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Archive for June 2009
We had one for the road at the Lion before going into the Archway tube station and starting the journey home. I’m really glad we made the effort, too.
Most Irish pubs in England (or indeed anywhere but Ireland) are mock-Irish, with their little Irish touches here and there and the obligatory Guinness taps and all that shit. This one has the same problem, with a street sign pointing the ways to Dublin, Belfast, and Donegal. But, this pub also had the Irish Derby on one television and Gaelic football on the other. The bartender and most of the patrons were Irish as well, with one of them tiredly explaining to me the intricasies of the match on telly…Gaelic football is great, I have decided.
So, I sat there with my Guinness and watched these guys play the match. They use a soccer ball but they can pick it up and run as long as they dribble it every several steps. To pass it forward you hit it from beneath like serving a volleyball, and to score you have to kick it through the goal into the nets or over the crossbar of the goal. The field is huge and the guys enormous as befits a game that is part rugby, soccer, basketball, and volleyball. Fantastic.
Jackie was ready to go when I noticed the painting behind her that looked like her granddad. After that, we took in a little more of the atmosphere and looked at a few more of the paintings then it was time to hit the tracks. This was an excellent London holiday, in my opinion.
Indian food distribution is a good business, and moving house for people is also a lucrative trade. But, which should I choose…
I like the sign for the Whittington Stone because it incorporates Dick Whittington’s cat in the sign and in the frame. Good stuff.
We came to the pub with empty bellies and the chicken tikka masala I had was very good. They brought one out to Jackie as well but she had ordered a chicken and bacon salad (our accents are indecipherable over here. When the order came back she was pretty happy with it, but the next day she was violently ill. It might have been something else, but I’m just saying….
Anyway, we got our food and a bottle of wine for something ridiculous like £13. The bar was basic but hopping and the crowd was decidedly local (a housing estate just behind the building seems to be the main source of revenue). I would definitely go there again, but don’t ever send the food back.
We had just left a cemetery and were heading to Archway tube stop when we found a fairly fresh corpse. The New Brunswick was still open at the 6th of May according to one scathing review by someone who probably shouldn’t have been in this sort of rough-ish neighbourhood to begin with. It was a Greene King house, but we were hungry and could have really used the 2 meals for a tenner specials they all seem to run. R.I.P.
[Note: these notes are mostly as I remember them from the tour, but a quick Google search on any of the details that sound dodgy is highly recommended. I'm am not a reputable source.]
Taking the tour of Highgate’s West Cemetery is highly recommended. The last time I was here (5 years ago) there was a lot of National Trust work going on refurbishing bits and bobs that we were able to visit this time. I always learn a little on this kind of tour and it is just a shame that to protect the site that access has to be limited to 14 visitors at a time (at a bargain rate of £5 for an hour long guided tour). Go do it.
The brief story is that in the early 19th century, 7 great private cemeteries were built, the grandest of which was Highgate. From the top of the hills above the cemetery you can survey all of London and before the many trees around the garden grew so large you could also do that from here. Public burial grounds would be re-used but the Highgate type private grounds allowed “perpetual right of interment;” in the more typical grounds, you would be buried for a few months then your casket dug up, your body dumped back into the grave and covered with quicklime to aid the dissolution of the remains, and the spot re-used. On that previous visit I also went by the London Necropolis Station that was used to dispatch the remains of poorer folk to another private ground and during a cholera epidemic was running around the clock.
Anyway, you enter a courtyard at the chapels (one for Church of England and another for dissenters:
and start the tour with a brief lecture near the holding area for the mourners:
From there, a typical funeral would have the departed and immediate family travel up the side paths (left for the posh graves, right for the not so posh graves) and the mourners would climb stairs straight back. A typical grave actually held several lead lined caskets. If you remove the capstone, there is a bricklined well with metal riggings in the walls leading down to the crypt which often had a big gate or door on it. Here’s one of those in side a displaced bit of marble:
There are a few places remaining if you want to be buried here, but for shear value you can get a spot in the Columbarium (if you plan to be cremated):
The Beer Family vault is one of the things that English Heritage had been working on when we last visited, but now you can go in and see the gold leaf mosaic rood, the death mask enhanced (this is really breathtaking) sculpture of the newspaper publisher’s daughter being greeted by an angel, and the fantastic marble floors…unfortunately you can’t take photographs inside. When work commenced on restoration, there were droppings and dead rats and pigeons three feet deep blocking the doors from opening and someone had to rappel into the crypt from a vent in the roof to clear the way. Here are two shots from the outside:
One more kind of cool story then I’ll just throw up the rest of the photos. Tom Sayers was this bare knuckle boxer whose dog wouldn’t leave his grave, and this was eventually commemorated in stone. His last fight (no, he died of TB a few years later) was epic. No one had ever beaten him and the boxing promoters of the day had found continuously larger guys for him to beat silly until they finally presented him against this American giant John Heenan who was 8 inches taller and 40 pounds heavier than Sayers. The “rounds” weren’t timed and just were marked by when someone was knocked to the ground, with the fight going on until one or the other guy couldn’t or wouldn’t go on…brutal. They went 37 of these rounds, with Sayers’ right arm dislocated in the 3rd round and hanging useless from then on. Finally, as Heenan appeared to be about to collapse (nearly 2 and a half hours later), some other Americans disrupted the fight which was eventually declared a draw. Sayers had at least 100,000 mourners at his funeral (including the dog riding in the front coach).
