Tag: Pubs

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Do YOU know Bodie’s local?

I had an intriguing request a couple of weeks ago from a lady in need. Jan Holloway is reseraching an exhaustive book on the classic seventies TV series The Professionals, which among other things includes pretty much every location used in the filming of the series. There’s one location that she can’t trace, however- a north London pub.

We all know pubs have been refurbished many times over the years, but this one has a central bar and – something that may still be there – a distinctive wooden frieze (below). It’s in a N or NW postcode.

I know this is like looking for a needle in a haystack – it may not even be a pub any more – but Ms Holloway is in Coventry, and she’s disabled, so she can’t do the research herself. The book is almost ready to go to print and this is the last, niggling bit she can’t find. Any ideas at all, please post below!

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I am so having one of these…

It’s my fortieth birthday in a couple of months and I want to go out with a bang.

So imagine my delight when this was forwarded to me:
In case you can’t see it from the pic, it’s an inflatable pub. Pitch it wherever you like to redefine your local!

You can hire one here.

I’ve just spotted the pun in my first sentence. I didn’t even realise.

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The cask ale revival – a sample of one

One of the best things ever written about pubs was George Orwell’s essay, the Moon Under Water. This was the name of his favourite pub. The atmosphere was perfect, the clientele friendly, the food was basic but just right, and the beer was good.

At the end of the essay, Orwell confesses that there is no such pub. It was a composite of elements from his favourite pubs. All had something that made them special, but none seemed to be able to pull off the whole thing.

Little has changed. In Stoke Newington, the pub that serves the best beer won’t let you take dogs in. The one with the best pub quiz serves terrible food. The one that serves decent beer and lets you take the dog in, and has the best juke box, serves no food at all.

My local is the White Hart on the High Street.

It does a cracking Sunday lunch, they bring Captain a bowl of water and occasionally a chew when he comes in, they have an immense beer garden, big screens for the game, fantastic vibe and brilliant, eclectic crowd of characters – and shit beer. It’s the kind of pub you visit more than any other, and only ever drink Guinness while you’re there. There’s a Spitfire font in the corner of the bar, on its own, and you just know you don’t want to drink the stuff that comes out whenever someone disturbs the cobwebs on the hand pump.

That changed a few weeks ago. One Saturday afternoon, I walked in, and there, next to the dusty Spitfire font, was a brand new, shiny handpump, with a Timothy Taylor Landlord pump clip on the front. I pointed at it, open-mouthed, and Andy, the landlord, said, “You like that one do you?”

I nodded.

“Yeah, I only put it in on Thursday night and I’ve sold one cask already.”

“Well, it is one of the best beers in the world,” I replied.

“Yeah, I know that now,” said Andy.

The next time I went in, three days later, that second cask had gone too, and he was awaiting the next delivery.

This is a pub with a very hip crowd that has, until now, seen no need to take on the hassle of stocking cask ale. And now he’s selling more than two casks a week of Landlord – not exceptional, but certainly comparable to the throughput the beer would have in a decent real ale pub. Sticking it on the bar has unleashed a latent demand for cask ale among a clientele you wouldn’t automatically consider cask drinkers. I promise it wasn’t me drinking it all.

The perfect pub? Not yet, but it’s a damn sight better than the Wetherspoons in Leicester Square that set itself up for a fall by nicking the name of Orwell’s fantasy boozer.

By the way – apologies to anyone who is interested for the very infrequent posts at the moment. There’s loads I want to write about, but the IPA book is past its deadline!

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Two great words, together at last


Spotted today outside The York, Islington, London. Every now and again, but increasingly rarely, marketing is capable of genius and poetry. Let the man (or woman – but I’d bet particularly heavily that this one was a man) who coined the phrase “Pie Gala” be given a knighthood for services to the pub industry.

If only it wasn’t detox month…

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Pete’s Pub Etiquette – the first of an occasional series


Hello, pub-goers!We all know that one of the most difficult aspects of going to the pub is toilet etiquette. It can be stressful for straight men, because as we know, gay men sometimes go to the toilet too, and any straight man knows that if he is in the toilet with a gay man, the gay man is sure to find him irresistably attractive and make inappropriate advances towards him. This means that not only do straight guys need to be on the lookout for gay men lurking in pub toilets, they also need to do absolutely everything possible to ensure they don’t send out any signals whatsoever that they thenselves might be a bit gay.This has given us the elaborate urinal ritual – so delicately coded that often, when you try to explain it to women they refuse to believe it. But hey, it makes going to the toilet more interesting! But where do you draw a line in your attempts to prove your assertive, hetero masculinity?Here’s a couple of thoughts.Say I don’t know you, but we’re in the same pub and we go to the toilet at the same time. You’re just in front of me, and you’ve clocked me and are aware that I’m a few paces behind you.

