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When kissing in cafes is forbidden

My famous Vienna Cafe Reviews note the alleged “no kissing” rule in the Cafe Malipop; and promise a story from 1986.

Here it is.  It concerns the Gmoa Keller, right here in Vienna.

Back in 1986 I looked something like this

In the 1980s, the Gmoa Keller was a tenebrous place, damp with history and rich with atmosphere.  It was run by two elderly sisters from the Burgenland, Grete Novak and Hedi Vécsei.   Grete had been in charge since taking over from her uncle, Andreas Herzog, in the ’60s.  He in turn had run the place since 1936.

Late one night, my girlfriend Nicky and I took refuge there from a bitterly cold, wet evening.  We ordered beers.  We were the only guests.

The beer, and the safe haven of the Gmoakeller, warmed us up.  A hint of kissing arose.  Nothing ostentatious: a nuzzle, perhaps, a cheek to a neck.

Grete shuffled across to where we were sitting.  She leaned down to my ear almost as though she were about to kiss me herself. (more…)


Robert Pimm: my first public reading – 16 March in Vienna

Have you ever wondered what Robert Pimm looks like in person?

Now you can find out.

I will be performing my first public reading at 19.30 on 16 March at the Cafe Korb, Brandstätte 9, in the First District of Vienna.  Details are at the Cafe Korb Facebook page.

The Cafe Korb is a fine cafe, as I have reviewed separately.  Its glories include an Art Lounge – click on the link for a 360-degree view.  The cultural programme is eclectic and sublime – upcoming events range from “Who’s Afraid of the Jewish Mother?”, through the Korb’s famous Philosophical Evenings, to a performance by US jazz, blues and soul singer Margaret Carter.

It is in this splendid space that I shall be reading excerpts from my thriller Blood Summit – a world premiere.

The Art Lounge of Cafe Korb – worth a zoom, or a visit

The Art Lounge is not fantastically large and I am hoping it will be pretty packed.  Entry is free, and I will answer questions after the reading.  I look forward to seeing you there.

P G Wodehouse: 5 wondrous quotations from “Thank You, Jeeves”

My blog How to read P G Wodehouse: a practical guide praised Plumtopiaa P G Wodehouse specialist, for its advice on precisely this subject.  I thoroughly recommend the site.

More recently, in my blog How to read P G Wodehouse: a new prescription, I savoured the fruits of recent roaming of the Plum pastures; and cited juicy quotations from the outstanding Ring for Jeeves.

Indeed, I have been struck by the poverty of many self-styled treasuries of quotations when it comes to Plum’s oeuvre.

So here, without further ado, are a few additional succulent fruit, assembled by me with pleasure from Thank You, Jeeves.


The cover of the Folio edition of ‘Thank You, Jeeves’

Thank You, Jeeves strikes me as one of the funniest of the Jeeves tales (quite an accolade – Ed). Jeeves himself has oiled off elsewhere for much of the action, but in his absence, Bertie Wooster’s ability to get into scrapes is exploited to outstanding effect.  Such scenes as a night in which Bertie repeatedly fails to find a place to rest his head are (more…)


Austrian cafes: the truth about 1986

My original Vienna Cafe Reviews story, published in March 2017, included a story about a customer having a bad experience trying to get the bill, back in 1986.

A couple of my Austrian friends sprang to the defence of the waiter.  Sure, Vienna cafes had a charming, the-waiter-is-always-right serving ethos, they said.  But who wanted subservient waiters?  The attitude of Vienna cafe waiters was all about the dignity of labour, and standing up for the right to be treated as a human being.

I recommend the Cafe Schwarzenberg, which is not the cafe referred to below!

I was not so sure.  Indeed, these comments reminded me of my 2004 Financial Times piece “When dinner becomes the last supper“, which begins: Friends from Paris, Madrid or New York often ask me: “Why are German waiters so brilliant?”  It’s a satire, by the way.

