Archive for the ‘London’ Category

Sport & Leisure History Seminar 2019 #1

January 8, 2019

Monday 14th January 2019

Boxkampf Max Schmeling gegen Walter Neusel in Hamburg

Max Schmeling and his attendants celebrate victory – come along to the IHR on January 14th to find out who he battered and why it mattered.

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 this term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

Kicking off 2019 will be Dr Jon Hughes of Royal Holloway who will be talking to us about ‘The Biggest Boxing Match in Europe’. To find out more read his abstract below and then come along to what should be a stimulating discussion next Monday.

I would offer insights into the fight between Max Schmeling and another German boxer, Walter Neusel, in August 1934. The fight was stage managed, under the Nazis, at a huge open-air venue in Hamburg and attended by at least 80,000, possibly more. It was an interesting example of the Nazis experimenting with the propaganda potential of sport, two years before the Olympics, and formed part of a failed bid to move the symbolic focus of professional boxing away from the USA and back to Europe, and to Germany in particular. I’ll look at the circumstances surrounding the match (Schmeling’s first in Germany since 1928) and its representation in the media, reflect on the geopolitics of boxing in this era, the symbolism of the heavyweight title, and the compromises that the Nazis were willing to make – neither Schmeling nor Neusel were conformists in any sense, as both had Jewish managers and had been reluctant to compete in Germany. This occasion is much less well known than e.g. Schmeling’s two fights against Joe Louis, but in many ways just as interesting.

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.

 

Cast is Announced!

December 28, 2018

220px-MarivauxFalseConfidences

Having only produced small scale festival productions in my brief theatre career I’ve generally been a beggar rather than a choose when it comes to casting. But now that we’re doing a main show I get to play with nearly all of the toys in the Crouch End Players toybox and together with the director, Victoria, had to run auditions.

Fortunately Victoria is an old hand at this shit because frankly I didn’t have a bloody clue and Ayckbourne’s advice in his excellent book The Crafty Art of Playmaking advises producers to let the writer nowhere near the audition process. Alas I’m both producer and writer on this project so couldn’t duck the responsibility.

However, with Victoria at the helm and a couple of Players Legends on the team we were able to put the wannabe Comédien(ne)s through their paces. For those who didn’t make it to the final nine I have only craven apologies at having not been able to find room for everyone.

And what a final nine they are! Here is our final selection, they make a fine company …

A Soldier’s Song Cast

(In order of appearance)

Hector – James Allnutt

Clarke – Marion Dancoing

Hobbs – Jamin O’Donovan

Uncle Charles – Dave Mahon

Rose – Alex Seeetnam

Harriet – Hannah Shaw

Mrs Dubois – Rebecca Cutts

Lord Chilton – Matt Griffin

Sam – Vicky Murdoch

The show will run from Wednesday 27th March 2019 to Saturday 30th 2019 with four evening performances and a Saturday matinée at the Moravian Hall, Priory Rd, Hornsey, London N8 7HR.

#theatre #London

 

 

Resto 45 Winchmore Hill Tandoori, Wichmore Hill

December 24, 2018
IMG_3267.jpeg

One of these teams knows how an offside trap works. Can you guess which one?

Having watched Granit Xhaka and his defensive chums only just fail to sabotage a fine attacking display by Arsenal’s front four in a lunchtime kick off by the time we’d reached the food part of our post-match festivities in Winchmore Hill stomachs were empty but we were bonhomie full.

The WHT was buzzing of a pre-Chrimbo Saturday night. Did we want three popadoms? Did we hell. We wanted many popadoms. And rice. And naan. We wanted to tick off all of the clichés and possibly coin some more. The staff were gracious in indulging our middle aged goofery.

And we ate like kings in our own tiny minds.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 44 The Betjeman Arms, St Pancras

December 23, 2018

Sir_John_Betjeman_(1906-1984)

Christmas is the time to catch up with old friends and family isn’t it? The Betjeman is an old friend; a reliable standby to meet other friends freshly arrived on trains from the North or fellow football fans on the way to various matches. So I’m well used to the pub side of the operation but less so with the restauranty bit.

