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As everyone well knows, 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.
Service? What Service?
OK, OK, I know, it's 6 weeks since I updated these pages, but some of us do have a living to earn ... . Sorry.
I've also been concentrating on bringing some other parts of the site up to date.
Running to stand still
The well-worn maxim of business has it that enterprise has to innovate to succeed; that he who rests on his laurels falls among thorns. Mao zedong preached the theory of continuous revolution. Others phrase it more simply as "Keep 'em guessing". Comrade Chairman Peter Thorogood prefers it as "Never let the buggers settle".
This philosophy has been well-illustrated in the Programme of One Thousand Ales (aka the Guset Beer promotion) which will be alluded to further later.
But it goes much deeper into the business psyche than simply offering a range of tipples.
It was well-known that PT and Mel's tenancy of The Angel was part of a Grand Plan which included the hiving off of the Flagship of Thorogood Enterprises, The George and Dragon, down in 51/02 car country, Antique City, Barbour and Hooray Henry-on-Stour, known to us mere mortals as Melford.
Well: that has now happened, finally, much to PT's (and the auditor's) relief. The George is no longer part of the Pete 'n' Mel Multi-national conglomerate, and The Angel has definitely benefitted. Not only because PT is now smiling again, but also because he has found a way of Improving the Furniture at The Angel. Quite how the nicer chairs were made part of the deal, we can only guess, but it is fair to say that some of the older ones were falling apart, so we mustn't grumble at the arrival of some replacements. Must we?
Well some did. "They're too narrow," squawked one easily dissatisfied resident of Greyhound Road (weekends and holidays only).
We also seem to have acquired one or two new pictures at the same time, including one that one can only assume is a relic of days of mis-spent youth in the shape of our Beloved Proprietor apparently standing next to HM the Queen. It must be quite an old picture, because she's smiling and PT has black hair (unless he broke out the Grecian 2000 specially for the occasion).
They say the camera cannot lie: perhaps, but there is such a thing as an electronic white lie.
Worst of all, some of us have to sit opposite the thing.
But such cosmetic changes are but a sop to us mere mortals.
More is to come, in the shape, in the not too distant future, of yet another landlord, rumoured to be coming all the way from Bildeston.
Well, PT and Mel are set to disappear to the land of lotus eaters that is Stanningfield to luxuriate in their purpose-built
rest home semi-retirement villa. Now, no-one would deny them their rights, but the effort of breaking in a new pair of incumbents after little more than 6 months could be more than the constitution of the average drinker can bear.
But we'll try - my God, we'll try.
More on this issue as matters progress.
More Culture - of the Musical Kind
Peter has promised (Is that like the gypsy's curse? - Ed.) that there will be a leaving party on the occasion of his translation to the Posh bit of West Suffolk (see above) (Just as long as he doesn't expect a BIG leaving present as well - Ed.)
The really good thing about that evening will be that he's booked the illustrious Tom Robinson to play again.
Which serves to remind me that I didn't get round to posting a review of Tom's last visit on 16 February.
Now that was a grand evening, of the sort not seen since Mo's leaving party, and in much happier circumstances.
The place was packed by 8.30, so much so that the way to the loo was blocked, and those in need had to take the Great Circle route via the car park, and getting a drink was as difficult as getting a winning hand at crib.
Tom was on prime form. He purveys a wonderful mixture of music on the blues-ish fringe, with a jazz hint and touches of folk-country sort of thing thrown in (in other words, hard to categorise). It is all done with the minimum of fuss, simple but well-played guitar and mouth-harp mainly, and a tiny bit of percussion, and his voice emerges through a bed of fine gravel and a generous coating of tar and nicotine. Great stuff.
Personal favourites have to be the Tom Waits numbers, but that's just me. Everything he did was received with relish, particularly (but not exclusively) by Glemsford's answer to George Melly, Tony Ward, who, with friend Hilary, attempted to clear a dancing space in front of the amps by the simple expedient of knocking people's beer out of the way. But did they cut a rug? Too right they did.
While the rest of us smiled benignly. Mine's a pint, Tone.
Any way, if that evening was anything to go by, the Thorgood Farewell should be a night to reckon with.
