COCKFOSTERS – July 2017

With a name that provokes a puerile snigger from many of us, would Cockfosters deliver the sort of unsophisticated beer-fest that the name suggests, or would it oppose its moniker and be awash with elegant cocktail bars? We set off to find out.

The bright thwack of ball on bat greeted us as we ambled up to The Cock Inn. A local cricket match was playing out on the village green. The early evening sun was still strong and we could hear glasses clinking and the contented murmur of conversation drifting over from the beer garden. We marvelled at this quintessentially English idyll just a few minutes’ walk from a Zone 5 tube station. London felt incredibly far away.

My friend David had joined us for this month’s outing and we settled down in the beer garden to wait for Andy. David had just completed a ‘dry June’ and since this was July 1st he was allowed to imbibe once again. I felt a curious mix of emotions: pride that he’d lasted a month sans alcohol; fraternal happiness that he could drink again; and guilt that I was the one encouraging him back on the booze. Before long I let the fraternal happiness take over as we enjoyed the tranquil surroundings, the intermittent thwack of the cricket ball continuing to underscore our first pint.

Andy soon joined us, delighting in the comedic opportunities afforded by the pub’s name. I knew that it was at least a mile’s walk to the next drinking hole, so we made sure that our thirst was fully slaked before reluctantly leaving the rural paradise of The Cock Inn. On the pleasant stroll to The Prince of Wales we took in the sights of Suburbia: manicured front lawns, stone lion statues impotently guarding front doors, occasional faux Roman columns supporting nothing but the owners’ misdirected and overblown sense of status.

We drank and dined al fresco at The Prince of Wales and took in the last of the evening sun before moving onto a pub that seems committed to remain firmly in the 1990s: the Lord Kitchener. It had been a pleasant if uneventful night so far and David was determined to spice things up. With a mischievous grin he reached into his bag and pulled out…a newspaper. Deftly locating the crossword, he spread it out proudly on the sticky tabletop and we spent an intellectual five minutes tackling this most classic of word games. As our minds started to flag, we realised further mental fuel was needed, and so hastened onwards to The Railway Bell. It was here that we invented an utterly new word game, the likes of which the world had never seen before. This new game was both hilarious AND mentally rigorous and Andy quickly bestowed upon it a name, and what a glorious name it is: cockword.

The rules of cockword are simple. Take any crossword grid. Ignore all the clues. Think of rude words that fit exactly into the various spaces on the grid. If there are several of you, take it in turns. Continue fitting rude words into the grid until it is complete. As the game progresses you will find it harder and harder to find rude words to fit the remaining spaces and so a bit of lexical creativity is not only allowed but actively encouraged. However, you must be able to provide a definition for any new rude words you have deemed it necessary to coin. A few examples from the world’s inaugural game of cockword:

xenocum – the reproductive fluid of ghosts
mumbum – a mother’s posterior
iPedo – a new but highly controversial Apple device

You get the idea. Feel free to try this delightful new game with your friends – but please, remember its ULPC heritage.

Needless to say, cockword kept us occupied for quite some time. Eventually David had to head home while Andy and I had one more drink at The Railway Tavern while completing the final moves, and devilishly difficult they were too, of our debut cockword puzzle. We felt smug the whole journey home. We ended up having a bit of time to kill at King’s Cross and so celebrated our proud cockword success by posing for a few snaps at J. K. Rowling’s famous Platform 9 and three quarters.

Cockfosters will now go down in history as not only the 52nd stop on the Ultimate London Pub Crawl but also the ancestral home of cockword. Wizard.

NEXT STOP: COLINDALE

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CLAPHAM SOUTH – June 2017

“If you make a trilogy, the whole point is to get to that third chapter, and the third chapter is what justifies what’s come before” – Peter Jackson

“Sea Lion” Mikey announced with unwavering certainty after a short, shrugging interlude from his audience. The answer to the conversation opening question he had proposed was blindingly obvious to him. What kind of Luddite would even consider an alternative?

Greg and I were reasonably well liquored by the point Mikey laid down his assertions. Had we been holding onto our senses and faculties with a touch more gusto we may have been inclined to request some definition. But with dusk rolling past and considering how, at this point in the evening at least, he was a perfect stranger, we simply nodded and smiled.

