Category Archives: pubs

One last 1970/2016 thing … Lola!

Four New Years since I was in the Bald Faced Stag in East Finchley. The boozer was crowded: a ticket-only affair.

It wasn’t going too well. The DJ had tried several rabble-rousers; but the rabble remained unroused. So he went therm0-nuclear: played The Kinks’ Lola.

The joint was suddenly jumping. It helped that the Davies brothers sprang from half-a-mile back up Fortis Green.

The clip above is from the Jools Holland Hootenanny a couple of years back. It’s Ray Davies solo — but, if you’re so dumb not to have numerous versions already saved (and I’ve half-a-dozen at least on just one iPod), YouTube will oblige.

So: I’m back to Norf Bleeding’ Lunnun for this New Year (though not at the Stag); and confidently expect Lola to show up.

One last mystery: how the heck can a narrative of not the wold’s most physical guy being picked up in a clip-joint by a tranny sell so well, everywhere?

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Easy on the madeleines

We each have triggers for involuntary memory.

I’ve just recovered some lost time.

It was a prompt from a prompt about Tesco and the Great #Brexit Threat of a Marmite Famine.

iu

So I had to rush out and buy a pot.

Ah, but it brought back the Old Times.

For, you see, there was a time in my chequered career when “lunch” was a couple of Ryvita, with a smear of Marmite, washed down with two mugs of tea-bag tea (as likely as not, both made from the same tea-bag) — milk optional. Then back to the chalk-face.

When retirement intervened, I lost the taste, in large part because the Lady-in-my-Life remains sternly anti-Marmite.

Now the pot is almost empty, and I may be suffering withdrawal symptoms.

Stratford and Hook Norton

9781472577542Recently I was down to Stratford-upon-Avon for a double header: Aphra Benn’s The Rover for the p.m. matinee (which I would gladly see again), and back for the evening session for Two Noble Kinsmen from Bill Shagsper and John Fletcher (though the new Arden edition puts those two names in alphabetic order).

I have to say, it came close to reversing the old Himalaya pun: “Loved her; none too keen on them”.

Which isn’t the point; because the pub on the corner of Bridge Street (where Lady-in-my-Life and daughter expect to find me when I go AWOL) is The Encore. And the beer on the bar was Old Hooky. At 4.6%, the odd decimal point or two above a sessional quaffing beer; but just what a drouthy man needs during and after a culture-fest.

Also, another memory trigger, rewinding the counter many years to a well-spent day being driven around the Cotswolds with a long, leisurely, late and liquid lunch at the Pear Tree, within sniffing range of that excellent brewery itself.

Pear Tree.jpg

 

 

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Traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament

Recognise it? Its the indictment against Charles Stuart, 20th January 1648.

Where else to start? In a roundabout way, Paddy Kavanagh springs to mind:

Forget the worm’s opinion too
Of hooves and pointed harrow-pins,
For you are driving your horses through
The mist where Genesis begins. 

Those #Brexiteers assured us the UK would enjoy some regeneration, a second “genesis”, after 23rd June. They didn’t bother about the painful details. Now, the worm beneath the harrow is beginning to watch for where the tines will drive.

It also started here. Quite why the commenters on politics.ie should divide between ultra-Kippers and staunch defenders of the British Constitution escapes me. But for 1,700 exchanges (and continuing) they did, and do.

4256Personally, I was severely affronted by the vulgarity, the xenophobia, the sexism, the violent populism and anti-elitism fomented by the vulgar, xenophobic, sexist, arrogant,  elitist tabloid press barons in their spittle-speckled assaults on the High Court of Justice.

But back to first principles:

The whole non-event comes down to a binary simplicity:

  • Does the Prime Minister have the right to decide when and what #Brexit means, by exercise of “Royal Prerogative”?

or

  • Is Parliament the essential arbiter? 

Those three High Court judges, in their wisdom, endorsed a thousand years of English history, and declared for Parliament.

