Like Kunty Kinty, I went back to my roots yesterday, and plunged into London for a hectic few hours. The main reason for my flying visit was to scatter some early (and mildly bolloxed-up) copies of my book about the gaff in the a) vague hope it might generate some interest and b) knowledge that a tree has not snuffed it in vain.
The plan was simples: shovel my book onto the shelves of Foyles, Waterstones etc etc and to offload the remainder to any fucker who a) looked like they might like a snot and guffaw, but b) didn’t look up their arse too much.
And in a nutshell – that’s what happened. But that’s not what this blog is really about.
You see, as I was crashing around deepest Soho, I happened to find myself lurking without intent in Archer Street – which was once home to an illegal drinking den I used to frequent many years ago – back in the days (and moreover, nights) of namby pamby drinking hours.
I first went in there about ten years ago, the day after the managers’ Jolly Boys (and Girls) outing to Ascot.
I was in the pub trade at the time.
Now it must be known, that pub managers let out for the day tend to go a bit berserk (I blame it on the natural conditions – sunlight and all that) and this had been no exception. So it all got very messy. Very messy indeed.
The next day I was green.
I had overdone things.
And the only thing that was going to save me from dying a long and painful death on my couch was to limp out for a hair of the dog.
Upshot is, me and the old man found ourselves in Soho, forcing down slurps in various favoured establishments – including the fabulous Intrepid Fox (R.I.P). But I was struggling. I was still feeling on the verge of croaking and fighting to get my bevy down my Gregory. But like a real pro, I kept at it.
And then – just as I felt the first pangs of feeling human again – the last bell rang. But I needed more.
We spilled into the street with the rest of the punters and shuffled around. Other bars were also closing too. And some foody/wine bar places wouldn’t let us in. Bastardios.
But I had got the taste for it.
Then, as we found ourselves in a side street, a shady figure stepped forward from a crumbling doorway and asked if we were looking for a place to drink. Yes indeedy, we answered. He stood aside and we piled in.
It was dark, it was smoky (of all varieties), it was seedy and it was suspect. It was over two floors, with a pool table in the basement and ‘going ons’ going on in the basement. So we went back upstairs and happily paid £3 for tins of lager and got on with drinking duties.
This lot don't know Jack...they passed Archer Street twenty minutes ago...
But after a while, I got hot in there. It was summer; the place had (no apparent) ventilation – and my earlier beer sweat had returned with a vengeance. I had to get some air. Urgently. So we took our drinks outside, walked a few yards down the road and stood against a wall as we carried on with our supping while I cooled down.
Then a strange thing…literally, after about one minute, there was a police raid. All Sweeney style; hurry-up vans – the lot. We watched with open mouths as the old bill bundled in. And bundled resisting bodies out. And as the bloke who’d invited us in got dragged out, he chucked us a thunderous look, it suddenly dawned on me – he thinks we’re plod.
It was time to have it on our toes. And besides all that, if I got caught up in any of this – I might lose my licence – and my job.
We ran off with our tins, half-pissed – snotting and guffawing.
We only got as far as Charing Cross Road before we got invited to another drinking gaff above a cab office. The bloke inviting us in looked iffier than the last one and had many gold teeth. He explained the rules, you went up a few flights of stairs, paid a fiver each to some other bloke and that got you into the ‘bar’.
We went in of course. And it wasn’t too bad.
Months later,and feeling a bit bolshy (pissed) we went back to our original den. Someone else was lurking in doorway giving us the ‘come hither’. So we went in. Had a few good nights in there, as it happens. Met all sorts. And all sorts make the world go round.
So yesterday, it was sad to see that, like The Intrepid Fox, my old illegal drinking den had also gone. It’s now a poncy sandwich/frothy coffee bar. What’s the world coming to? Dear oh dear. I don’t know, I really don’t…