Friday, December 24, 2010

A Deep And Dark December

There’s a Yorkshire dialect song that we used to sing at school. I can’t remember the title, or much else – just the line “Nivver bin warm sin ah left me bed” – ‘warm’ pronounced to rhyme with ‘calm’, obviously. This line kept appearing in my head during my recent, pre-christmas visit home. It was cold. So very, very cold. One day we took a walk to the top of the Five Rise Locks, looking at the ghostly, frozen valley below us. Nothing moved except woodsmoke lazily curling up from chimneys, and a group of kids sledging down an iron-hard field.

In the five days I was up in Keighley, the temperature never got above minus 4. One shocking night it was minus 15. It’s the sort of weather where you never feel entirely, properly warm – except in about three places: My mam and dad's house, my grandma’s living room (hotter, in fact, than a nuclear reactor) and sat in front of the fireplace in the Boltmaker’s Arms, where I took this short film while supping Ram Tam - Taylor's famous winter warmer - with my dad and my uncle. I hope it captures a little of the welcoming banter of this very special pub.

Happy Christmas, and many thanks for reading my humble blog - see you next year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bob Crow's Nightmare

This is amazing. A tube map showing the real-time positions of actual tube trains. Very clever computer geekery. Or magic. Or the proof of alien intelligence. Or something. It's what the internet's for, anyway. Been around since June, apparently. Your TIW - always first with the news.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


This is the St Pancras Station Christmas 'tree', made from champagne bottles. I doubt the Strongbow tin was part of the artist's vision - but this is London, and you never know.

Monday, December 6, 2010


"Don't have that. It's horrible." Said the the friendly James May lookalike behind the bar. He was right. The sampler of Brodie's Kosher Rye Ale he gave me smelt like gloss paint, and tasted like grass clippings. His recommendation of Old Hopper was right on the money though.

It was saturday evening and pouring with icy rain. Mrs TIW, my brother and I were warm and snug in the William The IV in Leyton. This is the tap of the prolific Brodie brewery, which produces its beer in what looks like a big stone shed round the back. The pub is a large former gin palace, with original mirrors for Truman and Charrington on the walls. It looks and feels like a mash-up of the Cross Keys* in Covent Garden and former TIW saturday night favourite The Old George (AKA Kempys) in Bethnal Green, and the place was bustling. There was some sort of fraternal organisation having a black tie do in the back room, footy was showing unobtrusively on an enormous projector screen, watched by leather-jacketed geezers. The other punters were a mixed salad of East End hipsters, couples, locals and beard-stroking beer-o-nauts. Staff were zipping around clearing glasses and wiping tables, and one of the barmen kept interrupting his roast dinner to leap up and help out on the pumps, which were everywhere you looked - about twenty of them.

Brodie's are very active, as anyone who follows them on Twitter will know. They currently produce about 12 regular beers, as well as seasonals and what seem to be experiments, like the Kosher Rye. We only tried two out of the battalion of pumps - the smooth and bitter Amarilla and the Old Hopper, brewed with hops from Cable Street down in Whitechapel. Both beers tasted rather green and young - like they often do at beer festivals. Still perfectly enjoyable, especially the Hopper which was miles better than the version served at another Brodie outlet, the Old Coffee House in Soho, home of the most miserable barman in London.

The William's certainly had its ups and downs in recent years. Never quite knowing if it was on an up or a down is the reason that i've never taken the short journey to visit until now. Brodie's is in fact the resurrection of the pub's old Sweet William micro, brought back to life in 2008 by James and Lizzie Brodie, and the pub's new ascendency is clearly down to their hard work (and maybe helped by their £1.99 a pint pricing). We certainly felt instantly at home - it's that kind of place - and I'm looking forward to going back.

Disclaimer: Our lad and me had spent a good chunk of the afternoon in the Euston Tap getting acquainted with Fyne Ales' Vital Spark. So don't take my word for it, go and have a look. Leyton's really not that far from Zone 1.

*I've heard the Cross Keys and the Old Coffee House is are run by the owners of the William IV. Can anyone confirm?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Paper View

It's got a lot of potential, Leytonstone High Road, and it's about to get two million quid's worth of 'improvements'. I've no doubt that this will amount to the railway bridge getting a touch-up and loads of new signs telling us how great our local council are.

My favourite building on the High Road has always been the Cuthbert-Dibble-and-Grubb fire station, now available as this marvellous tabletop version from Kingsway Models, just one of a range of unashamedly nostalgic card kits, which also includes Ferodo bridges, Great Yarmouth bus garage, Chadwell Heath Odeon and even Walford East Tube Station.

Leytonstone Fire Station

It won't be like this much longer, though - the fire station is no longer considered fit for 21st century purposes and is to be largely replaced by a 'predominantly glazed' building (it says here). I'm sure that'll look just lovely.