Friday, April 02, 2010

Market fodder

I joined my old pal Stu and a few of his drinking buddies for a trip around Smithfield market last night. I must admit I had never been to the area before but I must say it is a pretty decent place for a pub crawl.
We started off in a boozer called the Rising Sun where the ale drinkers among us were delighted to find Sam Smith's retailing at less than £2 a pint. It meant standing in a tight corner by the dart board as the place was rammed with medical students from nearby St Barts, but pretty soon the booze was flowing.
Stu's mates were a lively crew. I'd met Chris Holmes (a self-proclaimed Cardiff City fan) before, but it was a pleasure to get to know Hughesy, the defence correspondent from the Daily Mirror, and one of the Sun news subs, Joel.
Eventually my ageing legs got the better of me and I persuaded my associates to move on to another boozer called the Hand and Shears and, to my delight, it was here that we found seats around a small table and settled in for the night.
Unfortunately the clock soon ticked around to 11.30 and we were sent on our merry way to find a taxi. Only, no one really fancied going home. Thankfully there was a late opening hostelry on the other side of the market and we sneaked in there for a chat about the merits of Quintin Tarrantino and a few more "scoops", as a pint of alcohol seems to be referred to up here.
At this point the seal had been well and truly broken and I moved into the dark recesses of the place to find the toilet. This is where everything seemed to go a bit surreal.
Behind a curtain I found a door marked gentlemen and waded into a pitch black room which seemed to have a hot-air blower giving out excrutiating warmth from a corner. I wasn't about to stop around long, having no idea what my surroundings looked like. I am guessing, therefore, that in daylight the room resembled "the worst toilet in the world" from the movie Trainspotting.
I didn't stop around for long, though, regaling the tale of the strange loo to my colleagues.
Strange, then, that when they in turn had to pay a visit they returned later to say they had no idea what I was talking about. The room was reasonably lit, albeit with candles, and relatively clean.
When I returned a good while later I suddenly realised my mistake. I was either completely blind to my surroundings or someone with a sense of humour had removed the sign which said: "These toilets are out of order, please use the ones opposite." Ho hum.

On evenings like this there is one equation that inevitably comes true. It is Me plus booze equals lost items. On this occasion my rucksack, containing a change of clothes for work the following day, my mobile phone charger and my blood pressure tablets was nowhere to be seen.
This launched a string of colourful curses.
"Did you leave it back in the Hand and Shears?" asked Stu.
"Yes, I think I must have done," I replied, and set off in search.
Reaching the hostelry a feeling of dread came over me. The back door had a metal grill in front of it and there were no lights on.
I tapped gently at the front door a few times, but it seemed obvious to me that if someone was on the premises they had headed for bed some time ago.
There was nothing for it but to return to our late drinking den and beg Stu, who is well over 6ft, to lend me - 5ft 4ins - a shirt, tie, socks and pants for the following day.
It was then that Joel piped up: "I'm sure you had it on you when you came in."
A few seconds searching proved him correct. The bag was a mere five feet from me, sitting resplendent on a leather sofa.

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