I HAVE been thinking recently how pretty The White Swan looks from the outside with its fresh whitewash and abundance of flowers. But until last week the outside was all I ever saw.

A few years ago my son forbade me to go into the Upper Dagnall Street hostelry, saying it was not a fit place for his mother.

Had I given him the same advice he'd have treated it as a recommendation but I am more obedient.

I did venture in once out of wicked curiosity and found a smoky drinking den where Bill Sykes might have bought a round.

Since then it has clearly undergone a sea change. The door led to a spacious old bar with real beams in the ceiling and big wooden tables set wide apart on lovely old tiles well, they looked old; you never know nowadays whether furnishings are simply distressed, do you?

There is dark wood panelling, lots of interesting little pictures, and only two socking great fruit machines and an Archers drinks poster stuck to the ceiling to spoil the ambience.

I took my newspaper and large Scotch and soda (only £2 with lots of ice, nicely served in a tall, slim glass) to an airy table by an open window with three vases of flowers (artificial but believable) on a wide sill.

I was glad to see a handpump on the bar with bitter from the threatened Brakspears brewery use it or lose it.

They generally put a lunchtime blackboard on the corner of Market Place to lure passers by to home-made meals such as steak and kidney pie, liver and bacon or toad-in-the-hole.

A big board inside has a wider selection from chicken with mustard and honey to fresh baked filled baguettes and jacket spuds.

It may be that Dusty Springfield singing softly in the background was a throwback to bygone times and at 6.15pm on market day there were certainly those who had been in the bar a while, but were mildly intoxicated rather than inebriated.

Nowadays, you wouldn't need to worry about your mum straying in. You could even take your maiden aunt.