Tuesday, 27 January 2015

I don't believe it! Richard Wilson in Essex…

Some of my soundbites made it on to Richard Wilson On The Road last night on ITV. Also a nice plug for my book The Joy of Essex as we sat chatting on a bench in Harlow town centre. Wilson took an amiable tour through God's own county, covering Colchester's Roman ruins, Mersea Island's oysters, Harlow's architecture and the train at Audley End. He seemed a thoroughly nice chap during filming and even sent my daughters signed pictures of himself as Gaius in Merlin after we met. Click on the link to view on ITVPlayer.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Essex comes to Islington

An enjoyable evening speaking about my book The Joy of Essex to the Stuart Low Trust at the St Mary's Community Centre in Upper Street, Islington, last night. My Power Point presentation covered The Peasants' Revolt in Fobbing, Paul Simon in Brentwood, Boudica sacking Colchester, the Balkerne Gate, the Secret Nuclear Bunker, Billericay bluebells, Tiptree jam, Grayson Perry and Dr Feelgood at the Labworth Cafe on Canvey Island and quite a lot besides. Most people seemed to have an Essex anecdote. Thanks to all who came along and those who bought books at the end. Some interesting questions from the audience, including someone suggesting that the atom was spoilt at Dagenham. An intriguing thought. Though after some Google research we discovered that the father of nuclear physics, Ernest Rutherford, was born in New Zealand but his parents James and Martha originally came from Hornchurch before emigrating to new Zealand, so Essex can almost lay claim to atom-splitting.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Essex and drugs and rock 'n 'roll…

Seeing Wilko Johnson performing Dr Feelgood's All Through The City on Jools Holland's New Year's Eve bash made me realise it's been another very newsworthy year for Essex. 

Not only does Wilko appear to have beaten off terminal cancer: Russell Brand is now the Che Guevara of the new left, and his book Revolution is a best seller; Grayson Perry has had another successful TV series and presented a New Statesman lecture on the default male at the Royal Institute; while Phill Jupitus starred in the musical Urine Town and had his mug on posters on Shaftesbury Avenue. Made in Dagenham hit the West End as a musical; Mark Wright and Pixie Lott starred on Strictly Come Dancing, Gemma Collins came and went pretty quickly from the jungle in I'm A Celebrity and Joey Essex got his own series in Educating Joey Essex.

In the world of politics Ukip met Carry On as the brilliantly-named Roger Bird and Natasha Bolter traded allegations in Basildon. Ukip's Basildon candidate Kerry Smith blamed homophobic and racist remarks on his medication; Douglas Carswell re-took Clacton after the council painted over a satirical Banksy picture worth thousands; and Braintree MP Brooks Newmark had to resign after sexting a picture of his private members' bill. 


On TV Mr Drew's School For Boys was another hit programme about the Brentwood School's headmaster's work with troubled children and the Tour De France travelled live through lovely Essex. The county was even featured on Radio 4 in Essex, My Essex, Ian Sansom's tribute to his birthplace. And we had a Billericay Dickie beer from Billericay Brewing. It's been emotional.

Will 2015 be able to match that? Probably so; for Essex is seemingly the county no-one ever tires of writing about. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Lavatory humour with Phill Jupitus

The musical Urine Town might have just closed, but it was good to see Essex's finest son, Phill Jupitus, emblazoned on a large billboard on Shaftesbury Avenue. We enjoyed the play, which was a big hit in America, though it's sustainability morality tale might have been a bit serious for some West End audiences. Phill played the evil MD of Urine Good Company, presumably a Plc…and is now taking some time off in loo back in Leigh-on-Sea.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Almost Educating Joey Essex

Joey gets glacial: Copyright Lime Pictures
Enjoyed watching Educating Joey Essex where the former Towie star was in Patagonia on an "Essex-pedition." Now it's quite possible that Joey secretly has an Oxbridge degree, but assuming his lack of general knowledge is genuine, it's surprising what a good travel show presenter he makes. Essex knows so little about everything, that upon finding out a kernel of knowledge his enthusiasm is utterly infectious. The show began with a trip to Billingsgate where Joey mugged up on Patagonian fish with his Uncle, who declared knowingly: "Salmon is the Essex bird of fish, while the Bermondsey bird is more of a trout."

Some of the more memorable moments included Joey asking if a glacier was a woman, his thinking that penguins' beaks are made of wood and his wilderness instructor Lolo saying, "If I left him out here alone he'd survive for about an hour, he'd be eaten by a penguin or something." Equally amusing was Joey's bemusement that there are places in the world where there is no mobile single, his terror at diving into icy water where he might be eaten by a sea lion and the Chileans' utter bafflement that this man is a TV star in England. Also rather enjoyed the listing of all exotic destinations by their distance from Chigwell. Michael Palin look out.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Russell Brand and the People's Front of Judea

Grays' most famous son Russell Brand has been getting a bit of grief from the Sun for supporting the New Era estate tenants, under threat of being priced out of their homes, while paying £76k a year to a dodgy landlord himself. #TheSunLogic has now gone viral with lots of people pointing out that it's hardly fair to attack him for supporting a campaign against profiteering, tax-dodging landlords because he pays rent to some of them himself. As he points out on The Trews, he simply pays his rent to an estate agent ("it's not Rigsby!") and has no idea about his landlord's tax practices. And it's surely not wise for the Sun to take on an Essex Man armed with his native wit and well-capable of satirising Rupert Murdoch. As Brand says: "The Sun must have massive resources and what they've come up with is 'his landlord don't pay tax': It's like that bit in Life of Brian when the Roman Garrison goes into the People's Front of Judea's flat and comes out with one spoon!"

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Thurrock: what a load of rubbish

ITV's Countrywise featured Thurrock Thameside Nature Park this week. For 50 years barges dumped London's rubbish there. There's 28 metres of rubbish still rotting away beneath the surface, but now the land has been reclaimed and is covered in grasses and wildlife, such as birds, newts, insects and spiders. Capping the landfill involved putting a layer of sail or chalk, then a rubber membrane to prevent the methane escaping, and more chalk and soil. Looking at it now, you'd never know that part of Thurrock is literally a load of rubbish. Situated between East Tilbury and Stanford-le-Hope the park now has a visitor centre and is great for bird and ship watching and views over the superbly-named Mucking Flats SSSI.