Harry Potter and The Black Swan Inn, Gweek.

Foreword: I’ve had such fun with this post and all the ensuing chats with the lovely people of Gweek, and I am reliably informed that this pub is now under new ownership, and is being run by the best people you can possibly imagine so this story will never be repeated again. Hoorah!

* * *

If you don’t count man’s inhumanity to man, the education system and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, there’s not much that makes me angry. I’m one of those people who can placidly cruise away from driving situations that would cause many to pop a socket, and I generally smile understandingly when faced with rudeness, in the possibly deluded assumption that the poor perpetrator must be having a bad day and their attitude is nothing whatsoever to do with them being fundamentally a horrible human being.

So it’s odd that I can’t seem to let go of my simmering irritation at something that happened a short while ago in a beautiful Cornish village called Gweek. http://www.oliverscornwall.co.uk/gweek.jpg

This tiny village is the home, not only of the eveningy loveliness you see in this image, but also of the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, and it was there that my good friends and I decided to take some lovely visiting Bristolians on a cold day earlier this year.

The sanctuary was, as expected, an enjoyable experience despite the bitter sea winds and the fact that I couldn’t see over the fence when the biggest fattest seals were being fed. The enjoyableness was caused by the fact that there were baby seals and otters and penguins to gawp at. Everything is always better under those circumstances.

Here is a picture of brown spaniel and a penguin encountering each other.
penguin and dogAfter all that semi-aquatic creature admiring we turned our attention to the now pressing issue of afternoon tea and cake and were delighted to find an attractive pub in the centre of the village. Here it is:

The Black Swan describes itself here as providing a “a warm and welcoming atmosphere”, and I think it’s this that makes me want to stomp around booting things instead of just laughing it all off, because when we pushed open the door of this inviting but almost empty establishment we came face to face with three men who have since transmogrified in my memory into Draco Malfoy and his two lumpen henchmen.

Malfoy was sitting at the bar, looking quite a few years older than he did in the Harry Potter films, but with exactly the same sneering look on his draco-malfoyface.

It was clear from his proprietorial air that Malfoy was the pub owner, and Crabbe and Goyle, despite their now-long hair and more wizened faces were still the same simpleton henchmen laughing eagerly at Malfoy’s every word as they had been in their Hogwarts days.

goyle-draco-crabbeI noted Malfoy’s sneery face immediately, but in my Polyanna-ish way I decided that the landlord was probably one of those people whose face falls into a negative shape when resting, so I began the conversation with a perky, “Hello! Is it OK to bring a dog in?” The conversation proceeded like this:

Malfoy [in a sardonic tone]: Depends on the dog.

Me [assuming this was a joke]: Would you like to inspect him first? [displaying dog in magician's assistant fashion]                                                                                       

Malfoy: Spaniel’s OK. [henchmen snigger]   [Spaniel shakes water over floor]                       

Malfoy: I’ll get you a mop                                                                                                       

Me: Yes, I’ll do that. Sorry.

Malfoy: No you won’t. [awkward silence]                   

Me: OK. Erm. Do you have any cake? [Henchmen laugh. Clearly cake is preposterous]

Malfoy [not making this any easier]: Kitchen’s closed.                                                        Me

[beginning to wish I'd never started this 'conversation']: Oh, OK. Do you do tea? [all laugh again - tea is preposterous too]                                                                      

Malfoy: Not really, but I suppose you could have some.

Me: Great. We could get some cake from the shop opposite.

Malfoy: You could, but you’re not eating it in here.

Me: Right. OK. Is there anywhere around here that sells tea and cake?

Malfoy: This is Cornwall, luv. It’s Sunday.

Me: [relieved to be about to escape] OK. We’ll be off then.

Malfoy’s strikingly inhospitable attitude and hilarity at our expense didn’t make too much of an impact at first, until I began to wonder if that’s how he treats all his customers. We decided we’d do tea and cake at my house instead and crossed the road into the shop, laughing at his awfulness as we inspected the bakery section. One of the customers in there overheard the conversation and said, “Oh him. He’s a dick.” But we didn’t have a chance to follow up that interesting remark because Crabbe or Goyle suddenly appeared in the doorway, clearly sent over, like in a children’ playground scenario, to find out what we were saying. (I don’t know why they didn’t use extendable ears like the Weasleys did in The Order of the Phoenix, but maybe they didn’t want to use magick around Muggles). As he skulked into the shop Crabbe or Goyle joked to the lady at the counter, “don’t wind them up,” and pointed at us. This is how the next conversation went:

Me: Wind us up how?

Crabbe or Goyle: “Well… you’re all emmets, aren’t you.”

