Monday, 30 July 2007

The Railway Tavern (Cundy’s), Silvertown, E16

Description: Derlict corner site. Plants growing out of upper story, lower story painted blue. No signage whatsover other than landlords name painted on front door frame in what looks like tippex. Empty pub sign swinging in the wind. ALL windows broken and mended with cling film with stained heavy half nets behind. Pub has a couple of medium-rise blocks behind, a pot holed street in front and the ghostly single track Silverlink North London train line beyond. The next stop is the end of the line. Main door is on corner of plot and has a roll-down beaten steel shutter. There’s no door behind this once it’s opened. Side door to same room also has a roll down shutter. This is half open and legs can be seen of the drinkers already positioned for a pre-opening taste at the bar. Inside is fading grandeur. Chipped columns rise behind the L-shaped bar, mismatched chairs are dotted around and grubby red velvet booths hug the walls, many repaired with gaffer tape from deep knife wounds. Raised pool table area at the back has missing wall lights, damp down one wall, and scribbled signs about drug use on the premises. It’s patrolled over via a fish eye mirror strategically placed above the bar. There was a very small stage to one side by the main entrance that had a knackered unplugged TV perched on it. Behind the bar is a very flashy Guinness promotional screen and on the wall is a new digital jukebox – both utterly at odds with the rest of the scene.

Action: Whilst nervously hovering by the shuttered front door we’re approached by a bare chested black bloke asking if we’re waiting for it to open? We asked if it was open already and he said to try the side (half opened shutter). He waits for us to go in. At the bar four drinkers look to be on their second of the day. All look to have a thirst. The landlord is a red faced weasely, but quite nice, bloke with the shakes and an aussie rugby shirt on. Asked him if he knew of a pub called ‘The Gun’ in Silvertown – a tip we’d had for a horrowshow of a boozer. He replied saying there’s no Gun, but plenty of guns in Silvertown. We hurried to the pool area and loaded in 50p. The available only cues had tips missing. Asked the landlord and one wag at the end of the bar said you have to bring your own. The landlord compromised saying there should be half a cue with a decent tip knocking around up there. Played one game under the lazy watchful eyes of the half naked black man – returned to the pub with a bottle of coke from the shop across the street – and left before the real customers arrived.

The Sir John Franklin, Commercial Road, Poplar, E14

Description: Modern squat, 2 storey at highest, collection of brick and grimy glass boxes – 60s architecture. Located at the traffic intersection of the A13 Commercial Road (6 lanes) and the underpass into the southbound Blackwall tunnel (another 6 lanes, plus two slip lanes). Paved area in front allows waiting motorists to appreciate the pub, and drinkers to peer through the grubby nets at the humming traffic.
Front door to lounge on Commercial Road – boarded up, snapped off name sign above. Side door to bar on Blackwall slip road. Rear door from small car park with shattered glass held together by black gaffer tape. Behind the pub looms the concrete brutalist Balfron Tower.
The bar has a small stage in the top corner with a flimsy wooden balustrade. This has been decorated with 50 today balloons. Opposite corner of bar is a shrine to West Ham United with some awful caricatures of past players in yellowing frames. Rumble of traffic seeps thru the heavy curtains. It is the hottest day ever recorded – the curtains remain closed.

Action: Three sickly looking short pot-bellied men, one with his shirt off, wrestling to erect a cheap green gazebo in the car park in anticipation of the later 50th birthday party to be held in the gloomy bar. Asked if bar was open, told yes. ‘So we can get a drink?’ ‘Yes’. ‘Preparing for a function?’, no answer. The pub isn’t legally open yet. Went inside. Bar curtains heavily closed. All three men have half drunk pints already on the go. One is drinking from a porcelain Bierkruger and watching motionless a TV showing some romantic black and white film. A greasy little Yorkshire terrier circles the room occasionally coming up to us inviting a pat.

Sports Bar, Thamesmead Lakeside Centre.

Description: Concrete bunker on stilts overlooking a small carpark with the challenging Thamesmead estate forming a further backdrop. Yellow and red plastic sign doesn’t mince with fancy naming conventions, instead it proclaims simply ‘Sports Bar’. Entrance is via concrete steps and through a barbed wire covered cage. Bar has no windows.


Friday, 27 July 2007

Joice’s Bar, A40, Hangar Lane

Features: Pub tables on the pavement in front of six scenic lanes of traffic.

Action: Underage kids working behind the open kitchen, dog chewing a bone on the karaoke stage, friendly landlady and husband sitting at the bar. Allegedly a sports bar despite only having a 15" 80s hitachi tv tucked away in a corner.

The Sultan, Lewisham High Road, 4:30pm (RIP - now Nandos)

Features: Timbered room, toilet outside at back with grills letting the rain through, stunk of piss, reached up a passage reeking of vomit.

Action: Door to Saloon bar open, door to bar was ajar but unable to open it. Saloon bar packed, loud karaoke in tiny room hosted by young black geezer who seemed to know everyone’s first names. Everyone knew everyone’s first name. Served by large barmaid whilst she carried a wireless mic singing Crazy – pausing only to shout over, ‘What was it with the Guinness?’ and ‘£4.10 please love’. Whole karaoke session ended with the pub singing Irish songs. Two very fat pitbulls wobbling about, and a small child aggressively pushing past us at the bar. Very aware that we weren’t part of the scene. Coup de grace, one very pissed old bloke, fag burning down to his knuckles crooning his way, slushy-eyed through My Way.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007


The Salisbury, Harringay RIP (now gentrified)

Description: Victorian grandeur laid to waste.

Action: Saloon bar has two pool tables and tellies with the racing on. Older gents watch the racing with rollups pasted to lips. Lads are playing pool. Pool cues are suddenly raised. Gruff red-faced Boer landlord rushes out to take matters into hand - snatches the cues from their hands and barks in their faces until they decide to carry on playing as though nothing has happened. Lounge Bar: A quieter scene - a single man in a camouflage jacket sits staring into his pint. Red box with the enigmatic 'Ken's Downfall' written on it sits on the rancid carpet by the bar. We ask what it is, no one knows, why is it there? it always has been. Toilets have simple "GENTLEMAN" scrawled on the door in felt tip pen. Disco at the weekends in the small room out back, metal detector on the door. Virtually pitch black interior, all four walls lined with plastic chairs - it's like the grimmest school disco ever. Drug dealers stare at your girlfriend's arse from the stalls.