Thursday, May 5, 2016
THE BLACK DOG REPORT : English Journey, '16
The Black Dog Report, # 1
There arent many pubs anywhere in the country, he says, where you can get a pint straight out of the barrel. Of course I'm agreeing. Yes, I saw that yesterday (--with the Abbot, and noticed the enclave around & below the taps, and the bar-woman leant down to fish dregs out of bucket Billy thought! --surely not? --clot, Ed mutters, --unacceptable probably would be "twat" pronounced "twot", which is the natural rhyme, expletive or not), poured an Old Speckled Hen, the taste deserving better body but worth it for the palate. But today there isnt any! I dont have it today my love, she tells me, cheerfully. Oh no, says I... You drank it all yesterday, she laughs. The chap who extolled the barrels now recommends I.P.A., --the best drop in my opinion, he says. There's no choice. I go with a half. Let me know what you think, he says. But he's off soon after leaving me to bathe in the brown public bar, variously lighter & darker complexion of tables, chairs, floor boards, counter-top --English history's deep stained & lacquered culture. And that's most of the point of it --the pub thing --through a glass oakly, wallnutly, Andy Capp-ly, Sheila Chandra-ly, David Caddy-ly, Kris Hemensley, & Uncle Tom Cobbly & all & all...
[31st March, '16]
The Black Dog Report, # 2
Bustling beetling little old lady, "See you later or on a Christmas Tree…" Walk around the different leveled public bar --it's all public bar including snugs, billiard table near the Gents, room with open fire. Looking for a table away from the pop muzak. The only spot is on the walk-through, sufficiently close to the bar to catch eye, exchange word with barman. In the process ("See you at the Dog"), Ive lost the Abbot & the Wheel. Small town, bank on it we'll rendezvous soon.
After rain there's sun --taxi-driver suggested snow! 'Poor old England' the Alexandrian family would admonish seriously, looking down collective aristocratic nose on their in-laws.
Second pint with the crew about me again. They're the photographers, me the pen & notebook man. Drop into a place often enough… no, it's surely more than that --because the environment's familiar from the first, offers itself up, every black beam, each square of purple leaf & olive carpet, accommodating. 'Oldest Pub in Weymouth' the hook of course --snob in a snood, hah!
Next day, late afternoon, drop in for a pint & use of facilities, grateful after long ride from Salisbury. The alternating bar staff together on this occasion wearing blue shirt uniforms, both less voluble than when working alone. Today's piped music is eclectic, sounds authentic, --who'd knowingly pass on Harry Belafonte's There's A Hole in My Bucket duet with Odetta?
[4/5 April, '16]
The Black Dog Report, # 3
Amble along the sea-front in full sunshine --B B meditative --sea-shell beach sapped his energy, not proud of it. Plonks himself upon bench this morning in sunshine everyone's calling "gorgeous". Penny for 'em, says the Girl (--how long's he known her? --Christy's squeeze once upon a time --more than one Christy, more than one anyone --mebbe more than one life… Sudden voice in ear --Ed's --"only one? be careful what you wish for!")-- Not thinking of anything, he says, --which she wont have a bar of! But B B cant be drawn, old hand. Doesn't mention the Fielding Dawson style of narrative he's been thinking his own might resemble --cogitative, soliloquy, occasionally but unpredictably intersected by expressionistic flurry. This text is ahead of itself. B B simply thought of Fielding Dawson, the Black Mountain artist & writer he once corresponded with, whose stories & novels he devoured. No one talks about any of them, that entire '60s, '70s constellation --"no one" as fraction of erstwhile 'everyone', from way back everyone did read them. Ed's mate Long Tim Ville-john --or Long Johns what the Cornish friends called him after they'd wintered there --so excited when the new Dawson was published, The Black Mountain Book for example, compared it to the earlier work, Franz Kline, An Emotional Memoir, and as far as commentary's concerned, he said, the way to go (--sorry guys, just gotta butt in here : back in the day, attempting to get Fielding out to Oz, enlisted the support of worthies like Michael Wilding, Jim Hamilton, Elwyn Lynn, and sought out, importantly, Patrick McCaughey, but against the flow he declined --the writings by Dawson I'd cited as sparkling recommendations were, he said, the very things which brought art criticism into disrepute! --whaaaat? --1975! --where was he coming from?) --you've probably guessed this reminiscence occurs beneath the antique beams of the Black Dog to the "here you are my love"s &"thank you my darling"s of the mother of the usual barwoman who banters the very same affections in the identical manner, being the ultimate Dorset locals, inside of the piped Ray Orbison & the soul & reggae, in the all-around brown & black lacquered English cave, sunniest Spring day at bay…
The Black Dog Report, # 4
"Are there new faces around here or have I just been coming on the wrong days?" "I'm the new landlady… bought the business 7 weeks ago…"
Thinking how I love this pub --I'm sitting at table adjacent to the bar, back to the fruit-machine, facing down one step to the main bar & door, porch, & street.
Ah, the posts & beams. 'Please Mind Your Head' (--how did kids devise Fleas Love Your Head out of that on the school bus? Fleas out of Please, but Love out of Mind? I think it must have been Please Lower Your head. Of course)…
And here he is : black leather jacket & blue denims, the Bogart face but this time's shorn hair, earring. The Sailor. Steps outside for a fag, parks his pint of Thatcher's cider on the bar. Five minutes, puff & flick away, return, puff restored. Billy Boo takes it all in. "Who shot the deputy?" Sailor humms to the muzak. His foot-tapping's natural, the music's fake. Everything else is real.
Given icy breeze no choice between seafront & Black Dog, but choice made without weather in mind. Honour thy local, if not it'll go the way of all locals. Honour thy local bitter, thy Old Speckled Hen, thy Original Mini Cheddars (biscuits).
Sailor complains about the music, doesn't distinguish between the piped crap & the cartoon of rock'n'roll he mimics to the hilarity of bar-staff. "Doesn't like it but knows all about it!" one says behind his back. He's outside again, second cigarette of the day.