Fringe Magnets (and more London)

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So, five nights of Well, it’s Woody under our belts, average audiences just over seven, and average, split-two-ways takings, fifteen quid (plus one US dollar). And a few walk-outs, including tonight’s which I liked to think was due to being offended by my rendition of Hamish, the teenage masturbation pome, but may just have been part of this growing trend of seeing forty minutes of a 55-minute Free Fringe show and leaving to avoid making a donation.
Isn’t politeness odd? It feels less rude to leave during a performance than to walk past a starving artist with a collecting bucket and not put anything in. From the receiving end,it feels ruder (just in case you were wondering).
We do it to entertain. If we also get money so we can eat occasionaly, that’s great, but there’s no need for awkwardness or embarrassment just because you’re a tight-fisted bastard.
Only jokin’.


Anyway, back to my London trip … where were we?

Day Two

A former member of the now defunct Albemarle Club, one Oscar Wilde, said, ‘only dull people are bright at breakfast’, and despite (or because of) its theme of sodality, the Savile has a ‘no talking at the central breakfast table’ rule. As there was no one else there, I had my fruit and yogurt in silence anyway.

Then I headed off into town. On Jermyn Street I bought a shirt in the Scottish Arts Club colours of pink and blue (despite the heat, I had to wear jacket and tie for my visits, and I sported the Club bow tie at the Reform, see pic) and then a Gatsby from my old favourite hat shop (see pic).

           

No wonder I had to take an Elsie with Geaorge ‘Beau’ Brummell …

A friend of a friend, who’s a friend on Facebook, works as a volunteer at the Tate, so she got me in free to All Too Human (the body in art, mainly in British art, Sickert, Spencer, Bacon, Freud etc) and Aftermath (art in and just after 1918).

And then I met with my old colleague, John ‘Bonker’ Harries for part two of the gastronomic pilgrimage: the Savoy Grill, for a meal starting with Omelette Arnold Bennett, made for the writer in the 1920s and a permanent fixture on the menu ever since, and a dish I have often cooked for myself since I came to live in the land of smoked fish.

Absolutely delicious, though their modern, starter, take is lighter and smaller than my old-fashioned main course version, which I tend to call Omelette Gordon Bennett because of the mess I make trying to serve it up neatly (which they get round by serving it in the pan). The guinea fowl which followed was equally delicious as was John’s liver (not in the Hannibal Lecter sense f-f-f-f).

Future visits to a bar in Buffalo (chicken wings), a convent in Mexico (molé poblano) and a Piedmontese battlefield (chicken Marengo) will probably remain flights of fancy.

Back in the real world, we then headed out to Tunbridge Wells, where Bonker (now retired) lives.  In the evening, we went down the area known as the Pantiles for an evening of outdoor live jazz and to meet Doreen, his lady-love.

Over swing jazz and a pint or two, we discussed the trip he and I were to go on in the next instalment …

 

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A Visit to That London [1]

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Day 0 (17th July 2018)

I have never really felt myself to be one of nature’s travel bloggers. Nor indeed a food blogger, even though I ‘tweet what I eat’. There’s no denying my dream job would be restaurant reviewer, but it’s equally true that the review-writing part would be the drag that paid for the pigging-out aspect that would be its sole appeal. I just want to be paid to eat well, basically, not waste energy writing about it.

Even so, having recently spent four days in the South East of England, partly on a gastronomic pilgrimage, I felt I should give it a go. Maybe I’ll actually get a few readers, as this sort o’ thing seems awf’y popular. I think I’ll even break it into instalments (it could get quite lengthy, as the Bishop said to the actress), to give the illusion that I have much of interest to say … so here goes.


My recent visit down South was a mixed bag of goodies and no mistake. Ludicrous extravagance, high society drifting, and all rounded off with a bit of my more customary ‘slumming it’. From the sublime to the ridiculous, as they rightly say.

