350 years ago, Mr Pepys described his yesterday (8th May 1662), thus:
At the office all the morning doing business alone, and then to the Wardrobe, where my Lady going out with the children to dinner I staid not, but returnedhome, and was overtaken in St. Paul’s Churchyard by Sir G. Carteret in his coach, and so he carried me to the Exchange, where I staid awhile. He told me that the Queen and the fleet were in Mount’s Bay on Monday last, and that the Queen endures her sickness pretty well. He also told me how Sir John Lawson hath done some execution upon the Turks in the Straight, of which I am glad, and told the news the first on the Exchange, and was much followed by merchants to tell it. So home and to dinner, and by and by to the office, and after the rest gone (my Lady Albemarle being this day at dinner at Sir W. Batten’s) Sir G. Carteret comes, and he and I walked in the garden, and, among other discourse, tells me that it is Mr. Coventry that is to come to us as a Commissioner of the Navy; at which he is much vexed, and cries out upon Sir W. Pen, and threatens him highly. And looking upon his lodgings, which are now enlarging, he in passion cried, “Guarda mi spada; for, by God, I may chance to keep him in Ireland, when he is there:” for Sir W. Pen is going thither with my Lord Lieutenant. But it is my design to keep much in with Sir George; and I think I have begun very well towards it. So to the office, and was there late doing business, and so with my head full of business I to bed.
All of which is annotated above.
Not quite ExCeLling
Malcolm’s day, yesterday, involved a jaunt to the ExCeL Centre (which must qualify as one of the more obtuse uses of cApItaLs going) for the Grand Designs Expo.
Malcolm freely confesses he is an addict of the Channel 4 programme — described on wikipedia as “a programme covering unusual and elaborate architectural homebuilding projects” — and Kevin McCloud. It all seems to come down to “how, given only a pile of straw bales and some imported Italian fenestration, we created a Palladian villa for the twenty-first century”. Definitely property-porn, and highly addictive.
The expo is Ideal Home for the epicene bourgeoisie. Much of it involves what Malcolm’s mother characterised as “more money than sense”. Over the years it has provided Redfellow Hovel with roof insulation and a nifty loft ladder. What is clear, however, is that the Great British Recession is hitting even this market demographic: this year a considerable space is devoted to electric cars.
Not by Boris
Getting to ExCeL , by public transport, from Norf Lunnun used to involve a convoluted passage via several underground lines and the Docklands Light Railway. We now have the revived, renewed East London Line, from Highbury & Islington, all the way to West Croydon and Crystal Palace. So it’s change at Shoreditch; and it works a treat. Those Class 378 electric multiple-units are nifty, too — though looking the length of a train, with no “proper” carriage divisions is a small eye-opener.
Thank you, Mayor Ken Livingstone, and those dear, dead enlightened days when Transport for London was more interested in shifting people than in vanity buses and perpetual fares increases.
The convenience of this new magic-carpet ride meant Malcolm missed out on his promised afternoon of indulgence involving Broadsides at the Bridge House, returning instead to Abbot and a pub steak at Highgate’s Gatehouse. Tough, really — or perhaps not (and the steak wasn’t). A pleasure deferred …
Anyway, Malcolm had an evening commitment.
Brendan Barber may be “stepping down” as TUC General Secretary, but there’s a promotion in the pipe-line — to become President of Muswell Hill Golf Club.
Last night Brendan was doing his party-piece at Hornsey Labour Party, and wowing the troops.
The troops, of course, were already on a high: Joanne McCartney barely scraped home in the GLA 2008 vote — this time she is sitting on an absolute plurality, a majority of 25% with some 18% more of the vote. And the icing on the celebratory cake is the total collapse of the LibDem vote, now below 9½%: just 13,601 votes across the five parliamentary constituencies where there were 48,511 in the 2010 General Election.
Back to Brendan Barber
He hammered home one essential point: the massive bulk of the austerity cuts are still to come. That is generally well-appreciated, but his cruncher was, for every £ already cut, there are £16 more still to come.
