Take the next High Commission alphabetically. So for this tour, Tour 8, that means we’ve finally left the “B’s” behind and started with our first “C”, which as every studious schoolchild knows, is Cameroon.
So, once we’ve got the “first” High Commission sorted, the next step is to see which other High Commissions are located nearby. And it was here where we hit a challenge with this particular outing.
Cameroon’s High Commission is located in Holland Park, all on its own and quite a distance away from any other fellow High Commissioners. An ever widening internet search later revealed that there were two other High Commissions in the not too far distance, but these were both not in exactly spitting distance and also, they were both standing alone in the same fashion as Cameroon.
The good news was that all three together formed a pretty straightish line, running across the top of Hyde Park, standing over the deep rumblings of the Central Underground Line. Therefore the simplest solution would be to take these three as the candidates for Tour 8 and link them together with some short tube journeys between the locations.
So, with this plan in mind, I set the tourists their starting point of The Castle, on Holland Park Avenue, just a couple of metres away from the entrance to Holland Park tube station itself. It’s certainly an attractive pub, with the outside covered in green and cream aged tiles, some of them spelling out the name of Charrington’s, the original brewers who owned and ran the pub.
I was first to arrive and the pub was already bustling with a fair crowd of people, meaning I had to turn on the full BGC charm to get the Latin barmaid to serve me on the other side of the bar, away from the crowds of student-types who were milling around like they didn’t really know what they were meant to do. I plumped for a pint of Amarillo Amber from Meantime Brewery, which although it was proudly served in the branded stemmed glass, was much much too cold for my liking and meant the taste was dulled until it could have been any old fizzy golden beer.
Talking about the bar, the other thing I noticed was the Cask Marque certificate stuck securely and unobtainabley behind the bar, meaning I’d be one more scan up for the night, but only thanks to the “certificate not accessible” option on the app.
I managed to secure a table of sorts in the back room and wondered if I would have to sacrifice the low sofa that came with the table to any one of the other groups who were prowling around looking for places to sit. Luckily it wasn’t too long until Rav arrived and although it was lovely to see him again as he has missed a few tours recently, it was mainly a feeling of relief because he could now take one of the seats and mean that I was no longer a Billy No-Mates and wouldn’t have to deploy the next phase of my seat reserving plot which would have been to start laying towels on the spare seats.
We didn’t have to wait that long until the next attendees appeared, in the shape of Sam, who once again was on some sort of “day off”. He was spending this particular “day off” doing his bit for the community by escorting Richard, a CAMRA friend from Berkshire (the current chairman no less) who currently divides his time between homes in Newbury and Notting Hill, meaning this tour was almost on one of his two doorsteps.
Richard and Sam took their places on the low sofa, giving us all concern that we’d have to get Thora Hird along to help Richard back out again, but we saved the situation by acquiring some more spare chairs, which was good because they were soon put to use by the arrival of Mr Clarke, again not seen for a couple of tours and Mr Cheese who was running late as usual. The final tourist of the evening was Paul, a newcomer to the tour but another who lives not too far away. The other reason that Paul was here was to ensure his dad didn’t take a nasty fall and have to press his emergency call button.
By the time everyone had arrived and had got themselves settled it was time for a second pint and the drink of choice, certainly for Paul and I anyway was Maverick, a ginger and chilli flavoured cider from Orchard Pig. I’ve had this before and it really doesn’t taste as foul as it sounds.
With a complicated public transport related tour in the offing tonight, it was time to set off and complete the first High Commission of the night, which was the afore mentioned Cameroon, whose place of residence is just over the road in the afore mentioned Holland Park. The flag was still out but the autumnal nights are now our worst enemy meaning the green, red and yellow of the flag could be any of a millions shades of grey to the naked eye. Still, we managed to get in the usual gurning snapshot of my visage posing against the brass plaque.
My original plan was to now descend the depths of Holland Park tube station and take the Central Line one stop along to Notting Hill Gate but the combined thoughts of the two father and son duo had put two alternative suggestions on the table. Richard was all for getting the bus to the next pub, probably because he gets free bus travel compared to having to lay out some coppers for the tube, but Paul countered that the walk wasn’t long anyway, and by the time we’d descended to the depths of the tube anyway we’d be more than half way along to the next stop. And anyway, there was no way we’d ever get Richard’s bath chair onto a bus in the first place!
What Paul also mentioned in passing was that my next suggested pub, The Old Swan, wasn’t perhaps the best of venues and instead would we like to sample the delights of the Uxbridge Arms in the aptly named Uxbridge Street?