On Tuesday night I caught the Caledonian Sleeper, having got a great deal on a first class berth (less than I could have paid for a standard class single the next day). But ’twas not the best start, as the promised boarding time of 10:30 came and went and disappeared over the horizon, long before we were allowed onto the train and even longer before us first-classers were allowed into the saloon car, despite the whole thing sitting there when I arrived at ten fifteen. Not many of the waiting passengers had much gruntle left as we accessed our cabins a mere ten minutes before the 11:35 departure.

Nonetheless a blether with some Yanks and a Ginger Laddie cocktail improved the mood no end, and I turned in for a wee read and sleep about 12:30. I slept none too badly and was sufficiently refreshed to enjoy my bacon roll and coffee in bed before heading out into Euston at 7:30.


Day One

Oh, I do miss That London. I feel a kind of energy in the air that is absent from many other cities. It could be a feeling of endless possibility or maybe it’s a feeling spiced with nervous caution, as one wonders if everyone who passes is a pickpocket and every moped carries a potential mugger, I don’t know. But at that time in the morning, I felt happier walking through the waking streets than I might have late in the evening.

 

I strolled happily through Fitzrovia into Mayfair, and, but for a brief stop for a cappuccino in a typical side street Italian caff, went straight to the Savile Club near Grosvenor Square to leave my bags. Taking advantage of the reciprocal arrangements with the Scottish Arts Club (and a recent and essential financial windfall, which I’m forbidden to explain for now) I had planned my visit round two of our affiliates. Despite its sexist membership policy (it has had only one female member, when an existing male member had his existing male member removed, without, after much discussion in committee being him, sorry herself de-membered), it has a policy of conviviality and amenability which gives it compensatory appeal. And it’s in an excellent location between Grosvenor Square and Claridges (looking at whose £500+ a night room prices also makes it feel very reasonable).

Then to the RA for the Summer Exhibition. Very bright, very Grayson Perry. Art as feel-good experience. Actually I’ve always found the SE a feel-good experience as there are always lots of paintings by amateurs and ‘lesser’ professionals which have me saying “I can actually paint a bit”. If I go round a Goya or a Picasso show, I wonder why I even bother.

“Take photos and post them on our site,” said the posters. But when I tried to photograph one of David Hockney’s large composite pieces,  I was beaten to the ground by attendants who sat on my chest and wrested the Huawei from my cold dead hands (ie told me not to). I expected better of Bradford’s finest. His works which celebrated and summarised much of his career were particularly interesting, as they quoted and referenced his dictum that perspective is tunnel vision. With this in mind I was keen to photograph them with the long gratings in the floor stretching towards their wall. So, also in t’spirit o’ t’man ‘isself, I bought the catalogue containing the pics (which are already in the public domain all over the web anyway), photographed the gratings from the other end, and photoshopped (well, GIMP’d) them all together, to make a much better and more in keeping piece (also without all those pesky visitors), which I like to call Tunnel Vision

And then for part one of the gastronomic pilgrimage. To the Reform, club of Churchill, Lloyd George, Asquith, and the starting point for Phileas Fogg’s literary circumnavigation. As well as the place where, c.1840, Alexis Soyer invented the eponymous lamb cutlets, a dish I have often cooked for guests. Of course I had to sit in the expansive garden with a pink gin (traditional drink of the English gentleman’s club: Plymouth gin, Angostura bitters and Malvern water) before my cutlets (with excellent house claret), all rounded off with a fine trifle.

And those cutlets? As my little Chinese friend, would say, ‘so-so’. The chops and the crust on them were spot on, but the sauce lacked the tang of a good poivrade and the beetroot (not actually in the original, but a standard part of the garnish now) rather dominated, not to mention over-coloured it. Delicious, but it’s nice to know I can do better. And, seeing it on Facebook, master chef Brent Castle said he was “a little shocked at the presentation standards” (not to mention the lack of truffle), which he would not let out of his kitchen. But as Woody says, club food is and should be a strange mix of haute cuisine and public school dinners.

Back to the Savile to check into my room and nose around. Good to find the Fly Fisherman’s Club on the top floor. As a friend commented, he won’t catch much there (another said he looked pleased to see me).

