Eagle eyed readers of the blog will have noticed that on the right-hand side of the Flying the Flag blog (which you’re reading at the moment) there is a link entitled “High Commissioners - They were invited” which links to Wikipedia’s article on what exactly a High Commissioner is. Last week on Twitter, my @BGCollector account was followed by none other than someone called DM Kirk-Sargeant who describes themselves as a Consular Officer at the New Zealand High Commission in London!
So unless this person is on a mission to follow all tweeters who swear constantly about rail travel, she presumable found me via this blog. Needless to say, this meant my mind went into overdrive about how we could celebrate this momentous happening, especially when we finally get around to covering the NZ High Commission in a few episodes time.
However, upon checking these facts as I was writing this, it looks like all these grand plans might be scuppered because I see that after only one or two days of following, Ms DM Kirk-Sargeant no longer follows BGCollector. (Sad face emoticon) So maybe the constant train related swearing put her off……….but the invitation to any other consular staff remains open! (Leering grin emoticon)
Now, here again there’s a short story behind why the tour was arranged for this particular day, in this case a Wednesday. It was because another friend from the place I lay my hat every evening was in ye olde London town for a jolly. Needless to say that whilst this day suited Andy down to the ground, it wasn’t so popular with the feminine contingent of the tour who once again complained about missed episodes of The Great British Bake Off.
But as with most things, the dirty black Paul Hollywood shaped cloud on the horizon was instantly lifted by the fact that surely between the wonders of iPlayer and the enticement of the colouring competition prize for this time being some BGC crafted cakes, there would be no-one who’d want to miss this one……would there?
Well with my air tight Tupperware box bulging at the seams with 7 baked perfections I set off only to find that not only would most of the regulars not being making it after all (apparently due to having to work late) but Andy himself wouldn’t be making it due to a chipped tooth! Well perhaps it was best that he wouldn’t be eating cakes then in that case.
But there’s no way that this reduction in attendee numbers would stop the tour going ahead and any way, I did still have two confirmed attendees in the handsome shapes of Mr Cheese and everyone’s favourite chocolate fudge packer, Spikey Haired Ed.
So, surely the question still on every readers’ lips is why there were “7 baked perfections” and what exactly was making them so perfect. So the first question is easy to answer in that the next High Commission alphabetically was Brunei and with their ambassadorial building being located near to Belgrave Square, this epicentre of Embassies saw 6 other High Commissions all within easy walking distance.
The meeting point for this marathon was the “only pub on Sloane Street”, the Gloucester and if you want to know how I know it’s the only pub on Sloane Street…..well it says so on the door. Now you may take one look at the photo of the pub here and conclude that this particular tour was taking place on a pleasant balmy mid-September evening. Nothing in fact, could be further from the truth as the weather was atrocious with lashing rain and the ominous signs that the evenings are closing in far, far too early for my liking.
I had plenty of time to contemplate the weather as I made it to the pub well over an hour earlier than the other two, which did give me time to order a pint of One Stop Hop from Sadlers Ales courtesy of the pretty red-haired barmaid and grab a stool in the window which allowed me to watch the people entering the pub and the bouncing rain in front of the Gucci shop opposite.
Next to me in the other corner by the window were a strongly accented Scottish couple who were polishing off a couple of burgers with gusto. So much gusto in fact that when the pretty red-haired barmaid came to collect their plates, the strongly accented lady commented, “you couldn’t get DNA from that plate!” – It might have been something more like “ye cuddne’ get DNA from that plate”, but that would be insensitive.
Now this would be interesting enough on its own but then as the couple were leaving they were approached by another strongly accented curly haired chap, who proceeded to shake the other chap’s hand (with gusto) and proclaim how he was a boyhood hero. (I mean how the other guy was a boyhood hero of the curly haired chap – not that he was a boyhood hero of himself!) I then gathered from mentions of “fitbaw” and “the ‘gers” that this was an ex-Rangers football star. I’d love to be able to finish off this anecdote by revealing his exact identity but also I can’t….so if you think you know the mystery footballer, please let me know.
