Do you tire of waiting for BLUES NIGHT to update this PUBLOG?
We can't say we blame you. It is pretty much dead. It died when its sense of purpose - to yab on about drinking crap beer in average pubs on one's own - finally evaporated.
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Okay. Life is definitely too short to drink crap beer, BLUES NIGHT has decided.
The Ivy House could, with a bit of effort, be a really amazing pub. The sort of pub that people would travel miles to visit. It has wonderful original features, a brilliant stage, and now it has decent beer and pizzas. But they can't depend on locals. Most of the people around here have kids - they don't go to the pub three or four times a week. The new incumbents, the same people behind The Alma, successfully chased off the problem drinkers that had kept the previous operation ticking over. They need to cast their net as wide as they can. So why, when you Google The Ivy House Nunhead, do you get a four-year-old Fancyapint review, Beerintheevening comments more than a year old and an ancient website that never happened? Why is their overcomplicated and pricey-looking new site not there? Why would you start a new business and appear not to care much if it succeeds?
This pub is pretty much unique. It should be tremendous. But it won't last much longer if it doesn't start getting the punters in.
By way of a contrast, BLUES NIGHT visited The Wenlock Arms last weekend, probably for the last time. It was, as usual, packed. But they're still going to flatten it and build flats for twats instead. Fucking insane.
The Herne Tavern: screaming kids literally sprinting around the tables + ludicrous prices + terrible service + toilet floor swimming with piss. What's not to like?
Bloody hell. Look at this. Okay, okay, so BLUES NIGHT has wasted his time and yours by picking holes in Young’s’s printed promotional materials before. But why do they have to make it so damn easy? There BLUES NIGHT was, sat in The Clockie, which, while utterly brilliant (except at the weekend, he discovered, this, erm, weekend), isn’t even his favourite Young’s pub in South East London, (and is obviously not in the same league as the original Wheatsheaf, the delights of which were probably more in spite of Young’s’s ownership than because of it), completely on his own in the “Intimate Mezzanine,” sat on his own (which also means that he was sat with all of the people in the world that he is prepared to speak to about work at the end of a long day recently), desperately needing something insignificant to get wound-up about so that he didn’t have to think about work either. And, lo, resting upon the table, there was this flyer.
Perhaps the angels printed it off because they heard BLUES NIGHT’s prayer. Or perhaps there is some joker / divvy / mole in the pay of a rival company working in Young’s’s publicity department. Look at it again. Go on. “Two meals with wine, for twenty quid?” You ask. “Sounds like a pretty good offer to me.” Yes, it is, in this day and age. But look at it again. Look at that bloody plate of food.
There’s a scraggy fucking piece of a chicken that looks like it was probably hugely relieved to get its neck wrung, since it had battled all its life with a painful and embarrassing eating disorder. As if to emphasise the ungenerosity of the portion, a sprig of rosemary has been put in to give scale, dwarfing the meat to such a giddying extent that the question “who puts rosemary on chicken anyway?” almost goes unasked. Three – count ’em – three roast potatoes stand at sentry posts 120 degrees apart in case the reanimated corpse of the bird should make a run for it, their high-ranking positions denoted by what appear to be brandy snap biscuit hats, and by the arrogant way that they are luxuriating on cabbage cushions Old Man BLUES NIGHT’s tortoise wouldn’t bother with, despite his well-documented fondness for gravy. Randomly-distributed peas complete the look, certain to lose any heat they once had in seconds and helping to make the overall platter appear as if a small child has already had a go at it, eaten the nice bits and turned his snot-encrusted nose up at the rest.
Come on now, Young’s. Get a grip, sunshines. Your pubs are great. The food is pretty good, too (at the time of BLUES NIGHT’s most recent assessment, the bangers and mash in the Clock House were actually good enough to warrant going into the pub even when off the pop for a designated liver day (perhaps the greatest cookery accolade BLUES NIGHT has ever seen fit to award.)) But, Jesus, sort your adverts out.
Phew, that feels better. Now for some art therapy.
BLUES NIGHT has written a poem. It probably won’t win him any prizes, but it is worthy of publication simply for the fact that it is, and shall remain, the only piece of first-person narrative to appear anywhere on this website.
I am astonished. And I am astounded.
I am confused. And I am confounded.
It is remarkable. It is incredible.
I never knew that my toenails were edible.
BLUES NIGHT, 2010.
Mrs BLUES NIGHT said that if she was ever on Desert Island Discs, she would choose the theme from Desert Island Discs as one of her Desert Island Discs.
That way, if she wanted to, she could pretend to herself that she was just fantasizing that she was marooned on a desert island.
In other news, BLUES NIGHT saw a happy shadow in the outside toilet.
Yesterday was Saturday. Nuclear Family BLUES NIGHT took a bus to Borough Market, and its patriarch spent a considerable amount of time during the visit wondering why on earth he had ever thought moving to New Cross was a good idea. They didn’t buy anything, of course. The place was as crowded as it used to be a year ago, because the parity of Sterling with the Euro had brought hundreds of Continentals flocking. They, of course, weren’t buying much either, but seemed happy enough photographing a British hen night group dressed as cowgirls posing with melons. Having noticed that the credit-crunched, Railtrack-stunted market was looking pretty short on punters and atmos recently, BLUES NIGHT was greatly cheered by this.
The Green Market has fallen to the Railwaymen, so the car park is now all taken up by stalls. As NFBN stood at the back of The Rake (which, incidentally, did eventually grant BN his free beer mentioned below, but don’t think for a minute that it’s ever likely to happen again), Mrs BLUES NIGHT’s cheese friend told her he was happy the summer was over as his cheese is better when it is hard. BLUES NIGHT considered going over to his stall to ask him if he also looks forward to hearing people complain about the weather turning cold at this time of year so that he can respond “HARD CHEESE!” Just in time, BLUES NIGHT realised that this joke was both convoluted and unfunny, a disastrous combination, so he stayed where he was and finished his pint of
which was excellent, as is their website. Sadly, it matters not whether BLUES NIGHT can have an occasional success in the Judging if a Joke is Worth Telling department, as embarrassment and impropriety court him at every turn anyway. BLUES NIGHT eventually became aware that a young woman with, frankly, gigantic breasts, which were, as appears to be the fashion, less-than-modestly presented,* was looking at him from time to time with a rather irritated expression. The problem here was that BLUES NIGHT Jr. had suggested that the lady’s companion’s T-shirt had an Audrey II on it, which is an interesting thing (to members of NFBN (at the moment)). BLUES NIGHT was, therefore, frowning intently at the design on the back of the young man’s left shoulder, attempting to work out how BN Jr. had managed to experience this latest hallucination, oblivious to the fact that, as he discovered when he finally sensed the young woman’s glare, all he had to do was move his eyes less than half a degree to the left and refocus very slightly and he would be staring directly at the aforementioned gargantuan bosom. The delightful irony that, for once, BLUES NIGHT had not been leering, but had, nevertheless, been caught red-handed appearing to do so, was not enough to take the edge off the painful sinking feeling in BLUES NIGHT’s stomach as he turned his back on the couple.
*On the subject of BLUES NIGHT being a pervert, or a sexist arsehole, or perhaps just a sad middle-aged loser, there was an informative conversation some weeks back in The Golden Heart. BN and a few close friends were discussing two important points. The main point was that they had all suddenly reached an age where it seemed that in order for them to consider a woman attractive she only needed to be under the age of thirty and what they would, when in their twenties themselves, have described as halfway-decent-looking. There were many such individuals standing out on the filthy Commercial Street pavement that sunny evening and, in contrast to the situation as it would have been fifteen years ago, very few of them appeared to be prostitutes. The related point was how creepy and disgusting it sounded when any of their fathers [BLUES NIGHT’s mates’, not the non-prostitutes’] attempted to describe the attractiveness of any woman young enough to be their daughter. Phrases like “a very attractive young lady,” “a really nice-looking girl” and, horror of horrors, “a lovely figure,” were brought out and held up for derision and venting of spleen. When HHJB suggested that his father shouldn’t mention “nice bits of skirt,” he was roundly booed. This expression is acceptable, at least in the context of being spoken by an old man about a young woman, because at least it is honest. It is sexist, and yobbish, and is an example of small-minded objectification. But at least it doesn’t pretend not to be.
BLUES NIGHT came to the conclusion that he is just very averse to euphemisms. They’re so dishonest. Why use the word “perspiration” when we all produce sweat? One ITFC** fansite described the man who stole some of the tributes from the statue of Sir Bobby recently as being “of a coloured skin tone,” for crying out loud. And this one surely shall come home to BLUES NIGHT one day, as he is still enjoying the luxury of not yet seeing someone close to him die, but he cannot bear the expression “passed away.”*** Strange and humbling it was then, that BLUES NIGHT’s Best Mate should suggest that this very PUBLOG is guilty, in several places, of exactly the same creepy dad euphemism that his friends’ fathers sometimes employ. If anybody else has noticed this, BLUES NIGHT apologises unreservedly, as this is pretty much the worst thing he could possibly imagine ever happening. Apart from someone dying, of course.
