The other rite-of-passage at the age of sixty, after the bus pass, is the Senior Railcard. It has to be after the bus pass because there is a cost and it’s not worth having until the first time you use it: if you buy it the first day you need it, you have more days to use it at the other end (assuming you live that long).
We chose to launch my mate Richard’s railcard by taking the train from Sheffield to Derby, a mere forty minutes, to visit the Brunswick Inn in the Railway Village, three minutes’ walk from the station: http://www.brunswickderby.co.uk.
Take a close look at the Railway Village houses and it’s obvious that this is polite architecture, not speculative artisan housing – actually by Francis Thompson, company architect of the North Midland Railway – built very early in the railway age, 1840-2.
The pub, occupying the apex of the triangular street-pattern, is distinctly elegant: apparently it was originally the Brunswick Railway & Commercial Inn – catering for commercial travellers by offering storage for sample-cases, telegram facilities and generous opening hours.
The houses and the pub were scheduled for demolition in 1970, and were rescued by the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust. The Brunswick reopened in 1987, and a microbrewery was added in 1991: the place collects awards, including UK Beer Pub of the Year, 2001.
From the Brunswick, we walked round to London Road, where there is a superlative Indian restaurant called Anoki [http://www.anoki.co.uk/locations.php?loc=Derby]. Anoki’s chief claims to fame are its superb food – £35 buys a multi-course banquet that leaves you full but not bursting – and its assiduously attentive staff. The male waiters, who are in a majority, wear the sort of elaborate uniforms I associate with Indian border guards – hats with fans and shoes with curly toes. The place is high camp: the immaculate gents is liberally provided with fluffy white towels, the floor scattered with rose-petals.
Its historical claim to fame is that the building is the former Cosy Cinema, built in 1913, and later renamed the Forum (1939) and finally the Cameo (1950). As the Cameo it featured an adventurous and unsuccessful line in French avant garde films; better business was done by placing an advertisement at the exit to Derby Midland Station to attract long-distance passing trade. Occasionally, when the house-lights went up, patrons would be found wearing dressing-gowns and pyjamas, refugees from the Infirmary across the road.
After the cinema closed in 1959 it became a furniture showroom: installing display windows wrecked the ornate baroque façade. The restaurant occupies the balcony level, built across to the former proscenium. The barrel ceiling and caryatides are beautifully decorated and, where the original screen would have been, an endless loop of Bollywood clips is projected.
The place has impeccable style.