QUICK POST: Gathered Round the Fire

The fire at the Farmer's Arms.

The Farmer’s Arms opened a bit late on New Year’s Day. Can an entire pub can have a hangover?

The weath­er had final­ly, at last, come cold, and we were hop­ing to find the fire lit. It was, just, but strug­gling along, with too much black­ened paper and damp wood refus­ing to catch.

One of the reg­u­lars, unlit roll-up in mouth, was try­ing to fix the prob­lem and engaged our friend in a dis­cus­sion about tac­tics. Even­tu­al­ly, he left her in charge.

We sat pitch­ing in advice as she moved some logs around to give the fire air. Between us, we spec­ta­tors retrieved a dry­ish log from the store under the bench and hacked it into small­er chunks with a pen-knife while she rolled some paper into twists. The paper went up, the wood steamed and then start­ed to black­en, and smoke was sucked away up the chim­ney. Con­fi­dent it was off and away our friend loaded the fire up and, for the next hour, kept a watch­ful eye, mak­ing occa­sion­al adjust­ments with the shov­el (the only imple­ment at hand) to keep the flames healthy.

We did­n’t mind when it cracked like a whip and spat sparks our way – that was all part of the plea­sure. Fires and the sea are two things we can stare at for hours, and if an open fire in a pub on a cold day is a joy, one you’ve had a hand in light­ing is ten times bet­ter again.

The pho­to is actu­al­ly from ear­ly Decem­ber and isn’t our finest work but you get the idea.

End of the Season

West Corn­wal­l’s sum­mer sea­son ends today.

It’s the last day we’ll be able to get Jel­bert’s ice-cream in New­lyn; muse­ums, gar­dens and some tourist-focused shops are switch­ing to win­ter hours or clos­ing alto­geth­er; and, most impor­tant­ly from our point of view, many pubs are sud­den­ly emp­ty.

Pubs which are designed for the hot, heav­ing days of August – huge build­ings with mul­ti­ple rooms, beer gar­dens, play areas and sev­er­al bars – are par­tial­ly closed. As the rain and fog set­tles, the lights are going out, and peo­ple are retreat­ing to the log-fire in the saloon.

We vis­it­ed a pub yes­ter­day which, when we last went, was so busy every table was reserved, all day. Yes­ter­day, the bar­man looked star­tled when we walked in. The clock was tick­ing, the fire was crack­ling, and he had been lost in thought, chin in hand.

We sat in the cor­ner of a pub designed to accom­mo­date more than two hun­dred peo­ple and had it to our­selves. The Over­look Hotel came to mind.

Our first win­ter out west is going to be an inter­est­ing one.