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Grand Junction Arms,
The Grand Junction Arms was situated on
Bulls Bridge Road. This pub closed, and was converted to a restaurant, in
2015. This has, in turn, also closed.
I was born and grew up just over the
road from the Grand Junction Arms. Although it was never my favourite pub
and I never considered myself a regular, the Junction was the first pub I
ever went into and was part of the backdrop of my early life.
When I was still a toddler, In the mid-1970s, Mum and Dad would take me with
my older sister over there on warm summer evenings. We would sit in the
canal side garden, Mum with Babycham, Dad with a pint of one of the fizzy
brown abominations that brewers produced in the ‘70s and my sister and me
with coke or lemonade and the obligatory packet of crisps.
The Junction was a big and fairly handsome pub, with Lounge, Public and Boat
bars. The strict demarcation had been abandoned by the time I knew the pub
but the Lounge and Public were still separate entities in the ‘70s. Later
the whole interior was knocked into one. The pub owed its existence to the
canal, being a few minutes’ walk down the tow path from the junction of the
Paddington arm with the main London-Birmingham canal. It was a Chef & Brewer
place when I knew it, with the regulation faux old world nick knackery
nailed up and bulk bought old books by the yard. Never exactly a real ale
haven it was a fairly typical English pub of the late 20th century which
went downhill badly.
As I grew up and started frequenting pubs on my own account I used the
Junction occasionally, sometimes with workmates, sometimes with my own
friends. For the most part the folk from the large factory I worked in used
the Scotsman, one of the few Southall pubs still going and very much the
“Works Pub” at that time. Every now and then though, usually on sunny Friday
evenings, we would troop down to the Junction. A mixed bunch we were,
English, Irish, Scots, Welsh, Indian, African and West Indian, young
apprentices and grizzled old timers, mostly blokes with a smattering of
women. All chatting, laughing and getting gently stewed in the summer sun by
the side of the shopping trolley haunted depths of the canal.
I remember one such evening in particular. There must’ve been fifteen or
twenty of us, I would have been twenty-one or two, not long out of my
apprenticeship. A lovely Punjabi Christian chap known as “Big” Bill Sidhu
had offered to take on all comers at wrestling (we had been drinking a good
while) and a couple of guys had already been bested. I was at that dangerous
stage where you’re drunk enough to think damn silly things are a good idea
but still sober enough to carry them out. I pulled off my t-shirt and
squared up to Bill, I was much slimmer and fitter back then, but no Adonis
to be sure. It didn’t last long, he lifted me from the floor with
contemptuous ease and threw me against the wall to rousing cheers. I dusted
myself off and he bought me another pint.
In the early 2000s, with the factory now closed and with me living in
Hounslow, the Junction was somewhere I visited infrequently. The last time I
did so was with a friend on a casual afternoon on the piss, me showing him
the haunts of my misspent youth. We sat supping Guinness after a couple of
frames of pool when I felt the need to send some back to the brewery. I was
followed into the toilets by a rangy, mangy individual who I’d noticed
clocking us before. As I stood at the urinal he proceeded to interrogate me
as to my occupation and reason for being in the Junction. He made no
pretence of being in there for a piss. It turned out he believed we were
drugs squad! It was not the first time this had happened to me, unfamiliar
white males from twenty something to fifty something in Southall seem to be
automatically assumed to be coppers until proven otherwise by certain
portions of the population. I told my interrogator that he had nothing to
worry about and that we were simply two guys on the piss, visiting old
haunts. Back out in the bar he did not seem totally convinced, this did not
exactly add to the convivial atmosphere and we soon left and continued with
our crawl, wondering just what he would have done if we had been coppers.
In 2015 the Junction was converted to a restaurant following licensing
issues (no surprise there!) and is currently closed and boarded up.
David Packer (June 2017)
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