Sunday, 17 April 2011

The pub with no beer.

I visited a pub today. The first in a very long time.

It was a pub I used to be a regular in, but that was twelve years ago before I moved from there. For a long time I have intended revisiting this old haunt because it was one of my all-time favourites. It's a country pub but not isolated. There is a small village around it, population in the hundreds, so not vast but not tiny either. It is the only pub within a three mile radius.

The village is a little difficult to reach by bus but it can be done. I couldn't stay late, the last bus out is 8 pm but it turned out not to be a problem. I left long before then.

I remember it as an active and vibrant pub, rarely packed like a city-centre pub but never empty. There were bar-proppers who would be there if you went in for a lunchtime pint and they'd still be there if you went back in the evening. It didn't do a roaring trade but it ticked over very nicely. There was always a decent selection of beers and malt whiskies, including the Glenfarclas 105 which isn't too common in pubs because it's, well, deadly. The interior was redecorated frequently and sometimes completely remodelled. The pool table was perfectly level and in frequent use, there was a pool team and a darts team and both did well.

Today's visit was not the trip down memory lane I had expected.

There were no draught beers of any kind. None. All beer was in bottles or cans. The taps were there but the landlord had stopped ordering draught beers and ciders because he couldn't shift them before they went out of date. Whiskies consisted of Bells, Famous Grouse, Whyte and MacKay and only one malt - the Macallan. A decent malt but not my favourite. I'd pay £3 a glass for Ardbeg, but not for Macallan. So Whyte and MacKay it was.

The lounge bar is now a restaurant and empty. The public bar doesn't even have the lights on other than around the bar, there aren't enough customers to make use of the space. The dartboard was closed and had seating under it, the pool table cloth was dirty and torn. There are no pool or darts teams any more. Not enough people to form either.

Taking glasses outside is not allowed and smoking inside is, of course, not allowed. Twelve years ago, around 90% of this pub's customers were smokers. ASH will say there is no connection between the sorry state of the place and the ban they placed on 90% of the pub's clientele.

There are a few hundred people in the village but almost none use the pub now. There is nothing else. No club, no disco, not even a tea room. Just the pub. Well, when I lived there, the bulk of the village never visited anyway. Smokers were the main customer base. Visiting pool and darts teams provided a regular boost, so much so that the landlord would lay on free food for the evening.

Then the smokers were banned. Not by the pub, but by the Righteous who have never visited this pub. The nonsmokers in the village never visited before and still don't. Darts and pool teams from other pubs have no reason to come here. There has never been any passing trade. This place is not on the way to anywhere.

Now you not only can't smoke in this pub, you also can't play pool or darts, you can't sample unusual or unknown malt whiskies and unless you like lager, you can't have a draught pint. Why? Because the customers stopped coming and without income, none of these things can be maintained. Now there is little to nothing to entice the customers to come back. The landlord reckons he'll be closed within a year unless something dramatic happens. "People are having get-togethers at home," he said.

I have a name for that sort of thing. And when the pubs only offer the same canned beers you can buy for considerably less money in the supermarket, there is no point in visiting the pub any more. There is nothing to do in the bar except watch TV, which those who like to watch TV can do at home and decide which channel to watch. They can do it while drinking a canned beer that is now exactly the same as drinking in the pub and they don't have to go outside to smoke.

Pool and darts - well, most of us can accomodate a dartboard but a pool table needs a lot of space and unlike a dartboard, it needs that space permanently. Using the one in the pub was unquestionably the best option. Now it's no option at all.

This pub is nearly dead. The one in the next village died a couple of years ago. Smoky-Drinkies are on the rise although they go by many different names or by no name at all.

I wonder, are we returning to the original concept of a 'public house'? As the war on booze proceeds along the same lines as the war on smoking, soon we'll have to brew our own anyway. So Smoky-Drinkies will be 'public houses' with their own little brewery round the back. They won't be open to the public, of course. There'll be no signs and no welcoming landlord. They will be set up among small groups, they cannot be open to everyone because as soon as they are, the smoking ban will shut them. So if you don't already have one you'll just have to form your own.

In May, most smokers and drinkers in Scotland will vote for the continuation of their own persecution and the acceleration of the destruction of their pubs by voting for the parties that have openly stated this as their intention. They will vote for people who hate them and who make no secret of it.

The overweight will vote for their own persecution too, as will everyone who likes salt on their chips and who drives a car. All of them will place their 'X' in one of the 'denormalise me' boxes.

