Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Joe Queenan's London

The great cities of the world are best thought of in terms of flora and fauna. San Francisco is a hyacinth, Rio de Janeiro a bromeliad, Cario a flowering cactus, Detroit a burning bush. London, by contrast, most closely resembles a Venus Flytrap.-Joe Queenan

I just finished reading Queenan Country, about writer Joe Queenan's travels around Great Britain and why he likes the people of Great Britain while, at the same time, insulting them at every turn. Queenan's Country is filled with such sites as The Second Smallest Cathedral in England and The Worse Musical of All Time. He also prattles on rather a lot about Tribute Bands, which I have to admit, have always been a bit of a mystery to me as well. Elvis impersonators, sure why not, but fifty year old nobodys pretending their the 20 year old Beatles? I've never really liked that.

Anyway-Joe Queenan spends a bit of his book in London, mainly talking about how much he hates the likes of Elton John, Paul McCartney, and Andrew Lloyd Weber, but occasionally mention actual sites in the great city. So I thought I would look a few of them up and see what I could find out about them.

The Widow's Son-This curiously named pub has a sad story. In a cottage on this site lived a widow, her only son a sailor. He was due to return home on Good Friday and asked his mother to bake him some hot-cross-buns. Sadly, he never returned. Nevertheless every Good Friday his mother had a new bun waiting. Each year a new bun was added to ones she had kept from previous years. Sounds like my kind of place, old and kind of creepy.
Animal Burger

The Tea Hut on Blackheath
-Since the l950s the hut has been used by passing motorists, lorry drivers, cabbies, locals, suburban clubbers on their way home from town, courting couples and motorbike and classic-car enthusiasts alike, the latter on Tuesday and Thursday nights only. It's open 24 hours a day, and serves Builders' Tea and the kind of hamburgers Ben Elton once talked of, made of hooves, snouts and eyelashes but heavenly when you've had 10 pints of Old Peculiar down the hill in a Lewisham boozer.

Eel & Pie Shop in Peckham-Didn't find anything with a quick Google and it is possible that this shop has gone the way of all good things, if you consider eels and pies good things. I'm sure you can still shops selling these odd sounding bits of business if you tried.

Canary Wharf-Canary Wharf is a thriving space and vibrant business district-at leas according to their website. I'm not sure that Joe had redevelopment in mind though, I'm guessing he liked it the way it was the last time he saw it, and who knows when that was. Seem to be a lot of tall building in London's Docklands these days. Not that there's anything wrong with that. . .

Battersea Park-Any place that has a museum on the grounds called The Pump House Gallery desevers at least a smal side trip. My own memories of Battersea Park are mainly my surprise at seeing the Peace Pagoda, I like the whole idea of a Buddhist shrine in the middle of an English garden. There are also lots of plants and animals as one might expect in a large city park.

Elephant & Castle-Elephant and Castle has always been an important traffic junction and was once known as “the Piccadilly of South London”. Another place that a lot of cool stuff seems to be happening. Food and Drink, Entertainment, Dancing, Shopping and old buildings to look at, who could ask for anything more? Of course, to me it looks kind of scary on the map, TWO round abouts that close together-oh the humanity.

Southwark Cathedral-The Church of England, what a great sound that has to it. They say there has been a church on this site since AD 606, got love those Brits, always have to remind us that while we study history they lived history. But that's alright, I love old churches just as I love all old buildings. Of course, it's hard to take them seriously after watching shows like The Vicar of Dibly all these years.

The West End-which is funny as Joe Queenan hates musicals in all forms and fashions, yet seems to go out of his way to attend them. Me thinks he doth protest too much. London's West End is London's Theater District, where all the misicals that Joes loves to hate are playing. But there's all kinds of other cool stuff in the area, China Town with Lee Ho Fooks, Mayfair, and Soho, all the places any well dressed American Werewolf would want to be seen.

And that wraps up my little mini London Tour by way of Things Joe Queenan Likes in London.