My Kinda Town, North Londonshire Is


Well that’s that then. Unless Baldrick comes up with a cunning plan within the very near future I’m gonna have to get shot of Railway Cuttings. The place I’ve called home since I managed to get myself 30ft of rope, a set of wire-cutters and fake passport and hopped over the fence of Stalag Marriage has to go on the market. Sell it or rent it, I dunno, but I can’t afford to keep it. One week’s work since June has dug deep into the coffers and my old chums at the bank and the mortgage company are starting to get a wee bit uppity.

So I need to spruce it up for the prospective buyer or the potential tenant. Get rid of half of the of rubbish laying around the place (The Incumbent can sell it on Ebay), give the walls a lick of paint, cut the grass and start thinking about how best to advertise the place.

It’s a nice part of London to live in (if you just ignore the previous 73 posts I’ve written slagging off the place) and very handy if you wanna get to London Bridge or the West End within 20 minutes. There’s the lovely Greenwich Park and common just around the corner, good connections to the M2 and M25 motorways and some of the local pubs now serve both ice, lemons and limes. There’s a farmers’ market, a Starbucks, more curry houses than your average small village oughta, and rather nice kitchen shop.

Non-CIA spook Terry Waite lives here, as does Matt Pritchett, the brilliant Daily Telegraph cartoonist and professional Millwall fan Danny Baker. Former residents include, highwayman Dick Turpin, cook Fanny Craddock and obnoxious git Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen. Very soon I shall be added to that list of ex-inhabitants and gits.

But I think I need something that little bit extra to pull in the punters. How can I sell the area to entice the loaded gentry to part with their cash to buy my place ? Will the attraction of The Cactus Pit – our combined Tex-Mex restaurant and ‘nightclub’ (guaranteed a punch-up or a bunk-up) be enough for Hedgefund managers to rent my little gaff for a couple of years? I suspect not.

So I was listening to the car radio this morning and heard an advert for North Londonshire – the place to move, for space to move”.
“Where?????? North Londonshire ??? There’s no such place” I found myself shouting at the dashboard.
The commercial continued. “It’s closer than you think”
“What the fuck does that mean ? Closer than you think ? Closer to where ???”

I sped home to my waiting laptop, determined to find out where this place was. I was convinced in my heart the North Londonshire was a made-up place. Certain in my own mind, but not enough to bet my house on it. I remembered once having an argument with a bloke about Hoxton, a district of London I was convinced was an invention of estate agents in the 1980s. After all, the place they now call Surrey Quays was what I grew up calling Rotherhithe until in 2002 some brilliant PR man for the local property developer or boundary commission came up with a new name.

Ok, I’d been slightly wrong about Hoxton – on investigation it turns out it was mentioned in the Doomsday Book – so I needed to get home this morning and double-check that only my South Londoner ignorance had prevented me from being aware or North Londonshire. Perhaps I’d actually been there, drank there, shopped there, without actually realising it.

It didn’t take me long to find it. It even has it’s own website (northlondonshire.co.uk). I went immediately for the menu Where is North Londonshire ? It read:

Closer than you think.

Located midway between London and Birmingham, North Northamptonshire is central, cost effective and well-connected.
Towns like Corby, Kettering, Rushden and Wellingborough all benefit from superb connections by road and rail.
St Pancras International, home of the Eurostar, is less than 50 minutes by train meaning Paris and Brussels are just four hours away.
Air travel is equally convenient with Birmingham, East Midlands, Luton and Stansted airports all within reach in 90 minutes.

So it’s closer than you think, if you happen to be thinking in Birmingham. Very close indeed if you live in Northampton. A short stroll down the street if you’re parked 2 hours drive north of London. Just not very close at all if you happen to be in…er…London. You may find the promotional video a little misleading too. But maybe I’m missing something.

If only all the shitty London pigeons would fuck off to Northamptonshire, the capital would be a nicer place to live. However.
The video and website may well be a load of old tosh, but it gave me an idea for an advert for the New York Post:

For Rent: 2 bedroom terraced house in Manhattan suburb.

If you think you might be growing out of New York, or are just looking to make the right move, you’ll find everything you’re looking for in Blackheath. There’s highly affordable quality housing offering considerable value. There are schools and education to rival anywhere in the country (or beyond). And there are career opportunities provided by leading forces in the Bangladeshi and Nepalese service community. Some of the pubs are even open til midnight !!