Indeed, I have been in many Vienna cafes (the Sperl, the Bräunerhof and the Tirolerhof spring to mind) which are as traditional as they come, but where the waiters go about their business is an efficient and thoroughly satisfactory way.

Is there any contradiction between efficiency and tradition?  I’d welcome your views.

Meanwhile, I thought readers might be interested to read the full story of that 1986 experience.  It goes as follows.

I had been invited to lunch by a friend from the Vienna Town Hall (the mayor at that time was Mr Zilk).  My friend suggested we go to a certain cafe, famed for its traditions. (more…)


The Laughing Halibut

‘One of my favourite restaurants in London is the Laughing Halibut,’ I say as we eat our lunch in Vienna.  ‘When I first started eating there in 1979, it was run by this Italian guy, and one of his sons used to work there, a young bloke.  Now, the son is still there, he seems to run the place, but he has become a much older man.’

’40 years is a long time, I guess,’ my friend says.  ‘The Italian has aged.  But you have stayed the same.’

‘Correct!  It’s like that Joe Walsh song, Life’s been good to me so far.  Great lyrics.  It’s tough to handle this fortune and fame, he sings.  Everybody’s so different, I haven’t changed.  Best fish and chips in central London.’

A delicious portion of chips from the Laughing Halibut – RP

I often think of the Laughing Halibut, and would recommend it to anyone visiting or living in London.  In fact, I like it so much that it features in a key scene in a novel of mine, which is on ice at present but might see the light of day in a couple of years.  The scene also features a phlegmatic Italian waiter.

The scene (which I have lightly edited, for reasons too complex to explain here) is as follows.  Angus Fairfax, the protagonist of the book, is meeting his wife Rosie for lunch.

Excerpt from an unpublished novel

Rosie and I had instituted regular Monday lunches when she was promoted – again – twelve months before.  ‘You must be in the diary,’ she’d said.  ‘Otherwise, I’ll never see you.’

She’d been right.  These days, most of our conversations seemed to take place in the Laughing Halibut in Strutton Ground.

Strutton Ground was a curious street.  (more…)


Austria unfriendly? I don’t think so

I was bemused recently to see a news report headed: Austria ranked by expats as one of unfriendliest countries.

I have lived in Austria for years and have numerous friends.  Who are these expats who say Austrians are unfriendly?  And who is doing the measuring?  I decided to investigate.

It turns out that the report is based on the “Expat Insider 2017” survey carried out by the “InterNations” network.

Austria has a lot to offer – as well as friendly people – Photo RP

“Internations” is a company which works to help expats settle in and get to know other expats (slogan: “Wherever in the world life takes you, our InterNations Communities help you feel at home”).

Its full report, which you can download in full from the link above, is packed with interesting statistics.   (more…)


The Overton window and social media manipulation: how worried should we be?

I first came across the term “Overton Window” in a piece by John Lanchester in the London Review of Books in July 2016.

He described it as “a term… meaning the acceptable range of political thought in a culture at a given moment… [which] can be moved.”

Lanchester said that ideas can start far outside the political mainstream yet later come to seem acceptable.  He cited Brexit as an example: considered eccentric in 1997, yet enjoying large-scale support in a referendum by 2016.

George Orwell

Lanchester’s article, by the way, like many LRB pieces, is improbably long: set aside a bit of time if you want actually to read it.

A recent piece at the splendid “Flip Chart Fairy Tales” blog (recommended: often a source of illuminating graphs, charts and views) entitled “Breaking the Overton Window“, also noted how opinions can change.  The author argues that the Overton Window (“the range of policies that politicians deem to be politically acceptable”) has moved over recent decades towards libertarian, right-wing policies which do not obviously overlap with established political parties. By contrast, the views of voters have moved in the opposite direction, towards more authoritarian and left-wing ideas – likewise not corresponding clearly to existing parties.  This tendency, he argues, a) is a move away from traditional “left-wing” and “right-wing” categorisations; and b) should lead politicians to shift towards those authoritative and left wing policies if they are not to leave voters alienated from politics.

What has this got to do with social media? (more…)

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