Many have asked why my current squeeze (the obstinate single girl in me still doesn't allow me to say boyfriend easily) is known as NewMan. Aside from the obvious, that he was once shiny and new, there are a few good reasons why I've kept the name. A few of these I will share.
1. He is still very new to me in the sense that he's completely unlike most men I've fancied, dated and kept coming back to. His personality and approach to life is refreshingly new and different and I like that.
2. He is a new man in the modern sense of the word; though I'd never say it to his face I applaud the way he gives me Tfl zones of space and encourages my independence and individual success (though we may have different opinions on how I should go about achieving it!)
3. More recently we have both come to laugh hilariously at Channel 4 show, Phone Shop, where one of the characters is nicknamed "New Man". NewMan is nothing like New Man, but it did make me smile knowingly to myself.
And here I am on the cusp of a New Year with NewMan... that is if he survives Christmas with my family in the 'burbs.
I couldn't embed the Phone Shop clip I wanted to post, but here's another sketch from what I also thought was a wickedly funny show. Enjoy...
This is the name of a Kesha song and it is the name of a vegetarian restaurant in Shepherd's Bush. One of these things I like, the other I just don't see the point of, other than this one off provision of a blog post title. (Please excuse terrible quality of photos courtesy of iPhone and Blah Blah Blah's mood lighting.)
Mo and I went to Blah Blah Blah on Goldhawk Road last Friday night. It has recently had a refurb (not that I could tell) and a change in management. I last went there two years ago with my very vegetarian (she is borderline vegan and suffers from a number of food allergies) friend CeCe and we both walked away impressed and full, sans stomach irritation. I've been looking for an excuse to go back but seeing as NewMan and the majority of my friends are all carnivores I've had to wait until now.
Rumoured to be a hit with BBC staff parties we expected the worst after booking a table the Friday before Christmas. Instead it was an empty restaurant but for a fairly well behaved Christmas party of 8. Blah blah blah is a BYO restaurant, which after you've spent as much money on bad restaurant wine as I have can only be a good thing. Though I suppose I should maybe have learnt by now that the-close-your-eyes-and-point-method isn't always fool-proof when it comes to wine lists. The service was friendly with a warm welcome from the on duty Manager amusingly resembling Teller from Penn & Teller.
Mo and I shared a starter of Halloumi Toasts, basically fried cheese, and enjoyed doing so. Though it wasn't quite how it was described in the menu (there was no ciabatta bread that I could see, and I wasn't that drunk at this stage) it was a nice light starter to share (i.e. I could have eaten 7 more).
I chose the Wild Mushroom Linguine as my main and it hit all the comfort food spots that it needed to. Well-cooked pasta in a creamy sauce with flavour-full mushrooms and the added surprise of garlic and walnuts. Too many years ago I spent a summer travelling around Italy and as my absolute favourite cuisine I consider myself a good judge of pasta. This didn't disappoint though the mushrooms weren't quite as melt-in-my-mouth amazing as I like. Mo had the Caribbean Curry which I was permitted to try. It was also delicious; a spicy take on coconut curry instead of the de facto creamy coconut curries which are more common. The plaintain was also cooked to perfection. We both finished with empty plates.
Though tempted by the desert menu we decided to finish our Tesco bought Cava (what?! it's Christmas!) and saved any available stomach space for more drinks as we were heading on to the Notting Hill Arts Club.
For a meat eater I think the sign of a good vegetarian restaurant is finishing the meal and realising not once have you missed meat. I think it's fair to say that Mo and I didn't give meat a first or second thought as we relaxed and enjoyed Blah Blah Blah that night...That is until about 2am Saturday morning when we found ourselves chowing down on Chicken Milanese bagels in Bagel Bite; absolutely no reflection on the food at Blah Blah Blah and absolutely a reflection on us and our drinking habits.
I am disappointed to say that this is not a picture of mine and Mo's Christmas tree. It belongs to my good acquaintance SJ who has been proudly showing it off to anyone with half an ounce of festive spirit. (The picture really doesn't do it justice.) I say "belongs" but actually she has hired it, sort of. For a number of reasons, this year SJ decided she wanted the very literally perfect Christmas tree and I think most people will agree that this doesn't always happen. Like the Christmas tree I will be sat around in 10 days time, most are a mismatch of home-made decorations and thinning tinsel. It's the paper mache ballballs we made in primary school of presents that look like building bricks and the wonky skirted-angel on top of the tree that my brother created which my Mum lovingly dusts down each year and proudly hangs up in full view. SJ's tree wasn't like that; her ballballs match, there is a luxurious lace ribbon instead of tinsel and the tree's branches were a greener green than any fake tree I have seen. Though its' distant cousins are more at home in an American shopping mall, this tree was luxurious, perfectly coordinated and beautiful.
I met SJ through the volunteer work I do (as a volunteer reader for visually impaired residents in the borough) and I have been reading to her for just over two years. I enjoy it massively. Yes because I'm doing something worthwhile and getting a weekly dose of all important perspective, blah, blah, blah, but mainly because I get on well with her. She is very different to me in terms of background, age and experience but we have a very similar outlook on life; we are pro-equality liberal thinkers (i.e. borderline feminists with an intentionally suppressed revolutionary streak) and we are both obsessed with nail varnish.
