BOROUGH – April 2015

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.

Borough sign“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.

Borough start“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.Borough effigies

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 Borough collageout 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 Borough singingWheatsheaf 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.Borough end

Next stop: BOSTON MANOR

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