The Frozen Northerner on one December Sunday afternoon before Christmas will make his annual pilgrimage into his beloved hometown of Newcastle, although I regularly visit the greatest city in the world my Christmas trip will be different to any other jaunt that I take to the town over the year and because it is Christmas must meet with a certain criteria. For a start it must be dark, around about 4 pm, the journey needs be made alone and it must be by bus, this excursion will roughly take half an hour leading me through a host of pit villages which are now sadly in decline, the trip will eventually reach South Gosforth taking us up Matthew Bank and onto the Great North Road, once on the GNR which, is Geordie equivalent of the Appian way, you will see the affluence of Jesmond on one side and the Town Moor on the other, on whose horizon you will see the cathedral that is St James Park, home to association footballs’ greatest underachievers of all time Newcastle United. Disembarking at the Haymarket the Frozen Northerner will wander the streets of the city stopping to gaze at three places that he holds dear to his heart. The first stop will be at the Central Arcade, where I will stop and stare upon a genuine piece of Edwardian wizardry, designed by Oswald and Son and built by the very great Richard Grainger this building is one the finest pieces of neoclassical architecture you will find anywhere in the country, never mind Newcastle. Standing alone outside the old Marcus Price shop now sadly empty, I will gaze upon the Central Arcade’s beautiful lines and contours, awestruck by the sheer splendour of the building. Leaving the arcade behind I will head for another Newcastle landmark, The Northern Goldsmiths on corner of Pilgrim Street and Blackett Street with its Rolex gold clock and Venus statue lit up in the dark we are starting to get of more of a Christmas feel which is appropriate as we are now heading towards what should always be top of any Geordie’s Christmas list and that is a viewing of Fenwick’s window. Fenwick’s has been Newcastle’s most renowned department store for as long I can remember, where other department stores have decided to entrench themselves in the ghastly labyrinth that is Eldon Square, other stores have come and gone with the decay of Newcastle, but Fenwick’s has always stood resolute, maintaining its prime spot on Northumberland Street and remains the best shop in the city. As my readers well know the Frozen Northerner is no fan of department stores but if you are from the north east of England you have got to go and view Fenwick’s window at Christmas, there might be bigger and better windows displays in this country and around the world but, if you’re a Geordie then there is only one window display and this is it, this should always be a place that you visit at Christmas time. This spectacle is normally derived from children’s tales or fairy stories, the theme for 2017 is Paddington bear which a bit more predicable than usual however, it will make no difference to The Frozen Northerner who as normal be enchanted by the moving figures in each frame of this wonderful window. Adult or child if you’re moved by this spectacular presentation then you must be made of stone, if this not what Christmas is then I don’t know what is, Christmas is often a very dark place for The Frozen Northerner, but any visit to Fenwick’s window will always lift my spirits.
With this being my 100th blog I thought I would write a piece on my favourite player of all time, Graeme Souness. Some people may be dumbfounded with my choice as Mr Souness has gained in my opinion a rather unjust reputation of being a bit of an acquired taste. At his peak the moustachioed Souness would strut around grounds such as Anfield and Hampden Park like he owned the place, controlling each game with a steely determination whist spraying a sparkling array of passes around the park. He was demanding, arrogant, aloof and ruthless, possessing an inner strength which all great players demand of themselves, such was his influence during his time at Liverpool that when he left in the summer of 1984 to join the Italian club Sampdoria, the Liverpool forward Michael Robinson felt that half the changing room had gone. Others were not quite as complimentary with fellow Scottish international Archie Gemmill saying that if Souness “was made of chocolate he would eat himself”. Despite his unwavering self-belief in his own ability Souness was never able to establish himself in the first team at Tottenham Hotspur, dismayed by the lack of opportunities at Spurs, Souness would leave the bright lights of London behind him for the grit and grim of Middlesbrough a city hardly paved with gold, but a place that would shape his destiny for glory. At this point it is probably fair to say that Souness could have ended up on the scrapheap, fortunately for Souness his career was probably saved by two men, Jack Charlton and Bobby Murdoch. Charlton was an old school hard man that pounded the need for discipline into the young Souness whereas the highly underrated former Celtic midfield general Murdoch showed him how to perform to the highest standards on the pitch, they