Saturday 30th June 2007 was the last day before the smoking ban came into force in England.
We spent the evening at The Falkland Arms in Great Tew (OX7 4DB, Tel: 01608 683653, website). Tradition hung as heavy as the fug of smoke, as drinkers enjoyed cigarettes, cigars and pipes indoors for the last time. The Falkland is renowned for its selection of snuff and loose tobacco. I've never been a smoker, but thought I may as well mark the occasion by toking on a clay pipe.
The pub itself is a great place I'd heartily recommend. The unspoiled building dates back to the 16th century, when it was known as The Horse and Groom. The current name recalls Lord Falkland, who inherited the Great Tew manor in 1629. A Royalist, he was killed at the battle of Newbury. One of his descendants, the 5th Viscount, gave the family's name to the British islands in the South Atlantic. The oak-beamed interior is a treasure trove of breweriana, the ceiling completely covered with hanging pint and quart pots.
Three of the beers were from Wadworth, the Wiltshire brewery to which the pub is tied. Guests came from Thwaites, Fullers and Wychwood. Wadworth Summersault and Fullers Summer Ale were adequate thirst quenchers, best described as lager substitutes. Wychwood Owzat had much more character, with a tangy, earthy flavour not usually found in this kind of beer.
Although the selection was restricted to bitters and summer ales - the curse of the English pub - everything was in perfect condition. The massive pork pies and cheese plates, served in lieu of dinner, also won plaudits from our party.
The Falkland even has celebrity endorsement: Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame was sat at the next table to us. You can spot him in the background on one of the photos above. He wasn't alone. Despite sporting a dodgy tache and white socks, he seems to have bagged a stunna. Well done, grandad.