Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Essex Yeomen go up the Junction

Visiting Upminster the other week I was surprised to find the Essex Yeoman pub by the station has now has changed its name to the Junction. The change happened back in 2015, but it's still a shame to lose Essex from a traditional pub name, even if Upminster is now in the London borough of Havering. As described in my book The Joy of Essex, I used to go in to the Yeoman for a pint with my dad after returning from West Ham games, before driving home to Great Warley. Where are the Essex Yeomen now? Probably all on Love Island, I guess.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Tiptree jam today in China

The Chinese are in love with Tiptree jam. BBC News' 'Tales From The New Silk Road' features footage from Wilkin & Sons' factory at Tiptree and an interview with Chinese brand ambassador Tingting He, who sells Tiptree products to Chinese hotels. In China they're developing a taste for British cream tea, scones and lashings of jam. Twenty five years ago the spoof Essex Liberation Front (namely Phill Jupitus, Richard Edwards and myself) predicted a UK economy based on Tiptree jam — and now it might just be the post-Brexit future. Click on the link to read the whole feature.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Walking class heroes in West Horndon

Just spent an afternoon walking in a sun-drenched West Horndon. After lunch and a half of IPA at the Railway pub we went under the railway bridge and straight out into the countryside. Here there are more than enough wheat fields for Theresa May to run through and within a few hundred yards of the station you're in a world of isolated farms, old barns, combine harvesters and huge tractors – the first real fields beyond East London. We ended up on China Lane and turned left for Bulphan (pronouced 'Bull-ven' by locals) where there's a very distinctive old wooden and flint church. That stretch of flat agriculture land stretching from West Horndon to Orsett and the Thames is another of Essex's underrated charms.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Canvey Island Wife Swap

                                                              Picture: Channel 4
Not too much to see of Canvey Island in the recent Brexit Wife Swap. There was one shot of Brexiteers Andy and Pauline at the Labworth Cafe and some scenes of Remainer Kat working at a Canvey Island social club, but the big trip out was to a Polish restaurant in Lewisham. 

Still, the programme did reveal that Remainers can be a tad patronising and that Brexiteers Andy and Pauline had genuine (if mainly ill-founded) fears of rapid racial change in the East End and homeless families from other nations in B&B hotels, born of their own experience. As ever it was the wives who seemed to make better progress at understanding different viewpoints. And there was comedy value too, watching Andy's look of horror when it was suggested he remove his Cross of St George bunting from his Canvey Island castle.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Working glass geezers find White Gold

The Inbetweeners meets Essex Man via Life on Mars. There’s a lot to admire visually in White Gold, set in 1983 and created by Inbetweeners writer Damon Beesley: the double-breasted shiny suits, Carol’s frizzed blonde perm, James Buckley’s Eddie Shoestring moustache, the motors, the clunking great videos and camcorders, giant computers with green typefaces and lots of stonewashed denim. Plus a soundtrack that includes Ian Dury, the Fun Boy Three and lots of disco.

Vincent Swan played by Ed Westwick is too brash and predatory to be a likeable rogue and sometimes the show lapses into caricatures, but White Gold has certainly captured the era of Harry Enfield’s Loadsamoney and Simon Heffer’s depiction of Essex Man. Stanford-le-Hope-raised Beesley knows his white stuff, as his dad was indeed in double glazing, selling plastic windows to people who had bought their council homes. Indeed, my school reunion in the 1990s sill had plenty of double-glazing salesmen.


There’s always going to be plenty of entertainment from the blokey dialogue between Inbetweeners stars Joe Thomas and James Buckley. It’s also packed with filthy language and filthier sex. For the Essex aficionado we've already seen a trip to Southend with chips on the beach, a school trip from Basildon, a CB radio meet-up at Thorndon Country Park, a dogging session in the Essex woods, a Ramada hotel awards ceremony on the edge of Chelmsford and a Cachet sales room that is probably in Billericay. Minder did eighties rogues better, but it’s still nice to hear words like “dipstick” again in a show about working glass anti-heroes caught up in the Thatcherite dream.

White Gold is airing on BBC Two and the full series is available on iPlayer.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Tilbury Fort gets the superhero treatment

Tilbury Fort features in the film Wonder Woman, released this week. Several scenes on the parade ground of the 17th century fort appear in the film, starring Gal Gadot. Indeed, the fort is becoming something of a media luvvie. It also featured in the BBC drama Taboo, shown earlier this year. 

Tilbury Fort is one of Essex's hidden delights and features in my book The Joy of Essex. The fort is built in a distinctive star shape, known as a bastion fort, and has lots of old artillery guns, atmospheric officers rooms, tunnels to the magazines (told you we had magazines in Essex), cells that once housed Jacobite prisoners and great sweeping views across the river to Gravesend and Kent. Another Wonder Woman Queen Elizabeth I also made her famous if not very feminist speech there as the Spanish Armada approached, declaring, "I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman, but I have the heart of a king!" More than enough to keep Gal Gadot happy as she flies over the Thames.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

White Gold in Essex


Promising new trailer for the forthcoming BBC2 comedy series White Gold, set in Essex in 1983. It's written by Essex-born Damon Beesley, the man who gave us Inbetweeners, and is a comedy covering the antics of Vincent and his set of double-glazing salesmen. Looks worth watching just for those double-breasted shiny suits. Beesley refers to the programme as a, "glorious opportunity to recreate the Essex of my youth — a time before the invention of 'Essex girls' jokes, fake tan or Towie. A time when having double-glazed patio doors installed meant you were winning at life."