CHALK FARM – September 2016

Would this blue plaque bedecked district provide pubs enough to slake our thirst for liquid and social nourishment, or would we be tempted to the nearby pleasure inns of Camden?

If you depart Chalk Farm tube and head south (turning right out of the station and then left, over the railway bridge) you will discover five delightful pubs before reaching the watery barrier of Regent’s Canal. They are, in the order we visited them: The Pembroke, The Queen’s, The Princess of Wales, The Lansdowne and The Engineer. This quintet of hostelries share several praiseworthy attributes – adventurous beers, friendly staff, abundant seating – and all have the sort of convivial atmosphere that puts you entirely at ease.

img_4966It was a balmy Monday evening. The pubs were restful; our fellow drinkers placid and content. As we strolled the affluent streets we spotted blue plaques on a regular basis: Plath, Engels, Yeats. We caught the start of a quiz at The Queen’s (“which US state shares its name with a country?”*), I learnt the meaning of FUBAR in The Princess of Wales, and Andy treated himself to a pizza in The Lansdowne. A more pleasant Monday evening you could not wish for.

img_4970Five drinks down and we had no choice but to cross Regent’s Canal and visit Chalk Farm’s rebellious son, Camden. It was here that things started to get out of hand. First off, we were at a loss where to sit in the vast beer garden of The Edinboro Castle. Feeling bold, we opted to join a large table of merrymakers and did our best to integrate. Unfortunately, on this occasion our best ended up being taking a photo of us ‘integrating’ while they steadfastly ignored us.

img_4971Moving swiftly on, we came to The Spread Eagle where it really kicked off. Andy spotted two cosy chairs and a pile of boardgames, whereupon I had a violent flashback to the time he beat me at Trivial Pursuit in Brent Cross. Blinking away that bitter memory, I picked up the first game that came to hand: some sort of fiendishly difficult IQ challenge. After scant minutes it became apparent that, by witchcraft or deception, Andy was beating me once again, quite comprehensively. The game was clearly defective, so we switched to Connect Four. What visceral pleasure, to send those red and yellow counters hurtling into their plastic prison! This was more like it. Andy, intellectually worn out by the IQ challenge, soon began to fade and I seized my chance. Game after game I successfully lined up four yellow discs, while Andy’s red ones hovered impotently at the periphery, like introverts at a house party. This couldn’t go on for ever and so we packed away that finest of games and made a beeline for the The Dublin Castle. We accompanied our final drink of the evening with a spot of air drumming to the Foo Fighters (or I did at least) before catching the last tube homewards.

Chalk Farm provided us with a quietly congenial evening and its vicinity to Camden is perfect if you’re in a slightly more riotous mood and/or have a hankering for some Connect Four.

*It’s Georgia.

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Next stop: CHANCERY LANE

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BELSIZE PARK – October 2014

Apparently taken from the French ‘bel assis’, meaning ‘well placed’, Belsize Park’s pleasing geographical situation makes it a hot bed for the rich and famous. From actors to musicians to a 110 year old Holocaust survivor, it truly is home to the great and good. And now it can claim to be the temporary residence of two tactless but well meaning seekers of the sauce.Belsize Sign

Heading up Rosslyn Hill before turning right onto Pond Street we made stops at The George, The Roebuck and The Garden Gate. All three were high class, laid back, gourmet burger serving type establishments. Inhabited by preened and pruned men and women lounging lazily in wingback leather chairs and discussing the political dilemmas of the week just gone. Greg and I’s standing in this social scene was an uneasy one and, despite our half educaBelsize pubsted proclamations about the state of our nation, we were unable to penetrate the well placed landed gentry.

We forged onwards, stopping for a quick beer in the White Horse, and into The Stag where a patient and good willed group were waiting, cake and balloons in place, to surprise their 30 year old friend. We contributed to the cheering and whooping upon her arrival but, alas, were not asked to join the birthday revelries. On a nearby table a young couple, obviously spurred on by the party atmosphere, started what can only be described as ‘dry humping’ on one of the pub’s pews. The lyric “loving on the floor of Belsize Park” from Marillion’s hit Kayleigh had struck an inspiring and passionate chord with these lovers and a sort of re-creation was initiated. To their defence the floor was probably not the ideal place for fully clothed copulation so we left them, horizontal and sweaty, adoring one another on the bench.

Next, The Lord Southampton – a slightly ageing and shabby local pub for local people where the romantic attention was turned on Greg and I by a middle aged cellist called Tony and a 30 something girl called Georgie (who was obsessed with stating “I hope my boyfriend doesn’t find out” despite the lack of any sordid behaviour). Greg took it upon himself to teach Tony how to twerk, a scene which Greg’s pupil described as “a gay fest”, and we all took turns in selecting IMG_20141017_221140some classic pop hits on the jukebox to croon along to. We were joined by Sandie, an East London lady of the highest calibre who suffixed every sentence with “babes” and was wont to tell anyone who would listen, “I ses wha’ I fink . . . babes”. Our unlikely quintet proved a raging success, however, and Tony and Sandie were true rough diamonds – hilarious, welcoming and memorable company. The booze and banter was flowing freely until Tony, for reasons we still can’t decipher, was accosted by a midget at the bar. Some shouting and pushing prevailed, Sandie saw to the vertically challenged assailant whilst Tony was dragged, kicking and screaming, to a corner of the bar. Our bottles empty, Greg and I concluded our bumptious presence was no longer desired and left the drama to play without us.

We sauntered back towards Haverstock Hill, the evening now starting to blur round the edges somewhat, and met with Greg’s girlfriend, Helen, and friend, Colette. We made flying visits to The Hill and The Sir Richard Steele, the latter of which is adorned with a biblical ceiling mural. I, in my own slurring way, deciphered the art for my chums and anyone who happened to be in ear shot. At the time I felt like I had unearthed some deep, unrealised critical acumen I posses on contempIMG_20141017_233930orary theological iconography. In reflection I think we were at a point where the alcohol swilling around inside us had diluted anyone’s need to call ‘bull shit’, a call I achingly deserved.

Finally, eager to dance away the remaining time before the last tube, we jogged down towards Chalk Farm and ended in The Enterprise. An end of the pier photo board provided much entertainment for our swaying climax in this trendy bar, as did invading the deserted dance floor to groove with two older chaps. The boogie duo, along with the publicly lascivious couple, the regulars of The Lord Southampton and our own respectable company, proved, as always, that the many varied people of London, regardless of placement, just want to have a good time.

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Next stop: BERMONDSEY