A (Very) Brief History of Tooting Bec

Day 5 cntd (17th Jan 2009)

The Wheatsheaf (Tooting Bec) 2 x ½ Tetley, ½ Strongbow £4.25

Grumpy in Tooting Bec: KL and JW at The Wheatsheaf

Grumpy in Tooting Bec: KL and JW at The Wheatsheaf

Right then, history time again. Why is Tooting Bec called Tooting Bec? It seems like a silly name. Apparently, it comes from “The dwelling place of the sons of Tota” which is Saxon in its origin, along with the fact that the land was given to Bec Abbey in France after the Norman Conquest.

Far more interesting than this is the definition given by Douglas Adams in his literary masterpiece The Meaning of Liff (“the Dictionary of things that there aren’t any words for yet”). He describes the meaning of Tooting Bec as “The situation in which a driver sounds his or her horn at the car in front, only to discover that the car in front is actually parked”. Perfect.

So what wondrous drinking establishment would our weather-beaten trio find in this place? The Wheatsheaf, that’s what; a pub that can be best described as another tragic waste of a beautiful building (much like The Assembly Rooms in Kentish Town, in fact). The large corner doors give way into a cavernous interior with just a hint of Irish pub about it. When it is empty (and it was conspicuously empty on this Saturday night), your voice echoes round the room giving it all the buzz and atmosphere of a church hall. Everything about the pub is large – the bar is large and featureless, it has a large back room with pool tables in, there is a large stage for their live music nights,  and finally a large screen for all the necessary sporting events (according to abeerintheevening.com, these last two don’t always sit well together – there is a tale of a brawl starting when the sound of the Karaoke started to overwhelm the folk watching Man Utd Vs Barcelona in The Champions League).

Any redeeming features? Absolutely. They have a vending machine that not only sells olives and nuts, but also stretches to Minstrels and Cadbury Mini Eggs. Mmmm, smooth chocolate to help take away the taste of the Tetley’s.  Perhaps it’s worth giving The Wheatsheaf another chance, because it could/should be a great place, but then again if you can’t get punters in on a Saturday night then when are they going to come?


The Moon Under Water (Balham) 2 x ½ Pedigree, ½ Strongbow £3.20

Brian and JW Completely Disinterested in The Moon Under Water

Brian and JW Completely Disinterested in The Moon Under Water

We are clearly on a hot streak here – the recent record of venues goes: Irish pub, Irish bar, Irish pub, Wetherspoons, Irish pub, Wetherspoons.  That’s some serious diversity across our drinking venues.

What makes it all the more sad is that there are several really, really good pubs in Balham – The Bedford down the road is a big, lively pub with a longstanding comedy night, The Exhibit is a cracking bar with a lovely restaurant and a cocktail bar/cinema attached, and even Blithe Spirit just a few doors down has a bit of character to it.

But alas, it was not to be for this particular merry band, more JDW fun for us instead.  There is nothing I can possibly say about the Moon Under Water. Trust me; you’ve been there before – even if you’ve never been to Balham, you know exactly what this pub is like. It can’t even claim cheapest round like JJ Moon’s before it – I guess it must be that posh cider stuff pushing the overall price up.

We looked at each other, and suddenly found it difficult to find something to say. Dear God, we have to break free from this place! Please, please let Clapham South be interesting…. 


Gigalum (Clapham South) 2 x Corona, ½ Theakstons £8.80

Escaping the Authorities at Gigalum: Brian and JW make it Over the Fence

Escaping the Authorities at Gigalum: Brian and JW make it Over the Fence

Finally! No JDW, no Cead Mile Failte – just a proper independent bar. We desperately needed something different to shake the evening up, and thankfully we found it at Gigalum.

It’s a medium sized, informal, corner bar with a fantastic terrace area looking straight out over Clapham Common. Of course that did us no bloody good at all since it was still colder than a penguin’s beak outside, but nevertheless it looked like it would be a good spot for summer afternoon drinking. As it was we kept ourselves in the warm and sat by the bar, sipping away and taking in the buzzy ambience.

It has a simple but tasty looking food menu here, and the same could be said about the cocktail list – both are relatively short, have a mixture of stuff from around the world, and look fairly authentic. The bar was probably only two thirds full, although this may have been due to the fact that the resident DJs hadn’t kicked off yet, and anyway, everybody who was there seemed to be having a fairly good time already. Not least the group of ladies behind us who were in a huddle with one of the barmen, giggling loudly and peering into what looked like a cupboard built into one of the room’s pillars/partition walls.  Once they’d moved on, of course, curiosity got the better of us and we had to have a look too, which immediately got us into trouble, as another member of staff thought that we were trying to steal the music system that was hidden within. This would have been a highly impressive theft, seeing as it was playing some Chemical Brothers at the time, and I suspect people may have noticed.  Anyway, I think we should cry sexism here, because had we been giggly, hourglass shaped and blonde (as opposed to surly, barrel shaped and distinctly non-blonde), there clearly would have been no suspicion at all.

Oh well, no harm done, and we were released without charge. Very good bar in all, Gigalum, and certainly a huge improvement on most of the dross we had been subjected to in recent hours. And so we swept off into the night, heading for the delights of Clapham Common and beyond with renewed hope of interesting and varied drinking dens.

A Quality Bar, and Rugby Too: More Brownie Points for Gigalum

A Quality Bar, and Rugby Too: More Brownie Points for Gigalum


2 responses to “A (Very) Brief History of Tooting Bec

  1. Mrs West (Junior, Junior etc)

    I think you should stop having such a go about JDW, it was the only thing that got me through college! 69p a pint of scotch bitter meant that I put on 4 stone in 4 months and become the best number 8 that the college had ever seen!! Oh and of course it increased my brain power…x

  2. Cod’s wallop and ‘Bluff’, I say – Saxons called Tota, my arse. There has to be a better explanation than that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s