EDitorial ± 28-Jun-2013

Woodbridge Light Lunches: Cumberland Fish Bar

Always a shame to hear that one of the local independent eateries has shut up shop. Such was the recent fate of Frangipani at the start/end of the main drag in Woodbridge, one of the first ten cafes we visited all the way back in 2007. Too easy, p'raps, to lay the blame at the coffee chains further up/down the road.

No matter 'cos the Cumberland Fish Bar, all classy black and white retro lettering, has taken over that infamous double facade. Cleverly it's both a sit-down restaurant (to the left) and a takeaway (to the right). Choose your door carefully. At 1:30pm on a drizzly day, me and Andy claimed the last free table for two. Must be doing alright already.

Helpful chap comes over to take our order from the laminated menu. Drinks first: hold up, did you say grape soda? From Old Jamaica? Two of those, please. As you'd expect, you've got your fish, got your chicken, got your kids' stuff. Not for the first time, Andy proves himself partial to the cod roe. With mushy peas, natch. Needing sustenance, I'll have the beef & onion pie and chips. Half a point removed for suspected use of non-Heinz ketchup, tut-tut. Wait for food is well worth it: everything's piping hot and super fresh.

Looking over Andy's shoulder, I recognise the bloke who runs the Riverside restaurant, a Woodbridge Star In A Reasonably Priced Fish Bar. He's being very complimentary about his piece of skate. Note that he's also sipping a glass of wine since, as it says on the window, the CFB is fully licensed. And they're open all day seven days a week. As if all of that wasn't enough good stuff, they can make you a decent cup of coffee too. Quality F&C.

If it was a car -- Humber Pullman.
If they were passing by -- Robson Green.

EDitorial ± 24-Jun-2013

The Trouble With Harry & Harry

(short story published on 1000Words on 24-Jun-2013)

You know that unwritten rule on EastEnders and Corrie where there’s never two people with the same name? Not that I watch that stuff. But it’s annoying, don’t you find? Because it’s not like that in real life.

Take, for example, my place of work. Even though there’s only a dozen or so of us, we still have two Daves. How do we tell them apart? Well, one’s fit and athletic, the other’s short and round. Big-boned, he says. The one who looks after himself, we call Dave The First, or D1, which makes the little fat fella R2, obviously.

Closer to home – and really I should have mentioned this first – is, or maybe are, Harry and Harry. One’s my lovely wife, Harriet, the other’s my special boy, Harry. I blame the parents.

In the office, next to my PC, there’s a lovely picture of them that I took when we were over in Florida. We stayed in this amazing house, like a ranch, a short drive from the Disney place. Harry loved it. So did Harry!

That’s what I tell them, if anyone asks.

Going back a few years, just before starting this job, I’d come back from a solitary week on the Isle of Wight. I was in Woolies, looking for a cheap frame for my St Catherine’s Lighthouse postcard. There, on the bottom shelf, was a pine effect 7×5 complete with sample photo. That’s when I met my instant family.

At the interview, they hadn’t asked too much about my personal life. I’m not sure they’re allowed to these days. So on that very first morning, when D1 showed me to my desk, I pulled out my morning banana and the wooden frame.

“That your family, Leo?”

“Er, yep. That’s Harriet. With her hair up. And that’s Harry, my son.”

Idiot. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t write for the soaps.

When D1 took me round and introduced me to the lads, I noticed that R2 had a crayon drawing on his partition wall.

“Hi Leo, and welcome aboard. D1 here tells me you’ve got a kid…?”

“Yeah, a little boy. Harry. He’ll be three next week.”

“Three? That’s a nice age. My daughter’s 14 and lives with her mum.” He looked over at the printed letters at the bottom of the drawing: World’s Best Dad. “Thinking about schools yet?”

I got myself into that hole on day one and I’ve not stopped digging since. That following week, R2 asked me how the party went. From then on, I started keeping notes. They’re on a pen drive, password protected.

The lads are great at working around my needs. True, I have to take my leave during school holidays, but there are upsides. Sometimes poor Harry comes down with a tummy bug so I have to work from home, and every three months I nip off early for parents’ evening. It’s a shame that whenever we have our Christmas meal (with partners) that Harry, my wife, is always too busy looking after Harry.

Bringing up my family is exhausting. I can’t imagine how people do it in real life.

