Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Third World

Having a flutter on the gee-gees has been a favourite whim since the early days of Combo. It is obviously not my fault. It was my mother who sent me to the bookmaker's shop in Kingsteignton in about 1966 to put two bob each way on Superfine in the Grand National. The first step through that door was like walking into a toy shop. All that smoke, the tinny tannoy commentary, the man marking prices on the board...heaven. I was hooked. Thanks Mum, look what you did to me!
All gambling in Italy is state controlled. If you try and click on to Ladbrokes or Coral or Paddy Power, a page comes up with the Italian Government department crest saying the company does not have a license to operate in Italy. What it really means is, they couldn't cope with the competition. However as I looked longingly a couple of weeks ago at the Royal Ascot page on the Sporting Life site there was an offer from William Hill. Deposit £20 and get a free matched £20 bet. What the hell, I thought. I clicked and, heavens above, the Hill site opened up in all its seductive beauty! I started to fill in the online form, name, address, then country with the huge drop-down menu. A, E, I...hold on, where is Italy? No Italy! I sent off an e-mail to their customer services department and got the tart reply that "William Hill no longer accepts bets from the Italian Republic", with no further elaboration. So, fellow gin-soaked expats here in one of the world's most beautiful countries, if we want to have a bet with William Hill maybe we should move to Armenia or Burkina Faso, Kyrgyzstan or Liberia, Yemen or Zimbabwe, all of whom are perfectly acceptable to the London bookmaker.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

London Boozers

Sitting in The Doghouse listening to the rain plink relentlessly on the exquisitely tiled roof, I thought of my time in London and the various pubs that took the Combo shilling. Do you know I think I can feel a list coming on? So without thinking too hard, here are my top ten pubs in reverse order. Please bear in mind this is ten years out of date and is biased to west London.

10. The Elephant and Castle, just around the back of one of my favourite churches in London, St Mary Abbots on High Street Ken. Perfect for a pint after Evensong on a warm summer's evening.
9. The Red Lion, just off Jermyn Street. Wonderful mirrored interior and the bonus of a decent bookies directly opposite. Many a happy working afternoon was spent there, often enlivened by the sound of fellow inebriates cartwheeling down the precipitous stairs to the bog.
8. The Andover, Hammersmith. A locals' local, a spotlessly clean, well-run back street Fuller's boozer. Well it was, when it was run by Tom and Moira, the perfect Irish couple. They retired, now it's gone to the dogs, all chi-chi and soulless.
7. The Captain's Cabin, around the back of our office on Jermyn Street. Included because it was such a filthy shit hole, on the corner of a narrow side street that stank of urine. Inside it was worse, terrible beer, disgusting food, shoddy service, ghastly pond-life clientèle and a permanently sticky carpet. I liked it enormously. I understand it has been refurbished. Such a waste.
6. The Scarsdale, Kensington. Excellent session pub with cracking Aussie barmaids. Many a happy hour etc.
5. The Tabard, Turnham Green. Perfectly placed around the corner from the underground station on my way home to Bedford Park. Three doors from Andy's Kebabs, a shrine to calories. I remember once dining upstairs and seeing the table soar up past my face with a soundtrack of breaking wood and wicker. My chair had collapsed under me.
4. The Windsor Castle, Campden Hill Road. A gorgeous pub, smashing beer, wonderful interior and eye-wateringly expensive. What more could you want? Also the scene of the biggest, most life-changing mistake of my life. 1.40pm, Saturday 19th November 1988. Not that I'm bitter you understand.
3. The Dove, Hammersmith. Everyone loves this pub, wonderfully snug in the winter, glorious in the summer on the back terrace, watching the Thames rise and fall. I wonder what happened to Old Caramac, eh Pete?
2. Gordon's, Villiers Street. I know, I know, it's not a pub but this is my list and I don't care. A very special place. Makes me hanker for London just thinking about it. Another beaker of Sercial my man!
1. The French House, Dean Street. If I had to choose a pub for One Last One, it would be here at about 11 o'clock on a Friday morning. Probably a Bloody Mary since you ask.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


I know, I know, I know, don't go on. I have been remiss and I deserve some sound punishment. Put together a horrible blend of idleness, drunkenness and the thin excuse of not having a camera and this is the result. No posts for a month. Still don't have the new camera. Comboland is rather short of decent retailers for this sort of kit so I am waiting for a trip to Big Town when all will be resolved. Any recommendations by the way reader? I am pretty sure I will be going for a Panasonic again, but any tips welcome.
By way of a farewell, I will put up this heart-tugger, one of the last shots from the old camera before it was car-doored. Ain't she sweet?