My heaven, it’s been a slow news week so apologies if you’ve been waiting like a puppy at a screen door for a letter. Which clown agreed to an early June deadline for the first chapters of James Sherwood’s Discriminating Guide to London? The clue is in the question. The fact that it coincided with the All England tennis championships at Wimbledon and a scorchio heatwave did little to improve morale at Bloomsbury Towers.
So when offered light relief (no comments please Rowley) it was grasped with both hands. That said, the fox was out of the box only briefly for a gruesome twosome with La Farmer at Ciao Bella and a threesome with Mr Bowering after summer drinks on Rugby Street at Pentreath & Hall. The Pentreath in question is architect and interior designer Ben who is working on Apartment 1A as I write contributing, no doubt, to a rather fetching twinkle to the eyes.
Ciao Bella is where the official chapter of the Sherwood Massive hardcore congregate: namely La Farmer, Mr Bowering, Shaun Leane, Vicki Sarge, Shaun Leane, Mr Hesling and Judith Watt. A table outside is more highly prized than an opera box at Covent Garden and so much more entertaining: the costumes, the jewellery, the false eyelashes, the heels…and that’s just the waiters. Now I’ve torn a crab claw everywhere from Sheekey’s to Bob Bob Ricard and nothing compares to the street theatre outside Ciao on Lamb’s Conduit Street.
Last night we were just polishing off another bottle of Valpoliparrot having seen off a Mariachi band when a murder of Morris Dancers arrived with bells on their mankles and wooden staves in their fists. I thought we were going to see a reenactment of the Gordon Riots but were instead treated to a triple helping of folksy, pagan prancing in which our more drunken fellow diners decided to participate. Thank God we resisted the grappa. After a gallon of the hard stuff, Morris dancers would have given me flashbacks to The Whicker Man.
Come 10pm the queue outside Ciao becomes as frantic as Studio 54 when rumours of Bianca Jagger, a pale horse and boys in body paint begin to circulate. It is social death to be consigned to the ninth circle of hell that is the basement and though the ground floor restaurant is as effervescent as a Steradent tablet, we prefer to go al fresco. The waiters know our order is as familiar as the catechism: house Chianti, keep it coming, sparkly water, and a variation on a theme involving minestrone, rare lamb chops, carbonara Italian style and zabaglione. If it’s not a school night one could add ‘enough grappa to float the Costa Concordia’.
I’m not going to bore you with the ‘I an author’ writhing agony of finding new words for a familiar subject such as London bars, restaurants and hotels but I will say that without giggly nights at Ciao with nearest and dearest it is a pretty lonely endeavour. It is much more fun researching than putting in the hours and days recreating the experience in type. Though my resolve wasn’t broken by the promise of swooning over Raffa, Stan and Feliciano at Wimbledon, it was pens down for the broadcast of Dolly Parton’s Sunday night appearance at Glastonbury.
As you know, Glastonbury ranks a poor third in my areas of interest below Morris dancing and the Ebola virus. Personally I couldn’t think of a torture any worse than being marooned in a cess pit of mud wearing nothing but body paint, Hunter wellies and a vacant smile for the pleasure of listening to Lily Allen caterwauling like a potty mouthed heathen. But everything stopped for Dolly at 5pm last Sunday.
I’ve loved Dolly Parton since the butter first dripped off my noodle and recall many an evening lip synching to Harper Valley PTA and Dumb Blonde into a hairbrush…and that was only last week. The pocket Venus exploded onto Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage wearing spray-on white hot pants that segued into chiffon flares, a rhinestone-emblazoned waistcoat and diamond dusted blonde fright wig. She’s five foot minus Swarovski crystal cowboy boots and won’t see her 68th birthday again but rocked artists a quarter of her age into a coffin singing live (yes she did) and never missing a note.
Dolly’s set was so well-judged as was the self-depreciating banter. She’s the first to admit that her look was inspired by the local tramp – ‘it costs a lot of money to look this cheap’ and all that – and seemed to embrace the fact that she is an icon for drag queens and middle aged British men who can’t resist a pair of comedy boobs and a nylon wig any more than they can another pint of Stella. Dolly had the Glaso audience from the moment she launched into Jolene and told the story that the song was written about a predatory female after her husband. ‘But when I realised how much money I’d earned from Jolene I really ought to thank her’…
Dolly Parton is a class act masquerading as a trashy broad. She’s a consummate musician and one of the most successful singer songwriters of the past forty-years. Dolly gave her all to the Glasto mosh pit knowing that her all was so much more than any of the mudlarks who shared the bill could ever aspire to. She can sing live, she composes and she’s also starred in a string of Hollywood movies such as 9 to 5, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Steel Magnolias. She also wrote the anthem I Will Always Love You that would have made her a fortune if she had achieved nothing else. So here’s to Dolly: queen of Glastonbury and a woman who has successfully proved Father Time a fool.