Tuesday, 3 March 2015

No Man Loves Life Like Him That's Growing Old

The quote that heads this post is from Sophocles. He was a Greek guy. Its truth was evidenced last week when in the company of blogger and Publican Jeff Bell and his pal (the guy who is opening the Piccadilly Tap - let's call him Mr PT - whose idea it was), we ventured into the Hare and Hounds on Shudehill, Manchester.

Winding back slightly, we had been in the Marble Arch with Mr PT when he mentioned a pub that he'd been in which was a smashing example of the kind of city centre pub that you rarely see any more.  Could we go there for one?  From his description, I couldn't quite place it, but as we approached the Angel, he said "It's just over there that pub" and all fell into place and I knew exactly where and what he meant.  The Hare and Hounds is a small three roomed, ex Tetley pub just opposite the Arndale Bus Station.  It attracts, shall we say,  a more mature clientèle to sup its keenly priced handpulled Joey Holt's Bitter and various smooth beers. You'll often find it jammed from end to end. Despite their age, there is much vertical drinking and the place positively buzzes with conversation and noise. There used to be (and may still be) a piano and a bit of informal singing. Yes, sometimes they sing.  If you want to see how Northern pubs used to be, there's probably few better places.

The back room and bar were heaving when we arrived and squeezed into the hatched snug on the right as you enter. It gives you a kind of railway tunnel view of proceedings. There was a geriatric karaoke in full swing. At the far end an oldish guy on an electronic music box was squeezing out old time tunes accompanied by even older types giving it laldy on the microphone. Others sang along or watched happily.  Some cheerily awaited their turn on the mike. No-one was being shy here. Supping Holt's Bitter, we three watched transfixed from the hatch. Jeff loved it and Mr PT remarked as if in a dream, "Some of these guys are pretty good."  And they were at that. We cast our eyes over proceedings until our pints were finished and  left, the merry din ringing in our ears. 

Mr PT is right. It is the kind of place I remember from my time in Liverpool many years ago and which sadly is all too rare nowadays.  It cheered us up immensely to think of the pleasure these senior citizens were getting from the simple act of singing together, though no doubt lubrication played its part.

For sure, these cheery customers aren't dead yet.And this pub is very much alive too.

These days impromptu singing is likely to get you chucked out of most places. I don't think it does here.  I thought the Holt's Bitter on good form. Other opinions may have varied slightly.

Sophocles who was a bit of a philosopher on the side also said “If you were to offer a thirsty man all wisdom, you would not please him more than if you gave him a drink.” Mine's a pint!


Curmudgeon said...

Excellent - good to hear it's still going strong. I can't help thinking it would be anathema to those who think nothing of paying a tenner a pint, though ;-)

Bailey said...

When my Mancunian cousin took my on a pub crawl last summer we ended up in a pub where there was karaoke going on -- I think it was the Burton Arms, but I wasn't taking notes. Older people, but, from their snappy dress and dance moves, veterans of the Northern Soul scene I'd have said. As you say, a nice buzz.

Down here in Cornwall, we get the occasional spontaneous outbreak of Trelawny -- everyone learns the words at school, and lots of people are in choirs, so it can sound amazing, and get quite emotional.

Phil said...

Karaoke's not spontaneous! I've only heard people just burst out singing a handful of times, and they didn't carry on for long.

There used to be a folk club upstairs at the Hare & Hounds, but the (then?) landlord chucked them out - it wasn't them, he just didn't want the hassle of letting the upstairs room, to anyone. (I vaguely remember he'd refused it to some far-right group then got some stick for it, & decided just to refuse everyone from then on.) Anyway, that kind of carry-on isn't entirely spontaneous either - people do turn up expecting to have a turn & knowing pretty much what they're going to sing - but it's a good do, especially if you know or can pick up the choruses. (And in most cases picking up the choruses isn't rocket salad, so the real question is whether you're willing to go for it and join in. In pubs quite a lot of people usually are.)

Anonymous said...

I remember ending a Holts pub crawl, which started in in Whitefield, at the Hare & Hounds. The beer was on excellent form.