It was around 6 million years ago that humans first stood on two legs and made their ape ancestors look like utter berks. After about ten minutes of debilitating standing, one bright spark found a nice flat surface, just below chest height, and let a tentative elbow take his weight before exhaling with an:
Leaning was born. Humanity had embarked on something beautiful: the discovery that progress didn’t always go forward. Sometimes, it went slanty.
Leaning is what sets us apart from the animal kingdom. Many animals use some kind of language. What they don’t do is lean most of their bodyweight on an appropriate outdoor surface, cocking one leg across the other, holding a pint, whilst complaining they’re working too hard. If they did, perhaps we’d stop eating them.
But where, oh where, is the best place to have a good lean? In the first of a series of educational features, we reveal the optimum places for mankind’s sublime stance.
We begin at an absolute belter: The Market Porter at Borough. Not only do they provide a fine pint amid the gastro-bustle of Borough Market, the leaning facilities at the outside windows are exemplary. Plenty of space for a pint and elbow, with no dangerous gradient threatening beer slide – the lean’s natural enemy. I could lean there all day, if I wouldn’t be reduced to clinging on by the end of it.
It’s a short riverside trek east to the Dean Swift in Shad Thames, another SE1 lean of legend, but there is an emergency lean available at the Upper Deck Bar at the HMS Belfast, overlooking Tower Bridge, should you feel the need to sink an inbetween-pubs pint.
Otherwise follow the river from London Bridge, past Tower Bridge, till you get to Lafone Street, where your lean awaits.
Now you are at one of the outstanding leans of the city, custom built to accommodate the elbow, mankind’s greatest joint. There’s nothing quite like drinking in the street, is there? At the Swift the sill is the perfect height to rest your pint on so you can admire it when you’re not drinking it. Plus it’s a cracking backstreet boozer.
Pushing on, we hug the river as much as possible, but are forced to pass through curiously gated developments that hog the riverside for themselves. Presumably these citadels are occupied by people who want to say they live in Bermondsey but don’t want to meet anyone else who does. There are two auxiliary leans before your destination; one on the river near Bermondsey Wall where you can email work and tell them you’re still dreadfully ill and another next to the Angel pub. The latter was sadly robbed of its public art, a lovely sculpture of Dr Alfred Salter which was stolen by some gits. Thieves will never, ever, take away the lean, though.
At last we arrive at The Mayflower: A jewel of a pub, with the holy grail of slanted refreshment – The Riverside Lean. The oldest pub on the Thames, The Mayflower is proper olde worlde in every regard but the prices, which are almost futuristic. But it has a deck out the back providing a superlative lean with its view of other riverside delights at Wapping.
It is thought that in 1620, 65 passengers embarked here, before sailing to Plymouth and on to America. I’d like to think there was a 66th who decided to stay for one more and lean a little longer in our marvellous city.