15th October 2017
Sometime after dark, down beyond the last crossing of a sandy back road in Suffolk, past the third turning and over a small green, is a pub with the finest Thursday night folk scene that you might never have been to. It’s a cacophony of the good, the bad, and the dreary, all packed into a too-small space with stout poured all over it for good measure. It’s where you’d have found me and a friend of mine on Thursday, wondering, about this time of year, if they might have some olde ale on the pumps.
Slip some socks onto your sandals and come along.
The village in question is called Eastbridge, and you should know from the start not to try and make it all the way to the pub doors if the coastal tide is running high, or else don’t try and leave if you’re already there and the tide starts creeping about the car park. More on that later, let’s get back to the olde ale for now.
Seasons are ingrained into the ale hound, and the arrival of extra porters, mild’s and stouts on the pumps are as keen a sign of autumn as the paled-out, falling leaves of the ash tree. As gardeners, my friends and I would be irritated by the passing of summer, hoping that if we whined enough about dew ridden lawn maintenance, we could roll back the weeks to July again. Given that you can’t do this the last time that I checked/whined, you look for something of comfort to ease the passage into the darker seasons ahead. On those first dark evenings in October, when you’re still choosing to sit outside on the pub bench even though it’s drizzling, you get that first taste of liquorice porter on your lips and you know that it is going to be okay; autumn will happen, but it comes with some warmer perks. One of which being that by this time of year, the pub down Eastbridge has the windows and door closed, so those early evening folk songs, the ones that are clean enough for those that are still dining, you can’t hear those anymore.
Once you have given up on the weather and head indoors for the last corner of the room that you can find to stand up in, things will have picked up on the music front.
That is, if you like folk music and olde ale combined in a small space that’s poorly lit and smelling like yesterdays drip tray. If you don’t know all the words to Dirty Old town, don’t fret, you’ll be able to manage the chorus at least. Just don’t start talking during one of the ballads, or when someone is tuning their lute. Actually you’re only really there to clap at appropriate times and spill half of your beer on the way back from the bar to where you were standing.
Sometimes when you break things down to just their components, it doesn’t really make sense why you’d make the journey and take part at all (not that you’re there to take part).
But then when Garry begins to run roughshod over all the other instruments with his banjo, and everyone starts stamping on the floor, you can’t help but get caught up in the mosh-folk pit and remember that some of life’s best moments come wrought in the arcane and the acoustic. You’re not going to want to leave once that feeling has its feelers all over you and your legs.
Now if you treat a folk night like me and mine, that’s going to be because by closing time your legs get knackered out and you’ve got to cycle home. Plus it’s going to be raining properly by closing time, trust me. On the plus side, you have just warmed your body and mind with olde ale and stout, so a natural invincibility behoves you onwards, into the blackest of back lanes without light to aid you. But when you’ve got great company, and they’re just as invincible on their bike as you are, there’s nothing but a merry ride home ahead of you getting to bed.
From my recollections, things would always go well for the first half an hour. Then around that mark you realise that you haven’t managed to get your one hundred speed mountain bike out of first gear, and you’ve only managed to go fourteen yards down the road. You can still see the pub for Christ sake. You’re probably not even cycling at this point, which is a decent way of saying that you’ve crashed into someone’s laurel hedging. Worse, your friend hasn’t noticed, so he’s a further eight yards up the road from you. You’re never going to catch him up, and he’s not going to think to remember that there’s a man down on the field (in the laurel).
So if you have a free Thursday evening, get down to Eastbridge. My last night before moving from Suffolk fell on Folk Time Thursday, and the landlord down at Eastbridge gave me a free tab. In the interests of exploration I can vouch for a local stout with a double port dropped on top. Make sure you have a lift home planned after this because a bicycle isn’t going to spirit you as far the entrance to the car park, much less over the double high tide that’s waiting on the road, just like the police came and warned everyone in the pub about earlier, when no-one was paying any attention. You can’t tell anyone anything in a folk-hole, and sometimes the cops can’t wait until the end of the John Renbourn tribute number.
They were good Thursdays.
If your tempo is dragging then double your time…
JW Bowe xx
P.S! Anna urges me to think if there wasn’t a bicycle that I didn’t test to destruction? I reply, honestly, that I have loved them all.
If you enjoyed this blog, and you’re impatient for something else to read, feel free to bunch up close to a free sample chapter from JW Bowe’s debut novel, The Meifod Claw, which is available now at Amazon, iTunes and on various other international eReaders.
You can also double up your sampling by following this link to the forthcoming fictional autobiography of The Meifod Claw’s wheelchair-in-chief, Derek Gainsborough. His life and apologies will be released next year under the sail of The Brine in Me.
JW Bowe can also be unearthed on YouTube and in various other ways through the Serious Biscuits homepage. Scroll down for further links, action and disclaimers.
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