Sunday 13 December 2020

Fed Up and Fearful

 If you are in Tier 3 of the Government's somewhat arbitrary restrictions for both people and pubs, this has been a long tiring drag.  Reflecting with E the other day - and as an aside she is missing pubs too, as she is a sociable kind of gal - I remarked that it was likely last March when I stood at the bar with pals putting the world to rights with a pint in our hands.  Little did we know then that nine months later we'd still be suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous legislation and a feeling of miserable gloom that only increases with each day.  Lacking that human contact - the lovely E excluded - reminds me that human contact denied, means just being alive, not really living.

You see we actually follow the rules. We have self-isolated, and really are, apart from the odd walk - more in E's case - but she hasn't got a bad knee - in the house most of the time. It has been bad for mental health and while I may not be entirely hail- fellow- well met, I'm no misanthrope and do enjoy the company of others and in this little town, know enough people to pass pub time amicably.  I miss that and the impromptu. "Fancy a pint then?" after shopping and whatnot.

Ever since I started drinking beer, I have had a local pub. Or, Liverpool apart, more than one.  It cements a sense of belonging to go to a place where you are known by and in return, know everyone else. I have felt that absence strongly and while I overcome it - not by getting pissed at home - but by somehow passing time, reading, doing household tasks and watching television, all the time I am acutely aware that this horrible virus has nicked the best part of a year from me.  No holidays, trips to Scotland and all the while, glancing over my shoulder at the Grim Reaper, checking his watch and nodding in my general direction.

This kind of culminated in a get it off my chest post yesterday, which as I write has attracted an astonishing - as I write -  45,000 60,035 people have looked at it. Seems I am not alone in missing the pub.

 It isn't a lot to ask and I could go over again the reasons why and moan about pubs being singled out for unevidenced mistreatment, by those, almost certainly, who rarely set foot in one and certainly not one where beer is the main attraction, rather than Sunday Lunch. But of course, the general distaste of our "betters" for the oiks standing at the bar doesn't need to be detailed here. It is clear from the actions of the government.  I would also point out this has been a gift to the anti alcohol brigade who will no doubt, having got a wedge in the door, take great delight in pushing us even further down the slippery slope we are already on. Given that many pubs will never re-open, that victory from the prohibitionists is already, sadly under their belt.

I caught too, most of an interview with the Welsh Health Minister in television yesterday morning. It seems to me that he fears - though he didn't quite admit as much - that a whacking great lockdown will come in January following the five days off they are giving everyone in the UK - his colleague Health Ministers are complicit in this, but I suspect nobody has asked the virus.  I tweeted that "We've let the cat out of the bag on the basis that it will sit near the bag and continue in-bag behaviour." Fat chance and of course the pubs will pay a big price for this largesse as we rejoice in haste and repent at leisure in January with another whacking lockdown.

Of course many of us in Manchester are hoping that we will be back into Tier 2 next week, our Covid rates having tumbled. I wouldn't bet on it, but of course will have to suffer the impertinent table meal restriction to get a beer. So browbeaten are we that we will be grateful for it, but I urge you to read this piece which the Pub Curmudgeon directed me to. It clearly sets out the way that the Governments - whatever colour - look at eating and drinking in pubs. To sum up, if done poshly enough, crisps can be a substantial meal. More broadly, as the author points out "that this process of identifying “table meals” is not just about the food itself or the table it is eaten at, but – in common with other areas of licensing decision-making – works alongside broader considerations about the “nature” of the establishment and its clientele. As argued by Yeomans in his seminal work on alcohol licensing and moral regulation, even the deregulatory approaches of the current Licensing Act 2003 are imbued with many of the same hangovers” from Victorian temperance attitudes". So please don't relax and think they'll never get us all. They are certainly trying to.

On the same depressing note, a landlady has clearly illustrated her precarious financial and emotional position  in this very powerful self-filmed piece. Clearly if this is typical, the end is nigh for many independent pubs if this goes on much longer. And please don't get me started on the fact that the Chief Medical Officer* has admitted that he has no evidence whatever to keep pubs closed, though he has a kind of feeling. Very scientific. If he wants to have a look at this article in Der Spiegel, which suggests school children are driving the virus, then he might want to think again, but I suspect that he already knows, or I know he already suspects, but political decisions always over -rule science. 

Of course the loss of revenue, jobs and businesses are very a paramount concern, but there has been a dreadful toll on individuals too who are missing friends and routines.  It isn't just a load of old soaks that miss the bonhomie and feeling of content that a good pub gives, but normal ordinary people who have had their lives diminished, while at the same time driving drinking away from the controlled pub environment - even more stupidly - into drinking at home with mates. As an aside and I am sure this is shared by most of us, the only place where I have had my movements tracked is the pub and it is grimly annoying that the efforts to make them as safe as possible have been dismissed by the Government as counting for little in the balance. It is even more than galling to note uncontrolled and crowded shops, supermarkets and London shopping streets. I suspect though I am preaching to the converted here.

So while I look forward to better times, I fear for the future. Taking pubs for granted - like anything really - has always been a poor idea. We must use them when they re-open, but for many, it may be too late and the future of wet-led pubs in particular gives this writer a particular cause for concern, for it is these that epitomise the very essence of the pub as most of us imagine it.

I am glad too, that we live in a big enough house to be able to keep out of the other's way on occasion and having two televisions, has I am sure, stopped us wanting to do each other in. 

I can also, having endured it now for a long time, confirm that drinking at home is a poor second best to the pub. But you all know that. Right?

We do go shopping at the quiet times of course, but Mr Waitrose has also been useful. It makes the neighbours jealous, which is a bonus. 

* I am advised Tyson that it was the other one. The Chief Scientist.Worse then.