Archive for reviews

Frozen Planet: TV’s Most Exhausting Show

First published at the Huffington Post

My partner and I are sitting on the sofa watching Frozen Planet. Two ponderous yet bloodily violent elephant seals fight as endless penguins stand around, presumably making cheerful bets on the outcome. (“I’ll have five medium-sized rocks on the slightly greyer one.” “You’re on!”)

We long ago gave up trying to stay emotionally detached from it all. Animals show us ourselves, and we know it, and so does David Attenborough. The male penguin looking shifty as it nicks the stones from its neighbour’s nest, the polar bear looking back at her furry babies tumbling playfully over each other and then trudging on with a resigned sigh, even the baby albatross stoically waiting in the snow till it’s old enough to leave its nest and learn to fly: there’s no pretence that we’re not essentially looking into an animal-shaped mirror here. That’s one of the reasons it’s so tiring to watch, in a good way. All human life is here, and there aren’t even any humans.

And then there’s the horrible bits. A central feature in any nature programme is the sight of a cute animal being devoured by another cute animal as David Attenborough solemnly intones: “One of these incredibly adorable creatures must die to feed the other. THIS IS HOW LIFE WORKS, PEOPLE. NO LOOKING AWAY, COWARDS.”

But we do. We go through a guilty process of determining what we can manage to watch. Whales eating fish? No problem. Wolves eating ducklings? Bearable, though we wince when the furry wolf-puppies get joyfully spattered with the bloody meat of the hare they’re devouring. And then there’s the inevitable, heartbreaking narrative of the baby polar bears versus the baby seal cubs. That’s the one that gets us. The large, meltingly beautiful eyes of the baby seal gaze at the screen with mute appeal as the mother polar bear approaches from behind like a very high-stakes game of Grandmother’s Footsteps. If the seal escapes, the baby bears may starve. We pause the TV, take a deep breath, and half-watch through averted eyes; but it’s okay, the programme has taken pity on us and started showing us an overview of the Arctic ice instead.

Oh God, the landscapes. Every frame of every shot of Frozen Planet is so achingly, icily beautiful that I keep finding I’ve forgotten to breathe. Of course, it’s not a beauty you want to get close to, as becomes extremely clear during the last section of the show, the ‘how-we-did-it’ segment. The sight of the cameramen trapped in a flimsy-looking hut for four days during a 130-mile-an-hour Antarctic snowstorm is terrifying. They remain startlingly stoic through it all, I feel. Towards the end they’re a bit red-eyed and tired-looking, but that’s about it. BBC people are made of steel, apparently. I would have given up after a couple of hours and abandoned myself to my fate, gibbering.

In fact, that’s really why I find Frozen Planet exhausting. It’s not just the range of emotions I run through: awe, terror, maternal protectiveness, laughter, more awe, more terror. It’s the way it illustrates that life just keeps going, on and on, despite everything that nature, the world’s most challenging obstacle course, can throw in its way. I know I should find this exhilarating. Instead I find it enervating.

Take the woolly bear caterpillar. Attenborough shows it to us, balanced hungrily on a leaf, eating as if there’s no tomorrow – which there more or less isn’t, as it’s trying to build up enough energy to become a moth before the spring ends. But it runs out of time, so it buries itself and freezes: blood turns to ice, heart stops, everything. Next year, it emerges as if nothing had happens, metaphorically looking round and going, “Haha, you thought I was dead? Fooled you!” Cue another season of trying and failing to eat enough to become a cocoon, giving up, and then freezing itself again like a caterpillar-flavoured ice lolly. This goes on for 14 years. Fourteen years! I know they say if at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again, but this is ridiculous.

And then, finally, the woolly bear gets the right weather. It cocoons itself, turns into a moth, mates if it’s lucky and dies about a week later.

Does this serve as a metaphor about how the human spirit endures hardship, or does it suggest that some people (and animals) just don’t know when to quit? I am filled with ennui just contemplating this life cycle. I admire, but I also think “Just give up! Nature does not intend you to reproduce! Take the hint!”

Yes, life endures; but I’m not sure it always wants to. You can see it in the eyes of Mark the Antarctic cameraman, staring at us after two months with the face of a man who has seen far, far too many penguins. I should have been an accountant, he’s thinking. Right now, I could have been sitting on a sofa eating Pringles. Like you. You bastards.


Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Mum

(First published on the Huffington Post)

Two major films were released last Friday, both adapted from bestselling novels published in previous decades.

Firstly, there’s I Don’t Know How She Did It, from the novel by Joan Le Carré. This gritty 1970s-set thriller features retired spy Georgina Smiley, pulled back into a world of secrets to find the woman who betrayed the Service – but which woman is it?

It’s not easy juggling a lifestyle that includes ultra-secret spying, being separated from one’s cheating husband and walking down grimy London streets looking pensive. Played by Helen Mirren with dignity, intelligence and a hint of cruelty, the character of Georgina has reignited the debates first sparked by the novel.

Should women be spies? Is it really a suitable profession for a sex notorious for backstabbing, gossiping and betraying each other at the first opportunity? The media has been overwhelmed with articles on spying, and particularly on how the career can be combined with a family life when it is by nature a secretive job. One feels sympathy for Georgina’s cheating husband Alex: it’s clear she was spending all her time at the office in a miasma of smoke having furtive conversations with other women whose marriages were also suffering. Her return from retirement to take on yet another murky, complicated investigation illustrates where her loyalties lie. No wonder Alex strayed.

And, as many articles have pointed out, what about all the spies and spymasters who just get on with spying and spymastering with far fewer resources than Georgina? Georgina is at the top of her profession, or at least was once, and appears to be relatively wealthy. Moreover, she has unfailing support from her friends and colleagues (admittedly, mainly secret and unofficial support), such as Peta Guillem (played by the redoubtable Benedictine Cumberbatch, famous for her portrayal of detective Shirley Holmes). Ultimately, Georgina fails to represent the real workday life of the spy, making it hard to empathise with her.

The week’s second novel adaptation is Worker, Lover, Husband, Dad from the 1990s Alastair Pearson book. This is a lighter, but still significant, drama about Kevin Reddy, a New York dad who juggles three children, a high-flying job with constant business travel, and a potential love interest. Media interest in this film has mainly focused on the high-quality acting by hit sitcom star Matthew Perry, who ably portrays the harassed father as he attempts to fulfil the four title roles and keep everyone happy.

However, the popular consensus is that the film lacks an element of tension, since everyone knows men can juggle any number of roles with ease, particularly if they have – as Reddy does – a supportive wife who helps with the children, arranges his social life and turns an understanding blind eye to his potential infidelities.

Ultimately, I Don’t Know How She Did It is a women’s film: dark and low-key, it reveals its secrets slowly and conversationally. Women will appreciate the fact that virtually everyone in the film is female, and the emphasis on solving problems through talking.

Worker, Lover, Husband, Dad is aimed more at the male market – many middle-class men will empathise with the travails of Reddy as he attempts to make a lot of money to maintain his already luxurious lifestyle while trying to make sure at least one of his children remembers what his name is.

Next week, we look at the return of Danielle Craig playing the ever-appealing Jane Bond, and we talk about the film version of James Eyre – the story of the young orphan tutor James and his imperious older mistress Miss Rochester with a dark secret in the attic.

A post about this post


About a post I didn’t write and a post I did

I wrote a post. It was about the recently-released film I Don’t Know How She Does It (based on the Allison Pearson novel). It was called “Does having it all mean dropping the ball?” and it used the film as a jumping-off point to talk about the media’s demonisation of working mothers, the media’s demonisation of non-working mothers unless they’re middle class, and why the concept of “having it all” could most accurately be described by imagining someone trying to juggle whilst playing American football in front of a audience throwing custard at her.

And the thing is, I am in theory the perfect target audience for I Don’t Know How She Does It. I’m a middle-class white woman who is balancing children, a partner and a job, much like the main character (except without a nanny, a high-flying career or a posh city townhouse. Boo). On top of that, I enjoyed the book on which the film is based, and I’m a Sex and the City fan so having Sarah Jessica Parker starring is not a turn-off.

So am I going to see it? No.

Partly because I’ve just read some of the reviews (summary: meh).
Partly because I’d be jumping up and down in my seat waving my hand in the air, going “I know how she does it! Using lots of money and privilege!” And partly for the same reason I predict the film is not going to do well in cinemas: the women it’s aimed at don’t have time to go to see films about busy life-juggling women because, not unexpectedly, they’re too busy juggling their lives. Maybe it’ll do well on DVD. I don’t really care.

