Crouch End Festival 2018

May 14, 2018

New Writing Image for Programme

Now that A Midsummer Night’s Dream has finished it’s time to flag up my own next production with the Crouch End Players as part of the Crouch End Festival. As part of an evening of new writing I’m directing a new translation of the French classic, A Door (Should Be Either Open Or Shut).

The original is a short play by the Romantic writer Alfred de Musset, perhaps most famous in this country for being the lover of Georges Sand which inspired both of them to write classic memoirs of their time together.

The original concerns the romantic tribulations of a pair of aristocrats in mid-ninteenth century Paris but I’ve updated it to post-War London with saltier dialogue and a real period feel.

The venue once more is the Great Northern Railway Tavern, who were such excellent hosts for Corbyn Island in 2017 and there will be three shows at 7pm on the 15th, 16th and 17th June. Tickets are free and available from crouchendplayers@hotmail.com. It would be great to see you there!

#theatre #London #Musset

Sport and Leisure History Seminar

May 8, 2018

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One of the perks of being a part-time academic is having to do lots of unpaid work aimed at raising one’s profile within your discipline. However, sometimes this work is more a pleasure than a chore. Such is the case with being a co-convenor on the IHR’s (Institute of Historical Research) Sport and Leisure History seminar series.

Our next seminar is by Professor Matt Taylor of De Montfort University on sport and the BBC during World War Two. The paper is drawn from research from Matt’s book on Sport and World War Two which should be appearing towards the end of 2018 so there’ll be plenty of scope in questions for discussing the role of sport both in the home front and the armed forces. The abstract appears below.

 

Prof. Matt Taylor will be speaking in the Past and Present room at the IHR at 5.30pm on Monday 14th May 2018. 

Abstract

Existing studies of the wartime BBC have explored the role of the corporation in promoting a unitary sense of British identity (Nicholas, 1996; Hajkowski, 2010; Baade, 2012). Perhaps because it is often erroneously dismissed as having had little wartime significance, sport has been almost completely ignored in this literature. This paper sets out to put this right by examining how sport was treated by the BBC during the Second World War and the extent to which the conflict altered existing relationships between the broadcaster and sporting bodies.

Drawing mainly on material contained in the BBC Written Archive at Caversham Park, this paper will consider three main aspects of the relationship between the corporation and wartime sport. First of all, it will assess the role of the BBC as a facilitator, as well as a straightforward broadcaster, of sporting events, connecting this to wider debates over popular recreation and public morale. Secondly, it will gauge the success of the BBC in accommodating the national-regional tensions endemic in wartime Britain. Finally, it will examine how sport was ‘represented’ in BBC programming; in live and delayed transmission but also in the ‘retrospective’ features which became a characteristic of wartime sports broadcasting. The main argument of the paper is that sport in general (and certain sports in particular) became key elements of the BBC’s wartime policy to maintain civilian and military morale; and that in the process, the connections between sport and notions of class, war and Britishness were redefined.

 

#History #BBC

Resto 13 The Life Goddess Store Street

May 7, 2018

This was a very pleasant surprise. I’d walked past the Life Goddess Store many times on my way to Buckbuck or the IHR but never been in. To be honest I’d been put off by the name, which evokes in a man of my class and generation an god-awful 70s Fontana paperback with some hippy in the lotus position on the cover.

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The Life Goddess – not a 70s earth mother fantasy novel

Which isn’t fair. I was meeting a friend with a Greek husband who said that it was his go to place for genuine Greek cooking and recommendations don’t get much better than that. The room is bigger than it looks from the exterior, with a more restauranty section to the rear and a convivial café style area at the front. A gaggle of friendly fellers behind the counter kept service bubbling along contentedly.

In the afternoon there were a selection of meze and salads plus a few hot dishes. Having a seminar to go to I decided to keep it light and went for an okra salad. Good choice, well cooked okra is one of those pleasures that as a child of Ferryhill I never knew existed till I was about 23. The sauce was rich and tomato based with generous lumps of cheese to give it a bit of texture. The house white alongside was a perfect accompaniment, even if it did slightly impact my attention span during Amelia’s talk!

In a  pretty hectic week an hour’s natter with a good friend was just about the perfect way to spend a Monday afternoon. I’ll be back.

9/10

#food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

May 2, 2018

 

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I’d meant to write a post about seeing Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream back in April but never quite got round to it. So now I can use it as an intro to a forthcoming production of Shakespeare’s classic with which I’m involved on the production side of things.

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to see the opera. I love Britten’s music (especially his rarely performed St. Nicholas) but three hours of sung Shakespeare? Mebbe not. As it turned out it was one of the best nights at the theatre for a long, long time. The singing was excellent but what stood out for me was the clarity of the production. This was aided by the way in which Britten had adapted the text – the plot and characters came across with perfect lucidity.

