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Saturday, 28 February 2009

Six naked men with your breakfast - apparently


Saw this sign in the Nottinghamshire town of Beeston today. Just made me laugh and thought I would share it. May appeal to some. Seems a bargain at £2.50. lol




Thursday, 26 February 2009

Watching people in the dark



Venue: Costa Coffee Friar Lane. Nottingham. 7pm

There’s not many people about tonight but I decide it might be fun to have a quick coffee at Costa and see what interesting things I can capture in ten minutes.

A young male assistant with a beard was very interested in my camera as he took my order and said that he had a Canon camera and needed a camera that was sturdy in case he dropped it. His passion was skate boarding and he liked to document his hobby. I gave the flickr address and I am sure if he signs up he will have a many a happy hour going through the skate boarding photography groups world wide.



My cappuccino with a double heart motif in dusted chocolate was quick in coming and I took my drink to a seat near the window where I could see the wheel all lit up and turning round. Two guys were sat in front of me chatting and oblivious of me taking a quick photograph of them. The illuminated cakes cabinet was reflected in the window too like a collection of confectionary ghosts floating in the air.


A stooping man passes by outside and shoots past in a hurried purposeful walk. His hands are stuffed deep into his pockets. A couple of Asian guys are talking in a quiet earnest way in the coffee shop background. There is some music but very low key. Starbucks opposite is caged in scaffolding; their customers sit as in a human zoo. The Council House stone lions will pad over shortly and glare through the window at the human captives. A couple who have agreed to "meet by the lions" will be temporarily confused at their feline absence.
One of the stone lions
I am writing so fast that my hand-writing looks erratic and the words are far from on the lines.My Ys and Gs are like a spider’s legs – broken spider's legs. A young woman with a pushchairhas just crossed the crossing. The baby is huddled up from the cold and marvels at the olive green taxis and their glowing orange lights on top. A line of idle taxi drivers telepathically will her and the baby to employ them for a taxi ride. In vain.

A perplexed man is standing on the street corner looking in all directions. He’s thrown his hands up in the air. I wonder how he is going to catch them on the way down.

A tram skirts the curve and will stop at the Market Place stop and pick up a few passengers including the old chap I can see in the motorised chair. A red light is blinking by his right wheel. He slides forward like he is being sucked into a trap. The tram leaves with him gazing across the square.

I’ve noticed the yellow belisha beacons flashing to my right. There are a couple of people, I assume boyfriend and girlfriend, relaxing on the sofa by to my right. They are slightly outside my peripheral vision. I’m catching little bits of their conversation.

Him: ‘… shy, innocent, but not in a pervy sort of way…I didn't quite mean that...’

Her: (laughs) ‘Gimme a chance then…’

There is some mention of ‘lessons’ and as they say in all the best journalistic circles; I made my excuses and left licking the coffee heart from my lips.

Eating in the street and LITTERING!

I have no particular objection to people eating in the street - and we are talking baked spuds and pasties and sandwiches here but so many people just chuck their half empty containers on the floor as they go back to the office or leave them where they sat for someone else to pick up. No disrespect to these two young women I happened to have photographed on the Market Square who put their rubbish in a bin. I went past a metal bench in the city the other day and there were four baked spud trays just resting on the bench accompanied by a pile of cold baked beans on the ground. Urgh. Litter, what do you think?

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Coffee and a La Redoute catalogue

Armed with the La Redoute catalogue and a cup of Carte Noire coffee I 'm doing the blog from café Chez Philippe today. Oui ma maison. My house.

I thought that more ‘people watching’ would be fun but this time the people are the models in the French style catalogue. I have many questions and hopefully a few answers. On y va!


Page 66. Why is the model in the lovely moss green cardigan biting her lip? Does it hurt her? Is it a habit? Did the photographer force her to do it? Looking deeper into the picture she does look a bit scary and who is she looking at with her sideways glance? Will she appear on another page in a better mood? Is she permanently scarred from the biting? What is her name? Isabelle, Claudette? Do we care?

Do the models have to be French to be in La Redoute and do they have to look like a famous actress or singer. Picture the three scenes:

’Ah you look a bit like Marion Cotillard, can you model? You are Marion Cotillard! Pardonez moi!’

Mademoiselle could you widen the gap in your front teeth? We are searching for that Jane Birkin older hippy chick look. Wider, wider! Parfait.’

‘You can pout and giggle at the same time? Excellent you’re in.’

