Journey to The World's End: Part One - London, pub-crawls, and jumping bushes like Simon Pegg
The plan was simple: We were to meet with the Universal reps in London, who would take us on a journey that involved an abbreviated pub-crawl recreation at actual pub locations from THE WORLD'S END, hopefully not breaking any laws and remaining sober enough to sit down for a lunchtime chat the following day with the stars of the film, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The two actors have become ambassadors to geekdom in a sense, since first making a splash with director Edgar Wright’s TV show Spaced and then the first two chapters of The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, leading us to the finale, THE WORLD'S END.
With the opportunity before me, I packed my bags and endured the 16 hours of travel that would bring me to London for the first time, hanging on the weight of meeting both Pegg and Frost as well as hopefully not making a complete drunken fool of myself in the process. It was a challenge I was more than happy to accept, especially since I knew that there were fans from all over the world that would kill to take part in such a venture. I wasn’t only representing the site (and myself), but also those didn’t have the opportunity. No pressure, really.
The sights of London made me feel like I was in the capital city of The Hunger Games a bit...
London decided to share some sunshine on the trip and the air had a slight chill. The bustle and energy of New York mixed with the architecture and historical significance of Washington D.C. populated the streets of London with a lot of character and made for a visual and cultural menagerie. Double decker buses, street performers, business-class locals, and a collection of statues and iconography to put an indoor museum to shame were everywhere.
The first order of business on this journey was the pub crawl, which would serve as an abbreviated recreation of the one from THE WORLD'S END, where we would visit numerous pub locations used in the actual film. Because they were outside the city, we piled into a bus that would take us to the locations and act as our transport from one to the next. Our group consisted of the Universal team, a great collection of ladies that were more than up to task in seeing every aspect of the visit through and my fellow competitors and peers, all of whom were great company. When faced with a night of chugging pints on a pub-crawl, having good company is a must. Thankfully, the stars aligned in that department.
The Pear Tree, which doubled for The First Post (and same interiors as The Old Familiar).
All of the pubs were in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, which is known as the second “garden city” in England, a community with low-density housing and open public land, which has spread to the U.S. as well. Lots of trees, neatly organized landscaping, and character galore awaited us as we pulled up to The Pear Tree, which doubled as The First Post in THE WORLD'S END. It was there that we drew “first blood” and were fully immersed in the pub life. The bar looked remarkably the same as it did in the film, which immediately set off the awesome alarms.
Within the first five minutes we had met our first local, Larry, who represented the epitome of the old-man-in-an-English-pub stereotype. Surely drunk, spirited, and full of stories in a thick Cockney accent, Larry told us of being involved in the film industry at one point and how he secured an autograph from Bob Hoskins once, who signed with anger and profanity. While some of my peers did a video stand up outside, I invited Larry to re-enact SHAUN OF THE DEAD by playing a zombie and walking into their shot, which he happily obliged, much to the chagrin of said peers. Larry was nothing if not a good sport.
Me and The Bartender at The Pear Tree and giving a cheers with Larry, my new drunken pubmate.
After a chat with the bartender, a cute English chick named Leanne, who actually lived at The Pear Tree and was present for shooting of THE WORLD'S END, I found that The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy wasn’t as beloved to the locals as it was to me. They seemed both perplexed, and yet honored, by our interest in the film. Leanne went so far as to call Simon Pegg a “twat” and I could only imagine Pegg as Gary King hearing that and reacting to it in character, which made me smile.
We chugged our pint and jumped on the bus to our next stop, The Doctor’s Tonic, which doubled for the exterior of The Old Familiar. Ironically, the interior was nothing like The First Post (which were identical in the film), being a contemporary designed pub with a bevy of customers. Alas, we were there to crawl and everyone chugged down a pint, made conversation, and prepped for the next stop, The Two Willows.
The Doctor's Tonic, which doubled as the exterior of The Old Familiar. I recommend the cider.