Trying to remember the prices of the food (a key part of a review being the price/quality quotient) I looked at the JB’s website to find that they weren’t as high as I recalled. But I also discovered atrocious grammar and an insidious whiff of nostalgia-laden commercial bullshit in the copy.

‘Reminiscent of 1920’s nostalgia and times gone by; a charming spot to wait for your train to Paris whilst soaking up the iconic atmosphere of The Grand Terrace. ‘

Were one of my students to have written this guff I would have been forgiving of youthful lapses in grammar, syntax, honesty and style. The misplaced apostrophe, the redundant semi-colon, the appearance of the hideous ‘i’ word, and the frankly idiotic use of the word charming to describe a ‘spot’ usually inhabited by drunks of varied income and states of dishevelment.

Ah but that 1920’s (sic) nostalgia! Who wouldn’t yearn for the days of chronic unemployment, civil war in Ireland, Armenian genocide, the rise of fascism and sterile, bat-dominated Test cricket? Really they could have gone much further back for the authentic whiff of nostalgia – their toilets need no linguistic gloss, being genuinely mediaeval most of the time.

But what about the food? It’s standard pub stuff – burgers, fish & chips, platters to share and a smattering of vegetable things. Being already booked for the India Club (a room suffused with nostalgia in a way that marketing arseholes just can’t comprehend and thus recreate) I wanted a light lunch. Moules frites did the job and unlike my previous pub moules didn’t give me gastro enteritis. Which is a shame, I could do with losing a bit of weight.

The moules were cooked nicely but the cream and chilli sauce was notable by the absence of chilli. I wonder if anyone in the kitchen had actually tasted the dish. A glass of white on the side was fine. My fellow diners were unimpressed by the fish to batter ratio on their no doubt iconic fish & chips. The room is fine, in fact the height of the ceiling does give a sense of light and space even on the dullest of December days but with erratic service and bog standard grub there are better places to eat at the same price within staggering distance of the Betj.

It is, however, a good station pub.

5/10 (a mark off for whoever wrote the website)

#Food #London

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

Resto 43 Tavistock Tandoori, Bloomsbury

December 13, 2018

After the final S&L seminar of the year (and it was a good one, thanks to Dave Dee) I suddenly found myself craving Indian food. Which would usually mean Motijheel in this neck of the woods. But oh dear, it did look bleak in there as we approached.

So we strolled on, following the scent of spice for not very long before we arrived at Tavistock Tandoori, which had at least half a dozen customers as the M. In the same room. With the same menu. And the same music. Why mess with a seemingly increasingly unappealing format? I can think of a £eason why.

Well, I’m old fashioned so it still appeals to me – I went for a chicken rezalla with the usual trimmings and sag bhaji. Bottled Cobra was fine and the curry, though a bit on the sweet side for my taste, was good enough. Chutneys, popadoms, rice, nan and sag were all decent.

The meal rounded off with a comic air as a regular customer stuck his head through the door to exchange some Baba-like bants with the waiter but by this time we were already halfway to the door and unable to join in the fun in any meaningful way. Which was a shame. Still, for curry in this part of town it’s worth going the extra half mile to The Rusty Bike for something beyond the bog standard.

7/10

#Food #London

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

A New Year, A New Play

December 9, 2018

220px-MarivauxFalseConfidences

Having two relatively succesful (Corbyn Island and A Door Should Be Open or Shut) Festival productions under my belt emboldened me to propose to the Crouch End Players committee that we should put on a version of a full length French classic. Seeing a production of Marivaux’s Le Jeu de l’Amour et du Hasard at the Théâtre Saint Martin earlier this year inspired me to tackle another of his plays.

Le Jeu de l’Amour at the Porte Martin, played in a style that Marivaux would have recognised, was outstanding. I had no intention of competing with the French on their own turf. No, I felt that I had to find a way of presenting his work that made it resonate with a contemporary London audience but wasn’t as directly political (or sweary, we’re looking for a larger audience after all) as our update of L’Ile des Esclaves.

