A SOUTH EAST LONDON MAGAZINE www.thetransmitter.co.uk
ISSUE 26 NOV/DEC 2012
But who is he really?
Ada and the Shoemaker crafty finNs in Crystal palace
Christmas gardens Music Books Recipes
WELCOME TO THE Christmas ISSUE
Santa Andy Pontin Santa’s Helper Annette Prosser
Design Reindeer Simon Sharville Illustrator Elves Karin Dahlbacka Alex Milway Gary Northfield Photographer Elves Nicolai Amter James Balston Mark Blundell Louise Haywood-Schiefer Andy Pontin Contributing Elves Jess Allen Justine Crow Sarah Edmonds Alex Fowler Emily Hall Ali Howard Jessica Johnson Jonathan Main Howard Male Rachel de Thample Laura Thomas Matt Walls Sue Williams Printing Elves The Marstan Press Contact Transmission Publications PO Box 53556, London SE19 2TL www.thetransmitter.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org 07530 450925 @thetransmitter
Cover illustration by Karin Dahlbacka www.karindahlbacka.com
In this – our fourth (!) – Christmas issue we loiter for a moment on the corner of the darkened street where liveth the brothers Grimm and, peering through the gloom, we can just discern the distant shores of wintry Lapland. Or is that Poundland? Who can tell? Crystal Palace is such a festive moving feast that although we may go to our bed one day all Scrooge-like, cursing this dismal backwater, the next morning we awaken anew to a bright and lively village filled with artisanal Finnish families (page 18) and Huskies (page 27), gingerbread and spicy cupcakes (page 36), vibrant independent shops stuffed with Christmas gift ideas (page 12) and gorgeous new cafes run by mysterious and beautiful twins from faraway Norseland (page 49). Not to mention fiction and books and gardening and wine and world music and all that stuff we always have even when it’s not Christmas; at least they mostly make a bit of an effort to give it a festive twist. Yes, we have all that for you. And it’s free. So you can throw it in the bin if you don’t like it. Whatever, we wish you a merry etc Enjoy! Ed
Disclaimer The views expressed by contributors are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect this magazine’s editorial policy or the views of any employee of Transmission Publications. So there.
Features 12 christmas Shopping Gifts galore! Shop local! 18 Our Finnish Friends Scandinavians on the Triangle 24 Who is Santa Claus? The truth behind the beard 27 He sees you when you’re sleeping The wild man of the woods comes home 32 High level Station and subway The station that was and the subway that could be again 43 Spooky short Story A creepy waiting room for Christmas 54 ETC Etc Amen: A Novel Howard Male publishes his book. Amen.
Regulars 36 Crystal Palace Cookbook Seasonal delights from Rachel De Thample and the Tilli Twins 40 Wine Matt Wall’s perfect snifters for Christmas Lunch 46 Palace Patch Sue Williams prunes her patch of paradise 49 Restaurant Justine visits our fab new station cafe 56 There’s a World Out There Howard takes a break from book signings to talk tinselly tunes 58 The Bookseller Jonathan reviews some books that are printed on paper
News & Events HAPPENINGS CHORAL AND CHRISTMASSY FOR SE19ERS EMAIL US: email@example.com
The life of Croydon composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor has been celebrated with a festival showcasing his work throughout 2012, the centenary of his death. A final gala concert takes place at St John the Evangelist on Saturday 15 December, in which the Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra and the specially-formed Centenary Choir will perform some of his most famous and well-loved music including his violin concerto, Ballade in A minor and Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast.
As well as all the usual treats at the monthly West Norwood Feast, on Sunday 2 December you’ll also be able to catch the Crystal Palace Community Choir performing a mix of seasonal favourites. A hometown Triangle appearance is also planned: to hear your favourite festive carols (and join in too), keep an eye on Living Water Satisfies. Details of their pre-Christmas gig at the cafe will be confirmed in two shakes of a donkey’s tail.
Artisans at Gipsy Hill Workshops are opening their doors to those keen to see more of the creative process at their Open Studios taking place each weekend from 24 November – 16 December. Individual items including hats, ceramics, jewellery, sculptures and illustrations will be available to buy or you can talk to the artists direct about commissions. Work by resident artist Angelique Hartigan will also be on view at the Ripley Arts Centre in Bromley from 20 November – 20 December at an exhibition entitled Following in Pissarro’s Footsteps. Those after affordable art should also check out the Bigger Picture Gallery Art Market at Victory Place Saturday 17 November and Saturday 15 December from 10am til dark.
St John the Evangelist Auckland Road SE19 2RX Tickets £10 (£8 concessions) 020 8657 7909
THE PALACE CHRISTMAS FAIR Those lovely people who bring you the Sell It Mama events have gone all seasonal and will be bringing together local retailers and talent to offer funky gifts in a special Christmas event on Saturday 1 December. Tea, coffee and cake (and mulled wine!) will keep the retail energy up. Keep your eyes peeled for the reindeer. Christ Church 1 Highland Road SE19 10.30am-4.30pm Entry £1 (Children Free)
Living Water Satisfies 46 Westow Street SE19 3AF
GALLERY BAZAAR You can tick several things off your Christmas experience list at once at the Dulwich Picture Gallery on Thursday 6 December, where their Christmas Bazaar includes Carols in Christ’s Chapel, the President of the Royal Academy Christopher Le Brun signing the Dulwich Picture Gallery/Friends Christmas card in the Gallery Shop, and gift-buying opportunities from local artists and artisans too. Linbury Room, Café and Cloisters Gallery Road Dulwich SE21 7AD 6-9pm Free
Gipsy Hill Workshops 14 Paddock Gardens SE19 3SB www.gipsyhillworkshops.co.uk www.angelique-hartigan-artist. co.uk www.biggerpicturegallery.co.uk
Peryls Part 2
Assuming the world doesn’t come to an end on 21 December, The Peryls will be releasing the follow-up to last year’s debut album A Man He Was To All The Country Dear in early 2013. They’re busy recording it right now with mixing due to take place when everyone sobers up after Christmas. You can follow the recording diary of their progress with the not-atall-difficult-second-album on their blog. It truly captures the heady, glamorous and downright crazy excesses of recording in a shed.
Not quite the proverbial bus stop phenomenon, but this year two local Saturday Christmas markets have come along at once. From 24 November, The Alma will be hosting a weekly Winter Market in their lovely garden. And just a holly hop and a snowy skip down the road at The Bridge House in Penge, you’ll find The Pop-Up-Farmers Market on 8, 15 and 22 December, organised by The Pop-Up-Emporium. We recommend burning off a few mince pie-calories with a brisk walk through Crystal Palace Park between the two: perfect for squirreling out your seasonal treats and gifts.
There’s also a rumour that they may be playing their only live date before 2013 in the run-up to Christmas. It might take place at Antenna Studios, playing the new tunes for the first time. Probably just a rumour though.
The Alma 95 Church Road SE19 2TA 020 8768 1885 www.thealmapub.com The Bridge House 2 High Street SE20 8RZ www.facebook.com/bridgehouse
www.theperyls.com Photo by Nicolai Amter
ark! The herald angels sing Family Carol services to calm, cheer and offer a brief moment for reflection amid the Christmas chaos. CHRIST CHURCH 1 Highland Road, Gipsy Hill SE19 1DP Carol Service 8pm Sunday 16 December Christingle Carol Service 5pm Sunday 23 December Children’s Nativity Service followed by party tea (come dressed up or choose an outfit when you arrive) 4pm Christmas Eve ST LUKE’S Knight’s Hill SE27 0HS Carols, Christingles and Crib Service Christmas Carols with a Christingle procession and nativity tableau (especially for children to get dressed up and join in) 6.30pm-8pm Sunday 16 December ST STEPHENS College Road Dulwich SE21 7HN Special Carol Service with celebrity readers, the Dulwich chamber choir and the Elm Singers in support of St Christopher’s Hospice 6.30pm Tuesday 18 December Lessons and Carols with the choir of St Stephen’s 6pm Sunday 23 December Blessing of the Crib Children are invited to come dressed as angels, shepherds, wise men and other characters from the nativity 4pm Christmas Eve ST BARTHOLOMEW’S Westwood Hill, Sydenham SE26 6QR Traditional Carol Service 6pm Sunday 23 December Christingle Service Especially for young children and their families 4pm Christmas Eve SALVATION ARMY 58 Westow Street SE19 3AF Community Carol Service Informal, fun event aimed at young children and their families, with participation from Guides, Brownies, Rainbows and Beavers, the Band and Songsters 2.30-3.30pm Sunday 9 December Band carolling outside Sainsbury’s 11am-1pm Saturday 8 and 22 December
Trading Places NEW SHOPS! NEW CAFES! NEW LOCAL E-COMMERCE!
Casa Cuba 99 Church Road SE19 2PR Mon-Fri 8am-10pm (Fridays til midnight), Sat 9am-midnight, Sun 9am-10pm www.casacuba.co.uk
Yogusensi 93 Church Road SE19 2TA Mon-Sat 10am-6.30pm, Sun 11am-5pm
Check them out at their pop-up shop at Beanies in Croydon on Mondays 19 and 26 November or at The Alma Christmas Markets (from Saturday 24 November).
IT’S A... ER... CAFe THING
You lovely Transmitter readers can even get 10% off with the discount code LAUNCH10.
Opening a shop selling a chilled dessert as summer came to a close could have seemed ‘an interesting decision’. But the frozen yoghurt with fresh fruit toppings (delicious yet wholesome) found at Yogusensi is only half the story. As well as staples such as granitas and smoothies for the hardy, the winter tale will be one of Chai teas and toasty toasties in mouth-wateringly winning combos such as sweet fig and ricotta. Tasty bites, cheerful décor and another reason to visit Church Road and all its charms
Crystal Palace is rightly proud of its refreshing wealth of global (and independent) eateries. To our already eclectic list including Venezuelan, Nepalese, Caribbean, Vietnamese, Sardinian and Brazilian culinary experiences, we can now add some Cuban delight. Casa Cuba brings an extra dimension to the White Hart corner of Church Road: the former print shop houses both a travel operator (Cuban destinations a speciality), and a café/bar. By day you’ll find soups, sandwiches and locally-made cakes, Cuban coffee (roasted in Gloucester) or Teapigs for non-coffee drinkers, and by night (from 6pm) mojitos accompanied with a cosy dash of Cuban beats to warm you through the winter. And there are lovely books to browse. Plans for the future include live music, a late-night licence, and lots and lots of fun.
