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Soho Pub Landlord Launches Campaign to Feed Calais Migrants

A soho pub landlord’s launched a crowdfunding campaign to help feed the hundreds of migrants currently living in makeshift camps in Calais.

Coach and horses sign, Soho

‘Living’ might be too generous a word, as being holed-up in a tarpaulin jungle, taking nightly risks to cross the channel and being regarded as vermin rather than than people (thanks for that, Katie Hopkins) hardly constitutes a life (and that’s without the rumours of harassment from French police).

Alistair Choat of The Coach and Horses pub, Greek Street has decided to approach the situation with a decidedly more human approach to well, humans.  It sounds like a no-brainer – you know, be nice to your fellow man and all that, but between the hostile reaction of the government and the toxic reporting from your right wing press, Great Britain ain’t looking so great.

The idea’s to raise £5000, cook up a storm in the pub’s kitchen and drive over to Calais and feed as many people as they can.  It’s an ambitious venture, but it’s probably what Julia Child would do.

Julia Child

Choat said: “Ideally I want to take good food to as many as possible and through that demonstrate real British values.

“I suppose to feed hungry people who are, let’s face it, only about a hundred miles away surrounded by barbed wire , guns and oppression. Pretty much what they have mostly escaped from. Well done Cameron!”

These real ‘British values’ are the campaign’s raisons d’etre – treating others with ‘dignity, respect and kindness’.  Something Choat reckons hasn’t been happening and why he’s trying to show that not all Brits are mannerless oiks even if our government and media hasn’t been setting the best example.

right wing press media

Aren’t the right wing press a friendly bunch?

Choat said: “It’s not the immigration issue per se that has spurred me to try and do something positive but perhaps more in the little our government has done and this searing branding they and much media have tainted these people with.

“The statements they have out and their choice of words I believe we’re carefully picked to help further demonise these stranded people and maintain their stance of fortress Britain.”

And for publican, Choat, perhaps the very essence of these ‘British values’ leaks straight out of the beer barrels and wood paneling of the Victorian boozer.  A time when you could roll into an establishment and be greeted with more than a nothing-y nod, and there was more on offer than just a mass produced lager and microwaved meal, served to you by a dead-eyed student on minimum wage.

Getting down and boozy in VIctorian times

Getting down and boozy in VIctorian times

My local drinking hole in Elephant and Castle sums up the sentiment of pub-outings perfectly.  Yes, from the outside, it looks scary – all mock tudor panels and flushed, unsavoury afternoon drinkers – but inside it’s a different story.  Old school charm and South London banter is ripe and the hand written scrawl above the bar sums it up perfectly – ‘A stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet’. It’s attributed to ‘Anon’ but of course, we all know it’s from A Streetcar Named Desire.  Not that it matters.

The campaign seems less about the politics of entitlement and the ‘why should they come over to our country, take our money/jobs/women/seats on the bus’ rhetoric that’s tattooed on the lips of the ignorant, and more about remembering our manners.  People are people and deserve to be treated as such – even more so if they’re struggling or in need. Simple as that.

Support the campaign here: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/coachandhorses-soho

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I Went To A Seance That Wasn’t Really a Seance

I went to a séance last week.

In a mysterious chapel that stands in the centre of a cluster of 17th Century almshouses, known as Asylum.

It was hosted by a magician so really, I should’ve known it would all be one BIG LIE!

The séance looked nothing like this

The séance looked nothing like this

Despite having all the ingredients for a spooky night; the promise of talking to the dead in a crumbling chapel, some darkness and a distinct lack of heat (basically the end of the Blair Witch Project minus the snot), the end shock reveal was less ta-da, and more I-will-never-get-that-hour-of-my-life-back.

Nothing says disappointment more than this baby

Nothing says disappointment more than this bored baby

After waiting for a while outside the chapel, we were invited in. The chapel is AMAZING. All chipped stone and flaking paint and apparently disused, although later I found out it can be hired for special events and trendy weddings. With coats, jumpers and hats remaining on, we sat on wooden chairs and lit candles laid out for us. Because candles mean atmosphere, innit.

We were told a story about a ghost girl, who died in the chapel after being crushed by a falling ceiling. I believe it’s what they call “setting the scene.” This girl carried around a music box which went missing in the rubble. But guess who had managed to get his hands on THE VERY SAME ONE? Our host, the magical, mystical, magic magician man.

