Robin Hood And Maid Marry-On

By the time the next issue comes out I’ll be married. That may not impress some people (especially the already married) but while I’m not turning into GroomZilla yet it’s definitely a Big Deal for me.

I’ll be *married*.

Yes I know, people get married all the time. Not the same people obviously (unless they’re Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) but as I’ve never been married before it’s all a bit of an adventure.

I’m quite used to adventures though, I’ve done any number of weird and amazing things as Robin Hood but that all seems rather tame compared to getting married and I guess that’s how it should be.

Sal’s just as excited. She’s making her wedding dress herself (no, it’s not going to be a Robin Hood wedding) and even our daughter Scarlett is looking forward being a bridesmaid. Everyone we know is gearing up. Great friends are travelling from the UK, the US and Europe to celebrate with us. It’s all *perfect*.

Except… Sal has cancer.

Just over a year ago she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. It’s already too late to cure, having spread from her breast to her liver, pelvis and spine. As you can imagine, we were devastated. It was close to being the worst possible news we could have, and as Sal teaches genetics at Nottingham University there wasn’t much she didn’t know. It’s fair to say we were broken, for any number of reasons (us, our future, watching Scarlett grow up). All of it potentially ripped away in a single diagnosis.

But here’s the thing – Sal is a truly amazing woman. I love her without limits and for some reason she feels the same about me. So we wept, second-guessed, swore and wished. And then she decided to just get on with life. She started chemo and radiotherapy and after each treatment was back at work in days. I was – am – utterly in awe of her.

Her decision to live with cancer rather than giving in to it was inspirational, and not just to me. Sal took part in the University’s Impact campaign which aims to make a real difference in the lives of breast cancer sufferers. And because she was in a unique position (involved in research and a patient) the organisers asked her to give a presentation at their Open Day.

A year ago she couldn’t have done it. But a few weeks ago she gave a presentation so powerful it touched everyone there. And because the university press release mentioned that ‘Dr Sally Chappell, Nottingham’s official Maid Marian’ was speaking about having cancer local media found out too. We’d not told anyone (not because having cancer is anything to hide, far from it) but suddenly it was out in the open.

So when local media contacted her Sal could have ignored them. Instead she decided people should know that all this could happen to anyone. If any good can come of this she needed to convey a message. So she went on Radio Nottingham for a couple of really sensitively conducted interviews, she talked to the Post, raised over £2.5k for charity by doing a 5k run, and even did an interview for ‘Candis’ magazine (published later this year). And the message Sal really wants you to get is this:

Check your boobs. Check your partner’s boobs (male or female). Probably don’t check strangers’ boobs (that’s wrong and creepy) but if I can say it again one more time: CHECK YOUR BOOBS regularly. Sal didn’t have any of the ‘classic’ signs (lumps, orange peel skin, puckering) just a general thickening of the whole breast tissue that even her GP wasn’t initially worried about because breasts change after childbirth.

As I write, Sal is on round 2 of chemo and it’s dreadful to see her knocked sideways by it. Scarlett keeps us going, she’s an utter joy and gives us both love and smiles and we have a brilliant support network of incredible family and friends who help with babysitting, shopping, lending ears for us to bend, shoulders to cry on. We couldn’t do it without them. We’re really blessed, the bloody cancer withstanding.

And we’re grateful to everyone who asks how Sal is. Knowing that people care is very helpful, especially in the long dark, scary hours of night. Now even when I’m out Robin Hood-ing people I’ve never met before come up to me and ask in a very genuine and concerned way “How’s your wife?” as a lot of people think we’re married already.

I thank them for asking and don’t tell them we’re not married yet because the really great thing is we soon will be. After all of the fun we’ve had as Robin and Marian this is real, a proper grown-up adventure. There’ll be laughter and tears, love and sadness. It’s life. And it’ll be fun so wish us luck.

Oh and please remember: CHECK YOUR BOOBS

Trailer Trash: Scott Bennett on the cinema experience

Last month, one afternoon in Manchester I had time to kill so I did something I haven’t done before, I went to the cinema alone, and it was bliss.

