For over ten years Chris was Artist in Residence at The National Stud, so it doesn’t surprise me that the man walking through the bar is wearing a paisley print cravat and fleece gilet.
Although I imagine that The National Stud would have been one of the most rewarding places to exhibit, the most interesting certainly sounds like the time he got back to his car after a food shop and a stranger had left a note on the windscreen asking if they could buy the painting they’d seen on the back seat! Chris now exhibits his equestrian drawings on our bar side.
How long have you been coming to The Three Blackbirds?
“Can’t remember! Well over thirty years anyway.” This answer prompts me to ask what the biggest reason to return is. “The staff are always friendly, whatever mood I’m in”, Chris answers, so I make sure to offer him another coffee and keep smiling; Don’t want to get on his wrong side.
It’s evident that Chris has spent a lot of time here over the years and has plenty of stories – some I can’t share – of time gone by. From chefs encouraging guests to bring in local game in return for a pint, to barbecues being used because the gas had run out. One landlord even looked after a friend's budgerigar. “While he was out we would put in Cadbury’s mini eggs each day and he was so convinced the budgie was laying he made a nest for them. It worked until they started melting…”
Can you reminisce on a time before the refurbishment?
“No matter who the landlord, there was one person who used to come with the pub, Ernie.” There’s even a photograph of him that still stands beside our bar. “He used to come into the pub at 10.15 every evening, order half a bitter and a couple of rum and peppermints and tell everyone what he’d seen on the news headlines. He shocked us all one night with tales of hundreds trapped in a blazing building… it turned out he’d been watching the wrong channel and had been watching ‘Towering Inferno’.” I imagine that this is a story that has been shared by many over the years.
Chris also highlights a time when a key was kept on a ledge by a back door so guests could lock up on the way out so the landlord could go to bed and leave them to it. (I stress that this was long before The Three Blackbirds that we know!)
“The pub has got less chaotic and idiosyncratic over the years”. No more tabs being paid off with riding lessons or guests cooking and serving themselves due to a lack of staff, but it’s clear that Chris is still very much part of the community, being one of the “rag-taggle bunch” who ring Woodditton’s ancient church bells. He adds, “Apologies to all for the racket we make when practicing!”
Have you been to any of the community quiz nights or similar events?
It’s “the best thing that’s happened recently… villagers getting together to have street parties, evening events in the pub and community gatherings”, Chris exclaims and I picture the videos shared the next day of their latest community bingo – Chris is present – with everyone bellowing out S Club classics!
To find out about our other Local Legend, Kev, at The Feathers in Holt, click here.