Tuesday, November 13, 2007

islington planning department and the sex pistols vs. the fa cup first round proper and milky wimpshake

in the latest double-whammy of continuing local cultural vandalism, no sooner has highbury caff (as frequented by local luminaries like alan davies and er, us) been replaced by a bloody KFC than the jorene celeste, a pub / bar of at least some palpable charm and dimly lit old-fashioned beauty and one of our few places of respite left around north one, is being replaced by a chain "burger bar and cocktail lounge". while it is a truism that every discovery of a good pub or hangout these days is just as inevitably a stumbling upon an endangered species, it still seems criminal that, like mistress p's in clapham old town, the polar bear in soho, the black lion and french horn on pollen street, the old king lud of i, ludicrous fame, even the now-derelict canonbury in er, canonbury, the handful of places that we discover years too late and that are all-too fleetingly special are always the ones that disappear post-haste, whilst the identikit bars roll on and on, the foxtons minis parked outside and the fashionistas parked inside.

then, walking down upper street today, once so full of the character of the old pubs and coaching inns, we were reminded how only recently the old parr's head became another clothing chainstore, while the mitre seems to have been boarded up completely. there is also, of course, the additional affront of still seeing the reckless records shopfront - reckless having being forced to vacate islington years ago through increased shop rents - and yet the unit has remained unoccupied ever since. great work by the landlord there.

so we went to a favourite haunt in the city, the pound off london wall, to commiserate over all this, as for reasons that i can't quite elucidate, this stuff is depressing me hugely right now. unfortunately, when we got to the pound it had been completely gutted - another away from the numbers, understated hostelry bites the dust.

anyway. the other week, we went to see the pistols. given how low our expectations were, the fact that we still managed to be disappointed is fairly remarkable, but the upside was that, having walked out after six or seven songs, we were able to retreat into the altogether more authentic environment of the beehive in brixton. the gig itself was a strange and unaccountably unappealing combination of vaudeville, karaoke and beer festival: introduced by a tape of vera lynn singing "there''ll always be an england", which went down very well with the punters, especially the lines "if england means as much to you / as england means to me...." which were sung with particularly fervent, unironic gusto. lydon himself then picked up the theme unremittingly, remarking how sick he was of england being sold down the river and exhorting us all between songs to be proud of being english - a sentiment that went down like wildfire amongst the snarling, beer-lobbing punters. for our part, we still love the pistols, and always will, for without them music would be frankly nothing. but as we have said before, the day that we are palpably proud of being english has not yet arrived - it may yet, for example, be the day that the killers of stephen lawrence are brought to justice. (if you wish to contribute invective about our political correctness or something, feel free - we got used to it in the days we were foolish enough to linger on the bristol rovers messageboards).

luckily, the day after that saw an utter reversal in our fortune and hence to our whingeing self-pity. firstly, we were treated to a positive performance from the aforementioned bristol rovers f.c. (aka the black arabs, fellow "swindle" fans) at orient in the fa cup, with the late salvaging of a very deserved draw courtesy of a rickie lambert header - cue happy clappy mayhem. incidentally, there was also a moving, warm and impeccably-observed remembrance service on the pitch at half-time, a reminder of the clapton orient players who joined the footballers' battalion in 1914, and of course not all of whom returned. then, we pottered down to brixton hill where in stark contrast to the previous evening's damp squib, electrophonvintage charmed us, horowitz ruled our school and milky wimpshake returned after an unacceptably long absence to reclaim basically the whole world of popular music as their own ("needed: heart handbook", "philosophical boxing gloves", "weirdo", "milk maid", darlo, "i wanna be seen in public with you", "it might sound dramatic", "nightclub voyeur cliche", basically you name it). an uproariously fine evening of entertainment.