On The Live and Let Live
“We could,” Julia said, “stop in at the pub on the Common.”
If hearts really leap, mine did. The first time I visited Julia, she instructed Roger to stop off on the road from Oxford, at The Live and Let Live on Bringsty Common–she did not want us to arrive at her house and interrupt that day’s episode of “The Archers.” On that day it was raining and cold, and Roger and I were virtual strangers who had been locked up
together in a car all afternoon; then we were virtual strangers sitting in a pub down a dirt road, looking up at the underside of the thatched roof which was badly in need of repair. The drips formed the entirety of our conversational subject matter.
I had not been back since.
Today was sunny, one of the first reasonably warm afternoons of the spring (or so I’d been told). We took our drinks out to the rough-hewn picnic tables in the pub garden, where the breeze was light, the clouds scudding overhead, and the birds in the common raucous in their song. From the hill, we could look about and see the occasional rooftop, the occasional chimney. Roger told me (and I had vague memories of his telling me this before) that, back in the day, if a family could build an entire house overnight and have a fire burning on the hearth in the morning, they were allowed to remain living on the Common–and that explained the houses being so far apart and hidden among the trees: to avoid discovery during building.
Since our first visit, a few years before, much work had been done on the pub. The thatch was beautifully and artfully redone. Where there had been construction on the side opposite the garden back then, there was a finished extension on the building. The picnic tables, though, remained the same, as did the pub sign swinging over the car park. The inside of the pub was still low-beamed and dark and atmospheric. If someone were to ask you to describe the stereotypical old English country pub, this would be the one the words would convey.
Julia, as the driver, wasn’t drinking. Where Roger and I had had perry–the pear cider native to the border country–the previous time, this afternoon we both opted for a pint of Otter Bitter. It was a medium amber, and was in fact slightly bitter on the tongue, but rather lovely. And after a day of visiting ruinous things with Julia–Harvington Hall, and Croome Court–while we passed the time before meeting Roger’s train, the pint was more than welcome. One of the reasons why I keep going back, I thought. One of them.
On our way back to the car, we met a cat. This was appropriate, as the pub sign features one–surprisingly not killing things: letting them live. This cat just wanted to hang out on the stone walkway.
The pub building dates from around 1700. It’s been open in its most recent incarnation since 2007. Find it here: