Thursday, 15 April 2010

You Never Know Whom You Might Meet In The Pub

It was our 23rd wedding anniversary the other day. Second time round for both of us, so no, we were no giddy goats when we set out 23 years ago.

“Will they last, do you think?”  “No chance”.

Sorry, chaps, they did, this long anyway. And unless they fall out over who has first call on the Zimmer frame, gets to eat all the soft centre chocolates in the box, or has control of the TV remote, (what is it with men and the remote?), they’ll probably last for the duration.

But back to the pub.

25 years ago the Charing Cross Road in London was still full of bookshops, red double deckers, black cabs; pavements covered in litter, sleazy bars and old-fashioned pubs and the occasional ‘working girl’  straying from nearby Soho.

Theatres and the  Astoria Cinema fetched in the suburban crowds in the evening,  while tramps and young, homeless boys and girls murmured their monotonous chant “got any spare change” at them.

Centre Point stood tall and empty and opposite Centre Point was The Royal Sovereign, not exactly spit and sawdust, but dark and shabby, full of wooden, ‘mahagony type’ pub furniture, settles and benches, with small brass tables, where tiny beer puddles gathered in the dimples of the beaten tops.

The nearest Underground station was just around the corner, which made the pub a handy pit stop for a quick drink and unwind before going home after work.
Artists came here, media people (who were not called media people in those days), booksellers and assorted office workers. People just setting out for a night’s work came here too, like musicians playing in West End shows and The Royal Opera in Covent Garden.

A particular chap caught my eye on several occasions; we got talking over a pint, decided to go for a pancake in nearby Holborn, which was close to this chaps’ place of work and another tube station for me on my way home.

Reader, I married him.

Twenty five years later I thank my lucky stars for women’s lib, without which I would not have had the nerve to walk into a pub after work, talk to a strange man, go for a pancake with him, without ‘having been introduced properly’.

All you young women and girls of today, who take such freedoms for granted and make fun of the old-style feminists, think again. You owe them quite a debt of gratitude.


  1. I love this post: "Reader, I married the chap." My husband and I have been married 29 years, each of us bringing daughters with us. Yes, it is a long story, and I smile with you wholeheartedly when you say "...we were no giddy goats when we started out." Something about bringing the fire to the relationship, with a little wisdom in the gleam, makes for an inexplicable long-term relationship.

  2. Belated Happy Anniversary. I don't know what it is with men and the remote either!

  3. What a wily wench you were!! Happy Anniversary Friko.

  4. Congratulations!
    I've been married almost I should high five the nearest fem- cheers to pubs and motels!!
    Oh, and Alooohaa-

  5. So very instructive (listening young folks?)

    We are celebrating 23 years long ago!

    Aloha from Waikiki

    Comfort Spiral

  6. Swallowtail - what a lovely comment. Thank you, and may we last for as long as it takes.

    Martin H - And there I was, thinking you'd have the answer.

    Bonnie - it takes one to know one.

    Kilauea Poetry - high fives and Aloha to you.

    Cloudia - congratulations to you and Aloha. Stay happy!

  7. Friko, what a beautiful post. The era you evoke was about the time that I used to visit London at least once a year. I absolutely see the scene that you describe. I know the era you mean in terms of what a girl/woman might dare on her own.

    I toast you and your husband for your luck in being in that right place at the right time and in the right frame of mind. This romantic still searches for such a kismet moment.

    I celebrate yours and all the years happily ever after that you two have traveled through together.


  8. Congratulations upon this anniversary.

    Just ten years married, am not watching any TV for the last three and nearly forgot what a remote looks like.
    And yes, I learned much more about life and its content inside a Pub, than anywhere else.
    Sad, only that there aren't many over here in Athens.
    Wishing you all a wonderful Friday.

  9. When I went to school near London, I used to spend all my pocket money walking up Charing Cross Road, then turning on Cecil Court I think for all the second-hand books. Twenty-three years ago – that would have been 1987 – it does not sound that far away. Wait a minute, I was looking at a book yesterday – That’s it, it has a small receipt which says: Foyles for Books – Stock of over 4 million volumes – 19 July 1986 .95 pound, for “The Weather in Africa” by Martha Gellhorn. So I missed your wedding by one year!
    A nice tale Friko about your meeting. All my congratulations and I wish you many more years of happiness.

  10. The only thing that sticks with me about London is Foyles Books,(I was there for a rainy week in November with a tiny baby) I loved your description of your part of the city. You and your husband may have been meant for one another, but you'd never have found out if you hadn't made that move. Happy anniversary!

  11. Alles Liebe zum Hochzeitstag (oder habe ich etwas falsch verstanden**) - nein, also ich denke nicht. vielen Dank die Geschichte einer jungen und wirklich für die damaligen Verhältnisse sehr mutigen jungen Frau.
    Mut, der ja zum Glück auf ganz wunderbare Weise belohnt wurde.

