The Stour Valley needs its railway back

Settling in for the winter
The Angel during the festive season

The Stour Valley needs its railway back

New Tales from The Angel
- The Thorogood Era

Lest there be any doubt, these pages are an unofficial record of the goings on at The Angel, from the partisan point of view of a paying customer. All views expressed are those of the author. So up yours, Greene King.

3 January 2002

Livening up for Christmas

December 2001 brought with it a steadily increasing pace of change at The Angel.
After the structural changes previously outlined and illustrated, the Thorogood thirst for change and enterprise erupted in other directions as Christmas 2001 approached.

2 - 4 - 6 - 8 ... (or not)

Saturday 15 December was PARTY TIME at The Angel. As part of the preparations for Christmas, Mr Thorogood had arranged for an appearance by Tom Robinson and friends to provide live music for PARTY TIME.
Before you jump to conclusions, no, not that Tom Robinson, but an excellent purveyor of Pub Blues, nonetheless.

Unfortunately, Peter's Party coincided with the Christmas Dinner of the Esteemed Morris Men of Little Egypt so your correpondent was unable to be present until the very last knockings, but we got there in time to hear 3 numbers from a very good repertoire. It was obvious that all present had enjoyed an excellent evening, aided by the copious buffet refreshment provided by our Gracious Host.

Live music is a rarety at The Angel - the occasional, but very welcome, visit by the peripatetic Diddly Diddly merchants normally being the extent of it - so we can hope that this experiment will be repeated.

Promises Promises

As recorded elsewhere, the new régime has been promising the arrival of guest beers since his takeover.

A delay was caused by some wrangling over the provision of the beer engines deemed necessary to dispense said delicacies.

This stand-off lasted until just before Christmas. Then, in one swift coup, the bar space was invaded by two gleaming pump handles. Soon afterwards, beer clips appeared. And soon after that, the precious liquids began flowing. The first two "guest" ales were Greene King's own "Strong Suffolk", weighing in at a hefty 6.0% ABV, and the familiar "Old Speckled Hen", still sold by the mega-brewers as Morlands but, since the Abingdon brewery where it originated is now a block of fancy Thames Valley flatlets, now brewed in Bury St Edmunds alongside the more familiar Suffolk brews.
Once the OSH was out of the way, we had the real pleasure of welcoming back Gales (of Horndean) HSB. A wonder-tipple of my youth, this one. The first taste of it takes me back to the Seahorse in Shalford, or the Woodcock near Frensham.

The next pairing has been Draught Bass with Wychwood Brewery's "Hobgoblin", both of which have been on splendid form so far.

Lest any distant fans should be worried, the staple of all Angel drinkers, the IPA, is still purveyed in a state of excellence straight from the barrel, untainted by any mechanical aid.
But, so far, the guest ales have been faultless.

What next?

Theakston's Old Peculiar. That's what.

The Countdown

As Christmas approached, the excitement mounted. As promised, the Angel remained largely free of tacky decorations and ersatz carols, although Mr Thorogood was heard - frequently - explaining the exorbitant cost of the green and red garlands that were strung above the bar. There were also some odd sprigs of mistletoe distributed about the beams, which went largely ignored, except by Jim Sizewell Gardner, who seized every opportunity and passing woman to revive ancient wisdom and tradition. At least, we gather it classes as a tradition for Jim, and undoubtedly needs to be revived.

Custom throughout the build up to Christmas was healthy, with a number of blow-ins reappearing to sample the enhanced pleasures of the Angel.
Although he doesn't qualify as a blow-in, the Young Whippersnapper made frequent visits to test the quality of the alcohol, and wasted little time in telling all and sundry how hard he would be working over the holiday. His entries in the guestbook indicate that the NHS has little to fear from work-fatigued employees.

Christmas Eve saw the place positively humming, as many regulars were joined by visiting family members. Even the eyrie was full to bursting, and the new fireplace earned its keep. Included in this group were that nice Mr Orton and his sons.

