On reflection

So long, Soho?

So, Madame Jojo –  one of Soho’s longest-serving cabarets – is closing its doors, at least for now. Sounds like a bouncer lost his cool and went after a punter with a baseball bat. Westminster Council went nuclear and withdrew the cabaret’s licence straight away. Neither did the landlord tarry. Soho Estates, the company of late sleaze-merchant Paul Raymond, had already repossessed the venue by the time the news came out. It was all over before anyone could say peep, just like a summary execution, Moscow circa 1935. They say Madame Jojo’s is set to reopen in a new building replacing the current one at Walker’s Court. Developers pretend to do us all a favour: they hold their nose at the current “seedy” atmosphere in this tiny patch of central London. Surely, we all deserve better? But something tells me the only people who’ll hang out in the new, “glamorous” cabaret will be Russian oligarchs and Chinese rich kids drinking cocktails at stupid prices. The retail area will soon show up in selfies shot by fat Nebraskans in their fannypcks. But fear not: the new Walker’s Court will end the disgusting spectacle of sub-optimal profits.

 

The way things used to be

The way things used to be

 

If this weren’t the UK, I’d say the demented bouncer was in the pay of the London property mafia, his job to give the Council an excuse to kick out a tenant who was getting in the way of the area’s gentrification. But the truth is, in Britain, nothing gets in the way of gentrification anyway – you don’t need a hired thug to make it happen. Cash is king, the law protects the rich: if  you wave  enough shekels, this country is your bitch. There’s only one difference between the developers, the council and the street whores they look down on: the hookers are more honest and not quite so greedy.

 

The view Berwick Street reveals the monstrosity to ist full extent

The view Berwick Street reveals the monstrosity to its full extent

 

 

 

 

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Eating and drinking

A taste of Alsace in Warren Street

Finally, a German bakery in the West End. It has always been a mystery why certain simple pleasures, such as a salami sandwich with gherkins, are so damned hard to find in this city. Does anyone remember just how difficult it used to be to get a simple loaf of crusty bread? I used to walk up and down New Cross Gate like a desperate hooker looking for a trick before closing time only to find the sort of mushy toast I wouldn’t even stuff my mattress with. Now, thankfully, baguettes are everywhere. Let us never take for granted the civilising effect of European cuisine on this once barren land.

So far, Kamps bakery only have three branches – I visited the one at 154/155 Tottenham Court Road. But you have to start somewhere, just look at Aldi and Lidl now. The kicker is the Alsatian tarte flambée, or Flammkuchen. This is a delicious ultra-thin, crusty pie covered with sour cream and garnished with stripes of bacon and chives. Baked to order, it’s a true delight, and at £3.50, good value too.

Amid the rain-sodden gloom of TCR, the Flammkuchen is a ray of light. Guten Appetit!

 

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Leisure pursuits, Things to do now

Monty’s Winter Garden: Fake penguin, genuine panorama

As you dodge the demented crowds of shoppers in Oxford St, your frazzled nerves may well cry out for the balm only a people-free view can provide.

So walk up to the roof at John Lewis, currently home to Monty’s Winter Garden. Yes, it’s another retail opportunity encouraging you to spend and consume. But then, a hot coffee with a view of London may be just the ticket.

Let’s not delude ourselves: what’s on offer isn’t the marble roofs of Rome, nor are we as high up as Panorama Bar in Centre Point. But it’s lovely still.

As for Monty the Penguin, he’s obviously fake. But children are impressionable and they don’t seem to mind. Instead, they’re happily playing with the gadgets and materials laid on by a Japanese electronics producer. It’s all quite creative — kids get to produce their own Christmas cards among other stuff, so it can’t be all bad.

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On reflection

Get ready for the love wrap

On a wonderfully sunny, brisk November afternoon, I entered the hallowed halls of John Lewis to buy the first prerequisite for successful sofa cuddling: a damned good blanket. If sex toys such as dildos and butt plugs facilitate bonking for the bizarre of mind, then blankets should be sold as love toys at Ann Summers. Chlamydia and herpes don’t stand a chance as cuddlers shiver with delight — but not the cold — at Alan Sugar’s rants; hugging tight inside their blanket.

