19th October, 2018
A change of scenery today. I’ve driven about an hour and a half from Bungay, across Suffolk and into Cambridgeshire to The Black Horse in Dry Drayton. As I turned down the lane, at the end of which the pub and a village primary school are situated, my heart swelled. The pub is a beautiful building: freshly decked in white, four dormer windows along the roof line, and a yellow rose bush creeping up around the door. The white against the blue of the sky on a perfect Autumn day was, to me, a little slice of Arcadian England.
Colin and Amanda opened the new Black Horse in May. The pub had been closed for 18 months prior to this, and they’d renovated it for nine months before opening night. Colin and Amanda have breathed lightness and life into this place. The pub has more of a cafe feel these days. The tables are a light or painted wood and there’s a beech floor. Exposed dark oak beams in the bar room tell of the building’s heritage but otherwise it feels very modern, with cakes on the driftwood style bar alongside the drafts of Birra Moretti, Broadside and Fosters.
“The days of the old boy at the bar all night nursing a pint of mild are over,” Colin tells me as he makes me a coffee on his impressively shiny barista machine. Amanda joins us, she says that they have a lot of customers who make the ten minute walk over from the town of Bar Hill, and that things are going well.
They know what will make this place work – coffee, food, light, and community. I’m as guilty as anyone for romanticising the murk of the old English pub, but the truth is there’s nothing very romantic about drinking warm flat beer all day in the sour air of a place that’s not had a paint job since 1963. We’ve got shit to do, and when we do go out it’s good to know we can have a coffee, or a decent meal, and breathe.
I am reminded, talking to Colin and Amanda, what it is that attracts me to pubs. It isn’t the aesthetic of the old boozer. As much as I love that aesthetic, it’s what it recalls that I love. Pubs are about community, about the populace sitting together of an evening or afternoon, and not cordoned off into their own little houses. Pubs are proof of society. Proof that we might all be in this together.
So far Colin and Amanda have had quit nights and live music, and on 1st November they’ll have a fine young poet performing his wares. Me. That show is at 8pm, and it’s free.
I made good progress on the poem yesterday, perhaps I’ll finish today. I’ve got an hour before The Black Horse closes for a couple of hours. To work!