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.