That leads into:
Paul Waugh did a good bit of butchery on yesterday with Cameron and Clegg’s rose garden in a tractor factory:
The ‘We-Never-Promised-You-a-Rose-Garden’ summit was all set — and perfect for the early evening news.
That was the plan. Unfortunately, it suffered from a couple of flaws.
First, you just can’t get away from the fact that the PM and DPM just look awful together. These days, each is devalued by rather than reinforced by their lookalike.
Both wearing identikit suits, and only differentiated by the blue and yellow of their ties, it wasn’t a good look. (It’s no wonder the PM took his jacket off halfway through to distinguish himself from his partner). As one factory worker said “You two need to get your act together…” Cameron on his own looks much more at home on his PM Direct events.
Second, words are just as important as pictures. And the PM had some rather unfortunate words as he dropped his guard on the deficit. In answer to one question, he said:
“What you call austerity, I might call efficiency…”
Were one to take fair-mindedness to ridiculous extremes, it might just be possible to defend the present sado-masochistic monetarism on grounds of “efficiency”. But that only applies where we might be able to find “efficiency”. But the public expenditure, and the public debt continues to balloon — which is why the Cameroons argue those further 94% of “cuts” are necessary.
Brendan Barber takes that another way. When Osborne went with his first “emergency” budget, his pet-poodle, the Office of Budget Responsibility, calculated it involved around 300,000 more unemployed. The latest OBR forecast updates that from 300,000 to 700,000.
At which we should all have a sharp intake of breath. Since we have no fewer than seven Treasury ministers (Osborne, Alexander, Hoban, Gauke, Smith, Lord Sassoon and Maude — though the last is PMG and works out of the Cabinet Office), ably assisted by an army, four figures strong, of the brightest-and-best of the Civil Service, why do we need a further level of “responsibility” for the budget? Particularly when that “office” is 233% out in an essential prediction?
There seems to be a bit of doubt on the quality of Pepys’ Spanish. The sense of Sir William Coventry’s irritation at Penn is patently clear, though. Similarly, one decent cut might be the useless OBR, so:
Guarda mi spada!
Filed under Adnams, Beer, Boris Johnson, Britain, broken society, Channel 4 News, Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., David Cameron, economy, Elections, History, Ireland, Ken Livingstone, Labour Party, Lib Dems, Literature, London, Lynne Featherstone, Muswell Hill, Nick Clegg, Paul Waugh, politics, politicshome, pubs, Quotations, railways, Tories., Trade unions
Malcolm’s New Year was in the bar of The Bald Faced Stag in East Finchley.
Credit where it’s due
For years Malcolm avoided this joint: it was a seedy, down-at-heel, dying Victorian ex-gin palace. Not quite terminal nicotine-stained spit-and-sawdust; but the property men must have been measuring it up for “redevelopment” into bijou apartments.
Then it fell into the hands of a decent, striving, progressive and small (but expanding) PubCo, the Realpubs Group. What emerged at the other end was a nice admixture of a gastro-pub and a useful watering hole.
So Malcolm was on the Nethergate Augustinian, a premium 4.5% bitter from Clare, Suffolk (the title and the deceptive date on the pump-clip are nods to the Priory of the Austin Friars just down the A1092 road). At their best, East Anglian beers are as good as things get, which is why Adnams Broadside and Greene King Abbot feature regularly in Malcolm’s diet for a liquid lunch. These strong ales (though not as strong as the Abbot Reserve of Advent-tide) have the “sweeter” taste the southerner seems to prefer — geographically and tastefully equidistant between “tart” Yorkshire and luscious Belgium.
Anyway, it’s the flavour that Malcolm grew up with, and it goes with the country.
Loud, but venerable
Being New Year’s, there had to be a deafening disco. After about 10 p.m. the playlist subtly changed. On came the R&B stuff. Even things that Malcolm could recognise as music.
Just when he was about to despair what sounded rather like the Spencer Davis Group was on offer. It wasn’t, but it was a touching tribute to one of the greats:
Soon after, unadulterated, the Stones rolled:
And — hey! — the locals get a look in:
For the record, on the way to the venue the 234 bus swept the Lady in his Life and Malcolm past the Clissold Arms, of iconic fame and now also greatly revived and improved. Not all of the UK pub scene is a disaster.
