Another of the tenuous links with the days when the End End was a Jewish enclave is about to be lost. S. Reiss (it's pronounced Rees) is just about the last Jewish-run business left at the heart of what was once the Jewish East End. It's an old-fashioned men's outfitters on Whitechapel High Street, near the junction with Goulston Street where - until not all that long ago - another old East End institution, Tubby Isaacs' seafood stall, had its pitch.
I got a shock when I saw the 'closing down' posters today as I passed by. I popped in and had a brief chat with Stuart behind the counter. Yes, he said, it's still a Jewish-run concern. No, it's not moving. It's shutting down altogether at the end of September.
I'm tempted to buy a memento - not sure what. Perhaps a trilby, which somehow seems to be a suitable purchase from the last Jewish menswear shop in this part of the city. The trilby I discover got its name from George du Maurier's 1894 novel Trilby - which featured a heroine so named. In the initial stage production, a narrow brimmed hat of this sort was worn - and the term stuck.
If I get one, I'll be sure to post a photo!
Huddersfield Town's first ever match in the Premier League.
Yes, that's FIRST EVER. And their first in the top flight of English football for fully forty-five years. Trust me, I've been counting ...
We were playing at Crystal Palace. There were about 3,000 Town fans, all simply euphoric to see their team in the top tier. "We are Premier League, we are Premier League", they chanted.
By the end of the game, the chant had changed to: "We're leading the League, we're leading the League, Huddersfield Town, we're leading the League." Not just bravado. We really are the Premier League leaders.
We won a tremendous victory against Crystal Place, 3-0. And at the time of writing, we are clear at the top of the League. Alright, only one game played - but still, nowhere better to be at any time in the season than top.
The Town team took a bow at the end in front of the joyous visiting supporters - they deserved it!
And greatly to their credit a few Palace fans - seeing my son and I walk away from the ground in our blue-and-white striped shirts - congratulated us on a match well won.
I'm not at the Bucket List stage of life just yet, but if I was, seeing Town top of the Premier League would deliver a very hefty tick.
And let me share the sweetest of football songs, sung today (repeatedly) as it is at every Town game:
There’s a team that is dear to its followers,
They play in the bright blue and white,
They’re a team of renown, they’re the pride of the town,
And the game of football is their delight,
So all the while upon the field of play,
Thousands gladly cheer them on their way,
Often you can hear them say,
Who can beat the Town today?
Then the bells will ring so merrily,
Every goal will be a memory,
So Town play up and bring the cup,
Back to Huddersfield.
The main square in Carmarthen has a war memorial. Nothing unusual about that. Except it's a tribute to the local dead of the Boer War - and distinctly grander than the tablets on the front of the nearby Assembly Rooms listing the fallen in the First and Second World Wars.
The those world war memorials I mentioned - see if you can spot the difference:
'For King and Empire' became, just a generation later, 'For King and Country', as Britain slowly moved out of the age of Empire.
On the top photo you can see to the right of the war memorial a board with a raised metal plaque - now this is interesting. A celebration of Gwynfor Evans's by-election victory in Carmarthen in 1966 - the first Westminster seat won by Plaid Cymru. It was one of the most sensational by-election wins - a solid Labour majority overturned, and a seminal moment in the rise of Welsh nationalism.
And as you look carefully, it's clear that the plaque depicts a joyous crowd greeting the by-election victor in the very square where it's now located. A winning touch!
Temperance and Billiards ... they don't feel a natural match, do they? Billiards suggests bottles of ale, overflowing ashtrays and an ample measure of the dissolute. I came across this wonderful sign on Battersea Rise in south London, just off Clapham Common, Not a billiard hall any more, of course. Not temperance either. It's a pub.
But it's a splendid building, an unlikely survival. And, I discover, a remnant of what was once a nationwide movement to break the link between billiards and beer.
The Temperance Billiard Hall Company - no, I am not making this up - was set up in Lancashire in 1906. Its aim was to provide a salubrious location for the hugely popular pastime of billiards way from the corrupting influence of alcohol and the licensed trade.
