Monday, October 10, 2005

Night out

On Saturday we we went out for a curry in Brick Lane. I had been at a writers' meeting, and The Scotsman met me at The White Hart. we didn't choose it for any particular reason, just because it was close to Aldgate East tube station. It's a basic, but welcoming and acceptable pub. It wasn't until we sat down that we saw a large notice on the wall, a chalk drawing, talking about a murder victim called Martha who was found at the back of the pub with 39 stab wounds. Unfortunately, we couldn't find out very much about the murder because most of the picture was covered by a big screen showing a World Cup qualifier. I did wonder whether we were in Ripper territory. A quick Google today, however, shows that the pub is very near to the site of one of the Jack The Ripper murders, that of Martha Tabram. They claim the murder site is behind the pub. They sell Hoegaarden as well, so worth a visit, although the fittings in the pub are disappointingly modern. Incidentally, if any readers have come here via search engines looking for Ripper info, or any regular readers are interested (yes, all seven of you), you might like to have a look at Alan's blog.

On to Brick Lane for a curry. The great thing about Brick Lane is that, not only do they have approximately 40 very reasonable curry restaurants, (I don't like to call them Indians as most of them are Bangladeshi), some of them allow you to bring your own wine, which the four or five off licenses will open for you. We chose a restaurant, which I would link to, but I can't remember which one it was. We had an excellent meal, but an even better time people watching.

There was a table of 12 people, obviously students, about five feet away. After a short time, it became clear that they were a university football team, having a meal after their third match of the season. There were several cans of beer on the table, bought from the nearby offie, and they were enjoying themselves.

As students do, they started talking about somebody they knew, who had downed a bottle of wine in 27 seconds. I went to the loo, and when I came back, The Scotsman pointed towards them. One chap had risen to the challenge, and somebody had scampered to the offie a couple of doors away for a bottle of white wine. I'm assuming it wasn't exactly the most wonderful vintage. He poured it into a pint glass, and another, smaller, glass. they counted him down...16 seconds. He did go very red, and look a bit green (good job he didn't go and stand in the middle of the street, there could be carnage), but he settled down to his curry quite happily.

Well, we had a great curry, and by the time we left the captain was beginning his speech, congratulating the team on their performance. He produced a bottle of vodka, and he had arranged for the waiter to bring 12 glasses. Each team member had to down their share of vodka, and then have their breath lit with a cigareete lighter, which was rather dramatic. We left then, but I don't expect that they were feeling particularly perky the next day. And I don't think one of them will fancy white wine again.

Back on the tube, unremarkable but for the fact that near Richmond a well-dressed, well-groomed man in his fifties lit up the most enormous spliff, which smelled tantalisingly good. And everybody beamed at him in a good natured way. Another night in London.

Update: Alan has kindly left a message regarding Martha, which is far more informative.

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Anonymous Alan said...

Okay, here we go - Martha Tabram was murdered on the morning of August 7th 1888 at approximately 2.30 on the first floor landing of George Yard Buildings, which was up at the top of the lane behind the White Hart on the left hand side (except it's not there any more). She had been drinking in the White Hart with another prostitute named Mary Ann Connolly or "Pearly Poll" until midnight and they left with two soldier customers and went their seperate ways, which was the last time she was seen alive. She was stabbed 39 times, as you said, in the throat, chest and abdomen, and there is considerable argument over whether she was an early victim of Jack the Ripper or not. The first recognised Ripper murder was three weeks later.

And yes, you were in the heart of Ripper territory, all five murders being within a half-mile or so of Brick Lane.

Oh and, if you go back there, go to Monsoon - best curry house in Brick Lane!

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