    Einen traumhaften Tag für Euch beide!


  12. Aha! So now I have the whole story. Or at least more of it, but I suspect there's a whole backstory there that you're not letting on about.

    My first (and possibly only) attempt at asking a boy out (to the Sadie Hawkins dance, which is traditionally girl-asks-boy) failed because, in the interval between first developing a huge crush on him and the date of the dance (4 months hence) I shot upwards in an dizzying growth spurt. He didn't, however.

    My daughter, fiercely confident as she usually is, draws the line at asking a guy out. Sigh.

  13. Just being able to buy a drink alone in a pub seemed so daring then . One still had elderly relations who talked about the White Slave Trade , after all .
    Delighted to hear that the freedom went to your head and you grabbed a good'un .
    Here's to the next 23 years !!

  14. Well done and happy anniversary!

  15. Laughing about Alice Schwarzer is easy but I remeber buying her magazine Emma for my mum when I took the U-Bahn home. I read it of course but as an 10 year old schoolgirl I really wondered what they were talking about...
    Well done for talking to the right person and being in the right place at the right time. A match made in heaven?

    Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Hochzeitstag

  16. Congratulations to you and yours. Must admit, I made it to 27 1/2 years...then got divorced... we can't win 'em all! Let's hope you both continue with wedded bliss!

  17. Congrats. Beat you by 5. And this is all because he likes the soft centres and I like the hard centres.

  18. Oh gosh yes! I remember that sleazy bit of London! Used to work not far away, but that was over 50 years ago, and it was sleazier then, but more bookshops!

    I wouldn't have dared to speak to a stange man then, probably never be seen afterwards!

  19. Belated wishes, so Happy Unanniversary! The area, all very familiar to me, made the story that much more interesting. Have a great next 23 years.

  20. Friko, another of your posts I've enjoyed reading. Congratulations (or belated congratulations) on your 23 years of wedded bliss. April seems to be a good month for anniverseries, our 44th was on 16th April - we celebrated with a cup of tea!

  21. Happy 23rd! And thanks for the timely reminder of the freedoms we all enjoy today.

  22. congratulations on your 23rd anniversary - another pair of giddy goats coming up to our 21st in May! Lovely description of London - I remember it well!

  23. Frances - Here's wishing you find this kindred spirt.

    robert - you have a long way to go. schoenes Wochenende wuensche ich.

    Vagabonde - Is there anywhere you haven't lived and wandered?

    Pondside - Foyles is still there, selling as many books as ever.

    veredit - eigentlich waren wir alle damals sehr viel mutiger als heute.

    Deborah - what is the matter with the young generation - no guts!
    I'd have you would have done more of the approaching than you let on here too.

    S & S - I think we had a lot more guts than young woman have now. everybody is so scared of everything now.

    Vicki - thank you very much.

    ivy - wer ist Alice Schwarzer? eine deutsch Feministin?

  24. jinksy - you lasted well, my first go wasn't as long as that.

    Fran - well, there's no accounting for taste.

    Gilly - I had seen him before and he wasn't as strange as all that. Quite normal, in fact.

    Dave - thanks Dave; another 23?

    mollygolver - congrats to you, that's quite an achievement.

    Argent - freedom too many take totally for granted and often don't even want. Makes me cross.

    SBS - mere babes-in-arms in the wedding stakes, you two.

  25. Reading this a little late, but not too late to wish you both many more happy years!

  26. ivy - wer ist Alice Schwarzer? eine deutsch Feministin?

    D I E deutsche Feministin :-))
    Komisch, da denkt man jeder kennt die , aber woher, wenn man so lange weg ist aus Deutschland? Sie war in den 70er und 80er Jahren sehr militant und hat die Zeitschrift Emma gegründet, inzwischen hat sie gemerkt, dass Männer nicht alle Teufel sind und man sie nicht unbedingt ausrotten oder einsperren muss, um als Frau glücklich zu werden.

  27. Oh yes, know Charing Cross Road well and love its slightly tatty, partly bookish, partly sleazy charm. We have made 15 years second time around. Not sure I would have the energy to have another go, plus I love him dearly when he doesn't drive me to distraction. Congratulations on your anniversary.

  28. Molly - thank you for your good wishes.

    Ivy - Nee, nie gehoert. Jedes Land hat seine eigenen Groessen.
    Ich habe allerdings nie geglaubt, das alle Maenner gleich schlecht sind und ausgerottet werden muessen. Meiner ist sehr lieb und nett.

    elizabethm - don't go often enough nowadaays; I have no idea what it's like to be around there daily. Would love to go more often. Thanks for your good wishes, same to you. I much prefer the second go.


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