An assessment of three, should have been four, drinking establishments in East London

I am supposed to be putting together a tender for a job-creation scheme. The removal of alien vegetation near Cathcart.  There is only so much of that you can do without taking a break, hey?  Let’s pretend I smoke. This is a 10 minute smoke break.

As a service to the community, I will give an account of a minor pub-crawl last night…

Thabisa chose McGinty’s.  It isn’t called that anymore, but she can’t get her head around the name-change.  (I knew it once as the Keg and Rose).  Dr Jekyll’s is in a shopping complex in Vincent. It is done out in a faux tudor weirdness that really works with the smell of stale beer. (I’m not being sarky here – I like it). It was busy, but it is roomy enough for that not to matter. There were two white men at the bar, and I was the only white woman – everyone else was black (I know I go on about this a bit – but it is interesting to me – c/f the paragraph to follow on the next pub).  “Government people have been paid,” said Thabs, “that’s why it is so busy.”  We had a shy waitress called Thabisa (which was convenient for the remembering) who addressed me in Xhosa – I was flattered!  We are nothing if not predictable – rump, medium rare for me, T-bone well done for Thabs.  Mash and veg.  Here is the surprise: it was really, really good. I kept saying so till it got a bit boring.  The atmosphere was friendly – one couple was a bit pissed and tense and raucous – everyone else seemed chilled and having a good time.  Thabs went to smoke a couple of times in the goldfish-bowl-like room designated for the purpose, and could be seen through the glass, chatting away, hands waving, to whoever was in there.  The only down-side of the whole experience was that she didn’t win a single thing, never mind the set of cool glass speakers, in the Castle Lite promotion.  A grave injustice if you ask me.

I chose Bernie’s.  Thabs had never been there before.  It is around the corner from Dr Jekyll’s.  And in a different dimension.  There was a round, overly made-up white woman at the door who demanded R20 from each of us.  “A cover charge?” said Thabisa, incredulous. I paid.  The round, overly made-up (and I forgot to say, unfriendly) white woman drew a scribble with a koki pen on each of our wrists. “Not even a stamp! At least at Club Eden you get a stamp!”  We went in. White people everywhere. A few coloured men. Two black guys at the bar. We needed to pee and made our way through the rabbit warren that is the covered-over-back-yard-connected-to-another-building.  There are three different bars, and an area where people play pool.  The pool area was frequented by black men.  Strange hey?  Anyway, we got drinks and sat at a big wooden table in the almost-empty covered-yard area and had a good chat about I-forget-what.  Then we made our way through the loud pumping dance-floor and out the door. “That was a waste of R20 hey?” said Thabs. I agreed. It was a bit seedy and the music was truly kak (good in the 80s, but it isn’t the 80s anymore).

By then it was midnight. We headed down to the beach front. As we approach Bora Bora, the car-guard told us it was closed.  Closed!  Seriously. At midnight on a Saturday night.  I tweeted a witticism at that point about the name of the place (yes Bora Bora is the name of an island near Tahiti, but also… bora is “boring” in Xhosa).

Then to Monty’s Pub in the Hub in Beacon Bay. It is where the fish and chips shop used to be. Neither of us had been there before, but Sally had said that she had found it very gay friendly. I hated it the minute I walked in.  It is small, sort-of mixed crowd, but something about it made me uncomfortable. Thabs was fairly well-oiled by that point and I don’t think she noticed, but my instincts are good.  She got our drinks and the lascivious looks in her direction of the straight white men at the bar made me feel ill.  We sat outside at a table in the cold wind, overlooking Numbers night club. It looked closed. I had heard that it had closed down, but hadn’t believed it. Numbers is an East London institution. (Next thing the Friesland Milk Bar and Windmill Roadhouse will close and we will all be cast adrift in a sea of uncertainty).  We were joined briefly by a woman that Thabs knows who also looked a bit uncomfortable, to be frank.  We scuttled off home as soon as our drinks were finished.

So… an assessment: one really nice pub, one tacky one, and one to-be-avoided.  In spite of what might seem like a poor score, we had a really good time. It was a treat to be on our own for once. Turns out we really like each other 🙂

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