The London life

A young carefree couple amble hand in hand through Covent Garden when their bliss is interrupted by a group of good-natured, yet lubricated lads, singing from the balcony above.

There goes my girl
There goes my first love
With they guy I used to call my friend
There goes love I thought would never end
And I can’t forget her.
My heart is breaking
When I see her holding hands with him.
Can’t help thinking how I might have been.
She’s still my first love.

The Drifters

That it wasn’t myself and my pals channeling our inner Drifters was only because we hadn’t thought of it.

It was comedy gold and the couple and a cappella singer all got a round of applause.

And that is Covent Garden in a nutshell, a living, breathing, moving, grooving market where you can retreat from the hustle and bustle of London life and drink to the unique atmosphere.

Lights up: London night life. Photo by Negative Space on

I am drinking London Pride ale, as I was back then, back in the late 1980s at the Punch and Judy pub, a Covent Garden institution, but I am on my own. though are we ever really on our own, as that couple can testify.

My old friends are there in spirit at least, and one in particular, Toothie. Two groups of us were on our way to the States after university and myself and the bould Toothie went off to drain the aeroplane of its booze before paying for it when we confronted the humidity of New York.

Playing around: London fun Photo by Nikita Khandelwal on

We wished each other well, as he took off with his group to LA and we made off for Boston.

Three months later and I took a phone call in Cardiff one rainy day (they are all in that city) where I had embarked to learn this journalism lark. Toothie had been in an accident and had been taken from us.

I toast him and drift off into a daydream where he is still here laughing heartily and shooting off that toothie smile.

I am jolted from my thoughts, though, by the sound of an opera singer and from another corner by a puppeteer who is playing Elvis and manipulating hs wooden doll to move his pelvis.

Carefree couples meander by the stalls and life goes on. And so do I. On through the streets of Theatreland where there will be a throng of well-heeled and well-oiled arty types – and tourists taking in the latest spectaculars.

Mine’s a London Pride: Photo by Tembela Bohle on

I was last here 18 months ago to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at the Lyceum Theatre (it has since come to Dublin where it received rave reviews).

As myself and the indomitable Mrs M were bogeying away in the back seats, back home the earth was moving too as our children held an unsanctioned party… free house and all that.

I notice that The Lion King is still on while I am taken this year by The Play Where Everything Goes Wrong which looks a hoot with the advertising playing with the words so that they are all misspelt.

The Alwdych where we saw Beautiful is looking forward to staging TINA – the Tina Turner Musical. The music never stops.

Our party opts for some jazz in the ever-so-upmarket Scarfes Bar in High Holborn, named for the cartoonist par excellence Gerald Scarfe, whose lampoons of the Royal Family marked him out as one of the great satirists of his age.

A real-life cartoon character is centre stage tonight in the bar which is designed to resemble a plush drawing room.

Out on the town: Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on

The floppy-haired upper-class blond frontman looks a doppelgänger for Boris Johnson. His sidekick on the drums channels Marilyn Monroe. They are an unusual combo in what is an unusual bar with unusual combos.

Young executive types mingle over extortionately priced bottles of wine, fancy gin and cocktails, willowy young women try to catch the eye of men of an older vintage and yappy yuppies try to draw the attention of the females in our party.

It is a London life well removed from the easy-going feel of Covent Garden but both Londons exist side by side.

And it is one of the things that makes this city so appealing and which probably prompted Dr Johnson (Ben that is) to opine (he never just commented) that the man who was tired of London was tired of life.

Cocktail time. Photo by Tim Savage on

Tired of being sneered at for daring to cart a seat around to seat a member of our group so she could feel comfortable while sipping her €20 G&T we instead decide to repair for our billet for the night, the Grange Beauchamp in Bloomsbury.

There is a story around every corner, on every street in London an the best way to explore it is on foot.

There was a story too in Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, Duncan Grant, Clive Bell and the rest of the Bloomsbury Group who were said to live in squares but love in triangles.

But that’s another story for another day. And another bar.

And mine’s a London Pride with a jukebox with some old Motown on it.


Where to stay: Grange Beauchamp. Superior Double for two people sharing B&B on the sample dates 16-18 February from £242.12 (€273). See 0044 20 7016 2540.

How to get there: Aer Lingus and Ryanair

Where to eat: Trattorida Verdi, 110 Southampton Row, Bloomsbury. Pizzas and pasta to set you up for your evening on the town.