Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year from The Montague

New Year's Eve: for the seasoned boozer it's the worst night of the year. Too many maudlin drunks, dressy party-hearties and plain part-timers to ever go with a real bang, never mind all the forced jollity and clinking glasses getting in the way of a decent knees up.

But hey-ho, sometimes there is a silver lining. For the last three years, the pattern for my New Years Eve has remained the same. About six-thirty I ring the Montague. Every year a cheerful northern voice answers “We'll be open about seven thirty love, it's free to get in”, and suddenly this grimmest of nights takes on a new patina. The dark end of the Old Kent Road is never big on festive cheer, but walk through these tarmac-black doors-no bouncers here- and you get a glimpse of what New Year was once like, before TV and post-modernism; before the global fashion gestalt and irony blighted the age. It's busy this year, with more than a sprinkling of bright young things from nearby Goldsmiths, but, there's not a hint of an arched eyebrow or 'aren't-we-cool?' about proceedings. At the Monty that could just never happen. Put it down to the septagenarian bar-staff, the skeleton peering from within a Victorian toilet or the South London grit provided by the Two Pete's - blind organist Peter London and drummer Peter Coyle- but there's a 'Keep Calm And Carry On Drinking' feel.

There are Christmas crackers on the tables, a huge tree and even more fairy lights than usual, but you're never made to feel awkward on this most self-conscious of nights. Just order your drinks, grab a table and settle in for the show. When the inevitable sing-song starts-after rowdy versions of 'Life On Mars' and 'Don't Look Back In Anger', a girl gets on stage to sing The Bangles 'Eternal Flame'. It goes down so well, she sings it again. When the duo take a breather, a roll-call of classic rock tunes fills the void. 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart', 'More Than A Feeling', you know the drill. They may even have played Eddie Money's 'Two Tickets to Paradise' but I could have been dreaming. They did a piano assisted countdown at midnight, but hugging strangers was kept to a minimum, as it should be. It wasn't the greatest, the most amazing, the blah blah blah. People drank, talked and danced, raised a glass and we all said goodbye as we left. The next day, I still had a warm glow. It's that sort of place.

How was yours? (PM)

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