Column #24 Horley, Surrey, United Kingdom
October 1, 1996
Horley, Surrey, United Kingdom
If ever you fly into England and realize you really don’t want to be there (this is something that happens to me literally every time I land) try stopping in at the Brighton Bell Bar. It’s off the lobby of the Ramada Hotel (Povey Cross Road) in Horley just a five minute drive from Gatwick Airport. The setup here is absolutely tremendous — whatever your interest, as long as indulging in the history and formality of a nation that long ago saw its better days isn’t on your list.
The Brighton Bell (named after the famous pullman train) is a downright great place to spend some time. I’ve just spent the better part of three nights here — enticed back time and again by the dart board in the far back corner and the nightly “beer for a quid” Happy Hour from 6 PM to 7 PM. At the current exchange this equates to about US$1.50 a pint. If there’s a better deal in the whole of what once was the British Empire I’ve yet to find it.
Situated as it is — almost on top of the arrival and departure of hundreds of flights a day — it’s only natural that the pulse of the Brighton Bell is thoroughly international. But for the accent of the staff one would be hard pressed to know exactly where in the world they were. Bright flags of various countries flutter from the ceiling. The televisions are tuned to CNN. Even the pool table is a pool table — in most British pubs of any size it’s a snooker table that dominates the room.
There’s just one dart board, brand new, hung against a huge floor-to-ceiling backboard and lit brightly by a spotlight from the ceiling. The oche’s raised brass. There’s a chalkboard built into the wall on the left but, as usual, no chalk — we made due with the little blue cubes from the pool table.
I found myself with an extraordinarily mixed group of people here. Masha from Russia. Jetty from Holland. Chantal from France. Sally from Australia. Jill from Hong Kong. Others from Germany, Italy, South Africa and the Philippines. The Brighton Bell is truely an international venue. The problem is — nobody I was with cared a toss for darts.
Except for Tommy. Tommy “the King” (at least this is what he claims the women call him) Molina. An old friend from back home on Cape Cod. Tommy wanted a game.
The darn thing is, and I’ve always felt miserable about this, Tommy has no hands. Lost them in some sort of accident with a tractor as a kid. Okay, that’s a lie…
But it’s not like it matters. The truth is Tommy does have hands but for some reason when he handles darts with them the darts tend to do strange and mysterious things. For example, I’ve watched Tommy throw for twenty minutes to take out the double one. Another time (and I swear this is true) I actually watched Tommy put one of his darts through the arm of the chalker’s sweatshirt!
It goes without saying that darts with Tommy at the Brighton Bell lacked the usual challenge. I’d hit a ton. Tommy’d hit a one. We’d order a beer. I’d hit another ton. Tommy’d hit the backboard. We’d order another beer. I’d hit a ton. Tommy’d hit the wall. And so it went. The outcome was never much in doubt.
The only open issue — saftey — was one the management itself, in inimitable British fashion, closed quicker than a double top checkout after one of Tommy’s darts bounced off a wire and onto a patron’s plate.
So much for my visit to the Brighton Bell Bar!
From the Field,
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