Friday, 20 November 2015

The two best pubs so far.

Last night my shit pub odyssey continued. As you know, I love shit pubs. Good shit pubs that is and last night I found two of them. The first was thanks to a tip off and boy oh boy did it deliver. It's hard to fault the Hollydale Tavern in Peckham. It's what all good shit pubs should be - a youth club for divorced men. It has everything - pool table, dart board, sport on TV, an Irish landlord who manages to be both friendly and threatening.

One thing it did lack was women. Not one of them. I felt like I was in a gay club or the boardroom of a FTSE 100 company. Take that satire patriarchy! I would like to make it clear to the patriarchy that that was just a good natured dig and as a white man I'd like it noted that I am currently available for employment.

But who would want to employed at a time like this? At a time when there are non Weatherspoons affiliated pubs like the Hollydale Tavern serving beer for less than £3 a pint! I have half a mind to call my fictional secretary, tell her to cancel all my appointments and officially hibernate there for the winter. The landlord seemed to know everyone by name. With what looked like only a few regulars I'm sure it wouldn't take me long to become one of the gang. Sure, I didn't have the paint splattered work clothes that most of them seemed to have on but I'll bet I could arrange some. Perhaps, being an actor, I could go for a fitting at Angels Costumiers for my outfit and that could form the basis of the first anecdote I tell the lads. Maybe not.

The Hollydale is a real beaut though. There's a board instructing anyone thinking of watching a football game for free that they must buy at least one drink per half. There's another board advertising a Beatles and Elvis night (as if one wasn't enough) and a final board announcing filled rolls for sale. No empty bread rolls here. No, at the Hollydale they'll actually fill them with food creating what one can only assume is something resembling a sandwich.

I love this place so much that I almost feel like finishing my quest before it's really got going. But, no. As long as London has new sticky floors to walk on and new doors to open onto unwelcoming rooms then it is my duty to carry on. And so I did. Up the road to Nunhead and the Man of Kent.

I wrote a derogatory post about Nunhead a couple of years ago. My one previous trip there didn't go particularly well as I only saw five people and every single one of them appeared to be on crack cocaine. This one was a lot better. Perhaps they're warding off full gentrification by sending out the junkies on Saturday mornings when middle class couples are shopping for their first flat. Nunhead seems to be one of those places in London which absolutely no one has heard of. If that means it can hold on to boozers like the Man of Kent then long may it continue.

The Man of Kent is a little more cosy than the Hollydale, which had a large enough area in the middle for a badminton court whilst not having the sort of clientele who'd want to play badminton. I have never, in London, been to a pub quite like the Man of Kent. It seemed to me more like it belonged in Huddersfield or the early scenes of In The Name of the Father. The first thing you notice when you walk through the door is the strong stench of farts. This is a place for men with a Gregg's based diet. Pubs like this should be exempt from the smoking ban. Cigarette smoke serves a purpose. Not only does it mask the smell of poor digestion but it adds a sort of grim glamour. Whilst in there it occurred to me that it may well be the smoking ban which was the death knell for so many of these old boozers. If you're sat in one of these joints, drinking your eighth Carling and filling out a betting slip to gamble your daughter's school trip money on an American horse race then what's the point of forcing you to make one good life choice? You might as well go the whole hog and puff on a Mayfair.

I like the Man of Kent. Irish and very much focussed around three of my favourite things - drinking, gambling (there is racing on the tv and Ladbroke slips by the bar) and reading. Yes, it has a couple of well stocked book shelves and as long as they're not accompanied by board games then I don't have a problem with that.

I think I may have caught this pub on it's death bed though. There were very worrying signs of a forthcoming refurb. In fact, so fitting of my brief were both these pubs that I'd be very surprised if they lasted the weekend. Get there while you can!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Roughly 26 reasons why the world is going to shit.

