Sunday, 3 June 2012

Jubilee pubs


    the Diamond Jubilee has meant bunting and flags on pubs, plus festivals and other events in pubs this weekend. Its interesting because with the unfortunate associations that people make between patriotism and bigotry, more so with the Ingurrlish flag of the Israeli Saint George, the site of bunting and Union Jacks can sometimes be a bit off putting.

Add to this the rather vexatious issue of sovereignty and the monarchy and you have quite a few weighty issues attached to the way pubs are done out during the jubilee, but personally, irrespective of my feelings about Royalty, Jubilee flags on pubs means only one thing to me - the Vine Inn, Tunstall, Stoke On Trent.

Back in 2002 Wee Fatha was collecting firkins of real ale for Del at the Hillsborough Hotel. I was accompanying him on a jaunt round Cheshire picking up some Weetwood ales or similar, and I twisted his arm to drive us to the pub in Tunstall. I didn't have Internet at home or at work back then so information was very limited, and a good part of the visit comprised of trying to find the place. Once there it was quickly apparent why I'd wanted to go, and the effort had been worth it.

With only the address to go on, we stopped somewhere near Pitts Hill to ask directions, got some to Pitts Hill, and then stopped on Pitts Hill itself to find someone who knew where Naylor Street was. Luckily they did, because its off a little side street, and you can't see the pub from the road. We inched up the street in the van and pulled up just past the tiny back street gem which is the Vine, resplendent in flags and bunting for the Silver Jubilee.

I had rang earlier in the week and had one of those conversations that you only seem to have with the owners of redoubtable old boozers. Having taken a few goes to ascertain that it was the pub, I then enquired if it would be open at the time we would be in Tunstall. "Why do you want to know" came the puzzled response. I explained that the pub was on the National Inventory and I wanted to visit but needed to know ir would be open. Further questions followed about where I was coming from, and who I worked for, before I stated that in fact, I was a customer. Silence followed, then reiteration of opening times, and the lengthy process was finished.

Arriving at the pub it was busy and we just managed to grab a seat in the tiny bar room on the right. The interior of the pub is its draw, and it still retains three separate rooms. A long corridor led to the private kitchen, where I understand, one of the old ladies who owned the pub were sat.  Down the corridor on the left was the games room, with a hatch for service opposite. On the left as you entered was the lounge.

A not very good picture of the hatch and corridor.

This was the most unspoilt room in the pub. The lounge really was just that. Tables with tablecloths and mats, net curtains, period furnishings and a lot of older ladies sat nursing delicate drams of the spirit bars finest. Its a phrase you hear a lot about unspoilt pubs, that its like walking into someones house, but this room really was. It wouldn't have looked out of place if someone had brought in a pot of tea, popped on the radio and opened a pack of biscuits.

Back in the bar there was no real ale (still is) but there was keg Double Diamond on the bar, a novelty if not entirely enjoyable beer if nothing else. Unfortunately, our stay was short, as we had to get the beer back to Hillsborough, and this coupled with how busy the pub was prevented me from taking any photo's whilst I was there. I did get one or two when I visited in 2009 though.

The Vine is an amazing example of an unchanged back street pub, and I highly recommend a visit - bunting or no bunting. And no matter whether I get to go again or not, I'll still remember how it looked decked out red white and blue in 2002.

There is a link to the CAMRA heritage pubs website page for the pub here . The photo's are far better.....


Wee Beefy

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