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.