The Only Straights in the Village

In which The Author and his friends are the victims
of an unfortunate misunderstanding

A few years ago, a gang of us went to see the League of Gentlemen at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane – it must have been about seven years ago, as Gema and I had just split up.
James T. and I decided we wanted to raise an elbow in the Coach and Horses in Greek Street, in memory of the great writer and piss-artist Jeffrey Bernard (see also ‘A Day in Parliament‘ and ‘Missed the Coach‘). However, the minibus was parked up near Drury Lane. It’s a fair walk down the Strand and into Soho, but it was a cracking day and we were in the mood for an adventure. Emma and her college mates wanted to stay local, so James, Sharon, Susan, Vicky and I set off down the Strand. By the time we’d gone half a mile the girls were complaining. They’d worn shoes which were very nice, but totally unsuitable for walking in …
James and I gave in to their nagging, and agreed that we’d go to the first pub we came to. In St Martin’s Lane, just off Trafalgar Square, we spotted a pub sign. Sharon read it as Railway and Beaver – no stupider than the Pickled Pepper, we thought – so we walked in.
The girls ordered drinks straight away. When I got to the bar the penny dropped immediately. By then, the girls had been served, so it was too late to make a discreet exit.
After about twenty minutes, Sharon leaned over to me with a horrified expression on her face.
‘Steve,’ she whispered behind her hand, ‘it’s a gay pub!’
I whispered back, ‘I know!’
‘When did you find out?’
‘About three seconds after I got to the bar!’
I still haven’t decided whether it was the counterpack of The Pink Paper, the arty photos of shaven-headed tattooed hunks, or the box of free condoms on the bar that gave the game away.
After his pint James needed the loo, but he wouldn’t go unless I accompanied him to make sure he didn’t get propositioned. As a large, shaven-headed, tattooed guy, I think he figured he was Top Totty.
It was only when we were leaving to rejoin the others that I checked the name of the pub. It was really Halfway to Heaven.
I recounted the story in work on the Monday, and Jason D. looked at me in sheer disbelief.
‘Didn’t it occur to you? The clue’s in the name!’
And indeed it is! ‘Heaven’ is possibly London’s premier gay club, situated under Charing Cross – a stone’s throw from the pub we’d been in. It’s a meeting place for guys and gals before they go clubbing.
Hence the name …

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