220px-MarivauxFalseConfidences02.jpg

At first glance Les Fausses Confidences – in which a penniless young man who has fallen in love with a rich widow attempts to scheme his way into her heart – can seem a distinctly queasy proposition in these #MeToo (or #balancetonporc) times. To be blunt the way in which the leading man and his ex-valet scheme to serve his master’s interests, if entertaining, is nevertheless difficult to approve of. ‘His rampant mendancity has little jusitification.’ * For some critics, no matter how much they admired Marivaux as a writer such dubious morals ‘gâte toute la pièce’ or ruin the whole play. **

How to get around such a flawed leading man? By updating the action to 1919 and making him a serviceman recently returned from the Great War – our version is called A Soldier’s Song – I hope to have given a psychological motivation for such iniquitous behaviour. Hector (renamed from Dorante in the original) has developed an obsession for Harriet (Araminte, now a wealthy widow and music hall performer) for reasons that are hinted at though never over-explained during the course of the plot, thus elevating him from the rather amoral schemer of the eighteenth century original. Music buffs may also see the resonance in French culture of having a Hector obessed with a Harriet.

iu.jpeg

Hector Berlioz – not a stranger to romantic obsession

And to my delight when I discussed the play with the director Victoria Welsh she took on this idea further, situating the play in a much more radical staging than I had envisaged that will reference the original Marivaux production by the Comédie-Italienne that will allow us to see Hector as just as much manipulated as manipulator. But more of that as I trace the development of the production over the forthcoming months.

We are in the process of auditions at the moment and my next blog post will be to give my own take on that process, which was entirely new to me. (Casts for previous shows, excellent though they proved to be, were assembled from the resources available rather than via the luxury of selection). The show will be happening in the last week of March 2019 at the Moravian Church Hall on Park Road, N8. If you’ve read this far please do come along and say hello. Or if you have staged or watched Marivaux yourself I’d really welcome comments and questions on your own experience of Les Fausses Confidences.

Our_Country's_Good.jpg

My research into other adaptations, purely to see what had been done recently on the British stage, led me to a version that foreshadows a piece that the Crouch End Players will also produce later in the year. In 1983 Timberlake Wertenbaker translated the play pretty much straight for a production at the Lyric, Hammersmith, giving it the title False Admissions. In the autumn the CEPs will stage Our Country’s Good, her account of Thomas Kennealy’s novel The Playmaker, which concerns a group of officers and convicts putting on a play in colonial Australia. Which goes to show that the Players have a wonderfully diverse repertoire to offer the public in 2018.

* Kenneth McKee, The Theater of Marivaux (Peter Own: London, 1958), p. 211.

** Edouard Thierry, La Revue de France, March15th, 1881.

Sport & Leisure History Seminar Autumn 2018 #6

December 4, 2018

6.1.

Monday 10th December 2018

“A Game Was More Than A Game” –Sport, Integration and Interwar British Jewry with Dr Dave Dee

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 this term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

Our final seminar of the term will be given by Dr Dave Dee from De Montfort University who will talking to us about the sporting experience of British Jews between the wars.

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 Past and Present Room 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 41 My Cottage Cafe, Finsbury Park

November 22, 2018

Finding ourselves once again in Finsbury Park on a Saturday it was with a sorry glance that we walked past the now boarded up Walnut to on our search for dinner. Pasta Remoli‘s curious way with food is still quite vivid so we thought we’d try Lebanese at My Cottage Café. As it seems did everyone going to the theatre that evening (we were not) meaning that we were lucky to get two places at a shared table.

The room is bigger than it looks from the outside and the food is more ambitious than the monicker My Cottage Café would have you believe. The last time I was in a Lebanese (insert joke here) it was in Mayfair and I was talking to a tiny, aged Jewish man with a statuesque wife 40 odd years his junior who had been Cy Twombly’s (among others) art dealer in New York. This wasn’t quite the same clientèle, though this being North London theatreland we weren’t short of Jewish company. Just no Naomi Campbell lookalikes. Which was a shame.

