Sunday, 23 June 2013

In the Doghouse

Boak and Bailey recently did a post entitled Considering a good beer magazine which looked at why, apart from CAMRA’s members-only BEER, there were no decent British-based beer magazines. In the comments someone mentioned Doghouse, although he said it was primarily a pub rather than beer-related publication. I have to say I had never heard of this before, but a quick look at their website suggested it was something that was right up my street, so I took out an annual subscription as a birthday treat to myself. The first issue arrived through my letterbox very promptly a couple of days later.

It’s described as “a quarterly print magazine about British pubs: a love-letter to bar stools and fixed settles: discovering & celebrating history, architecture, stories from the bar, the mystery of the cellars below and the ghosts that rattle around upstairs.” It’s an attractive A4-sized publication, perfect-bound on high quality paper, smooth but not over-glossy. It has a clean, elegant design very different from the rather fussier would-be trendy approach of BEER, and features many magnificent full-page or double-spread photographs.

It’s basically divided into two halves. The first features general articles about pub life and culture including, in this, the fourth issue, anecdotes from a pub regular and licensee, a long piece about cask-making centred on Hereford Casks of Stoke Edith in the Herefordshire countryside, and an opinion piece about children in pubs with which I heartily concurred – “a loud child has the unique property of being louder than a loud adult. Not only louder, but more grating”.

The second half then features specific pubs, taking the approach of starting from a particular town and looking at around ten pubs within a twenty-mile radius. In this issue it is Cheltenham and there is a long article about the Adam & Eve, a classic backstreet Arkell’s pub in the town. It also features classics like the Red Lion at Ampney St Peter, the Daneway Inn at Sapperton and the Five Mile House at Duntisbourne Abbots, all illustrated with high-quality interior and exterior photos that really make you want to pay the pubs a visit. This is an area of the country that I have often visited or passed through over the years and so I am familiar with many of the pubs mentioned.

I’ve still to read it all in detail, but I particularly enjoyed the description of the Three Kings at Hanley Castle in Worcestershire – “one of the last of that old generation of English drinking houses, where the barbarous tide of ruthless sanitisation and garish incivility is held at bay, for now”, and where “a collection of old boys hold court, huddled around the fire of a winter’s eve, swapping the same old stories, but who will strike up a conversation with visitors at the drop of a hat”.

The editorial team appear to be based in Shropshire and so far the focus has been very much on the general area of “West Mercia”, with the three previous issues being centred on Ludlow, Stourbridge and Hay-on-Wye. The fifth apparently is to focus on Rhayader and Mid-Wales – home to some true unspoilt classics – and perhaps they could then turn their attention to Staffordshire and pubs like the Anchor at High Offley and the Red Lion at Dayhills.

The emphasis is firmly on the traditional end of the pub spectrum, and you won’t find any echoey, uncomfortable urban craft beer bars within its pages. But these are the kind of pubs that are intimately bound in with our history and culture, the pubs that Hilaire Belloc described as representing “the last of England”. Let us hope they are still there to be enjoyed when the hipsters have moved on to the latest fad.

I was so impressed that I’ve put a little advert into the sidebar, for which I must stress I have received no payment. It’s not cheap, at £22 for a four-issue subscription, but if you love British pubs and pub culture, it’s a must-read, and something you will keep and return to again and again. I would also suggest it would be a good idea for many pubs to stick a copy in their magazine rack for their customers to read and talk about.

18 comments:

  1. "The emphasis is firmly on the traditional end of the pub spectrum, and you won’t find any echoey, uncomfortable urban craft beer bars within its pages. But these are the kind of pubs that are intimately bound in with our history and culture, the pubs that Hilaire Belloc described as representing “the last of England”. Let us hope they are still there to be enjoyed when the hipsters have moved on to the latest fad."

    While I loathe soulless craft beer bars, they aren't the problem. We know what the problem is - the smoking ban.

    I used to be able to go out in the car and have my pick of country drinking pubs just as you describe. There aren't many now. Either they've closed down, or else they are now emphasising food.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We had a few words on the smoking ban in edition three of Doghouse magazine: writer, Jacob Ward, said: "One thing the ban has undoubtedly created though, is a new strain of pub outsider; the drinker who belligerently continues to smoke and is accordingly exiled from the public bar... Whether huddling on the pavement, under a cheap mail-order summer house, or – as in the case of one of my cherished rural locals – standing beneath a few rusting scaffold poles with an old tarp draped across... this new breed of pub user has had a marked impact on the character of the licensed trade."

