The village pub
The loud “yerr”ing of the 3 regulars sat at the bar fizzles out into a suspicious stare as we mind our heads on the way in. In London, pubs tend to have a few token ales and a plethora of lagers. Here the clear fizzy beer is not for general consumption; the chrome on the tap is pitted from lack of pouring. This is a cider and ale pub; flat, cloudy, westcountry cider and ale.
They read us a mile off. “Oh, you’ve been at Pilton have you?” Everyone above a certain age in the west country seems to insist on calling it “Pilton”, like some kind of in-the-know clique. Call it “Glastonbury” and you’re clearly a tourist. Luckily I grew up here, so I can talk the talk. I know the double barreled place names and can banter about how bad the traffic through Shepton Mallet was. This seems to win us favour. They’ve relaxed a bit and are quietly “yerr”ing again as I joke about the idiot Londoners we saw that didn’t bring proper wellies.
We get offered backshelf cider. There are 20 haphazardly perched plastic cider barrels along the back of the bar. All manner of varieties ranging in flavour from paint stripper to nail varnish remover. These 3 regulars seem like they might be the only regulars and they’re all drinking ale, so it doesn’t seem surprising that most of the cider has a stale vinegary tang to it. After a few samplers, we go with the barman’s recommendation and get the perry. It’s sickly sweet but delicious.
After 15 minutes sat outside minding our own perry, one of the regulars comes to join us. He introduces himself as Simon as he places a filter in his mouth and thumbs a rizzler out of the packet.
“So you lads been at Pilton then. I used to go there when I were a youngin. Saw Oasis a few year back. Muddier than normal they say it were this year.”
He seems pretty pleasant. The usual friendly, happy, west country type. He says he’s from the next village over (which is a good 4 miles away). I ask him why he doesn’t go the pub over there.
“Banned in’t I!”
“Pub got bought by these London types that come down here.”
“New landlady don’t like me.”
“All started when she refused to serve me beer in my tankard.”
“Trying to be all London and fancy. Not drinking my ale outta one of those tall glasses.”
“I ordered a steak in there. They’d cooked it all bloody in the middle. Can’t be eating that. So I gave it to the dog.”
“When she came to get my plate she asked me how it was. So I says ‘well the dog liked it’”
“Next thing I know, I’m banned.”
“Anyway, night after I goes back there with the lawn mower can and pour some petrol through the letterbox. Shoved a note through saying ‘Next time they’ll be a match!’”
“Ten year ago, there would have been a match. But I got a little nipper to worry about now, so can’t be doing that no more.”
By this point Mike and I are nodding profusely and agreeing. Clearly Simon is not the kind of person you want to fall out with. I start trying to talk as west country as possible; don’t want to let slip that I live in London now. It seems to work. He’s included us in his west-country clique.
“Yeah Simon. Stupid Londoners coming down here…”
Despite having to tip-toe around the odd psychopathic near-arsonist, this pub is actually rather great. It’s the idyllic country-side setting of a fizzing cider advert, without there being a drop of the strawberry-flavoured, fizzy apple piss that they’re trying to sell you in sight. No wanky gourmet burgers or shoulder-to-shoulder drinking amongst the after work crowd. This is what pubs should be. Relaxed, unpretentious and the odd friendly psychopath for conversation.