Sunday, February 17, 2019


Funny thing about variety – the more you get, the more you want, although I think I might be about to contradict myself here.  Let me explain.
It being a slightly gloomy Saturday afternoon and the William Morris Gallery being closed (it’s always closed when I want to go there) we ended up in the Trap - “Walthamstow’s first cider taproom” they say, and I’m wondering how long it’ll be before the second one opens.  Possibly not long, the place seemed very popular.

 Ordering a flight of ciders seemed to be the way to go, and you tell the man behind the bar your preferences and I’m sure he does his best to oblige.  And he tells you what’s in the flight but of course by the time you’ve got to the table you don’t really remember what he said.

So I can’t absolutely tell you what we drank. I think there was Farmhouse Dry from Ross and Wye, and Willy Gun Cloudy Cider from Herefordhire.  There was certainly one that tasted of plums (and I think actually contained plums), and one that had been stored in rum barrels, which I thought tasted like homebrewed wine, which was OK in its way but not quite what you want from a cider.

And at the end of it I was left wondering whether I should just have had a pint of something tart and cloudy and settled for a lack of variety.  Next time.
     Incidentally, the furniture in the Trap was fabulously stylish and clever; also fabulously uncomfortable.

Friday, February 15, 2019


High crimes and misdemeanors, indeed
A member of the Slovenian parliament has stepped down after stealing a sandwich from a shop in Ljubljana where he says he was ignored by staff.
Darij Krajcic told local media he was annoyed at being "treated like air" and decided to test the supermarket's security by walking out.
The theft went unnoticed but the ruling Marjan Sarec List (LMS) party member insisted he later returned to pay.
Mr Krajcic has apologised, saying he regretted his "social experiment". 
His initial admission became public when he shared the anecdote with parliamentary colleagues in a committee meeting on Wednesday.
"I must have stood some three minutes by the counter," the 54-year-old later explained to private TV channel POP. 
Three supermarket employees reportedly failed to notice him as they talked among themselves, resulting in the former professor to test their attention.
"Nobody came after me, nobody yelled," he said, suggesting an over-reliance on video surveillance meant staff sometimes "overlook something".
Fellow MPs initially laughed at the story, but on Thursday, the head of LMS' parliamentary faction, Brane Golubovic, condemned Mr Krajcic's actions as "unacceptable".
"He took responsibility for it and resigned of his own accord," Mr Golubovic told the press, "in line with LMS' high ethical standards."
Mr Krajcic was elected to parliament last September, when the centre-left LMS party of Prime Minister Marjan Sarec became the senior partner in the ruling coalition.

From the BBC website

Sunday, February 10, 2019


A funny thing. I happened to be near St. Pancras last Sunday.  I was looking for somewhere to eat and have a pint, and there was The Betjeman Arms, inside the station itself.  Pubs on railway stations are always potentially dodgy but invoking the name of the good, late, Sir John seemed somehow promising.

Of course St Pancras is a wonderful structure and the pub, within the old hotel  was wonderfully labyrinthine.  The Betjeman Arms has some (not wholly unreasonable),  aspirations to being a good restaurant: “Wayne, our Head Chef, has cooked up a delicious mix of traditional British favourites and modern classics to tempt you with, all made with the freshest ingredients.”  What could go wrong with ordering a plate of fish and chips.

Once the order had been placed at the bar, I looked for somewhere to sit down, and I spotted a couple of seats next to a wiry, and indeed wired, middle-aged, stubbly-faced bloke in a Sheffield Wednesday sweatshirt.

I make no boasts, but I like to think I can spot trouble at a distance, and this guy looked like trouble.  I found a seat some distance way and waited for the fish and chips to arrive.  And while I was waiting a fight broke out between Mr. Sheffield Wednesday and a big Irish bloke with a hipster beard.  Raised voices, hideous threats and lots of “strong language” ensued, and a guy from behind the bar stepped in and told them to take it outside which they did. Punches were thrown in an uncoordinated way and the Irishman seemed to “win,” at least to the extent that the Sheffield Wednesday bloke slipped away into the tube station.

A few minutes later two police women arrived and took statements from the bar staff and the Irishman who’d returned to the bar after vanquishing his antagonist.  It all seemed strangely amicable but I couldn’t help thinking that Mr. Sheffield Wednesday might have gone elsewhere and started another fight.
But by then the fish and chips had arrived and they were not bad at all.  The mushy peas really weren't very mushy, which seemed a good thing.

