Friday, August 03, 2012


Baby-Banned at the Bamford (but Back a Bit)!

This week (part of a fortnight of holiday indulgence), I ate for the first time in a Stockport hostelry I’ve been aware of all my life but, I’d thought, never crossed the door of before. And it turns out that the reason behind my always having looked askance at the Bamford Arms is the one time I’d previously gone in and been thrown out… Long before I could remember it. My Mum has a longer and sharper memory, but thirty-nine years and several changes of management later, she’s rescinded her boycott and took my niece and me for dinner there.

The Bamford Arms now has quite a pleasant restaurant. The tomato and courgette soup was thick and tasty (if a bit too much basil), the garlic bread vibrant and crunchy, the steaks and sauce fine, with plenty of chips. A very friendly woman took our orders, offered little Caitlin things to play with while she went for the world title in the slowest-ever ice cream-eating stakes, and generally looked after us. She even put aside the photos Mum left behind and the fairy Caitlin left behind and instantly went to the drawer when she saw me come back for them (though when, suggesting that the family was under a bit of a curse that afternoon, I in turn managed to drop Caitlin’s fairy outside, not notice until I came to give it to her, and have to go back for it again, she didn’t appear like a fairy godmother with it in her hand and I had to look up and down Nangreave Road for it, so clearly her magic powers are limited to within the pub).

So I won’t criticise the Bamford Arms of 2012. The inn of four decades ago, though, is a different matter. I was mildly surprised when Mum suggested we go there, having a vague idea that there was something wrong with the place, but I wasn’t sure why. However, Mum said she’d gone there with friends and it was fine – and it was. I don’t know if she sensed my mild scepticism before or mild surprise afterwards, or just wanted to pass on some up-to-the-minute gossip, but after we left I was treated to just why we spent many years never going there and passing by with a cold stare and a disparaging word.

Back when I was thirteen months old, my Nana and Grandad came down to stay for a couple of weeks while my brother Rory (who long since insisted on Richard and then re-shortened to Rick, much as I shed Sandy in favour of Alexander and then Alex) was born. The day our grandparents were due to drive home, Mum booked a dinner for us all minus new baby at the Bamford Arms, which had been recommended, taking care when she phoned to make sure it was all right to bring my pushchair. So Dad drove all five of us to the Bamford, Mum wheeled me out… And a horrified manager stopped her as I trundled over the threshold.
“You can’t bring that in here!”
“What do you mean? I rang to book and asked specifically. We were told it was all right.”
“Who did you speak to? That’s not our policy.”
“Well, I don’t know her name, but I asked if it was all right to bring a pushchair, and I was told ‘Yes’.”
“Ah, that explains it. You can have the pushchair in here. But we don’t allow the baby.”
And that’s why I didn’t go back in there for nearly forty years, having been barred from a pub at a far younger age than everyone else manages it.

Still, I’ve forgiven them now. But while I’ve not been able to blog while away with very limited internet access first in North Yorkshire and then at my parents’, and must soon work out just how much fatter I am as a result of rather more meals out than just the Bamford, I have to tell you that, shh, while they were all right, they’re not a patch on the Whitestonecliffe Inn, which is an excellent inn and restaurant and serves the finest pâté known to humanity. So it’s a good job that, at 90-odd miles apart, they’re not really in competition or the baby-banning bastards would lose (did I just say that out loud?).

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