There’s some footage towards the beginning of The Guv’nor, Paul Van Carter’s brutal yet measured documentary about Lenny McLean, which just about sums up the temperament of the famed East End hard-man.
In the clip, from 1986, McLean patiently bounces up and down in a boxing ring, looking slightly like a silverback gorilla about to be released into the wild, preparing to take on an undefeated fighter named Brian ‘Mad Gypsy’ Bradshaw in an unlicensed bout.
From the grainy video alone it is difficult to tell whether Bradshaw is a member of the traveller community, but it takes just a few seconds for the other half of his nickname to prove emphatically correct.
Striding forward to touch gloves with McLean in order to start the fight, Bradshaw – long before a bell has tolled – head-butts his opponent square on the chin.
In the course of human history, few decisions have proven less wise, and fewer still so instantly regretted. To a backdrop of gasps, McLean recoils, gently touching a glove to his mouth to check for blood, before unleashing utter mayhem.
Bradshaw is floored by the first punch, a huge right hook, before McLean boots him while he’s down, punches him a dozen more times, madly kicks him, picks him up a bit, punches him a lot more again, then repeatedly stamps on his head until four exceptionally plucky spectators intervene, restraining the victor just about long enough for the fight to be called to a halt.
It’s terrifying, but to many people, that was just the Guv’nor. The hardest man in Britain.
Defining Lenny McLean, who died in 1998, beyond calling him ‘hard’ is no easy task. Consult his online biography, for instance, and you’ll be met with the following list of pursuits – the like of which you’ll be pressed to match in 2016, no matter how long you spend on LinkedIn:
“A bare-knuckle fighter, bouncer, criminal and prisoner, author, businessman, bodyguard, enforcer, weightlifter, television presenter and actor.”
With The Guv’nor, a feature documentary that shows in cinemas tonight and sees release on DVD from Monday, Van Carter attempts to make some sense of that extraordinary life. To do so he collaborated with Jamie McLean, Lenny’s only son, who fronts the documentary, turning the film into not only an examination of its subject, but its presenter too.
The Guv’nor follows Jamie, 45, around the now heavily gentrified areas of east London where McLean grew up and spent most of his days, eventually becoming the most famous – and feared – man around. Through interviews with McLean’s old friends and family, Jamie builds a complex portrait of his father and discovers, in unflinching detail, how he became one of the most notorious men in London.
“It was an emotional thing to do, talking about my dad, especially as he isn’t here anymore,” Jamie says. “We got there in the end, but even going around those parts of London, bumping into people who had stories about him and remembered him as a kid, was very hard for me.”
Born into a working class family in Hoxton in 1949, Lenny McLean’s father died when he was six, leaving him to be raised by his mother, Rose, and later a stepfather, Jim Irwin. A local conman, Irwin physically abused McLean and his siblings (who refuse to speak on camera in the documentary) throughout his childhood, unleashing regular beatings until the children’s great-uncle, a gangster named Jimmy Spink, stepped in to deal with Irwin in a predictably forthright manner.
Consumed with rage, Lenny became a brawler as he grew older (and bigger, reaching 6’3” and over 20st at his peak), before mixing with criminals – at one point associating with the Kray twins – and serving a prison sentence for petty crimes.
It didn’t take long for Lenny to make a name for himself as the toughest street fighter around, earning the nickname ‘Ten Men Len’ on account of it taking ten men to take him down. Turning to bare-knuckle and unlicensed boxing to earn money (a license was never possible for him, thanks to his criminal convictions), regularly knocking out opponents far larger than him.
Despite that local environment, Jamie – an honest and extremely likeable frontman for The Guv’nor, who admits to his own history of brushes with the law for violence – says the abuse Lenny suffered as a child ignited a rage his father was rarely able to escape from.
“My dad wasn’t a born fighter. He was uneducated and a product of his upbringing, traumatised by what he’d been through, and probably had mental health problems as a result of all that. Fighting was all he knew.”
In particular, through the course of the film Van Carter and Jamie discovered Lenny likely suffered from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) as a direct result of his upbringing.
