Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Wilko for Christmas

Good interview with the immortal Wilko Johnson, conducted at his Westcliff-on-Sea gaff, in this week's New Statesman. Writer Kate Mossman has a good point when she writes:You wonder if he responded to his approaching end in the manner he did because jobbing musicians are programmed to think, breathe, live and be happy in the short term. It also includes an Essex epiphany at the start of Doctor Feelgood's fame: “And there’s one moment I’ll always remember. We were returning home from London and when you get to Barking there’s a big flyover, and we were right at the top of it. I looked out and I could see the lights of Essex out before us, and I said to myself, ‘I wonder what is going to happen . . .’” Click on the link to read.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Wags in Romford

Came across WAGS beauty emporium while in Romford at the weekend. If only it had been open in the 1980s days of Frank McAvennie and his West Ham teammates visiting the legendary Hollywood nightclub in Romford…

Thursday, 26 November 2015

George Osborne and Radio 4 channel Essex Man

Osborne in Ockendon
The political classes remain as fixated with Essex as ever. In response to the government's spending review, Radio 4's Today sent a reporter to Harlow, where they've been monitoring the reactions of a street of residents to the tax credit cuts debate. No-one was watching the debate live, though they did find a man watching paint dry who was relieved that the tax credit cuts had been postponed. Then Today went into a live interview with Chancellor George Osborne at a building site in South Ockendon. Geezer Gideon was there meeting apprentices at Persimonn Homes with Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price. Is aspirational Essex really central to the voting culture of the nation? Or is it just a convenient distance from London for a good soundbite or photo opportunity? I wrote about the subject in the New Statesman last year, and it seems little has changed, with Essex symbolism still beloved by all politicos.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Dracula bites into Purfleet

Came across this reference to Dracula while visiting Purfleet. It's on a plaque by the site of St Stephen's Church. Possibly attracted by Essex Girls, Dracula arrived at Carfax House in Purfleet, built on a bye-road to London, according to Bram Stoker's Dracula novel, written in 1897. He arrived with 50 boxes of earth, as you do. Carfax House was possibly based on Purfleet House, built by the brewer Samuel Whitbread. Essex seems to have quite a monopoly of horror, since Tilbury also gets a brief reference in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Frinton meets The Wire

The residents of genteel Frinton have clubbed together to hire their own private security force, revealed yesterday's Guardian. Frinton's police station closed 20 years ago and now Walton-on-the-Naze's cop shop is to close too. This means that the only police force covering Frinton is based in Clacton, eight miles away, which has a much higher crime rate. Worried about possible slow response times, 300 residents are now paying £100 a year to AGS to patrol at nights.Though as the Guardian's Stuart Heritage points outs, it's not exactly The Wire. Frinton only got its first pub, the Lock and Barrel in 2000 (though there was a fight there in June) there's just one fish and chip shop and no amusements. Last year there were just 33 reported offences and only one drug crime. And the biggest threat to social order came back in 2009 when Network Rail tried to replace the iconic level crossing gates, which now rest in the garden next to the new automatic gates...

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Be seated for Billy Bragg

Barking Bard Billy Bragg has finally been given a seat — not in Parliament but at Beam Valley Park on the Havering/Barking border. A metal silhouette of the songwriter stands by his portrait bench. Three benches have been installed by the charity Sustrans, which encourages people to travel by foot and bike. Billy explains on his Facebook page: "The figures represent three people from each of the boroughs. The soldier, W/O Ian Fisher who died in Helmand, is from Havering, the figure at the sewing machine represents the Dagenham women who went on strike at Fords in the 1960s for equal pay and I come from Barking." No truth in the rumour he's recording a new song Between the Walks to mark his bench.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Out of Essex in Cheshunt

Yet another Essex shop spotted outside Essex. I've already blogged about the Essex Boutique in Kings Lynn and while in Cheshunt (which is in Hertfordshire but is clearly spiritually in Essex) we came across this lash, nails and pampering emporium, Out of Essex.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Pacific war graves in Hornchurch