If you’ve not yet discovered the SE19 creative hub that is Antenna Studios, there’s now another reason to saunter down Haynes Lane for a look. The Café Thing is just that, a new intimate venue to meet up and have a cuppa (and toast you don’t have to make yourself): except here you’ll probably get to hear some original or new music, will more than likely get into a convo with an artist/musician/ photographer who’s working in one of the studios, and will no doubt be introduced to a Crystal Palace local with tales to tell. Check out their tumblr site to see what they’re about or pop down during the day or evening when the café turns into a bar. See the studio website for a calendar of upcoming events too. Café Thing Bowyers Yard, Haynes Lane Crystal Palace SE19 3AN Mon-Fri 2-11pm (closed Tuesdays), Sat 2-9pm, Sun 2-10.30pm www.antennastudios.co.uk
When Crystal Palace-based designer and entrepreneur Sarah Archard had difficulty finding stylish, British-made baby items, she opted not to move to Notting Hill but instead to launch new online business Archie’s Boutique. With a range of cute stock – including quality locally-sourced baby products, such as nappy bags and kitchenware from Anorak in East Dulwich – it’s sure to appeal to design-conscious mums looking for something a teensy bit different.
PASSION FOR PIZZA
Thanks to new Pizza-Café Il Grillo, residents of Anerley no longer have to hike up the dreaded hill to find some decent grub. The BYOB restaurant, owned by chef Elia, serves quality authentic Italian pizza and pasta as well as homemade desserts: there’s even a specially created ‘Crystal Palace’ pizza to tempt us in. We’re on our way. Takeaway and very tempting delivery services available too … Il Grillo 88 Anerley Road SE19 2AH Mon- Fri 7am-10.30pm, Sat & Sun 9am-10pm 020 8778 5439
If your dream wedding includes a traditional, OMG-gorgeous, floor-sweeping, icing-sugar dress, you are in luck. There we all were, one day afraid to think what might be behind the whitewashed windows (mobile phone shop? turf accountant?) the next totally bowled over as acres of white lace, ivory satin, floor-to-ceiling mirrors and chandeliers appeared like some kind of vision opposite Sainsgogs. Love Bridal is an independent shop where you can view, touch and try an extensive range of top-name wedding dresses (including Amanda Wyatt, Kenneth Winston and Art Couture). Their launch event – put Thursday 6 December in your diaries RIGHT NOW – will be a catwalk extravaganza showcasing their frocks and accessories as well as the many talents of local businesses (including hair by Heather at fortyseven and cakes by Jo Nelson for Angel Cakes). Business partners Max Middleton and Laura Mead have themselves been bowled over by the support they have received since opening in October: ‘Everyone has been so incredibly welcoming, something we hadn’t expected at all,’ says Max, ‘we are really just so thrilled to have found such a friendly area’. Wanting to say thank you for this cheerful reception and establish themselves as part of the local trading community – something the Love Bridal ladies feel very strongly about – they dreamt up December’s sumptuous spectacle. And yes, we are all invited. Doors: 6.30pm. Catwalk: 7.30pm. Wedding gossip: ALL NIGHT. Love Bridal 57 Westow Street SE19 3RW Mon & Fri 10am-5pm, Wed-Thur 10am-8pm, Sat 9am-6pm (closed Tuesdays, appt only Sundays) www.lovebridal.co.uk 9
Seven Santas No Christmas shop would be complete without a trip to Glitter & Twisted. This set of seven handpainted Russian dolls is as cute as can be. (£16.50)
BEE HAPPY All the prized Alex Monroe jewellery available at Smash Bang Wallop is delightful, but this gold bumblebee necklace is everyone’s favourite (£135)
Christmas Shopping If you’re a Transmitter-lover spending their first Christmas in Crystal Palace, welcome! By now you’ll probably know all about our eclectic community of indie shops, and now’s the time to soak up our top-of-the-hill village atmos by actually enjoying your xmas shop. Yes, dear reader, it is possible. There are plenty of cosy cafes, pubs and restaurants for essential victuals on the way, and with winter markets too this year you’ll find it such a doddle, it’ll feel like … well, Christmas.
FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD Who doesn’t love a big hamper of foodie treats? This Good Taste Food & Drink one includes 3 bottles of beer (an IPA, a Best Bitter and a Black IPA), a Petit Verdot wine from Portugal, Bath Oval biscuits, tomato chutney, English quince for cheese, a Lancashire Bomb and Tunworth soft cows milk cheese from Hampshire. Drool. (This hamper £75, others start from £25).
BODY BEAUTIFUL REN products really do feel luxurious. Choose from a selection at Northwood Clinic or opt for this Neroli and Grapefruit and Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash & Cream mini gift set (£15)
DM ME Grand Bay has some great footwear including these Classic 8-hole Dr Martens. Timeless. (£79)
GIFTS FOR GENTLEMEN Accessories never looked finer, and now we’ve got them right here in our hometown. Man’s watch (£100) and Harris Tweed and leather gloves (£85) both at Simon Carter.
CHOCOLATE HEAVEN If it’s gift chocolate for grown-ups you need, Smash Bang Wallop has it covered. And don’t forget you’re buying for other people, be strong. This Rococo Chocolate box is a winner (£22.50)
VIVA ESPAGNA At our favourite Sydenham store Alhambra you’ll find loadsa lovely, not-on-the-high-street stuff. This Paella kit (with a choice of pan size and a recipe sheet) is a bestseller. (From £19.99)
BIKE BONANZA Budding Vicky Pendleton’s will love riding round Crystal Palace Park on this girl’s Dawes Venus bike (£169.99) from Blue Door Bicycles, whilst mum or dad can lust after the totes gorge, if luxurious, Koga SuperMetro (£999) at Popiel Cycles.
Wanna go high street? Crystal Palace resident Emily Hall goes further afield to pick her best of the rest
COSY KIDS Keep little ones snuggled up this festive season in a woolly jumper from outdoor experts Barbour. They do so much more than old-fashioned wax jackets – like this cute owl print jumper (£49.95 Age 2/3 yrs)
Stocking fillers for the woman in your life can be tricky – but not when you visit Accessorize. These gothic-style Victorian jet chandelier earrings are a winner (£6) and guaranteed she’ll love this rose beaded clutch bag too (£35)
A girl can’t live without her LBD (Little Black Dress) and this pretty embellished black tie-back number from Warehouse will suit any size and shape. Perfect for New Year’s Eve too! (£80)
26 COVERS LATER Ok we love’em all, but which one’s your favourite? To celebrate our 4th Christmas issue we’re having a little competition. Just choose the Transmitter cover you like best, tell us why and you could find yourself the fortunate winner of the wonderful Grimm Tales: For Young and Old by Philip Pullman, courtesy of everyone’s favourite independent book retailer The Bookseller Crow.
Pick your favourite at www.thetransmitter.co.uk and leave a comment and your twitter name. Or just tweet us (@thetransmitter) and we will retweet the best comments and print some in the next issue. If you haven’t got a twitter account (?), just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us which comment is yours. To be in with a chance of winning the prize, your comments, tweets, emails etc must be left by midnight on Wednesday 19 December. The Editor will select his favourite comment and notify the lucky reader the following day. You can then pop into The Bookseller Crow and claim your prize or, if you prefer, we’ll post it out to you. GOOD LUCK!
DON’T MISS OUT! SUBSCRIBE TO THE TRANSMITTER
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A SOUTH EAST LONDON MAGAZINE www.thetransmitter.co.uk
ISSUE 26 NOV/DEC 2012
But who iS he really?
ada and the Shoemaker Crafty finnS in CryStal palaCe
Christmas gardenS muSiC BookS reCipeS
Bound in Tradition
THE FESTIVE SEASON HAS A FINNISH AIR FOR ONE CRYSTAL PALACE FAMILY, AS JESSICA JOHNSON FINDS OUT. Photos by Louise Haywood-Schiefer www.lhschiefer.com
hristmas has arrived early in Upper Norwood. As evening falls to dark, a hanging paper star casts a warm light into the home of Finnish couple Ada Nuottajarvi and Teemu-Pekka Leppanen who, together with their two excitable little elves – daughter Emmi (6) and son Eelis (5) – are set to welcome in the season with a cultural fusion of Finnish and English tradition. At the middle of the family table sits a collection of Ada’s hand-made origami tea-light holders, which in addition to her dressmaking, knitting, sewing and patchwork, are testament to her dexterous flair and creatively restless nature. But it’s the leather that binds this fairytale. Take a peek inside the Triangle’s very own Rooks Books and you’ll find Ada working on an array of bespoke commissions as a full-time leather worker, while Teemu is one of a small and highlyrespected band of shoemakers at George Cleverley, a bespoke four-storey building tucked inside the Old Arcade near Bond Street.
Much to the children’s bemusement, Teemu has brought a little work home with him this evening and I’m walked through the timeless art of shoemaking. Tying a sturdy apron over a smart shirt and tie, Teemu hands me a smooth, foot-shaped block of wood that is known as a last; a bit like the DNA equivalent of the shoe-making world, it’s carved around the unique measurements of the client’s foot joints including the instep and the all-important heel line. And this isn’t just any old last. In what looks like durable black felt tip, the name Kenneth Branagh is etched in loopy handwriting on one side. Celebrities aren’t the only purchasers of a bespoke sole. Each year Teemu travels as far as Tokyo and the USA to attend a raft of Trunk Shows which showcase some of George Cleverley’s most iconic British designs – the Smart Round Toe, the Cleverley Squared Toe – and the Suspiciously Squared Toe, a sleek and slightly elongated shoe that’s become shorthand for style amid a pavement of stomping city gents. ‘Often I have to warn customers that once you’ve had your first pair made, it’s going to be very difficult to buy anything else,’ says Teemu, who believes trainers have got a lot to answer for in today’s society. ‘Most people’s feet are cocooned into too soft a shape which restricts the air and doesn’t allow the muscles to work properly. The fit and comfort of having your own pair of shoes made is priceless – some of our lasts go back 60 or 70 years.’
Teemu began studying shoemaking at University in Finland in 1994 – he met Ada on the same course and, in 1998, they travelled to London to embark on work experience in their respective fields of leather-work. Ada made such an impression on master leather-worker Gavin Rookledge that in 2000 she returned to his eclectic workshop and leather bookbindery in Cooper’s Yard to take up a full-time role.
It can take up to 150 hours to construct a pair of shoes from scratch. After carving the last, a pattern is drawn up based on the model chosen by the customer and pieces of leather are sized up accordingly. The ‘closing’ process forms the upper part of the shoe, connecting the lining to the outer leather and the shoe is finally welded together using a specialised waxed linen thread.
The workspace is a feast for the eyes. Rolls, remnants and scraps of coloured leather hang from every hook and shelf including shimmering fish skins and Russian cow hide, some salvaged from sea wrecks from the early 1800s. Countless leather drawers and oversized battered trunks hold mystery and intrigue, while resident cats Grimstone and Incupus pad knowingly from room to room, perching on any shelf, book or ledge that lends them the best views.
Our ‘have it now’ culture which at times seems to champion disposable fashions, seems to be making way for a slower, more enriching approach to the value of hand-crafted garments and bespoke tailoring – or has it always been there? ‘We have newer finishes for the shoes but still rely on old techniques’, explains Teemu. ‘There isn’t a computer on site, everything gets logged into books and it’s exactly as it would have been 100 years ago. Shoe-making is quite archaic but it’s still very much alive as a craft.’
