Day 11 cntd(29th August 2009)
Kirkdales (Leytonstone) 3 x ½ Scrumpy Jack £4.20
We made it to Leytonstone, happy that we were likely to find another bar very close to the station – all vital in our race against time to get to the gig. First though, we meandered gently along the station concourse and took in all the mosaics along the walls – 17 of them in total, all picturing Alfred Hitchcock films to commemorate the fact that the great man was born on Leytonstone High Road. 80,000 individual tiles and two years apparently – now that is a marathon effort.
From the outside, Kirkdales looked like some sort of faux Parisian bistro – all big green awnings and terrace tables outside (overlooking the beauty of Leytonstone station). Inside the decor was much more akin to the wine bar from the classic Only Fools and Horses scene – only in this one there were no customers, and thankfully none of us fell through the bar hatch. Mind you at least that would have made it interesting.
It was one of those great bar mysteries – a wine bar without a decent wine list, or indeed any decent drinks at all come to that. We drank Scrumpy Jack because the only alternative was flat looking Carlsberg. There were a couple of big TVs on the walls, as usual giving updates on the Premiership, and it had a concrete floor that added just the right level of cold blandness to make sure you didn’t want to come back. The barmaid was pleasant enough, but in all honestly, she looked as bored as we all felt. Essex/East London was testing us again – we needed to remain strong. We would not be broken by yet another dull pub or bar.
It seems like the rest of Leytonstone found it just as dull as we did, as there was a post on an East London What’s On website recently bearing the sad tidings, “Seems like Kirkdale’s has unfortunately bitten the dust. The way things are going there probably won’t be anything left in Leytonstone!”
We feel your pain my friend, but surely Kirkdale’s wasn’t a huge loss?
The King Harold (Leyton) ½ Stella, ½ Strongbow, 1 x bt Carlsberg £4.85
We moved back into football territory. Leyton Orient were round here somewhere, although none of us had any real clue where. Still, we were confident nothing would be as bad as the West Ham/Napoli cold war we stumbled into last time out (although people who saw the Milwall game a week later may have argued with that).
Fortunately our goal on this occasion wasn’t too far away – The King Harold, which was a big high street pub which screamed “BOOZER” from every window and every brick of the building. It looked like one of those places that would always have two tellys so they could show the football scores and the horse racing at the same time, and where sweary old boys would sit around with the Racing Post and a fist full of betting slips.
We walked in and looked around. There was one TV showing the football scores, and one TV showing the racing. Hmm. Uncanny. One of the old boys from the table in the corner looked up from his Racing Post as we came in, before turning his attention back to Sandown. “Fecking Lovely” he growled, as his horse obviously came in.
We hadn’t really expected any real ale, but at least there were a couple of handpumps there, even if they weren’t being used. The bar itself had potential – a big central counter with lots of space – but as usual the decor of the room was straight out of George and Mildred (ask your brother/dad/granddad). They did have some rather natty net curtains over all the windows though – no less old fashioned than anything else, but fetching nonetheless. Probably the best thing about the pub for me was that Liverpool scored whilst we were in there to go 3-2 up, although I realise that’s not a hugely professional piece of reviewing.
We sat down and carefully avoided looking at the carpets or the locals (just in case), and continued our ongoing conversations on nickname-based tosh. Was Mahatma (as in Ghandi) a nickname or a title? The fighting continued….
The Salmon and Ball (Bethnal Green) ½ John Smiths Smooth, 2 x ½ Strongbow £4.20
Time to take a slightly longer trip – all the way to Bethnal Green, where we were so close to the city proper you could almost smell it. What we definitely could smell as we left the tube station was the cigarette smoke from the dozens of fans just grabbing a last tab before kick off in the Manchester United vs Arsenal game that was being shown in The Salmon and Bell.
The place was heaving. Absolutely chock full of Arsenal fans, with the occasional brave Manc amongst them. The pub itself was typically decorated with all sorts of sporting tat, with a particular emphasis on Boxing pictures, and even a couple of framed, signed, gloves. Away from the sporting theme however, we saw that they also had live music on Friday nights, which presumably has a very different atmosphere to the one on Saturday afternoon (unless all the bands just do football terrace chant covers).
No real ale on of course, which was a bit disappointing, and in fact the beer range overall was incredibly unexciting. John Smith’s and Strongbow it is then. Very dull. We fought our way back out past the giant pull down screen where Andy Gray was waxing lyrical about Arsenal’s defensive strategy, and squeezed ourselves outside to the (relatively) fresh air. Here we found the delightful Monya having a quick cigarette break, who was clearly madder than a box of frogs, but was absolutely delighted to gatecrash our pub photo. Bless her.
The Eagle/Toby Carvery (Snaresbrook) 3 x ½ London Pride £4.65
Okay so having chatted to some people en route, and consulted an A-Z (which we haven’t done nearly as much as you’d expect on this trip), it was becoming abundantly clear that we had screwed up. Again. The Cuckfield, which had been so blatantly the closest pub to Snaresbrook station, actually, er, wasn’t.
For once, it seems, we actually should have trusted our mostly erratic research when it had suggested that the Eagle Tavern was our correct destination. In an all too familiar piece of space cadet-ness, we had turned the wrong way out of the station entrance when we had been in the area a couple of hours previously. Eleven days into the mission and we finally realise we should have packed an orienteering compass – perhaps instead of Keith’s pedometer, which had got as far as about three and a half thousand steps before packing up altogether. Bloody useless.
Given that it only a short walk from Snaresbrook to Wanstead, we thought we’d just “have a quick look” to make sure we were right last time. We weren’t of course, and we almost immediately found the Toby Carvery just round the corner. Bugger.
Time was ticking on, and gig time was seeming further and further away, so it was time to dive in and neck a quick half of London Pride, before charging onwards. The pub was huge, and hugely uninteresting, which was good because we weren’t hanging around. A very typical carvery type place, with a simple bar layout and traditional, tasteless decor. There was quite a large outside area, which also managed to look a bit boring – some slightly forlorn looking pub bench tables dotted around like garden acne. The beer was probably alright, although to be honest it didn’t really touch the sides, because we were now men with a mission: a mission to start being a bit less rubbish about finding the right pub and a mission to try and make up some lost time. It was Mission Rock and Roll: Destination Valentine.