a quirky look at London Life

Meditative Morning & Reflections

A Rosy start

This, in the street adjoining mine, gave me pause. I breathed in the astonishing aroma of a kindness bestowed. Theses roses a testament, a memorial for a neighbour with a huge heart. Handed me fat scissors ten years ago , pointed, said ‘Take’. And so I took , red roses, pink petals , adornments for my stepdaughter’s wedding feast. A rose is a rose until it is not. I breathe it in the now and breathe it out in the then.

Letter to a Friend in Gaza @ Coronet Theatre

The theatre piece contained some exquisite lyrical poetry from Palestine and some reflective, conciliatory poetry from Israel. The readings were beautifully done with the necessary gravitas by both Palestinian and Israeli actors. The set was stark; a long, wooden divide of a table, a perfect metaphor. The filming of Gaza as a series of muddy tyre tracks and military machinery that stretched for miles like a sombre tapestry was especially evocative. The achingly exquisite interweave of music that set the scene was possibly overlong. The merged image of the Palestinian ‘father and daughter’ poem reflecting on the loss of their home with deepening sadness shall stay with me for a long time.

The venue was a complete surprise. A wonderfully artful arrangement of intriguing collectibles, magicked into tableaux, I could have spent hours in the building alone, imagining the stories those lovingly arranged objects could tell. And the tea-lighted interiors leading down to the even more gorgeous basement bar! I would move in tomorrow. Downstairs the bar delivered more intriguing vintage collections, handbags, books and non vintage living fish. Drinks were served from a small space overlooked by an upright piano, its ‘top shelf’ a perfect place for ice buckets. Delightfully relaxing and intriguing spot to sit before and after a performance.

Show of Hands @ Union Chapel 22:11:19

In my experience, A date with Show of Hands is always a pleasure. Why is that so? I suppose because it contains a strong, albeit unconscious element of wish-fulfilment. These guys know what makes a good show a great show. And if your wishes can be fulfilled on a dark and miserable London Friday night, after standing in a long queue for a long time (the pain of unallocated, sold out gigs), so much the better. We might not articulate these thoughts, but basically what we want is to relax, be moderately excited; we desire the full emotional range, finishing off with an opportunity to sing along to the familiar. We demand the musical brilliance we now take for granted with this outfit. And we want the element of surprise and the comfort of being included. We want the refreshment of reinvention too. We got it all. Like the musical equivalent of a wedding garter, strange as that simile must appear when referring to these sturdy oaks of folk. Again I speak metaphorically of much beloved West Country duo Knightley and Beer. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue neatly sums up the set list. Before the show was over to vanish into the mist of memory, we were awash with sensate pleasures. We got dazzling, prolonged fiddle playing by Beer throughout while Bodhran player (someone new) Cormac Byrne, given centre stage at the off? Never did a drumbeat sound so right. New blood in the band, fitting right in. An injection of Irish humour too, oh the young cheek of it. And then we have Knightley, frontman , songwriter, a different sort of grit and dazzle, with his gravel of a voice. Sending out sensitively attuned, emotive narratives as topical and universal as they are rooted in ‘west country life’ of the ‘then and now’. His newly penned maritime song ‘Lost’ (an instant favourite from the new album) about a missing sailor is historically accurate but the meaning is suitably layered to apply to a more general masculine despair.

The show felt reassuringly familiar to diehard fans yet was always a sophisticated ‘twist and mix’. Early in the first set, bassist Miranda Sykes stunned with her pure rendition of Sea Glass. I just cannot rid myself of the notion that a generous genie comes out of the bottle, when she sings, to change our lives, for the better, just for a while. The magic web of musicality was, as ever, expertly woven, magically displayed, apparently conjured from the air. Or the waters of the Tamar. I think this in spite of the salty earthiness and jolly, honest exchanges between the original duo. I had this strange thought halfway through ‘something old’, the terrific ‘The Galway Farmer’ . If Beer were to take his fiddle out into the unsuspecting streets of Islington, the Pied Piper of strings, with his extraordinary otherworldly command, would see the entire spellbound audience rise as one and follow him blindly. And yes he did sing ‘The Blind Fiddler’, ‘something borrowed’, an old American folk song totally suited to his voice and his virtuoso playing that stretched forever but still didn’t last long enough. SOH jokes about their older following and yes it’s true, (cue new song ‘Swift and Bold from new album Battlefield Dance Floor, one for the oldies, on new album) but there were plenty of youngers at this performance. Which is good for all concerned. SoH goes places where folk musicians do not normally go. For example, they can do ‘jolly’! They unconcernedly cross genres. They can rock the blues ( Beer) and roll with Cornish reggae (Dreckley, on the new album), have fun with a marriage of Bangra/Morris. New and blue. All at either lightning speed or quietening down to slow. Theirs is a subtle, carefully choreographed art of musical leaps, gambles, ambles. Decades of touring together, experience and trust, allowing for, nay insists on reinvention, boldness. Freshness. Vigour. Their output is prodigious. Opalescent. Glittering, Gritty. The True Gritterati of Folk. With an acceptable sprinkle of stardust as the holiday season begins, why not the Glitterati of folk? Standouts from the night? So many! But the cuatro guitar play from Beer and Knightley (the latter cleverly teamed up with the Byrne bodhran for ‘tunes’), the percussive opener and the thunderously applauded Knightley rendition of Cousin Jack – I could go on!

