Sunday
Apr242011

The London Beer Gardens That Spoonfed Forgot. They Can Be Found In The East End, London's Best End

The Prospect of Whitby

 

http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=183

 

How could anybody forget what is ‘possibly London’s most famous pub’? The Prospect of Whitby has a beer garden with a view of the Thames and Canary Wharf in the East. You can sit there and watch boats go up and down the river. If you are a boat spotter,  in one session - consisting of a couple of pints - you may see the Dixie Queen, the Hollywood and the Chay Blyth. You get a good mix of locals and tourists. There is also a terrace upstairs once enjoyed by Princess Margaret, Richard Burton and Rod Steiger to name a few. I’ve spotted the Cheeky Girls in there too but they didn’t remember me. How cheeky.

The Captain Kidd

 

http://www.beerintheevening.com/pubs/comments.shtml/4000/

 

A Samuel Smith’s pub so it’s as cheap as chips for a pint. It has a large beer garden with a view of the river and Canary Wharf. There is a good mix of people some live locally some just passing through. The staff are extremely efficient and helpful. Not as historic as the Prospect of Whitby but it is a well run pub with a calm atmosphere and the garden is a great place to watch the sun go down. Oh, and I once saw David Van Day in there and my friend thought he was Freddie Starr. They do look quite similar.

Spoonfeds Top 10 can be found here: http://www.spoonfed.co.uk/spooners/spoonfed-team-2630/outdoor-drinking-london-s-best-beer-gardens-5067/

Wednesday
Mar302011

Jam-Jars & La-Di-Dahs

©Thames Television

Take a look at The Sweeney and you’ll see much more than cops and robbers. Back in the 1970s very few people would bat an eyelid when a policeman in plain clothes used brut-force to push another man - a suspected criminal so it was OK -  up against a car and growl the words ‘You’re nicked!’. That was the rough-and-tumble nature of the era.

Nobody went about minding their language in the pre-political correctness days of the 1970s. These were tough times and when the going got tough, the tough, often got going and at high-speed leaving only clouds of burning rubber fumes behind them. 

Shot on 16mm film The Sweeney is not only a gritty piece of realism it’s also like watching some fascinating reels of archive footage from the 1970s. There are the cars; Ford Consul, Zodiac, Escort, Cortina, Granada and Capri. The Austin 1100, a little blue and white number is used by uniformed officers. The Morris Marina, Triumph Stag and of course, the Mini.

Watching The Sweeney can be like viewing an episode of Top Gear with the sound down to drown out the blokey chit-chat. Just enjoying the bodywork and design of some of those cars featured is a pleasure to behold.  For fans of the kids preferred mode of transport during the 1970s you can look out for a the appearance of the Raleigh Chopper bike.  

The streets of London were different back in the 1970s. A cop show filmed today on London’s streets would be hard pressed to avoid the inclusion of the chains that now dominate just about every High Street in the country. Had Regan and Carter felt the urge for a coffee break back in the ‘70s they would hardly have been spoilt for choice. A couple of greasy spoon cafes or a Wimpy maybe. These days you are never more than a paper cup’s throw away from either a Costa, Starbucks or Caffe Nero. A good ol’ cup of Rosie Lee would be more up Regan and Carter’s street anyway I would wager.

Along with the vintage cars and the streets of yesteryear there is one other aspect of The Sweeney that adds to the show’s brilliance. During its 52 Episodes over four series, if you don’t count the pilot episode Regan, there was an absolutely dazzling collection of guest stars featured in the show. A who’s who of British acting talent. Diana Dors, Patrick Mower, Hywel Bennett, Maureen Lipman, Michael Elphick, George Cole, Brian Blessed, Patrick Troughton, Roy Kinnear, Richard Griffiths, Bill Maynard, George Sewell, Joss Ackland and funnily enough, Morecombe and Wise.

