I sat down, inexplicably, next to four Americans in the Black Prince. Three of them were trying to explain who Elian Gonzalez is to the fourth one and eventually one of them did the whole, ‘poor kid, he was probably scarred for life by what happened.”
“I wish I could get scarred that way. He’s minted.”
They turned to face me so I continued.
“He’s a fucking tourist attraction, now. Probably runs his own hotel. Fer fuck sake, I wish I made out as well for every time someone stuck a gun in MY face as he probably has.”
A fight did not occur and, in fact, the older guy (I’m reckoning 10 or more years younger than me) and I wound up having a conversation of sorts. Turns out his daughter and her partner have taken a few months to do the Grand Tour and somehow Lambeth was on the itinerary (or maybe these guys were just here because the Air BNB was up the street). They were also in town for an American football match, so my first instincts — that they are undesirables — may well have been right.
When they left, the rest of the bar filled in their spaces and the convo went back to Labour’s recent travails and the 3rd runway at Heathrow. All was right with the world, once more.
The old guy at the corner was giving me the snake eye (or is it the evil eye) as I tried to photograph the Jolly Gardeners (for another view of his perch, there’s currently a good google street view here). As I tried to enter, he fingered me in the chest and jerked his head back at the place.
“This is a listed building!”
“It’s grand, yes,” I answered and tried to continue in. He gave a blank look and shook his head almost imperceptibly.
“It’s spectacular,” I tried again. Nothing.
“Good? Can I say it’s ‘good’?” Still blank. I gave a goofier than normal grin and put both of my thumbs up by my face.
“This is a listed building,” he informed me, but this time he gave me more to work with. “Grade 2, it is. They can’t do nothing to the outside or change its name or nothing.”
I pointed to the Zeitgeist logo in the window.
“They call that ‘the inside.’ And, it’s all German in there.”
“They should list this building. I’ll see you in there.”
He was as good as his word, though. It was all German inside with 20 taps of nothing but German beer (and very good ones at that). Generally, they are £5 per pint but there is a beer of the day each day that is only £4 (I didn’t think I wanted a Franziskaner until I spotted this discount). They even serve German grub: I saw a fantastic mound of sausages on cabbage go to a table near me. Definitely on my short list (and I’m sure I’ll see my buddy there again…he’s been using this pub as his local since the early 60’s when it looked more like this linked photo).
At the bar of the Lamb, I pushed ahead of some suits filled with two indecisive wankers that had just tried to mow me down outside while I was taking a photo of the place. I ordered an ale as they cowered (probably afraid the sweat from my arms was going to ruin the mock vicuña of their jackets). Generally, this seemed less like the sort of place a John Wayne character would get into a fight than the sort where some snarky comment about your BMW being over a year old.
I took my glass upstairs where it was largely abandoned. Above the din, I could hear the soundtrack: really good mix of old R&B…Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye, etc.). It’s a Fullers, so probably not a bad spot for lunch (just don’t come in during the after work rush).
I went to the Covent Garden because the Nell of Drury Lane was closed and the CG also fit the theme of the day’s run (and, in fact, was another setting in the same film). I had also bypassed it in the first place because of the name change from “the Globe” but I’m glad I was forced to double back. This despite the £5 price tag on a pint (but, at least there were several real ales to choose from and the one I settled on was perfect). It’s just what the cost of the neighbourhood dictates.
It is a grand old house with a great smoking porch upstairs, netted in to protect from pigeons or gulls. I’d love to go further upstairs and have a poke around (this is the midst of the theatre district, too, so any windows would be worth parking in for an evening’s viewing of foot traffic below, as well).
F is for Film! And, as I was remiss in mentioning the studios two weeks ago on the E for Ealing run, this crawl is meant to set things right.
Things started in Covent Garden with a trip to Nell of Old Drury which features in the Hitchcock film Frenzy (1972).
Nell of Old Drury a few days before Halloween 2016
Unfortunately, I pulled up during hours the house is closed and had to go around the corner to The Covent Garden which was until recently the Globe where Richard Blaney, the protagonist, tended bar before getting accused of being a “Neck Tie” sex killer.
Nell of Old Drury in Frenzy
With too much foot traffic on the main pavements, I headed to the wider paths of Embankment and spotted a sign for some Roman Baths hidden somewhere down those steps (something to keep in mind for the R run a few months from now):
The next stop was the Lamb just inside the Leadenhall Market in the City of London. This was the setting for the obligatory bar punch up when an American character is in England, this time in the John Wayne flick, Brannigan (1975).
