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Friday, 30 January 2009

David Essex no show

Venue: Theatre Royal Nottingham cafe bar (downstairs)
Prior to an interview today I spent ten minutes enjoying a coffee in the Theatre Royal cafe bar. I had a bit of paper work to sort out and concentrated on that for the duration. Until tomorrow night David Essex (scream now girls) has a show on called All The Fun of the Fair at this grand theatre and then I guess it will move on to another venue and David (scream again girls!) and his team will continue to entertain with this new musical written by David Essex (once more for fun!). I haven't had chance to see the show but part of me who remembers David Essex (ok, that's enough) from way back - and I mean way back - hoped that the old rocker might just pass through the cafe on the way to his dressing room. It never happened but I did see a couple of the youngsters from the show sitting with their mums and dads chatting on a brief parental visit. Sorry I missed you David ("David we lurve you!!!!!!!!") Girls please! Calm down.
For the misguided or unsure David is now the older looking one with the braces.

Cheese and Tomato toastie for one

Venue: The Terrace coffee lounge.Hopewells furniture store. Nottingham.

What? There's a cafe at Hopewells? Where?

You might well ask if getting into the actual store is anything to go by. Possibly because of the high price, (its not a high price- its good value price for superb quality furniture and fittings) sorry very reasonably priced quality goods, the front glass door is security locked and you have to ring a bell to get let in and out again. Anyway the secret is to smile nicely at the lady or man on the reception desk, wiggle your wallet or purse and they will make the door slide to one side. It makes you feel special or exclusive or just in need of a wee in the loos on the carpeting level.

On the top floor there is a cafe selling coffees, teas, teacakes and a variety of toasties. I so wanted the staff to go away while I photographed the old fashioned menu board. It looked like it had survived since the 1950s. I ordered a cheese and tomato toastie on brown bread and a cup of tea and then lied in order to get a photo of the cafe! Tee hee! I told the worried looking woman behind the counter that I had been there in the past (true) with a friend quite regularly (true) and I wanted to take a photo to show my 'friend' how it was these days (total lie) as the layout was different. "Worried of Nottingham" asked her work colleague and they grudgingly said 'yes' to my request. The customer in the corner (see photo) kept her head down in case I wanted her to model for me naked. Er, that's her naked, not me! Only kidding lady.

The toastie took a fair while to arrive but was nice enough and tarted up with a bit of fresh salad leaves, all served up on a quality yet reasonably priced square plate (available downstairs in the sale.) I hate to think how the two staff would manage if they had a rush on. Bless 'em.

The Place/Plaice to eat.

The venue today is a large store cafe-restuarant called The Place to Eat.

Today I called in at the John Lewis store in the Victoria Centre (Nottingham) around midday and got myself a cappuccino. It was pretty bustling with customers clashing mammoth green-striped John Lewis and Jaeger bags. Most of these customers were ladies who like to brunch and if the price of the fish, chips and peas is owt to go by the credit crunch hasn’t hit the LWLTB gang. We’ll come back to this in a second.

As I sat by the Patisserie (and I wrote that word in my journal so as not to get the spelling wrong) I felt almost shy of taking a photo and even of making notes. The diligent staff were everywhere, wiping tables, clearing tables and generally looking efficient in their black and green uniforms.

A Chinese family nearby dithered around undecided on what to eat and seemed to opt for the afore-mentioned fish, chips and peas. My profuse apologies I meant the beer battered fish, big fat chips and petit pois with half a lemon. £8.70 for goodness sake! And what is beer battered? Do they hit the poor fish with a bottle of stout?

This family of four sat and stared at one portion of this fish meal for a fair while and then hit a gong and span the prayer wheel. It’s either a Zen thing or maybe they were getting their monies worth. 'Pea for you, pea for me, pea for you...'

Then there were the young mums with young children practically playing dodgems with their four wheel drive versions of kids buggies and I witnessed a cute, excited little boy in his rugby style shirt and tweed trousers tugging on his dad’s arm. Judging from the bag the dad was carrying I think they had been to get the lads posh school uniform sorted out. “Ninety pounds for a school cap – that’s fine we’ll take a dozen, he’s a growing lad.”

One of the buggies has just brushed the table making it rock. The woman didn’t really notice me and pushed ahead with the cow bar on the front of the buggy in case of large mammal trouble in the haberdashery department.

Over in the corner a very small girl (about four or five) is swinging her tiny legs to and fro and sipping a drink with Nanny. She looks like a cartoon schoolgirl by Quinten Blake.

I have made my notes. The coffee wasn’t bad and whilst the clatter of plates and cups being stacked echoes around me I get my camera out and take a sneaky shot on the way out. I’m half expecting a hand on my shoulder, to be dragged into a side room and beer battered for espionage or only spending £2.75. Or maybe I’m just too wacky for my own good. Nanny! Where are you! Save me!

