CHORLEYWOOD – March 2017

In a green haven just outside the M25 sits Chorleywood. In a 2004 survey it was found to have the highest quality of life of any neighbourhood in England, beating 32,481 other districts to the top spot. A lot can change in 13 years…IMG_6081

I’d printed a map again. I occasionally do this when we’re visiting a distant land and may benefit from a little cartographic guidance. I therefore knew in advance that Chorleywood boasted seven pubs, five of which are arranged around a 200-acre Common, with the remaining two being relegated further off to the southwest. You may ask, bold reader, why I bothered printing a map when my iPhone could easily fulfil all possible navigational needs? The answer is surely obvious: to feel like an olde worlde explorer, staring diligently map-wards every now and then whilst stroking my chin and narrowing my eyes. And so it was, like Lewis and Clark, that Andy and I set off to explore the badlands of Chorleywood.

We skirted the Common, fighting our way through the thick grass that brushed against our ankles relentlessly, and after a trek of some minutes we arrived at The Rose & Crown. My map had won its first victory. Our next task was to penetrate the thicket of automobiles clustered around the entrance, but penetrate it we did and indeed forged our way into the pub itself. Inside, we found a gathering so dense, so pre-eminently overcrowded, that it brought to mind the atomic structure of graphene. Holding a brief strategic tête-à-tête, we decided on a plan beloved by horror movie screenwriters – to split up. Andy set a course for the far corner of the bar where he espied a tiny spit of land as yet unsullied by human occupation, whereas I locked eyes with the frenzied barman and set about procuring something to quench our thirst. I almost lost my map in the ensuing trip through the throng, but somehow I pioneered a route to Andy.

You can see, from our earliest explorations, that Chorleywood put up a formidable fight to begin with. But after The Rose & Crown a strange calm descended as we trekked northeast to firstly The Gate and then The White Horse, where no individual incident is worth relating, even in this anecdote-rich corner of the blogosphere. My map was earning its keep but we craved fresh adventure.

Moving south along the edge of the Common, The Black Horse proved a more fertile source of exploits. We were regaling the bar staff about our quest to explore all 270 London tube stations when a bystander sauntered over:

“I used to do a similar thing, but on the national rail network,” he boasted nonchalantly.

We made noises of the noncommittal variety, half impressed and half mistrustful.

“Yeah, me and the lads would stick a pin in the rail map on a Friday night and go out boozing all weekend. Glasgow was a great one – I had to buy myself some new clothes there mind you.”

Before we could ask him whether he arrived in Glasgow sartorially bereft, or just got a hankering for a new wardrobe mid-booze-up, he’d walked away, preventing us from questioning the veracity of his tall tales.

We were on the cusp of leaving when the karaoke started up. (As a side note, it seems to me that the more far-flung the location, the more often the locals profess a love for karaoke. This is also proportional to their singing ability, which decreases the further you get from Zone 1.) Tempted by the limelight, we were perusing the songbook when the landlady chirped up:

“Sing any song you like, apart from Gay Bar!”

IMG_6083This half-joke immediately highlighted two of her personal views, both of which were wrong – the first factually and the second morally. First, that she assumed we were gay (no proof of that as yet but with 19 years of the crawl still to go all bets are off) and second, that it might be unwise to sing a song such as ‘Gay Bar’ in her pub. The smiling face of small-town homophobia. We declined the offer of karaoke and departed.

Caught off guard by the landlady’s bigotry, we almost got lost crossing the Common, now in darkness, as we headed towards The Old Shepherd, where we were greeted by a young man with an impressive beard and an eye patch.

“Are you over 21 and can I see some ID?”

IMG_6082We passed his abrupt entry procedure and discovered a scene which was the polar opposite of that at The Rose & Crown. It was like a museum after closing time – quiet, dusty and absolutely devoid of life. Andy discovered with a grimace a well-worn copy of the Daily Mail and looked up his horoscope to lighten the mood. Those erudite astrologists do seem to have a certain obsession with Uranus. It was at this point we realised, with sudden pangs of hunger, that we hadn’t eaten, and so ordered an explorer’s feast: mini cheddars AND salted peanuts.

Having survived the dangers of the Common, we proceeded southwest through the gloomy, precipitous streets, towards the final two pubs. We hadn’t gone far before a hideous vision leered out of the darkness:

“41 Hubbards Road!”, it barked in a gravelly contralto.

