Magazine article The Spectator

Last Orders

Magazine article The Spectator

Last Orders

Article excerpt

Under a low oak-beamed ceiling, three middle-aged men were perched on stools around the bar. One of these greeted me, walked around to the other side of the bar and asked me what I was having. He wasn't the landlord, he said. The landlord was busy out at the back for a moment.

There was a small selection of real ales. I chose the Badger's Todger. He poured me a pint and returned to his stool and rejoined his muted three-cornered conversation.

The bar was cosy enough but the quietness was oppressive. A big mistake coming to this place, I thought, as I took a sip. Nice pint, though. Then the landlord materialised behind the bar. He was a large man, well manicured, conservatively dressed. You could tell how he voted in the last general election just by looking at him. He greeted me warmly -- or was it just loudly? -- and there was something Fawlty-esque -- that peculiar mixture of fear, anger and resignation -- in his stare as he sized me up.

I had on a suit and tie, so that went down well with him, I imagined. But my regional accent, when he heard it, made him visibly blanche. And yet I didn't appear to be intimidated in the slightest by a man of his size, style, social class and private education.

I was a conundrum. To solve it, he went the direct route. 'What do you do for a living?' he demanded. I told him I was a journalist.

'Who do you write for?' I told him the Devon Association of Smallholders quarterly magazine and The Spectator -- had he heard of either? My goodness he'd heard of The Spectator, all right. I thought he was going to throw himself on me weeping for joy.

And then the usual excited questions about Boris. Had I met him? He'd make an excellent prime minister, wouldn't he? Surely the idiocy was just a façade, wasn't it?

Now that he had my political persuasion clear in his mind, or so he thought, he became affable. Actually, my political views are very far to the right of the Conservative party. They are so far to the right they're almost left. So as we chatted about what a joke Gordon Brown has become, and so forth, I condescendingly allowed this landlord his political camaraderie in the same way that Julius Streicher might have politely assented to the political opinions of his local vicar. …

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