The last two weekends I have been out of London. As well as being pleasurable in their own right, they also reminded me how much more you get for your money outside of the capital. A pint of scrumpy in Somerset? Just over two pounds. A beer in Budapest? Even less.
But, one has to remind oneself that cheaper does not always mean better. And, nine times out of ten, when something is free... there is a reason for it. It could be because it is a new product or service trying to gain new custom. It might be to lure back old customers. Or... it is sometimes just because the very thing they are giving away is, pure and simply, shite.
Take my recent trip down to South London. I ended up in an old man’s pub called The Trafalgar. So far, not a problem. I partook in another pint (or two) of real ale and listened politely as my friends continued to wean me onto lager’s decidedly flatter cousin. I was quite content.
Then the evening’s entertainment started. Needless to say, it was free. Some of you may know Steve Whalley as the lead singer of Slade before Noddy took the reins. Anyway, he and his side-kick treated us to a taste of the blues. Okay, so the man could sing, and the strumming was more than passable. Then I started to listen to the lyrics.
So, what was he singing about? 6’3’’ blondes. Prostitutes and how they love selling their bodies to their pimps and punters. Naked robbers and women riding horses in tight jodhpurs. The feminist within me was not amused, and it became clear that even some of the men in our party were less than impressed too. So... we left. And I don’t think we’ll be back.
But, fear not, freebies can be fabulous too. Last week I met one of the girls (I had been with on that frightful night) for a curry and a bit of comedy at Ruby Tuesday’s, The Queen’s Head. The curry, although not free, was pleasant and reasonably priced; the comedy; gratis. I knew that, especially as it was in the heart of Soho, it might be a bit rough around the edges, but my mate had been before and assured me that it was okay.
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Okay, so a couple of the stand-ups were a bit leftfield for me and there were one too many poo jokes (although one of them was particularly funny), but some of the acts were really very amusing. I particularly liked the Swedish stand-up’s take on public transport here and there, and the lovely Blossom’s musings on what it means to be beautiful on the inside.
So, when you end up going out for a freebie in London, be prepared to make a swift exit. But, on the other hand, keep your mind open and you might just have a top night. And, if you do? Please let me know. The northerner in me loves a cheap date...