Last week, I interviewed Terry Pattinson, who, while not a founder member of CAMRA, joined in the summer of 1972, and was elected to the National Executive in October the same year.
I’m never sure whether veterans from the world of beer and brewing will want to meet in a pub — what if they’re recovering alcoholics or just bored of beer? — but Terry wanted to meet at Waterloo, so I suggested the Hole in the Wall.
When we asked last year which were the first specialist real ale pubs, several people named it as an early example, and so I was keen to check it out. Semi-coincidentally, Terry was able to tell me how it got its cult reputation:
This place used to be a shit hole, with one small bar in the front room. This whole back room was my doing. The landlord then was Irish and had one leg and a stick. I told him about CAMRA and said, go on, get one hand-pump in – get Young’s Special in and see how it goes. When I came in a while later, he wouldn’t let me pay for my pint: the place was packed, he’d done very well out of it, and it became a sort of real ale destination.
Terry, who still has a Gateshead accent, worked as a journalist from the nineteen-sixties until his retirement a few years ago, and is best known for his investigation into Arthur Scargill’s financial affairs in the early nineties. Once we’d finished talking about CAMRA, the conversation wandered on to Fleet Street’s drinking culture in the nineteen-seventies. ‘I was probably drinking…’ He paused to think. ‘Seventy pints a week? Eighty?’ A quick count followed, with fingers held up: ‘Four at lunch, then back to my desk. Another four after work, that’s eight. Then down here to get my train, and I’ve have another while I waiting. Then another, or maybe two, while I waited for my wife to pick me up at the other end.’
For a moment, I felt both transported in time, and slightly inadequate as I played at journo with my notebook and ‘shorthand’ (terrible handwriting).
These days, the beer at the Hole in the Wall is hit and miss, and I wondered whether my pint of Young’s Special, sour and buttery, was perhaps the dregs of the original c.1975 cask. Still, it’s always nice to find a pub with a place in Britain’s beer history that remains standing, and remains a pub.
Boak couldn’t join me on this trip to London, which means I get to elbow her out and put my byline on all the posts I write off the back of it. See — I’m getting the hang of this Fleet Street stuff!