Honestly, the sun always shines on the Glencoe Car Park Run.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

London Day 2

Woke up on Sunday with one thing on my mind: Football. Just because I'm on holiday visiting relatives doesn't mean I give up my addiction. Compromises were made. I'd sacrifice watching Celtic at lunchtime in return for everyone watching Manchester United v Arsenal at 4.00pm. Deal struck we headed to Hoxton to meet up with an uncle for a couple of beers.

We sat in the pub, exchanging stories, old, new and recycled, getting louder as the hours passed. Uncle's not much of a football man, but as we were buying the drink he had no option other than finding a pub with a TV showing the game.

He grudgingly took us to The White Horse, a pub he used to run when times were better. It was the sort of place I wouldn't even have looked in the window never mind waltz in like a regular. Everyone knew my uncle. We were introduced as his nephews. I cracked a couple of jokes about being typical stingey Scots, so feel free to buy us a round. The few people already there shared a smile and raised a friendly glass. We'd arrived early enough to get seats at one of only three tables.

The state of the place mirrored my uncle's own decline. He vociferously declared the pub's decline to everyone there. I couldn't have cared less. I only had eyes for the TV, and as the teams took to the field, you could've sat me in a cage full of hungry lions and I'd still have stayed for the full ninety minutes. In didn't take long before I forgot all about the bloodstains on the floorboards.

The pub's location in North London meant it could be nothing other than an Arsenal pub. So it was surprising to see someone standing in the middle of the floor wearing a Man Utd shirt, spouting confident predictions and ridiculing Arsenal's spending policy.

For those of you from other planets who are not yet familiar with the outcome let me give you the order of play. Man Utd took the lead. Arsenal missed a penalty and their chance to equalise . Utd went in at half time leading 3-1.

Mr Man Utd shirt had grown a few inches and his smile barely fitted his face. Then someone, who I could only describe as Hoxton's Avon Barksdale, glided through the door with three bodyguards. A real life Babycham moment if ever I saw one.

Some locals headed out for a smoke. Some headed to the toilet. Others put their heads down and fingered the condensation running down the outside of their pints. Frank Sinatra sang Come Fly With Me in my head as I sat hypnotised by the pin stripes. I couldn't take my eyes off Avon and his buddies.

Mr Man Utd only looked up when he sensed Avon standing inches from his face. I couldn't make out the actual words, but there was need. It was like watching a foreign language film where the body language said it all.

It wasn't the best moment for my uncle to give us his opinions on the number of macaroons, so I whispered to him to shut the fuck up. When I turned back around Avon was staring at me. I nodded acknowledgement and took a drink of my pint. He turned his attention back to Man Utd.

The girl from behind the bar eased the tension by producing a silver platter of sandwiches. This gave others a chance to break the silence, as did the teams running out for the start of the second half.

I hoped for a second half comeback from Arsenal. Not that I support Arsenal. If Man utd were down 3-1 I'd have wanted them to comeback. When my own team's not playing I always want to see a close game. And at 3-1 down, if Arsenal did come back then I was in for treat. It would be a classic.

But it wasn't to be. The game would still be remembered as a classic, but for completely different reasons. The goals just kept coming. Unfortunately, for Arsenal, they were all coming at the wrong end.

The atmosphere in the pub sank deeper and deeper. The TV was switched off at one point, but returned a minute later. I felt their pain. I've seen my own team being trounced by Rangers and it hurts more than a break-up.

The game finished 8-2. I feel this is one of those occasions when I'll have to spell out the numbers just to confirm I've not mis-typed. The game finished Man Utd Eight Arsenal Two. It's not even a once in a lifetime score. It's a once ever score.

We left right after the whistle in search of food, stumbled around a few corners and into a Vietnamese Restaurant. My uncle, although he lived about half a mile away, had never been inside the restaurant, and mumbled something about cats. But the place had a few diners, mostly orientals, which we took to be a good sign.

While we looked at the menus and quenched our thirst from the long 10 minute walk, the seats around us filled up. The place was buzzing and the waiting staff took our orders with urgency. No sooner had we ordered and it arrived. I've had slower service at McDonald's Drive-Thrus. So impressed was I at the speed of service I never noticed the queue of people standing at the front door waiting to be seated.

Then I tasted the food: Stir fry chicken with lemon grass, chilli and onions. After one mouthful I sat back, looked at the others wolfing their own orders, and then looked at the ever growing queue. Even my uncle, who'd screwed his face up at the menu, stopped talking and wolfed his noodles.

Unfortunately, that speedy service had it's downsides. I sensed them hanging over me and had to tell them twice that I hadn't actually finished yet. When I asked to see the Dessert Menu the waitress's shoulders noticably dropped, so I changed my mind asked for the bill, which she produced from behind her back.

When we left we squeezed past the hordes waiting in the doorway and outside. I looked back at the sign, as we didn't have a clue what the place was called. Song Que Authentic Vietnamese Food.

Turns out it has a reputation as the finest Vietnamese Restaurant in London. After spending most of the day in local dives, sampling North London underclass culture, we ended the day by introducing our uncle to a taste of the world beyond his prejudice, but I have a feeling he won't be back in a hurry.


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