I doubt there will ever be plaques, with or without bird-turd, outside the Baby Shard (the London bunker from whence Murdoch’s The Sun rises daily), or Northcliffe House in Kensington (ditto the Daily Mail) as the one outside the Roundhouse pub, on Royal Standard Place, in Nottingham:

king-charles-placque

I laid out my understanding in that previous post.

That left me with the residual issue:

  • When might the “Royal Prerogative” ever be invoked?

As I see it, that Elephantine Object in the Newsroom, the “British Constitution”, constrains both:

  • Courts (who can only interpret the “Constitution” as a corpus of legislation going back to Norman times) and
  • Parliament (which can only act and enact within “constitutional” limits — for example, since the 1911 Parliament Act, the Lords have no powers over money bills, except a one-month delay).

Any amendment to an existing Westminster law would need an amending Act of the Westminster parliament.

We have a balanced — and ever-evolving — settlement between Parliament, devolved Assemblies, and Courts. Still,  I can just about conceive circumstances in which “Royal Prerogative” might need to be invoked — short of a declaration of War. Say the administration of a devolved Assembly became totally unmanageable …

Aha! You’re with me already!

Even then we’d need something like a Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act, which imposed Direct Rule from 31st March 1972 to its repeal on 2nd December 1999.

I therefore found myself seeing this as an exercise in speedy parliamentary activity, without use of Royal Prerogative.

A bit of parliamentary history

On 20th March 1972, Harold Wilson, under an emergency notice of 16th March, led an Opposition adjournment motion.

This came after weeks of dithering by the Heath government, and procrastination by the Unionist at Stormont. It was now common ground (except among the extremes of opinion in Northern Ireland, who were up for a local Armageddon). The Dublin government was on the verge of doing something unmentionable.

Wilson, ever the opportunist, would have known that the Heath government was about to act; and wanted to get in on the act. The Opposition had another motive : the need for a distractor. The following week the Chancellor was going to offer a crowd-pleasing budget, as a softener for a General election (which would become the “Barber boom”, and stoke up the inflation that bedevilled British politics for the next decade — but that’s another matter).

After three hours of debate (with Prime Minister Heath responding) the government defeated the motion to adjourn by 257 to 294.

Had that vote been lost, the sitting would have ended abruptly, and Heath would, by convention (another bit of unwritten “Constitution”) have had to return the following session to propose a vote of confidence in his own adminstration. Had that vote of confidence been lost, it would immediately require Heath to go the Palace (another bit of “Constitutional” flim-flam) and resign.

At that moment the Queen would have two choices: to accept the now ex-Prime Minister’s request for a General Election, or to summon the Leader of the Opposition to form a new government (who would then promptly request a General Election, which would be granted).

There then intervened three days of Budget debate.

Perspective

At this distance in time, we’d need to remind ourselves just how febrile the atmosphere was at that moment. One name in particular should be in the frame: William Craig.

Craig had lost out to the more moderate Brian Faulkner for the leadership of the Unionist Party and the stool-of-office as Northern Irish Prime Minister. He had then built a party-within-the-Unionist-Party, his private Ulster Vanguard movement — which was closely associated with the loyalists and paramilitaries of such as the UDA. Craig held his “monster rallies”, involving motor-cycle outriders, and armed men drawn up in quasi-military ranks. Craig’s speeches at these rallies are quite outrageous:

We must build up dossiers on those men and women in this country who are a menace to this country because one of these days, if and when the politicians fail us, it may be our job to liquidate the enemy.

Note there “this country”: Craig was advocating a Rhodesian-style UDI.

Keeping it parliamentary

On 24th March, Heath was back to the Commons to make a holding statement in advance of the weekend, announcing the bringing back to Westminster of powers over Northern Ireland :

Parliament will, therefore, be invited to pass before Easter a Measure transferring all legislative and executive powers now vested in the Northern Ireland Parliament and Government to the United Kingdom Parliament and a United Kingdom Minister. This provision will expire after one year unless this Parliament resolves otherwise. The Parliament of Northern Ireland would stand prorogued but would not be dissolved.