Today we had Reason Number 612 why the world is about to end - apparently antibiotics don't work anymore so we're about to go back to dying from gangrene. Here's a few of the others... there's a medieval caliphate bigger than the country I live in who want anyone who has ever committed the heinous crime of voting, shaving or drinking a Bacardi Breezer dead. It turns out everyone who was on TV when you were a kid was a paedophile. TFI Friday is back and we're all wondering whether it was always shit or it's just shit now. That medieval caliphate are such unprecedented cunts that they've inspired other cunts to do the sort of cuntery that if one of these cunts ever gets an IQ big enough to carry out a plan properly then the results could be a lot cunting worse. The bees are dying out. Global warming is apparently definitely actually happening and we'll all be underwater by the time Brooklyn Beckham goes bald which he will because everyone gets old one day and there's nothing any of us can fucking do about it. I think I heard One Direction are breaking up. Corbyn is so astoundingly bad and has replaced the shadow cabinet with what is basically an average pub quiz team meaning that every day in British politics is like watching the sort of car crash that used to come along once every few years so the Labour Party is fucked, fucked, fucked and by the time they come back in 2035 under a different name the NHS, British legal system and the BBC will be long dead, dead, dead. The climate on my twitter and facebook means that I'm terrified of saying that. ITV has just bought The Fucking Voice for £355 million.  That medieval caliphate has millions of people running away from it and no one seems to be able to agree on what we should do about that so they're doomed to at least another five years of misery. It costs £450 to get a train to Manchester and if you haven't bought a house yet then I'm sorry but you never fucking will. Twitter has changed the favourite button to a heart and I don't know what I feel about that. The most likely next President of America is a combination between Alan Sugar, Nick Griffin and Biff fucking Tannen. The Apple Watch. Either the UK is going to leave the EU or if it doesn't, judging by what happened in Scotland, UKIP will end up winning the next election by a landslide. Scotland is now ran by a nationalist cult. THE BEES! I SAW ABOUT TWO BEES THIS SUMMER! The millions of people running away from that medieval caliphate are literally begging us for a serious campaign of airstrikes but we've fucked them up so many times in the past that we don't know what to do so we're pretending we can't hear them. Half of the people feel so impotent and detached that they try to express solidarity by sticking French flags in their profile pics but the other half try to make them feel bad about it by shouting 'BUT WHY DIDN'T YOU CHANGE YOUR PROFILE PIC FOR XYZ?' Bacon gives you cancer. All meat is clearly wrong and destroying the planet but most of us aren't ready to accept that. The chances of there being a Prime Minister who went to comprehensive school are about the same as me getting a sit com commissioned by the BBC before it shrinks to about the size of VH1. BEES! WHERE ARE ALL THE BEES?

I thought that might be quite cathartic but my heart rate has actually seriously increased. I asked my dad today if it's always felt like everything's about to crumble or if this a particularly bad time. He said it's always been like this. I think he's right. In fact not that long ago it was worse... Nazis, three day weeks, nuclear missile crisises. There's always an apocalypse just round the corner. We'll be alright I reckon. Even if Trump's right and we do end up being ran by a Chinese totalitarian state they'll still be the joy of sneezing, a good shit and maybe even the odd bit of nookie. It's all gonna be fine. Party on Wayne. Party on Garth.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Porn stars have Amazon wish lists.

Here's a funny little sub culture I've just discovered thanks to Charlie Sheen having HIV. A former girlfriend of his, Bree Olson, was in the news today, saying she doesn't have the virus. I had a look at her twitter page and it turns out she does have something else - an Amazon Wish List.

As well as being a former Sheen Queen, Bree is also a former porn star and as I've learned today, the first thing a girl does when she's edging her way out of the porn industry is get an Amazon Wish List. These women have fans who want to, I assume, connect with them. If that connection can't be through penetrative sex then what's the next best thing? Buying them some Trader Joe's Roasted & Salted Sunflower Seeds for $8.52 of course. I'm not joking that is on Bree's Amazon Wish List which she has put prominently in her twitter profile for her 1 million followers. Should $8.52 feel a bit of a stretch then they could get her some McCormick Freeze Dried Chives for $5.43 or if they're really feeling the pinch they could get her some Downy Fabric Softener Sheets for $3.07. A small price to pay for the thought that Bree might use them. Richer fans of Bree might like to splash out on a table tennis table for $403.99 or even an iPhone 6s for $939.99 - to be fair, I think you can get a better deal on that one elsewhere. 

If you're thinking this is wishful thinking from Bree, you're wrong. There is the option to look at items which have been previously purchased for her. Right now there is someone having a wank at the thought that Bree might be using the 200 Melitta Basket Coffee Filters they bought her. And that's not all! There are dozens and dozens of things her fans have bought her. Someone got Bree a Great Smoky Mountains National Park map - and then presumably went there, hid behind a tree and waited for her to arrive. People have bought her dog food, extra heavy flow maxi pads, one dude spent $200 on a Nordstrum Gift Card. That's the most expensive purchased item I can find actually so there's still a chance to announce yourself to Bree - go on, get her that ping pong table!