We were momentarily stunned into silence.

“41 Hubbards Road!”

This short phrase seemed to be its only mode of communication. It dawned on me that this creature must be in search of that particular destination and – raising my map confidently – I identified that we were in fact already on Hubbards Road. A swift glance to my left told me that number 41 was but a few doors away. I communicated with the beast as best I could, by a mixture of hand signals and frantic eyebrow raising, and retrieved Andy who had withdrawn, terrified, into nearby shrubbery.

The fearsome she-devil now but a memory, we pushed on to a pleasant drink in The Stag and finally to the intriguingly named The Land of Liberty, Peace & Plenty. This final pub was incredibly male, the only exception being Gill, the landlady. It was a haven for ale drinkers, the sign above the door claiming that they’d had 3,415 guest beers on tap. I don’t know when they started counting, but it’s an impressive figure whatever the start date. Alas we couldn’t stay to sample all their guest beers – the last tube back into London was calling. We had survived Chorleywood. My trusty map had done its job.

Something tells me we won’t need a map in Clapham next month. Shame.

IMG_6448NEXT STOP: CLAPHAM COMMON

CHESHAM – December 2016

After sampling London Underground’s most central destination – Charing Cross – last month, we headed to its most distant – Chesham – for our annual Christmas Crawl.

sign

T’was the crawl before Christmas and all through the train,
Everyone was groaning in pub quiz induced pain,
On our way to Chesham for Christmas in zone nine,
We Q&A’d through 60 minutes on the Metropolitan line.

First The Queen’s Head for Thai Christmas dinner,
Where we laughed and gorged and waved goodbye to being thinner,
Then to The Red Lion for pints and pool,
Where merriment continued in the spirit of Yule.

Now four jars in, a swift jump and a hop,
To try local treats in the Chesham Brewery Shop,
An independent boutique with bottles abound,
Interesting bevvies and dogs sniffing around.

We supped and quaffed and commented duly,
On the benefits of each individual brewery,
Here we could’ve stayed, tasting all liquid delights,
But more pubs to find on this enchanted, dark night.

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Through the old-y world-y charm of Chesham’s streets,
With reddened noses and rosy cheeks,
To The George and Dragon and, while not a pubs best,
It was lifted from the doldrums by a very special guest.

Lights flashing from the streets, a bell rang through the night,
Then St. Nick himself staggered into sight,
It was certainly him, we could tell from a mile,
And his presence made one and all widen a smile.

He wore a cheap cotton suit and a beard of polyester,
But Santa really was there, with Greg as attestor,
“Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas to all!”
Empty glasses kissed tables and on with the crawl.

santa

Onwards to refuel in The General’s Arms,
Which was bland and lifeless but meant no harm,
Followed by a walk through the blistering cold,
Of a distance similar from South to North Pole.

And into the warmth of The Jolly Sportsman,
Where we quivered in delighted muso fandom,
As performing, straight from Spain, was rock royalty,
(Or a relation thereof, so more like rock admiralty).

Denis Cook came from the Costa with a hymn,
“His nephew’s called Norman – AKA Fatboy Slim”,
Doug at the bar dutifully informed,
As his nineteenth pint was lovingly poured.

The crowd were entranced by Denis’ voice,
An electro-acoustic was his weapon of choice,
Hit came after hit – again and again,
Nowhere was more jovial then right there, right then.

For his next sing-a-long classic he needed assistance,
“Someone with rhythm and a bit of persistence”,
I leapt at the chance and with a shake of the hand,
He informed me I was now fifty percent of the band.

The bells on my Christmas jumper would provide,
The needed percussion to play alongside,
The final song before the break,
I had to bounce in four-four without a single mistake.

He struck the first chord, I jumped up and down,
And for the next three minutes I was the greatest drummer in town,
The nearby table of ladies sighed dismayed,
But I was lost in the groove that Denis and I played.

The song ended, the audience reaction was of the gauge,
Denis and Andy; Chesham this year, next – Pyramid Stage,
Departing to The Game Keeper’s Lodge our final call,
On this – our final 2016 crawl.

Another charming pub, maybe the best it could be crowned,
And in the corner another talented duo could be found,
But I bought my last pint and in a blink,
I’d dropped the card machine in another man’s drink.

The glass was full, until it smashed,
And the bar tenders for beer towels dashed,
I tried to save the fiscal tech,
But stood helpless with it – dripping wet.

