Mock-Tudor frontage and a very dirty sign lurk behind the local Job Centre just off the Louth Road at the north end of the town. The Landlord, a Mr. Roy Fletcher, cannot be accurately described without breaking the No Spitting rule; Roy wears slacks, striped shirts and has a lovely orange-peel nose with a blackened tip, a testament to the quality of his alcoholic wares. From his perch at the end of the small bar he surveys the majesty of the pub - its unsafe light fittings, fake beams, fake olde-worlde advertising prints, uneven pool table and twitchy cigarette machine. The seating is a combination of cast-iron tables and almost-matching stools, change-stealing benches and tables that were probably bought secondhand after a local school had finished pouring corrosive chemicals on them in the name of science. In one corner there is an array of cheaply crafted fox-hunting prints, allegedly bought to offend the gang of hunt saboteurs whose custom Roy declined to welcome.
The sign above the door claims that the Angel is a Bass-owned establishment. Indeed, at the bar one of the older pumps bears this name. Caffreys, Stones and an unidentifiable cheap lager are the mainstays with a further two pumps offering occasional guest ales. Two fridges behind the bar stock a sparse selection of bottled lagers, ciders, soft drinks and Hooch for the youngsters. Standard spirits are offered as well as five "classic" malt whiskeys and two Bushmills products. Any more esoteric drinks are probably not to be trusted as the same bottles have been behind the bar since I can remember. Tapwater is grudgingly offered as long as something alcoholic is being bought. There is a proper cola/lemonade/soda dispensing contraption present though it seldom works; soft drink porions usually come from the warm plastic bottles next to the sink.
Besides Roy, young local girls have been filling in behind the bar after Roy's wife Nancy left him some years ago. Roy spends many happy hours ogling them and ignoring the customers. Most of these extra staff are friendly and understanding about the poor quality of their wares and will secretly mock Roy when he is outside of earshot. Roy can be friendly on occasion but usually insults even those who have been regulars since their schooldays. He offers little leniency in his hours of opening and will chase his best customers from their seats as soon as last orders have been called.
There is a jukebox in the Angel, but it is somewhat lacking for the discerning customer. Roy will sometimes set up some free credits but will often put in random selections of his own - sometimes the atmosphere resembles that of a youth club disco from 1983. There are a few classics such as American Pie and Whisky in the Jar, but little that could be called "modern", "popular" or "of interest to anyone". Across from this there is a fruit machine of variable vintage. Sometimes it requires 5p per play, sometimes 20p. The prizes are generally low and the accompanying beeping is of the high-pitched and more irritating variety.
Next to the toilet door is a combination of quiz or games machines, both of which are inclined to crash whenever someone over 7 stone walks past. The pool table lies amidst these four, stained felt and ripped pockets witness to many years of love and lack of attention. There is a little wander on the balls and some of the cues leave a little to be desired but in general pool is safer than the other machines, as you can be sure of not getting any money back at the end of the game. Sometimes the television up at Roy's corner of the bar will display football or snooker, usually at the request of one of the older customers. The picture is very small and the sound cannot usually be heard; it is more usual to see the teletext displaying current scores than the action itself.
As this is Lincolnshire, the customers stand little chance of being of interest to the more swish city visitor. Vaughn-shirted males with gelled-down little fringes are a popular find, usually dressed in jeans rather than sportswear. Schoolchildren often visit at lunchtimes (if Roy can be bothered to open) and again most weekend nights before heading to the Town Hall, Horncastle's attempt at late-night dancing-style entertainment. A selection of the town's frazzled old men pop in every now and then as well as some of the 20- or 30-somethings destined to become them. Students can be seen returning home for the holidays, only to discover that Roy now hates them even though they choose to return from many miles away. Very few unaccompanied women attend the Angel, doubtlessly because of Roy's unwanted attention. Some orange-faced schoolchildren join their male counterparts before heading to more exotic locations (such as Ritzy's in Lincoln or Skegness).
Though it invites many insults and expressions of disdain, the Angel is a reliable venue for those that require nothing more from a visit to the pub than a tolerable pint and a quiet conversation. It has served me well for eight years and has so far resisited the increasingly popular mutation into a brightly-coloured mobile phone haven that affects so many city pubs. There are plenty of kebab shops nearby for the hungry pub-leaver and a wall outside to sit on when the Angel closes for the night. Roy is disturbing but amusing and most of the people in the pub can either be laughed with or at. You could do worse than visit before Roy's nose finally leaves him and the building falls down from despair.