Monthly Archives: August 2007

Taster evening at the Fleur

The new-look Fleur Bar and Bistro finally opens its kitchen from September 3rd, completing the superhero triplet of Captain Alcohol, Entertainment Man and, er, The Food. Tonight it held a taster evening where interested punters could sample the dishes to be unleashed next week and the chef could make a start on the paracetamol.

How unlike this time last year, as Andrew said tonight, when landlord Malcolm would sit grumpily on his chair by the bar slowly wilting along with his customers, all held up only by the cloying fog of cigarette smoke. And where the concept of a taster evening would quite possibly fall foul of some law or another.

There was a palpable feeling of stress as we arrived. It felt as though the kitchen and the management weren’t in complete agreement about the food they were offering, but for a taster evening that didn’t matter. As expected it wasn’t a full menu, everything was bite-sized rather than plate-sized, and you got what you were given: but it was all free. Free is good.

We took a seat and wondered what would happen next. Some time later, the cellar door opened – a trap door inside the bar, health and safety field day, etc – and various staff went caving, emerging moments later with plates of meze. One of these made its way to us. Marinated artichokes, sundried tomatoes, humous, parma ham, pitta bread, cheese and black olives. We probably had enough for four, but we just kept eating; I think we left an olive and a dollop of humous.

Marinated artichoke dipped in humous tastes like porky turkey. FACT.

Next were some loud Americans. Oh, and some home-made roasted vegetable soup. Perfect: thick, textured, flavourful (yes, I am talking about the soup).

By now the pub was filling up. The soup was followed by some crostinis: a fig/goats cheese concoction (best), a beetroot-oriented pepper thingy (OK unless you’re beetroot-phobic) and a horseradish/smoked salmon lump (which I didn’t try but was apparently pretty good).

Food deliveries slowed to a crawl, possibly because we were the wrong side of the pub from the kitchen. When service came our way Andrew had a go on the pan-fried scallops on a prawn mash (in a tiny taster pot) and pronounced it good, and a much larger pile of Thai green chicken was declared “succulent” before being spirited away to another table. At that point Andrew had to leave, and as I fancied a lift home we missed out on the grilled seabass with lemon and cream and the bruschetta with peppers, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella.

It’s a very promising start indeed, given that I’d anticipated semi-plastic food and at least one Big Gay Strop™. If they can keep up this quality and drag in sufficient paying customers to make it viable, I think they can make a mark. Well worth a night out with the usual suspects once service starts for real next week.

Avaragado’s rating: one panino and another panino makes two panini


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Things you shouldn’t laugh at

94. A small child bouncing a little too enthusiastically on the inflated part of a surf simulator – a kind of sawn-off bouncy castle with a hydraulic surfboard – and managing to eject herself headfirst over the bouncy wall into the rest of the pub garden.

She reappeared moments later with a dirty, confused face and tears in her eyes and was led off by her mother. Assorted onlookers wore their best “sympathetic-but-internally-guffawing” expressions.

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It’s that man again

Remember him? He’s reappeared and made contact. We had a brief conversation by email; here are the relevant extracts for your delight.

Him: … huge apology … genuinely sorry

Me: … unconvincing … explanation … deceit

Him: … point taken … awful year … should have … apologise

Me: … accepted … too late … irritated/amused by the way you scarpered … betrayed … trust

Him: … understand … bad time … cowardice … out of character

And that’s the end of that. Men!

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Wherein Avaragado donates code to a grateful world

For a recent
I wrote some simple client-side form validation. Most
of it was trivial; but I also wanted to check for a syntactically
valid email address (I didn’t care whether it reached someone’s
inbox or not).

I performed an exhaustive Google search (no I didn’t) and found
one or two bits of code, but most of them annoyed me. I didn’t
want something that encoded a list of allowed top-level domains,
ferchrissakes, or some script kiddie idea of an email address that
disallowed subdomains. I wanted a regular expression that
referenced the appropriate RFC, that appeared to know what it was
talking about.