Bespoke commissions can range from binding leather desks and bedside cabinets to specialised projects for super-yacht walls and interiors, created from leather or often from vellum, a smooth and durable parchment. Depending on the needs of the customer, diaries, wedding albums and books are bound in goat skin, chosen for its soft and pliable texture, and are often customised using decorative pieces of leather from old
bags, boots and even leather jackets. Note to students – please give at least six weeks notice before your dissertation needs to be handed in. ‘People do expect everything to be instantaneous these days,’ says Ada, who works at the studio between the children’s school hours. ‘I find manual work very satisfying, especially seeing a little sample turn into a bigger surface. Leather-work in itself is a bit of a compulsion but I love the dynamics of different jobs and projects. My brain is together at the studio.’ Living close to Rooks Books was one of the biggest reasons Ada and Teemu decided to settle in Crystal Palace. ‘We both come from small villages in Finland and this feels like something similar – it doesn’t really feel like living in London,’ says Teemu, who admits to missing the ‘crisp cold and snow’ of his Finnish village Siilinjarvi (translated as ‘Hedgehog Lake’), especially as Christmas approaches. Ada grew up in the village of Suomussalmi in Kainuu; her parents still live next to the same forests and lakes she used to spend each summer playing and swimming in as a little girl. But due to much of their Finnish family living so far apart, Ada, Teemu and the kids spend most Christmases in London with fellow Finns, dining on traditional Scandinavian fare. Turkey and trimmings are swapped for carved ham, hot bowls of carrot casserole and festive desserts such as Torttu (puff pastry with plums) and homemade Pipari (gingerbread). Not forgetting a Finnish Christmas breakfast of Joulopuuro: rice pudding, made with cinnamon, sugar and, for one recipient, a lucky blanched almond. By far the most important part of the celebrations, though, is deciding just when Father Christmas will come and visit Emmi and Eelis. Finnish tradition goes that Santa lives in Finland and visits each family on Christmas Eve with gifts – in the UK he can mysteriously fly down the chimney and up again leaving only a half-chewed carrot and some telling crumbs of mince pie. ‘Grandma lives close to the Artic Circle so the children have actually been able to skype Father Christmas on Christmas Eve and then open their presents on Christmas Day in line with English traditions,’ says Ada.
ANDY PONTIN REVEALS THERE’S MORE TO THAT JOLLY BEARDED AVUNCULAR FELLOW THAN YOU MIGHT THINK
SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN
So who is Santa Claus? That’s easy. We all know that he is really St Nicholas, don’t we? He was a 4th-century Turkish Bishop and then CocaCola changed his bishop robes into a red suit to sell fizzy drinks. Red bishopy robes, white beardy bishop – that all makes sense, doesn’t it? Well, not quite. This story is about an ongoing battle for our hearts and minds between two very distinct characters. This is a battle between Santa Claus and old Father Christmas.
Much of the modern-day version of Santa Claus is owed to the Clement Moore poem The Night Before Christmas which begins: ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house ...’ and appeared in the New York Sentinel on 23 December 1823. Clement Moore, however, was a highly educated scholar and was familiar with the European origins of this well-established figure. Even in this poem, Santa is not the Ho-Ho-Ho figure we see in Selfridges.
‘He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot ... and he looked like a peddler...’ The English Father Christmas has now become interwoven with a modern, Americanised Coca-Cola-Santa figure and to understand better what’s going on we need – temporarily at least – to unravel these two figures before they weave themselves back together in our modern Christmas revels. The red Santa persona does indeed stem from Saint Nicholas, the 4th-century Turkish Bishop – but his mission is not to distribute toys to goodly children, oh no. His real job in your home is to usurp and eradicate the memory of Father Christmas, the Anglo-Saxon incarnation of an ancient and powerful pagan deity that has been worshipped and celebrated throughout Europe for a very, very long time. This figure has many names: in his very earliest form he is a ‘beast-man’ and goes back to pre-history, probably as far as 60,000 years ago when Homo sapiens still shared Europe with the Neanderthals. Further down the line the Germanic Wotan and Norse deity Odin share this same beast-man origin. Wotan is a restless wanderer who creates unrest and works magic. Odin roamed the Earth in the guise of an old man in a cloak and hat and, when he wasn’t wandering around acting like Gandalf, rode through the skies on a white horse called Sleipnir. Children would place their boots filled with carrots, straw or sugar near the chimney for his horse and Odin rewarded them by replacing Sleipnir’s food with gifts or sweets. Ring any (sleigh) bells? During the Middle Ages, throughout pagan Europe, he became simply, the Wild Man. A widespread ritual was enacted wherein a town’s young unmarried men would go to the woods to hunt the Wild Man and stir him 24
from his cave. The strongest of the men would wear animal skins and horns to play the role of the Wild Man and he would be ‘captured’, chained, and dragged back to the village. In his fury the Wild Man would tear up small trees and drag them with him back to the village where they became the May Pole and the Yule Log. Chains dangling from his body, the Wild Man and his companions would dash madly into town, frightening and beating up bystanders with a giant phallus, his symbol as a fertility god. In the village square, he would publicly mate with a ‘Wild Woman’ from the village and, once satisfied, he would be dramatically ‘killed’ by an archer. He would then either revive or be replaced by his ‘son’ and the revelry would reach its peak. Christians fought vigorously to suppress this pagan ritual and the widespread celebration of a figure so powerful that he was seen by the papal powers as the major block to Christianising Europe. In an attempt to undermine his grip on people, the church labelled his worship evil and used the Wild Man’s form to depict its Satan. Before Pope Gregory’s reign between 590 and 604 the Christian Devil had been considered angelic looking, when they thought of his having a physical form at all; he was, after all, an upper-caste angel prior to his rebellion and dismissal from heaven. Now Satan had a makeover. He became Santa. The Catholic Church piled on the pressure and set the official date of Jesus’s birth at the height of the pagan mid-winter festivals, and, to replace the Odin/Wild Man figure, they came up with Bishop Nicholas, who was going to be the new, politically-correct figure to represent the now Christian Christmas. Under this intense pressure from the Christian cultural management squad, the Wild Man, now officially the Devil, changes shape, splintering and metamorphosing into different guises, ducking and diving in the shadows to evade the papal regime’s gaze. Villagers continued to celebrate the old festivals while adopting the new Christian religion and kept the old Wild Man alive by transforming him in festivals into the Fool; in this role he strides at the front of his old troupe as master of ceremonies, the outspoken comic who introduces the troupe, satirises local citizens and social mores. This fur-clad fool and social commentator took another direction in Italy, where he emerges as Harlequin, reshaped from the Medieval Devil into a primary role in the commedia dell’arte. These carnival elements live on in the Clement Moore poem where we see the old troupe preserved as
reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, and Prancer are the raucous, high-stepping dancers that signalled the start of Carnival; Vixen is the Wild Woman; Cupid the archer who ends the Wild Man’s life. And let’s not forget Donder (thunder) and Blitzen (lightning) harking back again to the Odin figure and the elemental forces expressed though his son Thor, the God of Thunder. Back in England, Woden/Father Winter/Wild Man became known simply as Hood or Wood turning then into Robin Hood and into Robin Goodfellow or Puck. that shrewd and knavish sprite Call’d Robin Goodfellow: are not you he That frights the maidens of the villagery; William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream A green ‘Ho-Ho-Ho-ing’ figure turns up centuries later in America as the Jolly Green Giant and Robin Hood is used to advertise devilishly chocolatey ‘Ho Ho’ cakes. So the Wild Man is now the fool, the Harlequin, the Hobgoblin, the Jester and he lives on still in myriad cultural forms (think Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight). And, of course, there’s the now semi-fused persona of Father Christmas/Santa Claus. The ancient beast-god of old continues to visit our imaginations each year, despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Gods, religions, nations and even hominid species have risen and fallen while he somehow persists. No. Father Christmas is not a red Bishop, harping on about heavenly afterlife to help you put up with the crap that life throws you in this one. Green Father Christmas promises nothing but earthly rewards. He is the wild man of the woods, a house invader. He is the last remnant of the oldest sacred figure that exists. He is the source of a thousand glorious stories intertwining down the ages of human history. He is still powerful enough that even in these enlightened times he can reach right into your living room from the dark recesses of pre-history and project a splintered image of himself all over your family’s greetings cards and grin at you in the films you sit and watch after feasting in celebration of the winter solstice. All this despite Christianity’s best attempts to stop him. Ho-Ho-Ho, he says. And well he may. Andy Pontin 25
HAPPY CHRISTMAS FROM ROSEBERY’S Those nice people at Rosebery’s, our local fine art and antiques auction house, are offering one lucky reader the chance to win this beautiful glass scent bottle overlaid with silver. With an auction estimate of £250-£350, it would make a wonderful Christmas present (if you could bear to part with it of course). For your chance to win, answer these two questions then follow instructions below: In what style is the scent bottle decorated? A Art Nouveau B Art Deco C Arts and Crafts
Around which of the following dates was it made? A 1700 B 1800 C 1900
HOW TO ENTER: Go to www.thetransmitter.co.uk , click on Rosebery’s competition where you’ll find the third and final question. Email email@example.com with your answers to the three questions. Entries must be received by midnight on Wednesday 19 December. The winner will be picked randomly from all the correct entries and notified by the editor personally the following day. Good luck! Full terms and conditions for this competition can be found at www.thetransmitter.co.uk Rosebery’s next auction takes place on Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19 December and will include lots of potential Christmas presents. The catalogue will be online at www.roseberys.co.uk from 30 November. And, for the auction novices amongst you, here are Rosebery’s five top tips for buying at auction: • Lots are bought ‘as seen’ so attend the auction view day and examine things carefully • Bring proof of ID to register to bid at the auction (a drivers licence or passport is ideal) • D ecide how much you’re prepared to pay for a lot and stick to it. Auction houses charge a buyer’s premium so check how much that adds to the price • Bid clearly by raising your arm. The auctioneer will acknowledge you • Pay in cash or by debit card. Auction houses charge extra for credit card payments
e sees you when you’re sleeping…
…He knows when you’re awake
Handmade green silk dress by Allbone & Trimit (www.allboneandtrimit.co.uk) from £400 Hair & make-up: Stephanie Stokkvik (www.stephaniestokkvik.com) Photography: Andy Pontin Santa: Liam Church Santa’s Helper: Samantha Hicks Huskies Babooshka, Freya, Nala, Sisi & Skye kindly lent by Louise Simpson and Jo Caddy
ook at these lovely creatures.