And that’s the thing. I don’t really care. Over the weekend I have read, without particularly trying to, about half a dozen articles by white middle-class women which use the film as a jumping-off point to talk about the issues it raises. Some of the articles were good. But now I am suffering from I Don’t Know How She Does It fatigue. I am bored by my own lifestyle. So I decided that instead of adding to the words written about it all, I would pretend that all these articles were about the other big film of the week, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This is far better, because Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is apparently brilliant and I do plan to see it (even if I don’t technically have time).

This train of thought led me to another post, which I have written. However, I’m not posting it here yet, because – much to my surprise and gratification – I am now also blogging for the Huffington Post. I shall be copying my posts for them to my site here (as I have with my first post last week) but when I write posts for them I’ll put them there first. So! A post related to the above will appear soon – tomorrow, I hope, but I don’t have control over that bit – and I’ll update then with the link. In the meantime, please amuse yourselves with the rest of the internet.

Update: Here you are!


Can you bear it? The Build A Bear experience

There is a new member of my family. He is a white teddy bear with brown eyes called Michael, dressed in a surfer top and shorts topped with an elegant grey waistcoat. If you press his hand he sings “Who Let The Dogs Out?”. He has a passport, a birth certificate, an online presence and a cardboard house with a door and window.

What this all means is that today I went to a Build a Bear shop, or ‘workshop’ as they describe it. And although I don’t normally write reviews of shops I have visited (“Boots offered a gratifying variety of tampon sizes”) I am impelled to do so this time because of my newly discovered and grudging, yet genuine, admiration for the Build A Bear brand. It’s so very – all-encompassing.

Our Build A Bear journey started virtually: my daughter Rosalind* signed up to, and as a result asked to go to the real-world shop. Normally I’d have put her off. The only thing I knew for certain about Build A Bear is that it costs money, and the only thing I knew for certain about our finances is that they’re in need of some gentle handling. But for a variety of reasons – one of which was the fact that the school summer holidays have just started and we needed activities  – I felt like saying yes, so I did. (Earning myself, incidentally, the title of Best Mummy In The World, And On Jupiter, And In The Whole Galaxy Everywhere. Autographs on demand.)

So what happens is, you go to the shop, and first you choose a ‘skin’. This is the empty, furry shell of your future best friend. They lie heaped in big soft piles, like rabbit skins. (Not that I particularly know what rabbit skins looks like except when they’re on rabbits, but you can picture the image I’m going for.) I quite fancied the one decorated in rainbow hearts, but Rosalind tastefully opted for plain white. She also evaded my attempt to direct her towards the mini, cheaper versions. They were £8; the most expensive skins I saw were £18; the white teddy was £11.

Is anyone else thinking "Eeek! Multicoloured chicken pox!"?

I initially thought this covered everything, but was quickly disillusioned. Rosalind scampered off to choose clothes and came back with the aforementioned surfer outfit and City waistcoat for £8 and £3 respectively. She was being frugal. There were shoes, hats, swimwear, lightsabres, pyjamas – I began to realise what I’d got into. But it only fully hit me during the next two stages.

After you choose the clothes, a friendly assistant takes you off to choose what the bear will say – £2 for pre-recorded, £5 to record your own voice. I made the tactical error of staying at a distance for this, which is why Michael the bear ended up with my least favourite song, if I can call it that, of all time. Then it was time to give him his heart and his stuffing.

You could buy, for £4.50, a beating heart. A beating heart for a teddy bear. I held one in my hand and was evenly divided between awe and horror. Thankfully, Rosalind found it “too freaky” and opted for a fabric non-beating version. It was inserted, and she helped operate the big stuffing machine. A few post-operation stitches and we had a bear.

As we queued up to pay I could have bought a toy mobile phone or a toy music player for Michael, or sunglasses, or bedding, or roller skates. I did buy a passport. Every time Rosalind visits a Build A Bear shop anywhere in the world, she can get it stamped.

Then, after paying, we registered Michael’s birth on one of the computers they provide in the shop, with special kid-friendly keyboards. We have a birth certificate scroll tied with green ribbon. If Michael gets lost at any time he can be returned to my daughter, provided he gets handed in.

Michael and his belongings were packed in a cardboard box decorated as a house with a door that really opens; he was given a hanger for his clothes. I paid £25, and my daughter has barely let Michael out of her sight since, except to go back onto and continue playing games on it.

