Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, July 8, 2016

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Drinking ENGSUS00120131113093941
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There was a time when a person could map out their career from an early age. After school you might become an apprentice at a local firm such as Coopers, or join Norwich Union as a junior clerk, and in the next few decades work your way up until you retired 50 years later with a gold watch and a company pension.

These days, you are more likely to start your working life on a zero hour’s contract and move around many different firms before you finally retire.

The pub trade is no exception.

When I first came to Lynn over 35 years ago, there were landlords who seemed to be as much a part of the pub as the furniture. It seemed hard to imagine the Lord Napier without Dudley, the Bentinck without Mal or the Victory at Clenchwharton without Ethel May Leake.

Some landlords have put in the years since then, such as Mick at the White Horse and Steve at the Princess Royal and the Fenman, but with the exception of Roger at the Crown and Mitre, the life span of the modern day landlord seems to be slightly less than that of the average football manager.

There is one pair that has bucked the trend. Trish and Dave McManus took on the tenancy of the Hare Arms in Stow Bardolph, near Downham, in 1976, but 40 years later they are ready for a well-deserved retirement.

In that time they have built the Hare into one of the premier traditional locals in Norfolk.

Unlike some places it has not been given the minimalist pale blue and stripped pine makeover. Indeed, it is just the opposite with stuff everywhere, a sort of country version of Lynn’s Crown and Mitre.

Nor is the food minimalist. Here you are served proper grub that fills the plate as well as the stomach. You will not leave here hungry. Neither will you feel out of place if you just want a drink.

Greene King beers have always been the order of the day – popular with some, but for those of us seeking a bit more variety, the guest beer selection has become more adventurous recently, often featuring Cornish beers such as Betty Stoggs or St Austell Tribute, but I was personally delighted to find beers from Westerham and Joules when they hosted a recent CAMRA meeting.

It can be worrying when established landlords leave a successful pub, and it should not be forgotten that around 40 staff are employed here, so there is a lot at stake, but for once we can be confident that the place will be in good hands. Taking over are Pat and Debbie, who between them spent 23 years managing the Hare before going off to found Palmers Restaurant Brasserie which has been a fixture on Downham Market High Street since 2000, so it’s difficult to see how someone could be more suitable to take over.

We wish Trish and Dave a comfortable and interesting retirement and look forward to the new team taking over.

Our most recent visit was on the summer solstice and as we came out I looked up to see a peacock stood on the ridge of the roof silhouetted against the fading light. Perhaps this has some deep mystical significance and is a good luck sign from the druids. Or maybe not, and it was just trying to escape the attentions of the pub cats. Either way it looked spectacular was a great way to round off a super evening, and we look forward to many more in the future.