London, Pubs, and Cats, Oh My!
In these wobbly pre-Brexit times what could be more reassuring than visiting a London pub with the added company of a four-legged (sometimes three) furry creature at your side?
The young independent publisher, Paradise Road, focuses on non-fiction books about London. London Pubcats is its second publication, and frankly, what’s there not to love about the book? The formula is simple, as the author, Vicky Lane explains in her introduction: most Londoners live in small spaces. Too small, at least, for any self-respecting feline to be happy in. Cat cafés are fine and well, but “there is only so much tea and coffee a person can consume,” she writes. Unlike beer, “which can be consumed in limitless quantities.”
Lane and photographer Tim White crisscrossed London from Ravenscourt Park to Wapping, from Archway to Brixton in search of pubs with in-house cats, producing a delightful tour of where to enjoy a pint (or several) with a kitty. Following, is a selection from the 17 pubs featured in the book.
The owners at Farringdon's White Bear pub say "We all work for him," meaning Bud, their 12-year-old cat named after Budweiser beer. Bud likes to take naps on customers' bags, rousing himself once in a while to tour his small fiefdom to make sure all is well. Unlike his customers, Bud has a preference for ice cubes, that he patiently waits for to melt.
One of the oldest pubs in London, the Duke of Hamilton is in Hampstead and is run by Steve Coxshall, who also manages music groups and used to handle the British band, Blue. Duchess is a star of a different sort. She arrived shortly after Coxshall did and chose the pub as her residence, coming and going as she pleases. The manager, Joey, who lives above the pub finds her slightly demanding: after a late night out on the town or in the nearby churchyard, Duchess meows loudly outside his bedroom window in the pre-dawn hours until he lets her in.
Winnie, Churchill's female sibling, lives with her brother in Camden's Old Eagle, run by Jimmy McGrath. Dropped off in a box when they were kittens by one his regulars after they had been rejected by their mother, McGrath said he "couldn't just ignore two little orphan babbies, could I?" Since then, pub customers queue up for the cats, "...Everyone bloody loves them." Irish folk music and table tennis are just part of the cats' lives, they have a beer garden to play in and plant pots to curl up in for a nap. The cats have also heard stories about the pub's most famous patron, Amy Winehouse, who lived just up the road and was a regular. "She would have been all over those cats..." said McGrath.
The Charlotte Despard, writes Lane, is the most excellent of pubs. Located on the grim Archway Road, the convivial interior is filled with music, games, and books, and is home to a much-loved three-legged cat called Legz. Although he was a stray who lost one leg in an accident, Legz isn't the least bit shy, and engages with customers, jumping up on tables and settling on their laps. Once a month DJ Liz Wheatley spins classic soul and funk at the pub, and says Legz has a marked preference for West Coast hip hop. But Legz, like the Charlotte Despard's owners, also takes beer very seriously, careful to inspect the pub's top-rank line up of brews.