PS: Just for the record I never had a Nanny, right.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

A sexy deli in Nottingham

Hungry after walking around town all day on my blogging quests, I called into what I could truly describe as my favourite delicatessen and café in Nottingham namely, the Atlas Delicatessen at 9 Pelham Street. As always, it serves up a delicious array of fresh creations for its regulars and new clientele.

The deli is run by a genial fellow called Marcus and although he and the staff are often occupied with preparing the daily dishes (they do catering as well) he always has time to say “hello” and remembers his customers. The food may be special but this last aspect is, to me, a great sign of excellent customer service.

The small, oblong shaped venue has zinc counters to sit at along each side and a middle aisle unit exhibits a range of fine foods from fresh, on tap, olive oil to imported delicacies.

Today there was a great buzz about the place which in turn led to a great atmosphere to enjoy a late lunch in. After queuing for a few minutes I ordered a large tea and discussed my sandwich choice with one of the helpful staff. What should I have (and this was from a choice of about thirty plus combinations!). My thoughts were thus: ciabatta bread sandwich with prosciutto, mozzarella, basil,pesto and sliced plum tomatoes or walnut bread containing a confection of local Stilton, mango chutney and fresh green salad. Could you choose? I went for the first one and it was scrumptious.

The staff here are extremely helpful and more than happy to be flexible. As you can imagine I found it hard to chose from the tempting array of sandwiches displayed on the two colourful boards that change regularly to give great variety.

Not only was the sandwich good when it came but it was a lovely change to see the sandwiches in general being prepared fresh rather than coming from a proverbial conveyor belt. I’ve been a regular here for years and never do the dishes disappoint. Sometimes I have just popped in for a coffee on the way to work and a hot buttered bagel. Bliss!

My large cup of tea was hot stuff indeed and I had to wait for it to cool so I busied myself chatting to the lady at the side of me who was probably wondering why I was taking the photos that accompany this blog!
Thanks Marcus and the staff of Atlas Deli for a super lunch. As Arni said “I’ll be back!”.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Obscure thought on the escalator

Does anyone ever throw anything down upon this coffee stop in the Broadmarsh centre? Not that I am encouraging such

Read this. Read this now!

This is from a fine fellow blogger who knows what life is really about. Tea! Yorkshire Tea!

All nice comments to his site please. He deserves them.

Phil x

Young man, there's no need to feel down...

Oh my goodness! Where did it all go? All that time between my graduation in 1991 as a skinny performance Arts student and now? Happy where the days when I was creative all day and 'creative' all night (oh, naughty boy!). Gone were those halcyon days when all that mattered were the Arts and the theatre - and the rapidly dwindling student grant money in my impoverished bank account!

Yes, gone were the days when me and my 'forever to be' arty buddies earnestly idled time away in the YMCA cafe over a pot of hot stewed tea and a Yorkshire pudding dinner in their canteen. Well all except for the veggies and anti 'anything masculine' feminists, anyway. Sob, sob. :(

I went back today (Jan 2009) to try to capture that spirit of rebelliousness and embrace the 'stuffing dropping out of the easy chairs' moment and it was all replaced by glass and security and a brand new business eradicating the room where once we stood (or sat) and manned (or personed) the barricades of des Art Nouveau Anglaise. There was no Cafe des Arts!!!! No cabbage smell and cheap tea! No more , 'When do we need to have this dissertation in by?'

The Creative Arts course is all a past memory and now we have the Fine Arts and Fashion Courses in their place and the present cafe in the Bonnington Building is Fair Trade and muffin led. Well, at least the Fashion Course women are prettier! Voice from the past: (Oh you sexist!)

Ha ha! The ex-student rebel is not yet dead! Long live Apollinaire! Long live 1991! God Bless Peter Brook's Empty Space et al!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

She was sooooo rude!

The venue is now known as the Lakeside cafe and is one of two cafes at the South entrance to Nottingham University. I believe the main road is called University Boulevard. I popped in for a cup of tea the other day on my route through the University grounds. The main meals were gone it being after 3pm and the place was relatively empty.

As I gazed vacantly at the empty counters and the staff chatting together I was reminded of another time many years ago circa mid 1990s when the place was then called Cafe Lautrec - an arty reference no doubt to the famous crippled artist Toulouse Lautrec. My former girlfriend and I arrived one day to get something nice for lunch and a drink. They did great salads and lasagna. We also liked to look at the Art Gallery there.

I think the fact that, even though I had left Uni, I looked like a perennial Art student in my attire annoyed the woman owner. Although it was/is a University she didn't want some scruffy students cluttering up her posh cafe and when we went up to order some food she got stroppy and glared at us saying "Eat it up quickly and get out because we've got important people coming!"

We weren't even students! Not that is any reason to be so obnoxious. My ex girlfriend was fuming and sat at the table moaning about her rudeness. On the way out (and we deliberately took our time, tee hee) I said "No wonder it is called Cafe Lautrec - you have to crawl on your knees to get good service.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

How I found Anne Frank in a posh cafe!

