EDitorial ± 22-Dec-2023

Winter Solstice 2023

Ditch your bus
Cut your losses

Take Tower Ramparts
To behold a boulder black as Mr Crow

Wants no fuss
This coal colossus

As the solstice sun departs
It's floodlit by the Halberd glow

— winter solstice entries for 2023 | 2022 | 2021

EDitorial ± 11-Nov-2023

Light Lunches: Duck & Teapot, Needham Lake

On my way, texted Andy at 11:49. Change of plan, I texted back at 11:52: please pick me up from Currys Copdock. Then, waiting at the retail park with my Tommee Tippee Travel Bottle & Food Warmer (bought for the accompanying Apple TV deal), I get the following verbatim text: "Lots of traffic arriving for the football match I presume see you in a few minutes talking to Boris Boris talking to a hobnob" -- sent with Siri. It must have heard The Now Show, claimed Andy on arrival, but he's secretly one of the last great beat poets.

Like Strong Beans at Claydon and Flourish & Bean at Bramford, this is the latest in a series of Saturday outings prior to PDTT. Quarter of an hour later and we're parking in recently flooded Needham Market, home to Needham Lake -- that body of water over there -- and the snazzy building that's home to the Duck & Teapot, here since May 2022. Place is absolutely abuzz with families. Cleverly, we've hit it at Amazon prime time: within a week of opening, they had to adjust their hours due to the overwhelming demand. Huge place for kids to run around, swings right outside, conditions ideal. Queue's reasonable today and I'm sprinting to grab that vacated table.

Very much like that easy-to-read white-on-black wall board. Son-of-Sheffield Andy's straight for a banana milkshake and the hot baps section, all the meats, please, while Suffolk's own YT stays classy with a Fruit Burst and a tuna & sweetcorn ciabatta. Served with a tiny tower of tortilla chips, too. Functional fuelling food should foster our forehands and bolster our backhands later this afternoon.

Around me I spy dogs, colouring books, tiaras, knitting, and even one or two kids reading. The D&T is one of two places run by The Mix people, the other being Cabbages & Kings at Stowmarket where I spent a happy couple of hours working and lunching this time last year. And all the profits go back to supporting young people, which is nice: they're the future, I hear. Shame that we've run out of time for cake so best we take away some hot-hot-hot drinks.

If it was a car -- DUKW.
If they were passing by -- Rob Mallard.

EDitorial ± 22-Sep-2023

Ipswich Lunches: Moments, Town Hall

Tricky area, that Cornhill, bang centre of The 'Swich -- Pret were all set to let the old Grimwades then opted to reset: much regret, no baguette, yet their logo haunts empty units. Debenhams, beset with debt, departed leaving their store a silhouette. The 2018 concrete plinths, Cornhenge, let's not forget, caused nothing but upset. For out latest luncheonette, I proposed we meet by the water jet: hail Andy, well met!

Once upon a time -- 2012 -- the Town Hall contained the wonderful Snobs. Sobs ensued when they disappeared. Coupla years later came the crazily named Town Hall Tea Room. Now, in the year of our Lord 2023, it's one of three Moments coffee shops run by the local St Elizabeth Hospice: there's another at Stowmarket and one we've done up on Foxhall Road, handy for meeting your son after his eye operation half a mile away, say.

Same space as before though this time they're already flogging Christmas stuff on the mezzanine and one wall is covered with hanging cups and saucers, a tad less threatening than the traditional overhead Costa ceramics. Sausage rolls again? Nope, we're instead directed to a full printed menu with far more choice. Classic bacon roll for the pedestrian and a respectful King Charles coronation chicken for the cyclist: loving the presentation with that ramekin of ready salted and salad tump. Most agreeable comfy corner sofa for us two gents of a certain age though mind your shins, Andy, on that gold table. Fun, too, to find the fridge with its array of chilled beverages: no clues here.

Others are tucking in including at least one guy I know but can't place. After the post-Brittany and pre-Wales holiday chit-chat, that'll be the usual chai for Andy and a flat white for YT. Muchos sweet treats: his toffee traybake is suitably sticky whereas my scone is gone in sixty seconds: wot no jam? So, perhaps not quite Magic Moments (Perry Como, February 1958) but I'm not saying I May Never Pass This Way Again (Perry Como, June 1958).

If it was a car -- Ford Mondeo.
If they were passing by -- Lynne Mortimer.

EDitorial ± 1-Sep-2023

Ipswich Lunches: Encore Coffee House

Mention of The Odeon in Ipswich is convoluted. Do you mean The Odeon (now Club 3000) at the top of Lloyds Avenue where I saw Superman in 1978? Perhaps you're referring to The Odeon (now The Regent) on St Helen's Street where I saw Three Men And A Baby in 1987? Or The Odeon (now The Hope Centre) next to The Regent where I saw Batman around 1989? Googling tells me, though, that this newest Odeon only opened in 1991, so someone's mistaken, prob'ly me.

