A Man Walks Into A Bar


After posting a piece complaining that London is hardly a 24-hour city, there were a lot of comments, one from Emma at 24HourLondon pointing out that their app would locate around-the-clock London hotspots.

A neat idea – except that the first three places I picked were all shut. ‘Round the clock’ appears to mean ‘Open a bit later on Friday and Saturday nights’. However, Jan’s point about being able to do it if you traverse London is right if you’re prepared to move around, and the app is great for finding such places.

It’s pretty much always been true that you could party 24/7 if you tried hard enough. Back when pubs still closed between lunchtime and after work, we would haunt Soho’s old drinking dens, miserable basements full of bellowing strawberry-nosed sots. Legendary reputation aside, the Colony Club (above) was probably the most depressing bar I ever visited.

After pubs shut you could hoof it to poky upstairs bars which had to legally serve food to serve booze, so they’d give you a shred of shepherd’s pie on a paper plate.

But a lot of places opened at odd times. The Valbonne in Kingly street was a disco with bikini-clad dancers gyrating in a fountain, and we’d go there on a Friday lunchtime, then totter back to work. Equally, Leicester Square ran a roller disco nightclub on Sunday afternoons that culminated in a race around the square for a magnum of champagne (they wouldn’t let you do that now!)

In the spirit of curiosity I headed for ‘Brunch in the Park’ in Barcelona, brunch in this case meaning afternoon and evening. Rather than a sedate picnic it proved to be an EDM bash with facepainting and Hawaiian shirt stalls. The big question was, do the Youngs do anything different now? The answer was; no, and it’s a lot more sedate and polite. The music is not as ear-bleeding, everyone’s cheerful but not outrageously off-their-faces, there were billions of security guards and the males were more shredded, threaded and plucked than the females. Plus there was a stall where people were ready to explain your rights to you. Very nice, a bit boring.

Europe, however, is genuinely 24/7, not just open a bit later at the weekends. Me, I’ve always been a morning person, so the question is irrelevant anyway!

9 comments on “A Man Walks Into A Bar”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    My complaint about really late opening and 7 day weeks is perhaps an odd one. There are now so many couples and families working on these (to me) bizarre hours and days that some families have to resort to leaving notes and scheduling a day once a quarter when everyone is off together. There have always been some: people who worked in factories, medical people, police and fire, and some few others, but it wasn’t the way everyone lived. Now as low person on the totem, the young are stuck with the ugly shifts just as they should be stabilising their relationships. I know, I know, it’s an old fashioned way to look at things and I’m sure there are things to be said for irregular hours in spite of what the researchers say. The first year we were married I saw my husband about one weekend in every six and we claimed we were easing into married life.

  2. Denise Treadwell says:

    Going back to the topic of finding somewhere to eat at night. Once, after a play in San Francisco we were hungry and I had a brilliant idea to ask a policeman, they are working all night and would know where to find good food., he directed us to a restaurant on the edge of Chinatown – it was delicious.

  3. Jo W says:

    Yes,Denise, a member of the force can be most informative about such matters. Once in a small town,we were looking for liquid refreshment but did not fancy the W’spoons so we asked a young bill if there was a proper pub anywhere.
    There was. We were directed towards to go round to the road at the back of the Police Station and there it was-wooden floors,dark oak panelling,crusty cheese rolls and well kept beer,at reasonable prices.
    Mind you that was a couple of years ago. Now it’s harder to find a copper than a pub!

  4. Ian Luck says:

    Jo W – You’re not wrong. I live in a county town, whose Police Station is based in an old building on a one-way street, and is open to the public from 9-5, and closed on Bank Holidays. Out of hours, you are expected to use the ‘phone by the front door, to presumably, contact their HQ some miles out of town. This ‘phone has been cut or vandalised several times. The large and expensively modernised station that they used to have, was demolished a few years ago, and is now a car park. The current excuse for a station used to have police inside, 24-7, and pressing an intercom button by the door would summon one from within, but not anymore. It’s rubbish, frankly. Other than patrol cars, whose blue lights I see on the roads at night, or racing along in the morning, suspiciously close to shift change, I rarely see policemen any more.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    I was thrilled to see policemen (in pairs like nuns) walking London’s streets. We have acquired some police on bikes (“bobbies on bicycles dum de dum”) to cover the Skytrain walking/cycling trail, but these are the only ones you see. When I learned we had some “bicycle cops” I envisioned our RCMP officers in riding boots and stetson hats, lances in hand, but no,they wear bicycle helmets and the usual khaki coloured uniform. No lances.

  6. Ian Luck says:

    Helen – “England swings, like a pendulum do/Bobbies on bicycles, two by two/Westminster Abbey, the tower of Big Ben/The rosy red cheeks of the little children”. I still have my childhood copy of this record, but the name of the singer (who also made ‘King Of The Road’) completely escapes me.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    The singer was Roger Miller, Ian, and I loved England Swings or Engahland as Miller sang it. It was the sixties so the children were quite likely to have had rosy red cheeks as opposed to a generation earlier. That song could have been written by the tourist board and I knew it was only a clip of the country but those were the things that meant England to most of us over here.

  8. Ian Luck says:

    Thank you, Helen. It’s a song that always takes me back to when I was a kid. I try not to listen to songs that have that effect, too often. Maybe it’s just me, but hearing something that was so familiar in the past, can actually hurt. I had a fantastic childhood and adolescence, but because it’s impossible to regain what once was, it can be unsettling. There was always music when I was a kid, all kinds, my parents didn’t care. Classical, Pop, Country, Show tunes, Rock, M.O.R., all being played. One my mother loved was the great Edith Piaf singing “Je Ne Regrette Rien”. That beautiful, broken voice, singing words that didn’t sound right – I couldn’t understand them. Then, of course, life moved on, and I didn’t hear the song for years, and then it got played on the radio when I was at work, and I froze, transfixed, until it had finished, memory bringing me out in goosebumps, and cold sweat running down my spine. Another example: when I was at my first school (1968-74), and we had the long summer holidays, there were programmes on TV in the mornings. Now the BBC used to buy foreign language shows, and re dub them into English. Most were utter rubbish, but one was ‘The Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe’, made for French TV, and it had obviously had money spent on it, as it was totally on location, beautifully lit and photograped, and was well acted. All in all, a handsome production. The icing on the cake was the soundtrack music, by two rather avant-garde composers, which was (and still is), a thing of great beauty. In the late 1990’s, I bought an album of TV and movie themes, called ‘The Cult Files’. Amongst the tracks was a suite comprised of themes from ‘The Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe’, which had been thought lost for many years. I put it on, and as the track started, a wave of almost unbearable nostalgia grabbed me, and reduced me to a sobbing wreck. That time, and that time only. I’m at a loss to explain it. I do have records that have connections to people that I’ve known, and loved, who aren’t here now, through moving away, or dying, but I’ve never had such a reaction to them, other than the usual thought of: ‘This was a favourite track of _____’s’. Odd, isn’t it?

  9. Helen Martin says:

    Very. It’s not surprising that the effect is only the first time you hear a piece after years of silence. Part of it is shock and the catapulting of the mind back to the time when it was important or whatever. Every time you hear it later that shock is part of the memory and therefor you don’t feel it like that again. (Does that make any sense at all? It reads strangely.)

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