Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Vine

So we left The Butchers Arms and headed to the Artillery. Down the road we went. Past the VOT (a schoolboy error we'll not make again and routes will be planned with more care in the future) and onwards when we spied The Vine. "Can we actually walk past a pub?" Silly question.

So in we went.

The Vine is a bit of a legendary pub in my mind. Back in my younger years there was a crowd of drinkers who used to frequent The Dolphin on the Barbican when I worked there. I guess we're looking at about 1985-87ish. Should I name them? Why not? I think that several of them are dead now so they won't mind but these names will surely be recognised by some: Graham Gambaccini, Michael Ede, Jack Lang, Hong Kong John... There were a few others too but I forget their names. A strange bunch. They drank very, very heavily and never seemed to work and were nearly always in The Dolphin of a lunchtime. Well when they weren't in The Dolphin they were in The Vine. Their reputations lent The Vine something of a mystique and some Arfur Daleyesque sleazey glamour in my mind.

On top of which my parents actually ran the pub on the odd occasion. My Mum and Dad did a bit or Relief Landlording there (and in The Rising Sun too) at around the same time.

So bearing all of that in mind it's surprising that it was only relatively recently that I actually discovered exactly where it is!! The Vine is, of course, at the top of the slipway where the Cremyll Ferry docks as it plies it's trade between Stonehouse and Mount Edgcumbe. When I was a kid and we went there I would not have been interested in the pub in any way at all. Then a long, long time passed and I didn't even go near the place. My parents acquired a dog about 15 years ago and I used to take him over to Mount Edgcumbe for a walk and it was around then that I discovered the exact whereabouts of The Vine.

By now we had downed a few pints. I wouldn't say we were drunk, or even tipsy for that matter, but we had begun to enjoy ourselves and had a taste for the ale. A few laughs had been had and we were just congratulating ourselves about what a good idea it was to come to Stonehouse. I was feeling nicely mellow whilst at the same time being invigorated by the salty sea air and the defining smells of a sea-shore at low-tide which were washing liberally over the whole area in a most pleasing way. So it was with some relish that we went into The Vine for the next, and last, pre-match beer.

Life!! After what I have to admit had been a very quiet lunchtime sesh there was suddenly a pub with some customers in it!! Not loads, certainly, but a few. So far we had seen a couple with a dog arrive as we left the VOT and a bloke doing his crossword at the bar in The Butchers Arms. The Vine was a different proposition altogether and although again there was a couple of blokes with their noses stuck in a newspaper there were other customers there too.

Everybody must have heard the theory that dogs end up looking like their owners (or is it the other way around?) well when we reached The Vine we encountered proof positive that this is not true. Just leaving as we arrived was an old boy and his dog. Nothing very remarkable about him (well not that was immediately obvious but I could only speculate as to what hidden depths he may possess or as to whether he leads a Bruce Wayne/Batman styled secret double life. Put it this way I doubt very much that he was a "sleeper" who had infiltrated Stonehouse society with a view to subjugating the local populace in some way... but I digress); he was just an old man leaving the pub but his choice of dog was odd. I might have expected a small terrier or spaniel. A Jack Russell would have looked about right but I just don't associate greyhound-owning with old men. Maybe I should. Anyway the old man kind of shambled out of the pub and his faithful pooch padded along obediently behind him with not an ounce of fat anywhere to be seen on it's body. I swear that there is no way anybody would ever put that dog and owner together. I wish I had taken their picture!!

The internal geography of The Vine is not unlike The Hyde Park; the bar forms a kind of island and the pub effectively has just a single bar but it seems to divide the pub into 2 sections and the back section had a handful of guys playing pool and I suspect that there was a dartboard around there too. The Vine was by far the biggest pub of the three we visited. We got nattering to these blokes and they were very friendly and up for a bit of a laugh and showed a little interest into our little adventure. I started scanning the place to check out it's decor. "No knots" I said. "Eh?" said one of the pool players. So I explained about the displays of knots in the VOT and The Butchers. A few minutes elapsed. "Hey!! What about this one?" and he pointed to a knot in the wooden panelling which adorned the walls.Lots of those signs with pithy sayings on them "You don't have to be mad to work here ~ but it helps!!!!!!!" and the like. Always a sign that nothing even remotely zany has ever happened to anybody there or if it did they were far too serious to realise it. I guess that brings me to Claire behind the bar. An attractive young lady studying up at Marjons and working as a youth worker who was happy to chat to us but seemed a bit bored with being there and to be honest was a bit on the earnest side.

I suspect that The Vine is by far the busiest pub of the three that we visited and probably does a roaring trade. It is well-placed to take money on sunny days with people going to and from Mount Edgcumbe and has Stonehouse Barracks which houses the Royal Marines 3rd Commando nearby which must supply some regular trade. The Vine also benefits from being at the heart of a network of streets and has a car park nearby.

All in all the 3 pubs had offered us a most pleasurable lunchtime. I'd recommend doing what we did to anybody but we were somewhat lacking in pre-match buzz. It would have been very easy to have just stayed in the pub and not leapt into a cab and gone to the match. We did though.

I'm not sure where we are going next time. We've not decided yet. Stonehouse before the Sheff Utd game exceded expectations. Will Southway do the same before Watford? If you want to find out or have any other comments to make then do so via the comments option, please.


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