EDitorial ± 28-Jan-2011

Ipswich Lunches: New Wolsey

Around that there millennium (2 Ls, 2 Ns), with my exorbitant Y2K IT contractor's "earnings" begging to be spent on a sausage sandwich and a large cappuccino, you'd have likely eyeballed me in Enjoy! There, or Blends or Allders. Maybe Vagabonds, JaCey's or O'Briens. Perhaps Pickwicks or out for a Friday treat at sadly-no-more Carrot Cake. And if a melodramatic mood had mobbed me or time was a-pressing, it was up Civic Drive for a quick-ish frothy coffee at the New Wolsey. Never know, might earwig some loose lawyer talk or get wind of a good show.

After the duet of out-of-town delights of Pump Street and Jimmy's, it's gently back to Ipswich, Suffolk, England, Europe, Earth. Didn't expect it to be that busy; I'm fortunate to get a table among the Greek chorus. Showing solidarity with the Star Express round the corner, there's a laminated menu. I'm um-ing and ah-ing when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, aka Rene and Andy enter, stage right. Good, we have kept our appointment.

Poor start: a cold day and they're out of jackets. Over to the chill(i)er Sangha-style cabinet for pre-made paninis and sarnies. VG BLT for me, plus kettle chips from the Rod, Jane and Freddie wicket basket. We all dig in, observed by the monochrome 10x8s of the current production's cast. Five-star review for the locally sourced James White pear & ginger from their Manic Organic range.

Who's for the last slice of toffee cake? Everyone! Sunny inside, but none of us wish to share. Somehow the smiling lady waves her wand and magically Ali Bongo's each of us a good 30 degrees of pure cakestuff. Americano with HMOTS, of course. Unusual and thumbs-up white mocha for Andy. With free WiFi and a water cooler, it's a charming spot with inspiring prospects. Let's go.

If it was a car -- Wolseley Six.
If they were passing by -- Jane Lapotaire.

EDitorial ± 21-Jan-2011

Light Lunches: Jimmy's Farm, Wherstead

One year less one week since the R.A.G.E. machine (Rene / Andy / Grenvyle / Ed) crossed that bridge to hunker down at Holbrook. Now we are three and it's a new E.R.A. (Ed / Rene / Andy) 'opping over that Orwell in a techno-car with one mode: Depeche. Behind the wheel, Rene slips easily onto the indivisibly prime A137. What's the Wherstead that could happen?

Hang a right by the pink Floydian pig, proceed past the alpacas and park up. Rene driving confidently since he's been here for Sunday breakfast, while I'd helped gather in the Harvest last September. Bit different now with no hordes nor Hoosiers. Finally made it to Jimmy's. That there telly fella has now added a restaurant to his repertoire. Round the back, past the farm shop, the Dung Heap toilets and the mini boutique, pausing to scan the Lament Of A Hog Farmer, and it's not that door, it's the other one. Thanks, Rene.

We're sure to shut the door behind us since we weren't born in a barn ... but if we had been, we'd be back at home. Tons of rustically treated tables to be had. Picking out a bite from the daytime menu, sipping a pint of cranberry, XX on the stereo, peacocks strutting outside: sweet. With fixed prices for two or three courses, it's clear that this isn't one of our regular caff haunts. Prices are pretty darn reasonable, though, and there's some brunchy bits (named Inbetweeners with a nod to C4) on the menu's flipside.

My 360 degrees of stockman's pizza is mightily meatily filling with intense hits to please your inner carnivore, while Rene's burger further depletes the rare breeds. We can't decide if the how now brown cow sauce for his chunky chips is or isn't HP.

Dessert? Phew, not for me. Large black coffee with hot milk on the side would be good. Arm up my back, I'll have a "handcrafted muffin" to wash it down.

Very pleasant and atmospheric, it's a top spot. So much so that for Wifey's birthday, a few days later, we skipped the traditional trip to the Leaping Hare at Wyken for a more local and laid-back version, and were greeted by Mrs Jimmy herself.

If it was a car -- Quantum Countryman.
If they were passing by -- Vincent Riotta.

EDitorial ± 19-Jan-2011

TT1011, Week 15

Ooh, new venue. Having fallen out with the Norbridge "management", the Williams clan eventually dropped anchor in the centre of town at the Manor Club, aka the Manor Ballroom. Strictly Ping Pong tonight, and unfortunately our resident twinkletoes, Rene, can't make it. That'll leave the hardcore of Ed and Andy C. Despite being a man down, there's optimistic talk of snatching a victory.

Wasn't to be. Simple-ish wins for Ed against father & son (with the bingo caller's drone coming through the ceiling). Ditto Andy with a bit more effort. Which left Michael to further improve his already impressive division 3 average, brushing aside both of us.

