Sunday, 5 January 2020

Two cheers for pubs

The Guardian newspaper recently published an editorial praising pubs as the heart of the community. To be fair, it includes much to agree with:

Britons cling to their pubs because they have been engraved on to their hearts. Hilaire Belloc remarked that “when you have lost your inns drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England”. They represent to us what cafes are to the French: a way of seeing ourselves and our condition. It was painful to see a British institution sadly and slowly disappearing, and that trend risked losing an important part of our culture. With more pubs opening, Britain feels like we can overcome the social isolation and cultural confusion of the age. We ought to raise a glass to good news in these dark times.
It can’t help saying, though, that “the pub’s image was perhaps not helped by Nigel Farage’s obvious joy at being inside one.” However, it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that it all rings a bit hollow when the paper has, over the years, enthusiastically published every scare story about alcohol and often given editorial support to anti-drink and anti-pub policies.

Pubs are only going to thrive when people feel relaxed and confident about visiting them, rather than sensing they are doing something vaguely disreputable. It seems, as I have remarked before, that many media commentators have a rose-tinted affection for the idea of pubs in the abstract, but are uncomfortable with the rumbustious reality of what they actually are and what people do there.


  1. They are probably uncomfortable with what a lot of drinkers say in there too. The ones I frequent locally for example were, in the main, hotbeds of Leave/pro-brexit. Very uncomfortable for the London Intelligentsia.

  2. What rot. There are loads of Guardian reader friendly pubs. CAMRA publishes a book full of them. Your Good Beer Guide is full of middle class safe spaces. A mediocre barely open middle class safe space will beat an authentic cracking working class boozer for entry into the tome every time.

  3. I’d like to know where all these “new pubs” are! I live in a fairly large town in a pretty affluent part of the country and we certainly haven’t had any open up round here to make up for the ones which have gone to the wall over the last few years. We’ve had (I think) two of those rather nasty little sterile micro-bars appear but I don’t count those because they’re, well, not really pubs, are they? Just because the owner of a place calls it a pub doesn’t make it a pub – any more than erstwhile pubs which are now, to all intents and purposes, restaurants-with-a-pubby-name, are pubs any more. You’d no more want to pop in there regularly for a pint and a chat after work than you’d be inclined to pop in and sit at the little bar in your local curry house on a nightly basis! Ergo, neither type of establishment qualifies as a pub. So where, exactly, are all these new ones?

    Or is the Guardian making the typical non-regular-pub-goers’ mistake of thinking that any new place that gets a licence must automatically be “a new pub?” It’s telling that in an article supposedly applauding “new pubs” it then goes on to describe one type of new establishment which, even using its own words, is categorically not a pub i.e. “ ... women-only CLUBS (emphasis mine) to provide a ‘safe space’ to discover the world of craft beer,” thus illustrating their complete lack of awareness of the fact that real pubs are by their very nature entirely non-discriminatory, and any form of discrimination, no matter how worthily-intended, automatically debars any establishment from being one. As you say, Mudge, the Guardian and its readers have been keenly anti (real) pubs – the kind that you and your readers here know and understand at a deep, instinctive level – for at least a decade, if not longer. This article just serves to highlight how, for all their waffle and blather about “heart of the community” and “sad demise of the industry” and their lip-service to the fact that “Britons cling to their pubs because they have been engraved on to their hearts,” what comprises a "real British pub" clearly hasn’t been engraved on any of theirs! If it had, they wouldn’t be writing a jolly-hockey-sticks little article about signs of a supposed “recovery” of an industry which is at best still struggling on its knees to survive, and in many areas is effectively already long dead and buried.

    1. I'm planning a blogpost about those figures sjhowing an increase in the number of "pubs". I'd agree the figure is very questionable and surely includes many establishments that nobody would actualy recognise as a pub.

    2. Pubs have evolved over the years from 16th century taverns, 17th century coaching inns, 18th century gin shops, early twentieth century beer only premises, 1930s Roadhouses, Local boozers, and now micro pubs and gastro pubs.

      During what period did the establishments that you call proper pubs exist and at what date would you have wished to stop the evolution?

    3. An irony is that Stockport, for anyone familiar with the pubs of the town, has arguably more than its fair share of traditionally themed child free pubs serving decent cask beer at reasonable prices, than other satellite suburban towns surrounding Manchester. There are plenty of pubs that tick Mudgies boxes for him to go sit on a bench seat, drink a boring brown bitter and moan about the other pubs serving a different clientele that he does not like.

      But to answer your question. 1956. I suggest others have a crack and Mudge can tell us who gets closest.

    4. If you take "pub" to refer to any establishment of whatever kind with a full on-licence, the concept becomes completely meaningless.

    5. Cookie
      There is a joke amongst Science Fiction nerds that the "Golden Age of SciFi" is 13, the age at which you start reading the genre.
      Similarly I would suggest that the answer to my question would be 18. In my case 1966. T :-)

  4. The Stafford Mudgie11 January 2020 at 10:09

    But don’t forget that it was the Guardian that from 1973 carried Richard Boston’s weekly ‘Boston on Beer’ feature that did much in transforming CAMRA from a bit of a joke to a proper, and soon very successful, consumer organisation, and I doubt if the paper has changed much since then.
    I have never taken any national newspaper ( and never had any proper allegiance to any political party ) so can’t comment in detail but if the Guardian “over the years, enthusiastically published every scare story about alcohol and often given editorial support to anti-drink and anti-pub policies” then I’m sure that it hasn’t been the only one to do so.
    Surely the Daily Mail must be one of the worst for enthusiastically reporting any health scare and this one is typical. ... betes.html .
    How terrible Mail readers must think it is that hospitals are “deluged by 5,000 diabetics a DAY” with this “growing crisis” presumably caused by the gluttony and laziness of diabetics who might all be “overweight and inactive”!

    1. The Guardian was a very different newspaper in the 1970s, of course.

      For balance, I did link to the anti-drink hysteria from Professor David Nutt in the Mail.

      I'd say the only newspapers that have shown significant (although not unalloyed) scepticism about the Nanny State lobby over the years have been the Telegraph (now paywalled) and the Sun.


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