For the Love of Pubs

Every day, thousands of Brits are on a mission to find the closest pub and drink till grumpy bar staff kick them out. Let me tell you about, ‘Retro’, a pub that was pretty much my second home for two years (it’s now unfortunately closed down). I’m not the one to sit outside ‘Pizza East’ or ‘Electric Diner’, desperately trying to “fit in”. I prefer something like ‘Retro’, just some good old low maintenance fun and genuine people.

The owners, Frank and Andy, were like a typical married couple. Frank would often roll his eyes, “I always do everything!”, to which Andy would just grumble. Frank was a gay Brazilian man, who had a penchant for watching and reading trash. He was a lovely guy, but if he didn’t like someone, he’d make sure they knew about it! Eye rolling, whispering, bitching – the works! Andy, however, was an extremely laid back melomaniac, whose dream was to marry Courtney Love. He was a guy who had no sense of urgency when it came to serving customers. He’d much rather sit outside, smoke an infinite amount of Mayfairs, and sigh about life.

And then, of course, there were the regular customers. For example, Peanut and Joe, a married couple, who were constantly arguing.  Mostly because Joe was an absolute liability, but somehow she always stuck by him. They lived near the pub and one time in a drunken haze, my boyfriend and I, accepted their dinner invite. Peanut kept stressing that Joe was making his famous chicken curry, which had been slow cooking all afternoon. I guess anything slow cooked is worth checking out, right?

Wrong! Oh, so wrong!

So, there we were, sat in the living room, with Peanut fiercely playing Farm Ville, and Joe talking absolute gibberish. He kept disappearing into the kitchen to check on the curry and I was getting more and more sober. I tried to stay positive by reminding myself that there was food at the end of the tunnel! After a long wait, the dinner was finally served. Or whatever was left of it. It appeared that on his little curry “checking” trips to the kitchen, Joe had pretty much eaten most of the meat. Rest of the chicken had completely disintegrated and all that was left was oil. We sat there for good few hours and I kicked myself for being too fucking polite to leave.

Then there were, Bob and Jane, a couple who started partying in the late 1970s and never stopped. Jane would always cause heartbreak and anger with her sharp tongue and quick wit.  She never hesitated to murder people with her words, usually followed by a loud masculine laugh. She would constantly wind up Frank and Andy with such classics as, ‘there’s dust everywhere!, ‘did Stevie Wonder upholster those chairs?’, ‘Andy, you look like a miserable donkey!’ and so on.  Bob  was the strong silent type. He didn’t say much, but when he did, it either made no sense or was completely irrelevant to the context of the conversation.

Another regular customer was, Stan. He looked like The Penguin from ‘Batman Returns’. The more he drank, the less plausible his stories got. He was your typical wheeler-dealer, but really sweet at the same time. Stan had a bad leg, which usually became an issue when he tried to walk home after several pints. You’d often see him reeling in the night, street lights reflecting off his bald head.

Now imagine all these people high. Yes, high. One time Stan brought in space cakes and everyone eagerly tucked in. There’s always that one person who thinks it’s not working, so they eat huge quantities. Big mistake. You will most likely end up giggling yourself to death, or staring at a chewing gum on the ground for an elongated period of time. The latter happened to Bob. It was priceless.

I saw these people pretty much every day for two years. The failed comedy night attempts, cool live bands, chain smoking, funny conversations, and colourful characters – a lot of good memories.  I love people who are mad, who are far from being perfect, but have great sense of humour and warmth. I guess that’s what it feels like to be part of a community.

 

 

 

 

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Hackney and The Cool Kids

Last Saturday night I was rubbing shoulders with the ultimate cool kids of London. One of my friends was hosting a big party at a warehouse conversion in Hackney and we were duly invited. I don’t often venture to East London as it’s pretty far away and I’m lazy like that, but I figured this party was too cool to miss.

I must say I agree with these hipsters.

I must say I agree with these hipsters.

We stylishly arrived in a taxi. We are 30 years old now and therefore deserve that type of a treat! It took us ages to get there and as we got out, it was pretty clear we weren’t in West London anymore.  If there is such thing as ‘industrial chic’, Hackney definitely has it – cool graffiti, artist studios and warehouse conversions. It’s pretty clear the kids around there have also been spending a lot of time on Pinterest because crate furniture was definitely the hip thing to possess.
Industrial chic

Industrial chic

Crate-mania

Crate-mania

 

We decided to wander around the area, and when I say wander, I mean we got lost on our mission to find a corner shop. We walked across bridges, under bridges and up and down the “hills” until we reached a wasteland and decided to turn back. Someone aptly mentioned that this mission felt  “a lot like Lord of The Rings”. And it really did. It was a rather windy night so my eyes were watering and the winged eyeliner I had work so hard on earlier, was now running down my cheeks. Frodo’s struggles were nothing compared to mine.

 

Under the bridge

Under the bridge

We finally got out shizzle sorted and were ready to join the party! I thought I had dressed up pretty hip and happening but as soon as I walked in, it was clear – SCRUNCHIES are back!! Seriously! I’ve tried hard enough to forget about my childhood trauma of wearing shorts that my mum made me, together with a matching scrunchie to go with my side ponytail. Wait, there’s more –  I have two brothers and two sisters and we ALL had those matching shorts! And we all would wear them together. In public.