Beautiful, arenâ€™t they? But in case you were wondering, no, they are not related to the wolf. Nor do they always have piercing blue Paul Newman-eyes, nor do they make good guard dogs. It would take the hardest heart not to melt at the sight of a Siberian Husky puppy, but they are actually quite challenging dogs to keep, and the decision to give one a home should not be taken lightly. Although playful and energetic, huskies are also stubborn and are by their hunting nature constantly striving to be the leader of the pack: making sure they know whoâ€™s boss is essential to their well-being and a happy home for all. Oh, and one more thing. Despite their intelligence, dogged digging-abilities and love of the outdoors â€Ś boy, can they snooze. To find out more about the Siberian Husky go to www.shwa.org.uk (the Siberian Husky Welfare Association UK)
ALI HOWARD DISCOVERS A PASSIONATE GROUP OF LOCALS ON AN UNDERGROUND MISSION Photos by Mark Blundell Much of our rich local history focuses on the ghostly structure of the ill-fated Crystal Palace itself, but next time you’re on the Parade waiting for a number 3, think on this. Situated underfoot lies Crystal Palace’s bestkept secret: an ornate, vaulted 19th-century subway with a magnificent orange and cream brick roof, stone ribs and brick and stone pillars. Designed by Joseph Paxton and built by a team of specialist Italian cathedral bricklayers (brought to London in 1861 for their expertise in crypt architecture), it originally provided a link between the old high-level station and the doomed Palace. Since the Palace was razed to the ground in 1936, the subway had hardly been used save for a handy air raid shelter during the Blitz, and with fears of vandalism rife, its entrances were finally bricked up in 1971.
Subsequently, local residents and campaign groups have attempted to get this glorious underground lair of a space re-opened with a series of brilliantly named Subway Superdays. In 1979 with interest in the historical site bubbling up, more than 2000 locals were given the opportunity to witness first hand the full impact of the now near-mythical subterranean structure. A year later local residents had another glimpse of the subway with a repeat of the open day but it wasn’t long before some of the beautiful brickwork was damaged with graffiti – a local newspaper in 1980 blaming Crystal Palace’s ‘skinheads’. The subway remained firmly out-of-bounds until the 50th anniversary of the Crystal Palace fire in 1986 when another Superday took place, this time attracting more than 5000 visitors. And in 1993 locals were given an emotional ‘last look’ before it was to close for good, making way for a hotel and leisure centre to be built on the site of the Palace. Even Queen Victoria (played by actress, Joan Ware) graced the subway with her presence, giving the now grade II listed building a fanciful, fond farewell. But luckily for Palace locals in 1994, the previous year’s plans proved short lived and a final, triumphant Superday took place with Morris dancers, fiddle players and a stilt walker amongst the crowds celebrating what should be this most glorious of open public attractions. Today, it’s not so much the fear of skinheads with spray paint but 21st-century health and safety concerns, a web
of politics and reams of bureaucracy keeping the subway shut. However, with a fresh approach and the powerful might of social media on their side, campaign group, Friends of the Crystal Palace Subway have reignited hopes that the space could be opened up for good with creative ideas for its eventual use flooding in. It’s far too pretty, of course, to simply be passed through. Local resident and subway campaigner Jules Hussey told us about a unique event that took place back in September, a mini-Superday if you will, allowing 130 local residents to go underground and take pictures of the ornate underpass. She explains that the open day proved that ‘tours or open sessions there, minimal ones, can be done very safely and very easily and we’re aiming to get Bromley Council to let us do a few more. You could have poetry readings or history tours or anything down there, really small one-off events. And it’s perfectly safe if it’s managed properly. But at the moment it’s just about getting people down there, maybe once a month or once every two months just to come and see it because it’s such a fantastic space.’ But if locals don’t know it’s there it’s hard to drum up support, the old adage being out of sight, out of mind. It’s hoped that September’s photographs will make their way on to the walls of the area’s cafes and bars to promote awareness of the subway. And Jules is confident of the public’s amazement once they do see it: ‘I’ve shown people the pictures on buses and all sorts and the general reaction is “oh wow!” There are people that have lived in the area a long time and
don’t know it’s there. It really is that whole thing of not knowing what’s under your feet. And yet it’s the largest remaining structure from the whole of the Crystal Palace and nobody gets to see it. It’s a scandal, frankly.’ She continues: ‘English heritage are very keen to make sure it doesn’t deteriorate any more. But there’s the politics, you know, how does it work with the bigger masterplan for the park? How will it create revenue? We’ve had so many people interested. I’ve had a cinema chain email me saying they’d love to set up a cinema there but at the moment we’re just moving really slowly – it took us a year to get it opened just once. It’s quite frustrating.’ Jules’ frustration only serves as testament to the passion that she and her fellow campaigners share in getting the subway opened. But there’s no doubt that with increasing awareness, thanks largely to a savvy Facebook and Twitter operation, we won’t have to wait too long. She enthuses ‘it’s been great to make contact with people in the local area and even wider London area and beyond via that media. It’s just about trying to harness that energy and use it in a positive way, to show that there are enough people there, enough volunteers and really qualified, experienced people with the skills to get it open. We’ve got a lot of local people with a lot of skills. The Triangle really is an amazing mix of cultured and creative people.’ Transmitter readers are, of course, no exception so if that’s got you fired up to get involved you can follow the campaign at www. cpsubway.org.uk. You know what to do.
‘That’s the lot, John,’
High Level Railway The ghost of the Crystal Palace is manifest in our imaginations, its contours sketched capaciously as we drive by, but where its presence remains on the eastern side of the Parade, to the west there is a distinct sense of something amiss. At the bus stop waiting for the 363, looking down over a substantial wall protected by wire fencing from obsessive littering (what is wrong with everyone?), the modern buildings below simply don’t fit, in style or scale. That is because something with aspirations nearly as grand as its raison d’etre once filled this space.
And fill it, it did. The four enormous square turret-topped towers of the officially titled Crystal Palace & Upper Norwood Terminus dominated the opposite side of the now windswept thoroughfare. Commissioned to one Edward M Barry, designer of the Royal Opera House no less, the grand High Level station opened in 1865 amid railway fever, the same year that Charles Dickens was a most distinguished witness to the notorious Staplehurst train crash (from which it said he never recovered, dying prematurely, depriving us of the solution to The Mystery of Edwin Drood) and the two enormous crescent-beamed roof sections between the towers ran half the length of today’s Parade. London Bridge station recorded more than 110,000 on a single date travelling to Paxton’s attraction hence the justification of the station’s lavish £100,000 price tag in competition with the Low Level station on Anerley Hill and all its confounded steps. When finished, the exquisite terra cotta edifice could accommodate up to 8000 passengers daily as they were conveyed to and from four platforms that were especially conceived to allow for swift and segregated disembarkation, First Class passengers being allowed separate access to the vast exhibitions via the Byzantine nuanced subway.
Owned by the Crystal Palace & South London Junction Railway, the High Level line was operated by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway Company amidst a competing network of railway companies in return for a share of the profits. Four stops were also completed along the 3.4 mile track – Upper Sydenham, Lordship Lane (famously depicted by Pissarro), Honor Oak and Peckham Rye – linked to Upper Norwood by the Crescent Wood and Paxton tunnels, each 400 yards or more long, bored defiantly and expensively through the London clay culminating in a vast locomotive turntable at the Farquhar Road end.
Keen to release valuable land for development, the track was lifted in 1956 and the lovely Lordship Lane station bashed down. Ken Russell filmed Amelia & the Angel at the forgotten Norwood terminus but in 1961, the year Yuri Gagarin made the first manned space flight, the once innovative and boldly opportunistic building was at last razed to obscurity, and the stops on the High Level line were replaced by that 363 bus on the Parade.
But the High Level line failed to live up to expectations and thanks to the cost, the rail companies involved were broke. Fewer trains ran, the semi-rural local stations on the stretch were under-used and as the rolling stock became neglected, passengers grumbled like hell. When the palace burned down, the station’s usefulness was over. In September 1954, 55 million bricks and two World Wars later, the final words between the station guards were apparently: ‘That’s the lot, John,’ and the line was closed.
CRYSTAL PALACE COOKBOOK SADLY WE CAN’T ALL GO ROUND TO RACHEL DE THAMPLE’S OR JESS & LAURA’S FOR CHRISTMAS, BUT AT LEAST WE CAN COPY THEIR IDEAS FOR DELICIOUS FESTIVE TREATS
RACHEL’S SUGAR & SPICE CUPCAKES Smash Bang Wallop’s wonderful new range of cocoa nibs inspired the recipe for these Christmassy cupcakes. They have a scrumptious mixture of crunchy nibs, brown sugar, orange zest and mixed spice. Try with the Winter Spiced nibs (or Chilli & Sea Salt or Rose & Black Pepper). Their deliciousness hides the fact that these little cakes are indeed, rather virtuous. They’re based on classic American-style cupcakes which are made with oil and hot water instead of butter, making them incredibly moist and light. Prep: 10 mins Cook: 20 mins Makes: 12-15
Ingredients 200g plain white flour 150g brown sugar 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda 1/2 tsp baking powder A pinch of sea salt 2 tsp mixed spice Zest and juice of 1 orange 150ml boiling water 2 tbsp brandy or rum (optional) – add 2 tbsp extra water or orange juice if you don’t add the booze 50ml sunflower or olive oil 1 egg, whisked 50g cocoa nibs Icing sugar to dust over the top
Method Heat oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with cases or just brush with a little oil. Mix all the dry ingredients (except the cocoa nibs) with the spices in a large bowl, then mix in the orange juice and zest. Add the boiling water, booze (if using) and oil. Mix it in by hand or with an electric hand mixer until combined. Whisk the egg in.
TIP When making cakes, it’s always best to use ingredients that are at room temperature. Cold ingredients can make your batter lumpy.
Reserving 2 tbsp of the cocoa nibs for the top, fold in the remaining nibs until evenly mixed through. Fill the cupcake cases or holes till ¾ full. Sprinkle the tops of each cupcake with cocoa nibs. Bake for 20 mins or until golden and springy. Allow to cool. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar.
CRYSTAL PALACE COOKBOOK
TILLI TWINS’ CHOCOLATE GINGERBREAD Stars Ingredients 150g unsalted butter 100g light brown sugar 3 tbsp golden syrup 350g plain flour 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda 2 tsp ground ginger 1 tsp ground cinnamon 2 tbsp milk chocolate chips
To decorate Icing sugar Water/lemon juice Sweeties (optional)
Method Pre-heat oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Line 2 baking sheets with greaseproof paper. In a pan (or in the microwave) gently melt the butter, sugar and syrup. In a bowl mix the flour, bicarb, ginger and cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Stir in the butter mixture and chocolate chips until you have a soft dough. The chocolate chips will go all melty and create a marbled effect on your stars. Pretty! When your dough is cool roll it out until it’s about 5mm thick. Cut out stars (or any other Christmassy shapes you fancy!) making sure you squish together the leftovers, roll them out again and cut out more shapes. Lift on to the baking sheets. Bake for 12 mins until light golden. Leave to cool. To decorate, mix the icing sugar with a few drops of water or lemon juice until smooth, making sure it’s not too runny. Using the handle of a teaspoon or a cocktail stick put tiny blobs of icing on to your stars. Stick on your favourite sweeties too for an extra special yumminess! Twinkle twinkle gingerbread star!