I loved the rules in the snooker room for ‘Savile Snooker’ played annually against the Garrick for over a century now. Fifteen reds in the usual triangle and the colours placed around them, some at a ‘Buckle’s Length‘ from the points. One point for potting a red, but penalties of 5, 10 or more points taken off for anything involving contact with the coloured balls. Rules involve gathering one’s team members when the opposing team is striking, so as to spot fouls and try and put them off, and, when any foul involves the yellow ball, a compulsory cry of Bollocks! from everyone watching. Apparently new, young members tend to win easily until they realise that none of the older contingent gives a hoot and nor should they. Love it.

Then to the Prom for Turangalîla. Nice to see the old place again, though there seem to be even more stairs than ever and it was very warm. Some of the old crowd are still there too. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing; as long as they’re happy.

Old favourite Polish eatery Daquise is still there in name, but a posh restaurant from the Old Town in Warsaw took it over years back, so the hoped-for stuffed cabbage, sausage or bigos are no longer on the menu (nor are the old prices), so I went round the corner to the really good Italian place, now under new owners but still with the excellent pizza oven in the basement.

Then back to ‘my Club’ for a good night’s sleep under a print of a work by William Orpen, a former member and an old favourite of mine, since I discovered the full range of his works in Dublin’s National Gallery.

To be continued…


Meanwhile, anyone in Edinburgh wanting an evening’s great entertainment should get along to our wee show, Well, It’s Woody. More on which also next week …

Where Did Yer Get That Titfer?

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Yeah right well I went to That London and was going to write a travel blog but instead here are some snaps on which I might just expand in future.

my carriage awaits

RA Summer Exhib

two images from

‘Restricted View’  by me

 

pink gin and

Lamb Cutlets Reform at source

Elsie with Beau Brummell

arty shot and …

diavolo pizza in old favourite post-Prom haunt

Tate Britain

Omelette Arnold Bennett at source (Savoy Grill)

and roast guinea pig to follow

new Gatsby … great!

The Tracks of my Gears

I’m writing this a day ahead because I’m going away
Going clubbing in That London in a rather fancy way
And waiting for a van with new tv and broadband hub
Makes me, I think, a member of a far more boring club

We’re now inside the window where delivery is due
The tracking site tells me the van has fourteen more to do
Before it gets to my place and delivers me my shit
And so, in just an hour or so, I can instal my kit

So why have I been sitting, since the text showed on my phone,
For over five long hours doing nothing, all alone?
I’m leaving, or I should be, on that midnight train to Georgia Euston
So I should be getting ready, press my suit and put my shoes on

But I’m mesmerised to watch the dot that shows me where it’s at
Always sitting, hitting keys, and just refreshing like a prat
It’s been on number 55 for longer than I’d care
Perhaps he’s found some extra action with a lonely housewife there

In the old days we would moan that we’d be waiting all day long,
For things that never came or when they did the time was wrong
But now that I can track the damn things electronic-ly
I’m even more distracted then I ever used to be!

Work In (You Call This) Progress (?)

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I’ll be honest with you, it’s been a mucked-up week. I’ve bought bridges for banjoleles, shirts and ties to go clubbing in (for which reason I may not be able to post a blog next Wednesday but will report on the events the following Wodensdag) and set up the Fringe show online catalogue entry (among other shit).

So not only have I dedicated no time to blogging (again) but I also have failed to write the pome/rap/grimey piece that I was hoping to add to the show repertoire.