Mikey’s question, of course, was “which animal would be best to have sex with?” The ferocity and velocity of his answer can only lead one to conclude it was a quandary he had spent many hours exploring.

Mikey’s sexually charged zoological query was offered to us on the terrace of The Grove – a pleasant enough pub just off the main drag of Balham High Road, where we ended up seeing the night out.

Arriving at Clapham South some hours previous we had indulged in conversation and voluntary liver damage at The Rookery, The Windmill, The Abbeville and The Avalon. As with the first two stops in our Clapham Trilogy, the pubs in the area catered almost exclusively to a very particular Londoner – young, wealthy and attractive in a scripted reality sort of way. Solid, slick backed hair and pink, knife sharp shirts for the boys. Long, styled hair, generous make-up and bejewelled digits for the girls. Not that I am sneering or criticising – all seemed perfectly pleasant and amiable as they discussed closing deals and making target over bottles of Prosecco. But the stylings of the pubs and patrons in Clapham are so unrelenting in their fashion it’s difficult to leave the bland predictability uncommented. Nights out in Clapham are not too dissimilar to walking through a drunkard, millennial re-write of The Stepford Wives.

However, The Grove, which we found some way towards the end of the evening, was more akin to a local boozer. The group we fell into conversation with were all on first name terms with the bar staff, they had a large and friendly dog draped across them and broke off intermittently to wave at a neighbour walking past.

The confab was pleasant with the group and we were treated to fresh pints by our new friends throughout the night. One can only assume Mikey was either in the middle of a dry spell or was getting it daily, nightly and ever so rightly as when he found himself at the conversation’s helm he would always, and without fail, gallantly steer talk to his preferences and conquests. The satisfaction of making a partner climax was enthusiastically detailed along with cunnilingus techniques and notches on bed posts.

Mikey was a handsome thirtysomething former rugby player, said he was in a long-term relationship and spoke, regardless of intimate content, confidently and eloquently. Kurt, a mildly rotund middle aged gent, similarly had a way with words. On discovering Greg was engaged to be married he bestowed him the godly title “Skateboarding Champion of Love”.

As last orders rang through the night we bid farewell to The Grove and finally, after three crawls, to Clapham. Looking back over the months we spent there one can’t help but consider wrapping up our findings in a useful and pithy tagline the local council could use as a sub-heading on their visitors’ page.

‘Clapham – plain and simple.’

NEXT STOP: COCKFOSTERS

CLAPHAM NORTH – May 2017

Pub crawl number 50, in which we revisit the spot where ULPC was born…

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From Clapham Common last month to Clapham North this month – what variety we are treated to by arranging our route alphabetically! And the geographical diversity doesn’t end there: next month is Clapham South. The trio of Clapham tube stations isn’t the only trinity we will encounter over the course of our ramblings; there are three Heathrows, three Hounslows and three Ruislips. I’m looking forward to the three Heathrows with a deep masochistic relish.

Even though we had only moved half a mile down the road from last month’s crawl, we had no fear of impinging upon ground already covered. My slight knowledge of the area told me that there would be pubs aplenty and no need to consult a map beforehand. Our pals Oli and Leon were highly distraught to miss last month’s anniversary outing, and so they joined us here – 4 years and 1 month into our 23-year challenge – which we discovered was actually another milestone: our 50th crawl. Our half-century.

Screen Shot 2017-06-18 at 14.42.00We clinked glasses to this weighty achievement in our first pub, blessed with a name of stunning originality: The Clapham North. We caught up with each other’s lives over a cool beverage, continuing discussions in The Falcon on Bedford Road. By the time we reached Fifty Five At The Oak we were fully up-to-date with the recent doings and movements of each member of the group and could now tackle subjects of wider significance. The dim ambience and presence of half-price cocktails led us naturally to talk of space travel, nuclear warfare, and how to guarantee the survival of our frail and idiotic human species. As our cocktails (raffishly entitled ‘Johnny Appleseed’ and ‘Show Me The Honey’) began to take effect, dialogue segued seamlessly from issues of planetary importance to an ad-libbed film noir detective scene, no doubt one of devastating verve and wit.