EDitorial ± 22-Jun-2013

Not Lost One Yet

(short story published on FlashFlood on 22-Jun-2013)

I'm giving the baby boy pushchair wheelies and he's gurgling away and the girlies are racing ahead on their bikes and the sun's reflecting off the reservoir and isn't this all top family fun with just Dad and the kids?

Ahead lies a stretch of squishy mud.

I carry Laura then squelch back and carry Daisy then squelch back and carry both bikes then squelch back and drag the pushchair backwards with the baby boy still gurgling and my boots and ankles are caked.

Daisy says she's tired of biking. Laura agrees.

I balance Daisy's bike complete with stabilisers on one pushchair handle and hang the saddle of Laura's bike on the other and we all have a drink and a biscuit and the girlies are OK to walk 'cos this next bit is downhill.

Our path seems to double back around a swampy inlet.

It's fast approaching the baby boy's tea-time and I've brought no baby food and it smells like he needs a change and we're at best halfway round and the car's a distant spot on the opposite shore and the girlies want to know how much further and Daisy needs a wee and the light's going and we're all out of juice.

Kids, I say, I need to call Mum.

EDitorial ± 20-Jun-2013

Felixstowe Light Lunches: Fludyer Arms

Two-thirds of the way through June and summer ain't busting out all over. No matter: we must go back to the sea again and all that. Let's all be cool about this, but The Fludyer Arms -- prob better known to locals as simply The Fludyers -- is back, Back, BACK!

That entrepreneurial Tim Yeo fella isn't afraid to pump money into Felixstowe, bless him, and has already got a brace of hard-to-beateries (does that work?) in The Alex and Cafe Bencotto. He's got the knack, the touch, the gift. So after what seems like years of refurbishment and building work, his latest venue has opened its doors. To save you reading to the end: it's very good indeed.

Sitting opposite, also facing the North Sea, is the super-traditional Mrs Simpson's. On this side there's a heated outdoor terrace and it's posh, posh, posh. There's 14 posh rooms, a posh restaurant, and a pretty posh bar which we opted for. Spacy, airy, welcoming with newspapers and magazines. Menu in here is actually the same as the diners in the other bit with a tastefully limited selection. Today's specials include a hot beef sandwich in sourdough bread with caramelised onions and the Best Chips Ever. Only about 7 or 8 of them, stacked like Jenga pieces, thick 'n' fluffy 'n' tasty. Andy -- today's designated driver -- has a darn good beef curry, again served artfully.

A quick scan through the Star's property section, since your money goes a lot further here in Felix than it does in Woodbridge, then a brief trip back to the bar to order pudd. Another quality item lands on the table in the form of a treacle tart slice with a tiny jug of custard: v. much the ticket with a most acceptable cafetiere on the side. It's another one of those occasional places we're highly reluctant to leave. Will set you back a few quid, truth be told, but those are pounds well spent.

If it was a car -- Rolls-Royce Ghost.
If they were passing by -- David Suchet.

EDitorial ± 14-Jun-2013

Ipswich Lunches: Penny Corner Cafe

Stephanie!, cried the cute robot in Short Circuit. Malfunction. Need input. Stephanies, say more than one website when asked about the possible location of a cafe on the eastern edge of Ipswich. Not on the Boss Hall built-up area off Sproughton Road like what I thought -- no sir -- but further on, Peter Pan, past Morrison's, under the railway bridge and right at, er, the VW garage.

Farthing Road and further in about as far as you can go. Here's the delightfully named Penny Corner Cafe. You may picture a bustling intersection on a busy high street, perhaps a quaint teashop with green and white awnings. Not so. Concrete. Units. Rainbow International. Lorries. Men in vans collecting their paper bag savouries. We're a long way from Woodbridge, Toto.

No doubt, it would feel very welcoming of a chilly November day, but today it's mild and feels clammy inside. Quite a few tables in here (which wouldn't look out of place in the Commmon Room) with a galaxy of newspapers to peruse, namely the Sun and the Star. There's ads offering asbestos clearance and, up there above the drinks fridge, Bully's star prize of a topless calendar. Oh yes. You wouldn't blink if that bloke ahead of you in the queue turned out to be DCI Gene Hunt.

On the menu today is "lasagna and chips", steak and kidney pie and every mathematical permutation of an A.D.B. Lady apparently single-handedly running the place is perfectly pleasant and preps my French stick with bacon and egg double quick time. That is some skilled griddle work going on there. She's worked here a goodly while for various owners but even she can't recall Stephanie, long since gone. Thumbs up for the blood orange JuiceBurst, while we're here.

