The Old Friends
Gwladys Street told me that this ‘classic’ establishment of olde Greenwich has closed – but I needed to see it with my own eyes before getting too upset…
I checked it out and yes, it has indeed, got that ‘closed-for-good’ feel about it – huge metal grilles across all the windows and doors, which Gwladys reckons is to keep the old regulars in, but concedes could be the new decor for when it reopens as a crack-den.
I can’t work out whether to be delighted or saddenend by the death of this place. In some respects it represents what Greenwich used to be – presumably all the pubs around here were once as unreconstituted as The Old Friends. Some are completely subsumed into takeaways or flats, the only indication that there was ever a place of social gathering, however ‘not as we know it’ it may have been, some curly ironwork that once supported the sign. Old Greenwich is on its way out; the industrial heart a dot on the west bank of the peninusula that seems to get smaller daily, the traditional residents of East Greenwich unable to afford to live there any more.
On the other hand, the Old Friends was, frankly, horrid. A scruffy exterior and a dingy interior where your feet would stick to the carpet before you could order a pint of Courage Best and the regulars formed a chicane of beer-guts against intruders. I guess you could call it ‘local colour’ when the chalkboards outside the place let you know that Alvin’s disco was on 8 til late or that there would be free seafood on Sunday, but those messages were often just shy of offensive – who can forget “England – Love it or Leave…” Some of them were just plain baffling – I still have no idea what the message about the smoking ban actually meant (though there is a clue later on in this entry…)
I wonder what will become of it? Will it turn into Gwladys’s Crack DenTM? Become a trendy wine bar? A chicken takeaway (The Old Frieds, perhaps?) A pachinko parlour? A lapdancing joint? Or, even more depressing than that lot put together, merely morph into ‘luxury’ flats, the sign of the old boy and his dog and the pub’s name carved into the very fabric of the building the only things left to remind us that there was once a place of social (some might say anti-social) interraction here.
Much as I disliked the Old Friends for being a scuzzy old den, it was, at least, some kind of public venue which provided a service for some people. I don’t have much expectation that it will be transformed into anything more exciting. Maybe the coming of whatever will be on the old hospital site will be its salvation, but in the meanwhile, I have actually found somewhere that – and you won’t hear this too often – I would positively welcome Frank Dowling taking over. Of course he wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole – but in this one particular case, he would certainly have my blessing. Without him – or someone similar, I hold out little hope.
No – I prefer to remember the good times – those sepia-tinged, halcyon days of yore when you could buy a pint of pale ale and a glass of port and lemon for your lady friend, enjoy a pickled egg together while Roger Romantic sang songs of love every Saturday night, and still have change of a groat for the bus home. I have included a lovely picture for you to remember the old place by. Incidentally, the picture also, perhaps, gives a small clue as to the closure of this hallowed boozer. The little sign in the window says “Smoking permitted throughout…”