Hiding away down a shady alley, just off one of Northampton’s busiest streets, The Rifle Drum could have been the star of the show with it’s intimate single room. The sort of place that, if it had cask ale on and raised it’s game, would be never full, but never empty, with people from all walks of life, reading, sat contemplating or engaged in erudite conversation.
My Elysian views of pub life were shattered when I saw a lady (pictured) in the pub doorway selling chored kiddies clothing out of a laundry bag affair. On the way in Mrs C was offered some cheap meat out of the adjacent bag. No cheap cuts neither, all large roasting joints, still in the major supermarket packaging.
I’m not sure what they made of our little party as we walked in, no one said anything or looked menacingly at us, and if I’m honest no one really batted an eye lid and just carried on as if having a stolen goods outlet in the pub doorway was a normal every day occurrence.
Apart from a Bill Sykes type character, sat slumped at the bar nursing his belly, that is. He must have thought something was amiss, because he flobbed off his stool, walked over to the corner of the small room and whispered something to an older, reminiscent of Fagin, chap. I can’t think what he said, but the old chap relieved the lady of the goods and dissappeared, never to be seen again.
It seemed a logical idea, I mean a wizened old man carrying a bag or two full of stolen property through the town centre is never going to get stopped by the police is he, even if they actually had some police in the town centre.
And while all this went on, in full view of the lass behind the bar, she just carried on serving, engaging in banter with the punters and ensuring that the objectives of the Licensing Act 2003 were being firmly upheld, although I am sure she was going to inform the local police of all the facts later.
Despite the pub being quite busy, my half of Guinness, was absolutely dire, warm (for Guinness) and old. Which confirms that however a beer is dispensed, it’s still got to be kept properly and turned over. Okay, you might get a longer life in a keg but it does go off, clearly Guinness wasn’t the tipple of choice in here. Not that there was much choice beyond John’s Smooth, a mainstream cider and a couple of well known lagers. Unusually, for Northampton, there didn’t seem to be any CAMRA discount being offered. Mind you, if you can get a bag full of cheap meat with your pint who needs discount?
The clientele in general? Salt of the earth, I believe is an apt description, mainly older salts to be fair, because even our group lowered the average age significantly.
The pub itself wasn’t too bad actually, definitely not mucky, but could have done with a more thorough clean, if only to remove the remnants of Christmas decorations poking out of various orifices here and there.
So whose fault was it we ended up in here? Well Retired Martin came up with the itinerary, but he just sat there with a half of Fosters muttering something about, ‘You don’t want to be taking too many pictures in here Rich.’ I’m glad he included this beery desert of iniquity, it’s nice to have a touchstone with which to compare everywhere else.
I have to say, given a bit of TLC, a change of management and honest clientele, this could be a real gem, it isn’t, it probably never will be and if I hadn’t retired three years ago I would have been issuing a Closure Notice on the premises and applying to the Magistrates for a Closure Order, unless the licence was surrendered sooner.