Sean Scully

May 24, 2019

It requires a sense of self importance on a tragic scale to place a Turner masterpiece between two lollops of sub-Rothko wank.

Resto 12 Irvin, Crouch End

May 14, 2019

In Crouch End to celebrate a friend’s impending departure on a three month jungle placement we couldn’t get in to our first choice, Bistro Aix, due to a party booking. Irvin turned out to be an excellent substitution.

Arriving early we warmed up with a Bellini and had a look at the menu while we waited for the rest of the party to arrive. Irvin’s thing is Scottish-Italian food, making me think of Paolozzi, Nardini, Nutini, benedetti, Ianucci, Macari … in fact quite a dazzling array of good people in the Italo-Scot line.

The most obvious manifestation of Irvin’s lineage comes in the shape of haggis arancini. Well, we had to have some of those! They were excellent – nutty haggis meat and not too heavy on the stomach. My own starter of freshly prepared crab was also very good with a healthy flesh to veg ratio. A main of venison was cooked to perfection and arrived with a generous portion of roasted new spuds. I was tempted to splurge on dessert but wiser heads prevailed, despite the temptation of home made ices (I’ll have to go back for those).

A small but well-chosen wine list made it difficult to decide what to stick alongside but an Alto Adige white followed by a Puglian red was a knockout combination and helped conversation along admirably. And then, and then .. what this? Three grappas on offer? Well it would seem daft not to give two of them a go when celebrating. Thank heavens for the long-ish walk home to walk it all off.

With excellent service throughout and design that shows a close attention to detail Irvin is a very happy-making place. And the tempting bar makes it an attractive venue for a pitstop of wine and small plates during the upcoming Crouch End Festival. I’ll be back.

9/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

Uncle Vanya at Hope Theatre

May 8, 2019

The curse of Sport v Art struck again last night as once more I missed out on one of the matches of the century in favour of spending an evening at the theatre. However, Uncle Vanya at the Hope Theatre was such an excellent production that I have no regrets whatsoever about missing Liverpool’s romping victory over the smug Catalans.

The adaptation, by Brendan Murray, skilfully strips away a couple of characters in order to deliver a sleek 80 minute version that loses none of the brittle tragicomedy of Chekhov’s original. This allows director James Stone to give us a very intimate view of the relationships between the characters in the small space above the Hope & Anchor on Upper Street.

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The set is minimal but filled with telling detail – I especially liked the map of Africa. In our group we disagreed about which performers we thought were the strongest but all agreed that they were excellent. I especially liked Adrian Wheeler’s Vanya, he delivered a performance which by turns (and often at the same time) brought out the comedy, bitterness and stoicism of a character with whom it was all too easy for me to empathise!

I heartily recommend this show.

#theatre #London

 

Sport & Leisure History Seminar 2019 #7

May 5, 2019

Monday May 13th 2019

How Could it be that You Just Want to Play a Game, and Somehow Somebody Somewhere has to Sanction it’: The 1994 Women’s Rugby World Cup.

It’s a real pleasure to be one of the convenors for the British Society of Sports History sponsored Sport & Leisure History seminar series at the Insitute of Historical Research. And for the new term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

The Rugby Union season will draw to a close in style with Lydia Furse of De Montfort University giving a paper on the second edition of the Women’s World Cup in 1994. Do come along for a story of female triumph over male machinations. Lydia has given us a sneak preview of one of her images from the tournament …

AF Thistle.jpgSo in this year of the Women’s Football and Netball World Cups do come along to celebrate another women’s sport and to listen to a talented young researcher. An abstract can be found below.

In January 1994, the Netherlands withdrew as hosts for the proposed second women’s rugby world cup. Within days of the news breaking, a determined group of Scottish rugby players had begun to arrange an alternative world championship in Edinburgh for April that same year. The 1994 tournament served as a test to the independence of women’s rugby, demonstrated the extremes of relations between male and female rugby administrations, and highlighted the irrepressible enthusiasm of women who just wanted to play their game. Individuals took action in the face of perceived injustice; whether explicitly feminist or not, these actions occurred in a wider political context. This paper explores the events surrounding the 1994 Women’s Rugby World Championship to explore how women’s rugby can be more than just a game.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series. For the details of seminars forthcoming in 2019 go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the John S Cohen on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

 

Tomasz Lis

April 29, 2019
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Chopin. Good at the piano.

It’s a long time since I wrote about music. Not because I haven’t been to anything interesting but more because I got out of the habit. To review big concerts or productions seems pointless when the major critics/media outlets cover that kind of thing quite well.* And while I’ve been to dozens of small concerts over the past few years I haven’t come across many that were outstanding, even if most of them were enjoyable.

Well, yesterday I did attend a small concert of disproportionate excellence to the venue and crowd, Tomasz Lis performing for the Chopin Society at Westminster Cathedral Hall. The first half of Mozart and Bach was good but would have benefitted from sticking to a rondo and Partita – the Bach cantatas, while crowd pleasers, gave us a little too much of a good thing before the bog break. It didn’t help that Bach had seemingly written his Partita less as a solo piece than a chamber work for piano, hearing aid and death rattle.

Fortunately, the excellence of Lis’s Chopin playing in the second half was such that I didn’t even notice the grunts, coughs, mumblings and general crapness of the Westminster crew. His playing was a of a technical standard and emotional intensity that few of the pianists I’ve seen perform this material (and that’s a lot) have been able to match. An encore of Bach’s DMinor Concerto (cribbed from an oboe piece of Montecello) capped off a perfect sequence of music.

It’s subjective I know but on this performance I do hope Mr Lis gets a gig in the splendid venue he deserves very soon.