The walk was, as promised, not that long at all and before we knew it we were entering the very cosy surroundings of the Uxbridge Arms, which as everyone kept commenting, could have been any little local in any little town up and down the country.
The beer offering wasn’t that dynamic but the pints were in excellent form and my pint of St Austell’s Tribute was certainly much more drinkable than the frosty Meantime I’d had previously. The only obvious downside to the Uxbridge Arms was that space was at a premium and we were spread over two tables either side of the toasty real fire whilst Sam propped up the bar like an extra in the Woolpack.
It’s very hard to make out in the photograph but the little red lettered sign just behind Sam’s left shoulder, bears the legend of “No Pissy Attitudes”, which I guess is just about as sage as anyone should become in the pub.
The next pub on my original agenda was The Champion and this pub got the rubber stamp of Paul’s approval so it was another medium length jaunt along Notting Hill Gate itself before crossing the road opposite the imposing Russian Embassy and stopping at the second High Commission of the night.
The front door of Guyana’s High Commission is hidden behind some leafy trees but even after we’d peered behind these it was disappointingly obvious that the flag had been taken in for the night, leaving us with a bare flagpole and only another gurning photo to keep us company.
The afore mentioned Champion is on the next street corner and is a large Tardis like pub, teeming with the young, hipster and bearded, meaning the beer range was quite good but the chances of getting the necessary space for our gang was quite poor.
My beer of choice was Autumn Red from Caledonian and the table of Hobson’s Choice was a cramped affair from which we had no chance to see if there was a Cask Marque certificate or not and therefore no chance to redeploy the “certificate not available” option again.
The original plan here, once done in the pub, was to jump back on the tube at Queensway and take it one stop further again to Lancaster Gate, but seeing as we all seemed to be fairly good shape at this point, we decided a little late evening exercise wouldn’t be too arduous and we set off in good spirits.
We would have reached our destination sooner had we not fallen foul of Google Map’s detour into Lancaster Gate itself and we then had to ignore the bright lights and temptation of The Swan, another Fuller’s pub that we met on the way. The Fuller’s pub we had planned was The Victoria but that most welcome of drinks would have to wait just a tat longer, just as soon as we’d finalised our final High Commission business.
Alas, although the building that the good citizens of Sri Lanka call home is a fine appointed mansion with a very nice porchway, they also had taken in the flag for the night meaning the tourists would be flying blind when it came to the colouring.
The colouring was to take place in the afore mentioned Victoria, a pub I have known the delights of before as it’s a lovely pub full of interesting décor and also full of drinkers, who tonight anyway were in the form of quiz players. As we entered the chap with the microphone was just about to announce the answer to “What was the name of the song that Jim Diamond took to number 1 in December 1984?”
If, like me, you got the answer right, treat yourself to a pint of ale and give yourself the next weekend off. If, unlike me, you either don’t know or don’t care, the answer is at the foot of the page.
Due to the fullness of the bar, we took our drinks, a fine pint of Adnam’s Ghostship for me, upstairs to the theatre bar which was deserted which at least meant that the boys could get down to the business of their colouring.
I have to give them some latitude of course, due to the fact we’d only actually seen one of the three flags tonight, and even then that one was in the gloom of the evening, but maybe I shouldn’t have been that surprised at the combinations of gaudy colours that adored this tour’s versions of the flags. And of course there were the usual comments of badly drawn penises and even one “arse-wipe”.
The scanned picture here doesn’t do the colouring justice but I awarded first and only prize to Paul for his very neat effort and one can only imagine the delight he must have been feeling as he was presented with his prize of a child’s atlas which features the three flags we should have been seeing tonight. Hopefully it will make up for the lack of real flags anyway.
For the final stop of the evening it was a short sprint to Praed Street, the home of not only Paddington Station, but the Pride of Paddington pub and the Pride of Paddington beer and a barmaid who needed 47 attempts to understand Ian’s request for some port scratchings.
So as the tour slowly disintegrated into their own merry ways to various merry homes, it was left to Sam, Rob and I to find some meagre food sustenance on the forecourt of Paddington Station.
At least for this tour there wasn’t the normal, mad dash to get the final train of the night and there was even time to see the results of Great Western Railways rebranding in the shape of their new décor for the on-board toilets. I was so impressed, I didn’t buy the company, but I did drop my phone down the pan.
So you really didn’t know the answer to the quiz question? You really should have done better.