The smell of the Piccadilly Line at Kings Cross never leaves you. Grease and brakes and dust and motors. Londoners. You’re back in Holloway and barely 23; every pub is an outpost of Castlegregory or Schull or Finglas. Nothing for miles but Guinness. And that’s what you drink then, London beer fulfilling your every prejudice as a Yorkshireman. The Black Stuff is served up quickly in these pubs. The dubious marketing theatrics of The Pour too long to wait for the russet career drinkers of The Crown, The Enkel and The Hercules. Men who’d won and lost fortunes at The Curragh and their marriages and livers to the pub. That fella there, son. Used to have a Roller. His chauffeur now is the 29 bus back to Arlington House, coughing away his last years in William Hill and The Good Mixer, as yet untroubled by Britpop slummers. The fearsome Lord Nelson is down toward Highbury, where Biffa Bacon’s mum asks me to dance as I try to hide behind my pint, her face collapsing when she realises I am not in fact Big Declan who had once been such a laugh, her 60-a-day growl entreating the next victim to be thrown around the sticky floor.
A boozer best forgotten is raided by the local babylon for after-hours drinking. Hiding with a dozen others in the beer garden until a sergeant appears with a torch. Yes, I would be in here if I wasn’t working, now bugger off. And at the end of every saturday night there is Murrays, on the bend of Upper Street. So scary you’d never visit the toilets. Pimps and working girls and N1 Begbies lining the stairs. Total gentrification of Islington still years away. Your cab fares are spent on a last beer. So it’s a walk home avoiding the skinhead with facial tattoos and Pentonville breath who haunts the all night garage – the troll to we little billygoats – and the kids outside Joe Meek’s old HQ. Actual children out at 3am wanting to fight.
And apologies to the van driver delivering to the chippy on Seven Sisters road who found his load of potatoes one sack light. Now it can be told – that was us. Is that Telstar or police sirens?