Saturday, March 24, 2012

Places I Love. No 2.

No 2. The Cumberland Arms, Byker.
In the late 80's, due to some daft housing mix up, I scored a hard to let flat in Byker Buildings, which was just along from The Cumberland Arms. 

At the time it was managed by a bloke called Billy. The tip of Billy's nose was plastic. It looked as though someone had bitten it off in a fight. 
Come to think of it, Billy looked like he could have  bitten his own nose off in a fight with himself. Despite this, regular visits brought about a warm familiarity. 

The same could not be said of the barman, whose name was quite inappropriately, Tommy Cooper. He was a sour man. I only ever once saw him outside the pub, walking down Shields Road. It was wrong seeing him out of context and in daylight. Daylight didn't suit him. He died in the end. Probably of sourness.

One of the great things about the Cumberland was the upstairs room. It was free to use. Just about anyone who had an interest in comedy and music played here. It was a bit shabby, and you could do whatever you wanted. At one show we were playing, and, this still haunts me to this day, I hit Phil Hinsley, from the stage, on the head, at full swing, with a Blue Peter annual. Really hit him hard. There were cartoon birds flying round his bonce. I'm sure I had good reason to, but it was a big surprise when it happened. 

These days, thanks to some canny management, The Cumberland is still going strong. When twatty pubs the length and breadth of the country are being closed down, this simple, friendly no frills pub goes from strength to strength. It's a testament to all who frequent the bar, a bar that still supports local talent and, on sunny days, brings round sun cream to ensure you don't get burnt whilst in your cups. If they could just sort out the staffing to calm endless bar queues on busy days it's be the best pub in the world. Oh, fuck it, it is the best pub in the world. 

1 comment:

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Funny to come across this... I was just thinking about Tommy Cooper yesterday & googled his name along with the Cumberland. I worked in the pub in the early 80s, when Tommy was there, and even though I was by no means local (a Cheshire/Lancashire raised ex-student) he was the best to work with, & treated me kindly. What a great group of people in each room. I learned to play a halfway decent game of darts, & pour reasonably good pints. Only fell down the hatch into the cellar once.