Here are some other animal carvings I noticed…kitties:
A lion guarding the grave of a Barnum-esque private zoo owner from the late 19th century:
And a horse:
In front of that horse, there’s an urn with a drape over it. The drape symbolises the death, but leaving it partially open is meant to allow the soul to escape to heaven. Non-believers sometimes have this with the urn completely veiled, but I didn’t see any of those. You DO see a number of inverted items, representing death. Here’s a good one for General Sir Loftus Otway; he served in the Napoleonic wars as a cavalry officer and the iron work around his family plot is inverted cannons with cannon balls in between:
And, now, here are a few that for one reason or another I especially liked:
There’s not a lot I can say about Highgate Cemetery, so this entry will be even more photo oriented than my regular posts. If you like wandering around in a cemetery and taking in the different styles of remembrance then I can’t think of many that are better for this than the East fields of Highgate (although the Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah Georgia is very atmospheric and the Pere Lachaise in Paris is not to be missed). Still, for a high concentration of the remains of famous folks this is a good location to hit.
Just behind her’s was the stone marking George Jacob Holyoake, the last person convicted for blasphemy in the UK. Upon release from prison, he published The Reasoner, an atheist newspaper and was again charged with a crime–this time for publishing an unstamped newspaper (but charges were dropped when the Stamp Tax was repealed). The first appearance of the term “secularism” was in The Reasoner:
We also found Sir Ralph Richardson under a surprisingly plain rock:
And Anthony Shaffer near the front entrance of the plots. Shaffer is best known here as the author of the Wicker Man, an especially creepy little cult film from the late 60′s, but also adapted a bunch of other good stuff for film (here’s his IMDB entry).
Among the artistic monuments, is this one by/for Peter Andreas:
Patrick Caulfied designed his own stone:
Mario Dubski has a pretty graphic design on his flat (but not in appearance) head stone:
And, William john Musgrove has a deco look to his marker:
The little black troll seen here is pretty unusual in this cemetery:
We were stuck in the queue for most of the Pretenders set and could only get close enough to the stage to kind of make out the features of the other acts but the jumbotrons mounted everywhere were helpful…still, I could sit at home and watch the concert on tv if this is what it boils down to.
Seasick Steve has a really annoying persona, as if he is trying too hard to be an authentic bluesman which is too bad because he really rocks when he stops telling his contrived stories and plays his sorry assed 3 string guitar or the one stringed diddly bow he had up there with him. The only accompaniement was a drummer and because of that I was reminded of the first time I saw the Flat Duo Jets…the sound was like 6 guys playing their asses off but in reality it was just Dexter Romwebber on guitar and Chris Smith with a single snare.
Ben Harper was okay, but I’ve never been a huge fan of his. Fleet Foxes was boring…it is really too bad because the singer has a great voice that is similar to (but richer than) Paul Simon’s. It is almost like the gods decided to make a band out of all the best things that the Grateful Dead, CSNY, and Phish had to offer but then bollocksed the whole thing up. After an afternoon of really good-to-tolerable music, this was more of the rock equivalent of a Fleet Enema than anything to do with wild life but at least the system had been flushed before the main event.
Neil Young was very good. This was the best live music performance I’ve seen in awhile and I’m glad we braved the rain, sudden temperature drop, the tens of thousands of hammered festival goers, and the lightning to see him.
Starving and with an hour and a half before the Pretenders were due to start playing, we dove into the Three Tuns near the Marble Arch to grab a burger and some beverages. Very good burger, too, and the place was very nice in spite of being housed in a modern office building (the interior was similar to that of very old pubs and quite cozy).
I had an Everards Sunchaser and Jackie a large red wine, and we were once again surprised at how reasonable the tab was. This had been a very good day for drinks, so far.
