Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Twist on Property Prices

As a child I was obsessed with mapping fiction. While others were out enjoying fresh air and mucky-kneed society I toiled away in my attic scrawling my own maps to wrangle some locational sense from the Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, Springfield, and the physically impossible Rovers Return (my heart still races with anger thinking about how the back kitchen would actually be half-way across Rosamund Street). 

I still like to know where things should be especially when if book set in a real city. I have retraced Mrs Dalloway's stroll to get flowers and can't read Sherlock Holmes without cross-examining each journey with Google Maps. And so this week I investigated/Googled where exactly the back alleys, dodgy pubs, and posh homes of Oliver Twist were meant to be. Luckily Dickens was equally obsessed with geographic detail. He mentions 93 unique London locations in the book and it all makes sense. That is my kind of writer. 

imagined Oliver Twist followed the expected divide between the slums of the East End and the leafy avenues of the West but actually the contrast is drawn between two areas of London whose fortunes have changed dramatically since 1839. 

Fagin's den is just off Saffron Hill, near Farringdon station (which means that unlike every other costume drama's obsessive need to stick St Paul's into the background, it does make sense here). These days it's a characterless Pret and glass-building commercial hub where businessfolk have a 'cheeky pint' after work, but then... 

“A dirtier of more wretched place he had never seen. The street was very narrow and muddy, and the air was impregnated with filthy odours. There were a good many small shops; but the only stock in trade appeared to be heaps of children, who, even at that time of night, were crawling in and out at the doors, or screaming from the inside. The sole places that seemed to prosper amid the general blight of the place, were the public-houses; and in them, the lowest orders of Irish were wrangling with might and main. Covered ways and yards, which here and there diverged from the main street, disclosed little knots of houses, where drunken men and women were positively wallowing in filth; and from several of the door-ways, great ill-looking fellows were cautiously emerging, bound, to all appearance, on no very well-disposed or harmless errands.”

Meanwhile Oliver's posh saviour Mr Brownlow lived "a quiet shady street near Pentonville" which brings us just east of Kings Cross and west of Islington. It was then a mecca for upwardly-mobile living (in fact was the first planned suburb in London) but, while still probably unaffordable for most people, is far from the aspirational hot-spot it once was. There's now large prison stuck on it and a higher crime rate than Fagin's end of town. 

So in conclusion - Fagin solidly beat Brownlow in the property investment stakes. He'd be laughing had he only just held-on to life for 180 years and not been fictional. 

Further info on the location in Oliver Twist HERE

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Quick Reviews: Dunkirk, Baby Driver, & Wonder Woman


It's been ages since I've posted anything but I have my limp excuses - I was away in Ibiza for the summer and it's not a location that encourages productive blogging. I'm happily back in cloudy London now and will most definitely (ie hopefully) get back to more keyboard tapping. 

In the meantime I've been catching up on all the films I missed while away (the lads-on-tour side of Ibiza also has a mysterious lack of cinemas) including Dunkirk, Baby Driver, and Wonder Woman

Please have a look at my very quick reviews of these three after the jump! 

Thanks, Rory x 

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Discovering The (oh so obscure) Song of the Summer

All the best summers of our lives are locked and forever ready to reload in our memories by their very particular soundtrack. 

A big Christmas song will just remind you of burping turkey dinners and smiling faintly at 'whacky' gifts, a big summer anthem brings you right back to the very specifics of that one long summer you spent awkwardly snogging and grimacing through ciders in the park, or later discovering complete freedom and foreign medical services on your first big holiday with friends, or later again, sweating on your daily commute and going to a garden centre on your one bank holiday off (ah the wonders of adult life). No decent summer passes without that one track.  

Summer 2016 was conquered by Drake's 'One Dance', but while away in France myself and some friends uncovered an alternative -  Kungs vs Cookin' on 3 Burners 'This Girl'

It was our anthem and absolutely ours alone. The oh so sweet smugness of finding that obscure track you can casually gloat over back home 'Oh you haven't heard of it? I guess it's just a continental thing... you see I was travelling... and I am better than you.' 

We returned to the UK to discover that it was number 2 in the charts. And had been for the entire summer. Goddamit. 

I'm spending this summer in Ibiza and yet again had my little tastemaker ears primed.  We discovered a banger that is playing in every bar, cafe, and eardrum across the island. It's a little Spanish number called 'Despacito'. 

Which, it transpires, has been number 1 in the US and the UK for the past month. In fact it is topping charts in 57 countries. It has 1.8 billion views on YouTube. I fear I may not be the only one to stumble on this particular exotic gem. 

What links these two summer bangers? The majority of us trying to sing along have absolutely no idea what we're saying. 'This Girl' because it's muffled gibberish and Despacito because for us folk who aren't fluent in Spanish any attempt to join in involves trying to style it out with makey-up words like 'ta-ta-la-uriotto baba zinko rinko freeto!' 

