You may have seen them on the streets: people that seem to have given up before they've begun. Slobbing around in their onesies and slippers - garments that should only be worn (if they must) within the privacy of one's home.
Celebrated romantic Barbara Cartland; prolific author, campaigner and 'pink crusader' would have undoubtedly rolled her heavily-mascaraed eyes at this relaxing of standards. The indomitable dame was an unmissable feature on the landscape of the twentieth century. She monopolised the world of romantic fiction, selling a (disputed) billion copies of her books. As one of 1920s society's Bright Young People, she received countless marriage proposals. She was a champion of sustainability - recycling wedding dresses for forces brides over half a century before EcoIsland had been invented. In the final years of her life the grand dame's star was fading but undiminished. Determined to keep up appearances, she always wore her trademark pink froufrou and lashings of make-up, which one wit described as 'cruelty without beauty'. However, she wasn't just a caricature; she kept her eye on the ball and had a reputation for being razor sharp to the end.
Ryde's Elizabeth Pack department store seems to have held a position in sartorial society similar to that of the formidable dame. Founded and developed from various respected Island retailers, the existing incarnation opened in 1987 with the laudable aim of continuing the standards established by its owner Elizabeth Barrow: standards that go back to before the Second World War. But just because it's old, and - like the novelist's - its exterior has succumbed to the ravages of time, the store's not yet turned up its toes.
Have you noticed how Ryde's Union Street is a street of two halves?
Slice it lengthwise and you will find that on the western side the eateries are mostly chain-style fast food franchises: Wimpy, Subway, KFC and the like. On the eastern side of this vertiginous thoroughfare are some more salubrious establishments. Olivo, Joe's and before its much-mourned demise, Liberty's. Obviously there are exceptions: Yelf's Hotel and Black Sheep Bar are on the shadier side and, Domino's has set its stall opposite Wetherspoon's but the pattern is still apparent.
And the trend is continuing. As part of an audacious expansion into Liberty's beautiful old building, House of Zabre fashion department store has opened a bijou coffee shop in what was the restaurant's kitchen. Matt and Cat broke the news about this venture way back in 2011 when Liberty's was hardly cold - and must admit to a certain scepticism about how well yet another café could do in Union Street. So when they popped into Zabre one day to have a nose about the handbags and gladrags, they were inevitably drawn through the shop by the aroma of coffee and a powerful sense of nosiness.
How many times has Lady Gaga reinvented herself?
First it's an encrusted lobster on her head, then she's teetering about in a meat dress with matching flesh heels - easy when you've got a reputation for outrageousness and clearly no shame. These grotesque makeovers may keep Lady G's downloads at the top of the hit parade, but is probably an inappropriate model when applied to a pub.
Over the years that Matt and Cat have been reviewing the Island's eateries they have seen many places change hands and change styles. From the understated improvements at the old St Helen's Restaurant - now Dan's Kitchen, to the more GaGa-esque gaudiness that transformed characterless town-centre carvery Mill Bay II into rock café aspirant House of Legends. Two sides of the same coin perhaps, but how do you change a village pub without upsetting the locals but encouraging new customers? Perhaps the re-christened The Fishbourne (formerly The Fishbourne Inn) has the answer?
It may be the depths of winter now, but imagine the scene: having spent all day on the beach during a rare hot August Bank Holiday, a day-tripping family tidies up their detritus.
Nan is levered out of the deckchair and Dad bounces assiduously on the hissing inflatable banana until it slowly goes flaccid and is packed away. Struggling back up the hill, the whining kids, piebald with suncream, are famished from a long day of throwing sand at each other, and Mum’s thinking with little relish about the prospect of heating up tomato soup on the Camping Gaz stove. Just then, a fish and chip shop comes into view, the tempting aroma of hot oil wafting across the pavement and drawing the hapless tourists unresistingly inside.
If our hypothetical hungry family is in Ryde, they’d do well to stop at the first chippy near Appley beach, Monkton Village’s Chipmunks. Matt and Cat have reviewed that venue favourably, but it is only one of several contenders in the town. The family could maybe step a bit further west. No, no, not to the Codfather, slightly south west and up the hill to Wights. Although a tad more than a hop, skip and jump from the beach, this chippy is well-placed at the junction of Ryde’s precinct, near a pub, cinema and bingo hall - perfect for passing hot-snack-hunters. And so it was that Wights was Matt and Cat’s chosen venue for a fish and chip supper with a visiting relative from London.
Due to entirely foreseen circumstances, Matt and Cat found themselves without internet access one clement autumn day.
This enforced Luddism could have inspired a frenzied bout of housework or perhaps baking, but those who know M&C well will already be guffawing at such ridiculous options. No, they decided to embrace their temporary broadband-free existence and where better than at Quarr Abbey – site of a monkishly simple life as long ago as the twelfth century.
The monks at Quarr Abbey have engaged with the Island community for years and, more recently, have increased their profile and perhaps their revenue stream. Their enterprises have included creative ceramics with Brother Alexander Tingay, bookbinding and the tea room. Once a bit of a shack in part of the abbey’s walled garden the café has, with the help of an EU grant, evolved into a decent business venture with the worthy objective of supporting this religious foundation. Will eating at the café become a regular habit?