I'm a huge fan of dining scenes in film and literature. Whatever the story, I just want to be right in there with them, enjoying the meal. So, it's no surprise to me that there are several dining scenes in I Am Not Gog. All of the dining locations are based on real eateries and their fictional names have allegorical significance. Let's have a little nibble at the most important ones...
The photo above is of Brookside Fish Bar in Hinckley, which our family used to frequent when I was a child (forty years ago). As far as I can remember, it was Dad's role to fetch the fish supper in his car if we were to indulge. It was like a Mum's night off. When I was a bit older, I'd drop by after school with a mate for a potato scallop, a battered sausage, or a tray of chips with curry sauce on. An important piece of my own history became an important location in Lydia's history: Tavistock Road Chippy.
In my day, or in young Lydia’s day, that extension on the right of the main building wasn’t there. At the bottom of the broken, half-height wall at the end, along the side, you can see about six courses of darker brick and then a line of redder brick. That was the height of the original low wall that carried on along the front about twelve feet to the main building. It may have been capped with concrete slabs, I can’t remember. That’s where Lydia sat with Alex in 1973, enjoying their battered sausages and chips. Behind those trees at the back, is the recreation ground, where someone’s psychology was severely messed up shortly after the chip-shop supper. You are free to read that and its association with the road name of Tavistock any number of ways because I can’t be more definitive on it due to the murky nature and history of that aspect of the real-life target. It’s a whole field of study in itself.
Telly’s Cafe in Hinckley is where Lydia was coerced into having a meeting with Sofie. On the surface, it is just the shortened name of a Greek man, Aristotelis, who runs the cafe. It is purely coincidence that Alex also turns out to be a Greek cook. Maybe Alex was inspired by Aristotelis when he was in town as a youth. Allegorically, the Cafe stands for televisual media. It is here in this cafe where we learn of the root cause of Lydia’s predicament and stress-triggered madness: Power's, the corrupt building firm, fraudulently replacing the roof on her block of flats. In real life, it was on the television that we watched the horror of certain events of the year referenced here unfold. When I was a youth, there used to be a cafe in the corner of Hansom Court in Hinckley which I vaguely based Telly’s cafe on, vaguely because I can barely remember it and there are no photographs of it. It was a very dull cafe, anyway.
Peach’s cafe in Cleethorpes is a very important cafe. It is based pretty much wholly on the real Brown’s cafe on the western Cleethorpes seafront. On the surface, it was probably named after a woman whose nickname was Peach, maybe the daughter of a greengrocer. Lydia’s first meeting with Joshua in the cafe is the beginning of her emancipation, representing the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, the capital of which at the time was Rameses (the spelling varies). Treat that like a possessive and you could use an apostrophe to cut the ‘e’ out, making Rames’s as in the surface story, Rames being the surname of a shoe seller and Rames’s being the name of his shop. The sale at Rames's (where Lydia and Maggie had shopped earlier that day) represents how the Israelites took with them a lot of Egyptian silver, gold, and clothing when they fled.
Peach’s is an anagram of Pesach, which is the Hebrew word for Passover. In and around this scene in the cafe, there are a few references alluding to keeping the Passover, including ketchup on the doorpost (rather than blood), the eating of lamb, and even that the wrap Lydia ate earlier would, of course, have been made with unleavened bread. This is the only occasion where what is eaten has any significance. Of course, the chapter following this scene represents the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty years.
Willow Brook fish and chip resaurant in Cleethorpes is closely based on a very long-standing restaurant called Steele’s. Its allegorical name is dealt with separately here due to it’s high level of obscurity, but it is also related to the wilderness wanderings of the ancient Israelites. I ate there once. It was nice.
During my research trip to Cleethorpes in 2006, I stayed at Gladson Guesthouse on Isaac's Hill. Pru's B&B was closely modeled on it as it then was. It has since had a full refurb, so it is very different now. The breakfast room at Pru's B&B is where Lydia has her birthday breakfast and resists the advances of lecherous Karl – a scene unwrapped for you here. There's also a couple of pictures of Lydia's bedroom in the same B&B here.
The Exousia restaurant in Grimsby is loosely based on a real Greek restaurant called Othello. The real one is on Bethlehem Street, but I moved Exousia to a much quieter back-road for reasons of logistics and mood. Its name Exousia is Koine Greek for ‘Powers’, which correlates the two allegorical strands of Alex Basileus-Trapezites (briefly looked at here), and the spiritual powers referred to by Paul in Ephesians 6:12 (which is looked at here). That’s not to say they are the same thing, but that the spiritual hierarchy is mirrored in the physical. His father, Philip, also has a business called Power's, a business he took over from a retiring small-time builder to help him retain anonymity in his dodgy dealings. As Lydia said, Alex and Philip are two of a kind.
Kali órexi! (Greek for bon appetit)