Category: Dogs

Shakespeare in Albert Square

Shakespeare in Albert Square

Shakespeare in Albert Square? To be or not to be: you muppet! No, not EastEnders Albert Square, this one is tucked between Clapham Road and South Lambeth Road in our little piece of heaven that is either Oval, Stockwell or Vauxhall depending on your point of view or which estate agent you talk to.

Albert Square SW8 is quite a grand affair with high, white, hansom houses that stretch five stories and ring this pleasant patch of green that is overseen by a fine example of that London wonder, the London Plane. Local legend has it that one of the houses contains Joanna Lumley.

Every June, a Friday evening is given over to an alfresco production of a Shakespeare play. Last night the Quite Right Theatre Company gave us a rip-roaring version of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. They sang, they danced, they spoke verse, they battled the wail of planes descending into Heathrow, they didn’t flinch as motorbikes roared round the square and they remained unperturbed by growling dogs and the munching, wine swilling residents of our community.

For a modern audience, The Taming of the Shrew is freighted with a few problems as it deals with Petruchio trying and succeeding in taming his wife Kate. It doesn’t quite fit with the #MeToo generation, but Izzy Daws, who played Katherine, didn’t look like someone who would put up with any kind of misogyny. Plus, she has some great lines: ‘If I be waspish, best beware my sting.’

But with due respect to the actors, the plot may not have been uppermost in people’s minds last night, as this event is never quite sure if it’s a play with a picnic or a picnic with a play. Whatever it is, it’s a great communal event where children turn cartwheels, dogs steal from picnic baskets and you meet friends you haven’t seen in a while. Come back next year Quite Right Theatre; you bring the play and we’ll bring the picnic.

Restaurant review: 24 The Oval

Restaurant review: 24 The Oval

There are restaurant premises on Clapham Road close to Oval tube that have seen many manifestations and make-overs. In our 18 years of living in the neighbourhood it’s been: The Lavender, Oval Lounge and now we have a new eatery: 24 The Oval.

The new owners took possession of the property at the back end of last year and we all expected it to be open for the busy Christmas period, this didn’t happen. The place obviously took a long time to refurb and only opened earlier this year. I’ve been meaning to check it out for some time but finally got around to it when Mrs Preen and I visited last Wednesday.

I walk past the restaurant most days with the dog on the way to Kennington Park and had checked the menu. I was concerned it all looked a little pricey, certainly more so than the previous incarnations I’ve mentioned, plus I wasn’t seeing many patrons.

So, I was surprised when I called to make a booking for 8pm to be told there was nothing available until later in the evening. On our arrival I couldn’t have been more wrong about the lack of punters, the place was heaving.

The long refurbishment must have more to do with the kitchens and the elements not on display as the interior doesn’t look so different. It’s all pleasantly woody with flowers and plants giving it a charming country kitchen atmosphere. Strangely the music was very loud and given all the reflective surfaces of glass and wood, conversation proved a little difficult, but almost as soon as we’d sat down someone dialled down the sounds and chat commenced.

One their website 24 style their approach as ‘old fashioned, modern British cooking’. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but the menu is gratifyingly small and there were many dishes I would have been happy to order. While we were waiting, we were brought a yummy cheese fondue with savoury choux buns as a taster.

Deciding not to go for starters, my wife ordered the Roasted Skate, Jerusalem Artichokes and Rainbow Chard (£16). I opted for the very fishy mix of BBQ Monkfish, Smoked Mussels, Salsify and Seaweed (19). I’m not going to come on like a MasterChef judge and give you chapter and verse as to what was right and wrong with the dishes, largely because that’s way beyond me, but I will say both dishes were consumed with gusto and pronounced excellent.

Just one caveat, while the last thing we wanted were huge US-style portions, both dishes were a little on the small side. The Skate wing was more the size of a budgerigar wing; perhaps portion control could ease up a bit.

I had Treacle Tart and Ice Cream to finish, because I’m incapable of not ordering treacle tart if it’s on the menu.

Add in three glasses of house red wine (perfectly drinkable) a side order of Triple Cooked Chips and the bill came to a pretty reasonable £69.

A couple of other things to add: My wife is Coeliac and has to have a gluten free diet, this was speedily arranged with no fuss. There is a Tasting Menu which comes in at £38.50 per person, but best of all 24 is a dog friendly establishment.  A large silver haired mutt of indeterminate breed sat behind us beneath its owner’s table.

This looks like a really welcome addition to our neighbourhood which is not blessed with many fine eateries. A return visit to 24 is definitely on the cards, but next time with Bucket.

Stoned in Stockwell

Stoned in Stockwell

With the sun out, the people shirtless and picnics in full swing, the sweet smell of marijuana, along with the stench of skunk, is wafting across the parks of London.

Recently the dog ran through a tsunami of smoke caused by one of those vaping dudes and ended up on her back giggling. (Yes, my dog can giggle) So I’m pretty sure those guys are up to something too. Summer’s here and Londoners are high in Highgate and stoned in Stockwell.

Weed remains illegal in the UK and being caught with it comes with a maximum five years in prison and an unlimited fine. Police can issue an on-the-spot fine if you’re caught with a small amount and will take your stash.

But frankly unless you blow smoke in a copper’s face you’re unlikely to feel plod’s hand on your shoulder. The War on Drugs, or at least the War on Weed seems to have sputtered out.

