Monday, July 2, 2012

Rashid is Dead

Who's Rashid? Read on and find out. My husband is very good at keeping a travel journal of our trips, which is great because my memory is like a sieve these days. Here's his entry for Sunday, May 13th:

The day started with toast, butter and jam purchased from the Pimlico Road Farmers’ Market. One wonders what has happened to our grocery store food when you taste fresh bread, farm fresh butter and homemade jam. Then we are off to Hampstead for a London Walk. Proudly, I plan the trip and get us on the Edgeware branch of the Northern Line. Sadly, I make a complete hash of the return and end up at St. Pancras (proper destination is Sloane Square). I sort it out and when we finally arrive at Sloane Square we are running late as we have a Westminster at War walk planned for 2:00pm. A quick lunch and we are on our way. Both of the walks were enjoyed to a high degree. Upon the return to the flat, we map out the evening (the three pubs we will be visiting this night). First we will go to the Grenadier for a pint, then to the Wilton Arms for a pint and a bite to eat and finally we will finish the night at the Nag’s Head. Good enough, off we go. As we round the curve in the mews, the Grenadier is chock a block full of people in suits and nice dresses (a wedding party perhaps). Not to worry, one must fight the enemy and not the plan, so off we go to the Wilton Arms. It is quiet at the Wilton Arms and after ordering a Spitfire and Master Brew we ask for a menu. I am informed that no food is served on a Sunday. Another bit of poor planning on my part, but the wife is resilient and we discuss our options. It is settled that we will have a couple of drinks at the Nag’s Head and then return home to finish off the food we purchased at the farmers’ market. The Nag's Head is an eccentric little pub that is one of my very favorite pubs in London. The food is absolutely horrible, the drink selection is limited, the landlord can be surly, yet I just love this place and that's why I planned a return visit. I know what you are thinking, never meet your heroes. I profess to you that a greater fallacy has never been spoken.
A few steps down the mews and we are at the Nag’s Head, again a rather quiet night with just a few customers present. Kevin Moran, the proprietor is not present, but Hannah (who we remember from a couple of years ago) is working behind the bar along with a new hire named Katie. Our preferred seats, the ones just behind the entry door, are taken so we slide onto a bench and table near the bar (fortuitous as it turns out). A pint of Adnams Broadside and a G&T are ordered. First it is imperative that we turn off our mobile and hang our jackets. Do not question this, these are the rules of the house and you must comply. We are surprised to find out that the Nag’s Head is offering food, so we order bangers and mash plus a shepherd’s pie. Honestly, some of the most disappointing food we have ever had and to add insult to injury there is a £1.50 service charge added to each meal (when ordered after 2:00pm Monday-Friday and when ordered at anytime on the weekend). Has my hero now exposed his Achilles’ heel? We struggle through the meals and start to absorb our surroundings as more customers arrive. I will not mention the three ugly Americans we saw at the Wilton Arms who have now arrived at the Nag’s Head. Fortunately, they go to the backroom (down the stairs just to the left of the bar). I will concentrate on the characters that start to filter in. First I must inform you that Rashid has died, yes the Saudi with the race horses who was a regular (when he was in town) passed away a few weeks ago. We know this because his brother stopped by last Thursday. We also learn that Hannah’s sister is amazingly thin (unlike Hannah). The sister resumed jogging just three weeks after her baby was born. Hannah thinks her sister is crazy. Katie, who is thin, defends the sister and - well how do I politely described this - Hannah and Katie have a comparison of backsides much to amusement of those present.
A few other customers arrive, including a nice young American couple; unfortunately they head for the backroom. Nothing ever happens in the backroom, if you can’t get a seat in the bar at the Nag’s Head then wait patiently or return at a different time. I step out into the mews for a smoke and from behind me I hear a click, click, click on the cobble stones. I turn to discover the sound is that of a cane clicking upon the cobble stones. A fine gentleman, in his seventies, dressed in a brightly colored plaid sport coat and fedora approaches the Nag’s Head, pauses at the steps as if he was contemplating the summit of Everest and proceeds inside. I return to my seat and find my wife conversing with an oriental gentleman at the bar. Patrick is his name, a man in his mid sixties, born in California to a Chinese father and Venezuelan mother, a resident of London for last thirty years. What ensues is lengthy conversation with Patrick about the geopolitical role of America, the Vietnam War and the political history of China. This conversation is interrupted only by the arrival of Patrick’s friend, Tom from Scotland. Patrick’s wallet is open and the drinks are flowing. I manage to buy one round, but from then on Patrick is insistent that it is his treat. The plan was to have two pints and then back to the flat for an early night. I stopped counting at five pints. Patrick was sitting on a bar stool where the man in the blue suit is standing in the next picture. You can see the table against the wall where my wife and I were sitting.
Sometime around 9:00pm, Kevin (the owner) arrives. Kevin is sailing very close to the wind when he arrives. Kevin approaches our table, reaches over my wife to the bookshelf just behind her and pulls out a book. He mumbles something to my wife and hands her the book. It is a book about the Nag’s Head. Who knew Kevin was in the military, a ceremonial guard with the red tunic and bear skin? Who knew Kevin was an actor? That's Kevin facing the camera in the picture below.
When we left the Nag’s Head I got us lost (I know, down the mews and take a right and then a left and it is a straight shot to Sloane Square). After wandering around a completely deserted Belgrave Square we spotted two policemen who gave us directions to Sloane Square. I forgot to mention one of the regulars at the Nag’s Head; an old crippled Shih Tzu dog named Mash. His owner named him Mash because as a puppy the dog’s white belly, brown ears and tail reminded the owner of a baked potato. Well one can’t call their dog “baked potato” so he called him Mash (as in bangers and mash). Is it any wonder that the Nag’s Head is one of my favorite pubs in London?

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