Category Archives: pubs

100 Words: Not The Same Again

Mr Turner is right‘The biggest influence in whether someone has a second pint is the quality of their first.’ 

Sometimes, you mean to have one beer and end up having four because you don’t know when you’ll next taste something so perfect.

More often, though, you have one and, though there’s nothing wrong with it, not that you could complain about, not that you can put your finger on, that awkward first date is as far as it ever goes.

Not ordering a second pint is just about the most passive protest a customer can make.

QUOTE: The Warmth of the Little Pubs

“The warmth of the little pubs and their no-delay service stand in pleasant contrast to the waiting, formality, boredom, and frustration evoked by city offices, museums, churches, concert halls, airline terminals, and retail stores. Not far from the likes of these may usually be found a pub into which one, given the least interlude of freedom, may ‘bolt’ and therein soothe the irritations of urban chafing with an interval of pure felicity.”

Ray Oldenburg on The English Pub’, in The Great Good Place, 1989, repr. 1997.

The St Just Pub Crawl

St Just is a bit further West than Penzance, not far from Cape Cornwall and Land’s End, and, despite its tiny population of 4,600, has four pubs on its picturesque town square. On Saturday, we paid them a visit.

A dog sits outside the King's Arms, St Just.
The King’s Arms, with photogenic dog and tourist-attracting red phone box.
King's Arms: service area at bar.
The bar in the cosy saloon bar at the King’s Arms, with open fire, and a bloke eating pork scratchings at the counter.

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Spingo, Spingo, Gose, Orval

Penzance is at its lowest ebb between Christmas and the start of the season, and it’s been bleddy cold, so we really needed the cosy cheer of the pub last week.

Spingo Middle at the Dock Inn, mid-week, sparkled in the glass only a shade off ruby red, and tasted better than ever — a touch drier than usual, but still with the typical smack of unrefined sugar about it.

On Friday, our attempt at a pint of Proper Job was derailed because the Yacht Inn was heaving with rugby fans, so we went for another round of Spingos at the Dock. This time, that lanky dog was there — the one that comes over, perches its chin on the edge of the table and looks sadly at your pork scratchings — and we were surrounded by out-of-season weekend-breakers eating dinner.

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Pubs of London E17, 1991

CAMRA’s East London & City Beer Guide is a fascinating document which, across three editions from 1983 to 1991, charts changes to the drinking landscape.

We’ve had the 1986 edition for a while, and have 1983 (finally) on the way, but 1991 arrived this week, looking as if it had come fresh from the binders, the spine un-cracked. (“Printed by Calvert’s Press (TU) Worker’s Co-Operative”.)

We turned to the section that covers Walthamstow, London E17 — an area we know particularly well — which prompted a few observations.

1. It hasn’t changed that much. The Grove, the Windmill, the Plough and a few others have gone, but many others are still there — the Lord Brooke, the Lord Raglan, the Lord Palmerston, the Chequers, and so on, many in better shape now than they were when this book was written.

2. It’s always seemed odd that there’s no Wetherspoon’s in Walthamstow (the nearest is across the line into Leyton). Now we know that the College Arms on Forest Road was a JDW (Younger’s Scotch Ale at 79p a pint!) but, at some point, the firm abandoned it — something it seems it’s always been pretty ruthless about.

3. The Village, which looks like a well-worn and traditional Victorian pub, actually opened in 1989. The building is Victorian but the premises was formerly (Boak thinks, calling on childhood memories) residential. For that  matter, The College Arms was formerly two shop units and the Coppermill an off-licence, so these change-of-use conversions have occasionally gone the other way.

4. Pubs change their names a lot. The Tower Hotel became Flanagan’s Tower, which became the Tower Hotel again, which is now the Goose. The College Arms was formerly ‘Cheeks American Bar‘. What is now the Waltham Oak on Lea Bridge Road was formerly the Chestnut Tree, but began life with what might be our new favourite pub name: The Little Wonder.

The content of all three editions is available at this splendidly old-school website if you want to investigate further, but the 1991 edition is also generally available for pennies.