Screen Shot 2017-06-18 at 14.43.54With a spring in our step we moved on to The Bridge, a delightful if cramped gay bar under the arches of Clapham High Street station. To our consternation not one of us, prime specimens of manhood that we are, received any romantic attention whatsoever, so we moved on all of ten yards across the road to Cellar SW4, a small, smart-looking wine bar. Since we’d already mixed pints with cocktails we threw caution to the wind and ordered a bottle of red. But not just any red. It was here that Oli surprised us all by his truly impressive knowledge of the grape. He perused the wine list with the eye of a seasoned sommelier and, after some consideration, opted for a bottle of Gimblett Gravels Crofters Syrah. To his lasting credit it was a fine, fine choice. We discussed at length the meaning of the phrase “it has legs” (not a marker of quality, but rather of high alcohol content) and felt really rather civilized.

IMG_6494The bottle had to run out at some point and so when it did we moved on another 10 yards to The Railway Tavern, a busier, edgier joint after the relaxed refinement of Cellar SW4. I asked the barman to choose us four of his best bottled beers, upon which his eyes lit up as he embarked on the challenge with energy and dedication. It was an excellent selection, of which I remember the names of none, but I do recall that one tasted strangely of lime.

It was approaching the time when queues were forming outside the many bars and clubs of Clapham High Street. We managed to gain quick access to Adventure Bar, whereupon we were hit by such a strong odour of Sambuca that we literally recoiled. Mastering our olfactory faculties, we made it to the bar which was cash only. Leon selflessly ran off into the night to find a cash point, returning unsuccessfully ten minutes later, while Oli, Andy and I marveled at the unique dance-floor abilities of an overweight middle-aged man who appeared to be entirely on his own. His movements were strange yet assured, he was covered with a veneer of sweat, and yet there was something appealing about this singular figure. Cashless, we had no choice but to leave, and so we inched past his gyrating form, his solo display showing no sign of ending.

After a quick boogie in 64th & Social we continued down Clapham High Street when suddenly Andy stopped, his eyes locked on a nearby club.

Revolution,” he muttered mystically.

“Where it all began…”

A scene began to gather in my mind’s eye. My 25th birthday. A drunken discussion about how many tube stations there are in London and a joyous pledge to visit every single one. It was here, in Revolution, that our historic pledge was made, a pledge we have stuck to thus far, not missing a station yet at a rate of one per month. 50 stations behind us, 220 still ahead, winking to us from the unknowable future.

The bouncers searched our bags and in we went. The venue had acquired legendary proportions in my mind and I expected nothing short of Coleridge’s Xanadu. In reality it wasn’t quite a stately pleasure-dome but it had music and booze and somewhere to dance. We didn’t let ourselves linger over the venue’s emotionally-charged history. Instead, while waiting at the bar we invented the most obnoxious way to pay for drinks ever. When told the price, simply throw your card – or even better your entire wallet – up onto the bar, while saying “there you go love”. Of course, being decent, upright citizens, we never actually employed this technique, but had much fun practicing it and giggling when the bar staff had their backs turned. It really is most pleasing – try it some time.

What rare delights await us down the road in Clapham South next month? I can hardly wait to find out.

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NEXT STOP: CLAPHAM SOUTH

CLAPHAM COMMON – April 2017

Four more years! Four more years!

“Happy anniversary” Greg announced, meeting me under the clock outside Clapham Common Station and presenting me with my thoughtful gift – a beautiful, golden, luscious pineapple. The scene was rife with romanticism to the point of cliché; the sun beating down, two friends exchanging fruit based gifts (fruit being the traditional fourth anniversary endowment) and old father time trudging on above our heads in the 110 year old clock tower. JMW Turner’s View on Clapham Common would have been markedly improved, in my humble opinion, had such a correspondence been included between the flora, fauna and fishermen.

We started our anniversary celebrations in the Stane Street Syndicate and welcomed our first gaggle of guests and well-wishers. ULPC regulars Jarek and Brent bestowed us with gifts. A large tube map, with dates marking all the crawls we had thus far completed, and running-number print outs respectively (the latter in observance of Greg and I having run the London Marathon the prior weekend). With our running numbers, pints, boisterous attitude and pineapple, Brent commented we looked decidedly like a pathetic and half-hearted stag do and we all felt conspicuous, from the premier, amongst the becoming boys and girls of Clapham Common. But no mind – we were certain the balmy eve would smile upon our festivities.

