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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published: 3 July 2008

John Hill at the piano with Maria Connolly and her sisters Donna Mcfadden and Dolores Hunter at the opening evening of Annie’s on Thursday
Annie-one recognise this boozer? | Auntie Annie's Porter House

IT’S not easy to imagine Auntie Annie’s Porter House in Kentish Town Road with chandeliers, marble floors, diamante-studded walls and a grand piano.
So you’ll understand my disbelief when I visited the freshly revamped Annie’s on the same spot.
A £600,000 transformation has turned the dingy old sports bar boozer into a Palace of
Versailles-style cocktail bar.
Composer Roy Douglas, who once corrected Ralph Vaughan Williams’ manuscripts, will tickle the ivories on weekends.
It’s all the doing of landlady Maria Connolly, the longest serving landlady in Kentish Town.
She had been planning to refurbish the pub with her husband, Oliver, until he died of cancer in January 2007.
She told me she had wanted to do something “totally unique”, adding: “I wanted to make it the sort of place I’d like to drink in myself.
“I always liked glamour.”

Free thinking and a 50-year love affair | Jean-Paul Sartre

THERE was more to Jean-Paul Sartre than his long, passionate affair with Simone de Beauvoir, I have learned.
In a recent biography, A Dangerous Liaison, the painful story of the 50-year relationship of these two brilliant free thinkers comes to life.
But Sartre also loomed up in a more learned debate at the London School of Economics on Thursday, when philosopher Julian Baggini lamented that Britain had never produced a philosopher like the Frenchman whose academic rigours – think Existentialism – entered his nation’s public consciousness.
The closest, opined Baggini, was Bertrand Russell, but his name became a household word for the wrong reason – political celebrity.
Russell served time in the Second World War as a conscientious objector, and a jail sentence in the 1960s for a sit-down protest in Trafalgar Square against nuclear weapons.
Professor AC Grayling of Birkbeck College, London University, thought comparisons couldn’t be made – in Europe, philosophy is taught in schools and discussed in cafes. The “cultural context” was different, he said.
If only New Labour – besotted with café life on the Continent – had recognised the cultural difference before they rushed in with 24-hour liquor licences!

There’s No Doubt the paps got off easy on this one!

ARE the paparazzi being given an easy time by our gallant parking wardens?
This week the snappers have lain siege to the Primrose Hill home of the pop star Gwen Stefani, who has just returned from the States.
They may have also wanted to snap her husband, rock star Gavin Rossdale, who released a new album this week.
While the paps were snapping away a reader, James Robertson, took his own snap – of three parking wardens sitting 100 yards away, oblivious to the melee nearby and, apparently, indifferent to double parking and other offences by the paparazzi.
I am not suggesting the wardens are in any way derelict of their duty, but am intrigued by the picture Mr Robertson emailed to this column.

A love that dare not speak at all

IT may be the unmentionable, but columnist Yasmin Alibhai Brown put her hand to her mouth in mock shock on Monday evening and uttered the dreadful words: Forced marriages among Asians.
“There, I’ve said it,” she said at Hampstead Town Hall before expanding on her views that such marriages were part of the “dirty linen” of minority groups that should be “washed in public”.
A campaigner for more open discussion about the success and failings of minorities, Ms Brown seemed to win support from members of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality at their annual meeting. Graphically, she told a story of a recent encounter with a young Asian woman who had been beaten up by a relative for being seen “talking” to a man at a bus stop.
Nor did she spare writer Martin Amis for his contentious views on Islamic thought.

Salon with roots that stretch back through history

AT first glance Oskar Pink hairdressers in Chalk Farm Road looks every inch the slick, blow dried salon you might expect in Soho or Hoxton.
But at its roots there are battles with the Goliaths of the industry, Toni and Guy, a Greek Cypriot connection, and nearly four decades of history, I discovered this week.
Barber Andreas Lysandrou – Andy to his customers – cut
Camden’s hair there for 37 years before Stavros Konstantinou took it over last year.
“There was a bit of sentiment,” admitted Stavros.
“We’re both Greek Cypriots, and Andy came over at the same time as my parents.”
Though the spruced-up salon has attracted a few celebrities, such as Nicole Appleton and Mani from Primal Scream, Stavros has retained a lot of Andy’s old clients, including one lady who is 99 years old.
The 1970s wooden walls remain and stencil drawings pay homage to the objects that once cluttered Andy’s shelves.
“I didn’t want to rip the heart out of the place,” Stavros added.
He’s done such a good job that some of the customers have never realised the place has changed. Now, I hear, the little shop is sharpening its scissors to take on Toni and Guy with whom both Stavros and his colleague Marzia Nardese – both former employees – are embattled in legal actions.

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