Saturday, 18 July 2009

A Typical Saturday in Tonbridge

I've been out and about a bit today. I was supposed to be out trying to sell copies of our newly published "Gateway to Kent" pub guide. I did manage to sell a few, one to a friend who I met up with in our local Wetherspoons, plus several to the owner of MR Books, a fascinating and slightly quirky independent bookshop, tucked away just off the High Street, near the old market quarter of Tonbridge. I was glad I popped into the bookshop; not only did I have a lengthy and very interesting chat with owner Mark Richardson, but I also managed to pick up a copy of a book I had been looking for for ages. (Now I've got something interesting to read on holiday!)

As well as running his bookshop, Mark is also the author of the Tonbridge Blog, which is a very useful source of gossip regarding what's going on in the town. The comments and feedback also make for interesting reading, especially if they're a bit controversial. Being a former small-business owner myself, we compared notes and swapped a few tales - mainly regarding the incredibly long hours worked by most small-business owners, for very little financial reward.

I was going to pop into the Ivy House afterwards, but decided against it it in the end. The Ivy, as it is known locally, is an attractive old pub, at the top end of the town, that has recently re-opened after an extensive re-fit. It used to be a good "drinkers" pub, but now mainly caters for diners. As I still haven't been in there since the pub re-opened I don't really feel qualified to comment too much, except that I'd heard they are charging £3.50 a pint for their guest beer, and that the food prices are also a "little on the dear side". Quite what Tonbridge will make of the place remains to be seen, but it is either extremely brave or extremely foolhardy to be opening such an upmarket establishment in the middle of a recession. Nevertheless I am pleased that the pub has re-opened and wish the new owners well with their venture.

My main reason for not visiting the Ivy House though, was not one of tightness, rather the fact I'd already had a couple of pints in Wetherspoons. As I knew I would be driving later in the day, I did not wish to imbibe further, for obvious reasons. Having had to endure some of the clientele in Wetherspoons though, I can perhaps understand the Ivy House's new owners policy of charging higher prices; if it keeps the riff-raff, DSS (sorry, taxpayer)-funded underclasses out, then perhaps it is well worth paying the extra! This may sound rather elitist, but my friend and I had to queue for what seemed like forever at the bar to get served in Wetherspoons, as there were not enough staff behind the bar. This is nothing new for mid-morning on a Saturday, and may explain why Spoons manage to keep their prices so low. I can live with that, and the short measure pint I was eventually served with, but I can do without some of the more obnoxious characters that seem to be a permanent, all-day fixture. In the end though, like so many things in life, it boils down to paying your money and taking your choice.


Curmudgeon said...

Is there a Spoons anywhere that actually has enough staff?

Paul Bailey said...

The Richard Oastler in Brighouse did, but only because of a lack of other customers on the night of our visit.

Unfortunately it is the very shortage of staff that often leads to trouble breaking out. People get frustrated at having to wait so long; someone pushes in, or gets served before them and we all know what happens next.