Christmas Dinner Disasters

It’s the most wonderful time of the cold, miserable, over-priced, consumerist month. The time we buy too much food and spend money on presents for people we don’t like which they don’t need or want. And yet, I bloody love Christmas.

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DINNER

It’s taken me having a child to bring back its magic, and now as soon as Tesco’s start putting their selection boxes out in August I get a lovely feeling of lets-not-be-horrid-to-each-other which usually lasts until Boxing Day. Now, I know I may be in the minority here, so allow me to lay down a few contingency plans for the more Grinchy among us. It’s all going to be ok.

What to do if the dinner is a disaster: I say preparation is key here. Light a fire on Christmas eve, and if you don’t have a wood burning stove just set fire to a pile of old boxes in a shopping trolley outside. Either will do.

The warmth attracts wildlife, and inevitable something will either fall down the chimney/onto your bonfire and provide a lovely leg of venison/cat/hedgehog for your family the following day. If anyone asks, it’s smoked game.

What to do if the Christmas Pudding won’t light: This tradition is puzzling. I’m all for lighting shots of absinthe on a good hen night then having a Maccys at 3am, but why set fire to a perfectly good liquor which may otherwise numb the effects of an entire day with your family? Odd. My suggestion is to make everyone, including Grandma, down a shot of brandy before eating some profiteroles. No one actually likes Christmas Pudding.

Uncle Alan may only ever have enjoyed package holidays to Malaga before, so broaden his horizons with some chorizo or something.

What to do if Uncle Alan has too much to drink and gets a bit racist: If the conversation gets around to Brexit or Trump, here are my suggestions. Firstly, point to the nearest posh bit of food and explain that without the influence of European cuisine (or the actual word cuisine) we would all be sat around eating ham sandwiches or cocktail sticks with cheese and pineapple on.

Everything rich and nutritious has probably come from outside the UK. Uncle Alan may only ever have enjoyed package holidays to Malaga before, so broaden his horizons with some chorizo or something.

How to steer Aunty Dorothy’s dinner table conversation away from awkward personal information: You’re unmarried, and so in Dorothy’s eyes, highly abstract and possibly even ‘alternative’. You are still working in a ‘job’ job and not a ‘career’ job and have yet to put down any money towards a deposit for a house. My suggestion here is to crack open the Terry’s Chocolate Orange and explain that the baby boomers destroyed both the housing and employment market, and that it’s actually her fault that you are so overworked and depressed that no one finds you attractive any more. She’ll come round.

What to do with leftovers: Leave them in the fridge along with your best intentions. Literally no one actually makes turkey soup the next day. Just buy less next year and give the cat a day to remember with a leg or two of roast hedgehog. Your budget will thank me.

That’s it, and just remember folks, I’m not an expert.

Daisy

Take a vow

In keeping with this issue’s ‘Fifth Anniversary’ theme up until the very last moment my article was about how our wonderful town might look and feel in another five years. It was written before Sally (my Maid Marian) and I were married on September 10th but now (thanks to the kindness of the editors) I’ve rewritten it entirely with a single point to make.

Regular readers may recall that sadly Sal has incurable breast cancer which has already spread to her bones and liver and is still undergoing chemotherapy. In fact she had another treatment just a week before the wedding and was sadly becoming increasingly poorly as the weekend approached, but on the day she looked radiant dressed in a beautiful outfit she’d made herself whilst I was dressed like a Napoleonic Hussar (because… erm… I wanted to and Sal said I could. Seriously, that’s the best and most genuine reason I have).

Sal genuinely took my breath away with her grace, beauty and joy when I saw her appear at the top of the stairs, I have genuinely never been happier – but how she made it down them (accompanied by her father Steve, best friend Lou and our two-year old daughter Scarlett) I’ll never know as by the start of the wedding her nausea, constant sickness and tiredness were utterly debilitating and the greatest honour she could ever pay me was (by sheer force of will I’m sure) making it, smiling, through the whole ceremony. Surrounded by friends and family we happily made our promises and exchanged rings with each other as well as presenting one to Scarlett and suddenly… we were married!

Heading outside we managed about five minutes of photos before Sal needed first to sit down, then to be ill again and finally needing to alternate lying down and being sick which of course meant missing all of the usual family photos, the  meal and (probably thankfully) speeches.

