Editorial: Paws For Thought

Let’s take the summer off. Not do anything, have a bit of time for ourselves”. 

“Yes, let’s go away for a month or so, just drive round France, stopping here and there. We won’t have to worry about getting back or who’s going to look after…” 

It was, in truth, a bit of a half-hearted conversation. Not that there’s anything wrong with driving round France for a month or so – I’m sure it’d be very nice – but it wasn’t going to happen. That coming weekend, we both knew, we’d be back at Shoreham Dog Rescue. 

It’s been a bit of an emotional time, here at Whistler Towers. I’m looking around and where there should be someone, there’s no one. I’m listening out, and where there should be noise, there’s no noise. For the first time in our famly life, we’re dog-less. And it’s just not right.

Our family has always had dogs. When the kids were little we had Maxwell and Lexa. When the kids were older we had Poppy and Molly and Moby. For a while we had Lily who actually lived next door, but preferred it at ours. And for a different while we had Pluto, who we brought back from Greece. Mostly we also had Rosie The Pussycat, and Princey, who was her baby. We haven’t even mentioned Tracy the Hamster (after Tracy Beaker, obvs), Fluffy the lop-eared lionhead bunny rabbit, Luna, Fluffy’s girlfriend and, as night follows day, their kids. There was a tank of goldfish all, for reasons lost in time, called Peter. 

There’s always been noise and paws. And now there’s not. It’s life’s deal, I know. You can have the love but you also have the grief. It’s not a new story, but it doesn’t get easier.

Nothing and no one could replace Maxwell. He was the Godfather – the Dogfather – the one who made it all happen. I took Maxwell to puppy training classees, but Maxwell trained me first. All single men should get a dog. Single men are, you know, single. A dog will train a single man to be a useful member of society. You have to be home for the dog. To feed the dog, to walk him, to let him out. But if something should stop you getting home when you said you’d be home – and this happens to all single men – the dog will still love you. When Maxwell went for his final walk… No, can’t talk about that. 

Poppy was a sweet. The rescue centre said she’d probably been stolen, taken to a puppy farm and put to work making babies. Then she was hurled out, found on a roadside, broken, still lactating. She needed some puppies, so we went back to the RSPCA and found the pups. Both of them fitted inside my hat. That was 14 years ago, nearly 15 now. 

Molly was the last. She stayed two weeks after Moby woofed his last woof and, as is so often the way with married couples and partners, she knew one without the other wasn’t right. 

The next day was the first day ever we woke up and didn’t go for a walk. That’s just not right, is it? A life without paws is… it’s a bit half-hearted, and leaves you empty hearted.

France is lovely. Driving around in the sunshine, stopping off pour un croissant et un cafe.. It would be lovely. But we both know that by the time you read this, there’ll be paws. And don’t even ask who’s on the cover of the next Whistler. 

Tom Waits Night at The Catalyst Club

Tom Waits at The Catalyst Club. It was always going to happen. Word has it that Tom was on his way and then… Covid. You know the rest.

Anyway. Alex Harvey – no, not that one – has written a book called “Song Noir” that explores the formative first decade of Tom Waits’ career, when he lived, wrote and recorded nine albums in Los Angeles; from the extraordinary debut, Closing Time where he introduced his storytelling barfly persona to the even more extraordinary surreal Swordfishtrombones.

Waits mined a rich seam of the city’s low-life locations and characters, letting the place feed his dark imagination. Mixing the domestic with the mythic, he turned quotidian, autobiographical details into something more disturbing and emblematic; a vision of la as the warped, narcotic heart of his nocturnal explorations.

Using music, images and stories, Harvey will show how Waits absorbed LA’s wealth of cultural influences to combine the spoken idioms of writers like Kerouac and Bukowski with jazz-blues rhythms, and explored the city’s literary and film noir traditions to create hallucinatory dreamscapes.

