MONDAY 20  MAY 2024


Ah, the Cheshire Cheese, ye olde home of lust, love and unbridled pissartistry


To reach the top bar of the Marston's Pedigree-ruled (and fuelled) Cheshire Cheese was to enter a world courageously and wildly astride the hinterlands and frontiers of art, justice, truth, extreme reality, poetry — and unashamed pissartistry. 

Adultery, fornication, lust and love, were an accompanying soundtrack. As were spying, treachery, propaganda and lies. All supported by the guaranteed financial daily donations from addicts of updates about the ultimate star of life: the Old Man With The Scythe — ie newspaper readers.

Observant newshounds relieving themselves nearby in the inky-stained lavatories of The Daily Telegraph might have noticed that the printers carefully washed their lead-poisoned hands with Swarfega before they handled their penises, because they knew where their hands had been.

The journalists washed theirs afterwards because, if they could remember, they knew where their pricks had been.

The top bar of the Cheese was where the hacks climbed to. Telegraph reporters and sub editors and stragglers from more distant papers. The industrial reporters, Irish Republican scribes, Morning Star diehards and sultry spooks, religion correspondents, crime reporters, bent coppers, tautologists, lobbyists and propagandists with the occasional Yank tourists marvelling at the upturned chairless barrel tables and sawdust-sodden floors as Ray the barman kept a constant stream of warm washed pint sleevers fully topped up.

And occasionally Bobby Bedlow beating up a too-cocky American marine or Bob Porter facing down trouble and Blake Baker and Mick Costello, at vastly-distant opposite ends of the trade unions conflict, standing back to back, their industrial ideas both going headlong for a Burton ale in the King and Keys when the Cheese closed at nine o'clock.

And the constant haunting of deadlines past or looming and the venting of fumes from tomorrow's hot stories. Whilst at the corner of the bar near the door, furtive subs between pages being sent off stone or quick trips to check a fact in the library, sneakily swallowed a quick sustainer.

Footsteps clattered up and down the stairs to the lavatory deep in the old building's bowels, past the lower bars where radio types, TV poseurs and cackling tourists sipped wine and ate solids consisting mainly of deceased carnivore-contained puddings.

Near the end of opening time, the taxis dumped Commoners from Annie's Bar in Parliament to declaim their clinking glasses, some in celebration of privilege, some in peasant anger — all in need — but always loudly indeed.

The jaded finest from Oxford and Cambridge and coalminers' sons who left school at fifteen all jostled and jousted at the pigsty-contenting, butting counter where life was equal amid the adversities of harassing and recording the omnipotent for their noble or despicable deeds.

All watched over by shades down the years from the 1500s in the company of Pepys, Johnson, Boswell, Dickens, Chesterton, Tennyson, Conan Doyle, Dickens, and countless other notables and noteless who, like cobwebs, have vanished into the damp garrulous air, but whose fading memories slumber on in the spirit of boisterous shumpgullionmanship.


© Pat Prentice

11 April 2024