The pubscape of Bromley-By-Bow is nothing if not unremarkable. But what it lacks in attractive boozers it makes up for with finest folk – a swelling roster of big characters and big hearts.
“Are you gay?!”
Greg and I had barely toasted to Bromley-By-Bow in Galvanisers, an A12 roadside residing pub, when the familiar, borough spanning Ultimate London Pub Crawl inquisition resumed.
This was the first time, however, that an intrusion into mine and Greg’s sexual habits had been used as a conversation opener. Normally fellow barflies engage us in some light and colloquial chitchat before jabbing a finger into our chests and demanding we reveal just where our cocks go after lights out. Danny Dodds, known locally as Doddsy – a self-proclaimed “East End Legend” whose preferred form of communication was shouting – had no time for such formalities.
Greg was fixed in Doddsy’s swaying but steely glare.
“Well?” Doddsy demanded.
He lurched his head across the table towards me, “And you?”
These clearly weren’t the answers Doddsy was expecting and thusly a short but awkward silence followed.
“Are you gay?” Greg chirped.
“Me?! Fark orrrrrrfffff!”
Doddsy was a broad shouldered middle-aged gent who had left his flat two weeks earlier for a pint and not returned at all during the interim fortnight. He muttered, slurred and gesticulated his way through a series of impossible to follow anecdotes from his trailblazing youth. The only decipherable line being the climatic “[something something something] squirt them in the face with a water pistol!”
Doddsy asked how we had ended up in Bromley-By-Bow and we, of course, obliged and explained.
“You boys,” he fog-horned before slipping into an impersonation of the two of us, “’We just want versatility and originality’. Fuck off. You just want a load of sluts.”
“Just one slut will do.” Greg offered with a wry smile.
Doddsy, incandescent with lust for the as yet unknown maiden, flung his head back and hollered, “JUST ONE SLUUUUUUUUUUUUT!” his arms reaching out toward the spectral singular slut he bawled for.
“Any trouble call me and remember,” Doddsy lowered his voice to offer a final, paternal and sincere affirmation before our departure, “smash it while you can.”
It was hard to imagine how any bar or patron would ever entertain us again Anno Doddsy.
“Excuse me?” a strong but lilting East London accent called from the next table, “but what are you doing here?”
The voice belonged to Jenni, a twenty-something local girl who was out with her friends, Elsa and Rachael, and her boyfriend Jack – all four of whom were working, or training to work in, the educational sector.
The quartet, led by Jenni – a girl who can’t move further than three feet in Bromley-By-Bow without running into someone she knows – accepted Greg and I quicker than we have ever known over the past 30 crawls. Elsa and Rachael, although pleasant company, soon cited domestic commitments the following morning and made haste for the train. But Jack and Jenni, a couple so affable it’s hard to imagine anyone not falling into easy conversation with them, took our invitation to follow us to the next pub.
“This way boys!” Jenni ordered as we strode out of The Charlie into the night and towards The Festival Inn – “the only other pub in Bromley-By-Bow”.
Jenni, characteristically, was on first name terms with the entire staff and after a brief round of hellos waved us through to an adjacent, private room for a pool tournament.
Round after round of drinks and pool followed. An hour and revels had passed by the time Greg and I submitted to the inescapable trill of the crawl. We exchanged details with our new chums, said our farewells and headed onwards unaccompanied.
We were now on East India Dock Road and a quick stop in the pleasingly named Bum Daddy’s Manor Arms launched us into Canary Wharf in search of terminal lubrication. Brodie’s Bar was the only offering and, with the joyful spirits our new friends still in our minds, we took the empty dancefloor as an invitation and grooved away, a giddy duo, whilst the business tie clad elite looked on. An air of desperation fuelled their reserve and they smiled uneasily at us, wriggled their shoulders to the beat but dared not venture further than the comfort zone of their own seats. Despite their geographical proximity these people are galaxies apart from the Doddsy’s, Jenni’s and Jack’s of this world.
We staggered homewards, stopping only to clamber on a nearby inner-city sculpture, and praised Bromley-By-Bow and its fair citizens for cementing our faith in the high spirits and good nature of our capital dwelling neighbours.
Next stop: BUCKHURST HILL