New Pubs and Old Favourites #2: The Cat’s Back, Wandsworth

A mirror on the wall at the Cat's Back.

The last pub was Jess’s discovery; this one was Ray’s. He visited with The Ring last October and we finally got there together in deep December.

All around it are colos­sal blocks of flats with lots of lights but appar­ent­ly lit­tle life, so that the pub seems almost like a joke, or a con­trivance by devel­op­ers.

The win­dows glow soft­ly, not throw­ing light out but guard­ing it, like a flame cupped in the hands.

It’s a Harvey’s pub – “A back-up Roy­al Oak,” we said, only half jok­ing. It real­ly does feel like its sis­ter at Bor­ough, only with a lit­tle less per­son­al­i­ty. The clien­tele seems sim­i­lar, too: strong Lon­don accents and nico­tine-stained knuck­les, with a rasp­ber­ry rip­ple swirl of pub­lic school vow­els and col­lege scarves.

The Cat's Back -- pub frontage.

Is this the kind of pub, we won­dered, that sur­vives through the cus­tom of peo­ple who have become acci­den­tal­ly wealthy as their objec­tive­ly quite unre­mark­able hous­es in Lon­don stock brick have rock­et­ed in val­ue? Peo­ple who have always lived here, who miss how it used to be, and cling to the pub – this nail house – as part of their iden­ti­ty as ordi­nary Lon­don­ers?

Ah, what do we know, but it’s fun to pon­der.

Old Ale illu­mi­nates the con­cept of best mild with­out say­ing a word. Cask Christ­mas Ale, head­less and sher­ri­fied, says some­thing about beer’s capac­i­ty to be both hum­ble and grand. Wise beer, Har­vey’s.

We should start a pod­cast,” says one of the staff to some friends lean­ing on the bar and as they expand on the idea, laugh­ter over­takes them.

Some­one explains a com­pli­cat­ed con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry to an unin­ter­est­ed friend.

An elder­ly woman sits alone, ignor­ing her paper­back, eyes shim­mer­ing at some hap­py mem­o­ry, or maybe a sad one.

A dark vel­vet cur­tain rip­ples in a per­sis­tent draft.

2 thoughts on “New Pubs and Old Favourites #2: The Cat’s Back, Wandsworth”

  1. Love­ly bit of writ­ing. Made me think, God, I love pubs! The kind of place that feels cosy & safe, with soft fur­nish­ings & spot light­ing… Few­er of them than you’d think. One of my locals recent­ly changed hands and changed, effec­tive­ly, from a pub to a bar, with a cou­ple of small changes to the fur­ni­ture & light­ing (it was close to the bor­der­line before, admit­ted­ly). Eheu fugaces, and a pack­et of crisps, please.

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