Old Haunts #3: The Fountain

The front of a pub with a brewery sign.
The Foun­tain in 2007.

I was astonished to turn round and see a bloke with his arm round my Dad’s shoulders at the bar of The Fountain.

It looked like a stand­off. Nei­ther Dad nor the stranger was talk­ing, just star­ing at each oth­er. I couldn’t read the sit­u­a­tion at all.

The Foun­tain is the one pub in my home­town that any­one ever seems to rec­om­mend, and it’s been that way for a cou­ple of decades.

It’s not the kind of place you’d send any­one out of their way to vis­it but it’s always had vague­ly inter­est­ing ale and a prop­er pub-like atmos­phere.

When I hap­pen to be back in town and need some­where to meet my old­est friends, that’s where we often end up. We’d found it fair­ly wel­com­ing as teenagers and young twen­ty-some­things.

Before Mum and Dad moved out of town, it was the most com­mon place for us to set­tle at the end of fam­i­ly pub crawls, and I remem­ber the odd Box­ing Day ses­sion there.

I’ve got a sus­pi­cion it might have been where Jess had her first pint with my par­ents, too.

In short, I have a soft spot.

Mum and Dad start­ed vis­it­ing again recent­ly after they popped into town on some errand or oth­er and dropped into the pub on a whim. They found it under new man­age­ment and were pret­ty well charmed by the cur­rent land­la­dy, a no-non­sense, ener­getic young woman who seems to have The Knack.

I could cer­tain­ly see a dif­fer­ence. There wasn’t only the typ­i­cal But­combe Bit­ter of the region but also Fuller’s Oliver’s Island – an inter­est­ing beer to encounter in Som­er­set – and the pub felt alive. Peo­ple spoke to me at the bar – “I’m from Lon­don. I came to vis­it my aunt in 1973 and nev­er went home.” Con­ver­sa­tions took place between one table and the next. There were old boys and young­sters, all min­gling quite hap­pi­ly, drink­ing what­ev­er they want­ed to drink, from lager to scrumpy to wine to cask bit­ter.

But then this bloke grabbed hold of Dad, and kept hold of him.

Uh… Do you two know each oth­er?” I asked even­tu­al­ly.

The stranger looked star­tled that I even had to ask.

Then more white-haired men turned up, sur­round­ing Dad, and a sort of mass Som­er­set­ing occurred: “‘Ow be, boy?” “Bloody hell, ‘ow be, Dave?”, “Gin­ger!”, repeat.

Mum had to explain what was going on. These were the boys Dad grew up with on a coun­cil estate in the coun­try­side, all pre­fabs and con­crete, built to house muni­tions work­ers dur­ing World War II. They had spent the 1960s being tear­aways togeth­er, steal­ing cars, start­ing bands, start­ing fights… All of them were now 70 or more years old, some of them still liv­ing on the estate.

It turned out that although Dad hadn’t seen most of them in years, even decades, they had been keep­ing tabs on his move­ments and had dis­cussed him from time to time in their reg­u­lar meet-ups at The Foun­tain.

It was weird to see Dad act­ing like a teenag­er again, laugh­ing as he remem­bered the time he and his pals tried to make wine from rhubarb. I want­ed to take a pic­ture but didn’t dare dis­rupt the moment but it looked pret­ty much like this:

The Lads of the Village.

When we left the lads all took turns to tell Dad to drop into their reg­u­lar ses­sions more often than once every 20 years, and he said he would.

I won­der if he will.

5 thoughts on “Old Haunts #3: The Fountain”

  1. Nice piece. Isn’t that the one on the Quay? Was (or still is?) owned by Wadworth’s? Think that was the only pub in town I went in when liv­ing in Ched­zoy in the mid 90s.

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