Monday, 30 August 2010

Browns study

Ever eager to toot his metaphorical trumpet for all that's small-scale, excellent and unpretentious, Mr Gnome has recently revisited top-notch Coventry eatery Brown's Cafe Bar.

Not to be confused with the excellent chain of Browns restaurants, this down-town venue is a one-off, housed in a curvaceous Sixties architectural gem, with a gently bo-ho, arty ambience to match.

The evening menu is based around plated meals priced at between £6 and £8. Massive choice of vegetables and potatoes. Portion control? Forget it. The hungry are fed.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

On a dolphin's back

To London for a day out including a small Bard-related treat.

I've been reading A Midsummer Night's Dream and wallowing quietly in its sumptuous, seductive, shimmering dream world - simultaneously earthy and sublime.

In a vain attempt to keep the brain cells alert, I'm committing a few of the purpler passages to memory.

As the train chugged down to Marylebone, I was bashing one of of Oberon's Act 1 speeches into my head:
My gentle Puck, come hither. Thou rememb'rest 
Since once I sat upon a promontory, 
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
That the rude sea grew civil at her song
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea-maid's music.
Scrumptious or what?

Anyway, I reach Town. Tube to Charing Cross and up the stairs to the exit in Trafalgar Square, still mumbling my lines. And what meets my gaze as I emerge into the sunshine?

A mermaid on a dolphin's back.


Ish. Do admit.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Mad for it

Hurrah for modern technology enabling one to enjoy television programmes when (and where) one chooses.

Current addiction is the remarkable US series Mad Men, a saga of satisfyingly Dickensian scope and complexity set in the high-energy world of a Madison Avenue advertising agency in the early 1960s.

It's one of those shows that would remain compulsively viewable if the sound failed, so sumptuous is the conjuring up of the styles of the day: the hair, suits, furniture, specs, hats and, wafting through every scene, the billowing clouds of cigarette smoke.

These are the styles and 'looks' that I pored over as a child in back numbers of Readers' Digest and National Geographic, featuring in mouth-watering colour the station wagons, refrigerators and washing machines that symbolised the prosperity of Eisenhower's America. Everything bigger, bolder and more exciting than the pint-sized versions available to cash-strapped British consumers.

At the centre of the story is alpha-male ad executive Don Draper, all slicked-back hair, chiselled features and sharp, cynical intelligence. Perfect job, beautiful blonde wife, two children, gleaming home in the suburbs - oh yes, and a mistress plus (early in series 1) a mistress-in-waiting.

No wonder he sometimes skips the early-morning push-up routine.

Don, finger magically on the pulse of the times, is selling dreams of prosperity and well-being, motivated by some as yet only hinted-at compulsion to escape his past. And yet despite his trophy wife, home and possessions, he's restless and insecure. Hence the Dickens reference.

Mad Men is funny, sharp, perceptive and absorbing. It's going to keep me intrigued all winter....

And rather uncomfortable as well.

I think I'll fix myself an old-fashioned and light up a Lucky.