Tuesday 15 February 2011

Blythe spirit

Hill prime: The Blythe Hill Tavern delivers
on every level
Finding real love can seem like a task akin to cleansing the Augean stables sometimes. Especially if you're picky, particular or even prone to outright prejudice. So when that rare moment comes along when there's a slim shot at the title, you need to be ready, whatever circumstances or situation dictate. 

And there really is no point settling for something barely passable when, just around the corner, something beautiful could be waiting. For sure, it's an emotional minefield out there and there are no hard and fast rules; it's up to you to play it how you see it.

But even when desperation comes calling and you're convinced anything is better than nothing, perseverence can - and it's only can - yield results you could never imagine.

The sharp focus of the first single Valentine's Day I've spent in more than a decade brings this particular truth home even more keenly as I waver outside the Honor Oak Tavern looking for a soothing beer. There's something enticing about the lack of couples in there; the promise of two ales on hand pump. The glittering decorations and welcoming plush furnishing. Yet these are all too often flatteries that stoop to deceive. Promising much but ultimately delivering only disappointment and regret.

I walk on by. Head held high. Prolonging the agony yet inwardly convinced something better lies ahead.

My reward is as welcome as it is almost inevitable. The Blythe Hill Tavern is a good 10 minutes' walk from my new flat, but it already has the potential to be my second living room. Roaring fire and oak panels adorned with all sorts - from clocks of knives to a greying, faded poster of Irish writers - mark it out immediately as somewhere I could spend a long time just drinking in the view.

The bar staff all wear white shirts, trousers and a tie. This isn't usually a detail I'd be bothered about, but this evening it really matters. They've made an effort for me and I'm genuinely touched. And the beer selection is intriguing, covering the whole gamut of flavour from Courage Best to Hepworth's Classic Old Ale. I double-take, taken aback by the range in such an outwardly unassuming pub.

And just when I'm on the tipping point of being smitten, a knowing, smiling, benevolent presence in the form of a brilliantly kept Dark Star Hophead appears before me, cupping my face in it's light, insistent hands and delivering a luscious, bittersweet, tender kiss upon my lips. Sheer bliss. I drink in its beauty, already tipsy on the warm caress of the surroundings. Even its rasping bite at the finish feels laden with good intentions, however much it smarts.

I know it's early days, but already it feels like I've found my ideal mate in the Blythe Hill Tavern. We have so much more to discover about each other, naturally. And who knows how it will develop in the coming weeks? But for now, I'm left with a gaping grin every time I think about being there. And the feeling I'm delighted I wasn't seduced by the first local to show an interest.

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