Item From the Past: Mrs. Dow’s Recommendation
Haven’t done dusted off any old ’n’ moldies for a while, but the Dog Days are a good time for idle reminiscing.
Aug. 10, 1983 – Gatwick, England
After our afternoon naps, which we sorely needed, Mrs. Dow, middle-aged, fat, cheerful, our landlady for the night, recommended a pub called Six Bells. She gave us detailed directions for walking there, which we promptly forgot, and so we spent some time wandering through town looking for it. But it didn’t bother us much. Eventually we found the church she’d mentioned, and the churchyard, and a walk through the churchyard and its ancient stones takes you to Six Bells. We never did figure out if it was in Gatwick proper, or nearby. There’s been a town of Gatwick a lot longer than an airport of the same name, of course.
First we drank some pints. Then we ate. The food was served upstairs, accessible by a narrow and dark staircase, which was a little hard to negotiate with a full plate of food in hand. The upstairs room itself was claustrophobic, hemmed in by dark brown support beams. But contrary to the reputation of British pubs, the food was very good.
The place was crowded, and we shared our ground-floor table with a couple in their 50s and a gentleman of 76 -- a fact he revealed at one point. Our tablemates sometimes bought rounds, and we did too, and we got drunk in fairly short order. The elderly fellow, who had intensely bushy white eyebrows and blinked a lot, told us about being evacuated from Dunkirk.
Who would believe it? I met a chap who lived through that famous incident. The gist of the story was that “We ran across Belgium and were picked up by a steamer. Most of the time we didn’t know what the hell to do, because it was chaos.” Chaos was a word he used more than once, and who can doubt it?
The other couple owned a B&B -- seems like a common thing in Gatwick town -- and the man at least said he was a jack Mormon. It hadn’t occurred to me that Mormonism was sufficiently developed in the UK for there to be a nonobservant population. But there he was, putting down the pints with the rest of us, so at least in that way he qualifies. Late in the evening we staggered back to Mrs. Dow’s B&B, through the dark church graveyard, which might have been spooky had there been no streetlights or noises from the road. Also, it needed fog and maybe a couple of howling dogs in the distance and some unkempt grass. Life so seldom imitates gothic stereotypes.