Of course I can find one now, now that I’ve written the
regular expression myself, but then I was dissatisfied. I
invoked the holy rite of Not Invented Here with a
soupçon of Never Knowingly Underengineered, and
settled down with a cup of tea, a copy of RFC 2822 and a
pile of shortbread.

The object of my desire was a regular expression that matched
the RFC 2822 ‘mailbox’ token, minus a few things. RFC 2822, not
the most gripping of reads, concerns itself with the format of
email messages for transmission over the net and so has to worry
itself ragged about line lengths and CRLF, and dealing with what
might charitably be called prior misunderstandings (those who
deployed software that didn’t conform to RFC822, the previous
version of this specification). I decided to wave a Dilbertian
hand at all that nonsense. I mean, does anyone actually put
comments inside their email address? (This is a valid mailbox,
according to RFC 2822: Pete(A wonderful \) chap)
<pete(his account)@silly.test(his host)>
– the bits
in parentheses are comments, which you can nest to an arbitrary
and pointless level.)

Here’s what I ended up with (with added line breaks for the web – remove before use). I’m reasonably confident it’s
correct; I used test-driven development techniques to derive it.
It’s licensed as cc-attrib mainly to reduce annoyance – GPL is
overkill for a regular expression, I feel. This licence allows
people to port it to their language of choice as long as they
credit me, and to incorporate it into their own code without any
additional licence burden. The copious comments are there to annoy

function bValidMailbox(s) {
// This function (but not any surrounding code) is copyright
// (c) 2007 David Smith (dave a t sheepshank d o t org).
// This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution
// 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

// The regular expression below is based on RFC2822. It matches
// the 'mailbox' token defined in that RFC, with the following
// changes: no obsolete parts; no comments; no domain literals;
// no spaces within or around the domain; no unquoted spaces in
// the local-part; at least one dot in the domain; no CRLF
// allowed.

// It is believed to be accurate but YMMV. Use at your own risk.

// Examples that PASS this test (one example per line):
// <boss@nil.test>
// John Doe <jdoe@machine.example>
// Who? <one@y.test>
// "Joe Q. Public" <>
// Joe "Q." Public <>
// "Giant; \"Big\" Box" <>
// Giant \'Big\' Box <>
// "john q. doe"@machine.example
// John "Q." Doe <"john q. doe"@machine.example>

// Examples that FAIL this test (reason after the dash):
// me  - no domain
// me@you  - domains must have a dot
// me@you.  - that's not at the end
//  - or the beginning
// me  - address spec not within <>
// <>  - no unquoted dots allowed there
// me@example . com  - no spaces allowed there
// me@  - or there
// me  - or there
// me < >  - or there
// me@[]  - domain literals not supported
return /^(([\x20\x09]*[\x21\x23-\x27\x2a\x2b\x2d\x2f\x30-\x39\x3d\x3f


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It’s a Mini adventure

The Spade and Beckett: a place known today only in legend wherein, so the elders say, Barrie gave Julian Francis the nickname Geoffrey after the beer made him incapable.

Today it’s now La Mimosa, an Italian restaurant – another Cambridge pub lost to the overwhelming might of garlic bread. One day only the Eagle shall remain, a beercon of hope fighting to last orders against the invading hordes of Starbuckiana and the Islamic Democratic Republic of Carphone Warehouse. With Toby propping up the bar.

I seem to have digressed.

Chris, Andy, Louise, Lynda and I spent a pleasant few hours at La Mimosa on Friday night (Melanie laid low by a greek salad, apparently, and Chef unwilling to leave London on a Friday). Our conversation included, but was not limited to: facebook; the upcoming amazing Avaragado Pictures dual-action premiere night; men; women; the Mini Cooper now belonging to Andy; kittens; pants.

