironically, JSG received hundreds of pounds for -- guess what -- mole removal. They say that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

EDitorial ± 7-May-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Cafe Giardino

Many are the markets in Ipswich. There's the market itself, a selection of stalls that's had various homes (Crown Street prior to the pool, then outside Civic Centre) and is now conveniently located dead centre in front of the town hall. There's the Cattle Market, home to the red buses opposite Pal's (known to some as the meat market). Very close to that you'll find the Buttermarket, both the name of a street and a sprawling indoor shopping centre.

Until they went belly up in 2005, the Buttermarket bedrock was Allders department store. Eventually that space was filled by the twin Ts of TJ Hughes and TK Maxx. About that time, the toy shop on the corner gave way to an open plan eatery, Cafe Giardino. Despite sounding like a player from the 1974 Brazilian squad, this is a chain stretching from wonderful Basildon to beautiful Woking. Naturally good is their tagline: we'll see about that.

I'm second (equals last) to arrive and Andy's well underway at one of the multitude of free tables. Right, I say, I'll order and join you in a min. It's a long min, maybe because the food is freshly assembled and maybe because they're understaffed. Queue time brings to mind our outing to the M&S Cafe. Will the food -- chicken & bacon baguette -- be as good as there? Answer: no. Nowt wrong but you wouldn't pen a postcard about it either. Like a three year old Mondeo on a dashed white line, it's serviceable and middle of the road. Though I did like the unusual San Benedetto peach ice tea.

Atmosphere is neither one thing nor another, reflecting the non-result that's emerged overnight from yesterday's election. We're all Tory now. You'd need to be fiddling your expenses to find £1.75 for a jam doughnut. With Andy jetting off, I'm tempted to go into the nearly adjacent Starbucks for a flat white. Instead, I stay for an underwhelming coffee and an OK-ish toasted teacake (fetch your own knife and butter). You'd be reasonably pleased with such a cafe on the M4. I'll say no more.

If it was a car -- Skoda Roomster.
If they were passing by -- Mark Dyson.

EDitorial ± 4-May-2010

Play Your Cards Night

It's all Kev's fault. He was the one that got me in to it. Of a lunchtime, we played with stacks of spare sugar sachets, which made winning extra sweet. Only later, when I had a taste for it, did the brown cane give way to 5p pieces. And having won a pound or two -- like a scene from Hustle -- there followed the invitation to step up and try my luck with the big boys. As Melle Mel put it, that's the way it goes.

Friday, 7:15pm, and I'm crossing the threshold of the Felixstowe Con Club, Cameron's BattleBus nowhere to be seen. Sign here, they said, and hand over your tenner -- you're player number 28. We'll give it another three-quarters of an hour. Go and buy yourself a drink.

Sipping my Lucozade and making nervy pre-match smalltalk with some of the other competitors, it's clear that certain participants know the ropes. There's one or two, like myself, who've never "played live" before tonight. Clock ticks round to 8pm: gentlemen and lady, let's play poker.

Upstairs we tread: pick a card to determine which table you'll be on and in which chair. Four tables, seven seats per table. Each person has before them a big pile of chips: typical Felixstowe. Cards are nattily dealt, two each, and everyone sneaks a peak under cupped hands. Opening "blinds" -- bets, to you and me -- are 25 and 50, displayed on the big screen. Meaning that you'll need to throw in at least a 50 chip to see the flop, i.e. the initial three cards. Welcome to Texas Hold 'Em.

First few rounds are a blur. A lot of people are folding before the flop, including me. Guy on my immediate right is accumulating chips as quickly as mine are disappearing. Time to make a move with my picture card ... oops, there goes half of my pile. Poor decision. Wasn't like this watching Matt Damon and John Malkovich in Rounders last night.

Time goes by, the deal goes round, and I can see myself as the first person to be knocked out. Don't worry, says the nice lady (the only female here tonight) next to me, this'll be a good hand. Spookily, she's right: two aces! Be still, my beating heart. This is more like it. In I go, not too much, and another ace comes up. Couple of other players stay with me and regret it: woo-hoo, I've won a hand!

Not long before one of us (phew, not me) is out of the game. Then, head to head against the nice lady, she doesn't make her flush and that's her gone too, another pot to me. I am top of the world. With the break imminent and the blinds doubled, I attempt to bluff my way past the guy on my right. He's not having it. I go all in, he matches me, chips to spare, and that's the end of me. Oh well, I'll be back to watch the remaining players battle it out while sipping slowly on my J2O.