The menu was typically east Mediterranean – meze, grilled things and stews – but the cooking was a cut above Petek up the road for about the same price. A massive plus was not being offered death by bread before we’d even ordered. The bread when it came was a refined flatbread in just the right amount. Starters of baba ganouj and okra were excellent, as was the chicken shish. Plenty of heat on the baste meant recourse to a very good Lebanese white was required.

Our table-sharers were a gossipy couple of old baggages who managed to eat three courses before we’d ordered coffee. They indulged in some faux-bants with some fellow codgers across the way and when an elderly lady with an improbably wide Zimmer frame tried to exit the building my neighbour resolutely stared at the wall rather than move her seat. However, ZimmerGal was equally obdurate and deftly span her frame sidewards, all the while scowling at our pair like they’d just shot her cat. The theme from Larry David began to play through my mind.

In five minutes flat the room was empty of theatre-goers leaving just us two to sip a beautiful coffee (which arrived with four baklava) while the waiting staff took a well earned fag break outside. It took a while to get the bill but that was the only fault in an otherwise faultless service.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Sport & Leisure History Seminar Autumn 2018 #5

November 20, 2018

Charles_Holland-630x468

Monday 26th November 2018

‘A festival of self-punishment’: Englishness, British cycling and the Tour de France, 1918-39 with Dr Neil Carter

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 this term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

Our fifth seminar of the term will be given by Dr Neil Carter from De Montfort University who will talking to us about a rather neglected era of British cycling history, the 1930s, when Charles Holland and Bill Burl became the first British men to take part in the Tour de France. To find out more read Neil’s abstract below.

In 1937 Charles Holland and Bill Burl became the first British cyclists to ride in the Tour de France. Their presence represented a brief if symbolic moment of modernity for British cycling. This paper examines the socio-economic and cultural roots of this particular episode and how it tapped into changing ideas of Englishness.

The Tour de France, with its modernising tendencies, commercialism and especially its type of racing – massed start racing – offered a stark contrast with British cycling’s overwhelmingly amateur culture, both in terms of ideology and as a voluntary activity. In particular, the time-trial was the main form of road racing in Britain. It embodied an idealised and pastoral vision of England that many of cycling’s administrators and supporters promoted through their writing and images.

During the 1930s, however, British cycling underwent a transformation. Not only was there a boom in the number of cyclists more generally, but a shift in its image reflected the new consumerism of the decade. Moreover, a fashion for massed-start racing, copied from the continent, began with races taking place on motor-racing circuits. As a consequence, there was a backlash amongst cycling’s traditional supporters. Underpinning this resistance was a defence of the time-trial, which reflected wider cultural anxieties within society over the impact of modernity.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series, scroll down for the details of future seminars or go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the Past and Present Room on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

S&L2018-9

Resto 40 Thai Granary, Stroud Green

November 12, 2018

Finsbury Park can feel a bit bleak after a few days research in Paris so it was a happy thing that I was invited to dinner by friends to a new (to me) restaurant to get over the post-trip blues.

Thai Granary (or Granary Thai) is a tardis like room. We headed up to the mezzanine inside, which is cosy and looks out on a bijou one table terrasse.

The room was not as busy as it could be on a Friday night in SG, which is a shame as the cooking was first class. A starter of spring rolls (we hadn’t specified but they’d guessed correctly that we were carnivores) crispy and meaty. And I was fortunate to get in on some summer roll action from across the table – they were even better, really fresh and aromatic.

My main was a spicy chef’s special (wish I could remember the name), and I mean spicy, and there was plenty of it. The rice alongside had a good helping of bean shoots (yum) and despite predictions to the contrary I demolished pretty much the whole lot. Helped by a couple of good, cold beers.

At 25 quid a head this was as good value as you’ll get in these parts for this quality. I’ll look forward to another Friday night outing with les Travis soon.

8/10

#Food #London

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


%d bloggers like this: