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on 30 July 2012
I'm far too young to remember the sixties and the only thing I knew about Stratford (until now) is that it looks pretty depressing whilst whizzing past it on the train to work, although now, of course, the focus of the world is on it due to the Olympic games. But I picked up my mum's copy as I was bored on Saturday afternoon and I couldn't put it down all weekend. It is packed with beautiful photographs from the sixties and the author really writes wonderfully, very, very funny at times, but also describes the day to day violence that was encountered in the Two Puddings with great detail and tension. I never write reviews but apparently this is the 80 year old author's first book (bravo for him) so I have since bought several copies for friends who live in East London and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in an authentic but largely forgotten history of this strange part of London.
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on 26 July 2012
A great book about some of the people and places from a wonderful era .
Bringing back lots of memories of the many groups and singers that
appeared regularly at the venues run by the brothers , some memories
of that time are funny some are scary but most of all they are great
Memories of a wonderful time and many memorable people .
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on 24 July 2012
A wonderful personal history from a genuine Londoner. It should prove of great interest to anyone fascinated by cultural history in that it shows a far less cliched view of London during the swinging sixties than we usually get to see. The author, Eddie Johnson, also displays great humour and sensitivity in bringing back to life many long dead characters from this lost East End world.
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on 7 October 2012
I purchased this book for my parents , we come from the east end and so could relate to it , it is a very good read , the author writes so well that you can imagine yourself there , it's 3 yes's from us !
Well done Mr Eddie Johnson (author)
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on 26 December 2012
This is a great read and a particular interest to me. Both me and my husband went to the Two Puddings in the sixties before we knew one another and then as a couple, we married in 1969. I knew my Dad's family had something to do with the Two Puddings but it wasn't until I started to delve into it more deeply that I found that William J. Davis and wife Clara were the 'publicans' and in fact my great grandparents so you can imagine I am enjoying reading this. Excellent!
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on 24 September 2014
I've been a big fan of The The since the 80s. I was aware through an interview with Matt Johnson that he had lived above a pub that hosted bands in the sixties and seventies - meeting David Essex etc - but I knew little more than that.

In desperation to see if any new music was being produced, I searched for information and found that that a) the only new song in the last 20 years had been about his old school teacher and b) he had published a book written by his father about his time at the Two Puddings.

And what a storyteller Eddie Johnson is. Larger than life is the only way to describe it. The book is written in a loose collection of memories - linked together under headings. So it does make strict chronological sense. Some things confused me a little - Eddie was the longest serving Publican in London when the Puddings Closed - yet seemed to move out to the Suffolk Countryside quite early in his tenure. I guess he still owned it and left it to other to run.

But what a life story Eddie has - and he captures a disappeared world beautifully. He stared off as a docker before hosting music nights with his brother in the late 50s - eventually taking over the Two Puddings - which seems a huge pub with a dance hall above it. The pub has gone, but the building exists and a trip to Stratford is on my to do list.

From these humble beginnings, the last of characters that he has met and some he knows well is mind boggling. Yes, you would expect the Kray's to have make an appearance (and one of the classic stories is about a barman spraying one of the Krays with a snowball) but the list is endless - West Ham Footballers (Harry Redknapp met his wife there) - Martin Scorsese (Mean Streets Characters based on his regulars), Francis Bacon (left all his estate to one of Eddie's friends), Actors. Throw into this a list of colourful east end characters like the Colonel and you have some wonderful stories.

There's also comments on the Pub Trade, minor villainy, fights, and frequent shouts of "Get out my pub, you're barred". The matter of fact way it is told is hilarious. Wrong Uns coming in after knocking off wages vans - comments like "I don't like guns and always made sure I kept the bullets and the revolver in different parts of the pub.

He always has a knack of being in the right place - and there are stories of the fine restaurants he visited, a growing appreciation of wine, being in France when they were mourning Edith Piaf, setting up Pubwatch, taking on the breweries about the tenancy laws. Even the quote about the East End being a safer place when the Krays were around seems to have been attributed to him.

My favourite bit is when he is running a country pub in Essex and has a run in with an early incarnation of CAMRA. Superb story telling.

Thoroughly enjoyable glimpse into a world that has disappeared in my lifetime.

Now make a film of it, just so that Matt can do the soundtrack.
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on 13 August 2012
Eddie Johnson's memoir perfectly captures his time at the Two Puddings with real humour grit and personal insight. To quote Mr Johnson "to really know East Enders you have to be one and, unless you are, your trust must be withheld", but I was completely satisified with this glimpse into London social history and highly recommend his book.
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on 3 September 2012
A passion for music and recent Stratfordian moments brought me to this book via the King Edward V11 pub on the Broadway which became a local prop to my studies and nurtured me through the local divorce courts last year!