Betjeman, of course, is regarded as the savior of St Pancras station and the adjacent Midland Grand Hotel, built in 1868; architect George Gilbert Scott. The building I was sitting in was first a hotel, then the offices of British Rail who wanted to close and demolish the site, until Betjeman led a very successful campaign to keep it.

At the current Betjeman Arms they even serve Betjeman Ale:

And so this Sunday I found myself in the Blackfriar, a Nicholson’s Pub in Blackfriars: Set in a historic, Art Nouveau Grade II masterpiece of a building, The Blackfriar was built in 1875 on the site of a Dominican friary. The building was designed by architect H. Fuller-Clark and artist Henry Poole, who were both committed to the free-thinking arts and crafts movement."

I thought freely, and ate a perfectly good plate of fish and chips, perhaps not as good as the ones at The Betjeman Arms though somewhat larger, 

And, no fight having broken out, I went downstairs to the loo and found the staircase was lined with photographs of John Betjeman.  Wouldn’t you know it?  He saved this place too!

         Betjeman seems not to have gone in for fist fights though he certainly liked a good public argument, and he certainly liked a good bottle of Burgundy.  He’s also a source,(though surely not the origin) of this kind of funny but also kind of predictable story:

“I expect you know that story of the ancient and reverend head of an Oxford college, a man of few words and those remarkable. Someone had brought a guest to the high table who was a confirmed teetotaler. At the end of dinner he was offered a glass of port, and proclaimed in a loud voice ‘I would rather commit adultery than drink a glass of port.’ Then, that ancient and reverend head of the house broke the silence by saying ‘And who wouldn’t?’”

But still, have a drink while you’re waiting.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


I realize, with a certain surprise, that I eat a vegetarian breakfast most days of the year.  Sometimes it’s cereal, sometimes it’s something smeared on toast (cream cheese, marmite, jam, that kind of thing).  But I never think to myself “Oh my, I’m having a vegetarian breakfast.”

But on Saturday I thought exactly that. I went out to brunch in Brixton with my friend Mariette from Berlin, who in fact is in fact firmly (if not fiercely) vegetarian and we ended going to the Lounge Brixton in Atlantic Avenue.  My friend likes cake for breakfast, and possibly for other meals too.  So she had a sort of cheesecake thing with apple and caramel and I had this:

Which is plantains, fried halumi (lurking under the plantains), of course a big old mushroom, and some beans, which the menu no doubt identified but which I can’t.

Afterwards we walked around and I was look for a suitably gritty urban spot to photograph my Berlin pal, and we found a place in front of a rolling door with “street art” on it, and I swear we both thought it said Cheese Zombie, which would have been cool enough in itself, but as you see, in fact it says Cheese London. I can decide if this is better or not.

Sunday, February 3, 2019


So we had two different kinds of shredded squid, and we had a couple martinis and we tasted the squid and I even made some "tasting notes" – and I’m absolutely sure that the one on the left was better than the one on the right, but I can’t find those lost notes, and I can only find one of the bags, that would be Jeeny’s - Jeeny appears to be a mermaid - and you know, really, in the greater scheme of things it’s no big deal. 

But the real fascination is the information on the back of that Jeeny’s pack.  The ingredients are, squid, salt, sugar, a preservative and a flavor enhancer.  But there’s some unexpected detail: “product of China” – not so surprising.  “Category of fishinggear Trawls” – which I suppose is a good thing, and more information that you’d expect.  But then, best of all: “Caught in Pacific Ocean Zone FAO no. 6” which seemed staggering.

So I Iooked that up, obviously.  Pacific Ocean Zone FAO no. 6 looks like this:

And is defined as follows: “All marine waters of the Northwest Pacific bounded by a line commencing from a point on the mainland coast of Russia in the Western Bering Sea at 175°00'W longitude and running due south along this meridian to 20°00'N latitude; thence running due west along this parallel to 115°00'E longitude; thence due south to 15°00'N latitude; thence due west to a point on the southeast coast of Asian Mainland at 15°00'N latitude; thence in a northeasterly direction along the coasts of Asian and Russian Mainland to the point of departure.”

Somehow I feel much better for knowing this.