Relax in our beautiful ancient parkland and quiet surroundings. Visit quaint shops and three dry-cleaners (with ample parking). All this easily accessible from the lower east or west sides, with Grand Central Station, MOMA and Ground Zero Mosque just 2 minutes away (by phone) and our excellent links to both Laguardia and JFK airports, via the Old Kent Road, M4 and Heathrow (congestion charges may apply).

So why not make your new life in Blackheath, East Manhattan. SE3 ? Just 3,471 miles around the corner. Come live where the Limeys live. It’s closer than you think.

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Difficult, Difficult, Lemon Difficult


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Strap yourselves in; this may go on a for a bit.

This is not the time to panic. This is a time for cool heads, a time for reasoning and clear thinking. We’ve been here before and got through it, and we can get through it again.

There’s no easy way to say this. So I’m just going to say it: My local pub has run out of lemons. I’m sorry, I didn’t know how else to break it to you.In truth it has had no lemons OR LIMES for a whole week now. Now before you scoff, just take on board what that actually means. Ever tried, of your own free will, a gin & tonic without lemon or lime (let alone both)? Or what about a vodka and coke? For the youngsters among you, doesn’t that glass of coke that dad buys you in the pub when he sees you every third Sunday in the month taste a little bit better with a slice of lemon floating atop? Well of course it does sweetie, just don’t tell mum we came in here.

But let’s dig further, let’s get to the nub of the problem, let’s don the safety helmets, lamps on, and delve deep to the heart of the matter: My pub has gone to pot. No, there’s no use in denying it, the boozer which has been home for the best part of a year has come to the end of its run and now I must move on.

“A year?!?!” I hear you cry in amazement. “But you speak of it as if you have been there forever-and-a-day??!! A year doesn’t seem very long”

Well, as Nana Mouskouri would say, let me tell you a little story:

A long, long time ago I can still remember how the music used to make…. No hang on a minute, that’s a different story altogether.

A long, long time ago, back in the day when two young blokes called Tony and Gordon were just settling in to their new swanky pads in the heart of London’s fashionable Westminster, a young bloke called Mike was getting used to life on his own in a house in London’s unfashionable Blackheath. In a flash and purely by chance, he happened upon a newly refurbished public house, not far from his dwelling. Over the ensuing months Mike and his friends spent many a long and happy night dancing and drinking and singing and drinking and wobbling in that little faux-Irish pub. But after three or four years of happy times, the group of friends started to go their separate ways. Some of them realised they were getting a little old to be drinking every night of the week. There were those who lamented the passing of their favourite landlord. Some felt the pub had run it’s course and was beginning to be filled with far too many of the ‘younger set’. Others agreed, but thought the fact that younger women were coming into the pub was precisely the reason to remain using the pub. Yet more others pointed out to those others that none of them had pulled so much as a muscle in all the years they’d been drinking there and that those others were wasting their time trying.

And so it came to pass that this ever-dwindling band of chums trotted down the road and began to use the pub by the railway station , imaginatively called The Railway which they would continue calling the ‘local’ for many moons to come. The Railway was a completely different kettle of prawns. It was dark, sleek, laid-back with subtle shades on the walls, non-matching, low-slung furniture. Chaise longues and sofas everywhere, mood music and exotic nibbles. They served several draught beers from oversized pint pots, there was a huge and extensive wine list, and a long and varied food menu. In short, it was fucking horrible. This was not what Mike required from a pub at all! This, in fact, wasn’t a pub ! This was a ‘bar’. Yuk!! True, the clientele was a little older and looked (at first glance anyway) to be slightly classier and less rough-around-the-edges from the Oirish bar, but in truth they were the same people, just out in their best bib-n-tucker and having had a wash.

Ever the accommodating diplomat (quiet at the back!) Mike said nothing and went with the flow, supping many a happy sundowner with his chums, sometimes chatting away quietly at the bar, accompanied by the quiet hubbub of a cattle market going on around them. However, it always seemed to take just that little bit too long to be served, and was lacking in what Mike perceived to be the due respect and politeness from the bar staff due to a bloke who poured half of his week’s wages over the counter. All this was to be endured while taking in lungfuls of the smell of duck a l’orange, or scallops in walnut batter being brought to tables every 4 and a half minutes. Mike hated the smell food in pubs, and this one was a serious and serial offender. It wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t very pleasant. But again, after a couple of years, the group slowly diminished down to a mere handful. Some got married, some left the area, some went to the infirmary and some to Doctor Gibb’s. So, when the couple who had been the main champions of the bar upped and went off to buy half of Cornwall, Mike saw his chance to change pubs. (continued after this Advert:)

