Day 12 (September 5th 2009)
By now, myself and Keith were regularly discussing the impending finish of our huge mission – the final routes we needed to take, the timescales involved, whether we would be able to fit in a long awaited and much requested ladies day, and of course how we could work a big party into the final day.
There was an opportunity for a symbolic finish on the horizon. We had begun our quest on October 4th 2008, and the Anniversary was fast approaching. Saturday October 3rd was looking like the perfect date for a grand finale, but it meant we needed to get our skates on in the meantime – not least because Keith had done some more research into the tube closures programme and found that in the month of September alone there were 35 different closures to lines or stations, and that was frankly threatening to balls everything up. And so, a mere seven days after our second venture into the wilds of Essex, we were heading out again, this time picking up a more complicated route covering twenty odd stations and no less than three separate tube lines on the West side of town.
Uxbridge was our starting point this time round, and having abused our lift privileges from both of our lovely wives, we were finding our own way via the magic of the 724 Bus – a magical, almost mystical carriage known to some as “The Green Line”. I’d heard rumours about it before, but never believed it actually existed. And yet there it was, ready to pick us up as it wound its way gently through Hertfordshire and Middlesex, on the way to its ultimate destination at Heathrow.
We were being joined today by two guest stars who had been threatening to make an appearance for quite some time – firstly Shirt (don’t ask), a well seasoned traveller who usually flies South every winter to the Southern Hemisphere; and Nigel Dunn – a man even more bewildered by the concept of a bus than I was, and whose time with us was likely to be relatively short, as he was busy being a gentleman and looking after his pregnant wife. We were due to meet Nigel at Watford Junction and the bus was only briefly delayed whilst he waited for someone to carry his bags on for him (sorry Nigel, just joking).
Baroosh (Uxbridge) 3 x ½ Strongbow, ½ Budvar £6.95
Firstly, it should be noted that we had been on the bus for approximately forty five minutes, and Shirt was already expressing his well known dislike for British weather – he had spent the previous week working in Scotland, and had mentioned at least five times already that it apparently “pissed down, all the time”. Those that know Shirt won’t be surprised by this sort of comment, but frankly, nor will anyone who has been to Scotland.
Eventually we found ourselves in the centre of Uxbridge, standing outside what looked like it should be the entrance to a Multiplex Cinema foyer – all double height glass frontage – but was actually just the front door to Baroosh.
It was owned by McMullens brewery, who are more renowned for traditional English pubs, but was actually part of a bar chain type concept in their estate. It wasn’t actually a bad place to start the day to be fair – it was styled somewhere between a Yates Wine Lodge and an All Bar One, but actually managed to be much nicer than either of those. The bar itself was a big room with a spiral staircase going up to the mezzanine at one end (which must have been an issue for the local youth at 11pm on a Saturday night), and was painted mainly in warm Mediterranean colours. There was also a little outside area with a small group of tables where you could sit and watch Uxbridge bustle around you.
Random irritation? In true “grumpy old men” style, we bemoaned the fact that the toilets had those immensely bloody stupid sink taps that stop flowing as soon as your hands come away from the tap button – consequently you have to try and “catch” the water if you want to wash your hands. On the positive side, Baroosh run a Monday Salsa night, where apparently you can get “Classes for all Levels” at 8pm followed by a Salsa Club Night from “9 till late”, and all for the princely sum of £6.00. Doesn’t it just make you want to move your feet? No?
The Swallow (Hillingdon) 2 x ½ London Pride, 2 x ½ Becks £5.30
We had a revolutionary theory today. If we moved quickly through some of the earlier pubs, then perhaps for once we wouldn’t end up running around so much towards the end of the day. It was worth a try anyway, and so we found ourselves walking with a speedy and purposeful gait as we made our way out of Hillingdon and over to The Swallow which was conveniently situated about 200 yards away.
Even more helpfully, the Swallow was, shall we say, basic looking, and therefore didn’t really entice us to slow down. It was a big detached old pub with a couple of separate bar areas, threadbare paisley carpets throughout, photos of landlords through the years around the walls, and a pool table round the back. There were a few old TVs around the pub as well, but only one was on – currently showing a bit of Championship football. It clearly needed a little bit of TLC. A digital jukebox on the wall couldn’t help but look shiny and out of place in this otherwise quaint looking room, and the locals eyed it with typical suspicion.
Those aforementioned locals were all in uniform too – we had completely forgotten that England had a friendly over at Wembley this afternoon, so there was an abundance of white shirts in all the local hostelries getting a fix of Fighting Fuel before the match.
The Pride we had tasted ok, but it would have been nice to have a choice. And where were the menus? Seriously, the place had such an overwhelming air of the modern, stylish gastropub, there must be a suitably impressive food offering here somewhere? Ah yes, there it was – on a chalkboard at the end of the bar:
“Rolls £1.30. Ham, Cheese or Corned Beef”. Awesome.