As I neared the end of my walk to the pub yesterday I was on my last quarter mile when an approaching car going downhill away from the pub stopped. It was some of our regulars who had just bailed. "It's rammed in there - you'll have trouble getting in the door." I laughed, exchanged New Year's greetings and trudged on. Boy was he right. I literally fought my way in through a throng of strangers, push chairs and children. Crikey! Dotted round the edges of the bar were a few regulars, but otherwise I didn't know a soul. I elbowed my way to the bar and got served. Not much waiting for us bread and butter types and that's how it should be on days such as this.
Our pub is unusual in many ways. Firstly it is fairly remote, set amidst four farms in the middle of a country park and a mile from either Royton or Middleton, up unmade farm lanes which are used mainly for the milk wagon, farmers getting to and from fields by tractor, livestock and by walkers. The pub itself is small, old and has just two rooms. The landlord can only make it pay by working the shifts himself entirely. It is really a "hobby pub" where the way of life is part of the deal. Now of course walkers are part of the passing trade and are very welcome, but this was of a different magnitude. If only some of these once a year drinkers would come a little more often, life would be better for all. We need some more regulars.
I squeezed in at the bar as the pub got busier. I'd only been there a few minutes and watched as orders for soft drinks, teas and coffees, slowed down the serious business of getting a pint or two of beer. One lady asked the landlord if he remembered her from last New Year's Day. He replied that he didn't as he whizzed up and up and down. She ordered two coffees. Regulars helped by clearing tables and fetching empty glasses back to the bar as the crowd was three or four deep. More locals arrived and found a corner here or there. At ten to three the bell was rung in earnest for the first time I can recall in years. All waiting were served, the bell was rung again and that was that. The strangers supped up and left. Not us regulars though, nor those who fancied more than one. The bar opened again shortly after three fifteen for a couple of hours and we carried on supping in a much more civilised manner. Anyone who passed was admitted, locals or not. The doors weren't closed, but the pub was much more convivial and the landlord got a much needed breather. He'd worked hard and deserved one.
The Lees Bitter and Plum Pudding were excellent and when the pub closed, we bailed to the Ship for half an hour while waiting for a taxi.
It was strangely reminiscent of the old days when pubs stopped serving at three all the time. I quite liked it, but then again I knew I'd be getting another drink. I did too then in my Liverpool local come to think of it. What goes round, come round and being a regular has some advantages!
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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