Monday, June 12, 2006

ARCHIVE STORY: A Day Out In London Town

They say a change is as good as a rest so, listless and itchy footed, Socialism woke up to the idea that it needed a change of scenery. It was decided that its AGM should move from the back table of the bar in Little Portland St., W1 to pastures new. Shareholders were informed, a new venue was settled upon. So, on a bitingly cold November lunchtime, the two of us repaired to The Boot, Cromer St., one of the few hostelries untouched (untouchable?) by human progress. The Boot has long been our favourite place to head to when alighting from Kings Cross or St. Pancras stations. It’s like an airport hotel stop off on the way home from a trip away, a delaying tactic before facing the grim realities of a doormat covered in bills and fliers for local cab companies, before picking up the slack of the unfinished argument with the Mrs from the day you left. The Boot is the kind of place you tell your secrets to because no one here is listening, no one is judgemental, no one gives a shit.
Lunch started with four bottles of Magners. Not even sure why we’re so enamoured with the stuff, it’s clearly this year’s Hooch, an iced alcopop dressed up as some kind of traditional Irish tipple. All we knew is that it gets you where you want to go.
Remembering that this is a long haul mission, we moved to the chalkboard to check the menu.
‘Pie & chips - £3.50’.
“What’s in the pie?”
A look from the landlord that seems to the reading the invisible ‘I’m A Cunt’ badge on my coat. He is wearing a vest, nothing else on his top half.
“You don’t wanna know.”
A man sits on his own, next to the door (open, freezing), belching loudly once every couple of minutes. He does this for three hours.
They have The Box on the TV, “Mysterious Girl” by Peter Andre seems to be on a perpetual loop.
The food is served at a temperature so hot it could melt icecaps.
The Magners keeps on flowing.
The guy keeps burping.
“Ooh oh oh oh oh, mysterious girl, I wanna get next to you…”
My God, The Boot is fucking brilliant. This pub should be our new office. Why this place isn’t in the Time Out Pubs and Bars guide is beyond me

It’s dark when we staggered out, pissed up, lurching into the road. A biting Autumnal wind tries to prise its way through layers of clothing like icy fingers. Onwards towards the Scala. We had rustled up a posse of likeminded souls to see our current favourite rock n roll band, hair farmers extraordinaire Black Mountain. At points sounding like Spiritualized with added amyl rushes, this was heavy-metal-hippy-space-rock by way of the Manson family, the Velvets and a whole heap of drugs. In a fog of booze, we imagined that this was what Cream were supposed to sound if you listen to anyone old enough to still think Clapton Is God. The difference was that Black Mountain rule and Cream are shit.

Come midnight, the new licensing laws kicked in. All week, the Evening Standard had predicted a riot, going so far as to print numbers for the authorities in case rampaging packs of booze hounds were spotted IN YOUR AREA. What actually happened was a typically British response – disgruntled apathy. Now many hours into our session, we decided to head to our narrow boat owning friend’s boat club behind Kings Cross station for a nightcap (by this point, it was always going to be more a crash helmet than a cap). The boat club is a tiny chalet, four or five tables, resident boat owners and their guests only, kind of like a seafaring Masonic lodge. One table were silently playing Scrabble only using nautical terminology. A round for 6 people clocked in at seven quid. Good job we took out 60 quid at the train station…
Much as we’d love to recommend it, there isn’t much point trying to go there for a cheap drink – it’s behind massive steel gates that you won’t get past without a ladder or a trampoline. The last person found on the premises who wasn’t known to the committee, a stray crackhead wandering by the boats like an extra in Romero zombie movie was forced to swim out of the place.
Eventually we felt our way home, now more alcohol than human being, the bright streetlights merging with taxi lights. An old bat in a Rover stops somewhere near Camden and reveals she’s a mini cab driver. So plastered, so cold, we take her up on her offer to get us to Mare St. we are so drunk, she thinks we’re speaking French. She rips us off five quid (not sure whether that’s cos she assumes we’re tourists sans string of onions), all the while looking like the witch off Rentaghost. We pay up, safe in the knowledge that it’ll be another year before the next AGM.
Well, thank God for that.