They told me Tucker’s Grave was closed, they told it was shut.
They brought me bitter news to hear, with no ifs or buts.
I wept as I remembered how often Charles and I
Had put the world to rights there, and laughed until we cried.
And how I dined out royally on crisps and porky scratchings,
And washed them down with Butcombe Best in a feast there is no matching.
Sic transit gloria mundi. For all the joy you gave,
O, ave atque vale, irreplaceable Tucker’s Grave.
The email had been brutally short. Under the subject heading ‘Tuckered Out’ were the following words ‘M: disaster: the great Grave is closing, imminently … are you around? Cx’. The C in question was Charles Nevin, the sage of The Independent and much else besides, the discoverer if Tucker’s Grave as far as I was concerned.At first I was dumbfounded by the news, and then obscurely moved. So moved, in fact that I penned the valediction above. The more observant among you may recognize as being loosely based on William Johnson Cory’s lament on the death of a friend. I have tried to capture some of Cory’s classical allusions idiom, for Tucker’s Grave was a classic of a kind.
In it’s own way, it was a pub of pubs, a large, not particularly notable stone building to one side of the A366 near the village of Faulkland in Somerset. The inside was as remarkable as the outside was unremarkable. There were two crepuscular bars, small to the point of intimate, separated by a cubby hole in which the barrels of Butcombe bitter and Thatcher’s ciders were racked against the wall, and from which Glenda and Ivan Swift served their customers, who were as idiosyncratic as the place. And there was proper skittle alley at the back.
As far as I know, the nearest to gastronomy that Tucker’s Grave ever got was a three course meal of crisps, porky scratchings and mini-cheddars. And yet there was a civility to the place, a kindness and a grace, as customers moved around the tiny bars to squeeze ina another arrival. It was a place for meditation or conversation, not for mindless inebriation. It was one of those pubs in which you stepped out of the continuum of time when you entered it. It was a parallel universe in which electricity seemed to have been added as an afterthought.
Anyway, Glenda and Ivan have decided to cal it a day after 27 years, and who can blame them? Running a pub is a grueling business, with no annual bonuses to help you along. But it is another light of a disappearing culture being snuffed out.