whisky glassesThis morning the brotherhood went out to the north London suburb where we all grew up. We visited a surving aunt and then set off to call on our old neighbours, an Irish couple, who were very dear and kind to our parents, especially near the end, and who still tend their grave. We hadn’t warned them we were coming. We just called on the off-chance. They were at home. We were welcomed in and hugged and kissed and shown to the ‘back room’ and a new bottle of whisky was produced and the reminiscences began and we were not allowed to leave until the bottle was empty. The Colemans knew us when we were nippers and watched us growing up. We went out into their garden and looked at the house next door that had been home to us for so long. Every part of it triggered endless anecdotes. I looked up at the small toilet window that I used to climb out of when we played hide-and-seek, shinnying down a drainpipe to the garage roof, and wondered how on earth I had done it. Back inside, we went through a list of the old neighbours – all were characters in their different ways and all were now gone. And then, sadly, we started to go through a list of local pubs that had disappeared: the Alma, the Box Tree, the Red Lion, the Case is Altered (both!), the Goodwill to All, the Tythe Farm, the Queen’s Arms, the Railway Hotel, the Duke of Wellington, the Kings Arms… This isn’t the first time I have blogged about the neighbourhood’s disappearing pubs, but I realise that the names are also links with history – most obviously the references to the Alma and the Duke of Wellington. (For any Spanish Head of a SSG Unit who might happen to read this, the Case is Altered is particularly interesting. It may be an apocryphal explanation but, during the Pennisular War, the Middlesex regiment spent a long time quartered at La Casa Alta, and the Case is Altered would be a corruption of that. Sadly, both pubs of that name are now gone.) Still, the visit to our neighbours was a wonderful trip down Memory Lane and an extraordinary example of spontaneous Irish hospitality at its best.