SJ didn't chose to have this gorgeous tree delivered to her and then decorated for her (I never knew this service actually existed!) because she is blind, it was because is going to be away and knew she'd be too busy to actually get everything organised in time so it was one less thing to think about. Good for her I say as I haven't even bought the Christmas cards I will send out too late. As it happened the company that provided this tree and the decorations (which she has bought to keep unlike the tree which they take away as part of the service) were specifically accommodating and understanding of her lack of sight so I feel they, Pine and Needles, deserve a mention should any of you be considering this for Christmas 2011. (I anticipate they are all booked up for this year though I don't know for sure). The best bit is they are local to W12 with a mobile stand in Westfield where you can go and pick your tree or make an order. They deliver within a 4 hour time slot, though I must report that they were late delivering to SJ. However rather than a mumbled lacklustre sorry, SJ's compensation was an additional complimentary delivery of holly and mistletoe.
Of course SJ paid a healthy price for this luxurious Norwegian spruce and the ballballs which cost more than (but are probably about the same size as) most of my earrings. But getting something a little extra with what you ordered is always a lovely thing to receive, especially at this time of the year. I believe that may be what they call Christmas spirit and I wish you all lots of it Shepherd's Bush!
This is a quick reflective post about age and getting older. (Hark! Is that a new year coming round the corner?)
I just escaped the cold and grey London winter for a weekend in the Canary Islands. Yes, I know I only just got back off holiday, but you try and stop a very generous birthday boy with a few pennies and a penchant for warm weather, i.e. NewMan, from treating his girlfriend, i.e. me.
It was my first time in Gran Canaria and it was everything I had expected it to be; December-defying sunshine and blue skies and an abundance of bad holiday hotel architecture surrounded by both Spanish and African influenced culture, food and driving. What I was somewhat unprepared for were the number of holiday makers of a certain age. I would say in our resort of up to 600 rooms we were the youngest couple by a good 20 years, and the mental population census I took at the airport awaiting our delayed return flight yesterday would confirm this was replicated across the island. And why not?! Where would I rather spend my winters of retirement if I could afford it - in the big freeze of the UK or in the near perfect climate of the Canaries?
It was a novelty sitting by the pool and watching couples help each other in and out of the jacuzzi or working their way through stacks of wordsearch magazines and Jilly Cooper novels. I even smiled fondly as the British couples queued for their day old Daily Mails in the hotel shop. Unlike my previous holidays in a similar resort, instead of under-age Brits necking shots and dancing to Europop crimes against music, the bars were full of men and women calmly sipping their gin cocktails and tapping their toes to the live piano music or show tunes karoke. It was different and it was adorable.
As I have a habit of doing, this all made me think. I started wondering about my own hopes and even dreams for my old age. I don't think I'll be making a bee-line for a sun lounger in Gran Canaria but I do hope that whatever I'm doing and wherever I go, on holiday or otherwise, I am happy. You hear truly awful stories about people grafting hard for decades, retiring and then becoming sick or worse just tragically keeling over within days of first tucking into their retirement funds. I can only hope and pray that this doesn't happen to me.
On the simplest of levels if I am able to find a peaceful place to sit alone and read Daphne Du Maurier and play Angry Birds on my then antiquated iPhone, I'll be happy. But on the other hand I do hope I've got someone by my side to help me get in and out of a jacuzzi in Gran Canaria if required.
This weekend I dared to wonder if this might be NewMan. As we lay by the pool on Saturday I remarked to him how sweet all the old couples were. NewMan turned to me and clasped my hand, squinting in the sunshine. He smiled and said; "Yeah, they are. They'd be even sweeter if they put more clothes on and bent over less. They're putting me off my beer."
Maybe not then. But he'll do for now, or for as long as I have gravity on my side.
For many, Shepherd's Bush is Queens Park Rangers and Queens Park Rangers are Shepherd's Bush. I grew up with football and so don't need to be convinced by how passionate people can be for their teams. This is only heightened when it's a local team. This is why QPR are one of my reasons for loving life as a Shepherd's Bush resident.
Though the name originates from Queens Park in North London, that being where most of the players came from, the Rangers settled in Loftus Road nearly 100 years ago in 1917. I was intrigued to hear that "The Loft" was originally built in 1904 for local side Shepherd's Bush F.C., who used to play on the Green. The history of the "Bushmen" was a very short one with the team no longer being able to play during the Second World War. (How I wonder if Shepherd's Bush's reputation would be different if there was a Premier League team called Shepherd's Bush F.C.?) In my opinion that makes Queens Park Rangers a true Shepherd's Bush legacy - certainly more so than BBC and Westfield.
I love that Loftus Road stadium is in a considerably built up residential area on the cusp of the White City estate. I used to go to evening classes up the road from there and would often walk past the stadium and then along South Africa Road past the astro-turf where maybe hundreds of young boys and men were playing football. That seems to make sense to me; that there are kids playing football next door to a football stadium as opposed to the stadium neighbouring out of town department stores or expensive flats.