Still on tour, Birmingham next, finishing in Exeter on Dec 7. And if you can’t be there, consider buying the new album Battlefield Dance Floor, a studio album that should satisfy followers old and new with its piquant mix of light and dark. The cover alone is a treat.

Dior @ Victoria & Albert Museum

A courtyard discovery in Hackney Wick

I got off the Overground train at Hackney Wick and kept on walking for about ten minutes – could have been quicker, but my eyes were on buildings old and new, mostly old and about to be made new via demolition. Currently a bit of a limbo land paradise for those of an artist persuasion.

The entire walk was punctuated by street art. East End Edgy. Loved it. St Mary of Eton is a different story. It’s an elegant, tall, impressive red brick church but so intent was I to reach its pop up courtyard bar that I completely forgot to photograph it. Anyway! The purpose of my Monday afternoon was to attend a mixology masterclass. I was there to learn about kombucha and kimchi and most importantly to enjoy the accompanying 6 course drinks menu from the Social Beverages Bar.

Such a lovely welcome! And such intriguing ingredients and unfamiliar machines dotted about.

Some familiar favourites here too.

To find out about how to make kombucha you will have to book a masterclass because I want to get straight into talking about the drinks I tried. Starting with my favourites. From this bubbly bottle of beetroot juice came this ‘sinister’ shot

A highly unlikely combination of cold brew coffee and said beetroot produced a potent drink that was surprisingly rounded in flavour. An awareness of lemon first off then the surprise hit of the coffee – a totally unexpected, boldly confident assembly. One of several mood enhancers over the afternoon, making the slow mindful sipper feel quite bold and confident in return! Probably not for the late evening as the caffeine is high level in cold brew. There’s a sweet story behind the drink’s name, Ground, but I am not here to tell tales, you need to go and experience it for yourself.

Mother Mary, oh how I loved your sweet, smooth, gentle comfort and refined yet fresh finish. Salt rim was good too. And the heavy crystal glass added to the enjoyment. And the story of its name honours both a London place and a Korean culinary heritage. I love that this whole adventurous enterprise is both passionate and personal. Let it be, oh let it be, as the Beatles might sing its praises. Keep singing the song and you will hear what I mean.

But back to the beginning. Gently introduced to the afternoon with a welcome drink of jasmine tea kombucha which was delightfully delicate at first and there followed a zingy aftertaste from the lemon balm powder.

I could go on – the Tree Hugger had a fabulous bouquet before it got wrapped inside a chickpea foam. Delivering a powerful hit for lovers of root ginger like myself, this one had real staying power. There’s also one sporting a brave combination of spirulina and liquorish root elixir. Devilishly good.

Oh and a booze free digestif to finish. A naturally sweet effervescent end to a delightful afternoon, with neat pear shrub offering a very peary liqueury tastebomb. Surprises from beginning to end. Original, innovative, bold but subtle. Mindfully drinking away an afternoon, trying new potions, making new connections, adding my own life experiences and reflections to the sensory mix left me feeling joyful, almost a part of the story.

Hackney Wick courtyard bar? My kind of quirky.

September Pop Up details available from Insta/ socialbeverages

Taking a walk down Redchurch Street

Well, I didn’t see a church until later in my day but I did see red. As I walked down Redchurch, after exiting Shoreditch Overground on another inspiring day of London sun. I was heading for an early lunch at Tra Tra, part of Conran’s Boundary but with time to spare I just drifted down Graffiti Road.

Seeing red.

Seeing rad.

And goggling at doors

And hanging out with shoes

And drooling over shoes

And falling in love at first sight

With a house

and with pipeworks

and bicycles

And I got so excited discovering this little guy I nearly forgot about lunch.

To be continued …..

Dry Room @ Brighton Fringe 2018


A performance installation by Eldarin Yeong Studio in The Warren (The Hat) Brighton Fringe
Thurs 10th May2018  Sat 12th May 2018
This was narrative and interpretive dance of the highest quality directed by some powerful cello pieces from composers such as Carlo Alfredo Piatti, Johann Sebastian Bach and within the repertoire, a soul-searing piece Alone by Italian composer, Giovanni Sollima.
The cellist was the internationally renowned Carolina Bartumeu. 
The interpretive dance was based on sequences or scenes laid out by writer Eldarin Yeong which took us through the different and often heart-rending stages of trauma within three damaged young people, a journey through abuse, torment, self-discovery, bonding and finally redemption. Dancer, Jemma Gould was particularly outstanding in the grace and beauty of her movements and interpretations.
The piece lasted an hour and all of us in this famous fringe venue, were gripped and moved by the beauty and pace of the installation.
Photographer: James Bellorini

Launch Party for Italian Cuisine Week 2017

What a party at Bellavita Academy celebrating the launch of this year’s Italian Cuisine Week ; where perfect Prosecco and expert pizzaiolos – put the lively into lovely.

