Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Happiness is a warm pub

There’s been a lot of publicity this week about the benefits of having a good local pub. The value of companionship and belonging in pubs is something I’ve often referred to, and so I will wholeheartedly agree. As Dr Johnson famously said, “There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”

But I have to question whether this represents a sentimental idea of pubs viewed through rose-tinted spectacles. How many people really have a “local” that produces that warm, inclusive feeling? I have a local pub, which I’ve written about extensively on here, that in many respects is very good. But, at many times, it isn’t welcoming to me because of part being reserved for diners and the rest dominated by TV football. You can’t go in and just have a chat with other customers.

For many people in Stockport, their “local” is the Crown, Magnet or Railway, even though they’re far from the closest to their houses. The pubs where I feel most at home are ones I have to travel some distance to reach. And the Rover’s Return, while it may have been vaguely realistic in 1960, would simply not exist in an inner-city location today.

Yes, pubs can be great, and people will tend to seek out pubs and become regular customers where they feel welcome and which suit their tastes. But I suspect few of us can genuinely claim that we have that cosy, friendly, supportive, mythical “local”.

17 comments:

  1. I think people used to hang out in pubs all those years ago only because there were precious few entertainment options.

    Nowadays, with pretty much all the music ever recorded only a click away, thousands of channels of trash TV and endless streaming online porn, why would the average person want to spend time with other people any more?

    Whether the increasingly solipsistic, narcissistic and (dare I say it) misanthropic direction humanity is going in will be good for anyone is another debate entirely.

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  2. In 20+ years drinking in pubs, there have only been about 6 months where I genuinely felt I had a local pub (walking distance from my door) that I felt was my own, where I was happy to drink in almost everyday, and people called me by name when I came through the door. And, crucially, it delivered on the beer front - if the beer quality and range isn't good enough, I'm not going to go somewhere often enough for it to become a local.

    This was in Ipswich, about 10 years ago. I can't forsee any situation where this is ever going to happen again in my life, especially as said pub closed due to lack of business! (It appealed strongly to a small core of regulars but evidently alienated outsiders).

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  3. My local is an a proper community pub, and is in walking distance, but I must admit it isn't the closest one.

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  4. Agree with Matthew, though no idea what porn is.

    Sam Smiths pubs come closest to that "all welcome" local image I have, and the Boar's Head felt very cosy indeed on Thursday evening, though I doubt I'd end up going most nights. My own local, the Sun in Waterbeach (Punch), has something for all tastes but I only go for live music. Too much choice.

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  5. Ye Olde Vic works for me - around the corner (almost), cosy atmosphere. go there most Fridays (and occasionally other nights too), everyone knows everyone - really good feel to the place.

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  6. My local is the Guest House in Southport. While there are two closer pubs that I sometimes visit, the Guest House is only 2/3 of a mile away.

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  7. In the Guardian, from Zoe Williams, one of their dippiest writters:
    Twenty-five years of the gastropub – a revolution that saved British boozers

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  8. What's Cindy Beale doin in the Rover's Return?

    There's a Rover's Return in Salford I note. Looks proper old school.

    Mudge I have come to the end of my three months in Manc this weekend and I never actually made it to Stockport. Me and Arthur are meeing for beers tomorrow and were going to go there but I just want to go Schloss. I'm going to really miss Schloss.

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  9. Stonch : Stockport won't be moving anywhere, and is on a direct service from Euston. As is Manchester/Schloss

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  10. My form is poor in this regard. I didn't visit North West England at all between 1998 and 2015. So after I leave on Sunday, I'll be due back in 2032.

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  11. Fair enough. Long way to go. I find London and Manc big, scary and confusing. But then I grew up in Stoke. Stockport is much easier. Or it will be when I figure out the way round

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  12. So googled it and Michelle Collins is in coronation street. mad

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  13. @Jeff - the image came up on a Google search for "Rovers Return". I never watch either so couldn't say whether it was Corrie or East Enders.

    Nice to meet you at MBCF last week and good luck with your next venture.

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  14. I had a good, authentic local until the smoking ban was dropped on it like a lead weight. The majority of the regulars were smokers and it's gotten a bit sad now, even closing on Sundays and some lunchtimes. Now I go to a pub about 15 minutes walk away, that has a pleasant beer garden. That's when it's not cold. And when I can be bothered. But don't listen to me, we all know the ban is a big success and pubs are thriving, right?

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  15. History tends to move in both trends and cycles. It remains to be seen whether the increasingly atomised and individual nature of society today is a long-term trend or a medium term cycle. We saw something similar happen before in the avaricious 80s, only for the process to reverse in the 90s.

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  16. I think that that "warm inclusive feeling" is more likely to be found in a good small club. Small clubs tend to be community hubs and the members have a direct say in how they are run, what beverages they provide whether they show football etc. And these days clubs are generally open to the general public.
    (Declaration of interest: I am Secretary of Buxworth War Memorial Club)

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  17. Who would want a house near a pub? You wanna live well away from a pub and the bother that brings.

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