A little breakfast and we were off for a walk to the Portobello Market in Notting Hill. This turned out to be a huge mistake as it was packed with tourists and the market crap was even crappier than that on offer at the Camden Market (and, though I didn’t see any t-shirts of Che Guevara smoking a joint I could sense the presence). The one bright spot was a CD stall where we loaded up on some music then ducked into the Earl of Lonsdale for fortification.
I had a Samuel Smith Sovereign Best Bitter and Jackie had the standard vodka and tonic and for this we were charge a mere £4.00! The garden beckoned but the inside of the bar was especially nice as well and might be a good place to sit around watching out the windows if it weren’t for the market. Still, we had a shady spot to drink and review our records.
Jackie noted how you could tell the non-europeans because they would step out and see that there was someone at every table then turn around and leave even though, for instance, there was room for 6-10 more at our table. As if to underscore this point, an Italian family came out and plopped down with us making themselves quite at home (as well they should). Our Italian is rubbish and their accents sounded quite a bit more southern than we are used to anyway so we couldn’t really eavesdrop but they seemed somewhere between horrified and amused when their burgers arrived…oh well, our drinks were done and we needed to head onto the concert. Ciao.
Exiting the Wood Green tube station at 6:45 am and trying to get my bearings to start my run on Station Road, the first thing I spotted was a guy leaning into the wall urinating in full sight of the intersection. None of the junkies propping themselves up seemed to notice and I really wasn’t bothered either.
The planned route involved hopping from park-to-park to stay off the roads as much as possible, but I made a wrong turn early on and was treated to an urban adventure. Here are a few of the details.
In Amsterdam the streets glisten with phlegm because the dutch are especially keen on spitting [sidebar: I once saw this very elegant and tall couple (as they were dutch and that is their way) holding hands as they cycled off toward what I could only imagine was the opera; then there was this gurgling/hacking noise followed by the purging of a loogy that could have filled a water glass...this load came from the woman]. In London on Saturday mornings, the streets don’t shimmer but they have a refractive texture supplied by the minefield of vomit splashes everywhere you look. There’s three of the same curry here, a kebab there, some KFC and something yellow just in front of you. It makes it hard to look around and enjoy the scenery.
At Crouch End, I found part of the Parkland Walk which was on my original route but I ignored the compass bearings and took the trail a little bit southeast. The Parkland Walk is an old rail bed and where I entered it still had the rail platforms. It’s sort of eerie down there and I soon turned up to climb through the woods and came out in a council estate that seemed to be clean and not too threatening. Still, it helps that I was passing through so early in the morning.
It was very humid and quite warm and the run reminded me a lot of running in Atlanta. The rest of the route was pretty uneventful…Regents Park near the zoo, Marylebone, and past the Diana memorial pond in Kensington Gardens. The city had mostly awakened by the time I got back to the apartment at 8:15.
We were nearly completely worn out after our Victoria and Albert and Hyde Park adventure and didn’t savour the 5 flight walk up to our little bedsit so I talked Jackie around to a visit to the Stanhope Arms. A bunch of folks were outside and she was certain we couldn’t even get served much less find a seat, but indeed the inside was only about 90% full.
We had some standards (V&T for her and an Old Speckled Hen for me), and watched folks out the copious but etched windows facing Gloucester Road tube stop. This seemed to revive us both and we took a few moments to take in the nice touches in the pub: the tiles framing the structural/load bearing walls and the fine old wood floors, to be specific, are especially nice.
As it turned out, they have exactly the same menu as the Gloucester Arms and must either be owned by the same brewery (see my numerous complaints about the homogeneity of Greene King’s stable) or maybe even the same individual. Shame, as they are less than a proper city block apart. And, it seemed a bit pricey.
Jackie spotted a Blue Plaque on the Zambian Embassy and we saw that it was for Millais, one of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood founders.
The V&A is open late on Fridays so we try to go when we are in town. We always get museum overload before we’ve seen everything there, but made it through ironworks, some demonstrations of lost wax casting methods, and finally got the toxic dose of art in the jewelry section. Along the way we past some impressive antiquities and spent a little time in the cafe looking at the endless William Morris designs.
For fresh air and to get your head straight, you can go out to the garden and dangle your feet in the reflecting pool and have a pitcher of Pimms or a couple of beers. Crowds were already out there when we came through.
We left and strolled east past Harrods, up some narrow, hidden alleys and passageways, and through Hyde Park then back toward the apartment. It was just after dark and I had a ten mile run planned in the morning so we just had time to stop for a drink along the way.
