Just What Is It That Makes Today’s East London So Different, So Appealing?


It  could very well be the abundance of art to be found in the East End. The Whitechapel Art Gallery is always   worth a  visit.  They  have  some exceptional shows there and quite often you can see things for free. I was there on Sunday and wasn’t really sure what I would find. I was extremely lucky though to stumble upon the exhibition This Is Tomorrow

This is Tomorrow was an exhibition held in 1956 at the Whitechapel Gallery and today’s This Is Tomorrow is, in essence, an exhibition about an exhibition. The original exhibition featured a large room with posters of Marilyn Monroe, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, a Robby The Robot and the iconic collage by Richard Hamilton Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? There can’t be a Pop Art book anywhere that doesn’t have a print of the Richard Hamilton collage somewhere within     

There is a film that features some of the artists talking about the show, posters, a reproduction of the exhibition catalogue and a number of glass cabinets. One of  the cabinets contains some letters written during the setting up of  the exhibition including one from Theo Crosby, the exhibition creator, which is beautifully handwritten with a PS inviting the addressee to his midsummer party in W4. There is also a cabinet full of  magazines from the 1950s featuring the advertisements that Richard Hamilton cut out in order to create his masterpiece. Tinned ham, lolipops and a vaccuum that reaches all the way up a staircase. The exhibition isn’t vast but it is very impressive and an excellent reminder of how important the Whitechapel Gallery is to both East London and the art world.

The exhibition runs until March 6th 2011 and I would thoroughly recommend you see it.


Invasion of the Swedish Identical Twins


The title of this piece may sound like a low-budget horror film that comes with the tag line ‘They come in pairs’ but it isn’t. It’s taken from a real news story that took place 33 years ago this week on 7th October 1977.


Ninety sets of Swedish identical twins, dressed identically, boarded the ship Tor, Scandinavia.  Where in Sweden the journey began  is a mystery to me but the ship Captained by  Sune Dahlström, also a twin, probably set sail from  Gothenburg or Stockholm. You may be wondering, like I was, what was the first port of call for the ‘invasion’ and the reason for the trip? I can tell you that. Felixstowe was the destination and the reason for going there was in order for the twins to visit  local shops and boutiques.  

I am no expert on Felixstowe but nobody I know  has ever waxed lyrical on the topic of the shops and boutiques of Felixstowe. Nevertheless, the twins took a trip there to shop and looked forward to spending some money. I don’t know much  about Swedish fashion circa 1977 but it may have been that Felixstowe was one of the few places outside of Sweden where it was possible to buy anything other than satin martial arts meets dressing gown attire (Right ABBA circa 1977).

A shopping trip to Felixstowe for 90 sets of identical twins aged between 11 and 80 was only part of the story. The reason for the trip was to enable researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm to study the twins behaviour and the links between behaviour and environment. I would really like to know what 90 sets of twins plus 1 part of a set of twins and a few researchers discovered on their journey. The queuing to park the car. Then the rush upstairs to find their way to  the bar or the restaurant in a desperate bid - in the days before carrying a myriad of gadgets around – to find something other than Yahtzee to occupy their mind for a bit must have attributed to an interesting study. After  eating or a drink there was  the walk out onto the deck to look at the coastline behind them and the emptiness before them as they stood there in a force 8 gale feeling as if the wind was going to rob them of their hair and blow it all the way back to Sweden. How the twins behaved in that environment could make a fascinating read.

Felixstowe in 1977 had yet to be popularised by the British TV Drama Triangle but it would be very interesting to find out how the day went for the twins. Which shops did they visit? What did they buy? If anybody has any information about the trip I would love to hear it. Captain Sune Dahlström may have retired some time ago but it would be wonderful to see some of the twins reunited to make a follow up trip.  It would make an interesting TV documentary.  ‘Invasion of the Swedish Identical Twins 2: The Return’. Perfect for BBC Four’s Saturday evening schedule that already includes the excellent Swedish version of Wallander. Not that the Kenneth Brannagh version isn’t also excellent, I just prefer a lot of things in their original language. There’s something not quite right about a Swedish farmer speaking English with a Lancashire accent.

You can read the full article here taken from the BBC website On This Day


Old Blog Number 1

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Bingo, Dusting and Fondue

I’ve never actually been to a wine and cheese party but I understand that they were once a popular event. Last night, after finishing work, I arranged to meet up with my friend Liz in a wine bar called Les Beaujolais, just off St Martin’s Lane. I caught the number 11 bus from outside my office. I walked down the bus to the back seat and sat down. The bus proceeded to the next stop and people got on. A man, who looked and acted like this bus was the last one he was ever likely to see ran towards the bus, right in front of it. Now, if the driver had run him over, then he really would have only had himself to blame. Luckily the driver decided against mowing the man down and waited for him to board the bus. On he hopped and swiftly made his way to the back of the bus, saying hello to somebody called Mary as he walked along the aisle.

