Notes from West London

“And I’ve been on the pale ale”

Another Friday night, another friend’s band, another pub in Camden Town. The pub serves Guinness, lager, pale ale and no bitter. This seems to be the way now. Many pubs here in London serve a variety of pale ales and IPA (India Pale Ale) and few if any brands of bitter. In the half-light of the bar my pint of ale was the same colour as my mate’s pint of lager. (It was a similar story at the local pub we went to when visiting friends in Grimsby two weekends ago: most of the beer on offer was pale.)

On Friday night we made it back to our West London patch for a pint of the local brew (Fuller’s London Pride) in a pub that I now learn stays open till 3am on Friday and Saturday. As long as you’re in there before 1am you can stay till 3am. This is a revelation. The last time I checked you had to be in a pub before 11pm or midnight at the latest to stay until 1am, the usual weekend closing time round here.

The title of this article comes from a closing line in Brian Protheroe’s 1974 single “Pinball”. I still have it as a 45” single, and wrote about it in “1000 Memories”. (You can read the Pinball Memories here.) The first line of the song is “And I’ve run out of pale ale” but in the outro he sings “And I’ve been on the pale ale / and I feel like a pinball”. Check out these two versions of the song: the studio recording, and a live performance from the Troubador.

Until about two years ago I had never had an evening on the pale ale, it was usually Guinness or bitter. That changed with offerings like Brewdog’s Punk IPA, Camden Brewery’s Camden Pale Ale and Meantime’s London Pale Ale. It feels like a phase but maybe it’s the future of drinking in London.

Just like Brian Protheroe I’ve been on the pinball too thanks to a local coffee shop that has 8 (yes, EIGHT) pinball tables, including a newly installed Ghostbusters machine. They also have Monster Bash, my current favourite, and a brand new Wizard of Oz machine. Many of the players are far more proficient and dedicated to the game than I am and offer me an insight into the world of pinball tournaments and news about where other tables can be found. There are rumours that the Pipeline, a favourite bar for many years, is likely to close soon. Last time I checked (within the last month) it still had 5 or 6 pinball machines, including Kiss (the band) and the classic “World Cup 94” table. As I recall they don’t serve pale ale. Maybe that’s the problem. I’ll take a trip there sometime this week and hope that I don’t have to say farewell to the place anytime soon.

Update, September 2017

The Pipeline in Middlesex Street did close, in July 2016, as noted in this piece, but it has reopened in a new incarnation in Brighton, as you will have found if you clicked on the link above.



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