Magazine article The Spectator

Not in the Mood

Magazine article The Spectator

Not in the Mood

Article excerpt

I ask the new landlord of the Bald Hind, who's manning the bar on his own tonight, for a pint of Stella. He's in his mid-fifties and wearing a clean, ironed skyblue shirt unbuttoned to the sternum. For a second or two he gapes at me like he doesn't know who he is or why he's there.

Then the lights come back on. He's running a pub. These pump handles in front of him are for raising various kinds of beer.

One of which is called Stella Artois.

'Stella, ' he says, and goes looking for a glass.

For the past few years the 14th-century Bald Hind has been a cheerful biker's pub with a busy pool table and a good and loud jukebox. The landlord valued a sense of humour more than what his customers were wearing or not wearing, and he turned a blind eye to pot being smoked in the beer-garden. Once a month he and his wife threw hugely popular fetish parties, which always drew a coach party from midWales.

Then the brewery chucked him out, tarted the place up, and installed the clean shirt in front of me. Out went the sacred pool table and out went the bikers: some in protest, others driven away by the smell of fresh paint. In came stripy hotel-chain furniture, no-smoking signs, dining-tables and a full-time chef. A hard-core biker remnant was banned one by one for trivial offenses such as bad language, improper dress or flicking ash on the floor.

So far the regime change has, it is said, been a financial disaster. Clean Shirt has got rid of the bikers, but a new, trendy, free-spending clientele has yet to materialise. Night after night the place is as deserted as a New Orleans estate agent's.

This morning, however, there's a customer standing at the bar. Close-shaven head. Slits for eyes. Head bowed. Passive.

Resentful. Completely plastered. The landlord places the pint in front of me and fixes me with an unhappy, pleading stare. I ask how much I owe him. He puffs out his cheeks and makes this wide, exasperated gesture as if I'd asked how many grains of sand there were in the Sahara desert.

Whatever's going on here, I'm not getting involved. I pick up the glass and take it away before he changes his mind and charges me. There's a row of pristine hardback books in a gilt-embossed uniform edition on the windowsill: Trollope, Hardy, Conrad, Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.