To mark the completion of two years crawling, we headed to Charles Dickens’ stomping ground for an excellent night of verse and cotton based celebration.
“Are you all over eighteen?”, the sinewy landlord asked as we ordered our rounds. We all nodded shyly and, for some reason, guiltily despite me, at the tender age of 25, being the youngest of the group by some 11 years.
“Well he’s not acting it”, he nodded in my direction – my bumptious and virile nature had made me stick out like a sore, immature, infant thumb among the tweed-folk sat alone around every table. The King’s Arms was a gentleman’s pub. For gentlemen. And anniversary parties, regardless of the celebration, were not welcome. However, in a rare and genuine ULPC top tip, if you are in Borough or London Bridge looking for a quiet, charming little bar where you can casually flick through a two day old sports rag undisturbed then look no further. The King’s Arms of Newcomen Street is one of those few hallowed bars every Londoner seeks when in need of a reflective, solo pint – quiet, anonymous, mature. And, despite our well intentioned revelries which they would certainly have warmed to if we were given the chance to explain, they intended to keep it that way.
After our dressing down, we all skulked over to an inviting dilapidated sofa, ideal for lounging away a liquid lunch whilst picking through a book and picking the stuffing through the ripped upholstery, and sniggered. The King’s Arm was pub number four and, due to it being Greg and I’s two year anniversary and the devastating night out we had endured in Bond Street, we had thrown an open invitation for one and all to join us and were now a merry octet.
Greg and I had exchanged gifts (cotton pleat for him, a cotton owl-eyes night mask and cotton duck oven glove for me) and had made for drinks in The Trinity, The Blue Eyed Maid and Belushi’s before Greg’s sharp sighted spouse spied The King’s Arms from Borough High Street. We tried to behave in The King’s Arms, we truly did, but the stern accusation of the authoritarian behind the bar had unwittingly brought out the eighteen year old in all of us and we giggled away like school girls – adorning ourselves with comical moustaches made from Greg’s gifted pleat.
We departed The King’s Arms, a mound of discarded cotton in our wake, some of which had been moulded into effigies of Greg and I as a gift, and continued on for glugs in St Christopher’s Inn and The George. The George, famed for its idyllic, Victorian facet, its gargantuan beer garden that lies in the shadow of The Shard and its mention in Dicken’s ‘Little Dorrit’, is at the opposite end of the spectrum to The King’s Arms but is another sterling pub of Borough all the same – ideal for care-free, boozy summer evenings. Inspired by the romance of our surroundings, the literary heritage of the area and the summer-ish evening we were enjoying, we took to some improvised poetry. However, now six pubs in, our verbal dexterity and poetic acumen was beginning to wane and most offerings’ thematic content consisted of parts of the human anatomy being inserted into other parts of the human anatomy. Our poems were, in some ways, Dickensian – just not in an academic sense.
Finally, we made our way through The Southwark Tavern, where for the first time in London history I managed to convince a doorman to let me in after his initial suspicion about my well-being, and on into the beer garden of Wheatsheaf in Borough Market where we finished with sing-a-longs, dinosaur impressions and the unwarranted destruction of an innocent foosball table.
It was here that we assume Mr Duck the oven glove was lost, probably trapped along with the eternal sentinel footballers under the glass, and that Greg and I shredded what pleat was left and filled a friend’s bag with it. Thus, with a final rhyme and a grinning, cottony farewell, we all set about for our various last train journeys home and thanked Borough and its excellent pubs for restoring our faith in London’s night life.
Next stop: BOSTON MANOR