|The River Barle at 6pm a couple of hours before it broke|
There’s a moment in the film The Battle of Britain when you see Londoners crowding together in a hall after they’ve been bombed out of their homes (sadly the hall gets it not long after). An old boy wanders about, muttering to himself, mantra-like ‘they’ve got the Rose & Crown, they’ve got the Rose & Crown’.
I thought of this scene last night when all of a sudden my wife started seeing panicky messages on Facebook about the River Barle breaking its banks in Dulverton. We’re at the top of town and so I wandered down to find that the river had ‘got’ the Bridge Inn. Its downstairs lights were out, the doors were closed and water was flowing over its low wall, through the beer garden and into the pub. The firemen were out, the garage opposite was also flooded, as were several other properties around.
This morning we walked the dog past and I spoke with Kenny the landlord. He’d been optimistic he would be open again by tomorrow but now he wasn’t sure when beers would start flowing again. The cellar had not been flooded and in an attempt to lighten things I asked him if there was much beer left in the casks. What about Jim I then asked. Jim is a lovely old chap who lives nearby in sheltered accommodation and most days takes himself to the pub for a couple of pints of Exmoor Ale. He was on Lancasters in the war and also supports Arsenal so we’ve got a lot to talk about. He and the Bridge will miss each other for a few days — this is something that those who directly or indirectly talk down the pub forget: the pub is a home from home for many, even those of us with a warm (or not so warm in our case) comfortable house.
For a few days I will miss the Bridge, I will miss the general chit-chat over nothing in particular, a perusal through the papers, freshly pulled Proper Job or — if I’m feeling flush — a bottle of Duvel or Orval. It’s only for a few days but happening just before Christmas it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Kenny and his family. Hopefully though they’ll be open again before the end of the year, but it is at times like this that one remembers that the pub is much more than a place to drink.