EDitorial ± 31-Jul-2014

Ipswich Lunches: Cult Cafe

We're going on a brunch hunt. We're going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day. We're not scared. We've been here before.

Indeed we have a couple of years back when this was still the Kai Bar. P'raps those "good value" meals were too good to be true since the Kai ist kaput. Now mighty Mike Keen -- you may know him from the Barclay's newspaper ads, or more likely from the Brewery Tap -- has stepped in. Behold, rising like Conchita, the Cult Cafe: what's the Wurst that can happen?

Could have joined a bunch of folks eating outside overlooking the water but, darn that damnable heat, chose to head inside to sample the sofa chic. There's a vibe of relaxedness, if that's even a word. No need to hurry. Order a drink, a San Pellegrino or some rhubarb concoction. Slump on a couch. Shoot a game of pool. Read the paper. Chat with friends. Survey the zappy menu with its catchy headings:

  • velvet pho
  • kimchi jack
  • banh mi
  • co'diggity
  • crock! monsieur

Before I can order it, Andy goes for the "steamboat short rib burrito" leaving me with the "cajun catfish tacos", straight from the LEGO Movie. Combined price of £13 for two piled plates of well-presented protein. Agreeing to share doesn't make our portions any smaller. Yum-yum and then some.

Absolutely stuffed, a fact that somehow escapes me when Andy offers to buy dessert. Surprise me, I said, before a walloping iced cupcake appears in front of me. Officially approaching 130% full with one eye on the badminton players jumping about on the (muted) Commonwealth Games telly. Fuller than Fulton Mackay or Rikki Fulton.

All this, with money off for UCS folk, and an ever more impressive list of up and coming gigs. Turin Brakes in a month's time, The Vitamins not long after, oh, and the world pickled egg championship. There's class. Thought: could the Cult Cafe be Ipswich's own waterfront version of The Alex? By the way, that's high praise.

If it was a car -- Jensen Healey.
If they were passing by -- George O'Dowd.

EDitorial ± 27-Jul-2014

130Story: Rose / Beast / Fresh / Whistle / Magic

The rules of 130Story are simple: given a random seed word, write a story in 130 characters.






More to follow.

EDitorial ± 21-Jul-2014

Latitude 2014

Bit of a cock-up on the holiday booking front last year, hence no Latitude, sad face. Usual family jostling and indecision this year before I alone bought a day ticket. The usual, please, mister. With a flake.

Not wishing to be responsible for the demise of any more polar bears, I tried to get a lift, couldn't, so offered one instead. Within an hour of putting the offer on BlaBlaCar I had three other bodies in the motor. Dad, have you ever met these people? It'll be fine, I said. And it was, of course. Quickly discovered on the crosstown pickup that they -- two blokes my age plus one daughter -- had been there for the Friday, camped in the rain, then driven back early Saturday morning. All before I swung by at 10:30am. There's dedication.

Easy sunlit journey, dropped 'em off at the guest (!) entrance then parked with the hoi polloi. Made careful note of the spot: 13 across, 20 rows back, or thereabouts. Failing that, look out for the red Peugeot 106.

Wristbandworthy and clutching my Clashfinder, I'm in and off to catch the ethereal Goldfrappy Vaults in the woods. Would happily have stayed but already late for Horse Party (seen previously supporting Dingus Khan at the John Peel Centre and again at Ipswich's very own Music In The Park) from BuryStEdmundsRockCity, as they would have it. Pro performance from the awesome threesome with Seymour going all Lego Rockband to the delight of the crowd. Premier coffee and coconut slice en route to the lovely Agnes Obel, a pianist with three string players producing a deep chest-throbbingly fine sound. We're playing instruments that shouldn't be at a festival, she said. Essence of Latitude right there.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, cutting from Agnes to Dingus (first seen at Latitude 2012) in the sweaty Alcove. Helluva half-hour, singing along and Ambulance-twirling and whistling, culminating in Ben (aka Mick Squalor) crowd-surfing. Intense spunky fun. More than deserving of a 6Music stage slot next year, please.

Caught the final number by the honey-voiced RagNBone Man before grabbing a burrito and legging it to Conor Oberst, once of Bright Eyes, pumping it out with some passion backed by Dawes the band. Change of pace to find a seat on the grass of the comedy tent for Miles Jupp, him of Rev and Balamory. Quite the story about the mum and the boy on the tube: but is Archie real?

I'd heard some fine words about Jungle. That 6Music supertent was buzzing for them. Not my cuppa, leaving as more and more were coming in. Bit of class at the Obelisk with those First Aid Kit girlies, harmonising and a-singin' like it was going out of fashion. Quality voices, quality Simon and Garfunkel cover.

Thought I'd go see the new show by the unpredictable Tim Key over in the forest. Hadn't expected to join a sizeable queue. In we trooped, all 600 of us, as our bearded hero threw playing cards, danced and chatted with a superfan. Fab.

Lastly but far from leastly: powered by Pieminster pastry, hotfooted it back to the main stage for tonight's headliner, local-ish boy Damon Albarn. Nearly all new material for the first hour. That lad can write a melody and work a crowd, to be sure. All good but not great before he disappeared at 10:30pm pre-encore. Some people, fearful of the coming storm, strode off. Those people missed out (though they stayed drier than those of us who remained). Back he came for a touching piano and trumpet End Of A Century. But there's one Blur song I can't do, he said, without the man who helped me write it. Everyone, please welcome Graham Coxon. What?! Cue the lightning. On came speccy himself to contribute to a moving Tender. Singing in the rain, we were. Straight into Gorillaz for Clint Eastwood, then couple of happy-happy new ones to finish. Absolutely fantastic half-hour.