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By now he had met The Incumbent (in the Railway, funnily enough) and together they made their way up the hill to The Crown. An attractive looking little boozer (both the pub and The Incumbent), with a considerably older intake (that’s the pub, not The Incumbent) than the previously two hostelries, with an interior which looked and smelled like a proper public house (old and smelly) and locals to match. It was run by Keith, a salt-of-the-earth Geordie with a bad back. This allowed him to order the young staff up n down from the cellar, lugging barrels around, and gave him more time in the bar. There was the world’s worst afternoon gambling syndicate, armed with the Mirror and the Sporting Life they systematically bet on every horse which came in last in every race on TV. There was the local village idiot, who shouted his way around the pub trying to impress women 20 years younger than himself with his brand of cockney wit, Timmy Mallet glasses, tales of the past and knob gags. There was the bloke and his little scruffy neckerchiefed dog who popped in for a sharp single as part of their nightly ‘walk’ around the village. It was too old and crusty for most trendy types, too smelly for many women, too dead for violence-seeking herberts. Only once did anything kick off in there when one rather drunk and rather fat bloke took a swing at the assistant bar manager over an alleged short measure. He missed by a yard, fell off his stool, literally shit himself, and left with not just his tail, but also a long trail of poo between his legs.

However, after nearly a year, even this roller-coaster ride of thrills and spills got to Mike in the end: The village idiot started recognising him and tried to start up conversations beginning with “allo bruv, ‘ow’s yer bum for spots?” and suchlike. The groups of old smelly men started to get progressively louder and more boisterous, much worse than any bunch of shiny-suited tossers from Eltham. The barmaids became even more miserable and unhelpful than ever, and they ran out of beers far too often to call themselves a pub. The final straw came when Mike asked for a pint of Guinness and a G&T (ice and lemon) for the missus. The sour-faced girl behind the jump went away to address the optic. She returned.
“We ain’t got no ice. You still want the lemon?” she enquired.
“I don’t think I even want the gin” Mike sighed back. They left.

Who has EVER asked for a warm gin with no ice or lemon? (no whelk jokes here please).

Crossing the road, and with a walk reminiscent of Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, Mike led the Incumbent back into O’Neills, the very same Oirish pub he’d left all those years ago. It was a changed pub: New landlord, new atmosphere, less youngsters, less anyone, in fact. Barmaids and barmen who smiled at you, asked how you were and remembered what you drank. Night after night, week after week, month after month of great service, pleasant company and great bands on a Thursday night. Mike was truly happy once more. He felt at home. He came to know the staff and they came to know both him and The Incumbent. Drinks were bought, tips were given, jokes shared. It was a nice happy time, and it lasted for about a year. Until it stopped.

Another change of manager led immediately to a change of staff. Some left immediately, never to return. The service started falling off, they started running out of certain beers, increasingly there were too few behind the bar to serve. Last Thursday Mike waited ten minutes to be served, and there were only another eight people in the pub. Two floor-servers were working but only one person behind the bar. He had half a mind of sitting down at a table to be served, but Mike doesn’t sit down in pubs. Even the Thursday night band on stage seemed not to be pulling their weight. Mike was sad again.

And then they ran out of lemons.

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So that is my story. I hope you can see my plight. Where to go next? I hear tell the Hare and Billet has something to offer, but I’m sure the landlord will serve me in his vest. The Princess of Wales may be long on lemons, both behind and in front of the bar, but it’s short on atmosphere. And anyway it’s far too far to walk (about 300 yrds). I can’t go through the whole winter without a local. Where would I take the kids at the weekend ?

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Laughing in the face of Danger(mouse).


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It was my own fault. I’d ignored all the omens, poo-pooed all the warnings and cocked a deaf’un to to reason. Thus, gasping for a pint after a long, exhausting Thursday, I headed down to my local for a pint-or-eight. My local pub is one of a famous chain or Oirish Pubs, it was Thursday 24th September, they were ‘celebrating’ 250 years of the birth of Arthur Guinness, yet forgetting all that I held true to my heart, I entered the establishment for refreshment.

I have previously explained my position on Guinness and Paddy’s Day and it is a measure of a) how thirsty I was and b) the lack of any other decent bars in town that I broke all my own rules. “Happy Birthday Arthur” was yet another in a long line of promotions intended to get you into a pub and drinking gallons of vitamin G. Nothing wrong in that, you might say, but then you would be wrong. Most of us don’t need encouragement to drink a lot and you just know the types who enjoy this sort of thing, who would turn up at a party celebrating the power of dysentery if there was a chance of a free pint, and dress up accordingly. My worst fears were soon realised.