We needed food and I had spotted the Gloucester Arms on my return run from some laps of Hyde Park so in we went. For a Friday afternoon, it wasn’t too crowded, and for so close to the tourism areas it seemed to be mostly populated by locals. The food was standard and unworthy of comment, but I had a delicious wheat beer from Sharp’s Brewery: Honey Spice Ale. It was citric and yeasty, but not in a bad way; more like a tropical bread than anything else. There was even a little of the honey flavour in the aftertaste.
I remembered, while sitting there and discussing where we should spend our first evening in London, that I had passed this once before when in town for a conference at Imperial College a couple months ago and trying to find another pub in Queens Gate Mews. I almost gave up and came in here then, but the other pub (The Queens Arms) was a better choice then and this one was adequate, barely, now. Nice when things work out…sort of.
A Greene King pub that seems to have its head screwed on right, the Bath House has interesting guest beers (I had a Tom Wood’s Bomber County), good windows on a mostly pedestrian street, a big service area and cheap prices. The street it is on is very narrow (so the photo above is as good as I could manage on my fourth pub in an afternoon) and most people would continue on to the touristy Eagle but I would highly recommend this pub for a proper session.
I was just there to knock out the obligatory pint, this time, but will definitely target it for meals and ales when in Cambridge for evening entertainments from now on. Watch this space for updates when I have a more protracted visit.
I entered the almost empty County Arms and was greeted by a Cambridge professor at the bar and a young woman behind it. I ordered a Burton Bright Sovereign Gold which was lemony and light and somewhat more alcoholic tasting than the abv would have suggested, but it was nice and I said so. “Oh, your the first one. Everyone HATES this and we can’t seem to sell it down to the empty cask,” the barmaid said.
She turns out to be the tenant, along with her fiance whose folks own the pub and let them have the apartment over the gaff in exchange for two shifts a week. This turns out to be quite the deal as the apartment sounds huge (and the building, built in the 1930′s) is really cool and fantastically well located.
Passing itself off as a gastro-pub, the Punter has had several previous incarnations in the last 5 years, most recently the Sino Tap chinese restaurant/pub. Mostly lagers on tap and barely covered barmaid breasts on display, I opted for a Hoegaarden and a quiet spot by one of the streetside windows.
Very nice restaurant layout, it really only seems pub-like when you step out to the side garden but the art on the walls is interesting. I had things to do though and so it was drink up and make tracks, for me.
The Pickerel claims to be the oldest pub in Cambridge and as it dates back to the 1500′s probably is. You enter a bar with room for 4 or 5 people, but a second slightly larger bar is behind that. There’s not much room unless you head out to the patio which is huge; don’t worry about kids taking up valuable real estate, though, because no under-18′s are allowed.
I had a nice pint of Old Peculiar on my visit (love the name and it is perenially just tapped out, so I was pretty glad to find it here). Dark, reddish brown but sort of bland, I can see how this is so popular and think that it is a safe intro to British ale for those intimidated by the drink. It was sunny and we (me and my pint) went out to enjoy the porch.
There were a couple of graduations scheduled and the place was likely to be packed soon, but for the time being it was a lovely spot to spend a lazy, early summer afternoon.
I was trying to keep my streak of good-pubs-in-Histon alive so skipped past the Barley Mow with its Greene King markings, but the Phoenix and the Boot were both closed so back I went and was pleasantly surprised. The place seemed fairly dead as I ordered up an IPA (on sale for 1.99 as were some of the cold fizzy beers), then headed out to the garden where, lo-and-behold, there were about twenty folks out in various stages of partial dress all with noticeable sunburns and really enjoying the large field out past the similarly large patio. I found some shade and made some notes on a membrane protein paper I had brought along to study.
So, I feel a little bad pre-judging this pub and will now try making it up by saying three nice things:
1) 1.99 pints
2) Giant garden and patio
3) They’ve got a really nice looking Thai menu in addition to the normal Greene King restaurant/pub fare. I want to try the Phoenix’s chinese food first, but now I have a second reason to finish a run in Histon for a meal.
I ordered a pint of Oscar Wilde from the Mighty Oak Brewery, a dark mild I was pretty certain had won an award. Detecting the american accent, the publican asked, incredulously, “a dark one?” I frowned and nodded curtly and he almost reluctantly fill the glass. Oh, yeah, this was the stuff, though; rich in flavour and smooooooth. There are 7 other pumps to choose from and I’m sure the menu changes regularly. If you enter the left bar, you won’t see them but the list of ales is on a chalkboard above the rails.
I finished and decided not to find out where the conversation betwixt the Yorkshireman propping the bar and the Essex guy brooding over his lager by the window was going. Something about the big city of Cambrige, I gathered. This was my second Histon pub, and so far they have both been cool.