Visited: Saturday 13 February 2010
If bright light gives you a headache, visit the Beehive: it may well be the darkest pub in Britain. According to a very good official website for the place, it’s gaslight. This won’t be to everyone’s taste, but then nor is anything that’s really any good, and I like the slightly furtive Victorian ambience it creates. It gives you a bit of a surprise when you swing through the door on a dark winter evening expecting to be able to see to the other end of the room, but on the plus side you spend the whole night expecting to be approached by a shady villain in a stovepipe hat offering the services of two urchins as chimney sweeps for tuppence-farthing a week. This is a delusion, of course; that only happens in Leeds.
I’m not the only one with a taste for a kind of dark stuff other than stout: the place is rammed. It’s Saturday, it’s half past five, and we’ve just walked over from Valley Parade, the home of Bradford City Football Club, where our team Grimsby Town have held out for a plucky goalless draw. When you haven’t won a game in about four months, it’s a victory of sorts to take a point away at Bradford (who nearly always bloody beat us these days, by fair means or foul), and me and my friend Si are far from the only Town fans here.
It’s my second visit; the first was after the same fixture a year ago (man sent off for us in the first half, Bradford’s win a little laboured given the circumstances). It’s good for a pub to have something you remember it by, and the dim light actually took second place to a huge mural in the back room, featuring a load of old-time rock, blues, folk and jazz musicians. My dominant memory of last season’s time here, then, was of the good hour or so our group spent in that room putting names to painted faces (“No, that one’s Freddie Mercury; this one’s Phil Lynott!”).
As well as the big front room and the big back room, there seems to be a little room at the front with a pool table. It’s full of kids. Actual children, I mean, not 18-year-old kids. According to the Beehive’s website – which really is very good and informative, way superior to the average half-arsed effort pubs make at websites – there are five bars altogether. I must have missed two of them in the dark. It’s a hotel as well, with a load of en suite rooms spread over the floors above. Imagine getting out of an en suite bath, dressing, and walking downstairs to find yourself in an ace pub with a massive range of cask beers on tap!
Tonight it’s taking us an age to get served, the two bar staff battling gamely but not being enough for the post-match rush. Just as well though: it also takes me an age to decide what I fancy from the above-mentioned massive range of cask beers on tap. Most of the same folks we drank with in the Fighting Cock before the match are here again, peering through the murk, and Si and I have a jolly natter with a lass called Ally, who we’d never met before but who, it turns out, sent us some pictures a few years ago of her inflatable Grimsby fish mascot for a feature we ran on our website. Harry the Haddock travelled the world with her and she lost him in Macclesfield. There’d be something unbearably poignant about this if I weren’t feeling so grinny from all this beer.
As creditable as a draw at Bradford may seem when you look at it without any context, the context is that a draw at Bradford does very little in the way of digging Grimsby out of the desperate fix we’re in at the bottom of the fourth division. A few more days like today and our 100th consecutive season in the Football League will be our last. If Town go down I’ll miss this pub. We undergo this stupid parade of travelling hundreds and hundreds of miles every year and paying a packet to see your team fail every week, and when the football lets you down, as it always bloody does, it’s places like the Beehive that make the whole thing bearable. There can be little higher praise than that.