In the trendy No.32 The Old Town we managed, after considerable negotiation with the Lothario interior doorman who was keen to fill the balcony space he policed solely with female patrons, to squeeze onto the pleasant, park facing sun trap.

It was here the pineapple first received the attention it would garner all night.

I had fallen into easy conversation with Megan – a pleasant and pleasantly sozzled Canadian out with her husband and uniformly blonde haired and blue eyed friends. She enquired, between glugs of her G&T, to the origin of my perfect Ananas comosus. I gestured to Greg and explained our expedition and anniversary. “Hence the pineapple”, I concluded.

Megan appeared blasé at best to my anecdote. But her eyes wouldn’t wander, not even for a moment, from the shining Pina that sat as an unofficial centrepiece.

“Can I have a bite of it?” she drawled.

“Be my guest”, I answered, expecting her to playfully nibble on the rind – much to the amusement of her Arian chums, no doubt. But Megan, overcome with a sort of jungle fever one assumes, grasped the fruit with unyielding speed and intent and proceeded to tear frenzied mouthfuls from the pineapple with her teeth. Juices dribbled down her chin onto her clothes, chunks of tropical husk fell between her legs and Megan continued to gnaw until, satiated, she slammed it onto the table as if it were a newly emptied pint glass.

Her husband, an Irish man whose name escapes me, peeled away from his own conversation and peered to our end of the table.

“You alright, babe?”

“Just eating a pineapple” Megan replied – the pineapple’s flesh still clinging to her lips and cheeks. The husband, as if seeing this bizarre scene for the hundredth time, nonchalantly turned back to his mates.

We left Megan at No.32, the disfigured pineapple now back in my cradling arms, and headed onwards to the Rose & Crown where the young barman who greeted us outside swiftly dismissed our advances.

“No stag dos!”

Finding this an amusing pay-off to our earlier fears we chortled and Greg tried to put the man’s fears to rest.

“We’re not a stag do. We’re on a pub crawl. We write a monthly blog called -”

“No pub crawls!” the tone identical to his previous refusal.

“Why? We’re not here to make trouble. It’s a Friday night, we’re visiting a few pubs and want to have a beer in the sun.”

The barman sighed, “Alright, you can sit out ‘ere. Just keep it down, yeah? You’ll see why when you come inside”.

We entered to a healthy titter and hum of chitchat and laughter and found a diverse range of patrons enjoying alcoholic beverages. The young barman was right to warn us – this joyful bar, far from being the stereotypical and unassuming London pub that it clearly was, was akin to a wake.

From here we swung into The Sun and the Prince of Wales before heading back towards the common in search of further frivolity, visiting the vast halls of The Alexandra en route and, with the pineapple still in arm, we filed into the Belle Vue.

“No pineapples”, the somewhat diffident bouncer informed me.

“What am I meant to do with it?”

“Put it in your bag.”

This concealment was attempted but quickly abandoned as, having come straight from work, my rucksack was full and only the body would fit, the green leaves sprouting from behind my head. I looked to the doorman for further suggestions.

“Put it . . .” he looked around for inspiration “. . . in a plastic bag”.

The group, fools that they are, had left their plastic stashes at home.

“Can I leave it here?”

“But what if they take it?” he begged.

“That’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

Teary-eyed, we all bid what might possibly be a final farewell to our banished brethren and left him sequestered behind a faux vintage mirror. But something or someone must have been looking down on us that evening for we staggered out the bar sometime later to find the pineapple in all its glory – bearing no scars other than the ones inflicted by Megan some hours earlier.

To celebrate we threw him between us like a rugby ball on the short walk to our final pub – everyone desperate to have a go on our fruity chum. “Pineapple will join us on all future pub crawls!” it was decreed. But the excitement of our befuddled minds led to failing hands and after numerous scrapes across the pavement we did the honourable thing and put the poor, chewed and battered soul out of his misery. The most humane way to do this, we decided, was of course to throw him in the air as high as we could and enjoy the impending splatter with childish glee.