Alex Harvey is a producer and director of programmes including Panorama and The Late Show for the BBC. His later films include The Lives of Animals (2002) and Enter the Jungle (2014). Based in Los Angeles, he regularly writes on literature, film and music for London Review of Books and LA Review of Books.

The Latest Bar, Manchester Street

Wednesday August 3, 8pm

Tickets £8/5

Montpelier Villa Women by Skip Kelly

Pep Guardiola became friends with chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov while taking a sabbatical from football in New York. It may seem an unlikely friendship until you realise both are masters in a field where you need to anticipate an opponent’s moves and counter them accordingly. Both are masters of assessing their own weakness and dealing with them before their opponents are aware of them. 

 Hubris is not a crime, but in making any link between myself and Guardiola or Kasparov, I am certainly guilty of it however every time Montpelier Villa Women score, concede or just play and even when they don’t play, I can’t help but think of Kasparov, Guardiola and ultimately what does the opposition know about us that we don’t already know about ourselves. 

I’m Skip Kelly and I coach Montpelier Villa Women. Because of this I live in a constant state of paranoia. Melodrama isn’t a crime either. This season has been defined by our games against Pagham. We beat them 5-3 in the second game of the season, this was to be their only loss in the league as they went on an incredible winning streak including a heart-breaking 92nd minute winner in the return fixture. Results elsewhere meant Pagham finished the season as league champions however the cup semi-final presented us with the opportunity for revenge. 

Despite the distance between the teams, there is a lot of mutual respect and admiration between the teams. Pagham began their women’s team the same year as us and have navigated the murky depths of sexism and discrimination that is grassroots womens football since. As more and more established mens sides begin to address decades of inequality by investing in the women’s game, many of our rivals are in a position to offer incentives to play. Neither Pagham or Montpelier Villa are in a position to do this. Both teams don’t just play for the love of the game, they pay for the privilege. All the more reason to win. 

The Eurovision Song Contest and the Mens FA Cup Final were the scheduled curtain-raisers with the former being more fitting for the explosive chess match that awaited. Our plan was to use our strength on the flanks to overpower them, forcing their resources out wide leaving their king and queen exposed. Their plan was to score two goals in the opening 25 minutes. Unfortunately their plan was simple, effective and ultimately did not attempt to mix sporting metaphors and as a result after 25 minutes, we were two goals down. 

Half-time provided a welcome opportunity to assess our own weaknesses and attempt to address those weaknesses before the opposition found out about them. 

However we were in the unfortunate position that the opponent was not only aware of our biggest weakness but had inflicted it, leaving one of their knights staring at our king in the form of a two-goal deficit. The twenty minutes that had passed since their second goal had enabled us to implement our plan which gave the players a tremendous boost. I then loudly declared that we still have all our pieces to many bemused faces which was when I realised this was the first time I had externalized the chess metaphor. 

When Kasparov defeated a team made up of all willing participants in the world in 1999, he declared, “it was the greatest game in the history of chess.” Kasparov can have his opinions about chess but if he was in Pagham when we scored two goals in two minutes to equalise then he would have thought this game might just rival chess. If he was in Pagham when we scored an 87th minute winner to secure our place in a cup-final against our main rivals, he would have said this is the greatest game in history.  Hyperbole isn’t a crime either. 

 Your support would be appreciated, if you are a local business that wants to be associated with a progressive and ambitious womens football team that also wants to reduce their tax bill then please contact us below.



Madonna, what’s going on? asks Sam Harrington-Lowe

I wanted Madonna to smash ageism like she’s smashed everything else…

It gives me no pleasure to write this, but I think things are over between me and M. I’ve been in love with her since I was 16, but as the kids say, I just can’t with her any more.

Why? Is it the weird bum? The filters? The fact that she looks like every other influencer on Instagram? Well, sort of. But it’s more fundamental than that.

Madonna was the ultimate rule-breaker. The girl you knew would get you into trouble, who’d be the first one to challenge something. She seemed indestructible, and I loved her for her devil-may-care attitude. She trampled across the world, smashing taboos and upsetting everyone from the Catholic Church to the men who wanted to tame her. She famously said she wanted to ‘rule the world’. She kinda came close.