[note: 'emmets' is an uncomplimentary slang term for holiday makers in Cornwall]

Me: No. I’m from Redruth, she’s from Bodmin and these two are from St.Ives and Hayle.

Crabbe or Goyle: Oh. You don’t sound like it.

Me: But even if we were on holiday, that’s a bit of an odd way to run a hospitality business, isn’t it?

Crabbe or Goyle: You’ve taken it the wrong way.

Me: Yeah, right. Thanks.

So the moral of this story is that the target market for The Black Swan in Gweek is quite niche. If you are hoping to be spoken to in a friendly way in that establishment, you need to:

a) not be on holiday, and

b) have a Cornish accent to prove you’re not on holiday.

My friends and I have a habit of scouring the county for tea and cake, and this is the first place we’ve ever been from Saltash to the Lizard where anyone has been less than brilliantly friendly, so don’t think this is a Cornish thing. I think it’s an extra-specially Black Swan thing. When I got home later I was still ridiculously irritated so I looked at the pub reviews on Trip Advisor expecting to find some tumbleweed and raging, but I think they must have written all the reviews themselves because they are glowing. Either that, or Malfoy’s wife completely changes the atmosphere when she’s in charge. Or maybe since those reviews were written, Voldemort has taken residence in the basement and the dementors have been doing their business. Or all those customers had Cornish accents and lived in Gweek. Whatever the reasons, those reviews depict a place completely unlike the one we visited.

To top it all, turns out that Malfoy and Mrs. Malfoy aren’t from Cornwall themselves, and that their aim is “to provide a high level of customer care and service.”. Laugh.

57 thoughts on “Harry Potter and The Black Swan Inn, Gweek.”

  1. Hammer.

    Another place in the world I only plan to visit when I am in the mood for a physical discussion and wait for the next toffee-nosed person around to make a mistake, or similar, right in front of me, towards me or near me.

    I promise to bring my like-minded buddies along for paying tribute to the management.

    Will take pictures right before leaving the joint, and might not leave a tip.

  2. Lovely Bristol friend said, “I want to steam into Gweek in a chariot drawn by multiple spaniels who shall cool off in a stream before entering the pub for collective shaking. Wetdogageddon.”

  3. I can wholeheartedly agree with your blog. I live in Gweek and this man ‘Malfoy’ is very odd, he cleared all the locals out, except the odd morons, who I think you encountered, and wanted to turn it into a ‘Gastro pub’. Needless to say he alienated everyone who frequented the establishment. He stopped the Pub Quiz, and the Euchre cards which brought in loads of people on a Tuesday and Thursday. No one goes into the pub anymore, It used to be a lovely pub when I first came to live here but the landlord died and we have had two useless landlords since. If it is any consolation he is leaving as he cannot make a living without customers. We as villagers are overjoyed and hope and pray that we get someone decent to run the pub so that we can all have somewhere to socialise again. Incidentally the pub was the main reason I came to live in Gweek as it was so friendly, I even based my novel Mr de Sousa’s Legacy at the pub, anyway we can live in hope that all will be well soon. I hope one day you come back to our lovely village and get the welcome you deserve.

    Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1490930760

    1. Oh, I had two simultaneous reactions to your post… Firstly, I am so sorry the pub has been ruined by such a total idiot. In tiny villages the quality of the pub or other meeting place can make or break the feel of a community. And secondly, I felt all vindicated by what you wrote because when it happened and I read the Trip Advisor reviews I assumed I must have entered some sort of parallel dimension of horribleness that only applied to us. I’m delighted he’s leaving and I rather vindictively wish he had seen this blog post. But it doesn’t matter now because you’ll be free of him soon!

      1. Sorry I blogged this twice, it said it hadn’t happened the first time. There is a poor review on trip adviser about the pub now if you look although the star rating seems to be 4! I’ll keep you posted as and when the moron leaves. Have a good day.

      2. Malfoy was meant to leave the Black Swan on Saturday but just heard the sale has fallen through. This as you can imagine is a huge disappointment to all residents in Gweek, we live in hope of a new buyer soon. I’m desperate for a G&T.

        1. Oh what a total shame! I suppose it’s not so easy to sell a pub in this financial climate. We ought to start a Facebook campaign to get everyone to chip in £1 and buy it so that he leaves… or get everyone to find a new buyer…

          1. What a bloody good idea. By the way I think you should put the contents of your blog on Trip adviser.

    2. You are so right. When Karina and the late Tony ran the pub it was a very nice place with a good atmosphere and a good restaurant. Lt’s hope we get a good landlord next time.

  4. Hello pretty sure im the local who called him a dick. I left a bad review on trip adviser in june but its been deleted I live in hope I can use my local again.

