We must have looked a curious group. The Gardener clad in a black linen suit (with handkerchief) and shiny black brogues. The squat Geordie, J., and S., a massive hulk of a woodwork teacher, in their everyday casuals. And me. The baby of the bunch and the only girl. We were united in our wish to see Norman Cohen's the London Nobody Knows – a rarely shown 1967 documentary based on a book of the Daily Telegraph column by Geoffry Fletcher.
The screen is tiny with old burgundy velour chairs. A blast from the past (minus the fog of cigarette smoke). The projectionist is visible behind you. (S. did raise the question as we left: 'do you think there were fleas?).
The film did not disappoint. The dry wit and total Englishness of the narrator James Mason made it as he escorted us around the lesser-known areas of London. Chapel Street Marker, a derelict music hall, disused Victorian toilets complete with goldfish in the tanks.
The highlights for me were the South Bank – Wren's cottage with a glimpse of Bankside – now all the vogue as Tate Modern – and much more amusingly the egg-breaking factory (What? Why?How? When?) - and my beloved East End. The Yiddish singer. The drinkers in Spitalfields fighting over a bottle of meths. Writhing eels. Pie, mash and liquer.
Unfortunately, the evening was marred by the second part of the double bill. The World of Gilbert and George. F***ing hell.
What I knew about G and G before the film: gay artists, wear matching suits (always), have a beautiful Georgian house in Princelet Street (scene of the aforementioned meths fracas) and subject of a piece of graffito on the windowsill of the nearby mosque – GILBERT AND GEORGE ARE WALLIES.
What I now know: I am unable to articulate.
Absolute drivel. I struggled to stay awake. I completely lost patience as on at least seven or eight occasions i though 'thank God, it's finishing' only to have been completely fooled. I am not a religious person but I found myself praying to anyone, anything to just make it stop. The Arts Council should have demanded the money from the grant back. Atrocious.
Gilbert and George are now officially hated. It'll probably be years before I have the opportunity to watch London Nobody Knows again. If the opportunity does arise, it'll be viewed on its own so I can leave with happy memories. As is stands it has been overshadowed by a far inferior production.