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Chargé d’affaires will be out here quarterly; the first Fridays of October, January, April and July.

                Pilgrims gathered on Sri Pada, from the author
               Letter from Sri Lanka

At Home

‘Ladies Who Lunch’ and other nameless people

“Part of a varied fibrous society, the Ladies who Lunch are lunching in Hampstead. Sat as they often do in a café by the Heath...”
Callum Ruddock


Fiction

Le Spleen Londonien

“He had become so fragile, slowly cut off from living, which in his more settled moods, he suffered like the English saint of a dying breed.
Oliver Briscoe

Abroad

“Shoulder to shoulder with a mass of pilgrims waiting for the chance to prostrate themselves before the footprint of the Buddha, I found myself swept into the ecstasy of a spirited state.”
Eyes and ears

Review

A pub whose ceremonious weekly changing of the ales that is so lauded by its regulars that it satisfies as an alternative to the Trooping the Colour.
Callum Ruddock




‘Ladies who Lunch’ and other nameless people
Callum Ruddock


P art of a varied fibrous society, the ‘Ladies who Lunch’ are lunching in Hampstead. Sat as they often are in a café by the Heath, they work to keep peace amongst their peers, gossiping about who needs to mind their tongue and who needs more to speak. These are two of my most mature friends, and they do God’s work, steering the rest of our group in the right direction, nibbling on nibbly bits and drinking lattes, hairs split and wet from a dip in the ponds. I have never seen them at play mind you. They wouldn’t let me. I’d just tell everyone else what I’d heard, and they know that – those who pull the strings in the background do not themselves need to be pulled.

That said, I do enjoy the walk up to Hampstead. Starting at Little Venice, which even in a good light looks nothing like Venice, I wiggle through St John’s Wood, up Fitzjohn’s, past the ‘Tower’, and into the village. I get to see my friend who lives next door to Liam Gallagher’s ex-wife. Try some hearsay of my own. I tell her about a girl I knew who famously ate oranges in the shower and exclusively dated American poets named Tycho, and how jealousy cripples me but those who are jealous aren’t really living.

“She spent two weeks, having sailed along Montenegro, cooking with her Nona in Rome who speaks no English, herself speaking no Italian, cooking white sauce after white sauce after white sauce. Apparently it was all to die for.”




Letter from Sri Lanka
Eyes and ears


D
ear C.,

I hope all is and has been going well in London. I arrived last night and am writing primarily to communicate the above to you and to update you on my current situation. But really, it is just an excuse to write, as it has been a while since my last letter and we have not spoken recently besides.

I am sure you will be glad to hear that Sri Lanka was a success, but not so much as I suspect some might have feared. That is, those who still called it Ceylon and wryly warned me not to ‘become native’ or something to that effect.

It will come as no, unpleasant, surprise to you that I had some spiritual ambitions for my travels, but really I have come back with no firmer faith. For a country with a fantastically threaded religious landscape, Theravada Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, a far cry from the dwindling congregation of our parishes, Sri Lanka did have what I had been seeking. Beyond widespread religious sincerity, I found there something very close to what can still be found among the ruins of our religions, a practice rooted in ritual worship, lacking the philosophical mysticism that so drew my Western mind away from the dogma of Home.

Read on


                Ancient Rock Fortress of Sigiriya, from the author




Le Spleen Londonien
Oliver Briscoe

His legs were heavy, as if he had lost the use of them over night. His mind alert, his eyes fresh yet he could not rise. When he did it was only a quick stagger to grasp at his ratty gown.

A family portrait overlooked the dining room, he seated to the right of his father, that piercing stare straight and life-like. He liked to sit at the head of the table, turned away from it, feeling the portrait intensely at his back.
  A thick dust covered most things, glaucous in a morning light, caught too in the cobwebs of the corners. The flowers had wilted in their vases.

‘Only Tuesday’ he muttered to himself, thinking then ‘What day would you rather it be? You have nothing happening this weekend.’ February had been, thankfully as always, a blissfully short month. He turned to the paper. ’Boring!’ He sighed and trumpeted ‘Why is The FT so bourgeois?’ breakfasting, like every morning, in a monologue.
  Down in the garden square the daffodils had come out in chorus. Soon the cherries would blossom and the berries would be back, he thought with some warmth, looking past the polite carnage of two egg shells. As soon and for as long as they were in season, he enjoyed a bowlful of berries every morning. Then when autumn came, he would take back to apples and allow himself oranges from Spain, until the berries came back.
  He stared out blankly for a while longer, thinking of those warmer months. He had wintered in the country and thought of the Easters and summers spent in the South, hot and cool and idle. He had not been abroad for years, mourning the thought as if resigned to it.
  






