December, like it was in 1997..ahem.

A few more extracts from the 1997 enhanced diary …I’m living in hope of finding something about the apocalypse somewhere, which reads stranger than actually doing it..sorry about the lack of updates, if people send me stuff, or would like to register and put their Chas memories here, then go for it.

Picture of a snowman saying "I'm always flaked out before christmas"a fanatic is someone who won't change his mind or the subject.what a load of old cobblers...

 

Pub Ahoy!

Here we go back to when ‘Britannia Ruled the Waves.’ Naturally our Nautical History and navigational skills are reflected in our Pubs.

Not only the sea is involved – we are an island full of rivers, lakes, estuaries and man made canals and waterways. And anything that floats has a Pub connection.

A rich compendium of words anchors it all together. Do you know a ketch from a yawl? Or who will win the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race ? Can you scull in a skiff and where is the best Pub to ‘Push the Boat Out ?’ Our choice for this would be Norfolk.

‘Push the Boat Out ?’ Our choice for this would be Norfolk.

The Albatros

Picture of the AlbatrosSo Norfolk is where we start in the bustling little harbour town of Wells-Next-the-Sea. Here you will find The ALBATROS – the curious spelling comes about because this is a Pub on a boat of that name. Not just any old boat but an 1899 North Sea Clipper. Moored at the Quayside it is easy to spot the high masts. Full of atmosphere and nautical history it has much else to offer. It can be booked by bands, there is much in the way of food and you can eat Dutch Pancakes on deck. It is larger than it looks and below decks the holds no longer have to hold goods to be transported. Plenty of room for cask ale.

Now to keep our findings in shipshape order and not drift into uncharted waters we shall cast off with our most admired admirals.

Lord George ANSON. 1697-1762

In 1740 he was given a squadron of 6 ships to have a go at the Spanish, in the Pacific manned mostly by Greenwich Hospital Pensioners. By the time they reached a rendezvous at Juan Fernandez Island he had only three ships left. By 1743 only his beloved Ship CENTURION had survived – and with this he captured a Spanish Galleon and returned with what turned out to be 32 wagon loads of treasure.

IPub sign of the Ship Ansonn 1745 he defeated the French at Finistere and his prestige was further enhanced when he completed his best seller ‘VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD’ which featured his travels in the CENTURION between 1740-44. It outsold Daniel Defoe’s ROBINSON CRUSOE.

He became a first Lord of the Admiralty and instigated many dockyard reforms.
ANSON ARMS and other Pubs bearing his name are sprinkled in locations from Manchester to Yarmouth but our choice of Pub goes to The SHIP CENTURION in the High Street of Pub sign of a centurionWhitstable in Kent. A fine nautical Pub in a seaside town to match, with its own bay. A Free House well known for hospitality, choice of beers, festooned with hanging baskets of flowers in season this 3-storey Victorian building is full of Whitstable History and memorabilia.. TAKE A VOYAGE ROUND THE PUB.

Sadly, the sign writer settled for the Romans, but we also have the The Ship Anson in Portsmouth, Hants, which does depict our head.

ADMIRAL John BENBOW. 1653-1702

‘Oh, Benbow lost his legs, by chain-shot, by chain-shot,
Down on his stumps did fall and so loud for mercy called,
“Oh fight on my British Tars,
It is my lot, It is my lot” ‘……..

And so in 1702 after a 5 day running battle against the French in the Caribbean the valiant Admiral became a theme for balladeers as he departed from life.

A Shropshire man, he seemed popular all over the country and quite a few Pubs bear his name, but one of the most popular is The ADMIRAL BENBOW at Penzance in Cornwall. It is a protected building of solid whitewashed granite dating from the 1600’s. It had extra protection from a smuggler with a flintlock pistol lying along the roof ridge as some sort of look out. You are quite safe – he is only an effigy.

At one time the Pub had a whole museum attached to it and if this has gone there is enough smuggling and nautical memorabilia to drink in or get wedged in during the tourist season.

Robert Blake – (1599 – 1657)

The word Admiral comes from the Arabic meaning ‘Commander of The Sea’. When it was first used by the British as a Commander of a Fleet I am not sure – but BLAKE must have been one of the first to take this title on board.

As a Cromwell supporter he had served in the Long Parliament, became a general in the Civil War and was then transferred to run things at sea. Here he could use his ships to harry Royalists along the coast and on off shore island strongholds. He also shattered the fleet of Prince Rupert before it could arrive to support the King Charles.