Avaragado’s rating: asparagus tips

After the meal Louise went home while the others accompanied me to the Fleur. We sat in the beer garden, Chris not wanting to sit inside that sort of establishment in case an act came on stage. There followed another couple of hours of nattering, interrupted by several people I knew and some I didn’t (everyone has an opinion on a Friday night), before the 1am chuck-out.

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That 79p British Gas bill

I finally got round to trying to pay the 79p British Gas bill online. Note the word “trying”.

The site let me fill in all my credit card details and helpfully put 79p in the payment field automatically. And then, when I submitted the form, it said:

There are problems in the form you submitted
The minimum amount that can be paid is £2.00.

Then why did you ask me to pay? Don’t make me fill in all my credit card details first! Just put up a page telling me not to worry about such a low amount, it’ll appear on the next bill. That would make me feel good about your site. And saying that “there are problems in the form you submitted” makes it sound like it was all my fault!

Interestingly, a couple of days ago I received an email from British Gas telling me that they’d launched a new web site. Shame they didn’t send it two weeks earlier. Unlike the site emails apparently from the Brand Marketing Director, this one came from the Director of Customer Service, and from an (apparently) real, if generic, email address. Shame it was addressed “Dear Smith”.

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That’s entertainment

The newly refurbished Fleur has promised much: a smoke-free atmosphere (check); a more upmarket feel (check); bistro-style food (RSN); the return of the quiz (check; we’ve won two times out of three); and high-quality entertainment (read on).

Last year Friday and Saturday nights followed a predictable pattern. Friday saw a leather-faced muscle mary in a butch outfit prancing about to a tired routine with the gradually increasing accompaniment of baby oil. Saturday was usually a god-awful drag act miming to classics and/or cheese and/or comedy clips off the telly, interspersed with tedious audience participation. But occasionally we had The Fleurettes or Topping and Butch.

In its new incarnation, the Fleur has abandoned the leather-faced etc (the god-awful etc still seem welcome). Last night we were promised the delights of Jamie Watson, a “highly acclaimed male vocalist”.

I suspect approximately one of those words is accurate.

The DJ, James, introduced him. The music started and we heard a warbling noise heavy on the vibrato that we took to be James doing an impression of a poor singer. To our surprise, we saw that the highly acclaimed etc was making the noise. To be precise, a man dressed in black wearing a black hat murdering a song in the club style.

Some people, clearly drunk, appeared to be enjoying it. Further back from the stage discontent was more evident.

My immediate thought: I’d heard several people in the crowd sing better than him at a karaoke night here. One of them, Steve, quickly retreated to the other bar in the pub to protect his delicate ears.

A staple of these events is the “Everybody!” moment: the act belts out a popular number, reaches the chorus, and encourages the throng to fill in while he has a breather. A sure sign of a poor act is when “Everybody!” is followed by tumbleweed drifting across the stage, perhaps one lone voice slurring out a line of misheard lyrics before fading to incoherence, and then the star picking up to avoid an uncomfortable stand-off. It was at about this moment in the show – still the first song – that I began to maliciously enjoy it.

Our entertainment was billed as a vocalist, but apparently believes himself to be a fully fledged cabaret act. Between the songs he engaged in never-ending banter with an ever-decreasing band of alcoholic punters by the stage. I say banter; I mean a steady stream of insults and questions of audience members, the responses to which we were unable to hear since the act kept the microphone firmly clamped to his own lips. Much as I enjoy listening to one side of a mobile phone conversation on a train, I felt that a decent cabaret act might consist of more than that.

By this time I was sitting as far away from the stage as I could, by the window next to my quiz teammate Martin – I’d spotted an expression of sheer pain on his face and could guess why. We began a Statler/Waldorf two-pronged attack-whinge, too far from the stage to be heard against the ear-splitting din but very satisfying nonetheless. Martin wondered whether the act had “stolen his hat from poor Mike Reid”.