I’m further into the catalogue now (takes sip from coffee). Hey, it seems that I can recommend a friend and I will receive a HUGE £25 discount or my choice of three free gifts. I think I will go for the free gifts. For starters the demure model on page 155 wouldn’t look amiss on my arm. And I can choose two other things? A set of cutlery and a Versailles style toilet roll holder. Wow! Life doesn’t get any better than this! Back soon, don’t go away.

Did you miss me? I’ve been away for ten minutes lingering over the lingerie and swimming through the swimwear sections. Pages 369 to 467 if you are interested. Now, according to this bit, if I were a woman needing some swimwear I would be either pear shaped, hourglass shaped, apple shaped or cone shaped. Miss Pear shaped says that she has a small bust, a petite waist and rounded hips. Sounds fine to me.

Now what if I had to describe myself in such ways. I’ll go along with the fruit themes and call myself banana shaped. I like bananas. They’re very good for you and a cheery colour. Hi there La Redoute! I’m Mr Banana. I have no man boobs, a gently expanding waist and snake like hips. Lol

Now we get to the kids and teens part of the catalogue – les enfants et les teens – no less.


Forgive me being critical but the boy in green on page 491 looks a right little snob. Mon Dieu! He is wearing a tie dye print scarf. He has to be from the continent. He’d be lynched in a UK school with that on. His modelling mate, the boy with the mass of brown curly hair looks an unspoilt sweetie. But why are they both frowning? Are they training to be unsmiling male models? Is there school bus late? Is that the reason? Is their coffee cold? Mine is.

We move on to the men’s style sections. Homme- enjoy your style! It says, and I will thanks. Flicking through the pages now. These blokes look so darned serious and that one needs a shave. And you there – Mr linen looks for city chic- you are far too good looking for your own safety. Grow a beer belly for goodness sake!

The linen shirts with macho yet sensitive mandarin collars look nice. I’ll have a couple of them. What we got next? Jeans, jeans, jeans, tee shirts and shoes that look like they can fly. Now we’ve got a bloke with the man’s version of the scarf featured earlier on the boy. This man is huge and looks like he works out constantly without even sweating. He’s staring at me now, intently. It’s ok mate you look great in that scarf. He’s getting up off the page and heading straight for me. I’m off!

Phew! I’m three pages ahead now so I think I lost him in the article descriptions panels. Thinking about it, he was another one not smiling, just Mr Moody from Broodyland. Is this stern/sulky look appealing ladies and gents? They all look like they’ve asked to wash up or do the ironing.

I’m going to pause a bit and take some pictures of myself to show these fellas how it is done. Look at me. I’m smiling despite the bags under my eyes. See also the perfect older male model picture – laughing, pointing at something in the distance ( a pint of warm beer?) and I’m also looking casual - yet practical - with a tool. Perfect.




I’m back and I have some great news! I’ve actually found a smiler! There’s young black guy showing off his pearly whites and tilting his head coyly to the ground in the sports section. Maybe, just maybe, there needs to be a good reason for the male models to smile. Give him a hammer or drill – he’s happy and smiling. Give him something sporty to think about – football, rugby, ladies synchronised swimming dvds - again smiling. See it’s easy. Smile and the world smiles with you. Look at that picture below. Serious with a hammer - the smile wins every time. N'est pas?


Back to the catalogue.
Here’s another one – a balding bloke like me. Again grinning at the floor. What is it about the floor? Is there lager down there or a small feisty dog to be walked?

Personally, I’m very worried now. This balding man is what my mum would call very beefy – all muscle and no spots or body hair - just all over tone. He is dressed only in a brand new, clean pair of tight fitting boxer shorts and my gaze keeps drifting down to the bulgy bits. I want to look elsewhere but I can’t. Mentally I am urging myself to turn the page and escape the taunting man bulge. It doesn’t interest me. I already have one of my own thank you Mr Beefy. Turn the page! Turn the page damn you!





Turning over the next three pages my vision is assailed by lots of pictures of men in tight boxer shorts. Stop looking at the bulges Phillip! Stop it! Bring back the lingerie ladies! Interiors, this’ll do. Nice bright interiors pictures with cute puppies on French style linen and colourful towelling. Relax, it’s all okay now. There’s no bad bulges here. Mr Beefy has gone with his ‘great looks for less’ and cheap knickers.

As we leave the glossy world of the La Redoute catalogue do spare a thought for those poor models gracing the interiors pages – the kids – the pretend mums and dads – the well-behaved small dogs – the bewildered and hot goldfish in bowls.

