When I was seven years old, my family lived in Kent. They didn’t live there when I was six, nor when I was eight, but my entire seventh year was spent in Kent. It was the 1970s and, although our sojourn in the Garden of England was only a brief one, this period holds for me some of my earliest memories of going to the pub. My parents had never been regular pub-goers but, for whatever reason, the move to Kent coincided with a change in their drinking habits and, at that time, the choice of pub had two distinct themes: coast or country.
Our coastal pub of choice was the Miramar at Beltinge. My memories are of a long, lawned pub garden, which provided my playground while my parents drank inside. Unmindful of future concerns surrounding Health and Safety, the end of the pub garden fell away directly to the tall, sea cliffs, for which Beltinge is famous. Miramar was aptly named. I spent many happy evenings playing on the edge of the fragile precipice overlooking the sea, blissfully ignorant of the “collapse of ‘53”; unaware of the subsidence notices; unable to see into a future where the precariousness of the landscape would force the eventual closure of the Miramar, its place of perilous proximity now occupied by a nursing home. Go figure!
My drink de jour was a pineapple juice, which seemed hopelessly exotic, while my parents favoured Double Diamond. Sometimes at the weekend, we would treat ourselves to something from the pub menu. The choice was either chicken in a basket or scampi in a basket, but either meal was an extravagance of royal proportions, rendered even more of a novelty by arriving in its faux-raffia plastic tray.
My memories of the precise name and location of our preferred country pub are hazier, because we always arrived there after dark, and the drive seemed tortuous and interminable, deep into the heart of the Kentish hinterland although, in reality, it was probably no more than four or five miles distant from our home. If I had to give a best-guess of the pub we visited, I would say it was the Gate Inn at Marshside. The fact that I only recall this pub in darkness, whereas the Miramar is always blazed in light, might also suggest that this was our preferred pub for autumn and winter evenings, where the Miramar represented spring and summer.
Once again, I was obliged to find my entertainments outside the pub itself. I would watch the old local men play quoits; the harsh percussive clang of metal ring striking metal pole becoming less and less frequent as the evening progressed and the consumption increased.
Here, the solitary item on the menu was a Ploughman’s, which I was never sure that I liked, excepting the pickled onion, which was manna from heaven.
One other regular was a friendly and scruffy black Scottie dog, who was similarly forced to share my alfresco fate. His owner was a large, shambling woman dressed in manly woollens and who stank pervasively of the neighbouring pig farm. She would always take her regular spot indoors close to the wood fire, always succeeding in creating an olfactory exclusion zone around her within minutes of her sitting down.
© Beery Sue
Beery Sue gets a bit nostalgic for the good-old-bad-old days.