All of those tracks are 40 or 45 years old — far more elderly than the average “young professional” shaking their booties to them.
Will they still be around to re-appear for New Year’s in mid-century? Malcolm will not be there to confirm — so would some youthful kind soul in due course take note and report back “on the other side”?
Filed under Adnams, Beer, Belgium, Britain, History, Kinks, London, Music, Muswell Hill, pubs, Sounds of the Sixties, Yorkshire
This one will, eventually, take us to a place of delight and sustenance. Bare with Malcolm as he tracks towards his goal.
Malcolm reckoned he hit on the phrase at the very end, the punch-line of Chaucer’s Physicians Tale:
Beth war, for no man woot whom God wol smyte,
In no degree, ne in which manere wyse
The worm of conscience may agryse
Of wikked lyf, though it so pryvee be
That no man woot therof but God and he.
For be he lewed man, or ellis lered,
He noot how soone that he shal been afered.
Or, as Malcolm might have rendered that for the benefit of the algae-d end of the gene pool:
Be aware, for no man knows whom God will strike,
Despite social status, nor in what ways
The worm of conscience grieves
The wicked soul, though secret be the deeds
Which no one knows of but God and he.
For be he ignorant or learned, yet
He cannot know when fear will make him squirm.
For Chaucer’s age, and much later, the greatest social divide was between those who could relate to written text (the “lered”), and those incapable (“the lewed”).
Today that discriminator might lay between the readers of the tabloids and of the “broadsheets” (only a couple of which retain that format). But, pause for a Neil Gaiman moment:
Richard Mayhew walked down the underground platform. It was a District Line station: the sign said BLACKFRIARS. The platform was empty. Somewhere in the distance an Underground train roared and rattled, driving a ghost-wind along the platform, which scattered a copy of the tabloid Sun into its component pages, four-color breasts and black-and-white invective scurrying and tumbling off the platform and down onto the rails.
Richard walked the length of the platform. Then he sat down on a bench and waited for something to happen.
Well, at the moment, that’s quite explicable. Blackfriars underground station remains closed.
However, this is also a moment of social inclusion. Crossrail (a-hah! you see at last the significance of the headline image!) and the Thameslink projects mean there are certain points across London where supercilious Savile-Row suits meet subterranean jerkins and overalls.
One such interface is Blackfriars, which — one way or another — will shortly become the crossroads of London’s mass transport. It sits neatly between the City and the River, between Farringdon to the north (where Crossrail and City link will interface) and London Bridge to the south (gateway to all points across the stockbroker suburbs)
Happy he he who has shares in hotels nearby.
As Neil Gaiman would have it:
He had crossed Blackfriars Bridge, in the City of London, many times, and he had often passed through Blackfriars station, but he had learned by now not to assume anything. “People.”
So, this lunchtime the Lady in his Life and Malcolm were seeking sustenance. A quest had taken them to the legal quarter, thence out of the Middle Temple into Fleet Street. This opened a whole number of possibilities:
On Fleet Street:
In Carey Street, behind the Royal Courts of Justice:
Make a hike up to Holborn and return to:
- The Cittie of York (a Sam Smith’s house, probably some of the cheapest, best ale in central London).
Choices, choices. All palatable, all attractive.
And thou beside me in the wilderness
Instead, having book-shopped, it was the Black Friar that won the cut.
What is truly astonishing is that this place ever needed rescuing (it’s now Grade II listed) from the vandals. It ought to be obligatory on every London visitor’s schedule — and not just for the astounding interior. Nice selection of pics here.
Being a Nicholson’s house, it come with added choice. On draught, the pumps that forced on him decisions, decisons were:
All of those seemed to be doing excellent trade, and with good reason.
So, to mark it being a Friday, foddering involved fish-and-chips (neatly, nicely done — especially as Malcolm traditionally gets the Lady in his Life’s mushy peas) and a bottle of the house Chenin Blanc (South African, but acceptable). Then back to the nut-brown stuff.