Then came the first Dutch War from 1652 – 4 where he did very well and in 1655 he put paid to a fleet of Turkish pirates.

Finally it was off to the Spanish West Indies with a victory at Santa Cruz but on returning he died of a fever contacted there.

There is still we hope a BLAKE ARMS in Bridgewater, Somerset the town where he was born, and the house he was born in should still be a museum. Sadly Bridgewater seems to be a town that does not have a single Pub mentioned in any of the major Pub Guides. It has been ignored or by-passed by The Camra Good Beer Guide, The Alistair Aird Good Pub Guide, the AA Pub Guide, The Michelin Pub Guide and The Sawday Pubs and Inns. All for the year 2010.

With no funding or access to a time travel machine we cannot instantly beam ourselves to Somerset. It is a county which I have paid quite a few visits to over the years – yet never to Bridgewater. Perhaps there is a time warp of some sort.

There may still be an ADMIRAL BLAKE in London, I have stuck pins in maps which should be a slight improvement on needles in haystacks. There may also be a BLAKES HEAD left in Sheffield. Who can tell?

Lets see if we can fare better with ADMIRAL BLAKENEY.

Painting the walls…

The walls in ‘The Hub’ were decorated with some interesting work.

this was in the hall too, I vaguely recollect the story behind why this was done, but not quite sure..

picture of old style motorbike racer

this still looked good many years on - enhanced for your viewing..

Strand adverts…

One of the highlights of Chas’ library in the Hub was the collection of the The Strand, filled with much inadvertent hilarity in the small ads…here’s a selection, I’ll be posting some more another time…Healthy Brathing from the AirLearn to write AdvertisementsMrs SA Allen's World's Hair Restorer

The Frothblower

Photo: © Howard Fitzgerald

The Doom, Gloom and Wailing Press do not like any good news. Yes – binge drinkers do infest High Streets in many towns. These sad souls do not have any interest in cask ales or traditional pubs, who would not want to serve them anyway.

‘There won’t be any pubs soon; they are all closing at the rate of 20 a week’ is the most common moan of the media misinformed. Yes, pubs are closing, but what you are not told is that many of them re-open under new ownership and refurbishment. The danger is if the license is not retained and they pass on to private development.

There is an ongoing battle against this sort of thing with the PUB is the HUB campaign and investment in community pubs. Also heritage and historic protection.

The cask ale revolution does not seem to interest the media, and the fact is that there are now 700 micro-breweries in action.

Great swathes of the oblivious public remain in ignorance and beer festivals up and down the land are not newsworthy. Who wants to report events where happy humans enjoy themselves in large numbers without falling over, fighting, being sick or causing any kind of trouble. How boring is that?

Cask ale drinkers can’t buy draught beer in supermarkets as they have no facilities or expertise for dispensing any such thing.

~oOo~

Gordon Brown waffles on about the essence of being English. We prefer the word British as this means we can still have a United Kingdom.

The answer to what binds us together is staring him in the face if he ever took the trouble to look at an Inn sign.

If he ever ventured inside a pub he would not only find answers, but also what real people thought about him and his policies. He could always scuttle off to the gents to avoid buying a drink for anybody. Once there he could gloat over all the tax raised through licensing laws.

Once upon a time politicians bribed voters with drinks in inns. They have also served as polling stations.

Why the Frothblower?

Well, once upon a time in a Yorkshire village pub I remember a stalwart lad gazing in admiration at the head on his beer. They like a lot of froth in Yorkshire and fit devices called sparklers on their hand pumps, consisting of a restraining screw which restricts the flow and builds up extra froth. In the South we are content with a few bubbles. I have no problem with either. It does not affect the taste.

two drunk men at a tableFor some unknown reason there was a Londoner in the pub; some sort of travelling salesman in a suit and tie. He was being very irritating.

‘Cor – you ain’t arf got a big ‘ead – Wotcher gonna do with that then? Use it to shave with?’ The sturdy lad in shirtsleeves made no reply. He just took a deep breath and blew. WHOOOOSH, the cockney smart arse was dripping in froth. Crestfallen he took the resulting laughter with aplomb and added to it by saying ‘There’s no answer to that’ and went back to sipping his whisky and water.