I don’t know. It’s all very silly and arguably decadently capitalist, and surely somewhat overpriced; but I was left with a sense of respect for the sheer lengths the company has gone to to make it a full-blown experience, not just a purchase. It can’t be long before they team up with the Tiny Tears people and give their bears full digestive facilities (instead of nappies, you just take them into the woods and wait).

I guess the test is whether I’m still Best Mummy In The Universe tomorrow. For £25, I think I deserve at least a couple of days of adulation.

*As explained elsewhere, this is her name for the purposes of this website.


The Uncommercial Traveller

Uncharacteristically, last Sunday lunchtime found me in a pub near Old Street. I was there to meet Webcowgirl for a trip to the theatre – or more accurately a trip to a road in Hackney where theatre would happen to us. Specifically, we were going to see an ‘immersive theatre experience’, a combined production of Punchdrunk and the Arcola theatre called The Uncommercial Traveller, based on a Dickens non-fiction book of the same name. However, it was raining so hard we kept looking out of the window in the expectation of seeing animals parading two by two down the road; and we thought the show we were due to see was going to be an outdoor one. We came very close to just staying in the pub, to be honest. dickens book

But the rain cleared, umbrellas were procured, and we recovered our enthusiasm. Buses were caught, and we arrived in time  – in time to just miss our show. No latecomers allowed. Luckily, the show was held every half hour and we were able to squeeze ourselves in to the 1.30pm showing.

As it turned out, the experience was an indoor one. And genuinely immersive it was. Sunday was the final day of the show, so I shall feel free to reveal exactly what it consisted of: we were ushered into the dimly lit front room of a terraced house done out as a Victorian soup kitchen – probably based on the Whitechapel Self-Supporting Cooking Depôt as described by Dickens. Each of us was directed to a table at which sat a Victorian character, ready to chat, and cups of free soup were distributed.

My table held a shabbily dressed woman mending a hat. She introduced herself (I think her name was Agnes), asked our names, and began to tell us about herself and answer our questions. She mended hats for a living. She had been employed in a factory, but since her alcholic father died she had worked from home in order to care for her elderly and bedridden mother; but she sometimes sneaked away to come to the soup depot, to have some time that was her own. She knew the histories of all the other habitues (“You see the one at that table? She’s an actress. You know what that means,”) and confided that she usually added a ‘tipple’ to her soup. She offered us some, but we refused. (Was it really gin? I should have said yes – first rule of improvisation.)

I was enjoying the sense of having stumbled into a house from 150 years ago for its own sake, but there was more. The room went dark, and the four Victorians suddenly rose up, stood in silence, and slowly sank down again; I felt a thrill up my spine. Our lady began to pack up her hat materials as the other tables were led by their Victorian towards the back of the house. Our lady told us that she had a secret weighing on her mind. Could she trust us? We – the three of us at the table – promised that she could.

(I suddenly feel guilty for writing what I’m about to write. Should you keep a promise you’ve made to a fictional character? I think I shall have to consider the promise also fictional.)

The lady led us to the rear of the house, down a narrow flight of stairs, and into a dark cupboard. The three of us stood at one end with one small lantern between us while she crouched down at the other end, another small lantern illuminating her wrinkled and troubled face. Another thrill crept down my spine at the sight. She told us that her father used to hit her mother. One day she had come home to find her mother cowed and beaten, and had told him to stop. Drunk, he had fallen and smashed his head on the fireplace.

The problem was, she said, that they were going to pull the slums down. And what would she do when they found the body? Who would care for her mother if she went to prison? Where was the body then? asked one of our party. She was directed to pull up the floorboard and there, beneath our feet, lay our lady’s father.

That was the end of the ‘show’. She thanked us for letting her get her secret off her chest, and emerged into the light to swap stories with the others. (Webcowgirl will have hers up soon.)

It was only a 20 minute experience, but sometimes that’s just right for something so immersive. It was certainly an experience well worth having. I suspect that when I’m eighty, I shall remember it as real and confuse my grandchildren by talking about the time I met a woman who mended hats and had a body buried under the stairs.


If Rachel wakes up, will I disappear?

At the weekend I went to see Glee Live at the O2 – the live show of the TV series Glee, essentially a concert by the cast with bits of dialogue in between songs, and some pre-recorded dialogue on a TV screen from adult characters Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch).

