Thursday, 30 August 2007

Instant atmosphere

It's been widely reported that the removal of tobacco smoke from pubs has uncovered a variety of unpleasant aromas such as sweat, stale beer and flatulence that were better left concealed. This must be the ultimate way of dealing with the problem.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Room for children?

I was heartened today when I was sitting in the main lounge area of a pub and a couple came in with a small boy about four years old. The bar staff politely asked them to move to a (very comfortable) separate room towards the front of the pub where children were allowed, which they did without demur.

The unrestricted access of young children to bars must be one of the major turn-offs for adult pubgoers, so it’s good to see a pub enforcing a policy that is fair to everyone.

And I continue to maintain that the most anti-children attitude of all is to want them admitted to all areas of all pubs at all times.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

The domino effect

If anyone was still in a state of denial over the fact that the smoking ban is the thin end of the wedge of the campaign against alcohol, see here, where the Welsh Secretary of the BMA, Dr Richard Lewis, says “After smoking, alcohol is the next big public health issue”. You have been warned!

Friday, 17 August 2007

What I say, not what I do

There have been a number of opinion polls such as this one suggesting that people are more likely to visit pubs following the smoking ban. However, you need to discount the inbuilt bias in such polls that some respondents will give the answers they think the pollsters want to hear, rather than what they genuinely feel – hence why polls always understate Conservative support at general elections.

And when you look at the detail it doesn’t necessarily agree with the headline anyway. The number of non-smokers saying they were actually visiting pubs more often was 32%, compared with 47% who said before the ban they would – clearly showing that reality does not always accord with expectation. On the other hand, 45% of smokers said they were going to pubs less post-ban.

These results also take no account of the frequency of visits – if those who went once a month now went twice a month, but those who went four times a week now went twice a week, overall it would lead to a substantial downturn in trade. This reinforces the oft-expressed view that the smoking ban is a means of changing pubs to fit in with the tastes of people who aren’t, and never will be, regular pubgoers.

The evidence is clear on the ground that wet-led pubs have lost trade following the ban, in some cases only marginally, in others very significantly. The only true measure is the hard facts on takings, not the results of opinion polls.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Meat and two veg, please

On the Catherine Tate Show, there are a middle-aged, Northern couple who repeatedly express their disgust at what many would now regard as commonplace cuisine in Britain – “and it was served on chee-a-batter bread!!”

Yet it seems this attitude is alive and well in our pubs. We are often told about the “pub food revolution”, yet apart from a tiny handful of gastro-pubs, all too often what you end up with is a long list of dishes from the freezer combined with the traditional chips and veg. Where are the pasta, the rice, the noodles, the couscous, the pizzas? “Oh, sea bass is fashionable, let’s serve it up with mash, carrots and peas!”

The “Mediterranean diet” may be a staple of the colour supplements, but it is conspicuous by its absence in the typical British pub, even those with upmarket aspirations.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Hobson’s choice

I see that Hobson’s Mild from a micro-brewery in Shropshire has been chosen as CAMRA’s 2007 Champion Beer of Britain. It’s not a beer I’ve ever personally tasted, but I have no doubt it’s a worthy winner. But is selecting a representative of a declining and unfashionable beer style, from a small producer who will be unable to take maximum advantage of the award, really the best way of raising the profile of cask beer? Might there be a case for introducing a minimum annual barrelage figure for the competition, to avoid it ending up simply as a celebration of obscurantism?

Monday, 6 August 2007

Reaching out to youth

The government are constantly reminding us of how much they value young people. But at the same time, they keep restricting what young people can do, raising the minimum age for buying cigarettes and starting full-time work, and now planning to increase the minimum driving age.

I'm sure young people will draw their own conclusions as to how much they're valued.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Foot in mouth

Apparently the source of the current foot and mouth outbreak has been linked to a government lab.

If DEFRA now start demanding the mass slaughter of farm animals I can see uproar in the countryside.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Another unintended consequence

After an initial dip following the ban in enclosed public places, the level of smoking in Ireland has now returned to pre-ban levels. Yet over 600 of the 8,000-odd pubs outside Dublin have closed down. While it has been promoted as a way of curbing smoking, in the long run might the smoking ban be a far more effective way of attacking pubs?

Friday, 3 August 2007

No magic slimming bullet

Now I wouldn’t claim to be the sveltest person in the world, or to eat a particularly healthy diet. But I know very well that the only way to lose weight is to take in fewer calories than you burn up. So you either have to eat less or become more active, or a combination of the two.

Yet working in an office containing a number of women, who seem to be constantly on some form of diet, I am constantly assailed by the hopeful assertions that:

(a) there is some kind of diet that allows you to eat as much as you like of certain foods so long as you cut out others, and

(b) eating supposedly “healthy” food, such as wholemeal rather than white bread, will help with weight loss

Both of which are essentially myths.

It must make for a very miserable life to be constantly repressing your urges to eat appetising, tasty food and yet then never manage to lose any meaningful amount of weight.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Take home a pint

Earlier this year, in a rare outbreak of common sense, the European Union decided to give the UK an indefinite derogation to allow imperial measures to be used alongside metric ones on consumer products. It’s interesting that we are now seeing a growing number of canned and bottled beers and ciders – even those of a supposedly “Continental” origin – available in a pint (or 568 ml) size. The very popular Magners cider is a good example of this. Producers are recognising that this size actually means something to drinkers and acts as a positive encouragement to choose that particular product. See this page on the website of the British Weights & Measures Association.

Incidentally, I have never understood why for many years (and still to some extent today), 440 ml was the standard can size for beers and ciders. It’s not a convenient round number in either imperial or metric systems, and leaves you feeling that little bit short of a satisfying drink. I always presumed it was something to do with the limitations of canning machinery.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

In praise of York

Something positive for a change – I recently paid a visit to York, which reinforced my view that it is by far the finest pub-crawling town or city in England. It has a huge number of characterful, comfortable, welcoming pubs with a range of real ales, which I don’t believe any other city can come close to matching. The tourist trade is obviously a major factor, but other tourist-friendly cities such as Chester don’t remotely come close. Although now out of date, this is a superb guide to York’s pubs.