As I stood in Farnborough Kebab and Burger (FKB) waiting for a large doner, a chicken burger, chips and salad, I glanced across the Farnborough Road and thought something was amiss. The Tumble Down Dick, the pub I’d occasionally frequented over a period of twenty years, was eerily dark.
I sauntered across the A325 and noticed a white sign on the main door. In a cheerful and friendly tone, that I will always associate with the Farnborough pub, the note said something along the lines of “Oh no, we’ve had to shut. But we will be opening soon after a refit. See you then, the Tumbledown crew”
It was odd. It was sad. Just a week before I’d been down at the pub with some friends, watching the Iron Maiden tribute band Hi-On Maiden and their support Karrion. The pub had been buzzing, my ears were ringing, it had been a great night out and so many people showed up.
But now… nothing. Not even tumbleweed.
That was the first day of five years worth of frustration. I may now drink in a couple of local pubs with a better beer selection than the Tumble Down Dick ever had, but nothing can replace the Tumbly.
Sure, it had been (deliberately) allowed to run down, but, like a favourite pair of shoes, way past their best, the pub was comfortable. I was never what you’d call a “regular” but there were always enough people down there that I knew or who would simply be friendly. That was the Tumble Down Dick.
The frustrations since that day in 2008 have been the numerous letters to the Spirit Group that were ignored, the letters to Councillors that seemed to be simply “brushed off”, the fact that in those five years I never went to a gig in town that was packed with as many people as the Tumble Down.
And that’s the biggest problem of all – I play the guitar, I play the bass, I love my music and yet my cultural fix, a mere half hour walk from home, had been savagely taken away.
For five years I’ve been in a bit of a state of limbo. Of course, there are occasional gigs at other pubs in Farnborough, but try packing a five-piece rock band into the Crown & Cushion or the Prince of Wales – It ain’t happening. And The Swan? In front of the stage is an area the shape of a scaled-down Gaza Strip. The Ham & Blackbird? It just doesn’t work.
So, I’ve had no cultural sustenance from the town I actually chose to move to. There is not much of a reason to stay here any more. Unless, of course, we can save the Tumbledown. And that is a strong possibility. Bride Hall own it. McDonald’s want it. And we, the people, are sick of property developers profiting from our loss of heritage. We’re tired of councils just nodding at yet another ugly development.
But times they are a’changing and The Friends of the Tumble Down Dick are a passionate and driven group, their skills and numbers are increasing by the day, their resolve is toughening, their force is strong.
And on the very day that we remember the good times, McDonald’s choose to launch details of their new design. They want to keep the “facade”. That’s ONE great victory – It seems that The Tumble Down Dick will not be pulled down.
The next victory is to stop the American mega corporation from building yet another fast food outlet a mere mile from their other restaurant in our town, to allow the current independent traders across the road to continue earning their livelihoods without being bullied into closure by a domineering, pervasive big business.
The final victory is to secure the pub, to win it back and restore it to its former glory. One down, two to go. On the fifth anniversary of the closure of the Tumbly, let’s push on to the next objective.
These are my words, this is my town, that is my pub. Help me and the Friends of the Tumble Down Dick claim it back.