A Christmas Sesh


My Brother had a Big Birthday yesterday and although he does not enjoy coming up to London, he gave it a try for a city day out. It turned out to be a pretty good template for a chatty stroll in the short daylight hours.

We started in Shoreditch at the Bike Shed, a warren-like motorcycle club/restaurant/bar/museum/ barbershop, then progressed down Shoreditch High Street to Boxpark to watch the idiot hipsters having their veins opened for ‘intravenous shenanigans’ at ‘Get A Drip’, the eerily popular go-to for vitamin boosting party shots.

In the light of reading Dickens again, London struck me as oddly unchanging. New buildings going up, road drills, someone singing, new alleyways and tunnels, old staircases and crowds. I had factored in too many detours, unchanging Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the Temple of Mithras, Dicken’s statue in Holborn, so instead we went to Leadenhall Market (above), to be surrounded by silver griffins, carol singers, Christmas snow-blowers and a torch singer belting out forties’ yuletide hits.

A heavy breakfast having removed the desire for luncheon, we repaired to the all-but-forgotten Samuel Pepys pub, down a neglected side alley to the river that’s hard to spot, where a handful of drinkers were playing shuffleboard. Here you can sit (and nearly always find a seat) overlooking the Thames, and realise that it is being used once more by barges and tugs. The foreshores are cleaner and even sandy, with plenty of tosher-tat at the water’s edge, but nothing you’d really want to take home (clay pipe? Bit of a vase? London-red house brick?)

At high tide the waters lap just below the pub’s balcony. This is now the only North Side pub remaining on the water that I can think of until you get to the East End. I remember going here with my father on Boxing Day aged around 14 and sitting on the balcony to watch the ships.

Okay, so not much of a Sesh, frankly, but we’re getting old. Having had a surfeit of refreshment we decided the forego the more obvious choice of the sumptuously decorated Black Friar (too many tourists photographing every square inch) and left other Thames-side boozers for another time. I pray London does not follow the fate of Paris, which has lost many of its secret corners, sacrificed to the tourist selfie. We seem so self-aware now, yet there are parts of London that remain in deep hiding from the casual visitor, partly because of its maze-like structure, and partly because people are wary of – well, that dark alley above for a start.


21 comments on “A Christmas Sesh”

  1. David Ronaldson says:

    I love the Samuel Pepys, especially the “where on Earth is he taking me?” element when guiding friends there. There’s also The Banker down by Cannon Street for riverside beer on the North bank.

  2. John Howard says:

    Bleated congratulations to your brother on his “big birthday”. Nothing like a convivial chatty stroll when meeting up. My brother and I, when he pops back from Australia, invariably end up at the Tate, Modern or otherwise and at Christies if he has anything he wants looked at (antique dealer isn’t he) but with much wandering, coffee and food shovelled in on the way.
    Something comforting about a brotherly chat I find. Not sure if you are the same but we can be apart for years at a time but we just slot back in whenever we see each other.
    I briefly thought there was a very large anchor on the side of the Samuel Pepys until a second look gave my brain time to register that it was an arrow pointing to the balcony mentioned.

  3. Ken Mann says:

    The three big birthdays are 33 and a third, 45 and 78.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Now if the two of you moved out of the way a bit I could see what’s going on in the Pen Shop. It’s at 8 and 9 something or other street and looks quite posh. (Apparently it is. The prices seem higher than in Canada but if anyone wants to secure me a 50ml bottle of Lamy ink with the built in roll of blotting paper feel free.)
    Belated Happy Birthday to your brother, Chris. He looks a cheery sort for someone not liking to visit the metropolis.

  5. Ian Mason says:


    The Pen Shop is unmistakably in Leadenhall Market – anyone who has been to Leadenhall Market, even just once, would recognise it.

    For other north Thameside pubs, I’m personally rather fond of the Prospect of Whitby. Further down the river in Wapping, it has an unrivalled view of a the south side of the river at that point. I reckon that you can see a mile each way on the river from the terrace at the back of the Prospect.

  6. Brooke says:

    @Helen. Is that Lamy T52 Black…Just in case. I watched the footage of the alligator in Montreal. Poor thinganimal–
    I’m keeping quiet about Snake, as it’s no pet building (except for smelly awful cats).

  7. SteveB says:

    your brother doesn‘t half look like Bill Oddie!
    Sounds like a lovely day and quite enough of a sesh for us mature people 😉

  8. Wayne Mook says:

    I nice stroll with family to an languid drink is always good, I see you’ve gone for the messy Mohican look, very punk. Belated birthday wishes to your brother.


  9. Helen Martin says:

    Any Lamy would do, Brooke, but I’m joking of course. Our pen shop has several fine inks but not Lamy’s although they do carry the pens. Shipping must be a problem. Too bad about Snake, but I’ll keep shtum. (Sorry, I’ve been watching Belles of St. Trinians, would you believe.)
    Thanks for the info, Ian. I haven’t been in Leadenhall Market, more’s the pity, nor have I been in the Prospect of Whitby, although I’ve seen it and agree about the view.

  10. admin says:

    The best place for inks in London is Blade Rubber in Bloomsbury, which does inks that have different London smells. My favourite is Brick Lane, which smells of warm London bricks.

  11. Jan says:

    I’d have thought it would be more curry, beer and bagels myself…

  12. Lee Ann says:

    I just read that Syd’s Coffee stall in Shoreditch was closing and being moved to the Museum of London.
    Did Bryant or May ever go there?

    Just finished TLH, as good as ever.


  13. admin says:

    Lee, they didn’t because while it was always there as part of the street furniture it wasn’t of itself quite interesting enough to build into a scene. But I often pass the cabman’s green hut in Bloomsbury and may use that.

  14. Helen Martin says:

    They don’t promote inks on their web site, Chris, just stamp pad inks. That may be because they don’t want to get into the shipping of bottles. I’ll sure visit there if I’m ever in London again as it’s a fascinating sounding place.
    I’ve seen the green “hut” and pictures as well. Here, I wonder? It was certainly a good idea to have a decent place for cabbies to get a good cup and chat with friends.

  15. Jan says:

    You can’t use those green cabbies shelters unless you r a badge wearing cabbie.( I should know I did me level best!) They are like Tardises those places there’s proper kitchens in them do outstanding breakfasts but the tea is that strong it ain’t funny. Takes the enamel straight off your teeth. Unbelievable.

  16. Helen Martin says:

    We do know you can’t get in without a badge but how did you get a taste of the tea, Jan?

  17. Jan says:

    it’s possible if you’re lucky and the scabbies are feeling generous to mump a tea off of them… But only if you look like your part of the street furniture.

  18. Helen Martin says:

    Ah, effective begging, got you.

  19. Jan says:

    Very effective begging – a skill I worked on for many years.

  20. Ian Luck says:

    The Cabman’s shelters must have changed their policy – in the 1980’s and 90’s, they were the best place from which to get a cuppa and a bacon sarnie from the little window. You could only enter the hut if you had a valid badge, though. The best thing though, is that very few people knew this. Probably still don’t. Those odd green huts are just another bit of street furniture to hurry past.

  21. Jan says:

    I never remembered that Ian! I have some slight recollection of butties being available to purchase. But what would be as important to me would be finding a hidey hole…with free grub thrown in hopefully.

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