QPR fans are loyal, sometimes scarily so. They are also currently very happy as QPR sit at the top of the Football League Championship after, what is fair to say, a number of years of more downs than ups. It's not for me to comment on the business and politics that surround many football clubs these days. In many ways the recent FIFA World Cup vote says enough about where football is today. The only thing that potentially has remained the same for clubs like QPR are the fans and their loyal support. I dare say that there are some regular QPR spectators in Shepherd's Bush whose ancestors were loyal attendees decades ago. I happen to know of many supporters who no longer live in the Bush but embark on long and now cold and traffic heavy journeys every other Saturday.
I am still yet to go to a match at Loftus Road though I regularly hear the cheers all the way over the other side of the Green. It is one of my new year's resolutions to go so I will be picking my match soon. I am half ready as this weekend I found a QPR scarf in a local charity shop (surely previously owned by someone who already had far too many QPR scarves and not enough neck) and I will be wearing it proudly around Shepherd's Bush and beyond...
There are those who love winter, those who hate winter and those who pretend to hate winter but secretly love it. I am one of the latter. Though I am a girl who can never be hot enough, I love the smells and sights of winter, especially when it snows. I think I also prefer the creativity of a winter wardrobe with layers, cozy fabrics, maximum comfort underwear and warm, fleecy socks over figure forgiving tights.
In recent years I think it's accurate to say we've seen more snow than I can remember, even as a young child when I lived much further north. Snow was a once every few or more years exciting event, not the twice or thrice a year pain-in-the-chilblains it now is. Even if it means I abandon heels, walk funny and still fall over, I love the snow. Maybe it's because I'm a snowboarder, maybe it's because I'm really still a big child but I have loved seeing Shepherd's Bush under a sprinkling of snow this year and last.
These photos were taken this morning after a night of snow that Mo and I walked home in after a cheeky mid-weekly night out. I am confident that later all this snow will be sludge and the Green will no longer be a calm white blanket, but an odd array of deformed snowmen.
Despite cold toes and cancelled trains, let's try and enjoy it while it lasts!
I am no longer anonymous, insofar as I have now "come out" to my flatmate Mo. I'm not sure why I decided to this evening over a pile of ironing and a glass of terrible wine (a gift from a friend I probably won't be coming out to anytime soon if she keeps making offerings like that!).
It needed to be done, I think. She may have started to think me odd(er) for taking so many pictures of general Shepherd's Bush scenes on my phone and for generally being overly enthusiastic about all things W12. I think she also deserves to have the right to say "you can blog about this" or not as the case may be as unlike my former flatmate we do actually enjoy venturing out into the Bush together. I've also recently started to wonder if it's time I needed some real life quality control as you virtual lot are worryingly too nice and complimentary about this here blog.
So hello to you Mo! I hope you enjoy reading and don't mind the occasional reference to your very fair self. I hope you like (and "get") your affectionate nickname and continue to enjoy being referred to occasionally as I may refer to our future Bush adventures.
This morning as I walked to Shepherd's Bush tube from my Shepherd's Bush flat I witnessed an uncomfortable Shepherd's Bush scene. As I stood waiting for the "green man" at the traffic lights in front of West 12, I was distracted by some commotion to my right under the (forever present) scaffolding near Ladbrokes. A man and a woman were arguing. This is nothing unusual in W12 where residents are frequently visually and aurally exposed to domestic disputes outside our windows.
However, at the risk of sounding very judgmental of the usual Shepherd's Bush suspects, this did seem different. He was dressed in a smart overcoat and suit, wrapped up in a scarf and leather gloves against the freezing temperatures; she was dressed more casually in jeans and a warm jacket. I'm confident in saying that both were younger than me. As the red man stubbornly remained I continued to watch their animated argument (his hands were very "Italian" and she kept taking steps back or to the side of him, clearly trying to evade his verbal assault). I was then truly shocked to see this man strike the woman across her face with the back of his leather-gloved hand. There was enough force in this that she stumbled to one side. He seemed to have some magnetic pull to her as he followed and remained in her personal space. She then pushed him away and ran a few steps in my direction, retrieved a phone from her jacket pocket and seemed to be calling someone. He followed her with less pace, appearing to know that she wouldn't run away far, and he stood by her side outside HSBC watching her every move as she talked on the phone. I made a step in their direction. My instinctive reaction was to approach her to see if she needed any help. At the same time I contemplated calling the police. My brain then kicked into a different gear and questioned what I was potentially willing to get myself into at 7.30am on a Friday morning. I also asked myself who he would blame for an interruption; me or her?
Sharp beeping tore my eyes and thoughts away from this moral dilemma and the green man beckoned. I crossed the road in autopilot but looking back at the girl, crying, on the phone and the man now standing a metre away, calm and letting her finish her call. It was then I wondered why she hadn't completely ran away from him?
By the time I crossed at the other sight of traffic lights and reached the entrance to Shepherd's Bush tube and looked back, they had moved on and I couldn't see them.