It was also a triumph of stagecraft. The use of bold colour to delineate the different groups in the play (aristos, mechanicals, fairies) had both utility and beauty. When ENO revive it (and I’m certain they will) I’ll be getting another ticket so I can enjoy it again.

But if you need a fix of Shakespeare sooner than that then don’t miss out on the Crouch End Players’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which runs from Wednesday 9th to Saturday 12th May. While not having quite the same budget as a West End opera house the same boldness of approach to design and text has been taken, making this a quick-moving, contemporary production.

Details of how to get tickets are on the poster below …

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#Theatre #London

Resto 12 National Gallery Dining Rooms

April 29, 2018

Having been to the excellent Monet and Architecture in the Sainsbury Wing we didn’t fancy walking through filthy April weather to eat and decided to go to the NGDR even though the barren expanse of the room had something of the air of the Marie Celeste about it.

We were given an excellent table by the window with a view over the square and, more immediately, the queue of bedraggled arthounds queueing to get through the desultory security check.

They’ve stripped back the menu in here since last I visited so you now have precisely three options of meat, fish and veg for the first two courses, and a marginally broader selection for the desserts. But at £19 for two courses or £22 for three the limited choice is the sacrifice you make for economy.

I went for the beetroot slanted salmon up front and then a cheese tortellini for main. The salmon was a hefty amount with a crunchy and refreshing cucumber and fennel salad. The tortellini were perfectly cooked and delicious with enough sauce for the job. But I wouldn’t have minded more. House white (French, Rhone Valley) was fine for the price.

Why it was empty on a Friday evening I’ve no idea. The service was excellent, you’re paying around 30 quid a head (more if you want sides) to eat in a room with a world class view with upscale nappery and fighting irons. Maybe it’s more of a lunchtime joint but it’s a good post-exhibition option if you want straight up modern cooking at a good price.

8/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Sport and Leisure History Seminar

April 28, 2018

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One of the perks of being a part-time academic is having to do lots of unpaid work aimed at raising one’s profile within your discipline. However, sometimes this work is more a pleasure than a chore. Such is the case with being a co-convenor on the IHR’s (Institute of Historical Research) Sport and Leisure History seminar series.

Our next seminar is by a postgrad researcher, Amelia Clegg, of Birkbeck College. Friends and perhaps some readers of this blog (the link will take you to a post I wrote about Birkbeck many moons ago) will know that Birkbeck is a place very close to my heart. So it’s a great pleasure to host Amelia for her first paper at the IHR whose abstract concerning the British Army and the South African War is included below.

My own thesis touched on South Africa in several places but one source I wasn’t able to include in any substantial way was the surprisingly enjoyable read by the official historians of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.* An illustration of its less than sensationalist style can be ascertained from the following quote …

Captain Dibley was almost on the top of the hill when hit. He had a dim recollection of the gallant Adjutant of the Royal Irish Fusiliers racing up almost alongside him at a distance of a few paces only. He snapped his revolver at him, but only to fall senseless next moment with a bullet through the head. Marvellous though it seems he made a comparatively speedy recovery, and he was able to ride into Ladysmith, at the head of his company, in the following February, having been in hospital in the besieged town in the interval. Evidence of the temporary nature of the discomfort caused by a bullet in the head is afforded by the fact that he is today one of the most best bridge-players in the regiment.

So that’s all good.

Amelia Clegg will be speaking in the Past and Present room at the IHR at 5.30pm on Monday 30th April. 

Abstract

‘This paper concerns itself with the divergent character of masculinities, manliness and manhood through examining the British soldier in the South African War, and the extent to which gender affected soldiering during a colonial conflict. I investigate the competing and changing nature of masculinities, manliness and manhood, and analyse the impact of gender on the identity and leadership of the British battalion officer of the Coldstream Guards. I argue that the leadership styles of the regimental officers were shaped by their personal histories, circumstances and professional experiences that likewise resulted in a gendered performance of command.

I assess the extent to which the change in the nature of the conflict, from set-piece battles at the start of the war in October 1899, to guerrilla warfare from September 1900 onwards, contributed to the divergence of masculinities of two case studies, Major Arthur Henniker and Major Harry Shute, and how the shift in the war impacted their leadership styles. Following the disbandment of the battalions into separate companies with the officers having to deal with small bands of Boer guerrillas, a greater deal of individualism and initiative was demanded of Henniker and Shute.

I additionally consider Boer masculinities, and the Boer commando as institution in comparison to the British Army in order to illustrate how the personal attitudes of both sides were shaped. This comparative approach demonstrates how personal attitudes changed and adapted over the course of the war as the two sides came into closer contact with one another. I closely analyse the variants of gender within these two opposing sides not only through my discussion of the differences.’