WHAT’S LUSH FOR LUNCH? CHOOSE YOUR CHRISTMAS REDS & WHITES CAREFULLY SAYS WINE AUTHOR MATT WALLS wonder what Scrooge’s idea of the perfect Christmas lunch would be? Roast pauper with all the trimmings I suspect, washed down with a few bottles of claret. Well if you can’t treat yourself on Christmas Day, when can you?
If you’re opting for something more traditional, it’s key to remember that different types of meat taste their best with different types of wine. The general rule of thumb is: the more intense the flavour, the more intense the wine to go with it. Here are my recommendations, all available locally or online. 40
Ham is pretty versatile when it comes to wine, but whites that have freshness and richness in tandem often work a treat – like an Alsace Pinot Gris, or an Australian Semillon Sauvignon. For something a bit different, you could try a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley – their autumnal apple and quince flavours backed up with a zingy bite can work well, particularly if the ham is served with a fruit sauce or honey glaze.
Goose, eh? Get you. Ok, I admit there’s something wonderfully decadent about roasting a goose: partly how it starts out plump then gradually shrinks as you spoon off ladles of fat from the roasting pan below. The meat is richer and darker than turkey, so whether you go white or red, you need something with plenty of flavour and natural acidity to stand up to it. If you want white, try a dry Riesling from the Pfalz or Mosel in Germany (it will be dry if it says trocken on the label). If you’re going red, try something medium-bodied with a bit of spice – maybe a Syrah from the Rhône or New Zealand, or a Cabernet Franc from the Loire.
Good: Château de la Roulerie ‘Les Grandes Brosses’ Chenin Blanc 2011, Loire, France (£8.75 Oddbins) Very good: Mount Horrocks Semillon 2011, Clare Valley, Australia (£21.45 Good Taste Food & Drink)
Good: Sainsburys Taste the Difference Crozes-Hermitage 2010, Rhône, France (£9.79 Sainsburys) Very good: Domaine de la Chevalerie, Cuvée Bonn’heure 2011, Loire, France (£11.75 Good Taste Food & Drink)
CHRISTMAS PUDDING Stuffed or not, there’s nothing more pleasing at the end of the meal than digging your spoon into a steaming chunk of Christmas pud and inhaling the boozy vapours. Sweet foods call for sweet wines, but instead of going for the traditional golden Sauternes from France, consider one of the darker, browner wines that contain more dried fruit and nut notes rather than fresh fruit flavours. That way you are marrying the flavour of the pud with the flavour of the wine. Try a fortified wine. If you haven’t had one for a while, you’ll wonder why not on revisiting them: good ones are utterly delicious, great value and work really well with food. Try a sweet Oloroso sherry, a Malmsey madeira or a tawny port. They’d all go well with a mince pie, too.
RIB OF BEEF
I suspect there’ll be a fair few more of us eating turkey than goose this year. They may both be birds, but the meat is very different and calls for a different approach. Turkey is relatively mild in flavour, sometimes with a slightly earthy side, so opt for a medium intensity white wine like a lightly-oaked Chardonnay. Red wine can also work well if you prefer, but try to veer towards the less full-bodied end of the scale – so avoid powerful Shirazes or Cabernet Sauvignons and go for a lighter style like a Beaujolais or a Pinot Noir.
Roast beef loves a big chunky rich red wine. You’re safe with pretty much anything full-bodied and red. If it’s from a hot country, chances are it will be more powerfully flavoured. If it’s too light, like a Valpolicella, you won’t be able to taste the wine very much and it might taste a bit sour. This is the only time where you really need a red wine for the match to work; if you do want a white on the table too, go for something rich, flavoursome and maybe a bit oaky. Definitely not Sauvignon Blanc, it never works very well with red meat. Choices like an Aussie Shiraz, a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon or an Argentinean Malbec would all fit the bill, or powerful reds from Spain and Portugal.
Good: La Grille Pinot Noir 2010, St-Pourçain, France (£6.99 Majestic Wines) Very good: Jean Foillard Morgon 2010, Beaujolais, France (£23.00 Green & Blue Wines)
Good: Tesco Finest Stellenbosch Red Blend 2010, South Africa (£9.99 Tesco) Very good: Palacios Camins del Priorat 2009, Priorat, Spain (£17.95 Green & Blue Wines)
TURKEY WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS
Good: Tesco Finest Late Bottled Vintage Port 2006, Portugal (£10.00 Tesco) Very good: Grant Burge 10 Year Old Tawny, Australia (£19.75 Slurp) To find out more about Matt’s forthcoming sampling sessions or to read his blog, go to www.mattwalls.co.uk
STOCKISTS Good Taste Food & Drink Westow Hill SE19 Green & Blue Wines Lordship Lane SE22 Majestic Park Hall Road SE21 Oddbins Rosendale Road and Dulwich Village SE21 Sainsburys & Tesco: you know where they are! www.slurp.co.uk Prices may vary! 41
The waiting room he station had been shut for months during that euphemistically generous phrase ‘works’ and for Rex, the consummate commuter, each day’s journey was complicated by the constant re-routing of access where scores of travellers were corralled up and down the platforms to have their senses battered by drilling, digging and cauls of yellow dust, along with the reek of earth deeply disturbed. Usually the arrival of their train in spite of its role in delivering them to methodical drudgery was met by urgent jostling as the crowd allowed itself to be sucked aboard. Soon they were lost in the fug of their own thought and breath and headphones, and the relief was heavenly.
A SEASONALLY SPOOKY SHORT STORY BY JUSTINE CROW Illustrations by Karin Dahlbacka It was a morning that could belong to any one of the seasons without causing much need to exchange comment with another of the human race and Rex decided to use the side gate one last time before switching his routine to include the pristine facilities of the re-opened ticket hall. Perhaps it was the walk down finally devoid of cones and barricades that caused Rex to experience a rush of vigour as if he was at last free of a cloying cold or a plug of water in an ear that had suddenly been released after days of half-deafness. As he hurried he somehow managed to walk straight into someone coming the other way. Stunned, she stopped and at first gazed down at the toe he had trodden on and then, back at him. But Rex pressed southward without concern – people aren’t supposed to come the 43
other way during the rush hour after all, commuters can’t be expected to allow for the opposite flow. The side gate, no longer temporary but proudly fixed with a disabled access sign (still snagged with a weft of polythene) had its own turnstile through which passengers swarmed. They also poured down the refurbished stairs from the ticket hall above and from the footbridge that led off other platforms, two herds languidly converging as they enjoyed the novelty of more space on Platform One. Rex levered himself into an advantageous spot, glanced up at the eternally looping information on the header board and waited. The train was due. It rushed in and swept them all up. Then its square backside sauntered towards the crown of office blocks in the distance with the ruthless nonchalance of a fox carrying off a whole coop full of hens. But Rex remained on the platform. He scratched his head. It was as if there had been a lapse like an editing mistake in a spool of film and a vital link to the rest of his day had been snipped. This was highly inconvenient. Affronted by the indignity of being so mysteriously left behind, he had no choice but to make the best of the situation. According to the board he had thirty-five minutes until the next locomotive. He reset his chin and decided to explore the renovations. At least he would have the place to himself for a while. Up the steps he went, two at a time on new ribbons of asphalt tread (health and safety) and made it to the top of the timber bridge just as the express banked and blustered tantalisingly north on the middle track beneath. Washed by envy in its metallic wake, Rex steadied himself and noticed there was a sign below that read WAITING ROOM. So much of the station had been blocked off even before the so-called works. Rex felt it wasn’t entirely unreasonable not to have known it was there. He hopped back down the steps. The structure was Victorian like the rest of the station but it was painted that ubiquitous mute eau de nil that has insidiously replaced the diverse urban palette. Won’t be long, thought Rex, before all front doors and street furniture will be this shade of sludge, leaving only the pillar-boxes to gladden the weary commute. Meanwhile rain began to fleck the miniature opulence of its etched glass so he pushed open the door. Oh, nicely done, he thought. The parquet flooring had been stripped and sealed, a fireplace contained a heater and there were two long benches padded in a tasteful burgundy vinyl against the white walls. Rex checked his mobile – half an hour spare and still 44
nobody around. That freshness he had experienced earlier had departed with the treacherous 8.05 and now he felt the curious need to lay down the length of the bench. Naturally, he kept his shoes off the upholstery. He then tucked in his arms. When he opened his eyes – and they always do in these tales – he found he was not alone. Still on his side, he saw a pair of brown loafers beneath grey trousers positioned beside the fireplace. A scruffy pair of slip-ons entered and their wearer poked one foot in the direction of the heater in an attempt to dry off. Again, the door opened and at once Rex admired the fetching aubergine-coloured leather-buttoned boots with chiselled heels worn by the approaching female. Feeling absolutely that he must now sit up, Rex made to swing his legs down but the woman touched his shoulder and said gently: ‘You’re alright, stay where you are love.’ A sneaky thread of cigarette smoke had entered with her that overlaid the cleg of fresh paint and Rex was abruptly nauseous. When he unposted a weak arm to lift himself up, the woman pushed him back down quite firmly. ‘I said, you stay where you are.’ Anxious that he might embarrass himself, Rex acquiesced and observed as two more lower torsos came in dressed in jeans. The couple were talking. Or rather, she was: ‘She said I was mad. Do you think I’m mad, Bob?’ Bob mumbled. ‘What did you say? Oh for pity’s sake, Bob..’ Rex fought his wretchedness while Bob signalled a silent querulous trainer at him. But the woman with the aubergine heels was practically pinning him down on the bench. How strange. Soon the waiting room was crammed with a second sitting of commuters, dripping, standing, coughing and shaking out newspapers. Still queasy, Rex began to ponder the variety of footwear from his foetal vantage and the differing humanity slotted therein, measured from the sole up. Rich and deprived, nervous, lost, bored – all choreographed in the fidget of the ill-fitting shoe or mismatched socks. Finally, he counted three pairs of man-sized black brogues seated selfishly at the nearend of the second bench, unrelenting in the standing discomfort of others in the humid waiting room. Three little pigs. Three big ones more like, thought Rex. Then, the door opened to reveal the train. Rex was startled. There was a scuffle followed by a curt: ‘Thank you, Bob,’ and Rex tried to rise but the woman in the aubergine boots placed the toe of her right foot on the vinyl beside his nose whilst the flat of her hand continued to pin him down, her coat obscuring a clear
view of her face and body. His heart beat furiously as at last the three city types filtered out leaving a small rooftop of newspaper adrift on the ground as they trotted aboard. Rex found his moment and flicked out an arm knocking the womanâ€™s foot off the padded seat and the pressure on his shoulder was released as she toppled backwards. Then he felt a hard smack to his temple, his consciousness flickered and the resistance was broken. He sat up swiftly. He was alone. She had clouted him and fled. How bizarre. But no, even more curious, she had also fled her boots. Literally. They were abandoned on the parquet floor. She must have thrown herself on to the train in her tights! Oh hell, the train. Rex staggered up and waded out through the damp air but its rear was already rocking towards the city. Our man, the consummate commuter, contemplated his circumstances and opted to take control. He would report the assault to the authorities. Nobody should treat a fellow traveller like that! Miraculously cured, he shook out the stiffness in his legs to make the ascent to the ticket hall for a sharp word with the fellow behind the glass. Up he went, two at a.. But he stopped. He
could hear somebody running along the platform, clearly in a hurry. He turned and with shock registered the empty aubergine boots paused on the lowest step a yard away, the left one was tapping impatiently, the right one was biding its time. Rex turned back towards the stairs, took a breath and launched himself up while the gaping boots hurled themselves at him, slapping the asphalt treads in pursuit, two at a time, on to the footbridge. The faster he ran, the faster they ran too. They cantered along the top as their prey wind-milled towards the new ticket hall in terror. The man behind the glass looked up just in time to see a blur of arms and legs vault the barrier followed some footwear seemingly catapulted out of nowhere. He pulled down the blind and got up from his swivel chair but he missed the sight of Rex running frantically up the road with a pair of bodiless, vengeful aubergine boots nipping nastily at his heels. Leaning in the doorway avoiding the veil of rain, the man took a packet from his uniform pocket, lit a cigarette and exhaled. â€˜Ruddy fare-jumpers,â€™ he sighed. Justine Crow 45
he gloomy days are upon us as nights shorten and the last of the Michaelmas daisies finally keel over, taking with them a final splash of the perennial cheer. The joys of composting are of course always available to the gardener at this time of the year but it is also a perfect time for planting and planning ... sorting out the framework of the garden. I am a great lover of the hedge. It not only supplies a green boundary for your patch of paradise but also acts as a really effective garden divider, separating and screening different areas. And a November which is not too wet is the ideal time to plant one.
