Monday, 27 August 2012


Being a certified (and certifiable) anglophile, Pete Townshend's magnum opus Quadrophenia is one of my favourite films. I was excited to discover the actual greasy spoon featured in the film where mod anti-hero Jimmy eats with his rockabilly nemesis played by the one and only Ray Winstone was only a short walk across Murder Park from my 'big, brilliantly candyass' west London office.
So I retired to A. Cooke's famous Pie n Mash Caff on the Goldhawk Road in Shepherd's Bush one rainy afternoon with my assistant (he of the 'Buff Ting' fame) to sample their wares and lounge resplendent in some proper filmic history. Check out my homeboy posing below. I made him do it. You can tell by his pathetically insincere smile.
Anyway, said assistant (lets call him Virgil) and I sampled the classic English fayre of pie'n'mash, not a world away from that other classic English standby and my personal meal of choice, meat'n'two veg.  
Said fayre was common or garden variety caff style...a greasy, meaty confection with a perfect sphere of delicious creamy mash all drowned in watery mint sauce and accompanied by a serving a thick mushy peas. You wouldn't want to eat it every day but its just the ticket on a rainy afternoon in Shepherds Bush as you debate the pros and cons of TOWIE vs Made In Chelsea.
The groovy old timer sitting behind Virgil was typical of the proper salt of the earth English regulars in for their midweek scran, and the dinner ladies brooked no nonsense whatsoever at the order counter let me tell you. The cafe recently successfully fought a compulsory purchase planning application to have the premises destroyed as part of a proposed 200-flat development. Suck on that, The Man! Read more about A Cooke's noble fight against the nasty slumlords here
Just look at Virgil wishing he was anywhere but here, being made to pose like a tit under threat of imminent sacking. Nice oilskin jacket Virgil, ebay's finest, natch. 

Sunday, 26 August 2012


The final destination in my triumvirate of delightful East Sussexness was the quaint village of Battle, hometown of my longtime musical love Keane. Fans will of course recognise the above lanes name checked on Strangeland, the album Mr Tim Rice-Oxley titled after reading Tracey Emin's biography of the same name detailing her formative years growing up in the decaying seaside town of Margate. Word around the campfire suggests Mr Rice-Oxley senior was the local doctor in the village of Battle, now retired and no doubt living in English countryside splendour.
Battle itself was a stereotypically lovely English village, lined with pretty shops, friendly local people and idiosyncratic little scarecrow-installations celebrating British Olympic pride along the high street (below). When the sunny days seem to last forever in the summertime, a place like Battle, surrounded by incredible ancient architecture and the beautiful rolling hills of the South Downs really is one of the most idyllic places on earth. Virginia Woolf, Rudyard Kipling and Jane Austen to name a few have all resided in or written of the area's intoxicating ambience.
The main attraction in Battle and the village's namesake is of course it's famous 1066 battle grounds. Duke William of Normandy came, saw and conquered King Harold's English army on 14th October 1066 on these grounds, the Anglo-Saxons already spent, though victorious after defeating the Norwegian Viking invaders oop north near York.
Wandering the fertile green battle fields, soundtracked by an audio guide I would normally forego, I became utterly entranced by the emotive tales of the gargantuan clash between the Norman and Anglo Saxon armies. After several hours of intensive battle axe, crossbow, chainmail and shield combat in which Harold's army had initially maintained the upper hand with their shield wall, William eventually emerged the victor, Harold reputedly being felled by an arrow to the eye. What truly struck me as amazing was the fact that the actual sovereigns themselves were on the ground fighting - engaged in a physical battle which could only end in the actual death of both themselves and their empires. Call me historically naive but I can't imagine Prince Charles doing the same.  
The wonderful Battle Abbey (below) dominates the village, built by William of Normandy as penance for the wanton destruction his army waged on the battlefield. Its ancient relics have historically constituted both monastic buildings and private residences and Keane played a few of their nostalgic East Sussex tunes from Strangeland in the abbey which you can see here.
No jaunt to a village like Battle would be complete without a visit to the local tea rooms and The Pilgrim's Rest opposite the Abbey did not disappoint. Housed in a Grade II listed building, the restaurant encapsulated the typical English tea room experience, with ancient, rural timber architecture, an enormous central fireplace and beautiful historic fittings and furniture. The bespoke ice cream parlour in a rickety back room proved a real treat in the languid afternoon haze, as did the atmospheric front garden, overflowing with fragrant English roses and large succulent bumble bees. As the saying goes with heroin, if the lord made anything greater, he kept it for himself.