EDitorial ± 30-Jun-2010

Ipswich Lunches: All Fired Up

Oh my goodness, it's hot, and we're now a goodly way through the cafes and tea shops of olde Ipswiche towne. Today's must-have: outside seating. Half-twelve, near Debenhams, meet you at All Fired Up, "your local ceramics cafe".

Been a while -- three years -- since the gang of three did a paint-a-plate place, the toastamatic Jars Of Clay, which is what confused Andy tends to call AFU anyway. Bike lashed to the rails of the criminally expensive M&S facing ladies-who-lunch NCP car park, I'm first to arrive. Half a dozen alfresco tables, parasol covers, nice, esp. when sipping fat Coke from a proper glass bottle. Shut your eyes and you could be anywhere. Ish. Though you could equally well stop by for a cuppa and a fag.

Savoury options are restricted but hit most bases, with made-to-order paninis and sandwiches. A-ha, I'm sorted -- what could be more cooling than a bowl of spicy chilli? White or brown bread? Brown. Toasted? Yes, I hear myself saying, my synapses jerking back to Jars Of Clay. That mince 'n' beans is quality, a million miles away from last week's outing to Ginsterville.

It's good here, and the cake selection keeps up the classiness. Slice of Victoria? Carrot cake? On another day, yes. Today's baking weather calls for the Bakewell. A fine choice, as is the mini macchiato. Together, they make one of those Steadman and Broadbent life-is-sweet moments.

Inside I flick through a copy of Vanilla, a glossy handbag magazine (fashion, shopping, eating out: I am so the target demographic) that coincidentally has a feature on AFU. Under new management, it says. Young Mr Grace would be proud.

If it was a car -- TVR Griffith.
If they were passing by -- Antony Gormley.

EDitorial ± 28-Jun-2010

Lights Out

Bedtime checklist. Fresh air – tick, two kickarounds today. Food – tick, if you counted those chips. Teeth – no, but had an apple. Toilet – tick, though it had felt a bit weird going in the flowerbed. Dad said a downstairs loo would cost too much, but Mum was right – it would be dead handy.

Mum had been going on about the upstairs loo since Year 3. Not the loo, the lights.

Becky said she could remember when all four lights worked, but she made things up. When Mum washed my hair in the bath, I could see the loose wire in the ceiling. Another light popped when we got back from Ice Age 3, so Dad left his really powerful torch on the ledge. The last light went this morning. Mum went mad.

Crazy, she said. She threw her phone into her bag. Me and Becky are off – I'll ring later from Mum's. You've got until tomorrow to fix those blooming lights. But she didn't say blooming.

The door slammed. Dad said OK, better get moving. I looked up. But, he said, there's time for a Ben 10 or three first. We jumped onto the sofa in the nice room.

When the DVD finished, Dad said right, I'm Juventus, you're Arsenal. Last one out the back's a sissy.

I was 7-5 up when the ball flew into number 9's garden from Dad's overhead kick. We live at number 17. Don't worry, he said, I'll pop round later.

I was hungry. Dad said stay here while I nip out. You know the drill: don't answer the phone, don't open the front door, don't burn the house down.

We ate our chip butties and listened to the Liverpool game. I couldn't finish mine but I made room for an eclair. Right, said Dad, you find something to watch while I sort these blooming lights. He really did say blooming.

I put on Home Alone 2. Dad made a face as he carried the stepladder from the shed upstairs. I'd just turned up the TV – Dad's drill is really noisy – when the screen went black. Even the little clock had gone out. I went outside. Sitting on the grass was our ball. Dad must have got it when he got the chips.

Later I needed the loo but the door was shut. There was a funny smell, not like the one Dad normally makes. It's Do Not Disturb when Dad's in the loo. It's the only peace I get, he says. In the end, I had to go outside.

When it got dark, I knocked on the door very quietly. No answer. None of the lights worked. I used my Hulk torch to find the chips in the bin. They were OK with lots of sauce. When the little hand on Mum's clock pointed to the eight, I got into my PJs. The phone rang a few times. I didn't answer it.

It's dark in bed. My torch needs new AAs. Hope Dad gets those lights fixed soon.

(C) Ed Broom 2010

EDitorial ± 26-Jun-2010

They Might Be Giants, London

Mention "They Might Be Giants" to most people in the UK and the likelihood is that you'll get one of two reactions:

  1. who?
  2. oh yeah ... what was the name of that song?

That song, BTW, is Birdhouse In Your Soul, a top ten smash for the boys way back in 1990. And yes, they are still going, very much so, to the tune of 14 studio albums and counting.

