We arrived with about half hour to spare, plenty of time for a tactical and to get booze for now plus order our interval drinks. Turns out the NT do a nice range of craft beer now, and you’re totally allowed to take it in in plastics, even with the seemingly disapproving comments from the woman tailgating us.
A perilous sign though. It’s facing into the road, and this is Stamford Street, a busy street even on a Saturday evening. With that and the rain, how the bloody hell are we going to get a selfie here?
I’ll tell you how – we’ll cross the road in a hurry and then wait for a gap in the traffic, during which I’ll step out and say “Helen! Helen! Quickly before a car comes!” And we’ll grab the picture above. Whew. Not that welcoming, is it?
So, no new drinking venue here. We’ll traipse through puddles and side streets to aim for the King’s Arms on Roupell Street, via a few angry signs about housing policy and er, ABBA discos? Not gonna get much support complaining about ABBA on Eurovision weekend now are you.
Roupell Street is lovely, even in the rain. I think perhaps it would be great to live here, except maybe it wouldn’t due to all the commuters and King’s Arms patrons and filming of movies and that. It would definitely be nice to be able to afford to live here.
In the pub we get a seat, surprisingly. Helen goes to the bar and on my behalf asks for a dark beer, y’know, a stout or a porter. She comes back with a Guinness, because the staff basically had no clue what to make of her request. This despite the list of guest beers on a blackboard above the bar, featuring an oatmeal stout! Grr.
It’s louder than it should be given not being desperately busy; there’s a rowdy table of them young folk over the way, harumph. Before we leave another 3 lads arrive looking somewhat furtive, one of whom is saying to another “look, everyone would shit themselves in that kind of situation” as if they’re debriefing about some trouble they’d just been in, or perhaps narrowly avoided. But we leave and there is no danger en route to Waterloo, nor on the train, where Buster has been waiting to sit on my knee while the Eurovision votes roll in.
We turn right and take a look at the chickens and rabbits and stuff, but are there for so short a time it’s almost derisory. On the other side are young animals with their parents. Good time of year to see cute.
The inquisitive goats are inquisitive, though we get the sense they only have one question and that’s “got any food?”. Our answer is no, but plenty of other folk around have handfuls of grass pellets.
The adult sheep are a fucking mess, and the lambs are very cute. Also it’s LAMBeth, so there’s something to be said about that, right? These two little fellas spend the whole time we’re there just leaning against the wall, constantly chewing in unison. It’s desperately cute.
There are some smaller critters inside again, like this small tortoise(?) and a snake that gives Helen the heebie-jeebies. But it’s a nice day and the better animals are outside.
They ain’t bothered. I watch a pig yawn and we see some boring ducks, then have a chat to the goats and sheep again.
And then his mate comes along too. Hurrah! No, we still don’t have any food, but the other folk do. Just come look gormless at us for a bit, ta.
Then, suddenly, he sits down. Having never seen an alpaca do so before, as opposed to being sat down, it’s a little surprising to see how it happens: he just lets his legs basically collapse under him, and flumps straight down onto the ground directly beneath where he’s stood. Wish I could do that.
Right. Enough animals. We have elsewhere to be, and in fact just the act of getting there counts as part of our cultural experience today: me and my girl are going to recreate a bit of Me And My Girl.
Before that quite happens, there’s a few back streets to navigate. It’s quiet, and interesting around here. Old factories butt up against housing estates that seem like they could be pits of inner city deprivation except, well, they don’t seem to be.
There are allotments and cafes and small parks with play areas, next to garages in railway arches and blocks of council flats and warehouses.
At the top we wander right, then right again, and here’s some proper bona fide tourism right fucking here. Elbows up!
You’ll find us all, doing the Lambeth Walk. Well, you’ll find me doing the Lambeth Walk at least. Hurrah! I spent a signficant portion of my life believing I was born in Lambeth, I’m not entirely sure at what point I learnt that Guys Hospital is actually in neighbouring Southwark. But anyway, I still feel kinda at home here. I’m a south London boy, oi oi!
