I little while ago I mentioned a bit about my misspent youth.
Actually, I mentioned it over six years ago. Doesn't time fly when you're having fun?
Basically the gist of my reminiscences was that I drank quite a lot. Weekends had but one function and that was to down the pints. Great craic.
I remember [most of] those weekends well, and they all had one thing in common – the packed pubs. The order of the day was to start drinking early or you had fuck all chance of getting a seat let alone a table and a few chairs where a group could sit. If you were a regular then ordering a round was easy. You just waited to catch the barman's eye and that was that. If you weren't a regular you had to fight your way to the bar and then wait patiently while the barman served everyone else but you.
I mentioned that I was in a pub last Friday. I mentioned it wasn't my regular, which is small and friendly and shunned by a lot of the village. This pub is more your modern Irish pub with televisions everywhere, piped music, no smoking, dark and full of chrome and glass.
We arrived there around nine. It's a big place and was full of empty seats. I would say there were around ten people at the most. We went out the back where they generously provide very uncomfortable steel chairs for those of us who like a pipe with our pint.
At intervals, I went back into the pub for an order or a piss. Two people! Not the same two people [they must take shifts?] but from around ten 'til midnight there was never more than two people in the entire vast lounge. And this was a Friday night?
I went back the next evening to see if my pipe had turned up [it hadn’t] and once again the place was almost empty – no more than ten at the most and the staff were just hanging around, picking their fingernails and staring at the silent flickering television screens. And this was now Saturday night? The traditional night for a pint?
Pints haven't increased that much since the seventies, relatively speaking. They still cost an arm and a leg so there's nothing new there. Some will blame cheap drink from the supermarkets, but unless you like gnat's piss beer the prices aren't that hectically cheap, and anyway drinking at home isn't for those who like to socialise. Others will say it's the clamp down on drink driving. Possibly that would deter some but not an entire pubfull? Still more will blame the recession, but that's a load of bollox. The decline started before the peak of the boom years.
It's strange though how the massive decline in pubs started at a particular time? It started in early 2004, long before the crash of '08.