Monthly Archives: December 2009

The Pearly King at Number 45 Redchurch Street

If you ever need cheering up and you happen to be in Redchurch Street, pop into number 45. Here you’ll find the proprietor, Jude, and his collection of sometimes beautiful, sometimes quite odd furniture (can you see the denim couch just behind him?).

‘Tell me something good that happened to you this week… tell me a story,’ he might say, and even though he doesn’t know you it’s very easy to settle in for a bit of a chat with him – or just to listen to whatever he’s got to say.

Jude has been noted for his fashion sense, and when I visited he was wearing a modern-day Pearly King jacket. I hadn’t heard of Pearly Kings before, so forgive me if you already know the story – as I imagine most born-and-bred Londoners probably do.

They originated in the 19th century when street traders, or costermongers as they were called back then (I love that word) hawked their wares from barrows on the streets of London. They developed an earlier form of Cockney Rhyming Slang, both to confuse the authorities and flog their goods with a bit of wit, and elected Kings and Queens – an early form of trade unionism. These leaders took to wearing pearly buttons on their clothes in imitation of wealthier Londoners, who mostly sneered at them and were annoyed by their brash presence.

And then, in the 1880s, a road sweeper and rat catcher caled Henry Croft covered his entire suit and top hat in pearly buttons, with the message All for Charity spelled out. Soon all the Kings and Queens were wearing such costumes, which attracted the attention of crowds, as well as donations for hospitals and health care.

You can read more about the Pearly Kings and Queens London here. And for a glimpse of a modern-day one, stop in at 45 Redchurch Street and say hi to Jude. You’ll also see one on this bit of graffiti on Leonard Street, just near the newly opened Book Club, which looks to be running poetry nights as well as the usual drinking, DJs and cocktails – has anyone been along yet? I am going to check it out soon….

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Christmas greetings…

This was supposed to be my 2009 Christmas card, mounted on pretty berry-coloured paper and sent far & wide…. but due to Swine Flu and the need for chicken noodle soup on the couch and lots of sleep, not to mention an impatience with all things crafty, it’s been sadly reduced to a special edition of just nine mounted cards, although I may knock up a small gift card option with the remaining 35 prints.

Anyway, Merry Christmas…. I am off to see Where the Wild Things Are at the Rio tonight. One of my favourite childhood books and Mark Ruffalo – what’s not to like?
Update: now back from Where the Wild Things Are. I feel violated. And what’s more, Mark Ruffalo was in one scene, and had about two lines.

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Do you like my bright header?

A huge thanks for my lovely new header goes to Edwin Lynch, a filmmaker, writer, teacher and webmeister from West Australia who designed it for me – and gave me lots of sound advice earlier this year when I was talking about starting a blog.

You can see more of his web design work here and read about his film-making capers here

Thanks Edwin!

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Everyone else is doing it so I am too… best books of 2009

This year I wrote down every novel I read. I wanted to see how many I get through, and have a record. I’ve read some great books over the years that I would like to revisit but only remember fragments – a mum teaching her daughter to use a washing machine, a girl eating a sugar mouse – and wish I still had them. If anyone recognises either of those scenes do let me know.

Some were forgettable, but here are my personal favourites.

The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood – Anyone who loves Atwood will enjoy this. Three friends, all burned in various ways by the same woman, are shocked when she returns from the dead to cause havoc once again. A brilliant, over-the-top tale about the vicious side of female friendship.

I’ll Go To Bed At Noon by Gerard Woodward – The middle novel in Woodward’s funny, tragic trilogy about booze-soaked family life in North London. Continue reading

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Friday, sunshine, stuff to do in East London this weekend

Thank god for the sun shining today. I thought I had lived here long enough that the weather no longer affected my mood, but what a difference a bit of sun makes to the public morale. Strangers smiling, opening doors for each other, commenting on the drunkeness of a pair of teenagers stumbling across Mare Street. It was utterly, utterly heartwarming.

Anyway, I’ve finished Wolf Hall and have to sit on my hands until the sequel comes out – my god, talk about leaving us on a cliffhanger! Will the Queen produce an heir? Will Cromwell win Jane Seymour? What the hell is going to go down at Wolf Hall…. well, you sort of know how it all turns out but at the same time the story she has created is so immediate, so vivid, it’s like… I don’t know. It’s as good as The Wire. Continue reading

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The Turkish Food Centre in Dalston & a recipe

Sometimes I get annoyed when Prince Charles bangs on about how everyone should eat properly. It’s easy for him to say, isn’t it? I’d eat pretty well too if I owned half the bloody West Country. And don’t get me started on Poundbury.
Yes, yes, I know I should only shop at local organic butchers and fishmongers, and only buy seasonal veggies, and Tesco is the root of all evil. But sometimes I don’t have time to go to the local butcher and I’m still scarred by the experience of being charged 11 quid for some bacon and a few sausages at an organic butcher. I asked him to check and he said, oh, yes, my mistake, that should be six pounds*. And some of them only take cash. And quite frankly the checkout staff at Sainsbury’s are often a lot friendlier than some of these local organic our-chickens-are-freerange-and-have-half-an-hour-of-internet-access-a-day butchers. Having said that, some are excellent, like the Ginger Pig in Victoria Park and the ones at Broadway Market who sell pork & apple cider brandy sausages.

But… supermarkets are convenient. You can get everything you need for dinner in ten minutes with no cash, something that cannot be underestimated when blood sugars are plummeting and you’ve forgotten your umbrella. I don’t go to Sainsbury’s to hang out or anything – well, not very often – but you have to be realistic. And everyone loves a bit of shopping-basket observation, don’t they?

However, I also like going to TFC, which is a Turkish supermarket just off Ridley Road market.

Here, the meat comes as lamb shoulders, whole corn-fed chickens, trays of delicate chops and buckets of chicken livers. The ricotta is wrapped only in paper and there are about fifty yogurt varieties, and least ten tahinis and more halloumi than you could poke a hot tong at. The fruit and veggie section is full of dark red vine tomatoes and unwaxed lemons and rocket and quinces and sorrel and clementines still with the leaves on. There are no farmers’ names on anything. Continue reading

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