A quick walk round my village: the Shambles has been sold to make way for flats, the Swan is on its second landlord in the last year, whilst another pub has a big yellow sign outside asking if I want to run it. Not if it has no customers anymore no.
Cut to the 60.8 per cent of us who are overweight. Sprawled on our sofas, we splutter open cans of spewing Carling that foams all over our stained carpets. We belch en masse. The phone rings. ‘Do you wanna go out for a quick pint?’ Long pause. We fart ensemble, look down at our blubbering bellies, then over to our watches. ‘Nah, it's dead mate. Am knackered'. ‘I’ll pick you up?’ says the ever more enthusiastic voice. 'Nah, can’t be arsed', as we turn the volume back up on Simon Cowell’s wisdom and throw the phone back onto the dog's head . Meanwhile down the road the Frog and Sandwich really is dead. It has no customers at all tonight. Across the road the Leaping Buccaneer is all boarded up. So is the Bulls Testicle. Back in the Sandwich the barmaid yawns a long and dreary bored yawn. ‘You are my only customer tonight. Am on ‘til half eleven. I could slit my wrists to be honest. Want any crisps with that?’
WHAT THE HELL HAS HAPPENED TO US?! WHY DON’T WE GO OUT ANYMORE?
Recently on holiday in Italy I made friends with a couple from Norway. They were cool. They were funky. They worked in advertising and made black jeans for bikers. We were talking about what we did in the evenings. ‘What do I do in the evenings?’ the lady mused, ‘What do you mean’? ‘Where do you go out?' I asked. ‘Where do I go out?! What do you mean? What does 'Go Out' mean?’ I was getting annoyed by this. 'What the hell do you mean what do I mean? Where do you go? What do you do?'
It turns out Norwegians just go jogging for a bit and then sit and stare at walls in between putting logs in the smokeless log burner. ‘Well’ I continued ‘I GO OUT a few times a week. I go to the pub generally and have done for most of my adult life. We meet up with friends, have a few pints of warm frothy beer and chat. Normally there are no women there but sometimes there might be. We generally moan about the drudgery of domestic life, get a bit pissed and go home feeling generally a lot better than when we first ventured out having dumped all our woes on our friends...’
The look of horror on this ladies face was amazing.
I go to the pub generally and have done for most of my adult life. We meet up with friends, have a few pints of warm frothy beer and chat. Normally there are no women there but sometimes there might be.
‘What is a pub?’ she asked in all innocence. What is a pub?! My god, who is this woman? Having explained about the sticky carpets, bad lighting, smelly toilets, ancient wallpaper and crap chairs she really was totally perplexed. She could not understand the concept of a public house. How can a house be public? I said it wasn’t really a house, just a kind of dark lounge full of people you don’t really know. She was confused. I had this image of her sitting with her friends in a log cabin on a Friday night listening to a lute player sat on a deerskin rug. On the way home it got me thinking. All that clean living the Scandinavians do. Boy they do look healthy. Fresh skin, bright eyes and zinging teeth – you just wouldn't want to go out with them for a pint.
All these stories about austerity measures and the high cost of a pint, the economic downturn preventing us venturing out so much – these are not the reason the pubs are closing at a rate of 25 a week. It's because we have become boring and introverted bastards. We pile down to Tesco in our diesel cars listening to Five Live, fill the boot with cheap multipacks of mass produced shitty lager and go home to the settee and flick the remote. One day soon that Scandinavian lady won’t get to see these weird pubs of ours as they will have all gone. Then there really will be no need for us to get off our fat arses ever again. How very sad. A friend of mine said recently, ‘Look out the window John – what you see is what we dream about. What we have created out there is what we love.’ What, empty pubs, crappy supermarkets and charity shops?
The phone just rang. Fancy a quick pint? Too bloody right I do.
John’s favourite pubs are, in no particular order: The Railway, The Waggon, The Swan, The Bulls Head, The Tap, The Royal Oak Heights, The Bridge Inn, The Craven Arms and many many more.
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