** Please do not ask BLUES NIGHT why Ipswich Town FC are so completely dreadful at the moment. He has no idea.
***In other news, BLUES NIGHT’s last remaining grandparent fucking carked it last week. She will, sadly, not be sadly missed.
The Dolphin is a grey, dull, depressing pub in Cromer. BLUES NIGHT cannot recommend it. (He has not yet found a beer from a Norfolk brewery that he particularly likes either, but then he is massively biased.) He entered the fragrant pissoir to find himself in the company of a very tall, very old man who was carefully and deliberately massaging his hands together beneath the device hanging on the wall to the left of the wash basin. He continued to do this for several seconds before announcing with a single loud “ha!” that he had finally realised it was a paper towel dispenser and not a hand dryer.
Last night, it was absolutely bloody pissing down, but BLUES NIGHT was prepared to brave the elements to join some friends at the ridiculously-named Princess of Shoreditch.
BLUES NIGHT has taken the word of fancyapint.com as gospel for some years now, and is still disinclined to argue with it, so he will have to suggest that it wasn’t pissing down on the occasion they went there to review it, and was therefore much busier, and that they didn’t stay long enough to experience the wonders of a pretty girl approaching the table at ten-fifty-five and breathing, “I can see you’ve all got full pints there, but it’s last orders very soon, and I wondered if I could bring you another round?”
It’s a nasty, dirty little world when a nice young lady can’t be confident and self-assured, and cheerful and chatty, and most of all excellent at her job without four supposedly educated and emotionally intelligent blokes in stable relationships assuming that they’re In There. But, then again, it is a nasty, dirty little world.
“Wow! That poo looks just like a dolphin!” BLUES NIGHT Jr. observed, staring admiringly between his legs at the contents of the toilet in The Royal Albert.
“Oh, yes? Really?” asked BLUES NIGHT rather disinterestedly, preparing himself and the bits of bog roll for what is known as “Nipsy Time” in Nuclear Family BLUES NIGHT. He was, in defence of his disinterest, assuming that the stool in question was just long and slender, perhaps arching its back gracefully out of the water, and that Jr’s imagination was doing the rest.
“Yes, it does! Look!”
So BLUES NIGHT looked. And was astounded to see something that could not have looked more like a dolphin if he himself had moulded it with his hands. It had a bottle nose, dorsal fin and pectoral flippers, two flukes on its tail and a sleek, streamlined, fusiform body. He considered photographing it, but had his hands full of paper, and also realized that there is probably a name for people who take pictures of toddlers’ shits and post them on the internet.
First day of the summer holidays. Again. Hangover much worse than last year, booze haul, incredibly, even better. Won’t photograph it this time, though. That’s just childish.
BLUES NIGHT found a blister pack of pharmaceuticals in his front garden this morning. He was soon in the merciless grip of self-righteous fantasy, much as he had been the time London Boogie left some Viagra lying around in his bathroom, and began mentally drafting his text for the sign to go on the gate; “Dear Total-Arsehole-who-Dropped-his-Medicine-in-my-Garden, thanks very much for your considerate actions. My three-year-old son found it very interesting…” He didn’t recognize the name of the drug, so he went to look it up on the web, and immediately stopped fantasizing about writing sarcastic twattery outside his home. It’s worrying enough that one of the neighbourhood psychos isn’t taking his tablets, without winding him up and telling him where you live.
Minutes later, BLUES NIGHT came back into the room to find BLUES NIGHT Jr. looking sheepish. “I didn’t put your phone in the water, Daddy,” he offered, looking from the still-rippling surface of the liquid, to the brand-new E63, to his father’s delighted expression. BLUES NIGHT, for his part, was thinking about medicating his son with enough Olanzapine to suppress his youthful inquisitiveness.
Sorry that this website appears to be losing all consistency when it comes to typefaces and text colours. The package we use is clearly struggling. And don't even think about viewing it using Firefox, cos then it all comes out COMPLETELY wrong. Then again, who cares? It's only a font.
BLUES NIGHT had a Rainbow Warrior moment in The Old Nun's Head last week. Enjoying a packet of cheese and onion crisps with his afterwork solo seizecentsoixantequatre, he suddenly noticed that Walkers were pretty bloody pleased with themselves about the fact that only 120g of Carbon Dioxide was produced as a bi-product of his 50g of fried potato slices. He elected not to have another packet of crisps with his next pint, explaining to the tolerant young lady behind the bar that he would just have the Kronenbourg, "which probably cost us all my bodyweight in see-owe-too."
She gave a polite little laugh, while probably thinking, Nah, I doubt it, mate.
This blog is now officially a full year old. BLUES NIGHT could prove this in a number of ways. He could refer you to the entries at the bottom of this page before telling you that he recently spent a week invigilating over completely pointless national tests (but was spared the diarrhoea this time), that top of his ‘to do’ list when he goes back to work on Monday is to organize a meeting to talk to concerned parents about sex education for their seven-year-olds, that he has recently been enjoying a little footballing schadenfreude at the expense of Chelsea and Man U, etc, etc. He could also ask you to look at the dates. But no, he feels that it is likely that you will just believe him as it is neither particularly unlikely nor in any way interesting enough to be worth lying about.
Yes, we’ve all done another lap of the sun (nearly 600 million miles according to NASA’s website) and some things are remarkably the same as they were last time we were here. Except we’re not back exactly where we were a year ago though, because meanwhile, our whole solar system has been rotating around the centre of our galaxy, and our whole galaxy has been hurtling through space. Which would explain why BLUES NIGHT feels absolutely knackered, even though he’s just had a week off. It might also explain why the new Wheatsheaf is so very different to the old one, but still appeals to most of the same punters. Yes it has reopened, yes it is still run by the same people, yes that’s probably why the old regulars are piling in there (along with a lot of additional people who wouldn’t have found room in the old one), yes it’s hard to shift that feeling that It’s Really Not The Same. But a great many things in the universe are, so don’t let this one worry you. It’s not the same pub, but it’s a good pub.
Three of the most decent blokes you could hope to have standing the other side of the bar work in the Clock House. Of course, the pub has its shortcomings, but not very many. It is, in BLUES NIGHT's humble opinion, one of the best places to sit and drink on your own in South London. An' that's saying summit. BLUES NIGHT was not on his own, however, when he was told the following joke in there last week.
Indeed, it is a shame that he was not on his own at the time, not because the company was in any way undesirable, oh no, but because if he had been on his own when he heard the joke that follows, it would have been created by a mysterious inner voice. Unless he was told it on the phone. Or heard it over the occasionally-obtrusive sound system. Or on the telly. Except they don't have a telly. So any telly he heard would surely have been a mysterious inner telly. But it is really such a fine joke that if it had been created by BLUES NIGHT's mysterious inner voice, then the only possible conclusion to be reached is that BLUES NIGHT is an authentic insane genius.
But he isn't, because it wasn't. Some bloke said it.
It is a joke which not only achieves an exquisite balance of childish wordplay and cultural ignorance, but also is so perfectly appropriate for www.bluesnight.org, we simply must not draw out this slightly-overblown introduction any longer.
So, without any further ado, here is the joke in all of its glory...
The Rolling Stones have re-recorded one of their hit singles exclusively for the Scottish market.
It's called Hey, MacLeod, Get Off of My Ewe...
Oh. Have you heard it before? Sorry.
There was an almost unanimous response to the e-mail promoting the April Fools’ BLUES NIGHT…
Sorry dude, after nearly killing myself with cheap cava at the weekend I've still got the blues enough to bring the whole Gladstone down without you even spinning any Blind Lemon Jefferson. I'll have to make it another time. RS.
I'd love to but it's unlikely in all truth as I am a midweek wimp and like to be tucked up with my Jane Austen book and a hot choc by 9 pm. PR.
Sorry Blues Night, I cannae make it tomorrow.
Please don’t hurt meeee. AP.
Sorry, I've got to go back home tomo night so that I can drive my Gramps to the hospital early on Thurs. MH.
I might have made a debut appearance but I am in Spain with work. Gutted not to be crying into my beer at the heart wrenching blues of Blind Willy Knobchops or one of his cohorts. ND.
i cant tomorrow. i have a fucking leaving drink just about every night at the moment because just about everyone is fucking leaving. sorry ike. BB.
Hello Terry. I would really like to come tomorrow but it's the wife’s birthday and she's wanting to stay in and do nothing. FM.
…still, who needs friends when you’ve got blues LPs?
BLUES NIGHT was on his way to enjoy a quiet few pints with his mates. Alright, all right… on his own, save for a baby and a toddler. Then he saw this advertisement on a bus stop and was forced to reflect upon certain undeniable truths.
If beer drank, some beer would drink Young’s, but not all. Specifically, pints of Young’s would drink pints of Young’s. Cannibalistic it may be, but it's the ad agency's image, not BLUES NIGHT's. Other pints of ale would drink Young’s occasionally, for instance when they were in a Young’s pub, or when they were in a Free House and there wasn’t anything more interesting on the pumps.
But surely even the most unintelligent advertising executive would not dare to suggest that a pint of Stella would drink Young’s? Because it wouldn’t, would it? It would drink Stella. Or Kronenbourg if there wasn’t any Stella. Or Grolsch, if that was all there was. But it wouldn’t be happy about it.
