On Tuesday night we finished our Real Ale Trail cruise and got a t-shirt each, woo-hoo!

It all started because a guy that Dee works with is stranded in London thanks to volcanic ash — Ivan, from the Ukraine, who is here with his girlfriend Natalie. We met them after work at a nearby place called “The Ship”, thinking we could get at least one more stamp on our Ale Trail map thing. Ivan and Natalie are lovely, friendly and funny (although I feel sorry for them trying to understand our Aussie accents).

After one relaxing ale at “The Ship”, we headed to “The Walrus And Carpenter” near the Monument (and my old office). One more ale to try, one more stamp and we had our t-shirts!! Sure, size XL (all they claimed they had left), fairly thin and crappy but that’s not the point! Unfortunately “The Walrus” was a bit more “tourist” so after our final drinks we left — I wanted to show our Ukrainian friends the boat…

…which was gone! Some time in the past months it had unmoored and sailed off into the distance — I want to believe it is now off the coast of France, serving ice-cold beer to locals and francophiles alike. We wandered around, ate some dinner near Tower Hill, and said goodbye to Ivan and Natalie. Happy travels, guys!

Of course, somewhere in the whole evening (a school night, no less!) I’d signed us up for our second mission: 7 cocktails at a Gothic club near Marble Arch would get us more tourist swag … how could I say no?

We started our Saturday sharing a nice lunch at Northbank on the Thames with Chris and Tina. I had a so-called “fish pie”, which turned out to be a whole bunch of seafood in a delicious, thick broth served in a little clay pot. Great food, great company, a bright sunny day — time to break out the champagne! A couple of glasses and we’d convinced Chris and Tina to come along to the Gothic club (it was only 3 in the afternoon, mind you). I figured we could have two cocktails each and share whatever goodies we “won”.

I’d half-assed organised a few others for the Gothic place, too, including Troy and his friends (it was Troy’s idea in the first place, as I recall) so you can imagine my disappointment when we arrived to find that the Marlborough Arms was now a G.E.P. — Generic English Pub. So boring! So tame! So lame! With a fading champagne-buzz I ordered Jagerbombs for Chris and I, at which the bartender giggled, “Bit early for that innit??” No, madam, it’s not too early if you plan to be in bed by 9 o’clock at night. We’re old, we are.

Luckily they served Innis & Gunn, brewed in Edinburgh and a particular favourite of mine when we lived up that way. We chatted, argued, laughed and blamed Troy for the lameness of the venue as more and more people turned up. Research is key, I think.

As the afternoon became evening, our crowd dissipated and disappeared back towards their own homes. Dee and I said our fond farewells and I headed with the few “hardcore party people” (ha!) towards a birthday party at The Porterhouse. Jon was turning, er, thirty maybe? Ken and I had a (big blue) cocktail each — the Goth-turned-GEP bar didn’t even have a menu — before switching to a NZ beer called Speights. Many hours flew by and I meet a whole bunch of new people, none of whom I can now remember.

It was a long walk back from Covent Garden. I didn’t make it to bed by 9pm after all.

(Edit: I’ve “back-posted” this, as I haven’t actually written anything for over a month. But hey, only 15 working days left until we’re on the long way home!)