Even Justin Bieber, who features on the track isn't quite sure what's going on, during a NY gig tried to get away with substituting with cries of 'Burrito!' and 'Doritos!' Good effort. 

The chorus actually means 'Slowly....I want to smell your neck slowly/Let me whisper things in your ear/So that you'll remember if you're not with me/SlowlyI want to undress you with my kisses, slowly/I sign the walls of your labyrinth/And make your whole body a manuscript."

Oh my. I need a lie down and a Cornetto after that. Sign the walls of your labryrinth? Personally I relate more to the burrito version. 

It is the first US number 1 in Spanish language in 21 years. So what was the previous one? Well it's a certain obscure little backwater of a track I personally uncovered. Check it out HERE 

What's your song of the summer? I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The woman who remembers Southam Street

This afternoon I went to a photography exhibition of 1950s life on one west London street. Roger Mayne's pictures show grubby happy kids doing handstands, shrieking, playing, smoking, and looking warily at strangers.

A wiry old woman with an angular back kept trying to drum up conversation with tightly polite types. She asked 'You interested in Southham street then?' All she got in return were sympathetic smiles and flickers of panic. Eventually she gave it a go with me and found a willing audience. I was happy to prod her stories along with the occasional question (almost all of which were ignored).

'Course I grew up near Southam street...' she began, as though this were self evident. She told me of the 'squalid' street she was afraid to walk on, the only time she dared was when she had to go to the cinema and pass the sweet smell of the liquorice factory on the way.
'Course it's all gone now, it's under a tower'
'Course everyone treated each other the same in those days...'
'Course you've have twenty kids living in one house back then'
'Course it's getting worse again now, but I got something to look forward to..'

And so she went on reminiscing about a lost London, of how she was told to avoid teddy boys, how she worked on Portobello road which was not 'for tourists like it is now', how the area changed with arrivals 'in from the West Indies ', how she loved going 'down cinema, which they torn down now of course'.
One particular highlight was a casual mention of Rillington Place and how her mum lived opposite 'that Christie' (infamous murderer) who was 'a lovely quiet man they say 'cept for what he done. Course you don't know how much of it is true'.

Other gallery goers slowed their pace in her orbit, snatching titbits of childhood games, crowded tenement lives, of how it's all changed but how 'nothing's changed that much really, it all goes round in circles'.
When reflecting on how life is still 'just as bad as ever' for poor families in the area she added 'course I got something to look forward to'. That phrase bubbling up again and again.
I, thinking she's either talking about Brexit or death, didn't draw her on it but she wasn't going to hold back for an invitation.
'You know what I got to look forward to?' She pulled a leaflet from her bag 'I'm a Jehovah's Witness, I'm going to paradise. Have a look through this magazine on salvation...what's your name? Rory I'm Helen. You keep that, have a flick through'
'Course we don't ASK for a donation...'

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Review: 'Alien: Covenant' and Harry Styles' album

I was recently at home in Dublin and teamed up with my dad for this quick review of 'Alien: Covenant' and Harry Styles' debut solo album. 

We'd love to hear what you think! 

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Saturday, May 6, 2017

How to Cure a Cold

I have a few weeks off from work and it's free time I have been aching for since Christmas. I've long imagined busy little projects and adventures to fill the days so they felt like weeks, each so bursting with incident, revelation and life-changing moments that they'll require their own chapter in the autobiography, if not their own volume. 

Instead I've been shivering, snotty and suffering a scratchy throat that feels like a sour crow is pecking at it. EVERY SINGLE TIME I get a holiday my immune system takes one too. 

So how to beat this bastarding cold? I'm assaulting my system with so much Berocca my pee shall never be non-luminous again. But my dad's very-oft-repeated theory goes that if you take loads of vitamin C you'll beat a cold in 6 days, if you don't you'll beat a cold in 6 days. And for once, facts back him up. All a doctor can offer is 'rest, plenty of water, some vitamin C'. None of it will cure you, it will just make you feel a bit less shite. 

Having grown up in Ireland there were of course other 'cures' which we don't realise are peculiar to our island until talking to outside folk - for example 7up (served flat) and Lucozade were considered medicinal wonders. Serve some flat 7Up with dry toast (because you don't want to excite the stomach too much) and you'll be grand in a few hours. Also if I was extra whiney I might get a slice of Viennetta or raspberry ripple served on a saucer ("but don't tell the others"). 

Chatting about this on Twitter a friend added into the mix 'and Club Orange microwaved!!!!' Club Orange is fizzy orange like Fanta... that's then heated until warm. The very thought makes my stomach want to escape my body. Or am I missing out?! If so, I am happy to. 

If you have any sickness cures that you grew up with only to discover they were bizarre/tastebud torture (see above) let me know below or I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Sunday, April 23, 2017

New Rant Vid! Photogenic People

If you hate people who always look great in a photo.... and hate people who always moan about how they look in a photo. Then this is the video for you!

(Ps It's been nearly a year since I made a vid so would love to hear your feedback! @theroryjohn

A Twist on Property Prices