A Fosters shandy would drink a Fosters shandy, and, as if to complete BLUES NIGHT’s little model of how one beer is not inherently any better than any other, a can of Special Brew would spend the whole day drinking Special Brew before shuffling off home, if it was lucky enough to have one, collapsing on the sofa and shitting its trousers in its sleep.
BLUES NIGHT’s adventures in the provinces.
He had been enjoying several hours’ decent quality mountain biking to celebrate BNBM’s birthday, but, as uncommon an opportunity as this has become, it is not, on its own, a satisfactory birthday celebration. And, after all, the BLUES NIGHT knees had just about had enough, so it was with enormous pleasure that they settled down in the first-(late-afternoon)-sunshine-of-the-Spring to enjoy a great pint of the local brew.
So relaxed were they, in fact, that they sat there with empty glasses for a full five minutes to actually finish the existing topic of conversation. Is there a surer sign of the arrival of middle age? Eventually, BLUES NIGHT hauled himself to his feet, probably mumbling something about how four or five more of those would smooth out the road ride back to Dorking station very nicely.
He wiped the heavy mud from his shoes with great care, so as not to upset the barman so early in their visit.
It was ten past three. The bar was closed.
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. BLUES NIGHT has a new hero. And it's this bloke. He smokes, he swears, he has tats on his hands, and he teaches you to play blues guitar. If BLUES NIGHT had the funds, he'd be flown over club class to play in our garden.
Hilariously, BLUES NIGHT has stopped drinking. For ten whole days so far, which may well be the longest wagon ride since he was a teenager. Mostly because he's been really sick. Not with anything serious, just a nasty cold.
"Ah, but have you actually been to a pub and resisted the temptation?" Asks the devoted Publogger.
"Well, yes, actually," BLUES NIGHT replies smugly, "I had an orange juice and lemonade and two grapefruit juices in The Royal Inn on the Park last Friday, to negotiate future BLUES NIGHTs in Mallorca."
"Ooh," replies the Publogger, suitably chastened, "how was it?"
"Not that great really," BLUES NIGHT murmurs. "The evening was definitely missing something."
Last week, BLUES NIGHT went to the Crown and Greyhound twice. On the first occasion, he took his kids, ate some nice bangers and mash and forgot that he had asked for twenty quid cashback, because he was looking forward to his bangers and mash so much. Except not in that order.
On the second, a few days later, he decided to go back in and say; "I feel rather foolish asking this, but is there anything that can be done about the fact that I paid for twenty quid cashback on Saturday and the bloke forgot to give it to me and I forgot to ask for it?"
To which the nice-looking young lady quite rightly replied, "Um, no. I don't think so." Except not exactly that, but something along those lines.
So instead BLUES NIGHT sat and had a few pints on his own and reflected on all the times he'd spent about twenty quid on a record which had been rather disappointing, or on a taxi when he could have waited for a bus fairly easily, or on a curry when there were perfectly good fish finger sandwich ingredients in the kitchen, and how all those extravagances paled into insignificance with spending twenty quid on absolutely nothing whatsoever.
And then he overheard a Dulwich Village Old Boy saying to his friend, "I actually quite like to have a drink on my own. And... you know... think about things."
And he realised that, again, it had been twenty quid well spent.
The Dog and Bell is a fascinating enigma. BLUES NIGHT would not presume to question the quality of its ales for one moment. Indeed, the only department in which they are bettered is in the establishment’s properpubbishness, which was firmly established three seconds after BLUES NIGHT’s first arrival there in 2004 – upon seeing a decent-sized group of howyousay “ex-students” bundling through the entrance on a windy February evening, one Dogster sat at the bar barked, “Close the bladdy door then,” before the whole party was even through it. Fast-forward four and a half years and BLUES NIGHT, on his way to pay the deposit for the All-New BLUES NIGHT Homestead, decided his how-to-fit-in-in-a-proper-pub credentials were now developed enough for him to have another go. And he was delighted to sink several pints while chatting to the landlord and his wife about the past, present and future of Deptford and New Cross.
Then, this week, BLUES NIGHT made the mistake of trying to take his wife and kids in there, and was immediately made to feel as welcome as he had upon his very first visit, which was, well… not. Okay, so you don’t invest years of hard work in your cellar to have your pub look like a Montessori school. If there had been a sign saying “No Bladdy Kids” BLUES NIGHT would have respected it. But there was not, leading to a situation which put an otherwise-fitting-in-fairly-well-,-too-old-now-(surely?)-to-be-thought-of-as-an-ex-student punter through the embarrassment of having to admit that he likes to spend quality time with his family.
Rewind thirty years. Old Man BLUES NIGHT never really went to the pub. He was always either working or asleep. Or possibly spreading 6X on a rosebed.
(That’s , not .) But, people-about-BLUES-NIGHT’s-age-whose-Dads-did-this-most-normal-of-things tell him that traditionally they would sit out in the car with a lemonade and a packet of crisps, quite contentedly waiting for the swervy drive home. This is simply not an option in Deptford in the 21st Century. As we all know, in the 1970s there was only one paedophile for every fifty billion kids. Now there is a queue of them waiting for you to turn your back on your child for a split second. And drink driving is very much frowned upon.
So what is at the opposite pole of this thorny pub-child-friendliness globe? Is it the toy-providing Gowlett, a pub so good it (nearly) makes you want to live in Peckham? Is it The Royal Albert, where the staff seem cheerful enough to allow BLUES NIGHT Jr. to balance upright, in cruciform pose, on the back of a leather armchair and loudly announce, “tooo unfinnideee… and be-yah!” before plummeting arse-first into the seat? No, of course it is not. At the opposite pole lies The Florence, a pub that somebodies put an awful lot of effort into redeveloping into a family-friendly modern jobbie not so long ago. Being in The West End of South-East London and right by the park, it immediately became as overrun by children as Father Ted’s house was by rabbits back in the day.
This is the nub of the matter. We belong to a very privileged generation. Just because you have kids, it doesn’t mean you can’t go to the pub any more. But however dearly BLUES NIGHT loves his scions, he remembers that, first and foremost, pubs are for getting pissed in. And, as you turn away from the bar trying to carry more pints than you would if you were sober, you should not have to look on the floor behind you to check there is no two-stone punk down there.
This week BLUES NIGHT shall be celebrating the fact that
The Other Blues That Matter shall now be able to “concentrate on the league”, thanks to deux coups-de-grace de Messieurs Ballack and Lampard. BLUES NIGHT noted that many ITFC fans magnanimously applauded Lamps’s strike. He decided he would save that for when Lumpard does it for England.
Still, bitterness aside, this shall be celebrated with an educational programme for whichever youngsters choose to pay attention in singing assembly this week, as BLUES NIGHT gets them to sing You Can't Always Get What You Want, and then teaches them what the Chelsea Drugstore was in order to pre-empt complaints from parents.
Anyhow, in order to make BLUES NIGHT's going-on-about-all-this worthwhile, check out this masterpiece of Kubrick-Chelsea-Drugstore Geekery. You'll be glad you did, if only to get away from here.
BLUES NIGHT loves Christmas. He loves the food, he loves the drink, he loves the friends-and-family time (as long as dangerous combinations of relatives are avoided), he loves having a dead tree in the sitting room. But more than anything else, BLUES NIGHT enjoys going Christmas shopping.
Not for the actual shopping, of course. Christmas shopping is way better than shopping for yourself, where you are not only stripped of your financial resources but are then obliged to give up some of your immediate environment for the accommodation of largely unnecessary material bulk, but it’s still boring. Except if you’re in a record or guitar shop. No, not for the shopping, but for the stopping for refreshments. In London, where there are good shops, there are usually good pubs. And, often, vice-versa.
BLUES NIGHT’S favourite Christmas moment? Sat in the Richard I on Christmas Eve, listening to this, drinking Winter Warmer, knowing all the shopping was done, just looking forward to the next two days. It’s the furthest from being at work you can get.
As a result of domestic pressures, BLUES NIGHT can’t really blog about sitting around in the pub on his own over the last week or so. Sure, there have been one or two drinks after work, but he will not blog about those here, as they’re, er, too close to work.
Oh, and he went in The Wheatsheaf. They are launching a book on Tuesday. A book to commemorate the impending closure. With photos of loads of the regulars. And some people who probably just wanted their photograph taken. Some really good photos, actually. Dunno who the photographer was, but there’s an exhibition of the photos up. Dunno how long for. The Wheatsheaf’s excellent manager was unavailable to be interviewed, so BLUES NIGHT couldn’t get a date for the final Wheatsheaf BLUES NIGHT either. Still, the Tribute is tasting fine and the photos are worth seeing. BLUES NIGHT is going to assume you wouldn’t go as far as actually buying the book if you needed him to tell you it was happening, but maybe you would. Maybe you like photography or something.
