I fancied a little romp of writing fun and so flicked through the ancient pages of the copy of Roget’s Thesaurus I always have next to my desk with the aim of picking a word and then writing something on it— and so as if by the kind of magic we once used to enjoy as part of our lives, expectation jumped out, a choice as easy and decisive as a lion immediately deciding that the biped in front of him was just right for supper.
So here is expectation — and what I thought of was a trip to The Bridge Inn in Topsham before Christmas, where a brewer friend and I would be subjecting several pints to our benevolent gaze. This is one of my favourite pubs, a place where I feel at home, a place where I’ve never had a bad glass of cask and a place where I feel comfortable whether I’m sitting with a book or chatting away about nothing in particular (usually with other people, I don’t think I’d feel happy holding a noisy conversation with myself).
So where does expectation fit in? Here goes: I was early, 10 minutes before the opening time of 6pm (the pub keeps old school hours). I stood in the darkened car park, looking out northwards, watching the light of an approaching plane to Exeter airport and then turned to the pub, which was still dark.
Then, happily, lights began to appear, a figure moved behind the window, and all of a sudden I felt this sudden expectation of opening time, of how much I looked forward to the first pint of the evening, and of the comfort and wood-fire warmth of the parlour where I would drink my pint. What beers would be on? Let there be a beer as strong as the hammer arm of a blacksmith, as bitter as Vermouth and as dark as the reed beds and river that lay just beyond the pub. My expectations went into overdrive and my mood (it was midwinter and I was very much in a cocooning mood) suddenly changed — I was looking forward to the evening.
I always feel an expectation and anticipation of the first pint in a pub, especially in one such as the Bridge Inn. There is familiarity but there is also a sense of wonder in what the evening will bring, beyond the beers that you will drink. Who will you talk with, what stories will you hear, what feeling of warmth and belonging with be engendered? And how many pints will be sufficient unto the day thereof? That’s the meaning of expectation.