Posts from 20th February 2004

Feb 04

As you get older, the things you choose to notice in photographs and documentaries change

TMFDPost a comment • 160 views

As you get older, the things you choose to notice in photographs and documentaries change, I think: the inadvertent but evocative things, anyway (which some call “punctum”). So when you’re at school yourself, a school photo from the 20s, say, is all alien clothes and haircuts, a message from an impossibly distant world: but when you reach my tremendous age, these elements fade into soft noise, and what strikes you instead is how much the faces are faces you could see any day, anywhere round you.

The third documentary in the Free Cinema compilation, The Saturday Men directed by John Fletcher, is about West Bromwich Albion in 1957 or 1958, and – as someone with no expertise whatever in football – the thing which came home to me most is that, despite all the Big Things which have happened to the game since (from transfer fees to Footballers’ Wive$ to ____________), this is not at all the far distant comical strangeness I’d half-dreaded, subject of baneful jokes by Harry Enfield or Paul Whitehouse, but all curiously familiar, as if, in the cracks between the Big Things, something important lived quietly on. The Free Cinema directors – Fletcher a lot less famous than Lindsay Anderson, Karel Reisz or Tony Richardson, whose early films he worked as editor on – were young men eager to leave the stultification of a moribund decade and culture, as they saw it, and they made documentaries which anticipated the television revolution. While their topics are often ancient history (eg Covent Garden fruit and flower market, which closed in 1972), they can feel astonishingly unquaint in approach, give or take black-and-white photography, the occasional jazz soundtrack, a glibly posh cadence somewhere in the commentary: anyway, whatever the weaknesses (Free Cinema *can* sometimes be a bit ‘The Strange and Wonderful World of Working Class Culture’) their work never sentimentalises or panders to youth – that was a 60s trend, which we’re still not out of.

Now in their 70s if they’re even yet alive, these young footballers (to someone knowledgeable, some of them may still be famous, I have no idea) are vivid and able, but now and then the unobtrusively observant camera catches them between thought and activity, as it were, when they seem vulnerable, uncertain, and – and this is where the punctum arrives, I guess, the desolating whisper of everpresent mortality – utterly tenderly loveable, undated and timeless, in a way that icons of a later date somehow can’t, for the time being.

As you arrive at Dalston Junction from the West

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 373 views

As you arrive at Dalston Junction from the West, there’s a graffito to cheer you, high on a whitewashed wall overlooking a little car-park. Its inspiration is a far-too-famous poster of a 60s political icon: it’s a stencil – so it may well be all over the place – and it’s retained the basic (instantly recognisable) shape but dispensed with the eyes. Underneath is the caption: “CliCh’ Guevara”

FIVE LIES ABOUT BIG FISH 5: Lies Are Only Acceptible If They Are Really True

Do You SeePost a comment • 480 views

I must admit I was getting a bit worried at the underlying message of Big Fish as it proceeded. This terrible old man had spent his whole life constantly lying abotu himself. Oooh-weee. I thought there’s paranoid delusional case at best, or evil incarnate at worst. But phew, when it turned out that actually his stories were all, in essence, true – well that was okay. Cos we all know that lying is bad right?

(I’m still a bit angry that the twins weren’t conjoined and that the fish story does not appear to be true, but hey – a few decades in purgatory will sort that out).

FIVE LIES ABOUT BIG FISH4: It is best to fall in love with someone and decide you are going to marry them without ever really speaking to them.

Do You SeePost a comment • 310 views

Indeed it is even better that once you are married you still really don’t speak to them all that much. To the extent of not spending much time at home. After all they are just baby making machines who can be easily shut up by white picket fenced houses, its not as if they have personailities. Christ, imagine if they had personalities of their own. Luckily Big Fish confirms the real life truism that women really don’t have personalities at all. Just accents.


Do You SeePost a comment • 239 views

A man who spends most of his life away from his family looking after a random town and spending an excessive amount of time with an attractive young woman* is a good a decent husband and father just because he doesn’t shag her.

A lot of people completely misunderstand infidelity. They think that just because someone spends a lot of time with someone else that he is neglecting his family. Of course not. The only thing that is important about infidelity is whether on not it is consumated. And Ed Bloom here, bar a quick snog, merely spends years doing up the house and spending time with the younger lady in question when his kid is growing up and his wife is lonely at home. Nothing wrong with that.

