“Where Everybody Knows Your Name” – No Thanks.  

“There is no Chicago urban blues more heartfelt than my lament for you.

I’m a liberal guy, too cool for the macho ache. With a secret tooth for the cherry on the cake.

With a pious smile, a smile that changes what I say.

While I waste my time in regretting that the days went from perfect to just OK.”

Cruel” – Prefab Sprout (clip courtesy “thingslostinfire low” on YouTube)

Liberal. A dirty word. But I’m proud to be one. Even though it makes my drinking more expensive….

You see, I’ve never had what I could truly call a “local”, something that I’ve always yearned for. Somewhere nearby, where I could drink a decent beer or three and feel “at home”. I’ve always travelled to drink, from my underage days drinking pints of Holts bitter in “The Wellington” on Irlams o’th Height in Salford to the White Lion in Little Hulton and The Albion in Walkden and (more latterly) The Brink.

But I’ve always wanted something closer.

Then – one night about 5 years ago – my good friend Rob & I went into a pub opposite his then home. And I threw a few darts. The barmaid thought I was quite good and asked if I’d like to join their team.

I was elated. Could this be what I’d been looking for for all those years?

So, I went along for most of a season, closing my taste buds to the shit beer (Holts or Cross Bay – both kept badly) and my ears to some of the more unsavoury conversation, gently making others aware that that wasn’t the way I thought. I was the best player, I felt valued. I overlooked the negative and blocked it out.

Then, one evening after a match, I was asked if I’d like to stay behind and have a beer with the staff and landlord after closing. And my eyes were opened. 

What followed was the most vile stream of racist language and general prejudice that I had ever heard. It seemed that the simple fact that I was there, in that pub, meant that I was “one of them” and therefore must have shared their opinions and way of thinking.

I didn’t confront. I chose caution and made my excuses and left. Confrontation comes with risks that I simply wasn’t prepared to take. I know that all too well. Which is why I didn’t criticise the choice of Mark in his initial response to events posted in this – unlike some.

So I left the pub. And never went back. Even now, I childishly refer to that pub as “The Hood & Burning Cross”.

And the very next week, I posted my first thoughts about beer with this stream of drivel. Which I’m still embarrassed about. But it was a start. And we all have to start somewhere.

I don’t drink in the town in which I live. Even though I’ve lived here 26 1/2 years now and raised 3 kids here. Socially, I don’t belong here (I can hear the strains of “Creep” as I type). Nor do I drink in Bolton. There are a few decent places, (Ukrainian Club, Hen & Chickens, Great Ale) but there is a sense of threat whenever I’m in the centre of the town of an evening.

I chose (and still do) to drink – with any regularity – in Manchester.

I struggle with Sexism. Racism. Prejudice of any kind. Even my own pre-judgement of other pubs in my own area. I need to feel at ease. Amongst like minded spirits.

I inhabit a bubble. Both socially and politically. Which is why I find myself occasionally shocked by events both politically (blah blah blah Brexit, blah blah blah Trump….) and socially like those things that Mark deals with above.

There is no excuse for racism. There is no excuse for gender or any other form of sexual prejudice. Full stop.

Living and socialising in those bubbles – and the Manchester Beer “scene” is a bubble – insulates me from all of the shit that I can’t abide and – currently – handle. I’ll carry on thanks.

BeersFarnworth doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?

And as for a local? I’ll do without now, thank you.

“My contribution….to urban blues”

13 comments on ““Where Everybody Knows Your Name” – No Thanks.  

  1. That’s both a lovely piece (SWOON never ages) and a reminder that just of the bubble we often live in, rarely or never encountering the attitudes you encountered back then. Bit surprised by sense of threat in Bolton, as often stay in River St Travelodge. Proves your point about bubbles I suppose.

    • Indeed. Possibly unfair on Bolton, but last couple of times I’ve drunk in the pubs was on weekend evenings when the club crowds are just starting to sway. I keep my eyes down and avoid contact. I have a professional instinct for trouble and have learned to avoid.

    • And you’re right. SWOON never ages (had to download recently as I only have on vinyl)

      And re Bolton : I’m a massive advocate of the Bolton CAMRA fest. My personal favourite CAMRA fest. Ordinary hall venue, but great beer. The Ukrainian Club next door is a cracking place.

      • Loved the Ukainian. I suspect Bolton suffers, if that’s the word, from having all the late-night trade in such a concentrated area compared to Manc.

  2. A thought provoking piece as always J.

    However, I’m absolutely 110% sure that the city centre venues you refer to are not free of wrong-headed, backwards, xenophobia – you just haven’t heard any there yet. The best way to avoid dickheads altogether is to 1) not drink OR 2) drink at home. Our broken society is the problem, pubs are only a reflection of that through a drunken prism.

    • Maybe Bren. But I’ve been in several of these venues for hours at a time. I would have thought I’d have picked up on something by now.

      What I have noticed is an increasingly young and diverse clientele and with that comes a more inclusive and open minded attitude.

      Naive of me maybe.

      Not that I’m saying that age is the issue. Something resoundingly nailed by Martyn Cornell in a comment to Mark’s piece

  3. It is important in a democratic society that people are tolerant of those who hold differing views and, while they may not agree with them, understand why they think that way. Is there no space in your bubble of tolerance for the 17 million plus people (including me) who voted for Brexit?

    • Let me deal with this in 2 parts.

      Firstly, I have no particular issue with “different views” as you put it, but I do have a problem with racist hatred and bigotry. Things that I do not tolerate and should not be tolerated in a civilised society. That was the main issue that I referred to. Post EU membership ballot (I detest contractions like “brexit”), there had undeniably been an enabling of this kind of vile behaviour.

      Secondly, is there space in my ” bubble of tolerance”? Yes. I know many people who voted to leave. I neither deny them or have cut them out. Many are family. And it’s strange, that when we talk politics – which is fortunately rare – they are the first to raise their voices.

  4. Interesting post, reflecting a hard truth: if the pub is meant to be relaxing and fun, unless you’re one of those people who enjoys arguing/scrapping as a recreational activity, then of *course* you want to be surrounded by like-minded people, i.e. ‘in a bubble’. And if not like-minded in terms of politics then at least like-minded in terms of the tone in which they express those views, and how loudly.

    • It was a shock at the time, given that I think I have a decent functioning radar for such stuff.

      And given how it *pushed* me into blogging and Manchester by default, it has ended up providing me with numerous friends and associates that I otherwise would never have met and above helped me through some heartache with their generosity of spirit and kindness.

  5. Pingback: Hopinions 18 “Revitalisation” | Beer O'Clock Show

  6. Central Bolton in the evening is pretty dodgy, I tend to only drink there while shopping on Saturdays at the place in the Market. Oddly the best place to drink in Bolton (Bunburys) has been given a limited license due to the council being scared of craft beer violence.

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