A Tale of Two “Citties”

Day 14 1/2 (3rd October 2009)

The Cittie of Yorke (Chancery Lane) 4 x pints Old Brewery Bitter, 1 pint Alpine Lager, 1 pint SS Extra Stout £12.86

Freshly boosted after the arrival of Liam at Old Street, we were overjoyed to find yet another new arrival at Chancery Lane, this time in the shape of the third West brother, Jevon, who was somewhat surprisingly a debutant on this long and winding road.

We found ourselves outside the Cittie of Yorke on High Holborn, a fantastic building containing an eccentrically spelled Sam Smith’s pub. As we paused for the necessary photo outside, we were accosted by a charming and glamorous American lady called Nikki who was looking for a reciprocal deal,

“Shall I do you guys first and then you do us?” was her immortal, easily misconstrued offering at this point. Much embarrassment was avoided as we realised she was offering to swap cameras temporarily.

The Cittie was a truly beautiful pub with lots of room, impressive high vaulted ceilings, dark wood everywhere, and huge old barrels above the back bar. We were in the heart of legal London here, and it would be easy to imagine lawyers in fervent consultation with clients in the side cubicles which bore more than a passing resemblance to church confessionals. The pub overall was deceptively large, with the long grand bar area we were in being supplemented by a downstairs restaurant area.

It being the last day, it being a notoriously cheap Sam Smith’s pub, it being Jevon’s first venue, or for any other arbitrary reason you could think of, we decided that we should have a pint in this one, from the weird and wonderful list that Sam Smith’s always provide.  Definitely a smart move because the beer was indeed ridiculously cheap, and even Shirt – a notorious Budweiser drinker (the bad kind) – confessed to liking his pint of SS Old Brewery Bitter. Wonders will never cease.

The Island Bar (Lancaster Gate) 2 x Gin and Tonic, 2 x bt Stella, 3 x bt Grolsch, 1 x diet Coke £40.50

A short hop along the Central Line to Lancaster Gate and it was time for our next set of guest appearances. Firstly we were met by Suzanne, a friend who had come all the way down from Manchester for the day and was looking exceptionally glam; plus another old friend, Adam, an actor who until recently had been in a ubiquitous car insurance advert and who had graciously agreed to wear the same jumper he had in the ad, just so we could enthusiastically point out to people that he was, in fact, a celebrity guest.

The Lancaster Gate Hotel is, unsurprisingly, right next to the tube station, and this meant that unfortunately The Swan down the road was cast mercilessly aside as a destination for us in favour of the dubious delights of the hotel’s “Island Bar”. I can only assume that they must have been referring to the Lancaster Gate traffic island when they named it, otherwise it would surely have been called the “Upstairs in the Corner” Bar. It was one of those special soulless rooms that seem to come from some sort of Ikea flat pack kit sold exclusively to mid-range hotels. Black leather seating and shiny surfaces were carefully tendered by immaculate barmen with black shirts and shiny foreheads, and as expected the prices were suitably rich. Not quite Landmark Hotel levels, admittedly, but not value for money by any stretch of the imagination. Mind you, I think it was the diet coke that really pushed this round over the edge.

Oh and by the way, one brief piece of advice for the Island bar. Anyone can actually purchase a bottle of Stella, from virtually any shop, for probably under a quid. So if you’re going to have the balls to charge your customers £4 a go to drink it in a cross between a works canteen and a furniture showroom, then at least make sure that it’s bloody COLD.

Enough of this pristine, polished, imitation of a bar. We had fresh new recruits to our Tubeway Army, we were drawing ever closer to our final destination, and we had already been through far too much (beer) to spend a minute longer in a place like this.

The City of Quebec (Marble Arch) 2 x ½ Aspalls Cider, 5 x ½ Stella, 1 x Diet Coke £15.16

On to the second pub of the day with “City” in the name, and this time it was even spelled right. And what a sight there was to greet us as we turned into the side street where it was located. There was a small outside seating area which to all intents and purposes had been invaded and conquered by the population of St Albans.

Ah, welcome to the quest, one and all. There were previous crusaders like Hazel and Dave Victory; we had Denise, Trina and Andre fresh from Ladies’ Day; there were gallant newcomers such as White Lion regulars Nick, Chris, Andy and Alan; and of course there were our supportive, understanding and extremely patient wives, Sue and Liz.  It was of course a wonderful moment, but hand shaking, kissing, hugging and excessive high fiving were in danger of seriously delaying proceeds, so we extracted ourselves from the melee as soon as we could and headed for the bar.