The ale seeped across the bar,
The singer tutted from behind his guitar,
The now drinkless drinker stared, aggrieved,
“Don’t worry – I’ll pour you another one, Steve”.

If only he knew my musical acumen,
Then I could’ve been forgiven,
‘Do you like You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby?
I could get you a signed copy . . . maybe’.

We headed for the door and back to the station,
Thanking Chesham, our merry destination,
As the tube train pulled once again into sight,
Happy Ultimate London Pub Crawl, and to all a goodnight.

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Next stop: CHIGWELL

BARBICAN – April 2014

Happy Birthday to us. On our first anniversary tour of Barbican we discovered doctors, jokers and, unfortunately, the premier of London’s negative stereotypes.

Barbican

A year has passed since that inauspicious night when Greg and I, fuelled by a brazen foolishness that would characterise and punctuate the coming months, shook hands and agreed to visit a new tube stop once a month for the next 23 years. To celebrate, we found ourselves in Barbican with two friends, Kate and Olivia, in tow to aid our celebration.

The first stop, Erebuni, was an odd and bland bar/restaurant complete with circular booths, a mid nineties soundtrack and a selection of unpronounceable, barely affordable bottled beers. It was here that I presented Greg with a gift to mark our first anniversary – a postcard of the Queen and Prince Philip – which I had picked up at Liverpool Street station en route. Greg managed a half smile andStripbar and steak squeezed out some platitudes but, despite my best intentions, was not as impressed as I might have hoped.

A quick two-for-one mojitos with the archetypal city boy crowd at Neo preceded stops at The Sutton Arms and Stripbar and Steak which, disappointingly, does not pertain the former in the capacity one would expect. Despite our best efforts to find some scantily clad females within, all we found was another hang out for the young and wealthy of Barbican.

After a hasty necking at Tart, a speedy ale and pork pie in the Fox and Anchor, where Greg impressed the locals with his ability to spin a full pint over his head without spilling a drop, and a lager in the Be At One we had our first casualty. Kate, dismayed by the myriad of banker-types and lack of strippers, sloped off into the night for the tube. In The Charterhouse, Olivia, similarly underwhelmed by the DJ, glitter ball and ceaseless chorus of “Yeah boi” coming from an adjacent table, decided the best way was home ways and departed. Leaving Greg and I alone. And a year older.

Undeterred, we continued onto The Smithfield Tavern where our similar shirts, by coincidence not design, attracted the attention of a group of friends.

“Are you two related?”, asked the girl, taking our matching garb to be a sign of biological fraternity.The Smithfield Tavern

“No, just friends”, I responded.

“We thought you were brothers”, interjected her male companion (bringing the score of mistaken relationship status to brothers – 3, lovers – 1).

With that we were ushered over to their table where we learnt that the entire group, five in total, were oncologists having a Friday booze-up and were also immensely charming and affable folk. A welcome change from the strutting shirts of the previous Barbican bars.

Our gangs parted ways and mid-trek, whilst Greg was refuelling on a pasta salad, we were approached by two 30-something ladies.

“What’s that smell?!”, they enquired. Greg and I shrugged at each other, stuck our noses into our armpits and shrugged at them.

“It’s your food!”

“I don’t think so”, protested Greg.

“It is!”

“I don’t think it is”, I concurred (bros before hos) and moved in to smell Greg’s repast in order to pacify the fly-by nasal commentators. As I hovered my face above the dish a hand pushed the underside, forcing the pasta into my sweet boat and a harmony of laughter from the anonymous perps and Greg, their unwitting accomplice, followed. The femme-fatales quickly scarpered and Greg was unable to hide his reeling pleasure. I wiped the tomato sauce off my nose and attempted to use my drama GCSE to feign an ambivalence to the entire scene.

White BearAfter a quick Irish dance with a stranger next to rat infested pile of rubbish, we finished off the night with a drink at trendy be-seen-here bar The Longroom and caught last orders at The White Bear before heading for the underground.

Greg departed the tube after entertaining the carriage with a bracing recital of The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe and, whilst checking the timetable at a bus stop, had his bag stolen. Contents including, but not limited to due to holes in Greg’s pockets, camera (hence the stock photos), phone, wallet, keys and the fucking card I spent so long picking out. A frantic search of the streets and alleyways of Earls Court ensued followed by a long, miserable trek back to Putney.