Any further soccer related ponderings were laid to rest as Spikey Haired Ed made his grande entrance, just in time to buy me a pint of Curious Brew lager from Chapel Down. There was just about enough time for Ed and I to catch up on who is currently pissing him off the most at the “old place” and capture the Cask Marque certificate from its location by the bar, when Mr Cheese made his sopping dripping entrance, just in time to buy me another pint of One Stop Hop.
Luckily the rain was holding off for the present time as we made our ways along Harriet Street and down Lowndes Square to the bottom corner and the location of the High Commission for Pakistan. This was the first High Commission that we’ve visited so far that had some security people loitering outside and although none of them had the stature of “Steve” from the Jeremy Kyle show it was enough to make me miss taking the traditional BGC gurning photo by the brass plaque and instead make do with a very murky shot of the flag.
We continued down Lowndes Street until it bends into Chesham Place where the huge German Embassy lives on the corner. Just next door is the smaller High Commission of Lesotho and although their flag was out, it seems we’ve only got the shot of the gurning BGC to record this event.
Following the route round into Belgrave Square proper it was flags everywhere and it was only moments until we’d bumped into Brunei and the subsequently Ghana as we completed the west side of the square. Just round the corner is the hidden little gem of the Star Tavern which is where the Great Train Robbery was planned…..apparently.
Whatever the pub’s dubious past it’s now a very smart and welcoming place and with yet another Fuller free beer voucher in my grubby mitt, I was happy enough to get the round in of pints of Oliver’s Island for Rob and I and Discovery for Ed. I even pushed the boat out to get the crips in!
Memory seems to suggest that we planned nothing greater than how Jeremy Corbyn was shaping up after his first week in power and it was probably just a shame that news of David Cameron and the pig hadn’t broken at this point ‘cause we may have stayed for another pint in that case.
There was just enough time to visit the quite posh loos before leaving the pub and trooping back to Belgrave Square before detouring off the north face by walking up Wilton Crescent and stopping at the High Commission of Singapore for another shot of the face that only a mother could love.
Rounding the rest of Wilton Crescent we ducked down Wilton Row to a pub that is even more well-hidden than the Star Tavern, in the shape of The Grenadier which again has an interesting history in that it was originally the Officers Mess for the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards and all I can say is that there can’t have been many of them back in 1720 as it’s a tiny little place with possibly more room in the scarlet sentry box that stands to attention outside.
But although room was at a premium we still managed to find a suitable place next to the bar to drink our pints of Wild Hare from Bath Ales and find the Cask Marque certificate which was propped on a nearby table.
An interesting story from the pub’s website retells how there was a young Grenadier, who when caught cheating at cards was beaten to death by his comrades. Apparently “Cedric” haunts the pub to this day, especially in September (!) and locals have attempted to pay off his debt by pinning money to the ceiling. Something I noticed and photographed without realising why all the cash was there. Hope Cedric didn’t mind.
Wilton Crescent brought us back round to the east side of the square and we walked briskly past the Malaysia High Commission before getting a little lost in hunting down the last High Commission of the night, Trinidad and Tobago, before finding the final pub of the night, The Horse and Groom hidden away (a theme of the evening it would seem) down Groom Place.
The pub was befittingly bedecked in flags but they were there to celebrate the Rugby World Cup rather than my Flying the Flag pub tour. But we were still welcomed like conquering heroes, especially when after we’d settled down with our pints of something or other and finally opened up the Tupperware of 7 baked perfections. They certainly attracted the interest of Derek and Jennifer, a pair of likely candidates from a nearby travel agents (well that’s what they said) and fascinated to hear about the trials and tribulations of the Flying the Flag tour.
There wasn’t much more to be said or done, other than make a last minute visit to one of the smallest toilets ever before being very good naturedly shown to the door by the barman who was already mopping the floor by the time we’d gathered together our bags and coats.
Oh….and if you were wondering who won the colouring competition then it was neither of them as they both failed with soggy bottoms.
Oh piss off then.