We were in Lyme Regis on our way back from a birthday trip to Devon. We liked Lyme, despite our visit to the only restaurant run by the Keystone Kops. Don’t be fooled by the pink sky in the previous post, our visit coincided with Dorset’s notorious rainy season. The next night was spent at a waterlogged Corfe Castle. Good thing Mrs TIW has some experience as a sailor, as our little Ford Ka practically floated its way down the lanes to the Square And Compass at nearby Worth Matravers, where the pub suddenly appeared out of a thick sea mist like the Flying Dutchman. Everyone knows about the Square and Compass. How it’s been in branches of the same family since 1907, how the chuck-it-and-skip-it refurb fads of the 60s and 70s passed it by. The beer on stillage, served through a hatch. The outside bogs. We legged it up the hill from the car, raindrops thudding against my hat like gravel. Only to find the door locked. Bugger. Oh hang on, it’s just stiff. A local appeared and shouldered the door like Gene Hunt after a toerag. Ah, that hatch, with a bank of casks racked up behind the barmaid. Hot chocolate for Mrs TIW and a pint of Eddystone for me, brewed up the coast at Torcross. We took a table in the right-hand room with a group of sodden hikers. Parquet floors, wood panelling, mind your head on the beams. People were staggering in at regular intervals, as soaked and wild-eyed as shipwreck victims.
Suddenly, a wet collie arrived begging the drinkers to throw a piece of bark. We all sat there dripping, drinking, throwing bark – all of us in the knowledge that sooner or later we were going to have to go outside into that rain. And so it went on, with Mrs TIW generously watching me sink another three excellent pints of Palmers Copper Ale before we had to reluctantly leave. There should be a national day to remind us how capricious the survival of places like the Square and the Blue Bell is. As we pulled on our coats I told one of the regulars that I considered a dog the sign of a good pub. “Oh, he’s not the pub’s dog. He lives round the corner. He just comes in for a pint”.