Almost drinking brown beer with Santa

There's no space at the bar. The pub's only just opened but the locals have already crowded out the place. Ribald jokes and thirsty dogs are the order of the day. Three pumps of brown beer are being pulled through.

There's a couple in the snug who are best left alone. I retreat into the tap room; benches have that material last seen in Seventies caravans, the lightbulbs are eco and take five minutes to brighten, a cluster of Christmas cards are sat on the mantle waiting for regulars to pick them up.

There's several crossword clues that evade me. Worthington Winter Shield has the dusty bitterness that is just so for a night like this. A Cottage seasonal special? Can't believe it's not butter. A tweeter drops by. We talk Belgium and Buxton.

There's a pervading aroma of fish & chips. I'm joined by my wife, my mother-in-law and Santa Claus. Their Rainbows Christmas Party is over and Santa has given out presents and played the piano-accordion for excitable under-sevens.  He's now relaxing with a whisky and ginger; it would be brown beer but he's had a dicky tummy.

There's a gaggle of darts players. The rug is rolled back, the oche mat is rolled out. They're all glammed up for their Christmas bash but finding some arrow time first. The Vintage Motorcycle Club are flocking to the function room for their annual beano, everyone carrying platters for the buffet.

There's a community loving their pub. And I'm glad to be part of it.