The sound of Aled Jones singing fills the streets of Highbury Vale. Perhaps a fan of squeaky chorister recordings has moved in to the area. Or it’s the Welsh songbird himself (possibly showing off to a new girlfriend in his bedsit). Either way, it’s bad news.
Seeing as I was barred from using Stoke Newington library due to by inability to let go of their copy of ‘Water Nymphs and Fairies’, I decide to venture into town and browse around for stuff in the huge new Waterstones in Picadilly that used to be Simpsons department store. We went along for their closing down sale. Every tweedy sports jacket in the country had been rounded up here before being taken off to the countryside to be shot and burned on huge pyres. My Dad, who likes sportsjackets and has been wearing them since 1957, caressed them longingly but decided not to buy. I asked a sales assistant if they had anything about the masons and underground rivers. Sorry sir, this is a clothes shop. Come back in a few months time when Waterstones will ve here,
Not a cafe in the classic sense. The girls who work on the bread counter fumble about with the buttons on the coffee machine then squeal with delight when they evenutally get it right. Coffee not bad, if over foamy. They sell papers too though, generally, not the ‘left wing’ ones (whatever that means nowadays).
Wandering through frantic yet beautiful Holloway on a blazing afternoon I come to the junction of Camden Road, pleased with myself for managing to get this far without purchasing any second hand office furniture (it’s an addiction, you see). Suddenly a small motorbike appears on the pedestrian island in the middle of the road. Its owner, a mad-looking heat-crazed red haired bloke with a very red face, is screaming at another guy who apparently has just “laughed” at his bike. It’s all a bit over the top – lots of “come on then you slag” and “who’s laughing now!!?” etc etc. Tiredly, I put my hand on the biker’s arm as he tries to ‘run over’ the teaser and say, as calmly as possibly in my best hippy voice “hey man, there’s kids. In prams”.
Mad Biker turns his gaze to me and screams at the top of his voice “Yeah!?!?” Worried that he might now try to ‘run’ me ‘over’ I quickly walk away and head for the nearest second hand furniture
Back home to the sticks to watch it in a crowded smoky East Midlands pub. I’m stood next to a scouser and we get into one of those Glanevillesque conversations about history, technique and tactics. He seems like a reasonable fellow and I buy him a pint. As the pints flow, he starts to take the existence of David Seaman and the Neville brothers as a personal affront.
In the second half some younger lads come in and slightly obscure his view of the big screen. Words are spoken. It looks like it’s going to kick off. I try to calm him down, explaining that it’s only a friendly and not worht getting too upset about. He gives me a look of withering contempt and spits “It’s football. It’s ALL important.” Then goes to stand at the bar with his mates.
1-1. England were ploddy and Brazil having a laugh.
London’s no. 1 Wetherspoons pub, and there’s a beer festival on. Turnpike, Broadside and Barn Owl for well under two quid. Crowds of old blokes talk about cricket and Guinness while pockets of cleaned-up 30something ex-Clash fans get nostalgic for the days when Stoke Newington was cheap and you could get proper beer and a fight down the road at the Three Crowns.
They have a theme tune which is sort of Bryan Adamsish and goes like this:
"It’s the Bank of Friendship
The one for me and you
The Bank of Friendship
We can drink there too."
Actually, no – that’s a complete lie. It is a nice, usually quiet, local, its under-the-counter Irishness only obvious when you spot the Ireland football shirt and picture of Pat Jennings on the wall. There used to be a crowd of Dubs who sat by the door of one bar who’ll probably know you if you went to school in Dublin between 1946 and 1960.
There are so many with virtually the same name around here. Anyway, they do a great bacon and tomato sandwich on thick crusty white. Free Mirror to read while you∂re waiting. The owner looks like the actor Paul Sorvino.