“The violence was a way of managing and concealing the OCD that directly sprung from abuse,” Van Carter, 40, says. “He almost satisfied the chaos of that psychological disorder through fighting, hiding any vulnerabilities he might have felt mentally.”
In the documentary, Jamie tells innumerable tales of his father’s extreme violence, never sugar-coating or seeking to present Lenny as less aggressive than his reputation. For instance, one fight outside a pub in Hoxton, started when a local asked to see him outside, ended with Lenny ripping the man’s windpipe out with his teeth.
As Lenny McLean grew older, he began using his considerable reputation to guard doors at nightclubs across London, including Camden Palace and the Hippodrome in Leicester Square, becoming a de facto leader for bouncers in the capital. In this period he was shot, accused of murder (later acquitted) and enjoyed another stint behind bars.
In his work, Jamie admits, it was all violence. As a father, though, Lenny was nothing but a big softie.
“He was gentle and funny to us and his friends, never raising a finger to my sister and me,” Jamie says. “What my dad did, in work and on the streets, was bully bullies. Unprovoked violence only ever came as a vigilante, clattering blokes on the estate who’d hit their wives or kids, sometimes even working with the police to sort out problems they couldn’t get near. People respected him in the area and still do; that was the old code of honour.”
That safety didn’t allow Jamie to act as he liked as a kid, however. He may have had the hardest dad in town, but it came at a cost.
“We knew the consequences if we told him that we’d had a problem or someone had done something to us. Telling him someone had hit us would have resulted not just in violent revenge, but extreme violence, so we had to keep quiet,” he says, before admitting there was one perk: “Me and my mates never queued for a club anywhere in London.”
After years of fighting, the late 1990s brought a remarkable change in Lenny’s life. Giving up violence and moving to Kent, he instead became something of a creative, writing a best-selling autobiography, also called The Guv’nor, and turning to acting, most famously in the TV series The Knock and as Barry the Baptist in Guy Ritchie’s 1998 gangster film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
“That’s what he always wanted to do. He was a good fighter, especially on the streets, but his lasting legacy was acting. When he arrived on the set of Lock Stock, someone asked him what drama school he attended. Without missing a beat, Len told him ‘I’ve been shot twice, stabbed 100 times and had 10,000 bar-room brawls – is that enough drama for you?’
“Guy Ritchie said he was a natural, with perfect timing. If he was around today he would’ve been a really accomplished British character actor, maybe in Game of Thrones or something. He’d probably have tried Shakespeare for all we know…”
As it is, we’ll never know what the future had in store. During filming on Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, he complained of flu symptoms that later turned out to be lung cancer, and died that July, aged 49. When Lock Stock was released a few weeks later, Ritchie dedicated it to Lenny.
“You don’t get Guv’nors like my dad any more,” Jamie says, wistfully. “He was the last of a dying breed. These days kids are so trivial. You can have a gun pulled on you in a club just for looking at someone, or being in the wrong postcode. And then everything’s on camera anyway. It’s all changed, and had started to even by the time he died.”
In addition to the documentary, Lenny’s story will return to the big screen next year with My Name Is Lenny, a biopic produced by Van Carter (who also co-wrote the screenplay) and Jamie, and starring Mad Max actor Josh Hellman in the titular role, alongside Sir John Hurt, and MMA fighter Michael Bisping in support.
Almost 17 years after his father’s death, both films are intended to add some depth to the fearsome character of Lenny McLean. Van Carter and Jamie admit they’re passion projects, but hold high hopes for the audience reaction.
“My dad was a working class kid in the East End with no positive role models, an abusive upbringing and OCD, and his journey was to fight and fight and fight to get away from that,” Jamie says. “In the end he did steer his life in a positive direction and a proper profession. It’s not rags to riches, we know that, but he got through the darkness and made something of himself. Even today, that’s inspiring for people.”
The world’s fastest go-kart, the C5 Blast Go-Kart Ultimate, is claiming a 0-60mph (97km/h) time of just 1.5-seconds, making it nearly twice as fast as the most potent Tesla Model S.
Canadian kart maker Daymak claim to have made an electric kart that can accelerate quicker than an F1 car.
You have to get through Canadian winters somehow, and Toronto-based kart manufacturer Daymak clearly spend theirs pushing the boundaries of how fast they can make a go kart, er, go.
