building of the week #7, Wembley Stadium, HA9 (aka The Foul Throw Stadium)

arch

the shopping basket handle, er, arch

I’m cheating I know, mixing up posts and all sorts.  I’m also leading this building of the week thread down a distinctly footballing alley.  I make no apologies for this though.  Wembley Stadium is a building isn’t it?  A blinking expensive one, and one that is still finding it’s feet as the new “home of football” most certainly.  But you cannot deny that it is a building and a mightily impressive one at that.  And so I turn this building of the week piece into a multiple threaded post covering Selfridges, foul throws, Gordon Ramsay ploughman’s lunches and England’s slightly painful victory over Ukraine.

My day actually started at the Star Cafe in Mitcham, venue for my now bi-weekly breakfasts with my ex knowledge buddie and occasional cab driver, Gary.  Suitably loaded up with carbs, I picked up BEM (Best England Mate) in South Wimbledon, and so started our quest for the new England shirt.  Having made the decision a few days earlier that despite, or is that because of, Alan Green’s bluster about how ridiculous the new shirt was we wanted it.  It’s becoming part of the ritual isn’t it, isn’t it?  First stop was no good as BEM only deals with long sleeves, so the decision was made to head for Oxford Circus to get the shirts.  There’s loads of sports shops around there aren’t there?  Not if you head west from Oxford Circus there aren’t.  Nearly at Marble Arch, our need for refreshment was beginning to overtake our need for the new shirt.  A quick google on the phone didn’t help much, but then there stood Selfridges in front of us and in we went.  Surely they don’t sell footy shirts?  Well, for future reference everyone, they do.  And long sleeved ones at that.  So a quick rush into the changing rooms to compare bellies & breasts (copyright BEM for that line), quick chat with very friendly assistants (why do I always have to deal with Spurs fans in these circumstances?) and we were sorted.

warrington-hotel

ooh, lovely tiling

So now, those bellies required filling and The Warrington Hotel beckoned.  Arriving at about 3pm after a slight detour, those roads never look the same from a bus or on foot – don’t assume a cab driver can get lost, that would never happen, we entered the Warrington to the sight of a completely empty bar.  The sun was shining outside, we had 3 hours minimum before we needed to leave for the football, can life get any better?  Drinks were drunk, food was eaten and nonsense was, almost certainly, talked.  Keeping me amused through all of this was BEM’s ongoing crisis over being booked to go and visit the Taj Mahal on the only day that it’s shut.  What

one lion on the wall

one lion on the wall

about the food at this Gordon Ramsay outpost then?  Well the ‘proper’ food didn’t start until 6pm so we went with a bit of this & that from the bar snacks menu.  Pork & Veal pie, ploughman’s and some pickled cockles kept the wolf from the door.  Not too pricey (£6.50 each for the pie & ploughman’s) and all very tastey, all with very nice pickles – you can’t beat a good pickle.

wem-ber-lee

trying using the whole pitch lads

After missing the first 10 minutes of the last England game we went to, we weren’t going to make the same mistake again, oh no – no way.  Leaving in plenty of time, we were only 7 stops from Wembley Central for god’s sake, we hopped on a tube that almost seemed to be waiting for us.  Perfect, we’ll have time to spare at this rate.  But no, tube only went to Queen’s Park as did the next 2 tubes to arrive.  Rumours circulated than an overground train would soon take us up to Wembley Central but the station staff seemed more concerned about getting some posters up to Wembley, than telling us what was going on.  I mean, there’s only 90,000 people trying to get to Wembley, stopping tube after tube really helps doesn’t it?  Don’t panic though, a tube did appear and off we finally went.  After a slightly panicked walk and an assumption that we had actually missed the start of the game, we were delighted to find that we actually saw the KO and had excellent seats only 10 rows from the front.  Within seconds of the game starting it became apprarant that I was sitting next to yet another numpty.  “Foul frooooww ref” was his only comment on the game the whole way through.  When a foul throw was given in the 2nd half he couldn’t have been more pleased if he’d just won the lottery.  But overall,the atmosphere seemed quite lively and England played pretty well in the first half,

beckham free-kick goes,er, wide

beckham free-kick goes,er, wide

without really taking the game by the throat.  I won’t bore you anymore with game, but England made hard work of winning and even fucking Shevchenko managed to score against us – jesus.  A win is a win though and a great day was rounded off by a couple more pints, a massively long journey home on the tube, being told by a chinese man that my flies were undone, a KFC and 2 cans of Kronenberg just to finish things, and me, off.  Bed at 2am and most of Thursday written off, marvellous.

best pub in London – The Lamb

I. LOVE. THIS. PUB.  I have to admit that this admiration stems, ever so slightly, from a football connection.  But, nonetheless, The Lamb is a wonderful pub.  I was introduced to the joys of The Lamb through some footy mates, the types that enjoy decent beer and seemed to know every Youngs pub in London.  They had been using The Lamb for years as a staging post en route to Highbury (or should that be, pedants of the world, the Arsenal Stadium??), anyway, I was a convert after my first visit.  At this time (late 90’s early 00’s) Chelsea’s record against Arsenal was, shall we say, shockingly bad.  But my visits to The Lamb seemed to coincide with a change in fortune and it was the pre match venue when we beat them 5-1 in the League Cup and, more importantly, when Wayne Bridge scored THAT goal to knock The Arse out of the Champions League.  If my man in Leicester is reading this, I am glossing over that cup game when the bloke next to us slept through 90% of the match.  So The Lamb became associated with better times going north of the river and has remained close to my heart ever since.

But let’s move away from footy talk and try to get to the heart of what makes The Lamb quite so brilliant.  Well there are the obvious things like the windows on the bar (actually called snob screens) that you peer through to order your beer & the fact that it has been around since the early 18th century.  It also happens to be in one of my favorite London Streets, Lambs Conduit St, which in turn is in a great part of London.  Then there is the beer itself.  I’m no sandal wearing, beard worrying CAMRA member, but I love Youngs beer.  Something to do with my genes I think.  It’s a real shame that Youngs have moved out of London and that their brewery in Wandsworth is likely to be turned into another faceless development of flats.  Expect a tag line of “the art of modern living – in the heart of Wandsworth” to appear around that site soon.

Food wasn’t a strong suit of The Lamb in my early visits, pretty basic pie & mash with the mash served in scoops like you used to get at school.  But it was pretty cheap and had a certain charm of its own.  These days the menu is a bit more up market and corporate but hopefully not a sign that The Lamb is showing any signs of moving into the 20th century, let alone the 21st.  No jukebox, no music just a place to have a drink and talk rubbish.  A bit like the afternoon I spent with Big Sis & her bezzie mate Jacquie on her flying visit for my 40th birthday.  The perfect pub visit in fact, unplanned, fuzzy around the edges and giving you a nice warm feeling inside.  It’s the sort of place that on a cold winters day you could spend all day putting the world to rights.  Given the day off, a few quid in my pocket and no worries about the consequences, that’s what I would do. If it can resist the modern world for another 20 years or so, it will get the chance to celebrate 300 years in existence.  I just hope that we are both around to raise a ram & special to that anniversary.

If you want to sample the delights of The Lamb, you can find it at 94 Lambs Conduit St, London WC1N 3LZ – nearest tube Russell Square.  Website link is The Lamb.