*One exception to this being the absence of coverage of Good Cop/Bad Cop’s gig at King Tut’s the other week. Alas, Matt Helders’ début as a frontman was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen. And that includes Radioheads’ bizarre outing as support to The Sultans of Ping at the Riverside in around 1991. Never has a support act been so misaligned with the headliner. I can still picture the beer bottles of disgruntled Ping-ites raining onto the stage.

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Matt Helders’ moonface shines through the luminescent fog of his own incompetence.

Resto 11 La Petite Auberge, Islington

April 25, 2019

Our go to pre-Almeida place is usually Radici but this week we fancied a change. La Petite Auberge is only marginally more distant from the theatre and at six on a Tuesday there was plenty of room inside, and given the state of traffic on Upper Street a pavement table wasn’t especially alluring.

The room is French-themed without being over the top, while on the sound side we had a mega-mix of mostly not-so-obvious chansons.

The menu is old fashioned bistrot fare. A good thing.  I didn’t see any need to look beyond the specials and took an artichoke salad up front with a pan-fried trout to follow. The salad had a good balance of flavour while the trout was excellent – skilfully filletted and done to perfection with plenty of buttery sauce.

This was neighbourhood restaurant cooking of a standard that you don’t find in Paris so much these days unless you know where to look. With a house white to wash it down we were set up for an excellent night of Chekhov.

8/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

A Soldier’s Song Script

April 19, 2019

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It’s few weeks after the last performance of A Soldier’s Song and now it feels like I’m ready to move on to writing something new. Fortunately there’s the Crouch End Festival to think of, as well as a piece of historical writing to be done on Frantz Reichel. But if anyone would like to give me feedback on the script for ASoSo it can be found below …

A Soldier’s Song Final Script

Sport & Leisure History Seminar 2019 #6

April 18, 2019

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Recreational football in the 1950s

April 29th March 2019

‘More than an inconsequential weekly kick-around’: but what did it mean? Some reflections on recreational football in twentieth century England

It’s a real pleasure to be one of the convenors for the British Society of Sports History sponsored Sport & Leisure History seminar series at the Insitute of Historical Research. And for the new term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

We kick off (arf!) with Prof Dil Porter of De Montfort University who has chosen to peer below the depths of élite sport and look at what the playing of the game meant for the ordinary man and woman in the street who did that thing in their local streets and parks.

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Recreational football in the 2000s

This is a subject on which I (and many others I suspect) will have strong views; and no little nostalgia. Do come along for will be a fascinating exploration of history from below with one of the nation’s leading historians of sport. An abstract can be found below.

‘More than an inconsequential weekly kick-around’: but what did it mean? Some reflections on recreational football in twentieth century England

Cultural and social historians, if they have reflected on football at all, have tended to focus on the elite game; what happened in and around stadiums, rather than what happened every weekend in the park, on the marshes and in other spaces devoted to public recreation. Yet as Ross McKibbin observed in Classes and Cultures, ‘football was played by more people more enthusiastically than any other game’. The intention is to explore ways in which club archives, local newspapers and other sources, including autobiographies and fiction, can help us connect with and reconfigure our understanding of ‘the people’s game’.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series. For the details of seminars forthcoming in 2019 go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the John S Cohen on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

 

Resto 10 The Clydeside Distillery, Glasgow

April 17, 2019
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This is the still room (not the café!)

After a disappointing experience with Gusto we were determined to find somewhere that celebrated local Scottish produce and boy did we get it. We’d already decided to do a tour at The Clyde Distillery but had an hour to kill before the only one available was due to begin. It seemed natural that we’d do that in TCD’s café, especially given that this stretch of the Clyde isn’t (yet) blessed with other eateries.

The menu is simple – local produce served on platters to share if you want more than a sandwich or a soup. We were happy to pile into a platter and saving our powder for the tour decided to skip the rather tempting whisky flight with matching cheese in favour of a small glass of white each.

On the platter you get a selection of high quality Scottish munchies – salmon cured two ways, oat crackers, olives (?!), meats and the stars of the show, three local cheeses. Of these the Tain Cheddar was an absolute beauty and I want more of it soonest. It could have done with a bit of veg though. Service was excellent and the staff well-trained in explaining the origins of the food and the nature of the multitude of whiskies available alongside.

At under fifteen quid a head it was the perfect warm up for an excellent tour of the distillery with a very able guide (I know a thing or two about such things). Such things tend to stick to a fairly predictable routine but TCD, whose whisky is yet to be mature enough to serve, give it a wrinkle by giving you five classic Scotch samples paired with locally produced vegan-friendly chocolates. With spectacular views up the Clyde it was definitely a highlight of an excellent weekend in Glasgow.

8/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

Resto 9 Gusto, Glasgow

April 14, 2019

It’s difficult to live up to the standard that Paesano sets for Italian in Glasgow but it was Friday night and I wasn’t willing to queue half the evening. So we opted for Gusto based on it being the nearest point for curing ravenousness.

The room, a former bank, is plush and we had plenty of space to not feel hemmed in. A pretty extensive set menu means it’s not really worth looking at the à la carte. Or should we have done?

Bruschetta up front was pretty much tomatoes on bread (I know that’s what bruschetta is but it can be more than that) though the calamari alongside it was better.

The main of rump steak was not really pink as ordered (Christ knows what the well done would have looked like) and arrived without chips.

Nae chups i’ Glasgae!

That was scandalous but the courgette ‘salad’ on the side was just a wet waste of jaw.

Enough savagery. The Chablis was excellent, as was the service. In fact Glasgow sets a high standard for service in the UK, from King Tut’s to the Cathedral front of house was professional to the core.

5/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …


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