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Off The Fence

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Dear Readers,
Good afternoon, and welcome to the centenary edition of Off The Fence. It’s a real pleasure to reach the three-figure mark, and so to celebrate, we’ve got a bumper edition that we’ve spent a day or so finessing for you.
There’s a flash January sale, too, that is only available while stocks last – and they will not last. If you subscribe today, then you’ll receive Issue 14 immediately, and you’ll also get complimentary copies of Issue 13, Issue 11 and Issue 4 – that’s seven magazines for the price of four. But do move with haste, as there are only about ten copies of Issue 11 left. Hit up this link here.
We’ve also got ‘Zest of the Rest’, which is a sweet little bundle comprising Issue 1, Issue 2, Issue 3 and Issue 4 on sale for just £10, so if you want to score some jewels for the archive, then now is the chance – our webstore is waiting for the caress of your fingertips.
Some important admin: subscriptions renew after a year, unless you direct us otherwise. If you’d like to check the status of your orders, please reply to this email and we’ll get back to you promptly. Hopefully, you’ll want to stay with us forever and ever.
Now, to the meat of the matter: this week, we have the Spare review that Fleet Street has been waiting for (ours), an ode to Ronald Blythe, and the inside scoop on a little-known underground art space called the National Gallery. 
Back In The Jug Agane
If you’ve read the damning reviews by the Old Fogey Brigade in the broadsheet press, then you might be forgiven for thinking that Spare is a tedious admixture of Californian pyschobabble laced with celebrity gossip. And yes, it is that – in part. But it’s also one of the most interesting books published for quite some time. 
If you think Britain is a post-imperial country, then wait till you hear the description of Gurkhas bringing Prince Harry hot chocolate and goat curry while he is on operations in the Afghan War. Yes, saab.
And if you reckon that the monarchy operates a purely ceremonial role, then you will be fascinated to learn how the army’s top generals conspired to put Prince Harry on the frontline (and how the Special Boat Service laid on paintballing expeditions for the young princes.)
The splenetic hatred that Prince Harry has for the press seeps from the page, and his opinion that they helped cause the death of his mother, hindered his career in the army and messed up his relationship with his former girlfriends is convincing. He is not alone in wondering why there have been no criminal convictions for any of the senior management at News Corp.
There are obviously bits that are less successful, though, and Captain Wales has certainly done his friends dirty. Is he a reliable narrator? A disinterested party? Probably not: but people shouldn’t care about this part so much. You should read it, and see what he has to say for yourself. Although judging by the sales figures, you probably already have.
Till The Break of The Dawn
James Heale has the scoop: the ‘night czar’, Amy Lamé, has secured herself a spanking 40 percent pay rise, and is now on a quite stunning salary of £117,000 – for a part-time job that she has performed astonishingly badly.
Now, there have been thinkpieces-a-plenty about the inexorable decline of London’s clubbing scene, but few have engaged with an unfortunate reality. For all the wooly talk of how nightclubs are essential to birthing new directions in music, London’s genres and sub-genres enjoy a global heft that has never been seen before, even as its nightclubs, bars and venues are shuttered (and you could even perversely argue that ‘form 696’ helped give grime, drill and garage something of its identity). 
The Metropolitan Police and local councils join forces to shut down nightclubs because, since the days of the Krays and Esmeralda’s Barn, top-tier organised criminals have used nightclubs to preen, to flex with their associates, launder money, and, since the advent of acid house and the normalisation of recreational drug use, to make fortunes: controlling the doors, and the supply of drugs within, to the captive audience.
The ultimately unsuccessful attempt to close Fabric – wittily titled ‘Operation Lenor’ – was well-covered in the press, but very little coverage dwelled on the fact that the club’s founder, Keith Reilly, is the scion of one of London’s most notorious crime families (though he denies that anyone from his immediate family was ever caught up in that particular business).
FOLD, one of the few decent clubs in the capital, was at the centre of an NCA investigation into the QQAAZZ group, who were committing suspected cyber fraud from the premises. 
Nightclubs matter, of course, everyone knows that. But they need advocates who can stand up for the industry, and its advocates need to understand why there is opposition — significant opposition – to the industry. 
Open All Hours
The degradation of London’s nightlife doesn’t just apply to sweating boomboxes, though, it’s a shabby picture wherever you look. Round about our office, which is, as the estate agents have it, ‘a stone’s throw’ from Piccadilly Circus, there are only a handful of places you can have a more-than-acceptable sit-down meal after ten o’clock (Speedboat Bar and Balans are the superior choices). And after midnight? That’s when things start to get a little bit Hieronymus Bosch.
So, in that spirit, we thought we’d collate the worst online reviews of the establishments that stay open 24 hours, and then get the legend that is Davey Jones to draw them into a beautiful map, which you can see here.
We are open to printing a few of these for retail sale – but only if the people will it. If you’re keen, reply to this email.
Haunted By Geordie Greig
Separating the ‘art’ from the ‘artist’ is increasingly difficult in today’s cultural landscape, and in the case of Lucian Freud – who led a heroically unchivalric life that has provided a rich seam indeed for the biographers lately.