Enter the firm’s new C5 Blast Go-Kart Ultimate. Daymak are claiming an astonishing 0-60mph time for the kart of just 1.5 seconds – that’s quicker than a MotoGP bike, F1 car or rallycross supercar. Now imagine all that acceleration with your bum hanging mere millimetres off the tarmac…
The kart is packing full 12 EDF – or Electric Ducted Fan – motors, with eight located on either side of the driver, and four behind, making it look like an angry, protective peacock.
The price? Well, the C5 Blast Go-Kart Ultimate will set you back $60,000 in Canadian Dollars – about £34,000 – which does sound a lot for a kart. But then again, we doubt you could find a machine that will let you go faster for less, right?
“Speed will not be an issue, and we think we can eventually go under one-second 0-to-60mph, making it faster than any vehicle in existence,” said Aldo Baiocchi, President of Daymak.
Each go-kart is custom built and tested, with delivery taking 60 days after purchase.
Before you answer “Yes!” — look at these three quick scenarios. And if you find out you’re a bit bird-brained, remember: intelligence is all relative, says psychologist Ben Ambridge.
What makes humans special? What makes us different from animals? After reviewing many studies of both humans and animals, my conclusion is: less than you might think. While we may not choose to call them civilizations, many animals — from chimpanzees to chickens — live in groups with a clearly defined pecking order and display many kinds of abilities. Ants and bees will give you a good run for your money on tests of route-planning and puzzle-solving; starlings “make music” in that their songs are constructed around the same scales as most traditional Western compositions, and abstract thinking is shown by crows, squirrels and box turtles in tests that involve using patterns or rational inferences to figure out the location of a tasty treat. Whether or not other animals can learn human language is a long-running debate, but many — dogs in particular — can learn an impressive number of individual words. And while it might be a stretch to call it science and engineering, chimpanzees are one of a number of animals who can use tools: they’ve figured out how to ant-dip (use a shoot as a spoon to pick up ants) and termite-fish (use a thin twig as a rod to catch termites).
Of course, nobody is denying that humans can do plenty of things that other animals can’t. All I hope to persuade you is that, in the words of Charles Darwin, the difference is “one of degree and not of kind”: the same abilities that allow starlings to sing, parrots to count and fish to find their way home allow humans to write symphonies, do calculus and invent Google Maps. We don’t do anything different from other animals; we do the same things, only better. While the below tests might sound a little frivolous, they have a firm scientific basis and they’re based on peer-reviewed articles from reputable academic journals. By exploring the similarities and differences between humans and other animals, we can begin to understand when and how our abilities, our likes and dislikes, and even our foibles and mental blind spots arose in the course of evolution. Now get set to pit yourself against a pigeon in three short scenarios. After answering all them, you’ll see the answers.
Scenario #1: Two many phones!
You’ve just saved up to buy a fancy new phone, and you had to really put in the hours in a part-time job (which you hate) but it was worth it. You place your order online, and the phone arrives first thing in the morning. That afternoon, an identical phone arrives. You contact the company, and — after keeping you on hold for an hour and failing to phone you back twice — a representative says the system can’t process a return and, in fact, you’d be doing the call center a favor if you just kept the phone. You agree and decide to treat your brother, whose birthday is coming up and whose current phone is all but unusable. But which of the two still-shrink-wrapped phones do you give him?
- The first one
- The second one
Scenario #2: Band-aid, please
Three months ago you bought a $190 ticket to see one of your favorite bands. Then yesterday, your #1 favorite band announced a new tour, and you snapped up a $125 ticket. In your excitement, you forgot to check the dates and — you guessed it — the shows are on the same night. You can’t sell either ticket: both bands are so obscure that their gigs never sell out, and everyone you know hates them. Which do you attend?
- The £150 gig
- The £95 gig
Scenario #3: Don’t be a mug
You want to buy some cool vintage coffee mugs and the more mugs the better (you hate washing up and have big cupboards). You go to a flea market. One seller has a box of 20 mugs, though three have nasty chips and two are missing handles. Another seller is offering, for the same price, a box of 12 intact mugs. You can’t buy both because — oh, I don’t know — the two sellers hate each other and each won’t deal with you if you’ve bought off the other. From whom do you buy your mugs?