No this isn't a sick joke folks. I went to a newish cafe in Nottingham on recommendation today. It is called The Walk and it's alongside the Ibis Hotel by the Lace Market tram stop. It was very busy and a classy joint. I got met by a man in a bow tie and smiled at by a very sweet young lady we'll call L for discreetness sake. "Phil!" she called out. "How lovely to see you!" And I got a peck on the cheek. From the girl that is, not the man in the bow tie. OK.

It turned out to be a young actress who four years ago was about 14 and played one of two Anne Frank's in a stage production of The Diary of Anne Frank that I was in. She is now all grown up and attending a course on Fine Art. They were very busy, as I said, so we didn't really have a chance to talk. However I did have a pot of Earl Grey and got permission to photograph the cakes. The tea was nice and I gave the food a miss because the prices were a bit high for me at the moment. If you read this - it was great to see you again L.

Almost put me off my pak-choi

You can be put of a place purely by the random actions of some of its customers. In the middle of Hockley stands the Cafe Hockley, an ordinary greasy spoon type place I would be happy to have a cuppa in. I was out shopping the other day at the Chinese supermarket opposite this cafe and saw three chavvy lads in the upstairs bit turn their backs to the window and drop their trousers and moon at the passers-by. They stood there for a couple of minutes waggling their bums. It almost put me off my pak-choi. lol

Friday, 23 January 2009

An encounter with a warrior and some chilly chlli.

Last Saturday I went for a walk in the Nottingham’s gorgeous Wollaton Hall's grounds. I got the Indigo bus up to the Queen’s Medical Centre and then set off walking down Derby Road past the University grounds and slipped into the Wollaton Park grounds through the back gate entrance. It was a bracing day with bright sunshine and I was in the mood for walking and planned to call in on the relatively new Café in the Yard for a bite to eat en route.

I like this park for its lake and expansive grounds where one can sometimes experience the local deer population grazing on the golf course. Just had a mental image of the golf balls being caught in the curved antlers of the deer and them deliberately flicking the balls between them, Pelota style whilst perplexed golfers look on.

Pelota is a game played in France and Spain with curved bats and they hurl the balls against a wall at very high speed. My humour goes off at odd tangents sometimes! lol

Well this day I saw no deer or Pelota players but did bump into a student who was going about dressed as a warrior. I stopped to chat and he told me that he was part of a group from the nearby Nottingham University and he had come to the park to do some training with his warrior mates. I have called him a ‘warrior’ because I wasn’t sure which era he was dressed from – Norman perhaps. Maybe he was Norman the Norman!

Away from that terrible joke we move on up the avenue of oaks and to the top of the rise by the main hall and industrial museum. The Café in the Yard was very busy with families and I queued patiently inside. It was chilly outside and as I was in the mood for playing with words I went for the chilli at £5.00 a bowl and a coffee. I had to sit outside as indoors was the parking lot for pushchairs and hassled families. So I carried my dish outside after climbing over several muddy wheeled pushchairs and sat amongst the folk there with my bowl of chilli steaming in the cold air. It was really nice and great for making one’s nose run. You didn’t want to know that did you?

It didn’t take me long to polish that off and I carried on with my walk around the park and strolled further on to Wollaton Village where I discovered a house on the main street that had named itself The Thirty Nine Steps. I whipped out my camera to take a picture of the sign – like you do-and suddenly an angry Mr Richard Hannay called out from across the road and asked me to go away. Alas not in those words! Tut tut, what would John Buchan have said? And, where are those Norman warriors when you need them!?

Next time we have a brief visit to the dance of the chavs at the town centre Café Hockley.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

At the Crossroads of life...

In a previous life I used to be an extra in a variety of tv programmes including Crossroads, Peak Practice, Doctors and Boon! There are a fair few more that I did across the UK at this time (early 2000's) but I don't want to bore you all with those. The best thing about those days out in Nottinghamshire or the Peak District (pretending to be an elbow or doctor's foot going by) was the fact you had to get there exceptionally early in the morning and breakfast was laid on courtesy of the catering wagon. The breakfasts were fab and I have fond memories of wolfing down a full English breakfast (totally free of charge) on a freezing cold double decker bus mostly full of variety artistes making an living through any way that they could and swopping job and agency details. IE: Did you know that so and so was casting for a film in January blah blah?

Crossroads was probably the best as it was mostly filmed at the warm and cosy Central TV studios in Nottingham and the Central cafe would serve you and it was very reasonable in price and certainly less cold to sit around until you were called for your brief second of fame. See Crossroads link for my own personal account of those days back in 2001 and 2002.

It was a very random and unpredictable life-style but exciting/fun, all the same.

Phil x

Fruitless search in the fruit and veg wholesale market.

