Continuing our series of short fiction set in, or influenced by London. This week, Kevin Acott goes on a time-shifting pub crawl.
Walk out the main entrance of Waterloo station, down the steps. You'll see the Hole In The Wall across the road. I'll be in there, it'll be 1994, there'll be ten Rothmans and a bag of salt ‘n’ vinegar on the table in front of me, some football match roaring on the telly in the back bar. We'll have a pint.
Leave me in the pub, head for the river. Out on the chill, snowswept terrace of the Royal Festival Hall you'll find me with a glass of wine and a far-too-beautiful woman. Don't look her in the eye. Ask her about her latest play. It'll be Christmas, 1972.
When you're bored, cross the river. Walk down — right down — inside Gordon's and in the corner I'll be nursing a schooner of port. I may ignore you. You'll notice from the customers' clothing (not mine, obviously) that it's just after the war. Take my hat and coat and step out again into the Thamesside smog.
Listen to the foghorns as you head east, listen to the seagulls and the squawk of urchins and the roars of coachmen. But keep your wits about you. Past Temple, cut up to Fleet Street and pop into the Cheshire Cheese. I'll buy you a wine. My companion won't speak to you. He'll give you a copy of the Times though. You'll notice it's the first-ever edition. Take it, read it, leave us.
Outside, jump on a 76. No sound. There will be no sound because it's 2044. Get off the bus in Dalston and walk down to the Vortex. I'll buy you a whisky there but you must promise not to talk. Reggie and Ronnie will both be there. They shouldn't be but I haven't been able to tell them.
At this point you're on your own. Head up to Shoreditch if you want. I might be there, in that Indian place you loved. I'll be wearing a ZZ Top beard and cords. If I'm not, then... like I said, you're on your own.
And that's it. Simple. Good luck. You can find your own way back? If I were you, I'd ignore Google Maps. Much more fun my way. And — if you somehow make it back — I'll leave you alone forever. I promise. Forever.
We're taking a break from our themed stories for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, we're still after your general submissions, which you should send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries must be no more than 1,000 words, and must be set in London, or strongly inspired by the city. Full details here.
Previously in this series
- The Patient Banker: Tom Dean has a visitor call in at a houseboat.
- An Afternoon Some Time Ago: Nathan Good takes a nostalgic ride on the London Eye.
- Easy Pickings: Kay Seeley is being vigilant on the South Bank.
- Stepping Stones: Alison Chandler goes on a night walk.
- One Summer in London: Angela M. Rodriguez steals a very personal item and then wears it at Notting Hill Carnival.
- Blackout on Fen Street: Seth Insua wishes away the city.
- The Man From BEER: Which bits of London would you delete? By David Ritchie.
- London Falls: Liz Hedgecock unleashes a digital wipeout on the city.
- They Walked: Adam MacLean ponders what would happen if London’s building just got up and left.
- The Wallbuilder: A great wall was built around London, not everyone was happy, by Jonathon Dean.
- Tastes Like Chicken: Glen Delaney retreats inside London’s oldest fortress.
- The Conqueror: Rebecca Sams filches a legendary London object.
- The Busker Ascends: Darren Lee brings plague to Leicester Square.
- Amelie: Narges Rashidi considers the interactions of three people on a District Line tube.
- Shelter Drawings: Stuart Snelson’s tale of a mysterious Circle Line artist.
- Tracks and Albums: Richard Lakin attracts the attentions of the British Transport Police.
- Seeing Red: Anthony Fitzgerald on the woes of a cab driver.
- Instant Karma on the 263 to North Finchley: one seat left on the bus. Next to you. Raving drunk gets on. By Ronnie Capaldi.
- The Sender of Second Chances: Anthea Morrison records a chance encounter on a bus.
- Two Four Eight: Lance V Ramsay envisions an Orwellian dystopia in the lingo of future London.
- Old Nichol: Jill Fricker evokes the woes of the old East End.
- Clissar: Grazia Brunello dips into the future of north London, through a glass darkly.
- Harvest Festival: A spooky Halloween tale in the London suburbs by Helen Craig.
- Ordinary Days in London: Madelaine Hills on a Docklands disturbance.
- Bishopsgate: Oliver Zarandi visits the site of a bomb.
- The Perfect Gift: A Christmas fairy tale in which London’s statues come to life, by Katherine Wheston.
- The City Inside: Tom Butler has some curious metropolitan anatomy.
- Jazz Code and the Tube: The ambivalence of dating, by Jenny Mackenzie.
- A Free Man: Melanie White’s flash fiction piece considers a recently single guy at a bachelor party.
- Clean Living London: Ursula Dewey rolls her sleeves up for some housework.
- Swipe Right: Does Tinder have the answers? By Heidi Scherz
- The Writer and the Dancer: Close encounter at a flat party by Vincent Wood.
- St Peter’s Gate, Knightsbridge: A nocturnal romance at closing time, by Theo Klay
- First: A romance begins inside a London gay club. By Lance Middleton.
- Natural Disasters: Can you find love at the supermarket checkout, when your customer’s buying porn? Yoel Noorali enquires.
- NO! SUSHI: A relationship breaks down during a Japanese leaving party, by Clare Kane.
- Compatibility: Stephen Lynch conjures the awkwardness of flat hunting.
- An Extract From the Diary of Kay Richardson, Actor: The surreal tribulations of a washed-up London thesp, by Tom Mitchell.
- The Further Adventures of Kay Richardson, Actor: More from the feckless thesp, by Tom Mitchell.
- The Further Adventures of Kay Richardson, Actor (Part 2): Our debauched hero tussles with mannequins.
- You Were Not In When We Called: A Christmas tale from Megan Toogood.
- The Do: Alan Fisher gets party phobia.