Well, it got me thinking about some of the cinema experiences I have had, both as an adult and a young moviegoer. So here in no particular order are some of the most memorable:

Terminator 2 (1991) Wakefield ABC Cinema (Now demolished) Certificate 15

As an Austrian body builder with zero acting range, a cyborg that is unable to covey any emotion was the role Arnie was born to play. I remember the hype around this film, everyone at school wanted to see and there was always a lad at school who claimed he had already seen all of the blockbusters years before. He had an uncle in America who had a camcorder and sent back recordings to his dad hidden in the belly of a Care Bear on a British Airways flight into Leeds Bradford airport.

Of course this was in the days where camera technology wasn’t very advanced, they were massive for starters, they looked like something you’d win on Bullseye. Smuggling a family sized bag of Maltesers is one thing but a 3-foot Sanyo camera that weighs the best part of a sack of gravel would’ve been impossible. It was a false economy anyway; £10 to watch the back of a blokes head, and the awkward moment when he whispers that he needs the toilet and you are forced to watch him taking a leak.

Terminator 2 was a certificate 15. My dad took a friend and me, we were both 12, but he was lucky enough to have a face ravaged by puberty. Surprisingly getting me in was okay; I just tucked in behind my father, strode confidently and remembered to keep puffing on the cigarette.

Marley and Me (2008) Nottingham Showcase Cinema

Many films are classed as date movies, which often means a film which I have no interest in seeing but will see to appease my wife. Marley and Me was one such movie. Owen Wilson has all the charisma of a dish cloth and Friends star Jennifer Aniston frankly reminds me too much of Iggy Pop. It was a film about a family who buy a dog, the dog becomes part of the family and then the dog dies. Now we have never owned a dog, we’ve never wanted a dog, yet my wife was inconsolable. Even my offer of nachos or a hot dog (not the greatest suggestion on reflection) could distract her from her grief.

I’m not totally unfeeling don’t get me wrong. I understood why she was moved to tears. There are many films that often turn me into a gibbering wreck with puffy eyes, like Rocky 4. Sylvester Stallone’s’ heartfelt speech at the end, clumsily delivered, full of anti-Russian sentiment and blundering American pride, often makes me want to grab a US flag, order a burger and weep like a baby.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) Curzion Cinema Loughborough

When I was a student the local Cinema in Loughborough would offer a student night where you could go and see the latest releases for £2.50. Amazing value. One night we decided to have a night off from studying (drinking) to see Saving Private Ryan. We sat there passing down snacks, which we’d smuggled in, and then settled down as the film started.

Now those first twenty opening minutes are probably some of the most raw and visceral things I’ve ever witnessed, they took your breath away. I remember looking round at that packed cinema and noticing absolute silence, we were all spellbound and remained so for the entire film. That’s the power of cinema, a total immersive experience. I love it.

50 Shades of Grey (2015) Leeds Odeon Certificate 18

One of the most anticipated films of last year and nearly two hours of my life I will never get back. My wife wanted to see it. I was concerned. I’d heard Christian Grey converted his own basement into a dungeon. DIY isn’t my forte. It took me two weeks to put up some shelves. I think a dungeon is beyond me, and it’s not like I could ring my dad for help.

My wife said stop being ridiculous, we were all adults and that we were going to go on a double date with my brother and his girlfriend. We sat in couples to make things less uncomfortable, because the last thing you want during the sex scenes is to see your own brother.

Pulling off the Heimlich manoeuvre during in erotic thriller would have been awkward to say the least

I had another worry during the screening too. I get involuntary muscular spasms; it mainly affects me at night before I go to sleep. But we were at the concession stand buying popcorn. As I was about to pay I had a muscular twitch and chucked about £8 change into the popcorn. Things were tense enough. Now every mouthful she took I worried she was going to choke on a pound coin, and pulling off the Heimlich manoeuvre during in erotic thriller would have been awkward to say the least.

The film is dreadful and one of the most confusingly misogynistic films I’ve ever had the misfortune to see. The message seems to be if a bloke’s obscenely rich, good looking and buys you things, then happily sign up to be his slave. I’m sure the attraction to Christian Grey wouldn’t have been the same if he was a fat lorry driver from Wigan who took you to his mum’s when she was at Bingo to spank you on the bum with a Gregg’s Steak Bake.