The idea of a TV drama doing a live tour is a fairly new one, so far as I know. Though I hope it catches on: I for one would go and see True Blood Live or Being Human Live – being stalked round the O2 arena by Eric or Mitchell sounds like a night out I would be willing to pay for. But vampire fantasies aside, there is obviously a reason why Glee is the one doing the tour. It’s a musical. It could have been designed for this very purpose.

glee food menu


And it’s great. I mean, I have no idea what it would be like if you weren’t a fan of Glee, but I’m not sure what non-fans would be doing there anyway, apart from critics. From my point of view, it was simply enormous fun.

And weird. Because essentially I was watching fictional characters put on a real show. And on TV, all of these characters spend their time performing to empty auditoriums or to each other, dreaming of being famous and performing to full auditoriums and thousands of fans. And here they were, their ambition realised, imaginary people with a real audience. I realised, sitting there, that I was part of a fictional fantasy dreamed by fictional characters. It was a sensation I rather enjoyed.

And of course the actors had the same dream as their characters – it’s just that they’ve achieved theirs, whereas their creations haven’t. So I was also part of a real dream come true. It all felt very meta. And luckily, I didn’t disappear at the end of the show.

A handful of random notes:

- We ended up spending quite a lot of our weekend at the O2,because we turned up on the Saturday only to find out, as we tried to enter the arena, that our tickets were for the Sunday. So we were at the O2 for two evenings in a row, which was good in that I quite like it there (although it makes me feel very small, like a doll trapped in a giant aircraft hanger full of restaurants) but bad in that it’s not very close to our house. I would like some way of folding London up so as to get between places faster.

- Audience! I know you’re excited, but if you scream over pre-recorded dialogue, nobody will be able to hear what the dialogue is. Why did this not occur to most of you at the time?

- Getting a boat from Waterloo to Greenwich/Greenwich to Waterloo is the best way possible to start and to finish an evening.

- I like the London Eye. It’s basically turned London into an upside-down unicycle.



Last weekend I went for dinner, with Choler, at a restaurant called Abracadabra. It was an Internet discovery. I’d googled for interesting London restaurants and found several I already knew about, such as Inamo (where you press bits of your table to order food, decorate your surroundings and play Battleships with your dining companion – lots of fun) and Dans le Noir (where you eat in the dark – cool idea but cheaper just to stay at home and blindfold myself). Abracadabra was one I hadn’t heard of before. It was a Russian restaurant and when I looked at the photos on the website I knew I had to go there.

restaurant booth

Those who know me will understand why this appealed.

Abracadabra is in Jermyn Street, which as Choler observed, is possibly the only street in London entirely devoted to men’s shopping. You can buy endless variations on the theme of ‘expensive tasteful shirt’, but there’s also a cigar store (which Choler wanted to move into) and a shop where you can buy cheeses large enough to club peasants with. Which, if you can afford to shop in Jermyn Street, may well be what you want them for.

Anyway, in the middle of all this expansive upper-class masculinity is an unassuming door leading to a basement which is the Abracadabra restaurant. And it’s a whole different world to the street above. There’s a lot of dark red. There’s a lot of gold – carved gold chairs, elaborate gold fittings. There’s a gigantic inverted chandelier. There are booths themed around pin-up girls, or Lenin. Or, in our case, rock and roll in various incarnations – there were Elvis and Sinatra records on the walls, and behind me, oddly, an original platinum single of Mull of Kintyre. Why? No idea. To add to it all, halfway through the evening a small central TV screen started showing us Russian music television complete with writhing Russian girls asking us to call them. Possibly in order to buy them some extra clothes, as the ones they had on didn’t seem to be covering very much.


View from our booth

Amid all this, the food was a secondary consideration, although it was a positive experience overall. Choler had the smoked fish for a starter and made very appreciative noises. I had the Grenki: “a spicy combination of grated mozzarella and cheddar mixed with egg, garlic and mayonnaise served on toasted bread with cherry tomatoes”. Basically, garlicky cheesy scrambled egg on toast. I expected it to be hot and it was served cold, which didn’t work quite as well for me, but it did taste good.

Main courses were Cossack Lamb Casserole for Choler and Russian meatballs for me. Unfortunately due to recent illness I couldn’t manage my giant mushroom-covered meatballs with new potatoes, though I could tell they were excellent; happily, Choler wasn’t that keen on his casserole (too oily, lamb too fatty, he reported) and ate my food instead, which he much preferred.

