EDitorial ± 29-Oct-2010

Light Lunches: Giraffe, Bury St Edmunds

Off for half-term "looking after" the kids, some more than others. Long week of trips hither and thither has seen cafe visits to Sutton Hoo (Mon), Coffeelink (Tue), Caffe Nero (Wed) and Wimpy (Thu). Had planned an extended family light lunch before extended family cried off at the 12th hour. Change of plan required.

Some 40 minutes later and the Broomobile (does that work?) is securely and cheaply parked atop a multistorey at Bury St Edmunds. Down the many stairs, past KFC and Subway -- we can do better -- and into Giraffe. Been here once before with 2/3 of kids, much to disgust of remaining 1/3. They're a family friendly chain (hello, Pizza Express) originating from that London in the late 90s, and they must be doing something right 'cos they're spreading like a long-necked rash.

Enthusiastically greeted and seated in a comfy booth at the back. Much perusing of menus: choices, choices. Buy some time by ordering milk shakes for those darn kids. Appetising options abound. Brunch item for me, the exotic sounding "huevos rancheros", which is what Slowpoke Rodriguez has for breakfast. Rest of 'em plump for burgers and chicken strips from the kids' menu, and we'll have some beer battered onion rings to share, thanks. Waitress returns with an impressive selection of branded sauces (HP, Heinz ketchup, mayo, salad cream, Tabasco, Encona hot pepper sauce, Sarson's vinegar and chili sauce). Yep, condiments of the house.

Not long at all before the grub arrives, and we all pile in. Thumbs up for my tortilla with fried eggs, chorizo and salsa. Arriba! Apart from The Boy's bizarre claim that his fries are "too potato-ey", everyone is content and mightily stuffed. Yet we still want to see the dessert menu and we still find ourselves asking for a rocky road sundae. To share, naturally. Don't want to be greedy. Isn't cheap in here but makes a top half-term treat.

If it was a car -- Toyota Landcruiser.
If they were passing by -- Steve Backshall.

EDitorial ± 21-Oct-2010

Eddie Shoestring

My shoes, as we say round these parts, do well. Those Clarks GoreTex-ed Active Airs get me to work in all weathers and double up as footy boots for the odd kickabout. Yes, I had to apply the kitchen scissors and lop off part of the 6th studio album by the Beatles earlier this week. It's likely -- sob -- that this will be their last winter.

Bearing more and more of a resemblance to Trigger's broom, I've replaced the laces more than once. Had continued trouble finding a suitably strong pair, ones that could stand the earth, wind and fire. Correction: wind, rain and mud. They'd eventually snap, at which point I'd rethread them and bypass one of the eyelets. Happened again, until I was down to using three out of five holes with just enough lace to tie a knot. Each morning, I'd inwardly curse the upstanding elves of Northampton, resolve to buy some more, then forget all about it until the next day.

Cycling back through Ipswich central last week, I noticed that our shiny new Poundland (oh yeah), now occupying the dead Woolies' store, was still open at ten-to-six. They sell everything. They'll have whatever I want, including new Eddie Shoestrings. Waddya know, they didn't. Presumably not the demand, like Monty Python's cheese shop. Down the road, however, stood Wilkinson's, another fine Woolworth's wannabe. Yes, we're still open, said the helpful man. Yes, we sell laces. There you go.

Fine variety on offer, and less than a pound, too. Go for the boot laces for extra strength: 140cm should suffice. Felt good to scratch that itch, chuck away the old ragtag strings and weave in the new "round brown" 100% cottons. Quite a treat, I can assure you. All eyelets accounted for and, er, plenty of rope left over. Way too much. Far too long. Cobblers.

EDitorial ± 19-Oct-2010

Woodbridge Lunches: Caffe Nero

Dear oh dear, whatever's happening to olde worlde Woodbridge, where once only independent traders were welcome? First Costa, with their damnably flexible & family friendly opening hours, then WH Smith with their wretchedly wide range of stationery, and now another chain store tarnishing the Thoroughfare. Mark my words, won't be long before Mrs Piper's morphs into McDonald's.

Roadworks make it bloomin' noisy as I lock up the bike right outside Wine Rack. Whoops, no, the offy's gone off, and in has marched Caffe Nero. Local press reports claim that Nero, in characteristically tyrannical fashion, haven't applied for the correct "change of use" planning permission, not unlike events at Felixstowe. That'd be Nero, the emperor who ordered the killing of his own mother.

The folks inside couldn't give two hoots for all that brouhaha: they're here for a quick chat on a comfy seat over a nice latte. Thanks to the spending review, the trainee baristas are in charge, hesitantly blending frappes and nervously toasting paninis. One of them takes the money for my Quattro Stagioni orange & passion fruit -- posh Oasis -- and offers to magically reheat my Tuscan bean soup. Which, er, is tastily satisfying with the companion slab of bread.

