Published: 06:00, 01 October 2021
| Updated: 06:26, 01 October 2021
There was a sign outside proclaiming the pub was open – this was a good job as it was doing a great impression of being closed.
The lights were blazing, but despite this and the ‘We’re open’ sign I did find myself in a deserted front bar.
Closer inspection revealed three folks sitting at a table at the back eating three of the biggest meals I’ve ever seen.
I felt a bit guilty when the lady put down her knife and fork and mid-mouthful came to serve me.
The big fella in blue and the lad in an Arsenal footie shirt didn’t lose concentration for a second and continued to munch on – it was like they were in their personal dining room.
Having pulled me a pint of Madri lager barmaid Terri re-joined her family and I was once again left to my own devices.
Standing in the dead front bar of The Windmill in Burham, near Rochester, I found myself doing something I haven’t done for an awfully long time –feeding money into a fruit machine.
I would have taken on the quiz machine but only had notes and didn’t want to disturb the diners again now they were back in full consumption mode.
In between mouthfuls of Madri - which incidentally is a flavourful and aromatic new offering created by a collaboration between Molson Coors and La Sagra Brewery - I successfully emptied most of my wallet. Now I remember why I don’t play these things any more.
By this stage the group had moved from their own impromptu dining room at the back of the pub and shifted to their sitting room at the front where they sat back with cups of tea or coffee and watched Silent Witness on the pub TV.
I ducked under the screen and apologised for disturbing their viewing pleasure but I needed to pop to the loo.
The facilities were a tad traditional, old fashioned if you were being unkind, but they were clean and included a couple of touches unusual for a gents – a selection of three decorative vases on the windowsill and bejewelled taps.
Having retraced my steps back through the ‘family area’ to my personal bar two remarkable things happened.
First, I won the jackpot on the fruitie and refilled my wallet (vowing as I did, not to be so weak again) and second, even more astonishing, I was joined in the pub by another punter.
Mick’s been coming for years and as we began chatting he told me it was a lovely pub 30 years ago before successive people took it over and The Windmill started to run out of puff.
Having shared this information, between coughing bouts, Mick popped out for a fag. He was concerned about cigarette levels as he’d left his spare pack at home – fortunately tabs can be purchased behind the bar, presumably between courses or during an ad break.
Having moved to Burham in 1977, Mick and I agreed that no matter how bad things get, blokes are stuck with two things in life. One is the footie team they support and the second, no matter how bad it is, the local pub you love to moan about.
Just before he finished his next cigarette break I decided to break the monotony and joined the puffing Charlton supporter in the small outside area at the back.
He says Sunday lunchtimes can get very busy and they have been known to produce 70 or so meals during a sitting, so the locals must surely rate the roasts on offer. Perhaps I just hadn’t been welcomed fully into the Windmill family circle yet.
As we walked back in there was a large commotion from upstairs, louder even than the telly, but Mick assured me all the shouting and stomping was just the Arsenal supporting son larking about with two dogs.
All in all I felt as if I’d walked into someone’s family night and disturbed their evening in front of the gogglebox.
Perhaps if I’d asked to join them they’d have made room on the sofa for a little one, but it all felt too awkward and I was certainly pleased Mick popped in for a Fosters and a chat.
I know Monday evenings are always going to be quiet in a village pub, but if you do get an unexpected visitor from outside the area surely you’ve got to make a little more effort to welcome them?
The Windmill, 292 Rochester Road, Burham, Rochester ME1 3RJ
Decor: The furnishings are not in bad nick and it’s clear there’s been some care and attention paid to the place recently but it all felt very bland to me. Not to mention, apart from the fruitie and quiz machine, it reminded me of my old mum’s front room. **
Drink: The light golden 4.6% Madrí Excepcional is a very decent lager – crisp and refreshing it’s full of taste without being overly fizzy. There were plenty of other options available on tap too, though Atlantic isn’t the best example of pale ale. ****
Price: As well as the Madri I sampled Sharp’s Atlantic IPA – the former was recorded as £4.10 for a Coors Light on my receipt, the latter was 10p cheaper at four quid. ***
Staff: I have to be fair and say no one was actually rude or unpleasant – they were far too detached for that. But overall I think they’d have been happier if I hadn’t popped in. They weren’t even particularly chatty with Mick and I’m sure he’s in most days. **