“You’re going to swell up like a tick.”
–Work mate when he heard about the Chippy Challenge.
“No, he did the same thing with kebabs, last year…he’ll be fine.”
–Another colleague, in response.
Actually, I lost weight, starting the year at 178 lbs (12 stone 10 or, for the metric-minded, 81 kg) and spending most of the last 6 months dead on 154 lbs (11 stone even or 70 kg). This was grand, as I drank more this year than usual and ran only about the normal amount (maybe even less than, but I haven’t tallied the runs yet). I would highly recommend this diet at least to those who normally live on the 2013: Year of Kebabs Diet. I’m looking forward to seeing what drifting back toward normal alcohol and food intake will do to the weight.
Of the 126 qualifying meals, 75 were at a chippy, 40 in a pub, 3 at the house, 1 at a Dutch fish stand, and 7 others (cafes and dining halls).
I didn’t travel much this year so geographically they are pretty tightly clustered around home and work. I nailed a couple in mainland Europe and a few down at the southern coast, as well, but I had 36 each in Oxford or Swindon so I have favourites in those two localities.
Top 10 in Swindon:
Top 3 in Oxford (Chippies in Oxford are generally shit, but seek these out):
The 5 most dreadful:
Best 5 of the rest:
[The Chippy Challenge: to eat more fish and chips in 2014; see original post for details.]
Evaluation: Recommended by one of the professors at our group meeting today, it was worth visiting just to see the old Citroën van they use as a chippy. And, really, only for that. Still hungry after getting mugged by The Bear, I went by the van and ordered a batch of goujons which were light and perfectly cooked, granted, but entirely without flavour.
Days since last: 0 (The Bear, Oxford)
Monthly consolidations/compilations: January
An old acquaintance has secured Kate Bush tickets (first of 22 shows — which all sold out in 15 minutes — is tomorrow), one of the more heavily hyped items of late with several pages of bits in yesterday’s Observer and a documentary on BBC4 last Friday. Since she and partner are travelling from Los Angeles, I feel compelled to give some wholly unsolicited tourism options for any down time they have on the trip. Most of these are from the blog, so almost all of them require no extravagant expense (depending on what and how much you decide to eat and drink along the way). Not at all comprehensive, please add your own suggestions for my next trip down the Big Smoke.
Pubs: The map above is my London pub tally through 24 August 2014 and if you click on the picture it should take you to the UK-wide map from which this was gleaned. The pushpins are more accurately located than Google has them but some of the pubs are now gone. If you see one you are likely to want to visit, I have an entry for it on this site now linked to the pushpin on the map
but haven’t bothered to include links on the map ( so you would have to come back here to search for them). Some of my favourites are:
The Bree Louise: great selection of beer and cider near Euston Station
The Lyric is pleasant enough and you can peer out at the former Red Lion where the Communist Manifesto was mostly written.
I owe the Lord Nelson another visit after their hospitality during the London Marathon. Likewise the Rose of Denmark. The night before the race, we were also thoroughly entertained at the Flowers of the Forest.
Ladbroke Grove is the part of West Kensington where the Clash were holed up in the early years and you’ll find the Kensington Park a fabulous watering hole in the neighbourhood. Another pub with a bit of a punk history to it (and great Thai food on the menu) is the World’s End in Camden.
One of the most beautiful pubs I’ve seen in town is the Blackfriar. If you want to go to just one for atmosphere, this is it.
The East End has a few worthy boozers, too. I really like the White Hart with it’s Jack the Ripper connections and proximity to the London Hospital where John Merrick (the Elephant Man) lived out his days. Just up the road you’ll also find the Blind Beggar where Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell (Kray Brothers, Piranha Brothers, and Kemp Brothers fans should make time for a beverage here). Dinsdale.
Cemeteries: These are a particular favourite of mine and Jackie’s and we’ve done the Highgate tour several times. London has a bunch of good ones sprinkled around, and you could do worse than to stumble upon the Bunhill Fields (wiki here) and leave a penny at Blake’s site for the ferryman. Highgate East is free and very good, but Highgate West requires a tour guide although the hassle is well worth the cheap fee and the advanced planning. Closer into town, Kensal Green is also truly awesome and a good way to kill a few hours.
Farther afield but still in the London confines, the Necropolis Station is worth trying to find. Near the Waterloo Rail Station, this was a dedicated rail stop that shipped 10’s of thousands of small pox corpses out to the suburban cemeteries. Also, if you find yourself at Chelsea Bridge (see the music entry, below), there is another Victorian cemetery nearby we haven’t visited yet but have shortlisted.
