Monday, 4 June 2012

Breakfast of Champions

Another poster by Stanley Donwood.  The subject matter for this one has a twofold meaning for the pub - the whole of the South West including (on occasion) Bath is renowned for the production of cider, and the pub has recently brought in a whole range of specialist, local ciders for the delectation (and ruin) of it's customers throughout the summer months.

I personally hate cider, though I like the idea of it.  If I drank one or two pints of cider of an evening like I do beer, then I would be even madder (insane, for you Californians) than I am right now.

When I first arrived in Bath about 40 years ago, I was taken straight to a pub called 'The Beehive' to be given an authentic taste of West Country life in the form of three pints of cloudy, rough cider which tasted - and looked - a little bit like the vomit of someone who had recently drunk the equivalent in vinegar.

All was fine (too fine, actually) for about three hours, then the following twelve hours were spent in recovery.  I have never drunk it since, though I am told that production methods have come a long way since they used to throw a dead rat into the vat to speed up the fermentation process.

If I had taken the trouble of looking around when I set foot into The Beehive, then I would have been given an overt warning as to the dangers of cider consumption.  About 70% of the clientele consisted of elderly, Polish men with extremely red noses and eyes to match - eyes which seemed not to focus on anything in particular, so that one could not be sure that all the shouting in a Slavic language was directed toward you or someone else in the room.  None of them - without exception - could speak English at all.

Upon enquiry, I learnt that these Poles had washed up in Britain as prisoners of the Second World War, and - having discovered the delights of rough cider - either showed no desire to return to their loved-ones in their home country, or just forgot that they ever had any loved ones or home country at all.

Of course, they all died off one by one over a period of about 10 years since I first saw them, and I have to say that I actually miss them.  They were so unconditionally friendly.

I ran into the final remaining one (he with the strongest constitution) late one night as I was walking home through Queen Square on a warm, summer evening.  He was shouting at me and beckoning into the trees which line the square.  I knew he was shouting at me, because there was no one else but me and him on the streets at 2.00 a.m. - not like these days.

I crossed the road and approached him, thinking there might be a cat stuck in the branches, and he - somehow understanding that I was not Polish by a process of deduction based on the premise that all Poles but him were now dead; meaning that in all probability, I could well be English - started shouting,  "MOON!  MOON!  MOON IN TREE!  HELP GET OUT!", and falling around in helpless laughter.

I looked up, and from his viewpoint saw the big full moon, seemingly entangled in the branches of the Plane tree.

The cider had not completely destroyed the poet in the old man.


  1. I remember seeing road signs, down your way, showing a winding road with the legend 'Beware Scrumpy'.