Wednesday 17 January 2018

BRAPA - From Charing Cross to Covent Garden : A London Tale

So, where was I when I rudely interrupted my own blog yesterday?  Ah, that's right, it was 16:12 and I'd just left one of central London's most wonderful pubs, The Harp in Charing Cross WC2. 

I was in very good spirits as I rounded the corner and shaped up to take the photo of my next pub, the Lemon Tree, from across the road.  As I was about to click the button, a text came through from Dad saying "London Pubs are not very good are they?"   I kind of disagreed after the Harp, but was this top foreshadowing from the premier BRAPA wing-man?

1213 / 1959.  Lemon Tree, Charing Cross

Dead.  From the second I entered.  It was the pub equivalent of Cyrille Regis being called on stage to sing a 'Zombie' encore with the Cranberries.  In Maidenhead.  Too soon?  Probably.  The Lemon Tree may have suffered from following on from the Harp but really, there was little excuse.  Most seats were taken, yet the sour faced miserable clientele were fully silent.  There was no one behind the bar.  So a young lady with a shade of lipstick slightly too rouge for her complexion (not that I'm an expert) heaved herself up moodily from a corner table to serve me a pint of HPA.  "You payin' by card" she moaned.  'Errrm no I'm just buying a pint so I'm paying by cash like a proper human being' is what I should have said, instead I scratted around nervously for the £4.45.  As I looked up from checking my 55p change (I had to use a fiver in the end), she was already sat back in the corner.  Call me old fashioned but I like to see the staff behind the bar, not just popping over when they have to.  I sat near a moody dungaree headscarf girl, trying to be all cool and moody staring moodily out of the window like a dog dying in a hot car.  My HPA was in good nick but this was a level of dull that made Stoke Mandeville and Mentmore feel quirky.  Hull City 0-0 Reading seemed the perfect football accompaniment as the twiddly modern jazz played, nothing else happened til our lipsticked friend actually smiled across the room at me, so I couldn't even call her a PISS barmaid in the end!  Dungaree girl had cheered up as a friend and her watched a mobile phone video of a twild laughing, which means I can't even escape the blighters when they aren't in the pub!

Headscarf dungaree girl stares out at nothingness

Couple bored shitless of life, this pub and each other

One of my newest Twitter buddies later told me he'd actually had a really good curry in the Lemon Tree, which is nice for him, but as far as BRAPA's concerned, that's like Hull City losing 0-10 v L**ds at the KComm and someone saying "well, I had the most fantastic meat & potato pie at half time so we can't blame players, manager or Allams too much".  And that everyone, is an analogy you won't find in a pub guide.

Classic Text exchange with B G Everitt
My next pub was a mere 0.1 mile walk according to my GBG App, despite being listed under Covent Garden.  You really have to LOVE Central London in this respect, about time Cornwall & North Yorkshire got an underground train network! 

Are we ready for today's 4th pub? Good, let's go in!

1214 / 1960.  White Swan, Covent Garden

This was a little more like what I expect from your typical Central London pub, with a vibrant atmosphere, the constant tinkling of glassware, and a mass of wide-eyed folk acting like they don't know how to conduct themselves in a pub.  On the way, I was greeted by a busy wirey guy who reminded me of a Mexican Wrestler - in fact, we almost collided, and soon he was behind the bar and I was having trouble being served.  Despite looking straight at me, he served a bunch of dithering middle aged Germans (always the worst sort of German, well, to a point) so I folded my arms and looked at him like "well you messed that up El Chiquacharito didn't you?" but he simply smiled sweetly at me as some sweaty flabby bald dude served me.  I was more sad because the smiley barmaid who looked like a young Kylie Minogue hadn't noticed me, despite serving about 10 people at once.  It soon became clear there was nowhere to really sit (or move to) so I edged to a shelf facing the bar where there was just enough room to balance a pint if you were steady and watchful!  The highlight soon became a crazed bunch of locals led by a yellow shirted dude who were very excited to see ' Black Sheep' on the bar.  I'd simply blanked it, I'm that used to seeing it, but it was pulled pint after pint, til they drank the barrel dry.  It was a wondrous sight, the guy had obviously been drinking ale for centuries and I soon felt ashamed for drinking something probably southern called Parody, which again was surprisingly good quality.  Not a bad pub, but not one to stick in the mind for too long.  

Black Sheep legend.

Instant Pleasures has it's pipes cleaned! 

The kind of strange folk getting served before me

It was time for another, and this one took me further into the dark bowels (I still hadn't had the poo I thought I'd needed on the way to Mentmore but had now subsided) of Covent Garden.