    ReplyDelete
  3. “a loud child has the unique property of being louder than a loud adult. Not only louder, but more grating"
    Not true! I'm sure i'm not the only parent who's been embarrassed by continual swearing or sexual comments that cut through the general conversation. Don't forget that many pubs nowadays would be in a bad way without the family food trade. Compare and contrast how busy many a roadise pub is at 2:00 p.m. on a Sunday and at 10:30 p.m. later that day.
    There is far more bad behaviour by adults in pubs than by children, but we are unique in Europe in being a nation of children haters.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Vassant Palwankar23 June 2013 at 22:10

    @Birkonian.
    No, we're a nation of children in pubs haters.
    There's a subtle difference.
    I'd rather have a chain-smoker supping a pint next to me than some yappy brat whose parents don't have the courtesy to consider other adults in the pub.
    And as for being unique in Europe - you rarely see women in French bars never mind kids.
    Harrumph.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have to say my experience is totally at variance with yours, Birkonian. I virtually never see adults misbehaving in pubs, but on the other hand, this lunchtime, there was:

    (a) a child squawling and howling constantly for about 1½ hours, and
    (b) another child continually banging a toy that contained some rattling items against some hard surface.

    It may not even be misbehaviour - although I think any responsible parent should stop it - but it is certainly completely out of place in a pub.

    As I said on Twitter, surely children in pubs should be confined to a separate, soundproofed room.

    I continue to believe that the general admission of children is one of the key causes of the decline of pubs. Adult pubgoers just can't stand it!

    ReplyDelete
  6. An Anonynmous Boozer23 June 2013 at 23:32

    You can't honestly believe that kids are one of the key causes for the decline of pubs?

    Given that it is up to the landlord's discretion whether or not to allow children in anyway, the only reason that any pub would ever allow kids would be because it helps in a certain type of trade. If allowing in kids is really such a problem that it turns away a larger amount of custom than it brings in, then the real reason behind the decline of the pub is the incompetence of the landlord in understanding their customers, not the behavior of the children.

    ReplyDelete
  7. But you come across as such a hard-hearted, miserable, politically incorrect bastard if you exclude kids from any area of your pub. It's not a rational decision.

    Meanwhile the established adult drinkers get fed up and drift away.

    So you end up with a kind of licensed kindergarten.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It was very rare for me and brother to see the inside of a pub, when we were young. We'd join our dad al the same, but would do with the pub garden most of the time, where we could run around and keep ourselves entertained; activities which are 'tolerated' within the pub since my younger days – perhaps to keep them away from the harmful effects of the smoking that now goes on more prolifically outside.

    Being inside the pub was of no interest to us back then, as it was – to be fair - rather dull. As the column in Doghouse magazine states: "There is nothing for kids in pubs. They will inevitably get bored very quickly. They will inevitably lose interest in the half pint of lemonade they’ve been bought to occupy them, and they will inevitably begin to get loud."

    Many pubs are geared up to cater for children, and do it very well indeed. But some pubs should offer some shelter from noisy/bored children.

    As Keith's column continues: "The noise of a pub also includes plenty of swearing, in the tap room at least. Swearing is not compatible with children. Why should I have to mind my language simply because you chose to inflict your child on me?"

    ReplyDelete
  9. It seems like a nice magazine. Not as good as Nuts but if you like faux nostalgia for an England that never was then I’m sure it’s right up your street. There must be enough miserable old codgers at odds with the modern world to service such a market as the newsstands well cater for it. Probably because such types still buy printed media.

    If the discussion has turned to kids in pubs, we appear a strange nation in regard to the manner the differing generations regard each other. If people like child free pubs and there is a market for it, then there is no reason that ought not be a niche. Not all pubs need have the same offer. Having children is a normal thing for most people to do, however. Barring such people from the nations pubs is barring a greater number than smoke tabs. Any given town can cater for both.

    Mentioning Europe is always the thing to do in these debates, as if the lands across the channel offer us a panacea of enlightenment, and in this case they largely do. The panacea comes from a greater acceptance of children and higher parental standards. The kids are better behaved because the parents do not let them run riot, and the old man at the bar smiles when he sees children because he loves his own grandchildren and is there to embrace life, not escape from it.

