Tuesday, 20 October 2020

London Calling

Well not so much calling as gently beckoning. E was getting a touch fretty about our London flat, not having been there for some time. She had put off going for ages, but as time passed and further lockdown beckoned, she determined the time had come, so I decided, having not been there since February, that it was a good idea to accompany her. 

So a couple of Tuesdays ago, on a pissing wet day here in Manchester, we set off - masked up - in an Uber - heading for what turned out to be a virtually deserted Piccadilly station. We were more or less the sole customers in the Avanti Trains lounge and on the train, there was only three other passengers in the coach, where masks were required, other than when eating and drinking. Our tube to Aldgate was similarly deserted, which was also a bit eerie. Only two or three people in the end coach.

 Apart from discovering a kitchen tap has packed up entirely - that'll cost a few bob - the flat was fine, so after the mountain of  junk mail had been dealt with, we set off for a pint. It was quiet outside, the normally busy main road which leads to the A2 - especially at "home time" - was almost traffic free. Not at all its normal state  We were getting the picture and this was sharpened even further when we arrived at the Draft House in Seething Lane, a large pub, now owned by BrewDog. Now this is usually seething (see what I did there) at work chucking-out time, but after completing the Covid-19 formalities we observed scarcely a dozen or so inside. Since we were last there, this rather barn like pub has actually been made a lot more cosy by Brewdog.  Less garish - the neon signs have all gone - less noisy or  just a better playlist - and some booth seating replacing benches. On the minus side, much less choice, no cask and of course,  higher prices. Craft beer for the rich people.

We used to come here for the Tank Pilsner Urquell, but now it is Budvar, also in tank, which we both plumped for at, I think, £6.20 a pint.  Most beers, Punk IPA included were about the same. Table service of course, and our server was a very pleasant lad who offered to talk us through the beer menu. He wasn't pushed, it being so quiet, but he was well worth his money.

 A couple of pints later we wandered up past the closed bar of Fullers Chamberlain Hotel, an occasional haunt, heading for Commercial Road and the Castle, a rather attractive and busy little pub, just round the corner from our ultimate destination, Pizza Union, a favourite and just a hop and skip from home.  I have never been in this pub in recent times when there has been more than one person behind the bar. Again we were checked in, but probably a little more self-service than many pubs, as the young Eastern European barmaid juggled keeping an eye on the door and serving a fairly busy crowd. Nonetheless, we always enjoy the atmosphere and looking out on Commercial Road through its large windows is pleasant. It isn't overpriced by London standards either.

Oddly for London - and trust me it happens quite rarely - we got chatting to a lawyer who shared our long table, enjoying the company so much that we had to order our pizza for takeaway, as we had missed the sit-down deadline before ten 'clock closing time.

So a pleasant night out in a rather subdued London, but there was to be a sting in the tail. 

The sting in the tail was a message on the Friday of the same week telling us we had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid-19. 10 days isolation were ordered, the explanatory note allowing us to work out the contact Tuesday. So was it the Uber driver? On the train or the pubs? Who knows, but neither of us got any symptoms thankfully and today is my first day of freedom.

Two things about the pubs. In the Draft House I pointed out that Budvar, contrary to the big board on the wall isn't 4.2%.  He was gracious and said he'd get it changed, but I wonder how long it had been like that?  He did bring me a free third of Ansbach and Hobday Porter by way of a reward and very nice it was too.

The Castle really needs to get another barperson in when times get better.


Cooking Lager said...

Pleased you didn't catch it.

If you had the type of economic or family situation that meant you could not really afford to isolate for 10 days?

Would you never go out? Would you bother with apps? Would you sign in on paper with a snide name and number? Who knows. Different strokes for different folks.

Not justifying it, there's a fair few disincentives to being the responsible citizen you are, I guess.

Curmudgeon said...

Better get yourself back down there before Friday, then 😄

Tandleman said...

Fair point Cookie. E and I discussed that - we had plenty of time after all. Hard to put myself in these shoes, but frankly, I wouldn't blame them.

Mudgie -Watch the mood a clamour change now it is London

Curmudgeon said...

Well, the Metropolitan Police are now telling pubs to ID customers to make sure they're only socialising in family groups, which has certainly never happened in other areas with similar restrictions. We have effectively been in Tier 2 for a couple of months.

Beermunster said...

We similarly spent a few days in London about 3 weeks ago. It was very strange, practically a ghost town on the weekdays. I guess the combination of people working from home and no foreign tourists has had an impact.

The only time it was busy was Friday night. Then we experienced the downside of the 10pm curfew. At 10pm on the Friday night, every single pub and restaurant kicked people out and locked the doors. The result was swarms of people blocking roads, drinking pints they had smuggled out and queuing for the underground and taxis.

Not the best idea. Normally these people would have gone home at various times over a 2-3 hour period. When they are all kicked out simultaneously it causes chaos.

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