Shocking.

View from the 'vom' corner before it all kicked off

Party brings all the people to the yard

 

So yeah, scrunchies, crop tops and headbands – it was a house full of ‘Saved by the Bell’ extras. We got there around 8pm but the party had started at 3pm, so you can imagine most people were pretty wasted by then.

It was time to catch up with them!

There was dancing, loads of toilet paper flying around, men in drag, older ladies shaking their booties, youngsters off their faces, “oldies” off their faces, toilet queues, funny conversations, boring conversations, copious amounts of spilled drinks and ruined shoes.

 

Party time!

Party time!

 

Around 1pm, I showed those pesky 20-year-olds who’s boss, by puking outside in the dark corner. Not sure if vomiting at parties is out of fashion nowadays, because a bunch of youngsters all looked at me like I had just committed a major act of lameness. I was later joined by my friend who said: “Let me show you how professionals do it!” And so she did.

And there we were – sitting outside in the ‘vom’ corner, mascara running down the face, trying to get our heads straight.

I started feeling much better about myself when a guy suddenly appeared – he went to one of the many bicycles parked outside the building and quickly dismantled its front wheel. He then started putting it back together but there was a problem! He’d forgotten how to! He was just looking at the wheel and then the bike. He did that for a while. Don’t know what drugs he was on but he was talking to himself, clearly confused about the mind-boggling situation he was in. Not sure if he managed to put it together in the end and I sincerely hope it was his own bike.

They started kicking us out around 2am but instead of continuing on to the after-party, which I’m usually a fan of, it was time for this piggy to get in the taxi and go to bed.

Crazy Kilburn

Kilburn High Road

Kilburn High Road

Stereotypical London is all about picture perfect architecture and streets, vintage and artisan markets and fashionable people. Well, you won’t find much of that in Kilburn because this is “real” London!

I’ve been working at the music college for about two years now and therefore have spent a lot of time around Kilburn. I’ve gotten to know this area inside out and can say this place has really grown on me.

Kilburn is home for countless crazy people. Seriously, there’s so many of them! Let me see – there’s Shouty Man, Plastic Bag Man, Foamy Mouth Man, “Can I Say A Prayer With You?” Lady, Passive Aggressive Linda, Swagger Man and Mobility Scooter Pervert Man – to name a few.

But over the last two years, I’ve developed a soft spot for Fashion Man. He’s a man who simply doesn’t give a shit! He can rock a leopard print fur coat and bell bottom jeans like a true fashion hero. This guy also comfortably carries off a long vintage dress, paired with fluorescent green patent heels. All you street style bloggers would have a field day if you met this guy! But where does he get all these fabulous clothes from, you wonder? Well, he mostly resides on the steps of Oxfam and is clearly the first person on the scene when some kind person leaves their donations outside the shop. The downside AND the main reason he’s NOT my best friend is that he’s crazy. Full on mentalist. Rule number one – do not make eye contact or he will shout strange things in a language unheard to any scholar out there.

My favourite thing about Kilburn is Spicy Basil. Undoubtedly the best Thai food I’ve ever had. I’ve never been to Thailand but even the biggest of backpackers agree that it’s a very authentic place. Kilburn High Road is famous for the amount of chicken shops it has per capita. Some people even call it Kilburn Thigh Road. Take your pick, there’s – Pepe’s, Peri-Peri’s, Chicken Cottage, Chicken Village and other variations of the word chicken. And of course there’s the HQ of all chicken shops – Nando’s. Another dominant feature of Kilburn are the countless nail and hair salons. The ladies of Kilburn clearly like to get their nails did.

“Night life” around there is pretty rowdy. There’s a bar called Brondes Age – holy grail of all things trouble.  It attracts all sorts – office workers, students, drug dealers, business men, girls on the pull and sleazy guys trying to force their grinding dance moves on other innocent dancers. What they all have in common is the thirst for Jaeger Bombs and cheesy tunes. I’ve only been there once but had a brilliant time!

Kilburn is vastly becoming another gentrified area of London. They’re knocking down council blocks like there’s no tomorrow, there are scaffolding and construction sites everywhere and the shops are smartening up. The biggest construction site displays posters with quotes from Bradley Wiggins a la “Little boys from Kilburn are not meant to win Tour de France”. Be aware –  The marketeers have found Kilburn!

Kilburn is sometimes a dangerous place. I’ve seen fights, arguments, traffic accidents, blood bursting out of a man’s head, people unconscious on the ground, drug addicts, drunks – you name it! I also heard about a pregnant woman who was once stabbed in the street. Some people might say that police and ambulance sirens are the sound of New York, well, it’s also the theme tune of Kilburn.

But despite all that I love Kilburn and I’ve never experienced something scary enough to make me think otherwise. I love that place because it’s ALIVE! There’s a buzz and character to it.  I have more interesting stories to tell you about Kilburn than of any other picture perfect place in London.