turned Souness into the consummate professional and you cannot underestimate how influential these two individuals would be for Souness. He left Middlesbrough for Liverpool in 1978 for a then record fee between English clubs, at Liverpool he would now mix with players that had the same hunger and desire that burned like acid in his belly, it took him a while to settle into his new surroundings but once he adapted, he would quickly establish himself as the best midfield player in Britain. Now in his pomp he cut a ferocious figure with his slide rule passing aligned to his merciless tacking, no one was going to stand in his way and if they were he would wreak terror and destruction to anyone that would try and knock him off his pedestal. With Souness at the helm Liverpool tore across Europe defeating anyone that stood in their way, if you wanted to play them they would play you, if wanted to kick them they would kick you back, at this time they were so superior to anything else around it was frightening. When he left Liverpool in 1984 for the riches of Italy I was devastated and things would never be the same. The Italian lifestyle was made for Souness and although he enjoyed a successful period at Sampdoria, the lure of becoming player/manager at Rangers would prove irresistible and would see him return to these shores for the start of the 86-87 season. To say his time at Rangers was explosive would be an understatement to say the least. He set about creating the Ibrox revolution changing the face of Scottish football forever, with his ambition now at its zenith like his time at Liverpool he neither asked nor wanted any quarter to be given by anyone, he constantly clashed with the Scottish authorities who did not like the way he wanted to transform the Scottish game. It didn’t make any difference he was now a mission from god and woe betide anyone that got in his way. He retired from playing in 1989 at the age of 38 to concentrate on management something that he embraced with a varying degree of success, but never reaching the heights of his playing career. These days Souness works as pundit for sky sports and given the right occasion he can still be as abrasive and confrontational as he was as an awe-inspiring player. Souness played for Scotland in three world cups, won a host of European and domestic honours with all of the clubs that he played for and for me he is the greatest Liverpool player I have ever seen, he may not have been the most popular player to wear that famous red shirt, but them again that was never going bother him, he was all about winning and was prepared to go to any lengths to succeed in his quest for fame and glory, the sight of him leading out that great Liverpool on a European night still makes the hairs on the back neck stand up, so there you have it blog number 100 the very great Graeme Souness or should I say Renoir with a razor blade.
Crockett and Jones Slippers
Whenever I think of buying Christmas presents, Dr Frasier Crane immediately springs to mind, every year he will buy Marty Crane, his acid tongued father, a piece of sartorial elegance, Marty, for whom material things mean little or nothing, will look at the gift with disdain before throwing it back to the bemused psychiatrist at the first opportunity. The good doctor may have great taste but, his taste differs greatly from that of his father and therein lies the problem, is your Christmas gift going to be appreciated or is going straight back to the shop on December 27th to be gleefully exchanged. As slippers are often a present that is given at Christmas, The Frozen Northerner has decided to explore the range of slippers that are out there, but remember what the good Doctor needs from a pair of slippers is completely different to what the cantankerous Marty Crane wants. The choice of slippers is endless; they can be made of leather, fur, or maybe from some type of horrible synthetic material. If you have the time you can look at anything from Primark all the way to Manolo Blanik, there is that much choice. Would I buy any of the Primark slippers, no, but I have to say you cannot argue with the price, which in most cases gives you unbelievable value for money, having said that I wouldn’t buy the Blanik’s either, his prices are astronomical and little bit too rich for my blood but, irrespective of the price they are just not to my taste. The Frozen Northerner prefers something a bit traditional possibly like something from Church’s, Stubbs and Wooton, Crockett and Jones or Derek Rose. If I was going for an open backed slipper then look no further than Derek Rose who have a produced a leather and suede mule that would be perfect for the eminent radio psychiatrist. But, for me personally I would love a pair of Crockett and Jones house slippers featuring the Prince of Wales feathers, with its satin and velvet lining, these slippers are real eye catchers and certainly have the wow factor. Whatever style or make of slipper you may receive at Christmas, please try to remember that it the festive season so please dispense a degree of genuine humility when receiving your gift because remember the shops are back open on December 27.