My first pint was served to me by a 6ft 3″ black Leprechaun. He came complete with a green, foam, top hat, green nylon all-in-one suit and elasticated ginger beard. I know this bloke. Nice enough fella, just finishing his studies at college and wants to join the Old Bill (I’m working on him). He was the only Leprechaun behind the jump, but I noticed some of the girls serving were dressed in emerald green crushed-velvet River Dance outfits. The early signs weren’t good. But fair enough, if the boss tells you to dress up like an idiot, you dress up like an idiot, right? WRONG. There was clearly dissent in the ranks. The natives were revolting, as I witnessed when I spotted two of the older barmaids, with faces liked slapped arses, wearing their regular black shirts and trousers. They’d told the boss to stick his idea. There was tension in the air.

Or at least there probably was but I couldn’t sense or hear a bleedin thing over the noise of the pissed youth of Blackheath and the PA system spewing-out Diddly Diddly ditties at a decibel level of somewhere near an eleven. The bar was busy, very busy, and very lively for 8 o’clock on a Thursday. Most of the punters had either started early or quickly, or both. I asked The Incumbent who was chugging away on her half of Guinness, whether we’d missed a public holiday cos this lot looked as if they’d been at it all day. She mouthed some words which I couldn’t here over the din and proceeded to attack a scratch card to see if she’d won another half pint (free scratchcard with every Guinness. As we’d ordered a pint-and-a-half I suggested we got a card-and-a-half but the Leprechaun was having none of it).

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I went outside to the tranquility of the street to take a phone call. Superman was having a fag with The Joker. Oh Christ! There was a fancy dress night on too. My heart sank deep into my right-handed underpants. Why can’t these fuckers just turn up to a pub like anyone else? I told my mate on the phone not to bother coming to the pub, describing it as ‘Amateur Night in Disneyland’. Returning to the house of fun, I noticed The Incumbent was clearly non-plussed. In the few moments I’d been outside, she’d had an altercation with a drunk fat woman and , in a rare display of aggression, had given her a dig in the kidneys as the awful woman had backed into her for the sixth time. We made a tactical retreat to a quiet(er) corner of the bar.

From our vantage point, and having placated the Mrs, I cast my eye over the scene before me. it was only about 8.30 but it looked more like 12.30. The bar was jumping. The Pogues had now replaced The Batchelors (I believe) on the jukebox and groups of lads, pints held aloft, eyes shut, and heads tilted back to the ceiling were shouting the wrong words to the ‘Fairytale of New York‘. “The band of the in my seedy choir were ringing Galway day…” etc. Dotted among them I spotted Batwoman ( I assumed) dancing with Dangermouse in a rhythm only a superhero could master. Both of them out of time with the music and with each other. It took me a while to realise who the second of this couple was, as at first glance it looked like a girl in a white catsuit with a large white breast on her head. Then I realised she’d pushed her foam head back off her face so the mouse’s face was pointing straight up. It therefore wasn’t a huge nipple I had spotted, but a nose. Quite disappointing really.danger

More pints (and scratchcards) arrived, and took their inevitable toll. I made my way though the all singing-and-dancing hoards to the back to the pub and towards the loo. The aforementioned fat pissed bird was on the on her arse on the dance floor (it’s not really a dance floor, just a space in the crowd, but such was her size and her flailing dance-technique she’d managed to clear a few square yards) and shouting obscenities to passers by. I circumnavigated her and made for the gents (or the fir, as they’re known in Oirish bars). An odd conversation was taking place.
“Why you look like Spiderman?” asked the toilet man (you know him, he charges you a quid to wash your hands)
“What?” came the annoyed response, from Superman.
“Why you dressed like Spiderman, innit?”
“I’m not fucking Spiderman, I’m SUPERman”, his eyes were narrowing, he was clearly annoyed. Then he added, oddly, “I have got Spidey-sense” he used his two fingers pointing from his eyes in mock-super-vision.”but I’m fucking SUPERman”.

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“You’re the third person tonight who thought I was spiderman” he whimpered, looking down at his kit rather sadly.

Luckily, being right handed, I was able to go quickly about my business and keep out of the discussion. Re-entering the bar I realised the band had turned up. One of the regular Thursday night bookings, and they’re bloody good. Five black lads and a white bloke. They play reggae. I squeezed through the revellers as the band kicked off with “You can get it if you really want”. The Leprachaun was arm-in-arm with Captain America singing a Jimmy Cliff number.

“C’mon, we’re leaving” I announced to the other half. “This has all gotten too weird for me.”

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