What are the sounds of your childhood?
I think everyone can agree on a few of them – dodgy school disco tunes, the clatter of plastic trays in the school cafeteria and the ringing of the school bell.
That’s where it gets a little different for me. The “Soundtrack to the Suter Household” also encompasses the tinkling of glasses and a symphony of shouts and cheers, all backed by the gentle hum and chatter of patrons perusing their local pub.
On February 1st 2000, the plaque above the door was officially changed over and the Suter family took over The Duke of Wellington. Almost 17 years later, it’s time to go and I’m confident that I speak for the whole village when I say, it is truly the end of an era.
As Brits, we’re known for our pub culture. Your local pub isn’t just a place to get a drink: it’s a meeting place. It’s a place to relax, recover, escape. It’s a place to unwind; to drown your troubles or celebrate your successes. Whether you’re hiding from the wife or going on your first date, it’s a haven suitable for any and every occasion. Your local pub is an extension of your home – the locals, an extension of your family.
We’ve celebrated countless birthdays and weddings, and have watched as babies newly born are grown into adolescents and teens nowadays. We’ve also said goodbye to some great friends, and made-merry the lives of some unforgettable characters. To those who have been drinking here since their first pint, those who are truly “part of the furniture”, and to the new faces who will make the next generation of locals – thank you for making the Duke as amazing as it is today.
As for Mr & Mrs Suter… Never were a couple more suited to be the landlord and lady of a public house. They’ve lent an ear to hundreds of customers over the years, and have dedicated the last decade and a half of their lives to making sure the people of Twyford have a warm, welcoming place to go. They have served thousands of pints and given thousands of their hours to the people of this community. Running a pub doesn’t just happen when the doors open – it is a 24 hour, 7 days a week job. In fact, it isn’t a job – it’s a lifestyle. My Mum and Dad embody everything publicans should: they genuinely care about the service each and every customer receives, from the moment they step over that threshold to the moment they leave (often to the infamous cry of, “Get out! Get out of my pub!!!”).
Aside from being community do-gooders, they’ve arranged countless charity events, from quizzes to race nights, raising over £20,000 during their tenure at the Duke. So many people, even those we don’t know, have benefited from their tireless fundraising efforts with donations made to charities including Thames Valley Air Ambulance, Sue Ryder and the RNLI to name but a few. That’s not to mention the huge amount of raffle donations they’ve made, from giveaways at the pub to supplying free meals to the Age Concern centre each year at Christmas time, and of course, the annual well-loved carol singing concerts. The pub itself raised over a thousand pounds for Daisy’s Dream this year, to support their eldest daughter in running the London Marathon.
I am so proud of who my parents are. I am so proud of what they have created over the last 16 and a half years and I am so, so happy for them to be retiring. They have certainly earned it.
So, Mumma, Papa: thank you, for giving me a unique, amazing, fun upbringing. It has made me the person I am today.
And thank you from Twyford. This pub means the world to a lot of people and will be sad to see you go, but the next chapter is nigh for you two crazy cats. It’s time for you to live your own life (instead of having to change the Fosters six times a day and answer the phone every ten minutes). But thank you for everything you’ve done over the years, every charity event you’ve held, every trouble you’ve listened to and piece of advice you’ve given, for every joke you’ve cracked to cheer up a lousy day and for providing everyone with a second home. You’ve made so many people feel welcome.
To the Duke & Duchess of Twyford,
We would like to say the biggest, proudest, most bittersweet thank you, for everything.