I loved watching her change, and grow, and metamorphosize. I particularly loved watching her make a comeback in the nineties, and kick up dust and disco in her 40s and 50s. And yeah, I know she’d had work done by then, but she still looked, you know, like Madonna. I thought she was ageing well. Go girl. Show us how it’s done.

But no…

So, I realise that this is about me and my expectations, which isn’t fair. But I wanted Madonna to break the ultimate taboo and blaze a trail for the future. I wanted her to age defiantly, and stick two fingers up by being different, and not fall into the trap of desperately trying to stay young. I envisaged her ageing like a Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn type, all pithy and without any fucks given. And instead, what do we have?

Reader, you know what we have. I’m not going to slate her; it’s ageist in itself to rip her to shreds for her choices, and she’s getting enough of that shit already. We all know what the deal is. I watched a live performance she gave with Maluma recently and found myself looking through my fingers like it was a horror film. It was a car crash in slow motion. Suffice to say that the Madonna we see on Instagram is completely different to the one we see live on stage, or in pap photos without filters. 

Her live appearance is SO different, in fact, that I’m surprised she still does it. I could imagine her going on from here, disappearing into a digital-only world, going full Norma Desmond, luring younger and younger men to her lair.

It’s a shame, because she had the power and the reach to really make a massive difference. To bust a cap in the naturally saggy ass of ageism. And I’m gutted, although it’s obviously her choice to take the road more travelled. I feel sorry for her really. In 2016 – literally a few years and a thousand procedures ago – she said in her acceptance speech for Billboard’s Woman of the Year award: “The most controversial thing I’ve done is stick around.” I think if she’d wanted to be REALLY controversial, she could have ‘got older’. But in showbiz that’s a lot to ask.

One of the best things about Madonna was her face – it wasn’t traditionally beautiful, but it was a face with impact and character. Now, not so much. I don’t honestly know if I’d be able to pick her out of a line-up of influencers, with the plumped lips, the filters, the alien face shape. I mean, you do you, girl. But what happened to swimming against the tide?

At a time when it was controversial, she stood up as an activist, voice, and massive fundraiser for the gay community, ripped apart by HIV and AIDS. There’s been Raising Malawi, and the Ray of Light Foundation, as well as over thirty other causes she supports. In an interview with People Magazine, she famously said, “Helping people is like tattoos. Once you get a tattoo, you keep getting them. It’s addicting. You see the difference you’re making in one person’s life, so what’s the big deal if I help one more person, and one more person?”

So how about making some inroads into smashing through the ageism wall kiddo? Let’s really break some rules. Perhaps the most taboo of them all.

Sam is founder and Editor-in-Chief of Silver Magazine – for the mature maverick


Pic: Ronald S Woan

Faces & Places: Leo from Flint House

In the first of our chats with the ace faces of our city, we meet Leo, front of house at The Flint House. Gilly Smith asked him how it felt after coming fourth in Brighton’s Best Restaurants Awards 

Gilly: Flint House has done so well. When the sun shines and the outside area is bathed in sunshine and you’ve got a cocktail in your hand, there’s no finer place to be – and now you came fourth in the Awards. It must be fantastic to be recognised like this.

Leo: It was so exciting. I was kinda hoping for top 10 and then it was down to the top 5, and I thought “Right! We make it into the top 5 or we don’t make it at all!” But yeah, it felt amazing. It was very overwhelming for us. Very emotional.

Gilly: What do you think that they’re looking for in a Brighton Best Restaurant?

Leo: ‘Character’ I suppose is a nice word to use there; on the food, on the service, on how we display the food, the plating. I think a bit of character helps on everything, doesn’t it?

Gilly: Well, it is part of the Gingerman Group, and The Gingerman was one of the very first top restaurants in Brighton. When I came here 24 years ago, the Gingerman was just opening around that time. And it was fantastic because you knew that you would be able to get consistently great food. And that’s what you want from a top notch restaurant. The Flint House has a little bit more character about it, doesn’t it?