How tedious must it be to be told to stand there frozen for hours while they get the lighting just right. Imagine being that model holding back the show curtain or pulling something pink from a set of drawers. For hours.

And lastly how do the models cope with manoeuvring themselves around the lettering and numbers suspended in mid air? How must it feel to have ruined the shot when your clumsy elbow sent Mini price £6.99 for three sets crashing to the studio floor? Who will pick them up afterwards and rearrange? Sometimes there are questions that cannot be answered and I think I need more coffee now. Au Revoir.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The deli called Delilah



Today I visited an award winning little deli in the centre of Nottingham. Delilah has a great warm atmosphere and is adjacent to La Tasca the chain tapas restaurant on Weekday Cross. There is a small breakfast counter inside where you can enjoy some delicious food and a glass of something special. The deli fare is very tempting and it is easy to fill a basket full and then reel at the price whilst, all the while, justifying the whole basket load of sumptuous purchases. £25? well its not that much is it? It is? Oh right - well I'll make it last all week! The self service olives are particularly nice. They have a nice bread selection by the door and the ciabatta rolls with herbs are good.
Interior of Delilah

Friday, 20 February 2009

Chocolate heaven in Utopia

Venue: Chocolate Utopia. Nottingham. http://chocolate-utopia.co.uk/
I visited this fine chocolate and coffee shop in central Nottingham today on a whim and it was full of folks indulging in chocolate treats. I even had to sit in the window as there were no seats spare. I tried one of their delicious hot chocolate with cream and decided on the cherry morello as my free chocolate treat.
They were both fantastic and to top off the occasion the lady who served me had the sweetest and most endearing smile and seemed quietly passionate about her job. I was there about ten minutes and there were people coming into the shop all the time. Highly recommended! Have a look at their website link above and I guarantee you will be hot footing into town to Chocolate Utopia.


I broke my rule in the local chippy


Venue: Ruddington Fish and Chip shop. High Street, Ruddington.



I rarely ask if I can take a photo in the venues I visit as I discussed with Andy Whittaker on the radio yesterday morning but yesterday lunch I broke my rule because I wanted some interior shots of the local Fish and Chip shop and it was lunchtime and busy. It took me ten minutes with their young manager (very nice fella) trying to explain what a blog was, why I wanted to take photos and that his business was in no danger of me slagging it off. Now there's a good Olde English expression for you -slagging it off. For anyone not sure it means being disrespectful.



Anyway, after all this faff he eventually let me take them and he, bless him, actually ran into his back room out of sight as he didn't want to be in the picture.


If you are ever in the vicinity Ruddington Fish and Chips shop is in the middle of the village just off the A60. Recommended.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

BBC interview at BBC Radio Nottingham

The 'mug of strong tea and a chip butty' blog news is expanding! I got up very early this morning to appear on the Andy Whittaker breakfast show live.

I've been on the radio a fair few times in the past promoting theatre productions but this was even more exciting for me as I was promoting my own work! Yay!

We chatted about the origins of the idea for the blog and why I would want to go into cafes and coffee shops and that I 'should' be given free tea and cake for my efforts. lol.

I also wanted to put across that I was developing my writing style and a sense of humour was vital to my blogs and Andy rightly said that the idea was to get a 'snapshot' of the cafe's ambience and customers through people watching.

The interview lasted about five minutes and was aired just before 9am this morning and can be found on BBC Radio Nottingham's site. To save you listening to all of the programme (unless you want to) my piece is pretty much at the end of the bar on this link.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00261y0/Andy_Whittaker_19_02_2009/

Thanks very much Andy, Mark and BBC Radio Nottingham. Here's to the next time. Phil

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Prêt a Observer @ Prêt a Manger


Today, this exciting blog comes from the vantage point of a window facing high stool in the Prêt a Manger café bang in the centre of Nottingham. I have ordered myself a medium cappuccino – complete with a chocolate star on the froth. I can see forward of me and off to the right is the junction of Bridlesmith Gate and Low Pavement. The tramline passes through my line of vision. My reason for blogging today is to observe as many different people as possible within half an hour. It’s often going to be a race against pen and paper and passers-by. Are you ready? And they’re off!


Coming up from the left is a twitching lanky teen with his Mum and Dad and he’s dragging himself behind them in order to disassociate himself with them. If I was out on the street I’m sure I would hear him gripe those chosen words of many teens “Its not fair!”

Directly ahead, there’s a tufty grey haired man sitting in the drizzle. He has his head down and is concentrating on the offerings of his mobile and he takes the occasional drag on his cigarillo. Not just a cigarette, a brown cigarillo. His aquiline nose pulls in the pungent smoke.

