Day 13 cntd (19th September 2009)
Ned Hylands (North Harrow) 2 x ½ John Smiths Smooth, ½ Kronenbourg 1664, ½ Strongbow £5.85
Back in solely male company once again, our newly created foursome moved back to North Harrow, near the scene of our previous taxi based horror story a couple of weeks earlier. We found ourselves at the Ned Hylands; a pub that we weren’t sure was actually open for business the last time we were here. The exterior had a sort of derelict look about it, which was uncanny because when we got inside it was very much the same picture. Even the local drunks outside the station were trying to point us in the direction of a pub around the corner despite the fact that Ned’s was only over the road.
It looked like one of those by the numbers Irish pubs, only someone had stolen all the Guinness signs, Gaelic paraphernalia, and about two thirds of the furniture. There was a giant chalkboard on either side of the room – one said “Ned Hylands Food Menu” at the top, whilst the other one had the headline “Ned Hylands Live Music”. Inevitably both of them were completely devoid of either rock or refreshments. The fridges looked pretty empty of beer as well, which led us to wonder whether they maybe had some cash flow issues. They did at least have some Bacon Fries on offer however, so at least Gareth was sorted for his food at this stop, but it does come to something when a pub prepares itself for a Saturday evening by stocking up the fridges with all of 3 bottles of Becks and 2 of Magners.
An internet search has since utterly failed to show us who Ned Hylands actually is or was. The first offering was from LinkedIn.com, suggesting that he is president of Todd Associated in Cleveland, but I’m not sure we can give much credence to that one. Slightly more feasible was Wikipedia’s suggestion that he was an exponent of Handball in Ireland during the 1930’s. I can’t help feeling that either of them would have been less than impressed with their namesake pub.
McGowan’s (Northwick Park) 2 x ½ Strongbow, 2 x ½ Fosters £5.30
We had no idea where we were going for this one, and had to request some help from the canny locals who were hanging around outside the station. After a dubious walk through some North London backstreets we eventually found ourselves back in civilisation and outside a McGowan’s bar.
We had seen one of these before, up the road in Willesden, so this was clearly their favoured part of the world. It turns out they have about 14 bars in total, mostly in North and North-West London. They are all basically Irish bars, but with a bit more emphasis on the “bar” part, as opposed to an emphasis on shamrocks, hurling and giant Guinness hats.
Like most other Irish bars, however, there was no real ale on. There was an actual hand pump on the bar, but it didn’t look like it had seen any action for a while. They did have “McGowan’s Lager” however, utterly failing to tempt us with its home made label and it’s scary 3.1% abv. Any lager even weaker than Carling is something to be avoided at all costs as far as we are concerned – a flavour-free zone, surely.
We ordered our drinks and asked about some snack food for our eternally peckish mascot/dustbin.
“Sorry boys, we’ve sold out of snacks” came the reply. Hairybarsnacks.com would not be amused, and neither was Gareth, who had to content himself with eating a couple of slices of lemon from the tray on the bar.
There were, of course, a couple of TVs in the bar, currently showing some football action, and a new looking run of banquette seating around the edge of the room. Not sure why they changed all the seating and not the grotty carpet though. A little bit of cafe style outside seating completed the picture of a bar that was perfectly reasonable without being remarkable in any way.
We ventured back out into the sunshine and wound our way back through suburbia towards the station, and it was here that Keith noticed what looked like Kitt from Knight Rider parked in someone’s drive way. Never one to miss an opportunity to indulge in his second favourite pastime (after eating snacks); Gareth immediately threw out another outlandish pub conversation topic in the shape of “Who are the Campest TV and Film Robots of All Time”. We thought we’d put that one in the “maybe” section on the grounds that there wouldn’t be enough to make a top ten, but imagine our surprise when Gareth proved to be something of an expert on the subject:
“You’ve got KITT himself, of course, and everybody knows about C3PO. But don’t forget the one from Buck Rodgers”
“No the camp sounding one that’s the giant medallion round his neck”
“Yeah, him. And then there’s Scooter from Go-Bots”
“And Robin Williams off of Bicentennial Man”
Impressive knowledge, if slightly odd.
The Fleadh (Preston Road) 2 x ½ Strongbow, 2 x ½ Carlsberg £4.20
On to The Fleadh at Preston Road, where for the second time today our valiant knights were reunited with their group of damsels-in-distress. Except the damsels weren’t really in distress, it was more like damsels-in-raucous-high-spirits-looking-for-a-party.
They had fairly noisily taken over a large booth towards the back of yet another Irish Bar, although this one was a bit more traditional than McGowan’s up the road – the full range of paraphernalia was on display here, and even the Budweiser signs had shamrocks on them. The locals themselves remained impassive in the face of the ladies, however, either impervious to the noise or already deaf.
The Fleadh does have a secret weapon behind all the “Oirish”, we were pleased to discover. There was a tiny, quirky courtyard garden out the back, where they seemed to have cut a storage container in half and turned it into a sort of outdoor lounge, with bamboo surrounds, wooden furniture and assorted mirrors and shiny things. Slightly less enjoyable for me was the discovery of a truly terrifying hand dryer in the gents – one of these super powerful ones, which had a strange blue light shining down from the vent so that you could helpfully see the flesh being pulverized and stripped off your hands. It also sounded quite a lot like a rocket motor starting up – I think they probably would have had to give refunds on the jukebox if someone went to the loo whilst your favourite song was on.
We began the military operation to try and move everyone out of the Fleadh and back on to the tube (once Gareth had finished his Scampi Fries, of course). Alas at this point our numbers took a temporary dip as we lost Trina and Denise – the former finally succumbing to the antibiotics she was on, and the latter deciding to float gently home on the Chardonnay bus. They had, of course been wonderful company all day and would be missed in the latter stages, but we also had some reinforcements lined up at the next pub. All the way down to Goldhawk Road where we would be meeting up with our friends Lisa and Matt, and possibly a couple of others, who were out celebrating Lisa’s birthday. Which was a wonderful prospect of course, but did also present the very real possibility that Ladies Day was about to get messy…..