A neighbourhood isn’t a proper neighbourhood if it doesn’t have a pub. It helps if it has a post office or a corner shop or some kind of local “character” who points at planes. But, at the very least, every neighbourhood needs a pub.
Britain has lost more than 18,000 pubs in the last 30 years. A sad and rather shameful statistic, really. To lose one pub is careless. To misplace, say, a hundred is daft. But more than 18,000? That’s just embarrassing.
Every week, 26 pubs shut their doors. If things continue at the rate they are, there won’t be a single one left by 2050 which, in case you hadn’t noticed, is not that far away. Of course, many of these pubs deserve to die – be they blood-splattered tanking houses or the kind of places where they hand you back change from a pint on a silver platter – but far too many great boozers have been boarded up too.
What’s driven the decline? Some blame the smoking ban, while others point the finger at the moustache-twirling antics of the dastardly property businesses, masquerading as pub companies, who turn pubs into flats – and a tidy profit.
But the real root of the pubs’ problem is closer to home. In fact, it’s actually in the home – namely the living room and its irresistible allure. Ensconced in our very own sound and vision aquariums, time gently floating by on the back of box-sets and an anesthetised current of discounted supermarket booze, our attention spans and appetite for interaction have shrunk like a crisp packet in a roaring fire while the regular pilgrimage to the local pub is slipping slowly and gradually into the past.
It is time, gentleman, please, to leave your living rooms and give your local a little bit of love. For the man at ease with himself, the local is no longer a mere pit-stop in the gormless pursuit of that ever-elusive utopian night out.
As that overly excitable period of manhood loses its lustre, when the thrill of the chase starts to resemble the opening credits to The Benny Hill Show, every man should be looking to acquaint himself with a regular hangout.
There’s no need to look beyond the local. In our secular society, the local pub is the nearest thing we have to a church, its pews offered to strangers irrespective of their past, pay packet or social standing. It’s a stunningly simple idea. There should be beer. There should be nuts. There should, preferably, be some kind of dog. But there doesn’t need to be much else.
We, the British, are a naturally reserved bunch, but in the pub, as we curl our stiff upper lip over the edge of the pint glass, things begin to open up, social barricades are broken down with every sip. More than just a place to drink, the local pub is our “third place”. It can be a safe place. A calming quarantine of quiet contemplation, a restful antidote to a life too busy, a cosy asylum where one can clutch a pint to one’s chest, stare blankly into the middle distance and make soothing small talk with a fusty old colonel.
Get yourself another and look around. Observe the miscellany of mankind spread out before you, real life played out in front of your pint and your peanuts. And remember that you, an upstanding pub-going pillar of the community, now belong to the last bastion of a world where life was simpler, more nourishing and more decent.
Then buy everyone a pint.