The door has just opened and in drifts a tiny portion of a mobile phone conversation. The big dread locked black guy speaking apparently hates his job as a security officer and got into a fight on Friday night. The door shuts to and he turns into a fervant mime artist.

Looking on to the streets again – there’s a young woman with a check patterned umbrella and brown boots. She nearly collided with a thin grey-faced man carrying a large plastic box. They both twist sideways for a second as in a dance and carry on their own ways.

From nowhere passes an old man blowing his nose violently into a filthy looking handkerchief. The junction is getting busier and it seems the day for shell suits today and flat cap style hats on both men and women. Most people are stooping in the light drizzle.

Behind me a fellow customer has knocked his stool over and it just hit the floor with a solid thump.

I look up again and notice a painter working in a first floor window above the bright blue Barclays Bank sign. He is wearing a hard hat and painting the interior window frame. There are spikes on the exterior ledge to discourage birds landing or to dissuade half-hearted suicide attempts. A young woman dressed in a blue padded coat has just hit the ATM ledge at Barclays with her fist. She is now looking around with a savage face. Should we applaud or run?

Two young girls are going by. They are perhaps about ten or eleven years old and are jiggling along the pavement unconsciously excited about being in town and out shopping or meeting friends at half term. Both are wearing High School Musical tee shirts and fashionable pumps.

Another painter and decorator strides manfully past with his bib hanging over his painter’s overalls. A tram cuts across his path just seconds after he has gone from view.

They must be letting the old folk of Nottingham out now as I see two or three old ladies arriving in succession. The first one has a woolly green tee cosy style hat and walks with an orthopaedic walking stick. She looks frail and her thin legs and tiny feet make her come across very much like a cartoon granny. So much so I feel obliged to do a little cartoon of her myself in my hand-written journal.



Suddenly I am aware of swinging arms everywhere and wonder if we all swing our arms as we walk. Would it look odd if we didn’t? How would it feel not swinging one’s arms. Must try that sometime for fun.

A second old lady goes by, sashaying in her tartan skirt and shaking her patterned umbrella up and down for some reason. She appears as if she has a Highland Fling going on in her head. I’m half expecting her to break into a crossed sword jig in a minute.



Woah! Here comes a ‘cripplingly shy’ teenage girl all dressed in shocking pink –leggings – again pumps- fingerless gloves- a short plastic anorak and ipod. Every bit of her is covered in this vibrant shocking pink. I’m not making it up. She practically glows. Even her hair is pink.

More boringly, a couple in perfectly matching clothes pass by – I assume husband and wife. Do they agree what to wear in the morning? “Rainbow jumpers and bobble hats today dear?” “Oh why not?”

I am being stared at. The observer is being observed by a young lad who is sitting opposite me on the wet metal chairs outside. He would have no idea that I am writing about him. I hope. He is wearing a blue coat with the hood up. It’s not a hoody; more quality. His face is half hidden and his chubby cheeks are rosy in the cold and wet. Some blonde fringe hair sticks out from under the hood. He seems bored with looking at the baldy bloke writing in the café now and keeps looking from side to side as if waiting for someone. Now he is slouching. Perhaps he has slipped in the wet. His legs and feet are kicking about in restlessness. I can see that he has blue trainers on and turned up jeans.

Four pigeons are fighting over a cold chip in the middle distance and a woman in a bulky beige coat and green scarf makes them scatter as she motors past them in her fetching deep red mobility scooter. Her face is a picture of focussed intent. The pigeons look around in confusion. The chip revolves around and around on the scooter wheel. Life can be cruel sometimes. Maybe that’s the meaning of meals on wheels! Hah!

To the right a young boy is jerking around on his mother’s arm like small electric currents are coursing through his little legs. His sister looks like a kindly ferried Eskimo child, all fur hooded and beaming smiles emanating from her pushchair.

Some smartly clad office girls talk and walk and ‘walk the talk’. No doubt they are also thinking ‘outside the box’ and no longer pushing those proverbial envelopes. They walk like they have itchy feet and important things to do and much business jargon to assimilate. One of them has a massive black, white and red umbrella with a company logo. A thin mist of rain glistens on the surface.

As I write these things down I wonder how many observational gems I am missing as I make my notes. When I look up again a woman in a red coat has pinned herself to the café window and has a mobile sternly clamped to her right ear. Her knuckles are white with tension. Her face is away from me and her head keeps giving out angry little jerks. I can almost hear her chewing some poor sod’s ear off.

