Wednesday 12 August 2009
We are scum
To the Pilchard Inn on Burgh Island in Devon, overlooking the spit of sand that adjoins it to the mainland when the tide is out. An old inn, full of character I think, white-washed walls with the name standing out, the chance of a couple of pints in between body boarding and rock-pooling. Hello, what’s this, a queue for the bar, which I being essentially polite, join — after all there is South Hams’ XSB on and also something from Exeter Brewery (not world-beaters but at least they’re supporting local brewers, which is good and I don’t really expect this pub to have something from Schonram on tap, mind you they have San Miquel if you want to pretend you are in Spain).
Finally served by an unsmiling woman who presumably doesn’t like all these people from ‘off’ in her pub. There’s another bar at the back and so I go and have a look. A lovely sign says ‘reserved for guests and regulars’. Guests means those who can afford to stay at the Art Deco hotel that dominates one side of the island, while regulars I assume means some old sea salt who is wheeled out for the guests to talk to and make them feel they have had a brush with real life before returning to their Art Deco surroundings to throw peanut shells at the plebs shuffling about on the island.
The pub is a real disappointment, it presumably needs the service of those off the beach who fancy a pint, but it doesn’t want to infect the whole of its premises with them. It’s not a real public house then, it’s a facsimile, a virtual pub — I got more of a welcome in the Edwardian boozer that they transplanted to the Beamish Open-Air Museum in the north-east (barmaid in bustles, old Youngers signs, coal fire in the winter) than I did to this nose-wrinkling, handkerchief waving away, scowling place. Any port in a storm and all that but next time I do some body boarding on Bigbury beach I’ll settle for a bottle of Quercus ale from the excellent Venus Beach Cafe on the unwashed side of the beach.
The pub is lovely, the beer is good, the situation on a hot day heavenly, but this slice of suburban apartheid really sticks in my craw. So there.