I first discovered the ‘hidden delights’ of Peterborough, on a cold Monday night, in January 1989; up until then I couldn’t have pointed at the city on a map, never mind tell you anything interesting about the place.
The then manager of Shanghai Sam’s nightclub enticed me over from Nottingham, with the promise of much wonga and a free naan sandwich from Chilli Hut.
Over a beer, in a rather desolate bar called Muswell’s, he introduced me to a few members of staff and then proceded to take me on a pub crawl around a city centre, which appeared to have been suffering from the after effects of a zombie apocalypse.
We shared a Labatt’s or two with Todd Bidner and Wayne Crawford (Peterborough Pirates ice hockey players) in the Wayward Frog, before wiping our feet as we exited the Lion.
We gave Joe’s Garage a swerve as it appeared to be closing-up, and as we descended the steps into Rumpoles, my heart sank and a feeling of loneliness overcame me, as through the windows, I glimpsed an empty bar, at 8.30 at night!
However, a couple of Colt 45s later, my mood had improved markedly, as I was offered a Wednesday night gig, playing a few top tunes and commenting on people’s dress sense, hairstyles and sexuality.
Folks must have enjoyed this witty critique and tom foolery very much, as it became very busy, and the night ran for about four years!
I mention this because every single pub I visited that night has gone; they are no more, like umpteen others they are now just a distant, blurry memory of our past indiscretions.
The list of iconic Peterborough pub names, that have been consigned to the annals of history does not end there though, far from it.
I used to love my Sunday nights at the Gables in Mancetter square, with the crowd spilling out into the car park and people coming from miles around to hear the latest dance tunes.
Steve Jason used to pull them in on a Tuesday night too, with his eyes closed (only when he talked on the mic), now you order wardrobes and beds in there, rather than pints.
The Bull and Dolphin, like the Len Boone shuffle, made way for progress, if you call Rivergate progress, whilst the Old Scarlett in Dogsthorpe, was fondly remembered on the Big Conversation, on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, by Malc.
He recalled the countless darts, pool and football teams that played out of there – “You felt like part off a family” said Malc, “Everybody knew each other, even the old fellas you played cards and cribbage with. We just chewed the fat and tried to put the world to rights.”
But the Old Scarlett, like the Norfolk and virtually every pub on the ‘Crown to Town’ pub crawl, have long since closed their doors and sadly, the Cherry Tree on Oundle Road has now added its name to the city’s ever growing list of extinct public houses.
Decades of Peterborians have walked through its doors, sipping lemonade as children in the garden, having a swift pint before a Posh game or watching one of the myriad of local, live bands that have played there down the years.
If this iconic pub, with its reputation for live music, cannot survive, it doesn’t bode well for other independent hostelries in the city.
You can blame supermarkets, evolution or even the government, but at the end of the day, if we don’t use them, we will lose them.
It’s no use crying over spilt mild, last orders will have been called long before then.