Now THIS is a scary music box

Now THIS is a scary music box

He reminded me of the boys at school who ended up as estate agents. Bleached blonde hair gelled into what he probably thought was a sophisticated style, polished shoes that men wear to get into Tiger Tiger and a contrived confidence that added nothing to the gravitas he so desperately wanted to command the room. I think his glasses were from the designer range at Specsavers and his neediness smelt like Lynx deodorant.

He introduced our psychic medium for the evening and she was rather attractive. This made me suspicious. When are mediums ever hot? It was at this point I began to smell a rat. And the rat too, smelt like Lynx.

She explained a bit about herself, her power and had some awkward dialogue with the magician. I knew we were to be treated to a scripted performance but perhaps one not so poor. It made me think about the potential of the every actor in Hollyoaks. After doing a few exercises, she guessed (sorry, read) the room and found out someone in the audience had recently lost their Grandmother. A classic “I’m, I’m, getting a…a…a…J….” reading complete with reaching fingers and a squint. I’d been trying to channel Michael Jackson, so I got rather excited. But no, it was old lady, Joan.

I should've gone to this seance to speak to the King of Pop

I should’ve gone to this seance to speak to the King of Pop

Or this one

Or this one

The medium got into a cubicle, similar to those used in hospitals, so she could “make the spirit feel safe” and more likely to come out to say hey. Or something. She had a bell, a book and the music box, later used as a dramatic tool to emotionally manipulate the audience. She was tied to a chair, as to not interfere with the objects and the curtains were closed. And then the bell rang.

A “volunteer” went in the cubicle to make sure the medium wasn’t fiddling with anything and confirmed the bell moved by itself. Then a little girl, dressed up for Halloween appeared and screamed. Then the musical box went off. Then the medium vomited.

I wish Gaz had been our medium

I wish Gaz had been our medium

After this song and dance, we were told it was all pretend. Well, duh! The vomit was revealed to be a simple mixture of flour, rice and carrot and the little dead girl was a real alive girl. The magician piped up and said with a wry smile: “You have been part of an experiment to explore how Victorian audiences were once fooled into believing they could talk to the dead. And I think we can safely say that audiences still can be.”

So, rather than doing a Derren Brown and treating the audience as intelligent, Mr Magician here thought he could win us over by treating us like dum-dums. But as I looked around at the cold and bored audience, still holding their freebie candles, it was obvious all were ready to lock him in the crypt.

You want astonished?

You want astonished?

Unaware, the magician then asked us all to stay a bit longer to film some more audience shots. “Look really astonished” he said. Several times.

So I widened my eyes, opened my mouth and laughed out my candle.

RNIB Neon Fun Run at Mile End Stadium; Get Ready to Glow

Ever since the first London Marathon in 1981, long distance running has become a solid form of fundraising.

It’s not only a way to support a good cause, become a lean-mean-fast-moving-machine but it can also be a way to stop yourself spending too much money at the pub or the chicken shop, where you’ve become somewhat of a regular. So much so that you’ve been invited to the chicken-man’s four-year-old daughter’s birthday, when you last popped in for your spicy wings.

Chicken-shop Dave when you're not there

Chicken-shop Dave when you’re not there

Whilst some marathons have attempted to break up the monochrome and monotony of the standard road run with barbed wire, dress codes and wine pit stops (that’s America for you), the majority remain concrete-grey and could hardly be described as a party.

Nor do they often happen at night.

Which is why the Royal National Institute of Blind People is holding the first Glow Neon Fun Run on 25 October at Mile End stadium, a pumping-party run complete with a large sound system, to raise money for blind and partially sighted people.

Whilst night runs are popular in the US, Daniel Larcey, the fundraising innovation manager from RNIB says that the UK tends to stick to night-walks. That’s the English health and safety attitude, all over.

Keeping sign loving folk safe

Keeping sign loving folk safe

But RNIB are trying to make a point. Daniel says: “Doing something in the dark could help people appreciate some of the challenges for the blind or partially sighted people. It is for this reason that we want to hold a night-time event in the first place.”

Inspired by the full moon parties in Thailand, participants are invited to walk, run, hop, skip or dance around the track whilst being sprayed by luminous paint-spraying canons. And I’ll bet there’ll be someone who attempts a three mile moonwalk.