The weekend out of the way, on  27th March, the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Bill was laid before the House, and given a nominal First Reading.

On 28th March there was a full debate, and division (483-18) on the Second Reading. Willie Whitelaw , as Leader of the Commons and as emollient a creature as the Tories could contain, introduced the Bill with a formula of words worth noting in this context:

I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Bill, has consented to place her interests and prerogative, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Got that? The “Royal Prerogative” there being made — effectively — subject (if only for this purpose) to the will of parliament. Nearly half a century ago, that must strike as a significant statement. And we have since moved much, much further in claiming democratic accountability through parliament against arbitrary, post-feudal authority.

There was a brief debate on amendments on 29th March (in effect, the “Committee Stage”).

On 30th March all the remaining stages, including the Bill passing the House of Lords, were completed, and at 12.26 pm the Lord Chancellor announced the Royal Assent: it was now an Act of Parliament, subject (see above) to annual review.

After that, interpretation would fall to the Courts.

All done and dusted, with the barest of nods at “Royal Prerogative”.

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Cui bono? (As if you couldn’t guess)

The New Yorker, of all places, has a piece on Hillsborough — The Legacy of a Soccer Tragedy, by Ruth Margalit:

Margalit-HillsboroughSoccerTragedy-690

  • it comes prefaced by one of the most poignant images (see above) and one I cannot recall seeing before;
  • and, as befits The New Yorker, comes quite sophisticated with it.

After a predictable human-interest opener, Margalit attempts a swift survey of how we arrived at caging people at Hillsborough —

  • the Heysel Stadium disaster, blamed here on:

rioting Liverpool supporters at a match in Brussels had triggered a stampede that caused the collapse of a stadium wall, leading to the death of thirty-nine people, most of them Italian fans of the soccer club Juventus.

Let us not bother to harp on whether a wall that collapsed was the fault of a “riot”, or whether a stadium should be organised to prevent such a “riot”, and not have walls that collapse.

  • the baleful influence of Margaret Thatcher, concerned not essentially with human suffering but with public image:

“We have to get the game cleaned up from this hooliganism at home and then perhaps we shall be able to go overseas again.”

Margalit then does a quick flit past Nick Hornby and Jason Cowley — both valid sources — before arriving at the key point:

Luckily for those of us who love the “beautiful game,” the culture did change. The most immediate and lasting changes were prompted by the publication, a few months after Hillsborough, of a damning report by Lord Taylor of Gosforth, later England’s Lord Chief Justice, criticizing the soccer industry’s poor treatment of supporters. The report led to a complete overhaul of stadium-safety regulations, and to the requirement that every spectator have an assigned seat.

And with that came something else:

the new seating requirement also contributed to a change in demographics. A mostly working-class fan base gave way to a middle-class and upper-middle-class clientele, the only people still able to afford tickets: adjusting for inflation, ticket prices now cost at least three times what they did in 1989, and, increasingly, clubs offer perks like champagne-on-tap V.I.P. boxes to their most deep-pocketed fans. Money coming in from TV rights has also skyrocketed, from a revenue stream of about twenty million dollars a year in 1988 to more than five billion dollars a year in 2014. Next year, the English Premier League is expected to overtake the N.F.L. as the highest-earning sports league in the world.

Time for a small declaration of interest. My Pert Young Piece, saving for her gap year, had a good thing going. Alternate Saturdays, she was on the catering/waiting detail for those V.I.P. boxes at White Hart Lane (and its American Express black cards) for the football and Harlequins for the Rugby.

So what has happened to the mostly working-class fan base?

Those who have been priced out of those “safer” stadia now frequent sports bars. [Don’t get me started on these soul-less and depressing joints, fuelled by fizzy imported beers.] The numerous screens will, inevitably, be tuned to the Sky Sports feeds. This from 2013:

Pub landlords say the cost of screening top level sport is becoming so expensive it is making them switch off from showing the likes of Premier League football and the Ashes.

