We follow the same routine as yesterday. Dolores gets up at 8:45 and makes tea* and we troll downstairs for breakfast at 9:15.
The breakfast room isn’t that busy again. Which is good news. At the Tavistock hotel you regularly have to queue up to get in.
I go for the same grease combination as always. Though with an extra serving of bacon. You can never have too much bacon. Over the other side of the table Dolores is silently disagreeing with her shamefully bacon-free plate.
We’ve a plan for today. Quite a cultural one. Making our first visit to Tate Modern. Dolores noticed that there was an exhibition on about Soviet design. Posters and that short of stuff. I love me a good socialist poster.
In previous years I’ve mostly sat in the pub nursing a pint or two and reading the paper, while Dolores did the museum stuff on her own. Not just because I enjoy sitting in pubs, but also because she wanted to visit exhibitions that weren’t really down my street. Like old shoes. Not into that. But if there’s a chance of seeing pictures of Stalin, count me in.
We plan on taking the tube to Southwark. It’s only when we’re down on the platform at King’s Cross that I realise the Northern Line doesn’t go to Southwark. Damn. My tube knowledge isn’t what it was.
“We’ll have to get off at London Bridge and walk from there.” I tell Dolores. “It’s an interesting walk, anyway.” Especially as it passes the site of the Barclay Perkins brewery. I don’t mention that last bit to Dolores. She’s pig sick of hearing about Barclay Perkins, hence the name of the blog.
It’s all very modern at London Bridge station now. I was here last year for the first time in ages and couldn’t recognise it at all. Is it an improvement? Well, it couldn’t be much worse. It was a pretty crappy station. I always tried to avoid it, if possible.
Borough Market is something else that’s changed quite a bit. There’s a new glass bit on the front that looks a bit out of place. Bigger and posher than I remember it. It’s basically a posh food court now. Dolores hasn’t been here for a decade or two.
“Oh look, Dolores. They’ve got German bread.” Several stalls do in fact.
“Yes and look at the price. Plus it would be stale by the time I got it back home.” Dolores does love her sourdough rye bread. I remember the look of horror on her face when she first saw British bread. She ended up making her own when we lived in Swindon.
“Oh look, Dolores. They’ve got German sausages. Made by German butchers, in Germany.”
“Are you going to say that every time we pass a stall with something German?”
It doesn’t take us long to thread our way through the market. We pop out the other side next to Southwark Cathedral. Dolores fancies taking a look inside. Why not? It is free.
It’s not the biggest of churches. Probably smaller than Newark parish church. But it’s pleasant enough, in a churchy sort of way. A few of the windows have stained glass. The others were probably blown out during the war. Southwark was bombed quite heavily during the war because of all the warehouses. Including the ones where a third of the 1940 hop crop went up in flames.
At the alter end there are what looks like a combination of several school choirs rehearsing. Some Christmas thing, I suppose. But we can’t wait to hear them sing. Lots of other stuff to do. We leave and continue our walk along the river.
“Look there’s a Viking ship.” I say as we approach the Golden Hind. In joke, that. “The ship Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world in. Well, a copy of it.”
“It’s not very big, is it? Where did everyone sleep?” Dolores wonders.
“Could you imagine sailing around the world in that?”
“No. I’m surprised they didn’t all kill each other.”
It’s quite a windy day, which makes walking on the river embankment extra fun. Though we do get a good view of St. Pauls as a reward for our hardiness.
Once inside Tate Modern were a bit puzzled as to where to go next. The main hall is basically a whole load of empty space, with a few swings for the kids. It’s a nice idea having somewhere for children to play, but it does take up an awful lot of space.
“That’s a bit of a waste.” Dolores observes.
We have plenty of time to stare at the wasted space as we wait in the queue to buy tickets. It takes a while. It doesn’t help that only about half of the positions are occupied.
“They’ve a nerve – saying that the price is £13.30, or £11.30 without a donation. Defaulting to you making a donation.” Dolores doesn’t like being forced into things. I think it’s something to do with having grown up in a dictatorship.
“Do you have to say something to avoid donating?”
“Yes. Don’t worry, I will.”
The exhibition is in the Blavatnik Building, the recently added extension. Entering, there are raw concrete pillars that don’t even look finished.
“It’s an industrial building isn’t? That’ll be why it looks like that.”
“No, this bit wasn’t part of the power station, it’s brand new.” Dolores looks unimpressed. I don’t blame her. All the bare concrete looks shit. The whole of the interior is the same, giving it the charm of a 1960’s bus station.
Dolores particularly likes the examples of airbrushing. Where a photo starts out with a crowd and ends up with just Stalin standing by himself, like Billy Nomates. Except he was really Billy Deadmates.
Speaking of which, most disturbing is the section entitled Ordinary People. It’s a table covered with photographs of random Soviet citizens who were killed during the Terror. Pull out a draw and you can read of their sad fates. All off them arrested and killed on false charges. Must have been a barrel of laughs living under Stalin. Even if you fitted in and kept your head down you could still end up dead.
At least the posters are bright and (mostly) cheerful.
