When I lived in London during the downtrodden Thatcher era, the local pub was a sanctuary, a respite from the cold, foggy, dismal daily life, a life I now look back at fondly. I’m not much of a beer drinker, I much prefer wine, but who wouldn’t love the cozy warmth, the expected smoky haze and the watering hole atmosphere? Sure, it was more of a guys’ scene, I remember the blokes I lived with counting their pints, squeezing in a fifth one before last call, as I nursed my shandy: a disgusting combo of beer and “lemonade” (British 7-Up). They used to stagger home, while I fretted about who would make it without face-planting into a neighbor’s yard. OK, so the scene did get old after the novelty wore off, but I never tired of the yummy pub-grub and the feeling of camaraderie.
There is nothing better than a sunny summer day, sitting out in a British Pub Garden and enjoying the scenery, conversation and vittles. I still love a Ploughman’s lunch and have been known to swipe sips of my husband’s Guinness when he’s not looking. So, it was with great sadness that I read “Hoist One Last Glass- Can Britain still be Britain without its pubs? “ The article in this week’s Newsweek Magazine tells the sorry tale of how the cost of doing business, the economy, modern culture and globalization, among other culprits, have been a death sentence for the Public Houses in Britain.
Apparently five close a day, and gone are the family-owned town pubs one used to find in every hamlet. Sure, “gastro-pubs” with fancy menus are popping up, but the traditional center of the community, the meeting place and scene of many peak life experiences for the locals and visitors alike, is losing its luster and centralness so vital to the British culture. Pints are pushing the equivalent of six-dollars and folks would just rather play a video game and order in a pizza. Even the move to go smokeless is seen as contributing to the decline of the Public House. For travelers to the British Isles this is also a tragedy, on a par with doing away with the double-decker buses or high tea.
Prince Charles even has a campaign called Pub is the Hub, an attempt to save the local pub scene by helping rural pubs diversify their businesses. Some establishments offer post office services or grocery stores and other amenities to supplement their income. Let’s hope the tide changes and the venerable family-owned establishments enjoy a renaissance. In these tough economic times we all need a local bar, tavern or pub to commiserate, drown our sorrows and gain strength from our common cultural roots.