SMALL SMALL LIFE LIFE IS IS HERE HERE
“With eyes that see the romantic in the familiar, we wander in search of excitements and satisfactions in obscure quarters…” Geoffrey Fletcher spent a lifetime finding beauty in the mundane and overlooked, producing 18 books between 1962 and 1990 including London at My Feet, City Sights, Pearly Kingdom and his best known The London Nobody Knows. Best known because strangely it was made into a film with the actor James Mason giving a guided tour of Fletcher’s fabulously dingy domain. Whilst it’s nice to see the footage, the perfect medium for the subject is the drawing and description in his books. One of these, a scene in Limehouse, starts with the words: “Urinal, drinking fountain and gaslamp – all three under a grim railway arch: what could be better?” With his descriptions of ruined squares of crackled stucco houses, cast iron area railings, terraces of sparrow brown houses or the odd bow windowed survival, his world crosses over with John Betjeman but without the snobbery and sentimentality. Fletcher sees at once the possibilities, the connections and goes for it with incisive wit whether it’s a doorway in Deptford, a Mayfair club or the meths drinkers of Vauxhall. In the early books the descriptions are fairly brief, but in later years the restraint is gone and he lets rip in a fine irascible camp style. Geoffrey Fletcher was born in 1923 studied at the Slade Art School and contributed regularly to the Daily Telegraph and Guardian. He died in 2004. Much of what he described is gone and London is the poorer but much is still there. The important thing is his way of seeing which inspires one to look at new subjects in the same manner. The DVD of The London Nobody Knows is currently available online and his books from every other second hand book shop. WmB
M e e t S TA N L EY ! ! Page 16.
We are pleased to report that the two dogs abandoned in Wickham Market have found a new home in Old Town. New owner Mrs Brown said: “As soon as we saw their photo in the Star we knew they were the dogs for us. They looked like such a lively pair.” SB
It's a day I'd been dreading for a long time but I still wasn't prepared for it when it came. I rang my order through as usual – 50 metres of white, 50 of eau de nil, 50 of pale blue – only to be told the devastating news. No more blue. What do you mean, no moreand blue? no to be “downright dangerous” put You've it in the more The in stock? some the looms waiting skip. other There’s soldiered onon until it would no to be rolled off? into But no, the answer was that pale longer be coaxed pumping up water. blue wasnew finished. Kaput. The boilers aren't much to look at – Turnsinout they steel haven't woven on the castors fabric for the encased white cabinets they last 25 years They’ve been sitting on old stock could be some form of medical equipment such which has finally run out. Apparently, when the asschoolwear kidney dialysis machines – over and to they manufacturers moved polocome shirts with warnings about drawing water supplies they were left with thousands of unwanted metres. from ponds and theconsider main thing is Unfortunately for wells. us theyBut won’t cranking copious steam, minimal up the machines again forfuss. less than 2,000 metres.
I was rather fond of our two old pressing units. With their green Hammerite casing and Bakelite control knobs they looked like they might have come from a Lancaster bomber. They were made round about the middle of the last century by "Danor of Southgate" – according to the plate riveted on. We kept them much longer than we should have. Old Norris in Limehouse would refurbish them every few years but recently declared one
I knew it wasn't worth telling them about all our customers who adore the fabric, the loosely woven cotton once widely used for sports and schoolwear and still generally referred to as ‘aertex’ (even though ‘Aertex’ is a brand name rather than the generic term for that type of cloth). Over the years I've heard many emotional reminiscences about wearing the fabric - from happy holiday memories to jolly hockey sticks and crumpets to traumatising school changing room incidents. But one thing’s for sure, it draws more passionate comments than any other fabric we offer. The cotton weaving industry in this country is all but finished. For the moment, pale blue is survived by his siblings eau deWINKIE. nil, white, navy and black but Forfor more cats on ladders see Page 2. sadly not much longer.
THE CHOCOLATE CHEESE MAN. By Will Brown. The first time I became aware of him was by way of a ridiculous pantomime cough he performed to attract someone’s attention. Anyone’s attention. He was happy to talk to any of the few people waiting outside the Alliance and Leicester for the X5 bus. The next time I saw him was early one morning at the other end of the journey, in the seaside town where I now know he lives. He did exactly the same trick, coughed to attract attention and then was off in his cheeky chappy style of banter with anyone who would listen – the driver, the young mums or the pensioners too early to use the free bus pass. He stood smoking by the bus doors until time for the off when he lugged a huge sports bag up to the back and held court.
Cut price El Tel. NADDLES, Midhurst. BINNY and DOLLY, Cromer.
FUGEE, Hackney. DAISY, Rogate.
It turns out that he works via an agency for supermarkets and small department stores demonstrating or selling various products, hence today the big bag of clinking bottles. “It’s an alcoholic drink but it’s different ‘cause it’s made from fruit”, he said, like he’d never considered where wine, cider or schnapps came from. I thought, he’s a character, like a vacuum cleaner salesman or a costermonger. Also a rarity – there are few people of working age who take the bus round here unless they’ve been banned from driving. I’d say he was 50ish. Stocky, balding, his remaining hair swept straight back, with something of the look of Terry Venables. His face had that shiny just shaved look and you could imagine him slapping his cheeks with aftershave which he’d need to combat the faggy smell which hung about his black dandruffed coat with the too long sleeves which the barrel-chested are often afflicted with. This cut price El Tel could have been convincingly played by Ricky Gervais. So I quite warmed to this bloke with his barrel bag and matching chest and Max Miller chit-chat.
Scotch Eggs. I became the willing victim of his affected opening salvo the next time I saw him. I asked him what he was up to today. He said “Valentine’s Day promotion. It’s cheese, but topped with chocolate. No really, it’s nice. Unusual, innit?” The next time it was bread “It’s good stuff this” he said patting his tum. That’s beer I thought and had this vision of him padding around a Pinteresque seaside flat in a string vest before smartening up to go to the pub. In fact I chanced upon him in a pub and expected some good value as this was the environment he had surely been made for, but no. He was very economic with the verbal. The last time I saw him he was off to tell the citizens of Fakenham the great news about Uncle Ben’s Garlic and Herb Wok Rice. “I’m looking forward to Monday,” he said. “Morrison’s own quiches and scotch eggs again, is it?” I asked. “No, I’m off to Bangkok for a fortnight’s holiday.” I didn’t press him further on the matter. ALBERTINE, Saxmundham.
WINKIE and JOE, Romford.
The ordinary things are often the best. Here follows a miscellaneous collection – subjective and unabashed, of particular things that catch the eye, or lift the spirits or warrant a mention.
Wherever possible I go by bike, sometimes with my Patterdale terrier in the basket – his butter wouldn’t melt in the mouth expression frequently interrupted by furious outbursts at passing postmen, skateboards or sitting cats. Slow pace travel is best. When motoring I like to take the country route and whenever possible cross the railway line at Crambe (in North Yorkshire). You stop at a whitepainted-closed-wooden gate, ring a bell and wait. Presently a pleasant man climbs down from his well maintained signal box and opens the gate. You thank him and proceed, admiring his tomatoes in grow bags on the way. A similar pleasure can be had navigating the Yare at Reedham, a single car roll-on-roll-off ferry chugs back and forth across the narrow river most satisfyingly. Chains clink, you buy your ticket. A life buoy is to hand in case of emergency.
Scrap paper. It is hard to impress on some people the importance of throwaway bits and pieces to the collage maker. Two single sheets of paper saved from the bin have been invaluable. The first, whipped out from under a heap of Cox’s apples, patterned with Union Jacks has kept me in jaunty flags for half a decade. They billow in cut out harbours and off paper rooftops from Scarborough to St. Paul’s Cathedral. More prized still is the second sheet, a herringbone-tweed printed paper, once a wrapping for a bunch of daffs, now the supreme found texture ideal for a finch’s wing, a cockerel tail or a pigeon’s back.