I read a while ago that there is a cafe that opens at four in the morning to serve the workers at the wholesale Fruit and Veg market in Nottingham. Apparently it is called Thelma's Cafe and caters for the early risers like the market folk and security guards. Icouldn't find it on a recent search. Grant you, I wasn't ambling around Nottingham's backstreets at 4am. Does anybody know if it still exists?

a café crème with a delicious filled baguette

In the city of Nottingham, where I live, we have a fair few restaurants and cafes that have a French appeal and I was delighted to see my favourite ‘French Living’ featured on page 17 of the February 2009 edition of the monthly FRANCE magazine. Did you know that they even have the only French street sign in the city!?
That's King Street by the way.
The owners of French Living - Stéphane and Louise Luiggi – are a charming couple and I met them initially in the late 1990s when I used to sell prints and greetings cards for the French company, Nouvelles Images. Since then I have been a regular visitor and have seen their business grow from strength to strength. Not only do they have a newly extended café on the street level including a selection of provisions to take away, but the restaurant in the basement is always busy and they have regular ‘discovery evenings’ throughout the year with regional food and wines.

Stéphane originates from Corsica and his wife Louise from England and in 2004 she wrote a wonderful book about their life and her passion for French food and naturellement, the style of French Living. It is published by Piatkus Books and is called Come To The Table. You can buy a copy online or direct by popping into the venue.

I have lost count of the amount of times that I have sat in their café listening to the French music and nursing a café crème with a delicious filled baguette and dreaming that I was in Bordeaux or Paris or Nice. Then I had to return to work – c’est la vie!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Synchronicity of the Milkshake

I was in Birds the Confectioners today in Bramcote and whilst waiting for my coffee I got thinking about an event that happened to me as a young boy. The confectioner's cafe was busy and every table was taken including one with a young family opposite. One of the children on that table had just been given a banana milkshake and seeing this stirred my memory.

As a ten-year old I had been to the dentist to have my first ever filling done and one side of my face was still frozen as we sat down in the Kardoma cafe in Derby. My step-mum had ordered me a milkshake as a treat for being brave at the dentist and I eagerly pushed the straw into the non frozen side of my mouth and sucked. Back at Birds the boy opposite me did the same.

Imagine my suprise as the ten-year old me found the milkshake pouring out of my mouth and down my shirt, the frozen muscles unable to control it. Just as I'm smiling at this memory the present day boy opposite me does the same! His Mum leaned over and said "Oh dear, it'll soon get the feeling back." She then called the waitress and asked for a cloth to clear up the mess- explaining to that her son had been to the dentist.

How wierd was that?

Monday, 19 January 2009

Thank God for a pot of tea and some cake

A friend from the Nottingham flickr group suggested that I visit St Peter's Church in the centre of Nottingham and their tea rooms as part of this ongoing tea/coffee themed blog. So I did. Somehow I expected the tea rooms to be a bit run down, a bit shabby like a well worn vicar past his/her ecclesiastical date. Not a bit of it! Once through the body of the Anglican church I found myself entering a very modern tea-rooms with very polite voluntary staff - mostly older ladies and one old chap in a tweed suit and butler's apron. The old chap busied himself clearing tables. In his spare time I think he worked for Batman and was called Alfred. Can't be too sure of that though. Don't tell him but the apron was a bit of a give-away as was the imperious manner.

It was a Monday and 'apparently' Monday is a bit slow on the customer front and it was too early for the lunch crowd. On a notice board they were displaying a tidy photocopy of a report done in Feb 2007 by the Food Sleuth who operates from the Nottingham Evening Post. On his visit back then he had given the place a 5 star report and said he had thoroughly enjoyed his visit and the food was great and reported that the place was packed to the gills.

Today I opted for the pot of tea and a piece of meltingly nice buttered cake and a flirty chat with the old dears. They weren't too sure what a blog might be and we didn't broach the notion that Christ would have been a blogger - "Today I turned water into wine. The crowd seemed keener on that than the fish trick earlier." Sorry ladies, couldn't help myself!Naughty me!

Anyway, after finishing my tea the younger lady manager said it would be OK to take a picture of the premises as it might be good publicity and hoped I'd be back. Do you know what, I really think that sentiment was genuinely meant- and I will ladies- I will. Your cake was great and the atmosphere very welcoming. Thanks.

Lunchtime at Philo’s coffee shop (opposite the chip shop.)

A coffee house… blurred conversations in the background.
Chintzy backroom gossip ..”I heard this… she told me that.”
“Did you hear about…?”… “What’s he writing over there?”
“The dog had to have an anal injection.” “Really? Ouch!”
“It hates going to the vets. Never eats the biscuits they give him.”

Add some more sugar to the cup. Breeze catches the empty packet.
Broken match on the table. Broken marriage in the corner.
Laughter running up the stairs; a glass breaks in their kitchen.
I take a photo of the fish and chip shop. The shutter closes.
No-one bats an eyelid. Not even for a fraction of a second.

