On reflection

How things change

Foyle’s bookshop gave up its previous location and moved a few doors down the road.

Here’s what the new occupant , Flora Lyon Tzuk Ladieswear, did with the old sign:



Eating and drinking

Hot soup, ca 1965, in Marylebone

51st Parallel applauds Paul Rothe & Son, purveyors of hot soup, jams and marmalades and gingerbread hearts. Since the mid-sixties, the place hasn’t changed a bit. Enter the shop to be served by the friendly and attentive family dressed in white coats just like the good old days. The food is unfussy and tasty; that it is brought to your table is an added major bonus.

In a world dominated by the scripted interactions and mass-produced wares of Pret-a-Manger, here’s the real thing, still going strong.



On reflection

Merry Cheesemas

Are you a chav or a bourgeois? Islington or Strood? You can self-diagnose quickly and easily. If you hit an old ethnic lady over the head to beat her to a £179 flat screen TV at Asda on Black Friday, you is white trash.

But if you queue patiently for a generous slice of Epoisse de Berthaut for your Christmas banquet outside the Neal’s Yard Cheese emporium, your middle class credentials are unimpeachable.

Maybe if all those workshy layabouts got lessons in cheese and wine appreciation, they’d find it easier to persuade someone to trust them with a job, eh?

Merry Christmas to all, whether your name is Emily or Jayden.



Music, nightlife, On reflection

Another club bites the dust

London’s club scene is dying and all we can do is shrug a shoulder. Our city used to be one of the most liberal, exciting places in Europe, but it has long since lost that crown to Berlin, of all places. Wasn’t Germany supposed to be a place where people are square and uptight and anything fun is verboten? It should give us pause for thought that Germany now embodies so many of those virtues Britain used to claim as her own, such as freedom and tolerance.

A millennial only knows Britain, the police state. Anyone born in London after 1989 will have grown up with CCTV everywhere, bouncers with attitude, roped off pavements, smoking bans, countless petty rules about taking glasses outside, coming in through one door but having to enter through another, having to squeeze into the venue after ten, even having their pictures taken on entering, like criminals (hello, 93 Feet East). The act of drinking and letting your hair down has become one of the most heavily policed activities you could engage in in today’s Britain. It’s a misery and I feel sorry for the twenty-somethings of today, who never knew the freewheeling London of old. A city that used to take pride in its Swinging London label has been deadened by philistine councils, overbearing police, who instead of serving revellers, expose them to chicanery, and the never-sated monster that is gentrification.


Fabric, one of our most celebrated, iconic nightclubs is the latest casualty – 51st Parallel has already reported on the closure of Madame Jojo’s and The Joiners’ Arms. On this occasion, the crackdown is a reaction to a series of incidents. Over the last three years, eight people have collapsed at the venue, with four of these dying. The latest casualty is an 18-year-old girl who  bought what would seem contaminated MDMA at the venue. Threatened with the removal of its licence, the club has been forced to deploy seven sniffer dogs during operating hours. Not only will this probably discourage anyone from coming in the first place, the cost is also prohibitive. A Fabric DJ tells me that a sniffer dog hour comes at £300 – that’s £2,100 per hour and £21,000 for ten hours. You might as well shut the club down.

According to the Evening Standard, “in a police report submitted to the committee, Pc Steven Harrington said: ‘[Fabric] attracts clientele from all over Europe and it would seem that the immaturity or lifestyle of these patrons leads to them becoming actively involved in the taking of illegal drugs and this could account for the disproportionate and wholly unacceptable number of deaths and near death incidents at the venue.'”

Any drug-related death is an unacceptable tragedy. I cannot imagine the anguish of a victim’s friends and family on hearing that their loved one has been killed clubbing. The level of drug-taking in London today, the sordidness that comes with it and the addiction it can lead to all exact an enormous human cost. At the same time, it is part of human nature to get intoxicated. As long as it is legal to buy and consume alcohol, usually to excess, you can’t justify banning other substances such as MDMA, which are far less harmful than booze or nicotine. Neither should we act surprised that people pop pills and sniff all kinds of white powders in clubs – it’s what they’re there for. When, as a society, are we going to come out of denial and deal with the problem rationally? Introducing sniffer dogs in Farringdon won’t turn the tide any more than decades of prohibition have done. The way forward is legalisation. Let drugs be sold legally and openly while providing testing stations so consumers know what they’re taking. Why is this not possible? Because politicians from both parties deliberately ignore factual research and expert voices for purely electoral reasons. Young voters simply don’t matter. They have no electoral clout and little cash. We have slapped tuition fees on them, we have denied them job opportunities. And now we’re busy ruining their fun. If I were young, I’d be very angry at this betrayal.