Home again, home again, jiggedy jig
The quick way to Norf Lunnun from Blackfriars is currently by First Capital Connect, and all on the travel card. The “fast” trains from Brighton to Bedford are Farringdon, St Pancras and St Alban’s only; but the “stoppers” have a useful stage at Kentish Town, convenient for the 134 bus to the top of the hill adjacent to Redfellow Hovel.
Coming home from (extended) lunch at Butler’s Wharf, the Lady in his Life and Malcolm passed the Shad Thames branch of the Zizzi restaurant chain.
That set off a humming, and an attempt to recollect a more-than-half-forgotten lyric from 1969. The prompt was the line:
You dance like Zizi Jeanmaire
Obviously, faced with such a knotty problem, further refreshment was needed. What better than Adam’s Broadside (and a glass of Cabernet)? Where more convenient than The Bridge House?
By that stage most of the first verse had been reconstructed:
You talk like Marlene Dietrich
And you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire,
Your clothes are all made by Balmain,
And there’s diamonds and pearls in your hair.
Only when home was all the rest revealed:
Which there, today, seems the more remarkable —
- the hair?
- the kipper tie?
- the complexity and number of references in the lyric?
Around that time there was a succession of demanding songs, several by the female of the singing species.
Malcolm had few problems with the narrative of Tom T. Hall’s Harper Valley PTA (Jeannie C. Riley, 1968: again that unbelievable hair — this time, with added white boots):
He thinks he gets Collins and Hardy’s Delta Dawn (Helen Reddy, 1973):
He hasn’t got a clue why, in her Ode to Billie Joe, Bobbie Gentry (1967) had Billie Joe McAllister jump(ing) off the Tallahatchie Bridge:
Deeper into the undergrowth
The Lennon-McCartney partnership set something of a pattern for lyrical complexity, which became more outré as the psychodelics got to them: anyone for A Day in the Life? —
I read the news today, oh boy!
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire;
And though the holes were rather small,
They had to count them all.
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.
That, like Peter Sarstedt’s, may need an accompanying glossary. In Malcolm’s view, Don Maclean’s American Pie remains the best of the lot. It has at least one explicatory web-site, all of its own —
Maclean’s other stuff — Vincent, for an obvious example — is not far behind. Joni Mitchell, among many others, could tax the intellect — and all for the good.
Baroque in the extreme
At some point, though, the whole business had to slide over any edge of comprehension. That moment was reached with Queen and the farrago that is Bohemian Rhapsody. On which note, time to play out:
Not a bad week.
Three liquid extended lunch-times — the Flask in Hampstead. the Bridge House (that old Adnams favourite), and The Duke of York on the Barnet fringe. All have been covered here previously: all up to past form.
The elections and the referendum: All went much as Malcolm might have wished. The Scottish result brought forward the inevitable Tartan Tory versus proper socialist confrontation (with potential for major mischief between Salmond and Cameron: buy tickets for that one). No change in Northern Ireland (except a small creep by Alliance). Wales going further Welsh and socialist. Labour making decent gains across England, with more to come in successive years. Indeed: all as well as might be hoped for.
And that miserable little compromise, the AV option, consigned to the rubbish bin of UK political history. The people gave No! the rainbow sign: no more tinkering, PR next time.
Then the neophyte Tory MP for Hendon stepped up to the oche:
There has been much public discussion about the increasing use of super-injunctions and the ability of judges, rather than elected parliamentarians, to decide policy. Is the Leader of the House aware of the anomaly this creates if, as has been rumoured, a Member of this place seeks a super-injunction to prevent discussion of their activities? May we therefore have a debate on the use of super-injunctions, and not leave the issue to the Joint Committee on the Draft Defamation Bill, which cannot address these concerns?
- No definite assertion there that an injunction, super or not, had been requested, or awarded.
- Offord is, on the evidence here, merely peddling vague rumours.
The Great British Press all jumped at the insinuation:
Mr Offord said the application related to a “personal matter” and that he is planning to confront the MP who has brought it next week.
He said: “I have heard about this from two different sources. I’m very keen to see that MPs aren’t seen to say one thing in public then behave in a different way in private. I feel that people shouldn’t be abusing these super-injunctions.
