After two days more or less being by myself, arriving at an increasingly busy pub initially assaulted my senses. All that people activity. All the chatter. All the laughter. I needed time and the right state of mind to ease into this happy pub scene at Gretna Green Hotel. I found a comfortable armchair in another small room, sent off text messages and phoned friends. I sorted myself out and generally arrived at a state where I was ready to be social.
Once I fronted the bar, my friend Brad thoughtfully relocated my pack to a secure room, and I settled into meeting the locals. I chose to drink a red wine so he opened a bottle for me – this is a pub where wine wasn’t the drink of choice. Around 6pm they suggested I order a meal. A while later I ate dinner alone, by choice, in the dining room with its vases of false sunflowers. I needed to clear my head and regain my equilibrium.
One of the publicans, Colleen, stopped by to introduce herself and have a chat. Meanwhile hotel regulars ate their meals at the bar or took them outside – a typical Friday night practice apparently. My meal was an excellent freshly cooked plate of fish and chips accompanied by a fresh garden salad. This was the sort of place where I felt comfortable to return my empty plate directly into the kitchen, a move which allowed me to thank the cook.
Back out in the bar and over the next few hours, I learnt more about the area and its personalities. Tim, a barman, was leaving Tassie and with the night off work, he was getting free beers from the endless stream of locals who came to say farewell. By the time I left he was still standing, able to hold down some sort of chat, but rather glassy eyed. A woman was celebrating her birthday. So Friday night at the Gretna Green Hotel was party time. All brilliantly aided and abetted by publican Colleen, whose manner was light and jokey, yet clever and appropriate. She kept everyone feeling good about themselves, and lined up the drinks as new arrivals came through the door. I was very impressed with how she managed the patrons as they became more inebriated. She was very professional yet made people feel warmly welcome. These days so many pubs have lost their customers, yet Gretna Green Hotel is thriving. I firmly believe it was Brad, Rick and Colleen behind the bar which makes this Hotel so successful.
As the night progressed, the bar people made sure everyone knew I was waiting to catch the Tassie Link bus. As the departure time of 9.30 pm came closer, Colleen instructed all the drinkers outside to run and stop the bus if it came through early. Regardless, I was on time ready to flag down the bus when I waited on the roadside in the dark, with barking dogs bidding me farewell.
I loved my time at the Gretna Green Hotel. The time passed quickly and I was so pleased that people were friendly and welcoming to me despite my being an outsider. A local would never have lined up a bottle of water, cup of tea and a red wine on the bar!