Underneath the arches . . .

20th August 2018 |

. . . in luxury I dined.

My night at the Bike Shed was a revelation. It just goes to show what a cool, cosmopolitan lot we are. They’ve turned these railway arches into a very attractive place to meet and eat and relax. I would say, quite honestly, that it was one of the most pleasant and interesting conversions I’ve seen in a long time. There’s a lot of stuff about motorcycles, of course, and some very nice bikes on show in one of the arches, but it’s not shoved down your throat, and you can ignore it if you want.

They had us up a few steps in a sort of gallery, and there were ten of us at the Captain’s Table, which was laid with a black table cloth and dressed for a very nice dinner. Lively intelligent faces all around me asking interesting questions. I’m not saying that bikers aren’t intelligent but you really would never have guessed I was at a biker club. If there was a clue it would have been from Anton who sat on my right, an extremely civilised man of Russian origin with a remarkable display of steel rings on each finger of one hand – I think they were steel. Maybe they were platinum. I should have asked, but I’m almost certain they were purely decorative.

I’m no good with names so I can’t tell you who else was there, but some came from quite a way away. I was flattered, well fed and nicely lubricated.

If I’m in that area again I will certainly drop in.  And there are other reasons to be around Hackney and Shoreditch. This is obviously an area that’s going through tumultuous changes. I once lived there, sixty years ago, when I got my first job on the Daily Express. That’s when I stumbled on a wonderful museum called the Geffrye. It’s on Kingsland road, quite close to the Shed, and it occupies a long row of old almshouses, each converted into a living space from a different time in British history – right back to the Dark Ages. I was fascinated by it. The atmosphere was tremendous. I went there again this time, but it was closed for renewal. Instead, laid out on the lovely enclosed grounds in front of it, was a pop-up garden of veggies and flowers, on straw bales, with little bars and tables.

I’m worried about the museum though. I’ve been back several times, and each time there were more signs, more graphic exhibits, more jazz, and it seemed to me they were losing the atmosphere. I hope very much, when I go again, that it hasn’t become sterile.