SB

Films and (the lack of) food

Empty coffee cups in films and television. One of my biggest peeves, and I get peeved fairly often.

I love films, I work in an independent cinema, I’ve been in a few, and nothing gets me more hacked off than an actor carrying an obviously empty paper cup. I LOVED the US remake of The Killing, but the rage which bubbles in my black heart when I see such fine actors as Mireille Enos and Joel Kinneman forced to mime a sip of coffee makes me want to do my very own killing.

We covered eating and drinking in the first year of drama school, even the kids in Jurassic Park nailed it with a table full of desserts and a kitchen full of velociraptors. It’s not rocket science is it, filling a cup with enough water to weight it down? If the actor can’t cope with a little sip of water now and again, then it’s perhaps time to de-Hollywood their diets.

Leonardo DiCaprio ate a bison’s heart in The Revenent and he’s a vegetarian!

I’m not advocating getting through an entire roast for each take of a scene, but surely a small mouthful of food or a small sip of water isn’t going to kill anyone. Perhaps the director is of the mind that if we are watching the liquid level in the cup then the show isn’t exciting enough, but if you’re chucking millions of pounds at sets then throw a couple of quid towards edible props. Leonardo DiCaprio ate a bison’s heart in The Revenent and he’s a vegetarian! This is an extreme (but fairly badass) example, and one which begs the question as to why several people around a dinner table can’t eat a single morsel of food. Brad Pitt got through roughly 10,000 calories in Se7en, so let’s see the cast of Doctors tucking into a Greggs pasty once in a while in between shifts.

Perhaps this could be a sponsorship opportunity worth of Simon Cowell and his everlasting Pepsi on America’s Got Talent. Let’s have the cast of X-Men heartily slurping a grande soy macchiato before looking down the camera lens with a cheeky wink, before flying off to save the world. Or maybe Finding Dory could feature her snacking on an ice-cream cone dropped by a hapless beach-goer, who delivers a killer line to camera about the damage to the earth’s coral reefs. Just a thought.

However they do it, let’s just do it. Let’s all chip in and make sure our beloved actors never have to revisit day 1 of GSCE drama and mime a plateful of food and cup of tea. A quid each should do it. Let’s get a family sized hamper of tea bags delivered to LA and get our screens (and their cups full) of decent English Breakfast, instead of the void in my heart where a lovely brew should be.

DL

Coffee culture And my Addiction To that naughty Bean

I am currently sipping away at my 6th coffee of the day. This one has been made using my brand new coffee maker I received as a birthday gift. My kitchen is like a fragrant, noisy, caffeine infused version of Breaking Bad. I love coffee and in the midst of the sleep deprived rabbit hole that the arrival of a 10 week old baby brings, I need it.

Coffee is a passion; for me it’s a bit like a good bottle of wine.  I like my coffee to have a story. I’m not interested in some freeze dried, corporate, mass manufactured bastardization of that beautiful bean.  It needs to have a soul. I want my coffee beans to be exotic, to have been grown from seeds first passed through the digestive system of an ageing mountain goat at high altitude. It should have a caffeine content that borders on the illegal and a body smoother than a chat up line from an Italian waiter who has took a shine to your wife. It should be gentle with a finish so long that you could watch the Lord of The Rings box set and still be able to taste it.

Afterwards I want that lingering smell to permeate through my entire house like a plug in air freshener and every time you inhale you experience that magic all over again.

I heard recently that many university campuses now are dumping the sticky floored boozer and instead having a coffee shop. At first I was stunned by this. I mean how many student liaisons were nurtured near the jukebox in a sweaty union bar on a wet Wednesday night, where a snake bite and black was only £1?

I include myself in this group. I met my wife in freshers week and I dread to think what she would have really thought of me if all we had swimming round our bellies was a soya chai latte with a hint of cinnamon. However now I understand, coffee is big business.

Coffee culture exploded into the UK in the mid-nineties and we’ve never looked back. I’m old enough to remember a time before there was a Costa or Nero on every street. The Gold Blend coffee adverts, where viewers were captivated with a blossoming romance happening over a cup of instant coffee, showed how we regarded the drink at the time. We Brits weren’t seduced by the fancy coffee shop culture of our French or Italian cousins.