I was only dimly aware of them until six or seven years ago when I started hunting around for decent kids' music, stuff that wasn't TV theme tunes or the flippin' wheels on the bloomin' bus. That was when I discovered No!, a dedicated album of original music. You know, for kids. I loved it and so did the kids in the car.

We've since had the delights of Here Come The ABCs, Here Come The 123s and, only last year, Here Comes Science. What's good? It's all good. The band, comprising mostly two fellas named John, play a goodly number of gigs, including the odd family show as a matinee. Alas, nearly all of these are in and around the USA. So when I saw they were playing at the Royal Festival Hall...

Hot day, down to the happenin' Southbank for 2pm, and the five of us -- yep, all family members from 10 to 44 -- took our seats. Absolutely amazing thingumajig floating in the air before the gig, a Festo Air Penguin. Stunning and worth the admission price alone.

And finally, here's John and John plus guitarist and drummer et cetera. Big reception, remarks about how grand a venue this is, and they launch into Fibber Island, the first track on No! Great moment. Really good playlist included not just top tracks from the kids' albums (Bed Bed Bed, 813 Mile Car Trip, Alphabet Of Nations), but also old favourites like Dr  Worm ("I'm not a real doctor but I am a real worm"), Istanbul and Older ("You're older than you've ever been and now you're even older"). Plus the very odd Particle Man. Did I mention the hand puppets that gave us a starstruck rendition of Shooting Star? Quirkily fantastic. Come back soon.

EDitorial ± 25-Jun-2010

What Dads Do 2

Dads are great:

  • Sunday
    • Daughter asks Dad to pre-order the new Lego / Harry Potter Wii game
    • Dad ums and ahs and does nothing
  • Tuesday
    • Daughter reminds Dad to place his order so it'll come for Friday
    • Dad does his usual price comparison procrastination and goes with Amazon
  • Wednesday
    • Daughter checks that Dad has done his bit
    • Dad happily confirms
  • Friday
    • Dad heads off to work way before lunchtime post
    • Daughter Skypes Dad at 3:30pm asking where game is
    • Dad asks Daughter if she's checked the post
    • Daughter confirms no sign of game
    • Dad rechecks Amazon order and finds estimated arrival date is next Wednesday
    • Dad says that parcels sometimes get delivered late pm and not to give up
    • Daughter sighs and is unimpressed
    • Dad discovers online that Sainsburys are selling HP Lego for £24.99
    • Dad phones Sainsburys on outskirts of town and reserves a copy
    • Dad plots cycle route to Sainsburys avoiding A-roads and rat runs
    • Dad bikes along country roads in the heat to Sainsburys and buys HP Lego
    • Dad cycles home
    • Daughter reconfirms that game hasn't turned up
    • Dad offers his lame "late parcels" line
    • Dad seals Sainsburys HP Lego in saved brown mail packet
    • Dad nips out back door, places mail packet in porch and rings bell
    • Dad hears shouts of joy from inside
  • Saturday
    • Dad finds new post in porch including Amazon copy of HP Lego

Dad saves world, again.

EDitorial ± 24-Jun-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Wicked Cafe, UCS

Comes to pass that Andy is sustainable-schmoozing in town, I'm WFH (what the heck), ergo we should cross (a) paths and (b) another eatery off Earl's list. Also becomes evident that his eco-venue plays host to such an establishment. Sorted: 1pm in the foyer of the strikingly original UCS building, aka University Campus Suffolk, hyper prominent between Coffeelink to the right and Colours to the left.

I'm a bit late, dur. No sign of Mein Host. Beginning to admire the artwork when he uncloaks, and we manage to tailgate our way to the 3rd floor. Not totally sure if the Wicked Cafe is open to Joe Public. In we wander, wide open space with PCs on the walls, and there's a dearth of students. School, it would seem, is out. Touch of the three bears, though, 'cos who's been eating all the wraps, soup and paninis? Food is decimated except for a mini Ginsters trade stand: there's the whole service station range for our gourmet pleasure. Er, I'll have the spicy chicken slice. Yes, please, heated would be good. Processed slice, piping hot -- more degrees than the Dean -- on a cardboard plate with plastic cutlery. Enough said.

Cold drinks seem to have been outsourced to a pair of chunky vending machines. Quid goes in, and there's entertainment to be had watching the little platform rise to sweep away my Lucozade Sport. It's isotonic, you know.

Only one vertical direction for things to go. Latte with an extra shot, please. Not sure if you'll need that, says the lady: our coffee is quite strong. And she's right. Good and strong and hot, a fine accompaniment to a shrink wrapped granola bar. Had we arrived earlier in the day and in the academic year, I've no doubt that the counter would have been covered with tempting savoury options and freshly baked cakes. Possibly.

