Dabbler Diary – Afflicted by a Pox

My household has this past fortnight been afflicted by a pox. The windows have been boarded up and I’ve been roaming the corridors wafting a carbolic smokeball. Eerie groans echo in fetid chambers. The plants have withered and no visitors come. It is the chicken pox, and both my daughters succumbed. They’ve been reasonably brave about the spots, the snot and the itching but our eldest did not take well to the application of calamine lotion. The task of dabbing this gentle emollient on her person with cotton wool required the efforts of two full-grown adults: one to dab, one to pin her writhing arms and legs as she howled and fought with all her tiny might. Honestly, the neighbours must have thought we were waterboarding her.


But all things must pass and as a post-quarantine treat we took her to a frozen yoghurt parlour. It’s like an ice cream parlour, only with healthy low-fat frozen yoghurt instead of ice cream and therefore significantly worse. This one was a new place called FroYo2Go, if you can credit such a thing. It was in an insalubrious borough of Bristol and turned out to be much smaller than it looked on the website.

Inside there were three tables, one of which was occupied by a very big man with a laptop. I attempted to order a pastrami Panini and a jacket potato at the counter. We ant got no pastrami, said the uninterested teenage girl behind it. They dint got no potatoes neither. Eventually I did manage to order some food and cups of tea. Ten minutes later the girl walked out of the front door with the big man. Twenty minutes later she returned with him. In that time nobody had come in or out of FroYo2Go and nobody had appeared with our order. “Any chance of that cup of tea?” I asked, pleasantly. “I thought you might have wanted it with your food,” said the girl. “That would be nice, too,” I said. A while later things arrived. My wife’s brie Panini was liberally coated with tuna from my Panini. Tuna is a foodstuff she cannot abide so we had to send it back. After this the uninterested girl sat down with the big man at one of the three tables in this tiny place on a Saturday lunchtime and the two of them played with their phones for the duration of our first and last visit to FroYo2Go.

Our daughter noticed none of this however and had a great time: her frozen yoghurt was covered with chocolate buttons and chewy sweets, thus effectively cancelling out any health benefits.


Most new businesses fail fairly quickly for uncontrollable reasons, so getting the controllable ones so wrong is needless hari kari. Contrast FroYo2Go with the Riverstation, a fabulous, unpretentious restaurant-café-bar on Bristol’s harbourside. Three delicious tapas dishes for a tenner, and children eat free: a proper, home-cooked meal plus ice cream. The staff want you to enjoy your visit. I was given a choice of cream or berry compote with my apple-and-cinnamon muffin. I opted for cream but the waitress brought both over because ‘the chef wanted me to try it’. On the way out all the staff waved goodbye to my daughter. Of course I tipped generously and always tell everyone to go there. We’re blessed by an extremely efficient natural selection process in the catering industry these days: if a pub or café has been going for a while, it’s probably because it is excellent. Food-wise, we never had it so good.


It is rapidly becoming the case that the best thing about the beginning of December is that it is the end of Movember. There are some truly horrible semi-moustaches about the place: none more so, by his own admission, than that belonging Toby Young, whose piece in the Spectator raises a taboo question. Is Movember a slightly pathetic male attempt to claim equal victim status with women, who’ve been doing breast cancer for years, and thus symbolic of how unmanly men have become? Why should we have these gender-specific cancer campaigns at all – can’t we just support cancer research generally? Or is it perfectly fine?


So England’s sporting annus mirabilis continued with the demolition of the All Blacks, who were 12-1 on to beat us. I don’t understand rugby, or anyway its pundits and journalists. They write about matches as if they are Shakespeare plays, discussing themes and arcane minutiae. They give the players who score all the points a mark of 4 out of 10 and award Man of the Match to someone you didn’t even notice was on the pitch. In the Sunday Times yesterday Stephen Jones claimed that the England performance was inexplicable because they had been so dire against Australia and South Africa. But I watched those games and it seemed to me that England were unlucky not to win both. I suspect Jones of being a fraud. Perhaps Leveson should lead a judicial enquiry into rugby hacks, it couldn’t be any greater a waste of time than his last one.


