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West End Extra - The XTRA DIARY
Published: 11 July 2008
Daniel Craig as Bond
Daniel Craig as Bond
007 flies in for a bite at Gay Hussar

DANIEL Craig, the world-famous star of the latest James Bond film Casino Royale, was in the town on Monday to mark the life of Ed Wilson who died last year.
He had flown in from Panama, where he is shooting his next film, for a celebratory evening with old actor friends in the Gay Hussar, Soho.
By all accounts, it was a riotous session.
Craig first met Wilson, a pioneer of the youth theatre movement, when he was a no-name young boy working with the National Youth Theatre.
He also knew our literary editor Illtyd Harrington, a former council member on the NYT, who had organised the reunion.
Illtyd told me: “Dan was on great form. He has such a strong personality – when he came in the restaurant he gave me such a face. He was very concerned and I think he sees me as a kind of great-grandfather figure – he shepherded me in from the street. It was the perfect West End evening.”
The old friends – including leading Broadway director Matthew Wacufs, Rupert Penry-Jones and Jessica Hynes – told Illtyd they owed their careers to Mr Wilson.
They dined on their mentor’s favourite meal: “salad, a Gay Hussar chicken dish and enormous amounts of liquid”.
Illtyd said: “All of us have come through in big way and owe a great debt to Ed. Dan especially. He would be the first to say he was a difficult boy during his NYT days.
“He left in a big black four-wheel drive, but he doesn’t seem affected by his star status.”
Good to hear Mr Craig has still got his feet on the ground – which is more than can be said about our literary editor Illtyd.
Jessica Hynes who had also enjoyed a few drinks, I am told, asked him for a strange request.
Illtyd said: “She said: ‘take off your shoes and stockings’. She started rubbing my feet. It was reflexology. I thought ‘what have I been missing?’ She was quite fearless, and gorgeous looking. Actors, my dear!”

Ices with slice of history

WHAT do the Regent’s Canal, ice cream and a Swiss-Italian merchant from Victorian times have in common?

The answer is a new “canal flavoured” ice cream from the chefs at The Waterhouse Restaurant in Shoreditch – invented to honour Britain’s first ice-cream man Carlo Gatti.
Mr Gatti is credited with bringing what was a high-society delicacy to the palates of the masses. Opening a café in Holborn in 1849, he trawled the canal in winter to cut ice from its banks and make the delectable dessert. But what does canal taste of, you might ask? Well it’s not as unappetising as it sounds, because as well as ice, the enterprising Mr Gatti also foraged the canal for elderflower leaves. The elderflower flavour has been put on the menu at the restaurant as well as being available along the towpath.
At the weekend Martin Sach of the London Canal Museum walked the length of the canal in the guise of Mr Gatti to tell everyone about his sumptuous creation. He is pictured above with chef Arthur Potts-Dawson.

Where books have a long shelf-life

HAPPY fifth birthday to the London Review Bookshop in Bloomsbury.

How pleasant it is to see an ­independent store buck recent trends in the trade and be ­positively blooming.
Diary headed down to their Bury Place HQ for a glass of celebratory champagne and joined a host of writers who frequent the shop and the pages of the LRB magazine: I spotted Jonathan Coe, Tibor Fischer, Adam Thirlwell, Geoff Dyer, Martin Rowson and Nikita Lalwani, quaffing wine and nibbling nibbles among the tomes.
I also spotted Kentish Town-based Lord Justice (Sir Stephen) Sedley gossiping with historian Eric Hobsbawm, who lives in South End Green, while other faces among the canapés included Iqbal Ahmed, who wrote the London travel book Sorrows of the Moon, and works as a night porter at the Holiday Inn hotel in Swiss Cottage.
But it was left to Tariq Ali to lead the birthday tributes.
“This bookshop was created at a time when bookshops were closing right across the country,” he harrumphed. “Five years ago, bookselling was becoming totally corporatised. I walk into Waterstone’s and they are selling books like contraceptives – three for the price of two.”
Tariq was in an expansive mood, and even managed to find time to praise his old bête noire, the United States of America.
He said: “There has been a decline in independent bookshops in America but it has not gone as far as it has here. They enjoy a healthy book trade and it just shows what we have lost here. There was a time when London had 30 independent bookshops and they went right across the country.”
He added that the secret to the bookshop was the passion of the staff.
“The establishment of this bookshop was so against the grain, like the magazine that set it up. In a culture that is completely conformist you risk being accused of insanity when doing something like this.
But at the LRB, it’s not about silly fads – books here have a long shelf-life.
“They have managers who actually read books, people who love books, and that is extremely important.
“So, three cheers for the London Review Bookshop.”
Hear, hear!

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