Despite Herr Rene's presence, we don't lay down our beach towel quick enough and so are relegated to the workmen's dark wooden tables & chairs to the rear. While our German friend tucks into not one but two sarnies, poor Andy nibbles on his cheese straw. I hear there's are espresso houses in Florence and Siena which have, on the wall, large black and white photos of 1950s Woodbridge.

Who knows how but my Nero loyalty card has miraculously acquired the full nine stamps, even without buying the in-store copy of The Times. That'll be a gratis grande white Americano, grazie. May as well put that money saved towards a chocolate twist. Lovely, not had one of those calorific treats in yonks. Will the planners kick out this plush new centre of caffeinated convenience? Too late!

If it was a car -- Hertz Ford Mondeo Auto.
If they were passing by -- Bruno Tonioli.

EDitorial ± 18-Oct-2010

TT1011, Week 6

"I say, I say, I say, that was the police on the phone. They've got my son and his friend down at the station. Apparently they were caught trying to break into that rare breeds centre."


"No, I'll leave them to stew overnight and teach them a lesson."

Meanwhile, let's wheel out the A-Team for the first time since week 1. Not the best of starts, finding the link road to Asda and the A14 closed. Bright idea from Ed: let's go via Henley. Then Barham Green. Into Claydon. Over the roundabout by Great Blakenham. We'll get there in no time.

Hence arrived a good quarter-of-an-hour late. Never mind. Quick warm up and we're off: first two ends to Andy, easy, and Rene, after three deuces. Ed is appalling against brother Alan, deservedly losing in straight ends including a near whitewash. In a misguided attempt at empathy, Andy then caves in to Mike, who's playing well. Nonetheless, a shock defeat. Four games in, 2-2, not what we'd hoped for.

Cutting it short, singles completed with two ends each for our boys, victory assured, Andy outplaying brother Alan and Rene outjumping brother Ivan.

Tactical move for Andy to drop out of the doubles, scoring and watching Rene and Ed go down -- first doubles loss -- to Mike and Alan. Then the dark, dark walk back to the church car park to reflect on what might have been.

EDitorial ± 14-Oct-2010

Spaniards In The Works

Returning from a sunny Sunday stroll, trying to not feel like a snake that's eaten a whole hippo, we catch the tiniest glimpse of a Spaniard in the paddock.

"Why don't you have a game of football with the boys?" suggests mother-in-law. "I'll ask their mum if they'd like to play."

M-I-L lives in a house, it's a very big house, in the country. Attached to the big house is a smaller house, let out as a holiday home. Living in said cottage from September to December is a Spanish family, mother and two boys. Mum thinks it would be good for her sons -- rough ages 11 and 8 -- to learn English, so they're attending the local school, like it or not.

Yes, they're keen to play. We've seen E-- but A-- is a bit shy. The Boy, my son, runs off to fetch the ball, our Kickmaster Academy Training Ball "with anti-sting feature."

"Hola," I say to E-- and A--.

"He learned that on holiday," The Boy chips in.

We kick off, me in goal, the three of 'em against each other -- I'd call it Wembley, they'd call it Bernabeu. The eldest, E--, is a useful player, and his English vocabulary puts my Coffeetime Spanish fumblings to shame. Little brother A-- doesn't have the skills. However, whenever The Boy threatens to go past him, A-- demonstrates a wide range of stereotypical fouling techniques: barging, shirt-pulling, and Greco-Roman wrestling.

After a while, we swap around and try some more co-operative play. We all decide to give ourselves appropriate player names.

"I'm Theo Walcott," says The Boy, missing an open goal.

"Iniesta," proclaims E--, and I can't argue.

"I'll be Raul," I announce, aligning myself to the golden footballer whose national team only started winning after he retired.

"Sergio Ramos," says A--, though his style is more akin to a junior Mark van Bommel.

Slowly the light goes and we're still running around like mad things, mostly trying to evade the paws of Ramos. Then their mum calls them in, as does The Boy's mum. We trudge back to our respective sized houses.

"Adios," I say to the departing figures.

"That's all he knows," adds The Boy.

EDitorial ± 12-Oct-2010

TT1011, Week 5

Games played thus far: 5. Games played against Britannia teams: 3 (Phoenix, Cormorants, Merlins). Games to play against Britannia teams: 3 (Avocets, Sparrows, Wrens). Squawk.

Reliable Rene reneged late in the day. Mighty game of PC Andy to step into those sizeable shoes, especially when he could have been at home watching that Ingerland live on terrestrial telly against the Montenegro minnows. To sum up:

  • AndyC, pleading tiredness, outplayed The Girl but then crashed twice to both of The Men, that 100% record falling from the sky like a grouse on the glorious 12th
  • another duck for AndyW: the odd great rally, the occasional quality winner, not enough consistency
  • Ed was tonight's golden eagle, swooping narrowly past The Girl and The Men

Needed to land the doubles to secure a draw and we did before winging it home.

