Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

That famous ideal pub of George Orwell's, The Moon Under Water? Sounds boring to me. There's no music, every customer is a 'regular' with his own chair and it is always quiet enough to talk. The barmaids call you dear (not ducky as they do in 'raffish' pubs).

If singing breaks out in the Moon Under Water on Christmas Eve, that singing, George assures us, is always 'decorous'. He'll be the lanky one in the public bar, no doubt, buying stamps and sipping stout out of his own china mug.

My ideal pub is the Black Lion in Plaistow, East London. It's the pub we go to before the match. George Orwell would probably think it looked quite promising from the outside.

The Black Lion is an old coaching inn, reputedly a haunt of the highwayman Dick Turpin.

Sometimes we drink our beer standing on the cobbles of the old coach yard. Sensitive to historical tradition, Irish landlord Tom assiduously maintains the pub's reputation for daylight robbery.

Other aspects of the Black Lion that George might like are the beer garden and the real ale. I stick to cooking lager, but if it's my round at the bar, I hear myself asking for a pint of Broadside, two pints of Reckless and a pint of Shunter's Pole.

What he definitely wouldn't like, though, would be the crush. Sometimes it's a struggle even to get in through the door. And when you finally do, it's three or four deep at the bar and the barmaids are working like a circus act. But once you manage to grab a pint and find a pitch, everyone is brimming with good humour, glad to be back at church among the faithful, and getting stoked. We stand clutching our beers to our breasts shouting in one another's faces. Since Alan Pardew was sacked, the Black Lion has been the best part of match day, easily. For Spurs' manager Harry Redknapp, who used to play for us, it was the best part of his match day, too. He was waxing lyrical about the pub in his Sun column this week.

The Black Lion would probably be more to Orwell's liking when there isn't a match on. Quieter. Regulars on stools holding quiet conversations. Lamb chops on the menu. Tom engrossed in his Racing Post. Fathers dropping their lads off next door at the West Ham Boys Amateur Boxing Club and popping in for a swift half. That's my guess. …

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