- First seller
- Second seller
Answer #1: Two many phones
Well, there are no right or wrong answers here; the whole point is that it makes no difference. But, if this happened for real, I bet you’d give your brother the second free one, wouldn’t you? If so, you are showing a justification of effort effect: you value things that you have to work hard for much more than (identical) things that come cheap or for free. But in cases such as this one, this is a logical fallacy: it makes absolutely no difference which phone you give away and which you keep.
Pigeons show the same fallacy. Take pigeons that are trained to know both a red key and a green key give two seconds of access to grain when pecked. The clever part is that, in order to access the red key, the pigeons need to give one peck on a white key; but in order to access the green key, they need to give twenty pecks on the white key. Finally, pigeons are given a free choice — without needing to peck on the white key at all — between the red and green key. Which key do they prefer? Yes, the one that they usually had to work hard to get, even though, just as with the two phones, the results are exactly the same, two seconds of access to grain.
Answer #2: Band-aid, please
This time, there is a right answer: you should just go and see your favorite band. If you decide to go to see the other band, you are showing a sunk cost effect. Having already sunk a lot of money into the ticket, you can’t bear to waste it. Again, this is a fallacy. The past is gone forever whatever you do, so just go to the gig you’ll prefer.
Again pigeons (and also starlings) show the same fallacy. Suppose a pigeon has already pecked ten times on a green key. Now, in order to earn its food reward, it must give either another twenty pecks on the green key or ten new pecks on a red key. Even though it could save itself ten pecks worth of effort by switching to the red key, the pigeon prefers to stick with the green key, so as not to waste the ten pecks that it has already sunk into this key.
Answer #3: Don’t be a mug
The first seller is, in effect, offering 15 mugs, whereas the second is offering 12 mugs for the same price. You would be crazy to go with the second seller. If you did so, you are showing the less is more effect (thinking you’re getting more value by getting fewer pristine mugs). Again this is a fallacy. Less is not more. More is more. The fallacy arises because people tend to average over the whole set when making their judgement. For example, in one study, participants guessed that a hamburger had 734 calories but that a hamburger plus three sticks of celery (the saddest Happy Meal I’ve ever seen) had only 619 calories (and, no, they didn’t think that eating a stick of celery burns calories).
And pigeons again show the same fallacy. When given the choice between a pea alone and a pea plus a piece of milo (a relatively unappetizing grain), pigeons choose the pea — unless they have been starved beforehand, in which case they go for the meal deal. Similarly, dogs will choose a piece of cheese over a piece of cheese plus a bonus carrot, and macaques will choose a grape over a grape plus a bonus green bean. It’s not that they hate the milo, pea, carrot or green bean — they’ll eat it if that’s all that’s on offer — it’s just that pigeons, dogs and monkeys, like humans, sometimes think that less is more.
How did you do overall? Did you beat the pigeons? Probably not. The point of these studies was to show that pigeons show the same logical fallacies that are known to be widespread in humans. Why do we share these fallacies? Nobody knows for certain, but Thomas Zentall, who published a few papers that summarized these studies (and inspired another), has some suggestions. If an animal places more value on food that it has had to work hard for (justification of effort), then that may motivate it to persist longer when looking for food. Sunk cost effects may arise from the fact that, once you’ve got a food source you’re relatively happy with, moving seems unnecessarily risky, and this conservatism spills over into choices where there is in fact no such risk. Less is more effectslook puzzling to humans, but remember that most animals can’t count (or, at least, not very well). This means that, often, the best they can do is judge the overall average quality of two rival sources of (mixed) food, rather than work it out piece by piece.
If you made the same choices as pigeons, try not to feel so bad. Darwin was right: when it comes to the differences between humans and other animals, everything is relative and everything is a relative: we are all part of one big family.
Excerpted from the new book Are You Smarter Than a Chimpanzee? by Ben Ambridge. Copyright © 2017 by Ben Ambridge. Reprinted by permission of Profile Books, Inc. All rights reserved.
The UK and Ireland are not known as your typical rooftop pool destinations, and yet our islands offer some of the most spectacular pools with incredible views over cityscapes, beaches, and clifftops in Europe!
