EDitorial ± 28-Jul-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Debenhams

Long-term readers (ahem) with powers of recall like Rainman will doubtless remember an off-the-cuff remark from Jan 2001 about an old Saturday job, plus a follow-up reference from a trip to Wyevale. That was me, back in I Heart 1982, clearing the tables, loading the dishwasher and -- can you believe it? -- emptying the ashtrays in Springles, the restaurant upstairs in Debenhams, Ipswich. Merest hint of a dog-end and whoosh, I'm back there in an instant.

Skipping the nineties and noughties, I am returned like the conquering hero to the same ex-Footmans department store. Not even sure if there remains an eatery on the top floor, 'cos today I'm grounded. Into the leftmost entrance, commando crawl past the Venture portrait people and grab a tray.

Savoury options closely resemble a Costa or a Starbucks. Unlike BHS last week, there's no hot food sitting around though I spy a questionable prawn salad. Guess it'll be a panini -- would you like that heated? -- plus small bag of kettle chips and a bottle of This Water. That'll be £7.17, please. You what?! Four quid panini, one quid crisps and over two quid for the drink. Like being in flippin' Cineworld. And could I have a glass for my liquid gold? Certainly sir, she says, handing me a plastic beaker.

Lots of outside seating for ladies and gents who like to light up with a light lunch. Can still watch the world go by from an inside table. Here's panini, limp and lava-hot. Fetch your own cutlery, it seems. I dunno, fings ain't wot they used to be.

Bits of cake are passing the time of day with no cover. Pre-packed caramel slice will have to do, with an Americano -- pleased to see that "all our coffee has two shots". Demolishing the slice, I catch sight of Evans, the plus size outfitters, out of the corner of my fat lazy eye.

If it was a car -- Fiat Doblo.
If they were passing by -- Ann Widdecombe.

EDitorial ± 27-Jul-2010

Made On A Tarmac

I've been cycling to work for some years now. One day, I hope to get there! Skidoosh! By far the worst section, apart from Valley Road hill and the narrow & windy stretch by the golf course, is the unmade road by Dobbs Lane at the start/end of the Grange Farm cycle path in Kesgrave. Why, maybe I mentioned it back in April 2007, in which there was speculative talk of it all being fixed.

Never happen, I thought. Meantime, all of us -- cyclists, schoolkids, parents, pedestrians -- will continue to battle our way between cavernous potholes (when it's dry) and muddy puddles (when it's wet). Not much fun in the daylight, even less fun of an early winter's evening with zero streetlighting.

Waddya know, it has been. Fixed, that is. Once the clocks did whatever they do in spring, out came the boys in the hard hats for 12 weeks of proper work. During which time I largely avoided it and stuck to the main road.

In the last couple of weeks, they've tidied up and moved on, bish-bosh. Job is very much a good 'un. Those 300m or so have literally been transformed. The track of horror has become a terrain of harmony. Hard to get across how much better it is. Coasting along that baby's bottom of a boulevard, I feel the need to stop, get off and lay down, spreading myself like a tarmac angel. Obviously I don't do that; that'd be crazy.

Nonetheless, it's wonderful.

EDitorial ± 21-Jul-2010

Ipswich Lunches: BHS

What with the Co-op on Carr Street having been Virgo-ed, then vanished like Woolies, that's another less department store in town. Don't need to go too much further back to witness the demise of Littlewoods in Tower Ramparts and Allders in the Buttermarket. Should you be torturing yourself for a towel bale, there's always Debenhams, or, of course, a name you can trust -- British Home Stores, aka BHS.

Frontage faces Blends and is home to a small-ish takeaway place. Back faces JaCey's and is home to a larger restaurant, today's destination. Once all parties are present -- both of us -- I propose that we do the mid-40s thing and take the tea for two. Working backwards, that's the scone, pot of tea and, weirdly, a shared sandwich. Agreed, says Andy. As a tribute to our late friend, we opt for the pre-packed prawn: it's what he would have had.

