Happy Birthday to us. On our first anniversary tour of Barbican we discovered doctors, jokers and, unfortunately, the premier of London’s negative stereotypes.
A year has passed since that inauspicious night when Greg and I, fuelled by a brazen foolishness that would characterise and punctuate the coming months, shook hands and agreed to visit a new tube stop once a month for the next 23 years. To celebrate, we found ourselves in Barbican with two friends, Kate and Olivia, in tow to aid our celebration.
The first stop, Erebuni, was an odd and bland bar/restaurant complete with circular booths, a mid nineties soundtrack and a selection of unpronounceable, barely affordable bottled beers. It was here that I presented Greg with a gift to mark our first anniversary – a postcard of the Queen and Prince Philip – which I had picked up at Liverpool Street station en route. Greg managed a half smile and squeezed out some platitudes but, despite my best intentions, was not as impressed as I might have hoped.
A quick two-for-one mojitos with the archetypal city boy crowd at Neo preceded stops at The Sutton Arms and Stripbar and Steak which, disappointingly, does not pertain the former in the capacity one would expect. Despite our best efforts to find some scantily clad females within, all we found was another hang out for the young and wealthy of Barbican.
After a hasty necking at Tart, a speedy ale and pork pie in the Fox and Anchor, where Greg impressed the locals with his ability to spin a full pint over his head without spilling a drop, and a lager in the Be At One we had our first casualty. Kate, dismayed by the myriad of banker-types and lack of strippers, sloped off into the night for the tube. In The Charterhouse, Olivia, similarly underwhelmed by the DJ, glitter ball and ceaseless chorus of “Yeah boi” coming from an adjacent table, decided the best way was home ways and departed. Leaving Greg and I alone. And a year older.
Undeterred, we continued onto The Smithfield Tavern where our similar shirts, by coincidence not design, attracted the attention of a group of friends.
“No, just friends”, I responded.
“We thought you were brothers”, interjected her male companion (bringing the score of mistaken relationship status to brothers – 3, lovers – 1).
With that we were ushered over to their table where we learnt that the entire group, five in total, were oncologists having a Friday booze-up and were also immensely charming and affable folk. A welcome change from the strutting shirts of the previous Barbican bars.
Our gangs parted ways and mid-trek, whilst Greg was refuelling on a pasta salad, we were approached by two 30-something ladies.
“What’s that smell?!”, they enquired. Greg and I shrugged at each other, stuck our noses into our armpits and shrugged at them.
“It’s your food!”
“I don’t think so”, protested Greg.
“I don’t think it is”, I concurred (bros before hos) and moved in to smell Greg’s repast in order to pacify the fly-by nasal commentators. As I hovered my face above the dish a hand pushed the underside, forcing the pasta into my sweet boat and a harmony of laughter from the anonymous perps and Greg, their unwitting accomplice, followed. The femme-fatales quickly scarpered and Greg was unable to hide his reeling pleasure. I wiped the tomato sauce off my nose and attempted to use my drama GCSE to feign an ambivalence to the entire scene.
After a quick Irish dance with a stranger next to rat infested pile of rubbish, we finished off the night with a drink at trendy be-seen-here bar The Longroom and caught last orders at The White Bear before heading for the underground.
Greg departed the tube after entertaining the carriage with a bracing recital of The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe and, whilst checking the timetable at a bus stop, had his bag stolen. Contents including, but not limited to due to holes in Greg’s pockets, camera (hence the stock photos), phone, wallet, keys and the fucking card I spent so long picking out. A frantic search of the streets and alleyways of Earls Court ensued followed by a long, miserable trek back to Putney.
12 months. 89 pubs. One theft won’t stop us. And if you happen to be a bag thief of any kind – you’re a real shit.
Next stop: BARKING