Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Tuesday, 4 November 2014
Hello. Me here.
Back to pubs. I was reading an article this morning about the imminent closure of Kate and Wills's favourite pub - 'The Old Boot' (no puns intended) - and it was followed by a short list of Britain's oldest pubs. I was mildly surprised to see that out of about ten featured, I had visited about four in the not too distant past (including The George, above), and considering they range quite a few miles apart, I think this is some sort of achievement.
When I was still popping-off shotguns in the countryside, I insured myself through The Countryside Alliance - that controversial organisation which was set up to protect the relatively modern sport of hunting foxes with hounds.
To my mind, the C.A. performs one vital role for the countryside, and that is to champion rural pubs and Post Offices, both of which are under extreme pressure by the need to maximise profits for potential shareholders when the Royal Mail gets sold off to a bunch of avaricious bastards who would be happy to see Olde Englande go down the toilet just so long as they can retire in comfort, and a similar ambition by the shareholders of breweries, who are more interested in property prices now than they are in maintaining ancient social hubs for isolated communities. The squeeze on local councils by central government does not help either.
The classic British pub can be traced back to Roman times or before, and the reason they were called 'hostelries' is because they catered - almost exclusively - for travellers. The first ones were to provided R & R for soldiers marching from one end of the country to the other, and slightly later ones did the same for Christian Pilgrims. Slightly later still, all Southern roads led to London or the provincial ports, usually for reasons of commerce.
Two groups of people built the roads on which the pubs were usually situated - the Romans and the 18th century entrepreneurs, and whole industries built up either side of them, not least Highwaymanship.
It's always been about commerce and making money, but these days you make money by sitting in an office or at home, staring at a computer screen - you don't even need to get on a golf-course any more.
There is a generation of fat kids who have not grown into obese adults through drinking beer.
I had better stop here - I am depressing myself by thinking about the speedy erosion of any traditional institutions which exist in order to enrich community life rather than maximising income from the capital expenditure of a handful of outsiders. By 'outsiders' I mean real outlanders - even people who have never set foot in England and probably never will.
The big, private corporations are just waiting for the last of the old people who do not use computers to die off, before they sell off the last of the traditional methods of communicating.
These days, I try not to become impatient with the old woman in front of me in the Post Office as she holds me up by chatting to the person behind the bullet-proof glass. It may be the only conversation she will have with another human being all day.