We met some of Mandy’s friends last night in central London, and with quite a few of them staying in town it was decided that the best place to meet up was Covent Garden. Which can only mean one thing, The Punch and Judy.
I remember thinking how dire the place was about 13 years ago when I went there with a load of people I was working with in London. Standing on that balcony on a sunny afternoon watching all those stupid acts down on the street. Blokes leaping around in costumes spending half an hour working the crowd up to expect something amazing, then one hits the other over the head with an inflatable hammer to the sound of an old car horn. Hilarious.
At least yesterday it was dark when we turned up so I didn’t have to endure the so called entertainment, although on the way there we did pass someone playing a saw with a violin bow. Boring.
We arrived early last night, which is unusual for us, and the short wait for Mandy’s friends gave me ample opportunity for a nose around. Upstairs was full of stag nights, men slightly awkward in smart casuals looking like they’d much rather be at home watching X factor on a warm sofa. There’s more bloke parties downstairs, all trying to look harder than the next with shaved heads and tight fitting shirts, even if they tried it wouldn’t be possible to look any more gay. But hey, blokes out on the piss and who am I to criticize.
While I wait at the bar to spend £8.20 on two drinks, I am overwhelmed by something that afflicts most central London pubs.
Filth, it is unrelentingly dirty.
Every surface not covered in empty glasses is coated in a sticky residue that prevents touching. The floor, sticky again, is littered with cigarette butts and wrappers that have been discarded because there are no ashtrays. As wide eyed tourist gaze disappointedly at the cheap veneer, smells of toilets and foul lager permeate every pore.
The owners, maybe a hotel chain based in Leamington Spa, probably offset any customer experience against the outrageous profits gleaned from a combination of their own greed and their customers’ stupidity. The whole place reminds of Chelsea FC. Dirty and overpriced.
As I look around at the tacky theme fittings and fake blackboards, I wonder how much of a field day Dickens would have in this modern London squalor. He wouldn’t believe his luck, a reeking cesspit that sucks in unsuspecting tourists and dribbling louts. Besides the freakish customers there’s enough ground in dirt and contemptuous greed to write an entire trilogy.
Never, ever, again.