So I’ll cripple two birds with one hockey stick and share the rubbish I’ve sketched out so far, pretending I’m doing it to give insights into the writing process. The end product will be interesting to compare, as it will either be a shining piece of sociological satire and wit or a crumpled ball of paper in a bin. Place your bets now …

As is often the case I started with the punchline and have tried to justify it with a whole load of preceding drivel … which goes like this…

They used to say if something isn’t broke, don’t fix it
Now it’s more a case of if you isn’t woke, don’t mix it!
I used to think of culture as a pick’n’mix counter
Takin’ anything from anywhere in any size amounts, yeah

I listen to Flamenco while I’s knockin’ up a curry
And sing along in Tagalog; I didn’t really worry
‘Bout performin’ silly verses in a crap Welsh accent
Never gave a lot of thought ’bout what the fuckin’ hell that meant

Now enjoyin’ somethin’ comin’ from another race or nation
The PC crowd, they calls it cultural appropriation
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxs’thing about sex/sexuality

And you can’t be sayin’ nothin’ without someone gets offended
…………………………………………………………………

blah

blah

blah

blah

then the brilliant final couplet that might get a laugh but which I don’t want youse guys stealing before I’ve found a place for it.

So now I want to go to bed. Go away.

We Ate at Cindy’s

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Another piece of juvenilia
Found inside an old green folder
Based on Song of Hiawatha
(That based on the Kalevala)
Print from old dot matrix printer
Scanned and OCR converted
Copied here for your amusement
Because your blogger can’t be bothered
Can’t be arsed to write some new stuff …

THE SONG OF ALEXANDRA
by Dai Wandsworth Lowefellow

In an attic, over Cindy’s,
High above the streets of Warwick,
Standing by a red-hot oven;
Working wonders by the oven,
Stands the lovely Alexandra
Cooking fillet steak with peppers;
Cookinq Dover sole with prawns on;
Cooking chicken, tender poussin.

In the restaurant below her;
In the room one flight below her,
Is a paradise for taste buds,
Known throughout the town of Warwick;
Spoken of in tones of wonder;
Tones of reverential wonder:
Called by men, Upstairs at Cindy’s.

Here, the atmosphere informal;
Here, the ambience relaxing;
Here, the menu unpretentious,
Boasts the most exciting starters;
Boasts the most amazing dishes,
Served with freshest veg or salad
(Take your choice of veg or salad).
Take your choice from Cindys wine list:
Short in length but high in standard;
Every single one a winner.
(But be warned ye novice diners,
Ye of little viniculture,
There’s no point in seeking guidance;
Guidance from the friendly garçon;
From the ever-helpful David:
“Wine? That’s not my cup of tea, sir;
“Strictly heap big beer drinker.”)

Hot the fat to cook the french fries;
Cook the crisp and golden french fries
(How down-market, cooking french fries).
Still the lovely Alexandra;
Still the lonely unsung hero
Bending to the diners’ wishes,
Cooks the crisp and golden french fries;
Cooks the leeks and fresh zucchini
(Courgettes, also called zucchini:
‘Courgettes’ didn’t fit the metre):
Conjures up delicious flavours;
Conjures up the choicest dishes;
For discerning folk in Warwick.

‘Er upstairs, the unsung hero,
As instructed by her husband:
He, the ever helpful waiter;
He, the one who takes the orders;
Takes them up to Alexandra:
He who waits on grateful diners;
Waits for them to drink their coffee —
Hopes they’ll finish off their coffee;
Go before the Red Lion closes:
Soon, before the Red Lion closes,
Freeing him to have a quick one:
Davenport’s best fire-water
(All right then, a pint of bitter),
While the lovely Alexandra;
Still the lonely unsung hero,
Smokes a fag and does the dishes,
High above the streets Warwick,
In an attic over Cindy’s.

 

(c1985)

Demention of Manacles

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Why has your loyal correspondent not done much writing, of blogs or novellas, this week?

 

Because your loyal and stupid correspondent has been and gone and bought himself a three-dimensional printer (for a project he can’t really talk about on here).

But he hasn’t bought just any 3-D printer. Oh no, he’s bought a cheap self-assembly, for-geeks-only Chinese clone of a high-end printer for under £100.

OK, it saves him around £600, but that’s £600 he could actually just about afford (for reasons which I can’t go into yet) and could well regain anyway with the proceeds from the project he can’t talk about, probably not ever, never.

