Growing up, The Plough Inn at Ford used to be my local. I would walk in there as a teenager and the bar would be full of characters including "Bracer", "Dicky Sadler" and a load of other drinkers soaking up their stories as well as some Donnington Ales. It was also a popular spot for jockeys, people who thought they were jockeys, people who wanted to be jockeys and people who wanted to catch a glimpse of a jockey (and the Queen's Granddaughter). The pub had life. You would get "Ploughed in" - a term we'd use for being in there longer than you expected. Every night you were guaranteed a good crowd with Sunday nights being the most popular as there was no racing on a Monday. Some had their own drink - a "half 'n' half was half BB and half SBA (two ales) but the latter wasn't said as everyone knew what it was. Some would rely on "Cotswold Halves" - these people bought their first pint but would then drink 3 quarters of it and get it topped back up for the price of a half. They would also moan if it didn't reach the top. Some even had their own glass like a local farmer who would appear at midday and again at about 5pm everyday for his quota of cider. His wasn't actually a glass but more like a tankard that held more than a pint. He would drive his Landrover home every night at about 20mph and return the next day and the day after that. Even a drink driving ban couldn't stop his routine.
The pub dog didn't belong to the pub. It was a one-eyed Jack Russell that would sit at the bar with it's owner and everyone knew him like he was one of the crowd. It would get through about 2 litres of water with the amount of pork scratchings that were thrown in his direction. His owner would leave his car running in the car park all evening as it had a dodgy battery.
The landlord was a former duel cheese rolling champion who also walked across Australia for no apparent reason than to give himself a challenge. He also had a hair transplant which would become the talk of the pub and the wider community and locals would tell him to "keep his hair on" whenever he lost his temper.
Seasons would pass but nothing would change apart from a slight increase in the alcohol which would bring its inevitable moaning and groaning and threats of boycotts that were never carried out. The Cheltenham Festival would come and go with an invasion of Irish and other punters taking over the pub that never went down too well with the regulars. Summer would see the spacious garden full of families enjoying some food and drink watching their children having fun as well as the odd local football match that could have been brought to a halt after one regular broke his leg yet the others rolled him into the rose bed and carried on.
While all of this went on there were people who walked into the pub and turned left. These people had a completely different experience to those who went straight on or turned right. They would enjoy a delicious meal. The food has always been good and after visiting a couple of times recently for the first time in years, it still is. The menu hasn't changed too much in all of this time and neither have the prices. Most of the dishes are under £13 except steaks, duck and a couple of the specials. The portion sizes are ridiculously generous and all the award winning meat is locally sourced. The regular Friday Meat Raffle is just as popular as it once was with many eagerly awaiting every ticket drawn to try and win their Sunday lunch and get in their wife's good books. The chants of "MEAT, MEAT, MEAT" used to grace the arrival of the meat in a wooden wheelbarrow which parked next to the roaring fire. Winners would revel in their victory by smacking their prize in delight and carrying on the chant. This is the closest you will ever come to caveman in your life.
Some of these characters are either no longer around or no longer live locally but the pub still has lots of charm, a thriving restaurant and a new generation of jockeys, stable staff and groupies but those were golden days that can never, and will never ever be repeated.
Ramblings from The Cotswolds Gentleman.