Why cut paper pigeons? people ask. The humble street pigeon is all around and overlooked I say. See afresh its beauty – the rich subtle plumage variations, blue grey with barring, mauve with checked wing coverts and delicate iridescence at the neck. Best of all a pied bird in the park: red legged and white faced, its clear-eyed benign expression as compelling as the splendour of some exotic immigrant prized by the twitcher. The pigeon’s my bird of choice every time.
In praise of the post. A well penned brightly stamped envelope is a joy to receive or send. Why opt for a lone stamp? As a rule I select a raucous mix of coloured stamps including at least one nine pence stamp – a wonderful yellow, and arrange them artfully to the bemusement of some members of the post office staff. Snail mail perhaps, but post that packs a visual punch is a must for me.
Blood Oranges. There is nothing better than a blood orange in season, one which is wrapped in tissue perhaps with a Spanish lovely peering out at you, or a fecund orange grove ripe for the picking or memorably an alpine Chamois poised on an Italian peak boldly vignetted. Unwrap, flatten and retain the tissue. Next unpeel the tawny russet skin and finally a blood red sherbet sweet segment in the mouth.
Treasure. Spring comes in York with the first car boot sale, an event rich with the smell of bacon sandwiches and the promise of untold treasure, a field full of wonderfully disparate artefacts and searching eyes on the hunt for a find, a lustre cup, or wooden toy – you never know till... you reveal a Victorian swan spill vase at the bottom of a box. “Two pounds an item. Any item two pounds.” “I’ll take this thank you.” Good things need not be perfect. I picked up two Staffordshire figures on horseback (from the antique shop opposite the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge). The first a fine steed with a broken foreleg – as if injured in battle. The other mount was sound, his rider once decapitated now repaired was bought for a song, his scars his history.
More besides. Further related reading can be found in the Saturday Books – with wonderfully eccentric and acutely visual contributions from Olive Cook and Edwin Smith – who note tissue orange wrappers, pearly king costumes and much more besides.
Must the Show Go On?
Mark Hearld’s work can be seen at www.stjudes.co.uk and at www.godfreyandwatt.co.uk.
Morrissey, Britannia Pier, Great Yarmouth. 15th May 2009. Monday, Albert Hall: show cancelled. Wednesday, Birmingham Symphony Hall: show cancelled. It wasn't looking good for the modest Britannia Pier Theatre Great Yarmouth on Friday. Morrissey hadn't been well. He's had a fairly patchy record of turning up for his own shows lately. There was no definite word on the internet so the journey across the flatlands was made with small expectations. The Britannia Theatre above the wide sands is utterly charming with its old fashioned cinema style seating, usherettes with trays of sweets and a stage more used to seeing the likes of Tom o' Connor and Roy Chubby Brown than the former Smiths front man. A small open door to one side revealed a scene of waves breaking on distant Scroby sands with its wind turbines. There was a bit of a scramble for seats then journeys to and fro with wobbly plastic pints before and during the warm up act which happened to be ‘Doll and the Kicks’. The pixie like cavortings of the singer were wasted on this crowd but
what a story for her to tell the grandchildren - how she supported the Great Morrissey back in the day. They left to tepid applause and the curtain was raised to reveal a backdrop of a muscular sailor. The all seated theatre became all standing with a crush to the front and on came the old fellow, and how fantastic is he? Voice a little weaker than his last time in Norfolk three years ago and the band pulling more than their weight, which in the case of guitarist Boz Boorer is considerable. He sang a few crowd pleasing Smiths songs and some from his more recent and to my mind finest albums. The shirt came off and showed he wasn't looking too bad. Valiant stage invasions were repelled before the final number First of the Gang to Die to which he added the words from Big Dee Irwin’s ‘60s hit Swinging on a Star. It wasn’t the best I've heard him sing but as a Morrissey moment it was perfect. WmB.
JOHN STEED WAS NOT MY UNCLE. By Will Brown. This is the street, it's somewhere down here, left hand side, a bit further along. It's the one on the corner. Turn ninety degrees to get a good look at it. That's the house I grew up in. I'm not actually there of course, I'm looking at Google Street View. I knew every inch of that house and garden and to see it for the first time in thirty years feels very strange. It was a large, detached, Crittall windowed post war council house. Now it looks a bit smaller and has all the usual kind of improvements. It‘s still an average looking house in an average town. Borehamwood, my old town, was famously dull. Outsiders used to call it Bore-em-stiff but there was one speck of glamour in our young lives - we had the film studios. My uncle Pete used to drive cars to the studios when needed for filming and would occasionally turn up at our house in a black and white 'Z car' or, more thrillingly, the green nineteen twenties Bentley that John Steed drove in The Avengers. In my primary school playground word got round that Steed was in fact my uncle. For films and T.V. our local streets were regularly cast in the role of 'Nowhere in particular' which they played very convincingly. Even better than Street View, I can watch the old clips on You Tube and see the streets as they actually looked in my youth. Marvellous thing the Netty. There's Thelma, Bob's wife from The Likely Lads working in my local library. There's Stan in On The Buses heading into the launderette in the parade of shops just around the corner from where we lived. There's going to be a right old mix up over some ladies underwear in a minute. There's randy, blonde mulletted window cleaner Robin Askwith cycling the length of our high street behind the opening credits of Confessions of a Window Cleaner. The same street where Dudley Moore works as a Wimpey Bar chef in Bedazzled. For a later generation the town and its studios might be associated with Star Wars, East Enders and Big Brother, but for me it's frozen in time as the home of the low brow, smutty English comedy of the seventies.
By Andrews of Arcadia. Anyone with a good knowledge of regional newspaper publishing in the last century will recall the thrill of the appearance at five o’clock on a Saturday of a sporting supplement known in some towns as the Pink ‘Un and in others as the Green ‘Un. Named after the colour of the paper they were printed on, these were the newspapers of your dreams – not littered with leaders, letters pages or court reports but consisting of a couple of pieces of folded paper bearing rushed and often incomplete match reports and football results from games played that very afternoon. On those distant afternoons when rain fell in front of floodlights and all football league games except those being played at Tranmere, Torquay and Hartlepool kicked off at 3pm, television, let alone Sky television, didn’t exist in most homes. The arrival of the ‘Un was as exciting and comforting as the sound of Out of the Blue, the BBC Sports Report theme tune, is today. A constant, a life affirming moment in time that marks the beginning of the weekend proper. The perfect prelude to a pint of mild and a lock in at the Royal Oak or a night in the parlour with half
a bag of chips and a loose cousin. In Arcadia, a world where pints of mild still exist and Out of the Blue is planned as a funeral march, I still fantasise about the existence of a Sunday twin supplement to the Pink/Green ‘Un dedicated solely to fishing match results. Printed on sky blue paper similar to the long gone Fishing Gazette this great organ would carry the result of the Pork Pie Classic at Gunthorpe Bridge and tell the world who managed to scrape half an ounce of bits from a flooded Thames at Richmond. Reports and results from places where a bream can break your heart, a bucket of bleak can cheer you up and every public house still has their own angling club. The Blue ‘Un would be read at the table of The Magpie after a blank day on the weir and used to line the drawer where you keep your best worms. It would be the week’s essential read, a telegram from the lost world, carrying the day’s results in the Sowerbutts Cup and a single quarter page strip advert for the late Frank Murgett’s Maggotorium. They say you don’t miss what you’ve never had but that isn’t the case with the Blue ‘Un. www.andrewsofarcardia.co.uk
You may have heard of the expression "like a dog at broth" which means to go at something hastily and voraciously – which is exactly what these two little scamps do when presented with their favourite tea: Dog Broth. This is how to make it. Take: 1½ kilos meaty beef bone 1 cup each of chopped cabbage, celery and carrots ¼ cup tomato paste or blended tomatoes (3 or 4 tomatoes) Parsley, salt and water.
Pre-heat the oven to 175C. Put the beef bones in a large roasting pan and roast for an hour. Turn them every so often so they brown on all sides. Once done, drain out the fat. Put the pan on the hob at a medium heat. Add in ½ cup of water and loosen up the meat from the pan. Make sure to loosen all the browned bits left on the roaster. Keep all these drippings. In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the cabbage, celery, and carrots and stir until tender.
