Sunday, 17 May 2015

Bad apple in the barrel


I miss the good old days when I would come downstairs in the Fanny and Dick on a Sunday morning, and the place reeked of stale tobacco and farts. Now it just reeks of farts.

When the Beehive used to be a cider pub, the place permanently reeked of vomit, even if nobody had vomited - that's what 20 years of scrumpy-soaked carpet naturally smells of.

It all went back to the old pre-war days when every pub was divided into two - the public bar where swearing and work clothes were tolerated, and the lounge or 'snug' where neither were allowed. It was an unwritten rule that all lounge bars had to be carpeted in a shade of purple-red with swirly patterns, and after about a week of being laid, your feet stuck to it as you walked, making it that little bit more difficult to leave at closing time.

The carpets were never replaced until the actual floor showed through the wear in patches, and these patches were - of course - formed in the places of most traffic. The swirly purple would often induce vomiting in sensitive people who weren't even that drunk, so became a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, cider or no cider.

Dedicated cider pubs had - by definition -  a temporary clientele who just passed through over a relatively short period of about 30 years. Anyone who drinks nothing but scrumpy for that length of time is going to die prematurely, and they don't go quietly.

In the 1970s, The Beehive was just such a pub, and over 50% of its regulars were ex-pat Poles who had washed-up on the shores of Britain during or just after WW2. I actually shared a house with one of them, and his English vocabulary was limited to about a dozen words, most of them cider-related.

In the 1940s, he had been captured by the Soviet army and fought against the Germans. He was then captured by the Germans, and when they realised that his political allegiances were determined by who would give him the most food, he was enlisted in the German army and fought against the British.

He was eventually captured by the British army, and they too quickly understood that he was the living embodiment of the Good Soldier Svejk, so he was enlisted into the British army and fought against the Germans again.

At the end of the war, he somehow ended up in Bath, along with about 15 like-minded fellow countrymen, and they would get together every day and drink themselves to death in The Beehive, on their meagre military pensions.

They were very slow deaths, during which time you could almost hear the brain-cells bursting, and the transition between them having normal shaped and coloured noses to sporting lurid, great strawberries stuck in the middle of their faces was also slow, but very steady.

One by one, they mourned their fallen comrades until the youngest was left sitting in the pub on his own, unable to speak to anyone for lack of English. This was the one I shared a house with.

When he eventually succumbed to the scrumpy, it was my job to clear out his room. His life-posessions amounted to the clothes he wore every day of the year, and a cupboard-full of pornographic magazines.

The magazines surprised me, as I would not have thought him capable of even thinking about sex after that much cider.

After his death, The Beehive began to stock more beer and lost its cider reputation. When they did sell it, the stronger stuff was limited to half-pints only. They did not want to kill their own customers.

It is now a restaurant.


29 comments:

  1. Does The F and D have a nicotine coloured ceiling in the bar? I always used to think that that was the sign of a bar that you could trust.

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    1. Yes, but only because we have to paint it nicotine-coloured now. We use a Farrow and Ball hue called, 'Tortoise Scat'.

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  2. When I first met P he used to take me to Banham Cider House (it still exists 2 miles away from where I live) every Saturday night when I wasn't working in another pub, and every time we went I was sick when we got home, without fail.

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    1. That's what some people call a good night out, especially if there is fighting involved.

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    2. My bedroom carpet reeked like that of the Beehive.

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    3. Sounds as though it still might.

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    4. I eventually cut the carpet up with a carving knife and threw it out of the bedroom window and set fire to it in the garden. I then painted the wooden floor and found the vomit much easier to cope with. It was the fruit wines mixed with the cider that made me sick mostly, especially the strawberry.

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    5. A true Technicolor Yawn then. That's more information than I either wanted or needed.

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    6. I think you are being a trifle harsh on me here.

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    7. I once stayed in Chedzoy, Somerset with a boyfriend before P and we were in a scrumpy pub and I was only served a half, that was all the publican would allow strangers to have. The locals played skittles in a wooden bowling alley.

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    8. I've never heard of Chedzoy. There is a famous cider pub called 'Tucker's Grave'. It is/was like going into someone's living room in a small cottage. Proper old-fashioned arrangement for local piss-heads and sightseers.

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  3. Back when I still smoked my sister painted the ceiling of my room nicotine colored. I rather like it, but imagine I'll need to redo it to sell the house.

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    1. There is a little old pub here in Bath which used to have a ceiling which looked exactly like the top of a Creme Caramel pudding.

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  4. Did I ever visit the Beehive, not sure but probably. I used to visit The Appletree behind Peasedown St. John for a lunchtime Ploughmans and a pint or two of scrumpy.Have you heard this old rule re cider "Beer on cider and you'll rider her but Cider on beer will make thee queer (sick)" ?

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    1. Anyone who says they remember spending an evening in The Beehive probably didn't. Anyway, how come you are inviting me to comment on your blog supporting gay marriage in Ireland? I thought you had barred me from commenting on your blog.

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  5. If I visited the Beehive it would have been a lunchtime, for I would have been too drunk to drive from Paulton at night !

    Try, try again all worthy comments are allowed :)

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    1. How did you drive home?

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    2. Never mind that Rachel (stop hi-jacking), I wanted to say that I had no intentions of leaving any comments on his blog - worthy or otherwise, no matter who judged the worthiness.

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    3. Sorry but I couldn't help my spontaneous reaction to Heron's comment as it didn't make any sense. (It still doesn't).

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    4. Ever wondered how Melvyn got his nose broken?

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  6. Had a driver supplied to take me in to the office and to return me to home.

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    1. What a waste of someone else's money.

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    2. Better to pay my driver a living wage than waste it on a atom bomb - I believe ?

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    3. I'm checking for a " hey ho"
      Heron is soooooo lucky

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  7. I got the chap at the paint shop to tint me a colour for a ceiling once, instructed to look like someone had smoked in that room for years. From memory it was a white base with some ochre, red oxide and black. It looked champion with the terracotta walls (circa 1997)

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    1. Sounds about right. The big thing about tobacco smoke is that it does not reach right into the corners. The corners always stay clean. Best to remember that if you want authenticity.

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