Monthly Archives: August 2011

A Glimpse into the Past: old photographs in Soho pubs

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I never noticed that a lot of Soho pubs have all these old photographs of past West End stars plastered on the walls. My friend and I had a few pints in the French House on Dean Street and the Two Brewers in Covent Garden today, and at first I didn’t take much notice of the photos because they just seemed like the tacky décor you get in “American” diners. But on second glance, they’re fascinating, even haunting. There were quite a few pictures of body builders from c. 1920/30 at the French House. My friend pointed out that their physique  was very different from the rippling, veiny bodies of the ones you see today. They were smaller, smoother, more natural-looking.

I generally find old photographs alluring. I like to think that people have always been people, despite the living conditions and social expectations of different eras, but when you look at old photos, people look so different–and I don’t mean just the clothes they’re wearing. There’s something different about their faces, their eyes.

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Just Checking In

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This morning I shaved my legs. Yay! After 3 days of avoiding the smelly, grubby bath in my new flat. I accidentally cut myself with the razor. Nothing serious, just a small graze above the knee. The weird thing is that the first thought–actually it was more like a feeling–that came to my mind was joy. Joy? Who feels joy at the sight of their own blood?! I’ve been trying to justify it to myself, believe me.

I think it might have something to do with the past year. You see, I didn’t even realise this but I’d been building up this numbness. Last summer was the best of my life because I was free. Free of shit job, free of bad relationship, free of long hair, etc. I was in a new place, starting something new and it was fucking great. But ask anyone normal who’s spent a year being trained as a teacher in the state education system and they’ll tell you a thing or two. You grow a skin so thick you could be stabbed with a protractor and not feel a thing. I won’t even go into what it was like living in a house full of women. It’s no surprise that lightness of being gradually dissipated.

But maybe it’s something else. Like the fact that I’ve moved into a strange new flat, in a strange new hood, with really chavvy neighbours who have got me contemplating calling the NSPCC on a daily basis. I still haven’t found a local pub where where I can indulge in the occasional pint and cigarette and pretty soon it’s going to be too cold to do that (bloody smoking ban). Or… because the ragazzo has moved to South America and I won’t see him till December.

One of the above. All of the above. Despite the build up of tension, the lack of stability, the doubt, the confusion (oy vey!), I’m still here.

1910 Edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (from Cambridge market)

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I picked up this beauty at the market in Cambridge before I left. Published in 1910 by Ward, Lock & Co. Ltd. A stamp inside says P. Barratt Esq. but the prize labels on the inside cover say ‘Awarded to Cyril Barratt’ (great name!). The pages are gilt-edged and beautifully yellowed.

Interesting note on Ward, Lock & Co: The company doesn’t exist any more, but they were best known for their Red Guides–a series of travel guides to the British Isles. These were first published 1880 and arose out of a need to cater to the British public’s growing interest in travel. I’m tempted to have a rummage around Charing Cross Road to see if I can find any!

The Most Terrible Thing in Life

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As I was climbing the stairs at the Tube station this evening, the man ahead of me stopped and waited for me to catch up with him. Then he said to me in Patois: You know what the most terrible thing about life is? I said no. He said: The most terrible thing in life is when all your friends get older than you. I asked him if that’s what’s happening to him. He said yes.

At first I thought he must be stark raving off his rocker, but as I sat down to wait for my train I realised there is some truth in that.