Archive for October, 2017

Publication: Cricket in the West Indies

October 31, 2017

Thanks to those generous folks at Taylor and Francis the first 50 people to access my latest article, The ‘White Man’s Game’? West Indian Cricket Tours of the 1900s can access the article for free at the link below …

http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/pFQ2VR6CR42ynrWFdWVC/full

It’s not just for academic specialists, I think the general reader who is interested in the history of cricket, the Caribbean or the British Empire would find it worth a look. I would write a summary here but it’s easier to reprint the abstract …

The 1900s saw two tours of the United Kingdom (UK) by a mixed race cricket team representing the West Indies. This paper argues that the tours were part of a concerted cultural campaign largely organized by the West India Committee to raise the profile of the British West Indian colonies in the Mother Country in the light of competition for favour among the settler colonies. It analyzes the selection of the team and its reception in the UK to argue that the existing literature has been mistaken in portraying the team to have been subject to consistent hostility due to the inclusion of black players in the touring party. Rather it is argued that the team of 1900 was largely welcomed as a truly representative West Indian team but that by 1906 a tightening of the definition of who could represent the empire on the sports field, influenced by the settlement of the South Africa War, meant that mixed race cricket would be rejected and the West Indians unjustly excluded from the Imperial Cricket Conference, which became an all whites club.

I should also warn that it discusses a distasteful, racist cartoon from the Edwardian period whose significance in the coverage of the tour I question. And I balance that illustration with some more positive coverage of the first West Indian teams to tour the UK in the 1900s.

YouthWI

‘Youthful cricketers’

#cricket #westindies

Resto 59 Boon Noon, Harringay

October 31, 2017

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Boon Noon’s been at the end of my road for a while so I was glad to finally pay a visit with my Mum after a tough day’s scouting a walk. It was 6 pm on a Monday so I wasn’t surprised that we were the only patrons, although they seemed to be doing a decent trade on the takeaway side of things. So the room felt a bit sparse, decorated in vaguely Thai style (I haven’t been) and a plethora of feel-good slogans that reminded me of Lester Nygaard’s home in Fargo.

The menu is a straightforward Thai offering at a reasonable price (c. £5 starters to share, c. £8/9 mains). We shared tempura veg and prawn crackers. The tempura was good – crunchy veg inside a light batter. Crackers were, well, crackers. My Green Curry was excellent, a proper amount of heat that was just the job for a wintry day, with generous amounts of chicken and veg and a dome of rice that filled me up for the rest of the evening.

Singhas at £3.50 washed it down and we were served by a cheery young feller. Several restaurants have bitten the dust in this location since I first moved to the area twenty odd years ago but I hope this one survives. It’s good to have a bit of variety on Green Lanes.

8/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

A short guide to the London Library

October 21, 2017

Given that numbers of membership is falling I offer this post in the spirit of my (surprisingly!) popular Short guide to Southwark jury service to encourage people of letters to join the London Library. Such august institutions (the Library dates back to 1840 and counts a Who’s Who of literary genius among its past and present members) can seem rather intimidating to the outsider and my aim is to acknowledge that the Library definitely has higher expectations of its members’ behaviour than most contemporary libraries (yeah, I’m talking about you, the BL) but also offers delights not to be found anywhere else.

But I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘Isn’t it expensive?’. Well, it’s not cheap. At £510 per annum for old farts and £255 for the under-25s it’s not a negligible sum. However, I hope that I can persuade you, dear reader, that at less than the price of a cup of coffee a day if you’re of an intellectual inclination you get plenty of bang for your buck. I would also point out that if, like me, you’re occasionally outside the perimeter of the academic community membership at Senate House is not cheap, and is far less salubrious than the digs in St James’s Square.

Of course this guide is my own, partial, opinion. Other members will value some services (for example the postal loan system for those outside commuting distance of Central London) that I rarely use if never. So where should one start? Oh yes,

Books

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Books in the idiosyncratic London Library shelving system

Yes, they have books at the London Library. Big deal you might think, I can get books for free at my college/university/Senate House/BL. I have to say, however, that the LL’s collection is outstanding. Its strengths lie in its antiquity and its scope. While not as broad as some (and I emphasise, some) university library collections its acquisition policy is rigorously academic and keeps abreast of the latest scholarship.

As a historian though I value the way in which you can trace the genealogy (to borrow a Foucauldian term) of a subject over time. For example, over the past year I’ve been conducting two research projects. The first, on Marivaux, I’ve discussed elsewhere in these posts. The second, on the history of the West India Committee, was greatly aided by the fact that the library has holdings of first editions by the WIC’s Chairman, published in the 1900s, which I could borrow and peruse in the comfort of my own home while prepping a (failed) application for a research grant.

Having such historic books on open access means that you can serendipitously stumble upon things in the library’s collection that are relevant to your research but of which you may have been entirely ignorant given the focus of most reading lists and scholarship on the up-to-date. And old books smell great. Yes, that’s a thing. The idiosyncratic shelving system is also, once you’ve mastered it, a pleasure to use.

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Old books. You gotta love ’em.