Food: Okay, you can probably find more palatable things to eat, but nothing will be more quintessentially London than a bowl of jellied eels soaked in as much chilli vinegar as you can stand…and it comes with a little plate on which to spit the wee bones. Trust me on this one. Go to the Borough Market because if you chicken out there is a ridiculous spread of other food to go for, as fresh as you might ever hope for and reasonably priced (considering the floor show that goes with it).
English food is generally dreadful although I am really fond of blood pudding and fish and chips. If you are from the southeastern U.S., as the catalyst for this note is, you might find yourself more at home dining in the Brixton Market where people know what pimento cheese is and the greens and black-eyed peas are cooked in artery clogging levels of salt pork. Just pick a street stand and start eating; don’t worry, the contact high you get from the pot smoke everywhere will keep you munchy enough to try everything (wear loose clothing for the trip).
Music sites: More than any music site in London I am ashamed of NOT going to is the house where Joe Meek had his weird studio and eventually killed his landlady before committing suicide.
Look out, kid, there are sites I have been to that are pretty good such as Savoy Street in front of the Savoy Chapel where Dylan dropped cards while Subterranean Homesick Blues played in the background. You might also want to pop by number 3 Savile Road, the Apple offices where the last Beatles performance occurred, but under no circumstances should you do the Abbey Road walk of shame (better to just leave some graffiti on the walls outside the studios where, keeping with the Kate Bush theme, Man With the Child in His Eyes was recorded). Also, here’s a Werewolves of London location near the Kensal Green cemetery and not far from Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten’s squat.
Not London, just my Christmas card pic a couple of years ago, but musical
Clapham is an easy tube stop and the Clapham Common is a great and very large park to kill an afternoon around. Squeeze fans might go to the Clapham Junction station and get Up the Junction stuck in their heads. It’s not a long hike from there to Chelsea Bridge where you can look out over the Thames toward Battersea Power Station (The Pink Floyd’s Animals should come to mind) and settle into a brilliant Waterloo Sunset. Classical music fans can find Jimi Hendrix’s place (which had previously been Handel’s place) at 23 Brook Street while you can find the scene of one of the more annoying brain worms, Come On Eileen, at Brook Drive on the opposite side of the Thames.
Here are two websites that give pretty good music tour ideas. First, Music Like Dirt has a map if you just want to find something near you. The Shady Old Lady has a much more comprehensive site and a lot of other categories to choose from but you are on your own for mapping.
Dr. Who just started again, and I do try to hit Who sites out here in the provinces. Below, you’ll find a screen shot of the Google Earth map of Dr. Who scene sites in central London taken from http://www.doctorwholocations.net/ (download the file DrWhoLocations.kml to load into G-Earth and maybe a more useful map overlay — I’m using OpenStreetMap for mine).
For movie sites in London, try the map at https://moviemaps.org/cities/4 which, though far from comprehensive it does give you some touristy ideas, and a map.
Other recreation: I do not recommend Boris Bikes except maybe in the Square Mile on the weekends (the City is abandoned by 6pm Friday). They are cheap, sturdy, and fun but you can get yourself killed on them as well.
Depending on your interests overlapping a bit, I would highly recommend hashing in the city. London hashers are a friendly lot, take you to the most interesting pubs around, and if you aren’t careful you might even get a little exercise while trotting around the back alleys and through tunnels and up and down streets you might never otherwise venture. They have a centralised calendar of events here but sometimes it is irregularly updated; I have never been disappointed by a London based hash…here are some of the individual kennels’ pages:
West London HHH
South London HHH (SLASH) … say, ‘hi,’ to Testiculator if you go here or, for that matter, any of the others as he seems to hash a lot.
I weaseled into the 2012 Challenge (100 Yellow Beers in 100 Places) because it involved beer and then, quite drunk at the end of that year, decided to mock the 2013 Challenge (50 Burgers in 50 Places) because it didn’t involve beer. I also wanted to mock the other participants because, as fat Americans tend to do, they threw themselves into the gorging challenge with the gusto Brits plunge into drinking contests. [Is it any wonder I’m trading up from the blue to the red covered passport?]
