From Music at the Met to Panic at Royal Oak

Day 13 cntd (19th September 2009)

Liquid Nation (Ladbroke Grove) 4 x ½ Gaymers £6.80

The Chaps Striking a Classic Pose at "IquidNatio"

There was an air of intent about our group now, something almost intangible that suggested that our lady friends had merely been warming up so far, and were preparing to go into serious party mode at any moment. We wondered if we would make it all the way through to the last pub before this storm of female hedonism broke. We thought probably not.

We had arrived at Ladbroke Grove, slap in the middle of Notting Hill, and no more than a stone’s throw from the gentrified markets of Portobello Road.  Even closer than this, however – in fact right next door to the station – we found Liquid Nation, a bar so resolutely engaged with music, it appeared to have a balcony constructed purely of old vinyl albums. Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, but it was positively festooned with resplendent 12 inchers (good lord!), and there were other murals of old cassettes and the like around the room.

The band that were playing on the small stage opposite the bar were actually pretty good, and probably deserved a slightly larger and more attentive audience than the one our lubricated rabble offered. Still, myself and Keith immediately adopted the “music appreciation pose” where you lean against the bar, watch the band, put on your most serious face and nod almost imperceptibly in time to the music. I’m sure the boys on stage duly noted this and accepted us for the live music connoisseurs that we are.

We stuck to the cider at this point, and I suppose £3.40 a pint for Gaymers was about par for the course in this part of London.  By now of course we had no idea what the girls were drinking, only that they were doing so very noisily, and that some of the glasses seemed to contain exotic, brightly coloured liquids. By this time the band were probably getting ever so slightly embarrassed by the lack of attention being paid to them, so we gently ushered most people into the industrial, graffiti-covered outside area, where much singing, carousing, and potentially embarrassing amateur photography duly followed. In truth Liquid Nation was a pretty good bar, which should have been busier with customers who were truly appreciative of the live music on offer, but instead they got us – by this point looking increasingly like a hen night that had been gate crashed by a gent’s pub quiz team.

The Metropolitan (Westbourne Park) 3 x pint Hop Back Summer Lightning, 1 pint Amstel £13.30

The Met is a pub that I know well, having spent much time in these parts in previous years. It is right next door to Westbourne Park station (a blessed relief on this particular night, given the size of our party), and is a lovely spot for a bit of lunch, some chilled drinks in the garden, or even just as a party-tastic haven from the madness of the Notting Hill Carnival each August bank holiday.

We bowled in fresh from the delights of one live band, only to be spoilt by the prospect of yet more gig action in our very next destination. This coupled with the friendly atmosphere and our ever growing party (two more friends of Sue – Jez and Laura – had joined us at Liquid Nation, and quite frankly we were beginning to lose track), was enough to tip the excitement levels into the red zone. Time for the storm to break.

To be fair, we had been making pretty good time over the latter part of the day, and so we suggested that perhaps we should have a pint here and listen to a bit of the entertainment. This seemed to be all the invitation our lady friends needed to give in to their desperate need to party – and the talented young man who was offering the aforementioned musical entertainment was going to get the full benefit.

I wish we had noted his name down now, because he was actually very good (professional levels of journalism from the boys as always) – he basically had a guitar, a microphone, a saxophone, some effects pedals and a looping machine (clearly the correct technical term), so that he could create a pretty impressive sound all on his own by layering his instruments and his voice over the top of each other.  Most performers tend to relax more as they move through their live set, but in this instance our man was clearly looking more and more terrified as the performance continued – not due to things going wrong or adverse crowd reaction, but rather because some of the ladies from our group had clearly taken a shine to him and were dancing ever closer to him, and in a slightly more suggestive manner with each song. I say slightly suggestive, when what I actually mean is massively suggestive. Seriously, Lady Ga Ga/Madonna (delete according to age) would have blushed and looked away. You know who you are girls. Mrs Lewis, on the other hand, being entirely content with her hubby and not remotely interested in the on-stage eye candy, took another approach and decided that it was time to dance on the bar (her defence being that she had asked Gordon the manager first). Clearly an awesome time was being had by all, and the pub was rocking.

