Thursday, February 18, 2010

Theme Thursday : Bell

The Thursday theme for this week is "Bell". Not only are we all posting around the theme of bells, we are also ringing our collective bells in support of fellow-blogger Barry Fraser in his fight against cancer. There is a bell high on the wall near the exit of the Chemotherapy Unit at the hospital in Ontario, Canada where Barry has been receiving treatment. There is a tradition that patients completing their last treatment of chemotherapy, ring the bell as they leave. Whenever it rings the nurses and volunteers and other chemo patients pause for a moment and applaud. Today Barry will complete his last treatment and all his blogging friends are trying to ensure that the bell is heard throughout the world.

As regular visitors to News From Nowhere will already know, my posts this week all relate to the sad demise of the British pub. Since I posted yesterday, the chances are that another five or six pubs have closed their doors for the last time. For no other reason than a burning desire to preserve our national heritage, I have been trying to visit as many surviving pubs as I can before either they all close or I fall over from exhaustion. To mark Theme Thursday I am reposting an entry from my Commonplace Book of Beer which concerns a visit I made to the Blue Bell in York a couple of years ago. My friend Subby was asking about pubs in York the other day, so I hope he will find this post interesting. Later today, I will be ringing a bell for Barry, and I also intend to drink a decent pint in his honour. Cheers Barry.

The Blue Bell, 53 Fossgate, York, North Yorkshire, YO1 9TF

The Blue Bell is not the easiest York pub to find. Go down Fossgate and you will find the unpretentious redbrick frontage squashed between the Army and Navy Shop and a music shop. From the outside you might find yourself wondering why you made the effort. If it is a crowded day, or if you are searching for an olde-worlde pub, or if you suffer from claustrophobia you might find yourself wondering the same thing once you get inside. But if you want to see what a typical pub would have looked life - and more importantly, felt like - 100 years ago you will rejoice that your map-reading skills were up to the task.

It is the size of pub which makes no economic sense in this day and age. There are two rooms : a tiny public bar and a similar-sized smoke room. If more than about a dozen people decide to patronise the pub at the same time, the overflow has to make use of a narrow wood-panelled corridor. The secret of its charm is that it has not been "improved" since it had a major makeover in 1903. And because the interior is now listed it should remain safe for generations to come.

When I called in they were preparing for their annual beer festival. Boasting the availability of some 25 real ales this sounded a remarkably silly idea. They were busy stacking beer casks up against every available bit of wall - and there are not many available bits of wall. Unable to quite get my feet comfortably under the table I was sitting at, I investigated only to find two kegs sitting there ready for stacking.

I had a pint of Adnams bitter which, for some reason, didn't quite match up to the singularity of the interior. It's not what you would call powerful nor does it deliver any great subtle tastes. But it went down well and I would still be willing to try a second pint just to check on my conclusions.

As for the pub, I am already planning a return trip in time for the beer festival. That should be an event to remember.

Take a look at other Theme Thursday posts HERE


  1. Another Lost Tradition is, of course, The landlord/lady's ringing for "Time " at 11pm.Why Must "they" always change things?!
    Have A Good Pint Alan.
    I will raise one for Barry too.

  2. Wish I could open a blog lamenting the closure of all those clubs and mass drinking bars that are open on a friday night that cater for all the micro skirted ladies and dull eyed men that lurch about your local high street.
    But alas,some way off yet.

  3. i raise a glass to the tolle of your bell...

  4. I'm raising a pint in honor of Barry, as well! Cheers!

  5. No major renovations since 1903...yes, I'm sure that really is part of it's charm! And the name is most appropriate for today!

    Cheers, Barry! Ring, Ring! ;)

  6. Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for Barry, for pubs, for Haiti.
    Alan, you visited my blog this morning and left a phrase I don't know: "objet trouves." Sorry to expose my ignorance, but what does it mean?

  7. I remember visiting lots of pubs when I was a student, Alan. Nice one; as a matter of fact, you've rousted me to find a book I have, English Country Pubs by Derry Brabbs. Do you know it? Lots of lovely photos. I wonder how many are still extant as pubs.

  8. I hope that the second pint helped to blur the bad interior. Details of a good establishment makes one want to stay longer and buy more not drink more so you can forget it. I hope the best for Barry and I will ring as many bells as I can to support him.

  9. "For no other reason than a burning desire to preserve our national heritage, I have been trying to visit as many surviving pubs as I can..."

    No other reason? Not even to quench your thirst? I have my doubts, friend! ;-)

  10. Foxter : There is a word for people like you - cynic.

  11. Did you get back for the "Beer Festival"? It sounds very close quarters, but I'm willing to endure hardship for age-old ambience and a good pint.

    Ringing my candle-snuffer (see post) at 2:00!


    P.S. no luck with the tech-stuff?

  12. Anonymous5:54 PM

    The Blue Bird...what a great name!
    Here's to Barry : )

  13. Lovely to here of this pub and its preservation and I'll raise a glass of very unpub like juice since I can't imbibe in Barry's honour at two today.

  14. You need to petition Parliament to ask Obama for some "recovery funds" to keep these pubs open.

    He just might do it!

  15. Please forgive the typo. I meant hear not here...

  16. Anonymous2:35 AM

    These are great timeless photos that you have here; especially since so many are closing down. I really like your header picture, so creative! Have a great weekend!
    :) The Bach

  17. I'm very pleased that you're researching this topic with such vim and vigour


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