However, as burgers are particularly shitty in England (the few that aren’t are far too pricey to justify) I requested a substitute dining experience: the kebab. I have been hooked on the spitted elephant leg of spiced meat (I hope it’s meat, anyway) ever since my post-doc years in Amsterdam — in Holland, look for a ‘shoarma’ place to get a decent kebab: they usually aren’t to far from the coffee shop you wake up in.
I was aware that even my unhealthy lifestyle might be challenged by attacking this task too eagerly — to eat 50 of the dreadful things in 50 different places in a year — so I set a pace of one per week (with the option for a bonus kebab here and there) to ensure I finished well on the distant side of the goal line. A kpw (see one of the posts for an explanation) shouldn’t be too hard, should it? But, the pace was toxic and I have been looking forward to a break from this effort for months, now, and may not have another ‘bab before summer now that it’s over. I still enjoy them and have a good database started of who serves a decent one but enough is enough.
So, it may come as a surprise that I am continuing the street-foodie effort into 2014 not so much as part of “Wiley and Brownie’s Annual Challenge” but more due to my own OCD issues. Therefore, 2014 will be the year of Fish and Chips, with special efforts made to visit any with amusing names (such as A Salt and Batter-y, Frying Nemo, or the Codfather). Cod, haddock, pollock, what-have-you as long as it used to swim before it got battered and deep fried…at least one every seven days (minimum 52, probably closer to 100), no repeat venues, a brief report here and add the place to a Fish and Chips map (like the Kebab map that started with the 2013 Challenge, below):
The map so far
Oxford area (near enough to work)
Swindon (near enough the house)
2013 Kebab List:
[*kpw = kebab per week for 2013, as noted in an earlier post and the 57th entry for the 2013 Challenge and, note…I shall explain the 53 week year below†.]
This is how the 2013 Challenge Ends, not with a whimper but with a crappy döner and chips. It’s not as greasy as the photo looks but the chilli sauce is bland (good structure but no flavour) and the meat was incredibly salty. For £4.50 I would have liked some of the veg, too, but that’s probably why the other stands were crowded and this one wasn’t. Happy New Year, though. Taking a break from the kebab for a while….
†Brief Explanation of the 53 Week Year just completed
“Kebab Per Week” was a bit of a misnomer from the start as I counted the week from Saturday-to-Saturday inclusive, an eight day week that overlaps with the ones before and after so that, technically, I could have two kebabs as many as 15 days apart and still have one per week. The longest spacing was 10 days, though, and I went over ‘bab quota a few times.
The other issue is that the first and last weeks of 2013 had five and four days, respectively, by that definition, so the year had 51 ‘full’ weeks sandwiched by two short ones. This way my liberal definition of a week was tempered by a Sharia count of the number of weeks.
[*kpw = kebab per week for 2013, as noted in an earlier post and the 56th entry for the 2013 Challenge]
The year is winding down and walking home from the bus station after a short day at work I took the opportunity to hit the last of the Town Centre kebaberies, Korky’s Takeaway on Fleet Street. It was early for them and the pre-Christmas drinking crowds had not yet descended so the guy didn’t much notice I was there while I inspected the sad, damp piles of wilted salads and onions. This is atypical even in shitty kebab shops, so I didn’t expect much of the sandwich (and shouldn’t according to the inspection report, either)..
Wrong. It was quite nice. Gamey, like lamb but more so like mutton, the texture was surprisingly more like meat than chewy connective tissue. The flavour was that of freshly barbecued slices albeit straight from the steam table. The chilli sauce was respectably spicy and the tomatoes and chillis (the only veg that didn’t disgust in appearance) were brilliant. Even the pita from a bargain-sized bag was alright. [Full disclosure: I had not eaten anything since biscotti at 6 in the morning.]
Cold out, I was ready to head off to a rendezvous at the Beehive but first took my choice of booths to listen to Christmas Carols on the tele while my host returned to his smart phone. Merry Christmas, everyone.
[*kpw = kebab per week for 2013, as noted in an earlier post and the 55th entry for the 2013 Challenge]
At the end of a winter loop run along ridges above the River Kennet, I was cold and hungry and lucky to find a kebab stand open (the Kebab and Pizza House which I last visited a few years ago). Well, I SAY lucky but two hours later I a still chugging iced tea and water trying to lower the salinity of my blood. But, it was tasty, if not especially good for the blood pressure: the pungent flavours of mutton and, I’m guessing, rotting beef at least indicated meat was a major component and the sauce and veg were good. Not really worth rushing out to Marlborough for unless you are suffering from hyponatremia.