If you were to hold the toilet door open for me as you walk through, instead of allowing it to swing shut in my face, I promise this won’t make me worry that you’re inviting me inside for some hot bum sex. Instead, it’ll just make me think you have manners and aren’t some sort of twat.

Why not try it next time?

And on a similar vein – washing your hands after you’ve been to the toilet wouldn’t make you look less manly. This message goes out with particular urgency if the reason you were in the pub toilet in the first place is that you’re currently on duty behind the fucking bar. Until next time!

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What does it take to be fit to run a pub?

Just back from a night out at the theatre. We’d all love to think that someone who lives in London goes out to the theatre all the time, but it’s not like that – we went to see a play because it had John Simm in it, and I can’t remember the last time we went out to the theatre. The play was brilliant though.

Anyway, after we left the theatre, we went to a fairly iconic West End pub, which I won’t name. But if you’re a Sam Smith’s fan lurking near Trafalgar Square, you can probably guess.

Anyway, it’s got some really nice partitioned snugs, which were all full when we arrived. We got a perch near the end of one of them, which contained a young couple on one side of the table, and a pretty girl, maybe 22-ish, across from them. It looked like the couple were there with the girl, though I might be wrong. Anyway, the girl decided she’d be more comfortable lying flat on the seat at her side, and the people she was with left. If they did know her, then deciding to abandon her just as she slipped into unconsciousness makes them without doubt the villains of the piece – the kind of people for whom my wife Liz is happy to suspend the embargo she has on the use of the word “cunt”. So these cunts left, and this girl is lying prone, quite a bit of shopping on the table in front of her, her eyes slightly open and a bit gluey. It doesn’t look good, so Liz checks that she’s actually still breathing. She is, and her legs are moving, so I think we’re OK to leave her, especially since the bar staff are trying to get us to leave.

But then these bar staff come past once, twice, three times, collecting the empty crisp packets and glasses in front of the girl, but ignoring the comatose customer herself. Well no, that’s not quite right – the third time, the bar person – a spotty Australian youth – comments “Jesus, that’s disgusting. I’ve never been drunk like that in my life,” before walking away. So he’s clocked that this is someone who is in no state to get home on her own, but the idea of taking some kind of action to resolve this doesn’t occur to him. Neither does the possibility that the girl might have had her drink spiked, or even intentionally taken something other than alcohol.

Liz and her mate Joan decide not to leave until we know this girl is going to be OK, but the bar staff are insistent that we leave. They tell us they’ve called an ambulance and that the manager is coming down, so we move outside. Then we see they have revived the girl to the point that she is just about able to walk, and are trying to shunt her out of the pub so she’s not their problem any more. Liz and Joan make thier presence felt again (a fat northern bloke sticking his oar in was probably not what was needed) and they eventually agree to look after her until an ambulance arrives.

Look, we don’t know what the story was: she might have just been really pissed. She might have been an insufferable pain in the arse who her ‘friends’ couldn’t wait to get away from. She might have been a regular. But we have this tendency to say “It’ll probably be OK, and anyway it’s none of my business.” And 99% of the time this is probably right. But it strikes me that every date rape victim, every person who has ever been attacked and/or robbed while pissed, probably thought “It’ll probably be OK” up to the point that it was too late.

Here was a girl who was quite clearly incapable of getting home on her own, and quite clearly not with anyone who was left in the bar. So I genuinely don’t know, and am asking if anyone does: what are the legal responsibilities of the bar/pub in this situation? And if we wanted to say “fuck whatever the law says, what about basic human fucking decency”, what moral obligation do bar staff and management have?

Let’s have a heated debate!

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Portland – nice beach, wouldn’t wanna live there

“Portland has a pub on every corner, but many are ‘locals only'”.

“There are several pubs in Fortuneswell, but none that you’d really want to take anybody in to impress them. Many of them are notoriously rough places, with histories of violence.”
When we go away somewhere, I often get frustrated with the amount of research Liz does beforehand. Surely there can’t be that much that needs looking at? And then, I found the above comments about pubs in Fortuneswell on the island of Portland, at the end of Chesil Beach – after spending a week there. Ah well, at least there weren’t too many distractions from the writing, which is why I was down there. Days were profitably spent pulling historical notes together, while Captain stared intently at me from the sofa.
Captain pretending to be Princess Diana in the classic shoot by Mario Testino.

