The Elsden nose

Many, many years ago, near Greenham Common, my dad and a group of his mates were wandering round in a wooded area… I guess the date was probably 1942 –  dad and the others were in the parachute regiment and I am guessing they were  getting ready for the invasion of North Africa as part of Operation Torch… but I don’t really know. When dad told us these stories he didn’t really give any such details – it was the story that counted.

So, I’m guessing that dad and the other soldiers were training, on an exercise maybe, and it seems they were walking through a wooded area – I don’t know if it was a wood, or a forest, or just a place with lots of trees, when they came across a village pub, a small place, probably untouched for generations. I don’t know why, maybe dad described it (I’m sure he did, he was great at telling stories) but I imagine it as a low thatched, inn, with a door which even my rather short dad would have ducked to enter.

He and his mates went in, and I imagine it (maybe he told me) it having a stone slabbed floor, beams, small windows and was rather dark and quaint, maybe even lit by lamps rather than electric lights. The landlord, no doubt delighted to see a group of thirsty soldiers, patriotically welcomed them.

“I know what you have just been doing,” my dad said to him. The inn keeper looked puzzled. “You have just been decanting port,” dad told him.

The man was astonished! Yes, indeed he had! With a candle and a steady hand, he had indeed been decanting port! How did dad know? He had smelled it! My dad had ‘the Elsden nose‘ – he knew what port smelled like, he had been brought up in a pub, and his own dad had decanted port often enough – and maybe dad had done so too!

In my mind, the landlord then bought dad a pint… but maybe that is just my imagination!

The old pub in my featured image is not the pub in the story, it’s just an old pub near Reigate, called the Angel.

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