Tucked under some railway viaduct arches across from Waterloo Station sits the Hole In The Wall, a fairly functional pub and quite likely Jackie’s local when she switches jobs to the neighbourhood in a couple of months.
We weren’t scouting her drinking venues, though. We were in the city for the taping of The Fake News Show, a one-off panel/comedy/current events programme from Hat Trick Productions, providers of the long running series Have I Got News For You (which I have been trying to get tickets for a taping of since I first saw this episode in 2001 on my interview trip to Amsterdam). I got priority tickets to the evening’s recording due to a cancellation but we lingered at the pub and were next to last in the priority queue for the show that was overbooked by 10 seats. To compensate, they are giving us first priority seating at a recording of HIGNFY, so this actually worked out better for us in the long run.
At the pub, we watched some of England v France in the 6 Nations Rugby tourney while I enjoyed a Pink Floyd themed beer (because when in The Wall, what else would you choose). After our early release from the television studio, we sought food at the nearby Cuban (hour and a half wait for a table) and Mexican (45 minutes) but settled on a very good Italian in view of the giant roundabout hosting the BFI’s Imax.
I understand there is folk music live on Sundays in the pub and Jackie will probably be there weeknights waiting out the commuter rush. Stop and say hi. Here’s a map.
I sat down, inexplicably, next to four Americans in the Black Prince. Three of them were trying to explain who Elian Gonzalez is to the fourth one and eventually one of them did the whole, ‘poor kid, he was probably scarred for life by what happened.”
“I wish I could get scarred that way. He’s minted.”
They turned to face me so I continued.
“He’s a fucking tourist attraction, now. Probably runs his own hotel. Fer fuck sake, I wish I made out as well for every time someone stuck a gun in MY face as he probably has.”
A fight did not occur and, in fact, the older guy (I’m reckoning 10 or more years younger than me) and I wound up having a conversation of sorts. Turns out his daughter and her partner have taken a few months to do the Grand Tour and somehow Lambeth was on the itinerary (or maybe these guys were just here because the Air BNB was up the street). They were also in town for an American football match, so my first instincts — that they are undesirables — may well have been right.
When they left, the rest of the bar filled in their spaces and the convo went back to Labour’s recent travails and the 3rd runway at Heathrow. All was right with the world, once more.
The old guy at the corner was giving me the snake eye (or is it the evil eye) as I tried to photograph the Jolly Gardeners (for another view of his perch, there’s currently a good google street view here). As I tried to enter, he fingered me in the chest and jerked his head back at the place.
“This is a listed building!”
“It’s grand, yes,” I answered and tried to continue in. He gave a blank look and shook his head almost imperceptibly.
“It’s spectacular,” I tried again. Nothing.
“Good? Can I say it’s ‘good’?” Still blank. I gave a goofier than normal grin and put both of my thumbs up by my face.
“This is a listed building,” he informed me, but this time he gave me more to work with. “Grade 2, it is. They can’t do nothing to the outside or change its name or nothing.”
I pointed to the Zeitgeist logo in the window.
“They call that ‘the inside.’ And, it’s all German in there.”
“They should list this building. I’ll see you in there.”
He was as good as his word, though. It was all German inside with 20 taps of nothing but German beer (and very good ones at that). Generally, they are £5 per pint but there is a beer of the day each day that is only £4 (I didn’t think I wanted a Franziskaner until I spotted this discount). They even serve German grub: I saw a fantastic mound of sausages on cabbage go to a table near me. Definitely on my short list (and I’m sure I’ll see my buddy there again…he’s been using this pub as his local since the early 60’s when it looked more like this linked photo).
Having hit the Coal Hole (not a euphemism) before the Imperial War Museum we decided to decompress after the Holocaust exhibit at another pub with a Chaplin connection: the Three Stags. It was right across the park from the museum so it would have been rude not to.
The story goes that young Charlie, estranged from his father as was the rest of his family, was walking past the Stags and on a whim poked his head in and saw his dad drinking in the corner and waving him over. His dad more-or-less drank himself to death (and at the prices here, now, he would have drunk the family into the poorhouse were they not already there).
On a hot day with a light breeze, can anything be better than sprawling across a picnic table bench with some overpriced drinks and watching the traffic separate you from a nearby park?