Thirty Thousand Streets

Monday, November 28, 2005


On Friday night last, I 'bowled' out of work early (Five-Thirty to be precise) and jacket firmly buttoned against the wind caught the tube down to Elephant, where my good friend Ade and his erstwhile colleague and co-fried-chicken blogging scamp Robin were having their birthday at the bowling alley there.

That's right: Bowling. Truth be told I myself was a bit apprehensive, bearing in mind that the last time I went bowling (at Grand Central in Stockport I expect) the actual game of bowls was little more than a precursor to the arcades afterwards, where we played Streetfighter II and marvelled at the heady realism of Pitfighter's graphics.

As Notorious BIG might have it however 'Things Done Changed', and there was to be no grubby shovelling of my hard earned into machines tonight (unless you mean the cig dispenser at the centre, which is different and I went halves anyway) No, bowls it was all the way, and damn fun it was too.

The evening began, for me, with a solitary pint at the Elephant & Castle pub in, you guessed it Elephant & Castle, a pub which Wikipedia informs me is the orgin of the areas name; Accounts differ, but It in turn got this either from the crest of a local cutlery company which bore an elephant and castle, or a Spanish princess slumming in South London (Infanto de Castille).

Either way, it had very little to do with Elephants or indeed castles, unlike Swiss Cottage, which clearly has everything to do with chalets. In any event, I quite like this specific locality's knack for misappropreation. Incidentally, the big shiney cube which dominates the huge roundabout and sits above the warren of 'mug-me' subways is a tribute to Michael Farraday, apparently, and not I suspect, where the Aphex Twin parks his tank, as has been suggested to me in the past.

After there, it was a quick bite to eat at the reliably hot Nandos, before heading into the bowling centre.

Elephant and Castle shopping centre reminds me a bit of the Arndale centre in Manchester, which for any of you living in Modern European cities is well worth the plane fare alone to see as an example of how NOT to do city centre planning. In fact it should be an indispensible part of any architect-in-training's curriculum to visit this eyesore, whilst perhaps wearing a black armband and blinking back tears.

Basically both look like they were comissioned in the Sixties, when the material concrete seemed full of utopian possibilities, and using brightly coloured plastic cladding on the exterior of buildings was deemed as being actually a pretty neat idea. It wasn't, as the intervening half century or so of polluted rain and pigeon shit have proved.

Not much better inside really, but the bowling... was actually really good fun. Best to check your cynicism in at the door though, as this is birthday fun for big kids. What's not to like though? First off you get to wear these cool assed two tone bowling shoes which make you look as though you probably own both brylcreem and a Cadillac, and you don't even have to check in your own shoes to rock.. so assuming you're not too fussy about the accumulated sweat of several thousand other Londoners, could probably do some walking of their own at the end of the night.
Secondly, though it does require some effort, this isn't snooker, and swigging a brew actually seems de-riguer (mind you it did for most snooker players) In fact, I'd like it to go on record that my bowling skills actually improved commeasurately with my alcohol intake, and it is insanely satisying when you get a strike... the sweet clatter twixt ball and skittle.

Things started off slowly for the eye, who after an initial couple of good bowls, started hitting the gutter, big time.

"Never mind mate, 'least you've got the shirt"

Observed someone, with reference to the pin striped Stussy number I was wearing, which I have to reflect is a fair observation and perhaps alludes to a deeper truth in my life: I've never been to Uganda, or been a member of the South West African People's alliance, or indeed know much about the band 'Cut Copy' but based on my T-shirt ownership, one could be forgiven for reasoning otherwise.

But things picked up on the second game, saving me face, and giving me cause to partake in 'the posse shot', where we all posed in front of the aisle, shoes and beers in hand.

From here we headed up to Hoxton for our bowls equivalent of the ninteenth hole. I had suggested Chaplins round the corner for an authentic glimpse of South London boozers, but most people seemed inexplicably happy with their teeth were they were, so Shorerditch it was.

We ended up in Bluu bar, the name of which sounds quite like an onomatopaeic rendition of what you might be doing afterwards if you drank too much. Anyway. It's big, long and quite trendy, and we had a table reserved at the front. Chatted and drank for a while until it was time to leave, whereupon we headed to...

Cargo. Which really wasn't such a great idea, as it was quite pricey, and I probably had enough alcohol in my bloodstream by then to get a stag party of Sea Lions pissed. It was all quite 'Nathan Barley' as well, and above the plodding strains of average house music, rose the voice of an MC on the stage who as Ade later confirmed, was indeed wearing a white suit and top hat. Riight. Anyway. Stood at the back swigging beer, and feeling at a distinct arms length from the revelry around me until Ade suggested we make like shepherds and get the flock out of dodge.

As with so many other nights, the rest was a bit of a blur as my patron saint the 'home fairy' magicked me safely back to my flat, unlike the birthday boy, who woke up at the end of the line in Clapham Junction.

All good fun though, and I think I'm going to make the bowling alley at Elephant a repeat destination.

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