I'll be honest, 10 minutes later I was sat on the tube reading my Sport magazine and trying to talk myself out of buying a cinnamon skinny latte on the way to work. But now I'm kind of itching with a lingering guilt. I'm wondering if my instinctive reaction, to intervene or call the police, was what I should have done. Why didn't I take action when I wax lyrical about being a moral citizen? Would I have prevented further injury by doing so? And was I genuinely right in being reluctant to interfere because I could have potentially worsened the situation? Or was I just being plain lazy, preferring to ignore?
I suppose I'll never know the answers to all of these questions as our reactions in these situations can never be as intelligently thought out as our analysis of them in hindsight. I find some faint reassurance in not knowing the couple's background and therefore being completely incapable of making a fully informed assessment (not that there is ANY excuse for violence). However, there is no comfort for me now as I sit at my desk (without that coffee) and realise that I will never know exactly what happened after they left my field of vision this morning...
In the early stages of this blog I reviewed a very good comedy night in Shepherd's Bush called Knock2bag. Nearly a year on I decided I was in serious need of a laugh again and so a few weeks ago flatmate Mo (the nice new one) and I made our way to the comedy night in one of Shepherd's Bush's premium night spots, the converted subterranean Edwardian public convenience (i.e. old underground toilets) that is Ginglik.
I want to review Ginglik as a venue on another occasion. I've found myself under Shepherd's Bush Green on a number of drunken Friday nights. As a result I appear to have about 4 separate Pay as You Go Ginglik Membership cards (including one in a completely unfamiliar name) but I will have to be honest when I say I fail to have a solid enough recollection of the time (and money) spent there. However that is hopefully soon to change; Mo and I are planning to have our Christmas night out there in a few weeks (lazy, us? yes sir!). I will endeavour to stay sober enough to take in some of the atmosphere, alcoholic beverages and music selection for blogging purposes.
So back to LaughatGinglik, the regular comedy night held at Ginglik every fortnight. Mo and I got there in good time and with good seats and drinks secured we waited for our laughing muscles to be exercised. Readers can rightly assume that I have a sense of humour that borders on, nay sinks deeply in to, the dirty and filthy side. I can laugh about most things. Mo on the other hand I wasn't too sure about despite knowing her most of my life. She is one of my most ladylike friends (admittedly this isn't too hard a title to hold) and neither curses nor makes filth-filled-innuendos in haste. That said she always laughs when I do and not always out of her charming natural politeness. In fact the more time we spend living together the more I realise she does have an "edge" to her sense of humour and our night at LaughatGinglik pretty much confirmed it.
The theme of the night was sketch comedy and all acts did indeed abide by this in a variety of different ways. There were 6 acts in total and in a change to the original schedule the night was hosted by the very funny duo Allnut & Simpson (seriously I wonder if the pairing of one fat smiley bloke and one odd looking skinny bloke will ever fail - apart from Corden & Horne of course). Mo and I managed to get a laugh out of every act and actually for one of the acts we appeared to be the only two in the audience laughing (more out of nervousness than anything else - Nathan Dean Williams' monologue of an Aspergers-esque son who relays tales of sexual harassment at the hands of dinner ladies to his mother - a blow-up doll whose breast he strokes throughout the sketch - did invite laughter more out of disbelief than humour). A favourite for us both was Nick Mohammed whose slick performance of a number of different characters was broad, accurate and convincing. I personally enjoyed Late Night Gimp Fight whose comedy was slightly closer to the bone or on occasion more sensitive bone marrow. We both enjoyed The Unexpected Items, a foursome who worked well together but with strong individual performances including a very talented young lady (probably younger than me) whose literary version of Britney Spears' Womanizer had me belly-laughing. Their other sketches included this one, "Gap Yah" which I've since learnt has a cult student following.
Ginglik was an excellent host; not too big, not too small, manageable queues for both bar and loos (despite the Ladies becoming Unisex by the management halfway through the night). I also have to say my future review of Ginglik may already be biased as one of the barmen kept giving me some of his pistachio nuts (and this is not one of my afore mentioned filthy innuendos) every time I ordered more drinks.
Each and every time I go to a comedy night not only am I reminded that I have stomach muscles but also that laughter genuinely is one of the best things for the soul. I'm sure there's a reason for it probably to do with the right hormones getting to the right places, but I always feel a little lighter and a lot more positive about life after I've spent nearly two hours non-stop laughing. For this reason I have no doubt I'll get my laughing gear to LaughatGinglik again in the near future, and I recommend you do the same too.
Located very close to where Mo and I dwell the lights of the Raj have long called out to me and what better excuse to indulge in some spice than Mo's twenty-something-ed birthday. On the night in question we actually made our way with a slight wobble to the Raj of India as it was the seemingly perfect sequel to the comedy night at Ginglik (to be blogged about). I do love a good local weekday night out in Shepherd's Bush.
