My first night in Cambridge included dinner at a nearby pub. The place was modern and lively and I felt the need to “have a pint” without it being beer. The staff suggested a warm winter Pimms which was a bit like a cinnamon muddled hot apple cider. Great idea!
Next day, I deliberately entered The Eagle, an historic pub in the city center, and one which hosted many a squadron during WWII. There is lots of memorabilia with the most interesting being the ceiling graffiti made by cigarette lighters of the boys who were flying out…possibly the next morning. Here, I had a cider, which was sharp and fresh. I took notice of stories on the walls and names on the ceiling and tried to imagine what it would have been like under blackout conditions. Much of the decor would have been around back then and I could visualize the taps flowing, the soldiers inside being rowdy and boisterous, and the city of Cambridge sleeping in the enforced nighttime.
A brief visit to the quaint village of Saffron Walden turned up a pub and coach house frequented by Oliver Cromwell in the 1600’s. It was here that I first heard the sad fate of many a British pub. Not being able to compete with supermarket prices and the immediate camaraderie of smartphones, pubs are a dying dynasty. Many have already been converted to lodgings, meeting places, gyms, and even daycare centers. It’s a neighborly way of life and conversation that doesn’t fit the typical Brit anymore. So, the ones that are left cater to tourists and big money in the brewing industry. I sure hope some of the barfronts are preserved and repurposed and the colorful and unique taps find new life as collector’s items. Cheers!