I’d like to celebrate this, the first weekend of spring, by offering homage to my local pub. It’s been there all winter (and, I guess, for several centuries of winters, as it’s a former inn on an old drovers’ road), a perennial stalwart, dispensing warmth, hospitality and good cheer on the coldest and most miserable of evenings. It boasts an open fire and its own generator, which means that when there’s a power cut or the water supply fizzles out (not infrequent events in this village) we and all our neighbours can rely on the pub to produce heart-warming soup and sustenance in our hour of need. There are no other buildings in the village except houses and a deconsecrated church – we don’t even have a shop – so the pub also does sterling service as a polling station for both local and general elections. Not surprisingly, this village always achieves a high turn-out. Most of us vote in the evening, which gives us a chance to catch up with each other and sample the beverages on offer at the same time.
Yesterday evening was light and clear. The trees across the valley had just begun to bud and were glowing with promise in the hazy sunshine of the early evening. The local sheep have now had their lambs, which were bleating softly. The towns across the valley were also tinged with the glow of the setting sun. As on many first days of spring, however, there was a fierce wind and some of winter’s chills still lingered in the air. My husband and I, out with the dog on his evening perambulation, decided to call in at the pub.
It is only a slight exaggeration to say that all human life was there. A group of four beer-bellied blokes occupying a corner table hilariously trooped out together every half hour or so for a cigarette break, and then trooped back in. A large family, complete with granddad (who seemed to be footing the bill) had just finished an early supper. Also eating supper was a morose middle-aged couple who appeared not to be speaking to each other. A largish hen party came in, evidently consisting of the bride and her mates plus her mother and several of hers. She was wearing a sash proclaiming her a bride to be, a crown of tinsel and, somewhat incongruously, some red ‘Rudolph’ felt antlers left over from Christmas. A little later, an extremely thin, elderly woman arrived, the advance reconnoitring party for another group of ladies, these somewhat older. She left the pub briefly before returning to usher them all in, so it must have passed her selection criteria for acceptable hostelries. The usual old cronies were seated on high stools at the end of the bar, putting the world to rights. More young men braved the trestle tables outside, clearly finding the cold preferable to the prospect of losing seats inside whilst out for fag breaks. And there were several ‘casuals’ in for a swift pint before departing, all of whom stooped to stroke the dog. The landlord, a dog-lover, brought him a handful of chews.
And, of course, included in the number, a pair of wellie-wearing eccentrics with an amiable hound, all three a little miry around the edges.
City pubs have an aura of their own, a suave immaculateness inspired by fierce competition and, for the most part, a shifting clientele that harbours no sentiments of loyalty. There is something quite different, timeless as well as uplifting, about a country pub and its dynamic. Dressed in mediaeval clothes, the patrons of my local yesterday evening might have been encountered by Chaucer and his pilgrims, in an inn en route to Canterbury. And I’m sure they’d all have had a tale to tell…
8 thoughts on “Up t’ pub… with spring in the step…”
Lovely! Your morose couple made me think about many years ago when we frequented a pub in Nottinghamshire called the Yew Tree. The same elderly couple were always there, sat alongside rather than opposite each other, and I’m not sure we ever saw them converse. To this day, if we are in a pub or restaurant together and the conversation lulls for too long I tell John to say something – anything – to avoid turning into the Yew Tree.
I think you can have this sort of community feeling in a very “local” city pub, but we don’t have anything like that near us. I envy it – but I’m still a city girl!
I’m sure that you do get some ‘local’ pubs in cities, Anabel; I was envisioning the smart places that I know exist in Leeds, for example, where the customers are unlikely to have allegiance to one watering hole.
Yes! Anything to avoid turning into a silent curmudgeonly couple! But we do like listening in to the conversations all around, which inevitably means that our own conversation lapses! 😉
We have “the Grotto” – a dark cave of a place with fifty taps and far fewer patrons. Also, both ice cream establishments are open for spring.
One has to have priorities. About -4 C outside now but bright sun.
Nothing like waiting in line for a dipped cone in ten pounds of boiled wool field jacket.
Glad all is well. Louis the foxhound isn’t allowed in The Grotto. However, across the street at Hickman Bar b que he is an honored guest. He likes the ribs best.
Jack, the Grotto sounds murky enough for murder and I’m sure Louis is better off over the way, if ribs are on the menu. Our local allows dogs in the bar area, which has stone ‘flags’ (paving stones); our hound, an English pointer, often attempts to lie down, but it’s too cold for him to do so for most of the year, so he has to get up again and sit close up to a knee to compensate for the nether chill. He looks forward to the landlord’s noticing him. Wishing you a speedy arrival of spring in your lovely part of the world. 🙂
Your pub sounds delightful. I don’t miss all that much about living in the UK, but our local 16th century pub with its beamed ceilings and huge inglenook fireplace is one of them. How lovely to see so many people in there – a true cross-section of the village. What a lovely central point!
I have to say that it has been refurbished since we came here, when it really was a very old-fashioned establishment, with a tiny public bar and a pretty small ‘lounge’, into which no-one much went, so it always hummed with humanity in a small space. A staircase wound its way to the rooms above from the back of the bar. It is still small, as pubs go, but has been made into one long room with the open fire a centrepiece dividing ‘rooms’. I know we’d miss it terribly if it were ever to close, as so many pubs seem to do these days; fortunately the food and the wonderful view from the front bring people from quite far away. Lots of cyclists and walkers build a visit into their itineraries. Thank you, Valerie, for joining me in the bar! 🙂
What a mix-match of clientele! That makes for a great atmosphere no doubt. We don’t have pubs that old here but do have plenty of them! The country pubs are always interesting to visit, the local flavour an curious mix.
Cheers Christina 😀
The atmosphere is always lively and friendly. The village certainly has its characters, too! Quite a lot of pubs have closed in this country; the ones that survive tend to have quality or serve a community well. Usually, it is the food which is the most significant feature, but real ales have made a comeback. Thanks, Luciana!