The welcome was charmingly typical of curry houses in UK. Doors held open for you, chairs pulled out, napkins rested on your lap, inner thigh stroked as they do so... kidding. There was no thigh-stroking. But there were poppadom condiments on our table already, a total palette tease. An extra bonus was that they included my favourite coconut chutney which i could literally pour down my throat until it re-emerged out of my nostrils and ear holes. We didn't have to wait too long for poppadoms to scoop up the chutney and coconut and chilis and wash it all down with Cobra on draft. I was also charmed by high chintz factor demonstrated in the general decor and elaborate cutlery and plates. These with the thick patterned carpet which I'm confident had been in place since the restaurant opened in 1996, left the restaurant pleasantly lacking in pretention.
We skipped starters and both ordered different chicken mains. Mo ordered a House Speciality Achari Chicken Masala and I went in big choosing a Chicken Balti Masala (medium hot), which I haven't had I think since I went to a-rough-around-the-edges-BYO-booze delicious curry house in Birmingham, which I actually believe is roughly where the dish originates from. Perhaps this is why I was left a little disappointed with my choice, I can pretty much cope with a "hot" dish as long as there is good flavour there, and sadly compared to Mo's there wasn't the flavour injection I was craving. The balti was certainly rich but more in the "stewed" sense as opposed to layered flavours. Luckily for me, Mo is a sharer and so my manners were thrown out the window and I enjoyed taking advantage of this as her dish was very good. We shared peshwari and plain naans (good but not the best I've had) a Bombay Aloo and yet more Cobra.
Though there was nothing wrong with the meal I wasn't as impressed as I had hoped to be after hearing very good reviews from other Bush-ites. On the plus side the service was excellent complete with "very hot" towels. The total cost was reasonable (around £38.00 if I remember rightly) and we left content, with full bellies and certainly more of a wobble to our walk so I will award Raj of India 6.5 out of 10 poppadoms. Seeing as it is virtually an extension of our living room (and we sharply noticed it does takeaway til late) I expect I'll have the opportunity soon to try a different main course very soon, maybe even sans wobble.
I am back in Shepherd's Bush after a lovely long warm and indulgent break in South East Asia. Despite a peskily persistent case of jet lag, I feel relaxed, energized and have a new sense of focus. I also have a spanking tan and a lovely caramel tint to my hair which would usually cost me around £80.00 to achieve. At the high risk of stating the obvious, I have always loved holidays but it is only in my more recent (financially) independent but work-commitment-heavy years that I truly appreciate them.*
There are many reasons why I love holidays:
- It often means uninterrupted time with those you love most (or fancy most, i.e. NewMan) - a surprisingly rare priority in our lives.
- Rest is good for our souls. We cannot and should not run on empty. Take or make time to recharge your batteries.
- It's very cancerous-ly incorrect, but God I love bathing in the sun, being coated in a warmth that soothes away niggling worries..
- ...and white bits can provide no end of amusement.
- If you're abroad you get to experience new things, be it culinary delights or foreign social customs. (It's apparently perfectly normal in Malaysia to purposefully shut doors behind you; in the face of anyone behind you being optional.)
- You break all your own rules: you sleep in alarm-free, you eat what you want when you want and you enjoy alcoholic beverages at any time of the day you wish (just me?)
- You have time to think, and you have time to not think.
- You get to come home. Even if home is a foggy, cold Shepherd's Bush in November where the only golden glow to be seen is in the fallen leaves covering the pavement and the skeletal trees on the Green stand as bare as my white bits. It's home.
*If you feel a swell of jealousy building up and you are grimacing at the audacity of this post, can I kindly ask you to remember I am a single woman in her 20s who works bloody hard (and have done pretty much since I was 15 years old) and right now I am fortunate enough to be free of money-sapping mortgages or offspring. Apparently, and despite my current best intentions, this may not last forever. Also when the world ends and everything crumbles down I will be alone, homeless and penniless (but nicely tanned and rested). (If you're still feeling a smidge jealous, please don't - look at my freakishly long toes in the above picture - 10 long thin peanut-toe burdens I have to bear everyday!)
Hey there Bush fans... I am on holiday from tomorrow in a far away place for a few weeks. This holiday will be a first of many things for me:
* My first time in Asia
* The first time NewMan and I spend more than 3 days together not to mention two long-haul flights (gulpus massiveus).
* Our first time on holiday with another couple (but they're my friends so that's ok, well for me at least).
I had wanted to get some quick blog posts in before I went, one about the comedy night at Ginglik and another about the curry that Mo and I had after said comedy gig in Shepherd's Bush (we seriously exercised our stomach muscles that night!), but work and narrowing down 2 wardrobes to just 20kg of luggage has taken over my time and energy. I promise to have these and some tales of my holiday posted as soon as I can upon my return.
That is of course counting on NewMan not drowning me in the India Ocean and me managing to avoid death by chicken satay.
Have a great few weeks and look after the Bush for me...
Due to work commitments over the last few weeks, my average twitter log-in rate has decreased from approximately every 17 minutes to maybe two or three times a day, but I was very glad to log in this afternoon and see that Shepherd's Bush (or Shepherds Bush as twatter can't cope with apostrophes) was a trending topic. And look even John Prescott is getting involved!
Even more bizarrely, yet of course completely fitting to us odd balls who choose to live in the W12 area, it was all because of a uncanny and unnerving sighting of a bloke taking the bus through our fair hub of activity...
