EDitorial ± 30-May-2013

Hay Hay Hay

I go in for these things. These things being the occasional short story competition. Only those short stories are getting shorter and shorter what with the rise of "flash fiction", micro-tales of 1000 words or less. Sometimes a lot less indeed.

Towards the end of April I saw mention online of a contest being run by the New Welsh Review, a literary magazine over in that there Wales. They said:

NWR welcomes entries of microfiction stories (under 100 words) for its new competition to be judged by Cynan Jones.

NWR is excited to announce a new microfiction competition, Flash In the Pen, which encourages authors to turn their minds to writing a story of 100 words. The competition is to help celebrate the forthcoming 100th edition of NWR, which will be published this summer on 25th May. Closing dates for entries is 10 May 2013.

Now, imagine being invited to the Hay-on-Wye book festival to collect your prize: wouldn't that be something? Dream on.

As per the tardy norm, I left it late, hacking away at my tale on the night itself to get it down to that pesky 100 word limit. Which, I then saw, was also meant to include the title. Not wishing to prune my title, which I liked, that was another three words to chop out. Anyway, I did it -- well done, me -- and went to bed.

A week or so later, working from home, my mobile went off. Is that Ed? Hi, it's the New Welsh Review here. I'm delighted to tell you you've won 3rd prize in our Flash In The Pen writing competition. Would you like to come to our NWR100 launch party at Hay-on-Wye to collect your prize?

Oh yes!

So, it turns out that Hay is not somewhere in the Cotswolds, as I thought, but over the border (just) in Wales. Nonetheless, myself and G. drove over there on Tuesday 28th May and, despite the generally atrocious wet weather, enjoyed a lovely reception in The Summer House. There were nibbly bites, sparkly drinks and Welsh spoken. Hey, that's Simon Armitage! Kudos, by the way, to Roz Goddard who won with her "Dressing" story: go read the judge's notes if you fancy.

Part of the prize for the top three is publication of our stories -- inc. mine, "Any Reasonable Time" -- in the September issue of the mag, NWR101. Now, that'll be a fine thing to see.

EDitorial ± 16-May-2013

Ipswich Lunches: Shelley's, Suffolk New College

Going all the way back to the late 70s, I well remember a TV series with the name Malice Aforethought. Telling the tale of a doctor who may have poisoned his wife and his subsequent undoing, it starred a bright young actor called Hywel Bennett. Later that year he'd become almost a household name as the job-dodging character Shelley. Which brings us to...

...the swish new Suffolk New College in downtown Ipswich. Since they do a large amount of catering training, it makes sense to have a realistic setting in which to serve their food: that's Shelley's, open during term time only. Ever-alert Andy had spotted this on their website:

Help to support our Level 2 Patisserie and Confectionery students by joining us for afternoon tea. Booking required.

We're there for shortly after 3pm, having both tried our best to ignore lunch. Shown to our table in the first floor restaurant, we're politely offered tea or coffee while we peruse the menu. Mistakenly, I'm assuming that we'll have to choose. Not so. Here's our three-tiered pile of goodness. Let's work from the bottom up.

  • sandwiches/savoury:
    • coronation chicken sandwiches
    • pepper & chorizo tarts
    • caramelised onion & cream cheese savouries
    • roast red peppers & halloumi sandwiches

Easily dealt with. Couple of tantalising bites each. No problem. On to the middle layer:

  • scones:
    • chilli & cheese scones
    • classic fruit scones served with strawberries & cream

Has to be the savoury scone first, and it's a treat, esp. when taken with some of the chilli jam on offer. Very fine indeed. At this point, Andy declines the fruit scone and goes off-piste to the Pimms jelly, while I soldier on. Fruit scone is mighty fine too, what with the butter and jam and cream. Phew. Top layer to finish us off:

  • sweet:
    • macaroons with vanilla cream
    • berry bavarois & Pimms jelly
    • lemon drizzle loaves
    • brandy snaps filled with creme chantilly

Eyes are starting to roll at this point and further hot beverages (endless refills thereof) are called for. We're doing our best to help teach these kids how it is dealing with real cafe customers. Those macaroons, as crushingly colourful as they are, present a challenge. I'm struggling with just the thought of that mini lemon drizzle.

One of the trainees then presents everyone in the room -- about 6-8 tables -- with a goody box of spare macaroons. Any other day, I'd bite his hand off. This is Arlingtons all over again but without the cleansing clarity of the cycle ride home. Highly recommended and will fill you up for days.

If it was a car -- BSM Fiat 500.
If they were passing by -- Lenny Henry.

EDitorial ± 9-May-2013

Light Lunches: Trinity's Cafe, Saxmundham

Out past the farmcafe, way beyond Friday Street and, er, hit a right before you hit Yoxford. Think petrol grows on trees? This'll be our first run of several to the "popular market town" (gotta love a town council website) of Saxmundham. It's got the lot, you know, if by "the lot" we mean a Waitrose and a station. That, mes amis, is a killer combo.

Sitting plum on Market Place next to the rather fine Old Bank House is Trinity's At No. 14, at one time known as the Corner House Cafe. Sun's out -- hoorah -- though we're not, deciding on a wind-free table in the bright and friendly interior. Wherever you sit, there's the strangest feeling that Al Pacino is watching you. Hoo-hah.

Before we've even seen the menu, there are multiple thumbs aloft for free WiFi and today's Times and a feathering of local flyers for Folk East, Alternative Aldeburgh, Orford Ness, etc. Specials this Thursday include a tasty sounding spicy lentil soup. Not quite up to that, I'll take a large hummus bap with caramelised onion: yum. Look at me with my veggie shoes. I may have imagined that they were offering an Ian Dury tribute delicacy, the Saxmundham long sausage roll. That could be the chickpeas talking.

Back for a jolt, Andy -- today's chauffeur -- steals my thunder by ordering a flat white. Which leaves me with a half-decent Americano with HMOTS. That little biccy can wait until mid-afternoon 'cos I gots me a wodge of goody flapjack to digest. And in an encouraging sign of maturity, Andy disses the lemon drizzle and goes for the fruit and seed bar instead. Treat yourself down at Trinity's and watch the world go by.

If it was a car -- Sunbeam Alpine Series V.
If they were passing by -- Alun Armstrong.

EDitorial ± 3-May-2013

Thomas Dolby, The Invisible Lighthouse

(review published on InSuffolk.com)

There's a full house at Aldeburgh Cinema to welcome Thomas Dolby as he launches their weekend of Sounds & Silents, "a festival of film and live music". This is the world premiere of Dolby's film, The Invisible Lighthouse, exploring his lifelong fascination with Orford Ness.

His handmade film, a work in progress, is part documentary and part Boy's Own adventure. With live synths and narration, Dolby wonders aloud on the reliability of his childhood memories growing up near Snape Maltings.

Now, working in his beachfront recording studio - a renovated lifeboat - he learns that the Ness lighthouse, visible in the distance, is due to close. At the wheel of his small motorboat and dressed in period Lost Airman garb, Dolby navigates the marshes and makes land on the MOD-owned Ness.

Returning to the stage after the film ends, Dolby gives an insight into its making and performs a handful of live songs, much to the delight of his hardcore fans.