Sunday, 18 March 2018

London by train

This is exciting. I’ve never gone to the UK by train before.

I don’t have to rise that early. My train is just after nine. A lie in, compared to my workday routine.

Trying to zip up my main bag is a challenge. Resolved mostly by Dolores. Totally by Dolores, really. Unless you count unhelpful suggestions.

I transfer some contents to the bag containing my laptop. Did I accidentally leave a gold bar in it? So heavy it makes my wrist ache. Despite the offloading, my trolley bag still feels as if it’s concealing a baby rhino. But at least it’s closed. It’s going to be fun hunking that around.

I’ve taken the shuttle through the tunnel when me and Mikey went to Folkestone, but never the Eurostar. They’ll be running direct trains to Amsterdam from London next month. But the other way you’ll still need to change in Brussels as they haven’t arranged the international treaty required. At least that’s what they say.

My journey is even more complicated than that. The Benelux train isn’t runnng as far as Amsterdam, currently. I need to change in Rotterdam and Brussels. Making it a much longer journey than necessary. As usual, the train is mobbed, despite being in the first carriage. I dread to think what it’s like further back.

I’ve come prepared. Sandwiches I made this morning and a few cans I picked up yesterday in Ton Overmars. They don’t have a great can selection, but it’s better and cheaper beer than I’d find in the station. I’ve got three cans of Stone Arrogant Bastard and a couple of their other beers. I crack the first Bastard as we pull out of Schiphol.

There’s a bit of hanging around at Rotterdam Centraal. Not been here much since it was rebuilt. At least it has a full roof now, which is an improvement. Luckily, my connection is on the same platform. Did another rhino sneak into my bag when my back was turned?

I crack the second Bastard as we emerge from the tunnel under the Maas. It’s good to see the back of Rotterdam, dump that it is. Having lived in the city, I feel I’m qualified to say that. Perhaps I’m a little harsh.

On reflection, no, I’m not.

I haven’t too long to wait in Brussels, though I do need to check in and have my bags X-rayed. Now where’s my ticket and passport?

“Is this someone’s?” one of the security guards asks holding up my ticket and passport. I’ve left them in the tray. Now there’s stupid. I really should know better, given how much I travel.

I wait until we’re clear of the Brussels suburbs before popping the third and final Bastard. Brewed in Berlin, obviously. I’ve no idea how closely it resembles the San Diego version as I’ve never drunk that. It’s pleasant enough in an Americaney hoppy sort of way.

It’s weird when we pop out of the tunnel. Partly because we don’t stop in Folkestone. But also because I’ve never been on a train going genuinely high speed in the UK before. I open a Stone mocha Stout thing to celebrate. Eventually, they’ll have a high speed network in the UK. Just when the first skin of ice is starting to form over hell.

I’m walking to my hotel, as it’s only 10 or 12 minutes away from St. Pancras. But my luggage is quite heavy. Those rhinos are now the happy parents of twins.

I need to pause for breath. Where better than the Euston Flyer? I have to walk right past. It is bad luck to pass an open pub, after all. I have a quick pint of ESB. Very nice it is, too. No time to linger, though. I’ve people to meet and beer to drink.

I really love the oddness of St Pancras New Church. With a sort Greek temple thing going on. And the female statues acting as pillars.  There are a couple of weird statues in front of its Euston Road side. I think they fit in quite well. Not sure why. Maybe because the church itself is a bit strange.

I don’t do much more than check in and dump my bags. I’m relieved. They now drag at my arms as if a third generation of rhinos has arrived. I shouldn’t have brought all that cheese. Though the beer is quite heavy, too. Those Brewery Yard bottles are like exercise clubs.

Time to tube.

Changing at Green Park, I regret my choice of route. There’s a walk of three or four miles between the Piccadilly line and Northern Line platforms. This is what happens when you don’t travel regularly by tube. You get sucked in by seemingly simple routes, not realising you’ll be a tomb raider, navigating endless underground passageways, hoping eventually to reach the treasure of your connecting train.

When I lived in London, I knew which connections to avoid. I’m a local no more.

