The Blog

The Call of the Pub Crawl: Trepidation and Intemperance in East London

In the throes of a wild drinking evening, you become the hero of your own depraved drama. Shirts are trifling details. A human in the grip of a fully realised pub crawl is on an expedition into the dark unknown.

It was 7pm on a Saturday night in east London. A full moon surfed the smog, and splatters of steaming vomit decorated the pavements and litter-strewn corners of Hoxton Square.

The air was freezing, but I was wrapped up warm - too warm in fact. This was because I had earlier managed to lock myself out of my house after going for a frosty morning walk.

So as I strode between the grimy pools of East End sick, I got hotter and hotter, and was now stuck wearing walking boots, a thick shirt clotted with sweat, and a big woollen coat.

This was what I was wearing as I greeted my friends in a bar, and was not ideal attire for the evening's unusual assignment - a luxury pub crawl.

Nonetheless, in the dark, I considered the mud-slathered walking boots might not be especially noticeable. And if I kept my coat on, I thought, no one will notice the stench coming from my rank shirt.

Nothing can induce an adrenaline-hit like the realisation you are on a night out as a surreptitious stinking vagrant.

The only real solution was to stop caring and drink.

Perhaps, I mused, on a truly decadent pub crawl a sweaty shirt can become part of the narrative - a bit-part in an overarching story of heroic struggle.

In the throes of a wild drinking evening, you become the hero of your own depraved drama. Shirts are trifling details. A human in the grip of a fully realised pub crawl is on an expedition into the dark unknown.

You plunge headfirst through the crashing waves of people and alcohol like a frenzied Captain Ahab clinging onto the rigging of a storm-stricken whaler. But instead of brandishing a harpoon and bellowing "thar she blows", or "flukes ahoy", into the howling wind, you're wielding pints and casting an angry eye at the ugly mass of people who are all on a similar voyage.

"Are you Harry?" A voice broke through the hubbub inside the bar.

I confirmed I was.

"We were expecting you earlier."

"Yeah, well it's actually pretty difficult to get five different people to synchronise their drinking speed and get them to leave one place and navigate them successfully to another," I said.

"No probs, no probs. Let's get you a drink!"

"Thar she blows".

The speaker was a representative from the beer company Heineken. You see this luxury pub crawl was not an ordinary one. Oh no. In fact, I had an easy job convincing a group of friends to join me on this full-mooned Saturday night, as I was being taken on a highly unusual bacchanalian excursion.

The idea is that you go to a bar, and after having a drink or two, a Heineken branded taxi whisks you away to a bar in another part of the city. Then the same thing happens again and you end up in another bar, then again. And at the end of the evening they return you to a bar near the first one. You don't pay for the cab, you're given VIP treatment and you get to discover new parts of the city. Amazing. It was all part of Heineken's Open Your City campaign, (which has unfortunately ended now) and I was a very willing participant.

Our first cab driver was a hysterical chap whose name, he told us, was Peter Allen.

"I've never been in a taxi and not known where we're going," said John, one of our party.

"Well I do it everyday so don't worry," Peter Allen replied as we drove off into the night. What a joker.

After a surprisingly lengthy ride, and much speculation as to where we were going: (Are we going to George Orwell's old house? Are we going to Wetherspoons in Angel? Are we going to Claridges?) We were ejected at Camden Lock and escorted up the stairs to a bar with a broad terrace.

Much Heineken was responsibly quaffed, and then another taxi whisked us off to the next den of iniquity where further unadulterated hedonism was responsibly pursued.

There is something simple and exquisite about taking a payment-free taxi journey through London in winter. A genuine sense of privilege, luck and delight struck home.

By 12pm we were back in the grot-festooned alleyways of Shoreditch and I headed for the last Tube.

Of course, I forgot that I was locked out of my house, and upon reaching it I rang the buzzers of everyone who lived in the building until some poor soul granted me access.

Then I had a deeply relaxing sleep on the landing until my girlfriend arrived home later and let me into our flat.