So anyway, in terms of things to share, that leaves us with lots of really nice family things Nuclear Family BLUES NIGHT has done over half term, and some arguments and tantrums they’ve had, but then the blog would start looking like a poor imitation of this one. Instead, BLUES NIGHT is, as he writes, electing to go with a different by-now-quite-well-established theme; overheard conversations. And the title of this blog entry shall be
THINGS BLUES NIGHT GOT FROM THE BOOTSALE
(BLUES NIGHT is flipping through a box of terrible records. A MAN arrives at his shoulder and touches a battery charger, as if he might be interested in it. This action catches the eye of the BOOTSALE VENDOR.)
BOOTSALE VENDOR: That’s a really good battery charger, that is, mate. You can charge any kind of battery in that.
MAN: Well… nah… you have to use rechargeable batteries…
BOOTSALE VENDOR: No mate, you can use any kind of battery in that charger.
(There is a pause.)
BOOTSALE VENDOR: They don’t catch fire.
(BLUES NIGHT is flipping his way, rather disinterestedly, three or four at a time, through a box of truly awful records. A MIDDLE-AGED LADY starts going through some videos and DVDs impatiently. She is in a hurry. She catches the eye of a BORED TEENAGER sitting in the back of a Vauxhall estate.)
MIDDLE-AGED LADY: Have you got Carmen Jones? My daughter wants Carmen Jones.
BORED TEENAGER: What is it?
MIDDLE-AGED LADY: It’s a film. It’s got black people singing in it. You know, jazz music. You know;
(to the tune of the Puerto Rican people singing about America in West Side Story, but without the word “America.” Really, really loud.)
Lala-la-lala-la-laaaa-la-la… You know the kind of thing.
BORED TEENAGER: No. Don’t think so.
MIDDLE-AGED LADY: Oh, all right. Sorry about the singing.
(BLUES NIGHT is browsing carefully through a large box of records, 98% of which are awful, the remaining few of which are reasonably interesting. Unfortunately for a MAN WHO WANTS TO BUY A RECORD, the LADY WHO IS SELLING RECORDS WHICH PROBABLY BELONG TO HER THIRTY-SOMETHING-YEAR-OLD-SON has noticed BLUES NIGHT look at the condition of one or two and decided she is sitting on a goldmine of which King Solomon could not have dreamt.)
MAN WHO WANTS TO BUY A RECORD: How much for this one, love?
LADY WHO IS SELLING RECORDS: Oooh, I don’t know. Four quid? What’s it worth to you?
MAN WHO WANTS TO BUY A RECORD: Oh, well. I wouldn’t spend that much. I only buy them at the bootsale if I can get them cheap. I like to get a bargain.
LADY WHO IS SELLING RECORDS: Well, that’s a really good one. That’s a Rolling Stone. Three quid?
(BLUES NIGHT does not need to look up to know that the man will be holding a copy of Dirty Work.)
MAN WHO WANTS TO BUY A RECORD: Yeah. I like all the Sixties and Seventies stuff. You can get some good stuff sometimes.
(He puts the record down. There is a pause.)
MAN WHO WANTS TO BUY A RECORD: Ha-ha... my mate, yeah? I sent him down the bootsale last week and I said to him, can you look out for any David Bowie albums for me? And he come back… with five David Essex albums! Ha-ha!
(The LADY WHO IS SELLING RECORDS does not laugh. She smiles faintly, as if she knows that David Bowie and David Essex are not the same person. There is a long pause.)
LADY WHO IS SELLING RECORDS: (wistfully) I love David Essex.
The after-effects of BLUES NIGHT IV’s arrival have just landed upon BN Senior’s consciousness like a hammer-blow. Specifically, that he has not been able to attend a FREE concert, about two miles away from the All-New BLUES NIGHT Homestead, given by the performer of that which was probably the finest concert BLUES NIGHT has ever witnessed (OBNIDUSATOSoA*), The Zu-Zu Man, The Night Tripper, ladies and gents, Dr John!
Click here instead if you prefer to see your blues legends riding mules through scrap yards. Interestingly, here is concrete evidence of the Good Doctor’s otherworldly power. BLUES NIGHT Jr. has just observed; “Broken cars! Lotsanlotsa broken cars! Dat man on donkey goan fix dem…”
Actually, BLUES NIGHT did not miss the event completely. BLUES NIGHT and BLUES NIGHT Jr. met at The Festival of New Orleans in The Dome (which is now called the O2 Arena to avoid confusion with either the legendary Birmingham nightclub, or its sister venue, Dome Two) with Family BLUES-NIGHT’s-Best-Mate, and BLUES NIGHT’s other MWHUTWWiaRS (see 05/07) who was also accompanied by his baby daughter. As a result, it was simply impossible for the unfashionably-childless BLUES-NIGHT’s-Friend-Who’s-In-Charge-of-PE, on his arrival, to leave the classic “so this is the crèche, then?” unsaid.
There was some great music to be heard, from the Rebirth Jazz Band - “these really young fellas,” BLUES NIGHT had said to BNFWICoPE, forgetting that the album he had by them dated from the 1980s; Beausoleil, who, unlike most bands as well-established as themselves, have got less 80sish with age; even John Mooney and Bluesiana, who, despite their name, their 80sishness (the sunglasses, the Why-is-the-singer-always-white-and-the-bass-player-a-big-black-man-whose-gut-renders-his-bass-into-a-lapsteel-position? Why is there always a bloody drum solo?), pretty damn good. The appreciation of music was made more challenging by BLUES NIGHT Jr’s regular disappearances into the legs of the crowd, which at least meant that he was taking breaks from exacting crafty violence upon his slightly-younger female near-contemporaries. After losing him completely for several minutes, BLUES NIGHT did the responsible thing and went home. After he’d found him, of course. (Thanks, Mrs BNFWICoPE.)
This has had the resultant effect of BLUES NIGHT not being able to blog about seeing Dr John last night. But, however good he might have been, he surely cannot have been better than he was in the performance awarded the OBNIDUSATOSoA* above. How often has the one musician you are most “into” at that time given a concert in the one venue you would most like to see them play? With tickets only available at the door so you “have to” stand in the queue for some hours with only a bag full of Strongbow Super for company? Which your line manager, who is also the original BNOBMWHUTWWiaRS, has interpreted as doing some work because he’s going to join you near the front of the queue after locking up?
And so it was that later that evening, some ten or twelve years ago, BLUES NIGHT woke up from an apple-happy power-nap to ask BNOBMWHUTWWiaRS, “Where are we?”
To which there could be only one response, “We’re in Ronnie Scott’s… watching Dr John!”
With an ability-to-see much like that simulated in the mule-less YouTube link above, BLUES NIGHT shifted his attention from one player to the next; The Doctor at his crazily-dressed piano, the buttery backing-voxesses, the drums, the percussion, the more drums, the more percussion, the familiar-looking beardy bloke who had just appeared out of nowhere and torn into a filthy guitar solo…
“Zat’s Erig Fugging Clabdon,” BLUES NIGHT observed, without any certainty.
“That is NOT Eric Clapton,” BNOBMWHUTWWiaRS insisted, hysterically.
“Arm telling yer, dat’s Eric…Fuggingclabdon.” And this continued, longer than this page could comfortably accommodate, through the solo. But so carefully was it timed that not one perfectly-formed note was missed. Whoever this Bloke-with-a-beard was, he was playing some evil, EVIL voodoo-swamp-blues, like he’d never been out of the bayous. A moment of magic. Really dirty magic. A moment that came to an end when the song finished, and the good doctor rasped into his feathered microphone, “Airk Clabben pleeeesss.”
To this day, the feeling remains that BNOBMWHUTWWiaRS must have assumed the wondrous guitarist was not Slowhand Himself because he was too good. And BLUES NIGHT can sympathise. Poor old Eric. Not only does he, as Peter Cook once said, have to “play the bloody guitar the whole time,” but he actually comes in for a certain amount of mockery for doing so. Even amongst the blues community. Even on these pages. Well, there is no better assessment of Eric‘s true value, in BLUES NIGHT’s opinion, than that offered by a now-sober BNOBMWHUTWWiaRS, several years after this momentous occasion. “Eric Clapton,” he said, in his sage-like way, “was good for a couple of years in the sixties, and for a couple of minutes in 1997.”
Unlikely as it seems now, Doctor Creaux came back for a second set which was even better than the first. But thoughts of winding-down afterwards, at the late-night Latin club in the upstairs room, were a tad over-optimistic. BLUES NIGHT’s final memory of the evening was being awoken in a cubicle by a disdainful bouncer (did he break the lock or did BN forget to use it?) and asked to “pull up your trousers and leave.”
The next time BLUES NIGHT visited the Doctor, just a few months later, the performance was utterly different. With a backing band that bore a much closer resemblance to Cameo than The Meters (not that there’s anything wrong with Cameo, of course,) he fooled the altogether huger crowd at the Kentish Town Forum into clapping him whenever he got up for a little shuffle (just as those stiffs in The Festival Hall crowd did for Nina Simone years later - if the highpoint of their evening is showing their delight at an old person dancing, they would be better-off gatecrashing weddings and spiking the grandmothers’ drinks) to music which, as most of the punters would surely have told you, was “really funky.” Testament to Mr Rebennack’s versatility it may have been, but it did make BLUES NIGHT hope and pray to see him in a small venue again one day. And he’s still waiting.
