"Norman's" is shorthand for the Coach and Horses pub that squats on the northeast corner of Greek and Romilly Streets in Soho.
I first went there in the 1980s as a keen young journalist from South London, barely out of my teens. I’d heard tales of long, boozy, bohemian days at Norman's where writers, artists and actors sank pints and swapped barbs. I was desperate to go.
An older, Oxbridge-educated colleague (who was a regular) eventually introduced me to it, warning me on the way in that it was less of a pub, and more a sort of working men's club. "Except none of these fuckers are working, and most of them are c*nts... Whatever you do, don't give them any money."
To be honest, back then it was often full of scary alcoholics. It's a lot more genteel now. There's no thick clouds of smoke to wade through. Using the toilets probably won't give you hepatitis. Times change. But the texture of the place hasn't. That and the light that pours in through the north/south and east/west windows all day long, all year round.
For me at least, Norman's remains the perfect boozer. A place to while away an afternoon, chat to Bob and Osh if they're in, or simply grab a pint and sit and read the book that just fell into into your bag around the corner at Foyles.
Long may it continue.
"I liked the taste of beer, its live, white lather, its brass-bright depths, the sudden world through the wet-brown walls of the glass, the tilted rush to the lips and the slow swallowing down to the lapping belly, the salt on the tongue, the foam at the corners..."
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