There's an interesting article in The Outrigger, the magazine of the Pacific islands Society, about the Pacific Islanders who fought in the First World War and whose graves can still be seen at St Andrew's Church in Hornchurch. Grey Towers, then a country house in Hornchurch, was acquired by the Army Council and used as the New Zealand Convalescent Hospital. Not only were more than a hundred New Zealand Maoris involved in WW1, but so too were men from the Cook Islands and Niue. The Pacific islanders had little immunity to European diseases and suffered very badly from the cold, many contracting pneumonia. Thankfully, the decision was taken to send the  islanders home. They were withdrawn to Hornchurch before travelling back to New Zealand. Although there are some happy tales of nights out in Hornchurch and London, four of the Niueans died while at Hornchurch and their graves are still tended, and it's good to see tafuliae, necklaces of Pacific shells, still on the graves.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The only way is Brentwood

There's a double-page feature in today's Guardian on my old home town of Brentwood, to mark the start of the 16th series of Towie. The tourists are still packing out Sugar Hut and the Brentwood Holiday Inn, while coach trips are still driving round the shops of Sam and Billie Faiers, Amy Childs and Lydia Bright. It seems incredible that Towie has lasted so long, since nothing much happens bar a bit of dressing up and gossip about who's dating who. 

But writer Tim Burrows makes an interesting point that the Towie tribes are basically performers of an Essex stereotype that perhaps shouldn't be taken seriously at all: "Through years of representation in Mike Leigh films, Birds of a Feather, newspaper editorials and the rest, the idea of Essex has manifested into a kind of performance. The vulgar Essex person was in part invented by the media, but in lampooning self-made men and women for luxuriating in their sudden wealth, it created a myth, and gave the children of the original Essex men and women a lucrative commodity for our age of communications: themselves." Click on the link to read.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

The soggy splendour of Rainham Marshes

Spent a great afternoon on Rainham Marshes with my wife and younger daughter. In the shadow of the A13, the C2C railway line and pylons, we completed a two-mile circular walk around the duckboard paths. It's hard to believe this area is so close to London and we saw huge marsh frogs, dragonflies, kestrels, coots and an egret all amid lots of streams and giant bullrushes.

The marshes were only preserved because the land was once used an army firing range and it's fascinating to see the old shooting butts and targets still there. The Marshes have a number of very plush wooden hides and also a giant manmade anthill that humans can crawl through — some of the real anthills on the Marshes are a century old.

The main building is very distinctive and has huge glass windows offering a marshy panorama with coffee and cakes. The walk from Purfleet station is good too, offering fine views of the Thames and an old magazine (not published by IPC) that once housed enough gunpowder to blow up a sizeable chinch of Essex. Well worth a visit.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Life on Marsh

Good to hear that Rainham Marshes helped inspire Craig Bennett, the new CEO of Friends of the Earth. A recent Guardian interview reveals: "His first job was to protect his own patch, Rainham Marshes. In those days even his family thought it a dump. But last month he went back and saw a completely different landscape. 'If we can turn places like Rainham Marshes from being seen as a dump into somewhere where there are water voles, and which tens of thousands of people visit every year, we can do anything.'"

Talking of Rainham, it also gets an honorary mention in Bill Bailey's great Billy Bragg spoof Unisex Chipshop where Bill sings: "In my dreams I would see her / Running naked through the woods round Rainham/ If I had some tigers I'd train them/ To protect her / from the sexual fascism that was lurkin' / round the gherkins." Not a lot of people know that.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Teresa Gorman and Essex Man

A backhanded tribute to the values of Essex Man in the Guardian's obituary of Billericay's colourful former MP Teresa Gorman, remembered by my Billericay pal Shazzer for her orange hair and commitment to HRT campaigning. The Guardian writes: "A supporter of capital punishment, she was a natural for that part of the Essex electorate, often from the risen working class, among whom support for the free market and retribution flourished. Gorman fitted that outlook exactly: she was born Teresa Moore in Putney, south-west London, where her mother was a tearoom waitress and her father a self-made demolition contractor, having started out as a builder’s labourer."

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Essex Man turns Coybynista

Whatever happened to Tory Essex Man, once referred to as "Maggie's mauler"? My old school friend Alison reports strange goings in Chelmsford, with last night's Jeremy Corbyn meeting completely sold out… Liberty, equality, Tiptree jam!

