Saturday, 17 May 2014

Catch the buzz

It has been widely observed that the pub trade has held up much better on the traditional weekend evening busy sessions than during the rest of the week. If you only went to a few popular local pubs on Friday and Saturday nights you might wonder what all the fuss about pub decline was about.

But it is at those other times, lunchtimes and early doors in the evening, that pub life has often been at its most interesting and vibrant. There was a mix of customers, visiting the pub for a variety of reasons, coming and going throughout the session.

There were the determined topers, there from opening time to sit at the bar, the regular drinkers, just in for a couple of pints and a chat, guys from local factories and workshops playing pool and throwing a few arrows, regular diners from nearby offices, shoppers wanting a bite to eat, people from solicitors or estate agents doing a bit of business over a pint, even the occasional tourist.

One of the best expressions of this kind of atmosphere was always in market towns where all these various purposes came together. I particularly remember having some lunch in the Vaults overlooking the market place in Uppingham, Rutland (pictured) about ten years ago which really seemed to hit the spot.

Some may accuse me of looking at the past through rose-tinted spectacles, and I freely admit that there have always been dull, empty and unwelcoming pubs. But that distinctive lunchtime and early doors pub buzz was a real phenomenon across many thousands of pubs, and sadly is much diminished now. You still sometimes come across it, but it is so rare that it is worth remarking on. I go in some pubs that once at lunchtimes were at least nicely ticking over, but are now so deserted as to make the occasional customer feel embarrassed.

Where pubs are still busy, so often it is a monoculture of diners, football fans or beer enthusiasts rather than “all human life is here”. And, in towns, this kind of mixed-use pubgoing is now all too often diluted in the echoing, character-free vastness of the local Wetherspoon outlet.

12 comments:

  1. The dream is lost
    The pub died in 2007
    Killed by the hateful
    It will never return

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anon: splitting text up and
    putting it on different lines
    doesn't make it poetry.
    It also doesn't make
    what you write
    accurate.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Stanley Blenkinsop18 May 2014 at 14:12

    Getting enjoyment from a quiet pub is a difficult proposition for most regular moppers to understand but it's something that has always appealed to me.The hours between the lunchtime session and the post-work scoops are a particular favourite if you're a people-watcher.
    I like to sit at the bar and force whoever is behind it to engage in conversation.
    Sometimes you can elicit interesting stories where you never thought they existed.
    Everyone has at least one - it just needs to be gently prized out of them.
    Other times I like to sit and watch as the place starts to fill up at 5pm - the middle-ranking managers trying to get inside their secretaries underwear,the junior managers guffawing at every unfunny joke of their boss,the jammy-bastard students with their lives still in front of them,the muppet at the bar who can afford to drink all day but doesn't appear to have any gainful employment,which is me.
    Yup, the Nobby No-Mates Arms can be a very interesting place indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ah yes, but what I'm talking about is when pubs are (or were) busy and bustling, not when they're quiet.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The CAMRA man he knows not poetry or prose.
    He thinks supermarkets killed his pub.
    He sees not the blood dripping from his own hands.
    For CAMRA killed the British pub.

    ReplyDelete
  6. CAMRA were never enthusiastic about normal pubs where the riff raff downed the dregs of the back street breweries,but then again how many of "proper ale" league
    have "proper jobs".
    ANON Mk2

    ReplyDelete
  7. As something of a connoissuer of Anon's gnomic offerings I have to say none of these are exactly vintage stuff. I hope standards aren't slipping here.

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  8. Looks like your message is being sidetracked Mudgie. Pity. Rose tinted indeed, but true enough. Still there if you look for it, but yes,much diminished.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I like that word, "monoculture" and for sure, many pubs these days are a niche. They serve a particular type of customer, section of social class. The best example is the CAMRA pub for serving a distinct middle class enthusiast type customer base.

    Price is the tool used to set the customer base you wish to accept, and the entry level pricing of Spoons often means all types are found there.

    Last time I spoke to a barmaid at a multi award winning CAMRA freehouse she mentioned the obscure product range kept the wrong element out and her job in that pub was as a result the nicest most trouble free bar job she had.

    So I guess somethings are lost, somethings are found.

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  10. Personally I liked it more when the beer buffs were seeking out the obscure pint of family brewer's beer in a pub also used by normal people, though.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh, Mudgie, back when this was all fields and in black and white there must have been subtle social marker to welcome some and exclude others?

    Today sky sports & nuggets kids meals say mudgie ain't welcome whilst welcoming others.

    What didn't welcome you back in the day?

    ReplyDelete
  12. No, pubs genuinely were more multi-purpose (and busier) at lunchtimes and early doors than they tend to be now.

    ReplyDelete

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