A tram passes up the rise to the Lace Market stop. It is bright orange and advertising a job based website. A young woman with shoulder length hair is walking quickly by and she is repeatedly looking back over her shoulder. She has fantastically bright yellow shoes on and they are reflecting their happy colour in the wet pavement.

Inside Prêt a Manger there is a constant hum of conversation going on backed by the incongruous muzac. I am concentrating so much on the writing and in a little creative world of my own that I am quite surprised to witness the table next to me now occupied by two women and a couple of young children, a girl and a boy. When did they arrive? The little girl in pigtails smiles at me. I smile back. I write this information seconds afterwards. This is weird. lol

The streets are getting busier. I can see a colossal bald headed man has two sweet young children holding his ham-like hands as they go briefly by. Another electric green tram snakes towards the Market Square. Two girl friends with matching brown furry boots and matching blonde hair-styles run across the tramlines in perfect unison.

There is a corpulent council office worker walking diagonally towards me. He has a name badge so I am making inventive assumptions about his work place. The right hand side of his ink-stained shirt has fallen out of his trousers but he and his clip board don’t seem to have noticed. He looks directly at me with an imperious gaze. Suddenly I am reminded of Oscar Wilde on a bad day. He (the man) has luxuriant black floppy hair and a petulant mouth opened slightly to allow the wit to slide out unexpectedly at boring council meetings.

I have forgotten my coffee with so much writing going on. The brown chocolate star has collapsed into the mug and the drink is a bit tepid now. I drink it anyway.


Two grey haired ladies cruise by arm in arm. Mother and daughter? The older one has a shapeless knitted hat on and a long ill-defined granny coat that scuffs her bony knees. Her middle-aged daughter has the look of long suffering patience and a determination to get somewhere quick.

Before I pack up and go I note that a young Goth styled man (am I getting old calling anyone in their twenties, young?) is carrying a four-foot long case about three inches in depth. I am curious what it holds.

Finally two young (here I go again) women go by in short frayed edge denim skirts and dark coloured tights. They stop abruptly and call out elatedly at someone across the way. It turns out to be another of their friends, also in a short frayed denim skirt. They can’t have seen their friend for years and years because their reunion causes them all to bounce around in a frenzy of excitement. Their high pitched shrieks cause several hundred dogs to prick up their ears around Nottinghamshire.

Time I moved on.

After note: As I left the venue I heard the little girl in pigtails ask “Mummy, why was that man writing?” I didn’t stay to hear the answer.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Show me your sausage!


I saw this sign in a local Nottingham pub (The Bell) that serves food and it made me laugh that you get to have the option of choosing your sausage and that they were using the option as a marketing feature. No longer is the mantra Wine , Women and Song but Food, Wine and Sausages! lol
Out of interest I checked out British sausages on the internet and found this great site. For Nottingham folk we have seven local sausage maufactures featured on this site.

Inspiration strikes


I passed by the Gingham Kitchen Cafe in central Nottingham today and glanced at their chalk boards outside. Instead of going in I was inspired to go home and make my own version of one of their meals. Liver and onions. I decided to alter that slightly to liver with chopped tomatoes and mashed potatoes with fresh parsley leaves.


I made enough to last me two days and it cost me less than five pounds. I had some for my dinner today and it was delicious. My picture below features cooked lamb's liver, chopped organic tomatoes and fresh parsley.


Monday, 16 February 2009

Fly pie? yes please!

The fly pie in question is an Eccles cake full of currants (the flies) seen above.
I've gathered some funny names together of dishes and food based items us Brits recognise as part of our food culture. I would love to hear from you if you can include any more. Thanks too to my blogging friend Marian for helping me out and making me laugh at our nation's quirkiness.

In no particular order:

Fly Pies

Bubble and Squeak

Singing hinnies

Pork Scratchings

Soldiers with soft boiled eggs

Mushy peas

Battered sausages

Bangers and Mash

Bickies

Butties

Crumpets

The Parson's nose

Spotted Dick

Toad in the hole


After all that lot, as we Brits say - "I'm stuffed!"

Fried egg sarnie anyone?

Fried egg sarnie?

I know it’s probably terribly unhealthy but sometimes you just need to indulge in a fried egg sarnie – egg the things hens lay – sarnie – sandwich. Got that? Eggs-ellent!

Really easy to make. Just like having a caff in your own home. Heat up some fat in the frying pan, not too hot that it spits like a Punk band. Crack an egg into a bowl. Slide lovingly into the pan. Fry the egg to the point where it is cooked but the yolk is still runny.