Add in the roasted beef bones, reserved dripping from the roasting pan, tomato paste, salt, parsley and 2 litres of water. Bring to a boil over a high heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours. To use as a broth, strain the whole mixture, let it cool, and refrigerate. Take off any fat from the surface and either refrigerate this or freeze it. To make soup, take out the beef bones, and pour the vegetables over some dry dog food.
Miss Willey invites you to accompany her down the aisle.
On a recent visit to London I arranged to meet Old Brown at the Royal Festival Hall which like the rest of the South Bank has changed considerably over the last 15 years. I'm not sure about midweek but on a Sunday it's clearly a very popular meeting place. It's open plan and spacious and seems to attract a lot of families who can spread out in the modern way of things, sit on low squashy sofas, read the papers and ‘bliss out’. After sitting for a while with Old Brown soaking up the atmosphere and reminiscing about the days when it was virtually impossible to get a cup of tea and a digestive on a Sunday we were intrigued by an announcement which came over the tannoy. It was an invitation for anyone who felt inclined to come onto the floor and with a musical accompaniment express themselves through dance. It was then I had a strange feeling of deja vu. Butlins! There are some differences, the most obvious being the way the RFH celebrates its heritage – the Skylon Restaurant and the gift shops stocked with mid 20th century knick-knackery – whereas Butlins seems to be doing its level best to distance itself from any association with the 1950's. New chalet blocks at Skegness are called the Hamptons although I suspect you won't bump into George Clooney while queuing for your full English. But it was the similarities that were striking. Butlins also has an area reserved for dance and expression but the background noise is more likely to be Rhianna, Beyonce or Girls Aloud rather than an African drum beat. Both dance areas are corralled by food outlets, albeit with different menus. Triple chocolate Belgian muffins, homemade granola, curried parsnip and apple soup (Royal Festival Hall); Papa John's pasta and pizza, Finnegans fish and chips and Burger King (Butlins) The bars are identical but then bars usually are, whether it's a cocktail in a glass (RFH) or cocktails in a jug – get chilled! – Bar Rosso (Butlins), alcohol transcends classes. Consequently the overall feel of both places is very similar – a holding area for families who can sit, eat, drink, dance and relax all undercover while their children go berserk. MW
If you want to cut down on your calorie intake you may want to pay a visit to Budgens. The times I’ve trawled the isles at 6pm ravenously hungry looking for a tasty serving suggestion and more often than not come out with bottle of bleach and some kitchen foil. Possibly in the winter months I’ll be tempted by a box of firelighters, but who could resist the glow of Sunny Jim? One of our customers came up with a good slogan for them “Budgens – where you do some of your shopping". Looking in the baskets at the till it is indeed “some shopping”. Cat food, cheap booze, gravy granules, fish fingers, milk and a big purple one. Not like the trolleys you see loaded up in Morrisons. Now that's what I call shopping! Everything is massive, it's all on an industrial scale. Sacks of crisps bigger than a small child, catering tubs of margarine, huge vacuum packs of wafer thin ham, bottles of fizzy pop and blocks of cheese that could double as a doorstop. There are a couple of things I particularly like about Morrisons. One is the scotch pies, another is the older gentlemen who work on the till who like to comment on the contents your basket. “Oh, saffron. Which plant does that come from? Don't tell me it was on television the other night.” “Oh, olive oil. That comes from Spain doesn't it?”
But the best thing is the Butlins style bing bong announcements which are generally pie related, something along the lines of “Welcome to Morrisons. All of our pies are now half price. Another good reason to shop at Morrisons.” If it's top notch shopping you’re after then please make your way to Larners in Holt, known locally as the Harrods of the North Norfolk coast. It's not a supermarket as such, more a purveyor of provisions and groceries. The stock can look like it's geared to a different generation – Epicure smoked quails eggs, a whole shelf given over to anchovybased products, the full range of Tiptree jams. A generation of retired colonels whose taste buds have dissolved from too much whiskey and cigar smoke, little wifey by their side daintily arranging Roka cheese biscuits on a hostess trolley. Anyone for a snifter? It’s stoically middle class and gentile, shopping from a different era. Trolleys are kept to a minimum, it's everyday shopping that fits neatly into one basket. Shopping in Spar doesn't even require the basket, it can all be fitted in to the crook of your arm. Milk, toilet roll, newspaper – leaving your right hand free for your lottery tickets, 'bringing home the bacon' and I don't mean the type you put in between two slices of Kingsmill.
KNITTING AIN’T SEXY.
I love knitting and I think it's great that it’s becoming more popular. I don’t even mind the knitting groups that are being set up – Knit and Knatter, Purl and Prattle, Cable and Carp (or maybe that's a fishing group...) – but it’s just not attractive to be seen actually doing it. First, you have to sit in a 'good light'. For this, read incredibly unflattering. You need to sit up reasonably straight with elbows in – hardly languid – and adopt the knitting pose – chin tucked in, so no fine profile, and peer over the top of your glasses. You put up a physical barrier around yourself with wool, needles, pens and paper, patterns. And the actual act of knitting is, well, quite spiky, with elbows and needles moving about. My friend Jane said that she was knitting the other night with a rug over her knees and the cat on her lap. Her husband Richard walked in and thought it was his nan sitting there. Which is my point exactly. I should think it highly unlikely that anyone has ever said "Put that wool away, you little minx. I'm overcome with lust". (The response to which would probably be "Hang on, I've just got to a tricky bit".) And I'd put money on it that nobody has admitted “Do you know, the first time I really fancied her was when she was sitting there knitting those grey mittens". Like many other pleasurable occupations, knitting should be done alone. In private. Because it just ain't sexy. AS
Dominic Thelwell, the 'Man in a high wind' has moved. Familiar to Londoners and tourists he has stood near the London Eye with his inside out umbrella and trailing scarf for over ten years. He has now appeared in Covent Garden Piazza. When asked why the move? He replied (out of the corner of his mouth) “'Mona Lisa in a picture frame' has stolen my trade. I thought I'd try my luck here”. Womb
Drawings by KEITH VAUGHAN. 2nd to 25th July. Catalogue available.
Abbott and Holder Ltd 30 Museum Street, London WC1 www.abbottandholder.co.uk
By Jo Bunting.
By Will Brown. I don't know if there’s already been a television series and spin off book where a celebrity pensioner – Michael Palin, Germaine Greer – travels around with a bus pass. It would certainly be a low cost production. Perhaps it could be sponsored by Windeeze. I know the perfect bus route for the first programme: the Norfolk Green Coast Hopper. It runs between Cromer and Hunstanton, along the cliffs and by the salt marshes of the North Nort Norfolk Coast, shadowing hadowing at a discreet distance the coastal path. If you haven't aven't got a bus pass it’ll cost you £5, breaking your journey as you fancy in the flinty villages or seaside towns. The buses run every half hour and they'll stop anywhere along the route. So a bit of walking, a bus, a beer, a spot of lunch at Morston,, I'm sure you get the idea. It's marvellous. I tried it once as a pub crawl (in in the name of research) but I'm not really
one for daytime drinking – you end up feeling sunburned even though you've been mostly inside. Probably better is to get the bus to Wiveton and have breakfast at Wiveton Hall. Yes really. Just walk up the drive like you own the place and you'll come across the delightful outhouse which the Honourable Desmond McCarthy has turned into a McCar cafe. If you don't see him you’ll you’ hear him shouting at the dogs. You can have a fantastic home-made home style fry up sitting at tables under pine trees looking out to sea over the marshes. Now back to the TV proposal. There's Germaine sitting tting on a rustic seat by a flint wall with hollyhocks behind. She's doing her specky granny look. The music comess up...it's up... that one by Groove Armada...“If you're fond of sand dunes and salty air, quaint little villages here and there...". How's that forr programme one? Next week Janet Street Porter on the Isle of Wight.