We inherited a Photinia hedge in our current garden. The “Red Robin” variety – which ours is – has many attributes: it’s evergreen, turns a lovely crimson shade in spring and is of a very hardy disposition. But it looked straggly and had gaps at its base like a mouthful of old teeth.
“I gave my whole hedge a hard prune”
SUE WILLIAMS SUGGESTS HEDGING OUR BEDS IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS
We also inherited a bog standard municipal-style shrubbery full of Viburnum tinus, Skimmia and Choisya ternata. Rather than turf out these good (if not a tad boring) staples of the plant community I decided to try to create an evergreen screen by interplanting them with the Photinia. This time of year is perfect for transplanting and dividing. As a rule the cold weather has not yet set in and the roots are entering their dormant stage. Also the ground is soft and easy to dig. My shrubs were not very old and still relatively contained at their roots so digging them up was plain sailing. I also decided to use some Bay which had outgrown its space in a window box of herbs. I love Bay. Itâ€™s got it all. A heady scent, a willingness to be topiaried into the most stylish of balls, as hardy as you like and can be used in your cooking. Marvellous. As there were such large spaces at the base of the existing hedge there was plenty of room to fit in the new arrivals.
Viburnum can be found in almost every suburban garden. It flowers every year and then produces deep purple berries and although its leaf is pretty nondescript it has a dense habit which is perfect in a hedge. The Skimmia has a glossier dark green leaf and produces abundant berries through the winter months which would show well through the hedge. Choisya has a glossy leaf also but is a much lighter green, and like the Bay, its leaves carry a heady scent ... of oranges some say. It also flowers abundantly, sometimes twice in the year. I also included a couple of bare-rooted Yew which had grown up in the garden. Should you wish your hedge to provide some security then the addition of some Berberis and Pyracantha would supply a thorny deterrent. When all these different shrubs had been planted I gave the whole hedge a fairly hard prune with the shears to encourage the plants to bush out rather than putting on height. People can be wary of pruning but
with almost all shrubs it acts like a dose of tonic. My Dad always maintains that roses should be pruned by your worst enemy and a hedge requires probably two good shearings a year. No messing. The overall effect is really interesting. Although I have not seen it through a winter yet, the variety of plants ensures that the hedge always has a bit of something new going on and the autumn berries are a delight. The scope for creating these mixed-hedge plantings is endless really. Certainly there is a welcome trend now for native mixed hedges to provide habitat for our diminishing wildlife and plants can be bought barerooted at this time of the year for very little outlay. My suburban alternative will hopefully provide some shelter and food for the local wildlife and it has transformed two uninspiring areas of the garden into one more interesting whole. Happy gardening
Brown & Green For those of you that have not yet seen the refurbished Crystal Palace station concourse, there is now a good reason to go without a ticket to ride. Sisters Laura and Jess have created a cafĂŠ that serves the sort of grub that they want to eat and if you can drag your eyes away from the magnificent surroundings enhanced by their nostalgic tastes, youâ€™ll see exactly what they are driving at. After years of neglect there is succour, succour with a view.
first the menu. Unpretentious and, dare I say helpful, the items scroll down with the zing and clack of a jolly typewriter. Brekkie – ping! From porridge and croissants to bacon, sausage and egg butties (you delete where necessary) and full-sized breakfasts variously tailored to meat-eater, vegetarian and vegan, served with a personal touch such as jugs of baked beans, granary toast and herby tomatoes, it’s refreshingly individual yet affordable – ping! If your heart desires something a tad more exotique, the all day Brunch offers scrambled eggs with chorizo or feta, coriander and chilli (a local hangover classic already) or even Turkish menimen. If you yearn simplicity, hit the Toasties, and all your friends are here: cheese & onion, Marmite, Mozzarello & pesto, cheesy beans, hey! Peanut butter & banana – ping! Or, you can do as I did, and have something More like lunch, with a choice that included smoked mackerel pate, soup of the day and halloumi. I succumbed to a piping hot wedge of homemade quiche with spinach, ricotta and red-onion and massive scab of cheese on top, seeds and salad leaves on the side. Laura brought me a tall single-shot latte (I’m getting weedier with age) and while Jess chopped and grated and sliced in the picturesque background, she grabbed a precious five minutes to sit down and reveal how it happened. Hailing from Brighton, the twins are fully paid up food-loving rovers (if they look a little familiar, cast your mind back to a certain TV reality show phenomenon called
The Restaurant where they were finalists), opening the first London branch of B & G at Gipsy Hill. When it became apparent that particular location was an ‘order & leg it for the next train’ success, they started looking for a bigger challenge in Commuterville. ‘We were patient,’ continues Laura in between jumping up to clear plates and seat customers, ‘and found the right people, but the Gipsy Hill operation was a walk in the park compared to this place.’ It is an understatement to say there were many points to be navigated between London Overground, English Heritage (the building is listed), Railway Heritage, Tfl, Mansell – the refurb contractors – and their landlord, but after much gritting of teeth they got there in the end. Despite the stunning scale of station, the cafe fits uncannily well. Laura laughs and points out the handsome Victorian floor tiles. ‘We couldn’t understand why the pattern fitted our floor plan so perfectly, then an elderly couple came in and said that this was where the original station buffet was situated and the counter was in the exact same place as ours.’ Ah yes. The heady days of the British Rail buffet. It is hard to believe that practically every main station possessed that combination of grease and condensation, chipped china and frothy coffee, where burgers came without buns and the infamous sandwich that became an institution seemed to be filled with nothing but despair. As Constance shovelled down her homemade hummus, I regaled her with the standard ingredients for a 1970’s
buffet salad consisting of wilting cucumber, ice-cold tomato, grated egg, pickled beetroot, tinned potato cubes, bendy cheese and a clod of mustard & cress like something you’d pulled out of a plughole. It never, EVER came with ‘leaves’. No wonder salad cream was popular – it was the only way to get it down. But Laura and Jess have retained things from the past that we are fond of: Fifties-print cushions,
chairs with vinyl seats, bright red squeezy plastic ketchup dispensers, brown sauce, napkins, enamel plates and each table bears a bouquet of self-service cutlery, ours in a Tate & Lyle golden syrup tin. Today the colour red resonates throughout, from the red deckchair-striped mug delivered to the gent beside us (accompanied by a delightful miniature milk bottle) and our red formica table top – cue breathless thrill – with
flaps, to the bursts of red gladioli and the salvaged gang-worker’s lanterns with signature hook and single red eye. Beneath the circular lampshades fashioned from coffee sacks and upturned pails hanging from the impossibly high ceiling, the clientele is as eclectic as the décor – some are travellers to-ing and fro-ing but others are merely visiting – and there are teas, coffees, juices and
Photos by James Balston www.thetrianglese19.blogspot.co.uk
smoothies to suit those in hard hats as well as posh ones. Dogs are welcome, Wi-Fi is due. I was easily persuaded by the Victoria sponge, but couldn’t finish the generous corner oozing buttericing and raspberry jam and had to stash it in my handbag (Lady Bracknell exclamations all round) whilst explaining like a defensive five-year old that I really did try to leave some space for cake. Laura remarked sagely that they tried to do that every day. Sounds like the perfect mantra for living, eh? The cakes are baked in the neighbourhood, their eggs are free range, the fruit and veg comes from West Norwood and they even insist on sourcing their coffee locally. ‘I take no pleasure in shopping at a vast cash and carry,’ Laura reasons, preferring to use what the community has to offer. And if an odd job needs doing, red tape not withstanding (now there’s a red that resonates ...), they use local tradesmen too. The journey isn’t over yet. With plans for expanding out through those grand doors, extending their opening hours and adding innovations like supper-clubs and parties, the sisters have brought personality and warmth to the notion of the ‘station caff’ that evokes all the fun of a day trip but instead of going off to the seaside, they are determined that Brown & Green becomes a destination in itself. Monday-Friday 6.30am-4.30pm Saturday 10-5pm (Sunday 10-5pm from 2013). www.brownandgreencafe.com
HOW, EVENTUALLY, SELF-PUBLISHING AUTHOR HOWARD MALE GETS HIS BOOK ON THE SHELVES
PUBLISH AND BE DAMNED: he story so far. Three Transmitters ago I was just about to sign on the dotted line with local publishing company Acorn in order to self publish my novel Etc Etc Amen. As you rejoin me, half of the two big boxes of books under my desk have been sent out to reviewers in the (perhaps futile) hope that they’ll overlook the latest Harper Collins or Jonathan Cape potential bestsellers in order to give an outsider a look in. But putting aside such defeatist thoughts, I have to say it’s peculiarly gratifying to see the ISBN code on the back cover, just as it is to see the front cover up on Amazon with its – I hope – irresistible invitation to ‘Look inside!’ And what’s more, I actually now feel psychologically unblocked enough to begin working more conscientiously on my second novel. But before I knuckle down, here’s part two of my selfpublishing experience.