It’s hard to think of John Wayne without thinking of John Wayne was a Nazi by Millions of Dead Cops. But, over the course of my brief pint there, I also associated him with The Ballad of the Green Berets and with John Wayne Gacy (perfect for the Halloween weekend).
The run segment took me across London Bridge, through Borough, and out to Lambeth (one of my favourite central London neighbourhoods).
A few hundred feet past the former Pelham Mission Hall, above, I found the Jolly Gardeners which was portrayed as The Drowning Trout, Vinnie Jones’ character’s local in Snatch (2000).
The final stop was at the far end of the street, The Black Prince, which featured in another comic bookish movie called Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015). The house is quite genteel compared to its portrayal in the picture.
Not sure what to do for G, but for those of you keeping score that will be the next one of these London A to Z runs. Suggestions are welcome.
“You don’t look Welsh.” “My mother’s Italian…”
–lines from the road trip to Chicago in Inside Llewyn Davis
We continued the Winter Movie Weekend Film Fest with 2014’s Inside Llewyn Davis which had a lot in common with the Coen Brothers’ earlier Barton Fink (not least of which was John Goodman all but taunting the lead character with “I’ll show you a life of the mind!” just not in so many words).
It’s nice when time gets away from you like that and, when we came up for air during the end credits, we both realised we were starving and disinterested in going out for groceries. I scanned the larder and came up with these ingredients (mostly Welsh beneath but on the surface Italian):
1/2 pound of potatoes
a bulb of garlic
some dark, mature stem spinach
a block each of brie and feta
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
I had a recipe in mind from ages ago and started by slicing the onion thin and putting it in a bowl to steep under boiling water while I used a cheese slicer to cut the potatoes wafer thin. To these, I added 4 minced cloves of garlic, a handful of chopped olives, a glug of olive oil, some salt and black pepper, and mixed it all together before stirring in the drained, softened onions at the end. This mix was divided into two piles and baked at 220° C for twenty minutes while the rest was prepped.
The spinach was chopped then barely wilted and squeezed to remove the bitter juices (mature spinach has all the mineral content of the soil from which it is raised and can be less than subtle). This was mixed with a sprinkling of nutmeg and an ounce, each, of gooey, pungent brie and metallic, brittle feta. Split to cover the two chicken breasts, the creation was placed atop the just-starting-to-brown potato mix, topped with some cherry tomatoes, and returned to bake another 25 minutes at 200° C.
It’s surprisingly good and leaves you wishing you had more.
February saw the first really winter-like weather around here and that’s usually good for movie viewing. But, between busy times at work and starting to build up the running mileage there just wasn’t a lot of time to veg in front of the telly. When we did, it was mostly the news, Prime Minister’s Questions, fake news (John Oliver is back and Samantha Bee has a fantastic programme), or documentaries. Here are the documentaries:
Bottled Up: The Battle Over Dublin Dr Pepper (2014) Fuck corporate Dr Pepper (Snapple).
One of the few joys of life in Tucson was access to Coca Cola made with sugar instead of HFCS (since Mexican bottlers were not beholden to Archer Daniels Midland Corporation). Once I discovered that the cane sugar variety was more satisfying and tasted less syrupy — and more like the original formulation — I never again drank the corn syrup format (note: in the UK they don’t use corn syrup but despite that I have only had four or five bottles of cola in the last 7+ years).
This documentary is about the original Dr Pepper bottling plant in Dublin, Texas and how they were crushed by the Corporation started there because they stuck to the original — and, widely agreed, better — formulation. I’m a Pepper (Boycotter), Wouldn’t you like to Boycott Pepper, too?
Love Italy? Horseracing? Corruption? Then find a showing of Palio (2015), a documentary about the world’s oldest horse race which takes place twice each year in Siena. Lasting about 90 seconds, the race is the sideshow in this battle between the various Contrade (essentially, districts), to which the residents of each hold fierce allegiance.
The year is spent in preparation by collecting money and currying favour amongst officials and the jockeys who are essentially mercenaries that train horses nearby (but come from across the country and beyond). There is a Byzantine lottery to choose which horse will run for each Contrada after which the jockeys make their preference known for whom they would like to ride. If chosen, they are squirreled away under guard for the following four days leading up to the Palio so that they can’t seek (or make) bribes; even so, at the starting lineup (also chosen by an elaborate, ornate and ancient randomisation machine) the jockeys make deals amongst themselves or, if they bear a grudge, might start flailing one another with the long whips they carry.
