Today South London, Tomorrow South London by Andrew Grumbridge and Vincent Raison – London Tales

This is an unusual book. Ideal for those who know and love South London, or would like to, especially with an interest in pubs and drinking establishments. Fast food places, cycle routes and even drugs feature in a series of recollections of journeys, pilgrimages and fact finding missions based around frequent pub visits, in a world where an hour spent between alcoholic beverages is at least thirty minutes too long. Really funny, with a variety of humour and dialogue designed to entertain, this is a book of adult language and ideas, certainly not for the easily shocked. It is contemporary life writ large, a book for today’s casual classes, reflecting a world where there is always money for another pint however it is obtained. The sun shines, the rain pours, no doubt there are cold days, but all is sort of sunny in a book which is intended to gently shock. I was very interested to receive a copy of this genuinely funny book.

The book is narrated by a character called “Deserter”, who appears to spend his time imagining and working out journeys and days which are meant to explore the wonders of a South London known only to the shady locals and invisible (or too challenging) for tourists and those with prejudices against drug use and other dubious pursuits. He frequently summons friends and acquaintances to join him; all quaintly named as “Half – Life” with his never ending appetites ( of all kinds), unusual dress  and profound life views. Described as “six foot four of imminent menace clothed in supreme confidence”, he is a creation who always has a relevant comment, apposite observation or burning objection for whatever is going on. Roxy is the nature lover who knows the birds that are possible to see in the lakes of Thamesmead, and how to smoke dubious substances in any location. Dirty South is a much more amenable character, except when confronted with the tough decisions of life relating to food and drink. The journeys undertaken in this book in search of such delights as pubs on roundabouts, crazy golf courses, urban views and famous roads all have their highs and lows as pubs are discovered to be closed or demolished, or rated on the friendliness of bar staff and range of ales on offer.

While I have no means, or intentions, of following the journeys of discovery that this book encapsulates, I can appreciate the humour and subtle observations it slips in about life in the twenty first century. It is a fantasy of a type, the fantastic reminiscences of a fictional gang who idle away their time theoretically solving life’s great conundrums such as whether cycle ways offer enough halts for refreshment, or if the human form is suited to leaning on one elbow while enjoying a drink. Possibly in the face of politics and society’s upheavals, this is an almost comforting read. Nothing is too serious, no one is ever really hurt, and life is permanently jolly in a loving evocation of contemporary London as seen in good company and frequently through the bottom of a beer glass.

Having just returned from the second Carol Service of the week, I can confirm that Derbyshire is rather cold of an evening. Clever deployment of torches meant that we could see the words, when not giving out sheets for late comers. The end of term at University means that there is another break from reading and other regular sessions, but still an essay remains to be done in the background. Sigh.  What with a hundred odd cards to write and post, there’s no rest in the Vicarage just yet….