Sunday, 20 November 2011

Highgate Ponds

A small piece I did for the lovely people at GLP...

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Sophie's Steakhouse. Wow trousers.

As my Aunty Margaret used to say, some people are all talk and no trousers. If I remember correctly, she was in the midst of explaining her thesis on the great transvestite orators from the early 19th to mid 20th centuries, but in abstraction, the phrase conjures up notions of bollocks-less threats, failed promises and dashed hopes.

According to their website, Sophie’s Steakhouse prides itself on “putting the emphasis back on the customer” and on its “food, service and atmosphere.” I like eating, receiving and breathing these things so some friends and I toddled off to the Fulham Road one (there is another in Covent Garden) to judge for ourselves. Was this talk, or was this trousers? In short, trousers. Great big mustard chord plus fours with velvet trim, a sheaf of forgotten fifty-pound notes in one pocket and an unopened packet of aniseed balls in the other.

Sophie’s doesn’t take bookings, so one polls up and hopes for the best. We were lucky enough to get a table immediately, but the bar is excellent should you need a place to wait. Once seated one is presented with a small plate of salami to be getting on with whilst perusing the menu. It’s a nice touch. I often wish I were presented with a small plate of salami at other moments in my life.

It’s a Steakhouse so I had lobster, because I’m a wild horse and you can’t tame me. It came fully shelled with avocado in a club sandwich. It was one of the most AWESOME (yes I used Caps Lock, what of it?) sandwiches I have ever eaten. Even thinking of it now sets me salivating. The fish and chips and steak of various kinds were received favourably by the others. We had to restrain one of our number from drinking the special steak sauce directly from the bottle.

Pudding was perhaps a little less awesome but still did the job. The fudge brownie was served warm and gooey and it in turn made me feel warm and gooey.

The service was excellent. Our waiter and waitress (both with cheek bones you could cut glass with and legs for days—where they find these people I don’t know) were intimate without being invasive and relaxed but proficient.

The atmosphere is energised, with a throng of people about the bar and, when I was there at least, there were some groovy tunes on the sound system. Although why Rhianna doesn’t know her name by the end of the song ‘What’s my name’—having so importuned for its entirety—is a mystery to me.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Graduation - A case for in absentia

By some miracle or (more likely) through some administrative bungle, I have a degree. Whatever the reason, it's mine now and I’m not giving it back, so there. Oliver Ray BA. It has a rather pleasing ring to it, don’t you agree? It should sound good. Those two letters symbolise three years of hard(ish) work, lectures, rent, tuition fees, booze, tears, ink, laughter, torpor, tutors, friends. BA. Done.

But once the results come in there is still one thing left. The Graduation Ceremony. The truth is, I didn’t want to go. But there was a meal after with family and friends, so I changed my mind.

Tickets were £25. A maximum of three could be purchased. Gown rental was £39. To put £114 in some kind of context, that’s almost a velvet smoking cap from Lock & Co. It is precisely two DVD box sets of The West Wing Series 1-7. President Bartlett wouldn’t stand for this kind of shit. Nor would Rob Lowe.

The day arrived. I threw on a suit (dashing), threw myself into a cab (stuffy), threw money at the cabbie (annoyed) and passed through the doors to the Barbican (mysterious). Naturally, it would make far too much sense to hold the ceremony where we actually studied. Picking up my tickets was easy. Queuing for robes was a bore, and once donned they had the curious effect of making one want to indulge in a bit of ritual Satanism. Then came the ceremony. The fact is, unless you are as benevolent as Pudsey Bear, you don’t give a ha’penny fig for ninety percent of the students that walk up there. And that’s fine. Everyone else feels the same way. But you clap, you listen to the speeches and place mental bets on which jokes have been dusted off year after year.

There are some exceptional students, some mediocre (that’s me) and some that frankly make the whole thing drag on. Yes, actually, I AM looking at you Peace Studies, don’t think we can’t see you skulking at the back, you self-righteous nonsense mongers. Eventually my turn came. The trot up the stairs, the brief pause at the edge of the stage. And then up on to it. Suddenly walking demanded my full attention and I stepped with the exaggerated care of the slightly inebriated (though of course I wasn’t. How very dare you). I shook the nice man’s hand (“I’ve never met you before and doubtless never will again, but very well done”) and received my scroll.

