Pub Story

8 03 2018



I had to go back to England recently. Wife Julie came with me for two weeks and our children Kate and Joe also came over for a quick four day stay. The occasion was sad – my mum had passed away – but it was wonderful to have the entire Brooker family together including relatives, some of whom hadn’t seen each other for a decade or more.

The day after the funeral the four of us visited some of our old haunts around the picturesque town of Wimborne in Dorset. We decide to have lunch at a pub we used to go to when Kate and Joe were small – the Barley Mow at Colehill. It’s an old thatched country pub dating back to the 16th century. Oliver Cromwell is said to have stayed there on his way to lay siege to the Royalists at Corfe Castle in 1645, and his troops are supposed to have prayed in nearby God’s Blessing Lane before going into battle, but then again every old pub in Dorset has some such tale to tell.

Anyway, we found a free table right next to a roaring log fire and I went up to the bar to order our drinks. There was a notice on the counter asking customers who wanted to run a tab to leave their credit card at the bar. I went to hand over my card, but the landlord – a big, burly chap – told me there was no need. To get the full flavour of what happened next you need to read the following with a Dorset accent (or, if you’re Canadian, a Newfie accent will probably do just as well):

A fellow at a nearby table now addressed himself to me, speaking loud enough for everyone in the bar to hear: ” ‘Ere, mate. You lot are sittin’ in the wrong place. You don’t wanna be sittin’ over by yon fire. You wanna be sittin’ over by the door, so’s you can do a runner.”

I explained that my days of nipping out of pubs without paying were long over and pointed out that the landlord was a lot bigger than me, almost certainly a lot tougher, and that he’d probably kill me if he caught me.

“What, ‘im?” came the scornful reply. “Ken wouldn’t catch you in a month of Sundays. Truth is, that old bastard couldn’t catch a cold, never mind catch you.”

Cue gales of laughter all round, from customers who’d likely heard the same line many times before.

Mum would have loved that story!


All the best.

Dave B.



Scottish Wife goes golfing

29 10 2013

Julie (aka Scottish Wife) and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary last week. Hard to imagine back on October 25th 1980 as a couple of 26 year olds that a third of a century later we would not only be retired but have dual nationality and be living thousands of miles away from what was then our home in Dorset, England. Our own kids, aged just nine and seven when we moved to Canada, are now close to 30 and we ourselves have made the transition from proud parents to proud grandparents. Like most couples, I’m sure, we have been through good times and bad. The bad times have always been short lived and, on reflection, have usually been brought about by some error in judgement or lack of sensitivity on my part. My recent bright idea to publicise  SW’s new Shawmail address in the form of an email announcing a parting of the ways was perhaps not quite as clearly phrased as I had intended, although it did confirm my suspicion that some of our friends and relatives don’t read their emails as attentively as they probably should. I also have to say that for every sympathetic email I received, Julie got half a dozen saying that she “should have ditched the old ba$tard years ago”.

One constant in our marriage used to be that I was the one who did the sports stuff and Julie was the one who watched. Before we were married, Julie used to come and watch me play soccer. Not surprisingly, she soon tired of watching me run up and down the wing on wet and windy Sunday mornings in Division 6 of the Bournemouth League. Once we had the kids, I was usually able to inveigle her into coming along with the other wives and make tea for the cricket team I played for every summer, but that all came to an end the day we tried to sneak in a beer match when a game finished early. I can still see the pitch invasion now, Julie marching onto the hallowed turf at Wimborne St Giles, five year old Kate holding one hand and three year old Joe holding the other, and announcing very loudly: “These are YOUR kids and I’ve already looked after them for three hours. It’s your turn now and I’m going down the pub”. Rain has stopped play many a time in Dorset League cricket matches, but “Wife Stopped Play” was an embarrassing first for all of us in the Gerrings Insurance XI. It was also an event that I have never been allowed to forget by any of the players – or wives – who were there on that infamous day.

