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Sideways Glance


By |June 13th, 2015|Sideways Glance|0 Comments

Green Fingers, Puzzled Faces

Sideways GlanceSpring has sprung and it’s off to Groves, the garden centre

By Elspeth Edgely

Research has shown that 20 per cent of drivers don’t know where they are going. Their reasons for being out and about have nothing to do with arriving anywhere specific. Similarly, you don’t need a reason to visit Groves, even though right now you may feel an overwhelming sense of urgency to get there. Everyone has instincts at this time of year, whether or not you have a window box.

Why not examine those hose connectors, flick through the seed packets, filter your way through to garden chairs – you know the ones, the stripy kind you can stretch out in? Before you know it you’ll have merged into the general purposeful getting-down-to-it atmosphere, and you won’t even have left the main building.

Once in the open you will be faced with some choices – but it doesn’t matter which you make. Going round in circles is perfectly acceptable at Groves and you won’t stand out from the crowd. The employees have far more pressing things to attend to than enquire after your needs. It’s as if you have accidentally opened a gate to their very tidy farmyard. They won’t mind you being there, but they’ve important matters to be getting on with.

Take a turn round the alphabetical rose circle, forge on towards ‘climbers’, investigate ‘garden supports’. There is so much to look at that you may even forget there isn’t a reason for your visit. You’ll start to notice conveniently large trolleys are available if you should, say, decide on a Jemima Puddle Duck solar lamp, a couple of polycarbonate badgers, or even a shrub. If the latter, just approach one of those highly competent assistants who will immediately release the sapling from its bounds, thereby delivering you from any second thoughts, which is why you came here in the first place: to seek relief from all the choices in this world.

By |March 26th, 2015|Sideways Glance|1 Comment

The Worst Meal I’ve Ever Had

Sideways GlanceBy Elaine Beckett

The best decision I made (on a recent trip to the Metropolis) was a last-minute £12.00 ticket for The Magic Flute at The Royal Opera House. Fantastic. The worst was deciding to eat at the Brunswick Centre’s Gourmet Burger Kitchen, on the face of it a lively place to eat, full of smart young things, yelling to one another about going forward.

Like many such places, you have to pay before you sit down. Before that you are supposed to have searched for a table number. Once you’re paid up, got your table number, been given a receipt that says you can win an i-pad mini by completing an on-line survey because ‘We’re hungry for your feedback,’ you are on to stage two. Reason for burger? Mirror reflection said something serious needed to be consumed otherwise reflection might disappear altogether. A once-in-a-while burger from what I thought might be a decent burger restaurant, oh why do I have justify it? I wanted a burger, OK? £9.95 for a drink, a burger in a bun, and a dish of fries – if you call it a Burger Bundle. If you order them separately, you’re into double figures.

My tiny table had some crumbs, but hey, I swished them off with a napkin, waited patiently, and watched as a plethora of burgers got delivered to other people’s tables. Then the house music was turned up as if the room were being attacked by a concrete mixer; ‘thwoo, thwoo, thwoo’. I must be mad, I thought to myself, briefly considering changing my order to a take-away but remember, I’d already paid for a sit-down meal, and nobody else was minding the bash ti-ti boom, only me – the white witch sitting in the corner. Enter paranoia; they have turned it up because they don’t want elderly people in here. But I’m not elderly; I just don’t want to poison myself with hair dye. Oh for God’s sake, read your Independent and stop fretting, nobody cares about you.

I think about the lovely fresh food I could be eating in a Bridport hostelry, and settle back to wait for whatever it is I have paid for. A waitress arrives with a cup half full of coffee, the drink I was hoping to have after my burger meal. I find myself blurting out a question about whether it might be possible for them to turn down, if not the volume, the bass, please.

“I cannot hear what you say,” the waitress shouts. I tell her I’m not surprised but she doesn’t understand, although she’s eager to do so, coming, she tells me, from Brazil, and she’s trying to get it right, so I repeat the words “music, turn down?”.

“I sorry,” she says. “I don’t understand ‘music’ I don’t know what ‘music’ mean.” I fail to hold back: “You do know music, you must know music – you’re Brazilian.” The political incorrectness (if there was any) goes right over her head. She keeps repeating: “What ‘music’?’’ “Music, La musica,” I finally shout.

Paroxysms of broken apology; not about my, as yet undelivered, Burger Bundle, or the density of the sound vibrations we are having to contend with, but about her difficulty with English. So I smile and I say, “It is fine, please do not worry about it.” She leaves and I get back to my waiting. And I wait some more until, eventually, another girl comes.

“Finished with this?” she says. Already my coffee cup – the only part of the tripartite Burger Bundle that has actually reached me – is in her hand, about to be whisked away, although I have clearly not finished with it and I am keen not to let it go. Reluctantly, she gives it back.

