Bailey, one half of Boak and Bailey, recounts his quest for the perfect local.
Have you ever lived in a place without a local? Somewhere where there is no pub you feel at home in — nowhere you can go, just for one pint, after dinner on a dreary winter Wednesday, and be greeted with a cheery hello?
When I used to live in South London, my flatmate and I would spend ages trudging about the area trying on different pubs for size, hoping to come across one where we’d actually feel comfortable. Unfortunately, to a greater or lesser extent, they all resembled the Mos Eisley cantina from Star Wars.
The nearest pub was just macabre. It had a skeleton made of cigarette ends hanging on the wall (really) and our conversation would frequently be drowned out by Scandinavian coach parties singing along to the resident Hammond organist. (No, I don’t understand why they were there either.)
The next one was so quiet and in such poor repair that we didn’t even realise it was still trading for several months until we happened to notice the door open one day. The windows were fly-blown; the net curtains were nicotine-stained to the colour of antique pine; and it smelled like damp trainers. We managed one pint there.
Finally, there was a pub built into the bottom of a block of flats where the landlord told us that, if we didn’t support Millwall, we should get out while we still could walk. This wasn’t banter: he really was worried about our safety and didn’t want blood on the lino.
Ten years later, I was living in Walthamstow in East London, where I found a proper local. This is London we’re talking about, of course, so no-one was going over the top with the friendliness, but they at least recognised us from one visit to the next. The beer was great and the range kept expanding. Most importantly, there was no post-work grump so severe it couldn’t be cured by a trip there. It was a happy place.
If you’re lucky enough to have a good local, cherish it, and show your love the best way there is: by going there lots and buying plenty of beer.