Could and should have grabbed a draw by taking the doubles; failed to do that too. Credit to Winsley and Michael for digging deep and wanting it more than us. Promotion is going the way of those New Year's resolutions.

EDitorial ± 17-Jan-2011

Don't Go Into The Light

Let's pull some threads and see how the jumper untangles:

  1. been reading Passage, an intriguing novel by the underappreciated Connie Willis, all about research into NDEs, Near Death Experiences
  2. was discussing the mid-80s film of The Twilight Zone recently, esp. the opening scene driving along the dark road: do you want to see something scary?
  3. riding the prima donna Boardman bike throughout the winter has resulted in numerous moving bits finding it harder and harder to move

Cycling home through yet more puddles a few days back, even I couldn't fail to notice that the so-called brakes weren't cutting the Colman's. If the front wheel is Pinsent to the rear wheel's Redgrave, we're dealing with a coxless pair of numbskulls. Redgrave has declared independence from the frame -- stop? don't you know who I am? -- and Pinsent is content to go through the motions.

Nervously asking the Halfords bloke if I perchance needed new pads, he looked me in the eye, shook his head and ordered two new pieces of everything. There was a murmured promise of delivery by the end of the week. That was four days ago. Sensible options were exhausted last week: work from home or take the car. Neither one gets the heart pumping or the face splashed with droplets of mud.

Monday comes around and I'm determined to travel by two wheels. For as much as I mistreat my bike, I love it. It's the classic cycle of abuse. Braking efficiency is down to around 15%, and that's being kind. Let's saddle up, even though it's once more raining C&D.

Going TO work is largely OK if you anticipate each roundabout and let the shoe leather take the strain. Coming BACK from work presents a challenge. There's a hill on the route, and no self-regarding cyclist wants to wheel his bike down an incline. Isn't part of our lunatic DNA. Approaching Valley Road feels like my never-again ride on the old wooden Great Yarmouth rollercoaster. Prior to the descent, you can actually hear that slow ratcheting-up; must get those gears sorted. Can freewheel from here ... and as my speed steps up, it's then that the remaining 15% gives up as Pinsent decamps to join Redgrave. I cannot slow down, let alone stop.

All part of the calculations, though, since I've got a wide lane to myself and there's a long-ish plateau at the bottom. Super, fine, smashing. Worst is nearly over when the car just ahead of me flips on his left indicator. Up from DEFCON 4, "double take", to DEFCON 3, "round house". No problem as long as he doesn't slow up and turns off smoothly. Hang on, he's pausing to let out another car. Up to DEFCON 2, "fast pace". No option but to violently swing out past him and hope that the emerging car sees my hi-vis jacket ... which thankfully, he does. Phee-yew. Briefly, I was dealing with my very own personal Cuban missile crisis in that long dark tunnel.

EDitorial ± 14-Jan-2011

Light Lunches: Pump Street Bakery, Orford

Pinch punch, 14th of the month. A1152, B1084 and back to 1165 when the first hard hats reported for work at Orford Castle: be ready by Christmas, they said. Handy car park, though, if others have pre-booked the 23 spaces on Market Hill. Doesn't always work out as you Plantagenet.

That protruding pinko property with the paired bay windows is doing its utmost to remain anonymous (wot no signs) but Andy pushes open the door like a pro and we're inside the Pump Street Bakery. Glimpsing a panoply of breadstuff, we're ushered into the minimal long room and a table that goes on for miles. Besides our peckish selves, there's a lady taking arty pix of, er, doughnuts: my kind of still life. Miss Baker talks us through the modest A5 menu, headed January 14th, today. Option 1 is a dish I've never heard of -- ribollita soup -- good enough for me. Had we used the free WiFi, we'd have observed that page 1 of Mr Google's results for said soup link to Jamie Oliver, Waitrose and the Independent. Enough said.

Gingerly sipping my hot Luscombe ginger beer when my Tuscan broth arrives. Peasant cabbage and beans and bacon is a fine match for the unpleasant climate. Accompanying slice of sourdough is sumptuous, and prompts an informative chat with Mr Baker about pain Poilane from that Paris. While father and daughter are being papped for their website, we learn of their Canadian roots and that they've escaped from that London to start this bakery/cafe business. Already got regulars and there's plans to open the tiny courtyard should the sun ever put his hat on again.

Admission: to make up for the "inconvenience" caused by the photographer, we reluctantly (ahem) accepted on-the-house pastries for pudd. Canadian butter tart with pecans for him, an A1 almond croissant for me. On the way out, paused to buy something for the weekend in the form of a slab of Vermont sourdough. Like the castle, Pump Street's a keeper.

If it was a car -- Studebaker Avanti.
If they were passing by -- Ginger Baker.