    1. Oh, hello Kate! I’m very pleased to meet you. The dick remark was our favourite bit of the whole event.

      Why does Trip Advisor delete bad reviews? It did that to me as well. Seems to render the whole thing a bit pointless.

      I really hope you can too. I think there should be a street party with bunting to see him off.

      1. I think that the owners can appeal against negative reviews and get them removed. It is supposed to be there so that fake reviews can be stopped but he seems to just remove anything he doesn’t like. You will be pleased to know that your blog has gone viral in Gweek there is even talk of printing it and posting copies on the notice boards and lampposts.

        1. Ha. I AM pleased to know this. I am absolutely delighted! I was so annoyed when it happened that I was desperate to spread the word but couldn’t think of a way. This is one of those instances where the internet is a fantastic tool. Thank you for letting me know, I’ll tell the others who were with me. They’ll be dead pleased! xx

  5. I have laughed out loud more than once while reading your very entertaining account of your unpleasant experience of this rather predictably awful chap. I myself had a very upsetting encounter with Mr Melfroy and perhaps even a few of his hench men were spectating. During the floods last winter Gweek was hit quite badly and my already ramshackled car decided enough was enough and had an electrical meltdown right in the middle of a giant puddle. With no mobile phone signal to call the RAC I had no choice but to ask to use a phone. There were two obvious choices, the pub or the shop, I opted for the pub as it seemed the shop were busy building flood defences to deter ever increasing water levels. On entering the free house I instantly felt like I was being glared at by all 3 or 4 occupants, I was drenched to the bone and shivering with cold but there seemed no rise for concern and in fact I kind of felt like I was interrupting an exclusive little meeting. I then dropped the big question, ‘could I possibly use the phone please?? ‘ after a long silence I then had to thoroughly explain the situation in such a prolonged, nervous, wittering manner that our man gave me the hand held just to keep me quiet (so I think). With all eyes on me I dialled the recovery number which was engaged so I was forced to hang up, this went on for some time before I eventually got through to the ‘on hold’ music, eyes were still all on me, so I ordered a cola. After about 5 minutes of being on hold our Melroy character asked for the phone back as he might be missing out on incoming calls or such like, so I handed it back, said a brief thanks and went back out into the pouring rain.

    I was truly horrified by what had just happened and with the prospect of being stuck 5 miles from home in the pouring rain with a broken down car I wanted to burst into tears. Luckily the shop keeper was much kinder and let me use his phone to call a friend to rescue me (he even let me wait in the shop!!).

    1. There’s just NO excuse for being such a blatant GIT!

      I can actually picture this event taking place. I imagine you standing in the exact place I was standing being humiliated Malfoy and his goons.

      I can’t begin to understand why anyone would be so horrible as this man. OR how he hoped to run a business by alienating anybody and everybody. The man clearly has more than a screw loose.

      1. Why should they be forgiven? They’re just as much part of the unpleasant experience as Malfoy. I live in Gweek and first experienced the attitude of Malfoy and his henchmen back in 1977. Needless to say, I have not been a frequent customer since, BUT when I have ventured in, I have more than once been met with a similar attitude. If it’s not Cornish, it must be a Gweek thing (I am not Cornish), a succession of landlords have espoused this approach and don’t seem to understand that you need happy customers to ensure the success of your business. Gweek is a beautiful village, I apologise on behalf of the rest of us.

        My feeling above are not aimed at the entire population of Gweek, just those who behave like Malfoy and henchmen!

  6. Enjoyed your blog but am mildly surprised, I live in Helston yet only recently discovered the black swan, and have since visited every time I’m it that way as found Malfoy not just hospitable but interesting and welcoming? He does have an air of some sort of authority about him but… Maybe we came in through the magic train station entrance to a different world lol

    1. You must have done! Judging by the comments I’ve received on here, it seems ours was the more usual reception. You either HAVE found a much better magic station entrance, or your face fits Malfoy’s criteria for politeness much better than most people’s. But there were one or two positive reviews on TripAdvisor, so he must be able to muster pleasantness occasionally. I should just enjoy your good fortune, if I were you! Thanks for reading & responding x

  7. We live in Helston and have visited the black swan once, and once was enough~!
    The food was shocking and as for hospitality……..Well………….!!!!

  8. I know a few people who have actually had the misfortune of working for Malfoy, & I can tell you that he treats his staff just as poorly as his customers. Verbally berating them whenever he’s had a drink (which is always!) & refusing to pay them.
    It is also worth pointing out that he has no right to complain about “emmetts” considering that he is Scottish!!!