12 months. 89 pubs. One theft won’t stop us. And if you happen to be a bag thief of any kind – you’re a real shit.

cake

Next stop: BARKING

BAKER STREET – January 2014

The Adventure of the Takimo Ten
– A Sherlock Holmes Story

Baker Street sign

It was a strange note: “Meet me in The Volunteer at 19:00”

Holmes had never been one for frequenting the local taverns, so I naturally assumed that there was some clue or other to investigate. But on arrival he seemed remarkably relaxed and – I shudder at the memory – proceeded to indulge in what can only be described as idle chit-chat. My first thought was that this was the unhappy result of a dalliance with some new mind-bending narcotic solution, so I resolved to accompany my friend until his worryingly convivial trip came to an end.

The inn was cramped with well-dressed imbibers; the tables awash with empty glasses. After a swift libation of our own, Holmes tilted his head towards the door and strode off decisively down Baker Street. A short session – thank goodness, I thought. But alas, it wasn’t to be. Holmes eagerly entered the very next public house we came across, a certain Metropolitan Bar. In this establishment the patrons were in full evening garb, whereas Holmes, in another off-character move, had opted for a dazzlingly orange raincoat made of the queerest modern fabric. A disguise, perhaps? No, his mind was far too befogged for that.

The evening deteriorated in a structured sort of way. Holmes would order us a couple of ales and no sooner had the empty tankards kissed the tabletops we would race out to the next house of debauchery. He insisted I match him drink for drink so I am ashamed to say that my memory of the evening dims slightly towards midnight. However, the final climactic event on the Jubilee line remains as clear as a Scottish loch in my mind.

Our tavern trawl took in The Globe, The Beehive and The Barley Mow, via a rather well-to-do venue that I could have sworn bore the name The Sherlock Holmes Hotel. At this point I began to wonder if I was the one under the influence of some evil vegetable alkaloid. My distinguished friend may be well known in these parts, but to have a hotel named after him? Preposterous. It was here that Holmes took up a crazed but virtuosic discourse on the art of cryptography that was so enthralling that for a moment I forgot the evening’s strange circumstances. The exorbitant bill for our brace of beers arrived and recalled to me Holmes’ exquisite knowledge of London alcohol prices, which had proved so profitable in locating Mr. Moulton in The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor. But soon we were outside again, barrelling ever onwards down Baker Street, a heavy mist descending upon my brain.

VerityIt was in the Barley Mow that I began to doubt my initial assumption that Holmes had taken too large a dose of opiates. A youngish woman – Verity, as she coquettishly disclosed – offered both of us a drink. It became clear that we had intruded upon her birthday celebrations when she brazenly invited us to guess her age. Though drunk, I assumed the usual form, and, judging her age to be thirty-one, I subtracted five, offering a bashful twenty-six. Holmes followed suit with twenty-seven. A look of frozen anguish transfigured her face as she murmured, utterly crestfallen: “twenty-two”. Now, forgetting for a moment this painful faux pas, how or why did Holmes, master of deduction, commit such an error? Unless something was seriously afoot, he would never miss a chance to show off his unmatched reasoning skills. I shot him a penetrating stare which, for a moment, seemed to sharpen his senses. But a second later he emptied his glass and hastened out of the door, leaving me to offer a weak smile of apology to the deflated Verity.

HairStumbling into the mysteriously named Bok Bar, we met a most exotic-haired woman who, according to a local, had never let the hand of any man sully her beauteous locks with its touch. Alighting on a way to impress this local, and Holmes, I cautiously approached the sylph and told her that I was a travelling puppet-maker, looking for the best hair in the land to inspire my next creation. Merely seconds later my hands were wrist-deep in her lustrous mane, flattery having won the day. For a second I thought I saw a spark of envy in Holmes’ eyes.

ElaIt was in the last ale-house of the evening, The Marlborough Head, that we met the unfortunate Polish bargirl Ela, who had been abandoned at Heathrow airport a few years previously by a flighty lover. Holmes denied her heartfelt request to track down this deserter – “Frankly, it’s beneath me, Watson. Though I think my jacket made quite the impression on her.” Meanwhile, I was now convinced that Holmes wasn’t, after all, on a drug-fuelled binge; he was acting the part of a drunk – albeit very methodically – but he had a larger plan in hand, one which he couldn’t divulge to me at present. I decided, not for the first time, to see the hair-brained scheme to its conclusion.

