My most beloved, now defunct pub.
June 19, 2015 § Leave a comment
I miss the old George and Dragon in dear old mentally ill — Town. It was not the busiest pub, and not always the most well-managed; but it was unique, inhabited by intellect, chaos, sorrow and love, and I now remember how I have been truly touched by all the lovely people who went there and by their absolute loveliness.
I miss Mad-Eye M. M., who would drain pints of Guinness by the mouthful and always came equipped to the teeth with musical gear and enchanting vibes of melodic wit. He’d set up speakers or a keyboard in the courtyard and you’d have all the regulars singing along with him, politely drunk and relaxed, in their element.
I miss sweet, sweet gay G., so outrageously homosexual with those sparkling costumes he’d love to wear for the slightest holiday occasion. Wonderful, soulful Irish G. with his dying mum and his stressful work life as a nurse. But he’d always come in to shed his angst and exhaustion, leave it at the front door, make everybody feel rejuvenated with his happy Celtic magic and sing with M. and the others in the courtyard.
I miss J.! The lovely little ex-hippie with her pure aura of cuteness and her high-pitched “hello”! I would love to mock. She and her cheeky mate L., dripping with sarcasm and doted with an unbelievable cackle, would engage in the randomest of conversations in the courtyard, sipping at their lager and ale, respectively. Whimsically, L. didn’t want to support a certain corrupt ale company though it was her taste buds’ favorite: and so for a week or so, she abstained—but in the end, pleasure overcame morality with a wink and a chortle on all sides.
Oh, and N., pinnacle of wisdom and sheer brilliance, he’d bring in with him a sense of comfort, a funny and sometimes long-winded story, and sarcastic yet undeniable words of advice. He saw to it that the pub stayed under control and the fridge doors always clean. Any delay in service merited a disapproving yet mirthful look; any drink bought for him without his consent got an outburst of friendly but sincere aggravation. He was his own man, a loner surrounded by love, attracting it to himself with his distinctive, genuine, humourous, charming self.
I miss N. the schoolteacher, sexy, wise-cracking intellectual with his intellectual beret. And when he took it off, he looked like a youthful Beatle, ever so charming, so proud of his royal English language and heritage. Taught by his job to be patient, educated, educative. One of my favorite pub pastimes (yes, I did do some work) was to help him with the crossword… and shamefully fail at helping him at all; I loved his mocking look. At his side–a striking pair–Pat the dark beauty; she’d keep him in check… she and I always shared the pack of peppermint tea she had bought because the pub didn’t really serve anything she enjoyed, but she’d come in to meet her man anyway. I’d always try to give her the nicest cup because she was so bloody lovely.
I miss good old S., dissatisfied soul, encumbered by his relentless lust for excitement, passion, and, of course, women, and yet ever so alienated by his tough and unfulfilling family life. Despite his despair, he had a knack for bursting into these sweet fits of giggles. He was everybody’s friend, with a heart of gold, and he held on to his youth for dear life.
The great mascot of them all, S. the moustache, S. the cynic, S.-san as I dubbed him in an unintentionally Japanese-looking portrait I lovingly drew of him on the chalkboard behind the bar that one time. He hated and loved the attention; this was a place where he was adored, where he endured the friendliest of mockery and the silliest of situations, where he could leave tragic memories at home and share his solitude with so many other humorous loners of his kind. He and N. were the loveable duo everyone knew, the first ones I knew and could not help but cherish.
I miss the masters of the pub, its true managers; they have professionally drunk quality cask ales since the beginning of time as far as I’m concerned. The HSB belonged to C., the London Pride was his son P.’s, and the table in the corner glowed with the combined aura of these two unwavering regulars. Like father like son, they seemed to know everything about everything. C. might have looked like the local madman, quietly shouting at the memories that would plague his inner eye; but talk to him and you would be humbled by such calm, witty wisdom and sanity that seemed to exceed normality in every way. Talk to his son P. and hear Dickens, hear Wilde; a mastery of the English language such that it can only come naturally, and whatever silliness he may utter, however lengthy his speech may be, it will always be a pleasure to hear; a laugh to share; a game to play. A caretaker, there for everybody, P. is a local unsung hero, loved by all but not nearly enough.