The meal was particularly notable to me because I had some of Choler’s bottle of sweet Georgian red wine, and was startled to discovered I liked it – the first glass of red wine I’ve ever finished.


Everything was very red.

The other thing about the evening was the toilets. They were downstairs (which, incidentally, turned out to be a whole new and unoccupied section of the restaurant with the bordello theme turned up 200%, and I want to have my next birthday there). The women’s toilets featured a heart-shaped gold basin, mirrored cubicles, a toilet seat that appeared to have some kind of whale tusk as a handle, and most disconcertingly, a little screen on the inside of the cubicle which linked to the bar, so you could see what was going on upstairs. I presume the connection was not two-way.

I later sent Choler off to investigate the men’s, as I’d glimped that the walls were decorated with giant red 3D hearts, and he came back looking somewhat scared and gibbering slightly. I managed to catch the phrases “gold plated floor!” and “giant statue of naked woman around the toilet seat!”, and we decided not to even go into the issue of the what the urinals were shaped as.

We weren’t offered a dessert menu, although I noticed there was one, so we paid up and decamped to a nearby pub to assess our evening and try to decide if we’d simply hallucinated the whole thing. Maybe we did. If any of the above description has appealed, you should go and see for yourselves.

Bill total: £82.52 for two, including 12.5% service charge and £30 wine


The Candlelight Club

I like my sleep. I find it healthful, life-giving and full of interesting dreams about tiny rainbow-coloured Nazi ponies (don’t ask). Therefore, given that I am currently woken up between 6.30 and 7am every morning by the sound of a baby going ‘blah blah blah MILK NOW PLEASE blah blah gurgle’, I have started going to bed at about ten thirty.

Among other things, this means that my days of clubbing till 3am are over, not that they were ever very extensive. However, the idea of going out on a Saturday night still appeals, and I am on the mailing list for a number of events happening around London. Mostly I don’t get to go to them, but they serve to remind me that in London, if you want to do something, you probably can (if you have the money and the time).

One of the things I’d always wanted to do was go to a 1920s speakeasy and drink cocktails while surrounded by women in bobs and flapper dresses. And recently this opportunity came to me in the form of The Candlelight Club, a “clandestine pop-up cocktail bar in a secret London venue, a stunning, tucked-away den with a 1920s speakeasy flavour, completely lit by candles”. It all sounded very civilised, and handily, it ran from 7.30pm to midnight, perfect timing for booking babysitters.

So last night I went there, accompanied by my old friends Mr and Mrs Brown and Choler and Harpy, and my partner S (who has unaccountably failed to get himself a blog) and it was indeed very civilised. We were informed of the location a couple of days beforehand and duly presented ourselves at an anonymous street door at the time appointed. (The anonymous door in question was next to a notorious goth club, which brought back a couple of memories for a couple of us.) S wore a fedora and looked, I thought thuggish in a suave way, which he took as a compliment, more or less.

candlelight club

Just before the custard pie fight started

We proceeded down a corridor and into a large white room full of white-tableclothed tables. At first glance it didn’t quite resemble the dark undergound cellar I’d been picturing, but it was lit – as advertised – by candles, everyone was in (roughly) 1920s gear, and ragtime was playing, so I quickly decided I was happy. S started in on the free sandwiches (very nice, apparently, especially the crab ones) and I perused the menu of Victorian-inspired cocktails. The absinthe was tempting, but I ended up spending my night drinking a sour cherry and gin cocktail that I found surprisingly delicious given that I don’t like sourness, gin or cherries. I still don’t know how they did that.

The evening was spent ordering and swapping cocktails (everyone found something that suited them), listening to the live band (not bad, and I loved that people were dancing), admiring Choler and Harpy’s colourful retro cigarettes, and trying to decide if the man who looked like Johnny Depp was actually Johnny Depp (presumably not, but Mrs Brown and I decided to believe he was). After a couple of the gin cocktails I stood up and found I was pleasantly tipsy, a sensation I haven’t experienced for some time and had rather missed.

All in all then, a successful and satisfyingly themed night out. I would have liked a line of dancing girls, waitresses who asked if you wanted a glass of ‘milk’, and a comically bungled police raid towards the end of the evening, but for £15 a ticket I think that’s probably asking a bit too much. Three cheers for vintage evenings out. Next time I’m going to try the absinthe.