Saturday, August 02, 2008

How the smoking Nazis have killed our pub culture

SOME PEOPLE think that the traditional English pub was doomed the day they let women through the door; others put it down to the demise of the snug, where at least The Wife could sit and gossip over her milk stout with Minnie Caldwell and Ena Sharples. The buxom barmaid behind the bar, the bikini-clad totty on the card behind the peanuts, and the Sunday lunchtime stripper who came round with a pint pot before her ‘special encore’ were tolerated, but that was it.

For me, the rot set in after the lunatic idea to let children onto licensed premises. What was wrong with them sitting in the car park with a bag of crisps (with salt in a twist of blue paper) and a bottle of dandelion and burdock with a straw? Because once kids invaded the boozer, food wouldn’t be far behind. And once a pub starts doing food (proper food; not just ham rolls and pickled eggs) then its days as a venue for drinkers are over.

The pub in my village is a case in point. It’s a bog standard local – or should be. But in a fit of the Gordon Ramsays, the nutter behind the bar has decided to lay cutlery out on 90 per cent of his tables. It matters not that diners never arrive in those numbers; he serves food and therefore must always be ready for an unexpected rush. The consequence is that we bar-room drinkers are corralled into an area the size of a garden shed to one side of the lounge. Frankly, you just don’t feel comfortable in there.

I wouldn’t mind so much if the food was actually any good, but it’s not. The menu is suspiciously long; far too long for a pub of this standing. That means that the slow-cooked lamb shanks are actually fast-cooked boil in the bag fare. If you turned the awful piped music off, your pint of flat bitter would be accompanied by the hum of the freezer and the ping of the microwave.

The only time the place turns a shilling is on Sunday lunchtime, when a £3.99 carvery brings in the Big Plate merchants in people carriers and elasticated trousers from neighbouring estates. I don’t go in there any more, having been revolted by these obese benefits thieves loading their platters with Blackpool Towers of food in an Irish Sea of gravy. And God only knows what “free range meat” they serve at that price. Badger, probably.

And then there was the smoking ban. An utter disaster, particularly in poor urban areas where people, well, smoke. In a bid to duck responsibility for the 40 pubs a week going out of business, the health Nazis now point to the availability of cheap supermarket beer as the reason. Well, it’s chicken and egg, my friend.

Because more people are staying at home rather than spending a damp evening smoking on a pub doorstep, the supermarkets have responded by selling them vast quantities of cheap tinned lager. Let’s face it, no-one in their right mind would stay at home with the aforementioned Wife instead of having a laugh with their mates in a convivial atmosphere if they could light up while they relaxed. The cost of booze isn’t the cause of the crisis in our pubs; it’s a consequence.

So now our pubs are selling 1.6 million fewer pints a day than they were a year ago. Many are heading inexorably for extinction. All that will be left will be the monstrous high street, happy hour, thong and tattoo-filled alcopop warehouses and the odd country pub with a passing golfing clientele, hunting scenes on the placemats and a risqué picture of a 1920s pin-up girl in the gents.

Cheers. Mine’s a double.

WHILE WE’RE on the subject of drink, I can’t resist bringing you the story of our local alcoholic, who turns up at the village shop at 8am every morning without fail to buy his two-litre bottle of cheap cider. He then goes and sits on the bench on the green and enjoys his breakfast. He’s a harmless chap, and has earned himself the nickname of ‘The Bishop of Southwark’.

Well last Saturday he must have come into some money, because instead of cider he’d bought himself a bottle of Chilean chardonnay and was clearly as happy as a happy thing. The only problem was, he couldn’t get the bottle open, even though it was a screw-top.

Now he’d mithered a few passing pensioners without luck, and I was just about to wander over and help him myself, when a white pick-up truck pulled up outside the shop. The Bishop tapped on the driver’s window, the window was wound down, a hand reached out, grabbed the bottle and whoosh … the pick-up accelerated away in a cloud of dust.

The Bishop looked stunned for a moment, then sat down on the kerb and started crying. And that’s why, dear friends, at 8.10 on Saturday morning, I could be spotted in the village shop buying a two-litre bottle of cheap cider …

I’LL TELL you the other thing that confuses me. This government, which is wailing and moaning about the vomit-flecked binge-drinking culture that infests our society, appears to be the same government that did away with licensing restrictions and created the 24-hour pub. So how does that work then?

