Pub visits this week 3
So, the government that told us they were on the side of pubs has increased beer tax by 2 per cent above the rate of inflation. Still, we shouldn’t be surprised: this is the prime minister who promised us that health and education would be protected from his spending cuts.
This latest news, of course, arrives as we’ve barely managed to swallow the huge price rise on beer wrought by the government’s recent big hike in VAT. The British Beer and Pub Association estimates that George Osborne’s latest masterstroke will cost 10,000 more jobs in the pub sector. There are no estimates yet for the number of pubs that this “pub-friendly government” has closed today. If you’re anything like me, you probably can’t bear to think about it for too long.
Anyone surprised? Thought not. Now let’s go to the supermarket and get wasted on cheap vodka.
It’s Friday afternoon and I am in the Jerusalem Tavern, Britton Street, Clerkenwell, London. It’s my first visit here for a couple of years but it doesn’t take long to remember why I enjoyed it so much previously. It’s a pub of many nooks, several crannies, lots of tasty beer from the St Peter’s Brewery, and probably the best free pub wi-fi I’ve ever experienced. Two young women enter the pub and one says: “Here we are again – my second home!” Two young men sit at the table opposite Marianthi and me, giving water from a half-pint glass to a Pekinese puppy in a shoulder bag.
I sit and take it all in, reflecting happily that the Jerusalem must be one of my favourite pubs in the whole of London. Then I go to the bar, am charged £5.65 for a bottle of beer and an orange juice, and choke my guts up all over the floor.
Still, the fact that I’ve barely eaten all day means I achieve that exalted state of gentle tipsiness much more readily than would usually be the case. So there’s a big fat win for the Chancellor. Having thus become pissed on two pints, I am unable to retain any information at all about the next pub we visit, the Wilmington Arms. I saw an excellent popshow there, but readers hoping for a substantial description of the pub will, regrettably, have to wait until my next visit.
It’ll happen sometime. Everything goes in circles, and we always find our way back to a pub, one day, somehow.
The reason I’m in London this week is that, on Saturday, I’m playing with my band at the tremendous Read And Shout event. This is an all-day indiepop gig which highlights the crucial role of libraries in civilised society – and the threat to their existence presented by the Tory/LibDem attack on public services. It also raises the equally serious issue of whether the venue used for the gig can be included in this blog. Get to the pub.com tries very hard, at times like these, to make the qualifying criteria as liberal as possible. Try as I might, however, and a magnificent venue though it is, even I can’t find a way to categorise West Norwood Library as a pub.
The first time I went to the Euston Tap (featured here; pictured above) I was surprised and delighted to bump into my friends MJ Hibbett and Steve Hewitt, just before they hopped onto a train to Manchester to perform their great Dinosaur Planet show. On Sunday afternoon I’m equally astounded and happy when Marianthi and I roll up at the Tap: standing outside is our friend Barm, author of the excellent booze blog I Might Have A Glass of Beer. Emerging from the pub with two pints, furthermore, is our friend Colin, a brilliant, knowledgeable man and an engaging conversationalist.
The right thing to do, then, is to drink some pints and have a chat. Bumping into anyone you know in a vast, teeming capital city is remarkable enough if you both live there; this encounter is all the more so given that Glasgow-dwelling Barm and I are a combined 500 miles from home.
If the government carries on the way it is, chance meetings like this will be all the more remarkable, of course, because there’ll be nowhere bloody left for them to happen.
And sadly for me, it’s my job to think about how many people this will send scurrying to the nearest stack-’em-up bargain booze aisle. Most depressingly, they never come back, even if prices fall again.