I’ve known Bunny for more than thirty years. We met when I was friends with his girlfriend and he was friends with my boyfriend. Later on, we drank in the same pub and mixed with the same crowd. I always liked Bunny’s sense of humour and his brilliant, fast, merciless intelligence. Back in the day he was a bit of a wild child but I noticed as we arrived at his choice of venue, an old country pub, that the landlord was pleased to see him. Years ago he would have been tolerated as one of the few with a large salary and a powerful thirst, but most landlords were cautious if not downright hostile.
Bunny’s choice for our lunch was The Blue Anchor in Aberthaw, a fourteenth century thatched building with lots of wood fires, low door ways and tiny little rooms. I’m almost glad I don’t live within walking distance of this pub, if I did I would inevitably go there every day, drink their wonderful beer and eat the excellent food they now serve.
When we were kids there was a deal with the local bus company whereby you could take any bus after 6pm for a small fee. Bunny, myself and many of our friends would take the bus down to Aberthaw at 6pm and then back to Barry Island, where the night clubs were, at 11pm when the pub closed. The bus would be full of drunken kids, singing and messing around on our way to another three hours of drinking, followed by the long and weary walk across the causeway from the island to our homes in Barry town. My personal record for this period was to drink nine pints of Marsden’s Pedigree which given that I probably weighed eight stone at the time, is pretty impressive.
Sunday 15th February 2015
The Blue Anchor, Aberthaw
The Blue Anchor is a great place, easily the nicest pub I know, so we took our superb beer and settled in to one of the tiny rooms near the bar. I had brought a cryptic crossword which I knew we stood a good chance of finishing between us, crosswords and English generally have been a consistent theme in Bunny and my relationship. As expected, we finished the crossword, but I had forgotten how quick Bunny is, how good his spelling (I’m no slouch but he is excellent) and how jubilant he would be when I made a mistake, he positively cawed with delight.
The food in The Blue Anchor is excellent. Bunny chose venison, roasted with red wine and served with sweet potato mash. It was very good indeed and went really well with the Theakston’s Old Peculier I had chosen to drink. Bunny demurred, but I also had a pudding, a rose and raspberry crème brûlée which was also excellent.
Conversation was easy and voluble. We talked about old friends, some of whom I had forgotten and was fascinated to hear about. I was really touched to discover that unlike most of our friends, Bunny had not believed my ex-boyfriend’s story that I had dumped him and broken his heart. Bunny knew that the ex had actually dumped me in favour of an arranged marriage with a chip shop for a dowry. I had left town and was unable to put my side of the story and when I came back to visit several years later and heard how our break up had been explained, it didn’t seem worth pursuing. I was stung by the injustice however and was glad, even thirty years later to hear that Bunny had championed me and had argued with the ex so badly that they never spoke again.
It’s surprising how often in these lunches I get given a little nugget of information, often nothing special to the giver, but a joy for me. Bunny’s was to explain how the Blue Anchor got its name and why there’s a pub on the opposite side of the Bristol channel with the same name. Turns out that North Devon and South Wales share the same geology and that when a ship pulls up the anchor off our shores, the muddy residue dries to a blue grey colour, hence the pub name. The Blue-Grey Anchor, although more accurate, isn’t quite as catchy.
One final little pleasure from today’s lunch was that Bunny gave me a birthday gift – sixpence ha’penny, minted in the year of my birth. Unlike Bunny who I don’t think has ever thrown away anything, I didn’t keep any pre-decimal coinage, so this was the first time I had seen a ha’penny since 1971. It was an odd sensation – the coin was so familiar and yet I felt so distant. Remembering what I used to buy with those coins (sweets of course) seemed so real, yet the seven year old child who made those purchases seemed very unreal, literally changed beyond recognition.