The Campaign for Real Ale predicts that 50 million pints worth of beer will be dumped in the United Kingdom within weeks if the country’s lockdown continues.
From its Roman foundation to the 21st century, London has always been a city of migrants, as these rich histories, memoirs and novels show
The people of London have always been settlers from around the world, beginning with the Roman invaders who founded the city. While the growth of the imperial capital until 1945 largely depended on migrants from other parts of Britain, it also included Europeans, especially Jews, Germans, and, above all the Irish.
The multicultural capital that exists today has continued to depend on Europeans but people from the wider world. My own parents moved to the heart of empire in its dying days, from Cyprus, and my interest evolved from this connection to a still great global capital.
Those who have written about the people of London, especially its ethnic diversity, have included authors telling their own life stories, countless novelists, journalists and other observers, a selection of whom I outline below. Collectively, they reveal the modern history of London, providing an insight into its ethnic and social diversity.
1. Memoirs of the Life of Daniel Mendoza (1816)
London has acted as home to countless sportsmen, especially fighters and footballers, many of who have produced autobiographies. Daniel Mendoza, born in Aldgate in 1765, wrote this pioneering account of his life, which involved punching his way out of the Jewish East End to become British champion in an era when Jewish boxers became well-known celebrities, with Mendoza developing something of a cult, partly due to his ability to publicise his activities, especially through his biography.
2. London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew (1861)
It proves impossible to understand the evolution of modern London without reading Henry Mayhew, who interviewed people in the early Victorian streets involved in all types of work and, above all, allowed them to speak for themselves, making him a pioneer both in the history of journalism, as his pieces first appeared in the Morning Chronicle, and in social science research. Mayhew’s interviewees and the detailed research which he carried out, provide us with information on all manner of lower-class occupations, especially on the hawkers selling everything from recycled tea bags to fried fish. Mayhew offers a panorama of working-class life largely as told by the people of London themselves.
3. Life and Labour of the People in London by Charles Booth (1892)
Much more academic in tone and not providing the people of London with the same opportunity as Mayhew does to speak for themselves, anybody trying to understand late Victorian London has to at least dip into this multi-volume survey of the capital, the first research project which used a large team, including Beatrice Potter, to provide a scientific account of the population of London, complete with numerous maps outlining the income of the different areas of the capital, as well as providing an insight into ethnicity and work.
4. Living London, edited by George R Sims (1902-3)
While those interested in Victorian London will certainly know the work of Mayhew and Booth, they may not have come across the magnificent Continue reading
The world is an expensive place
How much would you spend on a pint of beer? Depends on where you live most likely, but it’s safe to say that the majority of British people would draw the line at around £7, which itself is ludicrous.
But what if we told you that there is a pint of alcoholic liquid that would set you back more than £20-per-pint? No, this is not some cruel prank we’re playing on you ahead of pints actually costing that much after a no deal Brexit, it is in fact the real price of a pint of a particular stout in London.
The rare stout is quite strong – 12 percent – so it traditionally comes in sizes like a third, or a half of a pint, but travelled down to see how good probably the most expensive pint in Britain actually tastes.
Spoiler alert: it’s probably not worth the money.
The queues for Sinéad O’Connor’s first London show in four years curled around the outside of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Inside and throughout her performance, voices in the crowd shouted their love for a singer whose voice is astounding, at a point in her career when her peers’ singing quality begins to betray age.
O’Connor walked onto the stage barefoot, all in black, a small figure supported by her band – an electric guitar and bass, acoustic guitar, drums, and keys. She began with three powerful songs, all marked by the humour and rage that characterise much of her output. The first, “Queen of Denmark”, began softly, with flashes of anger that were all the more effective because of their measured explosions. Her second, “Take Me To Church”, from her latest album I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss (2014), as with many of her songs, was undercut by wistfulness, a raw pain beneath euphoria. The culmination of this triptych, “4th and Vine”, was again inflected with humour, a reference to her pink dress and the hope of marriage. She skipped barefoot across the stage, whilst her guitarist played a solo.
Then came a tonal shift, a quieter beginning, and yet more sorrow offset by wry lyrics – “I sold your granny’s rosary for 50p” as a particularly memorable line in “Reason With You”. The guitar undercut O’Connor’s singing with a soft howl, a complement to the repeated lyric, “If I loved someone I might lose someone”.
The next two songs betrayed the only flaw in the whole performance, a slight tendency towards the mellow, ballady, overly smooth sound that such a classic instrumental set-up of practised musicians can produce. Then, in a brilliant switch, O’Connor was spotlit on stage, singing “I Am Stretched On Your Grave” with a clarity and grace that was deeply affecting. What was shown through the preceding songs was foregrounded here – the lasting brilliance of O’Connor’s voice. Then all instruments were stripped away, with just O’Connor singing “In This Heart”, then one of her band joining her in song, then another, in an affecting harmonisation.
With more than a nod to current politics, O’Connor introduced her next song with a soft “I think you’ll like this one”, launching into the resonant “Black Boys on Mopeds”. Reaching the climax of “please”, her voice became a keen, a frustrated plea.The songs moved forwards through O’Connor’s repertoire, to 2000’s “’Til I Whisper You Something”, then to 2014’s “Harbour”, before travelling backwards to 1994’s “Thank You For Loving Me”, then arriving at the popular shores of three songs from 1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. The culmination of these was her most popular, “Nothing Compares 2U”: again, she coped well with a technically difficult song, substituting some of the higher notes with breathy tones.One more song, then the encore, and into the powerful “Three Babies”, before she began her last, “Milestones’ (her newest, a teaser for her next album, No Mud No Lotus), without the microphone, then ended with just the keyboard for accompaniment. A haunting end to a brilliant show, whose only fault was the potential to sound, at times, just a little too rehearsed.