I was only on a fly-through visit to Fareham the other week, but when the friend I was visiting told me there was a pub there that I would really want to photograph, I put aside the suspicion that he just wanted a quick pint, because he does know what I like to photograph, slung camera bag over shoulder and headed out into the rain.
From the outside, The Bird in Hand looks like… any other pub really. Not one I would probably think of visiting. However, when you walk through the scratched old door you are greeted not just with the aroma of beer and bodies, like any other pub, but this sense of being transported back in time, to when a pub truly was your local, and where - as it says in the song - everyone knows your name. And if they don't, they will do within the first few seconds of your arrival. Warmth, cosiness and a total eclectic wow factor!
After the initial introductions, I did what every visitor always does. Simply looked. You see, every inch of every wall is covered in… stuff. And when I say stuff I mean, stuff! An old fashioned typewriter is attached to the wall above the piano, flanked by a crocodile skin and a pair of old snow shoes. There are guns; old posters with rules of the bar from the 1700s; framed fishing knots which presumably someone might find useful one day… And where the walls eventually ran out, the ceiling took over. Above my head was a careful arrangement of walking sticks, inexplicably neighbouring some old bugles, and not far from some horse tack and ploughing machinery.
There were copper jugs and warming pans; a womble and a duck; charity cheques and photos of people who have probably been in their graves for many a year. And oh to be able to reach the row of very old fashioned cameras set tantalisingly above the bar!
It was very, very dark inside, and photographing all this was something of a challenge. I wanted to capture the warmth as well as the museum like feel so it was a case of piling up tables and bar stools as I had no tripod, setting a very slow shutter speed and hoping for the best. Of course, the people are blurred: they couldn't stay still for a whole minute, but I'm not sure it matters.
There was a band in that first night and it was soon full. I met many wonderful people and enjoyed the good natured banter and breathtakingly rude insults passed between the regulars, which speak of many years of friendship. The band were full and it didn't seem to matter whether you wanted to sit quietly in the corner on an old cushion attached to a beer barrel, or dance wildly in the limited space. All were welcome.
I thoroughly enjoyed my evening in the Bird in Hand, and met some wonderful characters - including Great Uncle Bulgaria (or at least the lovely man who wore that womble costume!)
If you're ever in Fareham, pop in to The Bird in Hand. Tell them I said hi!