Category Archives: Conversation drop-ins

St John restaurant’s Roasted Bones. A joke, no?

st john's bonesAs a kid one of my favourite stories was The Emperor’s New Clothes. It was such a funny depiction of snobbery: a pretentious, chubby little emperor believes his lowly tailor when he tells him his new clothes are so fine, so delicate that they are invisible, and promptly goes riding through town stark naked. Along with Bluebeard and Demeter & the Underworld, and The Enchanted Wood, oh and who could forget Where the Wild Things Are (can’t wait to see the movie), What Katy Did and so many other books (which I’m currently being reminded of by Lucy Mangan’s guide to building a children’s library, it really is a gem. Continue reading

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Celebrity barber shop

If you’ve seen Eastern Promises, a film about the Russian Mafia starring Naomi Watts and Viggo Mortensen, you might think this Broadway Market barber shop looks familiar. That’s because it appears in the opening scene, where a customer gets his throat cut. Really quite unpleasant.

In the movie it’s called Azim’s Barbers, and the owner decided to keep that name on the glassfront, so it now has two names. If you peer in the window and demonstrate through your body language and facial expressions that you recognise it as a film set, the proprietor, Mr. Ismail Yesiloglu, will brandish his scissors threateninglyazims-barbershop1 to hint that his current customer is about to meet a similar fate. 

Broadway Gents Hair Studio, 54 Broadway Market, London, 020 7241 3494

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Why would anyone brick up a window?

When I first moved to England I often wondered why you’d see bricked-up windows around the place. Were there light-fearing hermits living there? Did someone just get sick of cleaning their windows? The ones pictured here can be seen on Landsdowne Drive, next to London Fields, and I now know they are because a window tax that was introduced in 1696. This was an early form of income tax, because back then the idea of the government taxing, or even monitoring, people’s actual income was unthinkably meddlesome (imagine!).

Anyone with a window had to cough up, and the more windows you had the more you paid. Predictably, in an seventeenth-century example of blinging it up, some people flaunted their wealth by installing more windows than they actually needed. And those who wanted to avoid the tax simply bricked up their windows. This is also where the phrase daylight robbery is thought to originate.

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