Did you see Dr John at the Festival of New Orleans? Was he any good? Or was he “really funky”? Answers on an e-postcard, or on the back of a sealed e-envelope, to the usual address.
Well, it’s been an eventful month-and-a-half. Not only has BLUES NIGHT moved house and had another kid, but… wait for it… he has a new favourite footballer AND a new favourite pub! People disinterested in football but keen on pubs will need to rough it out for the next few paragraphs in order for the analogy to work.
A NEW FAVOURITE FOOTBALLER
BLUES NIGHT had only ever seen Moritz Volz play for an exceedingly youthful Arsenal League Cup side against the Town six or seven years ago. A game in which one of Ipswich’s goals was scored by Jamie Clapham, who is not only interesting as the only man in creation whose head is more peanutiform than BLUES NIGHT’s own, or even for being one of an incredible two players regularly appearing in the Town’s first eleven in the late nineties whose surname is a district of South London, but also for being exactly the kind of player that Ipswich don’t have any more - a southpaw who looked, if he was to have a stunning run of form at the same time as all of the more highly-rated left backs in the country were being struck down by a series of freak injuries, like he might just squeeze into the England squad for a meaningless friendly as an unused sub. If he was a bit younger. And you half-closed your eyes. Volzy is at a similar level, but German.
One’s favourite footballer, if one is an adult, is rarely the footballer who scores the most goals, or can do the most stepovers, or has the most outrageous haircut. BLUES NIGHT likes Volzy because of his amusing website, www.volzy.com, which sets him so far apart from the average footballer BLUES NIGHT couldn’t care less whether he‘s any good. And Volzy likes beards. And he’s the first-ever German to play for the mighty ITFC, at a moment in time coincidental with BLUES NIGHT having finally reached the level of maturity where he has forgiven Germans for killing his grandfather. It was with a spring in his step that BLUES NIGHT went to see Volzy play in a blue shirt for the first time against Charlton. And we were not to be disappointed - our man was an influential figure in the game, scoring the own goal that handed Charlton the three points.
Taking time to consider how The Blues had managed to lose yet another game they’d looked like the only football team in, BLUES NIGHT was able to enjoy a meandering walk home, sampling every pub he felt like sampling between The Valley and the All-New BLUES NIGHT homestead, which were several. In the first, The Pickwick, in Charlton, BLUES NIGHT was treated to this exquisite vignette…
(An oversized, drab South London pub late on Saturday afternoon. Despite the number of people present, and the fact that their rubbish football team has just stolen three points from an even less effective one, the atmosphere is unable to assert itself over that of Old Trafford, which is being projected onto a colossal screen on one dirty wall. Two miserable-looking Charlton fans take seats under the screen, as if to prove their disinterest in the plastic world above. They sit in utter silence for perhaps three minutes before one of them speaks.)
FIRST CHARLTON FAN: So, why do we drink in this shithole?
Most of the pubs in between were those harmless-but-uninteresting types Greenwich seems to specialise in - much nicer than the average South-East London boozer, but dull nevertheless. But the finale was The Morden Arms, which was fantastic. One of those pubs where people in all four corners of the place seem to be involved in the same conversation. Nicely lit, but scruffily turned out. BLUES NIGHT has never felt particularly comfortable in squats, but, for some reason, he likes pubs in which the interior designer appears to have taken The Squat as his or her inspiration - a similar feel to The George on Commercial Road here, but without the haircuts. BLUES NIGHT, he like.
A NEW FAVOURITE PUB
Writing about pubs for the casual reader on the internet may be a foolish way to spend one’s paternity leave. Originally, this blog was supposed to be BLUES NIGHT’s guide to pubs. It got exactly this far.
“The best atmosphere of any of the Borough Market pubs” says a blackboard outside (probably), quoting Time Out (I think). This is accurate (definitely). Yeah, it’s a bit small. And a bit pricey if you drink imported Czech lager. But it does have the best atmosphere. A proper mix of people go in the Wheatsheaf.
It also has a little garden. If you’re two years old, you can stand on the drinks shelf out there and get a good view of the trains going past. The same trains they once said the pub, the market and the rest were about to be sacrificed for. BLUES NIGHT reckons it was just a conspiracy, that ran something like this;
RAILTRACK: We need bigger railway tracks, so train services can be slightly less terrible.
TRUSTEES OF BOROUGH MARKET circa 1998: Okay. The market’s empty and so are the pubs. Give us a fiver and you can flatten the lot.
LOADS OF PEOPLE WITH KIDS IN BUGABOOS: “Oooooh, Borough Market’s just so unique though. They can’t possibly knock it all down for a viaduct. I’d better get myself down there and buy some cheese to show my support.”
(The next day)
TRUSTEES OF BOROUGH MARKET: Actually, we’ve got a few quid now, so it’s going to cost you rather more, Mr Railtrack.
RAILTRACK: Well, we don’t need to destroy all of it. Just the crappy bit without the queues.
TRUSTEES OF BOROUGH MARKET: Okay, you can have that for a tenner, as long as we’re allowed to let people think the whole thing’s still under threat so they keep coming and buying cheese.
RAILTRACK: You’ve got a deal. Oooh, that cheese looks nice. Is it organic?
BLUES NIGHT wasn’t there or anything. He’s just guessing. And, for the record, Mrs BLUES NIGHT’s ex-nearest-market-stall-neighbour-who-has-little-to-thank-the-trustees-for-after-their-repeated-efforts-to-get-rid-of-him-because-of-his-refreshingly-un-Borough-Marketesque-chip-van-type-fare-but-he-knows-the-market-inside-out-and-has-one-of-the-best-examples-of-a-non-sequitur-you-ever-saw-“If-you-haven’t-tried-us-yet-then-you-will-never-know-how-good-we-can-be”-running-down-each-side-of-his-van says that BLUES NIGHT’s theory is bollocks.
Anyway, back to the Wheatsheaf. A proper boozer, with a top manager, top staff, top punters and top beer. Also the only pub on the market which is dependable for watching the football. What are you waiting for?
The Market Porter
Ten years ago, you could go in The Porter of a weekday evening and find it empty. A large collection of footy mags from the 1970s hung behind the bar. It is so not like that anymore, BLUES NIGHT sometimes wonders if it’s the same place. Since then, it has survived a (relatively) understated expansion with its cred intact, still being the persons-who-claim-drinking-beer-as-a-hobby’s pub of choice in the locality. Big bar, lots of staff, loads of different ales, occasional morning opening, good spot on the corner for 21st Century “standing-around-in-the-street-style” drinking. It’s a great pub, the Porter. BLUES NIGHT won’t hear a word said against it.
And that was as far as BLUES NIGHT’s guide to pubs ever got. BLUES NIGHT quickly arrived at the understanding that, realistically, no-one gives a shit for his opinion on pubs since it’s quite obvious that he likes all of them. Except the Silver Buckle.
BLUES NIGHT is nearly getting to his point. As intimated above, things are changing in the pub-likeability-as-perceived-by-BLUES-NIGHT stakes. First and foremost, The Wheatsheaf actually is closing now. Whether it will reopen remains to be seen, but its proximity to the too-narrow railway has at least sealed its short-term fate. The licensees and the excellent staff are preparing to open up in a nearby elsewhere, although the exact location of that elsewhere is a closely-guarded secret. Will there ever be The Wheatsheaf, as it is now, again? BLUES NIGHT doubts it.
So what of BLUES NIGHT’s new favourite pub? Well, before the move, it was [pub name removed for not-wanting-to-be-murdered reasons]. This was forever sullied by stumbling upon a wake there a few weeks back. Daylight, about five pm on a weekday. BLUES NIGHT would never, ever speculate about the character who had his (or, though it’s massively unlikely, her) funeral that day. But believe BLUES NIGHT when he says that the attendance at that occasion was comprised almost entirely of the most foul-mouthed and violent-seeming characters he has seen collected together in one place, like, ever. Rarely has BLUES NIGHT heard swearwords used with such passion and commitment. Or regularity. The metronomic rhythm of the words fuck and cunt was almost hypnotic. The conversational theme of hurting people was focused upon with such unerring devotion, BLUES NIGHT was expecting a camera to come rolling along catching one long tracking shot for Scorsese‘s new film about the South London criminal underworld. With Ciro Citterio doing the wardrobe. Yuck. Such an experience shouldn’t be allowed to spoil our feelings for the pub, but the gratitude that one feels for leaving a place with both of one’s ears intact has to be paid for somehow.
So BLUES NIGHT’s new favourite pub is The Royal Albert, on the corner of New Cross Road and Florence Road. It’s got good beer, friendly staff, comfortable chairs, conversational punters, a regular jam session featuring people who can actually play (although BLUES NIGHT suspects they have all been cheating by studying music at Goldsmiths), was once a venue called The Paradise Bar, which BLUES NIGHT clearly remembers being the background for an NME Oasis cover in the early nineties with an unusually shit pun, even for them, underneath… and it’s near our new house. And all of that was before yesterday, when BLUES NIGHT went there with three generations of Family BLUES NIGHT and had the best roast he’s had in a pub since he can’t remember when. Maybe ever. And that is a superlative used with the Official BLUES NIGHT I-don’t-use-superlatives-all-that-often seal of approval.* So, yes, the best roast BLUES NIGHT’s had in a pub. And, yes, BLUES NIGHT’s new favourite pub. But that doesn’t mean BLUES NIGHT thinks it’s the best. With about ten thousand in London to choose from, at least one percent of which are all very different from each other, how can there be a best? You can have a favourite, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best. Same as with footballers, see?
