WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: AM
When I think of England, I think of rain, beauty, the tamed wilderness, the search and the aftermath, brooding and melancholia, oak panelled rooms, lush green gardens, rural and urban, summer breeze, the kettle and a pot of tea, browning toast on the Aga, children's laughter and carousels, G&T and Nick Drake's song River Man - "About things today and fallen leaves / Going to see the river man going to tell him all I can about the plan for lilac time / If he tells me all he knows about the way his river flows and all night shows in summertime" - weekends in the country, long walks across the fields, hopping over the stiles, followed by lunch at a good honest pub, washed down with a local ale or two, dogs allowed, muddy boots expected, roaring fire and great banter.
What I love more than anything about this focus of community life and great institution of British society, is that it is such a great leveller - all walks of life converge into the pub, from local landowners, to the falconer, from the local doctor to the church warden, everyone is welcome with or without their four legged friends. Not only does it offer a place of respite, it acts as a social hub within small communities as well, therefore offering to us outsiders a fascinating insight into village life and life in general, fulfilling a wonderful social function. Just imagine going to the pub means you don't have to organise to get together with folks that never show up, you just get down to your local and pick up where you left off or just hop into the conversation as it is unfolding, take a book if you like, no one will frown and by all means show up alone, you will be surrounded by folks in no time - so simple and yet so right.
Key to the success of the pub is often the landlord, after all the pub is for all intents and purposes an extension of his or her personality, with regulars developing such close and personal relationships in particular, conversations filled with harmless banter. Naturally the types of beers, bitters, stouts and ales on offer are also of utmost importance and failure to have the right ones can be the subject of many heated, yet jovial conversations both now and to come. Having the right snacks is naturally a must, some like crisps, others peanuts, twiglets too, whilst others adore the salty crispness of pork scratchings. Should you need a little more to sustain you, you can't go wrong with the good honest hearty food on offer in most pubs today, such as steak and ale pie, bangers and mash, fish and chips or a good old ploughman's - which usually involves a heavily laden chopping board, good bread, ham, pickle and three differently textured British cheeses - nothing more British than that, a picnic on a plate, followed by a gooey pudding or two, for sharing of course, really what could be better.
So next time you are in the British Isles make sure to spend some quality time in these eccentrically named establishments - such as Dog and Duck, The Hare, The Mute Swan, The Hog and Falcon, The Pig and Whistle etc - put the world to right with your new found friends, hell we may even see you there. Oh the joys of pub life.