Posts from 1st December 2000

Dec 00

Here’s something that’s been worrying me lately

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 260 views

Here’s something that’s been worrying me lately: how on Earth do teetotal people ever get off with anyone? To illustrate this, in the pub last night I saw two couples.* One was sharing a bottle of wine – her face was lively, nay a little flushed, her eyes sparkling, his body language relaxed, the conversation was animated, love was very much in the air. On the other side we had a couple drinking coca-cola (not mixed, because the glasses were too big and there was lemon involved). Their expressions were doleful and their postures did not suggest individuals at ease with themselves. Now, of course I do not know the details of either pair but it brought home to me how impossible it must be to find even the most fumbling and desperate human contact without a bit of Dutch courage. Every single relationship I know the circumstances of started after at least some alcohol had been consumed: this may say more for the sots I hang around with than for the grisly state of romance in the (inaptly named) noughties, but it’s a powerful statistic nevertheless. Not to mention that in many countries the pubs close just in time for somebody to have missed their last train or bus, nudge nudge, say no more. Alcohol: good for the death rate, good for the birth rate.

*We won’t go into the pub last Friday night with the swingers. Or rather we will, but not now.

A lager and’.?

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A lager and’.?

Lager and lime is nice. There, I said it. It tastes nice when you’re in a lazy mood. It makes the most acrid of ‘cooking lagers’ slip down like a dream. And furthermore, being a girl, I am allowed to have it. But, being a girl in a round, I am seldom allowed to exercise my will. Sometimes male compadres can be persuaded to order this elixir, but always with embarrassed reluctance.

The muttering of ‘lager and lime’ nearly always ends in disaster. At no point will the bar man/maid leap over the bar and deck the purchaser for ordering a poofy drink. However, without clear pronunciation, they can mess things up. The simplest outcome is a lager, no lime. This is more than likely the fault of the round-buyer. But more offensive end-products are to be had out there. I have had a lager and orange cordial (this can be blamed on unsleight of hand with the cordial bottles), but a confident order might have prevented this drink-crime. Quite possibly the worst drink known to man is the lager and wine. This Carling/leibfraumilch blended aberration was poured in the Hercules on Holloway Road, by an imbecile. I’ve not yet had a lager and slime, or a lager and brine. I’m obviously not going to the right places.

Slurred speech, deaf, stupid or careless bar-staff. None of these are a fair combination when on the hunt for a tainted lager of some kind.

By the way, the only lager and lime that is not nice, is the Sol ‘n’ slice. Anyone who drinks this is a satanist. Probably.

The quality of ibuprofen is not strained

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 248 views

The quality of ibuprofen is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…

And yes, I fear that I may be him that takes this week. In fact, I have been him that takes rather too many. The disappointing thing is that although I’ve either been in the boozer or in the office this week, I’ve been pretty much on the beaten path. This means drinking in the Mitre, currently my favourite pub in town, the (Newman Street) Blue Posts, the Old Cheshire Cheese, the Lamb, the Old Bell and so on.

It’s a continuing problem: you live in London, you know a number of good pubs. You invite friends out for a drink, and you choose a familiar pub to start in, because you can easily explain where the pub is and because you are sure it won’t be vile. Then, though, you (I mean I, of course) have a couple of beers and get settled and – because you’re in a really good pub – there’s no incentive to go out in the cold and the rain searching for another boozer which nine times out of ten is likely to be inferior to the place you’re happily sitting down in.

Whither the pub crawl in these dark and rainy days?

When you want a seat

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 245 views

When you want a seat – going to the pub at six is a no-no. In the Charlotte Street area there are no seats at six. Five, you have acres of parking room, at seven it will be clearing up, but for that one punch drink at six for the local workers, the pubs are full.

In our search for a table for four I scurried round some of the lesser known pubs in the area. Disappointed that upstairs at the Bricklayers was full we tried the Fitzroy, Haymarket, Cambridge and Duke Of York until we reached Goodge Street and the One Tun. A bit to clean exponent of Young’s fine ales – and unfortunately missing on the obvious opportunity to serve Chinese food. Bit bright, the Tun is, but well appointed. Its not a touch on their older establishments (the heaven sent Lamb f’rinstance) but any opportunity to get re-acquainted with Young’s Pilsner is appreciated. That the main comedy material used for the evening were transcripts from the Hamilton / Al Fayed trial added to the gentle ambience. The unfortunate choice of Travis on the bar staff operated CD player was a downer though.