I miss teacher S.! Yes, another S., an undeniable S., with conversation aplenty and dryness that would never run dry! Along with N., a teacher I could only dream of having had when I was a kid… to teach me to not give a fuck, not even about not giving a fuck! Englishman of Englishmen, the epitomy of why I came to this country, I could converse with this man and get nowhere and yet so many places. Who knows if he was taking the piss or actually thought I had a point; that doesn’t matter anyway, because we found each other’s meaning somewhere along the nonsensical way. A retired teacher, a folk musician, an ageing traveler who nevertheless liked his comfort and didn’t put excessive emotion into anything. An inspiration.
I miss sweet old P., the small yet imposing old lady with her matching tiny dog Bibi and raspy, smoked-out yet sexy voice. She’d hit on me more than the men and I loved it, a real woman with a history one could only imagine as lushly wild, artistic, and free. Civil to everyone, everyone loved her… she would come in for only two gin and tonics but end up chatting away way beyond her adorable self-imposed limits. I can only hope to be similar when I’m her age, and have such a life behind me.
I miss the imperishable married couple, L. and G. So perfect together, they were almost intimidating to me at the start: there was a sacred bond I was too shy to immerse myself in. Of course, I got to know them too: G.’s fanatical obsession with pop culture and extensive knowledge thereof; L.’s sensible sweetness and flowery style; they almost looked like brother and sister, I could just imagine a bubbly marriage in some field with flowery dress and tuxedo, and a fancy dress reception in their favorite pub. I’d yet to meet a couple with no bickering about the man’s alcohol consumption! And they would be always among the first to join M. in the courtyard singing away.
T. the annoying American ex-trucker mofo with his cowboy boots and morphine pills. Dramas abounded with T., never failed to spice up a quiet evening at the George. We cared for the lonely bugger and put up with amusing and sometimes highly unpleasant situations. He would give me tokes on his joint outside the pub to keep me going through a stressful night.
And how can I forget the third S.? Ha! A darling! Our opinionated, occasionally loveably awkward northern Irish fellow, good friends with teacher N., his accent would get nigh on incomprehensible as he uttered his love of Northern Soul or participated in that night’s all-round debate. It took me months to get to know him, but I would soon appreciate his shy, tall charm.
A. and J.! Our hilarious pair of hard drinkers, bulky and strong-minded to boot, they’d come in with or without friends to hang out at the bar and operate a direly needed lock-in with shots and laughs galore. They might seem to be normal kind of guys, but their love for us and our queer little pub went far beyond the usual chilled-out young professional vibe. J. was outspoken and boasted pure sarcastic English humor accompanied by worldly wisdom. A. was our slapstick comedian, flexing his muscles and bringing the party to the place. Their loyalty to our beloved pub was fierce and beautiful to behold.
Similarly to the previous pair, J. and P. were a more subdued couple of young professionals, our pub’s neighbors, who would come in occasionally for their dose of conviviality and whisky. Always such a pleasure to see them come in, I adored their slightly timid silliness as J. and I would take the piss out of P. for his good-boy vibe. I’ve still got plans with J. to go see our common favorite band: Steely Dan. Whenever they bloody decide to come to the UK…
And not to mention the love story that started with my sweet L., one of those fateful, “what-were-the-chances” meetings that so often happened in this special place, on dark boozy nights of being carried up the stairs to his quarters, or long midnight walks in the murky town ending in long talks in the pub’s empty courtyard, or quick, lazy cleaning sessions when the “new” bar in the back was nearing completion and the owner had to get rid of the professional cleaner.
The bar pictured above was removed and the pub turned into a more normal brewery gastro-pub. Needless to say, I did not return to work there very long.