Training for the RNIB Neon Glow Fun Run

Training for the RNIB Neon Glow Fun Run

Motivated by the DJ spinning hits of the 80s, 90s and current chart numbers whilst the canon squirts out luminous colour, could this be the most fun night run in the UK?

Event details:
25 October
Mile End Stadium, 190 Burdett Rd
7pm – 9pm
£25 donation

For more information see the official RNIB page.

Eating Bugs at The Pestaurant

On Thursday, I queued up with bankers and brokers alike to eat a pigeon.

The Pestaurant...see what they did there?

The Pestaurant…see what they did there?

The common pigeon (Columba Livia) doesn’t have any one habitat in London’s grey and pleasant land. You can find them almost anywhere; hanging out in intimidating gangs in Trafalgar Square, getting caught up in weaves on the Peckham pavement and begging for tuppence outside St Pauls Cathedral. I’ve never been inclined to kill man nor beast, and I think the last time I saw a pigeon on the menu I freaked out as only a ten year old seaside child in a Lebanese restaurant can. But I was hungry, and curious.

Yum.

Yum.

Whilst queuing with The Suits, I was offered a light starter of barbeque meal worm, a crispy and unsatisfying snack, not dissimilar to the crap bit of popcorn that you have to painfully pick out of your teeth. I doubt we will see the meal worm gracing our cinemas or supermarkets anytime soon.

Can I tempt you with some tasty nibbles?

Can I tempt you with some tasty nibbles?

The pigeon burger was alright but the disappointment of it not looking like a bit of pigeon was just too much; I wanted more of a pigeon feast for the eyes. Think hundreds of urban pigeons rotating on the spit roast, with a pile of pre-plucked carcasses waiting to be prepared for a grilling; a little more feather and a bit more drama. Instead, we were handed a standard looking burger in a bun with the small print stating that this was pigeon mixed with venison and bacon which meant it just tasted like bacon. Whilst we were told (and thank God; I’m not ready for another horse meat scandal), it was a bit lame; you can get venison and bacon anywhere and I wanted a dirty, London-tasting pigeon in a bun and in my hand. The taste of pavement and puddles.

Or something like that.

Looks like a burger, smells like a burger.  It's a pigeon.

Looks like a burger, smells like a burger. It’s a pigeon.

Disaster struck when the kind people at Rentokil ran out of all the other pesky delicacies which swarms of city workers desperate for a chocolate ants and barbequed crickets had come for, but alas, it just wasn’t meant to be. Now, I’m not trying to say that The Suits got greedy, but, well maybe they did.

Now, what to feast upon next...

Now, what to feast upon next…

The irony demonstrated by the shortage at this Rentokil Pestaurant is that we could have just found our own creepy crawlies, whacked them on the grill and had ourselves a very, merry picnic without the queues but I guess also without the media exposure. Which, at the end of the day, is what is needed to get Londoners to eat their common household pests.

Now, I’m off to find me a rat.

World Naked Bike Ride: I’ll Do It Next Year

On Saturday 8th June, hundreds of naked cyclists took to the streets of London wearing little more than a smile and a pair of sunglasses.

bike2

The cyclists baring all. I hope they’re wearing suncream.

Taking off (pardon the pun) from five stations (Marble Arch, Regent’s Park, King’s Cross, Clapham Junction and West Norwood), the cyclists of the annual World Naked Bike Ride literally put themselves out there, protesting against car culture and oil dependency, before converging at Hyde Park Corner.  Having caught up with the WNBR cruising down Haymarket, it became evident that “burning fat, not oil”, was not the only burning that was taking place; bare cheeks on sweaty seats could anticipate a fair bit of bum chaffage, after a few miles, to be sure.

934882_479831152093599_29095430_n

A WNBR seat cover

I was more than tempted to do the bike ride this year, however in order to do so, I would have had to get over my fear; not of nakedness but of bicycles, or rather the riding of said bicycle.  Having crashed one of those dodgy mopeds in Laos a few years ago, I have since avoided all locomotives apart from my legs as I just can’t be trusted to operate any moving vehicle.  However, after seeing two naked pensioners being pulled along in a makeshift chariot, I’m sure there will be other ways to participate in the World Naked Bike Ride next year.