*Considering that this character is played by Helena Bonham-Carter, you may choose to select this statement as the lie instead.

FIVE LIES ABOUT BIG FISH 2: Albert Finney and Jessica Lange are the same age.

Do You SeePost a comment • 399 views


2: Albert Finney and Jessica Lange are the same age.

Lange born 20 April 1949.
Finney born 9 May 1936.

And yet it is wholly convincing that they met when they were eighteen in the flick. What is even more convincing is that Helena Bohnam Carter is only ten years younger than Finney, without the need to use any kind of prosthetic make-up. Despite being born in 1966.


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 209 views


What is Chowki? Is it
a) An Indian Restaurant just off of Piccadilly
b) A root vegetable notable for for being halfway between chicory and potato
c) Where Jonathon Ross gets sent when he breaks the law.

It is of course a), and the schtick is that every month it presents a new menu from three different regions of India. February is the actually oft traveled Punjab, Kerala and slightly more unusual Sikkim. I’ve walked past it loads of times on the way to the Piccadilly from the UGC over the road and thought, hmm – poncey Indian. But then I thought, must try it, I can wear my ponce disguise after all. And whilst we were seated in the cold bit, the waiting staff were snappy to run us through the motions.

There is a piece I’ve been meaning to write on subcontinenental 660ml beers (Three Coins, Tiger etc…) but that will wait. But the Punjabi sourced one was very nice. So I stuck to the Punjabi menu and had the lamb shank with spinach. My companion went lamb kerela style. You can do a ’10.95 three course meal perming three items from the locality – including the oft fear Indian pudding – but this time we just went mains. Next time I’ll go whole hog for the value. You don’t just get your curry for the asking price, you get appropriate rice, dhaal, side orders and bread. And the food was great (espeically sucking the beautifully curried marrow out of the bone).

Chowki is a friendly place with a very friendly ever changing menu (website at shows you whats on and what is coming). The only frightening bit was the toilet, which with its full on chrome is like pissing in a saucepan. But the food was great and the ambience almost completely drowned out the three travelling salesmen two seats down regaling the restaurant with their prowess in selling sandwich making machines. Just looking at that menu makes me want to go back again to try the Sikkim. And I’ve got a week before its all change in March with Mangalore, Rajasthan and Hyderabad. Hmmm.

FIVE LIES ABOUT BIG FISH 1: Ewan MacGregor looks just like a young Albert Finney.

Do You SeePost a comment • 401 views


1: Ewan MacGregor looks just like a young Albert Finney.

Just like in some parallel universe (far far away) Ewan is going to grow up into Alec Guinness, it is hard to believe that genetically he is equally mapped out to grow into a portly, frog faced yet loveable Albert Finney. And yet with the application of a wart on his forehead, it is throughly plausible that this is indeed what will happen. Unlike Alison Lohman who looks nothing like Jessica Lange.


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 391 views

NOTES ON RICE: the Swank Way to cook rice is to use exactly the right amount of water and cook for exactly the right amount of time. I sometimes think this is a kind of Top-Chef Showing-Off, and really evolved bcz Top Chefs employ someone else to clean and deglue the mess from their pans and pots.* With rice which is going to end up dryish (I almost always use American long-grained anyway), don’t be afraid – at least when yr getting used to it – to use far more water than the recipe suggests, and taste and test it, then take it off, drain and rinse it when it’s the right softness. I expect this is very non-authentic – I know Asian steamed rice dishes are meant to be pulpy and sticky – but the point is, it is manageable and tasty and doesn’t require total constant attention better directed elsewhere. Besides, the exact authentic texture is a product of the correct equipment plus centuries of ultra-heirarchical social organisation!!

*I’ve known at least one REALLY GOOD cook – he was a fisherman from the Seychelles – who cooked the rice till it stuck solid EVERY SINGLE TIME: “Oh! Disaster!!” he would exclaim with his lovely grin, and we would scrape off the top, eatable layer, which was about right (unless it had actually started to burn below, which always taints the rest), and leave the semi-ruined pan till after we’d eaten, when we were in a good mood again.


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 576 views


well, so far we ain’t doing too well, the veal was lovely, cooked with creme fraice and mushroom. The horse sausage is with it’s true owner – Msr Hopkins and the clams? – they ran out of shelf life last night (pub distracted us) but…….. they are still alive, they were placed in clean (salty) water last night and all opened up and closed when tapped, but dare we eat them?……………