Last weekend, the weather finally got its act together and treated us to some glorious sunshine, appreciated all the more after the weeks of dankness that preceded it.
So when a friend called to suggest meeting up on Sunday lunchtime, it also provided the ideal opportunity to indulge in that most bucolic of English pleasures, the country pub.
It may well be as a result of being brought up in a tiny country village (without even a shop), where the pub was the only real communal meeting place, but to me the country pub has always held a place close to my heart.
In my childhood, I can recall many hours sitting in pub beer gardens, sipping soft drinks and eating crisps while my parents met up with their friends from the village.
Many years later, once I turned 18 (honest, Officer), it was a chance to establish my own country pub habit, spreading myself liberally across the pubs of Berkshire and Oxfordshire, whilst also acquiring a lifelong taste for Brakspear’s finest ales.
Later still, when I was living in London, there was something very appealing about ‘getting out of town’ on a sunny weekend for a pub lunch somewhere suitably rural.
So, I guess you could say that the country pub was an integral part of my formative years in England.
When I moved to Australia, I continued whiling away many hours in pubs of course, but somehow the experience was different.
The beer was obviously (and necessarily) colder and often seemed to be drunk faster and more aggressively than I was used to, perhaps to avoid any risk of it getting warm.
Maybe it also says something about my choice of drinking partners that I frequently would find myself lagging behind as beer after beer was skulled rather than being contemplated.
And to rub salt in the wound, I’d still be the one who ended up with the worst hangover the next day for my troubles.
Over the years, I also saw more and more Sydney pubs becoming glorified casinos, with poker machines and big screen TVs everywhere.
Sure there were pubs that still managed to retain their charm and ‘pubness’ – The Lord Dudley, for instance – but many more seemed willing to sacrifice character in place of a kind of uniform modernity.
And interestingly for a city with a temperate climate, there were surprisingly few pubs that I managed to find with habitable outdoor areas where customers can drink and eat whilst also enjoying the sunshine. Never quite worked that one out.
No such problem for me on Sunday though as I headed out, family in tow, to our chosen venue – The Griffin at Fletching. A pub you could imagine being created by a Hollywood film producer wanting to set a film in, well, a typical English country pub.
From its traditional street frontage, to its low wooden beams, to its cosy bars to its friendly bar staff, to its choice of rustic sounding real ales, it was like a flashback to my childhood.
And as for the huge landscaped beer garden, boasting spectacular views across the Sussex countryside, well we couldn’t really have chosen anywhere more perfect for our lunchtime rendezvous. I can see this becoming a regular event – care to join me?