I’ve been lax, distracted, busy… oh I can trundle out all the excuses. What it boils down to is that, once again I let work overrun the rest of my life and I have promised myself that this year I am not going to allow that to happen. It’s one of those annual promises that I make to myself and see how long it takes me to break it.
Like new year’s resolutions, which I make almost religiously… and then fail at. So I thought I’d take a different perspective on them this year. Here they are.
What can I say? I have a chaotic mind!
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’m back, I’m still getting to know my new city and I have every intention of telling you all about what I’m discovering on a far more regular basis than in recent months.
I’m going to start with Hurts Yard. Do you know it? It’s easy to pass right by and not even realise it’s there. There are two entrances to Hurts Yard, which, from what I can gather, doesn’t seem to take an apostrophe (- maybe it didn’t once belong to Mr Hurt?). There’s an archway on Upper Parliament Street, on the right if you’re standing at Tollhouse and looking up, and there’s another from Angel Row, on the left if you’re looking towards Market Square. You could miss them if it wasn’t for two dirty great A-boards announcing the location of two of my favourite drinking holes- 400 Rabbits and Cucamara.
I’m going to talk about Cucamara.
When I lived in deepest, darkest Hampshire, I rarely drank alcohol, mainly because I was always driving rather than because I don’t like it. With the excellent public transport system in Nottingham, I have rediscovered recreational drinking – to be honest, I’ve become a bit of a lush! Well, only on a Friday because I don’t have to drive anywhere on a Saturday. And Cucamara does some very lovely cocktails 🙂
More importantly, well for me as a relative stranger to the city, it was the first place I started to make some new friends.
Now, ostensibly Cucamara is student central. Late at night, it’s packed with young people, the pace is fast and furious, it’s loud, effervescent and fun. It’s fair to say I am not their key demographic. But we head there early. Friday is meant to be my day off. Phill works until 4pm, so I meet him in town and we head out for a drink. By 5pm when Cucamara opens, sometimes we are queuing at the door.
Mein host extraordinaire (yes I know I’m mixing languages) Paul Cotton is good, really good. You can see him sizing up the customers, noticing the details, finding some common ground on which to spark up a conversation. With us it was Phill’s Tesco uniform. Paul had shopped at his store and recognised him. He has also previously worked in retail. It’s a start, an opener, a way to make a customer feel at home… and it worked, we went back again and again and again.
Initially we became known as The Tesco Couple. I was ok with that because I knew that, despite the fact we weren’t Cucamara’s core customer base, we would always find a friendly welcome there. That’s Paul and Megan. Sometimes Phill would bring olives from work and Megan and I would share them at the bar. Sadly Megan no longer works there and I have no one to share my olives with.
Now, early on a Friday evening, we find the very charming Tommy behind the bar who always has a smile for everyone. And we while away a very lovely hour or so sipping cocktails and putting the world to rights.
I think we’ve worked our way through the cocktail menu about six times now, we’ve sampled the shots and bombs, tried out several new concoctions and discussed the possibility of a Hurts Yard event – cos there are other places up that narrow little alleyway that could all benefit from people knowing they are there.
You know the theme tune to Cheers? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. Well they know my name now and I like that. I like that there’s always a warm welcome, I like that they make customers feel important and, to be honest, the cocktails and Sambuca or Tequila or whatever – although very tasty and reasonably priced – have become pretty incidental. I can go anywhere for a drink, I can’t go anywhere and get the same reception I do here.
As an aside, Paul has challenged me to find out more about the history of Hurts Yard and, to date, I have failed miserably.
It’s a quirky little twitchel, home not only to Cucamara and 400 Rabits (more on that another time) but also to Rob’s Record Mart where Rob has been selling vinyl since Phill was a boy (ancient times lol), the Deviant Angel Emporium, a tattoo parlour and the Barrel Drop real ale establishment among others.
It’s got a mixture of architecture and two very narrow entrances either end.
If anyone knows anything, I’d be very grateful to find out more. I really can’t have Paul thinking my research skills are that crap.