*Not a guarantee of anything.
Wicked. BLUES NIGHT just burned some loser. Not ‘burned’ in the Bukka White sense of the word - the “I had to burn a guy a little and they gave me time down on Parchman Farm” sense of the word, but the “I burned him, by which I mean to say that I rode my bike quicker than he rode his” sense of the word. No, BLUES NIGHT likes to think that he’s Livin’ the Blues, but he also fully understands that killing people because you’re a bit cheesed off with them is entirely inappropriate in 21st Century South East London. If you’re over 25.
During the complex negotiations involved in moving FAMILY BLUES NIGHT to premises larger than BLUES NIGHT TOWERS, there has been time to drink alone, but not to blog about it as well. Exchanges, observations and stolen snatches of other people’s conversations far more blogworthy than half the crap on this page have taken place, been made and been snickered at, but BLUES NIGHT has a professional backlog that he gets paid to worry about - this amateur publog backlog is going to have to go in the big log shredder thing that Steve Buscemi got killed in on the telly the other night.*
There is, however, time for a shout for the old bar in The George - for once, BLUES NIGHT reckons FancyaPint have got it wrong, except that they have said The Old Bar is the best bit, which it is, but the rest of the pub ain’t bad either. Maybe they need to go at the right time (which, as all self-respecting publoggers know, is When All The Smunts Are At Work.) Sat there entirely alone, save for the memories of birthdays past and feeding BLUES NIGHT JR. directly from a packet of Tesco Sliced Roast Chicken by the fire one weekday afternoon, BLUES NIGHT reflected that if The Old Bar in The George were a pub unto itself, it would probably be BLUES NIGHT’S favourite pub in London.
Also worth a shout is The Miller of Mansfield, not just because BLUES NIGHT took this colourful photograph there, not even because he managed, on this most recent visit, to elbow his way into a conversation which had, up until that moment, been enjoyed by some vaguely attractive young women (as it is every beardy middle-aged man drinking on his own’s responsibility so to do) about how it is quite normal in many cultures for heterosexual men to hold hands while walking, but because The Miller claims the irrelevant-to-just-about-everyone-except-BLUES-NIGHT title of Only Pub Between The Borough Market and BLUES NIGHT TOWERS That Used To Be Dreadful But Is Now Quite Nice, If You Like That Kind of a Thing.
So, anyway, back to this evening. BLUES NIGHT had locked his bike outside in order to make BLUES NIGHT TOWERS look slightly less squalid and pokey to the prospective purchaser ,who then couldn’t even be bothered to turn up. So, instead of just carrying it back up the stairs, BLUES NIGHT decided that he owed it to himself, but more importantly, you, faithful publog reader, to get on his bike and visit some Fancyapint 5-pint-rated pubs, and blog about them. First he went to The Jerusalem Tavern, where he has been several times before, to say nothing of the fact that there is more Waveney water in his blood than in a cask of any St. Peter’s Brewery Beer. Tonight was one of those rare occasions when you can get a seat, relax and enjoy the beer. And then, less importantly, notice that everyone is speaking German except for you. BLUES NIGHT’S REVIEW: Fantastic pub. Go there immediately.
Then BLUES NIGHT took a swing at a pub he’d never known existed before. Ye Olde Mitre Tavern is almost entirely hidden in its alleyway on Hatton Garden, even though it is virtually next to the shop in which BLUES NIGHT paid about thirty quid for a poxy leather strap that in no way suited the seventies watch he had bought. Despite the fact that he had never wanted to wear a watch again after seeing Peter Fonda chuck his on the ground in Easy Rider when he was a teenager. This unfortunate situation eventually being resolved when he bought an expensive new stainless steel strap for the watch, that did suit it, several weeks before the watch - which, to be honest, had never really worked properly anyway - stopped completely.
Anyway, BLUES NIGHT’S REVIEW: Apart from really loud young people - (quite unexpected - BLUES NIGHT was in possession of one of just two fully adult beards in the place), one large group of whoms were talking about self-defence moves and their ancestry (the students’, not the moves’), and the others were a couple out for an early-stages date - the young gentleman turned up very late and very drunk (kudos) and proceeded to tell his companion about the time he “went down on” a bloke a year and a half ago. BLUES NIGHT hates that euphemism. Is it an Americanism? BLUES NIGHT suspects that it is, and even though much of the language that BLUES NIGHT loves best is intrinsically American, BLUES NIGHT still hates that euphemism. The young lady, however, seemed fairly happy. They listened to her I-pod, one earphone each - it’s a Fantastic pub. Go there immediately. BLUES NIGHT also noticed that it has an outside toilet. He ruminated on the notion that he liked pubs with outside toilets - The Old Bar at The George being a perfect example - because they reminded him of the country pubs he cut his teeth in. The Bildeston Beer Festiva1 1990, perhaps.
And then BLUES NIGHT got on his bike to ride home. This was an entirely brilliant thing. This was going to be the majority of the ride BLUES NIGHT used to make every week, home from The Calthorpe (a fine, fine pub) back when he used to play football in the Project. Wow. That sounds well urban.
There’s only one bridge to go across when approaching from here late on a weekday evening, and one of the more interesting things about BLUES NIGHT is that he went over The Wobbly Bridge while it was a wobbly bridge. His observations? He can’t say that he noticed it being particularly wobbly. But what got it the rep was that first day when loads of people walked in step across it. BLUES NIGHT learned in primary school that soldiers had to break step going across bridges in order to avoid destroying them. Not quite as exciting, but strangely satisfying, is that, even today, if you cycle across The Wobbly Bridge, which you’re not really supposed to do, at a decent speed, late at night, when it’s quiet, each individual slat thing beneath you goes clang-clang, all the way across the Thames, and, altogether, it makes a right bloody racket.
Phew, this has been a long entry, hasn’t it? You still hanging on in there?
So BLUES NIGHT is on the home straight when some bloke rides his bicycle straight out in front of BLUES NIGHT a little disrespectfully. Sure, he got to the junction first, and nobody really gives way on their bike in the back streets of South London late at night unless they are likely to get hit by a motor vehicle if they don’t. BLUES NIGHT had to slow down a bit, but that was okay, because they were approaching a red light at the big crossroads anyway.
Whereupon the slightly disrespectful bloke, who was wearing a tailored brown leather jacket and riding a bike designed for modern city streets, but with certain traditionalist aesthetics borne in mind, moved out to the right hand side of the lane. BLUES NIGHT assumed he was going to turn, of course, and so he moved slowly past him on the inside as the lights changed. But what was that? The strange man was going straight ahead down Grange Road, and he was going like the clappers. BLUES NIGHT could only watch, dumbfounded, as he pedalled for all he was worth to establish a position in front of BLUES NIGHT, moving alongside the kerb.
But then, like Bradley Wiggins in the Madison, feeling the exertion as well as the self-satisfaction of double gold already in the bag, he eased off the pressure. And then jumped out of his skin when BLUES NIGHT’S extremely noisy freewheel crackled behind him. And then his shoulders slumped, and BLUES NIGHT almost felt sorry as he flew past him. But BLUES NIGHT was getting a bit asthmatic to be honest, and just wanted to get out of sight before turning off.
We’d better stop now. BLUES NIGHT was feeling pretty psyched with the adrenaline and all that when he started this, but now it just seems rather pathetic. See you next time…
*Wooo. Murder gets two mentions in two paragraphs. Last time it was money. Well, it is a BLUES website. Next time it will be sex. Hopefully.
1 COMMENT, added 18 September 2008 at 6:69
OMG, Grandad! You are, like, soooooooooo crap!
It's an iPod, not a fricking I-Pod!
BLUES NIGHT No.3 has been and gone. Are any of us the richer for it? Financially, of course not, as it is a not-for-profit labour-of-love thang. The idea is that we are enriched culturally by the experience, but in his post-alcoholic depression, BLUES NIGHT has found himself wondering whether BLUES NIGHTS are worth all the bloody hassle.
Two people who certainly were not enriched by their visit to BLUES NIGHT No.3 were a pair of CRAP THIEVES, who managed to draw attention to themselves by trying to steal the BLUES NIGHT SOUND SYSTEM while it was playing. BN has struggled emotionally with not bringing records to the last two BLUES NIGHTS. But not as much as he struggled physically with bringing records to fifteen years’ worth of previous occasions, and so it was with a certain regret as well as a spring in his step that BLUES NIGHT started recording his dusty old vinyl discs onto MP3s, hundreds of which fit onto a memory card the size of his little finger nail. This has facilitated the LIVER THAN EVER BEFORE BLUES NIGHTS which we (mostly) enjoy today.
