An evening of raunchy hens, imaginary Saints and a lascivious man called Christopher.
Standing amongst the soulless semi-detached houses that surround Barkingside station, Greg and I realised the evening may be our first absolute failure. Barkingside appeared to be dry and bare in both character and pubs.
Resorting to our phones to decide which faceless, clone street we should venture down, we came to The Chequers. Not quite on par with the Chequers frequented by the Prime Minister’s influential guests, this Chequers served sour lager and was home to groups of slouching, shouting, scrumhalf men who clearly slid in through the double doors every Friday and laid on anecdotes thick and fast whilst swilling cold ones.
Exiting, we strode past a string of closed down shops and clubs, finally happening upon New Fairlop Oak. We were now approaching half past nine, only two beers in us in the last two hours, so we took to our phones once more in an attempt to save this sullen adventure.
Our only choice was Gants Hill, a short bus ride south. We kept eagle eyed along the way, ensuring we didn’t break our first rule by passing a pub without entering, and bounced straight into Hotel St Georgio (named after that famed, but oft overlooked, patron saint of male grooming products) where the Netherlands were giving Spain a right ruddy thrashing in the international football awards 2014.
“I can’t believe it. Five one!” proclaimed an incredulous onlooker in the empty bar. Greg and I shook our heads and mimicked his disbelief, assuming this was correct protocol when engaged in football banter.
Visage, a club and bar which employed questionably vigorous security checks, was our next stop. Here we came across our first hen party of the evening. On the right hand side of the room were the hens – standing in tight circles, learner plates, fairy wings and inflatable cocks abound – and on the left the men – their solid, glistening fros indicating their adherence to the word of St Georgio. Both sides of the room were waiting for the poor decision making of a boozy night to begin. And stationed awkwardly in the middle – Greg, myself and Christopher; a bald, brassy local whose opening gambit to conversation was a slurred, “I can’t believe they let me in!”
“Watch me whilst I sort out these birds”, Christopher grunted and, with a preparatory snort, swaggered over to two women on a nearby table. There was much whispering and shaking of heads and then, with a dramatic and coy shrug, Christopher returned – these birds clearly were not for sorting.
Despite his failings, Christopher was an avuncular sort and took me under his womanising wing.
“You’ll be nuts deep before you know it! Check this out” and he was away again, bouncing and swaying towards a closed circle of hens. He orbited the group, his head a shiny, lecherous moon, and managed to penetrate the inner sanctum when a girl, haphazardly and foolishly, looked over her shoulder. Christopher returned to us a number of times, “You’re in. I’ve told them you’re my younger brother”.
“I have a girlfriend”, I lied in an attempt to quell the embarrassment. But Christopher was not concerned with claims of fidelity, be them fictitious or otherwise, and the berating continued until he left to powder his nose. Greg took the opportunity to explain our true relationship with Christopher to the hens and we seized our chance to escape.
We swung into The Valentine where we met a second hen party – again adorned with the relevant soon-to-be-wed appendages . Giggling and shrieking, hens 2.0 were more than happy to pose, cock and all, for a snap.
We finished at Sidney’s where, after another harrowing security check, the long-serving bar maid regaled us with boozy stories of old. Climbing aboard the empty carriage of the last tube home, Greg and I endeavoured in an Olympics of tube sports – swinging from railings, sprinting the length of the carriage and, to our shame, walking through the door of death between carriages whilst the train was in motion. Sorry, Boris.
I must finish on a personal note and congratulate Lucy, our first ever guest all the way back in Angel in September 2013, who has just had her first child – Monty. As a gift, Greg and I have promised to treat Monty to an Ultimate London Pub Crawl when he turns 18 in summer 2032. Sudbury Town – you’ve been warned.
Next stop: BARONS COURT