Tootsies Go Into Administration

tootsiesBurger chain, Tootsies, went into administration today, after parent company, Clapham House Group, decided to withdraw its support and funding. 

The restaurant company, who also owns Gourmet Burger Kitchen and The Real Greek, bought Tootsies Restaurants Limited for £25m in May 2006.

The Clapham House Group said: “There is little prospect of the Tootsies business as a whole generating a profit in the near future.”

They cited “the current economic outlook and the prolonged downturn in trading and profitability at the Tootsies business” as the main reasons for their decision. 

Family friendly restaurant chain, Giraffe, has taken over 11 of the 21 Tootsies restaurants for a consideration of £2.5m. They will be keeping on and retraining 275 members of staff.

Amongst those 11 restaurants are sites in Belsize Park, Weybridge, Wandsworth, and James St. (opposite St. Christopher’s Place). This takes the number of Giraffe restaurants in the UK to 40, although for the immediate future these new sites will continue to trade as Tootsies restaurants.


A Great Romantic


Early on in Jane Campion’s new film, Bright Star, Fanny Brawne reads, transfixed, the opening lines of John Keats’ epic poem, Endymion, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever; Its loveliness increases; it will never/ Pass into nothingness.” This proves to be the start of a powerful, uncontrollable love affair, and the start of a film filled with Keats’ poems.

Bright Star

It’s London in 1818 and a secret love affair begins between the 23 year old poet John Keats, and his 18 year old next door neighbour, Fanny Brawne. Notes are passed, fingers are touched, and eyelashes counted.

But no all-consuming love affair is complete without the jealous best friend; in this case the brash Scotsman and self-styled poet-in-arms, Charles Armitage Brown (played by Paul Schneider).

For much of the film Brawne and Brown quarrel over the territory of Keats. As producer, Caroline Hewitt, puts it, “Brown sees Fanny as a flibbertigibbet”. She’s getting in the way of the real work to be done, which is writing profound poetry.  The fact that Keats’ most powerful poetry comes during these months is not lost on the audience, and increasingly not on Brown either.

In fact poetry is inextricably tied up in the love between Fanny and John Keats. “I started to think about the story of Fanny and Keats as a ballad, a sort of story poem,” Campion explains. The Australian director, best known for The Piano, goes on to explain how the inspiration for the film came from reading Andrew Motion’s biography, Keats: “I got to the part where he met Fanny and I fell in love with their story. I was drawn to the pain and beauty and innocence of their love affair.”

The former Poet Laureate was an advisor during filming, and perhaps that explains various moments of verisimilitude.  I noticed that the letters in the film use Keats’ actual handwriting. Fanny and Keats also have lines we know they really said. Fanny’s lament before Keats leaves for Rome, “We cannot be created for this kind of suffering,” is all the more powerful for such knowledge.

 The same can be said for lines recited from Keats’ poems. “I was determined to get as much of his poetry in as we could,” Campion says. “A lot of people feel alienated from poetry, because they don’t understand it. But Keats is a great explainer of poetry and I wanted to use that in the story. Poetry is a drug really, it goes into your head and it sticks.”

Its aim in that respect is admirable, and has the potential to introduce Keats to those who may be unfamiliar with the opulence of his verse. As Whishaw puts it, “I think he was very complicated and probably a genius.” And this does come through. But what really goes into your head and sticks is the all-consuming, powerful, touching, innocent love of Fanny Brawne and John Keats.

Chile and The Fatherland (18/03/09)

Time to write some updates. I couldn´t have sent it earlier, because it has to look like I´ve been very busy and far too hungover to send emails.

Graffiti in SantiagoSantiago was pretty good. I got ill on the first night; of course. Still, we did go to a winery, and the poet, Pablo Neruda´s, house, and manage to lose our Spanish dictionary along the way. Trying to explain that we’d lost our phrasebook, without the phrasebook to tell us the words for “lost” and “phrasebook”, made it all a bit of a mess. We were just easing ourselves in to this travelling malarky.

Then we went to Pucon, to climb an active volcano. Pretty amazing – steep climb, rumbling crater and sulphur fumes stinging your eyes. On the way down we got to slide a lot of the peak on our arses. The day after we thought we´d take a leisurely bike ride to a lake in the region. It ended up being 44km up and down steep hills. I threw a few strops, and shouted: “I really resent this, Tim” by which I meant: “I really resent you, Tim” because it was his idea. Anyway, it was better on the way back. Time heals all wounds, except for the damage done to our tail bones.

Next up we travelled south along Ruta 40 – a long and pretty bleak road through Argentine Patagonia. It was great. No people anywhere. I loved it. On the way down we went to The Cave of Hands, which has cave paintings of indigenous people´s hands dating back 10,000 years. There was an absolute fitty on the bus, and I told Tim, “I find her quite sexy.” I thought she was Spanish and didn´t understand, but of course she was English. She had the decency not to mention it. Tim was not amused.

The bus journey finished at El Chalten – a hiking mecca. Cerro Fitzroy and Cerro Torre are two of the most difficult mountains in the world to climb. We didn´t attempt them, but did scramble up a smaller mountain to enjoy the stunning views of granite spires and blue blue lakes. Rebels that we are, we went well off the path. Up at the top Tim said, “I can´t decide if this is dangerous.” He then promptly slipped down the rock. At the bottom we looked back up and saw that a few metres further was a sheer drop onto a further drop. Our lads’ tour could have come to an early and tragic end.
The white giant
We got to El Calafate the next day, three hours south of El Chalten. While there we went to see the White Giant, Perito Moreno Glaciar. “I tell you what else is a white giant … my willy,” Tim said, setting the tone. It´s a huge glaciar, with massive chunks crashing off it daily. You can always hear it cracking, and it´s a stunning imposing sight.

From there we went to Torres del Paine National Park. People have said that the image of me hiking and camping is a laughable one, and I was pretty nervous, especially because on the first day there were 100km/hr winds blustering around us. But in the end Tim and I whizzed around a 5 day hike in 3 days, earning ourselves the nicknames, “Lightning Jacks”. One guy also called me “Champion”. Tim was jealous.

We left Puerto Natales (the town everyone stays in to get to Torres del Paine national park) under a cloud of recriminations. The owner of one of the hostels we stayed in was claiming that we´d stolen a spoon. Of course we hadn´t, and we needed to get a bus in 20 minutes. She was pretty irate, and kept phoning the hostel we were in that morning. Tim coolly asked her, “Carla, ask yourself why would we want to steal a spoon.” She lost it completely and hung up. We got on the bus and whizzed across the border away from the crazy.

Got to Ushuaia that evening. It´s the southernmost city in the world, and we immediately saw the world’s most southernmost dog. Very exciting. While there we drank a beer in an old prison, sailed the Beagle Channel and shaved our beards into new shapes. Tim went for a pair of nineteenth century mutton chops, and I went for a handlebar moustache. I want to say my moustache looked good, but it just didn´t. I blame the facial hair for failing to get off with a fairly fit blonde French girl. A couple of Dutch girls were absolutely loving Tim, who was bouncing around calling himself the Gin Fox.

Anyway, those were the first four weeks of the trip. Three more months of looking at Tim´s smelly face, and of him listening to me worrying about food poisoning.

Hope you´re all well, and that England hasn´t descended into anarchy because of the credit crunch.


Danny Handlebar