Archive for the ‘Uxbridge’ Tag
The Three Steps appeared in the waning light of the early evening and I couldn’t resist. It just looked so dodgy. But, inside it was a friendly little beer house if a bit weird (the large circular room threw me a bit). The couple running the place were awfully nice, though, and the Efes Pilsner was cold and bitter and what I wanted.
The pop music videos were a bit loud and not really my taste and the place seemed to already (or maybe still) have Christmas decorations.
But, they won me back with the toilet. There was a video screen at eye level and three sensors in the urinal. Once you have “started,” the screen shows Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Vladimir Putin taking the stream if you are on their sensor. The recipients change from time to time, so I got to soak Bashar al-Assad for a while. It’s worth a stop in just for this.
Running from the Paddington Packet Boat to head back into the Uxbridge town centre, I opted for the canal tow path. Down at the bridge, the Water’s Edge looked from the outside more like a boat supply shop than a pub and even after I found the entrance it looked more like the clubhouse for the ‘canal cottages” than a purveyor of intoxicating beverages.
But, inside it is quite nice and reminded me of one of the more civilised Florida beachside bars. I opted for Shedhead then noticed that it was made in Sweden which led to a
wide-ranging conversation with the landlady about the beer, the appearance of the pub, the internet being out due to Network Rail cutting the lines (the Packet Boat had been on “cash only” due to this), the electrification of the rail out to Wales, shopping in Swindon, and gay pride festivals in small towns. Fantastic.
Out for a twilight run from Hillingdon Station to the canal, the Paddington Packet Boat was too big and imposing to pass by, so I was forced to go through it. Despite the enormous floor space, the twenty or so punters were all clumped together in a circle about 8 feet in diameter right in front of the bar (making it a bit difficult for me to pass by and inspect the wares on the ale taps). Typical Fuller’s ales, but this was a much more pubby house than most of the Fuller’s places in the region.
It was also boiling hot inside so I went out to the garden to take in the cool, evening air and found yet another cluster of blokes isolated in a very small patch of the huge open space…weird.
The pub run moved steadily upscale as the evening encroached but the fading twilight on the tow path would be good enough to get me back to the Uxbridge Tube Station. After the glorious squalor of the Load of Hay and the low-key local atmosphere of the Crown, the Malt Shovel‘s classy restaurant atmosphere would have to work hard to pass as a serviceable — if posh — pub. Carly Simon on the speakers bemoaning vanity seemed almost too apropos.
The menu chalked on a board near the four real ale pumps (the house is Cask Marque) looks pretty good for the carnivore. The price for a pint is more than reasonable (my amber one was only £3.40). Taylor Swift was next on the piped music and my judgmental hackles were up; the music was absolutely perfect for the bland and shallow atmosphere they seemed to be working on.
I was also a bit disappointed to see Halloween decor scattered around. Christ, if the Trump ascendancy has taught us anything it’s that most of the stuff that seems shitty from America actually IS shitty.
Two guys walked in and there was an air of business being done. One of them was entertaining the other either as a job candidate or a visitor from out of town. He asked the guest yuppie what he was having to drink then turned to the bartender asking, “Can I get two of those, please?” This is the most subordinate thing you could say in this situation. Or so I thought; he followed up with, “we haven’t booked but is it possible we can get a table?” It was Tuesday at 6:25, the restaurant is fucking huge, remote and empty…demand a table and some better music.
The barman at the Load of Hay asked if I wanted a refill but I looked out at the setting sun and said, “no, I better get running if I’m going to make the Crown and Malt Shovel before dark.”
“Are you in CAMRA or something?”
Shaking my head, “naah, just an alcoholic,” then remembering I had been a member these last 8 years, “oh, hang on…I AM in CAMRA; do I get a free refill?”
CAMRA would like this mini pub crawl, anyway, as there were 3 ales to choose from as I entered the Crown. I went for a Hobgoblin and got it in a glass with the new Wychwood livery; most of the other fellas were downing Stella to celebrate one of their members’ birthday.
It was eerily quiet, save for the joviality of the birthday boy’s group. The music drifting in almost inaudibly from the rapidly filling dining room was a nice mix of 70’s rock you don’t hear enough of anymore: Heart of Gold by Neil Young followed by Sheena is a Punk Rocker by the Ramones; the tele was on a set-up menu page with no sound…as good as it gets.
A giant dog, a black great dane mixed with an armored personnel carrier, met me at the door of the Load of Hay. The chinese kids had either gotten past or had been eaten by him so I reckoned either he was friendly or full. I made my way to the bar and was delighted to find a variety of not-the-usual ciders on tap; I got a Bee Sting perry then moved through a door to the dark, rear bar only to find that it was actually a dark, rear Chinese restaurant. I took a seat back at the cider section which also seemed to house lagers and a line of Belgian beers each with their own exotic glass.
When I visited the Militia Canteen a few weeks ago, the gents I met referred to this place as “the Load of Shit” but that seems unfair if not a bit rich coming from those guys. Still, the atmosphere is more of the sort of squat I would have inhabited at the time I was doing similar work near a University I would have been attending (had I not been such a massive stoner at the time). There were several natives in their mid-to-late twenties who felt completely comfortable going behind the bar to reach the squalid housing area of the bar, pushing past the bath towel drying on the door and into the cluttered, dirty, and unfurnished room beyond.
The conversation was ludicrous and focused on single pot versions of American breakfast cereals. One of the fellows was munching on some Lucky Charms and washing it down with a beer a bit darker than the massive dog guarding the house from the couch in the front window and occasionally barking in a loud low tone that shook the rafters. “How’s that perry?” the barman asked and I said, “magically delicious,” but no one seemed to pay it any mind.
The patrons of the Chinese were exclusively Chinese students and seemed to be flowing steadily in from Brunel University across the way. Dusty books were everywhere, and it finally occurred to me what this reminded me most of: the Blue Ball in Grantchester (which I went to on a regular basis while working at Cambridge). Well done, kids.
I left the Black Horse and stumbled along the uneven Buckinghamshire pavements until, safely back inside the M25, I reached regular street lighting back around the Pipemakers Arms. A few hundred meters more and I reached the last pub of the run, the General Eliott.
Bartender: “Alright?” [the sort of generic howdy-do here]
Me: “Yeah, I’m good, thanks, and how are you?”
Bartender, taken aback by the wrong reply, which should have either been a drinks order or “Alright,” answered back with : “Fine, yes, and how are you?”
I’d seen this bit in a Marx Brothers film so I stopped it with “You’re supposed to be better at this than me.” Then I ordered a Bombardier Golden Ale and slunk off to the canal side.
I could see the Dolphin across the bridge and it occurred to me that I was already depleting the area around my house of virgin pub territory. I listened to a couple where the guy was trying to explain the Hash House Harriers to the female, and I got the song Father Abraham stuck in my head with General Eliott inserted thus:
General Eliott had many sons.
Many sons had General Eliott.
And he never laughed,
And he never cried,
All he did was go like this . . .
With a left (swing left arm around), (First time, sing chorus again while continuing motion, then add one of these after each round of the chorus until all are being done for the last chorus.)
And a right (swing right arm around)
And a left (step out with left leg)
And a right (step out with right leg)
And a HOO (stick head in)
And an AAH (shove pelvis forward).
Weird, the things that coarse through a feeble mind, I though then noticed my beer was suddenly empty. I was about to leave in a huff but I had to stop by to toilet first so I left in a minute and a huff.