Watching a football match doesn't affect the score, so during yesterday's Euros knockout needle match I went out for a walk. To try to keep tabs on how the game was progressing I tweaked my walk so it passed my ten nearest pubs, a journey which conveniently takes almost exactly two hours. I wondered if I'd be able to work out what the result was, even deduce the score, from the amount (or lack) of cheering I heard on the way round. I also decided to take a photo of all the pubs with an England flag draped outside.
5.00 It's quieter than usual on Bow Road, or at least I think it is, I'm not really sure what normal looks like these days. Perhaps all these drivers, cyclists and bus passengers are busy dashing home. 5.04The Bow Bells The match is only a few minutes old but the pub is already full, if not exactly buzzing. A few drinkers are even looking in completely the wrong direction, as if they're enjoying the beer more than the football. 5.06 The caretaker at Bow Register Office seems to be in a hurry to lock the car park this evening. 5.08Rose & Crown No longer a pub, now a chicken grill, so no footie activity. 5.10Moulders Arms No longer a pub, now a car park. 5.11The Blue Anchor No longer a pub, now a very new five storey block of flats. 5.12The Seven Stars Sorry, I could go on and on like this but I'll stop now. 5.17 Only a few people are dribbling out of Bromley-by-Bow tube, but several are heading for Tesco keen to enjoy a quieter than normal shopping experience. 5.21Galvanisers Union This used to be one of my ten nearest pubs but it closed on 20th March 2020 and has yet to reopen. A dozen pots of flowers are still shrivelling in the window, last spring's menu is still chalked up outside and all the stools are up on the tables. There'll be no football here. 5.22 The barbers at Ace of Fadez have no customers so are sitting back, guzzling crisps and watching the telly. 5.27The Beehive But this is more like it. I can hear them from fifty metres away, cheering and groaning as the first half plays out. Only two drinkers are sat outside under the Estrella Galicia brollies, the rest are lined up inside intermittently applauding. The way the chairs are set out reminds me of a church hall. It's the liveliest most normal-sounding pub I've heard in ages. 5.29 I pity the poor souls on the plane roaring overhead out of City Airport, they're missing the match. But it turns out they're heading to Edinburgh so they're probably perfectly content. 5.37The Widow's Son A mixed crowd is spaced out across several tables staring into the corner of the pub, like it's cabaret night, but they're nowhere near as animated as the buzzing crew at The Beehive. Three archetypally ordinary lads are sat closest to the window, one in a red England top, but they seem no more excited than the rest. 5.40 Three mopeds are parked outside Barry's Turkish Fish and Kebab Bar, their drivers ready to speed off with orders that are almost certainly grilled, not fried. 5.44 Someone has opened a new halal burger place called The Munch Plug, and I think that may be the worst name ever for a takeaway. A TV screen is positioned so it can be seen from behind the counter and from out in the street, so I am suddenly informed that the score in the big match is still nil nil. I had a hunch it was. 5.45The Angel of Bow I cannot comprehend why the door to this pub is locked and the interior dark, but it turns out they don't open on Mondays and Tuesdays, not even for the match of the summer, so more fool them as their potential clientele buys craft beers elsewhere.
Half time coincides with my walk past the demolished Bow Common Gasworks and across Tower Hamlets Cemetery, so that's nice.
6.02 I manage to walk straight across all four lanes of Bow Road, which is normally a Sunday morning or late night thing, not Tuesday peak rush hour. 6.05The Coborn The second half is now underway and the last smokers are filing back into the pub to take their seats. I can hear a dull blur of commentary, likely a succession of passes, interrupted by one fan yelling the obligatory 'Come On England!' 6.08Morgan Arms Rather than advertising the football, this pub has a chalkboard outside saying Pimms O'Clock. The crowd inside are young, polite and look like they all have degrees. I bet nobody back in The Beehive was sipping a glass of wine. 6.10 Even the good folk of Tredegar Square are sitting in their drawing rooms watching the football. That is one massive scented candle. 6.13The Lord Tredegar I think I can hear these pubgoers from the end of the street too, but it turns out to be three flatmates yelling in a bay window across the road. Instead the bar is silent and nigh empty, the barmaid bored and unoccupied. You can be as proud as you like of your jukebox, fireplaces and comfy leather seating but if you don't have a TV screen the fans won't be troubling you mid-tournament. 6.17 The more I walk, the more mopeds and bikes I see delivering mid-match snacks to households glued to their sofas, not their kitchens. You have to feel for the delivery riders who won't be seeing a scrap of the match (only profiting from it). 6.22Green Goose This pub's crammed every gazebo it can find into its petite rear garden, and was so convinced of filling the place that they're open to walk-ins only. The crowd are loud but more prone to applause than raucous cheering, as if they're more used to watching rugby than association football. 6.28 Roman Road really is quiet. It's a good time to be browsing the aisles of Poundland, as a few women have definitely noticed. The Saucy Kipper has a non-existent queue and lots of fish fried ready for when the game's over. 6.32 From inside a flat on the corner of Old Ford Road I hear a sudden yell so long and loud it could be a frenzied murder, a surprise lottery win or the climax of an orgy. I take it England have scored (and later it turns out indeed they have, it's one nil). 6.39The Lighthouse This out-of-the-way pub is more crowded than I've ever seen it before, and with a refreshingly diverse clientele. Wild clapping accompanies an England manoeuvre they all approve of, followed by a sharp intake of breath when one doesn't. 6.40 The Shell garage has a pump spare. That's unusual. 6.43 It's deathly quiet on Morville Street, other than three youths sitting in the park singing along to a ditty with the delightful chorus 'I spin that gun'. I'm surprised later to discover that this was when England scored their second goal, because despite being surrounded by flats I heard not a whimper. 6.50 Further shrieks accompany the full time whistle, spread out across several seconds dependent on streaming delay. Someone in a nearby flat yells "Yeah, yeah, game over, game over!" and then adds "England beat Germany!" as if they couldn't believe the result until they said it out loud. 6.52 Car horns have started blaring on Bow Road, like it's Eid or something. 6.54The Little Driver Damn, I've arrived four minutes too late to experience the beery outburst of joy and its post-whistle aftermath. A bit more injury time and that would have been perfect. A crowd of smokers has spilled out onto the pavement, desperate for a post-match puff, and one paunchy bloke really should have bought a larger replica shirt. Inside the bar all pretence of 'table service' has been abandoned. 7.00 I'm finally back home having not checked the score once and yet I still know we've won. Good, that saved watching it.
Watching a football match doesn't affect the score, so maybe I should go for another two hour walk on Saturday evening to see what it sounds like when Ukraine dump us out.