Cuddling is clean, too: no need for towels or wiping. And you can keep at it for as long as you like, whereas even the fittest shagger must call it a day when the heart can’t keep up any more. Perhaps the greatest advantage of cuddling is that it is compatible with simultaneous chocolate-eating. And whereas sex is, let’s face it, strictly for the sexy, cuddling is for everyone.

 

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On reflection

A most un-British affair

Ah, good old British virtues. Touchingly, some people still believe they exist – usually foreigners who’ve studied English using out-of-date textbooks. Tolerance, fair play, a sense of justice and a wonderfully calm disposition which isn’t easily stirred: of all nations, the British embody these attributes.

The British love a debate: Speakers’ Corner, where every woman and man may freely pontificate, is renowned the world over. And yet, when Labour MP Emily Thornberry tweeted that infamous picture from Rochester and Strood, she was summarily sacked by her leader, the admirably tough and impressively prime ministerial Ed Miliband.

That tweet

That tweet

That the tweet was “sneering” was quickly accepted, even though Ms Thornberry never said anything to the effect. Her critics claim to know her mind and condemn her on this basis. This is not the British way, where any accused is innocent until proven guilty.

Come on, I hear you say, surely the Rt Hon MP for Islington South and Finsbury intended to be condescending. “Look at this”, the image seemed to say, “in a constituency populated white van Little Englanders, what else would you expect than people voting for the anti-immigrant UK Independence Party?”

The reason why the tweet was so devastating is because it was so fitting: the picture sums up what every commentator has been telling us for the longest time: that UKIP does well among the white working class, who feel their country and way of life is under attack from immigrants, the EU, and a remote as well as corrupt political class.

Emily Thornberry: abandoned by a cowardly leader

Emily Thornberry: abandoned by a cowardly leader

 

Like the mouse that roared, Labour leader Ed Miliband has sacked the unlucky tweeter (pardon, he has, of course, accepted her resignation). He’s desperate to be seen as strong and decisive, stating that ‘the first rule in politics is to respect the voter’, adding that anyone flying an England flag only shows “love for his country”.

I beg to differ: The England flag is an emblem of division. Unlike the Union Flag – a symbol of unity – the St George’s Cross is, like it or not, associated with white Englishness. People flying this flag make a political point. There are parts of London festooned with St George’s Crosses, and I avoid them for my own safety. Far from being removed and out of touch, Emily Thornberry’s tweet proves she has highly sensitive antennae and a good eye for a picture, too.

So yes, let’s respect each other – but let’s not fall over ourselves to agree with each other regardless of our views. Surely the point of an election is to argue and disagree, sometimes passionately so.

One of the reason why UKIP are so popular is because the party members are seen to speak their minds and damn the consequences, whereas the established parties filter every utterance through polls and focus groups. Voters have become so good at spotting BS, they can smell a fake a mile off. Ed Miliband’s move smacks of calculation and desperation at the same time. It’s not hard to imagine an adviser whispering isn his ear, “we need these knuckleheads to vote for us, don’t piss’em off”. Ed may think he has “respected the voters” in sacking a colleague over an inference. But the feeling isn’t mutual. Perhaps a good display of strength might be to show some guts in the face of a media witch hunt.

Meanwhile, Ms Thornberry is being hounded for speaking her mind – which, you might argue, is her job. And if Dave Ware, owner of the now-infamous house, deserves our respect, then let’s extend the same courtesy to Emily Thornberry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Image from #northlondon

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Random scenes

Pure love

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On a wet but mild late November evening, I walked past Joaquin and his dog Bounty. The five-year-old rottweiler-pitbull mix was snoozing with his snout on Joaquin’s lap, oblivious of the passing crowds. I was drawn back to the pair and took this photo.

Joaquin has had Bounty ever since he was born. He named him after the chocolate bar because of his sweet nature. He’s sporty too — apparently, he loves riding a skateboard, then biting it in half.

Weighing in at a hefty 60kgs — just six pounds less than myself — he would make a fearsome defender if roused. With Bounty close by, Joaquin can sleep easy. I hope he finds a place to live soon.

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