EDitorial ± 30-Sep-2013

In The Space Time Continuum

To the Ipswich Regent with a child. One of mine, reassuringly. Not, this time, for Playdays (March 2000), nor for Wheels On The Bus (Nov 2001) but in search of the answer to life, the universe, everything (previously). Welcome to the live touring version of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

We're off to a flying start as the on-stage band launch into what sounds very much like a version of Pink Floyd's One Of These Days, all bouncy guitar and synth stabs. It's good 'n' loud. Into a comfy looking chair climbs The Voice Of The Book, tonight played by the delightful Miriam Margolyes. Wow. I think The Boy's vaguely impressed too, since that large lady up on the stage is none other than Professor Sprout. Note that at other dates on the tour, the narrator will be played by Clive Anderson, Boycie, Graeme Garden, Colin Baker, Barry Cryer, etc. The list goes on and even includes Anita Dobson.

Centre stage appear two figures: Ford Prefect, played by Geoff McGivern, and Arthur Dent, played by the legendary and eternally dressing gowned Simon Jones. That's him, that's actually him, as seen in the telly version all those years ago. I shouldn't be this in awe. I'm also v. pleased to spot Philip Pope up there, in fine voice both on guitar and as a swishy spaceship door.

The show whips along with all of your favourite Adams lines drawing big laughs from the men of a certain age (moi?) who make up most of the audience. Undoubted star of the show, however, is good old Marvin, played very cleverly in robotic style with rotating units and flashing lights. Wisely, they've managed to get Stephen Moore to do the voice. He even gets a brief song towards the end.

It's all very silly -- just how long can they keep pouring that Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster? -- and great retro fun.

EDitorial ± 23-Sep-2013

ABER: The Move In

Maybe it's some sort of cosmic karma caused by spending too much time on two wheels. Perhaps the Scenic is sending sub-ether signals saying Take Me, Use Me, Drive Me. 'Cos rather than lots of small journeys, we seem to undertake some monster journeys in the motor, whether to Scotland (444 miles), southern France (800 miles) or Italy (950 miles). So Wales and back in a day? Bring it on, Bronwyn.

Bit of a significant sojourn, this particular one. Eldest is going away, at least for a bit, to big school. She's university challenged. What's that? I can't possibly have a child who's that old? Bless you. 'Tis true, however. And in her attempt to get As Far Away As Possible, she's opted for a point -- Aberystwyth -- at almost exactly the opposite side of the country. In fact, in a different country altogether.

Time for a timely reminder of earlier times:

Made it to Aber for 2pm-ish. Got her key, found her shared student house, and lugged in some boxes (note that while one of these crates contained enough food for the first couple of weeks, a lad in the same place was seen with nothing more than a family pack of Iced Gems). As instructed, we didn't hang around and off we drove, minus Eldest, all of us being v. brave. She'll be fine: she's got my Frisbee.

EDitorial ± 17-Sep-2013

Bit Disappointing

In the plus column, 32pt bold purple, I can easily tell you the birthdays of younger sister, older brother and my Mum. In the minus column, 8pt Zapf Dingbats, I have my Dad's birthday narrowed down to one of four possible dates: either the 15th or 16th of September or October. One of those, for sure.

As the first of those days approached last week, I thought I'd do the decent thing and offer to take out Ma & Pa for a bite to eat. Saturday would be good. Maybe after afters, to walk it off, we could find a nearby property taking part in Heritage Open Days. That, to me, is a fully-fledged plan. Elroy Jetson-like, off went a text to Mater:

Lunch out somewhere on Sat for Dad's birthday?

Sneakily, not only did I hope to (a) get the nod for the outing but also (b) confirm the date of the big day. Beep-beep:

Good idea

Oh well: part (a) achieved. But where to go? Down to Felixstowe, over to Woodbridge, or further afield in Suffolk? It'd be good to "do" somewhere not yet officially done by the Light Lunch duo. Somewhere that could accommodate a bunch of us. Somewhere a little off the beaten track. Got it: Sizewell Beach Cafe.

Not absolutely certain that they offer hot meals, I did a quick Google. Top of the list was a TripAdvisor link. That should suffice. Ranked 2 of 7 restaurants in Leiston. Fair enough. 91% recommend. Great. Most recent review, however, wasn't too favourable:

We visited the Sizewell Tea cafe today and had fish and chips. It was perfectly edible but the fish was almost flat, no body to it. Bit disappointing. Not good value I'm afraid.

Can't please everyone. Probably one of the green ink brigade with nothing better to do. Then I saw the review date: 12-Sep-2013. And then I spotted the author: my Mum.

Note to self for next year: 16th September.

EDitorial ± 14-Sep-2013

Light Lunches: The Angel Coffee Shop, Needham Market

Where to treat Mater and Pater to a spot of light lunch? Tagging along too is the lil' sis' crew, making eight and a half of us: nephew's a wee lad. Don't want to turn up somewhere and have to wait around with no guarantee of a pew. Quite the dilemma of a Saturday morn. Where, oh where, will there be ample chairs?

