It had been a while since Ian and I had a night out, but we put that right last night with a proper pub crawl.
First stop: Comptons. "There's no-one attractive in here, is there?" remarked Ian. He was quite, quite right. The quick-pinters-after-work were still propping up the bar, leering at the not-drunk-enough-yets.
Second stop: G.A.Y. Bar. Shocking! It's pink! Shocking pink! Mantos on Compton Street has been taken over by Jeremy Joseph, whose idea of a refit is to leave it exactly as it was, but with the addition of backlit pink Perspex panels and large tellies playing Shitpop. Huge posters announce that Carling is just £1.50, so I despatch Ian to the bar to get us pints of that. He scurries back to tell me that the £1.50 is for bottles, not pints, so we decide to have a pint of Stella each. "Stella's off," says the barman, once he'd finally deigned to notice Ian at the bar, "you'll have to have Carling, it's the same thing." £3.00 a pint.
The crowd is divided into two, er, camps. There's the skinny young things and the skinny old things and never the twain shall meet. A lairy scary skinhead with tattoos all over his body and head gives psychotic stares. Two blokes are pressed up against a wall, snogging furiously, groping each other, one has his legs wrapped around the other, oh I can't bear to watch, oh now he's shoving his hand down the other's pants, they're writhing, faces, crotches, locked together. Security asks them to desist, and we have to find something else to watch.
Third stop: Sanctuary Soho. This bar on Greek Street is the new venue from the guy behind Shadow Lounge and, ahem, Sweet Suite. "Before we get there," I say to Ian, "how much are we willing to pay on the door?" We decide on "no more than three pounds", and stride towards the doorman. Turns out there is no door charge, anyway.
Ground floor: a dance bar. Tacky, 80s, someone's idea of stylish. Looks like the Changing Rooms crew have been in - the walls are covered in MDF cut into organic shapes. No-one is dancing, indeed there's only one other customer in the room. I order two pints of Carling. "£3.60, please," says the barman. "Ooh, that's cheap," I think, "but hang on, those aren't pints, they're halves." Yes, this place is so stylish they only sell halves, perhaps because if they actually charged £3.60 a pint, no-one would bother.
Basement: ooh, we quite like this. Little alcoves - private rooms with banquettes, holding perhaps fifteen people. Fashionable things with distressed haircuts lounge around, chatting, no doubt, about this season's looks.
We are about to leave when we spot "Upstairs: Piano Bar" and decide to give that a whirl. Good idea. The place is packed - turns out it's a private birthday party for the promoter of DTPM, a man, confusingly, named Edna. We buy two more halves from the stressed-out barmen, and join the throng. We like this place. Don't know what it would be like on a non-party night, but tonight it's fantastic. No piano, thankfully, but a DJ in the corner. We decide it's the kind of place you could take your female friends to.
Fourth stop: The Edge. Well, it's nearby, and by now I quite fancy the idea of a piano bar. Ooh, it's quite festive. There's a baby grand in the corner, played by a man [we think] with Art Garfunkel hair. "He looks a bit Tom," I think to myself. "He looks a bit like Tom," Ian says to me. [By this stage we were speaking in hyperlinks.] "He looks nothing like Tom," I reply, disapprovingly. He really does look nothing like Tom. An appreciative audience of happy drunks sings along to showtunes and Queen songs.
Fifth stop: Barcode. On the way there, a homeless person asks us for some change. "Oh no, I don't think so," replied Ian, magnanimously, "but I offer you my blessing." I await the knife in his back. Barcode is busy as usual, with the same people as usual. "Quick, those people are leaving, grab those seats." We chat for a bit about relationships and possibilities and allowing people into your life. [By this stage we were speaking in inebrations.] "Right, I'm going for a pee, then I'm going to come back. And I'm going to finish this pint, and then. I. Am. Going. Home," I announce. "Well, I'm going to Swan."