Before I start I will have to write a disclaimer. Dogs mentioned in this blog bear no resemblance whatsoever to the gorgeous twin set and pearls that are Pugsy and Ted Godwin-Crowhurst. If I don’t put this in, my friend Lorna will hunt me down and probably hurt me. With sharp things. So there you have it, Lorna, put your pitchfork back in the shed until the next time I commit an inadvertent canine faux pas!
The festive season is fast approaching and, as usual, I’m seeing far too much of the inside of various capital city hostelries. Against my will, obviously, dragged there kicking and struggling (to get out of my coat) while silently mouthing “Mine’s a gin, Jock!” as I am manhandled to the bar. Sit down before you fall down. Good advice, never forgotten.
Anyway the point is I would like to pay homage to the humble London pub. I have lately spent time in The Burlington Arms (does a nice scotch egg, bar staff slower than sloth on Mogadon), The Harp (handy for the station when Network Rail decide to play 7-card rummy all evening instead of running a train service), The Windmill (dark, seedy, strangely exciting) and a particular favourite lunchtime haunt of mine – The Market Tavern. This last is pretentiously posh and not really a pub at all but a holding pen for beautiful, delicious smelling people who have got fed up waiting in the queue for Burger & Lobster and are getting royally tanked up instead. “Bugger the lobster!” they scream into their Tanqueray martinis. Cruel – but then if you don’t want to eat it I can see how you might consider that as an alternative, given the price you pay for them. Lobster love not to be undertaken lightly however – there are still the nippers to consider. And I’m not talking about the side dish of little prawns.
The thing is….the thing IS….these pubs each have a charm of their own and remain true to the spirit of “public house”. Not everyone’s home is the same and it is this individuality and stubborn disregard for the majority taste that makes these places so great. Where would we be without a collection of photos of Princess Margaret and some faux cacti on the windowsill? Who doesn’t want harlequin patterned curtains because the fabric can be bought in bulk and the design doesn’t show the phlegm? The Tavern even has velveteen sofas. Pretty convinced they wouldn’t mind if you slipped on your comfy trousers and watched an episode of Corrie from them. So long as you smell delicious.
Whereas….the local joints in the village and surroundings where I live are…well, as I said to a mate, they are dire. One which shall remain nameless – a particular favourite of several friends of mine – smells constantly of nursing home wee. Another has been painted in a shocking shade of clotted cream, rendering it so dazzlingly uninviting and operating-theatre-bright that I wouldn’t go in there even if I had just had Botox pumped by concrete mixer into every inch of my face. Not to mention the locals sitting there harrumphing into their mulled Guinness with faces on like pugs with piles. I’ve heard of overbite but surely your lower teeth should not gurn their way up to your eyebrows?
Something is lacking in Sussex when it comes to atmosphere and ambience. We’ve tried lots of places and – sadly – it is a county-wide issue.
So, if you’re looking for me, I will be mostly drinking in the smoke this festive season. Places where you can meet a giant bloke called Tim – a good sort with half an arm, an army career under his belt and a great line in Irish jokes. Or Sheila – 94 if she is a day – who has been drinking in the same pub for about 40 years and can tell you how every bit of sticky floor came to be there. Amazing people.
Sussex – you need to man up and get your act together. Having the nation’s monopoly on old black-beamed boozers is not enough. Come to London and have a look – it’s all going on up there, you know. Cheers!!