Journals

If you’re a student or hold an academic post you can take the fact that you have on-line access to thousands of journals rather for granted. As someone who has occasionally fallen out of the legit academic community the London Library’s e-library has proved a godsend with university department sized access to essential resources (for me) like JSTOR, the DNB, and the Bibliography of British and Irish Historiography. They also have access to some resources that aren’t on offer elsewhere, such as digital access to the Guardian and Observer archives. If you take a look at what there is in their e-library you’ll probably find plenty to get stuck into that isn’t on my radar.

Magazines

The reading room is a joy for the magazine and journal browser. If you want to keep up with new scholarship there are physical copies of the latest big journals there to consult. If you’re reading for pleasure you can pick up, say, Sight & Sound, Private Eye, the LRB etc etc. Laptops are barred (at the moment) in this room so it really is a place of peace and tranquillity, in which to read or snooze if you’ve an idle hour waiting for an appointment in town.

Desks

Every library member will have a favourite spot, my own is next to Who’s Who? up top in the St. James’s building where people rarely go. Though it can be a bit galling to toil up the stairs and find the desk occupied. Traditionalists will like the old school wooden desks dotted around among the history and literature collections.

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A trad desk by a window that opens. Luxury.

Modernistas my prefer the up-to-date environment to be find in the writing room, the art room or the lightwell in the basement. The point is that you get to choose your writing environment, which will be more intimate and calming than the vast plains of Humanities 1. And the earlier you get to work the likelier you are to find your optimal spot.

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A modern roost overlooking Masons Yard

Librarians

They offer expertise and courtesy. The best of their profession.

Food & Drink

Of course you can’t eat in the stacks. And why would you? If you’re frugal you can eat a packed lunch in the Members’ Room at the top of the building. However, there are plenty of places to go in the vicinity if you want to get refreshed or fed.

Personally, I’m happy to go to Eat for food if I’m aiming to go back to work afterwards, or Waterstone’s Café if I can’t get a seat in there. If it’s booze you’re after The Chequers in Masons Yard is a peerless pub in this part of London. ‘Hearty’ pub food, cheerful barmaids and good beer at a reasonable price for the area. Or if you’re feeling more lizardy why not snaffle along to Royal Opera Arcade?

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The Chequers, perfect for al freso supping in the summer. Cosy in cooler climes.

Events

The Library hosts a full programme of literary events throughout the year. With a good tranche of the leading lights of literature and the arts (for example, incoming President Sir Tim Rice) you won’t need to go to Wye to hear talks by leading writers.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the pluses of joining but I hope that it’s piqued your interest. If you want to dip your toe in the water the Library will arrange for someone to show you around to see if it’s the place for you. I urge you to give it a go and soon, like me, you’ll be putting aside the money for membership week by week.

Go here to see their membership page for details of how to join. If you’re a member of the Library already why not add a comment on your experience of being a member.

#London #Literature

 

Affordable Art Fair

October 19, 2017

I haven’t got round to my full Estorick post yet, in fact I’d like to go back before I tackle it, so in the meantime my art focus falls on the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea Park. This is my third art bunfight of the year after the RA’s Summer Exhibition and the Venice Biennale (not that I was in any danger of buying anything at that!) and I was there at the invitation of my talented friend, Nick.

Nick Kobyluch – not just a talented artist, also a fine centre back.

I’ll spare his blushes and briefly state that he does fine landscapes that are topographical without being pedantic. See the depiction of Elephant and Castle tube over his shoulder to discover how he finds the ray of sunshine in even the gloomiest London locale.

And the Fair? I’d recommend a visit if you’re in the area. Like all of these kinds of things you can get a bit art blind by the 100th stand but there is plenty of good stuff for the discerning eye. I was most taken with the photographs of delapidated buildings by Dan Oude Elferink. The temptation to take one home was strong but I reckon it best to approach purchases without free wine in the tank and we decided to visit the Ranen Art Gallery at a future date.

Punters queue to bag up their art. We kept a cool head.

Try and get there early if you can as the aisles get tight as the evening progresses, and no one likes tight aisles. As it was two knobhe … err, art fans spilled my drink while looking at the walls rather than where they were going.

A relatively clear aisle, it looks safe for beverages. But watch out, those red trouser guys come out of nowhere.

And is it affordable? Well it’s a relative term isn’t it. Some stands have prints (and originals) for sale at under a monkey but most featured works are four figures and above as far as I could see. So if budget is an issue for you follow the racecourse golden rule and keep your maximum stake in one pocket and your taxi fare home in the other. 

Resto 58 Le Cap Horn, Paris

October 12, 2017

More of a bar than a restaurant/café we came to Le Cap looking for a pre-Opera snack. It’s an old favourite – a rough and ready bar down a quiet street behind Place des Vosges, a smattering of tables on the pavement and a cheerful clientèle who come here for excellent cocktails.

The manager does a great Mojito but I didn’t want anything too devastating before the show so we took a couple of Kroneys (a bargain in this part of Paris at €5 a pint). A mixed planche was on the rustic end of the spectrum but did the job. No veg, not even cornichons, is a mark down though.