To bulk out the savoury, we take advantage of the stickered offer and "add chips for 99p". Daft not to. Swiftly past the olde worlde hotplated hot food -- chicken portions, cottage pie -- and find a table. Stay inside to bathe in the natural light, of which there is a goodly amount. Numerous tables out there by the groovy tourist information centre but most pleasant in here too.

Done savoury and on to the main event. Tricky choice of miniature pot of jam, proper cream and an excellent scone. Such a tasty morsel is what the whole light lunch shindig is all about. Next time you're choosing a sensible lamp or even an uplighter, you devil, drop by.

If it was a car -- Smart ForTwo Cabrio.
If they were passing by -- Miranda Hart.

EDitorial ± 16-Jul-2010

Latitude 2010

That there local Latitude festival used to be so much simpler when it was just me (2008), or even me and Wifey (2009). Wee bit trickier this year. Eldest and friend v. keen to come along, what with that Florence and her accompanying machine. No way they can pass as 12 and under, hence ordered three adult tickets. Middler, still 12 at the start of that week, expressed an interest when I mentioned the free child ticket per grown-up one. Plus she'd like to bring a buddy too. Alrighty.

Complications arose when Middler invited pal number two. X seats in car, X+1 people. Hello Houston? Options evaluated and fully costed, agreed a workaround (less said the better) with friend's mum.

All six of us arrive midday-ish and eventually get our secure wristbands. No takers for the face painting area. Walk them the length of the site -- look, kids, that's the Obelisk stage -- and agree to meet for 2pm at the Dead Tree. Not a trendy stall but, er, a dead tree. Gotta dash, guys, I'm already behind on my personal itinerary.

Catch end of lively Jane Bussman talk, couple of decent tracks by These Ghosts, and successful meet-up takes place. Everyone fed and accounted for. Let's do this again. 6pm-ish? No can do, Dad, that'll clash with The Feeling. Seems we all have our timetables.

Not far to see Villagers, impressively powerful, on to folksy clog dancing Unthanks on big stage, and uneven Sara Pascoe in comedy tent. Can't get near poetry place for Wendy Cope. Back to Word Arena for Angus & Julia Stone -- cameo appearance for Damien Rice on great Grease track -- and a soupcon of new wave Spoon. Wander through the woods for enjoyable Luna Belle and second rendezvous is as smooth as the first.

Bit of Laura Marling -- doesn't work for me -- and grab donuts before settling down in corner of Word Arena for eccentric Wild Beasts. Watching the Chris Morris Q&A queue grow and grow when text arrives from one of Middler's mates:

I lost everyone and phone won't connect. Where are you?

Bottoms. Not the best time to discover that although mobile signal is good, calls aren't getting through reliably and texts are taking minutes, if not hours, to arrive. I can't contact her and I've no idea where she is on the site.

Let's gloss over bouncing from one warden to another, incoming messages from lost mate's Mum and the white noise of walkie-talkies. Half an hour or so later, we had a happy ending, and off they disappeared again. Time for the last five minutes of Chris Morris, the man himself, and straight back to the Word for The National, a towering performance.

Yes, we met up successfully afterwards, despite the darkness, and easily found our way back to the black car with its single balloon left tied to the aerial. Job done, and they're all asleep on the journey back.

... and still missed Billy Bragg, Eddie Argos and that bloke from CSI.

EDitorial ± 15-Jul-2010

No Responsible Adults

Wifey's away, she's jet-planed abroad
Drove her to Heathrow and now she's offshored
Attending a course in the city of Prague
Could tell you more but the details are vague

Me and the kids, I'm sure we'll be fine
PE kit and colours, peg out on the line
Rise early, wake girls, three lunches to pack
Wave them off, go to work, then welcome them back

Remember to feed (a) the kids (b) the cat
Is that lamb on my plate? Do I not like that!
You'll eat it and like it, you ungrateful nippers
Tomorrow, play safe, we'll have chicken dippers

What swimming gala? You need me to come?
Can't Nana attend, or Grandad? Would Mum?
Sorry, don't know where your black trousers are
On the stairs? In the wash? Have you looked in the car?

