Of course, I don't expect you to read these blogs unless you are Canadian, an insomniac, a pervert or a priest. Especially considering how many of them I'll be churning out in the coming days. Churn, churn, churn, it is like cross-ticking a GBG whilst stirring butter in a giant vat with John Lydon.
So I'm sat here, 'New Tricks' repeat on mute, trying to remember what I did three weeks ago today (still Sunday as I write) as I 'opped aboard some overground train to Clapton because even though it is on the London Underground map, it is an Overground train really. Does it have a capital 'O', who cares?
Clapton felt like an fashionable East London suburb, probably cos it was, plenty of people pushing buggies around trying to look like their shit don't stink when it certainly even rivals their Hackney counterparts soily efforts. It was two minutes after noon, the pub was painted blacker than black but open, and the sign loomed from over a hedge like a boring Loch Ness Monster gone wrong. Yes, I am on the meds whilst writing this .......
1307 / 2280. Crooked Billet, Clapton
I'd finished last night in a pub (Marlborough Arms) which was winding down for closure well before last orders had been called, and here I encountered the flip side, that is a pub which is only 'open' in so much as the door is open and they are 'surprised happy' to serve me a pint. Otherwise, a disorganised 'gearing up for Sunday lunch' scene surrounded me, making me feel like I was drinking midway through some kind of house clearance when I should instead be helping. A friendly ginger girl chopped limes, a bit like our barman from the Fisherman's in Reading but less hairy (from what I could see), and they all had names like Marissa, Esme and Pollyanna. Important bearded managers came out to give them motivational Sunday soundbites like 'try and push the house wine' and similar shit. My ale was good, people smiled, and someone closed the draughty door behind my knifeless and forkless table, a rarity in here today. Yet I couldn't quite feel comfortable. Signs like "Terry's Tuesday Table Tennis Tournament" had me imagining what a top cockney knees up pub we could have in different circs. The pub telephone sounding like a pigeon was perhaps the quirkiest feature, and I'm not sure that was deliberate. As the dining baby buggies were pushed in, it was time for me to push off.
|Emergency beermat was called into action|
|Man brought baby to bar and then wondered why it was hard to carry drinks back|
Hackney was not a long walk at all from Clapton, and although I'd done this pub everyone raved about but I found a bit avg called the Pembury Tavern many years back (dull Milton beers, pretentious card games, chewy wild boar burgers, cold and airy), there was another GBG pub now. It looked promising, and was!
1308 / 2281. Cock Tavern, Hackney
Yes, this was delightful. Just a couple of old duffers chewing the fat with the landlord, very spartanly decorated, and an obvious community thing going on when it is busier as borne out by a variety of games involving eating pickled eggs, which had the rules displayed on pub beermats and a weird blackboard, which I thought was displaying a graveyard scene, but probably wasn't. There was also a cheese night called Hallouminati, who I thought was one of Hull City's less successful Egyptian signings of the last five years. I had a Five Points Railway Porter and very delicious it was too, oh and I loved the loo cos the sink was an old urinal with one of the weirdest taps I'd ever seen in a pub, and I've seen a lot of bog taps. It nearly made me want to drink from it, but I didn't. In a weird snippet of conversation, they'd been talking about the recent storms when a local commented "I might have to start being nicer to northerners!" I didn't get it, but it was a nice thing to hear. I looked at the cider pump, and the pump clip fell off. Us Northerners have special powers like that.
Next it was on to Leyton, where I knew my next pub had originally been a 'pop-up' pub for the 2012 Olympics but had stood the test of time. I was still expecting some flimsy portakabin with some Leyton Orient legends of the 90's working behind the bar, but I was pleased to see something a bit more sturdy.
|Just like a library|
|Mosaic flooring promising|
Little did I know at the time but this was one of the 'Antic' pub chain, not something I've been too aware of but the longer I lingered in the east and south of London, the more I realised exactly how many are in the GBG. They fit into two types, modern noisy exposed pipework canteens, and ones like this, all renovated old buildings with quirky furnishings and a relaxed comfortable vibe. This one did remind me slightly of Mirth, Marvel and Maud in Walthamstow though, so I was learning! I'd see so many of these Antics, I'd end up doing a bingo card a la Ember Inns & Micropubs, but that's a tale for another day. The barman was a proper swaggering dude with a mass of hair, and served me a lovely bubbly brown bitter. Of course, the pump clip described the ale perfectly using EVERY beery word apart from 'bitter' which is so 2018, I said "hah!" out loud as I waited at the bar. I sat under some deer heads on this low down comfy settee, trying not to spook the three young ladies lunching opposite by making any eye contact. Even by London pub standards, the staircase and corridor to the loos was death defying, memorable and full of old casks, I half expected to find Tutankhamen down there tapping a keg or whatever beer people do. Other people wore dungarees and flatcaps and were obviously trying to compete with Bethnal Green's King's Arms for the most twipstery London pub going. Yet I felt very at home and relaxed here, impressive place. Sadly, my bitter didn't hold up, and after a stunning first half, it got tired towards the bottom, which you can't say of the diners trousers. If that makes sense.
