We normally finish work around midday, after spending the morning tidying up, cleaning and getting everything ready for an orderly return in the new-year. We then lock the factory up and adjourn to the local pub, where the company buys the first couple of drinks.
Not everyone comes along to this, as some people take the whole day off, especially if their Christmas plans involve travelling and the need for a quick getaway. Others come into work, but then forgo the pub visit, in favour of dashing off to finish last minute Christmas shopping.
I sort of fit into the second group, although I normally turn up for one drink at the pub, but this year was different. With my wife finishing work on the previous day, and the whole weekend free for any last minute shopping, I had the perfect excuse to spend a couple of hours in the pub, and with the rail option providing a safe and sensible alternative means of getting to and from work I allowed the train take the strain, and took the 07:59 service from Tonbridge to Penshurst.
There was another reason for joining in with the festivities, and that was the choice of pub. Ever since I started with my present company, we have used the nearby Little Brown Jug pub as the venue for our pre-Christmas drink. The LBJ is a nice place, with plenty of room, and has hosted our Christmas party these past six years. It is part of a small chain, which is leased from Greene King and whilst it has become more adventurous recently in its choice of beers, it tends to stick with ones which are tried and tested.
I have written about the LBJ before, and have no hesitation in recommending it to visitors to Chiddingstone Causeway, or to those just passing through. There is however, another pub close by and that is the Greyhound, in the small hamlet of Charcott, just 15 minutes walk from the Jug and Penshurst station.
Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my keen interest in the Greyhound; an interest I have channelled into regular blog updates where I have recounted the changing fortunes of this unassuming Victorian country local.
Over the past 18 months or so, I have reported the closure of the pub, its temporary re-opening under the stewardship of local brewers Larkin’s, its subsequent closure and then its sale to a local couple as a pub, following a successful ACV listing driven by the local community, with backing from CAMRA.
Since reopening back in the summer, the Greyhound has gone from strength to strength under its new owners, Fran and Richard Gilliat-Smith, and has re-established itself at the heart of the small community of Charcott. With this in mind, a couple of members of my team asked our General Manager if we could move this year’s Christmas drinks from the LBJ to the Greyhound.
He was happy to oblige, as the company is keen to help out neighbouring businesses and play its part in the local community. So shortly after midday we locked up and about a dozen of us trooped up to the Greyhound.
The pub was looking suitably festive when we arrived and was moderately busy. We found an area to the right of the bar, where we could congregate; not too near the fire, as it was rather mild for the time of year. Larkin’s Traditional and Porter were on tap, along with a beer from Bexley Brewery. I started with the Traditional, before switching to the Porter; both were in fine form.
I also grabbed a bite to eat, as the Greyhound’s kitchen is now fully functional following a complete refit. As we sat enjoying our drinks, and our food, the pub began to fill up. It really is good to see people once again using their local pub. My colleagues drifted away in dribs and drabs. They too had errands to run, or partners to get home to.
Eventually I was the only one left, so I finished my Porter and set off to walk back to the station, taking the well-trodden and familiar route which leads across the old Penshurst airfield. There was a stillness in the air as I followed the path across the fields, and a silence too, as there was very little traffic about.
I caught the 14:31 train back to Tonbridge, nodding off with the motion of the train and the warmth of the carriage. I picked up a few bits and pieces on my way home, and once indoors sat down with a cup of coffee and seasonal mince pie, before finishing wrapping the last of the Christmas presents.