This week has been slow, and my Friday night plans have been interrupted by my state of mind. You have to be in the right headspace to go out in London on a Friday. This evening I’m not feeling like getting stuck in to the throng. I was going to go to Vault before this mood descended. If I lived in the countryside, I’d bolt the doors, put a few logs on the fire, apologise to the dog, and blow the dust off one of the tomes in my library. As it is I’m just going to avoid getting on the tube. But I’ve dragged myself out into Chelsea. This mood was partly brought on by aggressive letters from creditors. Spending money is not high on the agenda. But it’s a Friday night. I’m meeting a friend in the local cheap boozer. We’ll take it from there.
The Rose and Crown. My very very local boozer. It’s a miracle it’s still open and long may it continue. They’ve got a Thai chef that fell through a wormhole from the ’90s. The landlord probably still thinks the food’s Chinese. “All that noodles and shit.” There’s weird memorabilia on the walls and an absorbent red carpet on the floor. Wood panelling. Black and white photos of bygone heartthrobs, green flock paper and stains. Irish music on the jukebox. A couple of old guys playing pool. Terrible stinky loos. A varied crowd, mostly sitting on stools round the bar. Lots of strong London voices cutting through the air. Vests and tattoos next to three piece suits. The hum of conversation and laughter cut by the creaking of the door hinges that haven’t been oiled since 1965 when Roger passed on. The occasional dull *ktic* of the pool balls, the occasional *kchunk* of the cash drawer. “Mumble mumble semi-final *ktic* *creak* got to live on it *kchunk* don’t you worry about *ktic* *creak* ha ha tell you summink.”
Two lads are in conversation with a woman who I think is Eastern European but occasionally speaks with an Irish accent. She has so many scarves and she keeps going to the loo and coming back looking even more immaculate. When she goes to the loo, the lads sit completely silent, arms folded, waiting. When she’s back they are falling over each other to speak. Behind me a couple speak in a language I don’t recognise. I think it might be Thai. Maybe they’re the chefs. At the bar near me, two old geezers reminisce, while now the two lads have suddenly gone to the loo together leaving the woman to vanish into twin pink telephones while topping up her lip balm. She’s trying to persuade a friend to join her. But nope. They’re all off somewhere “I’m going to pretend to be Alex’s girlfriend” she says as she gets up, and the lads ripple. Immediately an infectiously smiling elderly couple have appeared in their place to drink their pints with two hands and to do the Times crossword. And the buzz continues.
A place like this, it’s very easy to be alone quietly. I can sit and not be seen if I choose, and I do choose. If I wasn’t meeting a friend this would do. A bit of human nature, a bit of curiosity. Then back to a peaceful flat and a cat, for tasty cheap food…