Monday, 22 February 2016

My friend got punched.

Mate. Remember I was doing all those reviews of London's shittest pubs? Well, that came to what was in hindsight a foreseeable conclusion a couple of weeks ago when my friend got punched in the mouth. There are a number of ways in which one can introduce their own face to someone else's fist... having a saucy affair, wearing the wrong football shirt, standing up for civil rights in 1960's Mississippi. My friend chose none of those. I don't think either of us foresaw what would bring about his downfall. What my friend did was make the mistake of calling someone Suggs.

We'd been to a non league football match earlier in the day. One of my gripes with modern football is that you are not allowed to drink alcohol in view of the pitch. You have to wait till half time for a pint, just like children. When will the nanny state learn that we can damn well look after ourselves? At non league football it's different. You can stand and watch the game, pint in hand, like some kind of German. What I hadn't accounted for was that that means by the time the match is over, you will be approaching your government advised weekly unit intake.

Then the pair of us went to a pub to carry on our drinking like we were on an underpopulated stag do. After a few games of pool I think I was under the misapprehension that I was 'drinking myself sober'. When we lost possession of the pool table it occurred to me that I knew another pub nearby with pool facilities. I'd only been there once before, on a Tuesday afternoon, but I saw no reason why it couldn't serve our purposes - drinking, cue sports and a rapidly deteriorating standard of conversation.

The pub in question was The Nag's Head on Camberwell Road. Regular readers may remember my first trip there which is documented here. On that occasion I was a sober man with my wits about me popping in for a quick drink on a Tuesday afternoon with the sole purpose of writing about the place. Now it was a boozy Saturday night and both I and the pub were entirely different beasts.

At first we seemed to assimilate pretty well. Our cue skills were still operational and we quickly got possession of the pool table. A succession of minor characters from The Bill stuck a pound on the table, challenged one of us to a game and came undone. These are nice people, we thought. They may not dress, talk or read Owen Jones like us but when you play them and beat them at their own game then they respect you. I felt like the Raj. But what I hadn't spotted was that at least one of them was planning a rebellion.

On the lead up to the moment that defined the evening I'm unsurprisingly a little hazy. I was sat down while my mate played pool with two girls who looked like they'd been in a scrap or two and a guy who looked like he's been in a scrap or two that very day. I wasn't concerned though, we'd shared in some bantz, we'd earned their respect. Then my senses, however numbed, picked up on a change in atmosphere. I don't think we'd done anything specifically wrong. There was just something about our demeanour which suggested we felt like we belonged and the guy in the group wanted to correct us.

I could see my friend bantering away and although I was sure he was being entirely harmless I felt it was time for us to leave. I hadn't anticipated what the trigger would be for what I feared might happen - in reply to something the guy said, my friend came out without an innocuous ''alright Suggs'.

The red mist hit and bop went his fist onto my friend's mouth. I quickly noticed a couple of things. Firstly, my immediate instinct was to do everything I could to avoid getting hit myself. I didn't do what many men would do, possibly the majority, and pile in in anger at what had befallen my friend. No, my survival instincts told me to stand up and DEESCALATE. The other thing I noticed was that the villain did indeed look like a 25 year old Suggs.

As it happened, by the time I got to my friend who was just a few steps away, the situation was completely under control. Suggs had already been escorted from the building. This was a pub which had seen some fights in it's time and knew exactly how to handle it. We were held in the pub for 15 minutes to avoid any kind of clash with Suggs out on the streets - undoubtedly his domain. My friend was understandably shaken and rather galled. The landlady got him a glass of water and said a sorrowful "well, you won't two won't come back now". "No, of course we will!" we lied.

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