Last year, and the year before that, a few of us went on a Boxing Day pub crawl. This piece from 2016, and this follow-up from 2017, explain the reasons and the routes taken. The core group for each event consisted of me, my brother (who lives in Spain and most years only spends Christmas week here in London) and my son, who is now 14. My son, as reported in those earlier pieces, loves going to the pub, and is still on the soft drinks, showing no signs of wanting to move to anything stronger, I’m glad to say. This year I had no plans for a pub crawl, for many reasons. Even if we had planned one, it would not have happened.
The main reason for not repeating our Boxing Day routine from the last two years was the arrival of one of my wife’s nephews, from Canada. He has not passed through the UK since 2010. Last time we saw him he was 21. Now he is 30. All grown up. He was arriving at Heathrow in the early afternoon and we were going to pick him up and drive him to my wife’s parents in North London. As things turned out my son and I stayed home while my wife and daughter went to the airport. My son developed a heavy cold on Christmas Day so he took it easy, and so did I. Even if we had made plans for a pub crawl, instead of going to the airport, we would have cancelled them. My wife’s mother is not the kind of person to make you feel welcome if you have a cold, or have just had a cold, or think you might have one brewing, so my wife, daughter and nephew went to North London without us. Fortunately they stopped by for an hour en route, so we were able to catch up with news from British Columbia.
My brother had not made plans for the afternoon so, in theory, he was available for a bar-hop. On Christmas Day we discussed possible routes for another time. By March 2017, as recorded here, I had visited every pub in my postcode. Having “completed the set” I do not feel inclined to visit many of them again, but there are other routes that would be worth trying. He suggested starting at the Express by Kew Bridge and revisiting some of the nearby places he used to frequent when he was at school. In those days the Red Lion, opposite what is now the Watermans Arts Centre, was a busy music venue. It was converted to a Drive-Thru McDonalds many years ago. That route could take you to Griffin Park, home of Brentford FC, which was famously the only football club in the country with a pub at each corner of the ground. Is that still true? Are all four pubs still in business? I have never been to any of them. The club is planning to move to a new stadium at the end of the 2019/20 season, so if we want to complete that particular set while Griffin Park is still their home we have less than 18 months to do so. At some point I would also like to do a “round the river” crawl, following the route described in this piece (“A walk along the river”), which also lists the pubs you can visit. My son is not so enthusiastic for this one: too much walking.
In theory my brother was available for a pub crawl on Boxing Day, but in practice he wasn’t. His wife was due to travel to London with him for Christmas but stayed in Spain. Her father has been in hospital since November and she did not want to leave him. News came through yesterday morning that he probably wouldn’t be around for much longer. He is in his 90s and has been through a succession of health problems since he had a severe stroke over 15 years ago. He has mostly been confined to a wheelchair, but has still suffered broken hips, a broken leg, bouts of pneumonia, a whole range of age-related and stroke-related difficulties. He lost the ability to speak over a decade ago. I called my brother just after 2pm to confirm that we were staying home for the afternoon and to check what he was up to. My son’s godfather, who joined us for part of each of the previous pub crawls, texted to say that he would be at the Packhorse at some point in the afternoon. Maybe my brother could meet up with him. He couldn’t. He was on his way to Heathrow. His father-in-law had taken a turn for the worse. His daughter (my niece, who turned 32 this year) had travelled over for Christmas but was flying back early. He would leave it another day or two, maybe fly back on Friday. He called by after 6.30pm and spent the evening with us. As on Christmas Day we got the guitars out and ran through a few numbers, something we hadn’t done on any of the last three Christmases. To paraphrase Willie Nelson, “The life I love is making music with my friends, and family”. My brother got a few more phone calls from Spain while he was here. He has to return today, even sooner than he thought. We booked his flight online, printed out the ticket and he’ll be back home by midnight tonight.
We have a family outing to see the panto (“Snow White”) at the London Palladium this evening. I had hoped to take my brother for at least one quick pint at the Toucan Bar on Carlisle Street, last mentioned here in this piece about the price of beer. He’s never been. Given time we could even have attempted a tour of some of the the five nearby pubs called the Blue Posts, which I wrote about here. On Christmas Day we knew we had one spare ticket for the panto. Then there were two. Now there are three. My daughter, having spent an enjoyable afternoon and evening with her cousin from Canada (someone she barely remembered from when she was three), was upset that she will not be seeing the Spanish side of the family again this year, upset too that her aunt’s father is unlikely to see in the New Year. So, no pub crawl in 2018 on Boxing Day, or any other day in December, for so many reasons.