The Two Willows doubled for The Famous Cock, the bar that had Pegg’s Gary barred for life. The interior had recently been renovated and no longer had any resemblance to the pub from the film, although a few props and a mirror with THE WORLD'S END emblazoned on it were featured prominently. We all shuffled into a booth and met our next stereotypical old-man-in-an-English-pub, Colin. Colin was drunk off his ass, carrying a backpack and a cell phone, which he kept “losing” in his shirt breast pocket. He would open the phone, push some buttons, place it back in his pocket, and then go on a mad search for it thirty seconds later, checking everywhere except the pocket he put it in. This would continue throughout the night at the same interval.
By then, I was 5 pints in and definitely feeling “relaxed” and prepared for something crazy if it were to arise. Up until that point, it had been mostly chatter, pints, and some bar snacks, but by the time we exited The Two Willows, we were informed that the bushes just across the street were the same ones that Simon Pegg’s Gary King had made the unsuccessful leap over at the beginning of the film. After five pints the prospect of jumping over some bushes in England to recreate a moment from The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy was more than enticing; it was downright unavoidable.
The Two Willows which doubled as The Famous Cock. Stay away from The Hobgoblin. Far away.
The ground was slick with recent rain and peppered with leaves. Two of my peers decided that the opportunity was ripe for exploration as well and we moved to recon the area before blindly charging in. Had we been a bit more drunk it might have played out differently. Checking the ground and clearance height of the bushes, my mind informed me that this was probably going to end badly, but I informed my mind that I was in charge here and that this was going to happen, like it or not.
After getting some distance and attempting to gauge my leap with precision on an inebriated brain, I got a running start and leapt over – and into – the bushes, before tumbling to the wet, muddy ground and rolling to a stop. My clearance was weak and I immediately got up to try again, the second round only slightly more successful. My peers then gave it a go, each of them clearing a little better, but with a price. Mud and/or pain entered their lives and I moved to another set of bushes that featured a metal gate that would allow me to traverse over with much better height.
My 1st, 2nd, and 3rd attempts at recreating Simon Pegg's famed Cornetto jumps. Nothing broken, but pride.
And so, after a quick look at what lay before me, my peers and the Universal team watching on with cameras and glazed eyes, I made my leap, which was a graceful success, yielding no blood, bruises, or bodily harm. By that point, I decided I’d fulfilled my Three Flavours Cornetto bush-jumping life experience and would file that away in the “been there/done that” book of my life. It felt like enough to make the Cornetto Trilogy boys proud.
The Parkway Bar was our last stop, which was The Cross Hands in the film and the place where the shit hit the fan and the robots were revealed. We all took a seat in the same spot where the boys (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, and Paddy Considine) piled in for the film, taking a photo op and killing our pints, while watching Colin (who followed us over) lose his phone and backpack exactly where he left them over and over again.
The Parkway, which doubled as The Cross Hands. A great finale to the crawl and my cheers to the readers!
A visit to the bathroom (or “loo” as they call it) revealed that there was not much space for a man vs. robot brawl by any means, although it would’ve been interesting to see them try. We shook it off and loaded up, a bit drunk, a bit muddy, and possibly a little injured, but fully acclimated to the possibilities of a drunken pub crawl akin to the one portrayed in THE WORLD’S END (minus the deadly robots of course). On the bus ride back to our hotel, I was thankful for the first part of the journey (and that I didn’t feel like throwing up). In Hertfordshire, it was just another night of business, but to a bunch of pint-filled fan site journalists it was a memorable experience.
The real challenge would come the next day, as my hopes of a clear head, calm nerves, and pleasant chat with both Simon Pegg and Nick Frost wore on my mind. Would it be an awkward conversation with half-baked questions and uncomfortable silences? Would it be a blossom of awesome with all of us spilling geek all over the place? Would I be able to contain my inner Kenny Powers and chew my food carefully enough so as to not be “that guy” who humiliates himself completely?
In less than 12 hours I would know for sure…