One episode in particular has not one but two former EastEnders actors in it. Messenger of the Gods Episode 1, Series 4 features Derek Martin who is known to most people as Charlie Slater the lovable cabbie and Michael Melia who was Eddie Royle the tough-talking landlord of the Queen Vic. Charlie chose to leave his cab in the Square and let the train take the strain when he left EastEnders earlier this year. Eddie met a more grisly end when he was  stabbed to death by nasty Nick Cotton back in 1991.

Former EastEnders cast members were not the only ones to appear in The Sweeney. Current, long-serving cast member and national treasure June Brown who plays Dot Branning appeared in one of the very first episodes of The Sweeney. Back in 1975, in Episode 1 of Series 1 entitled Ringer June played Mrs Martin the mother of  small time crook Billy Martin. A role that was a precursor  to the one she has played as the long suffering mother of small time crook Nick Cotton.

Cop shows will come and go but The Sweeney remains one of the best. Cars, stars and some fashion thrown in for good measure.  It’s drama, period.

 

The Sweeney can be seen on ITV 4. Check press for details.

 

Sources

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sweeney

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071059/episodes

http://www.thesweeney.info/

http://www.tv.com/the-sweeney/show/5242/summary.html

 

Wednesday
Feb162011

Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh and Frank Spencer

On Friday evening I went to see The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium. Before the show me and my companion went for a drink in the Red Lion Pub in Kingly Street. We then decided to have a bite to eat nearby and stumbled upon a place called The Red Onion. That's two places with red in the title. Purely coincidental.

The Red Onion was very quiet and the service was very friendly and efficient. It was also very reasonably priced.  If you are on a night out at the London Palladium or just looking for somewhere quiet on a Friday night then I would thoroughly recommend the Red Onion.

I hadn't seen any of the BBC show to search for a Dorothy to star in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Wizard of Oz.  I wasn't sure what to expect of a show based on a film that I know so well and have loved since I was a child. We sat down in our seats in the Royal Circle in row A. Very good seats they were too with a clear view of the whole stage. The lights went down and the orchestra began to play. The crowd gave a massive round-of-applause at the first sighting of  Dorothy and Toto as they did when Michael Crawford appeared. That and when somebody starts clapping along to a song are my pet hates but an audience isn't just me, unfortunate as that seems sometimes.

Dorothy (Danielle Hope) and Toto went to sit down with Professor Marvel (Michael Crawford) and then she heads for home. There's no place like it, after all. Then the moment I had been waiting for and wondering about finally arrived. Just how would they recreate a twister on a London stage? With clever use of projected sights and sounds.  The twister was one of my favourite moments and very exciting. The use of film projected onto a slightly transparent curtain is what the Kneehigh Theatre Company do so well and here at the Palladium that effect was used brilliantly. It made it seem like I was inside the vortex of a real twister. Well, almost.

The  show has some great songs, wonderful costumes, fantastic dancing and incredibly inventive staging. Oh and a witch that actually flies and some flying monkeys too. I thought the show was brilliant and I have to admit to being a little sceptical beforehand but my scepticism was soon blown away as if by the full force of a real life Kansas twister. Funnily enough, I was not in any great hurry to get home.

Thursday
Dec232010

By George, It's Gilbert

 

 

Gilbert & George, Mile End by Mark Dandridge 

On Tuesday I met Gillian in Spitalfields. We often meet there and spend time sitting in Leon watching the people come and go. It’s a good place to spend a long time without feeling like you should move on. It’s taken me a while to realise that they don’t do great coffee and coffee that isn’t in a ceramic receptacle, is very often a let down. A paper cup doesn’t seem like the reward you expect for paying extra to sit inside the building. I chose tea. For tea in a paper cup seems less of a disappointment. We sat and chatted for a while and looked around at the people. We drank our tea and moved on.

