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Rear View Mirror: Bring Back The Local

Tony Schumacher fancies a pint down the local. The good old fashioned local.

Written by . Published on August 30th 2011.


Rear View Mirror: Bring Back The Local

NOW that the dust has settled in Liverpool and Manchester after the recent riots, and the brow beaters in the media have beaten retreat leaving the locals to pick up the broken glass and broken promises... who fancies a pint down the “local”?

I want Big D peanuts half pulled from the card and I want the barmaid to know my name and to tell me about her kids as she takes “one for yourself”.

You remember the local don’t you? It was the place where blokes used to talk about football in the days before we needed an ex-player to tell us what we thought, (although back in those days it was probably an ex-player who owned the pub so maybe I’m wrong there) or where women used to talk about blokes (or so the blokes thought).

The local was the place where you met your mates in real life, not on Facebook. Where if you liked a friend’s joke you let them know by laughing, not with a click of a mouse. A smiley face was on your face, not in a text message. And let’s not forget you didn’t just meet your mates there; you met someone you may one day “mate” with there.

Long before Match.com made adverts about dating websites in which people meet face to face (still not sure why they think showing us a couple meeting in a shop is going to encourage us to stay in and use their site), we used to meet actual people over a tightly gripped pint or a seductively stirred straw as we’d stumble and slur our best chat up lines while either side of the pub people watched and weighed up the odds of us getting a slap, or some slap and tickle.

And those people watching weren’t just strangers in a bar, they knew us. Maybe not by name, but they would see us around the area. Maybe nod in the shop or when walking the dog, they saw my Mum in church or my Dad at the factory gates. They were local people in a local pub.

My Dad used to sit in the snug on a Friday night with my Uncle Tommy, I can still feel the burn of my cheeks when he shouted through the hatch to tell me to stop swearing in the bar one night. That was 28 years ago. I mention that to point out that I was 16-years-old and drinking in the pub with my mates. And, it’s fair to say, everyone in that pub was pretty aware that we were underage, nobody minded, we didn’t do any harm (except for the odd loud swear word). We were kids attending the school of life. Learning how to behave in a social environment the same way a chimp does in the wild, slowly discovering the boundaries and climbing the pecking order, careful not offend for fear of a swift rebuke from our betters.

The 'local' as it wasThe 'local' as it was

Of course not all pubs were well run gentlemen’s clubs of respectability and good manners. I used to be paid by a boss in the legendary Eagle and Child pub in Huyton on a Thursday night. Trust me, everything you have heard about that place is true. It was a darkened stinking bunker of bolted to the floor tables and chairs with shouts and scuffles and beer that tasted of vinegar. It was customary to have one pint before leaving, and believe me, like it or loath it, I learnt a lot drinking in that place. Not least, how to drink one pint very quickly.

We would normally adjourn to the Farmers Arms across the road, less than a hundred yards away, but it seemed like a million miles. A civilised place with a bowling team, flock wallpaper, and lemon scented cubes in the toilets.  I’ll guess that most of the regulars in the Farmers hadn’t ever been inside the Eagle. They had no need to, they had a choice. That choice has gone now, as have both pubs - one is a McDonalds’ and the other is an advertising hoarding. The other day I noticed it had a poster advertising cheap lager at ASDA, which I thought cruel, almost like they were gloating over its demise.

I used to love the local, and I’d love to see it come back, not the Wetherspoon fed pale imitations we are offered now. I don’t want a “burger and beer for £4.95”, I don’t want “breakfast at 7.30am” and “Wednesday curry clubs”.

I want a pint on my day off, I want to sit in a bar watching dust float through sunbeams, I want to listen to someone laugh in the lounge. I want Big D peanuts half pulled from the card and I want the barmaid to know my name and to tell me about her kids as she takes “one for yourself”. I want to talk football and read local papers and get out the way of old fellas who are only “’avin’ the one”. I want to eye up the talent when the shop workers pop in on their way home, I want to watch horse racing even though I don’t gamble, and stand with my foot on a brass rail like a cowboy as I stare into my drink listening to someone’s problems. I want to be surprised when someone comes in for a “quick one” then happy as we fall out four hours later. I want half ten last orders with stay behind winks and “goodnight, God bless” with empty glass chinks.

I want my local back.

I’ll not get it back, we’ve come too far. The Government don’t want it, and neither do the supermarkets. But just imagine if we did, what would it give us? Part time flexible jobs, full time management and brewery jobs, it would possibly enable the young and disenfranchised to socialise with the community that has demonised them in an environment that was responsibly run. It might tempt the poor souls who sit alone drinking themselves to oblivion with Smart Price lager (54.6p a litre or about 30p a pint) back to a social community where they may possibly be less inclined to get smashed out of their faces under the watchful gaze of concerned neighbours.