Now 11pm and teeming. Ducked inside the poetry tent, as you do, with a bag of donuts, and eventually met up with my car-sharing buddies as Huw Stephens knocked out some surefire sounds. Tell you what: get a golfing umbrella and you've suddenly got lots of friends.

... and still missed Ghostpoet, Royskopp & Robin and Bombay Bicycle Club.

EDitorial ± 20-Jul-2014

130Story: Fair / Crook / Steam / Race / Bread

The rules of 130Story are simple: given a random seed word, write a story in 130 characters.






More to follow.

EDitorial ± 14-Jul-2014

Eddie Izzard, Bexhill

How are we all on our geometric progressions? Every ten years or so, I like to catch up with Edward John Izzard. He's a funny guy. Around 1994 I was fortunate enough to see him for the first time just down the road at the Ipswich Corn Exchange (previously) in a crowd of, say, 900. About 1993 me and G (who's never quite worked out why she wasn't there for the Ipswich gig) did the round trip to catch him at the Nottingham Arena in a crowd of, say, 9000. Not seen him since but he's played the O2 (20,000) and Wembley Arena (over 40,000).

Friday 11th July, 2014, 8pm, and we're sitting in the auditorium at Bexhill. Music stops, house lights dim, and on to the stage of the Izzard Theatre strides local boy made good Eddie Izzard. Capacity of this venue, sited within the 6th form college, is 200 seats. We are very lucky people indeed.

He's in top form, enquiring how far people have come and struggling to believe that folk have travelled all the way from Hastings and beyond. First up, though, is one Yacine Belhousse, a comedian from that France. He does 40 minutes almost entirely in a language not his own -- English -- and, much like his mentor, doesn't really tell jokes so much as set up absurd situations. "Fudge", was a particularly good line about, er, a vending machine being shot.

On comes Eddie after the interval to talk, he says, about human sacrifice. There's much historical talk inc. bits of French and German. There's some autobiographical stuff about stealing make-up from Boots on Devonshire Road. There are many mentions of the unfortunate Steve. After a mock going-off coming-back-on, there's also a generous encore of the Death Star Canteen.

You laugh, you cry, and sometimes you're not entirely sure why, but it's a joy.

EDitorial ± 13-Jul-2014

130Story: Slide / Touch / Stream / Mug / Flag

The rules of 130Story are simple: given a random seed word, write a story in 130 characters.






More to follow.

EDitorial ± 6-Jul-2014

130Story: Liberty / Curve / Flower / Return

The rules of 130Story are simple: given a random seed word, write a story in 130 characters.





More to follow.

EDitorial ± 1-Jul-2014

Felixstowe Book Festival 2014

Last year (2013), quite early on, I saw news of a book festival to be held in Felixstowe. I know. Ipswich has its Ip-art, of course, and even Ip-lit, but Felixstowe? Good on 'em. I fully intended to enter their short story competition but -- excuse klaxon -- I drew a blank with their "sense of place" theme. I fully intended to attend an event or two but, er, I didn't. Bad me.

Must have gone OK though 'cos it was back Back BACK for 2014. No better time, then, to make amends by (a) submitting a story and (b) turning up at least once over the weekend.

This year's short story theme: "conflict". Almost too open, that one. Also, length must be 1500-1800 words. Ooh. That's a lot for me. Plus, entries to be handed in (no email) at Felixstowe library by no later than Saturday 26th April.

I got an idea. I sketched out a plot of sorts. Along came Friday 25th, the night before -- no change to normal working methods -- and I sat me down at the dining table with pen and paper. Time already 10:30pm, everyone in bed. About four hours later I'd scrawled all over half-a-dozen sheets of paper. Typed it up, went to bed, up late morning to spend another couple of hours rewriting. Print, edit, make changes, repeat. Come 4pm me and The Boy pointed the car to the coast. First and most important stop, the library. Entry in with a comfortable 20 minutes to spare. Enormous sense of relief and satisfaction, though that could have been the Caffe Nero jolt and red velvet cake talking. That was that.

Come Saturday 28th June, I took the bike on the train to attend a really well-attended session on crime writing hosted by Ruth Dugdall and Alex Marwood. Great insights into the sometimes nasty world of research (can you put me in the car boot for 10 minutes?) and true-life crime.

Rewinding a couple of weeks, I'd mostly managed to forget about my relatively long work of fiction and move on to other, shorter, stories. Until, between World Cup matches, an email arrived:

I'm delighted to tell you that your story "According to Their Peacefulness" has won our story competition. We would love you to be at our closing event, the "Bedtime Story" on Sunday 29th evening at the Orwell Hotel.


So, once more accompanied by my mum, we had a lovely time at the aforementioned event. There were the winners of the children's poetry contest, reading some quality verse, then two adult runners-up, Kelly and Clare. Both read their own stories aloud. Both were terrific. Up there on the stage, I made it through all 1600 words of my piece. Still think that's a lot of words. Lord alone knows how anyone can write even a mid-length novel.

Want to read my story? That's very decent of you. Well, sorry, you can't yet. I'm waiting for it to appear in a future edition of Suffolk magazine. Once it does, I'll stick it here too.