Tuesday night, three weeks ago, and after another stressful day on Project Calypso, BRAPee and Project Leader Cathie West said "you pubbing, I'm coming with you, I need a large white wine!"
Now my initial reaction was to tell her white wine is forbidden in a hidden BRAPA clause 13.8.1, but fearful of being stabbed in the eye with a sharpened orange highlighter pen from Coatbridge, I decided to nod and smile. About time I had a BRAPA guest on this difficult trip!
After a bit of Tubing, we ended up walking up a stone staircase onto Essex Street, where the fun had begun all that time ago (well, a week the previous Saturday) at the Temple Brew House.
The pub was perched on a corner, looking nice and old, very much the stereotypical 'nice' London pub:
1316 / 2290. Edgar Wallace, Temple
It was immediately obvious that this pub was a cut above your average central London pub, offering as it did, a homely atmosphere, great old signs and mirrors, and a general cheery feeling with people smiling and looking like they were actually enjoying being there, rather than posing, and you can't say that too often in those listed under 'Central'. A bit reminiscent of another pub I'd been in with Cathie, the Old Coffee House in Soho, perhaps she was a lucky charm? The barmaid was a kindly matronly soul, more Tandle than Temple (not that I've Tandled yet, just what I'd imagine!) and gave Cathie a house wine which she said was the best wine she had the entire time she'd been in London, and if there was a Good Wine Guide, this pub would be in that too. Despite the usual busy post-work bustle, a nice sized table remained free for us, we couldn't have reserved better, but you wouldn't reserve table in a pub this proper! No time for Cathie to get too relaxed, as I told her this was her chance to tick off the all important final Central London tick for me in the 2019 GBG, my first county completion (it is normally West or East Yorkshire so a real sign of my recent times!), she handled the pressure well. As I surveyed the Edgar Wallace novels (all looked a bit old and boring but probably secretly amazing), I noticed Cathie staring at the wall behind me looking horrified. What was it? A floating ghost twild? A demonic twog? No, she'd seen a sign saying 'CALYPSO'. "There is no escape from this project!" she wailed in terror, and I escorted her out to put her on a Tube back towards Angel. The poor thing. We'll laugh about it in 10 years, but too raw at present.
So, it might've been farewell to Cathie but I still had a couple of pubs in me, though I got on a Tube in the direction opposite to the one I'd been expecting so had to whip out the GBG, shocking all the ladies in the carriage, and make some late revisions. I found myself at a posh sounding stop called Sloane Square so I hopped out and walked 5 minutes to the nearest pub.
1317 / 2291. Antelope, Belgravia
The pub probably looked very nice behind all the scaffolding, but as Fullers pubs go it was quite a cosy one and had that reassuring 'pub smell' which I can't describe but tells me I'm going to have a good pint in fairly good surroundings, which I did here as I hopped on L.Pride, mainly because the barman was pulling it through in the most vigorous way, like his girlfriend had gone on a gap year and left him home alone, well it made me think it must be something special. After a couple of minutes perching on a side bit wondering why London pubs often feel half empty but still don't have any seats, I bit the bullet and joined a group of about nine ladies and one bloke in this alcove - one of those "once you're in, there's no getting out" places. The women were very woke feisty feminists, outwardly, and as I tried to scrub the 'Dirty Northerner' off myself with a ferret skin I'd been keeping in my bag for such emergencies, they all started talking about how hopeless their boyfriends were, all of whom seemed to be called 'Chris'. It put me in mind of a scene from 'Game On', that Sitcom you probably don't remember, so I tried to smile inwardly with a "I'm not a Chris" expression, which is difficult to pull off when you are sat on your own in a pub. We're all Chris in some way.
Next, I got a bit lost around Victoria station in search of a Wetherspoons which Tom retrospectively told me I'd have been better off visiting with him on a football day. He'd surely have stopped it from being as dull as it was ......
1318 / 2292. Willow Walk, Victoria
You know me, I pride myself on pub observation and finding interest and humour in even the most meaningless exchange, event or happening. So what happens when nothing happens? Short of the barman telling me the beer I wanted was a Black IPA so did I want a taste, and me saying "no, give it to me straight like a 100% pear cider" (I didn't even actually say that), this was the drabbest gloomiest nothingness ever. Perhaps folk, sensing my arrival, closed ranks so I had nothing to go on, that'd kind of please me! But no, 'Spoons very much like Micropubs are either so fascinating, I don't know what to mention next, or so boring, you get nothing. So I ate a huge bag of cheesy puffs, drank my quite nice Black IPA, and left, crying cheesy black tears, all the way back to the Doubletree.
Still, there's always someone worse off than you so I today from work in L**ds, I took a photo of my favourite local 'Spoons, the Stick & Twist:
Fear not, it'll be rebuilt on the ground floor of student accommodation after 2020, and whether it counts as a new tick or not, I'll let you decide.
I worked in London on the Wednesday, went back to York in the afternoon, but I'd be back in the capital sooner than I thought, and this time, I couldn't blame Calypso. For tales of that adventure, same time tomorrow.