Before she gets back, should we think about cleaning?
Empty bins, rinse the shower, let's go Mr Sheen-ing
Tidy hall, fetch the mop, that floor's a disgrace
And please put that tea towel back in its place

EDitorial ± 14-Jul-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Bernie Lee's

Unseasonally tricky to park your bike near the Giles Statue in downtown Ipswich. In fact, Grandma isn't there at the mo'. She's sunning herself elsewhere while that whole area encapuslated by Costa, Barclays and the Corn Exchange is paved and pimped, shortly to be relaunched as Giles Circus.

Is it only last March that we kicked off the Ipswich eateries with an outing to the Central Canteen? At that time, there was a Chinese restaurant a few doors down named Canton Ocean, which in turn had replaced Cafe Blue. Whizz to the present summer of 2010 and we find Bernie Lee's, a very recently opened coffee shop and purveyor of hot roast baguettes. Sit in, take away, your choice.

Inside the door sits a hinged Brompton, Mr Cassy's calling card. He's well sorted: best seats in the house, twin comfy sofas in the window, flicking through The Sun and demolishing his French stick. Menu-wise, I like the sound of the Tractor Boy, but chicken out and plump for the roast pork and relish. Pleasant to slump on the couch, work my jaws and sip a cold Coke.

Back to counter for Americano and a slab of perfectly fine carrot cake. Good to see other folks giving this place a try; can't be the best time to start a new business, so good luck to the Bernie Lee's boys.

If it was a car -- Ford Thunderbird.
If they were passing by -- Rich Hall.

EDitorial ± 8-Jul-2010

Panini Boy

That there World Cup's still going on, despite the deserved eviction of Our Boys. Maybe, just maybe. Er, no. While Ozil and co were ripping through our majestic defence, The Boy was busy soaking his mates with his Flash Flood pistol. At least some people were having fun that afternoon.

Pleased to say that I've been brainwashing number one son into the magnificence and significance of the four yearly tournament. While I used to gawp at the feats of Cruyff and Kempes, he's been carefully trained to gasp at the footwork of Messi and Kaka. Helped, naturally, by that essential WC add-on, the Panini sticker album.

Comes in at 50p a pack, so he's not got too many. He claimed yesterday to have "found" a pound in the school playground and so returned with a brace. Likely story.

It's educational, you know, trying to pronounce the names of all those players, from South Africa's musical Tshabalala to Spain's lilting Iniesta to Uruguay's handballing Suarez. Imagine his delight, then, to open a fresh pack and discover the footballer whose name he loves the most -- step forward Danny Shittu.

EDitorial ± 7-Jul-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Fish 'n' Chick'n

Pushing the very limits of Ipswich-ness, it's up to the airport to practice our parachute landing falls. Except that the aerodrome is long since gome [sic], much like the racecourse. Gainsborough Sports Centre no longer borders the airfield but overlooks the burgeoning Poundbury-esque stylings of Ravenswood. Small wonder that Suckling Airways taxi-ed off with their Dornier.

Busy-busy at the shops when I arrive. Co-op at one end, Aldi/Lidl at the other, and along from Subway is the inelegantly named Fish 'n' Chick'n. That'll be two, count 'em, apostrophes, more than your average grocer's. Large Letraset lumo letters on the window proclaim:

Regional Winners Of The Fish & Chip Shop of The Year Competition 2009

Get them, eh? Move aside, Bounty, FnC is the new Big Fry. Slight queue gives us time to appraise the lunchtime offers: I'll take the jumbo plain sausage and chips, Andy'll have the cod with free chips. Friendly fish folk exchange our money for hot potato products. Our unwrapped goodies look good but lack the posh boxes to which we were treated at Wickham Market.

Too stuffy to sit inside, about 50 degrees warmer than previous chip-trips to Martlesham and Woodbridge. Not many steps over to a bench outside the local health centre, apt for Andy sipping his Dr Pepper. Sausage/fish/chips all mighty fine, as you'd hope, though would happily plan a return visit or two to fully assess that Top Chippy accolade.

If it was a car -- Hyundai Comfort.
If they were passing by -- Stelios Haji-Ioannou.