Mini Reviews

No place for old men.

More men face lonely old age, says study

 

Sitting in the Bonneville Bar in Lower Clapton Road, Hackney I am using their WiFi on my laptop (like a lot of the other customers) reading about a study that says older men suffer great loneliness (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-29567565). I have an artisan beer and fries with Aioli.

I have been coming to this bar for a long time through its various incarnations. It was once the Elephant’s Head, a lovely old boozer with stained glass and mahogany, full of old men and fags. Then it turned into Fitzgerald’s: an Irish bar with a fruit machine and swirly carpets frequented again by old men, mainly Irish and Caribbean guys sharing a love of Guinness, Sky Football, a bit of company and seeking the invariably bad advice given out by the bar staff.

This latest rebirth, Bonneville, made headlines on its opening night as a young black man, bleeding from a stab wound, sought refuge in the bar and dripped blood on the floor.  The Bonneville owners tweeted their crossness at this inconsiderate casualty causing a media furore. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2658883/Hipster-caf-fire-complaining-stabbing-victim-spilling-blood-floor-csiclapton-tweet.html)

Tonight there are no Irish voices to be heard and the only black man is the bouncer on the door. At 60 I am twice the age of the other customers. I get a few stares as I sit alone with my dog. Not hostile: just that I am an anomaly. Not the target demographic. Not part of the Bonneville Business Plan. The staff are nice though but still, I am not fitting in.

I read more about loneliness in old age effecting men and wonder where the old guys have gone who used to sit here before the bar got gentrified.  I think maybe they (we!) just get left behind. We sit in the same pub or the same park or the same cafe but then they change: The tide goes out leaving the old guys stranded at home with Strictly. Loss of habitat.

The bill is eye watering: can a beer and chips cost so much? Close my laptop and wake the dog. I am not really unwelcome it is just that a good guest should know when it is time to leave.

I pass the Tommy Flynn’s on Lower Clapton Road. This was once the Prince of Wales, also full of mahogany. Now in its second life, it has fruit machines, the special swirly carpet only available on prescription to landlords and a slightly Irish clientele. A handwritten sign taped to the door reads ‘We have no WiFi – some in and talk to someone’.   I tell the dog ‘this looks like the last stand for old guys ’. We enter to the sound of an Abba Karaoke and laughter. The barmaid catches my eye ‘no dogs allowed’ she says.

Janet Murray. An obituary for my friend and tutor

An obituary of the journalist and lecturer Janet (Jan) Murray who dies at the Marie Curie Hospice in London on the 1st of July 2016

Review: The Trouble with Scott Capurro at The Bill Murray @CamdenFringe

“They’re just jokes – I’m not even gay!”

Scott Capurro greets “all my imaginary friends in the front row” as he skips onstage at The Bill Murray. The front row is conspicuously empty – who after all would be so foolish as to sit there? But there’s no escape later in the set when he begins to interact with members of the audience. Before long a man who came out at the age of 30 is describing…

Committee a Musical at the Donmar Theatre

Committee A Musical is the Donmar’s new play based on a Parliamentary Inquiry into the high profile childrens charity Kids Company. 

Book review: The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste

Maaza Mengiste’s novel The Shadow King, shortlisted for the 2020 Booker prize reclaims a piece of Ethiopian history. In 1935 war is looming and Mussolini’s forces have crossed the Mareb River in the 2nd Italian invasion of Ethiopia. The Ethiopians launched a counterattack and surprisingly, women, including Mengiste’s own grandmother, also fought in the conflict.

The story begins in 1974…

Book review: Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

Pacey and fizzily plotted, Francis Spufford’s Golden Hill is a breathless romp of a novel. The year is 1746, and Mr Smith, a glib tongued and amiable English charmer, is newly pitched up in Manhattan with an order for one thousand pounds in his pocket.

The Power of the Still Image: Inspiration for Photo series during Covid-19 Pandemic

Four award-winning photographers who each chose to document the Covid-19 Pandemic and the ensuing lockdown discussed their work at an online event hosted by the Frontline Club on 4 February 2021. The photographs reveal their individual styles but they all share the same aspiration: to use their pictures to build empathy.

Julia Fullerton-Batten

Julia Fullerton-Batten’s…