Finally, pineapple now smeared across Holwood Place, we toasted to our fallen comrade and celebrated our anniversary in The King & Co. as the staff cleared away around us.

To four more years and to pineapple – lest we forget.

NEXT STOP: CLAPHAM NORTH

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.

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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.

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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

CAMDEN TOWN – February 2016

Although under threat of corporate gentrification, Camden – famed for its music, fashion, illegal substances and markets – still has a hard beating, fun loving heart.

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Camden holds something of a nostalgic romance for both Greg and I. Back in 2007, when we were unaffiliated bumptious undergraduates at Kingston Uni, Camden was a regular site for our student loan funded debauchery. Waiting for Greg outside the station I remembered a time in the nearby Electric Ballroom when I accidentally chinned a Cybergoth whilst employing a dance move known as “The Windmill”.

Greg arrived and was instantly offered cannabis by a passing local. “No, sorry” he replied and we set of on our 35th crawl.Awesome 2

First The Camden Eye – a forgettable little boozer that falls short of its own promises and opens itself up for harsh critique by branding the neologism “Awesomeness” on every possible surface. From there we swung into heavy metal favourites The World’s End and The Black Heart and intermingled seamlessly with the leather and denim clad regulars. Although The World’s End is something of a tourist trap these days, what with its faux-Dickensian back room, The Black Heart remains an excellent pub. Off the main crawl and with a mighty selection of beers, tasty food and a geographic location that will make all Spaced fans swoon, it never fails to impress.

BrewDogAfter a dutiful but pleasant refuelling in Brew Dog, we hit Camden High Street and, starting with The Bucks Head, launched ourselves northward, ricocheting off the pubs that straddle the tarmac band.

Entering The Elephant’s Head we were met with the archetypal lad cry “Oi oi!” and two Neanderthalic and blathered mates shimmied their way across the tiny dance floor. Maybe seeing younger, soberer spectres of themselves in the two of us they demanded we join them which, being the polite young men that we are, we did. Half the duo tried to indulge us in conversation but the pre-speech that dribbled out of his mouth was unintelligible. The other, realising the self-imposed limitations of his booze soaked lexicon, took to only using the phrase “Oi oi!” regardless of the situation. Every scene was underscored with the predictable annotation and repetition of that unfairly maligned syllable.

Over the course of our drinks, the simple phrase started to take on further meanings. It was a type of glossolalia – a complex, esoteric announcement from the other side. When a girl spilt her drink nearby and our enlightened mate astutely commented “Oi oi!”, I could see exactly what he meant and his poetic philosophy brought a tear to my eye. That and the fact his burbling chum was stood on my foot. I pushed my hoof aggressor gently to relieve the pressure, Gregwhich he of course took as an affront. When I explained his foot was on mine, he cupped my face in his huge, clammy, stained hands and forcibly planted his beer slathered lips on mine. Greg and I drained what was left of our bottles and darted for the exit. An echoing cry of “Oi oi!” following us as we crossed the street.

Supping drinks in The Oxford Arms and The Hawley Arms, we continued along Chalk Farm Road, stopping in The Lock Tavern before being enticed into cute venue Made in Brasil Boteco by a live samba band. We squeezed our way to the front and boogied with an older lady whose Friday night was clearly filled with unprecedented amounts of Awesomeness. I locked eyes with her and we started to groove away together. We both longed (and attempted) to join in with the excellent singer but being unable to decipher or understand his Spanish lyrics were unable. That is until, inspired by our early encounter, I initiated a free-style sing-off built entirely around the phrase “Scoo-Bee-Doo”. My Señorita soon engaged and we Scoo-Bee-Doo’d with complete abandon for the rest of the set as EnterpriseGreg joyously bounced with the crowd behind us.

After bevvies in financially unviable rum shack Cottons and Americana inspired Joe’s we finished off the night with whiskeys in The Enterprise where 16 months earlier we had ended our Belsize Park crawl. We excitedly tried to explain this to the bar man but the anecdote, boiling down as it does to simply being “this is the second time we’ve been here!”, failed to evoke the triumphant response we sought.

