Every culture has its rites of passage. For young people in the Caldewgate area of Carlisle these include a chat with Marion Jones, landlady of The Joiners Arms.

“When they first come in I’ll sit them down and run through the rules,” says Marion. 

“‘You don’t put your feet on the furniture, because that’s a leg-breaking offence. No drugs. If you can’t behave, don’t come in.’ When I bar them, it’s not for a week. It’s permanent.”

Beyond the nuts and bolts of running a pub, each licensee has decisions to make on how their place will operate. For Marion, harmony stems from a no-nonsense approach.

Perched on a barstool before The Joiners opens for the day, she declares: “You’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to make rules. These rules have got to apply for everybody. You’ve got to stick to them.

“They get told to say please and thank you when they ask for a drink. ‘I’ll have one of them’. ‘What else?’ ‘I don’t want anything else.’ ‘No – please.’

“I get some hard lads in here. I see them in other pubs and think ‘You’re not the same person I know’ because of how they’ll behave.”

After almost 20 years on the frontline, Marion may now be Carlisle’s longest-serving publican. She has certainly been here long enough to see humanity’s best and worst, its strengths and flaws magnified through the bottom of a glass.

She has also stood up to the natural world. The Joiners reopened last month after being flooded for the second time in 11 years.

In 2005 it was closed for four-and-a-half months. In 2016 it reopened in half that time due to the swift response of brewery Star Pubs & Bars. The only thing to survive on the ground floor is the concrete plinth which the bar stands on.

Marion and her partner Keith Donnelly, a builder, live above the pub. Marion has rarely slept much and even less so now.

“Before, I felt okay to go to bed. Now it’s happened again, I’m up to all hours. I don’t sleep. When it’s raining you think ‘Oh no, not again.’”

Her two decades here are about much more than the floods. But her customers’ response to them speaks loudly of their affection for Marion and The Joiners.

She recalls the Saturday night last December when water poured onto Caldewgate. Most people were evacuating the area or heading upstairs. Some Joiners’ regulars had other priorities.

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“We still had customers trying to come in the pub, paddling down the road. I said ‘Look – it’s flooding!’ It was coming over the front step.

“When it comes, my God, it comes with a rush.”

Some customers headed for the bottle store and grabbed cases of beer, boxes of crisps and cans of soft drinks. There was no looting. This was a rescue operation with a difference.

“The customers formed a human chain and took all this stuff upstairs. I had half the pub in my flat. I’m pleased they didn’t take the barrels or they’d have had the ceiling down!”

Photos on Marion’s phone taken next morning show a 22-gallon barrel floating in muddy water and the pool table submerged.

She and Keith lived upstairs throughout the recovery. They had no electricity for eight days and just a gas heater to keep warm. Christmas was cancelled... almost.

“One of our busiest days of the year is Boxing Day. A lot of customers phoned up and said ‘Can we come down the pub?’ I said ‘I’ve got nothing – it’s a building site.’ They said ‘We’d rather sit in a building site than go up town.’

“They turned up with cans. The old bar top was balanced across two barrels. I said ‘fetch furniture’. They’re sitting on garden furniture, on a concrete floor. One of the lads was playing music from his phone.”

Marion is clearly proud of her regulars’ loyalty and their devotion to The Joiners. She needs this place too. “I have never been as bored in my life as when this pub was shut. Lots of people have said ‘Is it not about time you retired? You’re 65.’

“I’ve always said I could do it for a fortnight but then what would I do? It proved it after this flood. It’s not a job. It’s a way of life.”

This life has been hard-earned. Marion had wanted a pub for years. She says breweries would not let women run them.

“On the forms it was always ‘Husband, and wife to assist’. I asked for a form and I was told ‘A woman running a pub’?”

Her previous jobs included working in Carlisle Rugby League Club’s promotions office, at Rex Bingo and Morton Post Office.

She also raised two sons from a marriage which ended before she took over The Joiners.

Caldewgate used to be Carlisle’s pub capital. In Marion’s time pubs including The Globe, The Maltsters, The Pheasant, The Duke of York, The Pedestrian Arms and The Green Dragon have closed here and on neighbouring Shaddongate and Newtown Road.

The Joiners has been quenching thirsts since at least 1745. Along with The King’s Head and The Sportsman it has a claim as the city’s oldest pub.

Many nearby homes and businesses have not stayed the course, with some demolished after the 2005 floods. Marion’s next-door neighbour is now Sainsbury’s, which she describes as the best corner shop anybody could wish for. But supermarkets and their bargain prices are one reason so many pubs have closed.

“A lot of young ones are half blitzed before they come out – they’re not binge-drinking in a pub,” says Marion. “This is a proper ‘pub pub’. They don’t want any kids falling about all over the place.

“If you’re drinking at home you don’t get the same banter, the crack. You meet lovely people in the pub trade. They’re friends and family really.

“This is an extension of our living room. If I get any toe rags in that are working themselves, I say ‘Would you behave like that in your house? This is our home.’”

You sense that Marion and her regulars are clinging to The Joiners as the outside world chisels away with supermarket deals, smoking bans and public health campaigns. The right to enjoy pub culture is a frequent theme.

“It shouldn’t be allowed to die,” she says. “This is part of our heritage – they always say ‘the great British pub’. If people don’t have somewhere they can relax and let off steam, it will end up with riots. Life’s hard enough at the best of times.”

Many regulars are elderly and have lived nearby all their lives. A lot of Marion’s former customers have died. “They were just characters. The old locals from round here are absolutely brilliant. It’s a community.”

As the head of this family Marion has more duties than pulling pints. She says requests include: “‘You haven’t such a thing as a couple of rolls I could have for my bait?’ ‘Can you phone my doctors?’

“I think I’ve signed everybody and their kids’ passport forms since I came to the pub. Thousands of them.

“Sometimes you’re shattered, but you make sure you’re smiling. Friday afternoons in here are absolutely brilliant. You’re just creased up with some of the things they come out with. A lot of them used to come in for quiz and bingo on Thursday night, and found they weren’t getting up for work on Friday.”

Marion herself hasn’t had a drink for 14 years. She likes to be in control. Which is one reason why water pouring through her door is so painful.

“I don’t know if I could go through another flood,” she says. “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It’s just the most horrible, horrible, feeling. You’re just helpless. We watched the water coming up and there’s sod all you can do about it. The flood rules.”

Twice, temporarily, this has been true. Then Marion takes charge again. Her pub. Her rules.