Class 121: Special Family Interbreed Champions. Class 122: Supreme Interbreed Champion. And so the list of classes in the agricultural agricultural show programme went on. Quite a number of families were wandering around who looked quite special, and who could certainly be interbreed champions, but the classes, it transpired, applied to categories of dairy cattle. An expert on cows was giving a running commentary as the animals animals paraded round the ring. “Just look at the lovely evenness of rump structure structure here”, he said with relish. “You won’t see better er udder definition anywhere.” Whatt fabulous names these animals have – Shadowfax hadowfax Arabella, Dunmoor Mutford Mutford Mayday, Gatterley Goldmine. They sound like characters from om a racy Victorian novelette. Gatterley Goldmine would be the villain, villain, striding around in breeches, while Shadowfax Arabella would float past in a swirly dress. Meanwhile Dunmoor Mayday would love Arabella, but being be working class and therefore not husband band material, would just hang around on the estate looking swarthy and diving into ponds. On the other hand, there was a calf called Gemini Jordan Charmaine, up until now a name only heard being bellowed by a woman wearing leggings in Lidl. Many people think the recital of areas in the sounds poetic: Tyne, Dogger, shipping forecast f Fisher,, German Bight, Sole, Fastnet. At the agricultural show we had the “sheeping forecast”: Cotswold, Galway, Leicester Longwool, Teeswater, Wensleydale ydale and White Face Dartmoor. Beautiful. The names, anyway. Sheep aren’t actually that beautiful and seem to urinate a lot when being paraded around. But itt was a splendid day out, and perhaps by next year, Gemini Jordan Charmaine will have calves of her own and Shadowfax Arabella and Dunmoor Mutford Mayday will have finally plighted their troth. The 63rd Aylsham Show will take place on Bank Holiday Holiday Monday, 31st August 2009 at Blickling Park, Park, near Aylsham, Norfolk. Norfolk
In Praise of Salthouse By Scott James Donaldson T’was the summer of 2008, which is almost a distant memory now, but the summer it did be, and Salthouse we did visit. Accompanied by our handsome, debonair young pup, I took a trip with my wife, whose name I simply can not remember, and drove the two miles from our fine, rustic lodgings, in our cramped but comfortable 4x4, to view the famous harbour town. And even Pig Dickens, one of the many literary pseudonyms within our dogs possession, engaged with the surroundings immediately, meaning that we were in luck. Having partaken of an incredible luncheon at Biscuits, or Crackers, or Cookies, or whatever my wife says it’s called, the three three of us loosened our belts for a while and enjoyed the surprisingly pleasant air which swept upon us from the aged, underdeveloped seafront, and dreamt of glorious times gone by: times when waste of any kind could happily be accepted by our great ocean without
threat of contamination or lawsuit. Once the beatific Jack Russell Kerouac’s crab salad had settled within his furry belly, we permitted ourselves a lengthy walk of almost fifteen minutes along the stone-clad clad beach and, all things considered, this was not dreadful. In fact, the woollen genius of Mr Dog--toy-evsky evsky shone through so finely in his collection of sticks, chewing of rocks and examination of the human soul in distress, that we are now considering buying a house nearby. And so, by way of conclusion, nclusion, I would like to recommend to you fellow adventurers, a journey beyond the city limits that is actually worth taking, despite what you may have heard eard about life beside the sea. Come to Salthouse: our dog really quite likes it. Scott James Donaldson Nobrow Publishing
is co autho thor of The Bento Bestiary, published by
Holt. England : East Norfolk : North Market Town : Georgian Population : Elderly. Memory: Hazy. Visibility : Poor Small Shops : Abundant Butchers. Fishmongers : Several Dover Sole . Whiting : Plentiful Coastline : Fair Flint Cottages : Farrow And Ball : Widespread Scattered Bungalows : White Gloss Brancaster . Blakeney : Prosperous Sheringham . Cromer : Moderate To Rough Caravans Moving Across From Midlands : Imminent Transport : Poor. Leading To Deep Depression If you fancy a jaunt to this neck of the woods, Miss Willey will be happy to recommend places to stay. Here are her suggestions for places you might like to visit. North Norfolk Railway, Sheringham. Telephone 01263 820800. If you feel like being adventurous and travelling to Norfolk by public transport it can be quite a memorable journey. The train from Norwich to Sheringham gives you a glimpse of the Broads, a number of churches and a couple of wooden crossing keepers’ cottages. If you time it right, you can then take the steam train from Sheringham to Holt. This takes you through Weybourne and across Kelling Heath which is stunning gorse and heathland. Then twixt sea and pine you arrive at Holt station. There’s sometimes a no 38 Routemaster bus to take you to the town centre, otherwise it’s a mile walk. Possibly a little drawn out for some, but if the wind’s in the right direction it’s marvellous. St Judes Gallery. By the Village Shop, Itteringham. Telephone 01263 587666. Open Thursday to Saturday. As well as Angie Lewin’s distinctive and collectable prints, the gallery is a showcase for St Judes fabrics and stationery. In the St Judes tradition, collaborations will be in the offing with other artists such as Mark Hearld, Johnny Hannah and Chris Brown. Richard Scott Antiques. High Street, Holt. Telephone 01263 712479. If you like pressed glass, Sunderland ware, Staffordshire pottery, china tea bowls and Victorian glassware you will like Richard Scott Antiques and you'll also like the man himself. He always has time for a chat and having worked in the restoration dept. at the V&A he’s incredibly knowledgeable about the stock. Not in a pompous way, more in a friendly vicar meets Alec Guinness sort of way. He’s also very good at impersonations. See if you can get him to do the two cockney workmen employed to scrub up priceless sculptures in the V&A stores, it's better than any Pete and Dud sketch.
G.A Key's Auctions of Aylsham. Telephone 01263 733195. Always worth a look at their general sale every Monday, plus specialist sales throughout the year. The cafe is full of old boy Norfolk types. Coats belted with string de rigueur. East Anglian Transport Museum. Carlton Colville, Lowestoft. Telephone 01502 518459. You don't have to be an anorak to appreciate the delights of this transport museum - just an eye for detail, a liking for moquette and a fondness for egg sandwiches. Set in an unpromising suburb of Lowestoft it succeeds in a way many bigger museums don't. The scale of it is quite modest but what they have on display is all top notch. Started in 1962 with a Lowestoft tramcar body rescued from its use as a summerhouse, it now has on display trams from Blackpool, Amsterdam and London, trolleybuses, vintage buses and, in a garage awaiting restoration, a 1935 dustcart, a 1948 milkfloat and a 1935 bread delivery van. Not everyone's cup of tea I know, but if it's a cuppa you're after pop into the Terminus Tearooms. Converted from a prefab, they have managed to capture the atmosphere of a vintage bus station cafe with a menu to match. If you fancy a day poking around a greasy garage, inspecting the interior of a road mender’s sleeping wagon (a bit like a shepherd’s hut but with shovels instead of lambs) and admiring authentic street furniture, then I highly recommend the Bus Event on July 12th. Vintage buses will be on hand to take passengers from Lowestoft station. Another date for you diary: September 12th and 13th, Trolleybus weekend. It would be a very cynical person indeed not to be charmed by this delightfully English Museum. Martham Boats. Martham, Great Yarmouth. Telephone 01493 740249. I admit that holidaying on the Norfolk Broads may not sound like an idyllic way to spend a week – unless of course it's on a lovely wooden 1950's cruiser with solid wood interior, green Formica surfaces and cosy built-in cabin beds. If this appeals then I suggest you contact Martham Boat Yard and
inquire about Jayne, Janet or Juliette. It's a bit nerve wracking at first getting the hang of the steering (they have engines not sails) and making sure you don't collide with other boats, wherries, ducks or nesting birds and then the potentially embarrassing bit when you come to moor, between two stationary boats (best not to try this tricky manoeuvre after a couple of pints of Wherry). But once you have the hang of that it's a doddle. Then all you have to do is glide through reed beds and lily pads looking for a suitable place to drop anchor. It's all about nature and relaxing so stick to destinations like West Somerton and Horsey, away from the supersized pleasure boats.