With no improvement and Sal becoming increasingly frail I rang the emergency on-call cancer nurse who told us Sal needed to be seen straight away, so we left our friends and family at the venue to spend our wedding night in a shared ward at the City Hospital’s Specialist Receiving Unit – but I’ve never been so grateful to the dedicated staff there who saw exactly how poorly Sal was and gave her the very best of care. I sat by her all night and all of the next day too, still dressed like an escapee from a bad Adam Ant tribute band.

I hope five years from now Sal will be still going strong, happy and enjoying watching our daughter grow up

In fact Sal had to spend the next ten days in hospital. Our original plan had been to go on honeymoon but instead Sal was moved to a specialist oncology unit whilst they slowly stopped her constant vomiting, replaced fluids, calcium, potassium and blood and finally discovered the devastating cause of her worsening condition.

The cancer has spread again. Into Sal’s brain.

I cannot tell you how much that news terrified us. Even writing this it doesn’t seem real, but it is. The same day it was diagnosed Sal began an intensive ten day course of brain radiotherapy whilst still undergoing more chemo. She is utterly wiped, tired beyond all comprehension and I have to say if it wasn’t for our marvellous friends and family rallying round with support, babysitting and transport I’m not sure we’d have coped at all. She’s home now but we’re still making daily trips in for treatment.

So here’s my ‘five year’ hope… I hope five years from now Sal will be still going strong, happy and enjoying watching our daughter grow up. And I hope beyond words that all of us here in Beeston still have access to such world-class dedicated, supportive, caring and free at the point of contact NHS facilities on our doorstep, because they really do help us all in our darkest hours of need and Beeston is so, so lucky to have them on our doorstep. Thank you, NHS. And thank you all for your support too, we appreciate it hugely.

Tim Pollard

A tribute to comedy’s unsung heroes

Scott Bennett puts the spotlight on his behind-the-scenes supporters

When I first started stand-up people would often ask me if it was a hobby. At the time I couldn’t answer them. Now if feel I am more qualified to answer this question. Baking cakes is a hobby, playing golf once a week is a hobby, driving to Glasgow on a wet Wednesday night to perform to eight people at Bobby Wingnuts Cackle Dungeon, isn’t a hobby, it’s probably an illness.

Interestingly they never ask me how I do stand-up comedy, which would be a more revealing question. Much is said of the stand-up comedian, but the people behind the scenes often don’t get the credit they deserve. I’m not referring to agents, managers or producers; I’m talking about the unseen victims of comedy, the ones we leave behind to hold the fort and the ones who have to keep our fragile egos buoyant after a terrible gig in Glasgow. The sacrifices these poor men and women make are part of the reason we are able to get up on stage and show off for twenty minutes each weekend. I’m speaking of course about the silent partner in the double act and in my case it’s my wife Jemma.

I hope we never get burgled when I am away, as she would probably just wake up to ask him if he had a nice gig and then go back to sleep again.

When we met 19 years ago I didn’t do stand-up. We met at university, got married, had our first child and both embarked on proper careers, hers as a teacher and myself as a product designer. We both shared a mutual love for comedy. I knew she was the one for me when we both declared our obsession with Alan Partridge, her knowledge was remarkable, we would forensically analyse it for hours, like two tragic comedy geeks, it was marvellous. I still do it now, reciting bits of comedy, I’m weird like that, but often I’ll be told “not now love, can you take the bins out” things have inevitability moved on. As students would often sneak back home early on nights out, many people assumed this was due to unbridled lust, in reality though it’s because we fancied some toast and to listen to On the Hour.

I came to comedy quite late and although things are going well, it would have been much easier to have done it when I was in my early 20’s and living in my parents’ house, but I had nothing much to say when I was that age and certainly didn’t feel confident enough to know how to say it. Now, being married and having a family life is a sure fire way to create material. An expensive and stressful way perhaps, but it’s effective. Although, failing that, you can probably get away with people watching on the back of the night bus with a notepad; you could probably unearth some comedy gold without all that extra responsibility.

It’s always unusual getting back home in the early hours of the morning when all the family is in bed and the house is silent. I like my little routine, the bowl of cereal at 2am and back to back couples who kill on the investigation channel; marvellous.  I then have to sneak into the bedroom and try to find my way to my side of the bed using only the digits of my radio alarm clock as a rudimentary landing strip. My wife rarely stirs. I hope we never get burgled when I am away, as she would probably just wake up to ask him if he had a nice gig and then go back to sleep again.

