Like he did a few weeks ago, Max stopped by the Italian delicatessen Camisa & Son to pick up some bits for dinner on Friday night. This time he bought some mixed marinated green and black olives, a ciabatta, boccacini di mozarella, 6 melt-in-your-mouth-thin slices of prosciutto, creamy gorgonzola, and two kinds of fresh pasta: spinach and ricotta ravioli and chicken, pork, and veal ravioli. All of this cost less than £10! I decided to try something different and made a creamy vodka and herb sauce for the pasta (cream, Finlandia vodka, shallots, garlic, fresh basil, and fresh lemon thyme). With our starter I drank my bottle of Kriek that Max bought for me over a year ago when I was still in the states. With dinner we drank a bottle of 1994 Marsannay, which had an almost spicy taste to it and went down very easily.
I had on my short black silk dress and knee high leather boots and well, let's say we had a very good night and leave it at that.
Saturday afternoon we walked into Kingston and picked up my new glasses. I had a difficult time finding frames I liked, but Max really loved these on me and I've come around to liking them as well. Although I think either the prescription or the lense for my right eye is slightly off, so I may have to take them back to be fixed.
We stopped by the grocery store and picked up some food for dinner (spicy falafels in pita bread and home made yogurt mint sauce) and were soaked to the skin by rain on the walk back home. We warmed ourselves with mugs of tea and watched the second half of the Arsenal vs. Southampton game (poor Soton!) When the rain stopped we ventured out to the "unfriendly corner store" for something sweet. This corner store is run by the most unfriendly Pakistanis I have ever met. They glare at you the entire time and practically throw your change at you. We picked up some Haagen-Dazs (chocolate midnight cookie!) and hesitantly put it on the counter, bracing ourselves for the dirty looks. Max asked if I had any cash on me and the man behind the counter gave me a coy smile and asked if I was going to put up with such rudeness. Startled by the smile I smiled back and replied that I did find it offensive and told Max to leave. We all laughed - it seems we somehow broke through the unfriendly exterior. I'll bet it was the cute glasses.
Saint Etienne: Finisterre
Late Sunday afternoon we caught the train to Waterloo, the tube to Picadilly, and walked towards the Institute of Contempory Arts for the showing of the Saint Etienne film `Finisterre'. We came across a new Wagamama on Norris St. (just off Haymarket) so we decided to drop in for a quick bite to eat before the film. We both ordered one of the seasonal specials, the "toriniku zoosui soba" (strips of chicken breast marinated in chilli, garlic, and coriander, stir fried with red pepper, served on rice noodles in a coconut, lemongrass and ginger soup). I tried a new drink called Amé. "Amé is a lightly sparkling soft drink containing fruit juices, spring water, and a unique blend of eastern herbal extracts (Schisandra, Jasmine, Gentian, and Limeflower)." I had the Amé "crisp dry" with kiwi and lemongrass - it was yum.
Neither of us knew what to expect from the film, or the venue it was being shown at. It was described as this:
"London has been a central influence, inspiration and curiosity throughout Saint Etienne’s illustrious career.
Collaborating with music video director Kieron Evans and film-maker Paul Kelly, they have created a psycho-geographical visual soundtrack to London, using tracks from their recent album, Finisterre in addition to newly composed instrumental pieces. Screening with a selection of Saint Etienne promos. 65 minutes approx."
We walked into the "theatre" which was really just a very small room with only about 40 seats and a smallish screen, it was much more intimate than either of us expected. As we waited for it to start the film-makers and the Saint Etienne band members sat in the front row. I was only about 3 seats away from them and I could see Sarah Cracknell clearly. I always thought she was an attractive woman, but she's even more so in person. She wears much less makeup and I think it suits her. One of the collaborators with them was the graffiti artist from Bristol, Banksy (excellent Banksy gallery, bbc article). I've seen his unique work all over London for the past 4 years and I love what he does. I had no idea he would be there, so it was lovely to see him in person - he even smiled at me!
(photos from various banksy websites)
Banksy said a few words of welcome and told us this was the world premiere of the film and they had only just finished it the night before. I don't even think Saint Etienne had seen it yet. They showed a couple Saint Etienne videos to start with and Sarah Cracknell couldn't stop giggling throughout the first one, "Nothing Can Stop Us Now", especially when she came on screen.
