Thirsty work marching. On 20 October, an estimated 100,000 people are expected to be marching from Speaker’s Corner, down Park Lane, along Piccadilly, into Whitehall, finishing in Parliament Square, to support a People’s Vote on the Brexit negotiations. The march kicks off at midday, and speeches start at 2.30PM outside Parliament. That is two and a half hours to travel a route of roughly two and a half miles. By anyone’s pace, that is a generous amount of time to cover the distance. Plenty of time then to make a few detours in order to wet your whistle.
The People’s Vote Pub Crawl takes in ten pubs along the marching route. Stick to a half pint in each and you will end up in Parliament Square sober enough to appreciate the sage political advice of the likes of Sadiq Khan, Chuka Umunna and Vince Cable, but sufficiently merry to shout out “Let’s be havin’ you” when Delia Smith starts speaking.
Some advice before you start. Set the walking pace early doors; leave the serious drinking until you’re well in sight of the finishing line.
Park Lane is a bit of a desert when it comes to pubs. Don’t be tempted to stop off in a swanky hotel bar. Get your head down, put your best foot forward, and get ahead of the crowd. Richer pickings come to those who wait. By the time you reach The Rose and Crown, 2 Old Park Lane, you want to already have a healthy head-start over your fellow marchers, because some of this valuable time will be lost while your Norfolk Nog is poured. Oliver Cromwell’s bodyguards once quartered here, but today is not a day for Puritanism.
On the surface, the thoroughfare of Piccadilly appears no more a happy hunting ground for pubs than is Park Lane but, briefly slip into the side streets, and you can do a quick one-two of The Market Tavern, 7 Shepherd Street, and The Clarence, 4 Dover Street. Lagunitas IPA in the first; Nicholson’s PA in the second. You check the time. You are still ahead of schedule. Just as well, because now you are going to go off pissed/piste.
The Chequers Tavern, 16 Duke Street, requires the greatest detour from the designated marching route, but we’re only talking a matter of a couple of minutes extra legwork and… Chequers Tavern. Come on now, with a name like that, it can’t be ignored. Of course, it has nothing to do with Theresa May’s Chequers Plan; instead it is named after ye olde coachmen who used to play chequers outside the pub while they waited for the return of their masters. I down a London Pride before reckoning it is time to get back on track.
The Red Lion, 23 Crown Passage, is an historical interlude, and provides a second-floor convenience stop after a drop of Tribute (in the spirit of equality, I should state that gents may need to descend to the Nell Gwyn Cellar).
Trafalgar Square is a recognisable way mark, and The Admiralty, 66 Trafalgar Square, a landmark pub, with claims to being London’s most central hostelry. I drink Oliver’s Island and draw no significance.
I can sense my pace is slowing, but no fear. My endpoint is in sight, even if there is still some serious drinking to be negotiated between the twin colossi of Nelson’s Column and Big Ben. The Old Shades, 37 Whitehall, is the first in a run of pubs all within easy staggering distance of one another. I sit in a leather booth and––by this stage oblivious to the subtlety of the name––drink Front Row, like the best of benchers. Only a few doors further down is The Clarence, 57 Whitehall. I experience a sense of déjà vu. Have I been here before? Young’s Best on tap seems unfamiliar, even if the pub name is a repetition. Perhaps Clarence was a more popular name back then? Now it doesn’t even rank in the top 100. Like Ian.
The Houses of Parliament loom large. Elizabeth Tower is a giant in the sky, dwarfing me like Cervantes’ windmills. I seek refuge in The Red Lion, 48 Parliament Square. Another duplicated name, but here a different beast. Fuller’s ESB and a short stumble to St Stephen’s Tavern, 10 Bridge Street. This is another proper politicos boozer. I could sit here in comfort, enjoy my Badger best bitter, and still hear the speeches taking place in Parliament Square. But that would not be respecting the spirit of the march. I down my beer and venture outside just in time.
“Let’s be havin’ you.”
© Beery Sue
Beery Sue finds it a little harder marching after five pints than she imagined.