After my important business in London was concluded, I set out to wander, with no particular goal in mind, though mostly avoiding major thoroughfares. I found my self in Fleet street, and by coincidence, my camera's battery was flashing to warn of imminent demise. I was hungry and thirsty and footsore, so somewhere to sit a while and eat seemed a good idea, and I bethought myself of a pub, a venerable ancient pub, beloved of scribblers since Samuel Pepys was writing his diary. I refer of course to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.
Now Fleet Street in the City of London... Oh. I suppose I'd better explain that, although I'd spent the night in London, Britain's capital city, and been to the British Museum in London,and so on, I'd not been at those times in the City of London, often referred to just as 'The City'. The City of London is where the ancient London was, a square mile or so, surrounded by... London...
Fleet Street was the home in times gone by, of the publishing industry. From the earliest pamphlets and broadsheets, the yards off Fleet Street were home to printing presses and bookbinders, then later, home to the great newspapers, such as The Times. In the eighties, all the newspapers decamped to cheaper, more accessible premises in the East End of London, but prior to that the Cheshire Cheese was thje legendary pub where news was exchanged and written. It's in Wine Office Court, easily overlooked, but, overlook it and you've missed history. To be fair, it's not the original Cheese, that burned down in 1666, in the Great Fire of London. This one's the one which was rebuilt, opening its doors in 1667. The cellars, in which there is a bar, are older, said to date back to the 1300s.
A literary pub, I said. Charles Dickens, W.B.Yeats, Mark Twain, Oliver Goldsmith, Arthur Conan-Doyle, Ben Johnson, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Johnson, (and of course, Boswell), J.B. Morton (Beachcomber), Oh, you're surrounded by ghosts.
I sat and ate, Pork-pie, pickles, cheese, bread.
And the barman kindly plugged my camera charger into a socket.
All the monarchs who have ruled Britain since 1667 are listed on a plaque by the door.
Pictures not so good because they're non-flash, and it's quite dark in there. The old feller across from me was bemoaning the state of football, reading the results in the paper. He was a Scot, I thought it might be Adullamite....
Old paintings and prints line the walls.
The cellars. Parts of these long predate the pub above. Possibly part of a Carmelite Monastery.
But now a bar.
Beer in the Cheshire Cheese is from Sam Smith's brewery in Tadcaster, Yorkshire. I am happy to report that at the time of my visit, I was served a very good beer in excellent condition, and the best bit is, the price was lower than I'd expected for London.
I sat and read my book, had another pint, relaxed, scribbled notes in my notebook, watched people, winced at the brashness of foreigners...
Like the American group who barged in, rudely pushing people aside, took a lot of bright flash pictures, and barged loudly out again, no manners or politeness, and they bought nothing.The barman, a young Australian, shrugged, "Happens every day", he said. An Italian couple came in and argued at high volume, He, I think, wanted to stay, but she was clearly disgusted at the dark, worn woodwork, and thought it lower than a pigsty. Not that I could translate, of course, but I think I understood her gestures meant "Capitulate at once, you stupid man, and take me to a well lit place of mirrors and glass, and opera, or I'll seize your genitals in my hand, dig my red pointy nails in and twist until you sink, whimpering, to your knees, sweat pouring from your brow, and pass out in front of my beautiful shoes".
Every man in the place was cringeing in fear.