COLLIERS WOOD – June 2019

ULPC has returned! Like Jesus, we are back from the dead, albeit after a longer interval than JC’s impatient 3-day regeneration. Our messianic comeback took place not in Jerusalem, but rather in that other most holy of places: the Golgotha of South London, otherwise known as Colliers Wood.

It had been a dry 22 months. Andy had left, heartlessly and selfishly, for Australia in August 2017 and since then the crawl had been on permanent hiatus. I sat by the phone, waiting for a call from my one-time drinking buddy. Months passed. I eschewed all personal responsibilities. My wife grew restless, friends and family gradually fell away, my seclusion became evermore complete. I had renounced all hope for the return of the prodigal son when a radiant message was conveyed to me from on high: he was coming back to the motherland in June for a few short weeks. The crawl, ladies and gentlemen, was back on.

It was a wet Tuesday evening. Andy and I met in the beer garden of The Charles Holden, both of us stoically holding back tears as we caught up on the major and minor happenings of the last two years. Andy shared some memorable events from his new life down under: delivering lambs on a farm, meeting his girlfriend Margaux, watching C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments now lost in time, like tears in beer.

After our cathartic reunion, we quickly returned to our wry, laconic selves and moved on to The Royal Standard where we were joined by previous ULPC guest, Helen. She treated us to a lengthy piece of physical comedy, spending several minutes wrestling her way out of an obstinate rain jacket. She made it appear impromptu, but I could tell she’d been working on that skit for months. The pub was of the carpeted, live sports, local boozer variety. Men sat drinking, singly and in pairs. I ventured to the gents and a solo drinker followed me. He joined me at the urinals, gave me a cheeky wink and said, “it go in one end and out the t’other, dun’t it!” This remarkable insight, delivered in a jaunty iambic hexameter, gave me pause for thought. Yes, I thought to myself, my God, yes — the fellow is right! He then asked me if I was a local, the flatterer. I admitted that, no, I lived near Kingston. He then proceeded to reel off an accurate list of all the riverside pubs south of Kingston Bridge. What a man.

Refreshed by conversation, but in need of something tastier than the poor quality ale in The Royal Standard, we trotted across the road to the intriguing Venus Bar. The walls were bedecked with images and quotes pertaining to the goddess of sexual love. They even had a cocktail in her honour, aptly and succinctly named the Sex Bomb. We ordered three. Helen and I, our bravado increased by Aphrodite’s sweet liquor, recited a bawdy Australian poem to Andy, which I felt summed up his current situation perfectly: The Bastard from the Bush. It was a heartfelt performance and every single punter in the place whooped and cheered upon its competition.

We left the now-empty Venus Bar, and soon found a pub with perhaps the best name of the entire crawl: Kiss Me Hardy. (I won’t indulge in a historical discussion on the last words of Lord Nelson at this juncture, but if interested, you can read more here.) Sadly, the interior life of this pub was no match for its quirky moniker. As Andy pointed out at the time, it felt like the kind of place you’d encounter on a work trip to Swindon when forced to have a ‘team-building drink’ with boring, sociopathic colleagues called Colin. It lacked soul.

Next came The Nelson Arms, a pub which enjoys placing some of its patrons in mortal danger by the devil-may-care location of its dartboard. With the unforgiving minutes ticking away, we lustily downed our drinks, hoping to fit in one more tavern before last orders. The Sultan hove into view and our wish was granted. A pub quiz had just finished and we acquired three brimming pints before the barman’s bell tolled. It was here that we met Richard, an old veteran who came over to introduce himself after I’d been obnoxiously tinkling on the pub’s piano for a few moments. He praised my “wonderful Chopin and more wonderful Mozart”; in fact I’d played neither. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what I’d played, but in all likelihood it was either The Chain or perhaps Tubular Bells. Anyhow, he requested some more Chopin, and so I improvised something quasi-Chopin-like, (possibly the Buffy theme tune played as a slow waltz) which he praised richly.

Order in the universe had been restored. We were back on the crawl, if only for one final night. Thank you Helen, Aphrodite, and Richard for enlightening our Colliers Wood experience. Will we return? Have faith, readers. As a prophet once foresaw: “they shall rise again, in the Garden of Covent.”

NEXT STOP: COVENT GARDEN (arrival tbc)

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