Archive for November, 2013

Blood + Chocolate Revisited

November 25, 2013

If you saw the street theatre production of Blood+ Chocolate in York you may be interested in the open discussion with three of the people responsible for that amazing spectacle.  It filled the streets of York with the citizens and events of 100 years ago.  Writer Mike Kenny and researcher Helen Cadbury will join the artistic director of Pilot Theatre, Marcus Romer, to reveal how the original idea was turned into a vibrant street performance.  How did the story develop? How do we know what happened back then in York, at Rowntrees, in the town, amongst Quakers?  How difficult was it to stage in central York?  Bring your questions and comments to put to the panel.

It’s On You Tube too.  Search on Blood and Chocolate, York   or go to


£3 Admission on the door.

More London Delights

November 22, 2013

The main purpose of the visit was to attend a concert at the Purcell Room, part of the London Jazz Festival.  Ketil Bjornstad and Kari Bremnes  presented a storming performance of their versions of texts and lyrics by the painter Edvard Munch.  Apparently his literary output was hidden for many years and has only recently been studied.  Bjornstad’s inventive and varied compositions (played on solo piand – the CD has a larger group of musicians) were perfectly complemented by Kari Bremnes’ mature and powerful vocals.  Absolutely stunning.

And on the way, there was the view from Hungerford Bridge


EArlier, I visited the Princess Louise, on Holborn.  It’s a Sam Smith’s pub with a Grade II listed 1891 interior, split up into small bars and booths, plus a larger room at the back.  Downstairs, it is equally wonderful.



And then there is G E Watts’ Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice in Postman’s Park.  For example:

George Stephen Funnell
Police Constable
Dec 22 1899
In a fire at the Elephant & Castle, Wick Road Hackney Wick, after rescuing two lives went back into the flames, saving a barmaid at the risk of his own life


John Cranmer Cambridge
Aged 23 a clerk in the London County Council
Who was drowned near Ostend whilst saving the life of a stranger and a foreigner
August 8, 1901

Text of all the tablets here:

An Afternoon Ride

November 19, 2013

An Afternoon Ride

It never got much above freezing, in fact where the sun hadn’t reached the frost was still on the grass at sunset, but the trees were in glorious colour and the sun set cleanly and dazzlingly over the flat farmland south of the city.

PSP Ramblings revived

November 17, 2013

Actually, it’s not so much that the ramblings are revived, but that the blog is.  Because of the lengthy intermission because of some malware corruption (on an old blog, now deleted) many PSP outings are lost to history.  However, the fact of some new hostelries in the city (York) took us out, first to the Duke of York in King’s Square, succeeding an estate agents with a much more socially useful multi room pub. We didn’t sample the food though the chips looked tasty.  It was a bit overcrowded and I wouldn’t call it cosy but there were several real ales including some from Leeds Brewery.

The Hop in Fossgate was apparently a poulterers before going through various incarnations to become a bar with a pizzeria in the back.  Decor is quite varied, from original tiled walls to ornate chandeliers to quotes from the famous about drink.  Obviously popular with students one of whom recommended a very dark ale with an admixture of rum – 6.5%.  I know that this combination is widely considered disgusting but it seemed to me rather pleasant, like a combination of Guiness and Baileys. Unfortunately, I forget what it was called.

The Old White Swan was a bit of a disappointment as we had hoped the excellent geriatric jazz band was playing. It wasn’t. However, one could get a seat and there was a good selection of beers.

Between Stations

November 12, 2013



If you head up between King’s Cross and St Pancras, on the new road between the building sites, and cross the canal, on the square in front of the old Goods Depot (now Central St Martins School of Art) are these fantastic fountains, which mere still photography cannot do justice to. From dusk, they are lit, and appear in colour.

Philomena and Folie a Deux

November 12, 2013

Seen on the same day, these raised interesting questions about privacy and the media, and whether ordinary people can use the media successfully for their own purposes.  The original, real,  Philomena Lee, played in the film by Judy Dench, clearly ended up feeling that the end justified the means – without the journalist Martin Sixsmith she would never have found the story of her son. She must then have felt that her story served to further highlight the abuse of young women and girls by the Catholic Magdalen laundries and it was therefore right to have it made public.

