Saturday, 5 December 2009

Drinking For England

Phew! It's crowded in here
My mate Raj and I like to go to the pub the hard way. Parking next door is for weenies and liberals. We start out at least five miles away and yomp our way in, to build up an appetite for warm beer, and pork scratchings. That way we can discuss the overthrow of the government out of the reach of CCTV cameras and ultra-sensitive microphones. We never whinge about our better halves though, as that would be ungentlemanly.1

So today we meet at Cheesefoot Head, which may sound like a fungal infection but is in fact a well-known beauty spot. It's been the wettest November on record, wetter even than Susan Boyle dribbling all over 'Wild, wild Horses'. But we are made of iron, and besides, we have waterproof boots. Fortified with a hip flask and a curly-wurly each, we walk, paddle and sometimes even swim to the Flowerpots Inn in Cheriton, the Best Pub in Hampshire, ready for opening time at 12:00.

Raj is a top-speed paddler. I trot along behind and we arrive early, at 11:30-ish. To our consternation the pub opens late, at 12:30, says the board outside. So it's another hour walking. But first we nip round the back to admire their fine urinals. We surprise the barmaid, who is polishing the Landlord's beer pump.

"Er, is the pub open?", I ask, which is my way of pretending I wasn't sneaking in to exercise the plumbing.

"We can be," she says.

Five minutes later we're warming our hands on the beer (a bit early I know) and having a fine old chat with the landlord. The fire's lit, the ale is tasty, really tasty, and all is well. On the dot of 12:00 half the village walks in, also ignoring the board outside, and the party's on.

Sometimes I yearn for foreign shores. The Family Von Grump plan long trips to sunnier climes, exotic locations, exciting places. We buy maps, mosquito nets, malaria tablets, harpoons and bear traps. We book guides, we buy insurance. You have to be prepared for anything in Normandy.

Then I come to a pub like this and remember why I live in England. It's absolutely bloody knockout. The staff are friendly, so are the locals, the food is wholesome and plentiful, the dog doesn't smell, there are no pinball machines or horse brasses, there's no tooth-grinding Christmas music. Opening and closing time are a fiction. Come when you like. None of this oh-sorry-breakfast-ended-at-eleven-sir. It's just people having a beer and a chat, and enjoying the landlady's plentiful baps.

No kids either; if you want to bring them, there's a jolly tent outside where you can stick them with a Vimto and a bag of cheese and onion crisps between them for an hour or four. It's prefectly safe; if the temperature falls below freezing, the pub will light a patio heater. Besides it's good for them. They need to develop patience, and their immune systems.

The beer is brewed on the premises with interesting variations, so naturally we end up sampling a bit more than we intended to, and staying a bit longer.

Before we set off the landlord has to leave on an errand, so before he goes we chat with him again. Fifty pubs a week are closing in Britain. We commiserate with him and he shakes his head sadly. Business is slow, he says, which is a surprise given how full the place is, but we duly leave a big tip for the food.

Then he's off. As we set out for the long swim back, bellies sloshing, we see him sweeping out of the car park in a fairly new red Porsche 911 Turbo. Crikey. I wonder what he drives in a good year?

1 - Plus, at least one of them reads this blog.

(Inspired by the full-on recent rant by Dan at Vacant Mind).


  1. I don't remember a curly wurly. Did you eat mine when I wasn't looking?

  2. Lovely stuff, Grumpy and caught rotten about Raj's curly wurly! I loved the beer when I was over there, and the pubs in the middle of nowhere, and roast beef and Yorkshire pud.

  3. Surely if you are made of iron you shouldn't be out in the wettest November sine, er, last year. Good post but next time find a decent pub in North London that I can actually get to...

  4. maybe his car payment will soon catch up with him?

  5. This reminds me of a column in a newspaper or a magazine called "Potter's Bar". I was wondering if any of you remembered it? I can vaguely remember reading some of the tales from this pub when I was much younger!
    Very funny! I loved this!

  6. How did you get home again then? I challenge you to finish the story uberG. So far you're in the middle of nowhere after 4 hours drinking?

  7. Raj ~ Yes. Sorry

    Tina ~ Yorkshire pud! Now you're talking

    BP ~ Ah ha! A challenge

    Sarah ~ I didn't think of that!

    Alice ~ I used to live near there but I don't remember the column. Time for some research!

    RT ~ Pedant. OK, how about a post called 'The Journey Home'? Nice.


    I went downtown, saw Katie in the nude
    on Common Avenue, detracted soltitude
    as it were, like a dream-state rosely hued,
    like no one else could see her; DAMN! I phewed;

    was reciprokelly then, thank heaven, viewed,
    bestowed unique hard-on! but NOT eschewed,
    contrair-ee-lee, she took a somewhat rude
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    And for a start, i hiccuped "Hi!", imbued
    with Moooood! She toodledooed: "How queued
    your awe-full specie-ally-tee, Sir Lewd,
    to prove (alas!), to have me finely screwed,

    and hopef'lly afterwards beloved, wooed,
    alive, huh? Don't you even DO it, Duu-uuude!"