For me this memoir by the Licensee of the Two Puddings offers a lively rich seam of memorable tales about humanity's 50 shades of grey and displays a fearlessly independent entrepreneurial spirit buoyed by a seemingly strong sense of loyalty to family, friends and the right sort of customers. Strong passions for music, food and new experiences flood through the pages. All underpinned by a compassionate underbelly which occasionally extends to forgiveness for the underdog or lost soul which is shown inside many poignant 3D sketchings of individuals that seem to be washed ashore with little firm ground to stand on such as The Colonel, the Wife Beaten Builder Tom, Benny and Esta. Many of the characters good and bad are drawn as neatly as Chaucer's Canterbury tales yet resonate critically without the artifice. Warts, wisdom and hues of grey from within the family and outside.

Eddie comes across as a very compassionate, open minded intelligent family man with a past which perhaps shapes his compassion/tolerance of those who for whatever reason are messed up in some way. He shows a fierce instinct to judge folk fairly; with the rare gift of seeing through labels, gossip and boxes that some of us find easier to bubble wrap others in. Maybe this is nowhere better illustrated than by the introduction of PB whom Eddie admitted he came within a hair's breadth of stabbing as a result of PB's perceived behaviour in the pub yet today counts PB as one of his friends. Clearly he shared the power to whack when needed often alongside his more hot headed brother Kenny.

This relationship with Kenny provides much of the wry, patient and at times Chaplinesque humour that runs over the pages. Both Eddie and Kenny seem to fill a room, such is the depth of character of both. I caught one of Kenny's favorite phrase ` Don't spoil the ship for a ha porth of tar' the phrase on the Today programme earlier this week and automatically chuckled as I remembered Eddie's quiet frustration with his brother for that very reason.

I think it is a pity Eddie did not enter politics; we might today have had an Independent party fused with a stronger balance of bite,bottle and compassion that could extend outside narrow party interests. Yet numerous actions proove he was no softie, he coolly sidestepped 2 potential extortion attempts by the Krays whilst hanging on to his conviction that they were misrepresented.

So many would not and do not now care about the poor. But then many of the poor today have such different living circumstances from then. He describes so often a world that seems poor and violent yet bloody rich in one thing so many of us have lost now - communication. There does seem to be a sense of honour/code of behaviour amongst many of the East Enders that is lost amongst many of us now in this atomised age. Yes, physical size has shaped this narrative too (as Haze Dweller points out), Eddie notes that no one admitted their fear if you did you were finished.

I heard several clear alarm bells ring here about how many of us live today. We live in a theoretically much wealthier society today yet the trail of human waste continues although fed by the poor and weak management of a social welfare system. The Class system still shapes and divides families, communities, education, health and jobs. So too, do bent coppers. London, as the recent The Secret History of Our Streets shows has become socially cleansed as inner boroughs became gentrified, note what is happening on the Carpenters Estate, Stratford. Like Eddie and his family, I too fled the poor under resourced local schools of East London (although minus the hail of bullets!!!) . Not much has changed on that front either.

Today we live in a more segmented world today where families are scattered across the country or some co-exist under one roof , frequently not talking or doing anything together thanks to easy access to Electronic escapes. Let alone whole communities living side by side, with little local infrastructure to bring it together such as affordable sport activities for all or access to libraries .The effects of drugs and excessive alcohol (part fuelled by relaxed licensing laws and cheap booze) as noted by Eddie have infected many a community (urban & rural) over two further generations since. The NHS, which cruelly denied Tommy dialysis inside one of the saddest tales is now being macheted into smithereens. What hope now for those not equipped with the tenacity of spirit of the Johnson clan to forge their own destinies independently and (largely!)law abiding.

Another side effect of the book is to throw a cautionary punch away from the Ageist culture that we have in Britain because the age of the author is left outside the pages which serves as a reminder to those that care to note, that age does not just leave you crusty and wrinkly but with a stomach full of stories, experiences and views that can speak volumes both about the yesterday and the today. As cliched as that may sound to some.

The collection of photos helped teleport me to that era. Overall I have never read such a tactile book due to the sleek feel of the pages which feel they have been dipped in baby oil!

To anyone interested in human affairs I would say, buy this and sprinkle it discerningly amongst your Christmas shopping lists.
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on 29 July 2012
Intriguing insight into a largely disappeared world as seen through the eyes of a tyro publican and his young family in the nineteen sixties. This is the `East End' before it became the exclusive domain of curry houses and bratty bobo trustafarians. Lots of funny anecdotes and amusing pen portraits of chancers, tough guys, and dockers that liked to read Proust and Joyce in their lunch breaks. You may never have heard of most of the people in this book (to be honest some of it definitely falls into the "you really had to be there" category) but there are a few whose identities can be guessed with not much effort and it's all adds up to a fascinating page turner.
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on 20 August 2012
This book was recommended to me by my Aunty Diane and I loved it - I also recognised some of the old faces of Stratford. It really took you right back to when Stratford was the place to go and people would come from miles away to go to the Two Puddings and Snobs for a great night out. The lights and the music! Deprived area?? - I must of missed that, it was a great time.
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