For the last 24 hours the beer blogs have been alive with the flames of the dying pub industry, Best of the blogs here and here and here and here. It’s all yesterday’s news today though so that’s why I thought I’d post about it.
The views expressed, were wide and diverse and went from disputing the figures on the basis that many pubs reopen, to disputing them the other way saying that with bars and none proper pubs opening the number of proper pubs are in even steeper decline.
One set of opinions touched me, it touched my soul. This was expressed by a number of people and at a direct tangent from my own view of pubs. This was a view of pubs as warm convivial community centres that enriched the human soul.
Now that is not my view of pubs, my view of pubs is that they are dumpy crapholes full of losers and old men without homes to go to drinking themselves to death whilst expressing offensive and often racist but ultimately impotent views on anything from immigration to taxes to which one of Girls Aloud they would most like to take from behind. Nadine, the Irish one, if you’re wondering, is my answer.
I got back from the gym last night and whilst I sat with my lovely lady and ate the 3 bean salad she had lovingly prepared, I didn’t reach for the fridge to get my daily can of cooking lager goodness. Instead I ventured “fancy going out for a drink tonight?”
Surprisingly she answered in the affirmative. We haven’t been on a date for a while. At weekends we socialise with friends and midweek we are homebodies. It suits us, in you are single early twenties you get out and about, but when you approach 30 you stick with a bird, buy a house, and for want of a better expression, live in it, with her, and generally have less sex than you would like and thought you would have, now you both have your own place and can do it whenever you want.
The rain stayed off and it’s only short walk to the local, a pub I’ve been in twice in the 4 years I’ve lived here. Once when we moved in, second when a mate came round and fancied going to the pub. Upon entering I realise I’ve been a bit unfair and provocative in regard to pubs. To describe the pub as a dump is only partly true and also a tad unfair. It is not smart, not aspirational, a bit tatty, but not so horrible you have to leave and have a shower. It’s no worse than pubs have always been, and I used to spend time in these places, with mates, when a student. At the bar is a choice of bitter or lager. Johns Smiths Smooth, Bombadier cask, Fosters, Stella. There are ciders and Guinness too. I look around and the clientele, all 4 of them are drinking either the smooth or the lout. A bunch of miserable old sods you wouldn’t buy a used car off. I have a Foster’s and the lady has a white wine from the choice of red or white. The service is not unfriendly, but obviously there is an extra charge for a smile. We take a seat. Now the romanticised views of pubs are about the atmosphere not the drinks, but looking at the drinks, it’s nearly £7 for 2 drinks. Tesco are not only cheaper, but offer me more choice. The choice here is of bog standard products that sell at a discount in the off trade. And why is lager the premium expensive beer? In the supermarket, that’s the cheap stuff, 40p a can, and the bombardier is 2 for £3 on discount? How odd. The premium products of on and off trade are at a direct tangent.
Atmosphere? Well there is oxygen. You can breathe, but atmosphere is what I suspect we mean when we look at pubs through rose tinted romantic eyes. The atmosphere is well; quiet would be a nice way of putting it, dead a less friendly expression. The locals leave us alone to chat, and frankly I like it that way, when getting a closer look at them. Sense of community? Nah. I’m paying money to sit in someone else’s frankly shabby faux 18th century front room. “Fancy another?” I say “Are we stopping in here?”, “Nah, let’s go”
If anyone chooses to comment on my tosh, one thing I’d like to know is why pubs look like, well pubs. What’s with all the Victorian/Edwardian design? Did pubs have a style before Queen Victoria? Why hasn’t it moved on, what’s kept it like this? You can look at a house and know exactly what decade it was last decorated. You can’t do that with pubs. They have always been dated. You tell how long ago they got a lick of paint, and it’s usually “too long”.
We walk to a bar the missus likes to go in on the main road. It’s usually a sting in here. The choice is Fosters, Stella, Kronenburg, Hoegarrden and Leffe on draft. No ales, keg, cask or otherwise. The decor is modern and smart. It’s a bar, not a pub, with a restaurant upstairs. We get a table and on the table is a menu, drinks on one side, and snacks on the other. The missus picks a bottle of wine and I buy it at the bar. £8. Not as good as the Spoons where it is a fiver, but we get a couple of glasses each out of it. £8 for two rounds. The bar is busy; there is a buzz about the place. The clientele is young, well dressed and orange. Orange fake tan is the look for the youth of today. An orange girl at the bar says hello, and knows me. It takes a few seconds for me to remember who she is. She’s with her mates, blue wickeds all round, and we chat for a moment before I return to my slightly annoyed girlfriend. Who is she and how do you know her, she wants to know. Once it’s confirmed that it is not an ex girlfriend and not a girl I really know that well, the lady is happier. We enjoy a drink in a busy, but not heaving, vibrant centre of the community. People are chatting; groups know each other, the lady squeeze nods to some people that live along the street. She’ll be making friends with them next, so I hope they’ve got some decent grog in.
I realise the community is not in the pubs, it’s in the people. It follows people where the people go, and currently plenty of people want to go here. Its female friendly, bright, smart, and aspirational and I like the place. A couple of glasses of white wine each and we are off home. We get home, something nice happens. It’s a work night and I get to have sex. Maybe I ought to take the girl out and throw wine down her more often.