* Romer, Sir C. F. and Mainwaring, A. E., The Second Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the South African War, with a Description of the Operations in the Aden Hinterland (London, 1908)

#History #London

Resto 11 Pizza X Drink, Stroud Green

April 16, 2018

On the site of the now defunct Gustavo’s (not missed) Pizza X Drink has another go at the bargain pizza market. They pull it off nicely. They’ve decluttered the room, a good thing, and kept the big windows so you can do some people watching.

Water was delivered immediately I was sat down (good call as I had a raging thirst from watching Middlesex crush Northants on the hottest day of the year so far) and I perused the menu. It looks more complicated than it actually is. Either you pick your own sauce and toppings or you take one ready made. I went for a Mexican with a side salad and a pint of Stella.

The beer was chilled and delivered by the manager himself (a cheerful feller who was also busy training his staff, good thing). The pizza was good without being amazing but at £5 for a man-sized portion I wasn’t complaining. Properly fiery jalapeños, ground beef and onion were perfect for me. The disappointing thing was the base, which was a bit on the pale side, I’d have liked a bit more crunch. The salad was a generous measure and they remembered to hold the red onion.

All in all Pizza X Drink is perfect if you want a quick pit stop to meet friends or on the way out. And for a total of £13 you’d find it hard to eat that well for that kind of money elsewhere in Stroud Green.

8/10

#Food #London #N8

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Sport and Leisure History Seminar

April 9, 2018

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One of the perks of being a part-time academic is having to do lots of unpaid work aimed at raising ones profile within your discipline. However, sometimes this work is more a pleasure than a chore. Such is the case with being a co-convenor on the IHR’s (Institute of Historical Research) Sport and Leisure History seminar series.

I’ve been the co-ordinator for this term’s series which has the theme of the military and war. And we’ve got a cracking line up of speakers, beginning with Prof Gary Sheffield of the University of Wolverhampton speaking on sport during World War 1.

These seminars are free and open to both academics and the interested public. Come along to the IHR in Senate House on Monday at 5.30 to hear Gary present his latest research, and to have the opportunity for discussion afterwards.

I’ll be flagging up future speakers in future posts so keep an eye out if the subject catches your imagination.

Resto 10 Radici, Islington

March 21, 2018

In Islington for a production of Tennessee Williams’s Summer and Smoke at the Almeida we were looking for something quick before showtime. The bar at the A being packed Radici directly opposite the theatre seemed a good option.

Radici does Italian and while the modern/modernist room doesn’t scream italia the bambina they’ve employed to bowl around in a charming fashion certainly gave the place a homely feel.

We were in a hurry but we were also starving so couldn’t avoid ordering a couple of cichetti to warm up. The test of an Italian for me is often the state of their calamari. Radici’s was excellent, putting to shame the filthy greasy stuff served up at Prezzo. This calamari was of the tentacular variety with fluffy batter and a mean (in a good way) squid ink mayonnaise. I wanted them all to myself. As I did also the aubergine, smoky and luscious, that was on the other plate. Unfortunately marital bliss doesn’t usually ride on the back of one side of the deal scoffing all the grub so I grudgingly moderated my intake.

A main of pizza was a good choice for the hungry and the pizza was too big for me to consume in the time available. Zucchini fritti were as good as the calamari, being straw-choppped and light as a feather. Booze of a Trebbiano variety likewise had to be wolfed down as showtime approached but being delicious I was happy to do that thing.

We were in unison in thinking that we must go back as soon as we can to eat at leisure and check out the desserts. With excellent service (especially the waiter giving us a reminder that we would have to leave soon at just the right time) Radici works very well.

8/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 9 Polpo, Covent Garden

March 11, 2018

Odd that I should never have been in Polpo before and this omission was rectified for a birthday celebration prior to Macbeth at the National. After some table shenanigans (we were moved twice) we settled in to look at a particularly appealing menu. Polpo bills itself as small plates so I asked the waiter how many we should order between two. He was of the opinion that if we were five at table we should order five dishes. Which seemed a bit cryptic.

So we used our own judgement. While we worked out what we were having we supped on Bellinis (decent, if not outstanding) and grazed appetisers of olives and smoky nuts. As far as I could see a tagliatelle was good enough for me and we decided to share a salad of courgette and basil. The tagliatelle was excellent – plenty of deep flavoured sauce with good lumps of flaky chicken and mushrooms. I couldn’t resist snaffling a slither of venison meat ball from across the way and that too was top drawer. But the star was the salad! Thinly sliced raw courgette in a yummy dressing.

There’s such a selection of wine that it was very difficult to pick something out. A carafe of 50cl of Soave (we thought we’d stick to the Veneto) went down very well. After a shaky start service improved drastically and a nice touch was a sprig of mimosa brought by the management for the lady in our party to celebrate International Women’s Day. I could do without the tastefully distressed faux authentic trimmings in the room but with superb food and booze coming in at under thirty quid a head I can see why the Polpo CG was packed even at teatime on a Thursday. Likely I’ll be back too.

8/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap


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