Finally, the main element of the Bundle (a shrivelled black slab, hiding inside a seedless bun) arrives on a small white plate, without the accompanying dish of fries. I think to myself: I know I’ve paid £10 for half a cup of black coffee and a dried-up piece of probably regenerated ‘meat’, but I do have a thin slice of tomato and a lettuce leaf inside, and at least I’ve got something on a plate and that plate is in front of me. I touch the bun, it is cold as snow, never been near a grill, let alone a flame. The Brazilian comes back. “All right with you?” I tell her “Yes” but before I can stop myself it slips quietly out that the food is cold. By now I couldn’t care less but she wants to try to take it back, she wants to change it. Never go there, never in a thousand years.

By |March 4th, 2015|Elaine Beckett, Sideways Glance|1 Comment

Bridport Gossip

Sideways GlanceIn the first of a series on the deadly sins of dear old Bridport, Gill Capper considers


There was this bloke, mentioning no names, who was punched, in The Woodman, by the husband of the woman he was having an affair with who was wearing chinos and a blue check shirt. Then Tom, (or Dick or Harry) saw a bloke in a blue check shirt in Bucky Doo and overheard him saying, “he has got no shame”, and told the Woodman regulars so next time blue-check-shirt went in The Woodman everyone was going, “Is it him then? Is it him?” It wasn’t.

How very Bridport. A total non-story that had obviously gone through the wringer in the Chinese Whispers laundromat a dozen times before it reached me because, apparently, it happened in The George. But that is gossip for you. It’s a vice. And that is why, on January 1 this year, I gave it up.

Well, I tried. I was severely tested. For the past month I have been assailed by people trying to tell me scurrilous stories, and insisting that I promise (as presumably they promised) not to breathe a word. I’ve got a tension headache from the effort of not passing it all on – which is why I’m going to leak this: one involved a minor celebrity doing unspeakable things with a frozen parsnip. Yes! I know!

Gossip is thoroughly enjoyable, unfortunately, and that is probably why there are so many ways of rationalising it. As in: look, we’re not malicious rumour-mongering. We’re dealing with the truth. If someone says that Mary, Jane or Pete are vain, competitive, neurotic, that they spit when they eat or never get a round in at the bar, well come on, yes, they are like that. (Hmm…)

Or this: we’re not tittle-tattling, we are observing. And then discussing our observations (with the rest of the coven who gather in Bridport Old Books on market days) in an attempt to learn more about human nature and increase our tolerance of difference and compassion for our fellow men. (Hmm…)

Only yesterday, I went into town and within half an hour I had learnt of two deaths, one birth, a holiday that ended in tears, a row with an ex-daughter-in-law, a complaint about a barking dog and a botched varicose-vein operation. And I have to say, I did feel stimulated and enriched and I went home thinking in clichés about ’the rich tapestry of life’ and all that.

So, what can you do? Because, to further complicate matters, there is only one way to survive in Bridport and that’s to pretend to yourself that although you are always talking about other people, nobody is talking about you. If you don’t, you end up spending half your time feeling paranoid and wishing you lived in a shepherd’s hut in the middle of a field; which defeats the object of living in such a lovely, friendly little community, albeit one where everybody’s second sentence is, “I’m very fond of so-and-so, but…”

Perhaps those admirable people who never gossip simply aren’t that interested in other people. Perhaps the ones who “never have a bad word to say about anybody” are just trying to karmically deflect fate so they don’t get talked about. Or perhaps they are just very nice people, (which makes me feel inadequate which is why I am very fond of them but…)

I know. Let’s start a Slow Gossip movement; fresh, organic, locally-sourced, benign and kind and free from the poisons of spite, self-righteousness, unholy glee, contempt, complaint and carping.
No? OK then, I am going back to bed for the rest of February, with my book. But honestly…I’m telling you… that Mrs Bovary… have you heard…?

By |February 23rd, 2015|Gill Capper, Sideways Glance|0 Comments

Before you take a child to see Shaun the Sheep at half-term, read on…

Sideways GlanceBy Sam Barker

Shaun the Sheep is a multi-layered, audio-visual experience based around Plasticine sheep. Working on many levels, it is a story about ovine yearning for escape from the daily nullity of grass-consumption. It is also a social, political and generational satire with Orwellian resonances.

We have callous teens filming the unfortunate farmer on their phones as the caravan in which he is sleeping rolls out of control (don’t ask) into the big city, assuredly for later posting on YouTube. We have the now-infamous waiter whose similarity to Ed Miliband eclipses that of Gromit. We have the appearance of a 1970s tape recorder (“What’s that?” asked a child in the audience) and we have various scenes in which ambitious pigs take over the farm (and use the microwave).
Shaun the Sheep
At heart, though, Shaun the Sheep is pegged upon its central sheep-hunt-their-lost-farmer narrative. Incidental to the plot, the satirical element is there to satisfy grown-up yearning for higher meaning. Some adults may nonetheless leave feeling bereft: “A relentless load of crap,” declared my companion. Children are more amenable: “The best thing I ever saw,” said one.

Watch for the bit where a man gets his head stuck up a (pantomime horse’s) bottom. That’s the highlight.

By |February 11th, 2015|Sideways Glance, The Sam Barker Column|0 Comments