Look beyond the expected guides to city life and you will be pleasantly surprised to find that Time Out has some rather good writers. One in particular stands out, Michael Hodges. For years Michael Hodges has chronicled London life through his weekly column, ‘Slice of Life’. Like many great Londoners, Michael is not from London. He’s from Scarborough and has a Northerner’s scepticism and bloody mindedness but also a poetic streak and an eye for the absurd. An eye for the surreal would be more accurate because he seems to attract strange people and bizarre happenings. Many if not most of Hodges’ columns are related from inside or just outside the pub and he has very kindly agreed to share some of his thoughts on boozing with us:
Can you remember what your first drink was?
If inside, then Piesporter with ham and egg salad, bread and butter at home. I was nine-years-old and discovering that the genius of these isles is our appreciation of the cheaper Mosels. If outside, a few summers later – a small glass of bitter shandy on the grass in front of the Joiners Arms, High Newton, Northumberland .
Did you enjoy it?
Immensely – have you never been to the Joiners Arms?
What was your drink of choice when you were 18?
William Younger’s Scotch or 80 Shillings. Bell’s whisky directly afterwards. Occasionally vodka.
Where’s your favourite place to drink and why?
I enjoy few places now because of the noise but if I’m slightly flush and gagging for gin and nuts then the upstairs bar at the Charing Cross Hotel.
What do you normally drink there?
What do you avoid in a pub?
If you had to drink one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I suppose a red, something inky and deep
What do you think the ultimate breakfast drink is?
Depends on the length and location of the breakfast. I actually prefer my early drink as a substitute for breakfast as don’t like all this stodgy full English business – as if there was such a thing as Englishness anyway – and Bloody Mary and blinis would make me vomit. A French plumber I once watched in a bar had it about right: one small coffee, several large cognacs.
And the ultimate bedtime drink?
Weak tea with large dark rum in (though this makes a pretty good breakfast as well).
Can you recommend a book about booze?
Brideshead Revisited is pretty much all drinking, though Waugh is open about the consequences. So that or, if feeling more proletarian, the opening scenes of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Going back to my earlier point, if there is such a thing as Englishness then it could well be Arthur Seaton on the piss.
Buy Time Out and you get to read Michael Hodges every week and also learn where London’s best car boot sales are. In addition he appears occasionally in the Financial Times, New Statesman and wrote a rather good book a few years back on the AK-47.