pubs real ale

Tired beer and short tempers

Where's Wally?
Where’s Wally?

In the autumn, at the end of the season, Cornwall breathes a sigh of relief: not glad to see the back of the tourists, as such, but looking forward to a bit of ‘quality time’ with itself. Fast forward a couple of months, however, and the novelty of all that peace and quiet has worn off.

On the beer front (the most important bit) pubs we can usually rely on to have several decently-kept, interesting beers are down to one or two, the local market alone being unable to sustain any greater range. Wot no Proper Job? St Austell Tribute, which is a fine, fine beer at its best, becomes a lottery — shifting slowly, and too often staling long before the end of the cask, and ending up tasting like it often does in London.

And as for the atmosphere in the pub… well, without Emetts to roll eyes and chuckle at, the locals start winding each other up, like the increasingly twitchy subjects in an isolation study. For example…

An elderly man out for a few drinks with his wife, suited and booted, finds himself sat a few tables away from a large group of middle-aged people. They eventually pull instruments from pockets and bags and, with stamping feet, begin to sing folk songs in the finger-in-ear style. After ten minutes, as their volume increases, the aging gent becomes agitated, and then leaps to his feet: “I spend a lot of money here; I come here to relax; and I can’t hear myself speak over the noise of that…” He points at a bodhran. “Fucking drum thing!”

Roll on spring: fresh beer and fresh faces are what we need now.

15 replies on “Tired beer and short tempers”

Oops. Sorry about that.

Seriously, are you sure about the stamping feet? Usually when folkies get together in this sort of setting we’re playing strictly for our own enjoyment. That doesn’t mean we’ll keep the noise down, exactly, but we’re generally not trying to attract attention. Oh, and “finger-in-ear style” is a dreadful old (and inaccurate) cliche, and the sentence would work just as well without it. Just saying.

PS I hate bodhrans too.

We mean no offence to you or your people…

It was a very quiet pub and they were quite loud (we couldn’t hear ourselves over them either, so the old boy had a point). The finger-in-ear thing is reference to that warbly-voiced faux-yokel thing which probably has a technical description, but we don’t know it.

(To note: for some mad reason, we initially wrote ‘ear-in-finger’ — now that would be a clever trick.)

This is bothering me now. Was it a multi-room pub – i.e. was there anywhere you could go to get away from the racket? I ask because all the pub sessions I’ve been in have taken one of three forms

1 – we take over an entire room (often filling it completely)
2a – we sit in the corner of a large room and play quietly
2b – we sit in the corner of a large and busy room and play as loudly as we like, no one can hear
3 – we sit in the corner of a large room and play to punters who listen, watch, applaud, ask for The Wild Rover, etc. (only seen this once – in Cornwall, as it happens)

This sounds more like
4 – sit where you like, play as loudly as you like, get the beers in and wahey!

Bit antisocial, really. Unless there were other rooms & they were in the process of taking that one over?

Unamplified music too loud someone few tables away can’t have a quite conversation? That’s either bull, or a very large group probably drinking err ‘healthily’ if I know folkies. In many cases a group like that makes the diff between it being worthwhile for a pub to be open and not! Not to everyone’s taste and arguably not appropriate if this were a single room pub in a village with only one pub . From your description of pubs in area this time of year sounds like I’d get better beer at home so pub is where to go to find a bit of life /energy /entertainment !

Large group — maybe 12 or 15 people? — with whistles, drums, guitars, singing en masse. And we’re mutterers. And the old feller was probably a bit deaf. And it was a bit echoing and empty otherwise.

I should think the pub welcomes them — they were all drinking and, without them, the place would have been nearly empty.

On the beer front (the most important bit) it sounds like a good case for pubs stocking decent beer which is stabilised and stored under pressure to keep it from getting tired.

“Stabilised” – great euphemism. Reminds of a “young naturalist” book I had as a kid, which advised you not to stick pins through your specimens until after you’d “pacified” them. This won’t hurt a bit…

Seriously, I agree that good keg is better than bad cask, but I also think they’re very different things – it would have to be very bad cask (and very good keg). Personally I prefer stale, tired, ghost-of-its-former-self, former-self-wasn’t-that-great cask to most of the craft keg offerings I’ve tried, & I’ve tried a few.

I hate that warbly-voiced faux-yokel thing too. Mind you, there are degrees – to a normal person’s ear I probably do it myself. (Have I mentioned my folk song blog recently?)

Ah come now, I like a bit of surprise folk music suddenly breaking down down the pub as much as anyone, but its often pretty noisy. and I’ve definitely seen some of ‘them with their finger in their ear. Maybe they were just scratching?

Sorry, but this is a sensitive subject. You have not seen folkies with a finger in their ear – you really haven’t (unless they were just suffering from wax build-up and didn’t have a Q-Tip to hand). You probably have seen folkies cupping a hand around one ear, a habit that was popularised by Ewan MacColl. I’ve done it myself; it’s a bit of an affectation if you’re singing solo, but if you’re trying to improvise a harmony it’s really useful in enabling you to hear exactly what note you’re singing.

But a finger in the ear – no. No, nay, never, as they (all too often) say.

I guess it’s because choirs learn their parts separately, so when they’re all singing different notes they’re each singing a line they know. Folkies are more likely to improvise harmony lines, which is when you really need to listen to what you’re doing & adjust it on the fly.

Probably also different acoustics – little pub rooms will have significantly higher reverb than a church or concert hall and you won’t hear your own voice.

Comments are closed.