Eventful. Matt’s birthday pubcrawl began at the Black Friar at Blackfriars with the intention of progressing up to The Jerusalem Tavern in Farringdon. The method was www.fancyapint.com, a web site I really rate highly. Significantly, thinking about it, it’s not a Web2.0 phenomenon – at least not in the ‘social’ sense anyway, though they’re mashing up google maps these days to present their pub walks. Each fancyapint review is by a single unattributed author and there’s no discussion, which I prefer rather than, say, beerintheevening, where the qualitative review consists only of unmoderated discussion. First rule of discussion boards: have somebody ‘weaving’ the contributions together at regular interviews, and make these woven posts prominent. Anyway, I made another A4 with a googlemap and integrated fancyapint reviews in textboxes, and we we got through 4 of those – the aforementioned Black Friar, The Cockpit on St Andrew’s Hill (nice staff, evocative setting, nice mouse!), The Olde Cheshire Cheese just off Fleet St (I always think I don’t like this pub and invariably find it charming – the Sam Smith booze is vegan too), and the Star Inn on Carey St behind the Royal Courts of Justice (great pub). Good night.
Saturday Matt and I decided to catch Hogarth at Tate Modern. Whopping £27 for tickets and audiotour – and unlike Amsterdam’s Reichsmuseum with the mellifluous local actor who had been visiting the museum all his life first with his grandfather and lately as a grandfather, the tour wasn’t very good. I was dismayed when we entered at the number of people crowding round the works and couldn’t imagine how I was going to get close enough to them to see the detail (you have to get very close to a Hogarth modern moral subject to see the syphillis lesions or roving hands for example). It got slightly better as people spread out at their different paces, but I spent a lot of time queueing and it took me two and a half hours to get round. I don’t know art. Rembrandt was a better painter, though. If you look closely at Rembrandt’s suggestive brushwork it looks more deliberate than Hogarth’s. Hogarth’s engraving and etching is wonderful, but there’s a crudeness to his paintings that’s nothing to do with their down-to-earth subjects. My favourites were his narrative works – the Harlot’s and Rake’s Progress, Four Stages of Cruelty. Also Gin Lane and Beer Street. Before and After held me for ages – the bestial urgency of the bedchamber rapist and the panic of the women – who, complacently alone with the men in a bedchamber and alternatively the wild woods, clearly have urges of their own which unlike the men they can’t afford to satisfy outside wedlock, and who demur chastely – their panic as they realise that they’re powerless to protect their most valuable asset and their pathos as they beseech the men after the event. What particularly fascinates me about Before and After – besides the woodland rapist’s gaping fly revealing pubic hair and softening penis and the ungainly bedchamber rapist’s wig dislodged in the scuffle – is the ingratiation of the women’s reaction to the rape. Rather than escaping to raise the alarm, she abjectly reaches for him. Is she supposed to be beseeching him not to compromise her reputation, for a proposal of marriage (and does this force her to subdue her horror) or, in the case of the woodland woman, for the post-coital tenderness all of the men so manifestly fail to evince? The assault leaves the woodland woman flushed and aroused with half-shut eyes and lips parted – you get the impression that while he is spent her desire has only just awakened. While each of the rapists are glassy-eyed with regret – although the woodland rapist seems at first to be holding the woman’s hand in dutiful affection there’s something in his posture which suggests that he may be encouraging her to her feet. The police would probably get a lot out of using these pictures in training around rape, where they have an appalling reputation.
Today we went to a restaurant in Chigwell Row called Blubeckers as suggested by Matt’s mum and dad. Fruit for starters with coulis. Could have had potato skins. Alright, but what was I going to have for dessert? (Nothing, and they forgot to leave off the creme fraiche the first time.) They had a vegan dish with which they’d evidently decided to kill two birds with one stone, because it was also the wheat-free dish. I ate it and it was unremarkable, practically tasteless lentil and spinach cottage pie (the mash topping wasn’t even golden). My coffee cup had lipstick on it. Everybody else enjoyed theirs – good, but I’m not satisfied by the mere presence of an animal-free dish – it also has to taste good. The vegetables were alright in terms of variety, but overcooked. Blubeckers in Chigwell is a nice place – lovely setting, but lacksadaisical if friendly staff.
Then we walked through Hainault Forest to the farm where I saw a bunny with head hair, stroked a goat and saw both a little owl and three barn owls – first time for me. Now it’s 8 and the weekend is over :-(. Dinnertime.