I get over to London several times a year, but I'd not been there with Dolores for yonks. Not her favourite place - a bit too noisy, smelly and dirty for her taste*. I thought I'd try to show her the better side of London. If you approach the old shit hole the right way, it's just a hole.
I could easily have filled every single minute of our stay with some beery assignation. But that would have been takling the piss. I'd promised Dolores a holiday, not a business trip.
What's the best approach to London? Don't try to cram in too much. And avoid the tube. Otherwise all you'll have is hours of Underground fun. See bugger all, apart from sorry looking fellow travellers, mumbling and dribbling on their books. Sorry, that's me. Mumbling and dribbling was my hobby, when a London commuter. And trudge through tunnel mazes. Definitely not my idea of a relaxing break. Do as much as possible on foot, is my advice. Go overground.
We were lucky to get to London at all. Flying in on 5th December - the day of the storm surge. Our early flight may have been bumpy, but it wasn't cancelled like most in the afternoon.
Being a bit early to check into out hotel, we went to the Euston Flyer, a modern, but comfortable Fullers pub on the Euston road for a bite to eat. And a pint or two. Dolores is a big fan of cask Bitter. Just as well, given the sort of pub I'm likely to drag her to. It's probably a defence mechanism. What do they call that? Something to do with Helsinki, isn't it? London Pride is right down her Strasse.
The price of the food was a shock. "Remember we're in London." I said. "And that you've been spoiled by Wetherspoons." I didn't say that last bit out loud.
She's a bit too accustomed to Wetherspoons prices. Because that's where we generally end up with the kids.
You try being in Britain with underage kids in search of a pub where:
- you can get a pint accompanied by kids
- you can get a pint of cask beer
- you can get a cheap pint of cask beer
- you can get a really cheap double whisky to go with that pint of cask beer
- you can all eat for a tenner
Understand we we're frequent frequenters of Wetherspoons?
We're frequently in 'Spoons in the lull time between between dinner and tea. When it's full of pensioners eating on the cheap. Reminds the kids of my dear old mum. Me too, if I'm honest. Who wouldn't love that?
After checking in we still had a few hours before the Beer Hacks' nosh up. Time to look in some shops. As the Tottenham Court wasn't far from the hotel, we had a wander down there. This is the first part of London I ever saw. This will sound really sad. Despite living just 120 miles to the north, I was 17 the first time I visited London. For an interview at the School of Oriental and African Studies. I didn't particularly want to study in London.
No, that's not quite right. I really didn't want to study in London. I understood the financial implications. The extra grant for London was nowhere near enough to make up for the higher cost of living in the capital. But I didn't have a choice. Because of what I wanted to study. Only a handful of universities offered Chinese.
The last chunk of Tottenham Court Road before you hit Euston Road is much like any British High Street. Or rather like British High Street used to be. Tottenham Court Road doesn't have any empty premises, charity shops or bookies. Rather too many coffee places and sandwich shops, but lots of proper shops, too. We pottered leisurely around a few, heading north.
I'll admit an ulterior motive here. True, I wanted to tempt Dolores with the Indian saucepots of Drummond Street. But in my head I'd also pencilled in a quick visit to the Bree Louise. Dolores was suitably impressed with the Indians. Especially the price. But Bree Louise . . .
I won't pretend her reaction surprised me. It is a bit stinky. I'd hoped she could overlook that, at least for a pint or two. If you're a regular, I guess you stop noticing.
I know the underlying problem. The pub is threatened with demolition for HS2, the new high-speed train line. The site is planned to be part of an expanded Euston Station. With the pub likely to be platform 24 in a few years, I can see why you wouldn't bother spending too much money on maintenance.
"People are eating here." Dolores said with a look of horror on her face.
"That's why I got a pie in the Euston Flyer."
I could have stuck it out for another couple of pints, but I was supposed to be showing Dolores a good time. "Look, there's a good time - over there." "Where?" "Sorry, you've missed it."
My reserve plan up played on the one true love of Dolores. Cider. She loves it even more than Mild. Being close to Euston, the Cider Tap was an obvious choice.
It wasn't very full. Just one bloke and the barmaid. A bit chilly, too, but I can live with that. I was wearing my Stalingrad coat.
While we sat staring at buses drive past, sipping our fermented apple juice, it started pissing it down. As good a reason as any to have a second cider. Well, we wouldn't want to get soaked, would we? When it had eased off enough for us to venture out, it was just about time to start getting ready for the dinner. Perfect timing.
There you have it. An afternoon of London fun without a traipse through the catacombs..
* Joke deleted by the censors.
83-87 Euston Rd,
London NW1 2RA.
Phone:+44 20 7383 0856
69 Cobourg St,
London NW1 2HH.
Phone: +44 20 7681 4930
The Cider Tap,
188 Euston Rd.
London NW1 2EF.