If it was a car -- Reliant Kitten.
If they were passing by -- David Troughton.

EDitorial ± 17-Jun-2010

World Cup Shorts

Another World Cup, another part-completed pull-out guide from the Guardian. Pleasing to see the Frenchies go down 2-0 to those Mexican bandidos tonight, even though j'adore rubber-faced Ribery. That Dos Santos fella with the girly hair has played at all the great clubs, you know: Barcelona, Galatasaray, Spurs, and, er, Ipswich. Scored a goal against the Canaries, too. Go Giovani!

Doesn't seem too long since Deutschland '06, where I stayed the course from day 1 right through to day 31. I was younger then, and so were you. Going way way back to palindromic 2002 is to visit a foreign country: contracting, in my 30s and with kids who didn't talk back quite so much.

In search of a particular Lego Atlantis set (OK, the Seabed Scavenger) at my local Asda last weekend, and pumped up in anticipation of the Uncle Sam showdown, I shamelessly purchased a WC2010 tie-in -- a highly bouncy one quid football carrying the livery of St George. Size 5, too. As it swung pertly from a carrier bag on the handlebars, it symbolised energy, newness and tension. A week later, post Robert Green, it can be found in the pit under the trampoline reeking of despair, dirt and deflation.

Working from home today -- The Boy's off school having collected another stamp on his casualty loyalty card following another playground knock to the head -- I was trying to be good, concentrating on the dining room laptop, the Dell Air. Then I weakened and thought it would be OK to put the lunchtime match on a second PC screen, taking advantage of the miracle that is tvcatchup.com (watch live UK TV on your 'puter). About 15 minutes in, The Boy raced in saying 1-0!

No, I said, looking at the tiny screen, nobody's scored yet: maybe he did have mild concussion?

Argentina, he said, they just scored.

Look, I said, it's still nil-nil.

No, look, he said, and we watched my pixels rearrange themselves as an unfortunate South Korean stuck in an own goal. Turns out that TV catch-up is a minute or two behind the pace.

EDitorial ± 16-Jun-2010

Light Lunches: Flaming Fryer, Wickham Market

The name "Wickham" has been all over the loo-cal news in recent months, all because the once mighty ITFC have, for once, landed themselves a useful player Young fella goes by the name of Connor Wickham and wasn't even a twinkle during Italia 90. He's the great blue & white hope for less-than-Keane's Tractor Boys.

It's rumoured that Spurs ('ello, 'appy 'arry) are in the market for Wickham, which contrivedly brings us to Wickham Market. Been here before nigh on two years ago, the four of us, to try the Tea Pot. Always said we'd return to check out the chippy, and here we are, three of us, one down. Entrance to the Flaming Fryer is round the side -- follow the sign to the Red Triangle Bowls Club -- and the inside is nicely kitted out. All very fresh and new: that'd be due to the old place burning down. Charlie says these things happen.

We order, and I think I'm bucking the trend by picking a can of Ben Shaw dandelion and burdock, only for Andy and Kev to do the same. Copycats. Spurning the sun, we go for the cafe-style high stools and can't quite decide how best to sit on them. All a bit perilous, lunching at altitude like Dick Fosbury.

Grub's up, presented in quality cardboard boxes, and my Pukka Pie & be-ketchup-ed chips, with slurps of D&B, hit the spot. Miniature chip fork handled the spud strips but was defeated by the pie. Right tasty, job done.

If it was a car -- Fiat Ducato.
If they were passing by -- Mike McShane.

EDitorial ± 11-Jun-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Cafe Jam

Get on board, get on board, get on board with the double deckers. Treated to two-tiered transport from rural MH to urban IP4 courtesy of Ipswich buses. To the station, then pushbikes past Pals and along Tacket Street to the welcoming bikelock bars facing The Dhaka. All secure, in through the blue door: advice & assistance obtainable immediately. A-ha, Cafe Jam, exactly the size it appeared to be from the outside.

All tables occupied so best we take the window seats looking out on the Spread Eagle, nearly able to reach out and touch neighbouring Origo. Like Janet's further up The Wash, they don't need no stinkin' menus. Saul on the wall, Paul. There's "proper meals", rump steak included, though I'd speculate that most folk plump for an ADB of some sort. I'll restrict myself to the egg, beans and chips for a bargainous £2.99, plus a Drench from the well-stocked fridge. Bonus point for selling Barr shandy. No sign, alas, of the hen's tooth that is Red Kola.

Sure that when we kicked off this light lunch thang, this place was known as Manna's. Prior to that, Kelly's tell me, it was the aptly named Corner Cafe for bleating Eeyore's years. Whatever, it does the job. Really enjoyed those chips with some squeezy brown condiment. Plus there's the odd paper (today's!) or freebie magazine (such as IP1) to browse.

