Friday, 28 October 2011

Jamie's pier pressure

Could Southend be in danger of becoming trendy? Jamie Oliver claimed to have been conceived at the end of Southend Pier in this week's Jamie's Britain. Sounds like a great starting point for an Ian Dury song. Jamie, whose speech is a weird mix of Essex and Jafican and peppered with words like 'brother', 'these bad boys' and 'know what I mean?', was filmed with his dear old mum and dad and nan sitting in deck chairs on Southend beach — his mum denied the pier story, as she would, while his dad merely smirked.

All this comes after Southend Pier featured in the opening chapter of David Nicholls novel Starter for Ten and Southend council claimed in the Basildon Echo that "We can be Hollywood-on-Sea". Southend doubled as war-torn Iraq in the film Screwed (ok, maybe that's not too flattering), Southend airport was in the 2006 film The Queen and it featured in EastEnders this year.

The council should capitalise on all this Southend mania. A plaque to mark Jamie's conception (was it a 30-minute recipe?) might be a start.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Grayson's beer in the evening

Even the county’s cross-dressers are essentially Essex a heart. Chelmsford’s Grayson Perry, whose Chelmsford Cissies vase in on display in the Chelmsford Museum, has said he gets most of his ideas "sitting in front of the telly with a beer, watching X Factor".

He pronounced the art establishment as disengaged "with the real world", adding that he preferred Banksy, Scottish painter Jack Vettriano and Beryl Cook to the works on display at the Tate.

"I have a pot called Boring Cool People," he said. "It's decorated with pictures of the sort of people who go to contemporary art galleries."

He might enjoy wearing a skirt, but Grayson is essentially an Essex geezer at heart.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The latest Krays

Only in Essex, eh? Visiting Basildon market recently, I came across a framed portrait of the Kray brothers for sale in the market. It was on a stall also selling framed pictures of The Sopranos, Marlon Brando as The Godfather and of course, “notorious East End gangsters” Reggie and Ronnie Kray. Don't think it was 'ironic' either.

Surely it must be a bit of a conversation stopper having a framed portrait of Reggie and Ronnie on the wall at Basildon dinner parties as you pass round the Jack 'The Hat' McVitie's biscuits?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The only dress is Essex

Nice piece in Saturday's Guardian Sam and Nicola Faires that is going to be stocked in House of Fraser. It even includes the immortal line: "The catwalks of Chigwell are now more influential than those of Milan."

Expect Anna Wintour to relocate to Essex very soon.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Sitting on defence with an old-Shenfieldian

Further proof that Essex is on the ascendant. Philip Hammond, the new Defence Secretary who has replaced dodgy Dr Fox, was born in Epping and educated at Shenfield School, my old alma mater.

He's also apparently a fan of Doctor Who, which gives me hope he'll soon be utilising UNIT and employing the Doctor as a special scientific adviser instead of Adam Werrity and his list of dubious sponsors.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Dickens meets TOWIE in Chigwell

Dickens channelled by Alan Sugar and The Only Way is Essex? Only in Chigwell. Attempting to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens, I took Her Indoors to visit the Olde King’s Head in Chigwell, Essex. The 600-year-old pub was the basis for the Maypole Inn in Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge.

Only now something has turned up in the form of Lord Sugar who now owns the boozer. In January the King’s Head was transformed into Sheesh, a Turkish restaurant with TOWIE-style black and white zebraskin carpets, “the largest mirror in Essex”, 'mockodile' tables and floors, countless chandeliers, a red MG sportscar where waiters keep menus in the boot, statues of a Roman on a horse, a minotaur and two white lions, plus a portrait of King Colin the 13th.

At the end of Barnaby Rudge the Gordon rioters trashed the fixtures and fittings of the Maypole Inn — some might say that TOWIE-style has had a similarly dramatic effect. Sheesh even had a modern-day Thomas Steerforth in TOWIE’s Mark Wright sitting in the conservatory.

Though actually the food’s pretty good, and Dickens did like a bit of end-of-pier sensationalism — so maybe he’d have quite liked the zebra carpets, electric gates and not very ‘umble Range Rovers in the car park. What larks, Lord Sugar, what larks!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Fit PM

Someone in Essex knows who the Deputy Prime Minister is!

TOWIE's Maria, having first wondered if Chile was in Italy, then confounded Mick Norcross by identifying the Prime Minster as "David Cameron and that fit one, Nick Clegg".

They then discussed the difference between a hung Parliament and a coalition. Tough Harry and Joey would prefer a well-hung Parliament. At this rate Maria and Mick be replacing Andrew Marr or presenting The Politics Show...