Monday, June 25, 2007

So many things to knock one sideways

The middle class smug fest that is Glastonbury. Harriet fecking Harman. Yesterday's brief panic that the Finchley Road Waitrose was out of Observers. The far more profound existential crisis once I realised how stereotypical the preceding annoyance made me.

But nothing saddened me quite as much as getting my hands on the Obs and reading the following.

Comedy double-act David Mitchell, 33, and Robert Webb, 35, stars of Peep Show and Magicians, at the North London Tavern.

David: This is my local pub. I like it because it feels like a gentlemen's club, except when they play the music too loudly, which I'm not too keen on. When I first moved to Kilburn, four or five years ago, this pub was hilariously scary.

I did try and think of a clever way in which I could respond so that I sounded like one of the amusing characters from Peep Show, but on reflection I thought that maybe Mitchell's middle class wuss persona was getting the better of him and decided to keep it simple.

He's talking desperate, irredeemable bollocks. The North London Tavern was an old school Irish boozer which has sadly fallen victim to the creeping poncification of NW6. There was nothing wrong with it in its old guise. Admittedly it might not have been to everyone's taste – but

Very brightly lit, patterned carpet, banquette seating and about six old men sitting on their own drinking half pints of Guinness. On Saturday nights they used to show Casualty on the big screen.

does not constitute an imminent threat to one's personal safety. The ould fellas drinking Guinness might not have been too welcoming to the sort of person who finds that sort of shabby melancholy deeply intimidating, but I remember it from those days and it wasn't the sort of place where they used to pass the hat round "for the boys in Ireland". Nor, for that matter was it as depressingly mired in loserdom as The Cock nor as hostile as The Kingdom (which, the one time I visited was full of identikit middle-aged Irish couples: big, hostile men channeling the spirit of the "ponce" character from Withnail & I and women who were all probably called Mary, and who had the sort of face that only a life-time of disappointment, too many children and domestic abuse can give you. The fact that there is no fancyapint review of the place - largely because I won't go there alone and Venichka is too much of a pussy to accompany me there – tells you all you need to know).

What you did get at the North London on a Saturday was fiddly-de diddly-de Irish music, a man dressed as a Leprechaun dancing along, the only people I've ever encountered using the word "colleen" in an non-ironic fashion and the whole crowd standing for Amhrán na bhFiann at the end of the night. You might find that annoying, ridiculous or simply to not your taste, but whereas gastro-pubs are ten a penny across London (and I'm not knocking them per se – the lack of pubs that serve decent meals is one of the more annoying facets of life in Ireland), I can't help but regret the loss of the old school Kilburn pubs.

The working class Irish emigrants who lived – some of them are still there – in Kilburn and Cricklewood are getting old, their descendants are either Anglified (like me, I suppose. Among other things I'm descended from Irish builders who came to England in search of a better life; it's possible I have the navvy gene which creates an ancestoral affinity to Kilburn pubs) or staying in Ireland these days. North West London is full of nice pubs where timid, middle class showbiz types won't encounter anything too horrifyingly different – damn it Hampstead is 20 minutes' or so walk from Kilburn High Road – but something of the capital's soul dies when the sort of ageing Guinness drinker who can't go back to Ireland, but who is not wholly of England, loses the only place where he feels truly at home.

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Blogger Glamourpuss said...

I used to catch the No'30 bus from Highbury Corner to the depths of Hackney where I lived. Opposite the bus stop was a 24hr Off License - armour-plated with a caged cashier. At some point in the mid-nineties, it became a cheesemongers, and a part of me died. Sigh.


12:14 pm  
Blogger bill said...

When I first lived in NW6 my flat was above a bookies. Across the road was a pub, an offie and a curry house. I'm amazed I ever went anywhere.

Now the bookies is an estate agents (because obviously if there's one thing London needs is more estate agents), the offie is a clothing business or beauty salon (sorry to be vague, but I've never really checked). Thankfully the pub and curry house are clinging on. I just hope that the smoking ban and relentless rise of the prissy middle classes doesn't do for the former.

2:42 pm  
Anonymous Venya said...

I think so much less of Mitchell for describing the old, grand, NLT as scary.

And that pub you refer to opposite the ex-bookies has been ponsified, too (only semisuccesfully, admittedly): the indian - actually a very fine indian- was already a cut above the area and demonstrating aspirations to semi-trendiness, anyway.

IIRC the beauty salon specialises in doing nails, but I might be wrong

The very recent loss of Powers Bar represents, post-NLT, the loss of the last decent Irish boozer on the High Road. It is a sad loss indeed.

RIP County Kilburn You Were So Grand

5:04 pm  
Blogger Quink said...

I remember the first time I went there. Up to the bar, massive smile from the barmaid, opened my mouth and spoke like I'd fallen out of a black and white film, and then - bang - she fecking hated me for evermore.

9:51 pm  

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