As Private Eye‘s satirist poet, E. J. Thribb (17½) would say, “So. Farewell then AA Gill” who passed away today.
Gill was the UK Sunday Times’ restaurant critic but was also a reviewer of travel, TV programs and such. He was extremely witty and controversial. Amongst the things he wrote [From the BBC news]:-
In October 2009, he described how he had shot a baboon while in Tanzania, prompting outrage from animal rights groups.
In 1998, he described the Welsh as “dark, ugly little trolls” – a comment that was referred to the Commission for Racial Equality – while he once described Rhyl as “a town only a man driving a crane with a demolition ball would visit with a smile”.
In a critical review of a Norfolk pub, he referred to the county as the “hernia on the end of England”, while in 2006 he upset residents of the Isle of Wight by saying it “smelled of boiled washing”.
In 2010, he was censured by the former press watchdog having written a review of Clare Balding’s 2010 Britain by Bike TV programme, in which he described her as a “dyke on a bike”.
He was also once thrown out of one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, along with his dining partner, actress Joan Collins.
As someone who knows the Welsh very well, he has a point. There are a few trolls out there.
But let’s remember Gill for his travel writings. I recommend you read his 2012 review of London in the New York Times “My London, and welcome to it”. It was written by a Londer and aimed at American’s visiting prior to the Olympics.
I’m sorry, but they’re not here anymore. No city’s exported image lags so far behind its homegrown veracity than London’s, so let’s start with what you’re not going to find. We’re all out of cheeky cockneys, pearly kings and their queens, and costermongers. You’re not going to find ’60s psychedelia and the Beatles in Carnaby Street. There aren’t any punks under 50 on the King’s Road; there are no more tweedy, mustachioed, closeted gay writers in Bloomsbury, no Harry Potter at King’s Cross. There aren’t men in white tie, smoking cigars outside Pall Mall clubs and there isn’t any fog, but you can find The Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker St.
A lot of London’s image never was. There never was a Dickensian London, or a Shakespearean London, or a swinging London. Literary London is best looked for in books, and in old bookshops like Sotheran’s on Sackville Street. One of the small joys that’s easy to miss in London is the blue plaques. These are put up to commemorate the famous on the houses they lived in. You won’t have heard of a lot of them, but some come as a surprise. There are quite a few Americans and some amusing neighbors. Jimi Hendrix lived next door to Handel.
London is a city of ghosts; you feel them here. Not just of people, but eras. The ghost of empire, or the blitz, the plague, the smoky ghost of the Great Fire that gave us Christopher Wren’s churches and ushered in the Georgian city. London can see the dead, and hugs them close. If New York is a wise guy, Paris a coquette, Rome a gigolo and Berlin a wicked uncle, then London is an old lady who mutters and has the second sight. She is slightly deaf, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
A bit like some folks at Roam.
While he could be a bit of a wanker, I liked AA’s style and can’t wait to hear what he thinks about his trip across the river Styx.
Some things brought up in the NYT article that I have not visited and look interesting.
- The Wolseley : The Piccadilly Cafe where Gill would often eat.
- Greenwich Maritime Museum : I’m going to do this next time in London.
- Sotheran’s : Antique book store
- London’s Blue Plaques.
- The Banqueting house : Royal Palace where Charles I lost his head.
- St Bridge’s church: The journalist’s church. Read Gill’s article to find out about Virginia Dare and why she has a shrine.
- The original Embassy of Texas
- The Mayflower pub
- The Windsor Castle Pub
- Anchor and Hope pub
- Bentley’s oyster bar and grill
- St John’s restaurant