In the face of all this quality entertainment it was very easy for the two main protagonists to get distracted from the task at hand:

“Oh Christ it’s quarter to eleven!”

Brilliant work again chaps. Having stopped a bit longer in The Met because we were “making good time” (and because it is basically a brilliant pub) we were now in danger of doing a High Barnet, and failing to reach our final pub before the bell tolled and time was called.

One very quick shout around the group later, we realised that we had almost no chance of getting everyone out at the same time, or indeed of prising some of the ladies out of the Met at all (some of them may still be there to this day, having moved in and demanded the same live act every night). So, an advance party of the T.O.M.B faithful including our respective wives, Mairead, Andree, Greta and Pete made a run for it to try and find our way to Royal Oak in very short order…..

The Daniel Gooch (Royal Oak) 3 x Gin and Tonic, 1 x Tomato Juice, 3 x ½ Black Sheep, 1 x bt Corona and about 7 packets of crisps (including Monster Munch!) £25.70

Ladies Day Survivors Wait in Vain for a Bus Outside the Daniel Gooch

Approximately 14 minutes later, yours truly arrived at the bar of the Daniel Gooch, panting heavily and asking for “Three halves of Black Sheep and, er, some other stuff please”. I of course had no idea what the “other stuff” was, having bravely said that I would make a run for it to make sure we can get the drinks and why didn’t everyone else follow on, and then  having completely failed to ask what anyone else wanted. The barman didn’t care too much however; I think he just wanted to make sure I didn’t die on his carpet, as it would have definitely meant he’d be even later getting home.

He managed to just about disguise his contempt as I phoned Keith to find out what else was required.

“Are you inside already – they’re trying to charge us seven quid each!” was the first thing I heard when he answered the phone.

“What?” was about all I could manage.

“Are you already in?”

“Where the hell are you?”

Turns out they were queuing outside Cherry Jam, a club that was technically closer to Royal Oak station, but immediately disqualified under our rules, precisely because they would try and charge you seven bastard quid just to get through the front door.

Fast forward five minutes, and everyone was finally in The Daniel Gooch chinking glasses together in celebration of another day completed. The barman hadn’t even been too grumpy as I relayed the second half of the order to him from the phone – I suspect he thought that just serving us all was the path of least resistance to getting out the door at least vaguely on time. He certainly couldn’t have thought I was likely to start anything, as I was still wheezing like an asthma sufferer in a coal mine. We settled in and surveyed our surroundings – which looked for all the world like a cross between a railway arch and an 18th century galleon. Seriously there was wood panelling everywhere.

We began to dissect the day immediately, and from our voice notes there seemed to be general and convivial agreement that it had been a fabulous ladies day, with quality support from all our guests. Then, however, we found that there was one final scandal to emerge:

We were discussing Gareth/Greta’s attempts to eat something in every pub of the day (a bold task that in fairness he stuck to manfully), and were trying to fill in the gaps. Remember the Pig and Whistle? Remember the landlord’s son that Liz took a shine to? Well, his name was Jack, and it seems that in between ridiculing my Karaoke skills with my wife, he was busy eating his tea (a growing lad needs his fuel) which consisted of a few slices of pizza. Except that after one particularly vigorous bout of wailing and pointing at me in horror, the poor, hungry lad turned round to find that his last slice of semi-Italian deliciousness was mysteriously gone. Yes folks, in shallow pursuit of T.O.M.B notoriety, Gareth Lewis, stole food from a FOUR YEAR OLD BOY.

Quite funny really.

By the way, Jack – if you ever read this, drop us a line. We’d like to apologise on behalf of Tracks Of My Beers, and if you just say the word we’ll come back to the pub via the Ladbroke Grove Domino’s to hand deliver a medium Pepperoni Passion, all for you. And I promise not to sing if that helps….

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