12 Comments:

Anonymous Ella Salmon said...

The only culture I've ever noticed in pubs is the small lumps of shit that are often found floating around in the beer.

4:24 PM  
Anonymous tony b.liar said...

Baz/Mike,

Great post again - you are really on form these days. Rural communities in particular are being decimated by a combination of non-existent public transport, closure of their Post Offices by 'oh-so-clever' Royal Mail [with ZanuLabour's approval] and pub closures. A propos your comment about being confused with the Government's stance on 24 hr drinking, you are right - but I'm sure you understand that this is what ZanuLabour laughingly refers to as "joined-up thinking". It's probably the brainchild of some smart-ass little turd like MilliBliar or his brother or one of the Jockocracy currently in power. ["Semen Stains" is invited to make a profane comment at this point]

3:17 AM  
Anonymous arescee said...

You must be slowing down Baz! It seems you are becoming less incisive!
When we look at all that is wrong in this Country today, as you frequently do! "How the smoking Nazis have killed our pub culture" should be abbreviated to "How the Nazis are still killing"

Yep, it is long past denying that we now live in a Nazi state, no matter how often those same Nazis repeat their old worn-out phrase that "This is a free Country".

In Britain we often wondered how German Nazis were allowed to exist, far less thrive, by the German people.
We seem to think they should have overrun their Nazis and shot them to extinction!
Now how do we go about curing the rule of Britannia by our Nazis? Hmmm! - Lets see!

5:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you'll find the smoking ban is an easy scapegaot for a problem that's long existed.

Look to pubcos and breweries ripping off pub tennants and clubs through inflated wholesale pricing.

Pub pints would be around £1.50 if they're weren't price-tied through contracts and loan agreements.

If what you say is true, then the end of the smoking ban would be the answer. It won't.
It won't get rid of the chavs or make the fat, tattooed, drunken, ladette women morph into someone most blokes want to eye up.

It's just getting harder to justify spending money on drinking in pubs any more.

7:21 AM  
Anonymous Juliam said...

"And that’s why, dear friends, at 8.10 on Saturday morning, I could be spotted in the village shop buying a two-litre bottle of cheap cider …"

Good for you! And let's hope the driver of that white pickup wraps himself round a tree as a result of drinking the poor old sod's wine...

12:32 AM  
Anonymous an old fart said...

Where does one put one's empty crisp packets now that they've done away with the ashtrays?

2:16 AM  
Anonymous Alex said...

A mate of mine and I were walking to a party sharing a bottle of champagne. Since it wouldn't do to turn up with it and then hand over the paltry wine gift instead I gave the remaining half to a tramp. He took it gratefully but it wasn't till we were about 10 yards further down the road did he realise what it was and let out a great bellow of joy. I have to say that gladened my heart more than the champagne ever did.

2:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

walking down a road drinking champagne?? You have to be the poshest chav alive!!

3:29 AM  
Blogger Alexius said...

Politicians don`t care about pubs -only little people go there. The only time a politician goes to a pub is when he feels the need to be photographed `enjoying a joke` with regulars at `his` local - with a pasted on smile, holding a pint in his nervous fingers like it`s about to explode. Then its back to Westminster to swill taxpayer-funded champers. Bastards.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous arescee said...

"Pub pints would be around £1.50 if they're weren't price-tied through contracts and loan agreements."

How much of the price of that same pint do you think the career parasites (Politicians, plebicites, parliamentarians,Piss -pots - jeez even the dick john harry is trying to keep their names in one place!)are riping off in tax then?
Whilst they themselves, enjoy the tax free booze in that big pub we call Westminster!

4:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I left the country in the early 80's, I returned later in that decade to find the 'new' licesing laws. I'd heard about them and thought that it was going to be brilliant, however I was wrong, the atmosphere was gone and you could never tell when anyone was going to be in there.
with this smoking ban I have only one question, does that mean you'd also have to go outside to skin-up?
The papers would ge soaked!!!

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stealing that poor old man's bottle of wine?

How low do people have to go before they can get no lower?

12:30 PM  

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