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1001 things not to do in London: go to a dead pub

Posted at 5:15 pm, June 1, 2013 in Arts & Entertainment, Fun London

1001 things

Time Out’s Executive Editor Michael Hodges has been dallying with danger so you don’t have to. This week’s thing not to do in London – No 909: go to a dead pub.

This is a terrible pub. If someone tells you they’ve been to a worse one in central London, they are either lying or have mistaken a building used for something else entirely for a pub. They are thinking, perhaps, of the half-hour they spent waiting to be served a dry white wine in that very cold and unpleasant-smelling pub they thought was called the Butcher’s Arms, which turned out to be an actual butchers. Or their attempt to buy a craft beer in a beads and brooches shop in Greenwich Market, which, to be fair, is an easy mistake to make. My mistake today has been to pause at a quiet pub behind the Charing Cross Road that I’ve never noticed before. Inside I find a barman attending a few solitary figures, and that’s all. Can this really be it? I ask myself with wonder. The only pub in the West End with a free seat? By the time I have bought a drink, taken my jacket off, put down my Tesco bag containing my wallet, book and a piece of paper with my mobile number written on it (I never telephone myself so I don’t know what my mobile number is) and sat down in the corner opposite the gloomy bar, I realise why the seat is free. This isn’t contemplative quiet, but the hush of the graveyard, the silence of the tomb.This pub is dead.

By the second sip of my drink, the sense of doom is overpowering. I look up at the doleful face of the barman, who raises one eyebrow as if to acknowledge my fate, and I realise that if I don’t leave right now it’s possible I will be here for the rest of my life. Fleeing the terrible pub, I dash down a side street and jump on a bus, where I slump into the very back seat and make a mental note never to go there again.

Twenty minutes later my phone announces an incoming text. The text says, ‘Have you lost a Tesco bag, with wallet and book?’ I look around the back of the bus. There is no Tesco bag with wallet and book. ‘My stuff!’ I gasp aloud to the empty bus.

‘I’ve left it all in the pub!’ The bus, being empty, doesn’t respond. Instead, it echoes to a second series of bleeps as another
message arrives. ‘Found this number on piece of paper. Can’t call, not much signal in here. Please say if you.’ ‘Yes is me,’
I tap in. ‘Where are you?’ The texter names the pub I have only recently left. Responding with ‘Coming now,’ I get off the bus, dash across the road and get one going in the opposite direction back into town. ‘Good, will wait,’ comes his reply.
But will he? How long can he stand being in the worst pub in London?

So every five minutes I send a text saying ‘Still coming.’ When the bus turns into the Charing Cross Road I calm a little, but then it stops for no reason. I insist they let me off and run the remaining half-mile. A diversion around the very big hole dug by Crossrail takes another ten minutes, and I fear I am too late as I pelt around the corner and arrive panting
outside the worst pub in London.

Through a glazed pane in the pub’s door I can see a distressed man with a mobile phone, fumbling with the handle on the other side, desperate to get out. Breathless, I cannot speak, but there is no need to ask who he is. I step aside and let him out, then go through the door. Inside, on the table in the corner, there is an unfinished drink and next to it a Tesco bag containing a book, a wallet and a piece of paper with my number on it. The barman looks at me, then raises his other eyebrow.

Read more about Michael Hodges’ adventures.

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