Tuesday, 19 May 2009

austerity Britain

"Make friends with your butcher" -Anne J.

A comment on Facebook got me recalling a story someone told me of the not-so-good old days. This is how it happened.

The Blue Flame is a pub which nestles in a lane between Nailsea, the bustling Somerset home of Adge Cutler and the Wurzels, and Kenn Moor, where Somerset goes into serious boggy mode.

It's a nice pub, and I would especially recommend their pickled eggs.

Anyhow, V was writing a book on pubs, and, as I occasionally pass by the Blue Flame I was asked if I knew how the pub got its name. I didn't, but as it was a good excuse for an outing (which, thanks to my navigational abilities, took us about 30 miles further than strictly necessary)....

here's the story.

We were in the Blue Flame at Nailsea last night, and I asked the landlord where the name came from. He said that originally it had been called the New Inn, but got its present name from goings-on during the war. A decoy Bristol was located on the moors around there, in a hopeless effort to persuade the Germans to drop their bombs on the marshes instead of the city; and the landlady of the pub had an illicit relationship with the man whose job it was to light the lights for the decoy. She lit a stove in the window (landlord obligingly points out stove in window) to let him know when her husband was out and the coast was therefore clear for him to come calling.

....it's no doubt a story the holes in which a squadron of Chieftain tanks could be driven through; but better a good story than a boring truth, I suppose...


...further to the anecdote about the Blue Flame... something trawled up in the 'net...

In addition to their normal operations, No.951 (Barrage Balloon) Squadron also controlled Bristol's six 'Starfish' Decoy Sites, the construction of which commenced in late 1940. They were eventually located at Stockwood, Chew Magna, Downside, Kenn Moor, Yeomouth, and Cheddar, and it was during the city's second large scale raid on the night of December 2nd that the first 'Starfish' site in the country was lit in anger.

...I told the story of the Blue Flame to someone, let's call her X, who had a good laugh about it and then told me that she used to do something similar with a box of Omo washing powder on her kitchen window sill. If it was there, the butcher's boy knew that it was all clear to come in and trade some of the contents of his basket (sorry, I'm trying to think of a way of putting this without it sounding smutty... I must have dwelt among English academics for too long...)...o God.... OK, the butcher's boy would then trade meat for sex.

And there we have it, story for today!


  1. lovely story... dru, i lost the bookmark with your email address - can you send it to me (your email i mean) at jdrussell2@hotmail.com. ta. james

  2. The butchers certainly enjoyed themselves in the war.

    I grew up in a house on the top of the hill and my dad told me that the lady who lived there before we did used to leave the landing light on which could be seen for miles. Her lover knew from afar it was time to visit. I imagine they didn't get up to much in the summer months...

    My mum found a grave in the graveyard when we moved there in '56.(fascination with graveyards runs in our family) She wondered if it was a cousin, it turned out to be - and guess where he had lived? I wonder if he was the one with the wife who left the light on?

  3. On its way, James

    Crikey, Caroline, I just Googled that and found some very racy stuff indeed, including one where some Forces wives angrily proclaimed their own virtue. Which is no doubt very sincere, though totally at odds with the anecdotal evidence I've encountered, including one chap I used to work with who combined his work in RN family welfare liaison with a more direct form of comforting.

    Moving swiftly on (as indeed he had to do on occasion)...

    It sounds as though the husband was the only one not in on the secret, Anji. Not an unusual situation, I suppose.

  4. MIL told me that after the war when the husbands came home, there were quite a few murders 'crimes of passion'. The murderers were let off.

  5. Sadly unsurprised. It's my experience that of both men and women, either those abroad or those left at home, there are some who will be unfaithful and some who will not. But *some* get away with it more easily...

  6. Continuing the Bristol-related war stories, my Dad started his war in the Royal Artillery commanding an anti aircraft gun crew located in Bristol. Clearly they weren't putting all their store in the Starfish ruse (thankfully).

    (Later they moved him to London, and thence to North Africa and Italy...)

  7. Interesting history! I know where that is. Never been in, but I can picture the place.

    Well, you can't call a Pub the OMO, can you? The Blue Flame is a better story. lol

    Yes, I went to school near Chew, and remember the fake Bristol, some evidence was still there. One of my dad's friends was a farmer on Dundry, and used to help out with that.

  8. It's possible he was stationed just across the road, Jo; there was an AA battery on the Downs not far from here. My landlady recalls the house shaking when they fired. She also recalls an incendiary coming through the roof into our kitchen. It didn't go off, which is why we still have a kitchen.

    True enough, Chandira. I hadn't realised that the OMO story was well-known until Caroline suggested it. "Just popping down to the OMO for a quick one..." ..well, it may work. My grandparents lived sandwiched between the Leyland Motors factory in Leyland, and the imitation Leyland Motors factory to attract the bombers. Fortunately, they didn't get raided much.