Monday, 31 August 2015

Konchesky's cafe is mash of the day in Brentwood

Opening of Konch's Kaff        Picture: Brentwood Gazette
You can take the boy out of Dagenham… Former West Ham defender Paul Konchesky, now playing for QPR, has proved true to his Essex roots by opening Konch's Kafe, a pie and mash shop in Brentwood. The Brentwood Gazette pictures Towie's Chloe Lewis at the opening and described it as "mash of the day". The cafe was formerly Angie's Pie and Mash. Konchesky has bought it and installed his mum Carol, who lives at Kelvedon Hatch, in charge. Should be ideal for his old West Ham mates to refuel in before a night at Sugar Hut…

Monday, 17 August 2015

The Battis gets a makeover

Readers of my book The Joy of Essex might recall my mention of Romford's dodgy alleyway by the railway, The Battis. My friend Katie Dawson, a former Green Party councillor and Romford resident turned Islingtonian, revealed that the Battis was the stuff of childhood nightmares, a sort of Lord of the Rings netherworld that was terrorised by Romford Orcs.

She told me: “My mum and dad were quite relaxed and easy going but when I was a teenager the one thing they said to me was ‘we don’t care where you go, but whatever you do, don’t go up the Battis!’” Well now it seems the Battis has had a makeover. On a recent visit to Romford I discovered it had gone technicolour, in some strange attempt by the London borough of Havering to make it more touchy-feely and less like something from A Clockwork Orange. Is there no end to gentrification? 

Monday, 27 July 2015

Essex's Eliza and the Bear say I'm still Standon…

The Standon Calling Festival on the Herts/Essex border runs from July 31 to Aug 2 and it's good to see that on the Standon Calling website the highlights of last year's festival are accompanied by the song Friends from Essex band Eliza and the Bear. The five-piece band are old mates from the Upminster/Romford region and specialise in anthemic indie-folk (or "euphoric folk-pop" to quote the Guardian). As for the name Eliza and the Bear it comes from the title of a book of poetry by Eleanor Rees… you can check out Eliza and co's forthcoming gigs via their Facebook page.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

John Cooper Clarke on God's own county

Nice interview with punk poet John Cooper Clarke in the Travel section of the Guardian today in which he discusses his favourite Essex beaches. He mentions his approval of the revamp of Clacton, stating: "Clacton-on-Sea, Walton-on-the-Naze, Frinton-on-Sea. Fantastic places. And Essex, well it's God's own county. It never rains there." He also gives a mention to Point Clear and Jaywick Sands and admires the art deco riviera of Frinton. He compares Frinton, "the snotty neighbour of Clacton-on-Sea", to St Annes-on Sea which has a similar superiority complex over Blackpool. Click on the link to read.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson

“Canvey is the new Lourdes,” reads a memorable piece of graffiti on Canvey Island’s sea wall. Just seen The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson at the Barbican and it’s a great film and something of an Essex-fest too. Director Julien Temple has Wilko playing chess with the Grim Reaper on Canvey’s sea defences, as you do. Or Wilko's sitting in front of the Labworth CafĂ© or down by the jetty, then reminiscing by Hadleigh Castle about his early Game of Thrones-style fantasies. There’s also a memorable final shot of Wilko emerging from the dome of the telescope on top of his Southend home. Let's hope he's enjoying Pluto.

As a meditation on life and death it’s inspiring stuff. Rather than do chemotherapy Wilko opts to live in the moment, feeling an ecstatic love of trees, clouds and everything else around him. “If it’s going to kill me I don’t want it to bore me!” he suggests.

Utilising Wilko’s love of literature there’s plenty of quotes from Milton’s Paradise Lost, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and even Icelandic sagas. Though Johnson remains resolutely atheist and looks forward to only “oblivion”. Temple intersperses it all with slow motion shots of petals unfolding and old film footage of David Niven as a crashed RAF pilot in A Matter of Life and Death. It all works surprisingly well.

We also have more vulnerable moments with Wilko still traumatised by the death of his wife Irene, and reminiscing about the joy he felt when his violent father died and the fact his family were always an embarrassment to his relatives.

There’s footage of a crazy arm-waving Japanese audience at his farewell gig and also the great recording sessions with Roger Daltrey for what was meant to be his final album. Just as it’s turning into a death-affirming eulogy, Wilko is offered hope when Charlie Chan, a photographer and surgeon who was in the audience at one of his gigs, suggests he have some tests at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. He’s not sure if he’ll ever wake up after the operation, but after having a tumour the size of a baby cut out of his stomach Wilko survives and shows us the scars.

The scenes on the seawall of Wilko playing his guitar again for the first time since the operation are genuinely moving. “Bloody hell man, I’m supposed to be dead!” Julien and Wilko have done it right.

