Anybody over the age of 45 must remember Barry Sheene overtaking Kenny Roberts and flicking the ‘V’ sign to his American rival in the British Grand Prix of 1979. This was an era when there were ‘characters’ in sport i.e. people who liked a pint! With Sheene being world champion in 1976 and James Hunt in 1977 then bikes and car Grand Prix’s were arguably at their sexiest in the seventies, and this was a golden era for ‘boy next door’ heroes.
The Seventies always remind me of Dickie Davies’ quiff on World Of Sport, which had some classic Saturday afternoon sport. I am not sure sport was any better in the seventies (discussion anyone?) but, without doubt, it was more accessible to the man on the street.
(signed frame of Sheene & Hunt in Chequered Flag)
Therefore, when you put on the rose tinted spectacles – usually after a pint – the memories are good and quite often pubs are all about escapism with stories being the lifeblood of this. Random conversations in pubs with strangers have often given me a better education in life than that really useful French ‘O’ Level I got back in 1987.
Talking of which, I had a fantastic conversation with random people and a couple of pals in a cracking micro pub in Castle Donington 59- The Chequered Flag DE74 2LA.
You might have guessed from the early bike references that – aside from the Download/Monsters of Rock festival, Donington is best known for its racetrack.
The track is there as you drive in just next to the East Midlands Aeropark, along with the Ron Haslam Bike School and the noise of motorbikes is associated forever with this town and its links are inescapable. This is a village that enjoys its history and there are many people with a tale to tell about the roar of bicycles and a lot of petrol heads!
So, when two of my pals and I wandered into this Micro pub on a Tuesday night there was a crackle in the air. The beauty of micro pubs is that with only ten people in there it still has a good atmosphere and welcome, friendly conversation was rife.
Cliff the barman – the gaffer Bert wasn’t there – was a huge racing fan and talk quickly turned to Sheene’s v-sign at Roberts and Cliff recalled how Sheene would stop in the centre of Donington in hotels and drink with the locals. I’m not sure that would happen nowadays, in fact I’m positive it wouldn’t as globalisation, social media and the spectre of press officers mean ‘characters’ are few and far between.
Another couple of people joined in and it turned out to be a fantastic hour spent in the company of good people. I know sometimes when you are already with a couple of friends conversation flows easier but I would be pretty confident if I walked into this pub on my own I would strike up a conversation within minutes.
Oh yes, the beer! Top notch pint of Spark IPA (Tollgate) and one of the pub whispers I heard is that The Chequered Flag currently sponsor an F2 driver and that wouldn’t surprise me as this was a top-notch community pub.
It felt more like a pub than a micro and I say that in a positive sense as it seemed as though this place has been around in Donington for years and its location on the main shopping street means it will pick up a lot of passing trade (except of course for Monday’s when it’s shut!).
This is a top little boozer in a nice part of the world; it proves once again that people who make an effort with customers usually run the best pubs.