Ask any lawyer and they’ll tell you that if a law is on the books and it’s not enforced, it should either be struck off or at least changed. But of course, that is unlikely to happen. Politicians in the UK know there are few votes to be won in suggesting weed be legalised and any unfortunate MP who takes up the cause will likely be mugged by the Daily Mail.

You have to wonder how many of our elected members have never smoked a joint. I’m sure the delightful Mr Rees-Mogg is in the clear along with our Prime Minister, but Boris Johnson? A few years ago, Ann Widdecombe (remember her?) caused a storm at the Tory party conference when she called for zero tolerance on all cannabis use and anyone caught with the drug would receive an automatic £100 fine. Even Tories couldn’t stomach that, and it was ditched.

It’s all so tricky for both politicians and the police. Just recently in Argentina a huge cache of marijuana being held by police went missing. A former police commissioner and fellow officers gave an entirely believable account as to what had happened when they told a judge the drugs were “eaten by mice”.

A few years ago, smoking a joint in public came with a police warning: ‘You’re be nicked sunshine’. Not anymore. MPs are too frightened to touch it, the police have more important stuff on their hands and so we do what we always do when faced with an intractable problem, we whistle up a van load of fudge to make it all go away.

And fudge, so I’m told, goes very nicely after you’ve smoked a joint.

How come it’s OK for men to piss in public?

How come it’s OK for men to piss in public?

Sorry for the rather crude headline, but I thought it might grab your attention.

I’m not just talking about homeless people here, it now seems any man can get his todger out and start spraying the London landscape, willy-nilly. Just yesterday I was out with the mutt in our local park and a man was leant up against a tree giving it full flow. Seeing him, the dog had a quick pee in solidarity, but close by were children and unaccompanied members of the clergy.

My wife says men are filthy creatures and we’ve always done it. I disagree, I think a change has occurred and men now think this is acceptable behaviour. Perhaps the council is to blame for not providing enough public loos, but I don’t like it and it stinks.

Whatever the case, you probably want to go and wash your hands after reading this post. At your convenience, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts.

What’s up dog?

What’s up dog?

Dogs, they have an interior life. Who knew? I haven’t had a dog living in the house since I was a kid and just assumed that dogs were simple creatures; if you took them for walks and gave them bones they were happy and if they were hungry or not well looked after they were unhappy. Perhaps I was thinking of men not dogs. Anyway, it turns out it’s a little more complicated than that.

While we were sunning ourselves in Florida, the Mighty Bucket, AKA Rusty, AKA Battersea Bucket was being looked after by a local dog sitter. On our return we were told that Bucket had not behaved well, had peed everywhere, had not got on with the other dogs and would not be invited back. Oh dear.

Despite being pleased to see us, she was not the happy Bucket we had left behind. The tail was almost permanently down, she wasn’t excited about walks and didn’t even chase squirrels – unheard of. It took her around three days to be restored to storm force Rusty. So, what is going on in that little head of hers?

Every time we pass Battersea Dogs & Cats she gets excited, pulls to go in and quite clearly has fond memories of the place.

I tie her up outside the local Sainsbury’s when I’m shopping. The other day another dog was leashed outside. Was she thinking: ‘Poor dog, wonder how long the owner will be inside and what the hell do they get up to in these places anyway?’

I let Rusty off the lead on walks and only put her on when we are near a main road. Does she think:

A: ‘Why the hell do I need to be put on a lead?’

B: ‘Yeah well fair enough, I am a little nuts and will probably go play in the traffic.’

I know this is all anthropomorphic nonsense, but If anybody knows what they’re thinking, do let me know.

Dog talk: Bone of contention

Dog talk: Bone of contention

“From a dog’s point of view his master is an elongated and abnormally cunning dog” says Mabel Robinson, but I’m not so sure. When some canny (canine?) entrepreneur started selling videos that taught how to test your dog’s IQ, Jay Leno remarked: “Here’s how it works: if you spend $15 on the video, your dog is smarter than you.”

Cunning or not, Rusty came to us from Battersea Dogs and Cats five months ago and an unexpected bonus is that strangers, who would normally run from talking to a tall, middle-aged man like me are now more than happy to chat.

Having a dog is like having a baby, they render the owner, that’s how I like to think about my daughter, harmless. Obviously having a cute dog makes this easier. If you own a devil-dog that’s covered in tattoos, then people may not be quite so chatty. Bucket and I look at the dog first and if we’re not sure we look at the owner.

Last weekend Rusty and I were walking down our street just as a family (mum, dad and two kids) were knocking on a neighbour’s door. Bucket clearly thought they looked interesting, latched on to them and when the door was opened shot into house. Bucket is a four pawed, self-styled ice breaker. We didn’t know these neighbours before, we do now.

Out walking, I’m on first name terms with Max, Fat Otto and Scampi (in your basket) what their owners are called I have no idea. It’s like a Freemasonry of dogs but without the weird handshakes. Someone once raised the reasonable question: Do other dogs think poodles are part of a weird religious cult?

I find it strangely liberating and desperately un-British that people will start petting your dog without permission. I should say that Bucket is entirely promiscuous and is happy to be petted by anyone.

Apparently, the polite way to go about talking with other dog owners is to praise their mutt’s look, and general loveliness. To stir the pot a little I recommend saying: Blimey, that’s a great hairy thing you’ve got there. It usually gets results.