Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Country Matters by The Hodge April 18

A local pub, the Royal Oak, in its majesty.
Country Matters
By The Hodge

“Whoe’er has travell’d life’s dull round,
Where’er his stages may have been,
May sigh to think he still has found
The warmest welcome at an inn.”

William Shenstone 1714-1763 Written on a Window of an Inn

Last October my theme for this humble page was the sad gradual loss of that institution of the countryside and the village especially, the country pub. Statistics suggest that one hostelry a day disappears in Great Britain and someone with a cleverer mathematical mind than my own should be able to calculate on that basis when the very last one will close forever. I just hope that I am long gone before then.

But having listed some of the local inns that have gone, I am here today to report on encouraging and hopeful news – a few have bucked the trend and reopened and we in this locale I hope will do our duty and flock to their doors to give them our support.

Firstly, Kemble’s only pub, The Tavern, is now reopen and doing great food according to reports I hear. A community the size of Kemble deserves a hub where locals can gather to drink, socialise and eat and I very much hope that The Tavern will now have a long and successful future. Incidentally, as a promotion, they are currently offering a 50% discount on food orders on Mondays, an offer that’s hard to ignore.

Then in South Cerney where there are two such establishments, its oldest and third, The Royal Oak, has reopened after about six months when locals feared it would be gone forever. But instead of a new landlord parachuted in from some distant part by the brewery, a unique modern experience for this village is a co-operative arrangement whereby eight villagers have got together, pooled their talents and hard-earned cash as a collective. These enthusiastic locals have some experience both in the world of licensed premises and food sourcing and catering so it is not entirely a blind dream. Together they have stripped the interior of the pub and they reopened the bar a couple of weeks ago and the kitchen a week later. The extensive dining room is being refurbished next and will soon burst forth with a quality menu with both British favourites and an international influence to cater for almost all tastes. As might be expected when gardens on television get makeovers on a regular basis, there are plans to really make the outside area user friendly for both drinkers and diners in the summer months – in other words the complete package.

But being locals themselves, the new landlords and landladies are keen to maintain the village pub feel and the aged locals coming in for a pint and a packet of crisps will be made as welcome as the tourist parties attracted to the Cotswold Water Park and looking for the genuine experience of a Gloucestershire pie and pint. And talking of welcome, dogs have a space reserved in front of the log fire as long as they are accompanied by well-behaved humans.

Such co-operative ventures are to be welcomed and reflect successful initiatives in other parts of the country to keep alive village pubs and shops as the hub of the community. All we need now is news that the village Post Office will be taken over and re-opened there and the Royal Oak will indeed be the complete package. It is a brave move by these individuals and I very much hope they succeed and perhaps inspire others in the Cotswolds to get together and keep their village pub alive – and thriving!

Country Matters by The Hodge March 2018

Country Matters
By The Hodge
“Never eat more than you can lift
Miss Piggy
Clip your hedges!
Following on from last month’s little piece on the privations being experienced by those people back home in Britain in 1918 when rationing was introduced, I was intrigued to find this little snippet of news. It concerns an MP – Mr William John McGeagh MacCaw – the representative in parliament for the constituency of West Down in Northern Ireland.

He was taken to court under the 1917 Food Hoarding Order, a law brought in to try and ameliorate the effects of food shortages before rationing began. When I first read this, I assumed it was going to be a minor infringement and that they were making an example of a public figure but I was wrong.

Mr MacCaw MP was fined £400 – a huge sum – and the hoard of food was confiscated. What was found at his home in Godstone, Surrey by inspectors of the Local Food Control Committee and another from the Ministry of Food was as follows:

Flour – 435lbs
Tapioca – 641/2lbs
Biscuits – 1001/2lbs
Oatmeal – 59lbs
Sugar – 102lbs
Semolina – 531/2lbs
Tea – 53lbs
Golden Syrup – 34lbs
An old poster exulting rationing.

Rice – 1341/2lbs
Honey – 211/2lbs

But there was more! They then searched his London flat and found additional hoardings of:

Tea – 12lbs
Tapioca – 321/2lbs
Flour – 473/4lbs
Rice – 106lbs
Oatmeal – 571/2lbs
Sugar – 281/4lbs

Mrs MacCaw was also charged but the charges were dropped due to ill health. Unfortunately, the news report fails to give details of any arguments used in his defence such as Mr MacCaw was hoping perhaps to corner the market to supply the House of Commons catering department or that he had a very large family. I have not personally had tapioca or semolina since I left school and have not in a single day missed either but tastes were different then.

Amazingly, the court found him not guilty for hoarding golden syrup but the other charges were upheld and as well as the fine, Mr MacCaw had to pay 35 guineas (£36.75) costs.

I don’t know about you but I find such snippets of social history fascinating.

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Easter will soon be upon us as it is early this year. By then spring should fully have sprung and we will be enjoying the sights and sounds of blossom, the flowering bulbs and birdsong, (designed mainly to establish territory and tell competitors to sling their hook!). Please try and ensure that you cut any untidy hedges before nesting starts in the next couple of weeks. If you don’t manage it, then learn to live with a straggly hedge until August at least to help protect the songbirds. Farmers are prevented by law from hedge cutting during these months, the only exception being if road safety is threatened.