When we were kids - and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, going to the pub was the best thing ever. But when I say going to the pub, what I really mean is being left in the car with a bottle of Coke, two straws and a bag of crisps. In those days the bottles were always made of glass that had an ultramarine tinge to them. The straws were made of paper and striped like a barber's pole. Crisps came in cellophane bags and only two flavours were available: salted or unsalted. And if you wanted salt it came in a deep blue sachet that you had to sprinkle on yourself. Periodically, an increasingly beer-happy adult would stagger out to check that we hadn't died or set the car on fire - cousin Dave had once achieved this spectacular feat after experimenting with the cigar lighter. I don't know what made Uncle Bill angrier - seeing his car go up in smoke or not having anything to light his cigars with any more.
When summer came around, it brought with it the glory of the beer garden. Somewhere, not far from here, there was, and probably still is, a thatched inn that claimed to be the world's smallest pub. With its wattle and daubed walls and conical roof it could also claim to be the last surviving prehistoric pub that served pints of foaming ale to the labourers who erected Stonehenge. Archaeological evidence also indicates that these particular Neanderthals were very good darts players too.
It was in the beer garden of this, the most sacred of sites, that we were finally let loose from the car. The prehistoric beer garden which almost certainly had a ley line connecting the jukebox and pool table had the usual array of metal tables with a hole cut through the middle to support the flowering of umbrellas emblazoned with mythical beasts and woodland creatures used by the brewing companies to signify their beer. The barman, forgetting himself and the time shift wandered among the tables wearing a Druidic robe and talked some heathenish nonsense with a group of wizened old men who had drunk themselves into a parallel universe. Occasionally, the High-Priest barman would make some kind of effort to pull himself together and joke with the tourists about football and the unusual weather we'd been having lately. But by now the sun was draining from the sky. The Coke bottles were empty and the straws gone soggy. The cellophane bags held nothing but golden crumbs and a few precious grains of salt. It was time to be going - back into the twentieth-century and onwards into the twenty first.
But some of us only pretended to leave. We had everyone fooled. Bits of us are still propping up the megalithic bar, supping draughts of stone age beer. Darts at the ready for anyone who decides otherwise.