Thursday, 5 April 2007

Up and down the City Road

A mixed week so far, but preceeded by a very pleasant weekend all round. It started with Alex's birthday party on Friday night, in her enormous and very nice flat near Liverpool Street. I'd had a great chat at work the previous day about how much I love London and its history - don't get me wrong, I hate commuting to it every day and don't think I would want to live there either. But there are periods in the city's history where London really comes alive for me - Tudor London, the Dickensian slums, the 60s - and areas of the city which just seem steeped in history and richness. The City area is one of these, and even though loads of it got bombed in the war, there are enough old buildings and streets and pubs and character in between the office blocks and concrete to keep me happy.

Alex's flat is in a building called the Exchange. Round and about it are your usual offices etc but there were also gems of run down-ness such as a drearily grubby looking shop selling just 'Shirts and Blouses'. There was also a pub called the Commercial Tavern where Ali and I pitched up (as we were a bit early) for a pint or 2 before the party. I think it's been done up recently and while it was very pretentious - random vast chandeliers everywhere, old wallpaper depicting what looked like 1920s cyclists, full of Shoreditch/Hoxton meeja types being all trendy - it wasn't a bad place to get a drink. They had Black Sheep Ale and Old Rosie Scrumpy on draught so we were both happy, anyway. The only downside was that as soon as we walked in I thought I would have to walk straight back out again due to lack of oxygen - there was so much smoke in there I could hardly breathe. Upstairs was a bit better than downstairs so we manfully sipped our pints and pretended not to be tourists (a bit difficult with all our overnight bags and Ali's mountains of camera gear under our feet) but left stinking of smoke. Eugh.

The party itself was great - good to see old friends and meet new people - and we got to sleep in one of the hugest comfiest beds I'd ever slept in, 7ft x 7ft. Next day we met up with Jenn for lunch at Jamie Oliver's restaurant Fifteen which was about 20 minutes walk away. It is in Shoreditch and round that area is a pub called the Eagle, which has the old nursery rhyme painted large on the external brickwork:

Up and down the City Road
In and out the Eagle
That's the way the money goes
Pop! goes the Weasel

Fifteen was fantastic - as we walked in there was a huge table all dusted with semolina flour fresh from making pasta; massive bunches of chillies hanging from every available hook; antipasti in big bowls and a very welcoming atmosphere. We were booked in at the Trattoria upstairs which I was pleased about - cheaper than the main restaurant downstairs, you could see out (and it was a lovely day), and all very rustic. We had antipasti to start - as the waiter was describing what each luscious morsel was, our saliva glands were working over time before we were able to dive upon it; I then had roast belly of pork with fennel and extra roast potatoes. Proper crackling, and superb taste, but the portion itself was too enormous - I couldn't finish it, and even had no room left in my special pudding reserve for any afters. Well worth the money though (for London anyway) and a great experience all round. All hail Jamie!

Back on the train afterwards and we had a quiet Saturday evening, watching the Irvine Welsh new drama - Wedding Belles - on tape. Michelle Gomez at first was too reminiscent of Sue White (the mad HR lady she plays in Green Wing) for me to totally relax into watching her as a different character, but in the end she was the best actress in it, though Shirley Henderson ran a close second. It was good, but a little bit predictable.

Before this post turns into a massive 'what I did on my weekend' essay I'd better curtail it - suffice to say on Sunday I spent a very enjoyable day in the back garden tidying and clearing and surveying my domain, and bemoaning the lack of greehhouse / decent perennial plants / proper upright fence on one side....One day all those things will be there, just not yet. I guess I could divide the sedums (sedi? seda?) and just replicate them all the way down the borders, but that would be a bit boring. I'll post some pictures soon.

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