A Tale Of Two Pubs: it was Isabel’s birthday on Friday so we went for a meal. This post isn’t about the meal, it’s about the two pubs which bookended the evening, both near Tooting Bec tube.

Isabel isn’t a big pubgoer so our locals have been rather neglected since we arrived in Tooting last Summer. We don’t know many people in the area, we don’t work in the area, and while we’ve got onto chatting terms with neighbours and shopkeepers I still tend to go Central or North for my pub needs. The first pub we went to suggests that this is a bad move on my part; the second confirms what a sensible fellow I am.

The first one is the Kings Head, a massive boozer set back from Tooting High Street. From the outside it looks like a Harvester-style shed, an impression not helped by the titanic plastic Santa it had up all over Christmas. But inside it’s terrific, a proper old gin palace with lots of space and lots of cubbyholes. We weren’t in there long enough for me to get much idea of the decor, but it’s pleasingly heavy on the frosted glass and has plenty of amenities (cigar vending machine!). Definitely worth another visit or three.

The second is the Wheatsheaf, across the road from the tube. We ended up here after the meal: it is the sort of pub people end up in, in every sense. As we entered we heard singing – a loud and bad version of “Freedom” by Wham! Karaoke, we thought. But no – it was ‘a turn’, though the woman doing it repeatedly abused her audience for not getting up and singing themselves. The management had cleared the floor of tables; the singing had cleared it of punters. The one ‘hit’ was “Hey Baby”, which has a Pavlovian effect on some drinkers whether played in pub, club, ferry or no doubt church. A handful of men stumbled to their feet and waved their glasses around to the DJ Otzi opus, trying their best to drag luckless women onto the floor to share in the joy. The only other punter showing any signs of life was an older man who looked like Harold Shipman, and shuffled round and round the bar. He was carrying a plastic bag: after a while we noticed the bag had disappeared, but he continued on his circular path. The light throughout the pub was glaring, illuminating every kind of wretchedness. The singer started on Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me”, and we quickly left.