Today South London, Tomorrow South London – shirk, rest and play south of the river

17th February 2019

Today South London, Tomorrow South London by Andrew Grumbridge and Vince Raison.

A lifetime ago, my Dad – Ralph Morris – starred for leading amateur football team Dulwich Hamlet. Playing at their spiritual home of Champion Hill, in leafy south-east London, he was the regular first-team right back from the end of the 1950/51 season until 1953/54, when a knee injury prematurely ended his playing career, just as he was being tipped to play for England.

More than 60 years later, the Hamlet fight on in the National League South and are now a cool community club, attracting a cult following in this neck of the south London woods. Dad’s grandson Steve is amongst the cognoscenti, donning the famous pink and blue colours in honour of his grandfather, who at 90 still waits keenly every Saturday for the Hamlet’s results.

On the Hamlet’s hipster terraces and in the real-ale bars, Steve has chanced upon Andrew Grumbridge and Vincent Raison aka Grumbo & Vinnie, keepers of the legendary Deserter blog – ‘it’s not Mondays that are s**t, it’s your life’. Their own lives are dedicated to ‘shirk, rest and play’, and I have just finished reading their crowdfunded book ‘Today South London, Tomorrow South London, wherein they describe their favourite places south of the Thames to espouse the Deserter lifestyle of drinking beer, avoiding work and skinning up.

In its own unique way, this is the perfect book for TripFiction afficionados looking to explore the southern hinterlands of our great capital city. Each anarchic chapter finds a pub-crawl to hang its hat on, is populated by picaresque characters and imparts local knowledge and history as subliminally as a pickpocket nicking your wallet in a crowded Brixton boozer.

These chapter headings give a beery flavour of what’s in store for the intrepid explorer:

  • Boris Bike Bender
  • Top Ten Pubs on a Roundabout
  • A Ballad of Peckham Rye
  • Vinyl Frontier
  • Ales of the Riverbank
  • Holiday on the South Circular
  • Top Six Pubs in Pollution Blackspots

In Holiday on the South Circular, our fearless Deserter heroes Dulwich Raider and Dirty South set out with wastrel chums Roxy and Half-life to travel from the source of the A205 on a toxic 2-day vacation – ‘a voyage of discovery that would reveal the very genesis of the orbital corridor that once girdled south London. I say once, because now her love handles (yes you, Wimbledon, Streatham, Crystal Palace) overspill the confines of its belt.

Today South London, Tomorrow South London is laugh-out-loud funny, imparting history and practical pubby information along with every well-formed drug-infused phrase…a bit like Bill Bryson on weed and speed.

Peckham Rye, mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, developed over succeeding centuries into a playground for south-east London’s workers, not just for walking about on, on Sundays and holidays, but also in the form of its legendary “Fayres”. King John is said to have granted the right to hold a fayre after enjoying a particularly good day’s hunting there (or “thayre”). Initially held for two or three days at a time, the locals soon realised this was much better than working and increased it first to two weeks, and then to three weeks, at which point it became such an enormous Bacchanalian romp that the authorities ganned it and sent everyone back to the office.

Now Peckham Rye is limited to an annual fête in September, quite a genteel affair and hardly the place to get so bladdered you wake up the next morning on a tree stump, naked from the waist down, devoid of all bodily fluids. Which is a shame.’

I read the last page of Today South London, Tomorrow South London with a tear in my eye and a raging thirst, determined to walk in the footsteps of our shirking authors and experience one of their legendary pub crawls. Hopefully combined with a home game for the Hamlet.

Watch this space for some alternative #OnLiteraryLocation, in the manner of my recent adventure in Victorian Birmingham – following author Carolyn Kirby and her character Cora Burns –  and in slightly more exotic Sardinia, stalking Rosanna Ley in search of her Little Theatre by the Sea. Although come to think of it, could anywhere be more exotic than Tooting or the South Circular…?

Check out the Deserter blog for everything you need to know about South London, particularly every single one of its proper pubs, and also for their rather fun merchandise and podcast. And buy the book, it really is very good. Thanks, Grumbo & Vinnie.

Andrew for the TripFiction Team

Editor’s note: TripFiction in no way endorses skinning up or drinking excessive alcohol. But we do enjoy a decent pint or two. Especially in South London.

And you’ll find some other books from the TripFiction database set in South London here….although they won’t involve quite so many pubs. Or be as funny.

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  1. User: Rachel Hall

    Posted on: 17/02/2019 at 8:08 pm

    Sounds excellent as born, raised and still live in Eltham (even came back after uni), and my mum is from the Walworth Road and my dad from Brixton.

    I even recognise the traffic sign in the post (above) as you go past it on the 161 bus from Eltham to Woolwich!