Gesamtkunstwerk. This lofty term, usually reserved for Wagnerian opera, has been used to describe Arnos Grove tube station. It means “a total and entire work of art”. Such high praise seemed to us utterly misplaced on this brick and glass banality. Perhaps the critic responsible had learnt it from his word-of-the-day loo roll. We needed a drink just pronouncing it.
“You can’t be serious” I said to an ashen-faced Andy. “We’ve actually managed to gatecrash a memorial service?” This did indeed seem to be the state of affairs at The Cavalier, our fourth pub of the evening. After brazenly intruding upon a wedding party in Amersham back in August, perhaps this was the conclusion of some twisted universal symmetry.
We had arrived at Arnos Grove without much in the way of expectation. Our modest but knowledgeable gang of Twitter followers had provided precisely zero clues for the area’s pubscape, and the friendly barman in our first pub, The Arnos Arms, claimed of only one other nearby establishment: “Molly’s Bar, and that’s a dive”. We headed there regardless and found it not without a certain parochial charm, thanks to the loyal clutch of locals, found swaying on their stools and immortalised in hundreds of photos tacked above the bar and on most other surfaces of the pub. One of these faithful patrons advised us on how to continue our evening:
“Get tanked up at The York Arms, then head to The Cavalier. You’ll be able to get your end away, there’s a disco night on.”
Inspired by this insider knowledge, we left the quaint Irish boozer for the mile-long trek to The York. There was a disco on here too, celebrating Teresa’s “10 years above the door”. After grooving awkwardly in our seats for a while, flipping beer mats and chatting to the DJ-cum-iPod operative, the sound of feral grunting drew our attention to an arm-wrestling competition that had just started up. We would have loved to partake in this historic pub-sport, but beating local drinkers at their own game (especially those of the tattooed brick shithouse variety) just isn’t good sportsmanship. So we contented ourselves to be spectators. After the second bout, the winner rose manfully, bellowing “English and proud”. This jingoistic outburst motivated our hasty departure.
The Cavalier gleamed brightly from within, enticing us with the promise of warmth, company, and conversation. We entered to find a booming but empty disco to our right, and a welcoming, well-dressed crowd of drinkers to our left. Naturally, we joined the gathering and ordered a couple of tall cold ones. The crowd included a strange mix of children and pensioners but we thought nothing of it. A hardly-touched buffet kept catching my eye, but Andy sagely advised me it was not the ‘done thing’ to help yourself to the food of others. I grudgingly agreed. It wasn’t until the bottom of our pints that a barmaid informed us that this was a private function: a memorial service for a local lad. Pale-faced, Andy and I shared a solemn look and swiftly got our coats, silently cursing the doddering local of Molly’s who sent us here to “get our end away”. Never have I been more glad of resisting a buffet.
Stepping out into the cold night air, we stalked along the empty streets, benumbed by the bitter temperature and our inadvertent wake-crashing. We recovered somewhat in The Osidge Arms, diverted by warming bowls of chips and a selection of international beers that would intrigue all but the most well-traveled drinker.
We were now in the vicinity of Southgate, Arnos Grove having ran out of pubs long ago. Heading onwards along Chase Side we stopped in our tracks beside a seemingly abandoned property, complete with smashed windows, mouldering masonry and triffid-like vegetation. It begged to be explored, but as pub closing time was fast approaching we childishly promised to return with a band of friends next Halloween to investigate this deserted House of Usher.
Our final drink was in The New Crown, a Wetherspoon’s near Southgate station. This impersonal and unappealing space seemed designed for the sole purpose of serving and seating as many patrons as physically possible. We drank quickly and jumped on the last tube home. Anthony Head, or Giles from Buffy as he is perhaps better known, joined our carriage a few stops later. We considered inviting him along to explore the haunted house, but thought better of it. Instead we tried out our impeccable French on a new tube-friend, Yaourou, who spoke five languages. After much discussion of bibliothèques, baguettes and grandes maisons à la campagne, our new copine asked us how our night in Arnos Grove had been? There was only one response.
Bof. Très bof.
Next stop: ARSENAL