You see but one slice. I had several. Tomato. Mozzarella. So simple. So good. Down to practised skill and the quality of the ingredients.

But! It’s a tie for my cooked culinary affections!

These guys were fun! As well as good chefs!

The vegetarian ravioli was ! Satisfyingly spinach-y ….

This good!

And this! Pumpkin! They totally smashed it 😏

They even let us mere mortals have-a-go at pizza-making & the brave ones did rather well

While I tasted cheesy delights and sweet afters

Grape jam! Who knew! Healthy too, by all accounts. A firm favourite, though perhaps a bit too more-ish.

The adjoining shop stocks unusual and carefully selected products and I shall return for a proper browse before Christmas as they sell scrumptious-looking smaller edible items that would make perfect stocking fillers.

Thank you Bellavita. For a most enjoyable evening.

Meeting Ilaria Tachis

I was privileged recently to meet Ilaria Tachis at an event in Mayfair’s Novikov restaurant organised by Dolce Vita wines.
The occasion was to allow Ilaria to present two wines from her estate and also to speak about her relationship with her father – the legendary Giacomo Tachis, Italy’s (late) great innovative wine maker. Ilaria – scholar and oenophile – spoke movingly about her relationship with her father and how she did take over responsibility for wine-making when within her heart she wanted to follow a course of language and literature. She has done both; there is in Tuscany a substantial library founded by her father and perpetuated by Ilaria – then of course there is the wine!The photograph above is of Ilaria with that commemorative bottle of 100% Merlot, labelled Giacomo.
For the wine-pairing menu at Novitov, she brought two wines from her own vineyard and two others from friends in Sardinia.
With the first course, seabass carpaccio (almost invisible in its paleness) and with the tiniest taggiasca olives – a Sardinian Vermentino; with the young grouse and wild mushroom risotto her own 2013 Chianti Classico, much praised for its use of wood; Ilaria did mention her intention to seek a structure and strong body from the ancient culture of wheat and wine. With the braised whole beef shank came the sublime and pure 100% Merlot Giacomo – to be laid down in memory; with the pear and caramel mille-feuille, a digestive to proclaim and enshrine Sardinian hospitality and friendship.
My thanks for the invitation to Signore Ambro of Dolcevita wines and here is a photo of that great man presiding!

In her speech, Ilaria humanised the legend which is her father- she said that quite often when in a local restaurant he would order Lambrusco or a beer – he maintained that from ordinary sources, great things grow. I am reminded of Shakespeare:

Lowliness is young ambition’s ladder.
Whereto the climber upward turns his face.
But when he once attains the utmost bound
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend ..
(Julius Caesar Act2 Scene1)

Not for Giacomo or Ilaria …



The swish Meridien hotel in London’s Piccadilly saw the launch of Signore Daniele Cernilli’s 2018 “ultimate” guide to Italian wine and wineries. What makes this wonderful compendium different? It is not – in the words of Signore Cernelli himself, (aka Doctor Wine) “encyclopedic” – rather it is “essential” in that a “rigorous selection process” has been in place. I would describe it as panoramic since it is “essentially” meticulously country wide and of course includes wines from Sicily and Sardinia. In all, the guide evaluates over 1,000 wineries and over 3,000 labels; over 500 of these fall inside the 15 euros bracket – there are of course expensive wines too! The wineries and their terroirs are described in some detail and the wines themselves conveniently graded along the lines of
A Inexpensive
B Reasonable
C Expensive
D Luxury
E Priceless
The good wine doctor’s guide has become essential pre-prandial reading.

The tasting in the Meridien Hotel suite encompassed many of the wines in Signore Cernilli’s guide and were set out on their winery tables: I started with a delightful mainly chardonnay blend called BEYOND THE CLOUDS from Elena Walch; a little short of heavenly perhaps, given its 2015 vintage.
PRICE B Imported by Bancroft Wines.

Then much joy from a decent 2015 Poggio al Lupo Morellino di Scansano from Tenuto Sette Ponte.
PRICE B Imported by Champagne and Chateau Boutinot.

Excellent wine too from Decugnana dei Barbi , my chosen one- the 2015 Il Rosso.
PRICE B Imported by Alivini.

Two tables then of island wines which interested me greatly; one from Sicily and the other from Sardinia; of the wines on display I very much preferred the Sardinian exhibits and especially the 2006 Alghero Anghelu Ruju Riserva, a really dark and lustrous red with wonderful herbs and spices and even a touch of liquorice. Ideal – I was told- with local wild boar.
PRICE B Imported by Matthew Clark/Alvini

The Tuscan wines on the Vignamaggio table were beautifully presented by a representative of the winery; I tasted two terrific Chianti Classico and a wonderful 2011 Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Franc was indeed a sleek wine which I will long remember for its sheer stand-out class and quality.
PRICE C Imported by

Corney and Barrow

To finish off I was privileged to taste the Zyme 2006 Amarone della Valpolicella La Mattonara Riserva. An experience never to be forgotten!

Shaun Traynor

@shauntraynor69 on Twitter

Post Navigation