Portrait of a Publican


The landlord’s high stool at the end of the bar is really a kind of throne from which he exercises benign authority.

Gouty and beet­root-cheeked, he is no dab­bler, but a pub man in his very heart: he is proud of what he has built, and feels what is right with­out mak­ing any self-con­scious effort.

The well-worn wood­en counter looks right­ly Vic­to­ri­an. Cards games are played on green baize. New wall­pa­per with a fash­ion­able pat­tern ges­tures at refur­bish­ment and yet, with its wine-red curlicues, enhances the atmos­phere rather than snuff­ing it out.

But the essence of ‘pub­ness’ isn’t in the décor: it emanates from him, like a psy­chic pro­jec­tion or force field.

He would prob­a­bly go mad if he did­n’t get to spend his work­ing day amongst oth­er peo­ple. Greet­ing new vis­i­tors with a few court­ly words, and look­ing after his reg­u­lars, makes him glow and stretch tall, like a dog hav­ing its bel­ly rubbed.

But his king­dom shows signs of decay. The glow­ing Guin­ness font is only for show, glass­es being filled (not quite open­ly) from cans in the fridge. Where there were once three ‘guest ales’, the con­di­tion of which he was jus­ti­fi­ably proud, there is now one, cho­sen for its cheap­ness.

Even with a full pub, we won­der if he is mak­ing any mon­ey at all, and sus­pect that what keeps it afloat is one thing: his love of the game.