There aren't many vivid memories of childhood in my head. It was a very long time ago, you know.
One that remains absolutely clear to this day took place when I was around five years old. My brother and I were playing with toy cars on the floor when our grandmother came in. She spoke fluent Welsh, our mother wasn't quite so fluent and we kids only knew the swear words our grandmother used when we came in filthy. 'Mochyn' featured heavily.
Our grandmother said something in Welsh, in that little-old-lady 'isn't it terrible, ooo, scandal' gossip voice and our mother responded with 'Shh. Not in front of the children'.
We stopped playing and became absolutely attentive but since we couldn't understand a word, we still, to this day, have no idea what particular juicy scandal they had uncovered. The 'not in front of the children' was irrelevant and pointless because we didn't know the content of the conversation.
In much the same way, when we were given soft drinks and our parents had a snifter of booze, we didn't concern ourselves with their drinks because a) we were too busy checking that both our drinks were exactly the same size and b) we didn't know, or care, what was in our parents' glasses. Only what was in ours. They could have slugged down pints of gin and we'd have been none the wiser. (Actually we would have. They weren't big drinkers so they'd have toppled over in no time).
Now it seems that bar staff are beginning to decide for you what you can and cannot do in front of your own children. As Pub Curmudgeon reports, two women with their children were refused wine spritzers because the bar staff thought it inappropriate that they should consume alcohol while with their children.
Yes, it happened in a pub. The one place in the High Street you would visit if you felt like a drink. If you have children with you, too bad. One of the reasons for banning smokers from everywhere was 'for the cheeeeldren' and that's now the same for drinkers.
As the Curmudgeon says, this is a one-off. It is, however, not in the least bit surprising. For a long time now there have been reports of supermarkets refusing to sell parents a bottle of wine if they have a child with them. The decision is usually made by someone on the till who isn't much older than the child they're complaining about. It really was only a matter of time before the first instance of the pompous 'I know best' attitude appeared in a pub and I'm afraid I don't believe it will be the last.
Pubs are private businesses, as are restaurants - and the first restaurants to ban children have already been reported. That's spreading. It seems odd that a pub should choose to refuse to serve drinkers rather than simply to ban children but it's their business and they can ruin it any way they choose. It's not as if I'll miss another closed pub. They threw us smokers out years ago.
No doubt, when anyone with children can't get a drink in a pub, when the other clientele cannot get a drink if someone else's child comes in, then the loss of trade will be blamed on supermarket pricing. It cannot possibly be because the pubs have banned or alienated their remaining customers. It's someone else's fault. These days, it always is.
I don't own a pub, don't work in one, don't supply one, don't sell beer, and rarely visit any of them any more. Like those hotel rooms with the severe signs: 'No smoking, and the bathroom has a smoke detector so don't try sneaking a quick one in there', I don't go back to places that could not have been less welcoming if they had Basil Fawlty on the front desk or behind the bar.
The loss of the pubs is no loss to me. I lost that particular option for an evening out years ago. Now the antismokers, with their hideous smug smiles, tell us that we smokers are all little saddos who sit at home alone with a few cans of own-brand badger piss, watching TV and trying to stop the tears dampening our cigarettes.
We are told that it's our fault the pubs are closing because we refuse to visit places that treat us as if we were infectious. That we are weak because we enjoy a drink and a smoke and don't want to cut out half our enjoyment. That we are inferior because we are not smug, self-important arseholes like them. Okay antismokers, the pubs are all yours now. If someone refuses to serve you that's your problem. If it closes down and the staff who ejected us are out of work and the landlord is bankrupt, don't come to the smokers for sympathy.
You could have fought this ban, publicans. Instead you lobbied to extend it to all private clubs. We can't have a club that's for smokers only, that only employs smoking staff and that is situated so far out of town even the Dreadful Arnott couldn't smell anything. You did that to us, publicans. Don't ask for our support now.
In the beginning, a public house was just that. A private house in which the owner sold beer to anyone who happened by. He could allow or deny whatever he wanted, because it was his house, not the property of the State. That format, in general. continued up until a few years ago when the antismokers declared that the publican did not own the pub. They owned it, and they were going to decide who can and cannot visit. The pub industry did not say 'Go fuck yourselves, this is a private business and you're barred'. The pub industry said 'Oh, all right, and while you're at it, why don't you wreck the club business too?'
Now we are treated to the news of a Shenkerite deciding parental behaviour while in the pubs, which are moving from 'antismoker property' to 'antidrinker property'. I didn't even raise an eyebrow at the story. It was bound to happen. The only surprise was that it hadn't happened sooner.
Let's face it. The pubs are doomed unless a senior politician magically grows a brain or the pub industry realises that it's not the supermarkets taking their customers, but their own policies driving us away. Perhaps that will never happen.
In the meantime, we sad and lonely smokers have formed smoky-drinky. It's like the original someone's-house pub format with a few exceptions. There are no staff. No children. Nothing is on sale, we each bring supplies for the evening. No business is transacted there otherwise it becomes a 'place of business' and smoking would be banned.
It's also not open to the general public. It cannot be or the smoking ban kicks in. No membership, no fees, no defined premises. We take turns to act as 'pub'. Some are better at it than others so some get to host more evenings. It's developing, perhaps as the original pubs did, to the point where there'll be a regular 'public house' except it won't be public. Invitation only. And it's not easy to get invited. We'd like to allow more people in but the risk of an antismoker infiltration is too great, or of some self-righteous idiot deciding they're going to bring their children and demand that we can't smoke or drink while they're there. As it's a private house that would be easily and swiftly solved, but then they'd be 'offended' and we all know what that means.
One day, when the current pubs have been eradicated, the Dreadful Arnott has been staked out at the mouth of the Thames at low tide, Dim Shenker has been immersed in alcohol for posterity, and the madness subsides for a while, the Smoky-Drinky will be ready. Signs will appear, licences will be applied for, proper hand pumps and optics installed (we already have some optics but we don't use them for whisky because they're far too small), opening times established, ashtrays on tables and then new pubs will open.
Then Wetherspoons, Punch and the rest will start buying them and the whole circus will start all over again.
Well, we know what to do next time, so we can set up smoky-drinky as soon as the first stirrings appear. Next time we'll abandon the pubs the day the smoking ban is proposed rather than wait until it happens.
If we'd done that last time, things could have turned out very differently.