July 14th 1975

“Started to re-read Spy Story” / ” Went down the Clock with Nig”

It appears the complicated tale in Len Deighton’s book had confused me to the point of starting it all over again. Or, was it perhaps so good I decided to immediately read it for a second time? Unlikely.

The Clock Inn – or “the Clock” as it was more colloquially known – was my local pub of choice at…erm… 17 years old.

It sat – and still sits – at the corner of Sandy Lane & Bishopstoke Road in Fair Oak. In its 70’s ‘heyday’ it sported a public bar (for the committed drunks to sidle up to the counter in), a ‘lounge bar’ and (quite a rarity in those days) an outside patio/garden area.

More often than not we gravitated towards the lounge, the quieter option, a room fronting Sandy Lane and decorated in ghastly ‘pub carpet’, vanilla walls, scant ‘frippery’ and a nicotine-stained ceiling. There was maybe little more than a cigarette machine to provide the sole distraction from sitting at melamine-topped tables supping booze and talking rubbish. (TV’s in pubs were unheard of back then)

Later in its life it became a pub troubled by hooliganism and a certain ‘football culture’ clientele, but when we used to go there it was quite a gentle little boozer run by a little old lady with a heavily-wrinkled face and brusque manner. I seem to remember her name was Rose? Not once was I refused a drink, the notion of underage drinking far more prevalent in those days. It was illegal to serve minors but didn’t come with the heavy fines (if caught) that accompany such behaviour in the 21st Century.

Last year, when I was back in England visiting my Dad and helping him celebrate his 80th birthday, we decided to venture down to the “Clock” to see what it was like after being bought out by the Hungry Horse pub/restaurant chain.

To my surprise – and nostalgic delight – it was actually quite enjoyable. The interior is now (almost) one big wide open space, set on several levels and resplendent in comfortable seating and a friendly vibe. We ordered some food which turned out to be terrific value for money (in the old days you were lucky to be able to get a bag of crisps!) and imbibed several of their drink specials. I’m not sure I would have recommended it as a ‘venue’ in 1975, but now I most definitely would!

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