And it causes him a lot of agonising, swearing and probably strain on his ageing (and broken) heart.

But it’s sort of assembled. It sort of switches on without going bang, and the software in Chinese has been replaced with a free download software he can understand (sort of). Maybe he’ll summon the courage to connect everything up and get all the drivers loaded and the plastic thread fed in and print some trivial shape to test it soon.

But first, he needs a long lie down. Go away.

Carmelia Spillsby’s Tonsils

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In my indefatigable quest to dig out and digitise my ‘juvenilia’ for posterity, prosperity, asperity and anything else like that, I discovered this little piece what I wrote for my kid sister, Karen, when she went into a cottage hospital in Nottingham to have her tonsils removed, c1971. I’d have been around 19, so I have no excuse.

I seem to recall that the nurses (whom I think were all nuns), found it hilarious and took copies, so my scrawl may not be the only copy in existence. Until now, when it is released into the wild of wordpress…

 

Carmelia Spillsby’s Tonsils

xxxLittle Carmelia Spillsby was quite glad of the change when she went into hospital. All the nurses were nice and friendly and the doctor who was going to take out her tonsils kept giving her sweets when Sister wasn’t looking. And she had plenty of books and jigsaws, jigsaws and books, and still more jigsaws to keep her happy.
xxxBut on the day of the operation, she was also glad to forget about all those endless jigsaw puzzles.
xxxThe operation was straightforward and successful. Carmelia slept through it, dreaming she was a jigsaw. The surgeon, who was as fed up with tonsils as she was with jigsaws, got the operation over quickly and efficiently, and put her tonsils in a specimen jar. Carmelia was wheeled off to her bed, where she soon woke up to see the friendly faces of the nurses smiling down at her.
xxxFor the rest of the week, cards, flowers, grapes and presents arrived from her family and school friends, as well as regular visitors. Soon Carmelia was thoroughly settled in, and of course that was just in time for her to go home again. She got dressed and off she went with her mother to catch the bus home.

xxxBut meanwhile, what about her tonsils? Left all alone in their jar, they soon became lonely and throatsick. Then they noticed that the lid on their jar had not been replaced properly. Freedom beckoned! They climbed out and then — they couldn’t believe their luck! The door to the laboratory was open.
xxxOut they crept, just in time to see Carmelia and her mother disappearing round the corner.
xxxQuickly but quietly (have you ever heard of noisy tonsils?) they followed them to the bus stop.
xxxNobody noticed them as they got on, not even the conductor, so they didn’t have to pay any fare, which was just as well as they had no money. Neither did anyone see them get off the bus and follow the Spillsbys home and up to the doorstep and into the hall.
xxxUntil Mrs Spillsby turned to close the door and looked down at the floor. There, on the lino, she saw two small red things, quivering with (though she wasn’t to know what they were quivering with) excitement.
xxx“Eurgh!” she exclaimed. Carmelia turned and looked too. Neither of them had ever seen tonsils out on their own before, so they didn’t recognise what — or whose — they were. The tonsils were just about to say, “hello; we’ve come back,” which Carmelia wouldn’t have liked much, because they’d been hurting her for months, when Mr Spillsby stamped on them and squashed them flat.
xxxCarmelia went to fetch a dustpan and brush. She helped her mother sweep them away and put them into the dustbin, and was never bothered by her tonsils again.

the end

(So how did you expect me to finish the story?!)

 

Art and Artifice

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A thousand apologies, effendi!

I was sweltering and schlepping in Glasgow yesterday, for the annual GSA degree show. Since the iconic Mackintosh building went up in a blaze of performance art, it’s been a matter of going from the Trongate in the South East (BA art) to the Glue Factory (MFA), up beyond the M8 in Cowcaddens, via the new college building on Renfrew St (design and stuff).

So, a great day out but well-knackered by the trane back to Ed.

So here’s a few pics of scenery, artwork and installasions trouvées:

And a page of graduating Elsies …

…who can be seen on my Elsie pages at my site

Which’ll have to do for now. See ya!