Midnight was almost upon us when Holmes rose for the final time, his eyes gleaming. Grabbing his futuristic orange cape, he ran for the door. I could barely keep up as he descended the stairs of Bond Street station and I just made it into the carriage behind him as the doors to the last train snapped shut. As I attempted to catch my breath, my eyes took in the fellow occupants of the carriage and breathing suddenly became all but impossible. Holmes had sat down with a strange expression on his face: half drunk, half self-satisfied. The occupants of the carriage were none other than the feared Takimo Ten, out of their minds with drink, who had been terrorising Westminster over the last three months. Holmes grinned moronically.

Another case solved by a chain of events too baffling for I to even comprehend. Holmes promised to elucidate the matter after he had slept off the night’s excesses. I am still awaiting the explanation.

Takimo Ten

Next stop: BALHAM

AMERSHAM – August 2013

Amersham (n.) The sneeze which tickles but never comes. (Thought to derive from the Metropolitan Line tube station of the same name where the rails always rattle but the train never arrives.) – The Meaning of LiffAmersham station sign

“It’s red versus blue again” commented Greg as we mindlessly stared at the football match being broadcast in The Chequers, the first stop on our crawl of Amersham – an olde worlde suburb so far from London it’s been given its own zone to share with Chesham.

My boss pre-warned me that the last time he quaffed a pint in Amersham he was ejected from a pub by an enraged, double-barrel shotgun wielding landlord. But things have clearly changed since his heady youth. Amersham in 2013 is the home of TV Dragon Peter Jones’ business academy and, we assumed, other similarly wealthy, boardroom dwelling folk. It has the aesthetic of a romanticised England that exists only in the minds of day dreaming, foreign day trippers – all low beamed ceilings, cheerful tumbledown brickwork and ales galore.

Greg and I, aware that ‘the match’ is the only legal topic of discussion in a pub post kick-off,  entered into a brazenly uneducated debate about football – Greg guessed it was 100 years old, I took a stab at 150.

“120” chimed a muscle-bound sports fan from the next table.

“How did it start?” enquired Greg.

Brutus, the upturned collar on his polo shirt distorted by a sling supporting his cast clad left arm, shifted his weight and gesticulated confidently with his healthy limb, “it were the Romans or Tudors or sammit, ‘ey used to inflate livers and kick ’em abart”. Despite his obvious disability it was agonisingly clear this local could fling us through the pub’s thick oak door with ease if berated so we politely nodded, thanked him for his knowledgeable input and returned to our pints. Can these really be the students of a man worth an estimated £475 million (Forbes 2013)?

Pints at The CrownThe next two watering holes we visited on our venture into the picturesque Old Amersham, The Saracen’s Head Inn and The Crown Hotel, were both pleasant, welcoming, quiet and dreamy and clearly catering for the Joneses rather than Brutus and chums.

The fourth post on our tour, unlike the previous establishments, was brimmed and bustling and a harmony of American accents filled the cramped Tudor (or Roman) nooks of The King’s Arms. We had inadvertently crashed a wedding party or, to be precise, a rehearsal dinner party. Chatting to an amiable guest of the groom called Doug, who had flown over from New York to witness the marriage of his college chum to a plummy Amersham local, Greg and I, overwhelmed with our good fortune, basked in the revelation that we had fallen through the celluloid into a Richard Curtis film. We were the bumptious, uninvited but loveable fops at this transatlantic gathering. We were Hugh and Grant and there would be nothing we could do to stave off the tsunami of Yankee bachelorettes that would undoubtedly come-a-gushing once our presence was known.

“Come meet the bride and groom” said Doug after hearing about our proposed 23 year adventure, “they’ll love you guys”. And so with a hammed-up-bashful-arrogant-modest swagger that any British Rom-Com star would be proud of we moved to the smokers’ circle outside. The other attendees, bride and groom included, were all pleasant and polite but after the fifth echo of “so when are you getting the tube home?” we realised the glittering lies of the silver screen had tricked us once again. We took our cue, shuffled off quietly, leaving the jollity behind, and flicked a couple of V’s to Curtis for making us think ANY American girl will throw herself at ANY English boy just because he calls a garage a petrol station and stutters when nervous.

