Last December I concluded my piece about our Boxing Day pub crawl with the words, “Mission accomplished. Same place, same time next year.” As planned, we began another pub crawl this year at the same place (George IV) and same time (2pm, 26 December). Once again the starting trio consisted of me, my brother and my son, who is now 13. A year ago we were in the process of visiting every pub in my postcode, a venture that prompted this piece and its follow-up. Having concluded that little project, I have been spending a lot less time in pubs recently, but we had planned this jaunt a whole year ago.
Our route this year was built around catching live sport. I wanted to keep an eye on the football (Leeds United away at Burton Albion, kick-off 3pm) and my brother wanted to see the rugby (Munster v Leinster, 3.30pm start). After a drink at the George IV (no live sport there these days; London Pride for the grown-ups and Pepsi for my son) we crossed the road for our next pint. A year ago the nearest pub to the George (which is called the Fire Station) was closed on Boxing Day and we didn’t check to see if it was open this year. Carvosso’s, directly opposite, in the building that used to be the police station, was open a year ago, but it has now closed for good, so we headed for the Roebuck. In previous decades it has traded as the Chiswick Eyot, the Rat and Parrot and the Birdcage but it reverted to its original name around ten years ago. After a drink there (IPA for me and my brother, and a small Pepsi for my son, which I finished for him) we headed back across the road to the Packhorse and Talbot.
My son and I made a few visits here during the year, usually to meet up with his godfather (most recently to see his team West Ham lose to Manchester City), and one morning in the summer we were there shortly after 8am to watch the concluding game of the British Lions Test series against New Zealand (the 15-15 draw that left the whole series tied). On that July morning we shared a cooked breakfast and stuck to orange juice (for him) and coffee (for me), noting with interest the many men present who don’t follow my rule of no alcohol before noon. Similarly we follow a rule of no fizzy drinks for the children before noon.
Returning to the present, the Leeds game was on at the Packhorse and Talbot but none of the screens were showing the rugby, so we had a drink there (some kind of IPA for the adults, orange and lemonade for my son) and watched the first half from Burton, who were 1-0 up at half-time. We headed to The Raven, which we were sure would be showing the rugby. They were, on the big screen, but unfortunately were not showing the Leeds game. One of the smaller screens was set to the Sky Sports Soccer Special show and we could keep up-to-date with all the football that way. They even showed the two goals that gave Leeds victory, guaranteeing a Top 6 place at the start of 2018. Leinster beat Munster comfortably. J20 for my son, Guinness for my brother and me, and then we were off to the Duchess of Cambridge, which wasn’t included in last year’s crawl.
My son had an old-fashioned bottled lemonade, it was Guinness again for the grown-ups, and we had some cheesy chips to keep us going. We were joined, unplanned, by a school dad who we had met for a couple of drinks earlier in the year. (His daughter had been in my son’s class at primary school.) Back in July we had tried to find a pub showing the Linfield v Celtic Champions League Qualifying game. This had led him to the Shepherd and Flock on Goldhawk Road, a pub that I am unlikely ever to visit. There were rumours that they were showing the match, which were unfounded, and we had met at the Raven instead, following the game via text. That had been a warm Friday evening in July but by the time we got to the Duchess of Cambridge on Boxing Day it was cold and dark and the rain had begun to fall.
We were due to meet my son’s godfather back at the Packhorse and Talbot at 6.30pm. I was looking forward to the 12-minute walk (walking is, after all, an essential part of a pub crawl) but didn’t want to walk in the rain, which had just started falling heavily. We would have got soaked, so we waited for a bus, ten minutes or more, and got there just as the rain relented a little. My son’s godfather was with his sort-of brother-in-law (their wives are sisters), who had joined us for part of the previous year’s jaunt. The pub was busier than it had been during the Burton-Leeds game, and all the screens were tuned to Liverpool thrashing Swansea 5-0. After his five sweet drinks I insisted that my son have a glass of water, which he sipped at very reluctantly, and my brother and I had pints of whatever it was we’d had four hours earlier. As I noted last year I am concerned about my son’s teeth, but both visits to the dentist this year have given him, and my daughter, the all-clear. At his age I had a mouth full of amalgam, but neither of my children have any fillings, so we’re either keeping their sugar intake on the safe side or their teeth are much stronger than mine.
And that was it, 6 pints in 5 different pubs, compared to last year’s 8 pints in 8 pubs. My son’s godfather headed off to see Brentford beat Aston Villa in the late game, and we were home before 8pm. Same time, same place next year? Possibly not.