Despots, crackpots, dance moves and Sky Sports – Barons Court has it all.
It was a balmy summer’s eve as we loafed leisurely away from Barons Court station in search of liquid refreshment. After much wandering we found The Curtain’s Up and supped on delicious hoppy beverages outside as we traded quips and anecdotes. Inside, sports fans gawked hypnotically at monstrous plasma screens showing the latest kick-about between the reds and blues.
Moving on, we sauntered down leafy, affluent streets and found The Colton Arms. Crossing the threshold, we travelled back in time to an era of rich, dark woods and burnished brass –tradition oozed out of every rustic bibelot and foaming tankard. But – alas! Here too the patrons worshipped at the altar of Sky Sports, staring blankly at those ubiquitous reds and blues, doomed to chase their spherical quarry for eternity. The illusion of tradition was shattered and with every passing second we ran the risk of being mesmerised ourselves. Onwards!
Further pleasant trudging led us to The Rylston, which to our utmost delight had a beer garden…a completely full beer garden. Andy, for whom the phrase ‘stranger danger’ is a non sequitur, approached the nearest drinkers and asked if we could share their table. They smiling accepted and thus began a 90-minute debate on Middle Eastern politics. I say debate, it was more of a lecture, really, delivered by the alpha-male of the trio, Andreas. Next to him sat his wife in passive silence, then Minas, a quiet engineer, recently retired. Andreas held forth with vigour, as we interjected the best we could. As the conversation – or should I say, tirade – wore on, it became increasingly obvious that Andreas had some quite worrying views about dictatorship. It was all starting to get rather uncomfortable and tiresome when Andreas bounded off returning with a round of drinks, including pints for us. All dodgy personality traits were swiftly forgotten as we jovially accepted the free and therefore oh-so-sweet-tasting nectar, already feeling a North Korean devotion towards Andreas – our Benevolent Bringer of Beer.
After this lengthy sojourn at The Rylston we moved quickly, wanting to make up ground. We headed towards Fulham, stopping at several forgettable pubs on the way before discovering The Harwood Arms. Here we met another trio – thankfully without an Andreas-like admiration for autocrats. Morris, David and John welcomed our jocular company with open arms. Morris, as I soon discovered, was a strange and infuriating man who spoke exclusively in stale jokes. He had no ear or mind for conversation, ignoring all attempts at two-way dialogue, instead preferring to spew forth a deluge of tired one-liners followed by hollow laughter – his own. However, Andy seemed to enjoy humouring him, so I fobbed Morris off on him and turned to John, a gregarious cockney in his early-sixties who seemed to be the father figure of the group. Slightly sozzled as he was – as we all were by this point – John treated me to a glut of fatherly advice that was genuinely moving. I almost welled up.
My ears full of John’s inspiring counsel, and Andy having picked up several new jokes to add to his oeuvre, we strode bright-eyed to the Elk Bar. Now – finally, conversation could take a back seat and we could unleash our impeccable, if somewhat avant-garde, dance moves. Our fluid shapes communicated far more than words ever could. We knew the other dancers were impressed: their backs were envious, their frowns jealous, their eyes rolled in sensual appreciation. But the merry dance couldn’t last forever. As the club emptied, Andy pointed out how close we were to my abode in Putney and one of us (moi?) suggested running home. Before I knew it we were hightailing it down Fulham Road as I provided thoughtful, if slightly overbearing, running advice the whole way. Andy put in an impressive performance and we jogged into Putney with an easy elegance. Bidding farewell to my fellow athlete at the 85 bus stop, I carried on homeward, reflecting on yet another unpredictable and unique Ultimate London Pub Crawl.
Next stop: BAYSWATER