An architect, Norman Evans, designed a dozen or more of these halls in the years before the First World War. There's one in Fulham which is listed; it's also now a pub, cheekily called The Temperance. But as you can see this Battersea Rise billiards hall also has a touch of style about it, with almost an oriental ambience to its tiled frontage complete with cupola. I'm not sure, but I'd guess it's one of Evans's.
As late as 1958, this was one of more than twenty temperance billiard halls in London. P.J. Kavanagh, indeed, wrote a poem entitled 'The Temperance Billiard Hall' - thugh sadly I can't find the text online.
A brave attempt at social improvement - snookered by the popular appetite for something a bit stronger than sasparilla.
Brick Lane is a great place for polemical street art - especially the yard at the back of the now deserted Seven Stars, once a pub which put on strippers at lunchtime. I was there recently with two groups of Oregon students. It's a handy place to pause as you eat your veg pakoras. And for an American, it's a bit like being back home ...
Not that Trump is the only political leader to be traduced -
This is the post I never expected to be able to write - the one with a photo of Toyah Sofaer. But for those of you coming new to the story, let me recap:
Earlier this year, I came across the grave of Victoria 'Toyah' Sofaer in the tiny Jewish cemetery in Chennai in south India. She died in October 1943 aged just 22. Through the magic of the internet, and with the generous encouragement and support of Toyah's family, I pieced together a tragic and deeply affecting story which I've blogged about. She was born into a prosperous trading family in Baghdad - embarked on a transgressive romance with an Armenian man from another trading family - was taken to India by her parents to end the relationship - and died in Chennai 'from a broken heart', in the words of her half-brother Abe, though in what circumstances remains unclear.
More than that, the family had a photograph of Toyah's three brothers and half-brothers taken when she would have been seven. She was in the photograph. But after her death, it was retouched to remove her likeness - and so obliterate any visual reminder of a scandal and tragedy. No one talked about Toyah. No other photographs came to light which the family was confident included Toyah. It was as if any testimony to her life, and death, had been carefully excised. An injustice which Abe in particular, now in his mid-nineties and once close to Toyah, was keen to see rectified.
Last month, a short item I recorded about Toyah for the BBC radio programme 'From Our Own Correspondent' was also posted on the BBC website. It's been viewed more than a million times. The response has been remarkable - one reader tracked down Toyah's death certificate in the Chennai municipal records, another wrote a poem about Toyah, and I'm now in contact with the very small Jewish community in Chennai today.
I owe these photographs, and permission to post them here, to the kindness of Lisette Shashoua. They were taken at the wedding of her parents, Mouzli and Menashy. Mouzli, the bride, was Toyah's first cousin. Lisette, who has taken a great interest in the history of her extended family, was fairly sure this was Toyah. Lydia Saleh, my main point of contact with the family, took the photo to show her father, Abe, and - without prompting - he recognised his half-sister, Toyah, who was two years older than him. He's quite certain it's her.
It doesn't bring her back to life - it doesn't right the wrong done to her - but it does help to honour her memory. I'm very pleased to be part of that.
Lisette has identified those in the photographs. In the one above, standing from left to right: Bertha Haim (Bekhor); the groom, Menashy Shashoua; the bride, Mouzli Haim (Sheshoua); Daisy Shamash. The young girl in the middle of the group is believed to be Dorine Shashoua. Sitting from left to right: Toyah Sofaer; Bertine Shashoua (Khazzam); Violette Haim (Barzel); Marcelle Bekhor (Shamash). Lisette believes the photo was taken in about 1935. There are more details about the family in the wonderful Sephardic diaspora genealogy site run by Alain Farhi, Les Fleurs de L'Orient.
The photo below features the same people but in different positions. Toyah is standing and, as we look, is to the right of the bride.
There may be more to say about Toyah, who knows. But it's so good to look into her eyes.
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