Check out ecstasyofwilkojohnson.com for details of screenings.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Prime-time Jaywick in Benefits By The Sea

Despite the sensational title of Benefits by the Sea, the Channel 5 documentary presents quite a positive view of the residents of Jaywick, officially Britain's most deprived town. Those living in the former holiday chalets at Brooklands — the poorest part of Jaywick —  are struggling with poor housing, rubbish roads and street lights that go off at midnight. In the first two episodes we've met Fred an ex-gangster who just wants to be with his cats in an unheated caravan; Carl who is trying to be a good dad to his two daughters but has lost his benefits because he can't read the forms; alcoholic Disco Dave who drinks "Jaywick champagne" (cheap cider from the corner shop) but is trying to go into rehab and being helped by Boo, a recovering alcoholic herself who manages to set up a Jaywick soup kitchen; and Naomi and Stu, a young couple who were previously homeless in Southampton. 

Most heroic is Councillor Don Casey, who spends his time trying to help Fred get heating for his caravan and get lighting after midnight following a horrific machete attack (the residents succeed in getting it turned on until 1am). Yes there are some toe-rags and violent offenders, but most of the residents seem to want to better their lives and are not content claiming benefits, and the impression is that need help rather than censure. And there's always the beach which is a fine diversion from everyone's problems. With the right investment and government aid (the houses only cost 50k) there could still be hope for Jaywick.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Wilko lives!

Great interview with Wilko Johnson in Saturday's Guardian. Alexis Petridis visits Wilko at his Southend home and his piece gives a fine account of Wilko's upgrading to greatest living Essexman after Julien Temple's film Oil City Confidential, his uplifting attitude to impending death and then the miraculous operation that has left him very much alive. Or as Wilko puts it: "Bloody hell man, I'm supposed to be dead!" Though bizarrely, Wilko's periods of depression lifted when he was under a death sentence, but have returned now he's recovered. Made me want to listen again to Wilko's excellent 'farewell' album with Roger Daltrey Going Back Home. The other good news is that Julien Temple has made a film, The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson, in cinemas from July 17in which he compares the Canvey Island philosopher to both William Blake and a medieval saint, as you do.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Essex hipsters?

Barking may soon have the cachet of Shoreditch, Bethnal Green and Dalston according to a recent piece in the Evening Standard headlined "Essex Hipsters? It's not such a Barking idea." Guess anything's possible, as I've just discovered a hipster coffee bar has opened at the Whitechapel end of the Commercial Road, near where my great great grandfather traded as a saddler. House prices (which used to be among London's lowest) are rising faster in Barking and Dagenham than in any other borough and there's just been a folk festival there with Barking's favourite bard, Billy Bragg. The Standard also discovered there's an artists' colony in a derelict warehouse on the River Roding, which is now known as the Ice House Quarter. Soon it seems Barking might be away with craft beer, beards and designer cereal shops.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

True Blue in Romford

Here's one man who will have enjoyed George Osborne's Budget yesterday. Walking through Romford I came across the offices of local Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell. His constituency office is covered in Union Jack bunting and it also has a St George's flag flying. Oh, and it has the name "Margaret Thatcher House" emblazoned above the door. Inside Margaret Thatcher House there are pictures of Maggie on the wall and a blue plaque dedicated to her outside. The spirit of Simon Heffer's Essex Man clearly lives on in Romford.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The only way is dogs

Essex cultural stereotypes number 247: Spotted this all stations to Barking van in Gidea Park offering dog walking and boarding in God's own county from The Only Way Is Dogs. The dog on the side has presumably already been offered a column detailing his diet tips in several celebrity magazines…

Saturday, 4 July 2015

The only way is… Norfolk?

Stumbled across this shop in King's Lynn. The Essex stereotype has spread out into Norfolk it seems and the Essex Boutique sells, would you believe, very high heels and handbags. Yes, there is a part of East Anglia that is forever Towie

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Miss Willmott's garden at Warley Place

Good day at Warley Place in Great Warley with my sisters today. The gardens were the work of pioneering feminist gardener Ellen Willmott in the early 1900s. She once employed 100 gardeners and was the first woman to be elected to the Horticultural Society. The ruins and foliage looked glorious in the sunshine with hundreds of foxgloves out, clumps of bamboo, palm trees and exotic plants everywhere. 

