We’ve developed the bad habit of annotating films as we watch them, both of us with mobile devices in front of the TV reading different bits of Wikipedia. (“Huh, fancy that — Basil Rathbone was an intelligence agent in World War I and once disguised himself as a tree to get near to the enemy lines.”)
Last week, Film 4 showed Michael Powell’s first real feature film, The Edge of the World (1937), set on a fictional archipelago beyond the Outer Hebrides. That led us to look up St Kilda and the story of its evacuation in 1930. Of course what leapt out to us was the mention of ‘the Puff Inn’, which must be the most remote licensed premises in Britain.
The Puff Inn isn’t really called the Puff Inn. In fact, it’s not really a pub and that’s official. It’s a stormproof shed where the military personnel who are now the islands’ only residents can go to drink and eat. Someone ought to write a book about the influence of the British armed forces on beer culture. Where they go, beer goes, it seems.
Its decor hints at ‘pubbiness’, and there is beer, but tourists who’ve made the journey across the open sea to visit the National Trust-owned islands shouldn’t expect a ploughmans and a pint of mild.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the country, near us, there are several pubs on the far less remote and much balmier Isles of Scilly, the residents of which seem to relish their reputation as “2000 alcoholics clinging to a rock”.
The film was great, by the way, despite the typical 1930s all-purpose RADA Irish/Scottish/Welsh lilting accents.