I sat at the counter at the Red Cow flipping beer mats tapping my fingers and clock watching while listening to the sound of passing tumbleweed when – BANG! – the door swung open and a group of bar billiard hustlers strode forward with purpose.
It was a scene reminiscent of a John Wayne western. Well, almost, had they not been wearing North Face jackets, Superdry hoodiesand Lonsdale sweatshirts.
They looked mean, moody and ready to take on challengers from far and wide, even those from the Isle of Sheppey.
Some punters at this sparsely populated pub cowered in fear, while others supped their ale nervously. Not me; I was just glad someone else turned up to bring the place to life.
It was somewhat disappointing to stumble across the Red Cow and find it so empty. After all, it’s a lovely looking pub – both inside and out – with, rather curiously it must be said, a pink cow stuck on the front of it instead of red. But this is Sandwich, a town hit heavily when pharmaceutical giants Pfizer – makers of Viagra amongst many other things – announced it was cutting staff at its research and development facility in 2011.
I could make a cheap gag about Viagra here, but I won’t rise to it.
The town’s pubs and businesses have had the rug pulled out from under them when hundreds, if not thousands, of staff lost their jobs and were forced to move elsewhere.
The bar billiards brigade were out-of-towners but their arrival welcome. The mood improved to such an extent that the big bald bruiser sat next to me, got up and put Celine Dion’s classic track It’s All Coming Back to Me Now on the jukebox.
Yes, it was party time at the Red Cow.
Other top tracks soon followed – Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice and then Rhythm Is A Dancer by Snap! – I felt like I was back at the start of the 1990s once again.
Any rate, let me tell you this, I’m as serious as a bottle of Bengal Lancerwhen I say rhythm is a dancer.
However, I wasn’t drinking Fuller’s Bengal Lancer, I was supping a pint of AdnamsLighthouse (3.4%). I only popped in to the Red Cow for a pint, but ended up having three.
Lighthouse, as the name suggests, is a light, hoppy ale, ideal for a sozzle session in Sandwich, so naturally I made the most of it. I was in the mood for something easy and thirst-quenching.
While battle began on the bar billiard baize I got chatting to the landlord who told me about the tought times experienced in the town and the struggles of the pub itself.
Just as I was reaching for my hanky he produced two big plates of bar snacks from the kitchen. It was a nice touch.
Sandwich is a quaint town with street names to match – you need look no further than No Name Street for a prime example of that.
But may I suggest you meander down Moat Sole for a pint at the Red, or is it Pink, Cow? The Viagra makers may have moved on but your visit will certainly give the landlord a lift.
THE INNSPECTRE’S SUMMARY
ADDRESS: THE RED COW, Moat Sole, Sandwich, Kent, CT13 9AU.
01304 613243 MAP HERE.
ATMOSPHERE: ** Very quiet. Thank crikey those bar billiard boys turned up.
DECOR: *** White-washed walls, old wooden beams. It’s certainly got some charm to it. Shame there were few folk there to enjoy it.
SERVICE: **** Friendly landlord and landlady, putting a brave face on what must be worrying times. Loved the bar snacks.
SELECTION: *** A good choice of ales including Thwaites’ Crafty Devil, Adnams Lighthouse and Fuller’s London Pride.
PRICE: *** Not bad, £3.30 for my Adnams.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS: The Red Cow has a large beer garden which include a giant Connect 4 game and big Jenga blocks. Ideal for a summer sozzle session with pals.