The last bit is vital so pay attention and stop looking at that awful picture from Withnail and I. It'll put you off.
With me, good. Now lay the egg gently (the hen will love you for that) onto some floury white sliced bread. Add a small amount of sauce of your choice. Form a sandwich and enjoy. Now wasn’t that good? Which sauce did you choose then? You've got egg on your chin by the way.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

A true Caff in the Cattle Market


A veritable frisson of excitement seeped through me as I gently pushed open the door to this greasy spoon caff at the Cattle Market, Nottingham. The seasoned portal jangled open and an eye-watering scene of gingham and red and white smacked me in the face. My mate Stephen Wright street photographer extraorinarious, had insisted through the Nottingham flickr group that I must visit this establishment as part of my blog quest. I love these sorts of places as they are like going back in time and often full of real characters. They somewhat remind me of my own working class childhood which was in the 1960s and I am always gleefully surprised that such places still really exist.


The owner was a large, craggy, red-faced bloke in a checked, cowboy style short- sleeved shirt. Perhaps he was once an extra from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
He turned out to be a real character in his own right. He seemed insistent that each customer tried on a tatty top hat with a long wig attached and went round the assembled crowd, plonking this hat on the adults and kids heads and applauding. There was also some ‘fists up’ conversation about old-time boxers with a family seated up by the kitchen area. A life-size cut out of a young Clint Eastwood was propped against their industrial size fridge in their kitchen. Did Clint envisage such tackiness in his early career? Who knows. Anyway- next paragraph please.
After ordering my bacon cob (ticket number 201) and hot mug of tea I disappeared into a corner seat to observe and take a few quick photos. I wasn’t overly keen to try on the hat and wig really and hid my camera when he came in my direction. I think he recognised in me a, stranger to these ‘ere parts, and just nodded an ‘alright?’ type of nod at me. I’m sure he looked to see if my horse was tethered safely outside or subtly checked to see if I was sporting my Colt 45. I hardly dared make any written notes, he was so full on. Pleasantly so.

I wondered if his wife still listened to his routine or if she had tuned out many years ago. “Oh Derek, yes he goes on, bless ‘im. That stuff with the hat and wig. Wished I’d never suggested the bloody thing as a decorative artefact. Oh well, maybe Colin Firth will drop by one day and whisk me away from all this. I’ve got a degree, you know!”

The Castle Market Caff was a popular place today with families coming in from the cold. The short while I was there (about fifteen minutes) their customers seemed to be going for the snacks like egg sandwiches and bacon cobs, like me. It was that kind of day for eating something warm and familiar to last until you got home from your exploring around the Cattle Market bargains. There was a single woman sitting spread-eagled close by me who looked like her eyelids had melted on her cheeks and to whom the years had been less than kind. I’m sure that I spotted her later on carrying home a variety of framed mirrors under her arm and several bags of out-of-date cat food.

The café walls were festooned with peeling film star and music star images; predominantly Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and behind me were a few images of Audrey Hepburn in her heyday. Betty Boop was having fun on the window frame at the side of me on the window with an over-large spoonful of something liquid and yellow that was dripping towards the floor. Mustard, or something more toxic perhaps?

The Caff sign (above) , constructed several decades ago in curly paper letters and semi-supported by blobs of blu-tac was well past its best in terms of advertising a quality enterprise.

While I was there I had a visit to the army surplus shack and the outside markets – butchers, vegetables, assorted tinned and bottled items, car boot type rubbish and household goods. If I was as brave as Stephen I would have been thrilled to be able to shove my wide angle camera lens in the faces of all the salt-of-the-earth type characters that were about today – and a few that even he would balk at photographing – like the man with kill and hate tattooed on each eyelid and another who had a cornucopia of earrings festooning each ear and nostril. Festooning. I love that word! All connected with the origins of festa and festalis – celebrating and feasts etc.

Thanks Stephen, I had a feast of a visit.

PS: Stephen Wright is a fantastic street photographer and was recently featured in Left Lion, a Nottingham based journal for the arts and creative under belly of Nottingham. Well done mate and also for being Photographer of the year in a nationwide competition!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Chav-tastic!

Chucks Wagon is positioned by the top of the escalator in the down-at-heel Broadmarsh centre.

It is an un-assuming pleasantly run sandwich bar and tea stop where I have found it generally good to stop and refresh my tea and cake needs when appropriate.