Didn't make a fool of ourselves and ask for a macchiato here. Piano player in the corner would have stopped mid-tune just like that. No sirree, a mug of coffee for a quid will do, thank you kindly. Not up to the syrup sponge, today. Cafe Jam -- deserves to be preserved.

If it was a car -- Morris Cowley.
If they were passing by -- Mick Stockwell.

EDitorial ± 8-Jun-2010

Hill Of Beanos

4p. Four of your Earth pence. That, dear reader, was the heir-to-the-throne sum you'd have had to cough up for a copy of The Beano in 1975. Not a figure I remember, since my kindly ma & pa took care of that each week with the Ulster Avenue newsagents, but easily look-up-able on ebay. Emblazoned on the front cover was that naughty young fella, Dennis The Menace -- yes, ADHD was there during the Life On Mars era -- with canine sidekick Gnasher, gnaturally. What are they up to? Making life hell for Walter The Softy, to this day a mess and a mire of anxiety issues: he never stood a chance.

Wasn't all flashily be-costumed superheroes in my youth. Older brother had The Dandy, which could account for his Desperate Dan eating habits, and I had The Beano, both fine products from the DC Thomson stable in Scotland (also remain a big fan of AG Barr's equally fine and fizzy products.)

All of those 35 years ago, you'd have found the Bash Street Kids, Roger The Dodger, and Minnie The Minx, the girlpower equivalent of DtM. Flash forward to issue 3537 dated June 5th 2010 and they're all still there, much as they were. That poor, poor teacher dons his mortar board and continues to take abuse from Danny, malformed Plug and, erm, Fatty. This week's strip even features a tuck van selling "delicious ices". Have they not heard of exclusion? No sign of Billy Whizz: maybe he's raced ahead to next week's comic?

Me and The Boy had a fine time reading aloud The Numskulls, with its fantastic range of Batman-like cartoon noises, such as:

  • parp!
  • wheee!
  • snap!
  • donk!
  • klunk!

Should fess up that I bought last week's for the "3 Mega Gifts", namely a Lego Mini Figure (worth £1.99!) plus poster plus stickers. Had no idea what the cover price might be. Care to guess? It's now up to £2.25, over 50 times what it used to be -- Vince Cable could tell us if that's just simple inflation. Imagine if petrol prices had gone up in the same way. Ah.

EDitorial ± 2-Jun-2010

Bouncy Bouncy

Like all right-thinking parents, and as can most likely be proved by the judicious use of Google Earth, we are the proud owners of a big blue bear. Did I say bear? Came out all wrong. I meant trampoline.

Bouncy bouncy
Ooh such a good time
Bouncy bouncy
Shoes all in a line
— Mighty Boosh

Thanks to the recent half-decent (rhyme every time) weather, me and The Boy have conspired to create a new game -- let's call it Goalies. He climbs aboard SS Elastica while I stay on the terra firma that is the patio, painstakingly laid by pipesmoker of the year Uncle Philip many moons ago. I chip up the ball in his direction and The Boy has to save it. Straightforwards, like what the meerkat says.

  • if he catches it or stops it, great
  • if my shot was totally rubbs, I retrieve the ball from the nettle pit or a nearby prickly bush
  • if he lets a good one past him, he has to fetch it, requiring the use of his Mum's crocs, which can be way too much effort, hence his often filthy socks

OK, it's not got the playability of Ticket To Ride nor the thrill of Rollerball nor the strategy of mancala, but it'll suffice. Fresh air and helps our tea go down. Everyone's a winner.

One essential item is the ball. We were using our favourite car-boot ball until an errant kick from Sonny Jim sent it flying over the fence. Goes to either side, we have the power to fetch it. Goes over the end and that's a whole different street. It ain't coming back.

Stocking up on some essential gelatelli and weird mallow cakes from Lidl last week, they had a selection of super bouncy balls, only £1.99 each. I'll take the retina-threatening SpongeBob model. Home, I hand the ball to The Boy 'cos I'm off to the Film Theatre again. Two hours later I'm re-shed-ing the bike and there's zero sign of Mr SquarePants. Inside, I find out that he unleashed another dodgy kick and over the end it flew. Assuming 20 minutes play, which is generous, that's cost me £6 an hour. That's that.

Me and him undertook an emergency outing to Lidl at the weekend, returning with (a) Toy Story and (b) Cars balls. Had a good session with Buzz and Woody yesterday. In from work tonight and he says "Dad, have you seen the Toy Story ball? I can't find it. But SpongeBob has come back."