I grew up near a pub that is just over the county line and, due to a different by-law, closed an hour later than the others.
Apparently, drinkers would rush in another hour of drinking after the other pubs had closed.
It was a fascinating, almost mythical pub (there was once a famous murder there) and has long been demolished.
There’s a car wash there now.
I was reminded of “boundary” pubs throughout lockdown with the absurd story of the two pubs along the England-Wales border, literally opposite each other, where one was allowed to open and the other was not.
And I was reminded again when I recently visited The Joiner’s Arms, which is apparently the most southerly pub in London, with Surrey starting across the road.
When I walked in it was like the pub of my dreams. Loads of room but low-ceilings, a proper bar, wooden beams, carpets and nooks and crannies.
I thought everybody liked these cosy, living-room type pubs, but I was chatting to someone who didn’t like carpets, as it apparently irremovably soaks up the smells of cigarettes and spilled drinks.
The Joiner’s Arms certainly looked like it had seen its fair share of nights. It was clean, but had that feel about it that it probably looked the same years ago, apart from the odd nod to modernity like the card machine.
I ordered a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and was served by a lady who was obviously the longest-serving landlady in Croydon whom I had been told runs the place, of over 40 years standing.
I sat down in a glorious nook right next to a fish tank, which whirred away dreamily. A fascinating collection of items adorns the pub.
In addition to the fish tank, there are copper pans, kettles, ornaments, pictures and, unusually, a fox’s head and a suit of armour. It just about avoids being congested.
The pub was virtually empty, but that didn’t stop a man, obviously a regular, asking if he could move my table “to where it usually is” – although I had never moved it – on which he promptly sat down and watched the horse racing on TV.
I had obviously and unwittingly violated his usual spot.
It reminded me of the time my brother-in-law ran and pub and had a confrontation with a group of decade-long regulars who called themselves “the Corridor Club” because of where they usually sat, because he decided to move a few tables and chairs around.
Even so, I was settling in and ordered another pint, this time sitting somewhere else.
A lady was telling a man about how “machines rob you” when he thought about having some fun on the fruit machine, the sight of which looked incongruous amid the fox head and pots and pats.
He heeded the wisdom, and the subject of the conversation changed to his dad’s ashes. As I left, I reflected on the area as a veritable desert of pubs. There was a boarded-up pub called The Beehive that sat forgotten over the road.
I’m glad places like The Joiner’s Arms are still around. I could have whiled away the whole afternoon there.
The Joiners Arms, 50-52 Woodside Green, Shirley, London SE25 5EU
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