Shortly after my 10th birthday, my mum passed her driving test. She had bought a car earlier that year, planning for the time when the three of us (my older brother, younger sister and I) were going further afield than the school around the corner and the church down the road. Before she bought, and kept, that Renault 6, we went through brief periods of having a car. We would wake up one morning to find that my dad had acquired some old vehicle the previous day. For a few weeks or months we would have occasional car trips, at weekends or in summer holidays, to other parts of London, and sometimes as far as Hastings. Then, one morning we would wake to find that we no longer had a car and we never found out exactly what had happened to the most recent one. We had two of these vehicles for long enough to give them names. There was Betty, an ancient black Ford Popular, and Paddy, a green Ford Prefect (“Paddy the Prefect”).
During one of these family road trips, in Betty, or Paddy, or one of the cars that never had a name, my dad introduced us to a game involving the names of pubs. Whenever you passed a pub you would say what it was called and count up how many legs were implied by its name. “The Old Packhorse”, for example, has four legs. “The Duke of York” has two. “The King’s Head” has no legs. Each player took a turn. You kept scoring points as long as each pub you passed had a name that indicated a number of legs. If you passed “The Red Lion” followed by “The Princess Victoria” you would score six points. If you then passed “The Anchor” you would keep your six points but your turn was over and the next player had a go.
My main memory of playing this game was a journey where I scored no points at all. Every time my turn came around we passed “The Six Bells” or “The Ship” or something similar. I would try my luck. “The Ship! That has people in it – loads of legs.” But it never worked. The ship itself doesn’t have legs. The rest of my family made that very clear to me. I distinctly recall my last attempt to score points on that trip. We passed “The Beehive”, and the sign outside showed a hive sitting on top of a table, with four legs. At last. “The Beehive – that’s four,” I announced. Nobody bought it. “But look, the picture, it’s a beehive, on a table, with four legs.” My score remained at zero and my turn was over. We then passed something like “The Coach and Horses” (at least eight legs there) and, for all I know, “The Millipede and Artichoke”. I’d given up on the game by then. And I realize now, all these decades later, that I have still never been in a pub called “The Beehive”.