A Tale of a Pub Re-opening
21st February, 2020
ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a beautiful country pub that had to close for refurbishment. It couldn’t wait to open up again, so while it waited for builders to finish, it got itself a new logo.
The logo told the story of the original Royal Oak tree. As legend has it, when King Charles II was on the run from the Roundheads in 1651, he disguised himself as a woodsman and hid up an old oak tree in Boscobel Wood, Shropshire. As he perched on a branch, some parliamentarians on horseback approached, looking for him. But they passed on by underneath, without any clue that he was quietly sitting above...
The pub's new 'Royal Oak'
The old pub signs that inspired the new logo
23rd February, 2020
As the pub sat and waited patiently, as a flurry of builders underpinned and rewired and followed up lead times for sanitary ware, as people with tape measures held meetings and talked at length about flow and service points and the unfortunate look of regulation fire signage... the pub mind began to drift…
It thought back to all it’s seen these past 350 years...the get-togethers, the first dates, the birthdays, the christenings, the weddings, the anniversaries, the funerals, the toasts and the laughs, the tears, the tables for one, the unlikely new friendships, the swift pints, the get-togethers, the first dates, the birthdays...the circular pattern of it all...how year after year those big wheels of life keep on turning...
And the pub began to wonder what the next 350 years might have in store...And as it did, it felt a sudden thrill deep in the pit of its cellar – the friends it’s yet to make! All the conversations it’s yet to have! The future regulars who’ve never been!
So the pub did what it did best. It stayed put. And it got itself ready to open and welcome the years of adventure that lay ahead.
27th February, 2020
The pub couldn’t believe how much attention it was getting so far this week.
Its ground had been totally levelled, its doors and radiators had arrived on site, the last of the plaster had been trowelled and Gary the electrician was almost done with the distribution board.
And while all this was going on inside, the pub had been noticing some familiar local faces passing by and looking in as their dogs strained at their leads.
The pub so desperately wanted to call out to them all “We’re getting there!” but it didn’t want to sound like a British Rail ad.
So instead it kept schtum and wondered if there would ever be some way, like a parallel universe of some kind, where pubs could in some way express themselves…
And if there were such a thing (thought the pub), it’d say “Not long now! The storms have been a bit of set back! But the builders are amazing! Please come back in April! I miss you guys!”
But instead it sat calmly, as poised as ever and a little warmed by the thought that in a few short weeks lights would be on, log fires would be crackling and a black board would be out on the street emblazoned with the words “Welcome Back!”
1st March, 2020
Apparently snow was on it’s way…
This got the pub thinking. What people will see from the window of the new bedroom called ‘Akeman’...?
(‘Akeman’ faces Akeman Street, a famous Roman road that leads to the Fosse Way. Some say ‘Akeman’ comes from ‘Oak Man’, others think it’s lined time Bath, the Saxon’s called Bath ‘Acemannes’ from the Roman ‘aqua’)
“It’s all Greek to me”, thought the pub.
Then it starting getting excited about the week ahead and the three new wood-burning stoves due to be delivered any day now...
3rd March, 2020
Today was a good day.
The rain stopped, the sun came out and Steve dropped by!
Steve’s an old friend of the pub. He’s been coming to the Royal Oak since the 70’s when he was a teenager, when there was still a darts board on the back of the Gent’s door and when Morris Minors like this one were new.
Steve’s a carpenter, he came to measure up a ‘bunk bed for grown ups’. The pub loved the idea. At last, grown-ups will get to sleep in gorgeous queen-sized (mini double) beds in a cosy room in ‘The Cottage’ at the back of the pub.
Steve talked a lot about capping sockets and two-be-fours (The pub couldn’t work out it’s not two-BY-four but still) and he said could start next week, on Tuesday. Not on Monday. Because it’s his birthday on Monday. On Monday, said Steve with massive smile, he intends to do absolutely nothing. Quite right Steve, thought the pub.
It was great to see Steve. The pub couldn’t wait until next Tuesday.
5th March, 2020
A while ago, an old friend turned up at the door.
“Here” she said to the pub, “this belongs to you”…
She was holding a Waitrose bag with a Gap scarf inside it.
The pub was confused...
“Two years ago” the old friend explained, “when you had that fire, when you were being repaired, the builders found this...”
Wrapped up inside the Gap scarf was an old mud-encrusted child’s shoe (called a ‘patten’), it must have been at least 150 years old...
Like many old houses across Europe, the shoe had been hidden in the pub’s chimney bricks as a magical charm to ward off witches and evil spirits.
Today Lenny the foreman put the shoe in the brickwork of the chimney, back where it belonged. Lenny was surprisingly freaked out by the whole shoe/witch thing AND he’s worked on nuclear submarines. Actually, all the builders seemed rather relieved to get that shoe back in the chimney breast.
And so was the pub…
In fact, the pub couldn’t have been happier. Because somehow, something deep within it felt right again.
Thank you old friend.
6th March, 2020
What a week it’s been! So much activity! The pub was learning so much…
Like, who knew that bathrooms were divided into 5 zones? Zone 1 for the shower tray, zone 2 for the- ...actually the pub zoned out at zone 2...
Anyway thank the Lord it was sunny today, moral felt high. In fact, moral had always felt high with this lot. Impressive really, considering the relentless bad weather they’ve faced recently. The pub felt very extremely lucky to be restored by these guys.
And something else wonderful was starting to happen. The pub noticed that other people (not just builders) were beginning to come for meetings. People with clean clothes and notepads…
And the pub could over hear these people discussing things like menu plans, fresh herbs in raised beds outside, the shape of pint glasses, flowers, wine, music...
The pub smiled.
“Who did that drawing on the wall outside zone 2?” asked Gary the electrician this morning.
No one seemed to know…
8th March, 2020
A mysterious little bundle of papers fell into the pub’s lap this week.
Old clippings about locals and the fire and the pub’s last owners Jon and Jo (who served top pub food before anyone even thought of the term ‘gastropub’) and some out-of-print books...
Apparently Ramsden began as ‘a paupers village’, no big estate, no nobility, just rural folk and bands of “unruly women” (we’re right with you sisters), slightly perplexed farmers and a ghostly lady on a chariot pulled by horses who’d appear at night up at the pond (or so legend has it).
The pub already knew all this of course. It’d been standing here longer than anyone. It’d seem it all. No big deal.
But it did feel heartened to know that everyone looking through all these papers was finally realising - that age and every-day history hold real beauty...
“What’s that thing...” asked the pub’s superb new chef (more on him soon) as the crockery was being chosen, “...that Japanese theory about age making something beautiful?”
“Wabisabi” said the pub to itself, properly tickled to hear the question being asked.
Not long now…
11th March, 2020
No point denying it, the pub was getting on a bit...
It felt a certain affinity with Steve (the one who’s building the bunk-bed-for-grownups), Steve doesn’t look a day over 50 even though he’s a day over 60.
If it could, the pub would’ve sent this selfie (aka a brick-pic) to Steve for his 60th yesterday....’16’ for the age Steve was when he first came to the Royal Oak, ‘60’ for yesterday.
It’s the pub’s very own milestone at the top of the old spiral staircase on the way to the gorgeous new bedroom called ‘The Attic’.
There’s nothing wrong with showing your age or having a little work done. The pub felt prouder of both...
“I'm still standing better than I ever did, looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid” it sang to itself.
The pub knew that you don’t stop having fun when you get old, you get old when you stop having fun... luckily there‘s a lot of fun on the horizon...