But as all these tracks have been chosen for their suitability and play happily one after the other, it means that BLUES NIGHT is not DJing any more and is safe to enjoy his bartab. In theory. One hole in the theory is that BLUES NIGHT ends up so shedded he finds himself questioning whether he had a good time or not. Another is that, as unlovely as a phone full of MP3s is in comparison to a box full of Arhoolie, Yazoo, Herwin, RBF, Folkways, etc, etc, it is eminently more stealable. If stealable means someone wants to steal it, rather than that they can, as the CRAPNESS of these thieves is difficult to quantify.
And so it came to pass that the music went off. BLUES NIGHT wandered over to his table to find a young couple sitting there looking rather sheepish. Rather off the pace of the game, BLUES NIGHT enquired politely if they knew where his phone had disappeared to in the last few seconds. Before long it was a battle of who could be crapper - the thieves at thieving or BLUES NIGHT at spotting obvious thieves. Luckily, BLUES NIGHT’s Close Friend Whom BLUES NIGHT Was Too Drunk to Identify with Any Accuracy After the Event was on hand to explain that these nice young people had it, and they handed it over, picking up a number of items off the floor before leaving at speed.
“They just took quite a lot of bags with them,” observed BNCFWBNWTDtIwAAAtE, “were they yours?”
It doesn’t feel over-defensive to explain that BLUES NIGHT is an expert at looking after his records and his guitar (if not his phone) in the most drunken circumstances, but cannot be expected to know about other people’s bags. Luckily, the Wheatsheaf’s truly excellent manager was on hand to chase them across the market and retrieve the bags with a smorgasbord of threatening language. I don’t think we’ll be seeing those young urchins again. And BLUES NIGHT wouldn’t recognise them if he did.
It’s been a long time, but don’t worry, BLUES NIGHT has not lost the love for publogging so early in the game. You won't want to read about his having been busy at work again, so read instead that TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE SUMMER HOLIDAYS.
And BLUES NIGHT is celebrating a RECORD END-OF-TERM BOOZE HAUL.
Some other teachers, and possibly some of the generous parents directly responsible for BLUES NIGHT’s liquid good fortune, may feel a little sickened to see that he lined them up greedily, rubbing his hands together like Fagin in the Year 6 production. But BLUES NIGHT has his reasons, which are these;
1) In the absence of recent, decent-quality pub experience, BLUES NIGHT has only this booze to speak about.
2) Well, he did go to a pub recently, but it’s too close to school to blog about it.
3) And he stayed out so late that he was delivered with a Domestic Drinking Ultimatum the next day.
4) And according to the terms of the aforementioned DDU, he needs to make the BOOZE HAUL last for the full summer holidays.
5) And you are now his witness.
All the more reason to get himself back in the afternoon almost-empty pub underworld that is the publog’s true domain.
See you there.
BLUES NIGHT was too damn busy to write his publog last weekend. Working (again - think of that husky or St. Bernard below, who’s just got a Bentley on HP even though he’s still paying off his student loan, and is having to supplement his working dog income by cold-calling potential fax roll customers, while picking blackberries, holding a golf sale sign) at first, but then enjoying musical moments that Glastonbury would have found tough to match.
On Saturday, he was treated to the pint-sized, pub-based mini-fest that is Gladstonbury. Coincidentally, it happened to be that The Gladstone Arms, a brilliant little pub round the back of Borough Tube, was being manned by an old colleague, and that Gladstonbury was being co-ordinated by James McArthur, a very enjoyable singer-songwriter type BLUES NIGHT knows quite well from back in the day. (Well, 2005, when BLUES NIGHT was the embryonic Head-nods and Foot-taps at The Southwark Tavern (still worth a visit if you’re incapable of walking to one of the multitude of better pubs within spitting distance.))
Top of the Gladstonbury bill were Syd Arthur, who appear [-ed back then] to be invisible to internet searches, which only adds to the unsettling feeling caused by their combination of callow youth, incredible musical adeptness, and use of equipment that BLUES NIGHT couldn’t afford even though he’s nearly old enough to be their Dad(s). Were they genetically engineered by Simon Cowell in a laboratory, using Fairport Convention’s ringpieces, the Chilli Peppers’ barse hair and Ozric Tentacles’ hash-filled fingernail clippings? Does anyone know?
But how to top an event of that quality? With the gig to top them all.
Pentangle’s 40th-anniversary-of-recording-sweet-child concert at the Royal Festival Hall. BLUES NIGHT, Mrs BLUES NIGHT, BLUES NIGHT’s Best Mate and BLUES NIGHT’s Other Best Mate That He Used To Work With In A Record Shop. In a box. With lots of lager. Brilliant.
Photo courtesy BNBM
BLUES NIGHT’s Favourite Member of Pentangle Status changed recipients perhaps a dozen times during the evening, but worthy of special mentions were Terry’s incredible drumming and backing vox, Danny’s bow work and tune-downs, John on the sitar (how did he get back up off the floor?), Bert… being Bert Jansch, and Jacqui’s voice, which, after a John Lennon lifetime, still sounds like an angel playing a flute full of jelly in a crack house. Or something like that.
After this belated realisation of Jacqui’s greatness, there was no more appropriate denouement to the evening than overhearing this snippet of conversation in the bog;
SLIGHTLY PISSED-UP OLD GRANDAD: It’s amazing to see them back together after all this time. Not something you’ve seen before, I suppose?
SOFTLY-SPOKEN YOUNG MAN: Well, actually, I have... Jacqui’s my Mum.
BLUES NIGHT could not believe his luck, and skilfully alerted BLUES NIGHT’s Best Mate to this exciting situation - Jacqui McShee’s son, captive in the lavatories.
“BULLSHIT,” growled BNBM, with rather more drunken aggressiveness than is absolutely necessary in the Festival Hall toilets. “You’re not Jacky McVee’s son,” he added, leaning in towards him and doing up his flies as he made this challenge.
“McShee,” BLUES NIGHT interjected helpfully, “course he is. Look at his face.” By now, from the speed at which McShee Junior was washing his hands, it was apparent that he wasn’t too arsed if we believed him or not.
But BNBM had the bit between his teeth now. “Are you really Jaggy McGhee’s son?”
“Err-mmm” he replied, but he was already dutifully answering BLUES NIGHT’s incisive question about why John Renbourn looks so much older than the others.
Photo courtesy BNBM
“I think it’s because he’s the only one whose doctor hasn’t stopped him from drinking.”
Rock and roll. And folk and jazz. And blues.
And then he was off across that iconic carpet, before he had to listen to his mother referred to as John O’Shea.
This week BLUES NIGHT has achieved one of his greatest ambitions. He finally has a reputation as a problem drinker. On arrival at The Woolpack’s bar for his export elevenses, he was met with a level gaze from a very well-presented and serious-looking man who may or may not be the manager and may or may not originate from one of the more Easterly of European Union Member States.
BLUES NIGHT quite understands that drinking problems are not seen as quite such a source of mirth in other European nations (particularly Poland, for example) as they are here in dear old Blighty, but if the gentleman wants to make London his home, perhaps he would do well to be more accepting of our cultural traditions.
“May I have a pint of Staropramen, please?” BLUES NIGHT enquired, with all his well-learned politesse.
“On one condition,” replied the bar steward curtly. “That you do not fall asleep on the sofa this time. I have woken you three times in the last month.*”
BLUES NIGHT grinned, utterly delighted. But the other man was not even slightly amused. And he had all the beer. “Oh. I am terribly sorry about that. I have been working jolly hard recently.” The barman, if it were possible, looked even more unimpressed than he had before. “Honestly, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
*In case any of BLUES NIGHT JR’s grandparents ever bother to read this, BLUES NIGHT feels this is a slight exaggeration. It was probably twice.
OR WILL IT? HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE BEFORE BLUES NIGHT NEXT FALLS ASLEEP IN A PUB DURING THE HOURS OF DAYLIGHT? There’s a free pint at a future BLUES NIGHT for the sender of the closest estimate to the usual address...
1 comment, added 23 June 2008 at 10:28:
I estimate there will be a lot people asleep in the Wheatsheaf on Sunday 27th July.
Do I get a pint for this?
“No, I’ll tell you what, don’t worry. I’ll come and meet you. If you turn left out of Bermondsey tube, there’s a pub at the traffic lights called The Gregorian. It’s not as dodgy as it looks.”
BLUES NIGHT’S big brother had been sat on a train at Shenfield (Shenners, BLUES NIGHT heard a local call it once), awaiting the resolution of a power failure. After being mislead by a misinformed driver on the tannoy one time too many, he’d lost patience and asked if he could stay at BLUES NIGHT towers, since he had to come all the way back to London the next day anyway. Putty in BLUES NIGHT’S hands, he’d fallen for the old it’s-too-complicated-to-give-you-directions-over-the-phone-I'll-meet-you-in-the-pub ruse.
And, despite the odd punter who has that look in his eyes which suggests he was abandoned in the woods as an infant and raised by a family of wolves with exceptionally low moral standards, the Greg (as BLUES NIGHT heard a local call it once) is not, in BLUES NIGHT’S experience, all that dodgy. It doesn’t look dodgy either, especially not on a fine, sunny evening in June.
