My family story in ten objects… number 6

It might not surprise you to know that the object I have chosen as part of my family story is a glass of beer.  Where does beer begin in my family story…

My dad’s grandfather, my great-grandfather Reuben, held the license of a pub, the Fitzroy Arms in Cambridge. Like so many pubs in Cambridge and elsewhere it was pulled down, knocked down, demolished, to make way for a soulless shopping centre. This is what my cousin wrote about it:

My great-grandfather, Reuben Elsden  was the licensee until sometime after 1926. In 1926 his daughter, Nellie and son-in-law Walter lost their business in Newport, Mon as a result of the General Strike and returned to live at the Fitzroy Arms (with their daughter, Kathleen). Nellie and Walter had a son, Peter in 1929 and The licence was transferred to Walter (date unknown).  Reuben died in 1949. Walter and Nellie retired in 1954 after which the pub had one or two temporary licensees before being closed…
… The Fitzroy Arms was in the middle of a development scheme designated the Kite project (describing it’s footprint shape)which effectively blighted the area from 1950 until completion as the Grafton Shopping Centre in the mid 1990’s.  The building was demolished in the 1980’s.

My own grandfather, also Reuben held the license of the Portland Arms in Cambridge, now, I am pleased to say, a thriving and successful pub and music venue. My dad and his brother and sister were brought up in the Portland, and grandpa held the license until 1950 when very sadly he died from ‘the publican’s disease’, TB.

My mum’s side of the family… her father had a less happy relationship with pubs; my maternal grandfather was a complicated man, and probably a frustrated man; he had many good qualities, and was very intelligent… but somehow things didn’t work out for him. When a family is in financial difficulties, maybe the public house isn’t a friendly place after all.

However my only relationship with pubs and beer is very different. I do like beer, and i do like pubs, and they have been an important part of my life. In order to demonstrate why a pint of beer is so important in my life, and how it changed my life forever in a most wonderful and unexpected way, I will share a short story.

It was waster, 1990; I was at home, on my own,  sitting at the kitchen table immersed in the thesis I was writing. The phone rang, and hardly paying attention I picked it up. It was a colleague from school asking if I fancied going out for a pint… and I said ‘yes’ in a really absent-minded way… as I put the phone down I realised what had happened… The colleague was someone I didn’t really know, had no interest in – no interest in any way whatsoever, and I had just agreed to go out and spend the evening with him…
Oh well, I thought, at least he’ll take me to a decent pub, he’s a beer bloke, so at least I’ll enjoy a decent pint…
He arrived that evening and he drove me over the hills from Oldham in Lancashire, to the small town of Linthwaite (pronounced Linfit) to a pub I had never even heard of before called The Old Sair Inn. It was indeed very old, flagged floors, beamed ceilings… I began to think I might have a pleasant evening. Along the bar was a range of most interesting beers… Leadboiler,  English Guineas, Old Eli and Enoch’s Hammer…. hmmm, interesting indeed!
I asked for a half – and then realised, I wasn’t driving, so I could have a pint… I could have more than one pint! Meanwhile my ‘date’, who for some reason thought I was a Campari and soda sort of person, was surprised and impressed by me asking for a pint of Enoch’s Hammer.
That was only the start… within a few days, having known each other as colleagues for over twelve years, we realised that we were more than an item, we would become partners for life… and many more pints of beer! We married the following year, and before long we had two beautiful children…
My life changed, my life changed completely, thanks to a pint of beer!

By the way, a ‘sair’ is a sow…