‘Pondering pubs’ written by Oliver Cross

I’M very pleased that Leeds City Council, despite being overburdened and scandalously underfunded, still manages to get the bottle banks regularly emptied. It’s part of what keeps us civilised.

Overflowing bottle banks would be a sure sign that  people who should be volunteering to help in the crisis or using their lockdown time to re-point their window boxes, learn Greek or otherwise make themselves useful are instead  bulk-buying alcohol.

This is only socially acceptable if the neighbours can’t see the empty bottles; if the empties were to be piled up on doorsteps or dumped next to overflowing bottle banks, the nation would be in disgrace.

I remember my mother, who structured much of her life round cold beer and dry sherry, telling me she was immensely relieved when, in the late 1980s, metal dustbins were replaced by plastic wheelie bins. The metal bins, when full of empty, clanking bottles, apparently made such a row as they were hauled to the front gate that the whole street tutted judgementally.

Which is another reason to support the safe reopening of pubs; not only do they, at their best, encourage intelligent debate and community interaction, they also get rid of the empty bottles for you, disappearing them round the back so you don’t have to face the consequences of your own intemperance.

As I write, it’s not very clear how pubs will get back to business, although it’s clear that things will never ever be the same again, for a while at least. My usual pub is the Chemic Tavern in Woodhouse, Leeds, and my usual drinking time is early evening, when a few regulars spread themselves around the bar and carry on agenda-less conversations about things not always considered crucial, such as whether John Noakes of Blue Peter is still alive (sadly no), forgotten comedy stooges, knitwear options or the advantages of carrots.

Since we can all hear each other and we tend to sprawl, there seems no need to move from our usual seats, and if  the two meter social distancing rule were to be reduced to one meter, we would all have to shuffle up closer, whether we like each other or not.

I think this needs a rethink, although don’t think customers ordering their drinks by smart phone apps, as recommended by some experts, would help. The Chemic early-doors lot, even if they could manage the tech, might find the concept of purposeful, planned drinking difficult to adjust to, and altogether too much like being at work at exactly the time you’re trying to forget about work.

Large, expensively-furnished, corporately-owned  pubs which concentrate on food rather than drink, and where you are ushered in silence to a table socially distanced from other tables, may be the future of the licensed trade.

But if they were to replace smaller, chattier, quirkier and often (as in the case of the Chemic) ever-surprisingly creative pubs, it would be to the nation’s loss.

Thank you once again Oliver, this brought a smile to my face as well as little sadness to what might be. Hopefully not though as a loss it would be for sure. Until next time…..