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Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant, Ladbroke Grove, London

After watching the serene Ethiopian runner, Tiki Gelana, win the Women's Marathon in the Olympics, (albeit on a TV screen in a restaurant in Paris), I was suddenly reminded of Gojo, an Ethiopian restaurant right next door to London's Ladbroke Grove tube station. My wife and I had been for dinner once at Gojo, a few years back and been intrigued by the Injera bread on which our vegetarian dishes were served and also by the lovely Ethiopian coffee ceremony with which we finished dinner. We also had a lot of fun when we realised the restaurant does not provide cutlery and expects you to eat with your fingers. You get really messy...and it's nice to interact with your food. 

Some while later, we went back for dinner, this time accompanied by our young daughter and my wife's parents and we had a great evening, all enjoying eating with our fingers, the soaring Ethiopian music that the restaurant pumps non-stop, the lovely, colourful weaved dish-warmers that every dish comes out hidden beneath and of course, everybody - except our daughter obviously - loved the Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
So anyway, after cheering Gelana to her victory (I'd recently seen and loved the film Town Of Runners), I made a mental note that once back in London, I'd take my daughter to Gojo for lunch since she had lots of questions about Ethiopia and didn't remember ever going there for dinner. And so, keeping to my word, off we went the other day.
This time, we had the restaurant to ourselves. You go down some steps and the restaurant's in a dimly lit basement. The staff on this occasion were two lovely women (one cooking, one serving). The woman serving recommended we ditch our initial plan to get two vegetarian dishes (£4 each) and instead get the five dish vegetarian sampler (£8: some dishes cold, some warm). This came out presented on a gigantic Injera bread (served cold). My daughter loved eating with her fingers and was far better at it than I am (altogether now: isn't it amazing how adaptable kids are). Although very good, we barely got halfway through before having to give up and request a doggy bag to take home. 

Sadly, on this occasion, there was a problem which meant no coffee was available, so our lunch stopped there. If you fancy trying out a lunch or dinner where you get to try amazing, very reasonably priced Ethiopian food (there's a meat/ fish menu and a vegetarian menu: most dishes are around £4; the coffee ceremony is £10) and don't mind eating with your fingers (if you're the clumsy sort as I am: don't wear a white shirt or your favourite dress, obviously) then here's the lowdown: Gojo, 171 Ladbroke Grove, London W10 6HJ. Tel: 0208. 964. 0431 

Lou Doillon Featured In The Windows Of Selfridges, London

New Toy Arrived This Week

Inspired by TOAST Marylebone High Street who were recently playing old records on a Dansette "suitcase style portable record player" in their shop, Urban Outfitters who have been selling a new format portable record player this summer in their stores and also Balade Sonores on Avenue Trudaine in Paris (who are big time revivalists for vinyl), I did some research and ended up buying this Steepletone record player through Amazon. It's got great sound. The set up took less than minute. And it's really nice to be able to enjoy records again. Music plays raw and muddy and it gets loud enough. The weird thing is how much more you actually pay attention to the music when it's vinyl. It makes the iPod seem so disposable and plastic and lazy and horribly non-interactive. With a record player, you have to actually work to get the music on: cueing the arm, dropping it in the right place, changing Side A to Side B and so on. Having grown up listening to records until CDs came along, it's really nice to re-connect with vinyl. 

Batsheva Dance Company

With Batsheva Dance Company due at the Edinburgh Festival any day and Batsheva Ensemble due at Sadlers Wells in November, I thought this was a great time to pull my 2008 interview with Ohad Naharin out of the Jewish Chronicle's archives:


When Ohad Naharin was a child growing up on Kibbutz Mizra in the suburbs of Haifa, his dancer mother and psychologist father instilled a love of dance in him. "At home," he says, "we'd always dance."
They took him to the theatre, encouraged his interest in folk dancing. Later, he loved gymnastics and music. Regardless of what he was doing while growing up, there was always a fascination with movement at the forefront of his mind.
"It was always something that I was attracted to," he says. "The pleasure of movement and watching other things move. It wasn't even just people, but machines, buildings, something about structure, form, geometrics, dimensions - I was always in awe watching things that move or create a movement."
At first, Naharin, who at 56 is one of the world's leading choreographers, studied music. Then, in 1974, following military service in the Israeli army, he took a two-week dance course with the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv, which was founded in 1964 by dance patroness/banking heiress Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild. Dazzling his teachers, Naharin was invited to join the company. Despite his age - he was 22; advanced for dance - he said yes without hesitation. "I started formally training very late," he says. "But in my soul I was always dancing. And I had a very easy body for a dancer."
Months later, his gamble paid off as he rehearsed a piece choreographed by dance legend Martha Graham (Batsheva's first artistic director, on account of a close friendship with Rothschild). While visiting the studio, Graham was struck by Naharin.
"We had a very special relationship," he recalls. "I reminded her of someone that she really loved, an amazing dancer. She saw him in me. That was what attracted her to me."
What did he learn from her? "She taught me the connection between effort and passion," he says.
Graham invited the young dancer to New York to perform in her work, Jacob's Dream. Once there, he studied at The Juilliard School in New York. In 1976, he left the Martha Graham Company and went to dance first for Maurice Bejart's ballet company in Brussels and then for the Bat-Dor dance company in Israel (also founded by Rothschild).
His stellar apprenticeship complete, he returned to New York and launched himself as a freelance choreographer in 1980. Four years later, he formed the Ohad Naharin Dance Company, in partnership with his wife Mari Kajiwara, also a renowned dancer.
In 1987, he became guest choreographer for the Nederlands Dans Theater, creating many seminal works, all of which pushed the boundaries of modern dance.
And then in 1990, his work having by then been performed worldwide, Naharin was appointed artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company. He has since led Batsheva to become one of the most revered and sought-after companies in the world. It is the dream of many an aspiring dancer to be accepted into the Junior Batsheva ensemble (which Naharin founded in 1992 to groom young dancers for the senior company) and then step up to dance with the senior group. So what kind of person makes it as a Batsheva dancer?
"People that are connected to their sensuality, to their demons," says Naharin. "People that love to dance without looking at themselves in the mirror - we have no mirrors in our studio, I don't allow them. People that look at dance not as something that is difficult, but something that is challenging because it is very intense work and demanding. People that are capable of laughing at themselves, a sense of humour is important. Musicality, groove - I'm attracted to people with groove. Generosity is very important for me in the people I work with. Sometimes, I feel that I'm attracted to rebellion, to rebels. A lot of my dancers have that."
For hopefuls, the odds of winning a place are slim, with the senior company employing only 22 dancers, of whom only 17 make the cut for the touring company.
The current lucky 17 arrive here next week (security team in tow - the company has long been a target for terrorist threats) to perform two of Naharin's latest works, Three (a trilogy set to music by Bach, Brian Eno and The Beach Boys) and Mamootot (his first work after an 18-month sabbatical following his wife's death from cancer in 2001). Both promise dazzling choreography, ever-eclectic musical soundtracks and impressively talented dancers improbably capable of realising Naharin's ever-wilder probings of the possibilities of dance.
In conceiving a piece such as Three, Naharins says he follows "many rules". "A vast number of rules. But every work starts when I lay out for myself some limitations. For Three, I said, I am going to make a work that will be composed of three works - an evening of full-length work made out of three separate works, each of which can be performed on its own. So this was one of the major limitations at the beginning."
From there, he begins to collect ideas, gathering music and improvising in the studio with his dancers (who draw heavily on his acclaimed "Gaga" strategies, a meditative dance practice he conceived while recovering from a serious back injury). Eventually, the various paths converge and a work begins to assume an identity.
"At the heart of it is a sense of what I call the soul of the work. Once I feel connected to the soul of a work, I feel like I'm some kind of a medium, channelling everything that happens in the studio, everything that happened to me, the suggestions of the dancers.
"A lot of it has to do with the moment I am at in terms of the movement research - what turns me on. It's a lot about the love of structure and organisation. It's a lot about what I find in movement that has to do with understatement and overstatement.
It's a lot about trying to use little means to express big feelings. And it's a lot about the sensations, how we the dancers, me, the audience, become our sensations. In an ideal state, we are only our sensations, which is almost impossible, but I'm aiming for it."
His wildcard artistic direction - intuitive, idiosyncratic and charismatic - is famed in dance circles. It is something that did not come naturally to him.
"It took me a long time to learn but directing and leading have to do with the power of convincing. If you can convince in what you do, then things are very easy."
Is it hard to control so many rebel spirited dancers? "I learned that you can turn almost any conflict into dialogue," he says, alluding also to the politics of his homeland, a subject he dislikes to talk about in interviews, preferring instead to discuss it through dance works such as Naharin's Virus.
"It's a choice - you can recognise people who are attracted to conflict and you can identify people who prefer a dialogue. If you show someone that whatever you think is a dialogue can actually become a dialogue, then it becomes interesting."
After 18 years of leading Batsheva, it must by now feel like a large family.
"I like to call it a tribe," he laughs. "It's more than a family."