Sailing with Norfolk Etc. By Theo and George Lazarides, schoolboys from London. Every summer we sail for a week from Morston Quay, with the company Norfolk Etc. Our instructors are all teenagers who live in North Norfolk and have sailed for years. They are really fun and above all give us a sense of freedom. We are actually allowed to sail dingys on the sea on our own. We know someone is always watching, in case we capsize or get hit by the boom (at least once a day) but it gives us a real sense of adventure. The way you are taught to sail is always through doing it. We have races, play at pirates and are able to leap from boat to boat. It is very safe but there is something about it that makes it feel like the most adventurous thing you can do. The best days are the sunny ones but with enough wind to be able to go fast, it is as though someone has given you the keys to their car!! We really love it, it is because of the adventure but also because of how kind and friendly the instructors are. The cold , rainy days when they all look after us are still just as fun. We sail in groups but they make sure everyone can do their best without you really knowing that you are being taught anything. At the end of the week when you see what you have achieved it is hard to believe it. We are racing this summer and really looking forward to it.
No. 10 10, Augusta Street, SHERINGHAM. LUNCHEONS and SUPPERS. www. no10sheringham.com Reservations 01263 82440.
Fish at its VERY BEST. FISH PIES - PATES TARTS - FISHCAKES Stable Yard, HOLT. Telephone 01263 711913.
Noteworthy “Old Style” Salads.
Telephone 01263 7405552.
Drink Beer at the
20, High Street, HOLT.
Wet Shaves by Appointment Telephone 01263 713020.
“World Famous Cromer Crabs Gather Here.”
Noted for their Sweetness. Garden Street, CROMER
By Miss Ellie Finlay from Gloucester.
Can you find the ten differences between the two pictures?
Drawing by Beth Morrison.
Caravans of Love?
October 1989 “I have a van for you. Meet me at the site. Freddie Love”. The note arrives in the post. The ‘van’ is a caravan, the site is in East Runton just outside Cromer. We’d stumbled across the site when were out walking on one of our weekends away from London. It charmed us instantly. It was small – only 9 vans, a ramshackle toilet block, a wooden hut filled with fishing nets and floats and a couple of older style caravans, the rounded 1960's type. Hello, we thought, this looks like our sort of place. We made enquiries about the owner. Freddie Love, we were told. Lives in West Runton but isn't on the phone. You’ll have to go to his house. Bit of a character. Even better, we thought, South London prepares you for characters. We found the house, easily identified by its bright red door, the sign saying Buckingham Palace and the line-up of dolls heads on broom handles in the window. I hung back just in case he had a Staffordshire pit bull (it really was time to move out of London). He didn't but it was still a bit scary. Freddie opened the door, eating baked beans out of a tin, followed by his son John and an overpowering whiff of the crabs they were boiling up in the back yard. With a house full of junk and Freddie in his fisherman’s gansey and flat cap, they were the Norfolk version of Steptoe and Son. We were caught, hook line and sinker. We explained that we wanted to buy a caravan if one ever came up and left our address. He promised to get in touch and a few weeks later he did. We meet on the site and as luck would have it, it’s the van we had in mind. Price £500. Freddie just
about manages to keep a straight face. We don't care, we just need an escape from London. Unfortunately it’s the end of the season so we can’t use it until March, but we celebrate with a couple of bevvies in the Hotel De Paris and make plans for the great caravan makeover Spring 1990 We've gutted the van and Will’s spent the winter making new cupboard doors for the kitchenette. They’re now a lively shade of green with chrome handles. It was a bit of a struggle getting them up on the train but worth it. The walls are cream and we've used brown lino paint on the floor. It has a double bed which cleverly folds up into the wall (perfect for a caravan but somehow never looks quite right in a studio flat in Knightsbridge) and two single beds which double up as the seating area. It’s primitive to say the least – an enamel bucket serves as the lavatory – but we do benefit from gas lamps. They have a distinctive smell which we become very fond of. It was a particularly frosty night in March when we spent our first night under sheet metal and it was like sleeping inside a fridge. Rule no 1: don't try to replicate the 1950's holiday experience with blankets on the bed. A 15 tog goose down duvet is essential when the temperature outside is minus 6C and there’s ice on the inside of the windows. Within a couple of weeks though we’re fully up to speed with the caravanning experience. I can even knock up a fairly decent meal on the cooker and changing the gas bottle has become second nature. Summer 1990
weekend, even if it’s just for one night. We’ve bought a wind up gramophone and a stack of 78's from Key's auction and very quickly filled the caravan with junk so it’s now resembling Freddie's house. Freddie and John are generally hanging around the site, more often than not looking for some free grub. An awful lot of caravan hopping goes on which involves the pair of them disappearing into a van and emerging some time later looking pleased with themselves Freddie is about 70 but it’s impossible to put an age on John - he could be 25 or 45. When not eating they’ll be mending nets or fiddling around in their shed looking purposeful but always keeping an ear cocked for the kettle going on. John in particular has a sweet tooth and tends to linger a bit too long after he's demolished half a Battenberg and swilled down several cups of tea. Fred enjoys a practical joke - like the time he removed the wheels from our friend’s car. She had to go to his house to reclaim them and answer questions: Can you cook? Can you clean? I'm looking for a wife. He even took part in the TV programme Game for a Laugh. He had one of the vans removed from the site to see the expression on the owners’ face when they turned up for a relaxing weekend. Oh how they laughed. Evening walks are particularly lovely in the summer, especially after a downpour. In the back lanes of East Runton the air is sweet with the smell of cow parsley and Alexander’s. Once around the pier then back to the van to read or listen to gramophone records. All together now "When father papered the parlour you couldn't see Pa for paste, dabbing it here, dabbing it there, paste and paper everywhere". Spring 1992 By now we've become smitten with Norfolk and keen to move out of London. One weekend we see an advertisement in the local paper for a shop in Elm Hill, Norwich with a flat above. Within a few months we’ve signed the lease and are on the move. We hand the keys of the caravan over to Will's sisters who enjoy it as much as we did...well, for a short time anyway. Freddie in his old age is getting difficult. He’s chopped down the hollyhocks and poppies we’d planted and lets himself into the caravan when noone’s there and removes things “for safe keeping”. The final act comes when Will's sister Alice turns up for an Easter break to find the van gone. It’s not another practical joke – he’s replaced it with a new one and sold it plus the pitch to someone else. We report it to the police who are keen to get him for something but Freddie has some story about our caravan falling over the cliff edge. "It's probably in France now", he muses. Strange, we think, Holland you could understand. It’s a sad and untimely end to our seaside retreat but as the saying goes when one door closes another one opens – or maybe it’s twelve doors in this case. A couple of weeks later we’re reading the local paper and an advertisement catches our eye: “1890's railway carriage for sale, ideal restoration project”
Having the van has given us the opportunity to ...To be continued. escape from London which we do virtually every
LIFE’S A DITCH. DITCH.
The Ramblings of a Gentleman Tramp.
By Alice Spencer.
I like nothingg so much as a summer carnival in a – seaside town. Starting with the build-up build scrutinising the photographs in the local paper pap of the carnival queen contestants, whether or not we'll have the Red Arrows rrows this year, getting the pullout map from the middle of the paper and tracing the route. are The Carnival queen and her attendants attend chosen and announced. The Queen and one of her attendants are invariably pretty andd a completely obvious choice. But they always choose se a really big plain girl as the second attendant, as if to say “it's “ not just about looks, you know” Then there's the frenzy zy of construction. Walking around und town you turn a corner and come across a huge lorry with seats and arches on the back and a group of women winding crepe paper around pap everything and snapping at each other. We're given weekly updates on how Little Angels nursery iss going to decorate its float. We W hear that its only through the generosity of local businessman Mr Whoever that Nature's Way health shop can now be in the carnivall after having all its costumes stolen. We see countless less pictures of the carnival Queen visiting the local old people's home, - her sash getting grubbier as the build up goes on. Finally, it’s here. It's a gorgeous ous day, the sun blazing down. The parade runss the length of the promenade, hotels one side, the sea the se other. People start liningg the route from three o'clock, even though the parade arade doesn't start until six. The children are getting over excited, the men (who don't want to be there anyway) are eyeing up ey the beautiful teenage girls wearing virtually nothing and the women are either being ratty with their husbands or admiring the local firemen (in dressed down versions of their uniform) who wander up and down the prom rattling buckets collecting for the benevolent fund, competing with carnival collectors who have different coloured buckets. It's six o'clock. The roar of conversation quietens down to a hum of anticipation, as they await the first sounds of the carnival music. And then – yes, you can hear it – the first far away sounds of the most mos annoying music in the world. Neither brass band, fairground or pop music but a hideous eous combination of the three, all blurred together. But it’s ’s great. Here it is! People start cheering and waving flags and coins rain down from the hotel windows, as people chuck money ney down to the waiting firemen (no health and safety then).
