Jukebox 1982

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This month, the Session is hosted by The Lost Abbey Brewery, and theme is music and beer

When I was little, my parents ran a pub. It was called the Artillery Inn and was a slightly grotty, failing Whitbread pub in Exeter. When I was four years old I used to help with the stocktake so I have vivid memories of counting bottles of pale ale in crates in the cellar.

Failing it might have been but that didn’t stop my folks from trying hard at it, working every hour the license would allow, organising bands, social nights, barbecues, pantomimes, darts tournaments — anything to liven the place up.

But the one thing that really helped give the place some atmosphere was the jukebox.

My Dad, being obsessed with music, put a lot of effort into stocking it. It must have been one of the last to play 7″ vinyl singles. I remember watching it pick out a record from the huge stack, swing it into place and drop a needle onto it. The noise was great, incredibly loud and mechanical. There would be a few moments of amplified crackling and popping before the music kicked in.

Particular songs spring to mind: Eton Rifles by the Jam; Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant; I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me by Nik Kershaw; Michael Caine by Madness. Those were there because they were in the charts, but Dad wouldn’t have a song in the box he didn’t kind of like. After all, standing behind the bar, he’d have to listen to it over and over again.

Then there were his own records — songs from the sixties and seventies. Lola by the Kinks must have been in there. His copy certainly has the middle punched out, like so many others in his collection.

I think a pub should have a jukebox. I know there’s a “no music” lobby, but I just don’t get it. Is the idea that loud music will somehow interfere with your tastebuds?

Well, frankly, I find silence interferes with my mood.

Bailey

Irish pubs in Spain

guinness.jpgI used to avoid Irish pubs, particularly when abroad, thinking they´d be full of tourists. Then I discovered that in a lot of places they´re actually really good places to meet the locals thanks to (a) the bizarre belief that Irish and British things are just inherently cool (b) the fact that they´re shunned by self-righteous tourists like me. So I became more tolerant, and stopped going into a sulk everytime someone suggested going to an Irish pub. But now I’ve been in a few here in Spain, I find myself very unnerved by the fact that they are, here at least, another weapon in the fearsome armada of Heineken International.

Salamanca has at least four Irish pubs and for various reasons I’ve now been in three of them. They´re all Heineken beasts so you get Paulaner and other delights such as Adelscott and Desperados. You may also come across an advert for the local Octoberfest franchise, a subject I blogged about a couple of months ago.

More sinister still (I find) are the various efforts to make the locals drink more and more. Special offers for large drinks, for example. Even the pub quiz turns out to be a syndicated marketing effort.

The very things about the drinking culture in Spain and France that the Government in the UK want us to emulate — moderation and smaller measures — are an anathema to people in the business of selling.

It’s not all bad news though — some of these Heineken outlets do have a guest beer from another brewer. Guinness. Sigh.

Krusovice schwarzbier

krusovice.jpg Last night, I really wanted to drink a beer I hadn’t tried before, so I rummaged about in the “cellar” (garage) and found a bottle of Czech Krusovice  schwarzbier someone had left after a party.

It’s a very gentle 3.8% (perfect for a school night). In the glass, as you can see from the photo, it was very dark, but still transparent, with a nice off-white head. The taste, however, was disappointing at first.

I’m one of those suckers who expects dark beer to taste stronger than lighter coloured beers — even though I’ve done blind taste tests on glasses of helles and dunkel and not been able to tell the difference! This beer was very light bodied and lightly flavoured, despite its colour.

After the initial let down, though, I decided this beer was in the subtle category, rather than being bland. Or perhaps “mild” is the right word because, yes, this looked and tasted not unlike a dark English mild. Not much in the way of hop flavour, aroma or bitterness — just some sweet, chocolate-like malt and a refreshing wateriness. I know wateriness is not something people generally praise in a beer, but I don’t always want goop.

With hindsight, I wish I’d drunk it with a desert, or perhaps just with a juicy orange, rather than a big salty pizza, which might have brought out some bitterness, but I enjoyed it anyway. Worth a go if you see it about.

“Kids running round screaming”

There’s a long-running graffiti debate on a cubicle wall in the toilets at the Pembury Tavern in Hackney, East London — some day, I’ll transcribe the whole thing.

One comment blames the pub’s “downfall” from an apparent heyday in the 1980s on “bearded CAMRA members”, which has prompted someone else to reply:

“No, not the CAMRA c***s — the f*****g child-friendly c***s.”

That’s just one bit of evidence of how angry the subject of children makes some people. Angry in an English way, that is. No-one says anything or complains — they just sit rolling their eyes and tutting. In Britain, there really does seem still to be a belief that kids should be “seen and not heard”, hence the ultimate passive-aggressive sign, popular in pubs a few years ago:

Quiet children welcome.”

Let’s translate that:

“Children who behave like children not really welcome.”

Why should kids have to stay at home? Or, worse, sit on the step outside with a Panda Pop waiting for their parents to emerge? Or, worse again, sit in the pub in absolute silence, bored to death, in case they annoy a nearby curmudgeon and embarrass their parents? I don’t have kids of my own, but I don’t find it hard just to ignore them. I just concentrate on having a nice time with my friends, engage in a conversation, read a book, or whatever, and soon forget they’re there.

Sometimes, it’s even nice to have them around — like in the Pembury, in fact, which can be a little sterile otherwise.

Smoking Ban — landlords like it

nosmoking.gifIt’s early days yet, but research from the Publican magazine and soft drinks company Britvic suggests that three quarters of pubs are happy with the smoking ban which kicked in the UK in July. They’re selling more food and more soft drinks — there are more kids and pregnant women going to the pub.

I know I’ve certainly found pubs more pleasant in the last few months, and it’s been nice to get friends out who would normally avoid the pub because of the smoke because they’re asthmatic, pregnant, or just don’t like it. For me, at least, the atmosphere of most pubs has got better in part because I’ve got better company.

The article says that the winter will be the real test of the ban, when people are faced with the prospect of standing out in the rain, snow or frost to smoke. I’ll be interested to see how this goes, but my guess is that it will work out OK for pubs. After all, the lure of a cigarette is surely nothing compared to the lure of booze.