Back in my seat, I found the scroll wasn’t my degree, but in fact a printed letter. ‘Dear Student’ it began. OH, the insatiable flirts. The text was humdrum, with the odd platitude shoved up it for good measure. I have made life long friends and have been taught by some of the best minds in the land. I don’t need raw hands and empty words. I’d rather have a smoking cap or the complete West Wing. Oh, and then a job.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Wimble Womble

Mouth London ended up posting this. You can read the tinkered version here.

Everyone on the underground was going to Wimbledon. Perhaps it would have been wiser to take the over ground. Or to have wombled free. The District Line sagged with our collective weight, but rattled in a self-satisfied sort of way. Now was its time to shine, viridescent, casting the other lines into shadow.
Outside Southfields station there were cabs ferrying people to the grounds. I hopped in one and noticed three people were following me in. I tend not to share cars with strangers, but it seemed the done thing today. We exchanged a few bons mots re the weather and the order of play before settling into silence (companionable or awkward, I forget which), gazing out at the hundreds of others convening on the Club.
I fell out of the taxi (one must arrive in style to these occasions) and through the gates. There was the usual rigmarole of bag checks for exploding bananas and the quick look up and down to get a sense of whether you were the sort of man to lunge wildly at Pippa Middleton and then I was allowed in. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club stretched out before me.
I spent the first couple of hours taking in some of the smaller matches. Even in the early stages, vixen mating calls were erupting from the women’s games. I saw Feliciano Lopez square up to Michael Berrer. Some girls have since told me it ought to be Deliciano. His athleticism is unquestionable, he has that jaw line I suppose and he is somewhat callipygian as professional sportspeople are wont to be. I overcame the urge to seek out a copy of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and moved away. The time had come to collect my centre court tickets.
I meandered through the crowds, deciding who had come to see the tennis and who had come to be seen. There was an interminable amount of brown suede loafers and interminable brown suede loafing. The pallid, the tanned, the sock-and-sandaled, the unprepared with skin burnt or white, alternately strawberry and cream. The odd Louboutin flashed saucily on stairs up to the show courts hoping to be caught on camera. I saw Noel Fielding looking smashing, Panama at a rakish angle.
Tickets collected and Pimm’s in the veins, I entered centre court. Having missed the beginning of the match, I joined a small group of people at one of the gangways, poised to enter at a break between games. The moment arrived and we dashed to take our seats. It’s amazing what banked seating does for the atmosphere. Matches suddenly become gladiatorial. I watched Nadal doing what he generally does in circumstances such as these.
The lineswomen about the periphery of the court were all rather formidable, reminiscent of French resistance fighters. The kind of women that would knead bread with hands that had strangled a Nazi two hours before. By the by, all the line and court judges have been in that smart outfit since 2006. If you’d like a Wimbledon blazer in doeskin flannel, get yourself down to Ralph Lauren with £870. Or become a French resistance fighter.
Later, rain threatened and the roof unfurled over the court. It seems to be working rather well. Cliff hasn’t felt it necessary to give a repeat performance. When the roof is extended, the court becomes slightly alien. Cheering, ball thwacking, judgement calling all take on a different resonance. Suddenly grass is indoors, like some space age hydroponics bay. Appropriately, Murray played after the roof closed with all the cold determination of Borg (Star Trek not Bj√∂rn). He won and a lucky audience member got a sweaty wristband in the face. He needs to shave and smile more.
Being at Wimbledon was a treat. I have since had to follow the tournament on television. This is not without its advantages. I can still throw on a dressing gown, but I don’t get the odd looks.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The River Cafe

I review The River Cafe, Hammersmith, for Mouth London Magazine. Cast an eye, or possibly two, over it here.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

BBC in May

More musings for The Bubble. Read them here.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Royal Wedding

Oh, it's all very exciting. Words for Mouth London.

Image ©Jeni Rodger

Friday, 22 April 2011

Masterchef in review

Read my musings for The Bubble Magazine here.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Skins in review

For reasons not entirely my own, I seem only to be writing reviews at the moment. Still, I hope you enjoy them. Ho hum. Read my latest for the Bubble here.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Take Me Out in review

I was asked to review a show for The Notebook Magazine. Here it is.