Jukebox 1982


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.


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.