Here's Andy in his motor. I'm arrived on two wheels and am now taking in the glorious view of Castlebroom Engineering directly opposite. I've got the wonky table (with ashtray). Andy's served similarly quickly and we both tuck in to our manly manwiches, trying not to look too much out of place. Rounding off this jolly excursion, it's a nip back inside for an OK instant coffee and a pre-packed Bakewell tart. Proud to say we've survived both the Penny Lane Cafe, complete with accent, and the Dock Services.

If it was a car -- Vauxhall Combo.
If they were passing by -- Dean Andrews.

EDitorial ± 10-Jun-2013

Pram Boots

Item title:
Timberland Style Pram Boots. *BNWT* (Please L@@K At Pics)

Item condition:
New without box

Item description:
Fit 0-6 months. Perfect condition. From smoke-free home.

Starting bid: £0.99 [0 bids]

Shipping: £2.75 Economy Delivery
Item location: Park Lane, London W1

Listed in category: Baby > Clothes, Shoes & Accessories > Shoes

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EDitorial ± 6-Jun-2013

That's All We Got

(short story published on PostcardShorts on 06-Jun-2013)

His teeth, I remember. They pretty much glowed on that grey day. Not that you can really tell from the photo, obviously.

That afternoon, me and Jane were out for a stroll down by the river.

"You know it's our five month anniversary today?"

I didn't. I guess stuff like that matters to girls.

"Ask one of them blokes to take our picture. Be nice to have a souvenir."

These two smart fellas were chatting as they came towards us.

"'Scuse me," - I pulled out my phone, flicked on the camera and showed them the screen - "would you mind...?"

The taller guy flashed me this huge smile. Those teeth nearly blinded me.

"Not at all, young man. How do you want me?"

I gawped as he ran through one arty pose after another.

"I told you," said his friend.

"Er, not you, mate. Me and her." I nodded towards Jane.

He pulled an awkward face. "Of course. It'll be my pleasure."

Me and Jane mugged up for the camera as he made a big show of taking the first shot. Soon as we heard that shutter noise, though, the battery conked out.

"Such a shame," he said. It wasn't his fault.

As we were saying our goodbyes, Jane said: "Aren't you...?"

"Yes, yes, that's right," said the man, smiling again. They walked off and disappeared into the gloom.

That photo wasn't much cop, as it turned out - no work of art, to be sure - but we got it printed out in Boots and bought a clipframe. When people come round, it's a nice little conversation piece.

EDitorial ± 5-Jun-2013

Light Lunches: Common Room, Framlingham

Dear old Sheeranville, aka Fram. Our previous visit in An Official Capacity was, gulp, five years ago. Curiously that was to the Bridge Street Cafe at 22 Bridge Street. Today both the sun and the flags are out to welcome us back to 22 Bridge Street, because Bridge Street Cafe is dead. Long live the Common Room. Not sure about that definite article but seems wrong to leave it out.

I liked the previous down-to-earth BSC and so did the kids, so we were all disappointed to learn of its demise. Initial signs are that this new place, with its old wooden furniture, book case and even a typewriter (?), has gone up the market. Behind the counter menu is most promising with a chicken and chorizo pie, piri-piri plates plus the obligatory all day breakfast combinations. I'm smitten by the sound of "eggy bread with bacon and tomatoes" which, FF-ing 10 mins, is the bomb. That is some most excellent bacon on some sweetly appetising bread. And that freshly made apple, carrot and ginger smoothie takes me straight back to Carrot Cake. Oh, Avi.

Good buzz in here inc. a bunch of three schoolgirls talking exams. Having taken delivery of their lattes, the trio skedaddle outside for some cheeky pavement fags. Then they're back in for their bacon baps. Oh, da yoof.

Triple cherries to (the) Common Room for their free WiFi and newspaper selection (hooray for The "i"), and was that The Beano there too? Also, stacked in the corner, are some board games if you're feeling the Cherry Tree vibe. Three-quarter decent cake selection too: Andy's done in by his Welsh Rarebit and says to go on ahead without him. I soldier on with a chunk of white choc cake, most yum with a vg latte AND a biscuity finger on the side. Oh, Vienna.

Footnote: p'raps you can better tell how much I liked it from the fact that I took Ma and Pa there for lunch that following weekend, and can thus also vouch for the fab blueberry pancakes. Go get yourself some uncommon treats.

If it was a car -- Alfa Romeo MiTo.
If they were passing by -- Nic Pandolfi.