Shepherd's Bush is not short of pubs. It even now features a few wine bars and if you include Westfield, a champagne bar. However apart from the award winning Princess Victoria that all Bush dwellers should be proud of, we are not a corner of London one flocks to for a pint, unless you are a QPR fan or domino-playing man of a certain age.*
In some ways this is perhaps why The Defectors Weld could feel or look a bit out of place in Shepherd's Bush as it tries to cash in on the gastro-pub-full-of-badly-refurbed-antique-furniture-and-over-sized-lampshades breed of boozers that has now taken over London. I'll be honest I'm a bit bored of it and these days find myself more inspired by old man pubs untouched by a checked shirt or a pretentious fashion student. However Defectors Weld was the pub of choice for my flatmate Mo's twenty-something-th'ed birthday last week. You wouldn't see me arguing, as I get older I certainly have greater appreciation of a short walk home and tried and tested take away options. But I've never fully warmed to The Defectors Weld or found myself sinking into the ripped half stuffed leather sofas not wanting to be anywhere else in the world.
For one thing it appears to be staffed only by trendy East Londoners who seem thoroughly pissed off to be at the wrong end of the Central Line. Secondly it's not a cheap pub. Thirdly ,they have taken the thrown-out-furniture feel a little too far. (NewMan and I went there recently for a Sunday afternoon of rude word Scrabble and a bottle of rouge only to find the only available table was wobbly, I got a splinter from my wooden rickety chair and apparently toilet seats in the Ladies were optional).
Having said all the above, I don't hate the place and actually think it's a nice addition to the other Bush Boozers and is selfishly slightly closer to my abode than my personal favourites, The Goldhawk and The Crown & Sceptre. One plus side is that it appears to have evolved into a BBC pub and this brings in famous-ish people (I once saw Christine Bleakley - have just about recovered) and occasionally enough drunk producers in dated il-fitting T-Shirts who want to buy you drinks. I am yet to test the DJ's skills on a Friday or Saturday night or in fact the kitchen's offerings, but I have no doubt I will darken the doors of The Defectors Weld on many more occasions in the future, even if just to smile extra sweetly and promote the merits of the Bush to the sullen East London wannabe bar staff.
* A regular sight every Shepherd's Bush resident should enjoy seeing at The Prince, 77 Goldhawk Road.
Last night was a bizarre night in Shepherd's Bush and all because of a football match.
Before I go any further I should explain that I am a true and sympathetic football fan.I have to be because I am an Everton supporter. I have been to football matches all over Europe (not supporting Everton as that doesn't happen very often) because I like to experience the atmosphere and because I genuinely appreciate good football and sharing this with good football fans. Growing up I was also a season ticket holder and Crazy Gang member at Wimbledon FC (RIP), and after living in Italy I became a regular at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples so I am no stranger to "lively" football matches.
However I am yet to go to a QPR home game but it is on my ever-growing list of Bush things to do.
Last night Millwall came to Loftus Road, and their fans seemingly invaded the surrounding pubs and roads. According to the good tw'eople who were witnessing it all first hand, from as early as 4pm there were police vans, dogs, riot squads and a helicopter accompanying up to 100 officers surrounding many of the notorious pre-match pubs. As 8 o'clock kick off approached it was reported that many pubs and shops decided to close and so potentially clashing fans spilled out on to the streets of Shepherd's Bush, mainly in the Uxbridge Road area.
I only know this from the numerous tweets that were sent by local people who watched it unravel from their living room windows or from the many incredibly loyal QPR fans that had hoped for a few pre-kick off pints, some of which I've included here.*
I was actually sat at my office desk near Bank station where I was working late while this all unravelled. I have to admit that when emerging from the tube in Shepherd's Bush a few minutes before 8pm I was expecting a scene of blood and devastation and at least one policeman to greet me at the station. Instead there wasn't a plod in sight and the usual commuters were rushing home and the tired and poor looking shoppers were lugging their bags home from Westfield. And then I heard the sirens, and I saw the bottle neck traffic going nowhere towards Uxbridge Road. However these are not unusual things in Shepherd's Bush.
I wasn't there so I can't comment, but I can say that for nearly 4 hours my twitter feed was full of quite startling reports of chaos and drama and a much heavier than usual police presence, and we are not a pocket of London where police are strangers.
It's not my intention to point the finger at Millwall and their long-standing reputation. There were reports from QPR that trouble had been stirred up early by the Ultras in town "supporting" Marseille in their Champions League clash with our Fulham neighbours Chelsea. But I am sad that so much of the perpetually stretched Metropolitan Police's resources were so heavily absorbed in our corner of London yesterday, but I am not going to pretend that I don't acknowledge and even appreciate how passions run high when it comes to football. That said, it's a very different breed of football "fan" who resorts to violence and chaos.
Whenever QPR play at home I always notice (and avoid eye contact with) the many tattoo-ed fierce looking men in their Hoops shirts. There are, however, just as many, if not more, families that religiously and optimistically head towards Loftus Road on a Saturday afternoon. This is what I was thinking about last night - the young girls and boys who may have got caught up in it all last night and that's when any kind of report of violence and rioting really does concern me.
