Everyone arrives at roughly the same time, moaning about public transport with the morbid relish of true Londoners. Most people are on the beers, but Richard opts for one of the “interesting ciders” on offer behind the bar. We get settled at a nice table by the window, as opposed to the dark trendy basement, and return to transport. Richard is definitely not a fan of bendy buses, (his arrival was delayed because they stacked up along Oxford Street and marooned him on the wrong side of the road). Rebecca is more upbeat and says she loves the tube and the fact that it’s “warm and cosy” – an unusual take, especially in summer.
Richard’s dissatisfaction has moved to his choice of drink. It’s a Savanna cider and the bottle is a little on the small side. “It was small, but very strong,” he says finishing it off. He eyes up the larger, manly-looking bottle of Kingstone Press behind the bar. “I haven’t touched cider since I was a teenager – when you get it from the corner shop, down it and then throw up.” There are grave nods of agreement. “But then my kids started copying those Strongbow ads and I thought, oh, I’ll try it again. It’s actually very nice.”
Talk of youthful boozing takes the conversation to student days, and the Red Bull/coffee/Pro Plus concoctions that were consumed to survive all-nighters at deadline time. Richard wins, having stayed awake 65 hours once, which is inconceivable to Stuart: “When it gets to about 4am your hand goes rigid and you can’t do any more. That was before computers.”
“I didn’t do a proper degree,” confesses Justin, “I did ancient history – the Greeks and Romans.” His colleagues start interrogating him on facts, much to his
discomfort. “I don’t remember the facts because I don’t need to,” he says defensively, adding: “When was Julius Caesar assassinated? 43AD. March.” Erm, the March bit is right at least (it was 44BC, according to popular belief). “Can we veer off my degree because there are serious holes in my knowledge,” he adds.
Obligingly, someone mentions that there is a good series on the ancient history of India on TV, before talk descends to Big Brother. “It’s utter garbage,” says Stuart of the reality show. “I like The Simpsons,” says Rebecca. That’s more like it. Stuart perks up and reveals a heartwarming take on the show. “I’m a big Homer fan. Despite his dysfunctionality he has kept the family together.”
After a few more drinks (Richard has moved onto the bigger bottles of cider) we start talking about pets. Justin goes a bit quiet before confiding that his girlfriend wants to get a dog, but he can’t face it after an incident at his friend’s house when he was 16 with Barney the bulldog.
Pub: Market Place, Market Place, London W1
Ambience: Swedish sauna, with West End tourists and workers
Topics: Cider, sleep deprivation, Julius Caesar, pets
Drinks: 7.5 pints of Budvar, 2 big bottles of Kingstone Press cider, 1 Savanna cider, half a pint of Erdinger, 1 soda and lime
Richard Fairhead project director
Rebecca Collis associate director
Stuart Barlow director of sustainability & technology
Justin Farmer PR
Angela Monaghan Building magazine