I've got a bit off the beaten path on Monday and ducked into the Tom Cribb Pub just down from Piccadilly Circus to escape the coolness of an English summer afternoon and its dreary drizzle. Soon enough I'm sipping on a warm hand-pulled pint of London's Pride, nodding off, resting my aching feet. The man Tom Cribb was, according to the blurb on the menu, a bare-knuckle boxer who retired into the hallowed profession of publicanary "on this very street" in the 18'something's.
It's a very small but typical London Pub, cozy enough atmosphere, lots of wooden fittings and leather or red plush chairs but not overdone. It serves a London pub's typical fare; fish and chips and mushy peas; steak sandwiches; Ploughman's Lunch; authentic ales and bitter beers; Australian and Chilean wines. The clientele is a mixture of the inevitable lost tourists like the Chinese couple in the corner trying to figure out how to eat a Ploughman's, and myself, exhausted from doing the Monopoly Board Tour since lunch, sore-hoofed despite my new Timberland shoes, but more usually there are locals; some business-suited loose-tied workers from the offices nearby who come in just on 5pm and a busker or two spending their day's takings in the time-honored way. The pub will fill up quickly as the evening progresses with locals seeking a quiet ale after work. And there is a theatre just up a bit.
But now, 4'ish, it is quiet. Maybe eight of us. Two tall middle-aged men walk in. One is clean-shaven, in a business shirt and casual trousers and seems to be leading the other, who is chubbier and more casually dressed in a t-shirt tucked into his designer jeans and who sports a greying goatee. The first man seems to have assumed the role of tour-guide, the old hand, the England expert. He nods as he walks around, checking things out as the other man follows, taking it all in.
"One of them Irish pubs," he says quietly, but with such a piercing American accent that penetrates all corners of the establishment. The goatee man nods also as he looks at the photos of boxers on the wall, as if they represented the distilled essence of all things intrinsic to that Emerald Isle.
The elderly Northern English bartender is busy at the other end of the bar, stacking some glasses, looking down through his wire-frame specs for greasy prints. The drinkers are sitting quietly as their ales get cold or are chatting about the football debacle of the night before. The two men wait for a minute, but seem to have quickly soaked up enough atmosphere and they nod together this time, as if on a secret cue, smile with a sense of been-there, done-that satisfaction then walk out without having ordered anything. Through the glass panel of the door as it closes behind them, we see the two men make a decision as to which way to go, then step boldly into the light rain.
There is a general release of tension throughout the bar. It was as if we had all been holding our breath. Almost everyone in the pub seems to break into a snigger at once.
"Irish!" scoffs the barman, shaking his head.
The Chinese couple look up, wondering.
[Telling dumb American tourist stories - it's like shooting fish in a barrel isn't it?]
OTHER MONKEYS SAID
Almost as good as the Yank on the 260 bus to Stanley telling his mate that Ocean Park is The Peak.......
And you wonder why I do not want to live in the States again.......
Nothing personal dude...
But, there was also the American couple ordering crepes in front of me in France - "I'll have the seafood" "Seafood?" "The Grand Marnier - thats a sailor isn't it?"
I love that Hawaiian shirts are acceptable attire everywhere...
And after a summer in the US I have even better ones.