I want my local backI want my local back

During elections it’s customary to see a party leader in a bar with a half of bitter chatting in a local to a local. Then six months later as they increase beer duty with a sense of duty and the prices of beer and the boards on windows go up almost in unison, I often wonder why they don’t try something new and invite the country out for a pint.

But in a week that has seen the Beer and Pub association announce the arrival of the £3 average price of a pint of lager, the local on the corner seems an awful long walk away.

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17 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

CBAugust 30th 2011.

Tony there are plenty of good pubs still around. Maybe spend your time patroning one instead of writing overly romantic, revisionist essays on online magazines.

long live the future.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
mrsmarsaAugust 30th 2011.

OI!

mrsmarsaAugust 30th 2011.

OI! Romantic this might be but it it very true.

mrsmarsaAugust 30th 2011.

know what you mean Mr S. There aren't many locals around MY area either and of the two that are left one is teetering on the brink of closure. The city centre can provide that homely local pub but out in the suburbs its a wasteland!

AnonymousAugust 30th 2011.

Not many quality locals left in Huyton or Norris Green or Bootle or countless other places that might need them. Has CB not seen the pub for sale signs that have taken the place of painted name signs?

TWAugust 30th 2011.

I can totally agree with this article. I saw three men in their early 70's sat outside a coffee shop in Huyton Village, as I passed I heard one of them say to the other 'Fred, he used to work down the mines'. Being from Huyton myself, I can only think he meant the Cronton Colliery. I turned to my 78 yr old Mum and said 'years ago, those men would have been sat having that jangle in a pub'.

The Huyton pubs I remember are no longer there, for me to see for 3 older men sat outside a coffee shop, I wonder is it because the coffee was £1 a cup as opposed to £3.70 for a pint? or was it beacuse maybe their 'local' as they would've remembered it, has now gone?

Interesting piece and I think many people will agree, their 'local' as people like myself, of a fine age, would know it, has now diminished!

Reader XxxAugust 30th 2011.

Lovely writing Tony. And if you want to drink in a really outstanding city pub try the Roscoe Head. I'm not an expert on beer but I am assured that the real ale served in the Roscoe is top notch. I do know good repartee when I hear it, however, and you won't find better than that offered by the silver tongued Teresa. Perhaps we need a real pub campaign along the lines of the real ale campaign which was so successful all those years ago.

Absinthe & TurksAugust 31st 2011.

Unfortunately ‘real pubs’ have been destroyed by fashion.

The snugs, cooeys, rooms and cosy cubby holes have been destroyed to turn all pubs into gloomy, open-plan barns in which one loud yob can ruin it for everyone in the place.

Loud music and big-screen sport, low, clammy sofas replacing proper tables and chairs, proper landlords who enforced minimum standards of behaviour have been replaced by ‘managers’ barely out of their teens who happily sell drink to customers who are hardly able to stand.

These are in addition to the profiteering by the pub companies and the effects of the smoking ban.

AnonymousAugust 31st 2011.

In proper pubs customers were cautioned for swearing and repeat offences would be met with refusal of service at the bar, being asked to leave and getting barred from the premises.

When was the last time you heard of anyone being barred from a pub?

AnonymousAugust 31st 2011.

They should ban men in shorts for a start.

The Big SisAugust 31st 2011.

Years ago in my 'youth', your local was a safe place to meet your mates, you could be the first there and not be afraid to go inside on your own. Like you say, the people in there knew you and watched out for you. Happy Days!

AnonymousAugust 31st 2011.

I started drinking in the friendly anonymity of the city centre for those very reasons. I didn't want to be monitored by neighbours, family and local gossips!

Simon SmithAugust 31st 2011.

I agree the with the author. As a 52 yr old drinker I started boozing in 1977.

Nearly all my local pubs looked as if they'd been unchanged for decades and youngsters were welcome so long as they behaved like everyone else.

Starting in about 1980ish pubs started catering for youngsters more and more, sometimes via drastic refurbishments and new, trendy names. I was quite pleased about this at the time.

Now the bars and pubs of my suburban town centre cater almost exclusively for the younger customer, with all the trouble this causes. As in many places, police cars and vans patrol the area waiting for trouble at weekends as they know for certain it will occur. 30 years ago that didn't happen.

Prof ChucklebuttySeptember 1st 2011.

I miss the old opium dens of my youth. A glass of absynthe, a full pipe of the finest pure opium, a bunk on which to pass out and Mr Soong would come round with his cloth and wipe the sick off your chin. Curse the damned nanny state!

Steve FrostDecember 7th 2011.

Nice One Prof!

NorthernGeezerJanuary 6th 2012.

My local is 100 steps up the road from my house. Pop in any night after work for a 'swift' one and the same faces are there doing the same, admitidley watching sky sports news, but the conversation is still the same, shyte football and expensive beer.
Home for tea, slightly crispy round the edges from being in the oven too long.
Nothing changes, thankfully.

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