as this is a beer blog am not going to allocate too much space to my Dad and his situation. Partly to protect his privacy, but also because, ostensibly, he is neither a beer, nor a pub. I may be 50% beer by now, but Wee Fatha drinks less than me. And his favourite tipple these days is Whisky anyway...
Wee Fatha's mobility is becoming restricted ever more and he goes out less. One thing he does therefore like is just that. Going out. If it hadn't been writ large on his face all night it was certainly clear in his smile in the photos we took whilst on our jolly. That and a bottle of whisky from his untried list was the perfect birthday present.
Wee Keefy picked me up and we drove over to Wee Fatha's around 17.30 to head out to Bakewell, Monyash, Crowdecote, Longnor and finally on to Reapsmoor. WK had worried we may have arrived too early to pick up WF but we didn't leave until 18.10, and were booked in at the Butchers at 19.00. After a well driven trek across moorlands and through dales we arrived about 10 minutes late. Pulling up outside Ye Olde Butchers Arms Carl came out to welcome us, although he forgot that we were coming for WF's birthday, and closed the door behind me - luckily WF's glacial pace meant he hadn't yet reached the door....
Inside all three fires were lit and we got the big table facing the bar. Later diners sat in the room on the right, and as per previous visits, the room soon filled with smoke from the big old burner attached to the chimney - I meanwhile sat as far as I could from the raging fire next to me in case I set alight.
On the bar was one turned round pumpclip and two empty handpulls. The turned round one said Black Sheep bitter on it, but regular visitors will know that pump clips are a meaningless diversion at the Butchers. Much of the time Carl doesn't know what is on. If he does, or even if he doesn't, he doesn't share it with you. The beer was brown and bitter. It was well kept. It was £2.70 a pint, although the barman didn't know that. I had three pints.
We ordered food with Carl sat next to us - he asked WF what he wanted and was instructed that he just wanted a steak with a handful of chips and no veg or salad. I saw Carl write this down. He also said it was fine. When the meals came all three were piled high with chips, veg and salad. Carl said "thats ow we do um here mate, thats ow we alluss have". WF was not impressed but me and WK dipped into his chips and veg and Carl offered him the chance to take some home. Our meals were staggeringly large. As alluss.....
After fussing and feeding Thea and Sadie the two Alsations, WF slid off icily for a trip to the loo and me and WK got chatting to a couple nearby, and had more beer - well, I did, WK was on softs as he was driving. We didn't leave until nearly 21.30 and headed straight for the Royal Cottage. Alas the light outside wasn't on and the upstairs was so Cliff had clearly closed early. This just means that we will have to go back again...
Our final stop (I had hoped to visit the Packhorse at Crowdecote since its for sale, but that will also have to be next time) was at the Quiet Woman in Earl Sterndale. Being the first weekend of the month we figured it would be open, and it was. We found out that Ken is only two years younger than my Dad, and also some info which perhaps explained the food issue we had encountered at the Butchers earlier. There were three beers on and I had a pint of Wainwright, WK a half of Marstons Bitter and WF a half of Burton Bridge XL Mild.
I have observed before that Ken seems to be closing the pub slowly and laboriously, almost by default. He told us that Earl Sterndale had about 200 residents and they had 60 dogs. This makes his ban on dogs in the pub even less understandable. He also mentioned the lack of born and bred Earl Sterndalians in the village and suggested that many locals no longer came in. Disappointing as this obviously is, the beer already told the same story.
WF is no judge of off beer so I forgave him thinking the Mild was OK, the Bitter which is what I think Ken drinks, was fine, and the Wainwright was awful. I mean, I drank it, blending the sharp edges with the odd sweetness as if they were citrus and elderflower, but it was definitely not a good drink. I had to finish on a half of the Bitter. Did I mention it? No. I don't think there is any point. Not because Ken would contest the complaint, or refuse to replace the pint, but because I think its part of the subtle but noticable wresting free of the pub that seems to be happening, more obviously, every time we go. Am not 100% convinced I shouldn't have said something though.
Ken kindly came out with us as WF slowly and painstakingly shuffled off, his immobility and refusal to change somehow mirroring the steadfastedness of the excellent old pub. People in the village need to go in more often if the beer is to be maintained, and persons from outside of the area also need to visit more regularly. This is not going to put us off from going, not at all, it just makes us worry about the day in the not too distant future when we turn up and find the Quiet Woman quietly closed.
Next time I suggest we eat at the Packhorse, drink at Cliff's and finish in he Grapes at Longnor - maybe opening another chapter in our Moorlands supping story.
Your very good health