    My English Poetry Blog

    N'est-que pas que la solitude elle-mème eveille quelque attente fébrile? Voici l'entrée, vide, discrètetement illuminée comme une musée nocturne – la terasse, avec ses torchères ondoyantes par un soir d'Avent étrangement doux – laissant le vestibule et les murmures de voix – la chambre immaculée immaculée et la musique de danse derrière le mur – et le bar à cocktails mondains – le bassin où le nageur s'entrâine, longeur après longeur, il en n'a jamais assez, il doit y mettre de sien – enfin, tournant vers le haut au coin du sombre couloir vient la fille noire et pâle, altière, déterminée et de style épuré, ainsi qu'un moderne avion de chasse suédois.



    Exit time. Las chicas dejan el espejo de bar
    dormindose en sus corazónes de alta traícion.
    El Señor no levanta. Él pastorea a sus pies
    los presuntos compradores. Y nos bendice.

    My spanish poetry blog


    Consider Sex and time, procreation, reincarnation. Trigonometry! I envisage the time axis as the repetitive tangens function. Do you see what I mean? What can be tentatively derived from this notion? Clue: orgasm AND birth pangs at tan 0.

    My Philosophy

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    You are very welcome to promote your blog on mine. They are well frequented, so there's mutual benefit.

    - Peter Ingestad, Sweden

  9. Well those are definitely the sort of pubs which deserve to survive. One can only hope that most of those going to the wall were the grottier and unfriendlier pubs.

    Personally, I've never seen the point of abroad, much though this country seems to be rapidly going to hell in a handcart.

  10. I'd like to spend a whole afternoon and evening in that pub, those brews look and sound appetizing.


  11. We don't seem to have any authentic pubs here...and some of the old favorite Taverns are no longer open or have moved to different parts of the city. New locations arent the same.

    This sounds like a great place.

  12. I'm sorry, I have ADD or something like it. I'll never be able to read your posts as long as you've got those Babe pics all over the damn place!

    Btw, because of you...SweetBaby will not withhold sex from me for 20 minutes. She said that if I didn't get 150 public Followers by the end of the year.. I'd be 20 minutes without vagina...

  13. Sounds like a fun time. I wish we had places like that here!

  14. Kraxpelax ~ Er, um, thank you

    Laura ~ Yup, abroad is rubbish. You could try Wales though

    Secretia ~ Amen!

    JennyM - Atlanta, right? Has Blind Willie's gone? Is nothing sacred?

    Blase ~ All right! Have one on me (not literally, obviously)

    Kate ~ Did you read the bit about the rain? Go out and soak up some Spanish sun; you'll soon feel better...

    Christie ~ Np pubs? Phew. I'd heard AZ was a dry place...

  15. I loved Dan's piece.

    Actually, I'm a bit sad that I haven't visited before. What, with beer, curly-wurlies and pre-noon drinking sessions I feel I have been missing a great deal.

    A bit early perhaps, but not as early as the 9am Weatherspoon drinkers that I see each day. 9am!!!!!

  16. I found you! As soon as I put these 2 monsters, I mean perfect children to bed, I'm coming back to read more....

  17. Brilliant! You took me back to my childhood. My Gran and Grandaddy ran a family hotel in Glen Clova, Scotland and I lived there when I was small. I moved back to Canada with my dad but still visited every year until they eventually moved to Canada as well. I spent a lot of time in their pub and remember the cozy, friendly atmosphere. I plan on turning my unfinished basement in my new house into a British pub. Do they still hang random animal heads over the bar? lol In Clova Hotel, it was a Ram:)

  18. Oh, someday I want to visit. I like the kids on the patio idea. Sounds good to me.

  19. Why do I find your blog so incredibly entertaining when I don't even know what half the stuff you are talking about means? Maybe because I usually don't know what half the stuff I am talking about means. I might just need a warm beer and a curly-wurly. :-)

  20. I'd say a good 95% of the places where I live are large franchises. There's no history here, and no community aside from basic friendliness between neighbours. You feel the absence, you really do.

  21. Mo ~ 9 a.m.! Maybe they just didn't go to bed

    JenJen ~ Hello! If they're like my kids, I won't hold my breath

    Blisseeeker ~ Yup, random animals still dangling

    FlourGirl ~ Come on over; bring your umbrella

    Marla ~ Thank you! There's one waiting for you

    tattytiara ~ That's a shame. Lots of pubs here going the same way

  22. Not enough Newcastle Brown