Bree isn't the only one doing it. It's very popular with the stars of a channel which boldly goes to one of the few places the BBC remit doesn't cover - Babestation. A quick twitter search tells me that one of their roster, Ruby Ryder (real name?) has one. One thing I found interesting about Bree's list was how absolutely nothing on it related to sex but yet she was still making a killing. Ruby on the other hand does have a few leather corsets and the like but then you can, if you want, buy her a fish tank. 

In searching for Babestation girls with wish lists I discovered a conversation between Ruby and one of her fans. He was asking her to follow him on twitter. She said one of the only ways to get her to do that was to "buy me something good from my amazon wishlist. lol". I wonder how that ended for him. I'm guessing in the most self hating wank of all time. 

Well, this has been an educational half an hour or so delving into a weird world. Educational and expensive! I've just spent a fucking fortune on these ladies. There's only one way to claw some of that cash back and that's to start an Amazon Wish List of my own. I'm not famous though so the only way people are going to buy anything for me is if they get a real kick out of it. That's why my list will consist solely of edible underwear.

Friday, 13 November 2015

The worst pub in Britain.

Yesterday I discovered a strong candidate for Britain's worst pub. My friend suggested that we went on an afternoon walk from High Barnet to Cockfosters. The mention of a pub at the end, and a quick look at my diary telling me that I have nothing booked in between now and roughly the end of time, were enough for me to leap at the chance.

High Barnet and Cockfosters - those mythical places at the end of tube lines. In the history of the tube no one and I mean no one has ever been to Mill Hill East. Don't tell me you have because you're a fucking liar. Cockfosters, particularly, sticks in the mind because the first time anyone ever comes to London they think they're the only person to have noticed the funny name. In every single carriage, of every single piccadilly line train leaving Heathrow is an American visiter saying 'Cock-fosters?!'

Near Cockfosters station is the appropriately named pub The Cock Inn. As you know, I've been on the hunt for shit, characterful boozers. This place is the opposite of that. If a team on the Apprentice was tasked with making a pub - this is what they'd come up with. If ever a pub was waiting to be moved to Runcorn services and attached to a Travelodge then it's The Cock Inn.

From the outside it doesn't look too appalling. With a big traditional pub facade I was just expecting some of the usual gastrofied bullshit - you know - candles in wine bottles, high chairs, Jenga. What I got was far far worse. Despite it being 3.30pm (like I said, nothing in the diary) every table was set for dinner. The stone floors give you the impression that you're in an upmarket bathroom showroom. Something about the armchairs make you feel like you're waiting for your girlfriend to finish shopping. On the stereo were acoustic covers of Craig David songs. I like my pubs to have an air of menace. On a table nearby were the only other customers, a family - mum, dad, two schoolboys in uniform and four orange juices.

Beside the gents was a glass trophy cabinet containing only, and this along with everything else I'm reporting is true, champagne bottles. What kind of cunt do you have to be to put champagne bottles in a trophy cabinet? A little later two guys came in. Everything about them suggested that they had just clocked off early from Bairstow Eves to celebrate selling a glorified filing cabinet for £600,000. In fact, I predict that this place is fully booked in December for estate agencies Christmas meals. It was time to leave.

The next pub, the Jolly Anglers in Wood Green, was far far closer to what I was looking for. For an angler to be jolly in Wood Green, they'd need a decent pub and this, ostensibly, is one. For a start it looks like the sort of place in which no one has ever used the word ostensibly. It has all of my requirements - pool table (two in fact), dart board, juke box, quiz machine, Sky Sports on the TV.

We played pool. Beside us, on the other table, were three men of about thirty in work clothes. And when I say work clothes I don't mean suits. I mean dusty, paint splattered work clothes. We're talking about working class, salt of the earth, almost definitely would have bullied me at school - blokes. When discussing whether 'two shots carry' or not one of them used the phrase 'prison rules'.

At one stage a woman came over and tried to sell them boxes of stolen Next underwear. Why didn't she ask me and my mate? Is it that we looked like we were respectable members of society who would never touch stolen goods or was it that we looked like our dicks were just far too big for what she had?