There is a UKIP candidate here. That's where my vote will go.

Independence for Scotland is the rallying cry of the SNP, but what use is independence without freedom? North Korea is an independent country, remember.

Free benefits for all, is the Labour cry, but what is the benefit of oppression?

Um... right, yeah, is the Lib Dem cry. Why do people vote for them anyway? More to the point, why do any of the denormalised groups vote for them? If there is one thing the Lib Dems are certain of, it's that they hate us all, just as the other parties do.

The Tories' cry in this part of the country is likely to be 'Please, somebody, anybody, vote for me' but few will. Here, the Tories can be dismissed as the irrelevance Cameron has made them.

All those parties hate smokers, drinkers, the overweight, drivers, anyone who likes a bit of salty food... the list now includes pretty much everyone. Yet they still get votes. Lots of votes.

I doubt they'll get that pub landlord's vote this May. The thing about dead-slow pub business on a Saturday evening is that it gave him plenty of time for a chat, and put him a receptive mood for a few new thoughts.

If only he had some customers to pass it on to.


Stewart Cowan said...

It's such a tragedy what's happening to the country - and as you say L-I, people keep voting for their persecutors. We are now under REAL tyranny, but most folk just don't get it.

I saw on Google Street View recently that one of my favourite pubs in a distant town is now a Ladbrokes. It was a sad discovery.

All that the government cares about is closing down the places where people meet and talk. I used to be a gambling man (as well as an alcoholic) and regardless of how busy a betting shop was, I found them to be lonely places.

Anonymous said...

My village has one pub and what I really couldn't understand is why they didn't make any effort to put up some kind of protection outside for the smokers. Even the landlord smokes.
I last went in over a year ago, it was full of kids, beer was nearly £4 a pint, freezing and you were expected to stand outside in the freezing rain to smoke.
By the way, I planted out my tobacco plants Friday, by early early Saturday morning every single one had been totally devoured by slugs, hope they get cancer.

Barnacle Bill said...

I think any party that promised a sensible reform of the smoking persecution laws would be popular.
Every time I come home another local pub has closed, or completely disappeared off the face of the land.
So sad.

cornishstu said...

Is this not another of the EU's directives? which, when you get to the source of all these rules and regs, is responsible, so until we can remove this country from it's clutches things will only continue down the current path

Simon Cooke said...

John at the end of my drive has a pool table in his "garage"!

They were very noisy last night - obviously a good one.

winston said...

UKIP's policies are mainly to get out of the EU, ban any more useless windmills and repeal the smoking ban so I'll go for them this time.
I've stuck with the SNP in the hope of independence but they've reneged on that so I'll go for UKIP this time.
Our local pubs are mainly packed with kids these days. Using the pub as a way to meet partners. The older folk don't go out anymore. No reason to as they are mostly settled down and can have a smoke and a drink at home. Sky sports etc must have made a lot of new customers with the smoking ban.

Pat Nurse MA said...

I'm continually amazed that some smokers who say they care about this cause still vote LibLabCOn - mostly Con in the vain hope that the party will listen to smokers when we know for sure that it will not.
I don't want to be a politician. I don't want to stand for UKIP but I do because I stand up for that which I believe in - fairness for all and especially smokers!

Mark said...

Us old guys can remember pubs like The Moon Under Water so enticingly described by George Orwell...
"the cast-iron fireplaces, the florid ceiling stained dark yellow by tobacco smoke, the stuffed bull's head over the mantelpiece - everything has the solid, comfortable ugliness of the 19th century"
Our grandchildren will never know such places - it will have been de-nomalised, bred out of our culture. This is the most appaling act of social and cultural vandalism that I can think of. It must have taken an implaccable hatred of mankind to have enacted the legislation in the way it was.

Dave H. said...

Every week in Cambridgeshire we hear of pubs that were practically household names going under, either in the city or the surrounding villages. It's a damn shame. I can't pretend I really know the main reason, it may be the smoking ban. The cost of a pint can't help.

I'm old enough to remember a pint of Greene King Abbot at 69p. More like £3 nowadays, if you can find it at all. Funnily enough, though I'm a non-smoker, I can't remember minding the smoke in those days either.

(BTW and totally O/T. You're proper scientist, you can probably tell me why my 12 watts CFL has 120mA stamped on the side? To my simple mind, 240x0.12 works out at 29 watts. It isn't any brighter than a 60W incandescent either. Is the whole energy-saving bulb thing a bloody steaming great con as well? Come to think of it, old-fashioned bulbs are also being banned by the Righteous. Perhaps the idea is we'll ultimately ingest enough mercury to accept their worldview as reasonable. A dim recollection of something like 'power factors' makes me feel the apparent power consumption of a gadget full of inductors might be even higher, if you go by the meter)

JJ said...

