Monday 25 January 2010

Dark cloud over Longframlington

15st 8lb, 9.0 units. Disaster must have struck at around 12.50p.m., coming out of a clear sky much as Little Boy surprised Hiroshima. True, this was a human tragedy on a much smaller scale, but it still left my brother distinctly miffed because he had walked confidently into the pub, bought and paid for a pint of Guinness, and then felt that he had no honourable course but to neck it when the management revealed that our custom for lunch would not be welcome. And it had all been going so well until they enquired about the size of his party and he replied “Two more adults and a baby”. The pub did not admit babies or children. Never had done at any point in its 40 years under the present management, so they felt confident that all their potential customers knew as much. Consequently there was no need to spell out the policy with, say, a sign at the door.

I beg to differ. Particularly in a county that aims to scrape a living by promoting itself as a tourist destination, I feel that it is important to make these things clear from the outset, thereby avoiding potentially embarrassing explanations at the bar.

My dear and sadly departed friend Ray from the Warenford Lodge, for many years the finest food pub in Northumberland, always used to display a notice on the door announcing that no children under 14 were permitted in the bar (though even he allowed them into the restaurant). That other great eccentric Kim de la Taste Tickell had a long list of prohibitions written in black ink on the glass doors of the Tickell Arms in Whittlesford back in the 1970s, of which the only one that has stuck in my mind for almost 40 years is, for some strange reason, “No collarless shirts”. I think some of the others were rather more graphic and unacceptably racist for the present day, although at least they were hardly likely to have been homophobic.

All of which is fine and dandy. I approve of freedom of choice, and for most of the last half century a “no kids” rule would have got my vote every time. Now I have simply refined it in my head into a “No other people’s kids” rule. Or, to be more accurate, a “No badly behaved kids running around and screaming” rule. Which encompasses most other people’s children most of the time, if I am honest.

It would be against the whole ethos of this blog to name the place that accelerated my brother’s lunchtime Guinness consumption so dramatically, and had him out on the street by the time we turned up at 1p.m. to head us off elsewhere. But it was the Granby Arms in Longframlington, which I can wholeheartedly recommend for decent, home-cooked food and really excellent value; particularly if you enjoy your meals all the more when consumed in a dining area that has all the atmosphere of a day room in a geriatric home. It’s a bit like a scene from the comic strip “Mrs Brady, Old Lady” in Viz. The last time I took my 85-year-old aunt there she seemed a bit too young to fit in. And when, on another occasion, I went to eat in the bar to get away from the raised voices and the clash of metallic mobility aids, I was brought almost to screaming point by an endless monologue about the intrinsic design faults of the Austin Princess, delivered by a shoo-in for the title of Most Boring Man in Northumberland, despite the amazing stiffness of the competition.

But if by some strange chance that is not quite your bag, a short stroll will bring you to the Village inn (until recently the New Inn), an establishment that offers equally good food, with the added bonus of real ales, a real fire and a friendly welcome to your children.

It’s your choice. Which is just as it should be.

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