That last incarnation ceased to operate as a cinema around the time YouTube launched and has stood redundant in its silver art deco finish for nearly 20 years. Now The Hope Church -- insert the subtitle of Star Wars episode IV here -- has splashed the cash to rescue the building and, natch, open the Encore Coffee House. Yep, a bit like River Coffee down at St Mary-at-the-Quay. If you're wondering about The Hope Church like what I was, they've got six core values:

  • word -- table talk is of the upcoming table tennis season starting later this month and our respective hols, Andy to Brittany, me to, erm, Wales
  • spirit -- if willing, Andy selects some piggy flesh which arrives in a couple of vg seedy rolls and forms part of a top value meal deal with a hot drink (non-alcoholic)
  • church -- foyer has the feel of a corporate atrium rather than, say, Reims cathedral, but the seating area is sizeable; no pews but booths and big circular tables, not suitable for ping-pong
  • grace -- most welcoming are the various staff taking orders and delivering our food
  • prayer -- we both counted our blessings and chose the rocky road, yum, esp. with an excellently prepared flat white, praise be
  • diversity -- not many places offer multiple flavours of bottled 500ml Lipton; that's diverse tea

In 1945's Road to Utopia, Bob Hope walks into a tough turn-of-the-century Alaskan bar and orders a lemonade. Seeing looks of surprise and hearing menacing sounds, he modifies his order: "In a dirty glass." None of that here at The Hope Centre: Encore!

If it was a car -- HopeStar ON360
If they were passing by -- Katie Piper.

EDitorial ± 24-Aug-2023

Light Lunches: The Old Drapery, Grundisburgh

Chauffeur service from Andy is usually hard to beat. Sure, the punctuality can be a little wanting but that's true for the both of us, and that's where Find My Friends comes in: what, he's still in Melton? None of that today, though the door-to-door service ain't happening 'cos he's forgotten his pass. Two minutes later and I've freewheeled out of Adastral to find his endangered Panda. And off we go.

Five years ago, on a trip for grub with the gee-gees at Newton Hall Equitation, we spotted Williams Stores of Grundisburgh. Six months ago, we aimed for it and instead found ourselves up the road at the delightful Grundisburgh Dog Deli. Today's finally the day with Andy leaving his Fiat by the ford by one of his (shhhh) quiet lanes. Opposite's a large premises with three magic words: "coffee shop open".

Inside has echoes of Deadwood general stores although they probably didn't sell too many jigsaws or garden tools in the wild west. Here, they offer a laundry service, there are plants, there's BBQ fuel, et cetera. Oh, and through the Mr Benn doorway on the right is The Old Drapery coffee shop, dressed for the coronation and currently empty. Both rooms were full this morning, reassures the nice woman in charge. Take a seat!

Sometimes the savoury simply sorts itself out: that's true now with a shared sausage roll and bacon & cheese twist enhanced with a bag o' crisps, and somehow we both chose the ginger beer. Place has been a shop since 1840, she says, and once sold fashionable clothing direct from London, hence that Are You Being Served? name. As time's gone on they've continued to diversify, no longer renting out TVs but now offering coffee 'n' cake.

Talking of which, that sweet selection requires a tad more thought. Blueberry and lemon ring? Coffee and walnut? Frank Lampard's Chelsea bun? Bit of classic Victoria sponge for me, ta, and a big-as-your-hand Danish for the driver. Loves his icing, that boy. Continuing that precious things vibe, a huge dresser standing behind the counter has various items for sale including teapots, vases, and even a black and white Grundisburgh calendar. I'm very happy with my mug of milky coffee, and I see the place is dog-friendly too as well as offering umpteen meeting group. Venerable Williams Stores is a veritable hub.

If it was a car -- Frank Williams FX3B.
If they were passing by -- John Hawkes.

EDitorial ± 26-Jul-2023

Felixstowe Light Lunches: Crescent Cafe

Like wannabe members of the Woodbridge Cruising Club, we hiked along Hamilton Road, loafed past the library and sauntered by the sea before beating a path back up Bent Hill into Felixstowe Central. All this, naturally, in Andy's VW EcoWagon which he eventually docked on Leopold Road. Our 15-year mission? To seek out new lunches and new civilised cafes.

Us two (along with Kev and Mrs C.) experienced Unit 4 in pre-Covid 2019 when it was operating as The Mad House. That insanity came to an end when Lewis and Daniel moved in and opened The Crescent Cafe in March 2020, within a week of the first OG Covid lockdown. They've somehow battled through, like Lewis and Clark, and made the place somewhat easier on the eye. Calmer, chameleon.

The breakfast offerings were over at midday. Now, at 1pm, the separate lunch menu has everything from Crescent Favourites (hunter's chicken, gammon, etc.) to burgers to hot dogs to fish & chips and the rest; other folk on other tables are already tucking in. Andy, aka Alberto Frog, delays things further by ordering a chocolate milkshake so I may well as join him with a top-of-the-shop vanilla. To think I used to get annoyed when The Boy always chose that particular flavour from the AMT kiosk at Ipswich station.