There are few lovelier places to be on a cold sunny Saturday morning than Bristol Harbourside. Having been raised in Southsea and spent many happy hours on the beach throwing pebbles at France, I’m fond of harboursides and these days Bristol’s is a national treasure. The Matthew (a faithful recreation of John Cabot’s Tudor ship) was docked and open for free clambering. Brit Jnr scampered up the rigging like a powder monkey and found a buried treasure bone for the imaginary pirate dog that lived in the bow (starboard side). Sunlight tickled the waters around us. Across the cobbles and over the millennium bridge we two trotted, accompanied by the sound of a busker’s sax, to a strange pop-up shopping tent called The Birdcage in which kooky women were selling vintage clothes and handmade trinkets to other kooky women. There was a bar and a painted man telling stories to frightened children, and a very kooky woman indeed was DJ-ing: proper turntables playing old 1950s Christmas songs I didn’t recognise. We bought a birthday card for my youngest daughter (who is one today) and then went to the Aquarium. It is a beautiful aquarium with some satisfyingly weird fishes in it, but we got mugged by an annoying, sexy Spanish photographer lady who took a thousand pictures and ordered my daughter and me into endless contrived postures of familial affection.  How I loathe being bossed about by photographers, it’s so undignified. When we got to the end of the Aquarium and were made to peruse the results on a computer I was pleased to note that my girl was wearing an expression of withering sarcasm in every single one of the thousand pictures and I didn’t need to buy any of them.


Two items of Dabbler business. First, we welcome Mike Petty as the new Dabbler Book Club Editor. Mike knows all there is to know about the publishing world and is going to help make the Club more exciting. He starts his reign in the new year, but make sure you join the Club now if you haven’t already (it’s free).

Second, you may have noticed the site being slow or even unreachable at times last week. The reason is that recently the site has been involved in various traffic accidents. Rita’s post How I Learned to Speak American was picked up by Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Beast blog on the same day that Daniel Kalder’s piece on balconies was linked from The Browser. The resultant gazillion hits crippled our server. The upshot is that we’re having to upgrade yet again to cope with traffic. To cover these costs we are grateful to our special friends in the League of Dabblers. Please do feel free to join us. For £30 you help keep The Dabbler afloat, but it’s not just charity: you get some priceless stuff too, including the famous Dabbler whisky glass.


Aficionados of English dialects will be aware of the Bristol ‘L’, a curious local custom of appending a superfluous l to any word ending with an ‘a’. In fact most born-and-bred Bristolians only really use it for the word ‘idea’ – and for immigrants to the city  “That’s a good ideal” is an ironic saying that eventually becomes a habit. I have heard “extral”, “Asdal” and even “diarrhoeal” before now, but in the park the other day Mrs Brit overheard one to top the lot. “Where’s your mum and dad from?” asked one boy of another, to which the second boy replied, in a wonderful example of ethnic integration, “Albanial”.

Dabbler Diary is brought to you by Glengoyne single malt whisky – the Dabbler’s choice.
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About Author Profile: Brit

'Brit' is the blogging name of Andrew Nixon, a writer and publisher who lives in Bristol. He is the editor and co-founder of The Dabbler.

20 thoughts on “Dabbler Diary – Afflicted by a Pox

  1. Worm
    December 3, 2012 at 08:39

    I’m with you on the rugby journos – they really do talk a right load of over-aerated cobblers, as a preferrer of rugby over football, it is a source of constant embarrassment.

    re. the Bristol ‘L’ – Plymouthian Janners do a similar lingual trick, except by adding an ‘z’ – so Asda becomes Asderz etc.

    Re. Movember, I think its quite a test of courage if the man in question can only grow a really horrible moustache that makes him look dreadful.

    • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
      December 3, 2012 at 13:12

      I’ve had to sponsor three mo’s this time around, and yes, the ones that look horrible are best because they cost the grower something. One of them, however, is frankly a show-off (he’s a part-time male model and tv person) and the charity is an excuse to post pictures of himself on social media every day.

  2. markcfdbailey@gmail.com'
    December 3, 2012 at 09:45

    “spent many happy hours on the beach throwing pebbles at France”

    I loved that line. Don’t ask me why, but it was truly chucklesome.

    I should imagine that the ease with which the Spanish photographer mugged you was in diect proportion to her sexiness. I don’t think John Prescott would have been as successful.

    • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
      December 3, 2012 at 13:14

      Thanks R, that line actually came to me a couple of days ago and had been searching for a place to be used, which is something writers probably aren’t supposed to admit to.

      The photographers sexiness was merely one of her weapons along with extreme bossiness and persistence. I expect Prescott would simply have sat on me until I agreed to be photographed.

  3. law@mhbref.com'
    jonathan law
    December 3, 2012 at 10:23

    Re the ‘Bristol l’: I suppose you know that old joke about the Bristol woman who called her daughters Norma, Ida and Eva?

