There’s a chair at The Robin Hood with a brass plate stating it was Nat’s chair until 2011 with ‘make mine a double’ etched on it.
A blue plaque outside the pub in Homewell (‘Holy Well’) in the centre of Havant by St Faith’s Church, is one of 34 on the town’s Heritage Trail. It was formerly two cottages with a malthouse at the back.
Nat might have known some of the regulars who prop up the bar or sit on one of the comfortable padded chairs or settles by the bar or in the more spacious back, reading their paper or cogitating on the world.
The conversation would be familiar to him: the weather, cricket, the ‘what I did in the forces,’ part of the swirling chat above the radio which is quite out of place in this old-fashioned pub.
Unsullied by modernity, a delightful Fuller’s one, it is a throwback to life before pub chains. Beams, fireplaces and flagstones add to its charm as well as the staff who couldn’t be more motherly and welcoming. Those old boys – and, yes, 95 per cent were men of retirement age – were positively purring.
Currently only open for lunches all week, including Sundays when there is a roast, the week’s menu offers the tried and tested, nothing to startle the horses. You know the list as well as I do: oven-baked jacket potatoes; ploughman’s; sandwiches plus toasted ones and baguettes. Mains include Treagust sausages with chips and a fried egg; breakfast and home-made lasagne. All fish is frozen then deep-fried and served with chips, chips and more chips.
Do not expect to see a vegetable or a piece of fruit. This is man’s kingdom and he needs meat, eggs and chips, nothing sissy like greenery, only on Sundays with that roast. Mains range from about £5.50 up to £7.50.
Nat’s chair is empty so I take it next to the bar and the fire – ah, that’s why he liked it so much – after ordering those Emsworth sausages and a light ale, a Carling’s suggested by Mother behind the bar. No false, flashing, insincere smiles. No hard sell, just normal people looking after people well. Moist, meaty and flavoursome, the meat hit the spot, the egg nice and runny, the chips, well, just chips.
I can imagine the chaps’ conversation, however, faced with opening those ketchup sachets. Damned awkward, impenetrable as a Malaysian jungle. Why are those things made easy for manufacturers and sellers but not for users? I prise one open and get red goo all over the place.
There are no desserts, so I left, my place soon taken by a posse of dogs led by yet more men with papers under their arms.
This calm place – bar the awful radio – is a haven for those of a certain age it seems. The drill? A paper, a pint, a dog in tow and a chat about life. What could be more comforting in a changing world? My bill? Just less than £8.
The Robin Hood, 6 Homewell, Havant, PO9 1EE (023) 9248 2779
Open from 11am to 11 pm (Fri: midnight, Sun: 10.30pm). Food served only between midday and 2pm.
Disabled access: OK
How to get there: take the A27 to Havant, turn off towards centre, turn right at roundabout (not towards station), Homewell on the right at the junction of East Street and North Street on the right side of the church. Parking: on-street in area or find a nearby car park.