All this and a C-List celebrity on the table behind – Channel 4 being round the corner you get comedy up and comers like Ricky Jervaise proving his on screen slouch image is no image. He drinks beer like the rest of us, and for that be praised. The One Tun is by no means the best pub in the world, but as a haven for tired legs and outlet of Triple AAA its the best the area has to offer.

Come with me.

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 220 views

Come with me.

Here, down these stairs. Yes, trendy part of London isn’t it? Up and coming, they say. Just through this door. What do you think? Look at the walled wooden panelling lit with orange ‘ that’s seventies chic you know. And all these easy lounging chairs, matches the music, mais non, haha. Oh, and we don’t like to call them bar staff here, they’re waiters. You’ll see. Perfect atmos for a drink’ [Echo, fade out]

Some terrible nightmare? No! It’s all horribly real, and it’s happening throughout London today. For the pub has a mortal enemy, and its name is Wine Bar. Let me explain.

I was in the High Holborn on the road of the same name. Some friends had arranged it, and unwittingly drawn me into circles Dante could never have imagined. If you thought that there was little more melancholy than a party of thirty-somethings clawing to re-live their twenties, then try this crowd of twenty-somethings all grasping for their thirties, and the designer chrome furnished, powder sniffing lifestyle that their advancing careers are promising them. They don’t seem to talk, rather they lay back in their chairs with a self-congratulatory smirk: I’m in the media/mafia/money, they are suggesting. Their bodies congeal with the d’cor like a catalogue photograph.

I found my friends. They had drinks, I went to get mine. At least they had familiar taps on the counter.

I stood by the bar and looked at the waiter while the waiter looked at his thumb. Eventually he noticed me with an affected shock and wandered over.
A pint of Stella please.
‘Would you like me to wait on your table?’
Wha’? What are you saying? No, just give me a pint you strange man.
‘Two pounds sixty please.’
This explains it. Wine bars must be good because even in this part of London, even when trying so endearingly hard to be fashionable, they charge less than three pounds for a pint.

No they don’t. This wasn’t a pint. This wasn’t even nearly a pint making way for a frothy head. This was a tiny bottom heavy fraction of a pint that wouldn’t give a shandy a run for its money. I took it to the table with a look of dismay, making sure I’d pocketed all the change from the miser’s little silver tray.

How had the others got around this problem? Aha! They were on the wine! This must be the wine bar’s game. Drink wine. Ingenious.

No it isn’t. More trouble awaits those who naively obey the rules. For in wine bars, wine is bought by the bottle. And not vaguely just any bottle, but specifically any bottle, any bottle that comes in at a reasonable distance under thirty pounds will be the one that anyone of ordinary means will choose. In this category, the connoisseur will find a selection of two: one red, and for the yet more towering sophisticate, one white.

Still, at least when you buy your bottle, you can refill at will.

No you can’t. For this bottle, on which you will have spent many hours wages, is not your property. Rather, it is that of the waiter, who will hover attentively by the bar, waiting for the next joke from his colleague. Yet he possesses an uncanny skill to know just the right moment to refill your glass. Not, as you may be accustomed to in restaurants, when your glass is empty, but instead precisely one second after you have started a punchline. In this way, the atmosphere in wine bars is carefully controlled. No jokes, no upward spiral of absurdities, no understated wit, just semi-silent indulgence of the cutting edge retro culture that has been so carefully composed for you. Anything else is punished with another exorbitant glass of wine.

Where is Pop-Eye?

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Where is Pop-Eye? I hear you sob. Well, ah, the thing is….I didn’t listen to the charts this week. And there’s not really that much to say about “Independent Women (Part 1)”. It’s a good record, I’m pleased the honeys are making money (for their shapeless corporate paymasters, ha), and so on. But I have updated the Top Ten and the biographies. An Internet sighs in relief.