Christmas and beyond

The traditional Christmas lunchtime gathering had the walls of the old place bulging with merrymakers. Doubtless a few turkey wings frazzled a little at the edges as a result, and a few puddings climbed their own way out of the basin, but it only happens once a year, so who cares?

Boxing Day was a bit quieter, but our real sympathy goes out to poor old Jos, who struggled up the hill round about 10 p.m. for his customary quiet half gallon, only to find a state of darkness and closure hanging around the hallowed portals. So, all he could do was go all the way home again, stone cold sober.

On Friday 28 December, the Angel was invaded by an itinerant band of players known as the Stour Valley Mummers, who displayed their thespian talents to all and sundry in their seasonal rendition of the battle between Good and Evil. The terrifying exploits of Hector the Turkish Knight stunned even Ellie into silence, and Hannah looked genuinely scared of his flashing scimitar. Predictably, the Young ("Let me through, I'm a nurse") Whippersnapper was (again) present to keep an eye on the Doctor's exploits and proffer first aid if it was needed. Luckily for all concerned, it wasn't, and the resurrectional work of the doctor was again successful.
At the end of the performance, sausage rolls and mince pies were consumed with relish. Actually, there was no pickle, but we enjoyed them nevertheless. Thanks PT.

New Year Celebrations

2001 was successfully punted into touch on the evening of 31 December by a goodly crowd of revellers. As the night wore on, the ale flowed, and trays full of sandwiches, sausage rolls and samosas were served and eaten. At midnight the customary tones of Big Ben were followed by the customary strains (literally) of "Auld Lang Syne", as we linked arms and shook hands and kissed each other. Well, Sizewell did.
There were many familiar faces in the bar. The Watkinsons, Bob Chilwell, the Gardners, Nick, Paul Jaques, that nice Mr Orton, the ubiquitous Tony Ward, Barry and Jules, the Seatons and many more too numerous to mention, were there. Tucked away in one corner were Colin "Old Salty" Phillips (on leave from the Swiss Navy, no doubt) and Fran had again easyJetted in for the celebration. Nice to see them.

It was a good night. A pity though that Mrs Thorogood - Mel - went down with flu during the evening. Get well soon.

New Year's Day

Hangovers are never very exciting are they? So there's not much to report really.

Except, that is, some news from my lunchtime correspondent which will warm the hearts of all of us dedicated to maintaining standards in this best of British inns.

Apparently quite a healthily-sized group of lunchtimers (doubtless clutching their orange juice and prairie oysters) had their heads rattled by a group of loud tourists from further up the village. This was the Cherry Tree Youth Club on its annual NYD excursion, with Joe (the landlord) besporting his kilt. Each to his own, says I.
But what was so good about the visit was the refusal of the management to serve some of the visitors with their requested drink, namely those foreign lite lagers masquerading as beer, sold by the bottle, and in the bottle. I am delighted to report, as I have done before, that beer at The Angel is served in glasses not in the unhygienic fashion of some trendy theme pubs.
I sincerely hope that one or two people grew up a little.

The rest is...

... a few additional points of note.

    Amid the steady pattern of visitors over the Christmas period, it really was very good to see two old favourites return to their old haunts:
  • Mo Frost, of course, we've seen quite a lot of, but she's always welcome back.
  • Much less expected was the return visit of Dave Lilley, who was in charge at The Angel before Mo.
    Sadly, Margaret died early last year, after a long illness, but Dave seemed on good form, and it was great to see him back.
Other News:
  • Old Mother Riley has done the sensible thing. He's persuaded his employers to let him retire. Enjoy it, Brian. You deserve it.

Back into October and November 2001

I've decided to keep each addition to these pages separate, rather than simply add length. I hope regular readers will not get too confused.

For more recent news - December 2001 - Follow this link

and forward into 2002

Page maintained by Steve Clarke, Copyright(c) Steve Clarke. Created: 10/11/99 Updated: 09/11/2005