Day 13 1/2 (24th September 2009)
We had of course known for some time that we might have to find a half day if we were going to make our desired finish on 3rd October. There were still a couple of stragglers on the Central Line that hadn’t been visited yet, whilst fast trains and idiocy had put paid to a few more of the stations on the Metropolitan Line. Finally, line closures had forced us to miss the stations at the top of the Victoria Line, and it would make sense to pick them up to take the pressure off on the final day. In fact, line closures had become something of an issue in our recent attempts at planning the final legs. At the start of September, Keith printed off a “disruptions” page from the Transport For London website which showed that there were no less than 35 line, part-line, or station closures during the month, the vast majority of which were taking place at weekends. Ah.
Still, we knew this was never going to be easy and that immortality surely always comes with a price. There was nothing for it but to gird our loins and stride manfully on. Under urgent discussion (in the White Lion, obviously) Keith and I decided that we needed to find a suitable evening where we could meet up and pick off these most irksome of unconquered pubs and lines. Eventually, a space was found in our high octane schedules (remarkably, we both still have day jobs you know), and we decided that starting up in Walthamstow – home of dog racing and dodgy boy bands with a talent for running themselves over – would be the place to start our mini-mission. The day duly arrived (a Thursday no less), and on September 24th we emerged blinking into the early evening sunshine outside the station in the heart of East 17. Unlike Brian, Tony and,er, the other ones, however, we had no time to “Stay Another Day” (sorry) – we had no more than a few hours to complete this curious and disjointed leg of our journey.
The Goose (Walthamstow) 1 x Pint Bombardier, 1 x bt Corona £4.35
We began in the auspicious surroundings of The Goose, part of a dreary chain that has lofty aspirations to one day maybe be a bit like JD Wetherspoons. Keith had actually arrived about ten minute before me, which clearly gave him the right to nurse a full pint as a starter for ten, whilst I, as the “latecomer” was restricted to a bottle for the purposes of “speed”. He’s a strict timekeeper, Lewis.
The first thing that struck us about the Goose was how relentlessly ordinary it was. Probably quite an old pub, it had been modernized into that bog standard modern drinking hole mould – lots of sensible colours on the walls, 3 big screen TVs, raised seating areas with a variety of bland furniture and not one, not two, but three types of flooring to keep you interested. Wooden floorboards? Check. Area with crazy tiling? Sure. Hallucination-inducing patterned carpet? You bet.
The second thing that struck us was how desperate for customers these chains must be, as there was some sort of offer in every direction you looked. These ranged from the quite enticing – Bombardier at £1.99 a pint – to the downright suspicious – “Glass of wine 99p!”. Seriously, how good can that wine be? You wouldn’t know whether to drink it or pour it into your car engine. They also had the ubiquitous Curry Night promo “Curry and a Pint £4.99”, a meal deal for “2 courses at £3.99”, and finally, if you felt the need to get leathered quickly and cheaply you could dive into the “Double Spirit and Mixer, £2.59”.
So, thinking about it, that’s five pints of Bombardier, a two course meal and a couple of large Gin and Tonics to finish off, all for less than twenty quid. Maybe there’s something in this after all…..
The Lord Palmerston (Blackhorse Lane) 2 x ½ Young’s Bitter £2.00
When we eventually found the Lord Palmerston, we saw that this was another pub that was full of super cheap offers to try and drag the punters in. I say eventually, because we initially thought we were going to the Essex Arms which the map was showing as about 200 yards away from Blackhorse Lane station. As we strolled down Forest Road however, we discovered a site which could only be described as an ex-pub. It was seriously derelict – in fact it looked like one of those scary old buildings from a cheap horror movie where one of the characters says “What the old Johnson place? Nobody’s lived there for years…”
We had already discounted our second option, The Tryst, on the grounds that it was a music venue only open Thursday-Saturday and charged you to get into their gigs (apparently you can take Salsa lessons there on a Monday though!) This left us moving towards the third option, The Lord Palmerston, which according to my meticulous research was “a bit further up the road”.
In reality it felt like about 5 miles – mainly because it was slightly uphill, I think. Fitness was still not one of our strong points on this mission, despite the distances involved.
We finally discovered a big corner boozer festooned in red and green glazed tiling and quirky stained glass on the outside, but relentlessly shabby on the inside. Plenty of space mind you, around a central bar, it was just that all that space and everything in it was fairly careworn, to put it politely. The usual dartboard, TVs and Pool table were all present and correct, as was a couple of dejected looking locals and a rather mediocre drop of Young’s Bitter.
Of course had we been a young couple out on an East London date, we could have got acquainted with each other over the pub’s “Double Deal Thursday – Two meals and two drinks for £8.99!” Had we been regulars, we could have reaped the benefits of a Lord Palmerston Collectors Card – “Earn £££s for Points down your local! The sky’s the limit!” It looked a bit like a boozy Tesco’s Clubcard Scheme. Tempted as we were however, it seemed that you have to spend fifty quid to earn a £1.00 discount, and life is just too short to spend that much time in this place. Nice building, shame about the pub. And the walk. And the area in general. Onwards!