We wandered around the market stalls. Fairy lights, LED digital watches and lots and lots of jewellery. People looking for a present not so easily found elsewhere in London would surely find it here. We looked at the furniture outside the world’s most expensive vintage furniture shop. Gillian had recently told me how she was tiring of the word ‘vintage’ which she believes has come to describe what is often ‘a load of old tat’. There was a coat stand outside from the 1930s. It was lovely and was probably one that you could find all over in the days when my Mum worked for the Air Ministry. There was no price on it and we decided not to ask. Firstly, neither of us needed a coat stand and secondly, if we did and could have afforded it, then we would have needed to plan a military style operation to work out how to get it home during the incredibly bad weather of this week. It’s been snow joke and other headlines.

Outside the market we walked along opposite The Ten Bells pub and I was talking about this year’s Turner Prize. I was telling Gillian about the winning work by Susan Philipsz . I saw it back in November and it was a haunting song played through big speakers that filled a large white room with sound. Just Philipsz's voice and the rustling of a Tesco bag that a Japanese tourist kept lifting to her mouth in order to get water from a bottle. I wasn’t sure why she just couldn’t use her other arm. Rustling bags aside I think the work was moving but agree with the Stuckists who thought ‘the award should not go to a "singer".’ I much preferred the paintings of Dexter Dalwood. Whilst I was telling Gillian about the Turner Prize - which we often go to together - towards us walked two real life Turner Prize winners. Gilbert and George were out for a stroll. We’ve seen them around there many times. Usually together but I did once see George on his own in Liverpool Street Station. Where he looked less like a living sculpture and more like any other commuter rushing for a train to Turkey Street Station.

There were a crowd of people with Gilbert and George. One of the men was apologising for leaving them a drunken message. I’m not sure if the message was ‘Hello Gilbert, Hello George, gin makes me very, very drunk’ but hope it may have been something along those lines. We left Gilbert and George to their walk and my fellow living sculpture and I wandered into the Lomo Shop also known as The Lomography Gallery Store. Very Spitalfields. Nobody in the shop realised we were living sculptures. Mind you, I don’t think we told them.

 

Wednesday
Oct202010

What's Cohen On?

 

He surely knows another song. There must be thousands of other songs he could play. It seems that  almost every night when I pass through Canary Wharf on my way home from work I hear that busker doing that same song. I begin my ascent to ground level and I hear his voice and those words. 'Hallelujah, Hallelujah'. No other words, just 'Hallelujah, Hallelujah'. Nothing about being tied to a kitchen chair, a broken throne or a haircut that hadn't been booked.  It's almost as if he waits for me to arrive.          

I've tried to work out in my mind why I hear the song at the same point each time and I just can't fathom it out. I wondered if it was like my walk on music. You know, for when people are guests on a chat show. I wait behind a piece of wobbly set for my cue 'Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome Mark Dandridge' the band gives it their all and accompany my footsteps with Hallelujah, Hallelujah. Two things are unlikely regarding my chat show scenario. Firstly, I am not a celebrity with a book to plug in time for Christmas. The second implausible aspect of the chat show walk on music idea is that if I was to appear on one and heard that song playing I would probably throw my radio mic to the floor and leg it out the back  door never to be seen again.

I'm going to keep an open mind about the busker and his song choice and see if it isn't just coincidental that for what seems like every day for the past couple of months the same busker has been playing the same song at the same time - the time I arrive at Canary Wharf. I look forward to an evening when I pass through Canary Wharf tube and as I rise to the surface I hear in the distance Toto Coelo's I Eat Cannibals. That song is ready to be stripped down to it's very basics and would make an excellent addition to any busker's repertoire. The lyrics may not be to everybody taste but they would certainly make a pleasant change from Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Here's a sample of some of the lyrics:

You're in a stew
Hot hot cook it up
I'm never gonna stop
Fancy a bite
My appetite
Yum yum gee it's fun
Banging on a different drum

I think commuters would be more than pleased  to hear words of such great depth about food as they make their way home for their tea.