The Queen's ueen's float is at the front. It’s a scaffolding lorry splendidly covered in white net, crepe paper and glitter. There's a brass band in front and the town crier walking alongside sweltering in his uniform. The Queen doesn't look too good either – a bit green aroundd the gills – which isn't surprising as the night before she'd had to attend the Carnival Ball at the Winter nter Garden and was bored rigid by the five course dinner and the speeches. She'd finished the night outside the Viking nightclub snogging someone she went to school with. So the poor Queen’s Queen’ feeling pretty grim, concentrating ing on not being sick from the diesel fumes of the lorry,, trying to forget about her for thumping head (the he brass band isn't helping) helping and remembering to wave ve and smile at the same time. All she'd wanted was a bit of glamour and a possible career as a model. The floats roll past. The WI float looks great, done up 1940s style. Actually, they're probably just j wearing their own clothes. The lifeguards get a big cheer, largely because they're almost naked and very sun tanned. It goes on and on. You wouldn't think there were so many organisations and businesses in a town this size, let alone ne them all wanting to join in. Then that's it – it’s over. You've just watched the last straggy little floats go past and frankly, you're a little bit bored by the whole thing now. People drift off and there's just st the whiff of hamburger and stray bits of crepe paper floating in the still hot air. Tomorrow the carnival proper starts with a display of gymnastics astics at the bandstand by the ladies of the Health and Beauty Society. 1981 was a vintage year. My daughter was in her pram wearing nothing but a nappy and smothered smot in Mr. Whippy ice cream. It was all the above and, when we got home, I found that the pram was full of coins thrown down to the carnival collectors which wh had missed. And we had the Red Arrows that year. There's something essentially grim about carnivals vals in English seaside towns. Whilst the celebration of a little heard of Saint in the smallest village in Spain can make Queen Elizabeth's coronation look like an intimate party, we are hard pressed to come me up with anything more than a line of decorated vehicles and twenty quids worth of fireworks. But then it only really matters to the army of harassed arassed women and red faced men of the Town Guild, who are already planning next year’s event, even though they swore this would be absolutely abs the last time they’d get involved.
By Romany Johnson.
Whether by pilgrimage to Canterbury, meanders along the willowed banks of the Thames or rising over Leith Hill, I walk along ancient track-ways track ways trod for a thousand years by the ghosts of other travellers. And before night falls my thoughts turn to camp when en in a secluded glade I will draw a taught line between two ancient trunks and cast over a tarp for a roof. In an improvised hearth a warming fire is struck to hang a billycan for tea, and a bedroll is spread upon the ground. So satisfied with my lot I rest st weary bones, lulled into an honest sleep by gentle le breezes and the distant istant serenade of a wise owl. For the life of the gentleman Roamer is much as always has been in all respects bar one. The matter of correct and appropriate attire! The sense of what is is proper and correct is as wonky as a broken compass and alas the finery of the breech and knee sock are become rare. The subtle hues of corduroys and woollen woo len replaced by lycra and fleece assembled in a techni-coloured techni coloured mayhem. Nowhere is this fallen standard standard more manifest than in the region of the head garb. No more the centuries old weather beaten wide brimmed felt hat or the cowpat tweed ‘flattie’ usurped by the baseball cap. Sirs I must protest! And the click of nailed hobs on the Tarmacadam has sadly passed ssed and the stick has become metalled and telescopic. Well I can report that there is a revolt afoot for this gentleman of the road will not bow to this modernism and is still to be seen striding over hill, weald and down clad correctly for his trade in twill breeches, high socks, and dependant on the climate, a tam-o-shanter shanter or deerstalker proudly a top his head. Shrouded from the elements in a simple un unbreathing rubberised cape and protected from wayward dogs, roadside vagabonds and footpads by a stoutt blackthorn 'knob' that will soon see them away. Lower legs wrapped with canvas buskins or puttees resistant against clawing mud and disgruntled adders. And so attired I will oft be found tramping in suitable weather and inclement clothing.
How the Cornish Riviera Express will look in the 1950s.
By Matthew Loukes. Close to midnight, under the soaring cathedral of Brunel’s train shed at Paddington Station, the last drunken commuter has grabbed his pasty and Standard for the journey. The reheated and the obnoxious combining in newsprint and greasy pastry. A few people stare forlornly at the departures board, facing a five hour wait and some cold stone to sit on. But we are standing on a remote platform, tucked to one side, outside some sadly dark offices that once had been waiting rooms. I can see these rooms filled with smoke, steam, tannin and well-buttoned passion. Now they contain blue crates and have tape on the windows but that doesn’t stop my imagination chuffing off up the track, imagining Albert Finney bellowing “Stop That Train!” or Marilyn doing a sidestep in front of a dragged-up Curtis and Lemmon. My reverie is broken by my wife nudging me in the ribs as a guard beckons us towards the open door of a carriage that looks more Leyton than Orient. This is the Riviera Express to Cornwall, a sleeper service to Penzance that has run, if that’s the right term, since 1904. The man greeting us wears a peaked cap matching his dark blue jacket, a fine collection of enamelled badges and regulation 1974 sideburns. His face is a nice shade of post-box red, burnished by the rushing wind through train windows and, perhaps, the odd glass of Pale Ale at the end of a shift. The look is a little bit like Bernard Cribbins in the Railway Children, if he’d been a Teddy Boy. Our guard shows us to a twin berth, which lies behind a brown wood-effect door trimmed in polished metal set into a corridor made from what looks like white Formica. I try not to look disappointed. Not because the interior isn’t the polished wood of the Wagons Lit to Istanbul but because what I’d been hoping for was the royal blue plastic with ‘atomic’ cross hatching that was so widely used on 1950’s rolling stock. But before we get the full tour of our quarters the guard takes us up the corridor and into what he calls “the lounge”. This is a carriage done out with comfortable chairs and a bar in one corner. It’s not anything.