7/10

#Paris #food

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 57 La Mezzanine, Paris

October 11, 2017

For a quick lunch after the train my newly Parisian old boy appointed La Mezzanine as a good place to meet. He was right.

I was early so I took a table on the mezzanine (well I thought I ought to) and supped a Stella. That going down well we had another one each when he turned up.

The menu is pleasingly brief with a set menu on the blackboard at a very reasonable price for two or three courses.

But we weren’t that hungry. I got rump steak and chips, he had the tartare. My steak was pleasingly dinky as I planned to have a bit of bait later in the evening. Chips were crunchy salty and the chimuchurri sauce was pretty good too. I demolished the lot swiftly.

The room is nice and airy with mostly French clientèle and in this area you could pay twice our €20 a head and eat far worse.

8/10

#Paris #Food

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 56 Estorick Café, Highbury

October 10, 2017

I nearly forgot my visit to the Estorick (more of which in another post) as it was a bit of a pit stop but since they brought me the bill I should add it for completism’s sake. And also because the service and food is always excellent.

On this occasion I just stopped by after the exhibition (Arte Povera, recommended) for a quick coffee. So I got an espresso and then was tempted into having a custard tart by the very cheerful waiter. It was too cold to sit outside but now that they have a conservatory style fitting it feels like you’re in the garden anyway. Even if you’re not visiting the collection it’s worth having a pop in to do the crossword or chat with a friend.

Though why you wouldn’t want to look at the art as well I don’t know. It’s one of my favourite places in London.

8/10

#coffee #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 55 Dalla Terra, Covent Garden

October 8, 2017

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We were fortunate enough to have had tickets to Michel Hazavanicius’ latest, Le Redoutable, on Saturday. Contrary to what Jonathan Romney insisted on saying time after time in the Q&A with the director afterwards the film is not a comedy. It has plenty of comic moments (and I mean plenty, though the scenes of Godard repeatedly breaking his glasses, while funny, brought back some painful memories) but at its core it is a tragedy. It describes the quotidian tragedy of a marriage breaking up.

The radical politics of May ’68 in Paris act as a backdrop to the couple’s growing apart but it is gender politics that inform the moral of the film. Godard’s wife, Anne Wiasemsky, realises that the revolution that would enable her to attain personal autonomy is not Maoist but feminist. She isn’t oppressed by the capitalist system exemplified by the movie business in which she works. Rather she’s oppressed by a husband who while seeking to liberate himself from that system acts as just as much of an authority figure as the despised CdG when it comes to the domestic environment.

So we had a lot to discuss as we searched for somewhere civilised to eat in the West End on a Saturday night. Italian, French or Russian (that came out of nowhere!) was the request and we wandered up to Covent Garden and took a chance on Dalla Terra as it didn’t look too busy. Giving the eyeballs to a sharp elbowed couple who tried to jump ahead of us it was gratifying to see them stuck on high stools at a sharing table while we got a more lizardly spot by the window.

Geoff reflected on the fact that there’s no elegant way to eat on a high stool and then peered at Denize through the gloom of the restaurant. He wondered if she too was finding it difficult to read the menu in the stygian darkness. 

‘Yes’, said Denize, ‘It is a bit dark isn’t it?’

‘And the music.’ ‘Too loud.’ ‘I agree.’ ‘It’s like a nightclub.’ ‘Full of old people.’ I thought they were young.’ ‘It’s relative.’

We looked at the menu, which wasn’t extensive but did have what we were looking for – a high quality planche of meat ‘n’ cheese. We got that with a bowl of very, very good olives alongside. In the glass a bottle of Pinot Grigio (for a whiff of Venezia) that was rou. 

The service was excellent given that they were pretty full and we got stuck into the bits. Meat in a satisfying range of varieties, one of them good and spicy. The cheese was outstanding and for roughage there was a rather meagre slathering of sun-dried tomatoes and aubergine. No salad. Always a controversial issue.

Geoff surveyed the plate and realised that there was not to be any salad. The last time he’d been to a restaurant with Denize and there was no salad it had caused a minor breakdown in marital relations as he really likes La Fabrica and knows that they give you plenty of vegetables even if there’s no salad per se on the menu.

You know Geoff thinks that I’m obsessed by the salad but in fact he’s the one who brings it up every time there’s no salad on the menu, and even sometimes when there is. And is it unreasonable to ask a restaurant to make a small salad when you know that they have the ingredients in the kitchen?

‘It doesn’t look like we’re going to get any salad.’ ‘ …’ ‘I’ll go to the loo.’

The big drawback to Della Terra is that it’s severely underbogged for a busy Saturday night. There was already one feller waiting for the sole trap when I got there and I think whoever was in there was squeezing out a dead otter so I thought it best to hang on till home and return to collect the bill.

It wasn’t an awful lot of food for thirty quid a head and the music made it quite difficult to talk to one another. However, I reckon it’s worth returning to Dalla Terra as a daytime venue as the wine and food was excellent and would be ideal for when you’re pooped from artlooking/shopping and wanted an idle hour chatting or reading a book. 

7/10

#food #london

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap


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