When did wine shops become bars and possibly even restaurants. And who did it first? We’ll never know.
But first Crapstone and bargs
Why. Because I am sitting in Campy near Okehampton remembering my first visit to Devon. This involved a trip to visit Bob, a journo friend, and his wife Carol. Back in the 70s he was a jolly decent cove as was his wonderful partner, Carol. I‘m sure they still are. Their address was: Bob and Carol Crampton, Windy Ridge, Crapstone, nr Yelverton. You couldn’t make it up. From memory, Bob was generally pretty taciturn, except when the Durban newsroom raconteurs exercised their great wit by repeating the refrain:
“Bob Crampton, son of the famous cricketer, Denis Crampton,” This caused him some irritation.
“His name is Denis Compton,” he would retort.
Ironically, Denis Compton’s sons, Patrick and Richard, fetched up in our newsroom soon after Bob had returned to the outskirts of Plymouth.
I stayed one night with the Cramptons and their baby son. Shortly after I had arrived, Carol shoo’d us out of Windy Ridge while she prepared a roast in my honour.
“I think Bob wants to introduce you to the local scrumpy. Careful how you go,” Carol warned.
“We’ll pop down to the Who’d Have Thought It, kind of appropriate for two reporters,” he nodded.
I had been warned that scrumpy played havoc with one’s legs before it disabled one’s brain but, hey ho, we were young then.
The incline from Windy Ridge down to the pub was as formidable as one would expect in Devon but we were full of reminiscences and I was eager to sample the fabled brew.
We sat at the bar on traditional high stools while we continued recalling newsroom characters and escapades, many of them regarding cricket. Respectful of the fact that Carol was roasting our dinner, I don’t think we had that many pints before we decided we’d better go. I slid off my stool as one would normally do but carried on sliding as my knees buckled and I crumpled on the floor.
Bob and the publican eyed me knowingly but my memory insists that he had just as much difficulty making the ascent back to Crapstone as I did. I’m pretty sure that, at least at one point, hands and knees were involved.
But, as is the way in one’s 20s, we seem to have recovered quickly and very much enjoyed our roast dinner with Carol.
When they were heading off to bed and I was being shown to their spare, Carol warned me that Bob had to be at work early and would stick his head around the door to say goodbye. I was heading back to London after lunch and wouldn’t see him again. I don’t believe I ever did.
“I just have to warn you that he does wear a traditional long night shirt,” she grinned, “just in case you think you are seeing a ghost or something.”
The plan was that Carol and the infant Crampton would be my guides for a whistle-stop tour of North Devon until I had to depart.
I remember being entranced by Clovelly and moving on to a traditional pub for victuals.
“Don’t mention the sign above the door ... let me do the talking,” Carol warned.
“What are Grockles?” I whispered after we’d successfully passed under the “No Grockles Allowed” sign and Carol had placed our order, I thought exaggerating her burr a little while doing so.
“This landlord is fabled for turning people away who ask that question,” she whispered back.
“If you don’t know then you are one,” she intoned, imitating the landlord with as much of a burr as her need to keep her voice down would allow.
I have to say we have only encountered loveliness from the locals since we’ve been in Devon, especially from the retired farmer, Gilbert, who owns our current campsite. He did have some cautionary tales, though:
“When you can see them hills on Dartmoor over there, you know it’s gonna rain,” he smiled, “and when you can’t see them, it’s arlready rainin’,” he grinned.
“And when it’s rainin’ you got to watch out for them bargs. Them bargs will suck you right in before you know. Never stop if you step in a barg without expectin’, you needs to keep walking smooth and careful, like.”
There were so many examples that they would occupy a whole new blog. I’ll have to return to that when I have a suitable interlude to research the WWII plane what disappeared on Dartmoor.
Dino and I often ate lunch in a modest fiaschetteria close to our office in (if I remember correctly) the Via Sallustiana in Rome. Dino is a long time friend and colleague who headed up the multi-year project we were working on. As his name suggests, he is a native Italian who loves food and sharing it with his amici. He is also as thin as a rake. He uses a lot of energy. More often than not lunch consisted of fagioli a la Nonna in a generous bowl. Most likely they were topped with salsicce, our favourite. Always at least one glass of vino rosso.
“La Nonna Mia says it aids digestion and is therefore essential,” he explained, adding: “E vero.” 
According to my friend the fiaschetterie had started out as wine merchants but many Italians liked to buy wine during their lunch breaks and there was no time for food while they made their choices. Someone saw an opportunity for them to do precisely that, eat while choosing.
During my time in Rome the menu was kept very simple, perhaps just one option ... you guessed it, sausages and beans washed down with a glass of everyday red.
Fiaschetterie started to become popular in the evening, too. A certain Madonna Louise Ciccone saw to that when it became known that she liked to frequent the Fiaschetteria Beltramme near the Spanish Steps. The menu became a little more sophisticated but not OTT. Shan and I went there a few times and loved it. A feature of fiaschetterie was that they didn’t take bookings but we soon learned that Italians can be quite rigid in their evening routines and passeggiata takes place every day between 7 and 8 PM. Get to your fave fiaschetteria at 7:55 you could always get a table. At 8:05 no chance at the Beltramme, given its provenance and its proximity to Via dei Condotti.
So did wine shops that serve food start with the Italians or with the Spanish. Rumour has it that tapas started with a slice of stale bread placed over a wine glass to keep the flies out. A Spaniard got hungry and ...
Answers on a postcard to this blog? If you can bear the occasional formalities when posting a comment, I’d love to hear your theory.
In the mean time I’ll be happy to pay some sort of service charge while drinking “in” at BinTwo.
Coming up some time soon: Cornish fiaschetterie. Do you pay “corkage” on a carafe? Can you pay “corkage” in kind? Will we be in a position to even order wine without getting Raabies. Why does it take twice as long to type a blog on an iPad because of Apple’s sheer obstinacy over cursor back and forward arrows.
 Grandma’s beans
 It’s true?