Magnus non fiction short stories

Colour coding in Marylebone

I don't know how it came about, but while working at the Swedish Trade Council in London, we started colour coding some of our regular haunts around the neighbourhood. The intention was to simplify life in Marylebone and to make sure that all the others know what and where we were referring too. This, our system, was mainly focused around drinks and fast food.

"Let's go down to the green pub for a drink" was probably one of the more frequent lines used in the office. The “green pub” was our local. It wasn't a great pub by any standards. It had the usual none interesting beer brands, the crowd was office workers from the neighbourhood, and it had a hideous shelving system behind the bar that looked like a massive kuku-clock. It was still our favourite office pub and it served truly first class pub food. Their fish and chips was excellent! It consisted of a big whale of a fish fillet and a generous serving of chunky chips. They did a mean chicken burger also accompanied by a large portion of golden, crispy, chunky and unhealthy chips. A fiesta for the mind but it probably took of two weeks from your life. The funny thing about the “green pub” is that’s it is not green at all anymore. The last years that we went there it was yellow and last time I walked passed it, they had painted the whole thing black. The name of the pub, the real name that is, has always stayed the same, Ponterfract Castle. It was too hard to say and spell, hence the colour coding. In my mind it still is and will always be the “green pub”.

The “green pub” was however not the closest pub to the office. The Cock and Lion always referred to as the “red pub” was actually closer. This pub was smaller, had a different clientele, same beer, very smoky and we almost always walked passed it. The “red pub” has also been painted black now. Black has to be the new trend for Marylebone pub exteriors.

Brown is still the colour of the “brown pub”. On the first sunny days in spring when everyone is having a drink after work, this place has got to be one of the busiest public houses in London. It is right in the pretty St. Christopher’s Place, on the corner of James Street, just behind Selfridges. It was the big open drinking space of St. Christopher’s Place that, in these lovely spring afternoons, made us venture the extra two minutes further then “the green pub”. The pub itself is nothing special. The fabulous outdoor space is what makes this, on certain days, into a great venue. I wonder when they will paint this black? The name still remains the Lamb & Flag and will stay the same long after the brown colour is gone.

It was not all about drinking though. In London you eat sandwiches for lunch. One very good place for cheap filled baguettes is run by some south east Asian ladies. The place is on a corner on Marylebone High Street. It is called Bon Bouche. How the hell do you pronounce that and spell that? In true spirit, we renamed it the “brown sandwich corner”. A great Mexican tuna filled granary stick cost £1.40 and we bought loads of them. A few years later we had moved offices and discovered a new Bon Bouche close to Paddington Station. It was not brown and not on a corner, jet it was still referred to as the “brown sandwich corner”. Or maybe just the “brown sandwich place”. Even from colleagues who had never seen the original place.

This may seem a terribly childish and simple way of giving nick names to places that you like. It is however in keeping with British traditions. The normal British pub would have a name like for example the White Horse. It would then have a large sign featuring such an animal outside. Back in the old days this was to make it easier for people who could not read to know which pub was which. If someone said “let’s meet at the Black Swan”, people know it was the pub with the black Swan on a sign outside. Even though we could all read, this helped us keeping track of places around Marylebone in the years around the millennium. The only thing is that places are repainted far more frequently than they change names. It was also very confusing for new colleagues to understand that the big yellow pub we always went to was actually the “green pub”.