*If you don't like me using your tweety-tweets please tell me and I will remove. Thank you please x
(... which is the title of a fairly lovely Bright Eyes song if you're interested)
A year ago on Saturday I began this blog. The aim was to document bits and bobs about me and my experiences of living in Shepherd's Bush. I wasn't quite sure where it was going to go or how long it was going to last (or on reflection how many dates I'd go on or how many Bagel Bites I'd eat) but if I'm honest only a small part of me expected it to still be going after 12 months. Nor did I anticipate how much I would enjoy it.
To celebrate I will be eating home made cakes like these and I'll be writing a long list of things I wanted to blog about a year ago that I still haven't.
Because I now have at least three readers I would also like you to leave a little comment telling me what in the Bush (and beyond) I should go see, go do, go eat, go experience and then I will blog about it.
A few months ago I did something that I've long wanted to do in Shepherd's Bush, and quite frankly should have done by now. No, it wasn't suggesting the Green's super strength crew swap cider for Appletise, nor was it downing a pint in one of the many intimidating, but equally as intriguing, QPR pubs. It was in fact going to the theatre; Bush Theatre.
I purposefully haven't blogged about him much but NewMan and I don't have many things in common, and the theatre certainly isn't one of them ("Are there robots in this play?" I believe was his first answer to an invite), but somehow in this very special beginning phase when we are both open, or at least pretending to be, to each other's differing interests, he agreed to it.
The Bush Theatre began in the most traditional of ways, in a room above a pub. Slightly less traditionally apparently the room was also once used as Lionel Blair's dance studio (oh the jazz hands!). In nearly 40 years the theatre has become a breeding ground for new talent, both in terms of writing, directing and general thespian creativity and has welcomed many big names into its small but perfectly intimate performing space. It was personally lovely to learn from the Theatre's history that Victoria Wood wrote her first sketch on a type writer she found in the theatre and then performed it there with one of my heros, Julie Walters.
Perhaps I should explain that if I had thicker skin and better teeth I would have pursued my childhood dream of becoming an actress. Instead I have a proper job (which admittedly I love), though a life long passion for theatre which needs attention every now and again remains. Back then when I was blissfully ignorant and chasing this dream studying Theatre Studies at sixth form college we used to rehearse in a space not dissimilar to the 81 capacity Bush Theatre, so it was a nice flashback to a creative time in my life.
NewMan and I went to see Like a Fishbone by Anthony Weigh. The play is essentially about an event that has already happened, a shooting in a small town school. Set in the office of an architect who is commissioned by the town to devise a suitable memorial to those who died, she is confronted by the extremely Christian mother of one of the children who died. The play and performance actually got slammed (I believe that's the correct terminology) by the critics and I went to watch it having already read the reviews, but craftily keeping them from NewMan, who I could tell was absolutely doing this to gain new boyfriend bonus points.
There were elements to the play that lacked conviction and indeed certain moments in the play went from subtle and effective dialogue to quite cliché-heavy discourse, but I had to applaud both the consistent and on the whole convincing lead performances by Deborah Findley and Sarah Smart and I have to thank Phoebe Waller-Bridge in her amusing supporting role which kept NewMan entertained. I left the Bush Theatre feeling like I'd enjoyed the play but best of all like I'd joined a fairly secret club of Bush Theatre go-ers who share something quite special.
Here comes the serious bit. Bush Theatre relies heavily on donations to keep fulfilling it's goal of giving new playwrights a platform and I have to say one visit to this local slice of culture I am convinced it's a worthy cause. Bush Theatre has also been occupying the charming building that used to house Shepherd's Bush library and has been doing on-off events there with the help of volunteers. Not only is this a sign of culture in the area, it's also a strong indicator of community being alive and well in Shepherd's Bush. And at a time when funding for the arts is under an increasing threat, I for one am happy to support this.
Last Monday and Tuesday London and Londoners were forced to enter into a bizarre survival mode. As we marched through the more crowded than usual streets and queued for buses or thanked St Boris for his bikes I must have been in a minority in thanking Bob Crow and his comrades for forcing an opportunity on me to enjoy a long walk home from east to west London.
So after double-bowing my trainer laces I left the Bank of England behind me and commenced upon the 6 and a bit miles home. My twitter friends will know that I am currently trying to master this distance at a respectable jogging pace but on this particular day I'd already attempted (died on my backside) to run the distance in to work that morning so a Harold-from-Neighbours-esque power walk home it was.
Though I've lived in and around London for the last 15 years I am still in awe of some sights and buildings I see. St. Paul's Cathedral is one of them.
Unfortunately as I'm now becoming used to pounding the pavements of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street to lose lbs as opposed to £s, these particular sights do not amaze me, they more frustrate me and make me walk/run with my elbows pointed out at an angle. And on this odd Tuesday evening I wasn't alone as cyclists, buses, pedestrians, cabbies and motorists fought to move forward through the West End.
