Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A fine night out

I was visiting in-laws in the metropolis of Uttoxeter a couple of days ago, and as we had an evening free for the second time in less than a month (!), we thought we'd sample the entertainment delights on offer in this ancient market town.

Now, having grown up in Uttoxeter, I presumed it shouldn't be too much trouble to find an evening of diversion for us. Okay, I left when I was 18 and have only been back sporadically, but still, places to go should be imprinted on my psyche like frogs returning to the very pond they were jellied in to do some good hard jellying themselves.

Unfortunately, the last time I went out in Uttoxeter, it had a nightclub called Fozzies and they'd accept pound notes. You'd need five of them for a really good night out.*

I'm past the clubbing stage in my life now. It was fun while it lasted, but you soon realise that you can replace staring at a lady's cleavage whilst being embarrassingly drunk in an uncomfortably loud club with staring at a lady's cleavage whilst being embarrassingly drunk in a quiet restaurant instead. It's all about maturity, you see.

Okay, entertainment. Pubs and food is always a good start.

I recalled that there were a few good old-fashioned pubs that used to serve proper black and tan, where cyclopian landlords would look at you suspiciously if you ordered anything other than a pint for yourself and a small glass of white wine for the occasional female who happened to wander in, blinking like a lamb in a kebab shop. I liked (and still like) these sorts of places as they have character. Character is measured in terms of density of fruit fly swarms around the optics, the presence of those strange brown, four-watt light bulbs which have the illuminating properties of a lugworm, and handled glasses.

I love handled beer glasses.

These pubs had so much character you could practically smell it. Actually, you really could smell some of the characters in there, like a cross between wet socks and clinical depression, so that sort of pub is probably best left to idle reverie rather than somewhere to take your lady. It's a moot point anyway, because now they've all gone and have been replaced with charity shops and takeaways.

Uttoxeter seems to have about one takeaway for every other person in the town. If you look up the population for the place, it's approximately 12,000, which makes my initial estimation of 6,000 takeaways seem about right. The Missus wasn't too keen on dressing up so we could eat a takeaway outside Kwiksave, though, no matter that the bench is made from recycled tyres, so that was out.

Well, there's Weatherspoons, which is good for booze and cheap food, but didn't really fit the mood.

What else?

I remember glue-sniffing in the public bogs near Somerfields was quite de rigueur when I was a kid, but apparently that's not so popular now due to a national shortage of brown paper bags.

Tramp-baiting has been outlawed by liberal country-dwelling do-gooders who don't live in the towns and don't understand the vital part it played in the community, so that traditional, noble pass-time was unavailable. It's the tramp-hounds I feel sorry for, now having to wile away their days chasing a man on a moped dragging a bottle of White Lightning behind. It's just not the same.

In the end, we settled for a meal and a visit to the pictures. Back in the day (bad-safe, I am so down with the kids on the street in the hood, me), the local cinema was called The Elite which had one screen and showed stuff you could probably get in Blockbusters. In a move determined to upset every kid in town, The Elite was bought out by a church and then maliciously converted into a place of worship, presumably complete with popcorn, chewing gum on the seats and fingering on the back row.

Anyway, there is now a multiscreen cinema where, for just the price of a couple of DVDs, you and your partner can watch a film, eat a sack of Revels and drink a kidney-splitting amount of carbonated beverage.

I point blank refuse to watch chick-flicks. My good lady missus knows this and, other than occasionally subjecting me to Tess of the D'Aubervilles (because Hans Matheson is in it) or Nero (because Hans Matheson is in it), she generally lets me watch what I want, for which I am eternally grateful.

In order to show her how grateful I was, I looked for a film that we could both enjoy, and chose Star Trek.

What? It's got dilithium crystals in it. Girls like crystals.

I bought a couple of tickets for a later showing.

Outside, in the retail park that appears to have sprung up, we saw a Frankie and Benny's restaurant, which is quite posh for the likes of Uttoxeter, and so decided that would be a nice start to the evening.

Whilst waiting for a table, I ordered a couple of drinks, including a Wifebeater for myself. Now, I like Stella, because it's rich in ethanolly goodness and tastes pretty good. It also has aspirations of style, so when it's served it comes in a pleasant, stemmed glass, like so:

Excuse the fact that it's already half empty. I was thirsting.

Now, the strange thing was, the serving wench asked if I was all right to have my drink served in this glass, because lots of men there complained that it was too feminine.

I said whit?

She explained that this was such a common occurrence in Uttoxeter that, before serving Stella Artois, they now asked if you wanted it in a normal glass. I replied that the proffered vitreous receptacle would be fine, thank you very much serving wench.

It would appear that some blokes have such a tenuous grasp on their sexuality that one sip from a stemmed glass with a nice curve to it will make them ache to engage in homoerotic love-fests with their mates. This might present a problem if none of your mates are drinking from the same sort of glass, because you'd look like a right Charlie if you were the only one in your peer group who suggested a daisy chain.