All in all - a pretty good pub I think. There was something not quite right but it was certainly the best of the four I've been to since I started my quest. I wasn't too keen on the generic chalk boards which had obviously not been hand written on, but produced in a factory somewhere. Also, too much soft leather to make it the spit and sawdust place I'm after. If I had my way the only leather in pubs would be on the jackets of the regulars. The hunt goes on!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Two of London's shittest pubs.

Long time readers of this blog will know that I have a fondness for shit boozers. How shit? Really shit. As I've remarked before, I fear for the future of the shit British pub. They are dying out at an astonishingly rapid rate. One by one they're all either being turned into restaurants/creches disguised as pubs or (un)'affordable' homes with only an old pub sign to mark what came before.

Yesterday, I resolved to do my bit to save them by going to two of the shittest looking pubs in my neighbourhood. I've lived in Camberwell for three years now and, so shit do these two gaffs look, that I've never quite had the courage to enter. Dismayed that a former favourite of mine, The Prince Albert on Bellenden Road, has lost it's pool table and been poncified, it's clear the time is now to go to every shit boozer in London before they all inevitably go the way of white dog poo.

First up - The Nag's Head on Camberwell Road. Now here is a pub I've passed over 500 times and have never seen a single person enter or leave. Going in, I realised the reason - it looks as if the same eight people have been in The Nag's Head since 1982. The whole place does very much have an air of The Falklands War still being on. There is a large poppy display on the window and a huge St George's flag littered with what looks suspiciously like sectarian insignia, hanging from the ceiling. It is only the sight of a black man that reassures me this isn't an official BNP headquarters. When passing it, the most notable thing about this pub was always that it seemed to be advertising a St George's Day celebration - all year round.

The pub does immediately have one thing going for it - a pool table. I get myself an Amstel (no real ale here, real ale is for queers), sit down and plot assimilating by sticking a pound on the table and showing off my not inconsiderable cue skills. Just then any thoughts of blending in are scuppered by my friend walking in. Top tip! If you're looking to not stand out at such a place don't invite your 65 year old, cravat and shorts wearing, gay actor mate, Steven.

Sitting on one of four black pleather sofas we take in our surroundings. The floors are wooden - excellent for any plans on vomiting. The bar looks as if it may have been made in plywood and coloured in with black felt tip for someone's GCSE Craft, Design and Technology course work. On the television is an ITV gameshow with the sound off. On the jukebox (tick!) is the kind of imitation Doris Day 1950s warbling I thought had died out completely. There's a couple of fruit machines and a couple of those roulette machines you get in these kind of pubs which have a slot for money going in, but worryingly, don't appear to have one for money coming out. Next to the pool table is a large framed picture of a darts team. Confusingly, there is no darts board.

There's a slight menace in the air but the overwhelming tone is one of depression. The fact that it's only 5 o'clock, but dark outside, may have something to do with that. Alternatively, it could just be that everyone in there has just been turned down for a new liver.

Although I'm happy with my Amstel, my friend's Guinness looks a little sad and foamy - giving the impression no one's ordered one here since the mid nineties. We get up to leave and thank the bar maid. Another lady, who's been sat drinking Pernod on a bar stool the whole time, thanks us for our custom. That's what I like to see - the landlady getting pissed on a Tuesday afternoon. It's enough to make me think of making a return sometime soon.

Our next stop is The Red Lion on Walworth Road. This place has always been more noticable thanks to it's larger size and the permanent presence of smokers outside. One of my requirements for a good pub is for it to have at least a couple of old alcoholic men sat at the bar. This place was exclusively populated by them. As soon as we approach the bar, one of them calls the landlady, 'Mary', over. Community spirit - all very encouraging. The first negative comes when I realise my pint of Kronenberg fucking reeks. Seriously, it smells worse than what I imagine I'd discover the green carpet smells like if I was to stay for a few more and face plant myself into the ground.

Credit where credit is due though, Steven's Guinness is in much better shape than what the Nag's Head gave him. Resigned to drinking a pint of sweat, I again take in our surroundings. On the bar, and actually facing the bar staff is a bust of a red lion - as if to remind them where they work. On the television is Sky Sports - At The Races (good sign). With a Ladbrokes and an Iceland opposite you can see that this place forms part of a holy triangle, providing the regulars with everything they need. A chalk board advertises this Saturday's live music - 'Finbarr and Bernie'. With the alphabet against him, how Finbarr managed to wangle top billing, I'm not sure.