Lunchtime… Afternoon tea…Yorkshire Tea…Very English.
Cucumber sandwiches… White & Green…Watercress garnish.
Buttered fluffy fresh scone and raspberry jam with real pips.
Three pounds eighty-five. Table number five.
Jazz CD heard a thousand times by the young staff.

The sun breaks through outside; a couple shift into a dance.
Her heel is caught in the grate. He lifts her into the air.
A baggy denim shirt hides a figure too large;
Too many naughty weekend away English Breakfasts and
Hot croissants with butter; tempting as another chocolate.

Cascading tomato sauce, an oily pigeon fights a luke-warm chip.
A man slips on a Pukka pie. Arms and legs akimbo.
His fall taps a stationary car. Alarm boops electric signals
Falsely alerting the world to a state of theft.
The chip shop owner swears. “Fifth booping time today!”

Phil Lowe

All you'd ever want to know about tea

I went into the Waterstones Bookshop in Nottingham today to see if they had any books on the history of tea drinking etc. The assistant pointed a few titles out in the cookery department and left me to it. After he had gone away I was suddenly inspired to take all the books off the shelf and photograph them on a sexy red couch. What I didn't see was the guy returning and standing behind me as I took my pictures. Not surprisingly he asked me what I was doing. I just said I was taking the picture for a blog. He response was "Oh, OK. Carry on!"

If you fancy delving deeper into the mysteries of tea check out this site.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Hot peas and a homemade pie please

Venue: The Indoor Market Hall. Victoria Centre. Nottingham

Big D’s Mushy peas - Hot peas and hot meals and beverages

I chatted with Big D (a very friendly lady) and one of her male customers about trade and the butchers/fishmongers side of the market. Her stand is a familiar and popular part of Nottingham’s indoor market but she said that trade isn’t what it was and four of the stands were currently empty because of the high rents. The fishmongers and butchers that used to operate from these vacant spaces have, allegedly gone to the indoor Market at Derby Eagle Centre. Initially I asked if I could take a photo of her stand and she shyly said “Yes, but not with me in it!” I stood and chatted with them for ten minutes and then took the photo. I think once we had got talking and on the same wavelength she was more inclined to be in the picture.

Café Victoria. - All day meals, snack, cakes and drinks. 2/3 course lunches made to order and fresh vegetables daily. Also does catering for special events.

At 2.30pm this sweet little café was empty of custom apart from two ladies and myself. The owner agreed to me taking a photo of the sauce containers for their typical English café nature and for the colour. I had a cup of tea here and read the paper about the airplane landing safely in Hudson Bay and not (thank heaven) smack bang in the middle of New York. I tried a sneaky picture of the owner having his own dinner several empty tables away but chickened out as he seemed to be aware of the camera pointing in his direction. Nice cuppa. I’ll be back sometime. It was only a pound too.

Aldo’s - Expresso, Latte & Cappuccino bar.

This seemed the busiest of all the eateries in the Market Hall with several folk seated around a continental bar all consuming their coffees and desserts. If this had been in any city in mainland Europe I imagine a few dry sherries, glasses of wine and beer would be on the menu as well. And perhaps some tapas. Now I’m hungry!

Frothy Coffee Café -Café serving hot and cold food and drinks and homemade pies
I loved the quaint name of this establishment but was stared out by a not so quaint old lady as I tried to photograph the premises. I have been past this establishment a few times in the past and they always seem busy – maybe its them homemade pies. Why did Sweeney Todd just come into my head. Sorry Frothy Coffee. ;0)

On this visit I never had time to investigate Pete’s Café - Coffee and sandwich bar and the Madhouse Café – Specialising in quality breakfasts and homemade meals.

Next time perhaps. Hmmm, now for some hot peas from Big D's!

Give my regards to Broadway

I love the cinema and can think of no better place to frequent than the very popular Broadway Cinema, Media Centre and cafe bar here in Nottingham. I am always amazed at how busy it is during the daytime and the great mix of people from all walks of life who attend and eat there day and night.

If you go on a Thursday lunchtime for their 1.30pm showing (films vary dependant on the monthly programme) the joint is absolutely packed with those gentlefolk over the age of 60. The event is called Silver Screen and the oldies get to see a film at a discounted price and a free cup of tea or coffee afterwards. At their recent showing of Miss Pettigrew lives for a day the biggest screen (screen 1) was totally sold out. It must hold well over 500!

The Broadway cafe food varies from day to day in terms of what's on offer and often they will have a special night or two during the month where they match the food to the film. For example they had an Indian food night on Tuesday 13th Jan to work alongside the Indian based film Slumdog Millionaire.

I will sometimes pop in for a coffee of a morning if I am in town and it is only £1.30 plus a top up free if you feel like it. Plus it is a wifi cafe for those who like to tap away on a laptop.

Observations in Hollies caff

This a big place on Upper Parliament Street Nottingham. One of my neighbours goes here regularly as it is very reasonably priced and the place seems to cater for people with lots of time to sit and chat (nothing wrong with that), the council's manual workers and the lonely. Saying that the regulars and staff seem an industrious bunch. I would say that it comes across as a regular haunt for ordinary folk.

