Saturday, May 29, 2010


Not only a singular acting and filmmaking talent, Dennis Hopper was also a great photographer - one of his images 'Biker Couple' (1961) even making its way onto two volumes of the The Smiths Greatest Hits. None of his photographic output dates from later than the sixties - he claimed to never have carried a stills camera since the release of Easy Rider, his creative needs having being sated by directing that seminal movie. Sadly, he won't now get to see his images in this year's major retrospective at the Los Angeles Museum Of Contemporary Art. It's named for my favourite image of his, Double Standard (below).

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lazy Blogging, Part 22.

Wounded Lion: 'Pony People'.

Sorry. Been a bit quiet recently.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Singburi For Your Supper

Unless you're a fan of Alfred Hitchcock or live music there aren't, to be fair, many reasons to come to Leytonstone. I don't know what Hitch would make of the site of his dad's old shop, which is now a completely unlovely petrol station, but he might have liked our favourite restaurant just up the road. Tony and Thelma Kularbwong took over what was then a standard East End chip shop about 11 years ago, serving up Tony's homemade Thai dishes along with the saveloys and pies. These became so popular that they decided to bin the fryers and open up what is now the Singburi Royal Thai Cafe. Down came the pictures of trawlers and up went photos of the Grand Palace. This little gem now brings in diners from all over London.

Tony, Thelma and their staff have that rare knack of making you feel genuinely welcome. You feel as comfortable as in your own living room. Visiting friends and family invariably ask if we're going to SIngburi the night they arrive. But what about the food? Oh, the food. It's glorious - really and truly fresh and flavoursome and authentic. Until the decor was spruced up in january, the old chipshop formica interior was unintentionally authentic too, and very reminiscent of streetside caffs found all over Bangkok. I'm working my way through the entire menu - last night was the turn of Chu Chi Pla, fried fish in a chilli paste. Just stunning - an explosion of aroma and light fire, washed down with cut-price Zywiec from the nearby offy. I've never had a dish I haven't liked. Just thinking about their Massaman curry is making my mouth water.

I was in two minds about writing up the Singburi. It's such a fantastic place that I want to tell everyone about it. But then, it's already impossible to get in at the weekend if you don't book. Mind you - according to Wikio this blog is 11,628th most popular on the intergram, so if it does become overrun it won't be on my say so.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Rat Race

Much as I adore riding my scooters, mixing it with the traffic on Mile End road isn't my idea of a proper larf. I haven't used the Vespas to ride to work for many months, having worked out a cycle route where I can remain largely unmolested by East London's numberless untaxed, unlicenced, uninsured, untrained and un-brained drivers. Unfortunately, London's famous black cab drivers have it in for me and they are everywhere. A couple of recent incidents involving cabbies mean they won't be getting any tips from me for a while, but that's another story. This picture was taken yesterday morning in cab-free Victoria Park, which I'm delighted to say makes up about a fifth of my ride. Leyton behind me, Bethnal Green and the City up ahead. Yesterday's ride was a stuggle - I was suffering with what the Germans call a Katzenjammer.

The night before had been one of those rare evenings where friends and colleagues shift patterns align and we all found ourselves guzzling Harvey's at the Royal Oak. The Best was superb, but the Pale Ale was a bit lip-curling. It seemed like a good idea at the time to finish the evening with a couple of pints of Thatchers Traditional. It's been a while since I knocked back a Thatch, and the robust balance of dry and sour floated down a treat. Stick that in your bunghole, Malcolm Gluck. I used to drink Thatcher's at the Fighting Cock in Bradford, where as teenage idiots we used to put ice in it to deaden the flavour, pre-empting Magners by about 20 years. By the time I took this picture I was realising those last two pints had not, in fact, been a good idea. I was still realising it by teatime.

This other pic was taken on friday's ride home and shows the state the Olympic stadium's in at the moment. At night it looks like the Starship Enterprise. Out of shot on the other side of the canal is Fish Island, an enclave of industrial units now becoming populated with artists priced out of London's Trendy Shoreditch (TM). While I was stood here an Afghan hound trotted up to say hello, but legged it before I could get a picture. It was the image of Paris Hilton.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Showbiz For Ugly People

Ah, polling day. Returning to the primary school you left years before, to find a place that once felt like the inside of York Minster has shrunk to the dimensions of a large garden shed. People wearing rosettes whom you've never seen before and will never see again asking how you voted. The distant sound of promises being shouted through speakers on the top of a car.

Anyway. I'm pleased to see that after being missing-presumed-binned for several years, someone's had a rummage in the caretaker's storeroom and brought back this woodface sign. Yes, that is my bike.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Heart Of Oak



I didn't even know we had wooden churches in England. And I didn't know that the oldest wooden church in the world is 40 minutes drive from Ten-Inch Villas, down meandering verdant Essex lanes at Greensted. To give its proper moniker, The Church of St Andrew, Greensted-juxta-Ongar has been there since at least the sixth century, though the thriving yew tree in the church yard and the nearby pond are perhaps evidence of a pre-Christian holy site. The dark, split-oak log nave is the oldest part, probably replacing a Saxon construction in the years after the Norman conquest. No point in using stone if you've got Epping Forest outside your door. It was thatched originally and It's tiny - I've been in bigger sheds.


It's very easy to imagine the locals cowering in there, giving thanks for surviving local power skirmishes, civil war, plagues or famine. The white, weatherboarded tower might have been added in the 1600s - nobody really knows. The light-flooded chancel was added in Tudor period, replacing a Norman original and could reflect an increase in the local population and prosperity. Pragmatic as ever, the Victorians contributed a hands-off restoration, a brick damp-proof course and those dormer windows. In the North wall is what has long been thought of as being a leper's squint - a spyhole where a sufferer could take a blessing if they couldn't mingle with the congregation. They'd have to be a very short leper (or lying down). In fact, contemporary opinion is that the squint is more likely a holy water stoup - it's next to the former position of a door.

On the way home we got lost and ended up sampling the er, charms of urban Essex. This is what they do to Vespas in Romford, a town which seems to be nothing but shopping malls, kebab shops and stone cladding.