We’ve scoured the two countries/nations and found some real gems that are perfect for a romantic weekend away or simply a friend’s weekend of champagne and pampering. So, pack your swimsuit and get ready to dip your feet in some of the most decadent pools in the country.
Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa
Overlooking Edinburgh Castle, the Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa is in prime position for a weekend in the heart of the city. Surround yourself with modern luxury, including a rooftop hydro-pool providing jets of warm water at optimal body temperature complimented by the fabulous view. Sneak in early in the morning to watch the city come alive and to start your day invigorated by the fresh morning air.
You’ll also find an indoor pool and a thermal suite including a Hammam, Aroma Grotto, Rock Sauna and Bio Sauna. There’s also a first-rate gym as well but if you don’t put in a personal appearance we won’t judge – you’re on holiday. All the rooms are modern and follow a kind of minimalist chic, with pure white linen and elegant furniture. Choose from a castle view room or classic room or upgrade yourselves to a suite and enjoy the increased space and luxurious décor including tartan wall paper!
King Street Townhouse
What more could you want on a romantic city break than stylish interiors and an amazing rooftop infinity pool right in the centre of Manchester? With views over the iconic spire of Manchester Town Hall, the pool is ideal for capturing unique sunsets or people watching from on-high. Accompanied by a steam room and relaxation room, there’s no excuse not to spend hours in the spa recharging your batteries.
The hotel is housed in a beautifully renovated Italian Renaissance building, and many of the rooms maintain period features such as high ceilings, but have been updated to include floor-to-ceiling windows with views over the city. Opt for a suite and the cityscape views come courtesy of a free-standing bath placed directly in front of the windows.
When you’re feeling peckish, head downstairs to the King Street Tavern for plenty of seared steak and red wine. If you are looking to treat yourselves go for a classic Afternoon Tea, or catch the bottomless brunch including bottomless bottles of champagne.
St Bride’s Spa
A luxury spa hotel with a killer view over Saundersfoot Beach, this hotel features an infinity hydrotherapy pool that looks as if it simply melts into the sea beyond. Heated to body temperature, this is a cosy rooftop pool perfect for relaxing in – even on the chilliest of winter days.
The spa also features an aroma steam room, salt infusion room, herbal rock sauna, and ice fountain, plus a host of treatment rooms should you be looking for that extra mile of pampering.
The hotel is home to 34 individually designed rooms, and most feature a balcony looking out across the sea. Each of the rooms are decorated in a style that recalls summer holidays filled with salt in your hair and the smell of sun cream, with light grey walls, blue accents and artwork depicting seascapes, as well as handmade wooden furniture and woven bed throws.
Canary Riverside Plaza
An elegant 5-star hotel in Canary Wharf, The Canary Riverside Plaza allows all hotel guests access to the health and leisure club adjacent to the hotel, featuring a rooftop pool with panoramic views over the Thames and a state-of-the art gymnasium.
Where indulgence meets comfort, every room at the Riverside Plaza comes with large bay windows to make the most of those views over landmarks such as The Shard and Tower Bridge. The rooms are designed with the ultimate of comfort in mind, meaning plush fluffy carpets, high and bouncy beds, a lavish bathroom with soaking tub and l’Occitane toiletries.
The Cliff House Hotel
A 15-metre pool facing floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Irish sea is what awaits you at The Cliff House Hotel. This is joined outside by a natural rock pool, a relaxation terrace complete with Jacuzzi and two stone baths, so you can take in the refreshing sea air whilst remaining warm and cosy in the water.
Indoors, the spa features a sauna, steam room and four treatment rooms including a couple’s treatment room for those on a relaxing romantic break. The rooms are equally luxurious, you can select a cottage, a deluxe room or a suite. The cottages are decorated in a blue and white seaside style, and offer space for up to 6 adults and extra space for children. These are a great self-catering option whilst enjoying all the perks of a luxury hotel.
If you are looking for a romantic break then a deluxe room or suite are perfect, with options including sea view rooms, or even those including a balcony or terrace. From here you can head downstairs in the evenings for Michelin-starred cuisine at the ocean-side restaurant.
