How To Conduct A Proper Pub Crawl



Yesterday my friend Suzi Feay conducted a superb pub crawl. Although she had selected a shortlist of pubs chosen for their literary connections, starting with The Coal Hole (Gilbert & Sullivan) and The Edgar Wallace, she adapted this and was able to avoid Ye Old Cheshire Cheese (Boswell, Johnson et al, too obvious) and add others along the way. It was a freezing misty late afternoon and the City of London’s Christmas parties were in full swing, so people in evening dress kept looming from the mist. We passed extraordinary sigts, including a vehicle being peddled by about twelve people seated opposite each other (ie not facing where they were heading), all drinking mulled wine, and the London Necrobus, one of the city’s many ghost tours, which had a vampire bus conductor.

The pubs were interspersed with Wren churches (some having choir practice) and buildings of odd interest. We avoided the Templars church, now ruined by Dan Brown fans. Between each pub, Suzi gave a short reading. Outside the Law Courts, we had the wonderful opening page of ‘Bleak House’, with its description of a megalosaurus. Outside The Old Bell, she read the poem below by Mary Robinson, entitled ‘January, 1795’. See how much of it still applies to London today.

We ended up in the raucous, heaving Leadenhall Market, with its Christmas tree and deafening band. Everyone taking part in the crawl was an expert on London, and contributed arcane facts as we went along. We drank appropriate beers, like ‘Old Christmas Oatmeal Ale’ (less lumpy than it sounds). Then it was back into the fog once more – a perfect evening out. Here the market at a quieter time.

January 1795

Pavement slipp’ry, people sneezing,
Lords in ermine, beggars freezing;
Titled gluttons dainties carving,
Genius in a garret starving.
Lofty mansions, warm and spacious;
Courtiers cringing and voracious;
Misers scarce the wretched heeding;
Gallant soldiers fighting, bleeding.
Wives who laugh at passive spouses;
Theatres, and meeting-houses;
Balls, where simp’ring misses languish;
Hospitals, and groans of anguish.
Arts and sciences bewailing;
Commerce drooping, credit failing;
Placemen mocking subjects loyal;
Separations, weddings royal.
Authors who can’t earn a dinner;
Many a subtle rogue a winner;
Fugitives for shelter seeking;
Misers hoarding, tradesmen breaking.
Taste and talents quite deserted;
All the laws of truth perverted;
Arrogance o’er merit soaring;
Merit silently deploring.
Ladies gambling night and morning;
Fools the works of genius scorning;
Ancient dames for girls mistaken,
Youthful damsels quite forsaken.
Some in luxury delighting;
More in talking than in fighting;
Lovers old, and beaux decrepid;
Lordlings empty and insipid.
Poets, painters, and musicians;
Lawyers, doctors, politicians:
Pamphlets, newspapers, and odes,
Seeking fame by diff’rent roads.
Gallant souls with empty purses.
Gen’rals only fit for nurses;
School-boys, smit with martial spirit,
Taking place of vet’ran merit.
Honest men who can’t get places,
Knaves who shew unblushing faces;
Ruin hasten’d, peace retarded;
Candor spurn’d, and art rewarded.

6 comments on “How To Conduct A Proper Pub Crawl”

  1. John Howard says:

    Does line 4 remind us of anyone? It has been said that there is nothing new under the sun, just read the above. With all the references to martial spirit and rubbish Generals I idly wondered who we were fighting at that time. (Haven’t done anything about finding out – too early in the morning)

    Jingle Bells..

  2. John Howard says:

    Oh alright, I did a bit a bit of looking and we were quite busy in 1794. Nelson was a busy boy, we captured Corsica, captured Martinique we even signed a wee treaty with the United States. The wonders of Wikipedia. Oh, and Scots Wha Hae was published. Dear old Rabbie just making sure we didn’t forget and giving Mel a reason to paint his face blue.

    Sorry rambling a bit but the tour sounds as though it was great. Jealous, Moi?

  3. Jez Winship says:

    Doesn’t the Coal Hole have a William Blake connection, too? I’m going by William Heaney aka Graham Joyce’s novel Memoirs of a Master Forger, with its professionally dishonest narrator, so it might not be the most reliable guide. It does point you to some excellent pubs, though (including The Pineapple, mentioned before).

  4. glasgow1975 says:

    Wow that could almost be written nowadays . . .so much still applies

  5. Dan Terrell says:

    Wasn’t it written today?

  6. Helen Martin says:

    Fascinating and such a lovely picture of Leadenhall Market. Well, plus ca change and all that.That poem would fit almost any year, the only change being whether there was more or less military feeling around.

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