I’m very lucky in that my wife has not given me an ultimatum, which does often happen to some comedians in marriages, but there have been times when the bank of goodwill has been low on credit, especially with the arrival of our second child this February. I have to always remind myself that Jemma didn’t tick the WAC box on the marriage form (wife of a comedian) and I’m dragging her along on this venture, but the support she gives me had been unwavering and I will forever be in debt to her for that. We are getting used to a different lifestyle as a family. We are learning how to make it work. Twice now have all gone up to the fringe together, once staying in a flat and last year spending the month in a static caravan. We could have probably gone to Disneyland for the same price and I was probably one of the only comics whose fringe experience closely resembled that of Alan Partridge, but it was great having them with me.

My six year old daughter has had some very cool fringe experiences; it’s the perk of having a dad who does comedy. When she returned to school after the summer break last year she had to draw a picture of something she did during the holidays. She proudly handed in a picture of her onstage with the Funz and Gamez crew, (her teacher corrected the spelling) she has met Bonzo the dog and Jim the elf, smashed an egg over her dads head and had a brutal staring competition with Phil Ellis; she still talks about it to this day..

I don’t know what the future holds for me in comedy, there are no guarantees. What I do know though is that if I am ever fortunate enough to have some success in comedy, it certainly wouldn’t have been possible without the sacrifices made by my family waiting back at home.

Find the Scott Bennett Podcast on Soundcloud and iTunes

Scott Bennett

GBBO…and beefy banana loaves

With the return of GBBO, the nation has thrown down its floury gauntlet and challenged even the most terrible bakers to a flan-off in a marquee.

People the length of the UK have been rolling and kneading, burning and sweating, and inventing all sorts of new and interesting swear words this past couple of weeks. It’s like an episode of Last of the Summer Wine but with less casual racism and more sexy grannies.

In honour of this bonding experience, I have baked absolutely nothing. I’ve never even seen an episode, having not got a telly which plays actual programmes. I have, however, found awesome new DLC for Fallout 4, so the summer hasn’t been entirely wasted. I’ve got a go-to banana loaf which uses about 4 ingredients (one of which is optimism) so if you’re ever at a loss about what to do with a handful of browning bananas I’m your woman. It’s vegan too, so you can invite your vegan mates round if you have any. If not feel free to chuck some beef in or something, like that episode of Friends where Rachel makes a cake with mash and gravy in. It’ll give you something to laugh about for years to come.

I see some of the Pinterest wedding cakes doing the rounds and wonder who on earth manages to knock these things out

I’m not a cake person. Give me a couple of hours and you’ll have the finest roast you’ve ever tasted, but cakes are not my thing. Given that I can get a perfectly decent, ready made cheesecake for half the price of its actual components I’m happy to support my local, family-run, massive supermarket chain. Honestly, here’s £2 now gimme my cheesecake.

Cakes are best left to people who really want to bake them. They are a luxury rather than a necessity and so if you have the time and inclination, go nuts. My best mate made me an amazing cake for me hen party. It had a mouth on the front and I’ll leave the rest of it for you to think about. It was amazing and I know I could never reproduce such brilliance without either giving up work or putting my child up for adoption, and I’ve seriously considered both. I see some of the Pinterest wedding cakes doing the rounds and wonder who on earth manages to knock these things out. They are works of art! I couldn’t even DRAW a cake that beautiful.

So, I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m terrible at baking but I think people who are good at it are maybe some sort of wizard. Blessed with an almighty glucose-based super-power, they are worth of our true respect and admiration. Unlike me, who just suggested putting beef in a banana loaf.

Daisy Leverington

Summer Lovin? – Not for this guy

We are now in full summer mode and although I can’t argue against the benefits of the much welcomed injection of vitamin D into my pasty white carcass, I must admit I’m not a fan of the summer months. Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy the longer nights, a beer in the garden (but that’s mainly because of the beer) a chance to give friends and family food poisoning at my own BBQ and that mood of optimism in the air; but despite that I don’t think the summer agrees with me.

In the UK we seem to have extremes when it comes to the weather. It’s always so unexpected, it catches us off guard. Snow that comes so heavy that everything grinds to a halt, floods that border on the biblical and days so hot and humid you feel like you’ve been parachuted into an oil field in Iraq. I find it hard to even think when temperatures creep into the thirties, small tasks seem as daunting as an expedition to Everest. On the hottest day of the year my wife and I had to change the bed, a task that makes me want to weep at the best of times.

After the first pillow case I was already wet through, the sweat was pouring down my back and running in between my butt cheeks like a river and I had so much sweat in my eyes I couldn’t see the buttons on the duvet cover.

