My father and I were reminiscing about pubs we used to frequent in Reading, and I got to thinking about a post for the blog. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a drink problem. Ever since I was a child (yes I know it’s hard to imagine), I would be taken to pubs. We had locals; we had one off visits whilst on holiday. The fact was lunches when out and about would almost always been taken in some pub somewhere.
Pre-liking alcohol age
Being dragged up in Crippled Alice (aka Crystal Palace), we had a few local hostelries over the years. The main one was also the nearest, a pub in the basement of a large hotel at the top of my road. This pub was very un-child friendly, having a dingy back room and a pool table for visiting kinder. We had a better choice down the road. We’d go to a pub some mile or so from home, near my old primary school, called the Beulah Spa. Back in the days of real pubs, and not some harvester with a bar, this pub had a huge beer garden. The garden had bushes and trees all around it, and this allowed kids to run around with hidey holes, whilst the parents supped their Carling or G&T. I remember the rare treat of having a Coke in a real bottle with a straw, and a bag of ready salted crisps. The garden was infested with pigeons, and they soon got to know that if you held your hand out flat with crushed up crisps, they’d get merrily stuffed.
Experimenting with Alcohol…
Being of the age where I could get served (believe it or not as young as 15), we’d adjourn to any pub that would serve us. The main one was, curiously enough, the Queen’s Hotel basement pub again. The local constabulary came to know that this pub was regularly feeding the young alcoholics of the area, and would pay us a visit every 2 or 3 weeks. This was normally counteracted with the swift swapping of drinks so the underage looking drinkers would end up with soft drinks and the legit ones not drinking alcohol would end up with pints. Eventually they closed the bar down. No idea why.
Moving to Reading
To live out my latter teenage years I moved to Reading with my father. Now pubs were very commonplace in my life. We’d be there most evenings and every weekend. The local of choice to start off with was the Packhorse, a delightful country pub right on the outskirts of Reading. The problem was it was some 6 miles from home, and only a couple of pints could be had, so we had to find somewhere closer. Some 3 miles away was the New Inn, a nice quiet pub with a hell of a good beer garden for the hot summer of 1989. Once again it was too far, so we moved again, this time to the infamous Traveller’s Rest, less then a mile from home. I’d started working a lot until late, and my father was away more staying in Hemel Hempstead with his third wife-to-be. We’d only grab a quick half before closing there, but as time grew on, we’d spend more and more time there. I was interested in the barmaid (I can’t even remember her name, Denise I think…), but my father was more then interested in the landlady. Joy was a Dorian from Birds of a feather look-alike, and it was dreadfully apparent even though she was married (to a boxing referee I hasten to add), he’d taken each and every opportunity to play hide the pork sausage. Eventually the truth will out, and we were both asked to leave. Hardly surprising really.
Now with new friends, I was out and about and my favourite was the pub called Piper’s Island, a famous pub right in the middle of the Thames. I’d been dating a young girl called Lucy who worked there, and we’d made friends with all the local staff. It was a very cool pub, and many (many many) nights I would be crawling home after much to much of the amber nectar.
Leaving the area, I spent some time travelling the country, before settling in Essex for college and work. One of my nearest pubs was a delightful wine bar type hostelry with sexy barmaids and good beer, called Hickory’s. Admittedly I didn’t get to spend much time in Hickory’s, only having 2 nights off a week, but I made up for it on my nights there. They had Fosters Export, and I even had my own glass. The landlord was a genuinely nice guy, and when it came to my 21st birthday, he offered me the whole pub, as long as I pay the staff wages. The pub was best known as *the* place to have a few beers before moving onto a club, and so local Essex Girls, clad in white mini-skirts and boob tubes, would be there each and every night ready to be plied with white wine and a single red rose. The landlord sold up, and I never really found a local in Southend again…
Heading back to the land of my fathers…
Finally settling in South Wales in 1996, my father had returned from the US for a few months. He’d been out and about and (typical of him) had sniffed out a nice friendly pub some 5 minutes from my humble abode, called the Gough Arms. As I visited with him (purely to keep him company you understand), I also got to know Viv and Sue, the hosts. I continued drinking there for the next 4 years, even designing a website for them, and spending my millennium eve there. It was taken over by a local opinionated ignoramus, and I soon stopped going there. I didn’t really have another local, but would be found in another village pub, the Pen-Y-Bont, run by the now separated Viv. I still go there each and every Christmas day, knowing a very warm and personal welcome is guaranteed. I still have no real local but if I decide I fancy a pint, I now visit the “hotel,” another pub run by Viv’s brother and family. It’s too far really to walk each and every day, but summer times can be nice to walk home in the rapidly setting sun, up the 800 foot ridge back to my village.
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