Our politicians’ cowardice and contempt for the young, with their “immaturity” is not only killing London’s nightlife – it is directly responsible for any death caused by contaminated drugs. Still, as was the case with sexual mores, an unstoppable societal shift towards liberalisation is coming. But for Fabric and its followers, it may well come too late.

Support Fabric by signing the petition here

Culture vulture, Music, Theatre, Things to do now

Sunday poetry and jazz at Ronnie Scott’s

Pity poor Sunday night. Still suffering from the effects of the weekend and overshadowed by Monday’s approach, the fag end of the Sabbath is usually given over to slouching in front of the telly. Which is a shame, because once a month, Jumoké Fashola takes over the upstairs bar at Ronnie Scott’s with jazz and poetry, ending the weekend with a flourish.
There's no getting away from her

There’s no getting away from her

I like Jumoké. Like her sartorial rival, Camila Batmanghelidjh, she wears a trademark turban, a head-dress which is as regal as it is decorative. Who is the original, who the fake? My guess is that Batsie has the older rights. But Jumoké is a feisty challenger, and if I were Camila, I’d let Jumoké wrap herself up to her head’s content. In this season of goodwill, ladies everywhere, let our pacific motto be: no more burnin’ the turban.
Move over, Bats, there's a new turban in town

Move over, Bats, there’s a new turb in town

Ms Fashola has been impossible to avoid in recent weeks. Wherever I go, her turban follows. Standing tall and not a hair in sight, she fluffed us up for Fingersnap. Then she presented piano legend Abdullah Ibrahim at the London Jazz Festival. And when I walked into Jazz Verse Jukebox to see a friend, there she is again. It feels like the universe is drawing us together.
Aisling Fahey has unassuming power

Aisling Fahey: unassuming power

At Jazz Verse Jukeboz, Jumoké displays an unfailing knack for spotting up-and-coming talent. The last line-up featured Aisling Fahey, the New Young Poet Laureate for London. Her demeanour may be sweet and innocent, but her poetry is acutely observed and real. David Lee Morgan dazzled with an impassioned, epic poem on the atrocities of Congo’s colonial past. And Keith Jarrett delivered a performance that was both polished, stimulating and gripping. All this was complemented by jazz and a chance for new talent to shine in front of the open mic.
Keith Jarrett: Dazzling verse, masterfully delivered

Keith Jarrett: Dazzling verse, masterfully delivered

It was a memorable night which proved that you can still enjoy world class art at student prices right in the heart of London. So this Sunday, drag yourself away from the sofa and venture out to Ronnie’s Bar.
Jazz Verse Jukebox starts at 8pm; entry is £8.
2014 BBC Slam Poet David Morgan

2014 BBC Slam Poet David Morgan: passion and humanity

In the shops, On reflection

Today’s nine-inch question

51st Parallel applauds Mr WizHard’s penis T-shirts as featured in VICE. If Mr Farage blanches at seeing a breast-feeding boobie out, what would he say if he came face-to-face with a cotton hard-on – especially if it belonged to an immigrant?

That alone may be worth the price, which, at €70, is as vertiginous as the depicted member.


Eating and drinking

Speakeasy glamour comes to Soho

One of the venues on my list to visit is Bob Bob Ricard between Soho and Carnaby Street. With all the 1920’s glamour of Boardwalk Empire’s Atlantic City, the restaurant serves an English and Russian menu, making it the ideal place to go for a bit of oligarch-watching, or pay homage to Nucky Thompson.

Roederer Cristal, the perfect way to celebrate a felony

Roederer Cristal, the perfect way to celebrate a felony

Booking is mandatory and prices range from a piffling £6.50 for a 125ml glass of house wine to £1,929 for the 1948 Château d’Yqem. The booths evoke a compartment on the Orient Express, the sort of train an ailing Russian princess might have taken to her lung sanitarium in Davos. And there’s no more need to beseech the waiter to notice your raised hand: buzz the in-built “champagne” button and the bubbly, which starts at £13.75 per glass, will appear.

To line the stomach, there are oysters and caviar on the menu (starting at £10 and £29 respectively), as well as Venison Steak Tartare Imperial (£38.50). Then there is a Venison Cheeseburger at a very reasonable £16.75. The polonium will be complimentary.

It all sounds like terrific fun, even though the journey back on the Northern Line will come as a letdown.

Opulent reception: the decadence starts here

Opulent reception: the decadence starts here