Emerging from Old Street tube, I’m confused. Which way is it? Doesn’t help that there are no street signs on any of the roads. I walk a random direction and look at the name of the first side street. Which I look up in my A to Z*. Brill. I picked the right way.

I used to work not far from here. In that arms factory. I can’t recognise anything. It was all a very long time ago. 1979, to be precise. The first time I lived in London. Happy days. No. not really. I was glad to get away.

It’s raining when I get to the Artillery Arms. A compact, dark wood sort of place, bustling with punters. Never been here before, but it seems a decent pub. With, like most Fullers pubs, a pub theme. I quite like pubs that look, smell and feel like pubs.

I’m the first. The others arrive when I’m a few sips into my ESB. Mike Siegel and a crew from Goose Island in Chicago and ABI people from the UK. Plus Derek Prentice and Hugo Anderson, both London brewers. Derek worked at Trumans, Youngs and Fullers before his current gig at Wimbledon. Hugo is now retired after a career at Watney.

I chat with Hugo about Watney beers and all the ullage they contained. He’s remarkably upfront and upbeat about it. “We never brewed a drop of Star Light.” No wonder it had such a great reputation. Look it up on the internet.

Hugo has a big, old-fashioned suitcase. In it are two Reid’s Porter brewing books. I’m a bit nervous when he puts them on a table, in the near presence of pints. I wouldn’t want them getting damaged.

Looking through the logs with Derek and Hugo is a great experience. After a while I realise something. The 1820 one is in the same format as the later Reid records I have, from the 1840’s through to the 1870’s. But the 1837-38 they have at the Westminster City Archives is completely different, like a Truman’s or old BP log. It can’t be Reid. Who could it be? Anyone but Reid, Meux, Barclay Perkins, Whitbread or Truman. Combe, perhaps?

On the way over to where we’ll dine, we nip into the yard of the former Whitbread brewery. And gaze up towards the awesome wonder of the Porter Tun Room, where massive vats of Brown Beer used to ripen. But which we can’t really see, save for an odd glimpse through a high window.

Sad brewing ended here after a few centuries. Never got to taste any beer from it myself, even though I was drinking when it closed in 1974.

Our destination has a slight Whitbread connection. Well, quite a big one, really. It’s the former brewery tap, now called The Jugged Hare. Should I ever get my time machine working, it’s one of the places I’ll be drinking Porter. A brewery tap being about the only place I’d trust wasn’t fucking with the beer.

We sit in the restaurant and order ourselves the house Bitter. It’s on the cloudy side. But who knows if that’s a fault nowadays or not? And just because a beer isn’t fined, doesn’t mean it should be cloudy. Brewed right, beer will drop bright. If you’re patient.

John Hall, Goose Island’s founder, trundles in after a while. He’s always good fun. And a really nice bloke. We eat a little and drink rather more. Beer is such a social drink.

We finish in the Ye Olde Mitre, off Hatton Garden. Not that far from where the Reid brewery was located. Another Fullers pub, this time hidden down an alleyway. It’s pretty full, but we manage to squeeze into the public bar. What to drink? ESB seems like a good idea. I’ve been drinking it most of the day.

I don’t stay out too late. Busy day tomorrow.

* A sort of analogue Google map, printed on paper and bound as a book. Each page contains a map of a small section of London. Taken as a whole, it forms a street map of all London. An index allows you to locate a street, not just by page, but by a section of a page.

The Euston Flyer
83-87 Euston Rd,
London NW1 2RA
Tel: +44 20 7383 0856

Artillery Arms
102 Bunhill Row,
London EC1Y 8ND.
Tel: +44 20 7253 4683

The Jugged Hare
49 Chiswell St,
London EC1Y 4SA.
Tel: +44 20 7614 0134

Ye Olde Mitre
1 Ely Pl,
London EC1N 6SJ
Tel: +44 20 7405 4751

Goose Island paid for my travelling expenses to London and for quite a lot of food and drink while I was there.


Alan said...

I trust you were acting on a project as a consultant so the disclosure is a bit misleading. I just hope you got paid more, as much as anyone else on the team.

antrog65 said...

I have indeed googled Star Light and the results page has had me laughing my head off without opening any to read fully!
I certainly won't be using my time machine to go back to taste that.