One pub and restaurant owner in Tunbridge Wells said he had to call time on the satellite service after Sky wanted a staggering £2,400 a month for him to show Sky Sports in his pub.

The cost of showing Sky Sports channels in public venues varies, but the national average is said to be around £400 a month for pubs.

I can easily spot what Jerry Hall sees in her octogenarian squeeze.

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A fluid correction

Anyone from the era when we had to bash typewriters will have had a small bottle to hand. If you were as bad a typist as I am, you needed it in industrial quantities.

Tippex

That’s the brand I remember, because that was the product my college bought (and I could thieve from the cupboard). And — strewth! — didn’t over-indulgence (i.e. mine) clog up any typewriter.

So, one Friday evening, recovering from a hard week at the chalk face, I was into my second, or even third pint of Courage Directors (not yet a Charlie Wells brew). My location was the John Baird, Muswell Hill. Now, three pints at 4.6% ABV ought to have some effect, especially when imbibed against the clock (the Lady in my Life would be doing Sainsbury’s shop down the road). If you like, this was my six-o’clock swill.

Suddenly the side door from Prince’s Avenue opens to admit a bevy of very buxom belles (doubtless chosen for the parts). The white tee-shirts all boost the slogan: Sno-pake covers all your boobs.

Somehow that sticks in my mind.

Then this happens:

Correcting fluid

Apologies to all concerned. But forty years on —

Girls, you still warm an old man’s cockles.

 

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Cor! S’well!

Most Guido Fawkes rhetorical questions are either malicious or born-between-wind-and-water (we’ll come back to that one). Or both.

Then there’s this:

Carswell

Actually, old chap, that does look very like party colours. Just not the Kipper ones.

So, there are four possibilities here:

  • Carswell is doing the right-and-proper thing. He is offering himself to his constituents, regardless of party affiliation. I’m no fan of things Kipper, but — if one must — Cardwell is about as couth as they come.
  • He, or whoever laid out that sign, has some concept of design. It doesn’t look too bad, which is a step up from most things Clactonesque, Here, on a busy day, is Station Road, Clacton:

Clacton

Red brick and plastic fascias, banks, building societies, charity shops, nick-knackeries, a large branch of Sports Direct, geriatric aids and letting agencies — one of which is now Carswell’s office.

  • Carswell is looking to a near future when he severs links (or is severed) with the Kippers, and is welcomed back into the Tory ranks. His parliamentary activity is that of a TIABuN (Tory is all but name). Independent-minded he may be: parliamentary “independent” he is not.
  • Fawkes, as is usual with that source, is making it up.

Now to more interesting matters

Between wind and water are we born is the epicene version of (not, despite Internet sources) Saint Augustine’s Inter faeces et urinam nascimur. A better author may be St Odo of Cluny — but even that is in doubt, for that attribution depends on Gershon Legman.

A Malcolmian literary aside

The expression appears in a different context. In the days of sailing ships, the area exposed by heeling away from the wind was “between wind and water”. Damage there — in this case from a cannon shot — would not be immediately obvious.

MrMidshipmanHornblowerC.S.Forester uses this device in the (chronologically but not as published) first of his Hornblower stories. Midshipman Hornblower has been given his first command, a brig loaded with Louisianan rice, and told to Take her into any English port you can make.

At first Hornblower is alerted by the lack of water in the bilge. Then the captain of the captured brig:

… seemed to be feeling the motion of the brig under his feet with attention.
“She rides a little heavily, does she not?” he said.
“Perhaps,” said Hornblower. He was not familiar with the Marie Galante, nor with ships at all, and he had no opinion on the subject, but he was not going to reveal his ignorance.
“Does she leak?” asked the captain.
“There is no water in her,” said Hornblower.”
“Ah!” said the captain. “But you would find none in the well. We are carrying a cargo of rice, you must remember.”
“Yes,” said Hornblower.
He found it very hard at that moment to remain outwardly unperturbed, as his mind grasped the implications of what was being said to him. Rice would absorb every drop of water taken in by the ship, so that no leak would be apparent on sounding the well—and yet every drop of water taken in would deprive her of that much buoyancy, all the same.
“One shot from your cursed frigate struck us in the hull,” said the captain. “Of course you have investigated the damage?”
“Of course,” said Hornblower, lying bravely.