- Nick Johnstone 

Anvers Metro Looking Up To Place St Pierre, Paris

All photographs by my daughter...

Kusmi Tea Shop, Paris


Musee Nissim de Camondo, Paris

A beautiful museum I had never heard of before. Restoration has taken place on a major scale so everything is 'back to how it was'. You can sense the family going about their everyday lives in here. In light of what happened to Beatrice, Fanny and Bertrand, it's as if everything is frozen in time, from the day they were deported. As well as being a stunning museum, it's also a gentle, yet very poignant Holocaust memorial. 

Life By Me: from

This is a little piece about change which I wrote for the amazing site LIFE BY ME. It's running over at their site as today's story. LIFE BY ME is the brainchild of Sophie Chiche, who I find massively inspiring. Thanks for reading. Nick  
Life for me is all about the capacity for change. I believe that no matter how tight a corner we find ourselves stuck in, there’s always a way to step out of that reality and reset the tape counter of who we are back to zero.
As a child, I used to fear change and took badly to moving house, changing schools, my father going away on business trips, or my mother being sick in bed for a few days.
I was scared all the time of something happening to my family, of every ache or pain, of boarding a plane that might crash. That fear, which grew as I grew, set me up pretty nicely for addiction.
When I had my first drink, at the age of 14, my fear instantly evaporated.What liberation, I thought, and had another drink. But the next morning, the fear was back. My first thought was, I have to drink again. And so began a descent into alcoholism, which climaxed when I was 24.
Once sober, I took up swimming at night after work. My logic was that there were no tempting glasses of wine while I was swimming disciplined lengths up and down in a community pool. I wanted my hands to be busy, and they found their work pushing through water.
During those night swims, I mentally and physically built the foundations of my sobriety. I came to know the simple spiritual joy of becoming healthy again. I began to re-think change as something beautiful, a supreme gift, and to un-think it as the epicentre of fear.
Stopping drinking led me to leave an uninspiring job, break from destructive friends, and return to college to study journalism. When I felt low, it seemed that everything I had been was gone. But then I’d remind myself that it was me who’d chosen to start over. I would meditate on that as I swam and swam.
Since then, across 17 years of sobriety, there have been many further changes. Some I chose, and some were chosen for me. Even if I feared certain changes as they came into sight, every time I reset my tape counter back to zero, I learned that no matter where we are in our lives, whether we’re young or old, stuck severely or just uncomfortably, there’s always the capacity for bold and beautiful change.
Nick Johnstone

Barbes-Rochechouart Metro Up Poissoniers To Rue Dejean

Although the neighborhood around Barbes-Rochechouart gets some bad press - and to be honest, most times we came out at that metro, there was either a heavy police presence or police shaking down somebody - I really like it. It reminds me of where I live in Paddington, in so far as there's a great mix of people on the streets. And that creates a sense of buzz....

Balades Sonores, Avenue Trudaine, Paris

Very cute shop in love with old fashioned vinyl. But not in a smelly old record shop way. It feels more like one of those Scandinavian design influenced shops popping up around London. Some evenings they have gigs out on the pavement. And they also curate shows around Paris. Living across the street from this shop for two weeks has inspired me to buy a record player - I'm going to get a Steepletone portable 'suitcase style' record player like the kind of one my Aunt gave to me when I was seven. There seems to be a big vinyl retro thing going on suddenly. For instance, Toast on Marylebone High Street was recently serenading customers with old records played on a Dansette record player they scored on Ebay....

BHV, Paris

BHV is the Paris equivalent of John Lewis' Oxford Street flagship store - only drenched in French chic. For a family excursion, it will eat at least two hours - my daughter nearly faints when she enters the stationery department, such is her excitement. And the kitchen department is pretty enthralling for the grown ups...

Jardin D'Acclimatation, Bois de Boulogne, Paris

One for the kids: part petting zoo/ part fun fair with rides a whole afternoon pass in a blur....

Petit Pan, Paris

Petit Pan now has a cluster of stores all on the same street, a stone's throw from St Paul metro. Exquisite in every way. Their recent kids' pyjamas collaboration with Petit Bateau was amazing, too...

Musee des Arts et Metiers, Paris

This museum is partly housed in a former Church, which makes it quite a beautiful space...

Everyday Life Around Rue de Rochechouart, Paris