An omelette and pint of Thatchers bitter in the nearby Thatchers Arms was followed by a tour of the restored gardens. Many features have been unearthed since my last visit including new rockeries and lots of plant labels on display in the information hut. Also interesting to learn that there's a play about Miss Willmott, Ellen's Love, being performed at Little Warley Cricket field on September 3-5. Well worth a visit to see Alpine ravines, boathouses and the remains of opulent terraces and a once grand conservatory.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Dagenham meets 1984

Unlikely literary mentions of Dagenham Part One: Dagenham (which was then officially part of Essex rather than part of a London borough) gets a couple of mentions in George Orwell's 1939 novel Coming Up For Air, which I've just read.

When the book's narrator George Bowling returns to his childhood home of Lower Binfield he finds the fields of his idyllic childhood market town built over with mock-Tudor suburban houses. Orwell comments: "Do you know the look of those new towns that have suddenly swelled up like balloons in the last few years, Hayes, Slough Dagenham and so forth? The kind of chilliness, the bright red brick everywhere, the temporary looking shop windows fill of cut-price chocolate and radio parts. It was just like that."

A few pages later he reiterates, "it had given me a jolt to see Upper Binfield swollen into a kind of Dagenham." Coming Up For Air, with its themes of impending war and totalitarian threats, is thought to have pre-dated many of the themes of his seminal novel 1984. And it seems Dagenham might have had a role inspiring Orwell to create Airstrip One.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Romford Pele gets drunk in Highbury

Romford Pele is getting drunk in Highbury. Enjoyed the launch of the Brewhouse and Kitchen last night, the new Islington bar close to Highbury Corner. It specialises in craft beer brewed on the premises and one of the top beers is a cheeky tribute to Arsenal's Essex lad done good, Ray Parlour, aka the "Romford Pele". Romford Pele is a light, fruity beer that is most palatable and brings a flavour of the Essex geezer into N1, though as it's an Arsenal tribute beer it's probably best drunk in silence. Click on the link for more information on the Brewhouse.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Grayson Perry's Dream House: no drabness in Wrabness

Enjoyed Grayson Perry's Dream House on Channel 4, which was one long homage to Essex. Grayson wore a pink jacket with "Essex" embroidered on the back as he won over the residents  of Wrabness with his plan to create an "Essex Taj Mahal". The house he builds is a cross between Hansel and Gretel and a Catholic Church. It celebrates Julie May Cope, a fictional Essex Woman who was married twice and died after being hit by a pizza delivery bike. The most enjoyable moment is when Grayson gets a gang of real-life Essex Julies on bikes and persuades then to pedal round Julie's life path, from Canvey Island to a tower block in Basildon and then being hit by a dodgy pizza boy in Colchester. His Julies have a surprising amount of empathy for his dream house and the artist himself looks pretty tearful as he confronts his problematic relationship with his mother. The documentary also shows how open-minded people in Essex can be; geezer builders buy into a fantasy house created by a metropolitan transvestite while the posher residents of Wrabness seem quite content to have a massive goddess with huge yellow breasts topping Grayson's fantasy structure. Time for a pilgrimage to Wrabness.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Grayson Perry's House for Essex

Plenty of coverage of Grayson Perry's House for Essex in Wrabness. It's a homage to an Essex everywoman called Julie and according to Grayson is for, "single mums in Dagenham, hairdressers in Colchester, and the landscape and history of Essex." Julie was born in Canvey Island in 1953 and married first Dave, a bit of a rogue, and then Bob who was steadier. Tragically she was knocked over by a boy racer on a moped and killed and the house is her shrine. The offending moped can be seen hanging from the ceiling. The BBC's Will Gompertz went through Julie's record collection and found a number of Dr Feelgood LPs, suggesting that both Perry (and Julie) are fans. At last Essex is high art and rarefied critics are having to speak reverentially about Julie and Dave. Nice one, Grayson.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Willie vote in Chelmsford

Here's a very Essex take on the election from the Essex Chronicle. A Chelmsford voter drew a penis in the box besides Ukip candidate Mark Gough's name. The crude vote, from the Springfield North ward, sparked a lively debate about whether the penis was a comment or an actual vote for the candidate. The offending penis was flagged up as a doubtful vote and not allowed to stand, though Ukip candidate Gough joked, "He was trying to vote for me!" Perhaps the voter was just applying the term 'honourable member' rather too literally…

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Snooker loopy: Essex rules the world

Another week when Essex rules the world. After waiting 20 years Basildon's Stuart Bingham has won the snooker World Championship at the Crucible in Sheffield. He come out with a few choice Essex phrases including "winner winner chicken dinner" and claimed that his success was inspired by Mark Allen saying he had "no bottle". Nice one, Stuart.

