Sunday, March 20, 2011

London Calling

Long-haul flights, tolerable with family, are a tonic tout seul. Eleven hours of reading, watching films and thinking. I'll even put up with the claustrophobia and tinfoil food for that. Reading my first non-China book for ages: Barry Miles' London Calling - a Counterculture History of London since 1945. I'm in the 50s, so it's full of interesting, difficult bohemian 'characters' who spend their days running up tabs in Soho's pubs & clubs: Bacon, Freud, Melly, Deakin, Osbourne, Amis... and the occasional woman-with-attitude like Nina Hamnett.

And before I know it, I'm there, walking along Old Compton Street, Frith, Greek & Dean Streets... Ronnie Scott's is still there, the Coach & Horses, Maison Bertaux, Berwick Street Market, even the Colony Club. It still has that Continental cafe society feel, except those drinking lattes outside are in thick coats. Back in the 80s I was a Pollos regular, the cheapo Italian on Old Compton Street, which was next door to the even cheaper Stockpot. The former closed ages ago but the latter's still there. I was half-tempted to have dinner at Jimmy's, the cellared Greek restaurant where you could get moussaka & chips for next to nothing and where we regularly had our football team Christmas dinners, but chose The Two Brewers a few blocks away instead. You can't really beat sitting in a traditional pub with a pint, a newspaper and some pub grub. Good to be back.

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