“I will speak to them and find whether the injunction has been taken out or not. If it has I will tell the MP that they are being hypocritical.”
Mr Offord confirmed he was not referring to Zac Goldsmith.
That last sentence is just as well, because Zac Goldsmith (like the rest of his family) is litigious and has the resources to be so. And that is the way the Telegraph, in that same piece, was facing us:
The Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith has previously taken out an injunction blocking the publication of any information taken from his email account.
The emails of Mr Goldsmith, his ex-wife Sheherazade Goldsmith and his socialite sister Jemima Khan were hacked in 2008.
An unidentified person sent the information from the hacked email to a national newspaper. The injunction was renewed in March of this year.
However, this injunction is not a “super-injunction” because the media are able to report its existence.
Furthermore, never to be out-faced Paul Staines, by name and by nature, put up a whit of “confirmation” on his Guido Fawkes scandal sheet:
Guido Knows Name of MP With Injunction, All Too Well
Below that is a redacted High Court document dated March 2011. That is very helpful because on 22 March 2011, Mr Justice Tugendhat (named by Staines) gave a public judgment (Goldsmith v BCD  EWHC 674 (QB)). This clearly named
ZAC GOLDSMITH and SHEHERAZADE GOLDSMITH Claimants and BCD Defendant
End of story?
Filed under Adnams, Daily Telegraph, Elections, Guardian, Guido Fawkes, Labour Party, Law, leftist politics., Northern Irish politics, Paul Staines, politics, Scotland, Scottish Parliament, SNP, Wales
Just a reminder!
Yes, that’s the feel of the thing. Open the brochure and you get this:
It’s well-attested that is not Muswell Hill, but the Archway Tavern. Which is on the traffic island in N19. That, quite properly, is to Muswell Hill as “Flyover States” are to Manhattanites.
Now, the Queen’s in Crouch End: that’s a horse of a different colour (as above, with newly-cleaned and very fine windows), as bourgeoisified as the Archway remains dog-rough. Particularly when the Queen’s serves Adnams Gunhill, as it was doing on Malcolm’s last visit.
After this inconsequential ramble, all that remains to play out in style:
The imaginative anecdote has it:
[Jean Harlow] was at a dinner party and continuously addressed Margot Asquith (wife of British prime minister Herbert Asquith) as “Margot”, pronouncing the “T”.
Margot finally had enough and said to her, “No, Jean, the ‘T’ is silent, like in Harlow”.
No relation to what follows.
So, this week, the Lovely Lady in his Life and Malcolm had a whim to go out to lunch. A long liquid lunch, which precluded driving.
Now, a train to Harlow Town, and a short bus ride would bring then to one of the finest pubs and eateries in the Home Counties. The Queens Head in Churchgate Street, Old Harlow, has been there since the 1600s: the Victoria County History of Essex reckons it was first recorded in 1736. It’s the perfect village pub, just off the main routes. As comments on beerinthe evening properly say:
Perfect, perfect olde worlde pub: ancient outside and in, old beams, fireplaces, etc, etc. Beautiful churchside location too in a gorgeous street. Who would have thought Harlow could be so idyllic?
… The pub is typical untouched old Essex, rather than upmarket foodie pub …
Yes, Malcolm has been this way before, but … just let’s not tell everybody about it, huh?
The predictable bit was that the food was good, the beer (Adnams Broadside, but natch!) was great. The whole lunchtime experience went swimmingly, aided by the statutory bottle of Cab.
Short of camels galled, sore-footed, refractory this was one of the coldest comings one could imagine, mainly because
… there was no information, and so we continued …
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel …
Finding the place … it was (you may say) satisfactory.
OK! OK! the purist will deplore mucking with Old Possum’s lineation. Anyway, it isn’t vines over the door, either.
The problem was the continued lack of anything approaching an integrated transport system. This, let us recall, was an item in Labour manifestos back as far as Harold Wilson. Today, if it were possible, things are even worse than they were then.
And Harlow is the example of the pits.