Meanwhile Russell Brand is emerging as the unlikely kingmaker in the General Election, finally advising his followers to vote for Labour. Who would have thought that a geezer from Grays saying he's decided to vote would be big political news or index that Brand would be voted as the fourth most influential world thinker in Britain by Prospect magazine. Grays Man is now up there with John Stuart Mill, Rousseau, Hobbes, Marx and Engels, though presumably none of those ever wrote about taking heroin and sex addiction in their autobiography.

Meanwhile the Guardian's Do Something supplement has a cover feature on Grayson Perry's love of mountain biking. He describes off-load cycling as a boy in the woods around Chelmsford to get away from his dysfunctional family and still cycles in Epping Forest, finding the open competitiveness of mountain biking more honest than that of the art world.

Three very different Essex Men in the news, but all proving that right now Essex culture appears to be taking over the planet.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Barking's dogged resistance to dog poo

Barking and Dagenham council is to become the first UK council to DNA-test dog poo left on the streets. Once all the borough's dogs have been chipped and DNA sampled then any rogue poo merchants can be caught and fined. Some poor council official is going to have to take a sample of the pavement poo and then analyse it with Pooprints (this is a copyrighted name) technology. Such canine capers could represent the turd way in council politics. And poo-testing will surely take off in Pupminster and then travel all stations to Pooburyness.

BBC goes coastal in Essex

The BBC continues to be obsessed with the voting habits of Essex men and women, particularly in the coastal areas where Ukip stands a chance. There's an interesting video on Jaywick Sands, the most deprived area in the country, on bbbcnews.com, while Carolyn Quinn visited the Castle Point constituency for Radio 4's PM on St George's Day, taking in the Hoy and Helmet pub in Benfleet and the hair salons and skateparks of Canvey Island. Click on the links to hear the full reports.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Mortgage bills in Harold Hill

With the Conservatives promising to give housing association tenants the right to buy, there's been a lot of looking back at one of the first council houses sold by Margaret Thatcher's government in 1980, in where else but Essex. The BBC News filmed outside 39 Amersham Road in Harold Hill, while the Daily Telegraph had a feature on the housing history of the property. Margaret Thatcher was famously filmed handing over the keys to the new owners, the Patterson family, although the pressure of paying a mortgage eventually resulted in their marriage breaking-up. It was sold for £8000 and has since increased in value hugely to more than £186k in 2004 and mirrors the history of housing in Britain. Click on the link to read the Telegraph piece.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Basil Fawlty hits the Essex Riviera of Thurrock

The media has had a lot of fun with the fact that Nigel Farage's Ukip launched their manifesto at the Thurrock Hotel in Aveley. In addition to easy access to Lakeside, the Arterial and the A13, the Thurrock Hotel offers three-course Fawlty Towers dinners for £37, where professional actors offer "comic mishaps, manic mayhem and major mischief" based on John Cleese and Connie Booth's brilliant 1970s TV series. Cue lots of jokes from the hacks about a Fawlty manifesto. Not sure the Ukippers would approve of hiring cheap waiters from Barcelona. Though they might agree with Basil's views when Mr Johnson asks if there's anywhere they do French food. Basil answers: "Yes, France I believe. They seem to like it there, and the swim would certainly sharpen your appetite."

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Chelmsford: what election is that, then?

Got a quote in the Essex Chronicle last week commenting on the fact that 20 per cent of people in Chelmsford don't know there's an election on. So much for the information age… and also on the premise that Essex Man is no longer connecting with the Conservatives in the way he did under Maggie Thatcher. Click on the link to read.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Essex: The final frontier

Harlow, we have a problem… Essex has its own Space Agency it seems. Project HeliumTears has established twitter contact about its plan to send a giant weather balloon carrying a camera into space. The project plans to photograph the Earth from the edge of space and retrieve the camera and data upon its return. It’s all the work of Sky at Night fans Matt Kingsnorth from Warley and Phil St Pier from Romford. “We’re more Jupiter mining corporation than Starfleet fella,” declare the county’s answer to Aldrin, Armstong and Collins. They told the Brentwood Gazette: “We’re just a couple of geeks with acess to the internet and YouTube and a desire to say that Essex isn’t just about Towie and drunken people fighting on a Saturday night." The pair even have their own Essex Space Agency notepaper. One small leap for man, one giant leap for Essex. Follow their progress through the link and via twitter @ProjectHeT. Engage!