For me, having just left home to go to college, while Trent Polytechnic was where I received my professional training, the Flying Horse was my introduction to Life.
I was first taken to the Flying Horse one winter's Sunday evening in 1968. The first thing that was extraordinary, was that most of the men in the back bar - the gay bar - were in suits. I was told this was the form for Sunday nights. I think I may have gone along with this once or twice as I was new to the scene, but I didn't keep up that tradition for very long and I think it petered out once the 1969 refurbishments had taken place and the gay bar moved to the main part of the hotel. While the gay bar was still in the back bar, I remember that one night a number of police in uniforms were in observing what was going on. A lot of the older guys were spooked by this, but we younger ones were already feeling 'political' and some of us engaged these middle aged suit-wearing policemen in conversation, preaching to them about the theory of gay liberation. What must we have sounded like?
There were a few prostitutes who worked out of a pub further along the road. They would come into the Flying Horse between tricks for a drink and a chat. I, and my young friends, learned a lot about different aspects of life through their uproarious and sometimes tragic stories. But on the whole these women working as prostitutes were highly intelligent, well-dressed, clean, well manicured, and were working in the sex industry to fund their children through private schools, pay mortgages and build up savings. A very different lifestyle from the one I had been brought up to believe prostitutes led.
Lesbian couples would call into the Flying Horse either as a prelude to an evening at the Forresters or as an alternative to the Foresters or, more often than not, to avoid the ex girlfriend of one or other or both of the women who would be at the Foresters which was the only - or at least main - lesbian bar in town.
There were married couples where the husband was gay or bisexual, who would come out to 'The Fly' together with the husband's male partner. I also remember couples where the husbands were gay using the Fly as a social meeting place where they could be socially open.
I remember a rather glitzy bisexual couple (I won't say names, but they were well known on the 'alternative' scene in Nottingham at the time) who were usually in the Flying Horse on Saturday nights. They would often have a party at their house after the pub or even after the clubs once they had started business. They would particularly do this if a TV or stage star was in the Flying Horse bar and would invite him (invariably a him) back. . The couple would also pick up a boy or a girl or sometimes both for their joint sexual pleasure. It was in connection with this couple that I first began to hear of drug use among fringes of the gay scene. I remember trying cannabis once with a boyfriend I met in the flying Horse, and was given poppers once by another boyfriend at the time, but that is all I saw personally.
There were rent boys. There were wealthy gay business men up from London looking for pretty boys to take to smart restaurants and be repaid by a night in their hotel room
Of course, in those days, last orders were at 10.30. Before the clubs started business there was usually someone who would invite people back for coffee - and that is what it usually was. Just a nightcap before everyone went home. Once the clubs were running, of course, they had licenses until 2.00 am and, for young people at least, the after-pub coffee parties were no longer of interest.
Among other regulars I remember were an old lady with her gay husband. Again, I won't name names, but she was from a well-known wealthy business family and was a great friend of Hilda Baker who I met at their house in the Park. Her much younger husband had been a Nottingham City bus conductor who had been kind to her when she travelled on his bus. She married him to give him financial security, but mainly so she would have someone to look after her in her disabled old age, which he was now doing. He was free to pursue his sexual interests as he pleased; which he did!
When I look back on it now, I think the Flying Horse was pretty amazing. It was openly gay. Some of the bar staff were openly gay - I remember one called Alex who was there for most of the time I was in Nottingham (68 - 72). For someone like me who had grown up in a country village it was a real eye opener. And it was a good place to meet people and make friends. I met several of my early boyfriends in the bar of the Flying Horse. And I am still in touch with one or two of them forty years later.
Regarding the Roebuck, apart from one of my 21st birthday parties being held there in October 1970, my most abiding memory is of 'Rose Garden' playing on the juke box and the whole bar bouncing up and down in rhythm to it. A lovely warm atmosphere. Lots of fun.
Reminiscence supplied by Chris.
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