A winning jockey is met with the adoration of his sponsors and carried through the city and into the Duomo while losing jockeys might take the sort of ass kicking usually reserved for those that betray their comrades in battle. Moreover, the race is run bareback at an incredible pace such that horses might slam into the walls of the Piazza and send their rider to the ground or into the crowd; a riderless horse can win this race, so those that continue on become one more strategic problem for the lead riders. This was all gripping stuff and recommended viewing for anyone who has spent time in Siena (or plans to).
Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles (2015) was a surprising (to me) portrait of the great director or some of my favourite films (notably, The Third Man and Chimes at Midnight) largely because he always seemed to be an Establishment figure throughout my youth. As it turns out, he was even more weird and uncompromising than you might have thought possible, an avant-garde artiste shunned by the business end of the movie business and toiling away at projects he found beautiful and interesting. And, of course, drinking, eating and whoring around too much.
Talking heads throughout include Julie Taymoor, Steven Spielberg, Peter Bogdonovich, Elvis Mitchell, Martin Scorsese, Richard Linklater, Sydney Pollack, Buck Henry, Paul Mazursky, and Richard Benjamin. Look for the comparison of a long tracking shot in Touch of Evil to a similar one in American Graffiti (both of which we recently have been talking about re-watching, coincidentally). There’s also an adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial starring Anthony Perkins which is on our to view list while the film teases with dozens of others…a trip to the British Film Institute looms.
“The Only Thing That Will Stop A Bad Guy With A Gun Is A Fat Guy With A Gun (and a counterfeit Fender)” — Wayne LaPierre
Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA (2015), an offering from PBS Frontline , is what you might expect, but well done. My country (soon to be my former country) is mentally ill.
Then you ask why I don’t live here
Honey, how come you don’t move?
Kipling’s Indian Adventure (2016) covers young Rudyard’s short but formative stint as a newspaper editor in Lahore (now part of Pakistan) from the age of 16 to 24 years old. Beautifully shot on location such that you can almost smell the squalor (and danger) he put himself in wandering the inner city streets unescorted (something the heavily armed police shadowing the film maker would not allow in the relatively modern-ish streets, today). From journeyman journalist to biting social commentator and novelist in 7 years, he was eventually advised to leave.
When I was a kid, the Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015) were the coolest thing, ever, not least because they scared the shit out of my gun-crazed parents. Obviously, this wasn’t due to coloured folk carrying weapons (I come from 2nd Amendment fetishist stock), but had more to do with them uniting with other poor and downtrodden folk, feeding kids, and dressing sharp. Put your fist in the air and repeat after me, “I am…a revolutionary…I am…a revolutionary…I am…a revolutionary.” Now, be patient…the FBI will be with you shortly.
Buffalo Soldiers (2001), although it purports to be based on actual events, was one of the few fiction films we tried this month. In fact, as spectacular as it seems that stoned and drunken soldiers might accidentally wreak havoc on a host country in peacetime or that corruption and vice of such scale as portrayed herein might take place in the total-control environment of the US military, your humble reporter is one veteran who felt that most of this material seemed at least plausible (my job during my short service in the Army was then known as 71-Q, Journalist, with the primary responsibility to make stories like the ones portrayed here go away or at least get lost under reams of ‘feel-good’ press releases).
The Big Short (2015) should have taken the Oscar. They were, ironically, robbed.
The only non-documentary NOT based on actual events that we saw this month was Horsefeathers (1932) starring the always sublime Marx Brothers. Two years after the Hays Code was enacted, this was racy and rude and funny as hell (and, to paraphrase Captain Spaulding in Animal Crackers, another Marx Bros great, “that’s just the kind of film I crave”). Briefly, Groucho is the new college president at his son’s (Zeppo’s) school and Chico and Harpo get recruited from a speakeasy (Prohibition was still in place) to play football for the school. There’s a side bit about the “College Widow,” a contemporary term for “Cougar,” a woman who would teach the boys anatomy. Now that I think about it, this was kind of a docu-drama, too.
Till next month, here are links to Jan 2016 Part A and Jan 2016 Part 2.