Again, I'd tried to get into this pub on a cold Sunday morning when it was supposed to be open, only to find it firmly closed.  And again, it wowed me.  Harp part two?  

1215 / 1961.  Cross Keys, Covent Garden

And again heaving, proof that the drinking folk are no fools when it comes to seeking out the best places, contrary to earlier comments I may have made about the London drinker!  What set this apart, the people were weird and characterful too.  Did I walk in with a Tourist Information / Happy to Help badge pinned to me?  As I waited patiently at the 3-deep bar mayhem, I was asked if I had the time (which I did), then by a man with strange eyes 'do you have a light?' which I didn't, and then I was told by a man who seemed to be half talking to himself 'no dogs in here!'  Did I look like a dog?  Or a dog owner?  Or was he conversant in BRAPA's views on Twog life?    There was really nowhere to go, once more, as a little 80 year old man the size of Yoda shuffled into the one available corner space I'd seen, so I had to stand behind the door and be amazed how considerate people were when it came to opening and closing it gently so as not to squash me.  Forgot to mention getting served!  I ordered this Brodies thing, hadn't seen it was also on a tall font, so the friendly bar man asked "do you want the proper one, or THIS!" pointing accusingly at the tall font and scrunching up his nose.  Great work!  Twamra legend.  I approve.   Apart from that, I just stared wide eyed at the bright shiny pub, the amazing mirror, copper pots on ceiling, crazy decor.  Really was a great pub, a bit like a larger psychedelic psychotic Harp.  Sad that Long Scarf Babe didn't bond with me over the length of our scarves, but you can't have everything!

A happy pub scene, taken from behind the door

The mirror, and corner where Yoda is hiding somewhere

Long scarf babe fails to bond
One more to do under the Covent Garden heading, breaking my so called 6 pub a day rule but I felt so much more alive, awake and sober than I'd done in Bucks earlier that it was crying out for it.  Especially as no Friday night BRAPA this coming week adds to a frustrating Jan!

1216 / 1962.  Coach & Horses, Covent Garden

As I took advantage of a bit of hesitation from a blousey woman in blue (always the most hesitant of pub specimens) and rested on the corner of the bar, I couldn't see much in the way of ale so went for an Adnams Southwold because it was near me.  In fact, judging by the decor, font and all those whiskeys, it felt a bit like an Irish pub even if whiskey was spelt whisky which I believe is the Scottish spelling so perhaps the Irish theme was all in my head!  There was even fewer places to seat, stand or perch than before so I took my ale down a typically death defying City of London staircase to the gents where I found a proper corridor.  The next 15 mins was spent debating in my head how acceptable it was to stand here and drink.  It felt a bit loo-like in decor, but clean, and I could pretend I was engrossed in the posters.  But when a girl scowled at me, I lost my nerve and went back upstairs.  Just at the moment I got back into the cauldron, the table directly in front became free and I dived in, much to the chagrin of the many groups who'd been hovering for such an opportunity.  But fortune always favours the BRAP at the end of a patient day of pub ticking perching, leaning and hovering!  A satisfying end to one of the nicer London crawls in recent memory! 

The toilet corridor of debate

Hands up if you've been to both better and worse pubs today

See you all in Sunderland on Saturday.  Tyne & Wear is, like Central London, another 'county' I'm getting close to completing without properly trying.

Lots o love, Si


  1. I'm sure that headscarf dungaree woman is the one I saw in Frampton-on-Severn. Did you take DNA so I can do a comparison ?

  2. "Too soon?"

    Nope. Was going to slyly hint at something similar. :)

    "he served a bunch of dithering middle aged Germans (always the worst sort of German, well, to a point)"

    Indeed. Not as bad as those stroppy little fake Germans from Austria with tiny mustaches. ;)

    "Black Sheep legend."

    Judging from his waistline he certainly has been drinking ale for centuries. (LOL)

    "Instant Pleasures has its* pipes cleaned!"

    Wheras for me, having my pipes cleaned results in instant pleasures. (wink)

    "But when a girl scowled at me, I lost my nerve and went back upstairs."

    Pfft. Since it was "loo-like in decor" you should have told her that your "poo" that had subsided was now thinking of rearing its head once more (as it were). ;)


    * - one of the few times when a possessive does not need an apostrophe. :)

  3. Never too soon. Just cackled so much my son shouted at me.

    As someone famous once said "Let the dead bury the dead".

    You can't really go wrong in London can you ? Even when it's rubbish there's loads to write about, cos of people being there and all.

    I have NO recollection at all of the Lemon Tree. I wonder when you'll reach that stage in BRAPA.