Monday, December 26, 2005

Requiem for a pub

Hullo folks: John here taking over for a moment from Bully to write an entry in his blog.

When I was a college student here in 1983, penniless but hungry, there were two ways I could eat cheaply: buy the 19 1/2p cans of Heinz Beans and eat them up in the flat at No. 51 Gloucester Terrace--or I could head downstairs, loop around the back of the building and dodge into the White Hart on Brook Mews, visible from my bedroom window six flights below.

It was my first and favorite pub, my local, my haven. I learned to drink warm, bitter beer and Guinness here. I ate countless meat pies and sausages and chips at the bar or tucked away in the wooden booths towards the back. In 1983, the beer was cheap (50p for a pint, 95p for a Guinness) and the food was affordable on my stingy student's budget that couldn't even afford a two-zone Travelcard, but I wasted enough money in the bewildering fruit machine arcade games that I never got the hang of. The place was always full of American students, only a few of which were ones in my program, and Australian workers. I drank elbow to elbow with them. My lifelong love of the pub, pub food, pub culture, pub people began here and has never died.

Today I walked down Brook Mews North to find the White Hart shuttered, boarded up, closed and abandoned. Brook Mews seemed even more of a ghost street than it had twenty-two years ago. The Internet—something I'd never dreamed of in 1983—tells me it closed about two years ago, in December 2003, twenty years or so after I first set foot in it. I doubt many will have missed it. It really was never an exceptional pub by any standards; even then I considered the Swan a better pub (and the Swan gets mediocre reviews at best from pub guides on the Internet). But the White Hart was my local, and one of the first things I realized about pub culture was that even in London, through thick or thin a man sticks by his local.

I ate and drank in this place, laughed and fell in love and wasted time and money and don't regret a pound or a moment of it. I've written fiction about the White Hart that said it would remain open forty years from now and beyond. It won't, of course, except in my Dream Country of a London that is always the way I left it, in those days when I was young.

I doubt there will be any other requiem for the White Hart, 31 Brook Mews North, London W2 on the Internet at all. But this one's mine. Tonight I hoist a pint and toast the White Hart. It is missed.

--jld, 26 December, 2005


Anonymous said...

Hi there. I saw that too when I last visited Brook mews north. I used to live next door (the sign on the garage is one I made when I was there in the early 1990's). However, the Mitre in Craven Hill Road is still open and one could even spot it in Woody Allen's 2006 opus.

ellieblue said...

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!Can't believe my favourite pub has been closed down.Used to drink there all the time in the 90´s;had brilliant laughs,excellent games of pool and nice people to talk to.White hart-You are and will be missed...big time!!/Ellie
Would love to get in contact with people who used to drink there.