They may have kissed at an office party once but I can’t be sure, of course. That may explain why he chose not to sit next to her. He sat down in front of me and proceeded to eat an apple as he struggled to catch his breath. Sometimes it’s hard to get things out of your mind when you are in a confined space with little else to look at, and I sat there asking myself why this man had decided to ignore the fact that his hair hadn’t grown on the top of his head for sometime? Why would anyone, not playing a character in a play or film, adopt the look of Friar Tuck? This was London and not a forest in Nottingham, after all. I felt it would have been rude to ask a complete stranger why he had chosen such an obviously comical hair style and instead, I sat there minding my own business, listening to my ipod. The bus arrived at Trafalgar Square where I alighted and made my way up St. Martin’s Lane.

I got as far as The Salisbury pub when I passed John Hurt. This, in the West End, is no big deal as famous people seem to be everywhere. Although, I must say I haven’t seen anybody famous since I passed Mark Almond on an escalator at Canary Wharf, shared the Docklands Light Railway with Ian McKellern and saw Sandy Gall (I think it was him) all in the same day last year. I arrived at Les Beaujolais and Liz was already at the bar ordering drinks. It was crowded, smoky and there was nowhere to sit. We stood, drank a quick drink and then headed off.

Liz knew of a wine bar in Grape Street. The unimaginatively named Grape Street Wine Bar. What a result (in football manager speak). There were tables free, it wasn’t smoky and there was an ‘80s CD playing, not too loudly, in the background. We had found a perfect place to enjoy a Friday night of drinking, chatting and cheese. As well as serving wine the Grape Street Wine Bar serves cheese. We decided on a Pinot Grigio and initially some Stilton, Brie and Cheddar but we changed our order at the last minute and swapped Cheddar for some Cornish Yarg. We were feeling a bit adventurous. Cornish Yarg is a cheese neither of us had heard of, it’s made by the Gray family in Cornwall. Yarg, is the family name reversed. The cheese is wrapped in nettles. It’s doesn’t demand as much attention as Stilton and is a very pleasant, mild cheese. An easy eating type of cheese if I had to categorize it.

We drank our wine and ate our cheese and chatted. Classix Nouveau ‘Is It A Dream’, Tubeway Army ‘Are Friends Electric and Visage ‘Fade To Grey’ were just a few of the songs that played along in the background. I was very happy with an ‘80s electronic soundtrack. Whilst drinking our wine and cheese we discussed fondue and Liz recommended potato as a good vegetable to accompany a fondue. That’s something I will try one of these days, I remember thinking to myself.

Shortly after the fondue conversation the waitress appeared and offered us some more wine. She named one and then stumbled and couldn’t think of the other one that she was going to recommend. Perhaps, she had had a glass too many herself. Never mind. I decided on a gin and tonic and Liz chose a Kir. Another conversation we had involved names for pets. Neither myself nor Liz have any but Liz already has a name for a dog - should she acquire one - a Daschund called Dustin. The low belly of the Dachshund is the key to the name. And I, although having never given any thought to what I may or may not call my dog, should I have one, decided upon the name Bingo. A good night out. Wine, cheese and more than a dash of nonsense.

Mark Dandridge 'My Space 2006'


My Secret Life

I often read My Secret Life in the Independent on Saturday. I've never been asked to take part in the questionnaire. After all, I am not famous enough. In fact, I'm not famous at all. I decided not to let fame, or lack of it,  hold me back and took the liberty of interviewing myself for the questionnaire.


My Secret Life Mark Dandridge


My parents were… my Mum enjoys bingo and knitting. I’m not sure what really interests my Dad.

The house/flat I grew up in… was a 3-bedroom modern house on an estate made from concrete panels embedded with flintstones. It looked out onto some allotments and fields. At the back flowed a brook. We could have done with a bigger house in the early 1970s.

When I was a child I wanted to be…a   stuntman like Evel Knievel. I used to ride my bogus Chopper (a yellow bike called a High Riser) over ramps at what seemed like high speeds. Things were much slower in the 1970s.

If I could change one thing about myself… it would probably be to have more self-confidence.

You wouldn’t know it but I’m very good at… doing tick-tack on a skateboard and performing a 360 degree turn.

What I see when I look in the mirror… me but not warts and all. Thankfully, I’ve managed to keep warts at bay.

At night I dream of… never the same thing. A recent dream I had was that a friend found a cheetah and was keeping it at home. I became very concerned about how impractical a cheetah was as a family pet.

My favourite item of clothing…  Gola Harrier Trainers.

I wish I’d never worn… jumpers from Bicester Market back in the early 1980s

It’s not fashionable but I like… I am not really bothered by what other people deem as ‘fashionable’. It’s not important to me to be ‘with it’.

