I guess my morning routine isn’t much different to most other landlords and landladies: Breakfast, tea, news, prep the pub, open the doors.
It’s all too easy to despair from beneath the avalanche of bad press pubs receive. Whether it’s the health experts bemoaning British drinking culture, tabloids highlighting the Saturday night brawlers or the constant references to pub closures and declining on trade sales, the mainstream press like to stick the boot in. We’re an easy target and one can imagine the suburban armchair warriors reading their Sunday paper, tutting loudly and proclaiming their bemusement as to why pubs exist at all.
Even amongst regular pub users there is a danger of taking the British local for granted; something highlighted by the popularity of chain bars – Wetherspoons, Yates et al. The traditional local with the landlord and/or landlady living above shop and providing relief and comfort for the community is seen as out of date by sections of the general public and the big boys of the pub industry. Village locals are valued by their real estate value; chimney-pot pubs are dogged by complaints and ducked by their neighbours.
I inwardly scream every time I see a sign asking me, a 43 year old adult, to leave the premises quietly, presumably because the neighbours want to go to bed at 10pm. Well you know what? Don’t live next to a fucking pub then! I reserve the right, as an Englishman and a drinker, to leave a pub, drunk, at 11:30pm and sing loudly with my arm around my mates shoulder. I’ll tell him I fucking love him and I will shout farewells over the rooftops as we part company. This is Britain. This is what we’ve always done and I’m fucked if I’m going to be quiet on the way home just to appease the boring Strictly brigade who’s idea of a good night is television and a glass of supermarket wine.
And just as the local boozer seemed on the ropes, something simple and yet out of the ordinary happened and made us all realise just what the pub brings to our lives and how much we would miss it if it went.
Not just a bit of snow. A shitload. And fast.
It hit everyone and caught us all with our pants down.
And as the workforce skidded home, and the mothers cleared the supermarket shelves; as the mail stopped being delivered and the busses shed their loads; as the cars were being abandoned and the trains were stranded. As the cinemas and the theatres and the shops and the garages and the offices and the schools closed, the pub stayed open.
Their lights like a beacon in the carnage. Their open fires dried the jeans and the skirts. Their beers eased the worries and their spirits lifted the spirits.
The uniquely British attitude of ‘let’s just go to the pub until this all blows over’ kicked in and anyone who was lucky enough to trudge through the drifts to a pub on the first day of spring this year will realise just what pubs can do and what a necessity they are.
Many took the opportunity of a couple of snow days to give them an extra drinking day. Nobody was going anywhere the next day, that much was clear so they did what so many true Brits do in this situation: they got pissed with their mates down the local. It was beautiful. Families flocked in shedding hats and gloves, and parked their brand new sleds. Cheers filled the room every time a regular crossed the whited out threshold. There were snowball fights, snow angels were carved and snowmen built
It was messy. It was laughter in the face of adversity and it was one of the most quintessentially British things I have ever experienced.
And the next day, when nobody could go to work and everything was closed, the landlords and landladies went downstairs and do what they do 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They opened their doors.