The thing the summer does though is give us Brits something to talk about, our favorite subject; the weather. As the temperature increases our ways of describing it becomes more and more bizarre. “Ohh isn’t it muggy out there!” No, unless you’ve just being mugged, that makes no sense. “The problem is, it’s just too close” well yes it will be close, it’s the weather and it’s all around you. In Yorkshire they used to say “eeee its crackin’ flags out there!” meaning it’s so hot it’s capable of causing fracture to your patio slabs, quite poetic, but still sounds like utter bollocks. “It’s warm we can’t work; pass me a beer” that’s all the words you need.

Everyone has their own methods for coping with the heat; particularly at night. I’m almost used to falling asleep now to the gentle white noise of a humming desk fan. There is always that moment when you forget where the fan is and proceed to trip yourself up over the cable on the way to your 4th pee of the night.

I don’t wear my bed clothes in a heatwave, but I like a single sheet on me, there has to be a small amount of weight there. I can’t do totally naked, laid out like a human sacrifice, I feel far too vulnerable. Also the hot weather brings with it the increase in midges and blood sucking insects and the last thing I want is to offer myself up like some sort of human all you can eat buffet.

It’s normally the early hours of the morning when the heat subsides enough to allow you to drift off. You’ve then got at least 4 hours of fidgety, sweat soaked sleep before you are rudely awaken by that “summer soundtrack”. The buzz of a Strimmer, a lawnmower, the neighbour building yet another outdoor “project” that just seems to be him hammering the same nail in again and again for three straight hours, or a determined mosquito who proceeds to fly back and forth past your ear until you eventually declare war, put the light on and chase him round the room with a rolled up newspaper.

The daytimes are easier; you can always find relief in an air conditioned shop or supermarket. If you’re crafty you can spend twenty minutes in the frozen food isle leaning over some Aunt Bessies roast potatoes, wearing nothing but your underwear. It’s heaven and really reduces your core body temperature; the hour interview in the manager’s office and the subsequent court appearance is a small price to pay.

As a blonde haired white man, I burn like kindling in the most moderate of heat. I think we underestimate the weather in the UK, like the sun is somehow a different one to the one that you lie back and bask in on a foreign holiday. We seem to think nothing of doing a full day’s work in the garden, bear chested, without sun cream and with only the one cup of tea to hydrate us. “Its fine love, we are in Wigan on a Wednesday, it’s not going to burn me, this is British sun; best in the world!” the day after we are in agony, peeling sheets of skin of our bodies so large you could wrap presents with them.

In the summer months my hay fever condition announces itself with a new found anger and aggression, like a pit-bull on steroids. With eyes streaming like I’ve just been tear gassed, a nose itchier than that of a supermodel with a grand a day coke habit, hives and bumps on my skin a blind man could read as brail and body riddled with so many antihistamines I can barely stay conscious.  All in all it’s not a good “look.” They always warn you about not operating heavy machinery when you take antihistamines, which makes me feel sad, how many forklift truck drivers and welders are struggling out there? Unable to work because they have to walk that fine line between sleeping and sneezing.

Summer attire is also stressful. I am completely lost with the sock, sandal, plimsoll, deck shoe or moccasin etiquette. There are normal length socks, sometimes worn with leather sandals, which only geography teachers and bible salesmen are allowed to wear. There are trainer socks, which seem more socially acceptable, white socks though, never black, particularly if you are wearing shorts. Black socks with trainers and shorts looks like you’ve been doing P.E at school and forgotten your kit and had to rummage around in the lost property box. I find picking clothes for a heatwave is difficult. I never go commando though, I don’t care how hot it is, I still need some organization down there.

When it’s warm my testicles seem to be constantly in love with my inner thighs, I often have to peel them away from each other like I’m removing a sticker from a windscreen. It’s like a battle down there most days and both parties need to be segregated for their own good.

I can’t and won’t wear a vest and going topless isn’t something I feel comfortable with. The other day I saw a man with his top off, riding a ladies bike with a basket on the front. In the basket of the bike there was a pack of lager and a small dog keeping looking out; it was like a low budget version of the film E.T. It was 24 degrees and we were in a car park outside Lidl, it’s not the Algarve. Put your top back on.

It’s quite late now and the heat has subsided, I’m going to attempt to turn in for the night, or maybe the whole season? I might find the coolest spot in the house; black out the windows, fill my socks with ice, and survive on nothing but a freezer full of Magnum Classics.

See you in October

Scott Bennett

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