We arrived early in Chelsea for our close encounter with Tut’s bling giving us the chance to wander round my old manor where, back in the day, I was the money counter in Habitat. Come Saturday afternoons, I used to hang out at the Markham Arms with punters spilling out onto the pavement, trying to catch the eye of a likely lad who might. And many did. The King’s Road was where London swung in the sixties and, in the seventies, glam rockers minced and punks strutted. These days the unique boutiques and the avant garde have given way to chic shops for the filthy rich surrounded by some of the most expensive property on the planet. The Markham Arms is now a bank.
Another pub where my youth was gloriously misspent was the Queen’s Head in (wait for it) Tryon Street. The scene of my undoing was probably Britain’s oldest gay pub, with a pink lineage stretching back to the buttoned-up fifties. Last time I looked back in 2013, the pub had been saved from developers wanting to make a mint converting the handsome building into luxury flats. Alas, it was a pyrrhic victory as this image confirms.
Still, it wasn’t all doom and gloom on my trip down memory lane. Liam got to stand outside the former home of PL Travers, the author of Mary Poppins. It made his day.
Another Monday tea time, another free film preview from Virgin Media. This time it was Saving Mr Banks, a Disney flick that chronicles the fandango between Walt Disney and PL Travers, the author of Mary Poppins. The story goes that the snooty Ms Travers refused to entertain the Disneyfication of her book for nearly twenty years until flat-lining sales and looming penury dragged her kicking and screaming to the studio lot. When she got to La La land, she loathed the entire Disney concept – the jolly sing-a-long tunes, Dick Van Dyke as the prancing sweep with the dodgy mockney accent (she got that one right) and dancing cartoon penguins. In fact, she hated animation of any kind. In the end she caved in to the corporate pressure and the rest, as they say, is history. No doubt the bucket-full of cash helped the medicine go down. If anyone offered me a wad of used fivers for the rights to my book I’d bite their hand off and let them do whatever they liked with it – turn it straight, drop it into Benidorm, make me a lap dancing serial killer, whatever. I have no scruples.
The smart and witty film captures the Technicolor Sixties extremely well and the attention to period detail is superb. Emma Thompson as the haughty author and Tom Hanks as Walt are excellent. Ms Thompson does no-nonsense nanny with imperious style and Mr Hanks shines as the folksy charmer with a ruthless streak. Throughout the film there are flashbacks to the author’s childhood Down Under (she was, in fact Australian, not British) and another performance of note came from Colin Farrell as the author’s dipsomaniac father. I’ve always liked the look of Colin (particularly after seeing his saucy sex tape on the internet) but I never thought he could actually act. Actually, he can. And why is the film called ‘Saving Mr Banks’? Well, it seems that Mary Poppins is really all about saving the father (Mr Banks in the story), not his children and the book was inspired by the real father that the author could not save. Who knew? Certainly not me when I was eight and singing along to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
The film went on general release (here in the UK) yesterday. I feel an Oscar coming on.