Last Orders – Julie Cohen

I’m over the moon to welcome Julie Cohen to The Star and Sixpence today, with some memories of her old local.

“Everyone needs a local, and the County Arms used to be mine.

The County Arms was not the most salubrious of pubs. The carpet was worn to threads and the air freshener in the ladies’ toilet dated from circa 1982. The ‘beer garden’ consisted of a rickety picnic table in the car park. And vandals used to wittily remove the ‘o’ from its name on the sign.


But it was one of our favourite places: me and my friends, Kim and Lizi and Jenny. The owners were friendly and cheerful and always up for trading gossip. The regulars (all of them, it seemed, over the age of 80) spoke entirely in private jokes and football scores. The jukebox had plenty of Elvis and the pub was right next to a 24-hour garage so you could buy crisps and dodgy sandwiches to soak up the booze on your way home. It was the kind of pub where you would walk in and the owner would pour you your drink without you having to ask. (Mine was cider: the wine at the County Arms was terrible.)

I used to go there with my friend Jenny every Thursday after aerobics class, and stay till closing. My friend Lizi met her husband there. My friend Kim told us she was pregnant there (we’d guessed from her pint of Coke).


I set a book there, though in the book I made both the pub and its clientele much grosser. The book was called One Night Stand and it was about a barmaid/writer at a horrible pub called the Mouse and Duck who has a one night stand and gets pregnant but remembers nothing about the father except that he looked like George Michael. In the book, the pub goes from a dingy rathole to quite a nice-looking place, because of the power of the community who meets there.

I was a bit worried about letting the County Arms owners know I’d written about their pub so disparagingly, but I needn’t have been. They loved it. They loved their pub, and so did we.

But the County Arms didn’t fare as well as the Mouse and Duck in my novel. Like so many other pubs, it had to close. The building, a lovely 1930s structure, became derelict. A body was discovered there. It was declared a fire hazard. And then it was torn down.

But a pub isn’t just a building; it’s a community and it’s memories. The regulars have become regulars in other pubs. Although my pub-going days are much fewer, I see the old regulars sometimes and we always say hello and trade memories of the Arms. Jenny moved to Vancouver and had triplets, and I miss her a lot. But when I walk past the empty spot where the pub used to be, I always think of Jenny and Lizi and Kim. I think of the two pints of cider that used to wait for Jenny and me there on the bar on a Thursday. And I always smile. The first pint always tasted the best, because the first pint was the welcome home.”

Thanks, Julie! I love the idea that a pub is a community – The Star and Sixpence definitely aspires to that.

Julie’s latest novel, WHERE LOVE LIES, has been shortlisted for both the RNA Romantic Novel Award, and for Romantic Read of the Year. Heat magazine calls it ‘’Gripping, intriguing, unique and gut-wrenchingly poignant….brilliantly original.’

Where Love Lies pb cover small

She’s on Twitter as @julie_cohen and her website is

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