A night of biblical journeys, titanic tournaments and finest folk is what’s in store for those brave enough to traverse the scarce but rewarding pubscape of Brent Cross.
It’s a rare and exalting experience beating one’s friend at the 1995 special edition of Trivial Pursuit whilst relaxing in a leather wing back and sipping finest ale. If you haven’t experienced such highs I suggest you manufacture a scenario in which you can as soon as possible. Luckily for me, my blind guess that Prime Minister of New Zealand David Lange compared Margaret Thatcher’s speaking style to that of Hitler at the Nuremberg rallies had seen me seize the allusive yet decisive final slice in my multi-coloured knowledge cake and gifted me with the ecstasy which only such episodes can provide. Even rarer still, yet similarly exalting, is to find oneself celebrating such victories soon after by performing the Oops Upside Your Head dance with a local lady on the dance floor of a sports-bar-come-nightclub-come-Indian-restaurant.
Before we made it to The Greyhound, where my guesswork trounced Greg into a moronic submission due to his lacking knowledge of current affairs around the time of his seventh birthday, we had walked miles from Brent Cross station in search of a suitable boozer. We headed out the station towards the red dots denoting pubs on our Google Maps and found nearly all shut down. Their charming façades remain but they are now home to health and safety companies or simply boarded up in lieu of corporate development. As we crossed the pulsing vein of the North Circular, our mouths still bone dry, we took to discussing the area’s famed religious community and more precisely, our thoughts addled by dehydration, what a Jewish themed pub might be called. The winner being Greg’s offering of ‘Bar Mitzvah’. What he lacks in mid-nineties trivia he makes up for with excellent punning.
We finally enjoyed our first pint in the student friendly The Claddagh Ring, some 45 minutes after meeting at Brent Cross station, followed by a drink in The Chequers and finally The Greyhound. The evening was drawing in and our only option was to continue down towards Hendon in search of further refreshment. It was here, tucked away unassumingly next to the station, that we found our way down into The Arena Sports Bar and Club and met Naomi – the kind of woman who happily receives two strangers into her local with unwavering aplomb and charisma. First she glanced at us across the tiny dance floor, which lies at the opposite end of the long room to the families tucking into Saag Paneer, then she made her way over to bestow us with the virtues of her local and, before the tired DJ sat behind a plethora of lasers and lights could click to the next track, had us sitting and slapping on the sticky laminate floor in time to a favoured discotheque tune. As Greg noted, one can be as confident and outgoing as possible but it takes the Naomis of the world, welcoming without thought or worry, to really make a night out.
Reluctantly we left Naomi, the crawl beckoning as always, and headed to Kelly’s where we were refused entry due to Greg displaying his ghostly pale pins. Greg hopelessly scanned a nearby pile of rubbish, praying for some suitable and unsullied garms that may suit the bouncers’ fashion requirements. Sadly, however, no one had found themselves disposing of a pair of prime condition and clean 32-34’s in the hours before our arrival. There was some chat of using one of our coats or passing the one pair of trousers we had between us through the pub’s toilet window so we could both enter but the logistical reality of these plans soon put end to any such endeavours.
Instead we headed into The Hendon where we met Robert and Artou, two Eastern Europeans who shared our penchant for lager and pub sports. A lengthy tournament spanning both air hockey and table football soon ensued with Greg and I displaying a skill and dexterity beyond our years at air hockey but a skill at table football reminiscent of our skills on an actual pitch. We shook hands with our foreign counterparts and headed on into The Bodhran and finally, longing for more hip swaying, headed back to The Arena for a last turn with Naomi before the final tube. She was distracted by other punters on our second innings and only gave us a genial but brief wave. We waved back and vowed to catch up with her when the crawl sends us back to Hendon Central in November 2021.
The unexpected revelries, and the blatant lies of the TFL app (so misleading Greg sent them an angry, drunken tweet), led to us yet again missing our last tube home and a lengthy relay of night buses was our only option. Greg and I took to slumbering in shifts whilst the other made good with selfies. Reaching Ealing at 2am we passed Crispin’s Wine Bar on the short walk between night buses and, rules being rules, stopped in for a final, bleary eyed night cap before the final hour trudge back to leafy South West London. Brent Cross had been a night of trekking from start to finish and one we won’t be quick to forget.
Next stop: BRIXTON