I did go to one pub late one afternoon, and I wanted to share the story because I think, while it’s a story about one pub, it’s also a story about pubs in general.

This pub isn’t violent or threatening, but it’s definitely a local’s pub. The barmaid panics when I order a pint of Bombardier, pointing to the two hand pumps on the bar and saying, “What, one of these ones?” before opening the door to the back room to see if there’s anyone else to help her. The half-hearted way she does this reveals that she knows there’s no-one there, but she doesn’t know what else to do. It’s her first day, and with general encouragement from her friends at the bar, and a bit from me, she chooses a glass.

“Does it matter which one?” she pleads.

“So long as it’s a pint, I don’t mind,” I smile, trying to be encouraging, not scary.

Eventually, I have to say, she produces a perfectly poured, perfectly conditioned pint of Bombardier. I spot the concrete and picnic tables outside the back door, sheltered from the constant wind but catching the sun as it’s just starting to change down gears, and I go out to sit down with one of the books I’m using for research.

Everyone else seems to prefer to stay inside. I wonder if this is because of the rather large dog currently standing on one of the tables, owning the entire space, barking at an unseen enemy over the fence. As I sit down the dog appraises me critically, rearing up on its hind legs to give me a good sniff. Looking a little closer, the only loose objects in the beer garden are distinctly doggy. In fact this is not a beer garden but a boneyard, a monster’s lair from a fantasy film.

Soon I’m joined by two small children who decide it would be fun to goad the dog. Then there are five of them, all trying to provoke the dog in different ways. Parents come out every now and then, clock the situation, the size of the dog, the increasing hysteria of the children and shout at them. What they shout is “Here are your crisps!” dropping packets onto the nearest table before ducking back inside.

“What are you doing?”

An eight year old boy is standing next to me, squinting into my face.

“I’m reading a book,” I reply, realising as I say it how stupid I am in my tiny hope that this will carry the hint that I want to be left alone. Of course it won’t . He’s eight. It’ll only mean more questions.

“Are you writing about it?”

“Yes,” I lie, making sure he can’t see what I’m scribbling into my notebook.

“How long have you been doing it?”

“A long time.”

“Are you writing a book?”

“Yes”

“What about?”

“This book.”

“Man, I don’t get that,” he says, shaking his head, switching his attention from me back to the dog.

I re-read about a third of a page of William Hickey’s memoirs before “DON’T DISTURB THE MAN!”

A seven year-old girl is standing by the table staring at me, shouting at her four year-old sister, who whimpers “I’m not”. Of course she’s not.

“Do you like writing?” asks the older girl, chronic short-term memory loss having eradicated her stern warning of a moment ago.

“Yes.”

“Do you like typing?”

“Well, yes.”

“That’s my favourite, typing.”

“Is it? That’s good.”

“You have very neat handwriting.”

“Thank you.”

“I like your phone.”

“Thank you.”

“What are you writing about?”

“Beer and pubs.”

“I like pubs.”

The boy rejoins us and they ask me where I come from. When I tell them London we have a debate about whether London is busier than the Isle of Portland (“I like to read books but I just don’t have the time these days” sighs the seven year-old girl who lives in this sleepy seaside fishing village.) Then we have an argument about whether there are any real-live Power Rangers in London. The boy is an authority on this subject and dismisses me out of hand when I suggest there aren’t.

A picture of some pub regulars
At this point the dog gets over-excited with the young, four year-old girl and starts playing a bit rough. I grab the dog’s collar and hold it off the girl while she curls up into a ball, sobbing. The screams of the kids attract the adults, and a bloke comes out, socks the dog on the jaw and takes it inside.

“And leave the man alone!” shouts the bloke as he disappears.

“I’m HELPING him!” shouts the older girl.

By now I’m feeling really out of place. I wonder if I should be here, in the middle of all these kids, like an interloper in a kindergarten – a feeling that, as a middle-aged bloke on his own, makes me feel quite self-conscious. Then I remember that I’m in a pub, a place I’ve always thought of as an adult’s playground. I come to places like this to get away from children. And here’s this eight year old girl, helping me, by telling me how much she likes pubs.

Time to go.