Of the two pubs, on first impressions, this place comes in second. It is an Irish pub, which is always a positive, but it's a bit too roomy for my liking. I feel like I'm in the lobby of a hotel in the train station of a minor Northern town. Actually, that sounds quite good. Perhaps it's the lighting that's the problem - it's too bright. Rather than just getting a general, comforting air of shared depression I can see right into the faces of the miserable clientele. Looking at them, I can tell exactly what it was that made Sandra leave them.

And that, I'm afraid is the problem with both these joints - they're too depressing. I still love shit pubs but these two fell below a line I wasn't sure I had. This was meant to be a helpful celebration of dirty boozers but, if anything, you could say I've been unhelpful to their cause. I have not lost hope though - the search continues! Any recommendations of decent London locals I can assess in the future are very welcome.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

My chicken balti nightmare.

One night, when I was doing regular stand up, I found myself in Bradford for the evening. One of my main problems as a stand up, other than a fundamental lack of talent or a work ethic, was that I couldn't drive. This meant that, when the last train wasn't late enough, I'd find myself staying in the town where the gig was held.

This particular gig paid £150. Once my agent had their cut I think that came to about £127. Then after a high train fare (thanks Obama) and a hotel room, I was left with about £20. Pointless. I told myself I was doing these gigs for the experience, and not just the experience of doing stand up - I wanted to get something out of every place I visited.

Trundling back to the hotel at about 10pm I decided that, being in Bradford, tonight's experience had to be curry. I got a take away menu from the front desk and ordered a chicken balti. Twenty minutes later, I was at a Holiday Inn hotel room desk eating curry and watching Newsnight. The dream.

Quick side note - Bradford has a Holiday Inn. That would imply that people holiday in Bradford. Now, Bradford has much to offer - curry, the National Media Museum... curry, but I'm not sure there's too many families agonising over whether to go back to Tenerife next summer or to splash out on a fortnight at Holiday Inn Express Bradford City Centre. They didn't even have a Kids Club!

So there I was munching on my balti and it was delicious. I mean, it really was. This was worth the trip alone, I thought to myself whilst calculating that the curry now meant that a gig that was to take me 24 hours in total would earn me roughly £8. I was developing a rhythm. I was attacking that curry with far more gusto than I had my set that night. One mouthful went in and, as I chewed it, my fork immediately went down to collect the next mouthful. Up, down, up, down. I was inhaling that fucking thing and it just kept on going. The little tray container seemed to be a tardis. How had they packed quite so much curry in there? It was so goddamn compact!

I noticed that Newsnight seemed to be winding up. Hang on. Isn't Newsnight 45 minutes long? Have I been eating curry, literally non stop, for 45 minutes? I think I fucking have. I seem to be only half way through. I need to stop. It is vitally important that I stop eating curry RIGHT FUCKING NOW.

I went over to the bed to watch a DVD on my laptop and take my mind off the curry. With the sweats and accompanying self hatred rising up that wasn't easy. I got up again and put what was left of my meal outside the hotel door. Out of sight, out of mind. But of course it wasn't out of mind. Nothing could change the fact that for 45 minutes straight I'd done nothing but swallow curry and watch interviews with junior government ministers.

Right. I need to sleep. Let's have a sleep and deal with the consequences in the morning. Sleep wasn't going to be easy though. Not with 5,000 grams of sugar and oil attacking my body like an alien inside John Hurt. Nytol! Have I brought some Nytol? Yes! Yes, I have! Right. I popped one in, started watching an episode of 30 Rock, and waited for the wonder of over the counter medicine to sing me to sleep.

Some time later I woke up from the most frightening nightmare I have ever had. How much time, I don't know. It could have been 10 minutes, it may have been a couple of hours. The menu screen of the DVD was playing a short clip of the 30 Rock theme tune on a loop. My body was drenched in sweat and my mind was trying to comprehend the images it had just thrown at me. I felt like I was in a Vietnam War movie. I was severely distressed.What exactly happened in my nightmare I'm not sure. All I remember is that it ended with me shooting my brother in the face through a vinyl record.

This is what I imagine a bad trip is like. I can state with complete certainty that that chicken balti gave me a more intense experience than any drug I've ever taken. I still get chicken balti flashbacks from time to time. Just say no, kids.