All text copyright Stephen Coates 2006 - 2015


Like many, I was languishing over Christmas with  a bad bout of man-flu.  Fortunately I was stationed in a lovely old house by the sea on the North coast of Scotland with only the odd seal between us and the Orkneys.  After a couple of weeks of coughing and sneezing I was casting around for a solution and was contemplating trying to mix up some  London Treacle.  This is a semi-mythical concoction developed in the seventeenth century as a treatment for the bubonic plague.***

I eventually found the recipe and was rooting around in an outhouse before being persuaded (against my better judgement) to opt for lemsip instead.  My 'If it was good enough for Samuel Pepys, it's good enough for me' argument had failed to persuade my companions of the efficacy of its ingredients:

-Sack (a fortified wine)

I had already found the gunpowder so I suppose I can understand their anxiety - mind you it seemed preferable to those other plague preventives: 'Pomme d'amber' which contained whale vomit; the placing of a toad sewn up in a bag on your stomach or the application of 'oil of scorpion' to the boils.

One of the great advantages of being unwell was that it finally allowed time for the long-postponed creation and publication of the new The Real Tuesday Weld website - a kind of archive of the story so far.  It has been interesting to start to pull it all together - 'How time flies!' I kept thinking and it was quite nice to re-discover some things I had completely forgotten about.

Still trying to find some use for the gunpowder though..

***The Great Plague wreaked havoc in London in 1665 and Charles II asked the Royal College of Physicians for advice. They came up with:

- Keeping the streets clean and flushed with water in order to purify the air
- Lighting fires in streets and houses and the burning of certain aromatic materials such as resin, tar, turpentine, juniper, cedar and brimstone.
-The digestion of London Treacle, Mithridatium, Galene and diascordium

Here is their recipe for the “Plague-water of Mathias” should you need it:

"Take the roots of Tormentil, Angelica, Peony, Zedoarie, Liquorish, Elacampane, of each half an ounce, the leaves of Sage, Scordium, Celandine, Rue, Rosemary, Wormwood, Ros solis, Mugwort, Burnet, Dragons, Scabious, Agrimony, Baum, Carduus, Betony, Centery the less, Marygolds leaves and flowers, of each one handful; Let them all be cut, bruised, and infused three days in eight pints of White wine in the month of May, and distilled. 
Take of London Treacle two ounces, of Conserve of Wood-sorrel three ounces, of the temperate Cordial species half an ounce, of Syrupe of Limons enought to make all an electuary: Of they may be taken a dram and half for prevention, and the double quantity for cure."
Which reminds me:


Leigh Bowery by Fergus Greer
Last night to Brixton to see the TABOO musical - a revival of the original award-winning production from about ten years back. I remember the posters and was intrigued by Leigh Bowery but I didn't know anything about the Blitz club / early eighties New Romantic scene in London so didn't see it then.

I was there last night because the book was written by Mark Davies Markham with whom Marcella Puppini and I have been working. Boy George co-wrote the songs (and starred in the original production as Bowery) and it includes a couple of original Culture Club songs and various early New Romantic classics.  It is very good, very funny, very entertaining - even if that isn't your sort of music.  There isn't a stage - its like being in a club with a catwalk and it happens all around you. It was absolutely rammed and went down a storm - I think it's going to run and run and very possibly go West End, a sort of hip Mamma Mia.

But last night was something else - it was like three shows in one.  You see Steve Strange, Philip Sallon, George and various other luminaries from the period were both there in the audience and major characters in the musical.  It was press night so they are not usually in attendance, but it meant you could simultaneously watch the drama unfold, watch some of them sitting there AND witness them actually interacting with their characters..  For instance The Real Steve Strange (looking rather fragile it has to be said) made various comments to his younger self on stage and, with seeming equal regard, to both The Real Phillip Sallon (sitting anciently prim on his own in a low cut dress) and the character Phillip Sallon camping it up on stage.  They had a whale of a time.

I suppose this is what is meant by Post-Modernism.

Very entertaining and interesting but also quite poignant with regard to the transitory nature of fame and age (which is kind of the modern taboo isn't it?). Where are they now? What do they do now?  What is like to see the signal events of your youth (which happened to become pop-culturally significant) re-enacted before you as you, as it were 'fade to grey'?

Slightly haunting I would have thought.   



I popped into New and Lingwood to treat myself to a pair of new pyjamas recently. I had completed an intense period of work with very little sleep and, as a periodic insomniac and fan of Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, I felt I deserved them.  It is a lovely shop at the Jermyn Street end of the Burlington Arcade in St James. Quite posh.

There is a famous music hall song featuring the arcade called "Burlington Bertie from Bow" about a young idler with high West End social pretensions who really lives in the then lowly East End (and obviously with no connection to yours truly).

PJs are not the sort of thing you can really try on so I spent quite a while choosing and finally selected a rather natty pair in black with a broad acid green stripe.  A well-dressed assistant had been hovering behind me for some time and as I turned toward the counter he said:

"Did you go to Eton sir?" (For non UK readers, Eton is an old and exclusive English private school)
"Er, no I didn't" I said.  He indicated the pyjamas:
"You did know that those are Eton colours though?"
"Er, no I didn't."
"Did you have to go to Eton to be able to buy them" I asked
He looked slightly crestfallen:
"Not any more sir."

Well a sale is a sale, despite the world having obviously changed for the worse,  so we proceeded to the counter. I thought I would try to cheer him up as I paid.

"So, will I be cleverer when I wake in the morning then?"

He hesitated but got the joke after a moment.
"No, I am afraid not sir!"

We smiled at each other and I turned to leave.
"But they may make you better mannered.."