Friday, 6 March 2009
Adnams take Suffolk Punchs
Sorry, this was an opportunity for a headline that the financial press have totally missed but I couldn't resist. Punch Taverns have just sold three of their iconic Suffolk pubs to Adnams - the Levington Ship, the Butt and Oyster and the Waldringfield Maybush.
The pubs anyone knows today are a shadow of the three of them I knew in my teens and early twenties. Then they were either independents or Tolly houses, known only to those who messed about on the Orwell and the Deben in boats or those interested enough to follow pre-internet hearsay and word of mouth to find them.
The Ship was our meeting place for warm summer nights to be spent on the adjacent foreshore with fires made of driftwood, trying to cop off with convent girls, with party sevens and baked spuds in tinfoil. In those days it was pretty basic, with a landlady with a bad perm and impetigo who bent the age rules down to an easy 15 or so.
The Maybush is at the head of Martlesham Creek. It really is easier to get to by small boat than by land; a distinguished London architect house-guest once enthused at the prospect of a Sunday morning walk, and thinking him a man after my own heart I led him 'cross winter dikes and ditches, ploughed clay fields, frozen slippery planks laid precariously to bridge foreshore sludge, for about two hours to arrive triumphantly at the Maybush for 12.00 opening; winter beers and an open fire with the prospect of a few songs on the walk home. I was expecting plaudits. But the sod was spent. He ordered a taxi from Ipswich and wouldn't walk a yard further. The church, I told him, had a window made of coprolites. He couldn't have been less interested if I'd told him I'd crafted it out of my own dung. Lightweights.
The Butt and Oyster in our day was run by a splendid chap with an award winning RAF 'tache and Parkinsons. The kegs were racked at the back of the bar; he'd pour 2/3rds of a pint and bring it to the counter. He'd then pour another 1/3 of a pint in a separate pint pot, bring it to the counter and top up the first, this strategy against his permanently shaking hand minimising wastage. He was quite alright about dinghy mud on his floor and young teens in his bar supping bitter ale.
All three were taken over by chains in the 80s and 90s, lost their eccentric guvenors, barred entry to the under-aged, built dining rooms, replaced the quarry tiled floors with carpets and attracted a dreary clientele of estate agents and car salesmen with a menu of French onion soup and Brakes Brothers institutional pies. I went back to all three of them, and they were crap.
But I thought the post title was good.