I drive/ride… I don’t own a vehicle.

My house is… a flat on the Isle of Dogs close to the River Thames a short distance away from Canary Wharf 

My favourite work of art is… it varies but at the moment it is Boccioni’s sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. It seems to move before your very eyes.

My favourite building is… I don’t really have one in particular. I like all sorts of buildings for all sorts of reasons. I currently enjoy looking at an unfinished one called the Heron Tower. I can see it from near my home and last night I saw it from Hungerford Bridge.

A book that changed me… I wish one had but a book is a book. You read it and you may read it again. There are books that may make you act in a certain way for a short time. You can walk out of a cinema and want to behave like Indiana Jones. You can’t make a life of behaving like that.

Movie heaven… Paris, Texas, My Life as a Dog or anything else that isn’t made to appeal to a mass audience.

The last album I bought… a cassette tape of  Upstairs at Erics from a charity shop in Abingdon last year. It was an album I once owned but my Mum had thrown out. The tape was warped and didn’t play properly. It was only 25p, thankfully.

My secret crush… The point of a secret is that it should remain so.

My greatest regret… I haven’t thought about what it is yet. It may still be too early to consider it.

The person who really makes me laugh… my friend Gillian

The last time I cried… I had been for a job that I was ideally suited to and was emailed to say I hadn’t got it. I think the upset came from the impersonal way I was told.

My five year plan… to find a job I can do from anywhere that pays reasonably well.

What’s the point? I wish I knew.

My life in six words… Better than it may have been


Two Birthdays, A Queen and A Glass of Wine 

Streatham Birthdays

It was Gillian’s birthday on Saturday 13th February, so a few of us went out in Streatham to a place called Perfect Blend. They recently lost their license to sell alcohol. Apparently, the application went in too late. So, for now you can take your own booze, which we did. 

I ordered a fondant of pumpkin and stilton. We all wondered what a fondant was? When it arrived at the table the mystery was solved. It was a ramekin filled with pulped and pulverised pumpkin and stilton. Had there been a small child nearby then I may have been tempted to project, from a great height, a spoonful of it making a NNNNNNEEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYYYYAAAAAAAANNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG! aeroplane type noise as I did so. It was very much like an introduction to solids for a small child. The salad, which consisted of nothing but coriander added nothing to the dish other than too much coriander. There was an interesting assault course on route to and from the toilets too. I felt a sign warning ‘PLEASE MIND THE PLANKS’ should have been put up somewhere rather than have customers stumble upon men at work and a myriad of planks.

We had some good conversations about smoking and Janet, haven’t seen her for some time and had forgotten what a fit bird she is, was discussing how to get young people to stop smoking. Forget about the narrowing of their arteries and tell them that they will look awful when they are older. No young person wants the face of a ninety eight-year-old Greek fisherman by the time they are thirty years old, surely. 

Gillian now shares a birthday with a member of my own family. My niece Hannah had another daughter in the early hours of Saturday 13th February. Leila Rose, a great niece. That's two and a Great Nephew. Great Scott! At my age.

The Queen and Her Husband

On Wednesday night I was wandering along the Strand on my way to the theatre when a police motorcycle pulled up with a flashing light. The policeman signalled for people to not cross the road. I wondered who was coming and then I saw the big black car that I had seen once before whilst wandering in Covent Garden. It was the Queen and Philip. The last time I had seen them there were people handing out flags in the street. I’d never really questioned why so many people kept a flag in their pocket in case they saw the Queen. They don’t, somebody is employed to carry them around in buckets to hand to prospective flag wavers. This may not happen now. It was 1992 the last time I had seen the Queen. There was no time for handing out flags on Wednesday. I had a good look inside the car and saw she was wearing red. Cue Chris De Burgh. I remember noticing her hair was immaculately lacquered hair. Not a single one out of place.  


After seeing the Queen I made it to the Duchess Theatre to see Ghostsby Henrik Ibsen.  A glass of wine in the bar before hand was in order. One whole fiver for a glass of Pinot Grigio in a plastic glass. The bar at the Duchess Theatre needs refurbishing. I’m not sure if there was a fancier one somewhere else in the building but the one in which I enjoyed the overpriced Pinot, with added plastic, was a corridor masquerading as a bar. Complete with people passing through that had forgotten they were wearing large rucksacks. I had to concentrate quite hard on keeping the pricey contents inside the plastic glass, inside the plastic glass.

The curtain went up. A man hobbled across the stage and had a conversation with his daughter. Well, this was a play so we found out later that he wasn’t her Father, after all. A Pastor arrived at the house and started speaking with an Irish/Scottish accent. Some of the acting I didn’t find very convincing. The subject matter of the play, a young man suffering from syphilis, was shocking in its day. In Norway.  On Wednesday night I was more shocked by the lacklustre acting and the price of a glass of wine in a plastic glass in London’s West End.