Day 5 cntd (17th Jan 2009)
The Old Garage (Southfields) 2 x ½ Old Speckled Hen, 1x Pint Guinness £6.30
On to Southfields, and uncharted territory – for me anyway. We had company for the first time today – and what fine company it was too. Keith had spoken to his mate Dave Gardener at the last station and he had confirmed that the nearest pub was indeed The Old Garage, and that he would meet us there.
Dave was only meeting us for the one quick beer, but true to the spirit of our Guest Star guidelines, he kindly stumped up for the round. We supped our Speckled Hens and listened to our guest as he regaled me with tales of hop driven misbehaviour with Keith “back in the day”. Mysterious man that he is, any insight to his earlier years is to be highly valued…..
Thank God the company was good, because the pub was pretty bland. A typical Greene King pub, it was all wood panelling and big screen TVs, sofas that look comfy – but actually prove that looks can be deceiving – plus a seemingly endless parade of superchilled fonts on the bar. The drive to mask any sort of flavour in beer through temperature control continues – although one of those beers was a superchilled keg version of GK IPA, so anything that helps mask that flavour is probably a good thing.
Dave actually looked remarkably well, considering that he was a man who until recently was caught in the throes of a nasty case of pneumonia, and it certainly hadn’t affected his sense of humour. However, conscious that we didn’t want him to have any sort of relapse (he was drinking Guinness Cold after all), we thanked him again for his kindness and packed him off to warm up at home, and then prepared to continue our battle with South London public transport.
Wimbledon Park Social Club (Wimbledon Park) 1 x bt London Pride, ½ John Smiths, ½ Strongbow £6.30 (including guest fee!)
A second guest star in as many stations! Marvellous work, as we were met by Brian, another of Keith’s good friends. The difference between Brian and Dave on this day, was that Brian hadn’t been suffering from any major illnesses at this point, and so was confident he had the stamina to stick with us for the rest of the day.
We thought we were heading to The Woodman a couple of hundred yards away and around the corner on Durnsford Road – that is until Keith spied the majestic building just over the road from the station entrance that houses the Wimbledon Park Social Club. Well, perhaps majestic is the wrong word. Mr Lewis took it upon himself to try and blag us in to what is essentially a private members club, and surprised us all by being successful. Probably a good job two, since one of the reviews for The Woodman on abeerintheevening.com said that there had been a murder there just before Christmas. Yikes.
There was a pleasant young lady serving us – she was probably at least a generation younger than most of her punters I expect – but it was only after she served us our beers she sneakily mentioned that we needed to pay our guest subscription of £1.00 each. Outrageous! Still, it wasn’t even close to the most expensive round of the day. It’s a strange place, but it looks like it’s had a bit of a refurb recently – lots of light wood on the floor, bar, and furniture. Apparently there used to be a pool hall upstairs, but all that was left of that was a locked blue door to the side of the bar. A slightly odd experience awaited when I went to the loo – a tiny, one room Gents, with the door propped open by one of the bar’s stereo speakers. Interesting. Unless I wanted the barmaid to watch me, er, go, I had to move the speaker inside the loo before I could shut the door. Thank god there was nothing playing though – any man knows it’s not a good idea to dance while you pee.
The Hand and Racket (Wimbledon) 2 x ½ Olde Trip, ½ Abstinence £4.45
The Prince of Wales (Wimbledon) 2 x ½ Doom Bar, ½ Spitfire £3.80
We had a couple of options coming out of Wimbledon Station – and as usual, we managed to pick the wrong one. We strolled happily towards the Hand and Racket (Wombling Free, in fact), looking forward to some decent ale. We got it too, some tasty Hardy and Hansons Olde Trip – a nice pint, despite the fact that it is now brewed by Greene King. The pub itself was quite buzzy, it seemed to have lots of staff, and at least five big screens showing Sky Sports News around the bar. In true Credit Crunch fashion, it also helpfully offered “3 Bottles of Bud for £5!” as a promotion. No thanks. Thierry, the barman was a very happy chap, grinning as he watched us checking our A-Z and talking about our mission. Were we sure this was the nearest? It must be, surely.
With impeccable timing, he waited until he had taken the money for our beers before chuckling loudly and saying “Oh no, The Prince of Wales is definitely closer to the station than us”. Oh, how we laughed.
Beers supped, and bar staff thanked, off we Wombled back towards the station and out the other side. Yet again we used the foolproof method of stumbling along, muttering under our breath and counting the steps to accurately gauge the distances, and of course, the Prince of Wales was at least 30 paces closer.
This one (our second POW of the day) was another managed pub, owned by the Spirit Group rather than Greene King who own The Hand and Racket. Very, very ordinary inside, but pretty good where it counts – ie the beer. Doom Bar is always a pretty good pint, and it was especially fresh and tasty today, and the Spitfire was in fairly good nick too.
Clearly not all is Strawberries and Cream in Wimbledon at the moment, as The Prince of Wales was addressing the Credit Crunch as well. They had posters all over advertising a January Sale, where you could dine for £5 on some very standard looking pub grub type dishes. Enough. The beer was good, but not good enough to keep us here – we have a wintry walk ahead of us to get to South Wimbledon and the second leg of today’s mission.
Altogether now “Underground, Overground, Wombling Free…..”