Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Over The Edge
On my way to my junior school I would pass a pub (don't do that now) where a black glass plaque on the wall by the door had gilt letters on it that said Mitchells & Butlers. And an evocatively coloured painting of a stag leaping over a chasm. I stood there and wondered. Did the stag make it? Or was it just a crucial couple of feet short? Somehow I found it a slightly disturbing image, one that I put into a mental box that included the chimney sweep's brush popping-up out of a pot and shaking itself free of soot against a very early morning sky.
Yet another rummage produced this label a few days ago. Mitchells & Butlers appear now to be a pub business that manages places like All Bar One, but back in the day they were a frequent presence in Leicester and its environs. Indeed in the late sixties and seventies we were continually regaled with the fact that M&B's Brew XI was brewed for the Men of The Midlands. I never drank it, mainly because, like Watney's Red, it was said to be of such low strength it could legally be sold to children. (I wait to be disabused of this notion.) My researchs tell me that a park called Deer's Leap two and a half miles from Birmingham city centre gave its name in support of the brewery not far away.
I find this puzzling. Even a hundred years ago I can't imagine a deer leaping anywhere near the centre of Brum, and I'd always thought that it was part of some Exmoor legend concerning a stag leaping over a ravine during a pursuit by hounds. I have heard of stags escaping into the sea along the rugged coastline here, so it makes it all the more difficult to imagine the scene depicted on this fabulous label being in Birmingham. Or perhaps it's all just fancy anyway.
Perhaps we could argue about it in Quinn's bookshop in Market Harborough this Friday night over a glass of wine as we toast the arrival of English Allsorts (6-8pm)