But before that day comes, I have some burning questions.  Where does one leave their clothes; are there special naked bike race day lockers put up at various points around the route?  I remember finding myself dancing next to a naked man in a club once and thinking the same thing; does he turn up in clothes and check each item in at the cloakroom once he’s unrobed and ready to rock, or does he just queue for the club, naked bar a suspect trench coat, and stash it under one of the tables?

It's all about the body freedom

It’s all about the body freedom

Where does one keep their phones, keys and cash?  Without wishing to be vulgar, perhaps it gives an all new meaning to the term, “bum bag”?

What about the actual moment of undress?  When you go the doctor and end up having an examination of your bits, they always leave the room, as if undressing in front of them is more intimate than the internal examination; well it is a bit.

And then there’s the end of the race; does everyone just hang around, slapping each other on the back having completed the nine mile ride, in true naked camaraderie?  Or is there a dash to the nearest pile of clothes, a flurry of hurried dressing and the potential of ending up in a stranger’s jeans?

I was glad I saw the race in all its naked glory plus all the added extras;  bow ties, masks, body paint and their own messages of protest.  One such gentlemen (accessorising his nakedness with a hat and pair of walking boots) had “free the naked rambler” attached to his bicycle and had no qualms about getting his point out there, dismounting his bike to ask a passer by to take a photo of him on the West End street.  Outside Pizza Express; very political.  I also very much enjoyed sharing the pavement with him.

The real naked rambler

The real naked rambler

There was plenty to see and learn in order to be fully prepared next year.  The most important thing to consider came from seeing the panic stricken face of one cyclist as he raced to catch up with the naked mass.  It would seem that the WNBR is like the fire drills you have at school; the key is to never get left behind.  Otherwise, a fantastic way to make a statement quickly becomes the equivalent to the walk of shame.  There’s enough of that in Piccadilly Circus as it stands, so keep up with the race and leave the shame to the hen parties.


For more information see the official website.

Save The Crane on Brick Lane!

Whilst I have fully come to terms with the fact that I will never understand everything (the Higgs Boson malarkey tends to escape me), negative public opinion regarding street art and the laws that surround it, generally comes as somewhat of a surprise.

I always think of my Mother when it comes to old fashioned thinking.  The kind of people who still find it shocking when they see men holding hands and who insist that girls should be chaperoned after dark.   Madre deeply mistrusts any hooded, young person with a spray can, assuming they were up to no good and tends to shudders at the word “graffiti”.

She’s been hailed the “female Banksy” at 10 years old.  My Mum would probably give her an ASBO

It seems like there’s a team of graffiti whistleblowers, who rule the streets across the world, whacking Perspex over every Banksy paint speck and clearing off everything else.  In Sao Paulo, the authorities also went so far as to wash away the work of a “reverse graffiti” artist who had cleaned skulls into a dirty underpass.  No one owns the dirt!  The artist, Alexandre Orion was trying to highlight the shocking pollution and when push came to shove, the authorities only washed off the part of the underpass Orion had been working on!  You’ve got to question what the actual problem is; it seems less about vandalism and more about power and government ego.

And the legalities! We could bang on about the legalities forever.  I won’t, but I WILL point out that the maximum sentence going for those “caught in the act” of graffiti is ten years; similar sentences go for drug trafficking and sexually assaulting a Chihuahua.  True story.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/26/sex-assault-on-chihuahua-_n_1169991.html

But even when permission is granted, pieces have been created and landmarked, street art still has no rights.

Two years ago, Belgian artist ROA came to town, saught permission to paint and proceeded to create a 40 foot crane.  Originally intended to be a heron, ROA’s design was swayed when he found out that cranes are sacred in Bengali culture.  Since then, people flock (no pun intended) to Brick Lane to take photos of the fantastic painting that ROA gave to the community.  In short, it’s a fantastic piece, it’s well loved and it is has a special place in the hearts of those who live and visit the area.

However, last week someone thought it would be a great idea to install a 10x10m corporate banner right on top of the painting declaring “Banglatown, Brick Lane, Curry Capital 2012).  They did not wait for permission (the decision won’t be finalised until 29th May), they’ve covered the crane and it’s a bloody ugly banner.  Talk about obnoxious!  Plus, once you’re up that end of Brick Lane, it’s pretty obvious that there is a lot of curry to be had.  There are 52 restaurants there, for Christ’s sake.

Do you reckon they’ll get ten years in prison for this shameless vandalism?  As if.

There’s an online petition put forward by Alternative London which needs 5000 signatures to make the council take notice.  So what are you waiting for?  Let’s unite and set the crane free!  Authorities can’t just bung up corporate advertising willy nilly and especially not over fine pieces of art.  Who do they think they are?  Art not advertising; let’s get talking.

http://www.change.org/petitions/tower-hamlets-council-save-the-crane

http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/alexandre-orion?before=1312068708

http://roaweb.tumblr.com/

 

A guide to handling gig talkers

Oh the joys of a gig. The band so close you can see their frayed shoelaces, the hot air that smells of hard work and being in the comfort of strangers. Strangers that lean on you when they’re not feeling so strong or when they’ve been a bit overzealous in the mosh pit after too many ciders. It’s a happy place. But every so often you encounter the poisonous mushroom that sprouts in the warm, damp conditions and sours the sweet taste. It happened when my Uncle took me to a gig when I was 16 and he was bouncing on the shoulder of a girl he thought was a boy who told him to f*** off. It also happened the other day, when a miserable beard didn’t like me talking to me friends by the bar. Using sarcasm as his weapon (lowest form of wit springs to mind) wasn’t too bad, but then he went forth with his toxic thoughts all over the internet. Try as I might, I can’t imagine skinheads tweeting mean things about those they fought at punk nights. Not very rock and roll.

“Totally mad night last night.  Bottled a punk then bottled it.”

Talking at a gig isn’t the end of the world, but I’ve written a quick guide for those who are less socially ept to help them deal with it. After all, the internet is littered as it is; it doesn’t need any more rubbish.

1. Prepare

As some wise old man once said “acceptance is the first step to enlightenment”. Or something like that. If you go to a gig knowing that it’s not going to be full of tongueless kids and that occasionally, one may embark on a conversation or two, then you’re going to be a lot better off when it absolutely, definitely happens . Gigs are often in public houses. Public house = open to the public. Public = people. People like to talk; we’ve all seen the BT adverts from the 90s. Spend the tube journey there mentally preparing yourself; where there are people, there be noise. You could be at the best gig in the world and chances are a patron may whisper “Bless you” to a man who sneezes. Deal with it.

 Preparing for a Bentcousin gig

2. Choose your spot

The law of logistics quite clearly state that those who are in close proximity to the band are guaranteed to be interested. And those who are hanging back a bit, getting a drink at the bar or snogging by the toilets are probably less into the band than you are. And in this beautiful world of justice, equality and tolerance, you need to accept different levels of attention. If someone is talking, move closer to the band. Chances are the gig-talkers won’t be standing near the speakers, either. Also, if you’re such a massive fan of the band, why aren’t you up the front dancing manically and sweating your tits off instead of hanging back, giving evils and looking for the next person to tell off for talking? Such behaviour belongs in Church, not at a gig.

“Shut your face.  Bentcousin are playing.” 

3. Ask nicely

Now, no one is trying to undermine your manhood or suppress your spirit. If you really feel the need to say something, then please feel free. We’re not in the punk age anymore; no one is going to smash a bottle over your head or find you afterwards in the smoking area and “do you” with a rusty nail for asking someone to be quiet. At the same time, there’s no need to be rude. We will tell our Mums.

4. Socialise

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Why not engage in some friendly banter with the vocal offenders? After all, you’re at the same gig so chances are you have similar interests. If they really are too young and the age gap really is too scary, then maybe you had better stick to conversing with your own friends. Or is it the case that you’re there alone which is why you’re getting ratty at the bright young things who are talking in the corner? There’s no need to be a sour puss because you’re lonely.

“Do you want to talk any louder?  I can’t hear the band.”

Gigs are a sociable environment and like monkeys, we engage in communal activities differently. A mother monkey may sit suckling her young, whilst the adolescents swing from tree to tree. One of the elders crouches over a log, scratching it with a stick whilst the leader monkey sifts through it’s own excrement. Who is anyone to decide on what is “gig” behaviour and how we listen to music?

If you really hate people talking so much and the helpful tips above don’t help, why not hire out Phil Collins to play a private gig for you in your basement and see how much fun you have there.