BLUES NIGHT didn’t even flinch as his big brother spoke in that slightly-too-loud-for-a-public-place voice he has inherited from Big Mama BLUES NIGHT. About mortgages. BN kept one eye on a bunch of disorganised Italians being put to the sword by some devastatingly effective Lowlanders, and listened. Because BLUES NIGHT is actually interested in mortgages, for the timebeing.
It gradually became apparent that there was a customer on the premises who had considerably fewer hang-ups about his voice level than BLUES NIGHT’S big brother. Only he wasn’t talking about mortgages. He was talking about female anatomy and sexual practices in slang terms, and he wasn’t using these signifiers in a positive way. BLUES NIGHT deduced that he was rather cross with one of the women behind the bar, which was confirmed when he lobbed a pint glass into that general vicinity.
BLUES NIGHT’S big brother lives in a very small village, and so he can be excused for asking the rather sensible question, “do you think we should leave?”
But BLUES NIGHT has put a decade of hard graft into living in South East London, and calmly replied, “we’ll finish our drinks first.” This was duly rewarded as the rather cross man was soon ejected by some equally cross, considerably larger men.
After this departure, BN’s BB happily returned to his discourse on financial matters, but was soon aware BN was not listening very well. BLUES NIGHT explained, “Sorry. I just want to make sure he doesn’t put anything through that window you’re sitting under.”
“Er- do you think we should move further in?”
BLUES NIGHT considered the logic of this. One minute ago, he wanted to go outside. Now he wants to go further in. Relative to the position of the rather cross man however, this was good logic. Too good for BLUES NIGHT.
“Nah. It’s alright. He’s gone now.”
A large item came through another window. BLUES NIGHT thinks it was a chair.
This week BLUES NIGHT has enjoyed massive success at The Wheatsheaf's Wacky Races Night, worked like a dog - a really hardworking one, perhaps a husky or a St Bernard - and discovered the irony of ironies as he prepares to leave SE1 for pastures cheaper.
The Wacky Races were actually last week, but it was not until this that BLUES NIGHT discovered he had backed a winner - a repeated winner in the form of The Creepy Coupe, expertly handled by the Gruesome Twosome. They actually crossed the line among the first three in four - count ‘em - of the ten randomly-chosen episodes, winning BLUES NIGHT loads of posh stuff from the market and twenty pounds of FREE BEER from The Rake, which [this statement has been temporarily removed, awaiting verification].
Not that BLUES NIGHT had resented handing over twenty quid of his hard-earned as all profits were going to Great Ormond Street, but he never expected such a bountiful return. Massive props go out to the Sheaf’s manager for his amazing hard sell talents.
We won’t talk about work this week. It would be much more interesting to explain the irony of ironies. BLUES NIGHT likes three things. Blues, The Blues, and Booze, which is commonly to be found in pubs.
Five minutes’ walk from BLUES NIGHT TOWERS is the Victoria, which BLUES NIGHT and Mrs. BLUES NIGHT visited for one drink in 1998. It was very dark and empty. They decided it was awful and never returned. Last week, at the beginning of BLUES NIGHT and family’s antepenultimate month in the district, it was discovered that fancyapint.com, providers of all the expert pub info linked to from here, rated the pub very highly. So BLUES NIGHT returned on Thursday afternoon to find it is a beautiful, charming, proper, Proper Pub that he has missed ten years’ worth of liver damage opportunities in. Gutted.
This week BLUES NIGHT has received a parking ticket outside his own house, learned more than he ever wanted to about mortgages, cleaned some mould off the bathroom ceiling, ridden his bike, listened to records and drunk beer.
The stock-in-trade expression, used for the first climb of Leith Hill in the Spring, desperately standing up off the saddle and feeling the back tyre spin in the mud, used to be “I feel like Paul Gascoigne in August,” but that simply doesn’t do BLUES NIGHT’s lack of fitness justice. Perhaps the second Tanglefoot in The Old Nun's Head was not such a good idea. But the idea of rolling back down Cox’s Walk with another few pints in the tank kept BLUES NIGHT going, on to The Dulwich Wood House.
It’s always a surprise to BLUES NIGHT that within the grand scale of the Wood House, or its fragrant garden with its well-fed squirrels, the interested listener can appreciate some of the finest industrial-strength foul language practised in South London. With too few punters to pay the wages of the one bartender managing the cavernous premises, there was still, as before, enough filth and profanity to make a Bermondsey docker blush. We should all learn to enjoy this fine old tradition before they bring in the ban.
Half Term is a time when BLUES NIGHT feels entirely justified in going to pubs on his own, as all his friends are at work. These are circumstances in which it is most rewarding not to have any arranged companionship as there really is a better standard of drinker out on a weekday afternoon. Thus, a Wednesday lunchtime visit to The Wheatsheaf to set a date for BN3 meant that the BLUES NIGHT bladder was refilling too damn quickly to walk home in one sustained effort, necessitating stops at The Britannia and The Marigold (far too gritty to have nice things written about it on the web) en route.
Sadly, a refreshing pint of wife beater was already running with condensation on The Britannia’s bar before BLUES NIGHT realised he didn’t have any cash, and there’s a ten pound minimum on cards in there. What better place for that to happen? Having waited some time for an excuse to drink some of their single malts, BLUES NIGHT chose a couple from the tail end of the alphabet so the lady didn’t have to reach up onto a really high shelf. The Britannia is only open on weekdays, and this is what BLUES NIGHT does instead of going on holiday. Interestingly enough, it seems he’s not the only one. A very big man at the bar said that a young South African was in every day, steadily working his way down the scores of weird names on the three blackboards.
BLUES NIGHT mused that a young person from the Southern Hemisphere would surely rather save up the extortionate profits made on these Dad Drinks over a bar in London and explore the Highlands and Islands to enjoy the booze in context, against a backdrop of lochs and bens and funny little ponies. But apparently not. Maybe he hasn’t got enough time and should actually be painting his ceiling as well.
Right. About time this blog got started properly. This must be done, according to international law, within the time it takes BLUES NIGHT Jr. to watch Brum. (Why all this concern about hoodies when it is clearly the wearers of Hawaiian shirts who represent the true menace to society?)
This week, BLUES NIGHT has given a presentation on Sex and Relatonship Education in the primary school for concerned parents, nosed around a high-security government building, and drunk quite a lot of beer. On a school night. Let’s rock, people.
The sex meeting went pretty well, in the circumstances. Circumstances being that BLUES NIGHT had not read through his PowerPoint very well, leaving some hideous typos (‘from childhood, through adolescence, into childhood’) and things that sounded ‘wrong’ as they say nowadays (‘children will explore the subject through discussion, reflection and role play’) in addition to the fact that BLUES NIGHT was clearly more concerned to get out to watch the Champions League final than any of the punters (a dozen mums and a gay dad), who had chosen to be there. BLUES NIGHT, erm, hadn’t.
The football was very rewarding, too. What better result is possible than Drogba being sent off, Ronaldo taking a laughably poor penalty, Terry crying all night, and Abramovich resolving to waste even more of his ill-gotten wealth next season? I know, I know, Europe’s top hundred-or-so clubs being disqualified for illegal transfer payments and the trophy being awarded to The Blues* by default. Maybe next season.
On Thursday, BLUES NIGHT and twenty-two worryingly-well-behaved-what-the-hell-are-they-plotting kids visited Portcullis House, the building across Bridge Street from the Houses of Parliament, built because “the existing building had so little space, some MPs were working on desks in the corridor.” BLUES NIGHT was extremely disappointed none of his charges put their hands up to say “Yeah? So what? Have these MPs seen a primary school recently?”
The new building cost a quarter of a billion pounds, “which was quite a lot of money ten years ago,” BLUES NIGHT explained to the eager children.
After returning to school with nearly as many children as had set out, BLUES NIGHT celebrated with an exotic cocktail, four parts Stella to five parts Kronenbourg, priced at a reassuringly expensive thirty quid. This week’s grateful recipient of the money BLUES NIGHT should be saving to re-house his family was The Golden Heart on Commercial St. It needs to turn its music down, but BLUES NIGHT knows better than to try and tell the landlady anything, from back when he worked round the corner seven years ago.
BLUES NIGHT went home and tested a friend’s assertion that Sign ‘o’ the Times would be better commuted to single-album-length, while also testing the depth of BLUES NIGHT Jr’s sleep, by playing all four sides at a steadily increasing volume. The test found no audible faults whatsoever and the proposition null and void.
Right, time’s nearly up. Brum’s knocked both Hawaiies into an old-fashioned baby’s pram. No Bugaboos in the big town. Maybe the residents don’t feel the need to offset their guilt at how much they get paid for doing so little by spending hundreds of pounds on unnecessarily high-quality baby accessories. Let’s all move there.
*Meaning ITFC, not, for once, the only music that really counts. And definitely not Chelsea.
Just realised I have mentioned money in this entry about half-a-dozen times. Scary.
This week BLUES NIGHT has been invigilating over completely pointless national tests and suffering from diarrhoea.
Not much of a blog, I know, but it's a start.