Moving from North London to a village in Yorkshire has carried with it a bit of culture shock. And, to be American in this little village is even stranger. Men will come to the door offering to cut trees or wash windows and when they hear my accent will ask for the person who actually lives in the house, or they ask me when I’m going home.
Despite these provincial reactions, this place is big enough to have three pubs. There is a pub called the Windmill which is right off the busy Hull Road, surrounded by a large parking lot. It looks like a typical roadside pub, a bit lonely and incongruous. I should brave it because maybe it’s not such a locals place. But I am a local. Oh, nevermind.
The Cross Keys is technically my local. One night I was killing time before stopping by the vet’s across the street and I got myself a pint of Black Sheep Bitter– the only ale on cask at the time. It was perfectly fine, but nothing special. There was a decent crowd on the week night. The place was full of grey haired men in quilted coats, all dark green or navy blue, some old age pensioners waiting to eat. Are these the salt-of-the-Earth Yorkshire folk who people Herriot’s books? Are they property owners full of aspiration, looking after their patch of grass?
The Cross Keys was obviously done up proper in the 80s and now the upholstery was looking a bit greyed-out. What was once a cozy colour scheme of vanilla and burgundy has faded to fusty. None of this would matter if it were the kind of pub that dispels loneliness. Such is the magic of the best kind of British pub– a woman can go in and drink unmolested and maybe even strike up a conversation and feel at home. Frustratingly, this is almost that place.
It was the music. I would rather have silence than some kind of pollution parading as canned craic. Overhead, buzzing from large speakers, a CD played generic covers of 70s pop songs. Was it a pub equivalent to the Musak of the dentist’s office? You can forgive even shite if the music reveals something about the person pulling the pints, or even the punters. I looked around at the men drinking their pints, the young blonde barmaid with a drunken-dare star tattoo on her shoulder, the landlady in sensible separates with her pad in hand taking food orders orders. Was anyone listening to it?
You Got a Friend sung by some random studio musician.
It’s enough to send you on the next bus into town.