Hornblower has himself lowered to find out:

Now he was waist-deep in the water, and when the brig swayed the water closed briefly over his head, like a momentary death. Here it was, two feet below the waterline even with the brig hove to on this tack—a splintered, jagged hole, square rather than round, and a foot across. As the sea boiled round him Hornblower even fancied he could hear it bubbling into the ship, but that might be pure fancy.
He hailed the deck for them to haul him up again, and they stood eagerly listening for what he had to say.
“Two feet below the waterline, sir?” said Matthews. “She was close hauled and heeling right over, of course, when we hit her. But her bows must have lifted just as we fired. And of course she’s lower in the water now.”

A Biblical observation

Notwithstanding 5th-century St Augustine of Hippo and 10th-century St Odo of Cluny, or not (one, ironically, the patron saint of brewers, the other of rain — which suggests together they patronised Watney Mann), the Ob/Gyn truth of the observation must predate either.

When I was sitting, pre-adolescently bored, in the choir-stall of St Nicholas, Wells-next-the-Sea, with only a hymnal and a prayer-book for diversion, I began to realise there was a certain earthly and earthy humour in Joshua bar-Joseph’s utterances.

Try this one, in the light of “wind and water”:

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

All that’s missing is the chuckles of the knowing Jews in the audience.

Oh, and one last thing …

In June 2004 the biographer Edmund Morris had a piece in The New Yorker:

Perhaps the best of Reagan’s one-liners came after he attended his last ceremonial dinner, with the Knights of Malta in New York City on January 13, 1989. The evening’s m.c., a prominent lay Catholic, was rendered so emotional by wine that he waved aside protocol and followed the President’s speech with a rather slurry one of his own. It was to the effect that Ronald Reagan, a defender of the rights of the unborn, knew that all human beings begin life as “feces.” The speaker cited Cardinal John O’Connor (sitting aghast nearby) as “a fece” who had gone on to greater things. “You, too, Mr. President—you were once a fece!

En route back to Washington on Air Force One, Reagan twinklingly joined his aides in the main cabin. “Well,” he said, “that’s the first time I’ve flown to New York in formal attire to be told I was a piece of shit.”

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Attack on the guilt pile, and Execution Dock

Electioneering over, back to normal political abuse, what else to do?

It’s here between the desk and the settee, growing and threatening.

Time and leisure to set about the Great Unread.

Straight off the top comes the latest Christopher Fowler.

The Bryant and May series is not only a thrill, and a delight (Fowler is a stylist of distinction), but gloriously informative. Poked into the narrative are numerous anecdotes of old London.

Then there is the tub-thumper:

Fowler quote

Pastiche

London. The protracted summer lately over, and the bankers sitting in Threadneedle Street, returned from their villas in Provence and Tuscany. Relentless October weather. As much water in the streets as if the tide had newly swelled from the Thames, and it would not be wonderful to find a whale beached beneath Holborn Viaduct, the traffic parting around it like an ocean current. Umbrellas up in the soft grey drizzle, and insurrection in the air.

Riots everywhere. Riots outside the Bank of England and around St Paul’s Cathedral. Protestors swelling on Cheapside and Poultry and Lombard Street. Marchers roaring on Cornhill and Eastcheap and Fenchurch Street. Barricades on Cannon Street and across London Bridge. Police armoured and battened down in black and yellow like phalanxes of tensed wasps. Chants and megaphones and the drone of choppers overhead.

Hurled fire, catapulted bricks, shattering glass and the blast of water hoses. It was as if, after a drowsy, sluggish summer, the streets had undergone spontaneous combustion.

Recognise it? On his delicious blog page, Fowler takes his homage a stage further with the allusive metaphoric image borrowed from the Dickensian simile:

Fowler

London

It’s Fowler’s persistent, even obsessive, knowledge of the city that gets me every time.