At the back end of last week I decided to re-visit as part of generating interesting observations for this blog. Here are the notes I made as I sat with my tea and pen poised. Incidentally this particular morning there would have been about 50 people in and I would say that it could accommodate around 150. I tried to note take without staring or being obvious.

Directly in front of me are three big burly workman finishing off their drinks and big breakfasts. One of them likes to eat with his mouth wide open and his big breakfast churning around for all to see. I find it hard to look at him and yet hard to look away. All three are wearing grubby yellow and silver bibs to make them visible on their job outside. They have also discarded their plastic protective helmets. The youngest of the three sits at an angle and follows the legs of anyone leaving with his leery eyes. He also has a rather scary grin and a gold tooth. You wouldn't want to mess with him. He has a big tatoo covering most of his neck. I think I'll go over and ask him what it depicts. (joke)

The chill wind comes through an opening door and tickles the Sundae Suprise card to the right of me. The card is propped up against a pretend Japanese style tree and advertises 'Chocolate dream delight, Strawberry dream delight and Banana and Toffee dream delights.' Over in the far corner by the window I can see a frail looking woman gazing out of the window in her own mental state of dreamy delight.

The three builders suddenly laugh at something and gather up their helmets and jackets and copies of the Sun and Daily Mirror and leave. Mr Tatoo leaves a trail of dribble.

As they go out two other people wobble in through the entrance nearest me. They are huge. I presume that they are man and wife and the woman must be at least 20 stone. The man following behind her is a big thick set man and they both have moustaches. She sits herself down on a seat that almost takes fright as she approaches and he's going off to order. She seems to like paisley designs as they make up most of her attire.

One of the staff, a young woman, mops up the builders table. She is wearing all black with a cap like the rest of the staff. They seem very organised here and must deal with a large amount of customers during the day, a good proportion of them regulars. Ooops, she is coming over - journal away for now.

Safe again. Mr Moustache returns and is carrying two very large mugs of milky coffee. He puts them down and once he is seated they both take a slurp. I hope that I am not around to see the coffee get cold and the milk start to cling to their moustaches.

The frail woman has come out of her dreamy state and is now talking to her mobile phone. It isn't up in the classic position by her ear and mouth. She is holding it in front of her and talking at it.

I'll drink the rest of the tea and go now.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Brown Bettys re-discovered on St James Street

Just a brief blog today from the best venue yet: Brown Bettys on St James Street. A compact little deli run by very friendly people at very reasonable prices. This place has been on the Nottingham scene for a fair while and gets packed at times with queues pouring out of the door. Today it was pretty full and I had a lovely salad with tomatoes that actually tasted of something. I would certainly go back again. Nothing witty or inventive to add today. Just a five star recommendation and check out their website.

PS: If you an early bird and just want a bacon sandwich. They do stop serving breakfast items at 11am.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

A fry up in BHS.

This morning I decided to go to BHS (British Home Stores) for a fry up type breakfast. £3.49 bought me a mug of tea and eight items for my breakfast. I found it hard to choose eight items and went for seven instead - a sort of sausage, two slices of cold bacon, a thin sliver of black pudding, baked beans, a hash brown, tomato and some complimentary toast. The cafe there is huge and would seat at least 500. However this particular morning there were three diners, myself and two old ladies. Whilst I was waiting to be served another lady customer said that it "was good to get a choice ". I nodded and really wanted to say - "hey that's buffet breakfasts for you!"

The plated breakfast sat on my tray for three or four minutes while the sole assistant dithered about with a fried egg and then came to the till to serve me.

The main breakfast wasn't that hot in temperature and the tea was scolding. I felt obliged to take a picture just so you can see the meal. I probably won't go back again.

I have no idea what the sausage was made of and the hash brown was a bit crusty.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Fat Boys

No, this isn't a diatribe against the overweight male. The venue today is actually called Fat Boys and is a caff where one might expect to encounter lots of baked beans on the board. Despite the sign outside I wouldn't really call it a deli in the true sense.

This morning I popped in for a cup of tea and a bacon sandwhich and wasn't disapointed. They had both! The bacon was collar bacon and much better than the stuff you buy from supermarkets and then watch as it leaks white 'stuff' in the frying pan.

So, I arrived about 10.30am and for five to ten minutes was the only one being served by the ladies who 'like to pinny' behind the small counter. The windows were running with condensation and the rivulets of water coursing down reminded me of my childhood in the 1960s living on a council estate (Chaddesden) near Derby. An inventive child, I used to invent races with various streams of water trickling down the living room window and get all excited as my favourite stream of water hit the windowsill first. Hey, who needs x-boxes when you can do that for free! Having a staring competition with the washing frozen on the line outside was second best. Them were tough times back then. Milk came in bottles, I'll have you know! None of this fancy carton nonsense. And now back to Fat Boys to see what's going on.