Best draw a veil
... over the final exploits of the Quiz and Crib teams. Previous editions have referred to the problems faced by the Quiz Team since Christmas and the Crib Team since Noah was a boy. Suffice to say that we will all return in the new season refreshed and reinvigorated to continue the struggle without the benefit of ITV Digital sponsorship.
Lest it be imputed that I am being churlish, I must say that the Nice Mr Orton was able to add a couple of "W"s to the score sheet (once he could remember how to spell W) and the Quiz team's last fixture gave us the chance to spoil the title-chasing surge of the Acton Crown. Which we did.
Rumour has it that the self-styled Mayor of South Glemsford, John "Doods" Suttle, has been on a bridge-building tour of the imposed home of his ancestors (allegedly) - Australia.
It's a hard life, being a jobbing electrician.
Reports have been scarce: apparently some have received news, but are playing their (post) cards close to their chests. Some investigative electronic journalism is called for. I'll see what I can do.
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Angel Curse Continues To Bite
Spirit of Change Rejected by Live-In Spirit
As recorded in the previous edition, the Management has had problems with Its Pumps.
Thorogood's worthy attempts to widen the range of Good Ale through the Guest Beer Programme were built around the installation of two (at great expense) shiny new beer engines, with the promise that IPA would remain hand-dispensed straight from the cask.
The guiding spirit of the Angel was wise to this attempt at modernisation and reacted by ensuring that ale being served through the pumps was emerging at more than (Hawaiian) room temperature. Despite desperate attempts by the "experts" to correct the problem with the (reverse) coolers, the Angel has so far emerged the winner.
The result is that the Guest Ales continue, but, in strict accordance with tradition, the newcomers are also being poured alongside the IPA, straight from the cask, as Mother Nature intended.
Mind you, they must be special somehow. They cost 25p per pint more than the IPA.
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The list of Guest Ales in the last edition demonstrates just how good real English Ale can be.
The Guest List has continued to grow, and several old favourites have returned, being warmly welcomed.
Not quite newcomers, more returning exiles, have been
- Greene King Abbot Ale
- Greene King Triumph Ale
Both these versions of liquid Brain Damage are always popular - but it is a long time since Abbot, in particular, has been seen in The Angel. Each has its own group of afficionados and will undoubtedly further boost the Thorogood Semi-Retirement fund.
Who To Expect
Several regular readers, behaving like trainspotters, have demanded to know the running order for bar staff at the Angel. It is undoubtedly the case that the mood and style of the place varies little from century to century, but there are observable, if subtle, differences depending on the night of the week.
So, without fear or favour, here is the late-night running order:
- Sunday: Mel followed by PT; a quiet night of sober reflection, befitting the day; some music possible. Moves are afoot to reinstitute "Customer's Favourites" on the CD player
- Monday: ditto, but with challenges to the brain in the form of crosswords and leftover weekend quizzes
- Tuesday: Alex. Quiet efficiency behind the bar. The possibility of some more up to date music.
- Wednesday: normally Mel followed by PT; crib night, but the season's over, so the rule of silence can now be ignored
- Thursday: Jules. This is the night to visit if you enjoy the traditional calls of "Last Orders, Please" and "See Your Beers Off Now Kiddies". The Bell (that's the thing that hangs on the corner of the bar and looks like an over-sized Christmas decoration) had not been rung since Mo tried it and the rope broke; it was heard again on 28 March 02. Rumours suggest that architectural engineers have been brought in to check the fabric of the building as a result.
- Friday: M and P
- Saturday: M & P
Dog Days at The Angel
The departure of the Thorogoods will also mean that it will be safe to buy an innocent packet of crisps once more,
safe in the knowledge that a marauding but affectionate Springer Spaniel answering to the name (politely) of Ben will not
come looking all lovable with Feed Me eyes. When not scrounging crisps and other bar snacks, Ben is best seen demolishing beer
mats, leaving the pieces strewn across the floor with an insouciance that defies description. If Ben could speak, it would
undoubtedly be to say "It wasn't me, guv."
Meanwhile, Megs, the female of the species, is better behaved but has a habit of
perching on tables and looking lovable.
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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.