    But you see, the traditional English pub isn’t the middle class picture painted in publications like this. They are disreputable places of drinking, fights, dodgy transactions & swearing. Places not for the respectable middle or even working classes. Places for shadier elements to conspire and talk treason. Not places for families at all. A place for families cannot be a traditional English pub, but we have increasingly little need for such establishments. Safe places you can take your kids are what the 21st century lower middle class family man wants and why should he not have it? I can think of a reason to visit both.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "this lunchtime, there was ... a child squawling and howling constantly for about 1½ hours".

    I'd have moved on once I'd finished my first pint, which under those circumstances would have been 20 minutes max. Staying for 90 minutes is just masochism! Seeing people leave, especially if you let the pub know why, might encourage them to tell parents to keep their children quiet or go.

    Having said that, I don't often go into pubs that allow children, but when I do, I find that most children behave appropriately. A pub is not really a suitable environment for children; it's all right if they're having a meal, or if the parents are just having one drink, but people who drink for hours on end while their children become increasingly bored and fractious are being selfish and unfair, both to their children and to other customers.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Cooking Lager,

    Mentioning Europe is always the thing to do in these debates, as if the lands across the channel offer us a panacea of enlightenment, and in this case they largely do. The panacea comes from a greater acceptance of children and higher parental standards. The kids are better behaved because the parents do not let them run riot, and the old man at the bar smiles when he sees children because he loves his own grandchildren and is there to embrace life, not escape from it.

    The main thing with France (I can only really speak about France) is that they have much clearer labelling of places.

    While we have "pubs" that span everything from a town bar to a gastro pub, they have cafes, bars and restaurants. What most British tourists see are cafes, the places in the square of a rather pretty town in the countryside. They welcome families, as do our cafes here. The only difference is that they often serve beer and wine where ours don't.

    Then they have restaurants that allow families, as do ours (and "families not welcome" is mostly a myth - you can take your kids to

    But take your kids in a bar in France and you will get a "look" from the regulars. The bar is where the work mates go after work for a pint and to curse about the boss. They don't expect to have kids in there, even well-behaved ones.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Forgive me Stigler, I thought any discussion of kids in pubs would be daytime, afternoons. I don't think many places the world over want tired kids in the pub at 10pm. I don't think parents want to take there kids out with them at that hour.

    I gather most parents just want a friendly clean establishment they can get a bite to eat at on a weekend afternoon and its good business to cater for them.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have been accused of being a Neanderthal by a prominent member of the local CAMRA branch for suggesting that a busy (and at that time smoky) boozer wasn't exactly the best place for tired, bored kids at 10 pm on a Saturday night.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Martin, Cambridge25 June 2013 at 00:36

    I'm sympathetic to your cause Curmudgeon, I'm just astonished by how unlucky you must be to encounter so many screaming children. I can recall one noisy child in the Queens Arms in Cheetham (RIP), and a couple in Bolton among visits to several hundred pubs in Greater Manchester, mostly at weekends.

    Any clues as to where these kindergartens are ?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Martin, Cambridge25 June 2013 at 00:41

    On the subject of pub magazines, did you read Taste in the late 90s? It was a real hotchpotch of content, but the reviews of pub crawls around lager pubs in Retford and Oban were a real alternative to reading about CAMRA crawls round the same 5 pubs in the Black Country.

    ReplyDelete
  16. one noisy child in the Queens Arms in Cheetham (RIP),

    Good God, Martin, that is a bit extreme. Not even Mudge would;d condone killing noisy children

    ReplyDelete
  17. There's a picture of the interior of the Daneway Inn with a small notice above the piano saying "Unattended children will be sold" ;-)

    I vaguely remember "Taste" but I'm not sure whether I ever actually got my hands on a copy.

    Incidentally, it makes a refreshing change to read about such things from a perspective other than that of CAMRA. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that, but it's good to hear different voices.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Just don't listen to the ones that tell you to kill.

    ReplyDelete

Comments, especially on older posts, may be subject to prior approval. Bear with me – I may be in the pub.

Please be polite and remember to play the ball, not the man.

Any obvious trolling, offensive or blatantly off-topic comments will be deleted.

See this post for some thoughts on my approach to blog comments. The comment facility is not provided as a platform for personal attacks on the blog author.