So as I approached half way home I therefore greatly appreciated the peace and perfectly timed sunshine that greeted me in Hyde Park. I had settled into quite a decent bum-wiggling pace and wasn't at all tempted to join this queue for the 148 bus.
I am sure that it won't last, but I still count myself lucky that I can include a walk, run or cycle through Hyde Park into my daily commute. A year ago I was commuting west out of London and there is no way you can compare chugging along the M4 corridor to strolling past the Serpentine.
Admittedly by the time I emerged from Hyde Park into Notting Hill where it seemed people had abandoned queuing for drinking and eating, my legs and feet were starting to hurt but as I always do when running this route, I chanted to myself that it was all downhill from here and indeed it was.
After one hour and 47 minutes (or two Jill Scott albums and one DJ Marky podcast) I was sat on my sofa and inspecting my walking injury, a vicious toe blister!
I am confident that very few people got home that day feeling like they'd experienced a silver lining to the cloud that was the tube strikes, but I did and have decided to take this long walk more often (but maybe with some trusty Elastoplast and my oyster card in my pocket, just in case).
On Friday something quite nice happened. As I ploughed through emails and cups of tea and set my sights on the weekend I was tweeted by Bush Bloke Stewart Birch who asked me if it was worth creating a Shepherd's Bush hash tag for all the Shepherd's Bush tweeters/twits. After opening it up to my Followers for their wise opinions a healthy amount of twee-scussion ensued. We finally agreed on #bushw12 and already it is working nicely.
Not only was I encouraged by the immediate support by my fellow Bush Twit(terer)s in going one step further to create a cyber community for online Bush Belles and Blokes, but I was also reminded that I am by no means the only one who feels moved enough to observe, comment and share their thoughts on Shepherd's Bush.
I've regularly used Twitter as a way to both research local news and events and to gauge people's thoughts and opinions about the W12 area of London. Be it good, bad or ugly every day someone, somewhere has tweeted something about Shepherd's Bush and that makes me smile. Hopefully this will continue, so please do use the #bushw12 hash tag and let's keep sharing Shepherd's Bush.
My first time in Shepherd's Bush was when I was about eleven years old. My family and I lived a long way outside of London at that time but my parents are Saaaf Lan-daners "froo and froo" so we often made trips to the big smoke to see family and for my mother to increase emotional pressure on my father to move back "daan saaf" (she was successful by the time I turned 14). On one of these trips we spent a day visiting my mother's good friend who lives in Lena Gardens.
I distinctly remember that trip for a number of reasons. My Mum's friend is a successful businesswoman, single, without children and even then as she served seafood paella that my brothers and I were scathing of and selective with, it was obvious to me that she was both horrified and intimidated with my mother's growing mob. What I also recall is, that we all talked about her living in Notting Hill. I remember it because of hearing about the Carnival and I was very excited by this. Now I know that this is not Notting Hill, nor is it really Carnival cruising close. In fact I think you'd be hard pushed to even call it Hammersmith. It's Brook Green, I suppose. But it could also be proudly called Shepherd's Bush. Now with 4 years residential authority on the subject, I've discussed this with my parents since who now have less contact with Hyacinth (not her real name, just one I pulled out the Bucket) and we all laugh that she (and admittedly us) called it Notting Hill.
It's even more laughable because as us junior mob members grew restless and impatient in her stunning, all-white minimalist town house (that's probably quadrupled in value since) with no toys to play with or even things to break, Hyacinth suggested we all took a walk to the nearby playground. So we headed off to a nearby park - not to au-pair and hybrid push chair full Brook Green, but to the comparatively scarce and exposed children's area on Shepherd's Bush Green.
I remember walking down the road (Shepherd's Bush Road - which I now live off) and seeing all the colours and sensing all the activity and as I tried to shake off my Mum's hand as it anxiously grasped mine, I remember thinking "This is London.". Unlike my Grandma's suburban 1930s semi detached, or the Croydon flyover that ashamedly still excites me today, when I met the noise, the chaos and the smell of Shepherd's Bush, it was the first time I really met and fell in love with London. I'd love to say that from that moment on it was my sole and soul's desire to live in Shepherd's Bush. It wasn't - instead at that time I was convinced Joey McIntyre from New Kids on The Block and I would live in a cliff top mansion in LA.
Yet life doesn't turn out how you always imagine it will and sadly Joey and I are not an item (it ended badly) and I am not sunning myself in the Hollywood Hills, here I am in Shepherd's Bush. As I pushed swings at my brother, it never crossed my mind that I would one day be living there. I think on that day I was much more concerned with the unconventional but dominant feature in the playground:
What is it? I couldn't really explain it on my first visit to Shepherd's Bush and I certainly can't explain it now. I think this in itself was an omen to what living in Shepherd's Bush would be like. You see, sometimes in Shepherd's Bush, as in life, you have to be happy with not knowing precisely what's going or or what something is. Furthermore perhaps this is where Hyacinth misses the point about Shepherd's Bush so she pretends she lived somewhere else, somewhere "better". And that's why I'll not get too hung up about not knowing what this odd playground feature is. I would much rather not know what something is than pretend it is something it is not, especially, Dear Hyacinth, if it's where I live.