The weather in London seems to be confused. April is generally a month filled with precipitation: mostly rain, but don’t be too surprised if it brings the last of the late winter snow or hail. So it’s a little unnerving that for the last week we’ve had nothing but glorious, sweltering sunshine.
My natural environment at times like this a darkened room, taking frequent cold showers in a desperate effort to maintain my skin’s naturally clammy temperature. Dad’s in town though, so that’s not an option. Off we go to one of London’s gems, the lovely Hampstead Heath.
HH is well-served by pubs to the south and west, but on its northern boundary there’s just the one: alleged birthplace of highwayman Dick Turpin, allegedly where Keats wrote ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, and 16th century tollgate, The Spaniards.
Therein lies the first problem. Tollgates are not designed to be easy to get through. They’re designed to be a right pain in the arse to get through, generally so any traffic has to slow down enough for you to nab their money. One imagines Dick Turpin simply got bored of sitting around all day and decided to take the tollgate concept mobile.
The result of this is that the road directly outside The Spaniards has perpetual tailbacks leading back at least half a mile either side. Crossing the road to get in takes five minutes. Not ideal.
Things start to look up once we get onto the premises. A pretty beer terrace stretches out the rear of the premises. Inside is a tasteful blend of old and new. My hopes are rising as I order my first beer of the session…
£5.05 a pint.
More than £5 for a pint of very ordinary ale.
I force a smile as a pay – obviously I’m not going to walk off to a different pub, there isn’t one for three miles around – and try to compose myself on the terrace outside.
The surroundings are nice enough and the beer is okay. But you need to be a whole lot better than okay to justify £5 a pint.