I’ve never quite forgiven him for rubbishing (yes, Noddy Boffin: you are part of the story) the myth about Boudica’s burial under the platforms (Platform 9¾?) of King’s Cross Station. That was a good tale to spin the daughters (despite their engrained cynicism, even then), and then the grandchildren (who currently remain a bit more susceptible, or politely so to one so aged as myself). Now the Young Idea is far more taken by the Harry Potter staircase in the Midland Grand St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel.

For Boudica alone, Fowler needs a pay-back. So here’s one:

I could have brought Augustine to Wapping, Bryant thought, at the drop of the Thames and just a spit from Tower Bridge, where Captain Kidd was hanged twice before being chained and left for three tides.

Nothing remained of this piratical past except an ancient set of oxidized green steps leading to the muddy foreshore. The flooded ginnels and mildewed alleyways of Bryant’s childhood, once so dauntingly forbidden and mysterious, had been paved over, filled in and floodlit as London homogenized its riverside in the rush to build bankers’ apartments.

The streets were unrecognizable now, colonnaded with blank suburban properties of orange brick. Between them stood a few emasculated warehouses for those seduced by the notion of a loft lifestyle. The wealthy were never there and the rest stayed in. The dead new streets of the Thames shoreline horrified Bryant.

Fowler is bang-to-rights about the soul-less bourgeoisified Wapping: another strike against David Owen, who began the process. I’m less convinced that he has properly identified Execution Dock.

execution-dockExecution Dock

Those same grandchildren, taken on the hydrofoil to Greenwich, needed explanations of what they were seeing. For convenience, I pointed to the E of Sun Wharf as a marker for Execution Dock.

That needed explanation. Piracy and mutiny were tried by the Admiralty Court. Those found guilty (which means virtually all) were consigned to the Marshalsea, before being carted across London Bridge to Wapping. There the offenders would be hanged from a short rope (which meant slow strangulation), and the bodies left until three tides had washed over them. For extra effect, in cases which had attracted particular media attention, the corpse would be tarred and hung in irons at the entry to the Port of London.

Go to the Prospect of Whitby pub (if you must: it’s largely tourists, and there are better joints locally), and you will be assured that the replica gallows and noose is the site:

executiondock

That’s not my Dear Old Dad’s version.

He was a Thames Division copper only a year or two before the picture below. The River Thames police is (it claims) the oldest official police force in the world. Therefore Wapping Police Station is also the oldest in the world. It’s also another possible site for Execution Dock.

john-harriott-launch-2

A third site is under the Wapping Overground Station.

Great minds meet alike

There is a confluence of Dr Samuel Johnson, James Boswell and Christopher Fowler about Wapping.

On Saturday, April 12 [1783], I visited him, in company with Mr. Windham, of Norfolk, whom, though a Whig, he highly valued. One of the best things he ever said was to this gentleman; who, before he set out for Ireland as Secretary to Lord Northington, when Lord Lieutenant, expressed to the Sage some modest and virtuous doubts, whether he could bring himself to practise those arts which it is supposed a person in that situation has occasion to employ. ‘Don’t be afraid, Sir, (said Johnson, with a pleasant smile,) you will soon make a very pretty rascal.

He talked to-day a good deal of the wonderful extent and variety of London, and observed, that men of curious enquiry might see in it such modes of life as very few could even imagine. He in particular recommended to us to explore Wapping, which we resolved to do.

It took nine years before Boswell and William Windham fulfilled Johnson’s recommendation; and both were disappointed. Wyndham lamented he had missed a prize fight for the trip:

I let myself foolishly be drawn by Boswell to explore, as he called it, Wapping, instead of going when everything was prepared, to see the battle between Ward and Stanyard, which turned out to be a good one.

Boswell seems to have the same impression as Fowler (and even myself):

Whether from the uniformity which has in a great degree spread through every part of the metropolis, or our want of sufficient exertion, we were disappointed.

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