Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Continental 

The Ribble doesn't intersect Preston in the way that, say, the Thames does London.

Instead the river gently spoons itself around the city, nuzzling up good and close but never actually penetrating the centre.
The Ribble begins life near – get this - Ribblehead, across the Yorkshire border, then meanders prettily for seventy miles or so before pitching up in Preston, as brown as it is wide, fast and deep and kind of stately. From here it straightens out – the spoon handle, as it were - for the final dash to Lytham where it meets the Irish Sea.
Thousands travel into Preston everyday, to work or to study, or perhaps to just hang around making nuisances of themselves, and they probably never set eyes on the Ribble from one year to the next.

Far be it from me to tell anybody what to do, but what they should do is this: head on down to Broadgate – it's great, mate – and when they reach the bottom of South Meadow Lane, where the railway crosses the river and opposite the entrance to Avenham Park, they should pop into The Continental for a swift one or five. It's a lovely, lovely spot.

Nobody has done more to guarantee the prosperity of the local building trade than Ruth and Jeremy, new owners of Preston's best loved public house. Renovation work has been going on since anybody can remember – truly this is the Jarndyce and Jarndyce of pub restorations – but the doors finally re-opened on Sunday.
I've been following progress for some time via their blog, and also by good old fashioned lurking around the place like some weird builders' groupie while out on my lunchtime constitutionals.

Today I decide to go introduce myself, congratulate them on their efforts and treat myself to something English and hoppy – hell of a morning, you don't want to know, but all in all I think I've deserved it – but when I get there, a sign on the door says they'll be open at five, sorry for the inconvenience. A small crowd hangs around outside wearing high visibility tabards. I'm not sure if they're slacking tradesmen or disappointed non-drinkers like myself.

I keep walking like I'd been heading for the park all along. I've not eaten and I'm hungry and it's clammy.
Joggers scoot along the side of the river, an elderly couple pick blackberries, and I remember that my knees hurt but still haven't figured out why.

Then I think about the East European lorry driver who'd stopped me earlier to ask for directions to a place I'd never heard of, he showed me the name written down on a Post It note and I'd still never heard of it, sorry, but you could try over towards the docks where the business parks are, somebody there is bound to know, and I think about the beautiful young woman who waited for him in his cabin, a strikingly beautiful young woman, it makes you wonder sometimes, the livings we make, the lives we all lead.

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