A few days ago I was watching one of my favourite films, the 39 Steps in colour starring Kenneth Moore. It was made in 1959. It begins with an opening scene of Richard Hannay (Moore, a pipe smoker too) in Regents Park practicing his golf swing with his walking stick, on a bright and warm sunny day.

One thing struck me about those people enjoying the sunshine, the men wore suits or blazers and slacks and were clean shaven, and the women were wearing smart skirts and blouses, or summer frocks. It was pretty much the same in Plymouth around that time when my parents took me along to a country pub one day whilst on holiday. We would sit outside on the grass enjoying our drinks. Both my parents smoked, and so did many others, and the atmosphere was convivial and inviting.

Nobody ever minded or even commented about anyone smoking because of course it was a perfectly natural and social thing to do back then. You felt part of a community of like minded people without social barriers of any kind.

My point is I suppose is that over the last few years, my isolation from social society because of the smoking ban, and being unable to see my friend of nearly twenty years, also a pipe smoker like me, has given rise to a somewhat ludicrous fantasy which occupies more of my time than is perhaps healthy. I would like to be able to step through a portal and go back to about 1955 and live out my adult life in that decent and interference free era. We had already begun to leave behind us the austerity of the war years, and rationing had already ended with sweets and sugar ending in ’53 and food in ’54 and pubs up and down the land were doing a roaring trade. Tobacconists were everywhere and the welcoming Woodbine or Player’s Navy Cut signs had an iconic status that was deeply ingrained within our culture.

Well, that was then. Now we have a vindictive piece of legislation that has driven a poisonous wedge between decent honourable people, and has now grown into an uncontrollable monster with persecution being its staple diet. This appalling nightmarish monster is continually fed by sick minds whose only reason to exist is to rampage through all the decent things that made this nation great, and which once we held dear, or still do, but now we must hide away behind closed doors and keep out of sight. My life now like so many others has become a lonely and miserable existence – I know I’m not alone.

It took 13 long years to end prohibition in the USA; I suspect our smoking ban will take longer.

BTW – UKIP sounds good to me too.

winston said...

Dave H..

"tell me why my 12 watts CFL has 120mA stamped on the side? To my simple mind, 240x0.12 works out at 29 watts"

Don't forget Dave that the current through a lightbulb varies as it heats up which may explain the discrepancy.
In the 'old' proper light bulbs as the bulb heated up the current through the filament decreased. ( I is proportional to temperature )
This is the reason that bulbs usually blew at switch on. The current was considerably higher and would burn out the filament wire.
I'd have to investigate the correlation between heat and current in the new bulbs to find out the associated current / voltage/ wattage variations.

Paul said...

I'll be spoiling my ballot paper for the local council election (and I've told the local councillor as much). There are no other parties here that stand in the general election besides the main three and UKIP. So I'll be voting UKIP.

It never ceases to amaze me how smokers and pub-goers willingly vote for their own persecution and the end of pubs. They think that the Conservatives will save their pubs when they plan to tax pubs yet further. They are fools. Yet anyone who tells them of the folly of their actions gets dismissed.

If I wasn't one of their number - as well as a fatty and a photographer - I'd be tempted just to let 'em rot. Unfortunately though I'll go down with them.

Anonymous said...


t's not the heat, it's the current flows generated by the repeatedly expanding/contracting magnetic fields created by the filament coils.


Anonymous said...

The 120mA is probably the start up inrush current

vervet said...

Winston: Dave H. & anon are basically correct. The 120mA refers to the maximum instantaneous start-up current drawn during initial 'excitement' of the gas. Average running power is the 12W stated.
Anyway, don't worry too much about the mercury - we really are talking tiny amounts. And we are now moving away from fluorescent technology to LEDs.

vervet said...

Just to offer a more optimistic view of the future of pubs, I can report that my local is thriving - simply because our landlord has a 'can-do' approach. Traditional, welcoming, events 6 nights per week with regular beer festivals, good food (full English breakfast, Sunday lunch, and more), excellent range of drinks to suit all palates ... and a covered and heated smoking zone immediately adjacent to the back door, in an enclosed garden (and he allows e-cigs indoors!).

He has retained a solid, regular custom whilst attracting a new and younger clientele - and all happily co-exist.

