*Warning the following post may make you nauseous/vomit a little*
If you have ever been to London Liverpool Street you have probably seen this pub. Sitting on the corner of Bishopsgate is a dark fronted building with glowing red lettering reading the name Dirty Dicks! I have always loved this pub. It’s low ceilings with the dark beams and that stale, musky smell that only an ancient pub has. Little hidden alcoves with upturned beer barrels for chairs and an old juke box playing all kinds of music. A side entrance accessible from one of London’s narrow, arched alleyways. There are secrets in a pub like that. Secrets and stories ingrained into the woodwork and lingering in the cobwebbed rafters. Ghosts of drinkers been and gone sitting, watching new stories unfurl.
Originally called The Old Jerusalem in the 19th Century, the pub was then owned by William Barker. One of the regulars, Nathanial Bentley (or Richard) owned a warehouse and a little hardware shop around the corner from the pub. Apparently on the day of his wedding, his fiancé tragically died and from that day on he refused to clean himself or any of his premises. His hardware shop and warehouse became so filthy that any letters were addressed to “The Dirty Warehouse.” Therefore he acquired the name Dirty Dick. He became a broken hearted legend in the pub and rumour has it was the inspiration for Great Expectation’s Miss Havisham as Charles Dickens also frequented the pub. After Bentley’s death in 1809 the pub held on to the infamous character and in time was renamed Dirty Dicks.
I imagine there are thousands of stories throughout the years that have stemmed from this pub, my favourite obviously being my own. The night I met my husband my friends all wanted to go onto a bar. I did used to enjoy bars and clubs but not as much as a “dirty old man’s pub” as I called them. The type of pubs where your feet get stuck to the carpet and walls are still stained with nicotine. They usually have an old juke box in the corner and the same faces drinking the same drinks, there’s no fancy a la carte menu, just a couple of stale cheese and onion rolls behind the bar that some poor old sod buys every day to save himself the trouble of making himself anything at home. On a Sunday they put plates of roast potatoes on the bar for the punters and there’s always a bit of scandal on a Friday night. They’re the type of pubs I love, The Salmon and Ball in Bethnal Green, The Little Driver in Bow, The Good Samaritan in Whitechapel, all classic examples.
I ditched my friends and thought I would have a drink in Dirty Dicks then head home. I was always pretty confident and worked in many pubs so I was never fazed, even as a young woman, to walk into a pub and order myself a drink. I took my drink from the bar and was about to go sit down when the most handsome man I had ever seen asked if I would join him. I have always been a romantic and believed in the whole Disney fairy tale. My mum and dad have been together since they were 16 and anyone who meets them can still see the love that is clearly there. I wanted that more than anything but I was fast giving up hope until that night. I could have listened to that Irish accent forever and didn’t want to leave him once last orders were called. I took his number and he asked to kiss me and said that one day he was going to marry me. He proposed 3 months later, in the little alcove seats where we first sat that night and a year, to the day we met, we married.
One of the many reasons I love “Irish” is that he is old fashioned. He wasn’t and isn’t like the flashy, arrogant wide boys that bothered you around London. He was different. He had the traits of a true gentleman but enough edge about him not to be boring! The morals I had grown up with from my parents seemed instilled in him also from his family. When we met he was renting a narrow boat moored on the canal at Hackney Wick. On one of our first dates we went for drinks and then went back to the boat and danced for hours to the Beatles, the Kinks and all my old favourites in the tiny living room space. (warned you it was slightly nauseating)
Our marriage is real. We argue, shout, swear and bicker but underneath it all he knows me and I know him inside out. I think both us living so far away from our families has made us even stronger. We hardly ever have nights out due to Louie’s condition and not being able to leave them but we always make time for one another even if it’s us going on a drive to get the children to sleep and chatting along the way.
It would be wrong to say that our marriage is the same type of love and excitement as when we first met because just as we grow older so does our love and our marriage. Each year that passes I fall in love with him more in new ways; when becoming a father, when facing any problems life may throw at us, when he repairs and builds our home etc. As life goes on we will face new eras together and learn even more about one another and become stronger as we grow older. Life is set to test you and we have had some real trying times but together we are strong enough to conquer anything.
I wish all those planning to get married or who are newly married the very best of luck for your exciting futures. And if you are in or about London have a drink in one of those little quieter pubs and see what hidden treasures you may find!