Hold on to your pints because 'Spoon's Carpets: An Appreciation' is hitting the bookshelves today. Like all great things, the story begins in a pub. Writer and publisher Kit Caless had just missed his train back to London from Canterbury so was nursing a pint in The West Gate Inn, while reading ‘The Way Inn’, a book about hotel chains, corporate artwork and hidden codes. Caless looked down and considered the carpet underneath him: 'I wondered does every Spoon's carpet come together to make one giant tapestry? Will I unlock the secret of curry Thursdays?'
‘Spoon’s Carpets: An Appreciation’ is the result of Caless's travels around the country, visiting locals, snapping carpets and working his way through the Wetherspoon's menu. There are 70 carpets in the book and each design is different, inspired by the history of the building, its locale or the name of the pub. Woven into these beer-soaked threads are tales from local punters, Caless’s questionable statistics, and witty anecdotes. There are sections dedicated to pubs relating to writers, a cinema collection and detail on how and where the carpets are made. Taken as a whole the book is an oddly fascinating, often hilarious window into British culture.
Caless says the appeal of the 150 or so London branches lies in the price: ‘Be you in the Coronet on Holloway Road before an Arsenal match, the Central Bar near Westfield or the Beehive in Brixton preparing for a gig, the prices more or less stay the same. As London gets increasingly more expensive to live in, Spoon's is often a place where you can still get three pints for less than a tenner.’
Let’s be honest, the carpet is probably the last thing anyone’s thinking about when they’re out on the lash, but Caless genuinely thinks there is beauty to be found beyond the sticky fibrous flooring. ‘I'm serious when I say I think some of these carpet designs are genuine pieces of public art. Tapestry and interior design is lauded at the V&A, and people love seeing it there. There are some Spoon’s carpets that are bold, eccentric and totally unique enough to deserve celebrating. It's because they are in a space not usually considered an artistic space that we overlook them.’ And as for the secret of curry Thursdays? You'll just have to read it to find out.
London top tip: ‘The Spoon's in Victoria station has nice, free toilets. Go in there if you're waiting for a train and need a piss, rather than paying 30p for the station toilets.’
Here are Kit's top ten London Spoon's carpets
'My local is Baxter's Court on Mare Street in Hackney. It's pretty unassuming downstairs, large, open and full of regular people, a real cross-section of east London. But upstairs is where you go if you really know the pub. It's got a long banquette to one side, a bar that never has a queue and a smoking terrace. We call it the 'VIP Lounge'. Baxter's Court is also excellent on Saturday mornings. It's opposite Hackney Town Hall so there are always wedding parties, all dressed up and on the lash by 9am.'
Statistic: 'Relationship to the Krays: none.'
Local Knowledge: 'Morris once said, "What business have we with art at all unless we can share it?" If we allow ourselves to admit that some are these carpets are actual works of art, then, certainly, we are sharing something quite profoundly in the Morris mode.'
Statistic: 'William Morris fans hoping for a better wallpaper: 56.'
Local knowledge: 'Shakespeare's Head is named after a now-demolished pub nearby Wych Street... Dickens drank there. In fact, Dickens drank everywhere. How did he find time to write any of those novels? It's tough to write drunk, you know; this Spoon's book is testament to that.'
Statistic: 'Bards barred for being bawdy: 19.'
'This carpet is full Technicolor. A ring of fire circles a burning desire, floating on a deep blue sea of ambition. It's no wonder the British film industry has its roots out here in west London.'
Statistic: 'Local writers who could have made it big: all of them.'
'A distressed, highly textured piece of thread, the carpet looks like it's been in the pub for years. Featuring several separate rectangular patterns and a colour scheme that is on point, this design could have been found in 1920s Iran and brought home by a wealthy aunt from one of her travels. It wasn't, of course.'
Statistic: 'Contains more expensive buggies than any other Spoon's.'
'The reds in the carpet design are obviously Arsenal red. It's like a siren call for fans before the game starts. What they don't see is the season ahead predicted in the pattern. Like tea leaves in a cup, the maelstrom swirls and curls can tell you which games will be tough and who will get injured; it's just a matter of staring at them, sober, for four hours. Of course, that's impossible in The Coronet on match days.'
Statistic: 'Spurs fans on Saturday reconnaissance: 17.'
Factoid: 'Train station Spoon's carpets are more simple than the average in their design. This is to prevent people from missing their trains, lost in carpet reverie.'
Statistic: 'People using the Spoon's toilet to avoid the 30p one: 76 percent.'
'The Wombles were riddled with tapeworms and came into The Wibbas Down when the carpet was being laid. This is the result.'
Factoid: 'After Uncle Bulgaria was kicked off the Wombles' television show you could find him at The Wibbas Down bar complaining about "that little Orinoco bastard."'
'I met Adam J Smith, a regular Spoon's carpet photographer in The Ice Wharf for breakfast. He is a mature student studying at Southampton University. "There's this quote from the writer Jonathan Meades," he told me, '"The banal is a thing of joy, everything is fantastical if you stare at it long enough." That's essentially my motto for life – never be bored, wherever you are. That's how I feel about the carpets in Spoon's: Look down and you'll find something interesting.'
Statistic: 'Customers who think breakfast starts at 11am: 68 percent.'
Local knowledge: 'What does the future hold for W12 shopping centre? The bigger, classier Westfield has been sat opposite for nine years, giving the W12 the old V-signs and making fart noises with its armpits. What was once a cool space to shop in the 1990s is now a struggling relic of its former glory. It's so '90s it even used to be called the Concorde Centre. If anything can save this space, it is a new carpet in the Spoon's. Or a fake ski slope. Or a swimming pool with a wave machine.'
Statistic: 'Tired mums just wanting a sit down: 49 percent.'
'Spoon's Carpets: An Appreciation' is published by Square Peg; £8.99.
Check out the blog that inspired the book at wetherspoonscarpets.tumblr.com