Since Kate and Joe left home, and particularly since her retirement, Julie has become a more active participant in athletic pursuits: lots of walking, a gym membership, thrice weekly zumba and now, finally, golf.  Julie’s idea of golf is almost diametrically opposed to mine: she plays nine holes, not eighteen; a good round is measured by the number of laughs, not strokes, (it took me a while, but I have now learned not to ask her after a round what her score was as she a) has no idea and b) basically couldn’t care less); the concept of matchplay, playing for money and insulting your playing partners is completely alien to her, as are some of the most basic tenets of golf. A couple of weeks ago, for example, she was telling me how tough some of her shots had been that day because every time her ball landed in the fairway it was embedded in the ground “and it was really hard trying to hit it out”. When I pointed out that at this time of year we played lift, clean and place she gave me an old fashioned look and asked how she was supposed to know this stuff if I didn’t explain all the rules properly.

There are a couple of basics that she and her friends have grasped, however. Knowing that even in the 21st century guys have a tendency to moan about women being on golf courses unless they’re driving a beer cart, I suggested that she and her friends follow two rules: always try to keep up with the group ahead and, if they can’t, invite the group behind to go through. This has paid dividends: a few weeks ago at Comox golf club a group of guys who Julie and her friends had invited through bought them coffee when they’d finished their round – something that’s never happened to me. And last week when Julie’s group was waiting on the first tee they were joined by a couple of guys who’d already played nine holes. They were very appreciative when the ladies invited them through but were in no great rush. “We’ve got time to flirt first, right?” said one of the gentlemen. This has also never happened to me.

first birdie

Julie eyes up a short putt on the 160 yard 8th hole at Mulligans for her very first birdie.  (Picture, courtesy of Paula McRae). Another rule to remember: there are no gimme birdie putts in golf!

As the picture above shows, though, there’s the occasional success that all golfers can relate to. How cool that Julie’s friend Paula was on hand to ensure that Julie’s first birdie was recorded for posterity. Your Scottish dad would have been proud indeed, Jewie!

All da best, especially to Mickey, Paula, Cathy and all SW’s golfing chums.

Dave B.

One wedding, no funerals, loads of beer and pasties

3 07 2013

It’s the final day of our visit to the Sceptred Isle (er, I think that’s a synonym for Britain – apologies if it’s actually Salt Spring or the Isle of Wight or some such) and it’s time to pause for breath and review what we’ve got up to over the past three weeks. It’s been a holiday full of fun and frolics, starting with our rental car at Gatwick Airport. Son-in-law TJ and I looked somewhat doubtfully at the Peugeot 506 which was advertised as a seven seater. As there were only six of us, including two year old Eli and four month old Miles, we’d assumed there would be room to spare. “It’s a compact”, said TJ as we crammed the last of our suitcases into the back, leaving just enough room for Scottish Wife to scramble in through the hatchback. “It’s all we’ve got”, said daughter Kate and off we went. I’ll draw a veil over what should have been an easy 90 minute trip up the M25 and M11 to our destination, but turned into a three hour odyssey through south east London. Still, at least I can say I’ve been to Bromley. Twice. We arrived at the in-laws late Thursday afternoon, which gave us about 36 hours to get over jet lag and prepare for the wedding of our lovely niece Bethany and her nearly-as-lovely fiancé James:

Mr and Mrs Rawlinson exchanging vows at All Saints Church, Rayne

Mr and Mrs Rawlinson exchanging vows at All Saints Church, Rayne. Despite appearances, Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) was not officiating. It was actually Reverend Julie, who had many of us in tears with her beautiful sermon.

The weather on the great day was perfect – right up until the moment the guests arrived in the Walkers’ back yard for the reception, at which point the rain came lashing down, soon to be accompanied by thunder and lightning. Fortunately, we were protected by the biggest, coolest marquee I’ve ever been in outside a circus:

Inside the marquee. Yup, that's a genuine, full grown greengage tree under the big top! It was one mother of a marquee...