But in the exhibition at the National Gallery, there are no wall texts, no video installations, just the paintings, all to celebrate the centenary of Freud’s birth. But are these portraits of meaty, unhappy sitters the reflection of the artist’s own impulses? Who are we to say. But this is a show that you should see, and it is closing this Sunday. You can get tickets here.
(Quick note: so far this year our cultural recommendations have been trips to Westminster Abbey and the National Gallery. We will endeavour to provide more wilfully esoteric options soon.) 
Blythe Spirit
We are saddened to learn that the writer Ronald Blythe has died. Blythe was born in a rural Suffolk that was still reeling from the effects on the male working population wrought by the Somme; he died in the week where global livestock news was largely focused on the rehoming of Logan Paul’s pig. But then Blythe was a chronicler of change, and such a transition would have been recorded by him with as much vigour as he observed the yearly cycle of growth and harvest in Suffolk. His work has influenced almost all nature writing since, including some offerings found in our own pages. His book Akenfield is a beautiful piece of writing and a must read for anyone interested in the constant flux that is rural life, but we leave you with two of his masterly ‘Wormingford’ columns; humane, clever, beautiful writing.
A Saunter Down the Street
As we’ve mentioned in previous dispatches, our headquarters are situated on one of Soho’s seedier corners: Archer Street, right next door to that grand old den of iniquity, The Windmill (our office occasionally gets flooded with the smoke from their dry ice machine). But save for the odd burlesque revue here and there, the street has cleaned up its act; there’s more of Jacob Kenedy here than Paul Raymond nowadays, with Gelupo and Bocca di Lupo pulling the punters in for their evening’s delectation. 
So on those sad days where we look out onto the street below and see an overpriced lemonade stand replaced by Jamie Oliver’s pasta-to-go, we pull up this little gem: The Street, an appropriately sepia-tinted documentary where the jazzmen, writers and seasoned boozers who gave Soho its reputation all gather round to watch snippets of footage from Archer Street in its fifties pomp. Between half pints of bitter and Embassy Golds, greats like Ronnie Scott, Bennie Green and Laurie Morgan chuckle away about the times they had on this grizzly little strip. If only they could see it now, as we do, on a Monday morning before the piss-pints have been moved and the sick has been scrubbed from the office doorstep. Same as it ever was! 
Joining Me On The Show
Why do so many men in their early thirties conspire – both secretly and openly – to start podcasts? No one has cracked the exact science of the manchild-microphone continuum, but Charlotte Ivers has made the first steps to broaden our understanding of the phenomenon with this very handy flow chart.
Now, there might well be some men working at this very publication who are in their early thirties. If we were to start a podcast, what topics should we cover? Where is the clear blue water for a competitor to the Sandbrook-Holland hegemony? Answers on a postcard, please.
Crack Open The Casket
A quick interlude to remind you that the January sale that is currently underway will expire very, very soon. And, come to think of it, if you subscribe and buy a ‘Zest of the Rest’, you will get seven issues immediately, and a whole year’s subscription on top of that, and all for ten pounds extra.
We’re not going to have the print magazines at a reduced cost for some time to come, and some of these issues will sell out in the next week, so do score these mags while you can.
In Case You Missed It
For the Liverpool Post, Jack Walton interviews the exiled mayor, Joe Anderson.
Milly Veitch asks: where are the members of S Club 7 now?
Ancoats in Manchester has been hailed as ‘Europe’s most successful new neighbourhood.’ But as Joshi Herrmann discovers, there are cracks forming in the community.
Oli Franklin-Wallis profiles the Leeds-born Viking, Erling Haaland.
The Intercept’s Sam Biddle profiles Guccifer, recently released architect of US political cyber-drama.
Friend of The Fence, Digby Warde-Aldam, writing brilliantly in friend-publication of The Fence, Vittles, on the radical modernity of Pizza Express.
For The Defector, Alan Hanson tells the chilling tale of being asked to be Elon Musk’s Twitter voice 
And Finally
Reaching the milestone of 100 newsletters has given all here at The Fence an appreciation for the march of time. How fitting, then, that we salute these paroxysms of nostalgia with a nod toward Mike Leigh and Jim Broadbent’s exquisite 1992 short, A Sense Of History.
In it, Broadbent, playing the fictional 23rd Earl of Leete, takes the viewer on a 26-minute tour of his family estate, farmlands and beauty spots. With its dry tone and elegiac vistas of tidy countryside, were one to watch it with one eye on their phone, it could be mistaken for about 60% of the programming on BBC Four. That is until our host begins, quite parenthetically, admitting to a host of horrible crimes, and laying out the ruins they have made of his own life.
It’s a sad and sardonic treatise on the type of muted psychopath the English class system is so beautifully calibrated to produce, and one that’s rendered deeply, darkly funny by Broadbent in arguably his best ever performance. 
It’s safe to say that after watching it, you will forever after be one of Broadbent’s People.
There we have it: the end of our one-hundredth newsletter. Next week, we begin the arduous climb towards Off The Fence 200, and we hope you’ll be joining us over the two and a bit years it will take us to get there.
As ever, if you’d like to speak with any of the editorial team at any time of day or night, from any location or in any timezone, for whatever reason or for no reason at all, reply to this email and ping us all simultaneously, because we love nothing more than to hear from you. For now, we must bid you adieu.
All the best,

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