Coffee and punctures Tales from the Vale


Coffee and punctures

Great new coffee house in King’s Stag attached to the Green Man pub with an attractive almost Scandi-minimally-decorated interior.

I was going to say that the outstanding feature is the enormous map of Dorset, dating from 1890 which covers an entire wall. It must be 20 x 8 feet – couldn’t keep my eyes off it as I sipped my Flat White (not entirely sure what a Flat White is).

But it’s not the café’s finest feature: the outstanding attraction is Catherine, the charmingly bespectacled manager who is warm, welcoming and efficient, as are her staff, Jade and Kim.

The coffee is excellent and the baguettes and pastries, made in the pub’s kitchen, look enticing. But among the goodies on sale is something I’ve never seen

in any other coffee house, and it’s probably not made in the kitchen; puncture repair kits for cyclists.

‘We’re in the middle of a hugely popular cycling area,’ Catherine explains. It makes perfect sense. There’s been real thought behind this new business – well worth a visit.

The wiser sex

My mate James near Okeford Fitzpaine has got a new girlfriend, Sophie.
This, in itself, does not come as

a surprise as he’s mailed with similar news many times. ‘Come over for a coffee and meet her,’ he suggested. This is Man Speak for: could you check whether

A – She is the most gorgeous, charming, elegant, witty woman in the world
B – I’ve made a disastrous

And he generally wants an opinion within 10 minutes of me meeting the new girlfriend.
Now, this could be a little tricky, me blurting out a decision about the lady while she is actually with us so, we’ve developed a totally foolproof and brilliant formula for me stating whether it’s answer A or B.
If it’s answer A, after 10 minutes I’ll take a big swig of coffee and say, ‘A bloody good brew that’ or similar, but the first letter of the sentence is an ‘A.’

And if it’s answer B I’ll say, ‘By ‘eck, James, that’s good coffee.’ Clever stuff, you’ll agree: and as hard to fathom as Germany’s ‘impenetrable’ code during WWII. So, I went over and after 10 minutes I put my empty coffee mug down and said, with particular emphasis, ‘A bloody good coffee that.’

Sophie immediately laughed and said, ‘I’ve passed the mate test, then.’
James and I were astonished. ‘Oh God,’ Sophie said, highly amused at our embarrassment, and not in the slightest put out, ‘women do it all the time. The only difference is that we’re just that bit more subtle about it.’ James, suddenly remembering

‘a coffee’ a week earlier with Sophie’s mate, said, ‘did you do that with me when Anne came over?’

‘Didn’t you know?’ Sophie asked with incredulity.
James and I were too discombobulated to ask how women organise their mate tests (full report next issue, as they’re coming over for supper).

We should have learnt from history: the German code was broken early in the war and they had no idea. Germany was astonished when the fact was announced in 1974. The Germans should have got an all-women team to devise their code – we’d still be working on it.

A bridge too far

Big mistake in the original version of the previous mag about Lt Salkeld who won a Victoria Cross during the Indian Mutiny (as it’s called if you’re a Brit) or (if you’re Indian) the First War of Independence. One man’s rebel is another man’s freedom fighter.

I told the Editor, Laura, that there was a mistake. She reminded me that I wrote the article, so that’s enough on that subject!

But it leads me to…

The proud ‘Coward’

…a great obituary many years back in The Times. A big cheese in the City had an excellent
war record as he received two (bloody two!) Victoria Crosses. We know how grudgingly these prized medals for the highest, almost insane, levels of bravery in the face of an enemy, are awarded.

His elder brother also fought in the war. And he did very well. Yet, his nickname in the City was ‘The Coward.’
It says a lot about English humour that he didn’t mind this epithet.
He was given his nickname because during the war he only got one Victoria Cross!


There’s a definition of chutzpah: it’s when having been convicted of murdering your mother and father, you apply to the court for clemency because you’ve recently been orphaned. Sometimes chutzpah is funny, sometimes it ain’t.

‘Mike,’ a DFL (Down From London) booked a pub restaurant

table for four on a Saturday evening – prime 8pm slot at the pub’s busiest evening.
In the meantime he read a review of another place and booked a table there, without cancelling his first choice.

It is courteous, and in diners’ own interests, to arrive at the booked time. But times are hard, and the first restaurant kept the table until 8.30 before releasing it – too late, and they lost four covers.

You don’t need to be a genius to understand that hospitality operates not just on a knife- edge, but on fork and spoon- edges, too. ‘Mike’ didn’t like the second restaurant, so next time the selfish DFL booked his first option again. And the idiot did it in his own name. The proprietor told ‘Mike’ exactly what he thought of him. Good for the boss. The customer is not always right.

Lockdown inanity

We’re fortunate in that our garden (I prefer to think of it not so much as ‘woefully neglected’, but ‘natural and organic’) we enjoy a lot of bird life.
At one time during what many refer to as the ‘summer’ (playing fast and wild with the English language) we had three young wrens who would caper excitedly just outside the French windows. You’ve got to give names to regularly-visiting birds. We called them René and Renata, but struggled for a third wren-based moniker, until a lightning strike of pure brilliance came to me – Renoir.
So that’s what we called them, until another appeared for a few days, the three Rs seemed to accept her (or him) and then he (or her) vanished. So we refer to it as Renegade (Kae’s idea).
For a week or two we had a tiny robin – Robbie was too dull. I suggested that our new friend was too small really to be called a robin, he was more a robinette.

Kae immediately said, ‘we’ll call her (or him) Tap.’
Well, that threw me so she explained the French for a water tap is ‘robinet.’

Continuing our inanity, we needed names for the pigeons: again, always seeking originality, ‘Pidgie’ simply wouldn’t do.
Our first pigeon we named him Walter (after an old actor, think he was in the Archers c.1873). For our second, we went for Lieutenant Pigeon (there was an amusing band in the 70s called this which issued a bizarre song called ‘Mouldy Old Dough’ that inexplicably went quite high in the charts. If you want a real laugh YouTube Stevie Riks impersonating Freddie Mercury singing this song (no need to Google, I did it for you. There’s three minutes I’ll never get back – Ed.).
And we needed a name for our other pigeon. Obviously he was soon Second Lieutenant Pigeon. Then in late summer came the crows: the first was, of course, named Russell. The second was Sheryl (we sort of think Sheryl Crow is an American singer but can’t be bothered to Google her in case she isn’t).
Then we just gave up.

by Andy Palmer


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