EDitorial ± 12-Jan-2011

Young Voices, O2 London

Into the Blackwall Tunnel and neither of us has yet spotted "one of the UK's most recognisable landmarks." Doesn't help that father and eldest are late -- dur -- and that the show's about to start. Turn left and behold The Dome. Now let's take advantage of our pre-booked parking and run for the entrance.

Isn't everyday that your offspring, The Boy, plays The O2. Tonight, naturally, it's been rechristened as Theo2, according to his classmates. Great to see The Boy perform where Led Zep once stood, much like his dad. Kick-off is held back to allow for less punctual parents, tut-tut, then we're off for the start of Young Voices. House lights go down and roughly 10,000 identically attired kids wave their torches and scream. Quite a wall of sound.

Jolly conductor is introduced and first group number is Van Halen's Jump!, an oddly suggestive choice given all the Year 6s seated in the top tier. There's a mid-January Christmas medley and selected guest performers:

  • nice young man Josh Osho charms the crowd with Highlight Of My Day
  • Dionne Bromfield, goddaughter of Amy Winehouse, abrasively belts out Mama Said
  • classically inclinded girlies All Angels do a surreal cover of Starlight by Muse

There's a few moist eyes in the house when the kids launch into Bright Eyes. It's a Springsteenesque two hour set, no intermission, but it's clear that the boys & gals are loving it, esp. the Lady Gaga moves. When the brave lad from Urban Strides, the dance crew, launches into his Michael Jackson routine, the noise levels are akin to The Beatles at Shea Stadium. A night to remember.

EDitorial ± 11-Jan-2011

TT1011, Week 15

First outing of the new year and first time for just the two Andii on their own with #1 & #3 otherwise engaged or on deathbed.

On the face of it should be quite a good night to ease us in to the Tweenies with Phoenix yet to get a win this season.

Get off to a good start thanks to Mr W driving and we therefore arrive in time for a reasonable practice session too, but not organised enough for high tea without the milk courtesy of our unofficial milk sponsor.

When the opponents arrive we are reminded that they haven’t played since the league dropped the best of 3 games up to 21 points all those years ago. Mr W is looking for another point or two with a couple of the opponents within spitting distance at the bottom of the player list. So, we are all keen to get it over with and agree to play both tables.

Mr C vs Jane : after a straightforward two end win finds himself two match points down in the fifth end before clawing back the next 4 points much to Jane’s disappointment. Could have gone either way but somehow manages to hold his nerve and bat without shaking too much. The other two games are a breeze, loosing just a couple dozen points between all the games.

Mr W on the other hand, and other table, is not doing quite as well as expected. Didn’t even manage to get an end, but came close on a couple of occasions, including the doubles which passed in a whoosh (missed again). Oh well. At least the visitors were happy and we all departed before the clock struck 9pm. Hope this is not an omen for the rest of the season. We’ll just have to wait and see.

EDitorial ± 6-Jan-2011

Reservoir God

Good it is to climb into your own bed after another New Year's Eve bash. Yes, the ever-so-factual DAB says it's now 3:30am, but the Broomhill mafia brought bottles, banquetted on Boston Beans and bhajis, and, in 2010's finest hour, fought a ferocious sock game. Neighbours niggled, mothers defiantly defeated their daughters and accusations of cheatery flew like Chinese lanterns. They're long gone, every last bowl in the kitchen has been washed up and Bedfordshire beckons. Bliss.

Better still if I wasn't tweaking the lo-fi Motorola alarm for less than six hours hence. An Obama-like precedent having been set last year, it has become the done thing to partake of a jolly old cycle ride on 01/01. Up at 9:10, snatched somnolent cuppa and a round of quince toast, and down to the shed for two wheels. Not the trusty and not-at-all rusty Boardman, alas, but Wifey's padded saddler. To get a grip, a fellow needs thicker tyres.

Loosening freewheel to The Boy's school, aka rendezvous point (A). Here's Jon, the organiser, and that's it. We can make it if we try. The others, no doubt, will be meeting us later. Speedy cycle out along Wherstead Road and up the ski slope hill. I fall in behind Jon at the exact moment he hits numerous dirty puddles. Not all mud is glorious.

Picking up a 3rd fellow traveller, we head out to Tattingstone. There, in the free Lemons Hill car park, aka rendezvous point (B), is everyone else. Roughly 20 bikes doing the circuit of Alton Water, and the first time I've been back since I was deeply irresponsible.

Today's circumference is far less eventful. Hills, mud, bit of freezing rain, but this girl's bike does well. Top idea to break up the journey with a coffee stop at the caff -- open New Year's Day! -- and the final stretch isn't a stretch at all. If I'd known about the 90 minute wait for food, I'd have skipped lunch at the White Horse and concentrated on buying my Dad (who we're seeing later this afternoon) a Christmas present. No time like the last minute.