With flair and commitment it can be done.

George Speller said...

Mark: you said "social and cultural vandalism". Did you mean "social and cultural genocide"?

Anonymous said...

I do not believe a word you say, Vervet - you have described a dream. What you have described is not a pub. What would a pub be doing providing breakfasts? Pubs do not open before lunch-time. In any case, all do not 'happily co-exist' when part of the 'all' are forced to go outside. External heaters are useless in a place without sides in the wind and rain.

Where is this pub and what is its name?

Anonymous said...

Oh how we whined and complained until after enough of it we finally got the smokers out of the pubs. Well I hate the smell of beer and ale almost as much, it's also dangerous and causes cancer, so we are whining and complaining about that and with luck we might have it banned next. A pub should be a place for parents with young children and family dogs. We should have nappy changing stations lining the walls and organic tea and coffee with whole wheat crumpets. Smoking shouldn't be allowed within half a block and hours should end promptly at 9:00 in the evening so as not to disturb us neighbors. Then we will have the dream-pub of the future, what a pub was meant to be. I would also take the family, kids and dog there every weekend for half an hour on Saturday afternoon to show our patronage and support for such an idea.

someday said...

The only pubs doing well where I live are free houses with their own brewery.

Pubco tied houses don't stand a chance.

vervet said...

Junican - all true I'm pleased to say. We do co-exist because most non-smokers are happy to socialise in the garden with the smokers ... or not(to clarify my position, I'm an ex-smoker, now a 'vaper', married to a smoker and totally outraged by the ban). The heated area is enclosed on two sides and with an amply overhung roof - the heaters work and only the most foul weather (when most stay at home) causes disruption.

Location - The Lamplighter, Overstone Road, Northampton.

Facebook page at:

Look on with envy !

Anonymous said...

I get the impression public Houses up and down the land are being closed to prevent any gatherings of like minded people moaning about our useless government.No smoking and no crying into ones beer! Also, without being into conspiracy theories , future religious requirements will make the consumption of a pint a sin.
Oh,I overlooked the fact that to some GPs,it already is!!

Anonymous said...

OK, Vervet - I withdraw my comments. Pubs such as that must be few and far between.

Good luck to them!

Anonymous said...

Vervet and Junican,

Yes there are still a few pubs around who have managed to weather the storm, but a lot of it is down to pure luck rather than lack of effort (although, of course, lack of effort never helps!). My OH knows the owner of a pub fairly close to us (not walking distance, unfortunately, so we don’t get to go as often as we might like) who openly admits that the smoking ban has damaged his trade badly, but says that he was saved by having a really nice big multi-level garden at the back which he has spent an absolute fortune on making really, really nice with loads of great big umbrellas, lighting on all the time, a rainforests-worth of pot plants, oodles of heaters and plenty of comfy chairs and sofas and low tables with ashtrays on. So much so that even in the winter, unless it’s really, really cold, everybody – and I mean everybody, smoking and non-smoking customers – spends their entire evenings sitting outside! I kid you not, right up until the snow came at the end of last year, there was never more than three or four people sitting in the bar at any one time - and the bar is a BIG space. Oh, and the owner, incidentally is a non-smoker, in case you're wondering.

Our real local, however (the one which is genuinely within staggering distance) simply doesn’t have enough space to merit that kind of expense. They have tried to accommodate their smokers with a little roofed shelter and a chimera-type heater but there just isn’t room for more than a few people to sit out there at any one time, so it’s become a “smokers’ pit stop” rather than an area where everyone can sit and relax and enjoy a couple of beers, like it is at the other place. The result? This previously busy, genuinely “local for the locals” pub is due to close on 12 May.

vervet said...

Junican & anon: I realise that I am amongst the lucky few, and feel your pain. Our landlord, and his family, have been in the business for years,always owning independent houses. They have their hearts in the business and have been successful enough accumulate the finance to invest in overcoming the effects of smoking ban. Unfortunately they are a small oasis in a desert of mediocrity.

Stabledoor said...

Rarely go to the pub now - we alternate at various neighbours houses where we can smoke, drink and eat snacks high in salt and fat. It's fun, but I do miss the good old days - a pint of decent beer and a fag by the roaring fire. Suppose some people call it progress - I call it tragic

selsey.steve said...

The fight-back has begun in Australia.

Anonymous said...

Independence for Scotland is the rallying cry of the SNP, but what use is independence without freedom? North Korea is an independent country, remember.

An excellent sentence - deserves wider exposure

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