Stranger things have happened at sea. Or so they say. Whoever they are, I’d wager not one of them has ever set foot in The Crown Tavern on Clerkenwell Green. That said, they wouldn’t be missing much. It’s the kind of over-lit, moribund place you wouldn’t wish to pass more than a cursory pint in. And under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t merit a mention – were it not for the fact something deeply mysterious happening is a near nailed-on certainty should you choose to enter.
Almost every – in fact, I’m not sure it’s not every – time I have been to this pub, something really odd has transpired. Was it always this way? I feel it must have been, because those moments are the only things I’ve ever really remembered about this place.
For a start, I (along with a few select friends) know the pub not by its actual name, but by the soubriquet Bermuda Pints Table. And that’s because one evening, it made pints disappear. Three of us were quietly (unlikely) minding our own businesses when we peered out of the ample windows at something that has since fallen out of my memory for what will become obvious reasons. When we stopped and returned to our actual business of drinking, we discovered our pints – clear as a bell and bold as brass unfinished on the table not moments beforehand – had disappeared. Like so many ships and aircraft in the Bermuda Triangle. Without rhyme or reason. Gone. No trace. We had to check with each other they had even been there in the first place. They had. And now they were not. All we could do was stare blankly into the space on the table they had once occupied in disbelief. The Bermuda Pints Table. An unexplained yet verifiable complete and utter mystery. To this day, none of us really know what went on there. I’m still none the wiser. It’s as if an invisible, silent Australian barman – in itself an oxymoron – whisked them away as our backs were turned.
Then came the freaky coincidence. A Clerkenwell meeting to discuss a fledgling website of selected writing that we had finalised in nothing but name: Shen. It’s an anagram of hens – a farmyard anagram. It made perfect sense at the time. I had failed to bring a notepad to record the minutes, so made do with the flipside of the crossword I’d half completed. I started writing up notes and peeled off, dumbfounded and unable to continue as I discovered I was writing on a Boot’s advert for a skincare product going by the faintly oriental-sounding name of… Shen. This was fast becoming a pub in which strange things happened. They (whoever they are) also say things come in threes and, in that at least, they aren’t to be disappointed.
At a subsequent gathering of the people, we were overjoyed to find an empty beer crate in the gents, on which one of our party thought it an hilarious stunt to stand while weeing. What we hadn’t bargained for was that some random toilet user had witnessed this and, assuming it was the done thing, had taken it upon himself to repeat said stunt on a subsequent visit to the lavatories. Taken in isolation, these things are marginally surprising, though little to cause alarm. But as a triptych, they’re bloody disturbing. The kind of thing that’ll keep you away from the place for years. It’s a long time since I’ve been here. Though when you’re on your own, it appears strange things don’t really happen (unless you count someone walking in from the rain dressed in little more than their underwear). So there’s no real point visiting unless you’re with equally suggestible, like-minded individuals. And even then, I wouldn’t bother. I mean, it’s got Astroturf on the door of the gents.