My dad still to this day secretly prefers the instant variety, he thinks the freeze dried granules are the nearest us mere mortals will get to consuming foods made for astronauts. He’s convinced that the best cup of coffee he has ever tasted was served in a polystyrene cup out of a van at a rainy car boot sale in a field in Doncaster in 1989. Although this may have something to do with the fact that it was 25p and came with a free Club biscuit.

During my childhood there were very few options for coffee enthusiasts. You had two main choices, a flask or a greasy spoon café. No one ever sat down and relaxed in a coffee shop back then. We were always on the move. We did go to a greasy spoon café on a Saturday afternoon in Wakefield before going to see an afternoon matinee at the cinema.

With checkered table cloths and a big plastic tomato sauce holder in the middle as a rudimentary paperweight, the place was a bit of a dive. It had a glass window with water running down it, I used to think it was quite a stylish addition, looking back it was probably a creative twist on a leaking condensing pipe. I would have a steak Canadian and a calypso pop (the E numbers kept you going all day) and my dad would have an egg butty and a cup of tea. Everyone seemed to drink tea back then; rumour has it that we won wars on tea.

My wife’s family are huge tea drinkers; my father in law was pushing fifteen brews a day when he used to “work” for the council. When he first met me he offered me a brew, I refused (as I didn’t really care for it at the time, I preferred Ribena) he looked at my wife as if to say, “not sure about this one love!”

A visit to a coffee shop is part of our family routine every weekend now. The people who work in these places are proper cool; I think I’m ever so slightly in awe of one of the dudes in our local establishment.

I use the term “dude” deliberately. They are like the kids at school who had a motorbike at sixteen, smoked roll ups and could play the guitar. With a quiff, a t-shirt with rolled up sleeves and those things that the youth put in their ears now which make the lobes look like the eyelets in a camping ground sheet. It’s the job I would have wanted when I was younger.

It’s interesting that the coffee shops never really suffered during the recession. It’s the one luxury we are not prepared to forfeit. I worked out recently that I’m spending on average ten pounds a week on coffee, that’s over five hundred quid a year on beans! Even Jack wouldn’t have gone with that deal and he got a beanstalk out of it.

But I don’t begrudge it, particularly if it’s going to support the independent guys of the coffee world. I won’t mention the corporate giants; let’s just call them “Tarducks” who attempt to make a connection with you by asking your name to write on the cup. It didn’t wash with me, I used to say “HMRC” and then quickly take my coffee and leave.

Scott Bennett

 

 

 

 

Food Time!

“What time is it, Scarlett?”

Sal and I ask our two-year old from time to time. “FOOD TIME!” she replies with glee, and starts listing all the food she’d like to eat… “Wittybix, ogange, monkeynana, yoghurt, chocle bissit, grapes and cheese PWEASE!” she pleads politely but forcefully. “And bubbles and juice! And milk!”

And we smile because somehow having a tiny person with the permanent appetite of the shark from JAWS charging around the house actively trying to devour pretty much anything (except cucumber) is wonderfully cute and endearing.

We hear stories of parents who can’t get their children to eat anything but macaroni cheese or cat food and we wonder how weird that would be, in much the same way that I find it incomprehensible that anyone wouldn’t like STAR TREK (the proper one, with Captain Kirk of course).

And maybe there’ll come a time when she’ll hate everything except chicken nuggets and Haribo and I’ll be forced, ironically, to eat my own words – but I have to say for someone who likes food Beeston is an excellent place to be growing up.

Last Sunday Sal and I, admittedly without Scarlett this time, attended a charity fundraising dinner for My Sight Nottinghamshire (formerly the Nottinghamshire Royal Society for the Blind) at the always astounding Café Roya on Wollaton Road.

I have a soft spot for the charity as every year in November I lead a group of volunteer fundraisers in walking across burning hot coals to raise money for them at Nottingham Castle. Great fun, brilliant cause (give it a go, it’s inspiring, life-changing and best of all doesn’t actually hurt, I promise)!