like ritzy, having an atmosphere somewhere between a dole office, a singles bar and a crosschannel ferry, but just seeing a train carriage with furniture that isn’t in rows seems to me to be impossibly exotic In the twin berth, private accommodation, our man shows us the ladder for reaching the top bunk, the chrome light switches, the red plastic heating control and the coat hooks; all of which are worthy of mention in any decent design history. We also get directions to the bathroom and, of course, the sink hidden under another slab of white industrial plastic (what’s wrong with the blue?). The bedclothes comprise heavy blankets in something nervously approaching tartan, pillows slightly thinner than an after-dinner mint and sheets that squeak with cleanliness and starch, like a Conservative’s wife. The “what do you do in the middle of the night” question has to be addressed, I suppose. All I will say is that one would need to be either male and taller than five feet six, or a considerable gymnast, to think about it with any degree of seriousness. Back in the bar – sorry – the lounge, with the train still some twenty minutes from departure, the scene is not exactly one of abandon. The collection of holiday makers and people who take this journey as part of their job are forging some uneasy alliances. A couple of what used to be called commercial travellers are making talk small enough to need a microscope, trying to ignore the family beside them who clearly haven’t told their teenage children quite what they meant by “Riviera”. I’d love to ask the two men if they are sharing, but can’t quite think of the way to express it. Sadly, the operating companies are well on the way to removing this relic of different times by phasing out the “single berth” ticket where one would share the tiny sleeping space with a stranger of whom the train company would only guarantee they would be ”of the same sex”. I think when it came to choice of bunks a coin was tossed. In the privacy of the cabin, after some smuggled drinks and sandwiches, bed-time coincides with the slow pull out of Paddington. I take the top bunk,
which has some faintly alarming straps to keep me from falling, and immediately feel the need for the corridor facilities. After a couple of short ladder climbs and longer walks up the corridor, dressed in a way that would get one removed from a branch line, I lie under the prickly wool and cold cotton and dream of a night’s rest, before emerging into the Western world of Barbara Hepworth and brilliant light. After an hour of wobbly progress the train stops in a siding. Through a plastic ventilation slide I can make out some words on a white board. Slough at night has much to recommend it, in that one can’t see much of what drove the Poet Laureate to call for the B-52’s and it tickles me to think that is where the Riviera Express pauses for an hour or so, to push the passengers over into the arms of Morpheus. It might work better in daylight, though. Six hours or so later, and an hour outside Penzance, the man with the sideburns slides us in a tray of tea, coffee and biscuits. The charm of this is hard to overstate. Yes, the tea is too strong, the coffee too weak to defend itself and the biscuits wouldn’t trouble any infant dentition but so what? There was an early Great Western Railways poster campaign for the sleeper service where the tag-line talked of experiencing one’s “own country” because Cornwall and Italy had “similar shapes”, “climate” and “natural beauties”, illustrated with a pair of women in modest traditional dress, with the West Country beauty winning the day with a racy pair of bare feet. The feelings evoked by this poster live on – in Paddington, in a Slough siding and in the utterly British tea-tray. The attempt at being exotic fails totally, of course, but that’s precisely what gives it so much charm. Bravo, as they probably don’t say on the Riviera. Estrella Damn by Matthew Loukes is published by Soul Bay Press.
Marianna Kennedy Resin Lamps. Bookcloth Blinds. Venetian Glass Mirrors. 3, Fournier Street, SPITALFIELDS. www.mariannakennedy.co.uk
“Life is a Pig Sty”
The Finest Pig Arcs in the Eastern Counties. www.clarkesofwalsham.co.uk
The Duke of York.
Roger Street, London WC1.
Gin palaces had their origins in chemist's shops back when juniper flavoured hooch enjoyed a reputation as an elixir. The liquor was mainly sold to take away or to drink standing up in the shop. In the 1820's the shops got bigger, cut back on the apothecary's remedies and increased the sale of beer in an environment that combined high craftsmanship with unabashed vulgarity. The Princess Louise in Holborn is one of the last. The front of the pub is a mixture of marble columns, leaded glass, and enormous carriage lamps. Inside an ornate ceiling and pearly globe lights take one back to a time of mutton-chop whiskers, foggy nights and the clack of walking sticks on the pavement. The drinks come from the Samuel Smith's brewery, which aren't to everyone's taste but put that to one side pop in and go to the lavatory. It's not the first thing one thinks of when visiting a public house – in some that I know it's the very last – but the gents in the Louise are a treasure. The combination of dark wood, tiled walls in cream and green, mosaic flooring, polished brass and marbled urinals make a visit an urgent requirement. ML.
The inter-war austerity might have been painted over but it's still there in the scuffed chequerboard lino, dark panelled walls, crittall windows, Formica topped tables and an exterior of cream polished tiles. The Duke of York is tucked at the end of a mews in Central London, built into a 1930's block of flats. Best experienced if one assumes a liberal interpretation of when six o'clock actually is – I find stretching it to about 4.30 is about right – and takes up position in a dark corner, watching the sunlight creeping across the floor. It's not perfect; a change of landlords a few years ago has brought in some new furniture and an unwelcome emphasis on food. So go now, before they start putting jugs of lemons on the bar or installing a television. On the right afternoon, it's not hard to imagine having a pint spilled on you by Patrick Hamilton or catching Trevor Howard squeezing the hand of Celia Johnson. ML.
1. 2. 3. 4.
Norman Balon, the Coach and Horses, Soho. The Goldsmith’s Tavern, New Cross. The Magdala Tavern, Hampstead. The ones we had in mind were Sloane Square and Liverpool Street but there appear to have been more than that, so others were accepted. A pair of trousers allegedly belonging to the artist Walter Sickert. The Metropolitan Tavern.
The winner has been notified. We would include his name but we can’t find where we put it. All other correct entrants will receive a small consolation prize.
Neal’s Yard Dairy Branches in
COVENT GARDEN and BOROUGH MARKET We sell CHEESE.
For all of your BANJO and UKULELE needs.
Earlier in the year Blackpool was in the news when one of its famous landmarks Yates's (formerly known as Yates's Wine Lodge) was burnt to the ground. When the chap being interviewed said they would restore it to its former glory my ears pricked up. I'm proud to say I remember Yates's before it was refurbed, when it was still like a wild west saloon. Long mahogany bar, staff in white waiters jackets, sand or sawdust on the floor and they served some muck out of oak barrels called Australian white. It was basic and serviceable and really quite beautiful. Unfortunately in the 1980's it became fashionable for breweries to introduce soft furnishings into pubs. So out went the characterful features and in came the swirly patterned carpets, comfy seating, plus the faux collections of artefacts: penny farthings, copper warming pans, flat irons and empty stone beer bottles. I'm hoping common sense will prevail. I'd like to think that the original bar will be reinstated, along with the bentwood chairs and Britannia pub tables. Etched glass mirrors can be skilfully reproduced to look as authentic as the original. If they do I will be back like a shot. I’ll also be on the look out to see if Robert's Oyster rooms are still intact. Spartan mahogany and marble Edwardian dining rooms selling seafood platters and serving tea from plain white china. Well at least they were in 1984.
The Powder Monkey, in Wallsend, part of the Sizzlers pub chain. Happiness, not normally associated with Mondays, being guaranteed due to the price of a pint of lager being slashed by 83 pence, from £2.42 to £1.59. Chinese Jimmy is normally first through the doors. Owning a take-away appears to be the ideal career for a committed socialiser. Jimmy will be in and out at least a dozen times during the day. I'd love to know where he keeps going to. I could be wrong, but I suspect he's not sourcing fresh local produce for the Pearl Garden. Kevin Riley, a seriously depressing bloke, pops in at about half past 12. Last December he was sectioned and spent Christmas in St Nicks. He'd had a protracted custody battle with his ex, over the pet rabbit. He actually secured custody (he paid her a grand for it!) but the strain was just too much and he had a complete breakdown. The rabbit dying probably didn't help. Physically, if not mentally, things are looking up for Kevin. His RSI is much improved since they installed an extra 42" plasma T.V. at the other end of the bar. He can now alternate his leaning elbow, a real boon. The food menu in the Monkey is huge and fairly low maintenance – a quick wipe with a damp cloth and it looks as good as new. I reckon at least half of the choices involve oven chips and frozen peas. You'd think it would be difficult to spoil oven chips. Apparently not. Chef appears quite keen to join his mates saving 83 pence on every pint, so I suppose he does have an excuse. Next time, Tuesdays in the Powder Monkey quiz night. Wilf
By Arthur Dobson Willey, Pitman Poet We have a little motor car We’ve had it quite some time But now its getting on a bit Its long since passed its prime When first we got our little car We all were filled with glee We used to clean and polish it Each opportunity We used to pile into our car On sunny days and ride Along the open leafy lanes To sea or country-side It used to skip along the road At bends it never faltered It used to romp up steepest hills Its speed remained unaltered It’s carried almost everything That you can bring to mind Including coals and bricks and sand And folks of every kind But time and tide has made its mark On our small transport humble It cannot face the littlest hill Without a mightly grumble The engine’s worn the steering’s gone The paint-work is a joke And everywhere that we go now We leave a trail of smoke The battry’s gone the light’s are dim THEtyres bare and baldy The radiators sprung a leak And the carpets all are mouldy So now we think the time has come And parting will be hard To send our little motor car To some car breakers yard If fortune smiles and we could buy Another car so splendid I doubt if it could bring the joy That small Black Ford Eight car did
Drawing by Beth Morrison.
