The North Star is a pub on the southbound side of the monstrous Finchley Road, Swiss Cottage, in North London. I don't go there particularly frequently, perhaps once every 2 months, but when I do find myself heading in its direction, I feel a strange sense of anticipation, as if somehow it is not going to be the dingy, dour place it was the last time I went.
So I go in, up the 2 chunky steps and over the floor mosaic that proudly yet grimily announces the establishment's name, and find that it is the same as ever. The yellowing projection screen above the unused, unusable fireplace murkily shows a sporting event of some kind, and is watched by a handful of lost looking punters on too-high stools at the too-high bar. Most of the tables are empty, although there are two Japanese men in the corner who look and sound as if they are well on their way. I take a seat, and look around hopefully, looking for something that will make me love this place. I so dearly want to love it, I don't know why. That's what keeps bringing me back here: I refuse to accept its mediocrity.
I romanticise the name of the place, mulling it over: The North Star. I fancy it was once a well-known staging post on the road north out of London, when the Finchley Road wasn't four lanes wide, a twenty-four-seven race track for unhappy drivers rushing towards or away from their wage-slavery in central London.
Horses were once watered here, and it may then have been equally bleak, but at least there would have been respite; no hum of cars, no rattle of trains on the Jubilee Line not far beneath our feet.
I enjoy the North Star this evening, despite my tiredness and minor melancholia. But I will not be back there until the weather has changed, and the raindrops are plumper than those of the summer shower that met me as I dropped back down those chunky steps.