Two bus drivers came in on their break or after finishing an early shift and sat with their newspapers and mugs of tea. They seemed regulars and shouted across the caff to the women.

"Ave y'eard about Terry? E's got sack! Silly sod - fiddling he were" "Forgetting to give bus tickets and pocketing the money" "Ah knew e were up t'summat. Smiled to much".

Consternation all around. Teas supped gravely. Sugars applied liberally. Papers flapped dramatically. Clouds darkened overhead. Vultures hovered.

Softly in the background Elvis was singing on a cd smeared with greasy fingerprints and Beryl was cooing along as she made up the salad cob Bob the driver had ordered. "Are you lonesome tonight? Will you miss me tonight?" Bob shouted to Beryl. "Do you get lonely at night then Beryl?" Beryl blushed tomato ketchup red and replied. "Cheeky bogger, I nearly dropped your cucumber then!" The place erupts with laughter.

I finished my breakfast sandwhich and tea, said "ta ra" and nipped around to the corner to hastily write up my notes before I forgot. Some places are too risky to write in situ, you know.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Cuppa Rosey Lee at Lee Rosey's

Venue: Lee Rosey’s café. Broad Street. Nottingham

Lee Rosey’s is a small independent tea shop and café opposite the Broadway cinema and I have been a fair few times in the past. Formerly it would have been in my hour dinner break and by the time I had arrived at the venue I would have about half an hour to nurse a cup of hot Earl Grey tea. On the way back to work my teeth would be throbbing from the quickly drunk hot beverage and regrets would be forming in my head that I couldn’t stay longer. I’m a little freer these days.

Today I settled for a gigantic honey roast ham, mayo, tomato and salad sandwich that I took to the seats by the window. On the side wall to the left of me are loads of indi posters for bands and courses. There is one for a singer called Françoiz Breut who has a gig at La Bodega that looks very appealing. Another hand written poster is promoting guitar and bass lessons and has one tatty tear off phone number left hanging on the sheet.

A track by Joanna Newson is playing as I bite into my fresh sandwich. The track is called Monkey and Bear and I keep getting images of my toy monkey ‘Monka’ dancing around, flickering through my brain.

From across the road, coming out the main doors for the Broadway comes a man I once met through the Theatre Writing Partnership.

He is called Finton and waves as he passes the window and disappears from my peripheral view. I take another bite and am suddenly surprised by him appearing at my side. He offers to buy me a cuppa and then we have an interesting ‘writers’ chat about writing for film, the theatre and blogging with intent. Interesting guy, and I think that it was fate that I chose to come this venue today. He also made some very positive comments about my adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that recently successfully played at the Lace Market Theatre.

Another surprise was a tap on the shoulder from a man called Miles Chalcraft who I knew many years ago from University. He told me that he is currently artistic director for a symposium running at the Broadway and other Nottingham venues. I always like to hear of friends’ successes and it was good to see Miles’ smiling face after so many years.

Finton had to go and I had another look at the posters and I am intrigued by one advertising a workshop. It claimed the following:

Everyone needs to have fun.

Two day workshop celebrating laughter, play, games and fun.

Learn new games.

Learn how to laugh for no reason.

Re-capture childhood spontaneity.

Boost your health, happiness and energy.
Another poster amongst the thousands big and small, new and crumpled was a poster for Capoeira classes and featured a man spinning around upside down on one hand.

I finished my cup of tea, got down off the seat, put on my coat and hat, cart wheeled out of the door and hopped down Broad Street on one hand whilst laughing for no reason. I’ll be back Lee Rosey’s tea shop.

Next time I visit a caff and try out the bacon sarnies. Join me.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Shower of wet crumbs

Venue: Costa Coffee in Waterstones’ Bookshop in Nottingham.

So here I am with my small cappuccino coffee at Costa Coffee. They have these saucers here that the indentation for the cup is off to one side, not in the middle. This makes carrying your coffee to the table pretty precarious. The tidy part of me wants to see the cup safely resting in a central position and I end up tilting the drink towards me, convinced that I am, that something is not right in the dynamics. Maybe I should have paid the young guy with my two pound coins balancing dangerously on the end of my finger-tips or on the back on my neck. Next time I could take in a mini tight rope walking kit and flip the coins whilst balancing in mid air. And back to reality…

When I was asked if I wanted chocolate on the froth I declined and somehow through juggling purse and change I managed to let loose a bus ticket which landed bang in the centre of my cup and thus sat like a paper sailing ship adrift in a sea of milky bubbles. I joked with the serving guy about bus tickets being the new ‘in thing’ to decorate one’s cappuccino. Maybe that’s what they mean when they call “One small cap to go”. Er, bus ticket = to go. Never mind.

