Suggestion for a spooky Christmas read

I was twelve when the BBC screened The Signalman as its Christmas ghost story and was hooked on the concept. This was my first exposure to this BBC tradition and the Beeb’s first Charles Dickens adaptation, following a run of MR James tales.

These programmes were an echo of the Victorian tradition of fireside ghost stories, best known of which is A Christmas Carol. A goodly chunk of InDulwich’s audience will have read it and seen film versions with Alastair Sim, George C Scott and the Muppets. I reread it last Christmas and then stumbled across it’s much less well known follow up, The Chimes.

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Odd story for an odd day

Lucian of Samosata’s True History is a delirious read, with nary a true word in it. InDulwich has an interest in beer and wine (as well as literature) and Lucian’s story includes a cracker of a wine tale. But first, he makes a confession; “because I had no matter of verity to employ my pen in (for nothing hath befallen me worth the writing), I turned my style to untruths”. It seems the 2nd century has something in common with the 21st.

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Cricket Talk in Battersea

One evening, a few years ago, I walked past Herne Hill Books on my way to the shops and saw an author and a member of staff sitting alone in the shop. I had vaguely thought of going to the scheduled talk. On my way home, it was still just the two of them. I couldn’t abandon them to their fate, so I dropped off my shopping and came straight back.

I’m glad I did. The author was Colin Babb and the book, They Gave the Crowd Plenty Fun. It was about cricket’s role in forging a West Indian identity for the Caribbean diaspora. It’s an interesting topic and Babb was an engaging speaker. As the talk was a one to one, we were able to have a proper conversation, swapping cricket-watching anecdotes and discussing whether Fire in Babylon, albeit a super film, was a bit patronising to West Indian cricketers in the pre-Clive Lloyd era (I think it is). I bought and had a signed copy for myself and a copy for my brother.

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The Horror of South London

What is it with south London and cinematic horror? No snide remarks please. Cabs do go south of the river these days. No less than four of the horror greats were south Londoners. Boris Karloff and Peter Cushing spent parts of their respective childhoods in Camberwell and Dulwich, Elsa Lanchester was a Lewisham girl and Lionel Atwill lived a few miles south in Croydon. In that little grouping, you have the stars of a host of classic Universal and Hammer horrors and lots of ropey B movies too, of course.

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Mysterious Rembrandt Painting at Dulwich Gallery

Am I Rembrandt? (8 Nov – 5 March 2017), the final display in Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Making Discoveries series will bring the Dutch Master’s flamboyant Self-Portrait, Wearing a Feathered Bonnet, 1635, 

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Dr. Fu Manchu: A classic best forgotten?

Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government-- which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence. Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man.

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Remembering The South London Woman Who Cracked Hollywood

I went to the Florence in Herne Hill for a few pints last night. Truman’s Lazarus was the beer – light in colour, flavour and alcohol content (4.2%), which made it just right for a relatively balmy, midweek evening. Anyway, I hadn’t been to the Florence for a while and noticed that the children’s play room in the garden had mutated into The Lupino Room, named after Ida, the actor, director and local girl - there’s a blue plaque on the house she was lived in, on Ardbeg Road.

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Carnegie Library Update

The proposed plans for the future of the Carnegie Library are currently on display and unsurprisingly are very vague. They do reveal a few nuggets. The biggest shock is that a sizeable chunk of the garden will be lost to a new extension.

The background to the project is that Greenwich Leisure Ltd. (GLL) will take on the building under a 25 year lease, with a seven year break clause. GLL will excavate the basement, which is crouch-height at one end, and fit it out as a gym. A new reception will be built reducing the car parking space shown in the photo to one slot.

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When the Great Plague Came To Dulwich

News that scientists examining human remains found during the Crossrail excavations have identified the bacterial cause of the Great Plague of London (it’s Yersinia pestis), had the Today programme dipping into its copy of A Journal of the Plague Year. Rather than descriptions of symptoms and mass burials, here’s a peep at what Daniel Defoe had to say about our neck of the woods in his novel about the 1665-6 outbreak.

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