For a start, the railway station (“Harlow Town”) seems to be a good mile from the bus station in the shopping centre. Yes, there are buses that connect the two. No, at the railway station the only timetable obviously on display is for Sundays only. There appears to be no person, no source of information.
Malcolm actually enquired of a bus driver what the situation was. He was advised to take “a ten or fifteen minute walk” in the direction of a jerked thumb. Why not: “Wait for the number [whatever], mate?”
When the bus station in Harlow centre is finally reached, it is not too bad a joint as such places go. Harlow’s just about works. Not the most welcoming place in the universe, except the indicators are profoundly unhelpful. With a bit of effort, it seemed that the bus the Lady and Malcolm wanted left from stand five: it actually pulled in and left from stand eleven. [It could have been the other way round: it was, either way, a choker.]
Now Malcolm promises he is in no way responsible for what has happened to the wikipedia page on Harlow:
This page was last modified on 5 August 2010 at 08:24.
It currently starts (get it while it’s fresh!):
Harlow is a former new town and now a borough town and local government district in Essex, England. It is the world’s biggest shithole.
We haven’t had a pub-crawl here at Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service for a while. So here goes.
A few days back Malcolm had little reason to be in Hampstead’s South End Green, but was there all the same.
Since he was really just connecting with the Lady in his Life, he intended idly waiting, browsing the daily prints, and sipping in a pub.
Now, there is a choice (and quite a good one) around here.
There’s the Garden Gate (née The Railway), conveniently located between the railway and the bus stations. A big sprawling mock-Tudoresque monster, it used to have the charisma of a barn. It has improved, has a wonderful garden for those occasional summer Sundays, serves acceptable food, and has a Cask Marque for real ales. Somehow, though, except for the Adnam’s Broadside, to Malcolm it doesn’t quite call. It must be the plethora of Weissbier and Peroni types who frequent it.
Up the hill of Pond Street is the Roebuck, not a bad joint now that Youngs have rescued it from being just another Bass-Charrington house. It is heavily geared to the food market (and surprisingly pricey too, even for NW3), and therefore tends to the chintzy end. Expect any peace and quiet to be interrupted by clinking cutlery and medical bleeps (it’s in range of the Royal Free across the road, and caters to the medics).
A few yards further, in the opposite direction, past Hampstead Heath station, turn right, and it’s the Magdala, which is probably the pick of the lot. It’s just off the beaten track, and tends out-of-season to be quieter and more of a “local”. The days have long gone since coach-parties came visiting, to see the bullet holes where Ruth Ellis (the last woman hanged in Britain) did for her errant lover, David Blakely.
But Malcolm chose to be in the most conspicuous, what he still remembers as G.E. Aldwinkle’s, and is now the White Horse, on the apex of Fleet Road. Among the armada (to maintain the “fleet” metaphor) of Victorian gin-palaces that are scattered across North London, this rates as little more than a light cruiser. Sadly, long ago, it lost its cut glass and dark wood (but kept a magnificent ceiling). Today it is a pale shadow of its former self, in a pale battleship grey, carpeted and tarted up. It retains, though, the proper island bar. The bogs in the basement, and the staircase down, are slick and tiled in recent, if not the latest, “taste”. That omnipresent menace, the internal designer has been this way.
Yet, it is a worthwhile experience. Expect the trendy dad bringing in the school-kid on the way home from school, the kaffeeklatsch of morning mothers (or, more likely, since this is just into NW3, their au-pairs), Boadiceas with baby-buggies. Later, allegedly, it gets more populated and livelier.
But we are here for the beer, and on the pumps is a choice: Deuchars IPA (it’s an S&N pubco lease), Doom Bar and … yowee! … Old Hooky. OK, not quite up to the scratch of the Pear Tree, Hook Norton’s brewery tap, but fair enough. And the Lady was laggard enough for two slow pints.
If this were Michelin’s beer guide, the Hoss would be a two-star “worth the trip”.
The Lady in his life incited Malcolm to get out and about.
It’s December, for crying out loud. It gets dark in mid-afternoon. We’ve done the desirable riverside pubs — and a revisit to a clammy bankside doesn’t promote itself on the list of options.