Unfortunately, from here, today, I am glancing across at the pound-a-go black massage chairs where a gormless group of spotty lads lurch in need of the urgent knowledge that grubby white shell suits are so last year. Two of them are sporting backwards facing baseball caps coupled with lank greasy hair. They look plain stupid and chavvy as well as unpredictable loose cannons socially. I wanted to tell them 'those hats are a tad unsavoury as head apparel, don't you know!' but took another mouthful of cake instead.




Why I am so enraptured as I sit here with my steaming cuppa and cake I really don't know. It all started as a heavily pregnant girl of no more than sixteen years on this good earth actually graced the fatty burger scented air with a the tribal cry of "Ger-ere-Tracy!!!!!" The innocent child of three thrust up her index finger in her sweet mother's direction and carried on being conveyed down the escalator into the depths of hell. I believe that there is another shop soon opening on the lower levels called Dante's Inferno. You can buy any old rubbish for under a pound but you trade in your soul at the cash desk.

Oh, finished my tea - time to get my 12pm bus to Hades. Where's my baseball cap disguise?

Les Misérables (school edition) review from a cafe

I’m sitting once again in Café Rouge with a coffee typing up my café blog. OK, its not quite the ABC café of Victor Hugo’s epic story Les Misérables but last night (Tuesday 10th Jan) I certainly did witness, as the character Marius sings, some ‘moments of breathless delight’.

I went to see Les Misérables – the school’s edition at Nottingham Arts theatre. I was undecided whether to fork out eight or nine pounds, even though it is one of my favourite musicals – this time, performed by youngsters up to the age of nineteen. The reason is, like most people presently I’m watching my spending but I tell you, the experience was well worth the investment.

The director Maggie Andrews and all her team have done an amazing job – I believe over four months rehearsals – to bring the musical Les Mis to this Nottingham stage. This is not an easy musical to carry off successfully and this cast of young people from Nottingham did a wonderful job. We should be proud to have such exceptionally talented youngsters here in our county to perform so passionately. Personally, I don’t have any children but if I was one of their parents I would be immensely proud of them.

I am very involved in the theatre world myself and it is very rare that one gets a standing ovation as well as applause at the end or finale but I predict that this superb production will witness this fervent expression of audience appreciation every single performance up to Saturday night this week. As I write this on a Wednesday it dawns on me that they are doing it twice today. Phew what stamina!

Very well done to all the brilliant leads, chorus characters, musicians, backstage and technical assistants, costumers, organisers, administrators and set builders/designers and once again to the director Maggie Andrews. Impressive stuff.

Lastly, this really is a fantastic show which I am sure will live eternally in the memories of these young people and give them a life long passion for the arts. What could be better than that?


Now could you get the songs out of my head please? lol

PS: All the best for the rest of your run. Go to the Nottingham Arts site if you want to book not through the image link at the top of this page.

Coffee, chocolate and facebook

According to a report I read this morning it seems that we Brits are now adicted not to sex, drugs and rock and roll but coffee, chocolate and Facebook, or as my friend calls it -the book of face. Oh, and in these recessionary times we are also addicted (apparently) now to checking our bank balances very regularly. What interesting times we live in. After pondering that I think I need a cup of tea -oh no I'm out of tea! Now where's that dusty old Mars bar? lol

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Missing Letter Mystery


The more I look the more shops and cafe signs in and around Nottingham seem to be missing a letter on their signage. Is someone stealing them all and making up a name for a business with the 'free' letters? The k in - rather appropriately - take-away, is the missing on this one. Look out for a place called The Alphabet Kafe in town near you.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Cafe Rouge in central Nottingham

Treated myself to some lunch today at Cafe Rouge and decided to try out their Prix Fixe Menu and went for the mackerel pate as a starter and the Salade Chinoise for the main dish. The service was good and I didn't have to wait too long for the dishes to arrive. The pate was pleasantly crunchy and fishy and the bread pieces a bit minimal representing three small slices. I asked for some more bread ('encore' dit Oliver!) and two extra pieces duly arrived. The half pint of beer sufficed to add to my relaxed luncheon until the main dish reached my table.

It wasn't overly busy this lunchtime and I was entertained by a two thirty year-old ladies attending a young boy in a high chair at their table. I guess the boy was one of their sons and was about three years old. We had a bit of crying and fuss as they tried to re-arrange him in his chair. Bend those little legs! Bend those little legs! 'Hmmm attendez les frites! Manger mon petit' The boy was having great fun by cascading sugar tubes on the floor and later on grabbed a full mit of soggy mushed up chips and launched them similarly downwards. The two ladies spent a large proportion of their mealtime watching and coxing this little lad and then crawled about picking up the discarded sugars and frites. Oof, les enfants terribles!