    • Worm
      December 3, 2012 at 11:03

      hahaha brilliant JL!

  4. zmkc@ymail.com'
    December 3, 2012 at 10:57

    As usual all you say is wise and perceptive, except perhaps this “There are few lovelier places to be on a cold sunny Saturday morning than Bristol Harbourside” which is the kind of hyperbole that only a really, really happy man can produce. But how nice to see someone happy.

  5. peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
    December 3, 2012 at 12:43

    Toby Young is right, at least about how frivolous Movember is, but it takes a brave man to say so in this age of earnest cause-of-the-week compassion. Even Dabbler-style curmudgeons are advised to tread carefully. Best to keep mum and respond with things like “Sorry, I can’t spare any money, but you have certainly raised my awareness, so I’m sure it’s all worthwhile.”

  6. andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
    December 3, 2012 at 13:18

    The male-specific element of Movember is what raises questions, I think. Ok, prostate is very common, but mainly in older men and still has a 50% survival rate. Testicular cancer is rare and doesn’t kill many.

    On the other hand, the non-gender specific cancers – lung, bowel, bladder, kidney, stomach – are much more common and more deadly, but don’t seem to have the same, um, sex-appeal.

    The defence is that you need a popular angle like Race for Life or Movember to raise funds on a massive scale.

    • Worm
      December 3, 2012 at 13:42

      so…what you’re saying is that women should be allowed to grow moustaches too?

  7. davidanddonnacohen@gmail.com'
    December 3, 2012 at 14:26

    Well, many happy returns to Brit v. jnr.

    I didn’t realize that question was taboo; I thought it was too obvious to mention.

    • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
      December 3, 2012 at 19:39


  8. owen.polley@talk21.com'
    December 3, 2012 at 15:21

    Before you condemn rugby journalists for being more overblown than football writers, read some of Hugh McIlvanney (Sunday Times), described as ‘the most respected voice in British sports journalism.

    Here’s one excerpt I picked out a couple of years ago:

    As Liverpool have lurched and stumbled their way out of the major cup competitions of England and Europe and into the predicament of scrabbling to sustain fragile belief in their ability to finish as high as fourth in the Premier League (and thus guarantee entry to the Champions League), isolated hints of recovered effectiveness have been swiftly exposed as illusory. Remembering how the 2-0 defeat of Manchester United in October was immediately followed by submissions to Arsenal and Fulham and then a run of three laboured draws, and how the tentative hopes of improved fortunes encouraged by an away victory over persuasively aspiring Aston Villa at the end of December humiliatingly foundered in last week’s expulsion from the FA Cup by Reading at Anfield, it is difficult to imagine we’ll soon be witnessing a genuine restoration of formidability to the club who once ruled British football imperiously.

    Try reading that out loud! Beyond parody.

    • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
      December 3, 2012 at 19:38

      Ah yes, Owen.

      Hugh McIlvanney (“The Voice of Sport”) is the silliest bit of the Sunday Times. He’s a dreadful writer, never uses one word if a complicated sentence will do instead. Or as he might put it: If, as is commonly surmised by those in the literary game, it is the case that shortness is one step from sweetness, then never could it be said of Mr McIlvanney that he took that academic truism to heart, for here is a man who prefers a cascade of clauses to pressing the brevity button, whether the cause of clarity demands it or doesn’t.

  9. Wormstir@gmail.com'
    December 3, 2012 at 21:04

    Looking forward to mike taking the helm of the book club!

  10. Gaw
    December 3, 2012 at 22:23

    I think one of the best rugby – and sports – writers around is Eddie Butler. He brings out the cultural context, which, as with most sports, is really one of the most interesting things about it. But then I’ve had a soft spot for him ever since he courageously gave his greying hair a blue rinse, and then a purple one, a decade or so ago. I still wonder why he did it, which adds to the man’s enigma. Perhaps he was raising awareness of some disease?

  11. petty.mike@gmail.com'
    Mike Petty
    December 4, 2012 at 07:05

    “looking forward to Mike taking the helm of the book club…”

    Me too! Greetings from Brisbane, where the temperature is a robust 37C and Englishmen avoid the midday sun by bolting for air-conditioned bliss at the cinema.

    • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
      December 4, 2012 at 20:44

      Long way to go to visit cinemas, Mike…

  12. bensix@live.co.uk'
    December 5, 2012 at 02:29

    It’s like an ice cream parlour, only with healthy low-fat frozen yoghurt instead of ice cream and therefore significantly worse.

    Low-fat yogurt?

Comments are closed.