bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog
Think Again, Graham P.
Thursday, February 17th, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Write a comment
I didn’t think people actually wrote unsolicited reviews of pubs and such outside of adverts for smart phones, but I recently happened across Graham P’s account of our very own Duke of Wellington, Toynbee Street, London E1 on www.welovelocal.com. The Duke of Wellington, he states, is ‘an ugly little pub with a rather unpleasent clientele‘. He also mentions that it reeks ‘…like an old man who’s been left in a skip full of cabbage leaves for forty years’ and that ‘although the bar staff are charming enough to look at, they aren’t what you might call super competent’.
Leaving aside the ‘old man in cabbage leaves’ jibe – which, apart from being simply untrue, I should imagine is only included to justify half an hour of workstation metaphor tinkering by Graham P himself – the pub is not ugly. It’s a bit careworn, certainly, and everything appears to be covered in dust even though it isn’t, but it’s not ugly as such. It’s a boozer, is what it is. It has no olives on the bar, or pub quizzes on a Wednesday, which is doubtless what Graham P looks for in a drinking establishment. It also had, for some years, an abandoned wardrobe in the beer garden (it had been slung over the fence for reasons unknown) and there are no tiles whatsoever in the gents’ after they were memorably stolen by enterprising tile thieves posing as plumbers. It’s ridiculous, certainly, but not ugly.
I would love to spring to an equally spirited defence of the clientele being that, if nothing else, I am part of it. Such a task is tricky and fraught with nonsense, though. I once sat at the bar in the Duke on a Friday evening, and recorded my own attitude towards my fellow patrons, which was this: Scornfully Dismissive: 10%; Seem Perfectly Nice: 80%; Wary: 5%; Terrified: 5%. It should also be remembered that the Duke is – and forgive my use of phrases like this, which make me sound like a tourist – an entirely unreconstructed, ungentrified and unapologetic East End pub, and that therefore a Terror rating of just 5% is in my experience almost unheard of. In fact, not so long ago, 5% of the customers in Rymans, or WH Smiths, or I dunno the Early Learning Centre would have been terrifying, and that has cleared up a great deal since the mid 90s. Perhaps its greatest strength, customer wise, is the staggering range and variety of patrons it attracts, from people who live and/or do business in the warren of small streets and markets thereabout, to swift-half-after-work office people, to Hoxton overspill, to the Spanish contingent that comes in to watch the footie, to people like Viran, a Back Yard Market trader who wanders up from the Pride of Spitalfields to join us during the latter part of most Sunday evenings. I have known Viran for years – from Camden, in fact – and his most notable feature is a facial disfigurement which suggests that at some point, a screwdriver has been thrust into his right eye. Coincidentally, this is because a screwdriver actually has been thrust into his right eye, under circumstances which I suspect may never become entirely clear.
Anyway. A few weeks ago, Chris and I spent a post-trading hour or so explaining the origins of the First World War to Louis, using things that were lying about the table as educational tools. We included some background on the decline of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the volatile state of early twentieth century Balkan politics and the uniquely and catastrophically skewed nature of contemporary military technology versus political necessity, which rendered offensive action murderously obsolete but nonetheless strategically vital – resulting in such slaughterhouse battles as the Somme, Ypres and Passchendaele – using, as I recall, the componant parts of pie and chips which Uncle Vinny had been kind enough to provide for us. Turkey was a bottle of Sarson’s and the withdrawal of Russia following the collapse of the Romanov Dynasty in the wake of the Soviet Revolution was signified by skimming a paper plate across the bar where it landed among a group of less than savoury fellow patrons who I had never seen before, and who fell comfortably into the 5%: Wary punter bracket. It’s asking a lot to expect someone to accept “Yeah, sorry I was demonstrating the fall of Tsar Nicholas II” as an excuse for hurling a plate at them, and while I doubt we were in any danger of causing any real commotion, the situation was quickly and unexpectedly resolved by Viran – who earns a living selling would you believe baby clothes – dancing in an indescribably bizarre manner to Night Boat To Cairo by Madness, which chose that moment to spring forth from the jukebox. This caused Louis to fall over the back of his chair in hysterical mirth, which in turn caused the less than savoury fellow patrons to adopt a deportment heavily weighted with bafflement, caution and fear and immediately leave the premises.
Come to think of it, the more I have written about this, the more I find myself, after all, somewhat in agreement with Graham P. He rounds off his review by stating that the Duke is ‘…not a date pub‘, and this must be an important consideration, as someone who has the time to write reviews of pubs they don’t like for an online forum is probably knee deep in dating opportunities.
(The original review appears here.)
Twitter: Just say you’re witnessing some police brutality somewhere. Twitter people will lap it up.
Facebook: Down to 112 in the Facebook group, but the target of 115 by Christmas remains attainable.
Photards: This week’s camera images are – Top: New business cards, front and rear.
Middle: One of several essential 2 am jukebox selections at the Duke.
Lower: Group of child violinists at Greenwich Market, playing Christmas carols. They were absolutely awful. It didn’t sound like anything.