While I’m waiting for Dolores to emerge from the toilet, I stare out of the window. At first I think the building opposite, with all its glass, is an office. Then I realise it’s flats. I’d mistaken the sleek, modern seating for office furniture. You can right inside some of the living rooms. Not what I’d want at all. It’s pretty crazy to have a glass-walled living room in the centre of London. Asking for trouble.
The Blavatnik looks much better from the outside. An interesting shape, good texture. I hate to say this, but I quite like it. Still think the inside looks like crap.
We passed The Anchor on the way down and I suggest we drop in for a beer.
It’s mobbed. We wander through the various rooms in search of a seat and eventually spot some people about to leave. Dolores quickly nabs the spot and I trundle over to the bar for drinks. It’s a pretty unimpressive choice: Greene King IPA, London Glory, Old Speckled Hen and something called Anchor Bitter.
As there’s no indication on the pump clip as ask the barman: “Which brewery is it from?”
“I don’t know. I’ll ask and come over and tell you.”
When we’re a couple of sips in, the barman comes over and says: “Greene King.” What a surprise.
It seems like everywhere is run by Greene King now. The Friend at Hand, the Museum Tavern and now here.
“It’s getting to be like the days of the Big Six, when most of the pubs were owned by a handful of breweries.” I tell Dolores.
A group of six of seven Swedes are crushed around a small table close to us. They wrap up in preparation for leaving.
“They should barely need coats. Swedish weather is much worse than this.”
“That’s because you’re English. Everyone on the Continent wears appropriate clothing in the winter.”
The beer not being very inspiring, I suggest that we move on to the London Porter. To get there we walk down Park Street.
“Loads of streets in London have changed names. Like this one. It used to be called Deadman’s Place. I can’t understand why they changed it.”
“Or Gropecunt Lane. There really did use to be a street called that.”
“It’s where the prostitutes hung out. You have to admit that it’s to the point.”
A couple of people are looking at the Haynau plaque. I take a snap, though I’m pretty sure I already have a picture. I explain to Dolores that he was an Austro-Hungarian general notorious for bloodily suppressing the 1848 revolution. In 1850, he visited the Barclay Perkins brewery, then a big tourist attraction. The draymen recognised him and beat the shit out of him.
“Draymen were usually big, muscular men. And alcoholics, seeing as they drank all day. It was a plum job.”
We pass the last remaining remnant of Barclay Perkins, a pair of 18th-century houses, which used to be occupied by brewers. One still has a fading “Take Courage” sign painted high on a wall. It brings a tear to my eye.
The Market Porter is also mobbed. Not a seat to be had. Though there is one table hidden behind a pillar only occupied by a half-empty pint. When no-one returns after a few minutes, we sit there.
I get myself an Old Ale of some description and a Harvey’s Sussex Best for Dolores. She asked for a nice Bitter and they don’t come much nicer than that.
Pointing at the half-empty glass, Dolores says: “It looks like the same beer you’re drinking.”
“No, it can’t be. Look at the head – it hasn’t changed all the time we’ve been sitting her. It must be Guinness.” Scarily, the head remains exactly the same during the time it takes us to knock back two pints each.
We see the Swedes standing outside. What are they doing? Drinking coffee.
“That’s not very Swedish.” Actually, it is. Swedes drink loads of coffee. But there’s a perfectly good pub here. I sometimes forget that not everyone is as big a pisshead as me.
I noticed a few days ago on the internet that the Parcel Yard had cask Golden Pride. Never had that before. I suggest that we get the Northern Line back to Kings Cross and nip in there for a quick pint. Dolores gives my plan the nod and off we go.
As we’re walking towards the Parcel Yard we notice a crowd of people queueing up. What are they doing? Waiting for their turn to be photographed in front of the sign for platform 9¾. This Harry Potter thing has got totally out of hand.
I’m disappointed when I get to the bar. The Golden Pride is gone. Dolores is happy enough: there’s London Pride.
No point hanging around for more than one. We’ve not eaten in a while and decide to drop in the Euston Flyer on the way back to the hotel for a pie and a pint.
Another crowded pub, but we do manage to find a table for two.
“Do you have 1845?”
“A pint of London Pride and a pint of ESB then.” Damn. They used to sell 1845.
Dolores has fish and chips with her pint. I swop my mash for her chips. See how complementary we are?
We nip in the Waitrose in the Brunswick for some hotel beer. I’m glad to find some crafty stuff as it’s high ABV. I’m not going to drink it for the taste, obviously. It all tastes like muck. Just for all that alcoholy goodness.
The evening passes with telly, beer and some pointless wading through the sewer that is the internet. And holding my nose as I gulp down some crafty filth.
* If you’re thinking this is sexist, I’ll point out that I bring Dolores a cup of tea in bed every weekday morning.
34 Park St,
London SE1 9EF
Tel: +44 20 7407 1577
The Market Porter
9 Stoney St,
London SE1 9AA.
Tel: +44 20 7407 2495
The Parcel Yard
London N1C 4AH
Tel: +44 20 7713 7258
The Euston Flyer
83-87 Euston Rd,
London NW1 2RA.
Tel: +44 20 7383 0856
Always had an itch to write - *Pub just off Old Street, where I occasionally drankwhen I worked around the corner in the 1990s for a magazine that you would get free in WH Smith if y...
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