Inside the big top, before the decorations really got under way. Yup, that’s a genuine, full grown greengage tree! It was one mother of a marquee…

...and a few hours later, the wedding party is in full swing

…and a few hours later, the wedding party is in full swing

It was an epic day, made all the more dramatic by the sudden change in weather. The Walker family certainly know how to throw a party, er wedding. (Do you actually ‘throw’ weddings?) There was, of course, eating, drinking, speechifying and dancing aplenty, all of which went on until the wee hours.

Two days later we were off down to Cornwall, staying in rented cottages in the picturesque village of Lerryn:

Rental car in front of rental cottage, Lerryn, Cornwall

Rental car in front of rental cottage, Lerryn, Cornwall. 7 seater. Seriously.

Low tide on the Lerryn estuary

Low tide on the Lerryn estuary

Back in the day, Scottish Wife and her sister Sue spent every summer of their childhood in Cornwall (travelling down by train from Glasgow) and their love of England’s most southerly county is infectious. The weather was, shall we say, typical of a British summer. One day was spent relaxing on the beach at Perranporth, another walking the cliffs from Tintagel to Trebarwith Strand. The former took place in bright, warm sunshine; the latter in pouring rain. Both days were great!

Grumps (yours truly) and grandson Miles, both showing their best sides. Gull Rock (off Trebarwith) in the background.

Grumps (yours truly) and grandson Miles, both showing their best sides. Gull Rock (off Trebarwith Strand) in the background. Not quite raining yet, although  Miles seems to  be anticipating a bit of precipitation.

One hour, one visit to the pub, two pints and one pasty later...

One hour, one visit to the pub, two pints, one pasty and one downpour later. Note the ice cream cone in Kate’s hand – you can’t have a summer without Cornish ice cream.

Eli: "I'm all rainy, Grumps!" Me: "Yeah. I know, Eli. Great, innit?"

Eli: “I’m all rainy, Grumps!”
Me: “Yeah. I know, Eli. Great, innit?”

The following day, the Brookers and Fishers visited the stunning Eden Project, only eight miles from our rental cottage, but at least a thirty minute drive through the ridiculously narrow and winding Cornish lanes. You haven’t lived (or, indeed, had a true near death experience) until you’ve travelled the highways and byways of Cornwall!

Julie in the rainforest biome at the Eden project

Julie in the rainforest biome at the Eden Project. (Many, many thanks to Ben Davies and his Cornish supervisor Pauline for providing the tickets!)

The variety of plants was stunning and we were shocked when we realised we’d been there five hours, without a peep of protest from the boys. Eli loved the tractor train at ‘the project’, as he called it, but three days later we were in Corfe Castle, Dorset and he got to see the real thing:

Eli and the self-styled 'Slim Controller'. I persuaded Eli to ask this gentleman if he was Sir Topham Hat (of Thomas the Tank Engine fame). He denied it, but did introduce us to his friend the Portly Porter.

Eli and the self-styled ‘Slim Controller’. I persuaded Eli to ask this gentleman if he was Sir Topham Hat (of Thomas the Tank Engine fame). He denied it, but did introduce us to his friend the Portly Porter. (Not shown. Too big to fit in the picture).

The Swanage – Corfe Castle heritage railway is a six mile track maintained by around 400 volunteers. It has a regular timetable and will soon link up with the British Railway track, which at present ends at the nearby town of Wareham.

The Corfe - Swanage steam railway is maintained by 400 volunteers. Eli was in heaven!

Corfe Castle in the background. Cromwell’s Roundheads 1 King’s Cavaliers 0

A few days in Dorset with me Mum and siblings, nephews and nieces (none of whom, thankfully, were ejected from Splashdown water park this year) and it was back to Essex and the in laws for one last week. More food and drink – if I get weighed at check in at Gatwick tomorrow, there’s a serious risk of extra charges – a visit to the Turkish barber’s in Braintree and a wonderful day yesterday watching the cricket (Essex v England) at the County Ground, Chelmsford. Who could ask for more? Apart from a round of golf, that is, or another Cornish pasty…

Proper 'ansome, my lover!

Proper ‘ansome, my lover!

All da best! Dave B.