Brisling's an oily fish and supposedly very good for your joints. Better than that though, it tastes great and served on toast makes an excellent breakfast. 90% of the working population probably have a sandwich for lunch. My favourite filling is without question Pek. Cheap white bread, margarine and pepper, thickly sliced Pek and just a hint of the jelly from the tin. Absolutely superb. Although ring pulls on tins are a bit Tomorrow's World for me, they are invaluable when the tin opener is lost/broken. I prefer a basic opener, not the ones that you have to stab the tin with, but the next model up. The really elaborate ones with white plastic handles never seem to last long and there's nothing more frustrating than an unopened tin of ravioli and a tin opener that's just bitten the dust. And don't get me started on those key mechanisms found on tins of corned beef.
I had a real stroke of luck the other day when I received a cheque from the CIS. I had sounded them out with an extremely tentative claim for compensation. They replied with an immediate offer of £2,000 stating that it was company policy to attempt to settle all such claims with the minimum of distress to their clients. I thought this was extremely generous, considering I was only claiming for tomato sauce stains on my white Fred Perry after the lid on a tin of sardines finally became detached with that severe uncoiling action. As a preventative measure, I normally put the tin inside a carrier bag before opening it, but could only find a 'bag for life' and I thought that was a bit over the top. Should you develop a fondness for all things tinned, an industrial sized roll of Elastoplast will be your friend. Tinned fruit is another favourite of mine. Mandarin segments on a Sunday teatime, served with ice cream and plenty of the syrup to make a wonderful sauce. Great for hangovers. I understand you can now get tinned fruit in natural juices. Why? Finally, the daddy of them all, gone but not forgotten - Campbells Condensed Cream Of Celery Soup. Mind you, I always thought that a full can of water resulted in excessive dilution. Half to three quarters produced a much more robust flavour. Wilf.
GOING UP IN THE WORLD. A few years ago I saw old Black Pudding in the doorway of Betfred looking pretty sorry for himself in cap and muffler. He'd fallen off the menu in the greasy spoon and was after the price of cup of tea. Blow me the other day I ran into him in Sloane Square. He'd just stepped out of a swanky restaurant to smoke his cigar. “You've come up in the world Black Pudding”, I said. "Boudin Noir to you" he said. WmB.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR. Sickert: slim not shady.
“Evening Star, you bring me everything – you bring the wine, you bring the goat home, you bring the child to its mother.” These lines of Sappho were amongst Walter Sickert’s favourite quotations and he had not even encountered Old Town’s excellent publication! Much as he would have enjoyed the last issue, I think he might have been put out at the suggestion that he had acquired such an out-sized pair of corduroys as those illustrated on page 2. In the late 1880s, when he is supposed to have bought them, he was as svelte as an acrobat and proud of it. Publicans and old Music Hall artistes are notoriously unreliable sources of information. They are quite capable of inventing anything – for money, or for the chance of a mention in a quality newspaper... All best wishes, Matthew Sturgis
I would like to thank your newspaper for the recent advice on what not to wear in Newscastle. You see I too have a polka dot Tootal scarf and had every intention of wearing it at Jimmy Nail’s H’way the lads tour at the Gateshead Tram Shed Stadium, though as my scarf and I go everywhere together, I have decided to cancel. Furthermore I would like to express my symphathy regarding the name calling Will recently encountered at the hands of callow, unsophisticated yobs. Quote: “F*****g paedo”. I would just like to add that here on the Isle of Man my Old Town dark blue serge sometimes provokes similar reactions. Though last week while judging the World Tin Bath Championships, I had an uncommon surprise. I had just pulled on my round horn rimmed glasses when some young chav shouted “Oi, Le Corbusier!”. It quite restored my faith in the youth of today. Yours faithfully, PJD
Mr Sturgis is the author of Walter Sickert: A Life published by Harper Collins. Ed
Fabric? You Want Fabric?
Stanley in cotton twill.
IT’S A BOY! We're delighted to announce a new addition to the Old Town brood. He's called Stanley. Stanley is the mutant offspring of Borough and Marshalsea and a long overdue brother for Overall. He’s displaying many of the characteristics of Borough – 3 buttons, patch pockets – but without Borough's generous, accommodating demeanour. He’s already developed a rather rebellious streak demonstrated by a cheeky inside pocket and strengthening strips behind the pockets. Not ignoring his feminine side, and in keeping with Marshalsea's DNA, he’s a slimmer, narrower, and an altogether closer fit than Borough. We've high hopes for our Stanley and do hope you like him. Please feel free to try him out in any of the following fabrics: cotton twill, drill, canvas and denim. MW.
Instead of ordering fabric over the telephone from a regular supplier we occasionally get the chance to visit a fabric merchant. Invariably merchants are Jewish and the buying process can be a beautiful piece of performance art. Merchants sell ends of lines, generally from a factory or a manufacturer who has gone out of business. Usually their stock is wrong for us – polyester satin, fancy denims, fake fur, leopard print lycra (no, we've never been tempted) – but occasionally it’s possible to find a gem: tweed, melton or fine cottons which have been hanging around for 10 years or more waiting for the right customer to come along. Sadly many of the merchants have disappeared over the last 20 years along with the decline of the textile industry. Most were around Brick Lane – the more memorable being Mark and Mencer (the Mike and Bernie Winters of the shmutter trade), Halstucks (Mrs with her lopsided wig), Gallia Textiles (stretch denim a speciality) – but many have been replaced by a new generation of curry house. Some, like Empee, have moved out to Edmonton. They used to be good for denim, especially woven stripe or herringbone, so we paid a visit recently. But other than an interesting journey through Stamford Hill it turned out to be a waste of time. Not a natural fabric in sight. It was quite exciting though when Maurice set light to a piece of fabric we thought may have been cotton, but which the test confirmed was polyester. We were more successful at Litvinoff, found exactly what we wanted and got the real selling experience to boot... Enter through roller shutter door into freezing cold warehouse stacked floor to ceiling with rolls of fabric wrapped in polythene. Small office visible behind partition, cluttered with fabric swatches, heated by small electric fire. On the desk two jars of nuts (cashews and pistachios), two bottles (Jack Daniels and HP Sauce), framed picture of son’s graduation. Next to the tea and coffee making equipment a pile of empty pop bottles stacked up like rolls of fabric. On the wall a signed photograph of Maureen Lipman, adding a slightly theatrical feel to the little den. Man appears from office rubbing his hands, possibly not from the cold. Him: "Can I help you?" Me:
"We’re looking for some fabric."
Here at Old Town we’re often asked to provide outfits for stage productions. We recently made “Cow coats” and "Overall jackets" for a production of Major Barbara at the National, "Vauxhalls", "Lounge jackets" and waistcoats for Carmen at the Royal Opera House. But apart from an episode of Silent Witness when a schizophrenic gardener ran amok wearing Old Town we rarely get asked to provide costumes for television. Until a couple of weeks ago when we had a phone call from the BBC costume department. What could they want? Maybe Jonathon Ross was having a make over? It's about time he ditched that footballer in court look. We were hoping for Fred Dibnah: The Musical, or perhaps a remake of Porridge – woven cotton stripe shirting and prison issue wool serge being a speciality of ours. But no, it was for an episode of Casualty. The request was for a cotton drill overall jacket plus an extra set of sleeves. The scene involved an “artisan carpenter” who has an accident with a bandsaw and has his arm ripped off. "As usual" she said "there’ll be a lot of blood". MW.
Fernandez & Wells 43, Lexington Street, London W1 www.fernandezandwells.com
HAM CHEESE PICCALILLI
Him: “Fabric? We don't have any fabric." Me: “...as I was saying, the traditional Lincolnshire poacher’s jacket has two inside pockets and adjustable gussets, whilst the Suffolk horseman’s coat...”
"Ha ha ha".
Formalities over, we’re let loose on the stock which was unexpectedly fruitful. We left very happy with a heavy wool melton, Irish linen and a beautiful piece of checked cashmere, a great find. We’ll be back. MW.
LEILA’s SHOP 17, Calvert Avenue, London E2
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