In praise of pubs!

I’ve been to the moon and back this week. Well, if you want to be pedantic, technically it was London – and a spin in the Apollo simulator at the Science Museum.

But it was a proper 3D version of the moon, so you saw up close its grey white dusty surface. And when we made our return to earth and were parachuted into the sea, you could feel the rush of cold air, spray of water – like the real thing, only a lot cheaper, and no need to put on those funny suits, just a pair of dodgy glasses.

The Science Museum really is fantastic value for money. Well actually it’s free and you can’t get better value than that – not when you can see so many clever, historic, technical, fascinating, mind-boggling, impossible to understand things in one afternoon, under one roof.

Being in London also gave the chance to appreciate many other aspects of life that you don’t get in a rural Devon village. Hyde Park for example – a fabulous open space, that I ran round one morning after breakfast, clocking up six miles, whilst revelling in the scenery and architecture around me.

We did the West End, a couple of excellent shows, a bit of shopping, seeing the Christmas lights, feeling the buzz, and of course eating out…..

Which brings me to pubs and what a great institution they are. Open from first thing in the morning for breakfast to last thing at night for Baileys, and – like the Science Museum – excellent value for money.

We checked out restaurant prices in South Kensington for lunch – bit pricy and posh – and found instead a terrific pub called the Zetland Arms: two freshly cooked meals for under a tenner each –  bangers, mash and gravy, and ham, eggs, and chips. Both delicious. Plus a friendly landlord, who passed our table more than once to ask if everything was all right.

After the theatre, too full of chat to go to bed, we found a pub near our hotel in Earl’s Court – The Blackbird – full of friendly “locals” and a good lively atmosphere. The warm animated interaction was in stark contrast to the eye-averting wariness of the tube.

On our way home the next morning, circumstances conspired that we walked onto Waterloo station just as our train was pulling away from the platform. What bad luck!

Having missed breakfast we looked around at the choices of places to eat – so many chain names busy with queuing commuters, offering self-served, pre-packed choices, none of them appealing.

Then I spied some steps, and alongside a hand-written blackboard – advertising cooked breakfast. We’d stumbled upon the Beer House, Waterloo’s very own station pub – a tasty full fry-up for £4, served at the table, with no waiting. What good luck!

Back home I reflected that whilst our village lacks a lot of things that London has – no theatre, no department stores, no historic monuments, no trips to the moon – at least it has the important community element, a pub.

As all things associated with alcohol seem to suffer an increasingly bad press, I’d just like to propose a toast to a Great British tradition – the pub. Cheers!

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