A day of rest

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. Rest is a wonderful thing. Pubs are wonderful things. Finding yourself serendipitously forced to rest at a pub is a wonderful thing cubed.

The place I stayed in Goulceby was the Three Horseshoes, a pub with camping and glamping out the back. As I mentioned in the last post, I made it with just 24 minutes until sunset. I put up my tent – ever so slowly – showered – ever so slowly – and hobbled to the bar – as fast I realistically could.

The Three Horseshoes is a traditional low-ceilinged heavy-beamed pub smack bang in the middle of nowhere. The bar opens at 7pm, and by the time I limped my way in around 8ish there were already a few old locals wandering in from the village to have a pint and a chat. I was holed up in a corner charging my phone and writing, but I kept my ear out for conversation, and eventually wound up talking to just about everyone in the bar.

The people of Goulceby are keen dominoes players, and at least two teams were sat in the main bar playing. Evidently the game can get quite heated. I heard one lady, quite elderly, threaten one of the other players. “Oh!” She said, half rising from her chair. “If I were a man I’d have you round the back!”

The gentleman by my side proudly told me that he had changed the tournament rules, so that a team only needed 4 players instead of 6. “Makes it easier to get a team together,” he said. And I commend his success, because several rounds of games were played through the night, alternating players around the bar.

The main topic of conversation of the night was the fabulous success of the wedding that had been held on the weekend in the back yard. It had been the daughter of the landlords, and in between grumbling about how much linen and glassware there was to wash and press afterwards, was unmistakeable pride that the event had been so bloody fabulous.

The talk, of course, eventually turned to the strange Australian girl sitting at the bar wearing flipflops with bandaged up feet. I explained to them my ridiculous walk, and there was much discussion about the disasters of trench feet – a term I didn’t know before, but am now very familiar with.

“I have to buy new shoes tomorrow,” I said. “Is Louth the nearest big town?”

I think it was Bill Bryson who noted that there’s no better way to get an entire English pub into a conversation than to ask directions to somewhere. “Oh no, you don’t want to go to Louth. What you want to do is go to Lincoln. Much better options there.” “But didn’t you hear her? She can’t walk! How’s she going to get to Lincoln? You’ll need to get to Horncastle to get to Lincoln”, etc. Finally, with everyone’s input, I decided to call the CallConnect bus to pick me up in Goulceby and take me to Louth, where I would hopefully be able to buy a new pair of shoes.

These villages are so small, and so remote, that there is no ‘regular’ bus service. Instead you need to call a despatch office, book yourself in to the minivan, and hope that it turns up at the specified time and place. I had no luck with this system. I rang early, but the bus was already full and the one that was already on the road couldn’t be diverted. I had to resign myself to spending the day – not too warm, but not raining – to sitting around the pub, reading my book.

It was a lovely day.

The landlady, a contemplative woman of high intelligence, had stared at me as I had sat out the front in the coming-and-going sunlight. She pulled on her cigarette, one sleeve of her jumper falling off her shoulder, her ashy blonde hair tumbling around her in messy waves. She had already done me a massive service by giving me two blankets the night before, to cover my sleeping bag with, meaning I passed my first night’s sleep in a few days with my knees not curled up to my chin.

“What size foot are you?” she said.

After a short discussion, it turned out that her brother had given her a pair of shoes that he no longer wanted, solid hiking boots, so that she could give them to the local charity shop. She’d had the boots now for 6 months and hadn’t given them to the charity shop. Did I want to try them? Did I what! They were a little too big, but manageable. They are the most robust, solid boots I have ever seen, and although I still limped terribly when I was walking round trying them on, I could tell that they were going to work. I don’t know how to thank her for her kindness. You really do meet the best people in pubs.

The Three Horseshoes also has a small village shop attached, with some essentials like milk and bread, and some tinned food, toiletries, etc. I’m not sure how used it is by the locals, but I had a browse through and picked up a few tins of things for my lunch. Later that night, when the pub re-opened for service, I treated myself to a very expensive, but very delicious, dinner. I felt I owed it to the establishment, as well as to my feet.

There was no dominoes that night, just easy conversation. There was a ludicrous middle-aged mohawk-wearing out of towner bigot, who thought that the pub was a good place to air his racist views. “They’re not refugees, they’re migrants. They just want to come here for our benefits and our jobs.” I was too tired after my meal, my meal which could have fed a small family, to engage with him. But as I paid with my credit card I let the landlady know that it would be to sign, not PIN. “It’s because it’s a funny foreign card,” I said. “Us foreigners have weird cards.” I saw the bigot-man look askance at me, and I wonder what the conversation was after I left. Probably nothing intelligent.

After my wonderful day of rest in Goulceby, I felt like I was ready to attempt the walk to Woodhall Spa the next day. It was only going to be 25 kilometres, tops. And with such delusions in my head, I drifted into a lovely warm sleep, beneath my sheet, sleeping bag, and blankets.

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, content, podcasts, feature articles, drunk text messages and, soon, a novella.

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