Two items were on the agenda for our first day. The Imperial War Museum and Zavvi on Tottenham Court Road.
Unwisely, we changed from the Bakerloo to the Northern Line at Charing Cross. It's about a two-mile walk along a winding, underground passage. It'll help wear off the chips and crisps. Stay positive. That's what you have to do.
The kids like Zavvi. It stocks all the games they can't be arsed to release in Holland. I like it because they have an enormous range of DVD's. There was just one downside. The music being played. Some horrible industrial, hardcore sub-jungle dance music. The sort of stuff you'd put on just before a club closes to drive everyone out into the street. I'm not quite sure why you would want to play it in a shop. Maybe that's why the kids were able to choose remarkably quickly. Last time they'd hummed and hawed for nearly an hour. This time, there was barely even a hum.
I was the one taking his time. Should I get that Likley Lads boxed set? Yes, of course. Look, they're even drinking pints on the cover. Who could resist that? All three series of Bottom? Yes. Lexie's bound to like it. All that swearing and hitting each other. Right down his street. A dozen Goodies episodes? Yes. The kids love them. Should only come to 100 quid or so. Peanuts compared to what I spend on books.
That evening, we left the kids with my new fliptop, a USB stick full of films, a can of petrol and a box of matches. (Just joking about the last two. Really it was a half bottle of vodka for Lexie and a couple of stick hand grenades for Andrew.) Dolores and I headed off for the pub over the road. The Lucas Arms.
I noticed with surprise that it was another Greene King pub. I didn't remember them having such a big London presence. Man United were strolling through their tie against Celtic. The only free table was directly under the large screen. This time, I opted for Abbot. It was quite a shock when I tasted it. Not a bit like the Old Speckled Hen and County I tried earlier. Greene King must have at least two recipes. It was a bit pepperminty and lacked the malty depth of the other two. We only stayed for one.
Wandering further south on Gray's Inn Road, we came across another pub after a couple of hundred yards. The Blue something or other. Yet another Greene King house. And not a particularly inviting one. We continued our walk. "Oh look. There's a Young's pub. Calthorpe Arms. That sounds familiar." The door was covered with Good Beer Guide stickers. Good enough for me.
There was just a single, not that large, room. Not quite so many watching the footie. A single figure number of customers. Maybe they get busier at dinnertime. I ordered a pint and a half of Special. It was a bit gloomy. The ancient decoration wasn't helping. "They could do with some new curtains. I wonder when they last redecorated?" I suggested. "At least the carpet isn't sticky." Dolores was referring to the Esplanade in Melbourne. Its carpet had disintegrated into a sticky black mess that made it difficult to lift your feet. Like walking through treacle. I wonder if they've replaced it yet?
On the way back, Dolores suggested a detour to see if we could find a Tesco's. A drunk with a Tesco's bag had crossed our paths earlier. Tesco's are a bit like rats. You're never more than 10 feet away from one in a British city. The one at King's Cross was managing to escape us, somehow.
I was in a pie sort of mood. Nothing else would be able to fill the pie-shaped hole in my stomach. Finding pies is becoming a nightmare in London. Most chip shops appear to be kebab shops with a sideline in fried fish. (A couple of years ago me and Matt walked right across Soho in a vain search for a pie.) We came across a fish and kebab shop. "Oh look, they've got pies." I'd spotted the cheerfully colourful foil of Pukka pies. Result.
The kids were still alive. Without even any visible signs of injury. They immediately noticed my pie. "Can I have some pie, dad" Lexie said. "I want some, too." chipped in Andrew. I got a couple of mouthfuls. Better than nothing, I suppose. Lucky I had those four bottles of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout to console me.
My first encounter with an Arrogant Bastard - ... was like looking in a mirror. My first encounter with the Californian beer of the same name, however, was the subject of a blog post here in August 2007....
6 hours ago