In fifteenth-century Britain, the worst danger a woman faced was childbirth. Surrounded by negative hocus pocus imposed by a church that saw women at best as botched version of men, complete with inside-out sexual organs, at worst as dirty, toxic necessities, women as young as 13 would be confined to a dark, stuffy room for weeks before their birth, with only holy objects and other women for company.
In this first of three programmes looking at birth, marriage and death in the medieval era, Helen Castor’s exploration of birth is strong on the actual event, but it suffers from such a focus, often feeling like a subject for ‘Women’s Hour’ rather than an everyman – and everywoman – exploration of medieval life that wider social contextualisation might have given it.
There are touches here and there – the midwife’s power over a dying baby’s eternal soul, how Henry VIII’s Reformation, itself sparked by personal experiences of infant mortality and miscarriages, led to a very different birth experience for women – but for the most part, it’s a long hour for viewers less than enthralled by the subject.
This restaurant and bar tucked away down Artillery Lane, in Spitalfields, is from the guys behind the Manicomio restaurants. It's a big, chunky, industrial looking space with a long open kitchen and a walk-around bar that should both prove talking points. The food menu is authentic Italian, but with more than a nod to the new. That means dishes such as swordfish cooked on a Josper grill and served with baby squid and panzanella, Old Spot pork belly with artichokes, onions and salsa verde, yellow fin tuna and tomato poke with charcoal oil, and burnt octopus with nduja sausage, potatoes and padron pepper. A breakfast menu also features, as does a brunch menu offering morning cocktails such as a breakfast martini with strawberry marmalade, raspberry vodka, lemon juice and apple juice, and a bloody maria, with tequila, tomato juice and bloody mary mix. Twenty wines are available by the glass - all Italian.
Venue says: “Kids eat free at brunch! Every Saturday 11am-4pm.”