The Roots in Ye Cracke

Callum Ruddock


As we enter through the side door my dad opens with his usual fact, “Your great grandmother used to scrub the step outside this pub. Lived next door in a row of terraced houses that have of course been since knocked down.”

“Lots of history in these parts” replies an obviously disinterested barmaid.

“Your grandmother was born here too, in a room roughly level with that air-conditioning unit.”

“I think you’ve told me that before Dad. Are we having a drink or what?”

Ye Cracke of Rice Street, Liverpool. A XIXth Century pub that, in the words of the Landlady, “even Scousers struggle to find”; perfect for those who don’t mind their ale house a little time-worn or grotty. Defined as much by its politics as by its history, a picture of Prince Andrew scratched with the word ‘nonce’ greets us, the woosh of the coffee machine and the crescendo of a perfectly poured Guinness announces us. Like something out of my father’s own playbook. Acutely left wing.

We chat for a while with a girl who works behind the covid safe, Perspex wrapped bar. She tells us about the strange people that come in and when to avoid the crowds. About the ceremonious weekly changing of the ales that is so lauded by its regulars that it satisfies as an alternative to the Trooping the Colour. How the pub’s XIXth century “war room” got its name, added to help quench the thirst of men returned from the Boer War separately to avoid boring others with their war stories, filled with Wolverhampton fans now.

By its front door sit its “handbag ladies”, three regulars who I’m told are so fundamental to the pub’s being that they have access to their own pub tv remotes. The Landlady next door rolls her eyes at the football crowd who cheer another goal. She looks as if she has lived her life in her drink. Someone who has mastered the art of good pub craft, harmony between punters culminating in the right ‘vibe’. The pub staff clearly get on like a family. I am surprised by the age gap between them. Urban pubs don’t tend to hire a blend of 20 somethings mixed with pensioners. A bit like your grandad and your younger cousin both liking Stormzy.

We soon start on drunken nonsense. Do bald men shampoo or moisturise their patch? What actually is a cast-conditioned ale? Interrupted again by another round of cheering and an even louder shush. It takes a stern landlady to navigate a business through covid, especially one that did not pivot to takeout food or open as a community corner shop.

It was a core following that kept Ye Cracke alive, though I am uncertain if this would stretch to include me. I’d be nervous to order from the bar fridge at the back and I don’t understand why my stool is so tall. 



By 3pm the pub is filling up and there is talk of live music, a regular feature in the pub’s social life. Having hosted John Lennon’s son a few weeks back, a quick browse of google reviews provides a laugh. “He looks like that Lennon fellow doesn't he... fine boozer, will have to pop back in again soon” and “The Ye Cracke Pub is easy to locate along Rice Street”. High praise indeed.

The barmaid addresses me directly now.

“The ball in the valve thing keeps dropping.”

Disappearing into the floor, she emerges moments later to show off her bruised hand and continue to pour my pint. We drank three beers:

·       Guinness – tastes like Guinness.

·       Birrificio Angelo Portetti – a smooth, almost creamy, Italian lager with a soft bitter head and malty Italian aftertaste.

·       Wainwright – a golden ale with lime – closer to a bitter.

They take my card though there a sign is up that read ‘credit machine f----ed’. Three men in their twenties come into the pub wearing 1960s suits. “John Lennon wannabees, they’re in here all the time” said the girl with the nipped hand. Typically, pubs dress up to suit their surroundings, not the other way around.

As is the way with many things in Liverpool, Ye Cracke must face up to its mandatory ‘the Beatles were ere’ story. John Lennon used to drink here, though I challenge anyone to find me a pub where he didn’t, and his shortly lived band the Dissenters was formed here, over a pint of Poretti - probably. Good things are always started in British pubs. Relationships. Riots. Cambridge’s now infamous Arm chip corporation.

But all this flagellation annoys me. We mustn’t overlook Ye Cracke’s biggest contribution to history: Thomas Cecil Gray and John Halton conceived the techniques described in their 1946 book A Milestone in Anaesthesia while in the pub, over a pint of Poretti too–probably.

I get the sense that the overall interior scruff is a smart bit of branding. Something later confirmed by my grandmother who tells me that throughout the 1960s Ye Cracke was known as quaint and in many ways insignificant, just another spot with a red carpeted floor, tiny lamps, and a darts board. The toilets smell and are lacking. I also enjoy a sign which states ‘coming soon – Pims’.
All in all – a good pub.





Chargé d'affaires - Depuis 2020