Etc Etc Amen is published by Acorn on 14 November. Howard Male will be launching Etc Etc Amen at The Bookseller Crow during Rock and Roll Night from 7.30pm on Friday 23 November
So how did my Word file get turned into a handsome tome that can (at least looks-wise) stand proud next to the latest McEwan or Rushdie? Well, luckily Acorn were good at summoning an infinite amount of patience in the face of my diva-like demands in regards to the cover. The problem lay in the fact that it’s hard to convey in words something visual, particularly when I didn’t know what I wanted until I saw it. Two or three rough ideas were shown to me and unceremoniously turned down. Either because they failed to convey the spirit of the book or they suggested that the novel was something other than it is. Yes, maybe I’d sell more copies if potential purchasers thought they were getting a dark gothic sci-fi, zombie, vampire saga, but that’s not the point. Eventually after I’d sent one too many emails suggesting another direction to go in, it was agreed that I sit with the designer, like a backseat driver, giving him direction over his shoulder. He clicked through countless fonts, adjusted the colour intensity of the main image, and within an hour we had a cover that didn’t suggest any particular genre, didn’t look like any other book cover I could think of, and simultaneously looked tasteful and enigmatic. So, time to move on to the manuscript. You might think that in the age of Microsoft Word and its grammar and spellcheck software there wouldn’t be much use for a copy editor, but how wrong you’d be. When you’re dealing with someone who is partially dyslexic and wholly stupid like myself, you are still going to find daft schoolboy errors on every page that
PART TWO the spellcheck hasn’t picked up on for one reason or another. For example, I’d typed Hungry as in ravenous when I meant Hungary as in central Europe. Or when restructuring a sentence I’d left a stray verb or adjective just sitting there, ruining everything. As readers we see what we expect to see, so it’s easy to not notice a word has been left out or a comma misplaced. For example, if you left a superfluous ‘the’ in a sentence (‘the the’) your brain is likely to perceive just the one ‘the’ because that’s what it’s expecting to see. If you add this common perceptual glitch to the fact that most authors will have read every sentence of their book countless times during rewrites – thus becoming acclimatised to its errors – you have a recipe for a manuscript teeming with pesky typos. So if there’s one main piece of advice I’d give you, it’s make sure you get more than one other person besides your proofreader/editor to read through your manuscript. If you can, get several. Even your humble Transmitter has at least three pairs of keen eyes combing its pages before it goes to press. But of course editing isn’t just about annihilating typos. What Acorn’s editor/proofreader Leila was particularly good at was spotting what in filmic terms are called continuity errors. For example, in Etc Etc Amen Paul bumps into his old friend Helen in a greasy spoon café. Helen tells Paul that she has the address of Zachary Bekele, the pop star they are both obsessed with but have lost track of since his fall from stardom. As Helen leaves the café she places a folded piece of paper in front of Paul with Zachary’s address written on it. Now, you might think there’s nothing ostensibly amiss with this scenario. But Leila pointed out to me that Helen would have had to have known she was going to see Paul in order to have this note ready to give to him. A small point, you might think. But the devil is in the details, and such details make the difference between a professionally finished manuscript and the work of an amateur. But be warned. The downside of having a professional pedant like Leila scrutinise your work is that you, as the writer – the master of your domain – need to know when to stand your ground. For example, I believe that too much exposition in a novel can kill it dead: the reader should never feel like they are being talked down to, even if this means risking that they might initially not grasp what you’re getting at. For me, one of the great pleasures of reading fiction comes from the moments when I feel slightly disorientated; what’s
going on? Where are we? What am I meant to feel about this character now? Obviously this is with the proviso that the author pulls things back into focus eventually. So there were a few instances when I had to resist Leila’s pleas for greater clarity and more exposition, insisting that her wish would granted if she just patiently turned a few more pages. Remember: no editor is going to be as familiar with the twist and turns of your book as you are. So choose your battles carefully. Then one day the war was over: 400 pages encased in a tastefully enigmatic cover; £9.99 to you, Sir (or £2.99 for the Kindle, Madam). So what came next? In essence, a switch of attention from the real world to the virtual world. Metadata, as I now half understand it, consists of invisible tags that are attached to the file of your eBook. These reflect what a potential reader might type into a search engine when they are looking for a book like yours. These can be kindred-soul authors, genres the book fits into, places the book is set in, or just subjects the book tackles. My ragbag of tags includes: High Fidelity, A Visit From the Goon Squad, Kurt Vonnegut, conspiracy thriller, murder mystery, glam rock, atheism, 1970s London, Marrakech, speculative fiction and literary novel. You get the idea. With both the paper and cardboard construction and the eBook sorted out, it was time to think about how on earth I was going to persuade anyone to buy the darn thing. I began by reading lots of book reviews online trying to find reviewers that might be on my wavelength. If a critic had written a perceptive review of, say, Hari Kunzru, Douglas Coupland, Iain Banks or Paul Auster there was a slim chance that they’d think my novel had some merit. But don’t think me naive: I realise I have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting noticed amongst all the big guns launching books in the run-up to Christmas. But you’ve got to give it a shot. And while I have no idea how the novel has gone down with most of the reviewers I’ve sent it out to (or even if they’ve opened the jiffy bag) I do know of a couple of critics keen to do reviews. But of course that’s only the first hurdle. These critics then have to pitch a review to their editors who are increasingly dealing with diminishing space for book reviews, apparently because publisher’s rarely advertise. So my five years of hard work might end with a damp fizzle rather than a bang. But at least I thoroughly enjoyed writing the thing.
THERE’S A WORLD OUT THERE! Seasonal classics as you’ve never heard them before and a selection of great Christmas albums from Howard Male
ep it’s just Christmas releases, old and new, this time around. However, I’ve still tried to track down some music which at least has a bit of a global as well as a festive feel to it. I’m not a big fan of the Putumayo world music record label. Their releases tend to reinforce the stereotype that ‘world music’ has to be jolly and tasteful while also not straying far from the Western pop template. On the plus side, their huge success (they’ve put out over two-hundred compilations over the past twenty years) will have introduced many mainstream music fans to the exciting sounds of exotic, distant lands. But Putumayo don’t just build their themed compilations around styles and countries, they also do CDs specifically for children and Christmas.
So although it’s not really Christmas Around the World (Putumayo) as all but one of the twelve tracks are sourced from America, Cuba and France, my first choice is nevertheless a refreshing change from the usual Bing Crosby or King’s choral options. For example, Venid Fieles Todos (Adeste Fideles) by Liuba Maria Hevia is a sensuous (yes, sensuous!) Cuban take on O Come All Ye Faithful. And there’s someone called Kali offering a mandolin and conga take on Silent Night. Yes, some of the selections are 56
a bit too cheesy and lacklustre for my tastes – I could have done without the generic steel band version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – but France’s Los Reyes makes up for such fillers by making you forget you’ve heard White Christmas a million and six times before with his simple, raw acoustic guitar rendition. However, if you’d like your Christmas to go with a bit more swing, swagger and perhaps half a bottle of Southern Comfort, then the same label’s New Orleans Christmas might be just the shot it needs. After all, how can you go wrong with the bluesy, brassy vibe that’s a part of the very soul of this great Louisiana city? You get Ingrid Lucia channelling Billie Holiday for the sassy Zat You Santa Claus? Ellis Marsalis’s jazz version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen quickly strays from the main melody, but then it is jazz. And Topsy Chapman and Lars Edegran offer up a smooth, laidback, piano and brushed snare take of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas on which I feel you can almost hear the crackling of logs on the proverbial open fire. And if all that isn’t incentive enough to buy it, some of the proceeds from this album will be donated to the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity’s Musicians Village Project which is building new homes for New Orleans musicians affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Finally, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of the best Christmas albums of all time. If you know anything at all about music you’ll know that the competition here isn’t that stiff, and a lot depends on whether you like your festive soundtrack loud and tinselly or hushed and holy. For me it’s the former, so The Jackson 5 Christmas Album (Motown) with a 12-year-old Michael singing his innocent but funky heart on ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ has to be up there. As does Motown Christmas which also features the Jacksons, along with Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson and The Temptations. You may see a theme emerging here. Back in the 1960s and 70s no one questioned what an old bloke with a beard dressed in red and the birth of the Son of God had in common. So sleigh bells jingled as cradles rocked, reindeers flew as cattle lowed, and Christmas was just one big cuddly, fireside muddle of the commercial and the Christian that no one ever thought to question. So in the same dumbly innocent spirit, we still need to put aside the knowledge that the producer of the very greatest Christmas album is now in prison for murder. Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You (Commercial Marketing) just exudes excitement. Amazingly, it was a flop when it first came out (perhaps because it was released the same day that John F Kennedy was assassinated). But trust me, it’ll still blow the covers off your speakers with its incendiary vocal performances by the likes of Darlene Love, The Crystals and The Ronettes. But is it actually possible to listen to it without thinking of the inverted fairy tale of soul princess Ronnie Spector locked up in the evil legendary producer’s mansion, threatened with death if she tries to leave him? Of course it is! It’s Christmas! 57
THE BOOKSELLER CHRIMBO GIFT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM JONATHAN MAIN
ucked away in the family section of the weekend Guardian, Steven Appleby has been writing and drawing his Guide to Life: The Collected Loomus Cartoons (Guardian Books £14.99) for the past 6 years, gently and not so gently reflecting you and me and the little messes we make our lives. That bit’s more you than me, to be honest: it was always my childhood dream to grow up and be a penniless bookseller living out the twilight of his career in the arms of the digital revolution. No really.
