Once upon a time, I lived in England while attending the London Film School. I shared a flat with, at times, two others. And sometimes ten others.
It was near Wimbledon Common, a very large open space for the public.
There were two public houses (pubs) facing the Common: each had been serving locals since the 18th Century, on up thru my time in Swinging London, and even to this very day. One is the Crooked Billet. Next door is The Hand in Hand.
When I first moved there I wondered which of these fine establishments I would pick as ‘my home from home. So I started with the Crooked Billet. Where I saw such a scene as I had ever seen, wet or sober.
Two young nobs were leaning languidly against the very same white wall in the photo below. The type of young men for whom the word ‘twit’ had been invented.
They lisped and tittered their vacuous exchange, each languidly longing for the day when mummy or puppy would do the right thing and bequeath the brand to the child.
Just then, their friend Rodney pulled up in his brand new Lotus Elan. And sitting next to Rodney was the most drop-dead gorgeous London Bird that ever flew south from Kings Road.
Yes, Jane Asher and Twiggy and Charlotte Rampling and Julie Christie and Jane Birkin were attractive in their own way.
But this young woman…. crikey and blimey. It was one of those scenes that most of us never witness except on the silver screen.
But there are people who actually live in worlds like that. And they take it for granted. Doesn’t everyone?
I decided this would be my pub. I would go regularly to study these people at close range, as Evelyn Waugh did to write Brideshead Revisited.
Then one of the two languid observers turned to the other and said, “Ohhh, look what Rodney’s got!”
I’m not sure if he meant the car or the girl or both. But I changed my mind, and walked over to the Hand in Hand where I became a regular over the next few years.
On reflection, I think Paul would have been at home at the Crooked Billet, and John more at home the the Hand in Hand.
© 2023, Thomas Mahon