Thursday, November 25, 2004

Magical Pubs in South London

A comment attached to Neil’s ‘Magic Pubs of South London’ post read: “The Wickham Arms in Brockley is a great little pub as well.”

Which is fantastic, thank you, all comments and reviews are welcome at Transpontine but I do feel the wrong end of the stick was grasped, if only slightly, of that particular piece. While the Spanish Galleon and The George Inn are two good pubs that have strange and magical meetings in them,
SELFS and WiccaUK, and the Fox on the Hill is a Wetherspoon’s pub where people discuss the Northern Traditions over their wether-burgers and cheap pints of Summer Lightning, these are pubs where magical happening take place and not, strictly speaking, pubs with a sense in south-east London that have a sense of magic about them.

Though another group I am jolly fond of, ‘PSI in the Pub’ used the Fox on the Hill for a discussion on parapsychology and it has a slightly pagan Fox shrine at the front and a totem-pole nearby so maybe this particular member of the Wetherspoon’s chain is touched by some manner of magical influence.

Anyway, I digress. As far as I know, no magical or paranormally inclined groups meet at the Wickham Arms in Brockley, (if any do, please let us know) and while it’s a nice pub that has plenty for the Karaoke fan, I’m afraid it does not hold too much of a spell over me.

Which is what I want to talk about, Arthur Machen once
said that he found “the average church, considered as a house of preaching, is a much more poisonous place than the average tavern;” and I would agree with the Welsh git as far as a pub, a good pub, a place where people gather, talk, live their lives, love their loves and eat their salt & vinegar crisps is a sacred space.

Particularly these three pubs, which are the first of seven pubs in south-east London, that I think are magical:

The Greenwich Union, Greenwich

(Click any pub names in this ramble to obtain less bias details, the address and how to get there.)

While the Union is often frequented by the braying, moneyed and preening end of Greenwich’s community, not to mention cursed some pretty banal live musicians, the spell of this place is worked by the beer.
Raspberry beer, properly brewed lager that shows one why the damn stuff caught on in the first place, Chocolaty stout and many other interesting brews are sold there. They are tasty and yet not a gimmick.

And they are all brewed up the road in Charlton. When it comes to beer it is best if one drinks local and acts mental. Avoid the fiddly food, though.

The Sun & Doves, Camberwell

Again, this pub/bistro is toward the ‘trendy’ and ‘a tad over-priced’ end of the spectrum but it makes it just for the art on the walls, which is often ‘loopy’ and the garden. The garden sits in three different sections and one could easily hide in some parts. There is a totem pole in the centre, at least there was the last time I was there, that is made up of eyes, each one slightly more open than the last. I like to sit in the sun there, pint in hand, watching this eye open (and then close) before me.

That might be a combination of drink and heat-stroke though.

Moonbow Jakes, Brockley

Moonbow Jakes makes a good intermediary between the ‘swanky’ pubs and bars and the more beardy, old man venues we shall be encountering in the next couple of entries. There are three MJ’s, one in Catford, which I’ve never been to, one in New Cross with a record shop in the basement and the one I am concerned with here, the Brockley Moonbow Jakes.

Part café/bistro during the day, with newspapers, coffee and comfy sofas, at night this place takes on the air of a scruffy bar with beer, wine, live music and pastry products. It captured my heart the night that I and my Transpontine fellow-conspirator Neil New-X drank very large bottles of beer whilst being harangued by an insane New Zealander who was hosting a poetry night at the bar that night to get up and do some poems ourselves. We had no poetry, I had a few things I had written for a party Clare B and I were having later in the week, blessings to go on presents and the like, and I volunteered those. The compare said ‘yes’, bought me another very-large-bottle-of-beer and I managed to totally avoid making, what would have been, my extremely drunken live poetry debut. There were too many poets booked anyway.

I think that story, while utterly pointless, touches on some of the things that are good about south-east London and, indeed, life itself.
Read Part two here.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I feel I must mention my particular favourite "Magic Pub" in South London, the fabulous Dacre Arms in Lewisham. (well actually in that awkward unnamable area between Blackheath, Lewisham and Lee).
Whilst hardly a hive of counter cultural activity it is a uniquely warm and friendly pub for this area. Music is restricted to Heart FM played at a volume on the threshold of audability, and there's a small telly, which- if it's on at all- has the volume muted. There's a tiny daft (but quiet) pub dog too. The selection of real ales is unusually good for this neck of the woods- although I always go the reliable IPA. The service is always friendly (you can even have a taste of the guest ales without buying). Clientele is a mixture of builders, teachers and politicians (I'm just guessing that last one!). There's a beer garden, where in mid April you can catch the local ladies morris team "Dacre Morris" "Beating the bounds".
I can't recommend it enough in fact.