Magic and mischief in the financial district
We’d been looking forward to this one for a while. Bank, the twelfth stop on our alphabetical alcoholic odyssey, was to be a dapper, suave and upmarket experience. In order to better blend in with the lovable financial types found in this modest district, we suited up, and strode down the streets feeling like a million pounds sterling.
The marbled expanse of Hispania was our first stop and, as we supped our bottled beers (both having snuck off to the gents to slick back our hair with copious amounts of gel to get that timeless ‘flashy banker’ look), we discussed how to complete our financial transformations. Plain old ‘Andy’ and ‘Greg’ had no place here. We needed alter egos.
“I’ll be a forensic accountant,” said Andy, deftly. “Called Colin.”
I settled upon the excellent name of Marshall and wavered between being a hedge fund manager and an oil baron, eventually settling on the latter. Beers emptied, Colin and Marshall set off, eager to explore the charmingly affluent local pubs of the inner city banking sector.
The Swan Tavern quickly swam into view, a more parochial affair than Hispania, but, as per our rules, we entered nonetheless: bankers can’t be choosers. We sidled up to the pokey bar and noticed a clutch of moneyed types in a close-knit circle around a small man. This unassuming character, as we soon discovered, was Michael Valdini, the acclaimed Polish magician. Not exactly stereotypical fare for this part of town. His sleight of hand was truly a sight to behold and Colin eagerly requested a trick. Valdini promptly mesmerised us with a series of card manoeuvres, in which he asked Colin to write his name and draw a symbol on a card of his choice. Needless to say, Colin (being Colin, and also being a heterosexual male) drew a cock. This phallus-adorned card proceeded to appear from all manner of unlikely places, under pint glasses, within the ties of strangers – there was no end to Valdini’s talent in cock-card teleportation. We thanked him heartily and learnt a little about his life as a travelling magician. His heart-warming openness exposed our financial alter egos as tasteless and unnecessary and, without further ado, we were good old Andy and Greg again – average Joes at the beginning of our careers in the arts. Farewell to the short-lived Colin and Marshall. You probably would have been cunts anyway.
Onwards we marched to the cavernous The Crosse Keys, followed by New Moon, The Counting House and The Jamaica Wine House. All these establishments had a healthy, if somewhat cliquey, patronage, but by 10pm pubs were already starting to close. We managed to sneak into Number 25 just before they shut; it was absolutely empty, so we opted for two shots of whatever the barmaid recommended (sambuca) and hightailed it out of there. Thankfully, we found a Pitcher & Piano not far away, in which we met David, a man perpetually ‘waiting for his girlfriend’ while bothering a quintet of young women who were clearly uninterested in his advances. He quickly befriended us, in the manner of a parasite or a leech, and ordered us to dance in front of the girls ‘to encourage them’. When I revealed that I had a girlfriend and therefore was not seeking female attention, he look bluntly at Andy, stating eloquently: “you’re fucked mate”. When we left, David was tragically trying to lend one of the girls his shoes so she could get into a nearby club. Whereupon, I can only assume, he would then continue to wait, shoeless and pathetic, for his ‘girlfriend’.
We ended our night in Abacus, a trendy club packed with well-dressed folk, not many of whom dared to sway more than slightly on the dance floor. Andy and I threw some shapes and before long others joined in, including a strange small man (not Valdini this time) whose signature move consisted of kicking his shoes off and throwing himself across the floor on his knees in a violent and distinctly unbalanced way. I briefly used one of his discarded shoes as a pretend telephone. Alas, no one picked up the other.
We left Abacus just in time to march back to Waterloo and catch our last trains, both deeply glad to have meaningful jobs within the arts, and to never, ever, have to be Colin and Marshall again.
Next stop: BARBICAN