One possibility … join the Chelsea set.
A bit of history, European and Malcolmian
Famously (at least in the classroom of the High School, Dublin) the modern kingdom of Greece marked where the surge of the Ottoman Empire broke against the wooden walls of the Royal Navy. The hero of that, at the Battle of Navarino, was Admiral Sir Edward Codrington — with a bit of passing help from the old French enemy, under Admiral de Rigney; and no help whatsoever from the diffident Canning administration back in London.
Codrington is worthy of considerable attention. He did in reality much of what Horatio Hornblower gets fictional credits — and what Codrington didn’t, Thomas Cochrane undoubtedly did.
Today, in West London, he is commemorated in one important regard: the Admiral Codrington in Mossop Street, SW3. This used to be the “Codders”, a resort of the Sloane Rangers and their Guards pursuers: too many trust-funds and too few developed chins. Today it is an estimable, but formulaic gastro-pub (Michelin approves: say no more).
The one thing guaranteed at the Codders is fashionable evidence of the nearby Kings Road, Chelsea, Now, the Lady and Malcolm recall the Kings Road in its ’60s heyday: Mary Quant, the beginnings of Biba, restaurants like Alvaro’s … All gone, lorst and gorn forever. Today, the Kings Road is one chain “boutique” after another, an aggregation of each and every name advertised in every glossy across several continents.
The “Codders”? No, not today.
Onward and westward
Fortunately there is the 22 bus from Piccadilly Circus all the way to the Spencer Arms (of which there are mixed reports) on Putney Common. If the traffic is running, the whole thing’ll take you an hour all the way. Don’t count on it, though.
So catch the 22 in, say, Sloane Square. We can watch the passing parade, dandling their branded clothes bags, all the way down the Kings Road. There’s some good architecture, too, particularly around the Royal Hospital.
At the top of the list of “great London Pubs” is the White Horse on Parson’s Green.
This is where the burgeoning wealth of SW3 (driven by inward immigration and property values) crashes against, and overwhelms Fulham. Once this was decent lower-middle-class Victoriana. No more: the housing is still there, it’s just been mucked about and “up-rated” a bit. In this case, “a bit” implies several hundreds of thousands of pounds sterling.
Hence the nick-name for the White Horse, the “Sloaney Pony”.
A long, leisurely lunch
Today the Green was a fairground: a classic carousel, and as many stalls as one might wish. Scarves, pashminas, scented candles, “home-made” conserves … how could we cope without them?
As we press on, we have to step round and over the local childlife, in cutting-edge fashionable outerware, semi-attached by strings, cords and straps to their household pets. On which note:
- there are only three categories of dogs:
- rats, rugs and demi-chevals;
- and here, in SW6, the rats predominate.
Eventually, though, there rises the old Victorian gin-palace of the White Horse. Don’t trust the Google map: it’s a block north of the suggested location there.
The drinker …
… is instantly faced with BIG decision time:
- Expect a dozen and a half draught beers
- Expect a choice stretching from local breweries, across the UK, via Belgium and Germany (they have a penchant for wheat-beers), all the way to California.
- And, bottled, your choice extends even further.
Malcolm instantly leaped for his favourite Adnam’s Broadside. He could equally have indulged in Old Hooky or Harvey’s Best.
Feed me ! feed me!
There’s an interesting element in the White Horse’s menu: each dish has a suggested drink to accompany it. By no coincidence, Malcolm’s sausage-and-mash was linked to the Adnam’s. And it was first-rate. Meanwhile, the Lady in his life was as well satisfied with her gammon ham and colcannon (though she forewent the suggested Veltins). The opposite table seemed well satisfied with their haddock and chips (again missing out on the recommended Harvey’s and shamefully preferring some foreign brew).
There is a marker here of the success of Malcolm’s resort. For the Lady in his life to go for the dessert is rare praise indeed. Today she opted for the Sussex Pond Pudding. With that, he knew he had cracked it.
The rest of the afternoon was passed in genteel converse and a bottle of decent Australian Shiraz.
And so home.
Next weekend: 42 years married, the Eurostar to Leuven and Brussels.