Tangled yarns from London's passers-through

006 : Joseph Ridgwell in the Misty Moon Pub, Bethnal Green
Born in 1974 in London. Joseph Ridgwell currently works as an office drone. Why London? No reason. He digs the following London bits: drugs are easily obtainable, the variety, pubs, plenty of women and saunas. He is, however, a bit miffed by too many drugs, too many people, commuting on the tube, the high cost of living and Ken Livingstone. For more info on Joseph Ridgwell you should send an email or visit Notes from Underground.

image: Tarotastic

“A big scruffy bloke began watching.”

I was walking along the Bethnal Green Road when it began raining so heavily I was compelled to duck inside the first public house I came across: the George, opposite the post office. Aside from a few elderly drinkers quietly supping away in several nooks and darkened corners, the big old pub was deserted. I stood at the bar and looked at all the shiny beer pumps, pumps that promised good times, and then at all the spirits that promised even more good times.

After being served a pint of Stella, I walked over to a fruit machine and slipped two pounds into the slot. I didn’t get a single feature, and lost the money in less than a minute. Then I played a quiz machine, answered six consecutive questions correctly, until the seventh question turned out to be so obscure and ridiculous, it was impossible to answer.[1] After that, I gave up on the pub entertainment, plotted up in a dark little corner, and supped my pint in a melancholy fashion until it went flat and tasted like piss.

I made that first pint last over half an hour, but as it was still raining heavily outside, I ordered another. Then I put a couple more quid in the fruit machine and got a few features and won four pounds. I put the four pound coins straight back in and lost, but had a hunch the machine was going to pay out, and, acting on the hunch, changed a ten-pound note into coins at the bar and went back to the fruit machine.

As I was playing the machine, a big scruffy bloke began watching. He was a typical goal-hanger, the type who waits for someone to lose money on the fruit machine before going on it themselves.[2] Although he was big, it was mostly flab, and he reminded me of a human bear. I lost the ten pounds quickly and walked back to my little corner. Then the bear began playing the machine, and a few moments later, the irritating music of the feature began, followed by the sound of the machine paying out. ‘Sod’s law’, I sighed philosophically, and continued sipping my beer and waiting for the rain to stop.

referenced works

  1. Joseph has fallen prey here to the two cheapest ploys of the most commonly-encountered gambling machines in British pubs: the fruit machine and the quiz machine. If you wish to explore the complexities of the fickle fruit machine and revel in the same feature-missing despair, you’ll have to figure out how to play them first, which will involve reading (and remembering) all of this.
  2. In the vast, unwritten canon of British pub etiquette, this practice, known as ‘sharking’, is severely frowned-upon. Both fruit machines and quiz machines will increase their difficulty level for a short while before eventually paying out to keep the player interested. Sharking involves watching a player insert a few pounds into a gaming machine without winning anything, and then swooping when they leave the machine to take advantage of the increased probability of a payout. Among friends, the sharker may experience verbal abuse and the insistence that he buy drinks with his ill-gotten gains. In less amicable company, he may be invited to take part in that other mainstay of British pub culture, the boozy punch-up.

location information

  • Name: the Misty Moon Pub
  • Address: 456 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 0EA
  • Time of story: Evening
  • Latitude: 51.52700864445432
  • Longitude: -0.05793571472167969
  • Map: Google Maps


  1. Andrew [1] in UK thinks: Not only entertaining but educational too!
  2. Ernie in UK thinks: Joseph is clearly a tosser and in Boris is getting what he deserves. Neither the George nor the Misty Moon is opposite the post office


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