Stubbs and Wooton
Anquetil Alone by Paul Fournel
Whenever I think of great cyclists I think of Coppi, Merckx, Hinault and Indurain in that order, (I have erased Armstrong for obvious reasons) I never ever think of Jacques Anquetil, which is quite remarkable considering he was the first man to win the Tour De France on a record five occasions, additionally he was also the first Frenchman to win the Giro De Italia, so for me to overlook him is decidedly disrespectful. Paul Fournel’s masterful little book is a glowing tribute to man that he first worshipped as a rather portly 10 year old, then all the way through to manhood. Fournel,s fascination with Anquetil would see him stay captivated with the great cyclist throughout his career and beyond. In 1953 after his first major victory in Grand Prix De Nations, Fournel describes how Anquetil visited Coppi in an attempt to understand what was needed to become a great champion. Despite his fame Coppi cut a tragic figure, his life had been played out like something from a Fellini film, after his scandalous affair with “The Woman in White” Giulia Occhini, the affair left Coppi tortured by catholic guilt, a shame he would take to his grave. Anquetil,s love life would be equally as complex, stealing the wife of his best friend and mentor Doctor Boeda, Janine Boeda would stay and dutifully support Anquetil throughout his glory years as campionissimo but after his retirement their relationship would become rather more complicated and would involve Janine’s daughter Sophie in ménage a trios that most of his French fans found unpalatable. Added to this Anquetil would speak quite openly about drugs that he used to assist him in races, a fact that hardly endeared him to races organisers, who carefully avoided talking about this cycling’s most taboo subject. Despite his off road antics there can be no denying the brilliance of Anquetil especially when it came to the grand tours, as Fournel points out Anquetil may have no fan of the classics such as the Paris Roubaix but when it came to the really big multi stage events he was out on his own. From 1957 he would dominate the grand tours becoming the first man to win the Tour de France, Giro and Veulta and with regard to the Tour de France Fournel digs deep to dissect Anquetil’s rivalry with more popular Raymond Poulidor . Pou Pou may have been the people’s favourite but that wasn’t going to affect Anquetil who was mentally much tougher than Poulidor. When I first opened this book I really didn’t know what to expect and I have say I got a lot more than I bargained for, to say Anquetil was a very interesting character would be a complete understatement, Fournel affection for the great man is there to be seen on every page and one wonder because he is well worth the hero worship that Fournel bestows on us, so go buy this because if you like cycling you will love this book.
Anyone that reads my blog will have noted that I tend to visit London at least two or three times a year, mainly to buy clothes either at John Simons or at Oi Polloi and although no trip to London would be complete without a visit to these two shops, my head is being turned by bloggers such as The Grey Fox wwwgreyfoxblog.com or Simon Crompton, http://www.permanentstyle.com. Mr Crompton is now becoming the doyen of fashion bloggers and has gained him a huge following however, if you are going to purchase items of clothing that he recommends you are going need plenty of money in your pocket because his taste is very expensive. Nevertheless, heeding to his advice has led me to Rubinacci which is situated on Mount Street in the very posh area of Mayfair. Why I am here, well I am here to buy a scarf, have I lost my mind, definitely. Choosing the right scarf can be as tricky as they come, are the scarves to be plain, spotted or striped or are they to be whimsical and feature a whole range of different designs and patterns. What material suits your style, is it wool or is it something more expensive like silk or cashmere, picking the right scarf can be the venerable minefield and I don’t have the answer, but then again who does, although I respect Mr Crompton views on the subject English men just can’t pull it off in the scarf department whereas their Italian counterparts have taken the wearing of a scarf to an art form, it doesn’t matter what the season it is, they will have a scarf for every occasion and of course they will wear it with an effortless ease. There are a limitless amount of brands out there producing some great scarves with some companies such as Begg and Co and Johnston’s of Elgin at the top of their game, personally I prefer the Italian brands such as Doriani of Milan or 19 Andréa 47, who both produce first-class scarves that feature some very interesting patterns. So what was I going to make of the scarves that Rubinacci has on offer? Unlike a lot of shops in Mayfair the Rubinacci staff did not display that superior attitude and were extremely helpful and gave solid advice about their products. I have to say it is pretty much impossible not to be seduced by one their scarves, Rubinacci use an array of beautiful fabrics and this noted Neapolitan tailor has created a sublime range of scarves that display some very interesting designs. Would I buy one of their scarves the answer would have to be yes, but be warned these scarves are not cheap, so you will need to think long and hard before buying, Rubinacci is a delightful shop that is selling probably the best scarves you might ever come across but the price is terrifying.
