The Ten Bells Pub has a long history, one part of it quite sordid.
Jack the Ripper is said to have met his second victim here in the 1880s – Anne (Black Annie) Chapman – a fact not emphasized by the current landlord.
Today the pub is primarily frequented by a young, hip crowd that co-inhabits the Whitechapel area of East London with a flourishing immigrant population and a dwindling number of old-school Eastenders who still mutter whenever a Lufthansa jet flies overhead.
If the London Olympic committee wants examples of local engagement in the Games enterprise, they’d best gloss over the Ten Bells.
“You’ve come to the wrong place, mate,” laughed Nancy Johnston, a patron who represented the general sentiment of the place when asked if she was excited about the Olympics.
Pubs in London – many of which are packed with people watching Olympic events – are typically decorated with one form of Team GB boosterism or another. Not the Ten Bells, where it’s as though the opening ceremonies a few kilometres away weren’t happening.
Brick Lane, situated a couple of blocks away, has been described in novels and in films, on this night it seems more prosaic than epic.
Crowds of young men are loitering outside half-empty curry houses, bored bouncers chatting outside Caribbean clubs.
Most restaurants have a television on, when the British team walks into the stadium, patrons crowd around the screen.
Nearby, at an upscale Italian restaurant that caters to the upwardly mobile, the television has been turned off.
At the Eastenders Snooker Club, a stuffy windowless room on Whitechapel’s high street, a small group of men – all of them Bangladeshi – are watching the opening ceremonies in silence.
Given it’s Ramadan and Friday prayers are just letting out, the crowd is smaller than usual, but they’re watching intently.
“Of course we’re watching the Olympics,” says Ali, the club’s youthful and garrulous manager. “We want medals for Bangladesh.”
He added: “And for Team GB too, this is our home now.”