Suet pudding

Since I stopped eating meat nearly 30 years ago (I confess I'm not vegan, nor vegetarian, cos I eat the odd bit of fish) there have been food items I've missed. I used to have dreams about liver, like the grilled liver and chips with a fried egg on top we used to have in the cafe over the deli at Boggi's in Clerkenwell. I have fond memories of salt beef sandwiches with mustard from a shop that seemed to serve nothing else, in Fetter Lane. One thing I used to love as a lad was steak and kidney pudding, with tinned peas and a ladle full of brown gravy, as served in that cafe over a shop on Kay Gardens, when we wagged off school on a Friday. They did meat puds in tiny tins too, I seem to remember from my student days. The nearest to it was a wild mushroom suet pudding from Terre a Terre one Christmas freelancers lunch a few years back. Gorgeous! Since then we've seen veggie haggis and black pudding appear, tho I'm not conviced by the V Pud - tastes nothing like the real thing! Veggie food has come a long way since that brown slop they once served at Crank's. Thank goodness for Linda MacCartney and Quorn. I love pies and pasties and still mourn the demise of Sainsbury's Savoury Pasty. Yes, I know you can buy cheese and onion pasties ('do I have to spell it out!') and Waitrose do a lovely hand-crimped vegetable one, but I crave that MEAT taste! Linda's Country pies are a great stand-by, but frozen products seldom come out right with me. Recently Quorn have been releasing various pastry slices, including Minced beef with onion (not available in all supermarkets I'm sad to say) which I quite like but examining the shelves at Asda the other day my heart stopped when I spotted the new Quorn Beef style and ale pudding! And yes, it does taste like I remembered, and you don't have to boil it up in one of granny's stockings for hours on end! They do a mince and onion version too (but curse their packaging that makes every product look alike!). It's a dream come true. So what's next on the wish list? If they can do haggis, which is mostly cereal filling anyway, it can't be too difficult to produce a veggie faggot? Come on Mr Brain, what are you waiting for?


The Two Wrongies

Watching The Two Wrongies last night - two lovely funny dancers who perform much of their act naked (except for rubber bathing caps) - made me wonder when nudity began to lose its shock value. When I were a lad naked flesh was rare and highly charged - we only had National Geographic, Amateur Photographer and library books detailing expeditions to far off hot places to pour over. I think I remember seeing dancers from Sierra Leone on tv once - with bare breasts! - in black and white! The annual Bury Fair had a Nude Show, that was always closed on the opening night so as not to embarrass the Mayor. For sixpence you got to see a foul-mouthed compere introducing tableaux of perfectly still naked ladies recreating famous paintings. The only book in the school library with the word 'fuck' in it was a well thumbed copy of The Cantos of Ezra Pound. If you did come across a copy of Spic, Span or Health and Efficiency in the playground, the nether regions were always air-brushed out. We had to wait for Paul Raymond's relaunched Men Only in the 70s to see pubic hair for the first time! At college (1965-68) I discovered that foreign films, especially those of Fellini, usually contained some nudity! And my first full frontal was Arthur Lowe's wife (or was it matron) wandering empty school corridors in Lindsay Anderson's If. Then there was a trip to a Soho strip club with the rowing club, where a Wilfrid Bramwell character behind a hatch served up Nescafe from a small tin as we sat in cinema seats to watch ladies, moving this time, remove their clothing. But it was the late-60s and soon there was hippy nudity mostly everywhere. There was Hair and Oh! Calcutta!, though I saw neither, and then we got Page 3 girls - and some of the early ones were quite attractive and artistic, quite unlike the plastic busty teenagers we have nowadays. It is said that John Ruskin, having been brought up with marble statues, was so horrified when he saw Effie Gray's bush on his wedding night, the marriage was never consummated and she ran off with Millais. He'd have been very happy with today's Hollywood waxings. Nowadays, along with easy access internet porn, there are nudist beaches, the World Naked Bike Ride every June, and The Two Wrongies. They were a delight and not a bit embarrassing, down the Basement last night - lithe dancers with a sense of humour, in the Liz Aggiss mould. We saw them on stage, dancing beautifully, and 'backstage' chatting and changing what few clothes they had. Highlight was the 'air sex' competition in which three highly accomplished members of the audience mimed foreplay, the act itself, and cigarette afterwards. Hilarious.


Billy Cowie

I'm not a big fan of video installations, dark rooms in art galleies, audience participation - or dance for that matter - but for Billy Cowie, I'll not only make an exception, but be first in the queue. 'The revery alone', part of the Dance for camera festival 2008 is his best yet: seven minutes of mesmerising movement - on the ceiling! After donning spirit spex at Lighthouse, you are invited to lie flat out on yoga mats in a dark room, there to watch a naked dancer hanging on to the wallpaper. Truly [literally] amazing. It's on until 11 December. Also worth seeing is MyrioRama by Jeremy Radvan over the stair well - him drawing to a dancer's movements (reminiscent of his show down the sewers a while back). But you wouldn't get me down the dirty hole that was 'Burrow Me' even if there were wall-to-wall real naked ladies inside!


The Brothers Quay

The exhibition of work by the Brothers Quay (or Quay Brothers as they are also known) at the University of Brighton gallery - Inventorium: the Pharmacist's prescription for lip reading puppets - is truly [literally] amazing. It's a collection of scenes from their animated films shoehorned into boxes, cabinets of curiosity, theatrically lit with big lenses to look through that make the interiors even more Tardis like, and which direct your gaze to pertinent details. Largely overshadowed by Czech animator Jan Svankmajer, to whom they have created a homage, the American twins are perhaps best known for their 1986 film Street of crocodiles, based on a novel by the Polish author and artist Bruno Schulz. The creepy boxes full of bark, crystals and talcum powder populated by Bellmer-like robot dolls, look as if they will come to life any minute, which they do, in their films, also showing at Cinecity around Brighton now. You almost expect Foster and Gilvan to pop out from behind them at any second. Apart from the 'Powdered ejaculation of a stag (at the time of rutting season)', a line of which we are invited to snort and is currently sustaining Peter Chrisp, the other highlight is 'Eurydice - She, So Beloved', a work based on Monteverdi's Orfeo in its own room which also contains a coffin of pylons and more bark. This mostly live action dance piece was quite long and dark and would have benefitted from the addition of a comfy chair for the more elderly connoisseur. But it's not often we have an exhibition of this importance in town - go see it! It's on until 20 December usually until 8pm, but closed on Sundays!