A scurrilous verse quoted on Ringing Chat recently provokes Max to nostalgia:
“There’s a dirty stinking p*** house to the north of Waterloo”
Begins a rhyme, the rest of which I won’t repeat to you,
But it brought fond recollections of a pub I used to know,
That was closed down by the public health inspectors long ago.
It wasn’t north of Waterloo but close by, to the east,
And the sanit’ry facilities weren’t fit for man or beast.
Its name was Becky’s Dive Bar and it lay beneath the feet
In a dingy little basement, halfway down Southwark Street.
It was rather self-effacing, you’d scarcely know ’twas there,
And you entered rather steeply down a broken wooden stair.
The plumbing, as I’ve hinted, left a lot to be desired,
But the beer, oh the beer, it truly was inspired!
The brass-railed bar was long, its fittings fairly free from rust,
And stocked with myriad bottles with a healthy coat of dust.
But the beer, oh the beer, it deserved our compliments,
’Twas damn good stuff (and never mind the odour from the gents).
They had Shepherd Neame and Ruddles and Thwaites of Blackburn there,
When Youngs or Charrington IPA was London’s standard fare, *
And Jim?, the worthy cellar man (his name escapes me now),
Kept it all in fine condition, as only he knew how.
Now California Becky was the lady of the house,
Respected well by many a man (and doubtless many a mouse,
For though the ale was legend’ry, the hoover and the broom
Were seldom seen to interrupt the peace of that bar room).
Each night she could be seen there, upon a bar stool perched
(Before some wretched bureaucrat her house’s name besmirched).
I think she drank Martini or something else well ginned,
And at quarter to eleven she was three sheets to the wind.
There was an old piano and a crone who’d cough and wheeze
As her fingers wandered idly over the noisy keys.
I knew not what she was playing, nor what she was dreaming then,
But she struck one chord of music between seven and half past ten.
Oh the EHO’s priorities are not like yours or mine.
He doesn’t care for character or whether the ale is fine,
But dust and smells and broken stairs – anathema to him.
He’ll close a suspect place down upon the slightest whim.
Alas for dear old Becky’s, it’s not there any more,
For many years there’s been another sign above the door.
Some soulless sterile wine bar, I don’t even know its name,
And I’ve never been inside - it just wouldn’t be the same!
* Even Fuller’s pubs were almost all “top pressure” in those days.
Apologies to Adelaide A Proctor.
Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.
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