Sitting with my off kilter coffee I had a sly look around at my coffee shop neighbours. There was a crumpled old man with long grey hair slouched in the corner by the window, the fringes of the palm tree eerily matching the fringes of his bushy eyebrows. He was wearing a bright red top and his eyes were scanning his paper. Suddenly an image of my deceased father came into my head and the title of his daily journalistic bible ‘The Sporting Chronicle’. I found myself wondering if this racing journal still existed and then tried to get the image out of my head because the two things, my dad and the paper, were now conjoined. I began to picture him sitting on the loo, trousers round his ankles, ‘picking his horses’ as my mother used to quote. Out bad picture… out!

On the table next to me a woman who looked decidedly Spanish confused me by speaking in German with her friend while her young child clutched a plastic drinks bottle containing juice of a vivid purple hue. I had momentarily looked away to observe two middle-aged sisters in conversation when the child dropped the bottle and an explosion of gooey purple rained down upon the earth, the chair legs, the cabinet of expensive cakes, and the bookshelves and the M&S clothes bag by their feet.

Supermuffin, the hero of the hour, flew from his post behind the counter and mopped away the offending drink contents faster than a tip hitting the bottom of his trouser pocket. I almost wanted to applaud. Is it a plane, is it a bird … und so weiter.

Back to observing the two middle-aged sisters, each bespectacled and uniform in their body warmers. One had a puce yellow drink of something sickeningly healthy and the other a glass of water and now I found myself hypnotised by their amazing joint mastication. Yes you read that correctly, no smut in this coffee shop. Both their jaws were chomping away on carrot cake and mirroring the other exactly. I don’t think even the bottle exploding incident had put them off their stride. They finished by simultaneously licking their lips, in a chorus of approval.

On another table further back, a large lady in a heavy black winter coat and paisley scarf was trying to devour a whole lemon drizzle muffin – three inches wide and four deep – in one fell swoop. The last time I saw a mouth open quite that wide was in a famous Spielberg film about a very dangerous fish.

The place was about half-full or half-empty dependent on one’s philosophy, and I could hear a general hubbub of noise from low-key chat. I never caught the thrust of any one conversation but noted down some random aural gems for fun.

“skipping about… smile on his face… so what did he say about that?” then “got married… took her phone number… and I can guarantee…” and “worst flat there was … literally… you’d hear about it…basically…” and finally “meine mutter… lieber Gott…”

All this chatter was interrupted by the pre-mentioned large lady having a violent sneezing fit and Mrs Jaws let loose a sudden shower of soggy cake crumbs which she tried to catch mid-air with the paisley scarf. In vain.

As she scuttled off choking in the direction of the toilets the man in the corner sucked in some more stale air to keep himself alive. It proved just enough to read the next page of his paper and then he wiped a sheen of soggy lemon drizzle muffin from his brow.

I put my pen and journal away, sipped the remnants of my coffee and haunted the bookshop for ten minutes.

Tomorrow I’ll go to Lee Rosey’s tea shop.

See you there.

Phil x

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Chip butty anyone?

If we close our eyes for a second whilst walking down most high streets in Britain today we will encounter one or two things: either a surprise smack in the face from the unseen lamppost or more likely, a new coffee shop opened where the bank once stood.

Coffee in its many and varied guises ranging from ‘all froth and no substance’ to a milky mouthful of mocha is now out there on every street corner, earning its purveyors a fair few beans. Wherever humankind can possibly cram another Starbucks or Prêt à Manger into an available nook or cranny of real estate its addicts will flock there. As I write this first blog from home the cappuccino cravers will be plumping up the leather armchairs by the shop window and dreaming of overdrafts needed to pay for the next round.

Why am I writing this blog?

Well, I thought that I would have some fun and observe life from the inside not only in the major players emporiums of caffeine and almond flaked croissants but also the lowly caff; home to steamy windows, a mug of strong tea and a chip butty… eight sugars in the tea please, duck.

Notes for American readers:

Caff rhymes with gaff which means home (my gaff) and a caff can be a home from home for some. Bit like a diner, or on second thoughts, maybe not.

A chip butty is a cob full of chips.

Chips are fries but fatter and made of real potatoes traditionally deep-fried in lard or beef dripping. Do not confuse these delicious morsels with any of those anorexic pretenders from Mc Donalds.

The term butty refers to butter and not a polite term for a bottom or ‘fanny’ as you guys like to say.

A cob is a round article of fluffy white bread, usually sliced in half for fillings and the word cob has nothing to do with corn on the cob or ‘having a cob on’ which is another thing entirely. Bap is another word for cob. I’m confusing you now, aren’t I?

To even further confuse the matter you could ask for a chip sarnie. That’s chips in buttered white sliced bread. Sarnie means sandwich. These are not available in Harrods try as you might at the deli counter.

‘Duck’ is an East Midlands (that’s Robin Hood country) term of affection e.g. How’re you doin’ me duck? Elizabeth, Queen of England never uses this expression but she does allegedly eat duck.

Well, I hope that is all clear now.

Tomorrow I go on my first blogging trip to a caff or coffee shop to see what I can report. Yay!