When I first started blogging The Frozen Northerner visited various sites in search of inspiration on the topics I was most interested in, one site that immediately caught my attention was The Tweed Pig http://www.thetweedpig.com/ it had a wide range of interesting articles that I admired one which championed the purchase of Donegal tweed overcoat, further research led me to the The Grey Fox’s blog http://www.greyfoxblog.com and piece on must have overcoats, it was written by Sarah Gilfillan who explored a wide range of overcoats ranging from highly affordable offerings by Marks and Spencer all the way to some very expensive unaffordable offerings by Dashing Tweeds and E Tautz somewhere in the middle was Cordings Donegal Tweed overcoat which according to the knowledgeable Gilfillan is “The Daddy of all Donegal Overcoats”. Barely off the train on my latest visit to London I headed straight to this bastion of country attire to check out this must have item. Now owned by legendary guitarist Eric Clapton, Cordings was founded in 1839 and I would suspect that it hasn’t changed that much over the years, with its wood panelled interior Cordings has a very traditional feel and has that smell of a bygone era which is just the way I like it. With its helpful and experienced staff I was duly informed that this latest version of their popular Follifoot Donegal Coat is proving highly popular with current racing fraternity. Whether or not this was typical Cordings sales pitch I have no idea but enough of the small talk, let’s cut to the chase and talk about the coat, made in England from100% Irish Donegal wool the Bark Follifoot Donegal Coat is a fully lined coat featuring traditional raglan sleeve and jetted front pockets. Trying it on top of my jacket I was surprised at how light this coat felt, the question now was I going to purchase it, personally I see this coat as a thing of rare beauty that should be purchased immediately and in the case of The Frozen Northerner it was purchased instantly, the coat itself is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship that will probably last for generations provided that it is lovingly looked after, there may be better overcoats out there which is fine but I wouldn’t swap the Bark Follifoot for any other overcoat. Wearing it make me feel little bit like Michael Corleone when he is standing outside the hospital with Enzo the baker, trying to protect his bullet ridden father from a further assassination attempt from his sworn enemy Virgil Sollozzo. However, I am digressing from the star of the show which the coat, although I dread the thought of snow throughout the winter I do hope it is cold enough to give any excuse to wear Cordings Bark Follifoot Donegal Coat, because it really does have the wow factor.
It’s 1937 and Los Angeles is in the middle of a heat wave, private detective JJ Gittes (Jack Nicolson in his greatest ever role) in a rather dapper cream suit, lounges back in his armchair and utters “What can say Curly” when trying to console a distraught husband who has just found out that his wife is committing adultery, now, you may think you know what’s going on, with this being another story about an L.A. gumshoe but you would way off the mark. What you are actually going to view is a masterpiece of filmmaking, produced by Robert Evans and directed by Roman Polanski this film will leave you enthralled as it leads you down a path of greed political corruption, murder and just a little bit of that most taboo subjects, incest. Chinatown has been reviewed incessantly by more noteworthy scribes than me, but after watching it for the umpteenth time the other week on channel 4 I can’t get Mr Gittes out of my mind. Nicolson is sublime as the streetwise P.D. that is drawn into a web of immorality that even he finds hard to take. As the story by Robert Towne slowly unravels Gittes eases away from his normal divorce cases to something a lot more juicy, corruption by city officials in a water scam of epic proportions, which leads to the death of Hollis I Mulwray ( Darrell Zwerling) head of Los Angeles Power and Water. Now embroiled a murder investigation Gittes is drawn deeper and deeper into the mire which will see him become romantically involved with the deceased’s highly vulnerable wife Kathryn (beautifully played with understated ease by Faye Dunaway). After nearly losing his nose in his quest for the truth, Jake fervently purses the Mulwray case, in a search that will ultimately lead him to Kathryn’s father the dominant, all-powerful, incestuous, Noah Cross (John Huston). The way the plot gradually unravels is a work of genius and is arguably Polanski’s greatest contribution to the cinema, but don’t underestimate the performances of the cast, every actor plays their roles to perfection, and although Nicolson and Dunaway give peerless performances, John Huston somewhat steals the picture as a man who always gets what he wants. Played out to a haunting soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith, from the fedora on the top of Jake’s head all the way to the Florshiem’s on his feet, Chinatown is a piece of art that should enjoyed time and time again please watch it and hopefully you enjoy it as much as me.