"So, have you got all that? That's where you're picking it up. That's where you're staying. It's all paid for. Half board. That's where you're dropping it off."
Gary's index finger worked its way down a sheet of A4 paper, stabbing at the three addresses, complete with phone numbers, as it did so.
"And don't forget to get receipts for the diesel."
It was lunchtime on Wednesday 21st December 1977, exactly forty-five years ago to the day that I started typing this post, and I was being briefed about my job for the next couple of days. Gary, as well as being a fellow member of the Highland's darts team, worked for a sister company of my then employer. In the morning I was to drive an empty Ford Transit pick-up from Great Yarmouth to Cornwall where it was to be loaded with a printing press. Not one of those massive pieces of engineering that turn out innumerable copies of the Sun or the Guardian you understand, but a small one which was used for printing plastic sacks. Once loaded up I was to stay the night in a B&B in St. Columb before delivering the press to an address in London and returning home. Over eight hundred miles in a diesel Transit in two days. What fun, I thought.
I set off at around six o'clock the next morning, headed south along what was then the A12, and after an inordinate number hours I arrived in Cornwall. The Transit was loaded up, my overnight accommodation located and my dinner eaten. It was time for a short exploration and it wasn't long before I found myself in the Queen and Railway Inn in St. Columb Road.
A swift couple of pints and it was time for an early night. If I thought I'd driven enough miles today there were even more to drive tomorrow.
Sleep did not come easily. It was the coldest night in Cornwall for over a decade. I don't think my room had been heated since the end of the summer season and I was freezing. In the end I managed a couple of fitful hours buried under the damp bedclothes wearing my alpine quality down-filled mountaineering jacket. At least the full English breakfast in the morning was both warm and substantial.
After about an hour of trying to get the cold diesel to start and removing the ice from the windscreen and side windows I was off. Not the early start that I was hoping for. At a filling station near Exeter my naivety came to the fore when I questioned why the cashier had offered me a receipt for a fiver more than I'd spent and then, at last, I was on the motorway.
If I was hoping to make more rapid progress then I was disappointed. The road might not have been as twisty but, with the printing press on the back, the sluggard of an engine struggled to keep me moving at forty-five miles an hour on some of the motorway's gentle inclines. Bristol eventually arrived, the M5 morphed into the M4, but the pace of travel remained unimpressive. It was a quarter to five, and dark, when I eventually pulled into a yard in west London. I was most impressed that I'd managed to find it so easily with just a road atlas and an A to Z. No satnav in those days.
With just a quarter of an hour left of the final working day before Christmas it didn't take long for the printing press to be lifted off.
"Do you want the pallet?"
I hadn't even considered that and so answered in the negative, whereupon I was handed a fifty pence piece and told, "Have yourself a couple of Christmas pints when you get home." Now it was just a matter of getting there.
At five o'clock on the last working day before Christmas the traffic leaving London was not at its lightest, but I managed to navigate my way to the North Circular – not only was this a time before satnavs, it was also a time before the M25 – and from there crawled my way round to the A12, eventually pulling into the car park of the Highlands around a quarter past nine. I felt I'd earned those Christmas pints.
Having ploughed through all of the above you're probably now expecting a bit of info about the Queen and Railway. I'm sorry to disappoint you, for whilst the old inn now earns a living as an Indian restaurant, I only discovered that fact whilst rooting around on t'interweb attempting to confirm its name. The bygone boozer which is the subject of this post is the Fishermans Arms in Great Yarmouth, and is where the conversation with Gary that appeared at the top of the page took place.
Located at 39/40 Southgates Road, the Fishermans was in operation from the 1870s. The Register of Electors shows Edward Addy there in 1873.
When Edward retired three years later "...the well-situated Beerhouse, standing near the Fish Wharf, on South Gates Road..." was sold for£1,140 on the 7th September. It moved out of private ownership and passed into the possession of Wymondham Brewery who went on to sell it to Morgan's in 1894. This meant that it eventually ended up in the hands of Watneys, and it would've been their local brew, Norwich Bitter, that I was drinking that December lunchtime, forty-five years ago.
The Fishermans Arms pulled its last pint in 1999 and is now in residential use. Its neighbour in the above photograph has also disappeared. Spandler Bros. Ltd., a local haulier, has pulled its last load, having been taken over by York-based Revis Transport in 2015 who then pulled out of the town three years later.
Moving on from a dim and distant yuletide to this current one. As the festive season was approaching, a friend, now living across the pond, surprised me a couple of weeks ago with a visit and presented me with this pack of seasonal goodies.
If you're lucky there may well be a review coming later. If you're unlucky there might be a post on the Queen and Railway too. However, don't let the thought of that put you off your Christmas pud.
Merry Christmas! Nadolig Llawen! God Jul! ¡Feliz navidad! Joyeux Noël! However you like to say it, do have a good Midwinterfest.
Thanks to Debbie Larke for the black and white image of the Fishermans Arms. Derek Harper's and James Petts' images are copyright and are reused under this licence.
If you've read this far, then thank you. Possibly, like me, you may have some sort of interest in bygone boozers. Clicking here will take you to a searchable/sortable index which you can use to see if I've already featured any lost locals from your locality. You can also subscribe to ensure that you don't miss any future posts. Simply click here to return to the home page (opens in a new tab), follow the 'Subscribe' link and complete the form to receive an email notification of any future post. Or you could simply follow the link at the top of this page.