Distractions aside, my main dish arrived and whilst tucking in to it was asked on two separate occasions whether I was enjoying the food. 'Oui merci'. On request, I was told that the sauce on my Salade Chinoise was white wine, balsamic vinegar and I think the waiter said halal french dressing. Or maybe not.

All in all, good value for money and whilst listening in on a conversation including the manager and two new arrivals who he clearly knew, the new to menu 'rabbit dish' was good.



Ah mon Dieu! The manager's pet rabbit has been done in and is presently stewing in pruneaux de Agen et legumes de jour!



Things I like about dining at Cafe Rouge: OK this may be a chain cafe but they do seem to do their best to give an 'authentic' French experience with staff accommodating attempts at customers' endeavours to speak French without embarrassment, and also with the French background sounds ambiance re: Edith Piaf's songs to more modern day chansons. I also still like the eclectic furniture and lamps and child-like bistro designs on the wall.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Flying high in a frilly pink cowgirl hat!

I’d had original plans to meet a blogging friend at the East Midlands Airport yesterday and was looking forward to meeting my friend travelling back to France as well as doing a blog from the coffee shop there. Due to the snow our rendezvous was cancelled. As it turned out the weather wasn’t so bad on Wednesday and I decided to go to the airport for a short visit anyway.

I always get excited about going to airports as a visit generally means flying off to foreign climes and yesterday was no exception. I don’t drive so I took the skylink bus service to the nearest airport to me, East Midlands Airport. I caught it half way along its route and paid £5.00 return.

The bus was packed with young people (mostly young women) off on an exchange visit with French families in Chinon in the Loire Valley. I go on exchange visits to Germany every couple of years and I was excited for them. Each student was wearing a dark blue top with the 2009 exchange details on the front and their own name – Jenny B – Chloë J – Alex M – on the back.

The bus goes along the A453 and we all enjoyed the view of the snow-covered fields on Gotham Moor. It only takes approximately half an hour to get the airport and we arrived at the departures area at the busy little airport pretty quickly. The exchange students had entertained themselves by taking digital photos of each other grinning and bubbly on the bus. Once in the airport Terminal I had a quick look around the empty BMIbaby check in areas and the slightly busier Easyjet and Ryanair building and then queued for a cappuccino at the Café Ritazza.





There didn’t seem to be many staff on at the coffee stand and each order of a baguette or filled ciabatta bread sandwich or hot drink seemed to take a fair while to get sorted. Eventually I got my drink and threaded my way through the un-cleared tables (generally beer glasses) and positioned myself on a tall stool with my drink, camera and note-book. I was pleased I’d made the effort to go there as it was very amusing listening to a large group of tipsy middle-aged ladies talking and bitching about the fact that one of the female check-in staff had challenged Maureen as she tried to check in.

‘Shay were a clever camel’ quipped Maureen ‘I tode ‘er I’d on’y ‘ad one pint!’


All her friends in pink cowgirl hats muttered their support and the whole group were then keen on discussing bag weights and restrictions. ‘Mine were on’y twelve. Karen’s were sixteen wont it Karen?’ ‘Yeah, I’ve brought scales for on the way back.’ General chorus of approval and nodding of pink frilly heads.

As my coffee cooled and I attempted to take a sneaky picture, these older ladies were joined by three girls in their twenties similarly in cowgirl hats. Sometimes I would have approached them all and asked if I could take a picture but I wasn’t feeling very brave yesterday in that regard.

I am relatively familiar with the airport amenities from previous visits and flights and was astounded to find that the shops – W.H Smiths, Boots etc had disappeared from the main concourse and that you can no longer go upstairs and watch the aircraft arrive and depart. There did seem to be quite a lot of structural work going on so maybe they will return one day.

So, my note taking done and pictures taken I decided to head back to the bus and returned back to Nottingham. Hope you had fun on your trips ladies and exchange students. I wish I could join you all. Yee haa!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Baby it's cold out there


I got up ridiculously early today to go into Nottingham to do some snow photography. http://www.flickr.com/photos/frenchyphil/

The six thirty bus took me into town and after an hour of wandering the cold dark and slightly snowy streets I headed for this great greasy spoon (Granby cafe) near the railway station for a fry up and wasn't disappointed. Highly recommended for a quick stop breakfast. Very small venue.