The Elephant and CastleAbashed, we trotted over to The Elephant and Castle, another archaic Amersham boozer that, fact fans, lies 32 miles as the crow flies from its central London namesake (a borough which we will be visiting in February 2019). Here we met Scott and Sue, a larger than life middle-aged couple who had moved from the East End to Amersham a few years previous. Scott joined us on the dance floor and the three of us rocked out to the live guitar duo as they cranked out solid classics for the mostly disinterested patrons. Despite the communal disdain from the other drinkers and the father-to-son age gap between our unlikely trio, Scott, Greg and I flung whiskies down our throats and air guitared without care or worry. You never wrote a fucking scene like this did you, Curtis?

Outside, as we cooled down from our rhythmic flailing and explained why we were in Amersham, Scott inquired upon our individual relationship statuses.

“Have you got your willy wet?” he asked.

Greg, who is enjoying an ongoing co-habitation with a young lady, responded “I have a girlfriend”.

But Scott was not interested in such restraining formalities. He pointed at us both, “if you” he proclaimed, “haven’t got your willies wet by Bank, you’re a pair of poofs”.

Greg should be fine. I’ve got until March 2014. I’ll keep you informed.

Next stop: ANGEL

ALDGATE – May 2013

Nestled between the financial district and trendy East London, Aldgate could mirror both, but ends up reflecting neither.Aldgate tube sign

As we emerged from the station rather late on a bank holiday evening, the empty grey streets greeted us with indifference. Exchanging grimaces, we set off at a brisk, optimistic pace and soon spied The Chamberlain, a pleasant if unexceptional Fuller’s. We ordered two ales and sat gratefully in our first Aldgate pub. The decor was comfortingly faux – an opulent wall of gilt mirrors stood opposite a bookcase of military histories. (This sort of impotent ostentation can be found in many a chain establishment, presumably designed to convince the beer-swilling patrons that they are in far more superior surroundings than their choice of lager would otherwise indicate.) The bar staff were friendly but strangely sluggish, asking for IDs midway through our pints. I put this down to weighty bank holiday hangovers, the remnants of which Andy and I still felt, having spent a Bacchanalian weekend performing with By Moonlight Theatre at the vibrant Meadowlands Festival in deepest Sussex.

Greg with SteinMoving on, we wandered through side streets peppered with closed pubs, until the welcoming glow of a Bavarian Beerhouse drew us in. This incongruent continental import came complete with table service from traditionally attired waitresses, so we manfully ordered a stein each. Andy, rather conservatively, chose Germany’s number one premium beer, Krombacher Pils, while I fearlessly plumped for the “rich, dark and complex” Krombacher Dunkel. By 10:30 we were the only ones left and the manager hovered nearby, eager to lock up and honour his homeland’s legendary time-keeping skills. We dutifully acquiesced, drank up, and departed.

Our mistake in venturing out on a bank holiday evening now became woefully apparent. Every pub we discovered was closed, and as 11pm drew ever closer we grew ever more desperate.  Heading home after only two drinks seemed a crime – the blog deserved better than that.  Our frenzied wanderings soon left Aldgate in the dust. As we strode up Bishopsgate we crossed the threshold of several pubs only to be cruelly turned away by stony-faced barmen, shutting far too punctually for thirsty young bloggers such as ourselves. The situation was getting desperate. Andy struck out ahead, drawing upon his Northern ability to divine booze at great distance. As we finally stumbled onto Commercial Road, his aim was proven true, as the Ten Bells appeared from the gloom.

Greg and AndyIt is a sad fact that the first pub we found with real atmosphere and more than half-a-dozen drinkers was this far from Aldgate. The historic Ten Bells has a grisly claim: it was here that Mary Kelly, the last known victim of Jack the Ripper, had her final drink (gin, of course) before being found mutilated in a nearby flat several days later. Scenes from Jack the Ripper film From Hell were filmed here, and the original Victorian tiling still remains. In dark homage, we ordered two G&Ts and sat contentedly under the gaze of two inseparable East Londoners, Gilbert and George, who take pride of place in a mural by Ian Harper which adorned the wall above us.  In the late 1880s Mary Kelly would have been slugging back straight gins while tugging lustily at crotches and purse-strings, whereas here in 2013 us two fops cut our gin with tonic and sat discussing modern art.  How times change.

Aldgate’s pubs may bustle on work nights but during our self-inflicted bank holiday outing it really did seem to be a bland no man’s land, squatting between thriving neighbours and losing in the struggle for a character of its own. It was only by escaping the dreary gravity of Aldgate that the evening was resurrected, ironically in a pub more famous for dealing death than enhancing life.

Next stop: ALDGATE EAST