I would love to be able to call The Glad a university haunt of mine. Tiny, and frugally filled with ramshackle furniture, my feet tap away on the exposed floorboards to jitterbug ska and rockin-robin boogie. The soundtrack, like the decor, is unmastered, mono.
If named for the Honourable William Ewart then I can’t second guess what the old Liberal Prime Minister would make of it. Grandiose it is not, but dirty back street boozer it is neither.
The tea-lit afternoon ambience is bolstered by square rays of sun picking up every airborne particle above the classroom style tables; the long rays lend calm; the little rooster soundtrack subtly rocks ‘n’ rolls.
This haven is unexpected – glance up the alley and you’ll see a typical and old fashioned London pub sign “The Glad”, looking like just another pie and pint hole.
But Lant St, narrow and unassuming, renders The Gladstone Arms’ pretty facade invisible from Borough High Street, and the pretty facade in turn hides a tumbleweed interior of cacti-littered window sills. Buckaroo, Pictionary and draughts hang precariously on an old metal radiator. Watching nonchalantly is a Triffid-esque plant casually growing straight out of the neck of a French Horn.
A pint of cask ale, a choice between a scribble in my notebook or a few minutes deep in a ruffled book. I lose my jacket, stick my feet on a wooden stool and sink into my armchair; there’s no need for books as an orchestra of recycled instruments begins to serenade me with an Arcade Fire cover played with melancholy gusto.
This surreal little oasis is the perfect matinee from the tedium of the mornings meetings. I hope the record collection takes up many shelves, and that the digital remastering hasn’t lost the crackles of vinyl.
The Gladstone Arms
Borough, London, SE1