“You know this place used to be a bank,” George sits back in his rocking chair. We are sitting in a room decorated like a confused sitting room. There are worn rugs, of the kind my mother hangs on the wall, making up a patchwork carpet on the floor. The lampshades are a mismatch of various fabrics. The tables range from old desks from the 70s to disused kitchen tables. The chairs are even more random. It’s like a furniture jumble sale: stools, armchairs, poufs, dining chairs, and possibly a chaise longue in the corner. The rest of us sit on a moth eaten sofa and gaze at our surroundings. Above eye level, the décor changes. The oriental wallpaper almost has an air of grandeur about it, and the high ceiling in the next room houses a chandelier. The confusion of it all is enough to be hilarious, and yet somehow it works. There are receipts and certificates framed and hung haphazardly around the walls, “that’s why there are all the original documents all on the wall. The bar over there is where the tellers used to sit.” George adds helpfully.
A swift googling of the Leyton Technical will inform anyone that it is in fact located in the old Town Hall. Close enough.
It had been a strange evening. The varsity series had begun, and that Friday was the hockey. I’d wriggled my way out of a rehearsal and met my brother and his beer-laden friends at Westfield. My motivation to trek all the way to Stratford was to support a long lost friend from fresher’s week, as well as a not so long lost friend from choir, Will. As musicians with sporting skill are scarce, it was an exciting event and there was a small army of his musical friends on their way to support. I sat with a proud Martha – we had been the first to arrive- and assisted her with her handmade sign. A couple of drunken hockey girls looked at us in confusion and disgust when Martha tried to explain to them that it was a play on the words of the university’s Latin motto. We decided it was best to relocate to the area of the stands that the parents had occupied.
The second half came. Will was, according to Martha, playing fabulously. I had spent most of my time grappling with sporty types in the beer queue. Meanwhile, the others still hadn’t arrived. My phone rang. It was George.
“They’re not letting us in.”
It served them right really; they were hours late. It didn’t stop my brother and me exercising our strongest powers of passive aggression in an attempt to confront the two indignant women at the door. Despite the fact that the automatic doors were wide open – most likely because they were standing on the censors – they reassured us that the doors were shut. After politely informing them where they could go, we retreated upstairs, and the others wandered round the pitch to watch through the fence. The final ten minutes of the game were draining; I would describe what happened but I don’t have the necessary technical knowledge and it would be dull in comparison to the extreme stress of the actual event. Long story short – we lost.
“In Europe the handball players are just as famous as the footballers.”
We were in grave need of a pub. George, as ever a fountain of knowledge, was able to oblige us with the suggestion of the Technical. It was where he used to go when he played handball. This was a sport he had taken up in his first year; the only reasoning behind it had been that it was the most likely to get him to the Olympics. Apparently it’s very popular in Poland. So here I was, once again, in the pub with George and almost all the King’s Men. We warmed our hands and took in our surroundings. The overall effect of the bizarre style resembled Uncle Monty’s house in Withnail. Adding to the atmosphere was a DJ, a woman of roughly 51 whose headphones were riding up the side of her head, and whose transition lenses had tinted in the bright Maplin disco light.
While I calmed my throat (still hoarse from the hockey) with a cool lager, George drank a mild. The others sipped on gin and tonics and discussed the importance of a good brand. These were Tanqueray, for example, and you could really taste the quality. Despite the oldies music pumping through the speakers, I was relaxed and contented. I let the conversation wash over me – I think they’d moved onto musicals. In any case, there seemed to be a general consensus that if they were casting the Lion King again, George would be Zazu. And with amusement spreading slowly across my face, I dropped off to sleep.
Needless to say the sleepy tube journey home wasn’t fun. Leyton is in zone 3.