Tuesday, 14 December 2010
The fifth element
To an Exmoor pub for the purpose of a review. The place is empty when we arrive about 12.30pm. There’s been heavy snow in the past few days and custom has been low. There’s a village but the houses are scattered (though enough folk support the pub for a darts team). We sit in the long bar, the landlord at the end folding napkins and the landlady behind the bar as we look at the menu. There’s no piped music, just our whispers as we debate what to have for lunch. It’s an old place high up on the moor, which must have seen some community action in the days when the snows came and people had no choice but to get to the pub. Through the window I can see three Landrovers draw up in the car park and a group of lads gather. The door opens, creaky, the birdsong of a latch returning to its catch, and in they come. Voices fill the place, we talk louder, the licensees become less withdrawn, after all they’re on the stage. The lads crowd around the bar, order their drinks — Guinness, coke, Carlsberg. Discuss the food, discuss the morning’s shooting and the place is transformed. The place feels warmer, friendlier. And the motto of this brief post? Sometimes it’s easy to forget in our search for the things that make the perfect pub — beers that baffle and buff up our lives, good grub that gets right to the heart of the matter, log fires whose flames curl and dance in the orange regions of the grate and pub gardens that resemble Eden in their spate of innocence — that people also make a pub: the fifth element.