Leo: We call it the Gingerman’s wicked little sister.

Gilly: Absolutely. Is that what (chef-owners) Ben and Pamella McKellar wanted to do with it?

Leo: Yes, that was the whole plan. We are casual fine dining. The Gingerman standards are there, and maybe it’s a bit hidden sometimes, but it’s the way we do the service. We need to have a personality because it’s part of the whole experience.

Gilly:  And as we’re talking about personality, tell us a little bit about you.  You’re Brazilian. How long have you been here and why did you come to Brighton?

Leo:  I left Brazil 11 years ago. I was in Ireland a little bit, and then I came to Brighton as a tourist in about 2013. I didn’t know much about it but I of course loved it! And then I was living with my husband in the Gatwick area, and as life goes, we separated in 2015 and I thought, ‘right I know where I’m heading to.’ I wanted a bit more fun. So, I came to Brighton and realised what an amazing culture of restaurants and people and everything else there was here.  

Gilly: Were you in restaurants before? 

Leo: I started at The Hilton at Gatwick and learnt from the madness there of suddenly having to feed two hungry people because their flight was cancelled, and you have to reset everything. Then I came down to Brighton and worked at Wagamama, and then helped to open Gails Bakery next door. And then from there to Flint House and I’ve been there since October 2019.

Gilly: You’re front of house front of house there and that’s a really important job. It’s like a theatre, isn’t it? 

Leo: it is! It’s like a huge theatre. I do say that to the guys: ‘Right guys, let’s get the show on!’  That’s what we’re here to do. It is a theatre but people are literally right in front of you. There is no separation there, so things can get quite personal. But it is a performance pretty much every day.

Gilly: And of course Flint House is in The Lanes. It’s not tucked away in the North Laine, in Localville. This is Tourist Central. So you’re going to get a lot of people coming down who might not be so ‘Brighton’ as the rest of us, perhaps. Give us your top tips for dealing with sulky Trip Advisor types.

Leo: I’m gonna try not to be too sassy here, because I ‘m well-known as being the sassy one at The Flint House! We kind of need to know how to read the room because we need the customers in front of us. Adapting to the customer is very important, but I think at Flint House we have a bit of character for sure on the service. And it’s very rare that you’re gonna get the TripAdvisor people.

Gilly: I was sitting next to some last time I was there and they were pretty sullen. Who’s that lovely girl who served us with the pink hair? 

Leo: That’s Hannah.

Gilly: Yeah, Hannah was absolutely fantastic. I’m not sure that they appreciated her humour or her sassiness though. And I just thought, ‘Oh my God, she’s brilliant.’ She didn’t apologise for herself in any way. They just didn’t get her. 

Leo: As long as we are not rude to the customer, we do what we’re supposed to do, and we won’t apologise for ourselves. We keep the character. I think that since Covid, people have either got twice as grumpy or twice as nice. No one is the same. Normally I would take it very personally and think ‘Why aren’t they having a good experience?’  Now after a few years, I’ve learned that there is much more going on than in that two hour slot. You never know what else is going in in people’s lives. 

So it’s about trying not to make it personal. You try to make the customer understand that you get them. As long as I’m not scored minus one, it’s ok. I don’t need to be plus 10 with you right now because I know that’s not going to happen. As far as we leave on zero, we can maybe redo it again. And then we can see what the next score is going to be. And that’s pretty much how I personally approach things when I’m dealing with the TripAdvisor people.

Gilly: Good attitude. Finally, Brazil or Brighton?

Leo: Brighton for sure… Brighton allows me to be myself. I wouldn’t ever be able to be the loud Leo that I am at Flint House. But also in Brazil those TripAdvisor people you mention, they are everyone. They will be judging the characters, and you have to be apologetic about yourself. And I’m not. 

So definitely Brighton. Yeah, I love a bit of Brightoness.