Showing posts from November, 2011

George Orwell, The Moon Under Water and the absence of liver sausage

George Orwell - an Old Etonian who was reduced to destitution by theft then cannily turned it to his advantage by writing Down and out in Paris and London - produced an essay for the Evening Standard in 1946 about the perfect pub. In his mind's eye it was called The Moon Under Water and there were ten things that he said it would have to possess.

* The architecture and fittings should be Victorian
* Games, including darts, are played only in the public part of the bar
* There's no radio or piano, so it's quiet enough to talk
* The motherly barmaids know the customers by name and are chatty
* It sells tobacco and cigarettes, aspirin and stamps and lets you use the phone
* There's a snack counter that sells liver sausage sandwiches, cheese and pickles, mussels and caraway seed biscuits
* Upstairs, six days a week, you can get a good lunch - for example, a cut off a joint, two veg and a jam roly-poly - for three shillings
* It should sell a creamy sort of draught stout, w…

Welcome to The Nightjar... or not

Last Wednesday I headed to The Nightjar, which is on City Road just off the Old Street roundabout and had recently been called one of the top ten bars in the world.

It's supposed to be hard to find.

Just a doorway between two cafes. You've got to watch out for the sign.

But I'd found it! That was a good start. So I headed down the stairs into the "speakeasy" - and it looked OK. A bit less spacious than I was expecting from the photos on the website but I had a chance to look around, take in the surroundings and find a table: there were two spare and a seat by the bar.

I sat down to wait for my friend, who was coming straight from work, and opened the drinks menu....

At which point a waitress came over and told me that they were fully booked and there was no point staying any longer. There were no "reservation" signs out and she wasn't especially apologetic or polite.

It advises on the website "Thurs-Sat reservations highly recommended". As…

Canary Wharf on why it doesn't want sex clubs

An announcement is expected soon from Tower Hamlets about its proposal to ban the borough's eleven strip, pole-dancing and lap-dancing clubs. As I wrote earlier, I took part in the consultation procedure because I live in the borough and am on a neighbourhood committee and it was pretty evident that the decision had already been taken, with council officials asserting repeatedly that the draft policy was "nil tolerance" for sex clubs.

The ostensible grounds for this were that no one who lives in the borough wants them there, though I'd assumed that was what they were supposed to be discovering from the the focus group? As it was, the five Muslim men on the panel were straightforwardly against the clubs and the three lily-livered non-Muslims took a more liberal line that could be broadly defined as nimbyism. We weren't keen on having them near us but wouldn't like to ban them.

As I wrote the other day, Rania Khan, who is the public face of this campaign, has ti…

The Star of Bethnal Green: support your local riot-damaged pub

Monday August 8 was riot day in Bethnal Green. It was the school holidays and it was hot. Mario Denotti, 35, is the general manager of The Star of Bethnal Green, which was right at the epicentre of the trouble, and came to east London from Sardinia.

"We didn't board the place up because we didn't know anything was likely to happen - the police didn't say anything," he explained, standing beside the bar in his well-proportioned pub on Bethnal Green Road, which is still marred by two enormous broken windows. "The first thing we heard was when our IT guy came downstairs and said there was a rumour on Twitter that some people would be coming down here that evening." You can follow the pub on @StarBethGreen.

"It all happened between 6pm and 9pm. There was a massive crowd of kids around outside and then all our customers ran away. We started to see a really tense situation and then decided to close the doors. There were hundreds of kids but the first thi…

Olympic torch thingy under construction

This is the current state of play with the Olympic torch/flame holder tower, as seen from a train leaving London at Stratford (so apologies for the quality of the photo).

For some reason it reminds me of the creature in Alien: the first film, when it's mainly tail and comes zipping out of John Hurt.

And my cousin Helen says that there's something of the "red weed" episode in Wars of the Worlds about it...

So definitely a sci-fi vibe... I only live up the road from the Olympic Park and was quite gobsmacked by the price of the tickets. Let's hope that the event itself next year turns out to be more ET than Predator.

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When I grow up I'd like to be a teenage cartoon character...

Spotted this on High Street Kensington, just around the corner from the beautiful art deco Associated Newspapers building.

And it reminded me that I know at least two men who say that they decided to go into journalism because of Tin Tin.

You know who you are.

That is all.

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I was harassed outside sex club, says councillor

Rania Khan, 29, (below) is Tower Hamlets' councillor for Bromley-by Bow and has appeared a couple of times on the local London BBC this week, as the face of Tower Hamlets' proposed ban on lap-dancing and strip clubs.

Khan told me that her leading role in the campaign against the borough's sex clubs was in part the result of having been attacked outside the Nag's Head strip club on Whitechapel by a group of five men.

"I was walking past and five men in suits came and crowded round me. One said 'pull up your top, love' and in that moment I felt everything I believed in had been belittled. I felt really like a small little object. Had it not been on a high street..." She trailed away, suggestively. "They had formed a ring around me." She escaped physically unscathed.

It happened six years ago, she claims, the year that she stood to be an elected representative for the first time, at the age of 23. But she didn't report the incident to the p…