Our tall ice cream glasses half empty, time to select savoury: for him the southern-fried chicken panini, for me the chilli jacket, a Rexel staple. Plenty of time for a ping-pong catch-up before sight of the grub: did a job, much like All Things Nice or Cafe On The Corner.

Shockingly at 1:45pm, all the cakes have gone. Freestyling, they offer ice cream (yes please, says the driver) or a fruit scone (yes from me), and that'll more than do with a decent mug of frothy flat white. Do the basics right (tick), smile when you serve (tick), and they will come.

If it was a car -- Suzuki Cultus Crescent.
If they were passing by -- Mike Scott.

EDitorial ± 24-Jul-2023

Latitude 2023

Left it late to book my Latitude ticket this year and thought I'd be making the usual solo journey (see last year). Then it turned out that friend Tom was also going along on the Friday, so offered him a lift. A week later G. announced that, being desperate to see Pulp, she'd bought a ticket together with her mate. That'll be a planet-pleasing four of us in the Polo, then. planet.

Our quarter has already split along gender lines on the long walk into the site; we gents grab a Greenpeace coffee ("Do you have oat milk?" "That's all we offer.") and enjoy the lo-fi stylings of Metronmony keyboard player Oscar Cash, noodling on a Shuttleworth-esque Yamaha. Shall we try number 79, Folk Baroque? Most relaxing start. Checking my app, as everyone does relentlessly, I see that Laser Kiwi, a surreal sketch circus that was on my list, has somehow shifted from 4pm to midday. No way I'm going to make it into the far-off theatre in time. Oh well.

I catch a few upbeat tunes from sister and brother Olivia and Will in the Wasia Project before yomping away to find some writing event called We're All Poets. I'm trying to find the Faraway Forest, I ask the stewards. Dunno, mate, they say. Tried the map on the app? Which says I'm here among the trees: maybe the poets are creatively camouflaged? Back past the panoply of food stalls to picnic rug central, aka the grass area by the mighty Obelisk stage. Playing are Tinariwen, the Mali masters of desert blues. Quite like 'em, up their in their Star Wars planet outfits, and then their shuffling jam takes hold of me and won't let go and I have to stay for the whole set. Best part of an hour later and they're off. Tremendous.

Finally have the will to make the short walk to the stripey BBC Sounds tent for the final half-hour of Do Nothing. Powerful stuff ticking my art rock and post punk boxes, and with frontman Chris snarling in a suit. Realise I've screwed up the timing for An Evening with Christopher Bliss so it's over the water into The Alcove for a coupla psychedelic tunes from Max Fulcrum and The Win. Would have loved to linger but my belly needs a large £13 falafel wrap to consume while standing near the "performance interpreting" section, back in BBC Sounds, as The Murder Capital do their excitable show. Wondering where the main man is from my side-on view, I realise he's in the crowd, again.

Once again across a bridge for the opening few numbers by hotly tipped The Last Dinner Party, a female quintet already getting in the crowds. Most promising but that schedule demands I make another attempt to locate the Faraway Forest. Didn't you ask us before? says that same steward. At which point I bump into G., who's also here to watch Ben Moor, wherever he may be, and her mate S., who needs a nap. That tall weird guy in the jumper and small clearing is our man, we gather, and he'll be doing his Fringe show Who Here's Lost? Which is funny and clever and sad and compels me to buy the book a day later. Nice to sit down on the grass; not so nice to get up again 45 minutes later. S.'s attempts to grab forty winks were thwarted multiple times by kindly passers-by enquiring if she was alright. Latitude, the caring festival.

Another farewell to my wife as I walk by Luke Wright in the Listening Post on my way to spiky Dry Cleaning with Florence Shaw dressed in red declaiming in her near-constant straight face while her band puts in a shift. Great, though I'd have appreciated running subtitles, and good to see her smile at the end. And there's Tom, unseen since midday, so time for a sit-down soft drink. I fancy Panic Shack but there's a queue for The Alcove. Not for me, ta.

As the Human League once sand, there's "decisions to be made". I um and I ah and I locate a coffee-and-brownie stand to buy a coffee-and-brownie then take my coffee-and-brownie to the Obelisk, there to grab a spot for Metronomy. I loved their English Riviera album that came out in 2011 and have heard pretty much nothing since then. Enjoyed their show, their only UK appearance in 2023 (!), aided by their smiling female drummer.

They finished. Nobody moved. In fact, others surged forward. Why? 'Cos Pulp were due on stage next and that was the hot ticket. How were they? Awesome and worth the £93 alone, I'd suggest. By my reckoning the last time I'd seen them was at Cambridge Corn Exchange in March 1992, over 30 years ago, when they were supporting The Fall. My hazy memory is that we -- me and Jeff -- experienced them for one song then went to the bar. Lights, confetti, an orchestra, big tunes, and that man Jarvis. Particulary loved This Is Hardcore. Show over and curfew at 11pm, a mass of humanity all around, and we all somehow managed to meet at the L-A-T-I-T-U-D-E sign around 11:30am for the slow walk back with hot chocs all round. Easily found the car between us and mostly beat the queues getting out.

...and still missed The Beths, Connie Constance and English Teacher.