Thursday, 14 October 2010

Fleet Street Memories

There used to be The City Golf Club in an ancient lane leading down to St Bride's Church, off Fleet Street. Of course, it was just a members' drinking club in the times when the Fleet Street boozers were closed to the Fourth Estate in the afternoons.

There was also, strangely, a golf shop in New Bridge Street too. Don't forget that Blackheath was (is, although relocated), the first golf club in England. The City Golf Club was a members' only boozing club with walls decorated with (token) old hickory-shafted clubs and wot-not -just like the old Wig & Pen: a refuge for all-day Fleet Street topers (who worked between 8-00 am and 11-00 am), until El Vino's re-opened in the evening, for its short hours, and then it was off to: The Wine Press; The Printer's Pie; Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese; The Bell; The King & Keys; The Tipperary How could I forget the Tipperary! Guinness and Green King IPA and those Beaujolais Nouveau breakfasts. The hours that I spent in there. There was also The Popinjay (the old 'firing' pub - if a journo was taken in there by his editor, it was sacking time, apparently); The Punch: The Cock; all ending up at Spaghetti Opera (an Italian restaurant which employed opera singers to entertain); The Temple Bar Tandoori (one of the best Indian restaurants in London); The George, or Daly's. Ah! I remember it well! All long before that pretentious Olde Bank of England nonesense: these were places where you went to get slaughtered. And if you weren't slaughtered by the time that your bladder-bursting frame got off the homeward conveyance, then, unless you were "Fleeter of foot than the fleet-foot kid", you were definitely slaughtered just as you walked through your own front door. On one occasion it was a hatpin and, on another, a carving knife in the arm, which, besides necessitating a couple of stitches, more irritatingly, totalled a perfectly good hopsack suit.

Was ever an area better served for pubs? I am sure that it has all changed but it probably isn't just because the journos and printers have gone so much as because of changes in attitudes: the insidious, increasing, puritanical up-tightness of modern Britain: getting hammered even just on Fridays; maybe getting hammered at all, is probably a disciplinary offence now, let alone getting hammered and then disappearing in a thick, blue cloud of Turkish tobacco smoke! All the light-heartedness of working life has gone and been replaced by a Cromwellian bleakness and dutifulness, well, apparent dutifulness. They'll never know that there is no better state to write up a piece with a bit of a kick to it than three sheets to the wind: warm glow in the belly and trembling fingers, mind racing and coffee spilt.


  1. Evokes some memories for me!

  2. I had to meet a journalist in the City Golf Club in 1980. I got there early, but the rather grand man on the door (blazer and public school tie) let me in when I said I was meeting a Mr. Williams. We weren't in the City - and no sign of golf. A huge long bar full of men. I'd heard rumours that this was where 'civil servants' who worked at Curzon Street ('the Registry') or Russia House (between Euston Square tube station and UCL) passed - and received - doubtful information to and from Fleet Street journalists. I got myself a brandy and waited for Mr. Williams, who arrived late, brought over 2 fresh brandies, and promptly dropped them on the floor. Mr. Williams and I had some mutual 'friends' in the far right, and was looking for information. This was the age before mobile phones and 24-hour news, but there was an old-fashioned ticker-tape machine spewing out the news of the hour. I wandered over, glanced at the latest bit of tape, and came back to Mr. Williams. 'Oswald Mosley has just died,' I announced. Mr. Williams looked at me, and remarked, 'Is that good news or bad news in your circle of friends?'