Grooving at The Griffin. Horror at High Barnet

Day 4 cntd (10th Jan 2009)

Winters (West Finchley) 1 bt Peroni, 1 bt Corona, ½ John Smiths, 1 Port and Brandy £11.95

Hazel Smiles as the Pub Window Points Out What's Between JW's Ears

Hazel Smiles as the Pub Window Points Out What's Between JW's Ears

On to West Finchley, and another bloody Irish bar! Ok, so actually this one was pretty good. Much less of the dull and dusty furniture/dull and dusty customers, and not a racing post in sight. Instead there were bright(ish) colours and a decent atmosphere – a fairly happy buzz without being stupidly busy.

They did have – shock horror! – two handpumps on the bar, but both were off (slightly less surprising). The draught John Smith’s was mediocre, and our man from Scotland did his best to boost the average price of our rounds today by opting for a “medicinal” port and brandy. Poor lad must have wanted to keep the cold at bay. Bless.

Top bloke behind the bar too – didn’t get his name though which was typically shoddy work. He was more than happy to chat to us about anything and everything, and then proceeded to force shots of Goldschlager down our throats (forced us – honest!). In fact in our notes all it says is that we had “4 x Goldschlager – price unknown.” and I must confess that I don’t know whether this is because the kind man gave them to us gratis, or whether we had just ceased caring about the cost by this point. We may never know.

It should be said that most of the other standard features for this sort of bar were all present and correct – shop window style frontage with Irish script style signage, multiple big screens showing several different sports channels, an absolutely bog standard range of draught lagers, karaoke on a Saturday night, plus cheap Sunday lunches.

The Boys Practise Tight-Formation Walking at Woodside Park

The Boys Practise Tight-Formation Walking at Woodside Park

When all is said and done? Not the best bar of the tour, but certainly at the upper end of the Irish scale. But enough of such things – the end of another day is in sight. Party on.

 

Malt & Hops (Woodside Park) 2 x bt Tiger 1 x bt Corona ½ London Pride £10.55

Three guys and a gal. Battling against the odds. Battling against time. Battling against the elements. Braving the extreme cold to find a pub at Woodside Park – a North London wilderness that I don’t think any of us had been to before.

Luckily for us, the next stop on our Marathon gave us shelter and comfort in the shape of a much needed, roaring open fire. Toasty.

Welcome to the Malt & Hops, and a bloody good job it was too that they had that fire, because it was an absolute mission to get there from the station (Editor’s note – it is just possible that we are being slightly pathetic here, as it is officially less than half a mile away).

This is a proper pub – none of your fancy wine bar malarkey here: Pool table? Check. Big Screen Sports? Check.  Dart Board? Aye. Proper 50’s badly patterned wall paper? That’d be right. Extensive wine list and cocktail menu? Don’t be soft, lad.

It’s a big place, but wasn’t really that busy for 10pm on a Saturday. That could at least in part be down to the weather, but personally I think it probably had more to do with the extremely erratic jukebox (from the sublime to the ridiculously dull: David Bowie to The Cars). Still even the miserable sound of “Drive” wafting around the pub couldn’t take us away from the warming flames……

Seemingly three or four hours later, we woke up and realised that it wasn’t over yet. Destiny was calling once again, and what’s more, it was calling us to the Mecca that is Totteridge and Whetstone.

 

The Griffin (Totteridge and Whetstone) 1 Pint Bombardier, 1 Pint Heineken, 1 x bt Corona, 1 Pint Guinness £12.40

Surely Scott of the Antarctic couldn’t have had it any tougher? Although to be fair, he probably only had huskies instead of tube trains, and quite possibly no boozers at all to slake his thirst in. Poor sod.

Anyway, despite the continued wind chill factor, we were starting to feel just a little bit smug, since it was still only quarter past ten and we only had 2 pubs to go. In fact, when we wandered into The Griffin and discovered proper live music, we decided that perhaps we should pause for a bit, grab pints rather than halves and then hit the mosh pit for a bit of a dance.

One guitar, one bass guitar and a drum machine – that’s all you need to make a big noise in the Griffin it seems. Good stuff it was too, with a fine rendition of Livin’ On A Prayer being a particular highlight, accompanied by the sort of strangled-cat wailing that only drunk, middle aged people in a pub can really pull off. We joined in of course. I’m pretty sure Hazel was singing loudest, but then I think she always had a thing for Jon Bon Jovi. It was the hair, I expect.

What else can we say about The Griffin? Well not a lot really – we couldn’t see any of the decor, because we were too busy singing with our eyes closed. Great atmosphere – plenty of people in to support the band of course, but if you can’t pull a crowd on a Saturday night then you probably need to rethink your career options. The beer was in decent condition, and the bar staff had good hearing (they got the order right, despite the noise).

A very fine diversion all round, and we savoured the moment, took in the ambience, soaked up the atmosphere, and then proceeded to take a leisurely – Oh Christ! Is that the time?

   

The Red Lion (High Barnet) Denied! No Booze……

“Run! For God’s sake run! Where’s the bloody train? Which exit? Oh, come ooooooon……..”

What’s the old saying? Pride (or in this case just “smuggery”) comes before a fall. As we ran (or at least shuffled quickly) from the entrance to High Barnet across the road to The Red Lion, we could feel a rapidly growing sense of “Oh bugger. We’ve cocked up here”.

“It’ll be no problem, I expect they’ll be open till twelve anyway” I said with a casual confidence that I certainly didn’t feel.

Not a chance. The lady behind the bar looked at us half bored, half curious as she pointed to the clock and shook her head. That’s ok, we thought – a bit of explanation regarding our situation was bound to sort us out.

Yes indeed folks – we honestly thought at this point that explaining that this was something like the twentieth stop on an all day pub crawl was bound to change her mind and get us a lock in. As a last resort, I fluttered my eyelashes. Never fails.

“I’ll ask the boss” she said.  She then proceeded to walk casually up to the other end of the bar, look around a bit, talk to absolutely no one, before casually walking back again and finishing us off with “He says no”.  He said it with telepathy, I expect.

So there we were, crushed at the very end of the day, rueing the fact that we had become so engrossed in 80’s Dad Rock. At this point I got the call from my extremely kind wife, who, good as her word, had come to pick us up and take us away from this place.

We couldn’t review the decor in the pub this time – we couldn’t see through the tears in our eyes as we trudged dejectedly out to the car. No matter. We have to come back here anyway.

As we drove up the hill away from The Red Lion, Liz even suggested that maybe The Avenue was actually closer to the station than The Lion, giving us a momentary high that was brutally snuffed out when we found at that they were closed too.

We finally admitted defeat and drove on, the eerie silence in the car only broken by our man Liam, who was taking it personally, rocking backwards and forwards and muttering gently under his breath “We failed. We failed.”

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