Riverfields 17 – coffee

0017There was just one kind of coffee you could get in a traditional transport caff – instant. If you were lucky it was Maxwell House. If  you weren’t it was Happy Shopper brown water from the VG shop down the road. Some of the showier caffs would add froth, but under no circumstances should you ever ask what the froth actually was.

Riverfields 16 – Going down the caff

0016Where America has the noble diner, a streamlined Formica and neon palace of hearty home cooking, Britain has the transport cafe, a shabby shed next to a lay-by offering chipped mugs of strong builder’s tea and bacon sarnies swimming in grease. I’ve made this one a converted Portakabin™ (I have to put the ™ in or Portakabin’s lawyers will write to me in a desperate attempt to protect their trademark) but they’re more likely to look something like this…

The traditional Transport Caff is starting to go upmarket, and several are turning into diners. I pass this one on the A21 at the hamlet of John’s Cross every day on the way to work. Of course, being on the main road to Hastings it calls itself the Route 1066 Diner and it does a roaring trade to passing truckers and bikers, especially on days like the Mayday bike run, or the day all the taxis come down from London to give kids with special needs and their carers a day by the seaside.

Yes, that sign does say ‘Get your chips at 1066’. And I’m glad to report that every table has a squeezy plastic tomato full of ketchup on it, just as God intended.

Riverfields 15 – Billy No-Mates

0015Autobiographical? I don’t know what you mean! Maybe up to panel two but I was never snogged by a bookshop. Not at that age.

Riverfields 14 – Shop-shape


Riverfields 13 – Eggy

0013This is the first and last time you get to see Nigel’s mum, once the mall opens the strip stays resolutely work-focused.

For the uninitiated, these are eggy soldiers. The soldiers are the toast strips which you dip them into the yolk of the soft-boiled egg. The very idea of a runny yolk seems to revolt Americans – Linda soft boils my eggs under protest – but trust me, they’re delicious. The image shows a soft-boiled goose egg; now that’s just showing off.

Riverfields 12 – Discriminimnishun


Riverfields 11 – Ringo Starr vs George Carlin

0011We all know Thomas the Tank Engine – the slightly alarming human faced locomotive who lives on the island of Sodor with a lots of other fleshy-boilered rolling stock. There’s a heritage railway just down the road from my work which has Thomas weekends where they put faces on their locos and steam up and down the line from Tunbridge Wells to Eridge with carriages full of excitable kids and long suffering parents.

To us Brits, Thomas is synonymous with Ringo Starr, who has been narrating the kid’s animated TV show for 20 years or so. There are several generations of people now who are quite surprised to find he was once a drummer in some band or other.

In America, the same TV shows are shown, but they’ve been revoiced by George Carlin! I’m going to have to find this on YouTube – I’m having trouble imagining this.

Riverfields 10 – Bob

0010Another regular character gets introduced here, though we won’t find out his name for a few weeks. (There’s a clue in the title of today’s post.)

Riverfields 9 – Flinch

0009I would like to apologise unreservedly to the estate of Barbara Cartland for spelling her name incorrectly. Barbara Cartland was a quite remarkable woman – by turns deb, aviatrix, playwright, campaigner for Gypsy rights, local politician, writer of Mills and Boon romances by the yard (23 different books of hers were published in 1983), and inventor of a style of make up that has only ever been surpassed by Tammy Faye Bakker.

You may have heard of her step granddaughter, Princess Diana. Cartland once remarked, “The only books Diana ever read were mine, and they weren’t awfully good for her.”

Riverfields 8 – Millennium

0008This goes to show what sort of a protracted gestation period this strip had. These first strips were actually drawn sometime around 1999, so we’re looking at a world which was getting ready for a brand new century to begin. Bookstores were full of ‘millennium’ editions of pre-existing books. Millennium Bibles, Millennium dictionaries, Millennium books of Child Care, Millennium books of Princess Diana photos, Millennium survivalist manuals for when the Millennium Big caused the end of civilisation – you name it there, was an expensive violet and silver foil-blocked millennium edition of it…