Collected together these strips make marvellous fun of our insecurities, our pretensions and our delusions, to say nothing of our parenting skills, with the cunning yet charming eye of a man who just might be South London’s answer to Woody Allen when he was still good. Better yet The Bookseller Crow has signed copies. Even better still, we also have an exclusive bookmark. Those of you who can remember as far back as 1977 might also recall another previous and very popular Guardian comic strip. Now republished, Mrs Weber’s Omnibus by Posy Simmonds (Cape £20.00) is the perfect complement to the above: a time-capsule soap opera that started before the Milksnatcher era, and was then consumed by it. When right-on polytechnic sociology lecturers and their wives shopped at Habitat, held dinner parties and worried about the welfare state. Those were the days. Give a copy to your mum. Watch her eyes fill with tears over the Christmas pud. Alternatively she may laugh her Christmas socks off. Where to begin with the astonishing Building Stories by Chris Ware (Cape £30.00). On the inside lid of the box that houses the collection of 14 individual booklets, posters, newspapers and pamphlets that go to make up the graphic novel – a term that is far too confining for what is a work of art – is a quote from Pablo Picasso. Everything you can imagine is real would have been a fitting epigram too for Steven Appleby’s book, with which it shares a fascination for the unspooling of life, all be it with a cooler depiction. The book – box – relates the lives of the inhabitants of a three-storey 93-year-old building in Chicago and each section can be read in any order. I wanted the box to be a beautiful thing, Ware has said, and to have that promise to it that a gift has on Christmas morning. Opened then, it will still be being read on Boxing Day, guaranteed, and probably Good Friday too. 58
What with it being a novel about a struggling independent record shop under threat of closure from a much bigger rival (to say nothing of the digital shizzle), I didn’t think I was going to much enjoy Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. But I couldn’t have been more wrong, and it quickly became one of my favourite novels of the year. The jacket copy claims that it is a Californian Middlemarch set to the funky beat of classic vinyl soul-jazz. This turn of phrase sounds as though it has been coined by a person who has never spent a sleepless night pondering the transition of the James Brown band from the Bernard Odum to the Bootsy Collins era – let alone the difference between a Zapp and a Roger Troutman solo album – but who may have an English literature A-level and an uncle who works in publishing. Not that you really need any prior knowledge of vintage Black American music to appreciate the storytelling: this being Chabon it is at the sentence level that the pleasure of the book really kicks in. David Byrne is one of popular music’s most nimble architects. In How Music Works (Canongate £22.00) he leads us through his take on music of all forms, from his own ‘pop’ music, to Jazz, World, Classical and Opera. Early on he describes busking across America in his pre fame days with a fellow art student, wearing an old suit, fedora and an unkempt beard. They end up playing on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley (see above) where a young black kid asks him if (he) was one of those people who didn’t ride in cars.
steals the hat of a big fish while the big fish is sleeping. Can we guess what happens next? Comeuppance has never been rendered more delicately. Clearly Pantone ® understand it is never too early to start your offspring on the creative path and Colours (Workman £6.99), a large size board book that will take your baby through Yellow, past Red, Purple and Blue and on to Grey White Black, all with the attendant codes and shades, does the job nicely. Pantone also produce an equally groovy box set of board books devoted to individual colours – although if in later years you have to field questions about the exact shade of green of the downstairs toilet, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Or perhaps you feel that little Jocasta has a more literary bent. In which case the series of Little Master board books by Alison Oliver and Jennifer Adams (Gibbs Smith £6.99 each) are what you need. A Christmas Carol, Dracula, Moby Dick, Alice in Wonderland and Jane Eyre, all retold in the space of ten sturdy chew-resistant pages. Who knows, they may grow up to work in a bookshop. Oh.
The author claims that this is not an autobiography, but there is much that is autobiographical about it, and the account of forming Talking Heads is fascinating – who knew, for instance, that in 1977 you couldn’t get the skinny black jean in the US for love nor money. Ask yourself, how different would Psycho Killer have sounded if the guy singing it was wearing flares? As the story of how their music evolved it is essential, and will suit anyone who read and enjoyed Patti Smith’s Just Kids. It also has a nice, comfy, padded binding too, which at a push might double as an emergency pillow on that long trip back from Grandma’s on Boxing Day. The illustrator Jon Klassen is on a roll. Last year he published I Want My Hat Back (Walker £6.99), one of the best and funniest children’s picture books of recent years. Now he has released another book with hat in the title. In This is Not My Hat (Walker £11.99) a small fish 59
The Bookseller Crow
ED Comedy at the HOB
Wednesday 14 November 8pm An evening with critic and broadcaster Jonathan Meades, author of Museums Without Walls and the Crystal Palace-set novel The Fowler Family Business.
MUSIC The Bookseller Crow
Friday 23 November 7.30pm Rock and Roll night: featuring the launches of new novel Etc Etc Amen by Howard Male and new cd City of Gold and Lead by The Sound of the Ladies, plus Chris Salewicz reading from Redemption Song, the authorised biography of Joe Strummer. The Bookseller Crow 50 Westow Street SE19 3AF 020 8771 8831
7 Devonshire Road Forest Hill SE23 3HE Live music every Tuesday 9pm Free With The Prisonaires and special guests The Electric Hares New Years Eve 9pm £15
www.edcomedy.com 020 8855 0496
Every Thursday Nite Celebrity Pub Quiz With a different comedian as quizmaster each week 9pm £2
Monday 3 December The All New Stand Up Show New acts strut their stuff. Come down and see the comedians of the future. James Redmond MC 8pm £3
Saturday 17 November Stand Up Comedy Ray Peacock MC, Michael Legge, Chris Martin and Special Guest 9pm £9 (£6 concs)
Saturday 8 December Stand Up Comedy James Redmond MC, Jess Fostekew, Gordon Southern and Andrew Bird 9pm £9 (£6 concs)
Monday 19 November The All New Stand Up Show New acts strut their stuff. Come see the comedians of the future. 8pm £3
Monday 10 December The All New Stand Up Show Headline acts try out new material. 8pm £3
Saturday 24 November Stand Up Comedy Simon Clayton MC, Johnny Kats, Addy van der Borgh and Alistair Barrie 9pm £9 (£6 concs) Followed by live music from The Electric Hares Monday 26 November The All New Stand Up Show Headline acts to try out new material. Compered by Paul T Eyres 8pm £3 Saturday 1 December Stand Up Comedy Charmian Hughes MC, Chris Neil, Joey Page and Martin Beaumont 9pm £9 (£6 concs)
Saturday 15 December Stand Up Comedy Rosie Wilby MC, Dane Baptist, David Jesudason and Paul McCaffrey 9pm £9 (£6 concs) Thursday 20 December Christmas Pub Quiz With Stephen Frost, Andy Smart, Steve Steen and Guest 9pm £2 Saturday 22 December Stand Up Comedy Jessica Fostekew MC, Mary Bourke, Paul Sinha and Andrew Bird 9pm £9 (£6 concs) Saturday 29 December Stand Up Comedy Rob Collins MC, Chris Martin, Cole Parker and guest 9pm £9 (£6 concs)
THEATRE & PANTO
Dulwich Picture Gallery
South London Theatre
AS YOU LIKE IT by William Shakespeare Tues 6 to Sat 10 November 8pm One of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies.
PETER PAN Featuring Eastenders’ Dr Yusef Khan as Captain Hook, PC Plum from Balamory as sidekick Smee and CBBC’s Gemma Hunt as Tinkerbell. Jennifer Ellison plays Peter Pan. 30 Nov 2012 to 6 January 2013 Tickets £14-31
Gallery Road Dulwich SE21 7AD 020 8693 5254 The Apartment (1960) Cert PG/120 mins Monday 10 December Starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. Winner of five Oscars including Best Picture. A film as fresh today as it was when first shown. A complimentary glass of wine and snacks. An introduction to the film and film notes. Bar opens at 7pm and screening at 7.45pm in the Linbury Room £9 (£7 Friends) Gallery Film for Kids The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) Cert PG/ 107 mins Sunday 2 December 3.45pm The creative forces of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson combine in a visual feast that explores the boundaries of computer animation. A treat for all the family. £5
The Old Fire Station 2A Norwood High Street London SE27 9NS 020 8670 3474 www.southlondontheatre.co.uk
A SKULL IN CONNEMARA by Martin McDonagh Tues 20 to Sat 24 November 8pm The middle part of The Leenane Trilogy, Skull is a return to the darkly funny inhabitants of the small Irish village of Leenane, last visited at SLT in The Lonesome West in 2009. SNOW WHITE by Jenny Gammon Thurs 5 to Sat 8 December, Wed 12 to Sat 15 December 7.30pm Sat 8, Sun 9 and Sat 15 December 2.30pm A family show, with something for everyone! LATIN! OR TOBACCO AND BOYS by Stephen Fry Tues 22 to Sat 26 January 2013 At the Chartham Park Preparatory School for Boys Year 6’s Common Entrance exams are only two weeks away. With the Headmaster ill, the youthful Mr Clarke, and his more senior rival Mr Brookshaw, scheme for succession in a battle of wits and blackmail.
Churchill Theatre, Bromley High Street, BR1 1HA 020 8464 7131
Ashcroft Theatre Park Lane, Croydon CR9 1DG www.fairfield.co.uk 020 8688 9291 JACK AND THE BEANSTALK Starring Laila Morse (Mo from Eastenders), Sid from CBeebies, Quinn Patrick as the pantomime dame and tallest man in Europe Neil Fingleton as the Giant (of course!) Friday 7 December 2012 – Sunday 6 January 2013 Tickets from £16.50
DOWN THE PUB Alex Fowler gets his round-up in
he nights are getting cold, the days are getting dark and pretty soon we’ll be skating to work. But one good thing about winter is that it provides the perfect excuse for hiding away in the warmth of the pub. Here’s a round-up of what you can find in some of our beloved hostelries over the festive period.
Westow House will be providing perfect winter shelter with a range of events. The new pub quiz is a real treat: picture rounds, creative rounds (Halloween was pumpkin carving!), a jackpot (handy this time of year) and a charismatic host make a great night. Cosy up with mulled wine and cider plus a Winter Ale Festival in December. Not warmed
up yet? Try the new Christmas menu which includes braised beef with almonds and chestnut soup. Worried about your waistline? Fear not! Live music will help you dance off the mulled wine trifle. A regular brass band will be stationed outside and Thursday nights will be live music nights (plus DJs on Friday and Saturday). A stylish finish to the season is an Olympic-themed New Year’s Eve party – shorts and vests are a must! Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a pint at the White Hart. A favourite choice for lunch on Christmas Day, book early for a menu of turkey, West Country beef or sea bream (or mushroom & Cornish brie wellington for veggies). This year groups of 10 or more can
also book a choice of generous Christmas Buffets. The Snowflake includes pigs in blankets and mince pies & clotted cream; the Snow Ball includes pork sliders and pudding bites; whilst the Snow Man offers even more deliciousness with further dishes of goats cheese toasts, chicken & chorizo skewers and mini salted caramel & chocolate tarts. With live music on Christmas Eve, and regular Sunday-nighters indie band Longfellow (plus DJ) playing on New Year’s Eve, it’s gonna be cracking. Have you recovered yet from The Grape & Grain Autumn Beer Festival in October? How great was that? A certain Transmitter Editor was seen having one too many pints of Wibblers Apprentice and waffling on (as usual) about joining CAMRA. This is the beer-lovers pub and landlord Rick has lots of beery treats lined up as well as live music over the weekend-before-Christmas (22 & 23 December) and a Quiz and DJ for New Year’s Eve. The Alma marks its birthday in November with a week-long celebration including a Wine & Food Matching Banquet with Mike from Taste the Grape on Tuesday 20 November (7 courses and 7 wines plus some vino education); an evening of beer tasting with the Head Brewer from Windsor & Eton Brewery on 21 November; the first of the Winter Markets in the garden on Saturday 24 November; and a big bash on Sunday 25 November featuring live music from 21st Century Riot. Pop in for more info and to book for the wine and beer evenings, and to find out more about their Christmas menu.
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New Year Fitness
in Crystal Palace
Miracle Fitness Bootcamps
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Your Majesty By Economy Custard
economycustard.co.uk ÂŠ Simon Sharville 2012