An ordinary but not unpleasant bar, it has to be said. The room was long and thin like a bowling alley with black glass chandeliers down one side, and obnoxious wallpaper down the other. There was more than a hint of All Bar One uniformity about the back bar, but on the plus side everyone was very pleasant to us as we rushed through the purchase and consumption of our beer and cider selection.

As we supped up and made ready to leave we got not one but two toilet reviews – firstly from Shirt, who informed us that the Gents were “nice and clean, but there were brooms in the corner, and that’s a no-no”, and then secondly from Hazel, who proceeded to tell us that the Ladies’ only had saloon doors on the cubicles, and so “if you got down on your hands and knees, you could probably see everything.” Quite.

INTERLUDE: Essential Pub Conversations Number 20 – What is the Ultimate Soundtrack to The Tracks of my Beers?

Fittingly for the last of our essential discussions, this had originally been mooted in the very early stages of our marathon, and brought up on several different occasions during our days out. Towards the end of the quest, it had even gone online, with readers of the blog contributing suggestions with some relish. In fact, special mention must go to Darryl, an old mate with a feverish imagination, who enthusiastically supplied no less than twenty different suggestions of varying degrees of absurdity, and who signed off his e-mail with the immortal words “Do I win £5?” To which the answer would of course be yes. If there were any justice, that is.

Anyway, back to the conversation itself. The premise was simple. What music would be best suited to a task as monumental and arduous as the one we had embarked upon? You could argue that all manner of marching music would help us whilst heading to and from pubs; that any sort of inspirational, classical powerhouse pieces would keep us motivated; or that some Cafe Del Mar style chillout sounds would keep us calm whilst crammed into busy tube carriages.

But no. What we really needed to aim for was one of those crap lists that you tend to see in all the wrong newspapers when paying tribute to a funny story. We wanted sub-tabloid standard puns, lame jokes, and the truly awful manipulation of any words that almost sound the same as ones relevant to our tale. We are talking London, we are talking trains and transport, and we are talking shameless riffs on tube station names.  In fact, we are talking the kind of thing that would make the title “Tracks of my Beers” look like a work of poetic genius.

No simple top ten for us here, the nominations were too numerous and the categories to diverse. Ladies and gentlemen, should you find yourselves on a challenging, mentally and physically exhausting transport based marathon, with only an i-pod for company and the promise of regular booze stops keeping you moving, may we humbly suggest that you rock out to some, none, or all of these beautiful tunes:

General/Obvious:

Down in the Tube Station at Midnight – The Jam

Going Underground – The Jam

Tube Snake Boogie – ZZ Top

London Calling – The Clash

Tube Station Related:

Warwick Avenue – Duffy

Victoria – The Kinks

Waterloo – Abba

Angel – Aerosmith

Mile End – Pulp

The Only Living Boy in New Cross – Carter USM

London Bridge – Fergie

Thieves in the Temple – Prince

Guns of Brixton – The Clash

Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks

Er, The Grange Hill Theme tune?

Tenuous and Perhaps Slightly Obscure:

Parklife (Finsbury, Queen’s or Green) – Blur

(Clapham) Common People – Pulp

(Golder’s) Green Onions – Booker T and the MGs

(White)Chapel of Love – Dixie Cups/Ronnettes

Up the (Willesden) Junction – Squeeze

Killer Queen(sbury) – Queen

Under the (Putney) Bridge – Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Just Plain Silly:

Morden Words – Extreme

Wanstead Dead or Alive – Bon Jovi

Leyton Sally – Eric Clapton

Bar-Bar-Bar, Bar-Bar-bi-can – The Beach Boys

Hammersmith to Fall – Queen

Shepherd’s Bush City Limits – Tina Turner

The Green, Green Park of Home – Tom Jones

Theydon Bois, Bois, Bois – Sinitta

Lay Leyton Lay – Bob Dylan

Wouldn’t it be Good-ge Street – Nik Kershaw

The Pinner Takes it All – Abba

It’s All Oval Now – The Rolling Stones

Mudchute The Runner – Kasabian.

Seriously, the hacks at the Daily Star can only dream of coming up with quality like that.

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