Son Matthew had both Saturday and Sunday off this weekend, a rare occurrence for someone who works in retail. He’s been at rather a loose end these past 14 months, when the government’s advice has been to avoid all forms of social contact, wherever possible, and whilst he’s been working since last June, he was furloughed for nearly three months, from the start of the first national lock-down.
It hasn’t exactly been a bundle of laughs for those of us of more mature years, so for youngsters, despite their much greater reliance on social media, it must be ten times worse. Rather than meeting up with their mates, those in the 18-30 age group have been confined largely to quarters, instead of going out having fun.
Mrs PBT’s is laid up having pulled a muscle in her back, so instead of our usual Saturday grocery shopping expedition, she arranged a “click and collect” order for me to pick up from the Tesco superstore at Riverhead, just to the north of Sevenoaks. Matthew said he’d accompany me, as he wanted to pick a few things up as well, so this seemed the perfect opportunity for him and me to enjoy a pint together. The only slight fly in the ointment was the weather, which was “changeable” to say the least.
The pub I had in mind was the White Rock Inn at Underriver, an attractive country pub in a tiny village, at the foot of the Greensand Ridge, just below Knole Park. It’s a pub I hadn’t been to in years, as it’s rather off the beaten track, despite only being a 15-minute drive from Bailey Towers. Mrs PBT’s has been there more recently than me, having enjoyed a meal and get-together with friends from her maternity group, a couple of Christmases ago.
She’d come back with glowing reports about both the food and the pub, and we talked about a visit there ourselves. With the pandemic, that never happened so after our visit to Tesco, it seemed logical for Matthew and me to stop there for a pint, on our way back to Tonbridge. What’s more, the heavy rain we’d experienced earlier had cleared, so all the better for us to enjoy an al fresco pint?
The drive to Underriver turned out to be longer than I remember. I thought it was just a case of turning left at the bottom of River Hill – the main route south out of Sevenoaks, and then taking another left turn, but no, it was further than I thought, and the road too was rather narrow in places, which wasn’t good when encountering SUV’s hurtling towards us in the opposite direction.
We arrived in Underriver in one piece, but as there were an awful lot of parked cars in the approach to the White Rock, I was concerned there would be no room at the inn. My fears proved groundless, and I suspect the abandoned vehicles were due to a wedding taking place at the nearby church. So, with plenty of room in the pub car-park, we joined the queue of people waiting to book in at the rear of the property.
We didn’t have to wait long, and despite not having pre-booked were shown to a table on the patio at the rear of the pub. We were asked to scan the NHS app on our way through, but after explaining that neither of us had the app on our phones, we were asked to supply contact details manually.
I really don’t see the point of doing this when we were sitting outside and several feet away from any other tables, but we did so, and with good grace. After all, the staff are only doing what the control freaks of SAGE - or is it Nervtag now? are asking of them, and if it helps keep pubs open, then that’s OK with me.
As mentioned above there were several groups of people sat out on the patio, and quite a few more in the extensive garden behind. The only problem was, would the weather hold, as the only protection were the pub-umbrellas on each table. Fortunately, the rain held off – think most of it must have fallen earlier, whilst I was walking around the garden section of Homebase in Sevenoaks.
The waiting staff were kept busy, taking orders and ferrying food and drink out to customers, and before long I’d ordered myself a pint of Harvey’s Best, plus whatever lager they happened to have on, for Matthew. The waiter pointed to the embroidered logo on his polo shirt, advertising a brand of beer that used to be brewed in Amsterdam, so it was a pint of Amstel for the lad.
The Harvey’s was on top form, cool, crystal clear and well-conditioned, and what’s more it tasted good as well. As I’m no longer a CAMRA member, I can’t submit beer scores, but it was at least a 4.0 NBSS. It didn’t last too long either, but as I was driving, I resisted having another, even though I was sorely tempted.
Matthew and I had a good father and son chat, something we haven’t done for quite some time. He mentioned that this was his first pint in a pub since last summer, so I said we ought to do this more often. With him working most weekends, or at least a Saturday or a Sunday, it hasn’t always been easy, but it is something we should aim for, given that pubs will be reopening inside from Monday onwards.
Matthew also hasn’t had what I’d call a proper holiday in ages; certainly not since May 2018, when him and I accompanied a group of friends from Maidstone CAMRA, on a visit to Bamberg. We were supposed to have been joining the same bunch on a trip to Pilsen last May, but the pandemic put paid to that.
father-son relationship is something I want to explore in another post, so I
will leave it at that for the moment. In the meantime, the White Rock delivered
on all fronts, and is certainly a place worthy of a return visit. I even had a
quick peak inside when I nipped in to use the Gents. No photos unfortunately, as I'm not adept at snapping a quick one, on the hoof!