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It’s Wednesday, so this must be…
One of the beauties of my job is that I get to travel – a lot. The days of being stuck in a Council office in London are long behind me. So far, this month has seen me in Edinburgh, Inverness, Peterborough, briefly at home in Yorkshire – and now I’m kicking my heels in Southampton in preparation for a big press event tomorrow. There’s a hell of a lot going on in the rail industry right now which means I get to see some of the best & worst the UK’s towns & cities have to offer. Edinburgh is one of the gems, Inverness less so – especially if you arrive in the evening & don’t want a restaurant meal. It’s not difficult to see why Scotland has the reputation as the heart attack epicentre of the UK as I spent an hour looking round for a place selling food that wouldn’t cause immediate hardening of the arteries. Is there a law in Scotland that says you’re not allowed to sell vegetable based products after 6pm?

Peterborough was rather better. I used to spend many a weekend there back in the late 1980s – early 90s as a friend had moved there for work. She was attracted by the cheap flats the Development Agency was offering for sale. So, for a couple of years I spent quite a bit of time getting to know the flatlands of Cambridgeshire. We explored many a pretty pub in the area – and a few not so pretty ones too! 25 years later I found myself at a loose end one night so I went looking for old haunts. Most had disappeared & some I simply couldn’t find, but a few did remain – including the Wortley Alms Houses a fine old Sam Smiths pub with some of the cheapest beer I’ve found in a long time – £1.44 a pint for their Old Brewery bitter. Despite the cheapness of the beer the place was dead. Gone are the days when pubs were busy with young & old escaping from a family Sunday!

To my eyes the fabric of Peterborough town centre hadn’t changed that much, although some pubs had morphed into eateries. One that jogged my memory was one on Cowgate that’s turned into a Prezzo. I remember it as a rather down at heel pub in a beautiful building with distinctive large curved glass windows in the frontage. It was these that made me remember an incident when I saw it again. One Weekend afternoon Nancy & I were having a quiet drink in there. It was a normal somnambulant Saturday until 12-15 Hartlepool supporters stumbled in. Wearing the traditional attire of shaven heads, fairly crap tattoos & paunches they managed to double the pubs lager sales in the space of a few minutes. It wasn’t a problem until they’d supped up, then they suddenly kicked off in an obviously pre-planned attempt to wreck the pub. They’d clearly worked out where the exits were. One group wrecked the pub towards the front door whilst others headed for the back door. Tables flew & punches were thrown at bemused locals unlucky enough to be in the way – although no-one was seriously hurt by these lard-butts. On their way out, one of them shouted ‘You softy Southern bastards’

Nonplussed but unruffled by this show of mindless Northumbrian testosterone the bar staff & customers began to put the pub back together. As we did I remarked ‘Southern softies? I wouldn’t mind, but I’m from Liverpool!’ Talk about a Spartacus moment – within moments nearly a third of the pub admitted they were from North of the Watford Gap & weren’t local at all (one Scot was particularly offended!)

Funny how your memory’s triggered isn’t it? -I hadn’t thought about this for decades until I saw the pub again.

So, if any of our old gang is reading this, hello Nancy, Mike, Lynn & Jackie!