Published: 11:30, 11 October 2019
| Updated: 12:04, 03 August 2020
“I’m popping into Sittingbourne for a pint”. This seemed a reasonable statement to me but responses from people who know better were telling.
These ranged from specific warnings to be careful and watch my back to good luck wishes and advice to avoid the most ‘choice’ venues.
Not wishing to prejudge anything I headed towards the town and stopped at one of the first pubs I came across.
Initially I wasn’t sure the King’s Head on the London Road was open, or even operational, as it looked dark and run down, however, I then spied a newish-looking notice: ‘Under new management, come and meet your new hosts’.
I didn’t spot the door at first and wandered round the side but then realised the porch with a white plastic door was the entrance.
Inside it was unlit and quiet which had me questioning again whether it was open but I then heard the unmistakeable sound of a pool ball being potted.
There was an empty side bar but the front room contained a few folk, including a couple with a baby and two guys playing pool, who were the most animated.
I was in the process of ordering a drink when a fellow on a stool demanded to know how the barmaid had been bruised on her arm. She took a long hard look at the injury before telling him she couldn’t remember. Health check concluded, I cast an eye over the usual suspects on tap but it’s clear the only thing drunk in any quantity is Stella.
Not feeling overly comfortable I headed through the open side door into a reasonable sized garden.
There were half a dozen locals sitting on white plastic chairs discussing holidays and the fact you can buy a pack of B&H Gold abroad for £2.90, so I chose a picnic bench a little further away in the sun. This was a terrible decision as sadly this section of the garden was completely infested by mining bees.
Forced back towards the holiday anecdotes I learned the price of cigarettes had encouraged one fellow to crack through more than 200 fags in a single week. But, as the discussion moved on to debate whether dolphins have hair or not I turned my attention to the garden.
Some effort has gone into planting a few colourful flowers and pallets have been lodged in place to hold the fence up.
The flowers are quite pretty but it’s only ever going to be window dressing and as the saying goes, it doesn’t matter what you do – no amount of polishing or glittering is going to help here.
Back in the bar pool-playing Fred had shifted across from pints and was well into the shots despite the fact the clock hadn’t yet struck five.
At this point someone screamed: “Looks like your tits have grown” – this seemed to be aimed in my general direction and, to be fair, I have gained a few pounds so I thanked the fellow for his compliment.
There are several signs above the bar encouraging you to book yourself in for a private party in the pub but I can’t believe there is a large take-up. Perhaps the meat raffle, taking place at 3.30pm on a Sunday is more popular?
One sign which doesn’t look as if it’s ever had any attention is the cleaning log on the back of the door to the gents.
I’m sure the urinal must have been cleaned at some point, even if it hadn’t been noted but judging by the aroma it was a long, long time ago.
Hopefully the ultra-clear warning notices about taking drugs in the King’s Head receive more attention.
Outside, beyond the bins in the car park, you will discover Swanny’s quality seafoods in one corner, which looked to be doing better business than the pub and certainly looked more inviting and open.
My advice would be to give the King’s Head a miss and sample Swanny’s crabs instead.