No offence Charlie.

We then went to watch the film. There were spaceships, green ladies and lasers called phasers which went "Peeezzzzzzzzzzzzeeeeeeeewwwwwww", which are pretty much at the top of my list of 'good things' to be included in a film. Especially rom-coms.

The only thing I don't like in science fiction films is when they use time travel, unless it's a film specifically about time travel, cos then you might as well say "It was all a dream" or "It was done by magic" or "Baby Jesus made it better". And, without wanting to spoil it for you, this had a lot of that sort of thing in it, leaving plot holes you could fly a shuttle through. This was a shame because it made the whole fillum a bit . . . you know . . . meh.

Yeah, that describes it. Meh.

Not worth over 12 quid though.

* And it was all fields then you know? And we never had bananas, and people showed respect, and buses ran on time, and you could leave your door unlocked, and we never had any of that nostalgia neither.


  1. I assume that a metropolis is slightly larger than a "cityette."

  2. "Pubs and food is always a good start."

    I have never heard a truer statement.

    Love the beer shots.

  3. Inspector Clouseau - Yeah, although it was a sarcastic metropolis. More of a metropolisette.

    Mo - Glad you like them. They are becoming a worryingly recurring theme through my posts.

  4. Did you mention horse-racing? I'm sure Uttoxeter has something to do with horse-racing. As well as being an obvious joke name.

  5. Damn, reading this makes me wish I lived in the UK. Not for all the glue bagging and things like that you mentioned, but because of the excellent pubs and nice folks.

    BTW, any beer glass is ok as long as it isn't shaped like a penis.

  6. You are the first person I heard say they didn't like Star Trek...maybe I need to stop hanging out with so many trekkies.

  7. GB - yeah, although hoss racing is not something that has ever got me going. Forcing a plains animal to jump over things just seems wrong somehow.

    Eric - True. We do have good beer in the UK, and most of it is served cold nowadays, contrary to popular belief in the US. A room temperature pint of stout is delicious though.

    Thinkfyou - I didn't particularly dislike it either, mind. It was . . . meh.

  8. I agree with Eric. If I lived in the UK I might understand the other half of what you say. Now I am stuck with using an English-American translator. Hong Kong was a pseudo-British city and I got a taste of what it might be like. Loved the pubs, loved the real fish and chips, but couldn't quite grasp the Chinese influence. Also learned not to hang out with drunken British sailors.

    Iced mugs are much preferred here in the Colonies, though.

  9. Jules ... would it mortally offend you if I were to say that Uttoxeter is one of the worst places I've ever been to in my life? :/

    Because if it would ... just ignore that first part, please.

    I once had a really lovely chinese take-away from Uttoxeter!

  10. Douglas - Iced mugs are pretty good, although the last time I was in the States the bars seemed to be competing with each other to see if they could achieve temperatures usually reserved for superconductors.

    Girl I - If that offended me, I would have to still live there. Which I don't. Cos it's rubhish. Was the takeaway from The Sunny House, cos that is a good chinese.

  11. I think Uttoxeter (did I spell that correctly?) is a made up place, as much a figment of the imagination as gratuitous time travel. But a great word for Scrabble! Here we only drink from tiny, tiny glasses beverages which may only be consumed in tiny, tiny amounts. We are thirsty a lot of the time.
    PS -- I live in Nabiesto, which, ironically, is also the word verification for this comment.

  12. The first time my husband and I visited London, I dragged him off to Chawton (or Chawton-on-something?) to see Jane Austen's house. It was a Sunday, and we had to take a couple of trains and a cab to get there. We asked the cabbie if he'd come back to get us, being a Sunday and out in the middle of no where. He agreed, and we went on our tour of Austen's house. After, we crossed the street to the pub, where a few locals were already on a tear. There was no food, other than some snack food called Twigs (maybe?), so we drank a couple rounds and waited for the cabbie. And waited. And waited. Finally, one of the guys said he'd drive us back, and I think we both paused and imagined someone having to tell our kids that Mommy and Daddy weren't coming home, b/c we got wrapped around a tree in some god-forsaken town in the English countryside. Wouldn't that ruin their future enjoyment of reading Austen? Luckily, one of the guys had a friend who was a cab driver -- and sober. Good times, pubs are.

  13. Ava - Uttoxeter exists my dear. Between the sunset and the sunrise. Between imagination and dream. Betwixt the wanted and the needed. It is a place and a state of mind. It is in Staffordshire, near the A50.

    Nate's Mom - Twiglets. They're called Twiglets and are collected by specialists from the nests of starlings fed nothing but Marmite.


I'm going to risk taking comment moderation off for a bit, so if you're a web-bot, a robot, a bot-fly or a bottom-dwelling sediment-feeder, then please refrain from commenting.

Otherwise, have a go. S'fun.