Hit & Run: Sipping in Michelle Obama's footsteps
Wednesday 10 June 2009
The Audley pub in London's Mount Street is a curious place for a divine manifestation. With its pink terracotta frontage it resembles a poor man's Harrods. An ancient metallic freize boasts of 'Cask conditioned ales', and a pavement-level placard promises 'The best hand-battered Fish and Chips in W1'. Inside, the carpets are faded, the air smells of cottage pie and plastic tropical flowers surmount the bar. And it's just become London's coolest pub.
For this is where Michelle Obama, Queen Consort of the Leader of the Free World, chose for dinner on Monday night during a two-day flying visit without the President. She arrived in a light patterned frock with a pale blue cardigan, flanked by her children Malia and Sasha (pink and blue dresses) and a stern phalanx of security men (lounge suits). Upstairs, the girls ordered fish 'n' chips with ketchup and mayonnaise, their mother ate a £9.10 sirloin steak and the heavies scoffed burgers. There was, reportedly, no crash of thunder or eruption of lava in the Mayfair area, though some traffic congestion was evident as the Obama cavalcade disappeared into the night.
"We get bookings from the US Embassy all the time," says John Gohery, the Tipperary-born pub manager. "And this was a booking for 25, so we knew something was up. The security people told us who was coming 10 minutes before she arrived. She was very friendly, and the kids seemed at home." In a pub? How cool is that?
The waitresses who served the First Tourists, Adriana Spanova, 25, from Slovakia and Cintia Pinto, 24, from Brazilreported that security men had tried out the chairs to see which was most comfortable. The Obamas were "very friendly, smiling and laughing." But these girls have famous people in there all the time. "Hugh Grant. The man 'oo was James Bond, before the one now. Madonna's 'usband. And Jammy Rockway." Jammy Rockway? "'E ees singer in hat." Oh, Jamiroquai.
So what happens to the Audley, after this mystic visitation? "Obviously we're going to use it to our advantage." says Gohery, "It would be insulting not to. We'll hang up some pictures and describe what she was wearing."
What of the table at which she sat? The chair she sat on? Will they become a shrine? "I'd have to speak to my superiors." Would there be a Michelle Obama Memorial Sirloin on the menu? "That," says Gohery shortly, "would be going a bit far." John Walsh
Top dogs check into the Hilton kennel
Paris Hilton has found herself in the doghouse after posting photos of her pooches' luxury kennel on her Twitter page. Followers' responses range from 'OMG love it!' to lengthier tweets concerning the relative merits of building your miniature dogs a tiny replica of your own house while there are children dying in Africa. Like, whatever.
The plush crib is home to a small chandelier, a mini wardrobe and an elaborate bed, as well as Paris' dogs Marilyn Monroe, Dolce and Harajuku Bitch. Perhaps next on Paris' shopping list is a canine yacht, casino and walk-in clinic. Her spluttering commentary and odious use of smileys on Twitter also reveals that Pomeranian Marilyn likes sleeping on the balcony. What's that? Dogs like sleeping outdoors?
A helpful salesperson at lapetitemason.com, which designed the doggy manions, explains that their customised kennels are always one-offs: "Most people want replicas of their own houses, and they average about £4000." They ship overseas, too, so watch this space. Harriet Walker
Channel 4's greatest hits (and misses)
What are the scenes that linger in the memory after 27 years of Channel 4? Something from GBH, Alan Bleasdale's acclaimed satire of Thatcherite Britain, perhaps? MC Hammer walking out of The Word? Our first introduction to Shameless patriarch Frank Gallagher? Or is it – and this seems more likely – Beth and Margaret's lesbian kiss in Brookside, which in 1993 was the first such clinch to go out before the 9pm watershed, and thus an enduring source of titillation for a generation of young boys and girls?
Well, those memories need linger no longer. Channel 4 has announced that it will soon make 4,000 hours (about 10,000 titles) of archived content available to stream for free from its 4 On Demand website. From July, we'll be able to rewatch not only that kiss, but the "body under the patio" storyline from the frequently controversial soap (axed in 2003).
We'll be able to revisit the opening series of Shameless or of Teachers. We'll be able to chuckle along again to ancient episodes of Drop the Dead Donkey, Father Ted and Da Ali G Show. We'll be able to muse once more on the satirical mastery of Brass Eye, and revisit Russell T Davies' heady coming-out drama Queer as Folk.
The channel's numerous quality American imports, such as Friends (as if we need the internet to rewatch that; we've already got E4, thanks very much), won't be available on the service. But it may not be long before the TV streaming service Hulu – which carries many of those shows in the US – finds a UK partner. Meanwhile, the BBC is hard at work on Project Canvas, a platform that will allow us to watch web-based programmes on our television sets. The DVD boxset needs to watch its back. Tim Walker
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