No problem, says the nice lady on the end of the phone. Nine people for 1pm. See you then. Result. Inevitably I'm late -- not entirely my fault -- meaning parents, who I'm picking up, are late, but that's no problem. It's a reassuring start to lunchtime at The Angel Coffee House, about eight miles NNW of Ipswich (past Asda). If you can find a space, there's an hour's free parking right outside. I can't, which is how I met the guy from Colorado by the cashpoint, though that's a whole other story.

By the time I return from my distant "P" place, everyone's vanished. Upstairs, away from the other diners, our party of eight and a half has been allocated a long table, one that would be ideal for shove ha'penny, or shuffleboard as ATM Boulderman might know it. There is much musing over menus. A cherubic girl comes to take orders for drinks and is then sent away due to our indecision, which is final. There's nearly too much choice.

After gnashing and near-tears -- Needham and weep -- food is chosen. Catching up chat continues before our many plates present themselves: couple of kids' meals, a jacket spud, two cottage pies, etc, and what turn out to be some very good fish cakes with new pots and a top side salad. Competitively priced tastiness is all around.

Me offering to pay is an open invitation for the world and his brother-in-law to have a stab at dessert, from warming ginger sponge to sizeable knickerbocker glories. My scoops of pistachio -- pistachio, here in the UK! -- almost take me back to Badalucco. And having settled up with the still-smiling saintly ladies downstairs, there's barely a free table at 3pm as we waddle out of the door. They're obviously doing something right here at The Angel. About a mile down the road towards Stowmarket, the afternoon ends Badley at St Mary's.

If it was a car -- Ford Super Anglia 123E.
If they were passing by -- Julie Dawn Cole.

EDitorial ± 10-Sep-2013

Take The A-Road, The OK Road

Rigorous experimentation over the years has concluded that the optimum time to "do" Ikea at Thurrock is Friday evening. Make like a meatball to the restaurant with its minimal queues, enjoy ample amble time until store closes at 10pm, drive back surrounded by flatpacks and everyone gets to lie in on Saturday. Plus -- doubleplus -- the roads are quiet. Ha.

Approaching the M25 junction on the A12, there's an overhead sign warning that junctions 30 to 1A are closed. What a turn-off. No matter. There's a rat run parallel to the Orbital through that Ockendon, the venerable home of El Tel. Mind you, traffic is snarled up as we zoom in on Lakeside, and things are stationary opposite Paperchase. We squeeze in and around and assemble ourselves in the Swedish car park. Time is 7:25pm.

Some hours later, around 9:50pm, saddled with storage boxes full of smaller storage boxes, that same roundabout is still bizzy-wizzy. Again we edge through and speed up. Then we encounter the unlucky-for-some A13. Not only is it not moving much, but many cars appear to be parked on the hard shoulder. Weird. Hot fuzz cars block the M25 slip road. No choice: Rainham, here we come. This is Old Joe Cole's country.

Some splendid seat-of-the-pants old-style atlas navigation from G. ensures that we then hit Hornchurch before rounding Romford to pick up the welcoming alpha dozen, the familiar A12. Only when we're settled back in Broom Acres, not long before midnight, do I see an article on the Guardian homepage about tonight's Security Alert At Dartford Crossing. Whose stupid idea was Ikea on a Friday?

EDitorial ± 2-Sep-2013

On The Fence

It's about half-eight and the light is fading when me and The Boy find ourselves locked in the park. To the side of the court, I'd set my phone alarm for quarter-past, figuring that would allow ample time for us to leave. Much like my pure maths A-level, I figured wrong.

Slow burn inspired by Andy Murray's Wimbledon victory, we've once again been proving to ourselves just what a racket this sport is. That new £1.49 pack of Donnay balls (thank you, Sports Direct) has come good, those freshly vacuum unpacked spheres glowing like Fukushima flounders in the darker recesses of the court. Nice of that unsuspecting bloke to offer to grovel in the undergrowth in pursuit of the single wayward ball which flew over the side. Equally kind of the Polish kids on the upper court to keep lobbing back the other misplaced shots. Which left a mere handful of quality hits.

I'd been expecting to hear a Pavlovian whistle: park is shutting. Not so. There were tinny horns. Maybe a shout or two. Either way, our gate to the main road is locked, ditto the one leading to the bridleway. I remark to The Boy how fun this is -- seriously -- and suggest we hoist ourselves over the wire fence by the gate. It's perhaps a metre high.

The Boy's at least my height these days, and hurdles over without too much fuss. I start the ascent and can't quite get my foot flat on the other side. My other foot has already left the ground. Ladies and gentlemen, we are not quite floating in space, but we are suspended on a sensitive fulcrum. My leading leg, desperate to find terra firma, stretches a tad more that it was designed to do and initiates level four cramp. Swinging off, some wire catches my shorts and rips a hole. Yep, just there in my new M&S three-quarter length trekking shorts. There'll be time to consider that further once my muscle has ceased to spasm.

We exit the park. The Boy is laughing. His father is limping and all too aware of a light breeze where no light breeze should be felt.