Stoke Newington Church Street, N16
This used to be my favourite pub in North London but I haven't been in for a while. I must be getting old because the ruralesque walk around Clissold Park at night doesn't seem as appealing as it once did.
I was there with old friends from the Real Psychic Genius Football Prediction Society. The Shillelagh is really our spiritual home but we now tend to wander a bit down the road to the Rose & Crown, where the music isn't loud and there's lots of space for assorted fortysomethings to shuffle around slowly. Leeds v Spurs was on the telly. I picked a famously unlucky seat – where I had watched England lose to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup and from where countless times I'd seen Ireland throw away the lead in the last minute in qualifiers. It didn't disappoint. Leeds lost. But the Guinness was as good as ever and there's still a good mix of old and young drinking away. One big change is last orders which is now an orthodox 11-ish rather than four in the morning. But I suppose that's progress. As my wife said when I rolled in, last orders was invented for people like me who need authority figures such as barmaids to tell them what to do.
Went to the optician the other day, after losing yet another pair of glasses in a messing-about-with-the-kids incident.
"Your eyesight is maturing" said the optician?"
"What, you mean I appreciate art and ballet a bit more now and fancy Fay Weldon?"
"Er, no, you need reading glasses."
"Hmm. So I'm not short sighted any more?"
"You're still short sighted. You'll still need distance lenses as well".
In other words, there is only a depth of field of about three inches in which my vision is clear.
I am shagged.
Sitting at a bus stop on Stoke Newington Church Street I heard a sound both familiar yet strange. In the midst of the normal sounds of the city – police sirens, buses, cars, motorbikes, car alarms, roadworks – came a low rumbling engine rasp. Then, chugging slowly from Green Lanes, along came a weather beaten John Deer tractor, pulling some kind of plough/rake contraption. It carried on towards Albion Road then disappeared into the centre of Stoke Newington.
Is this now the fashionable drive of choice for the smart Stokeyites?
The bloke was in his early 20s and had a stripey t-shirt and a spotty red face. He swaggered out of the King's Head with his dog then watched, transfixed, as the dog did a big runny shit all over the pavement. He was about to swagger off in the direction of Finsbury Park when I announced that if everyone acted like him the whole world would be covered in dogshit. He looked at me in disbelief. How will I clear it up? he whined. I pointed to the paper bag he was holding, which contained a brand new tube of what I presume was acne cream. The dog looked up at his master as if to say "want me to bite his gonads, master?" but the bloke in the stripey t-shirt still seemed confused, as if he had never realised that leaving dogshit in the middle of the pavement was wrong. I left him standing over the pile of crap, wondering what to do, though my daughter informed me that as soon as my back was turned he had swaggered over to the bus stop as if nothing had happened.
One of the main reasons to stay fit is so you can run for a bus and catch it. I've always prided myself on being able to catch just about any bus I want – even if I miss a stop I'll sometimes run for the next one. In the last couple of years this has been getting harder. But recently I tried the North London Fathers' Triathlon, in which one runs for a bus after completing two even more gruelling events.
1) Getting to school to pick up kids while pushing a pram and you're a mile away and five minutes behind schedule.
2) Trying to find every overdue library book in the house within a 15 minute period (at advanced level, there'll be two or three toddler books hidden behind bookshelves)
Is it too late for this to be included in the 2012 Olympics? It could be a gold medal bonanza for Britain…