It’s a little more difficult to understand the motives of the couple in Folie a Deux.  It chronicles the saga of two people who bought Gray’s Court in York with the idea of turning it into a luxury hotel.  I suppose they thought in the beginning the documentary film they commissioned (?) would be a glossy success story but it became a nightmare as legal disputes magnified with neighbours, the financial crash all but ruined them, and daily life with seven children, two dogs, a cat,  and two guinea pigs brought its own inevitable chaos.  And all those tensions changed the documentary into what became a much more dramatic piece.  But, given that what it shows is often not edifying and makes one marvel (not in a good way) at the way the protagonists went about achieving their goal, why did they persist in the filming.  Why put your private life out in the open like that? And what effect on everybody in the family did the presence of a film camera have?  Would the conflicts have been as extreme without it ? What general interest point is served by such a documentary? Or is its appeal merely voyeurism ?

In Contrast to the Post Below

November 12, 2013

Feeling hungry after a cinema marathon, we popped into the Brigantes, on Micklegate, York.  A Monday, but yes, they did food until 9pm, and they even had a special deal of Pies (sic) and a Pint.  This consisted of 3 small pies baked in individual pots (steak and kidney, chicken and leek, pork and apple) together with a leafy garnish, chips and cheesy mash.  The pies were all extremely tasty and, washed down with some Timothy Taylors Golden Best, made a delicious meal.  Perhaps they could have had mushy peas instead of the mash though.  My wife had a burger, proclaimed to be very good, with trimmings. The onion rings as a side were outstanding.

Off the Mark

November 10, 2013

Just to note that, one hungry Monday lunchtime recently we rejoiced when we came upon the Marksman pub in Hackney Road for, there on an A-board outside were advertise hot food and lunches, and beside the door was a tempting menu.  Confidently therefore we entered and I said to the barmaid, expecting confirmation “Your’re doing food today?”.  “Not till Friday,” she replied. I’m glad we didn’t order our beer first.

So we hedged our way through to Bethnal Green Road where we found the Tas Firin turkish restaurant, who not only claimed to serve food, they actually did. And enjoyable it was

London from the river

November 7, 2013

Recommending what Private Eye calls the bean counters is not usually something I care to do, but the KPMG Thames Clipper service is really a fantastic London experience.  We have used it to and from Greenwich (Cutty Sark and National Maritime Museum) and central London and found it wholly enjoyable.  Rather different, of course, from when I first took a boat trip down the Thames and round the then busy docks in about 1958.Image

And it runs well into the evening.

To London

November 3, 2013

And so to London, heading into what seemed to be going to be the eye of the great October 2013 storm.  And indeed, sitting up in bed between 6 and 8am, looking out at a scene of thrashing branches and flying leaves and twigs, it did feel a bit stormy. BY ten, however, it was all over, the sun shone, and although main line rail services were sparse or non-existent, by a combination of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and the Overground we arrived at Shoreditch with little delay.  A leisurely stroll up Bethnal Green Road revealed a fascinating array of shops selling Asian style clothing before enquiry of a local butcher revealed that the spoon maker we were looking for was on Hackney Road not Bethnal Green Road.  He advised us to hedge through the back streets, including past the site of a former, and doubtless much-missed pub.  Hackney Road, handbag capital of the universe, duly appeared, as did Barn the Spoon’s lock-up shop, complete with a floor deep in shavings, a pile of likely logs, and Barn sitting on a stool carving away.  For more on Barn the Spoon, see the Spitalfields Life blog (see link in side column) and put him in the search facility there. Armed with three lovely wooden porridge spoons (two for eating, one for serving) we hedged back towards Brick Lane, stopping on the way for a hearty Turkish lunch (corner of Bethnal Green Rd and Chilton St – forget the name of the restaurant but if was good.)

The Old Truman’s Brewery in Brick Lane is a huge site where beer is no longer brewed. The firm was Truman, Hanbury and Buxton.  I remember the original brew from my London days in the 60s and 70s and it’s good to note that the Truman’s name and beer has been revived this year from a brewery in Hackney Wick.  It was interesting to note both Quaker Lane running along one side of the brewery, and a plaque to Fowell Buxton, who was an anti-slavery campaigner, member of the C of E, but with a Quaker mother and many Friends among his associates.