Tag Archives: pubs

Sunday Poem 63

Apologies for the lateness of the Sunday Poem today.    Irish Alice and I Went Out last night and not only was it very late when we got back, but I made the fatal mistake of feeding her Port at two o’clock in the morning.  In the early days of our acquaintance, the misguided application of late night Ports, Rhubarb and Custards or brandies would result in torrential, albeit well-informed, lectures on the history of Irish politics.  I have put a stop to this.  Nowadays, I get the minutiae of her friends and neighbours back in Tipperary, whom I now feel I know as intimately as I know myself.  She has just left; two strong cups of tea, three Marlboro Reds and a torrent of colourful language have restored her factory settings.

Enough of this, let’s talk about poetry.  Anthony Thwaite is a writer who has been deeply involved in English literary life; in addition to 15 volumes of his own poetry, he has been a publisher and literary editor of magazines such as The Listener and the New Statesman, and is an executor of the estate of Philip Larkin.  His work is broad and expansive and extends from homage to Larkin to more lyrical and romantic work.  He has an honorary D.Litt from the University of Hull, and was made an OBE in 1990. He has lectured at universities worldwide, including Japan and Libya (where he spent his military service), and he is the co-editor of The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse.

I came across this poem last week, curled up late at night in front of the fire, in a browned and brittle Penguin anthology, recently extracted from the Age Concern Bookshop in Harborough.  Something about this poem sets all one’s senses tingling.  I could hear and feel  the voices in the pub, the smell, the textures, that strange solitude of being in a pub alone, other humans but no connection.  Very moving.

Mr Cooper – by Anthony Thwaite (1930 – )

Two nights in Manchester: nothing much to do,
One of them I spent partly in a pub,
Alone, quiet, listening to people who
Didn’t know me.  So I told the bloody sub-
Manager what he could do with it . . . Mr Payne
Covers this district – you’ll have met before?

Caught short, I  looked for the necessary door
And moved towards it; could hear, outside, the rain.

The usual place, with every surface smooth
To stop, I suppose, the aspirations of
The man with pencil stub and dreams of YOUTH
AGED 17.  And then I saw, above
The stall, a card, a local jeweller’s card
FOR FIFTY YEARS, address, telephone number.
I heard the rain falling in the yard.

The card was on a sort of shelf, just close
Enough to let me read this on the front.
Not, I’d have said, the sort of words to engross
Even the keenest reader, nothing to affront
The public decency of Manchester.
And yet I turned it over.  On the back
Were just three words in rather smudgy black
Soft pencil:  MR COOPER – DEAD.  The year

Grew weakly green outside, in blackened trees
Wet grass by statues.  It was ten to ten
In March in Manchester.  Now, ill at ease
And made unsure of sense and judgement when
Three words could throw me, I walked back into
The bar, where nothing much had happened since
I’d left.  A man was trying to convince
Another man that somehow someone knew

Something that someone else had somehow done.
Two women sat and drank the lagers they
Were drinking when I’d gone.  If anyone
Knew I was there, or had been, or might stay,
They didn’t show it.  Good night, I almost said,
Went out to find the rain had stopped, walked back
To my hotel, and felt the night, tall, black,
Above tall roofs.  And Mr Cooper dead.

There was an error on WordPress which wouldn’t let me do linking, so if you want to go to Amazon to find this book , click on the link below.  I will try again later.


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Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art

Several good reasons to support Local Businesses

We are extremely fortunate in Market Harborough to have many independent shops that are run by local people.  Clothes, shoes, housewares, cafes, bookshops, chemists, bakers, butchers – you name it.  There are some high street names but there really is the commercial space for them all as long as ‘the big boys’ are kept in check.  Of course, there are some things you can’t get, school uniform for example, but not many.

A Shop 100 years ago. We still have shops today.

One area where I absolutely insist on only using local bods is cafes.  Harborough is awash with places to eat and drink but without question, the best ones are the independents.  The Boys and I felt the need for a warming hot chocolate on Sunday afternoon, but, the Market Café being closed because of the weather (!) the only places open were Costa, Nero and Starbucks.  I occasionally go to Café Nero with friends because they have young children and it is big enough to hide the little ones in a corner and not upset anyone.  Fair enough, but I don’t like the place because a) it’s too noisy and b) you can waste half your allotted time queuing up to get your drink.  The same is true of Costa (albeit quieter) and I wouldn’t darken the door of Starbucks. 

So on Sunday we ended up in Costas.  I had to wait ages to actually get our three drinks and three cakes only to find that not a single spare table had been cleared.  We cleared out own table and the one next to it and settled down to enjoy our snack.  Boy the Elder’s frappe which we thought was a milkshake was an indistinguishable favour and my Victoria Sandwich, which had looked home made on the counter, was full of a synthetic tasting cream which I have not encountered since about 1975.  And it cost £12.  I will not be going back. 

But let me tell you this; when Wartime Housewife Cafes are appearing across the country, you will be served at your table, by smiling, uniformed waiting staff, with home made food, from local suppliers at proper prices.  Just you wait.

Without hesitation I will tell you the places in Harborough that I like – I’m sure there are others just as good, this is only my preference:
Aldin’s on the corner of Church Street is a proper old-fashioned tea room.  You are served at the table, the menu is simple and wholesome, the portions generous and the prices very reasonable.  The cakes are all home made and you can get spaghetti hoops on toast.

Joules just off the High Street has a reasonably priced and extensive menu, several different areas in which to eat, including outside in clement weather, you can get a cracking breakfast and they have theme nights and live music in the summer.  There is also a bric-a-brac/reclaim area at the back in which to rummage.

Webb’s Café in Bennett’s Yard is a little gem.  It has contemporary décor and a more adventurous menu including, what I call ‘brown food’.  Healthy stuff with rice and interesting salads as well as lovely cakes and good coffee.

There is also a café behind the Baptist Church which I can’t for the life of me remember the name of.  It is run by the church, is incredibly cheap and you can have a good feed (two courses and a drink) for under a fiver.  It also has the advantage of having a really odd selection of people who go in there. Avoid the coffee though.  And, despite being unexpectedly closed on Sunday, the cafe in the market does a great all day breakfast and good cakes as well, but obviously it’s only open on market days (Tues, Fri, Sat & Sun)

One other local business that I must mention is the wonderful Rural Trading company.  They run a mobile shop which visits loads of local villages on a regular schedule.  They provide fruit & veg, meat, poultry, home made ready meals, dairy, chemist and general groceries and all the fresh food comes from local suppliers.  I realise that this is very local to us, but there must be lots of these ventures all over the country and if there aren’t, there should be.  Maybe there’s an opportunity for you?

Most towns have independent shops and if you want them to stay you have to actually shop there.  It’s no good buying all your meat in Sainsburys and then lamenting the loss of your local butcher.  The same goes for pubs, churches and village halls.  If you want them, you have to support them, you have to go there, shop there, drink there.  Don’t let your town or village become indistinguishable from any other town or village in the country.

* Just in case you’re interested The Shop in the photo belonged to my Great Aunt and her husband and was taken in Flixton, Lancashire in 1910.


Filed under Community and shopping, Ethics, Food, Product comparisons