Dogs no longer playing poker in the Bell

Winding back a little, while I was waiting for the bus (the X7) to go to Northampton the other day, I sheltered from the rain in the entrance to a nearby pub (The Bell, for local readers), which has recently been refurbished after a change of management.

Whenever I’ve passed this pub (rather shamefully I’ve never been inside it) I’ve glanced through the window and noticed what might have been this –


or possibly this –


Now – whatever it was – it’s gone, along with all the other bric-a-brac (brasses, old adverts, amusing signs) and been replaced by bare brick walls and a blown-up photograph of what looks like a wine cellar (I’m guessing it’s Italian).  They’ve also put some decking out the back, so that you can sit and observe the nocturnal goings on on the Recreation Ground while necking your jam jar of Pinot Grigio.  

These posters (prints?) used to be a common feature of pubs and indicated, I suppose, that they were aiming a little lower than the type that had nineteenth-century style prints of foxes in hunting pinks having a few drinks with a couple of hounds.  I don’t think I realised that they were actually painted by an artist (or artists, in fact), but a little research reveals that the dogs playing poker are the work of Cassius Marcellus Coolidge (his high-minded name the result of Quaker abolitionist parentage) and their pool-playing brethrenthat of an imitator, Arthur Sarnoff.  They have websites devoted to them, Wikipedia entries – the lot.  Originals sell for huge sums.

I can’t pretend that I actually like these things – in fact I think they’re pretty horrible – but I can’t help wondering what the regulars  make of this sudden purging of their familiar furniture, the backdrop -no doubt – to many an evening of revelry?  And is the ersatz Mediterranean look really – in context – an improvement?

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