`Finisterre' was essentially a montage of London life. What I see every day on the train or walking around, set to Saint Etienne's music. There was narration, but I loved the interviews with random Londoners (you never saw the interviewees as they were being interviewed). One of the first people they intereviewed in the film said something that is quite true, "London has everything and you just dip in here and there and take what you want." Scattered throughout the film were shots of Banksy's work and many panoramic shots of the skyline dotted with building cranes. The film mostly dwelled on the darker and grottier parts of the city like the council estates, the dark clubs where Britain's most famous bands had their start, the back roads and greasy spoons. The interviewees were mostly positive about the city, the overall feel of the film was essentially "yes, London, you have your faults, but we love you anyway."
Bob Stanley from Saint Etienne explains the film in the Independent: "Saint Etienne decided to make a film to complement our new album Finisterre, one which – like the best record covers – could stand up on its own. The initial idea was to cover an imaginary 24 hours in London, starting in the east at dawn, then following a mental map of the city until we ended up somewhere near Hillingdon or Hounslow at six the following morning. Somehow it seems like a crucial period to record: London is being rebuilt and re-invented faster than ever. It's the start of a new century – imagine having a chance to capture Paris at the beginning of the last century, a city in flux, just before the arrival of Picasso and Braque. Like the Buzzcocks song, the film of Finisterre has "a nostalgia for an age yet to come." One of the great privileges of being in a pop group is the chance to convey your tastes to tens of thousands of people; through the Beatles I discovered Peter Blake, through The Fall, Wyndham Lewis. Saint Etienne is a group that has always communicated its influences loud and clear, quoting Billy Fury, Richard Brautigan and Julian Opie in music and cover art. But we've always been regarded as an urban group, specifically a London group, and we wanted to show through film exactly how the city has shaped our music. Finisterre is all about our London – John Nash and Berthold Lubetkin, Hendon FC and Hampstead Heath and the New Piccadilly cafe. London like the 19th century never happened, just a straight line from Beau Brummell to Bauhaus."
After the film Sarah and the rest disappeared quickly into the ICA bar. We were curious to check the bar out, but it was absolutely heaving so we decided to walk to The Porterhouse where I had a bottle of Westmalle Dubbel and we split a pint of the Porterhouse Oyster Stout.
After drinks we took a romantic walk along the river Thames and across the newly built Hungerford bridge to Waterloo station and hopped onto the train home.
The Thames is breathtaking at night, especially that stretch between the Hungerford Bridge and London Bridge. If I'm anywhere near the river on a Saturday evening I'll walk along the bank to London Bridge and get the train from there. The Hungerford Bridge has been under construction for what seems like ages, I only discovered it was finished a couple of weeks ago when I walked across there. Any idea when the construction was completed?
That stretch is really beautiful and it's nice to have a pedestrian only bridge in that area to enjoy it. According to this the bridge was completed in Autumn, 2002 but I don't know if it was opened to the public then as well. While we walked across it we noticed there was still plastic covering the glass.
sorry for the temptation. ;) I'm supposedly on a diet myself, but I gave in last weekend..
I know, or know of, many American women marrying British men in the past few years.. what's going on? You should squeeze into her luggage, or maybe hope for a London wedding. :)
wow that saint etienne film sounds awesome. i was a little under impressed with Finisterre but i love the singles from it.
btw: i made a cd-r of a radio show in which i played Spiral, so email me your snail mail address soon: email@example.com and i'll get it in the mail to you.
i miss london!
The film wasn't anything revolutionary and a lot of what they had to say about London could be said about many large cities in the world, but overall I still enjoyed it and share many of the same loves and frustrations about this city.
I have to agree with you about Finisterre, it's good in parts but not as good as previous albums.
Thanks, I can't wait to hear it! I'll email you my address now. :)
That bridge has always looked fantastic—I guess I didn't realize it had only just opened.
I saw a film at the ICA many years ago, on a day in London while visiting Greg in Oxford. I can't remember what it was now. A documentary about Charles and Ray Eames? An obscure Eric Rohmer? But, yeah: there ain't no justice or that place would be 10x larger because 10x more popular; and at the same time, it's so much nicer small.
London is good.
Check out the Design Museum when you get a chance—another not-well-known treasure.
The bridge construction suffered from delays due to funding and as a result it wasn't opened until 2002. Although thankfully it didn't have the same embarrassing problem of wobbling when people walked on it like the Millennium Bridge did. :)
Lucky you, I would love to see something about Charles and Ray Eames at the ICA. I do love the intimacy of the theatres there, especially when it allows me to get up close and personal with artists and musicians I admire. `Finisterre' didn't need a bigger screen, to be honest.. but it wouldn't hurt either.
I've heard of the Design Museum, it's on my long list of "must visit" sites. I think I need to make a calendar of exhibits in museums and galleries to attend in order to keep track of it all. It's like a full time job (I wish!)
The vodka sauce turned out really well, here's how I made it:
You can use this sauce with pasta of your choice. This will make enough for 2 people.
