Friday, 11 May 2012


Don't you just hate it when you're meeting close friends or family and you can't agree on a pub where to meet? Well The Hole in the Wall was thought by me to be a safe option when I arranged to meet my nephew recently - although I had not been in there for 37 years...

Little has changed with the pub in all honesty from that Saturday night I was there on the only other occasion I visited the HitW - the trains arriving and departing nearby Waterloo station still rumble overhead. Not so much a boozer, but an institution.
I was a teenager then and had moved to London the month previously. This was just 4 years after UK currency was decimalised and Thatcherism wasn't even thought of. But in those days drinking anything that even resembled a decent pint in London was a real challenge. There was a handful of free houses - and these were welcome oases in a beer desert - bereft of decent real ales. Breweries such as Young's (Wandsworth) and Fuller's (Fuller's Smith and Turner of Chiswick) kept faith in real ale production at a time when insipid keg alternatives such as Watney's Red Barrel and Ben Truman Export (truly dreadful) was pretty much the norm throughout London.

Both Young's and Fuller's pubs were centred in the immediate environs of their brewery locations - with a very few exceptions - so you had to go to south and west London in the main to sample their products. It really is difficult to believe now that there was such a dearth of decent watering holes in London in 1975.

The 1975 CAMRA Good Beer Guide described The Hole in the Wall as "a recently refurbished railway-arch pub" and beers on offer were Young's, Bass Worthington, Brakspear and Ruddles. It still resides under the railway arch, of course - but the recently refurbished bit? - nah! You've more chance of seeing Englebert Humperdinck on the Eurovision Song Contest than this place seeing a forthcoming lick of paint!

Other free houses of note at that time were the Lamb Tavern in Leadenhall Market, the Anglesea Arms in South Kensington and the George in Southwark.

The following year - 1976 - saw the emergence of real ales from brewers Charringtons, Whitbreads, Ind Coope and a few others in London - more choice, more localised and more of the same was to follow.

Interesting fact - at some stage each member of the Australian band Men at Work has been unemployed.

The Hole in the Wall
5 Mepham Street
London, SE1 8SQ
Tel: 020 7928 6196  

Saturday, 5 May 2012


No doubt about it, the Italians love their football; they are justifiably proud of their football heritage with both their domestic and national teams. But when hopes are dashed from unexpected fronts - well Mamma mia!

The 1966 World Cup™ in England provided one of the biggest upsets in tournament history when the Italian national side were humbled by North Korea who beat Italy 1-0 at Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park, and as a result finished above them. The result earned the Koreans qualification to the next round along with the USSR. This was the first time that a nation from outside Europe or the Americas had progressed from the first stage of a World Cup: the next would be Morocco in 1986.

For the Koreans, unknowns from a country enveloped in secrecy, they had provided the shock of the tournament against an Italian side who were one of the pre-tournament four seeds. Pak Doo Ik's goal shortly before half-time propelled them into the quarter-finals and sent their opponents home to a barrage of rotting fruit and tomatoes as their ‘bus was bombarded at the airport.

Dennis Barry from Middlesbrough, where the Korean’s played their group games, said his town was captivated with the style of football played by the plucky Asians. "They played good football - you know they were all small and that was a novelty in itself. It was like watching a team of jockeys playing," he said. "But they moved the ball around really well. I think they took people by surprise, and they were very positive in their approach - they played attacking football, there was nothing defensive about their game, and the crowd got behind them from the way that they saw them play."

In fact in Group 4, Italy needed only to draw to lowly North Korea in its last game to qualify for the quarter-finals and few expected the Koreans to provide much opposition to an Italian side featuring AC Milan star Gianni Rivera (a future European player of the year), Sandro Mazzola (son of Valentino Mazzola, the former Italian team captain) and Giacinto Facchetti (the Internazionale icon).
Pomodori marci – yuk! Still could have been worse – look what happened to Mussolini?

Bar Magenta
via Carducci 13
20121 MILAN 

Friday, 4 May 2012


What is it about the Milanese and their obsession with graffiti?

It seems any unsullied shop façade, sottopasso or tube train in Milan is fair game for a good spray painting. Let's be clear about this graffiti is defacement and vandalism - the scale of the problem in many cities now goes way beyond the seemingly harmless "Kilroy was here!" tags of yesteryear.

If you stand still long enough for any length of time, perhaps gaining your bearings whilst consulting your tourist guide of Milan on one of the city's piazzas, then expect to be sprayed with a can of Rust-Oleum® for your troubles!

It's a sad state of affairs - but when the disaffected Italian youth of today feel the need to express themselves through the medium of graffiti, then you know the writing's on the wall!

Birrificio Lambrate
via Adelchi 5,
20131 MILAN
+ 0039 02 7063 867