  9. If you’re down that way again and looking for a welcoming pub, head a bit further round the coast to the Five Pilchards in Porthallow! Great food, a warm fire when it’s cold, and importantly an amazingly welcoming landlord (yes, I am a bit biased as he’s my uncle – but true nonetheless!) that will happily chat over beer or tea!

  10. A friend (who MUST remain nameless) N E V E R says a bad word of anyone he encounters in his semi-pro capacity as an entertainment provider but ‘you’ should hear him where THIS hostelry
    is concerned. He has been closely involved with the Cornish Holiday Business for over 40 years & STILL finds it difficult to sum up the ‘mamagement’s’ abyssmal drunken behaviour he encountered in this ONCE good pub when it was just the ‘Gweek Inn’!!!. SAD to seem ‘down on the dogs’ but my pal’s tale is vindicated by these other reponses…..NOT that I ever doubted him anyway!!!
    The ‘bottom line’ would seem to me to be the BOOZE/EGO problem………less trade generates excessive libations & modesty soon flies out the window……a downward spiral thus ensuing.

  11. Encountered these individuals on an evening at Ship Inn Mawgan (which you guys MUST visit – you will absolutely receive a warm welcome! And great service!) Having read your blog that day I almost spat my wine across the bar when I was informed this was the man described in your blog and his henchman – your description is perfect!!!!! He proceeded to very loudly discuss with his henchman what beers should be served in said establishment and where he felt they had things he would change…. Maybe just maybe he should have taken account of the fact the place was packed with locals and tourists alike the restaurant was full all happy smiling and enjoying the fabulous atmosphere ……and maybe just maybe, instead of trawling out to other local establishments informing them where they are going wrong (because he is sooooooo experienced on how to get things right……) he should maybe just maybe spend time looking at his own businesses (!!!) and where he is going so wrong in them!!!!

    1. I am extremely entertained by your description of your response! But seriously, I am always amazed at how it’s possible for some people to be so deluded about themselves in the face of all the evidence against. But I suppose you wouldn’t get the entertaining bits of the X Factor auditions if that were not a common human trait!

  12. I personaly think that that is a load of tripe, I know the people you are calling “Crab and Goyle” they are lovely when he made that joke he ment it as in ” don’t wind them up because Andy has been a git to them and they should be treated nicely. You should know that they hate Andy and they get treated very badly by him!!! And they are extremely offended by this and you made one of them become an alcholic! What is the point of saying this when it is only one person who got you in a bad mood and personaly it sound like you are being rude just for the sake of it!!! And you think that you can tell everybody its a rubbish pub when you should go in there on a thursday and then you will be proved wrong because the manager isn’t there!!! It is a very nice place I should know I LIVE THERE!!!!!!! >:(

    1. wow.. where to start with this idiot?

      Firstly, you cannot drive someone to alcoholism with a statement. I’m guessing ‘lovely’ Crab & Goyle have a pre-existing issue with their own personalities. This may be because they know someone who uses excessive exclamation marks. Grow up. (unless by me saying that you feel the need to massively overstate the offence taken by you and throw yourself off a bridge or take up a life of aimless wandering and injected Crack Cocaine and blaming it all on my terse reply)
      Just say no.

      Secondly, they get treated “very badly by him” yet choose to stay. more fool them, then. It also on goes to add weight to the fact that nationally (I live in Chester for example) this landlord is a bit of a dick. And when I say “Dick” I mean that in an understated but screaming way in the same way that Aussie comedian Adam Hills called Joan rivers “a dick”.

      Thirdly, saying the pub is nice when the manager isnt there only makes the point of the OP for her.

      Lastly, you live there? (waves watch in front of posters eyes)

      “Ok, I’d like to speak now to … the ‘landlord’. Are you there ‘Landlord’?”

  13. Hot off the press, I have great tidings…. a very good friend of ours is taking over the Swan, and I can guarantee that if you go there any time from now your experience will be VASTLY different! Alec and his wife Wenna ran The Queens Arms for years, and have been missed terribly since they left. There’s a large proportion of people in the Helston area who are going to be tramping to Gweek on a regular basis from this every evening, and I’m pretty sure most of the residents of Gweek will already be in there!

    1. Oh this IS good news! Next time our Bristol friends come for a visit we will make a pilgrimage to Gweek especially to expunge the memory of Malfoy and his henchmen and replace it with the way things should be. I’m so glad this has happened and suspect that it will be very good for the community! Congratulations. x

  14. I can state with no fear of contradiction that the new landlord Alec and his wife Wenna, greatly missed at their previous pub, will turn the Black Swan into a thriving, pleasant and delightful pub that will be a tremendous asset to Gweek.

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