The Thatched House (Upney) 2 x ½ Strongbow, ½ John Smith’s Smooth £4.45
After walking for miles around Becontree and spouting incredible amounts of tosh, we eventually got back to the serious business of visiting tube stations and pubs. Although, music still seemed to be following us in one sense or another, as Upney station rather remarkably had the Overture from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro bursting gloriously out of its speakers as we walked through the station building.
Ok let’s be honest here. None of us could actually remember the name of it, or that it was even Mozart, but I did record a voice note reminding myself to “Google the music from the start of Trading Places” when I got home.
We left the station suitably uplifted and went in search of The Harrow. Ten minutes later we were deflated once more, having found nothing, and been told by a helpful local “Yes, it used to be up there, but it’s been shut for four years”. Yet more evidence of the horrific fragility of our research methods. Eventually we were guided about three quarters of a mile in the other direction to find The Thatched House, a large pub sitting in the shadow of the A12 flyover which was conspicuously lacking in actual Thatch. It did have a fish stall and a mini cab office right outside though, so I guess you would never want for a pot of jellied eels and a ride home.
The pub inside was unremarkable in every way, two pool tables down one side, an absolutely bog standard range of beer, exposed brickwork or mirrors everywhere, and a fine mix of bad carpet and cheap wood flooring. They did have a stage area though, plus adverts declaring “Historic Moments, Live this May!” It’s always good to keep your gig schedule up to date.
Somehow, after the huge walk and detour we had taken to get here, we felt like we deserved better. We didn’t linger, and even resisted the lure of a pot of whelks on the way out.
The Barking Dog (Barking) ½ Butcombe Blonde, ½ Everards Sunchaser, ½ Exmoor Gold £2.85
After two testing, arduous treks through suburbia, we finally found another pub that was right next door to the station – even if it was another Wetherspoons. In fact, there was very little to differentiate this one from the Lord Denham that we had visited earlier in the day, perhaps apart from the lack of a Stannah Stairlift in this one. Other than that, the seating area, the TV screens, the carpet, the cocktail offers and even the people all seemed to be exactly the same as before.
One thing that we were glad was the same was the quality of the beer. JDW was continuing to impress me with both the range, and the standard of their ale. We decided that golden beers were the order of the day here (it being summertime), and it has to be said that the Exmoor Gold was our clear favourite here. At £2.85 for three halves, The Barking Dog leaped very close to the top of our leader board for super cheap beer. “It’s nice to get a good, cheap beer from a well kept cellar” said our notes, which is probably as close as I’ve ever come to complimenting the chain.
MINI-INTERLUDE: Conversations from the frontline regarding Fantasy Rock Bands
Some would say that when it comes to pub chat, you can never talk too much rubbish, but I think we may have disproved that theory during the course of this huge musical argument. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), having a Dictaphone stuck on record means you have a permanent note of every golden nugget or random inanity that is uttered. We thought it was worth offering just a few of our ‘outtakes’ from the conversations, which may give you a bit of a view into just how random the male mind can be….
Keith and Jamie discuss Guitarists:
JW “Good God! How can we possibly not have mentioned Eddie Van Halen yet?”
KL “You know why”
“Giant hair and spandex. Same reason we can’t have anyone from Kiss.”
Jamie gets grumpy about possible National bias from his Welsh colleagues:
“Come on, who are the greatest front men that are rocking around today? And DON’T give me Kelly Jones from the Strereophonics.”
Gareth gets lost between reality and the world of the “Rockumentary”:
“I think we need David St Hubbins from Spinal Tap for our front man. In fact when it comes down to it, we probably need Nigel Tufnell as our lead guitarist. Christopher Guest is a Peer of the Realm for Christ’s sake.”
Gareth wants to expand the band further:
GW “What about piano player? We haven’t got a piano player yet!”
JW “Jools Holland”
“What, for the Alive Band?”
“What do you think?”
GW “Rick Wakeman”
KL and JW “Hahahahahahahahahah.”
GW “But he was in a rock band!”
JW “From Yes?”
KL “Aren’t we going a little off piste here?”
GW “I’m just thinking that if we are going to have a true Supergroup, surely we need to cover every instrument that’s played”
JW “Oh sure, we might as well have a Saxophonist as well – Clarence Clemons, there you go”
GW “He’s alive. Dammit, we need a dead saxophonist!”
KL “The Bird. Just take Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, he’s close enough”
Two gentlemen prove that JW’s concerns about Welsh bias were unfounded:
JW “We touched on live backing singers before. Where did we get to?”
KL “Me and your brother have talked about this, and it’s going to be Katherine Jenkins, Charlotte Church, and Duffy, with a reserve of Bonnie Tyler.”
More backing singers:
GW “Surely Annie Lennox has got to be up there too?”
JW “I’ll give you that. But Houston and Carey would be killed before they got anywhere near my band. As would Dion.”
“No, the Sealion.”
“Oh, I thought you meant Warwick. She’s dead anyway.”
“She’s not dead, she’s Whitney Houston’s aunt!”
“I thought Burt Bacharach did a big obituary for her when she went?”
“Hey, Burt Bacharach could be our live pianist!”
It’s an impressive level of insight, clarity of thought, and general music knowledge, I think you will agree. Incidentally, Gareth West would like to apologise unreservedly to Dionne Warwick who, at the time of writing, is alive and well, and preparing to play the Siam Pavalai Auditorium in Bangkok on December 20th. They love her in Thailand.