Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Merchants 1688, Castle Hill, Lancaster

In my experience the moment one steps from the platform edge onto a train, they effectively agree an unbinding, legally unenforceable contract which risks everything and promises little.
It says something like in return for the possibility of a seat, a nice view and a chance to read your book for half an hour, we (the rail network) are going to make you absolutely no guarantee you will get to your destination at any time resembling the appointed hour we offered to you just moments ago.
So when I boarded the train at Preston Station I was not surprised to hear it would be delayed leaving because another was delayed coming from Birmingham and its passengers needed to get on the Preston train.
So, when I came to change at Lancaster, my connection which was not half as important as one from Birmingham, had long since grunted out the station by the time I arrived.
With one hour to kill I started wandering towards the city centre when I hit upon the Merchants.
 ‘I need go no further’ I told myself with a smile and headed straight for the bar.
The interior is made up of a network of windowless cellars, into which are placed rows of tables and chairs with a pool table in end cellar.
It was inevitably dark and slightly gloomy but it captured the atmosphere of such an unusual building perfectly.
It could have been brightened up with more lighting but then what would you be left with? Strip lighting in a load of tunnels.
No, with the gloom and glimmer and darkened corners, it feels every bit the authentic pub of yesteryear.
But it was a lovely day, so after selecting one of the five real ales on offer, I headed out the front to find a spot in the sun.
With flowerbeds and shrubbery, the small front seating area is very pleasant but for me the magic of this pub is its unique interior.
I can just imagine it on a cold night in the depths of winter.
With a group of friends, a few pints and no windows to remind you of the driving rain outside, it must be a difficult place to leave.
 But leave I had to, to catch that train and as it goes I suppose I should thank those delayed passengers from Birmingham, for allowing this passing encounter with the Merchants of Lancaster.

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