Neat Gin and the Rhino’s Return

Day 11 cntd (August 29th 2009)

King William IV (Chigwell) 3 x Tanqueray £11.25

KL and JW Pause for Breath at The King William

Time was getting short, and we had many miles to cover before gig time.  Being the adaptable, creative types that we are, we decide to take some extra measures to speed ourselves up. As we pulled into Chigwell station, we noticed that the trains were getting less and less frequent. In fact the next one going our way was advertised on the electronic board as 23 minutes away, with no mention of the one after that.

“I reckon we can do this” said Lewis, in a calm confident manner which belied the time pressures we were under, “if we set a brisk pace walking down to the pub, and take one of our allocated shots, we can be back here in time to catch that train.”

We liked his thinking. Time to hustle. We made it to the pub in record time (without breaking into a run, of course, that would be undignified). We didn’t even stop to watch the local Police arresting some of the Chigwell youth, who were obviously loitering with intent to do something unsavoury.

Straight up to the King’s Head, quick photo outside, and through the doors into what looked like a WAG convention in a Scandinavian cabin – bleached blonde hair, fake tan, and light wood/pine as far as the eye could see.  No time to take in the view though, we had a train to catch.  We had, of course, been discussing what our best option to drink was – whilst others would plump for tequila or sambucca in this situation, we considered ourselves to be men of taste and refinement, and so settled on knocking back neat gin instead (well, we had to stay British too).

We stood for a second, took in the ambience and let the conversations about money and beauty treatments wash over us, before seeing off our mother’s ruin and beating a hasty retreat towards the door again – we just weren’t Essex enough for this place.

The Bald Hind (Grange Hill) ½ London Pride, 2 x ½ Doom Bar £4.65

We arrived in Grange Hill, which surprisingly was very quiet and residential (a bit like Roding Valley). I guess we were expecting it to be overrun with unruly school kids/teenagers who can’t act properly, all to the sound of a bad, but unforgettable theme tune. Still, it was Saturday, I suppose. School’s out, and all that.

Still, how often do you get to go to go to the scene of your favourite fictional school based drama? Incidentally, for those that remember the show, when I was a kid I used to look up to Gareth as a kind of “Tucker” Jenkins figure. Which probably means that Keith would have to be “Gonch” Gardener, and although I’d like to think of myself as a “Gripper” Stebson character, I was probably more like poor fat Roland.

Anyway, we were in search of The Bald Hind, and we knew it was a bit of a walk. If only Keith’s pedometer was still working, because it seemed like bloody miles. We eventually found it set back from the main road behind a petrol station – another enormous pub, this time part of the Ember Inns chain. You know the type – big interior, warm colours, nice fireplace, an honest looking menu, slightly soulless. A huge improvement on any Beefeater or Harvester though, and the beer was in very good condition.

It had already been a long day, and dinner time was looming, which meant it was the perfect time to put our guest star to good use – we asked Gareth to drink up and pop next door to the Shell garage to buy us a slap up meal whilst we finished writing up the notes. A magnificent job he did too, coming back with all manner of Ginsters savoury slices, pickled onion Monster Munch and chocolate chip Tracker bars. Mmm, Sustenance.

We started the long trek back to the station, gently stuffing our faces as we went, all the while feeling boosted by the news that we were about to be joined. Our good friend Rhino was coming for a second guest appearance, lured out by the opportunity for more cheap beer and a chance to rock out to East of Java at The Valentine. Good man.  

The Old Maypole (Hainault) 1 x pint Stella, 3 x ½ Young’s Bitter £5.05

The New Front Row for the Old Maypole XV Didn't Look Up To Scratch

And there he was, waiting for us at The Maypole, resplendent in summer combat shorts and a fairly sinister looking Joker t-shirt, but above all looking ready to rock. First of all though, we had to get these last few stations out of the way, so we wandered around the giant white monstrosity that was The Maypole until we found a front door, and went in search of beer.

The beer we found was in so-so condition, but was ridiculously cheap. Seriously – £1.69 for a pint of Young’s, which I think made it officially the cheapest pint of the tour so far – a new leader!  Other than the prices, it was another fairly unremarkable pub, being part of the Sizzling Pub Company, who seem to specialize in the cheap, and (occasionally) cheerful: Curry and a pint for £4.99 on a Tuesday night, for example. There were a couple of pool tables on one side of the room, occupied by some lads that seemed reluctant to venture into the rest of the pub.  This was probably because all of the other customers looked like they were part of some giant, non-uniformed hen night.  Luckily we were men of a certain age, and therefore safe from the more well-oiled and predatory ladies in there.

Still, I expect that the more they drank, the better we looked, so it was probably time to hit the road once more.

The New Fairlop Oak (Fairlop) 3 x ½ Courage Best, 1 x bt Corona £5.45

The Front Row for the New Fairlop Oak XV Looked Even Worse

Apparently there was a grand old oak tree that stood on the green at Fulwell Cross (which is now part of the roundabout opposite this pub), but it got blown down in 1820. Hence the one that is there now is still known as the “new” Fairlop oak, despite being planted in 1909, and this is where the pub gets its name. Of course most people now just know it as Wetherspoons. Oh yes, it was time for another one of those.

Cheap prices – check; lots of cask ale – check; bad carpet – check; emphasis on cheap food deals – check; extremely random, very drunk locals – check, check, and check again.  One of them had a leather hat and a bad moustache, plus a complete inability to speak using consonants – “aaaaeeeeoooooiieeeeaaaaoooo” he said.  Quite.

On the plus side, the staff were extremely charming, and the beer was once again in champion condition. They were also obviously competing with the Maypole for food custom, as they too seemed to be offering a pint and a curry for a fiver. Tikka-tastic.  We spent our time here avoiding the drunkards and getting Rhino up to speed on the various bits of nonsense we had been discussing over the course of the day – as always, he brought both broad knowledge and partial lunacy to the table.

A quick time check revealed it was approaching ten o’clock. With just three stations to go we could almost hear the music and smell the crowd. We took ourselves into the night air and set our internal Sat-Nav for Barkingside.


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