Nearby there are murals about the area. Earlier I’d read online that Lambeth council were responsible for, I shit you not, ethnic cleansing - by building flats in the area and ridding the area of 15-to-a-room poverty.
At the top end of the road is the Henry Moore sculpture studio occupying what was Pelham Hall (I think?), and also some mosaics about Charlie Chaplin. I bore Helen with the possibly apocryphal story that my brother was born in the same hospital at him, in what is now the Lanesborough hotel up by Hyde Park Corner. Bro, is that true?
The problem with being at Westminster Bridge is that we weren’t meant to be. I was meant to be leading us to Lambeth Bridge, so along the Thames Path we go. It’s crowded in parts but not horrifically so, and it turns out Helen has never wandered along here before anyway.
I bore her with the story of how I was once interviewed here for Irish TV about Wimbledon FC’s mooted move to Dublin back in 1997 or so. Yawn. Hey, what’s this up on the left? Oh, it’s Lambeth Palace and the Garden Museum. Thank fuck for that, eh.
But we’d seen a map that said there were galleries upstairs. Turns out those galleries are the main exhibits, the actual museum-y bits about gardens, Whoops, almost missed this stuff. First up, Helen sits in a shed.
There’s a fifteen minute video which neither of us can be bothered watching. Instead I look at the stained glass windows, and then there’s, like, old watering cans and lawnmowers and SLUG DEATH and stuff.
Beyond the practical tooling, there are displays about garden design including one kinda-blueprint of the Eden Project.
At the other end, it’s about gardeners rather than gardening. No-one I’ve ever heard of - i.e., no Monty Don, Alan Titchmarsh or Capability Brown - but there is something of interest for those of us who live out in the zone six sticks.
The display of gnomes is quite cute, then there’s another little gallery of pictures donated by some couple whose importance I failed to commit to memory. And that’s it. Our dual conclusion was that it was quite interesting, though not vastly so, and we’re happier at paying half price than we would’ve been at full price if you see what I mean. It’s certainly a nice place to be and spend time, even if you’re not that arsed about gardens.
Back on the ground floor and I’m, like, y’know what? I fancy ascending the tower. I mean, it’s free with our entry ticket and I sincerely doubt I will make it to the top because I’m a wouss and it sounds kinda terrifying, but I want to give it a go anyway. Helen absolutely doesn’t want to but is happy to let me go. Wish me luck!
Away from the river, sort of, is more of Lambeth and Southwark and the city.
Another couple arrive, out of breath. I have a chat to them: 131 steps is a lot, eh? And how about them doors? It’s fun. Then an older woman arrives preceded by her daughter, I assume, and I ask them if they heard voices behind because I want to descend but there ain’t no passing points. No, nothing, they said.
At the bar downstairs we ask if we have to order there and they say no, there’s a bar upstairs, you’re fine. So we go upstairs and they say, oh, we’ve much much less beer up here, you should order downstairs. Sigh, fine!
Downstairs they don’t have Helen’s choice of tzatziki sour, but do have my coffee stout. That, a replacement cider, and the wrong order of food (my fault, not theirs) and I’m back upstairs in the sunshine.
Food arrives, at which point the error my ways is pointed out to me. Never mind, you can’t have too much cheese. Time for chips, halloumi fingers and mac ‘n cheese balls. The latter are particularly disappointing, tasting neither of mac nor cheese much.
It’s pretty nice, in a “anything is nice if it’s fried” kinda way. It’s definitely nice to be sat in a roof garden with decent beer. Better yet, Draft House will do takeaways and to top it off she says there’s 33% off for doing so. Holy shit! So, a sour and two stouts, that would be lovely.
Time to bugger off, there’s now an opportunity for intra-borough transport which doesn’t involve shoving your elbows in the air and shouting “oi!” a lot, though I’m sure no-one would mind (except for Helen) if you did do that on the 59 bus to Waterloo. After all, there’s a bloke sat by the door with a pair of bongos for fucks sake.
We’re really not far away, reaching Waterloo in about 10 minutes if that. The mosaics in the tunnel, which I’ve walked through probably thousands of times in my life, are much shitter than I’ve ever spent the time to notice before. I’m appalled by their geographical inaccuracy.