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh lemon thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Melt butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and sauté until very tender and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add herbs and sauté 1 minute. Add vodka and simmer for 2 minutes, then add cream and simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 4 minutes. Add pasta and half of the parmesan and toss until sauce coats pasta. Top with remaining parmesan.
Different people like different levels of vodka. If you want a stronger vodka taste you can either slighly increase the amount of vodka or add it after the cream. I found the amount I used to be just enough to give a noticeable hint of vodka without becoming overpowering.
Please let me know if you try it, I'm curious what others think. :)
I'm more than happy to spread the word, especially since it seems like he's a genuinely nice bloke. I find his work inspiring and it has recently encouraged me to continue on with my own secret art project.
I'd love clothes with Banksy prints on them, but unfortunately that completely goes against his anti-capitalism stance. ;)
>but unfortunately that completely goes against his anti-capitalism stance<
Perhaps he could market the clothing, then encourage people to shoplift them from stores instead of paying for them. I think Abbie Hoffman pioneered the concept with his book Steal This Book. ;-)
Or perhaps he could make stencil templates which you can download, print, cut out and spray through. We're trying to pioneer similar kinds of thing with our magazine FAD - the last issue contained a CD cover for "The Mechanics of Destruction" by Radioboy - the idea being that you download the MP3s off his site and burn them onto a CD yourself.
Sounds like food was the food of love. I've gotta try that vodka sauce. And I have to put in a regular order with your Italian deli - you don't get much in the way of decent food in this part of the country (although we also have an Italian deli near us now, but I doubt I could get all of that for a tenner in there - in fact, last time I went I just bought the gorgonzola, and that cost me £5)
I like your new specs. I'm waiting for some new glasses to arrive myself - ordered them a week ago, should be here soon - I hope I get them in time for my trip to Antwerp on Thursday (Guy's 45th birthday). I got some contact lenses at the same time (daily disposables) - first time I've worn 'em in 15 years, they are a lot more comfortable than back then, but still don't mix very well with hayfever.
It was funny reading about your local shop - last night, Gill and I were looking at hotels to visit in a couple of weeks time (we got a free weekend break by registering on this site). We were quite tempted by the Lovelady Shield Country Hotel's claim to offer excellent food, but then I found this review which almost totally put me off. But I checked further, and it seems from this review that the other guy had got completely the wrong end of the stick, mistaking the hotel owner's dry sense of humour for rudeness. Anyway, when I read of your contrasting experiences with your local shopkeeper I thought of that, and how easy it is to misjudge people.
It's always food of love in this house, baby. :) If we moved elsewhere in England I think I would really miss the variety and quality of food in London. Although even Camisa & Son can't get the quality of gorgonzola we bought while in Milan. People not interested in food would think this photo of the gorgonzola was disgusting, but to us it's deliciously oozing and creamy.
Thanks! I like these specs much better than my old ones, they just weren't my personality anymore and they were falling apart anyway. I'll try to take some photos of myself in them (or rather, photos I actually like of myself). I used to have contacts, but they were of the hard variety and I just couldn't get used to having them in my eyes.
I'm envious you get to go to Antwerp for Guy's 45th! I miss Antwerp and Guy, send him my love.
That's great you got a free weekend break, we just signed up for it ourselves in case it's still valid. The first reviewer sounded possibly a bit hard to please to begin with. I'm sure you'll write about it on your blog if you go, I'm curious about your take on it.
Oh yeah, the meltier the cheese the better. When we went camping in France a few years back, we had a "cold" box full of cheese, wasn't very cold though, and every couple of days we would buy another two or three types of cheese and throw them in the box. Any that weren't completely consumed within a few days started to go quite gooey, and the smell on opening the box was enough to knock you back ten feet, but I was in cheese heaven. Yum!
My old contacts were hard ones (gas permeable) too. I struggled with them for about two years, but I actually seemed to get less used to having them in. Going anywhere smoky (which I used to do quite often) was a complete nightmare. These new ones seem a little better, although I still got pretty itchy eyes the other day when we went out hiking - I had pretty bad hayfever though, so hopefully they might be OK other than that.
Yup, I'm all excited about Antwerp, and for even more good reason now. Just got this in from Guy (hey Guy, hope you don't mind me posting this, I know you read Naomi's journal too):
So, not only am I going to Antwerp, I'm also going to the most amazing top-class not-yet-open restaurant for a possibly free dinner! The chef, Bart, is the guy who used to run the Cafe de la Gare, where I had possibly the best dinner of my life last time I visited Antwerp, the meal which converted me to Italian-style cooking. I am so looking forward to Friday night!