There are some evenings when this pub seems very surreal. This evening is one of them.
Outside the heavens have opened and everything is awash. It hasn't stopped raining here all day. Its a wonder anyone can be bothered to venture out. But in the Railway Hotel we seem quite busy ~ but it is the strange balance of customers that makes me smile.
In the snug area are a group of about ten middle-aged ladies - I have to be careful here because my wife is amongst them. They are here to knit. It seems knitting is the new, erm, knitting. It is bizarre but some now consider knitting to be trendy. Maybe it is a by-product of the credit crunch and the general drift towards self-sufficiency and making ends meet. Whatever it is, these ladies are enjoying themselves and are here to stay for the evening to knit and to drink.
In my first pub, in order to engage the community actively with our business, I deliberately sought to encourage a darts team, a quiz league, a billiards table and a pigeon club. Tangible routes to ensure customers would visit on a wet Monday night. Never, in my wildest dreams, could I have concieved of a knitting club - but credit to the visionary landlords out there who are inspired to develop such activities.
The main group in the bar is centred on an eighteen year-old girl celebrating her birthday with her family and friends, all whom are active members of the local Gospel Mission. There are about sixteen of them. There will be nothing offensive here and everyone will have a wonderful time.
But set amongst this all is Tallulah, a 2 year old border terrier bitch. She is on heat. This has been discussed before but I've not been involved in what was agreed. My wife's border terrier, Archie, is naturally very interested and there is some activity taking place in the bar which I am not always in a position to see (I am not sure I wish to see) and which is not being discouraged by any party involved. There is much laughter and hilarity, writhing dogs, running around and flashes of pink lipstick. It feels like I am being witness to a Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross prank.
For many licensees the script of their evenings will scarcely change. It will be the same customers, the same drinks, the same songs and the same conversations. It will be one tedious and interminable loop.
But for all the scripts I could have written, this mix of the knitting circle, the gospel mission and two dogs with their own agenda takes some beating.
For a wet Monday night its a welcome relief.