Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
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.