EDitorial ± 8-Oct-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Munch

Oh breakfast baps, we've had a few, but then again, they're often the mainstay of your basic caff. This is No Bad Thing. Mix and match your bacon, your egg, your sausage, choose a condiment, bish bosh. You may prefer your manwich among the manly menfolk milling at Bourne Bridge. Come into our university town centre and sophistication levels soar, what with tablecloths and cutlery and artworks. No wonder Waitrose are waiting in the wings.

We lunch at Munch, was my suggestion to Andy. New place, only been open for couple of months, next to Caffe Basso, quite literally: Basso at 18, Munch at 20. Wall has local theatre posters plus 8x6 photos for sale (nod to Bonnet) of (a) local scenes and (b) creatures. Unless I'm missing something, I couldn't spot the obvious link to that dead famous Norwegian symbolist painter. Only as many tables as Frankie's tribes since most business is takeaway.

Daily M**l safely moved to the other table, I grab a seat, sip a Fat Coke and pester Mr Munch for the router password. Free Wifi, active on Twitter, well done. Still sad and solo after five mins, time to order: Take On Me, look no further than "breakfast baps served all day". B, S & E, ketchup, white roll, ta very much. Most serviceable, generously filled and top value too.

Captain Carbon rolls in a good 15 minutes late, competitively anti-punctual as ever. As he's choosing his own BB, I'm admiring the cakes, a selection that wouldn't be out of place upstairs at Berridges. Lemon drizzle, ginger, choc sponge, fruit cake. Proving the pools panel right, Victoria sponge wins, again. Half a point removed for being served on a paper plate. Good coffee on the side, unusally described as a "rich and aromatic latte".

So: independent, open early, WiFi, papers, local flyers, good savoury and sweet stuff, and allegedly haunted by a monk (The Scream again?) from the nearby friary. Pop in, say hello, buy a bap and get into the habit.

If it was a car -- Think City.
If they were passing by -- Christian Slater.

EDitorial ± 5-Oct-2010

TT1011, Week 4

Guest report from Brompton Boy, Mr Andy Cassy:

"AndyW arrives early for some pre-match tips from our own Mr Branton. Gets off to a promising start and wins an end against Barry whom we played many moons ago but sadly end up with his sitting Duck for the season (current and past). And this IS the same team who came bottom last year in this Division.

Next up Rene after his late arrival. Easy wins against Barry despite the dodgy umpiring and late corrective score call. Struggles to a close win against the super quick Brian but fails to match the spinny and fast hits from their best player with even more ugliness after 4 successive edges and 8 in total to secure an easy end -- and was that an illegal serve (we all feign ignorance and carry on regardless).

Finally, Mr C has his 100% record to maintain otherwise he’s walking home is the threat. So quickly polishes off Barry, a fun and fast win against Brian before a tough game against Ray who just doesn’t find his form.

We remain unbeaten in doubles after an easy match with Ray not playing. So reasonable result overall but if this is the worst team in the league we’ll be doing well to finish in the top half where we currently reside. Onwards and upwards..."

EDitorial ± 4-Oct-2010

Suffolk Coffee Shops

Try our new searchable map for all the places visited (even if they are now closed), remaining To Do, Noted for when passing plus a few special Recommended places worthy of a visit further afield.

Already got separate lists for coffee shops and tea rooms in:

Not forgetting a whole host of out-of-town light lunch venues:

Get in touch with any suggested place not already covered.

EDitorial ± 1-Oct-2010

Ipswich Lunches: Mansion Tea Room

See, us Lunchers fit in everywhere, whether it's among the registered members at the Ipswich Institute, the righteous movers at Dance Eats or the real men at Bourne Bridge. We're light bite Zeligs, on our best behaviour at the Wicked Cafe, blending in at Blends or simply enjoying Enjoy. A first, though, this week: we're upgrading to a Grade I listed building, natch.

Sitting plum square at the shallow end of Christchurch Park is The Mansion. For years it's been a free-to-enter museum with more Constables than PC World. More recently it's sprouted a tea room with a few tables inside and lots more seating in the rear courtyard. All very pleasant. Follow the signs done out in a Prisoner typeface near the Lost-type hatch. Andy's used his hi-vis jacket to claim the VIP area, namely the bench under the gazebo. I'm not that late and he's already well into his savoury. Don't mind me.

Jackets and paninis aside, they offer daily full-meal specials too. I'll stick with the very reasonably priced bacon sandwich and boy, it's top-drawer. Thick slices, brown bread, soupcon of salad and presented with your choice of sauce sachet. Last to arrive is Rene, who claims to have found a parking spot on Fontainebleau Road. He too joins us in the festival of the rasher.

Time's moving on and there's a need for sweetness. Inside to survey scones, choccy bars and a-ha, carrot cake. Nuff said. Rene throws me by ordering a slice with two forks: I ain't sharing. No, he's sharing with Andy, bless him. Good cake. Alas, mine all disappears before coffee arrives. I gather they're a bit short-staffed today and now there's a mini rush. Wind's getting up too and bad weather's a-comin', to be sure. Back on the saddle and quickly home to beat the oncoming storm.

If it was a car -- Honda Stream.
If they were passing by -- David Starkey.