The pool at the Scarlet is not technically a rooftop pool, but rather a cliff-top pool. Floor-to-ceiling windows look down a crevasse to the sea below and outdoors there’s a hot Jacuzzi and a natural pool that doesn’t use chlorine, but instead cleaned by reeds. Why reeds, you ask? Well, that’s because this is one of the UK’s premier eco hotels and combines 5-star luxury with earth-friendly innovations.
On top of reed pools and cliff-top Jacuzzis, the hotel spa also boasts a steam room, copper tub, Hammam and a Rhassoul used for messy mineral mud sessions – you can literally slather yourself in mud without worrying about damaging the décor.
Opt for a spacious room to enjoy floor-to-ceiling views over the clifftop and out to sea – this is not for the faint hearted, as you’ll also have your own balcony with seating area, seemingly over the drop.
A serene retreat in the heart of London’s opulent Knightsbridge area, The Berkeley hotel is home to a ‘seventh heaven’ outdoor pool on the seventh floor of the building. The pool is tiled in iridescent white and gold mosaic and the surrounding relaxation area features padded sun loungers and windows with views out over London. The pool has a retractable roof so even if the weather is less than favourable, you can still enjoy some time by the water.
At every turn, The Berkeley is luxurious whether it be the light filled Collins Room dining room where you can also enjoy the über fashionable Pret-a-portea a witty take on a fashionista afternoon tea, or enjoying a sophisticated cocktail in the Blue Bar.
Tasteful and stylishly decorated, the rooms at The Berkeley are designed with comfort in mind so that after a long day of exploring the city, the fluffy carpets and thick mattresses are exactly what you need to feel relaxed in this home-from-home.
London’s latest hot-spot hotel, The Ned is a converted Georgian bank right in the centre of the bustling Bank district. The hotel is a wealth of luxurious outlets and it doesn’t come more luxury than a rooftop heated pool with a view over St Paul’s cathedral. Plus, an indoor heated pool and Turkish hammam spa downstairs.
The vaulted ceilings and large open spaces of this grand building lend themselves to the grandeur of nine diverse restaurants and live jazz bands that add to the ambiance in several areas of the hotel. There’s also a secret bar downstairs in the bank vaults, which you may recognise from the James Bond film Goldfinger.
When you aren’t gorging yourself on nine different types of cuisine or lazing by one of the pools, you can explore your seriously stylish bedroom. Decorated in a 1930’s style, the rooms include eye-catching upholstery and bespoke floral wall paper, whilst maintaining modern touches such as a rainforest shower and Cowshed spa products.
Diamonds are forever, and apparently so is dying now… Algordanza is a Swiss startup company that’s reinventing the wheel when it comes to memorial keepsakes made from the ashes of deceased loved ones.
The company uses cremated human remains to create memorial diamonds that can be worn conveniently wherever you go.
As it stands, diamonds are simply pressurized carbon atoms that are baked then squeezed from underneath earth’s mantle using extreme pressure and heat.
Human bodies are around 20 percent carbon which allows Rinaldo Willy, founder of Algordanza, to use a unique process that grows synthetic diamonds.
Although the service appears geared towards the upper classes, Willy claims a “diamond burial” could be less costly than traditional options, particularly with the growing premium on real estate (both for the living and the dead.)
According to Algordanza, the process works like this, “During cremation, the majority of carbon escapes as carbon dioxide. In the ashes remain 1-5% of carbon.
In our laboratory we are able to isolate this carbon from all other substances. This isolated carbon is the foundation for the diamond growth following the example set by nature.
The carbon solely from the remains of your loved one converts under high pressure and high temperature to graphite. The purified graphite is the foundation for the subsequent diamond transformation inside our own HPHT (High Pressure – High Temperature) machines.
A diamond starter crystal within the growth cell triggers the growth of the Memorial Diamond. It is melted into a metal alloy and does not conjoin with the carbon isolated from the cremation ashes. More diamond crystals slowly crystalize on the surface of the starter crystal.
The growth process takes weeks – depending on the desired size of the Memorial Diamond. The starter crystal is then removed from the surface of the rough diamond.”
Prices range from $5,000 to $20,000