We collapsed onto the last tube and, filled with pride that we had only been to the same pub once during our three year adventure, tried to engage with our nocturnal commuter friends – with varied results.

How joyous that in the nine years since Greg and I first explored the taverns of Camden the façades have changed, but the spirit remains.

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Next stop: CANADA WATER

BARKINGSIDE – June 2014

An evening of raunchy hens, imaginary Saints and a lascivious man called Christopher.

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Standing amongst the soulless semi-detached houses that surround Barkingside station, Greg and I realised the evening may be our first absolute failure. Barkingside appeared to be dry and bare in both character and pubs.

Resorting to our phones to decide which faceless, clone street we should venture down, we came to The Chequers. Not quite on par with the Chequers frequented by the Prime Minister’s influential guests, this Chequers served sour lager and was home to groups of slouching, shouting, scrumhalf men who clearly slid in through the double doors every Friday and laid on anecdotes thick and fast whilst swilling cold ones.

IMG_20140613_203739Exiting, we strode past a string of closed down shops and clubs, finally happening upon New Fairlop Oak. We were now approaching half past nine, only two beers in us in the last two hours, so we took to our phones once more in an attempt to save this sullen adventure.

Our only choice was Gants Hill, a short bus ride south. We kept eagle eyed along the way, ensuring we didn’t break our first rule by passing a pub without entering, and bounced straight into Hotel St Georgio (named after that famed, but oft overlooked, patron saint of male grooming products) where the Netherlands were giving Spain a right ruddy thrashing in the international football awards 2014.

“I can’t believe it. Five one!” proclaimed an incredulous onlooker in the empty bar. Greg and I shook our heads and mimicked his disbelief, assuming this was correct protocol when engaged in football banter.

Visage, a club and bar which employed questionably vigorous security checks, was our next stop. Here we came across our first hen party of the evening. On the right hand side of the room were the hens – standing in tight circles, learner plates, fairy wings and inflatable cocks abound – and on the left the men – their solid, glistening fros indicating their adherence to the word of St Georgio. Both sides of the room were waiting for the poor decision making of a boozy night to begin. And stationed awkwardly in the middle – Greg, myself and Christopher; a bald, brassy local whose opening gambit to conversation was a slurred, “I can’t believe they let me in!”IMG_20140613_223857

“Watch me whilst I sort out these birds”, Christopher grunted and, with a preparatory snort, swaggered over to two women on a nearby table. There was much whispering and shaking of heads and then, with a dramatic and coy shrug, Christopher returned – these birds clearly were not for sorting.

Despite his failings, Christopher was an avuncular sort and took me under his womanising wing.

“You’ll be nuts deep before you know it! Check this out” and he was away again, bouncing and swaying towards a closed circle of hens. He orbited the group, his head a shiny, lecherous moon, and managed to penetrate the inner sanctum when a girl, haphazardly and foolishly, looked over her shoulder. Christopher returned to us a number of times, “You’re in. I’ve told them you’re my younger brother”.

“I have a girlfriend”, I lied in an attempt to quell the embarrassment. But Christopher was not concerned with claims of fidelity, be them fictitious or otherwise, and the berating continued until he left to powder his nose. Greg took the opportunity to explain our true relationship with Christopher to the hens and we seized our chance to escape.

We swung into The Valentine where we met a second hen party – again adorned with the relevant soon-to-be-wed appendages . Giggling and shrieking, hens 2.0 were more than happy to pose, cock and all, for a snap.

We finished at Sidney’s where, after another harrowing security check, the long-serving bar maid regaled us with boozy stories of old. Climbing aboard the empty carriage of the last tube home, Greg and I endeavoured in an Olympics of tube sports – swinging from railings, sprinting the length of the carriage and, to our shame, walking through the door of death between carriages whilst the train was in motion. Sorry, Boris.

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I must finish on a personal note and congratulate Lucy, our first ever guest all the way back in Angel in September 2013, who has just had her first child – Monty.  As a gift, Greg and I have promised to treat Monty to an Ultimate London Pub Crawl when he turns 18 in summer 2032. Sudbury Town – you’ve been warned.

Next stop: BARONS COURT