I walked up to the bar and ordered a drink from the heavily-tattooed, pierced and bearded barman. He poured my cider into a plastic pint pot, the height of sophistication, as me and my friend were heading for the roof, where glass wasn’t allowed.
We climbed about four flights of black painted stairs which looked like they weren’t open to customers, but seemed to be. The walls of the stairwell were also painted matte black, there were no windows and the only hints of colour were some old band and film posters which covered parts of the walls. It wasn’t the most encouraging beginning.
After a lot of steps, and a few spillages, we eventually made it up to the spectacular roof garden. To our right was a wooden frame structure, covered in ivy, sheltering three tables decorated with flowers in glass bottles and scented candles. They were taken by some city executives, enjoying a swift lunchtime pint in their expensive looking suits, before heading back to the office. To our left were two tiny garden sheds, painted bright yellow, fitted with comfy looking cushioned chairs and little coffee tables. They were taken by some cool, hippy looking people, wearing multiple shades of green with dreadlocks and bandanas. This was the kind of place where anyone was welcome, as long as they knew where to look.
We made our way straight ahead towards a large, unsheltered table, navigating our way around a yoga class which was being held. The class certainly surprised us – it was the last thing we expected to see happening on the roof of a pub. We couldn’t help but admire the crazy positions that the class was contorting themselves into, supporting their sideways body off the ground with no more than their elbow. I can barely do a handstand.
Sitting at our table, sipping our drinks, we took in the view. We were by no means at the highest point of the city, skyscrapers still towered over us. But we were pretty high, looking over the roofs of some buildings and far above the tiny people walking around below. The city spanned as far as I could see – not a green field in sight, and yet it was still breath taking.
We went during one of the first glorious summer afternoons in England, just as everyone is getting excited for the warmer weather and brushing off their shorts and sandals. If I was to go again, I’d go at sunset. I can think of no better place to observe the transition between day and night, to watch the sun glow red over the city before the night comes alive.