As the act, inevitably, left the stage to talk to the audience, I wondered what my responses would be were he to venture near. I decided how I’d like it to go, but I was sadly never approached:

Act: What do you do?

Me: I’m a critic.

Act: What do you criticise?

Me: Everything.

Act: And what do you think of my act?

Me: I like the hat.

At one point he started asking audience members for their profile names on a certain well-known web site (of which I am not a member). He said his own was “star_twister” (it is, I checked). Martin suggested a better name would be “singing_tosser”; we finally agreed on “twat_in_a_hat”.

As time slowed to a crawl, DJ James – one of the Fleurettes and far funnier than the act – began interrupting using his own microphone, seemingly to drag the act kicking and screaming towards some kind of conclusion. Now I began to laugh properly, as the act wasn’t too appreciative. Martin shouted “Get off the stage!” but it still wasn’t loud enough.

The final number at last. Half-way through, the music suddenly cut out – and then restarted from the beginning of the song. The act became confused; James apologised, “but I didn’t press anything”. The act said to him “Well, one more verse then fade it out.” He tried but failed to fit the verse to the music, said “Oh, forget it. Thank you and goodnight!” and left the stage. Classy.

The long-overdue-for-retirement tradition dictated that he return for an encore. James tried to whip the crowd into a frenzy but we remained resolutely unwhipped for the duration. One or two fellow malcontents commiserated with Martin and I at our hecklers’ table. Finally, the act ended before manslaughter could be committed in self-defence.

There was much speculation at how much money the Fleur paid him for that excuse for a performance. It was generally agreed by those present that, if we had our way, he wouldn’t darken our doors again.

Not long afterwards he emerged in a shabby tracksuit from his dressing room – I use the term loosely, it was just a room in which he got dressed – and left with his lady driver/manager/friend. Who, it turns out, had been sitting about six feet away from us for the entire show.

Avaragado’s rating: one slab of processed cheese

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Some kind of vortex, I imagine

Another gem of a quote on the BBC News site today, on a story about broadband speeds not being as advertised (shock).

A BT spokesman confirmed that 8Mbps would be a rarity for users.

“Virtually no-one will get it. The laws of physics start applying as soon as it leaves the exchange and you would have to live on top of the exchange to get the full 8 megabits,” he said.

I’m glad the laws of physics apply once broadband leaves the exchange. Within the exchange, of course, it’s a different matter. I understand time and space break down, Planck’s constant isn’t and Heisenberg’s uncertainly principle only applies to the choice between a chocolate digestive and a garibaldi.

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Your time starts now

GCSE Hollyoaks Studies

Paper 1. Twenty-eight minutes 30 seconds (including commercial break). Answer one question only. Do not use txt-speak in your answer except for comic effect.

3. Imagine that a current Hollyoaks storyline includes one school-age character bullying another, and posting a video of the bullying to a popular video sharing site such as YouTube (other video sharing sites are available). Write a story outline for an episode showing how the teachers react to the videos.

Well I wud start wiv a peace ov music rite thats rly rly emo n show da teecher lookin all cross an drinkin a capacheno in starbucks not the normal wun the uvver one wot nobody goes too cos its gay innit. An den in teh starf room dey is rantin n ravin an texin eachuvva look at youtube look at utube iss dis grays full i no shes well fugly but she dont need er nut kikd in bruv. An den dey go m8 m8 i no wot to do innit. Wot he sez. An den de adz lol.

rfta de adz all de teechuz dey go 2 a big confrunz were dey all rant n rave agin lol an vote 2 shut down youtube. dat’s dat de end.

F. Highly unlikely, even for Hollyoaks. Ridiculously implausible solution, to shoot the messenger rather than address the problem itself. Signed, de teechuz.

And this is me.

That article shows one beacon of cluefulness in the stupidity: the spoke for the charity Beatbullying. Emma-Jane Cross said, “Calls for social networking sites like YouTube to be closed because of cyberbullying are as intelligent as calls for schools to be closed because of bullying.”


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