books, bookshops, cafes, Cherry Picked London, Hadley freeman, London, medieval music, Merriment, mince pies, mulled wine, Prof Ronald Hutton, Royal Oak, SUITCASE, The Idler, The Idler Academy, Tom Hodgkinson, Vogue, West London
By Rosemary Wagg @RoseEllenCherry
‘Go Slow: subscribe to annual periodical The Idler and, when in London, gain inspiration by popping into its newly opened Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment in Notting Hill.’
So read the enticing endorsement in Vogue’s January issue. At the tail end of a stressful university term and the beginning of a spate of cold weather, the urge to sample this little haven of idleness was all too much and so, on a frozen Tuesday evening, I made my way to Royal Oak to do, presumably, nothing.
The Idler itself is a bespoke publication founded in 1993, which appears annually bound in a hardback cover more beautiful than most books, let alone magazines and journals, could hope for. Working around a selected theme each year, The Idler is currently on number 45, an issue dedicated to the concept of Utopia. Including essays by Louis Theroux (a previous contributor) and excerpts from William Morris’sNews From Nowhere, this current issue probably embodies the Idler Academy’s ethos particularly accurately. There is certainly a parallel between founder Tom Hodgkinson’s predilection for olde worlde arts and crafts, medieval music and avoidance of the daily grind and that of the proto-Liberty printmaker William Morris.
My own trip to the Idler Academy was perhaps not as free from activity as it might have been. The comfy book/coffee shop was taken over for the night by Professor Ronald Hutton of Bristol University who gave ‘an evening of merriment’ including a talk on the changing calendar of festivals in Britain over the past centuries. A lute, an old-style violin (meaning no chin rest and a different shaped bridge – oh yes, I paid attention) and several glasses of frost-beating mulled wine provided the rest of the entertainment and I left feeling like someone had stoked my heart full of merry, hot coals of tender idleness.
The Idler Academy holds many of these kinds of events which, if done with bad pretentions, could turn out to be contrived. However, they are instead all soft and bubbly and full of good humor. It felt like all the people who were present were there because they were genuine in their appreciation of the gentler arts of life and not just looking for something to add to their Guardian Soulmates profile.
Additionally, the bookshelves that lined the walls, along with a selection of cute greetings cards, were ripe with potential Christmas gifts for bibliophiles and general ‘ooh shiny things!’ fans. I especially kept making eyes at a recently released Penguin Classics collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald books with metallic art deco covers. [N.B. My birthday is the end of March.]
And so, as the hibernation period of the year gradually envelops us and the metallic clunk of a train door becomes too loud, I suggest you pay Tom a visit and happily waste away a few hours.@theidleracademy