Saturday, February 8, 2014

the swan

This swan hovers outside the pub at the top of my parents' road - a piece of rather menacing metalwork.  It never used to be there - for decades there was a perfectly non-remarkable painted sign of a swan on some stretch of non-flooded river, but I didn't register the change.  On the frame it claims that this is a "traditional public house," which raises a lot of questions.  Traditional in what way?  Traditional in that it holds pub quizzes, and has a huge-screen TV for football and rugby matches, and serves a "traditional" English Sunday lunch with Yorkshire Pudding?  "Traditional" in that it belongs to the new tradition of belonging to some company - rather than being in the fiefdom of a brewery (or an independent pub, known as a "free house"?  At least it's not been renamed something faux-English, like the Gosling and Gooseberry.

For whatever reason, this was always somehow considered the more downmarket of the two pubs at the top of the road (probably because of the quality of the beer, in my father's mind).  He was much more of a King of Denmark regular - now demolished, and replaced by a block of apparently hard-to-sell overpriced apartments.  The KofD also had a rather sweet little beer garden at the back, with lots of hanging geraniums.  Once the King closed, however, and before pubs refused to allow smoking in them - something that sent my father back into his man-hut garage with his pipe and pint - he used to sit in here in the early evening, and sometimes if, as today, I was coming back from the British Library around 6.15 I used to join him for a quick drink.  Now it seems occupied by a very young and loud crowd, and is about as far away from being a "traditional pub" as could be, without turning into something onto which no one could ever slap such false labeling.

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