So, which fool built Leytonstone so far from Leyton? Felt like a reet long walk to get to the home of some of my earliest football away day memories, back when I was a lager drinking tween and me and Dad went in the Coach & Horses and marvelled at how vibrant the Leytonstone High Road was.
At least I knew to expect quirky, and you'd have to say that about the first pub ......
1310 / 2283. Northcote Arms, Leytonstone
Even though this pub was decorated in a modern style, and had light beaming in through the large windows, it was perhaps my favourite of the three remaining pubs. It was helped greatly by a local 'character' at the bar, with those star tattoos near his eyes, and 'Chas' and 'Dave' on his knuckles (probably) a bit like the Kray twins into real ale - in fact, when I declined to take him up on the pub's 'try before you buy' offer on this odd sour mango ale, despite his insistence, and I thought he was going to knee cap me. "I've never done a try before you buy and then felt I could then say no!" I explained, just as I'd done in Amblecote a few weeks back. I got the same 'well you're mad' type reaction. So I went straight for it, scowled (why do people drink this type of thing?) but I'd made my bed and now I must lie in it. "Well, everyone has different tastes" said the barmaid, to lighten the mood. So no, I didn't enjoy my pint. But you can't blame the pub or the beer, just myself, and I prefer it that way! I also have written "Schwepps Lemonade box for recycling" but no idea what I was going on about. Comfy happy pub to sit and have a drink though on a Sunday afternoon.
|Up the O's|
|Stuff happening soon, but not now|
As I turned down a side street to my penultimate pub of today (and I was making good time, it was still mid afternoon), three blokes jump out of nowhere and rather than mug me, race past me down the street. I was a bit upset, they looked like they were desperate to get to the same pub as me and get to the bar before me .....
|There they are, getting away!|
1311 / 2284. North Star, Leytonstone
Cracking back street boozer this, hang about, I must've preferred it to the Northcote! Sure enough, the trio of East End thugs had beaten me to the bar, and it was heaving in there. What was weird though, there was a back room with hardly a soul in it. I managed to make eye contact with the staff and think I jumped the queue, but never mind cos everyone was talking about one of the two hot topics on every Londoners lips this week, the Croydon Cat Killer! Now why they were so concerned he or she might next target Leytonstone cats seemed weird to me, but they were not convinced by the police statement claiming 'a fox did it!' and neither was I. Like I say, such pre-occupation allowed me to get served a bit quicker, think they all just wanted to be bar-blockers anyway. In the quiet back room, I spied a sign. "Bla bla bla" THAT is the team I work on at work when I'm not Calypso-bound, BLA or 'Business Loans Admin'. Ugh, no escape. In this context, it was signs to the loos indicating women talk more than men. When will they give it a rest? Which leads me nicely on to Londoner hot topic 2, Chas's death! Yes, someone put "There Ain't No Pleasing You" on the jukebox and soon the front bar were having a right good sing song. I have never felt more cockney as I joined in from afar (I've seen Chas n Dave 5 times, and have 3 albums, so there!) Next up was 'Gertcha', then 'Margate', then 'Mustn't Grumble', then that shit Spurs one, then 'Rabbit' and then 'Snooker Loopy' to finish with. Great set, shame my beer had done a 'Leyton Technical' and declined at a rate of knots. You can't av it all, can ya guv?
One pub left then, and I only walked past it twoice didn't I like a facking mug? (note how London I am becoming). Yeh, so I'm looking for the Red Lion but I just couldn't see a sign, eventually crossing the road and squinting up at an actual picture of a Red Lion, like in the olden days when people were illiterate, or modern day Doncaster.
1312 / 2285. Red Lion, Leytonstone
So I ordered this pint of mild which was actually easily the best kept beer I'd had in the Leyton/Leytonstone area (had my reservations about this ELB but this time it came up trumps) but this was a huge one roomed cacophony of Sunday afternoon mayhem, as babies wailed, Mum's wiped mushy banana from their jowls, blonde rockstars set up amps for an impromptu gig, old men rubbed their hands on their trousers, oh yes, there was so much life here, it was impossible to know whether to love or loathe the situation I found myself in. But you know, six pints in mid afternoon on a low flung settee and a great pint, sometimes even I find it better to switch off and just enjoy!
So that was that. Apart from a Dominoes pizza.
|I'm 85 MR so 14 mins for a quick half!|
So I popped into the White Hart right near my Holborn / Covent Garden dungeon which might be pre-emptive one day cos it is the oldest pub in the world or something, and had a couple of ales on. My half was good, dare I say it, better than a lot of the beers I'd had today in BRAPA certified pubs!
That's it for now, I will keep churning these out. Look at the pics, it's all I really ask. And soon we'll be up to my lovely Dorset review where we can properly concentrate again. Love you lots, Si