For once it wasn’t Roya doing the cooking though, although the food was still entirely vegetarian – the special guest chef was the phenomenal Alex Bond. Alex is a brilliant bloke – very friendly, extremely talented and has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants and with Nottingham’s Sat Bains and hopes to be opening his own restaurant in Nottingham soon. Given the truly inspiring dishes he produced (in content, presentation and taste) I hope he does.

As I’ve said, Scarlett will eat pretty much anything but I’m a bit pickier these days – I certainly wouldn’t class myself as vegetarian but each time we’ve been to Roya’s we haven’t even noticed there’s no meat, the food is just so good. But Alex served up a series of dishes, some of which consisted entirely of foods I wouldn’t normally eat (olives, yoghurt and lemon anyone?) that were simply delicious.

So maybe I should learn a lesson from Scarlett and try a more varied diet – as I said, Beeston can certainly provide that.

We have a new world tapas restaurant, The Frustrated Chef opening in place of Relish on Chilwell High Road, a new seafood/Thai restaurant, The Lobster Pot (near Sainsbury’s), Korea House on Broadgate and the excellent Gurkha Express almost opposite, taking the place of the now-defunct ‘Bonito’ restaurant, a place that very long-term readers may recall I once wrote a scathingly unfavourable review of in this very magazine.

The place closed down very shortly afterwards and although I’m sure it was nothing to do with my review… well, just for a second I got to feel like a real food critic.

But these days, new food and drink establishments in Beeston have some great forebears to aspire to and beat – and I think we’re being really well served here, literally and figuratively.

So don’t worry about the clock not being repaired in the Square, if anyone asks you what time it is in Beeston you can just quote Scarlett… “Food time”!

For more information on other events organised by My Sight Nottinghamshire visit http://www.mysightnotts.org.uk. Roya’s and Alex Bond’s fundraising evening raised over £400 for the charity. Many thanks to them, their staff and My Sight’s Jonny Rudge and sponsors for organising it!

Tim Pollard

Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood

Food!

This month has been a bit of a blur.

Work has taken over, and despite my best efforts to eat a balanced diet, or indeed to actually make time to eat at all, I’ve been compiling a list of food which a person can eat without offending the people you share a work space with.

My shifts are anti-social to say the least, so mealtimes are basically just times throughout the day when I put food in my face. I rarely sit down to eat without a computer keyboard catching my crumbs. I am a leading mind in the field of snack research, and I have every intention of completing my PhD very soon.

My first tip is nutritious and mysterious, both qualities I prefer in my elevenses.

The granola pot is your friend. Do not be afraid of its texture or taste. I spent 33 years in its absence and what a waste of a life that was. Imagine, if you will, hiking through the Peak District, head low, tongue dragging on the forest floor. Every piece of bark, nut, seed and deer turd sticks to your palette like bluebottles on flypaper, except it tastes a bit of yoghurt. That is a granola pot. Go nuts, eat nature. You’re welcome.

My second recommendation is slightly less rural, based instead upon the rigours of inner-city living in 2016. The mighty bagel is very cool at the moment, regularly featuring in the fashion mags in the hands of Class A celebs.

My secret tip is chocolate spread. I don’t even care, judge me like your Grandma would, but there it is. Get the Nutella out and get your blood sugar working for you. Your metabolism and carb-lust will thank me, I promise. If you’re worried about nutritional content then this might not be the column for you. In fact this probably isn’t the column for anyone who enjoys food.

My last tip (yeah whatever, I only have 3, I’m not Willy Wonka) is beetroot. Honestly, anything that turns your wee pink is fine by me. It’s healthy, unusual in colour and taste, and a great talking point if you are ever saddled with a boring colleague by your side. No one wants to discuss beetroot. They WILL leave. It doesn’t smell so no one gets offended, and if you work late into the evening like me you’ll have a ready supply of lip stain and blusher should yours have worn off. I can’t fault beetroot. Apparently you can bake cakes with it too, but if you ask me you should probably just buy a normal cake and get over yourself.

And so concludes my nutritionally and culturally rich column. I feel we’ve all learned something important. Thanks for being with me on this journey.

Daisy Leverington