The splendid Pub Sign was discovered in Salisbury by my recruited friend Howard. I first met Howard at Cambridge. Not in an educational capacity but on a coach trip, when he joined forces and added camera power as I pubologised. He has remained a stalwart ever since and many of his fine shots are in our archives.

Pub Lore

Angels

It is a known fact that Angels adore Pubs. They appear on Pub Signs and I know I have come across some disguised as bar staff.

Many Country Pubs have an affinity to the local church and churchyards are full of stone angels. When we see them weeping draped over tombstones I feel it is only fair to drink to the memories of the dear departed even if we have little idea of who they were.

Do you know where your nearest Angel is?

~oOo~

Arms, Heads & Legs

These appear on Pub signs everywhere. What is it all about? It goes back a long way to the days when everyone who thought they were Someone wanted a Coat of Arms. It did not stop there. Trades and Guilds also wanted them. Royalty and the Famous like their heads to be depicted too – it was a status symbol. Even if they were not particularly popular.

It seems early generations of British artists and craftsmen did not go in for landscapes or painting cherubs in churches – it was mostly meticulous designs of a Heraldic nature. With ornate lettering very much a form of graphic art.

So where do the legs come in? Animals of course, from the mythical and fearsome to the commonest countryside creatures. Where would Coats of Arms be if they did not include Dragons, Griffins, Unicorns, Bears, Lions, Bulls and down the scale to Hares, Hounds, Foxes, Otters, Birds, to Hedgehogs and even Grasshoppers. All creatures Great and Small.

Does this serve a purpose today? Absolutely. The Great ARMS, HEADS & LEGS Game. If your idea of car travel is motorways forget it. This is for highways, byeways, minor roads, lanes and twisty roads where Pub signs are much in evidence. It is an antidote against boredom and can be enjoyed by grown ups and children.

Left hand passengers take left side of road, Right hand the right side. You can only score from Pubs on your side. Quite simple. You score one point for every arm, head and leg you can. Some signs are non pictorial – So a Kings Head with no picture will still earn you one point, or a Whatsit Arms two points. And two points for any other non-illustrated sign.

So a King in full pose with arms, head and legs visible is five points. The fun comes when you get to a Coach & Horses. How quick can you count all the visible legs etc.? This gives drivers a chance to slow down for speed cameras.

I have in the past used this game for very successful fund raising for charity. You need a worthy cause, some stalwart volunteers, a mini bus and driver. First priority is Benefactors to donate prizes. If your cause is worthwhile you will find reputable firms can be very generous with donations if you approach them properly and include them as sponsors on the forms you will need to run off. State Charity and ‘Guess How Many ARMS, HEADS & LEGS we visit tonight (Date).’ Many prizes to be won etc. 10p a Go or whatever it is you wish to charge, with provision on form for name amount Telephone No. etc.

Select an area of good family pubs, especially a well advertised starting venue and go for it. You don’t know how many pubs you will reach in the time you have. If you find an apathy Pub move on swiftly, if you are doing well don’t be in any hurry to move. The assumption is that you will aim for a high number. Punters will over calculate. It really does no matter. Some customers will rush outside to look at the sign of the Pub they are in. It all adds to the fun. Properly organized it is far more rewarding than a sponsored walk.

~oOo~

Balls

British Pubs have always liked well rounded things.

It probably goes back to the times when it was more or less agreed that the earth was no longer flat or pear shaped, but round and The Globe became popular as a Pub name. This would give the impression that the Pub was a worldwise sort of place even if the landlord and most of his customers had hardly been beyond the village boundary. The situation was improved in towns and ports where globetrotters could return from far away places and find good audiences for their tales and experiences.

There is also the British capacity for inventing or participating in games involving balls, such as cricket, football, skittles, billiards, golf and tennis. Even egg shaped balls for Rugby. All of these have had strong Pub connections and still do.

The sign for a pawnbroker was three brass balls, and there are Pubs called the Golden Ball, and the Blue Ball as these were popular colours for almost anything.

~oOo~

The diary of 1997 – enhanced by Chas

I came to London in 1997, and I had been living with Chas, oh maybe 2 years at that time, enjoying the time with the best landlord I’d had that was a good friend. As a leaving gift, (well I think it was a leaving gift) he presented me with a diary filled with moments of pure Chas enhanced joy, which I will attempt to scan in and upload for your pleasure.

A section from a Chas enhanced 1997 diary

This is pure genius.