The pub I spent much of my twenties in during the 1980s, is no longer. Turned into an Indian bar and restaurant. I’m not too down about it. After all that’s where people tend to end up after the pub anyway, so why not make it the pub. Better than some overpriced hipster bar where you can drink five pound craft ales that taste like toffee or coffee, and eat food called burnt ends. It is life’s transitions which challenge us – the old with the new. Our pub was separated into three age-based parts; ‘the bar’, where the family men went after work, then the ‘smoke bar’, where us teen/twenty something dole heads, sat at one end (with a pool table), and the ‘death end’, where the coffin dodgers sat and smoked their roll ups.
But I fear that at a time when my generation (us middle-aged types) are/were getting closer in understanding of our children, it is wars between the ages which is given as the reason in many spheres of change. The baby boom generation denying Gen XYZ/millennials their right to buy their homes (when in fact the problem was in not keeping and building new council housing); Brexit, where the older generation voted to leave and the younger to remain; then there are views on sex and gender, which on the face of it have an age-based divide. The demise of places, like pubs and social clubs where the ages were at least in the same space, adds to this notion that age is a key factor in the social and political issues of today. Notice I haven’t mentioned the age war over ‘screen time’, as this is a raw subject for any parent, mainly because they are losing the battle, and thus if you can’t beat them….
The pub at the bottom of the road where I lived, is still there, and it is still an important social outlet for my parents, who have been going there for some fifty years. I am reminded of this by Geoff Hattersley’s sequence of vernacular poems, ‘in t’ George’, in particular the importance of having a place to moan about the world (which is probably why pubs were invented). ‘Tha knows what shi reckons meks a good breakfast?/ A bleedin’ apple/ That’s all, nowt else, just a bleedin’ apple/ A bleedin’ apple on a bleedin’ little plate’. Then of course, a place for telling past stories, ‘Ah remember when ah wa’ a young ‘un/ Ah biked it to ‘arrogate/ All t’ way, non-stop, in t’ bloody sun/ Abart eleven ah wa’ ‘. Then it’s back to complaining, in this case lamenting the bygone days of smoking resin, and the dangers of today’s skunk. ‘When ar wa’ a young ‘un/ Resin wa’ better ‘n’ grass/ Tha on’y smoouked grass/ If tha cun’t get nowt else’. Today’s ‘young ‘uns’ are drinking less alcohol, which is a good thing. But the demise of pubs, for whatever reason, will also see the demise of places where the personal histories and political opinions of working class people are shared. Somehow, I don’t think coffee shops or social media platforms will replace that type of interaction.
Geoff Hattersley has been performing his poetry in public since 1983 and still hasn’t kicked the habit. His poems have been widely published and have been used as part of syllabuses in schools, universities, and with The Open University. He edited The Wide Skirt Press from 1986 until 1998, publishing 30 issues of the magazine and 24 books and pamphlets. He is currently Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at York St John University, and his interviews with poets such as Ian McMillan and Gillian Allnutt continue to appear as podcasts on the Writers Aloud section of the RLF’s website.
In t’ George
Stan and His Lass
Ah’ve lost mi bastard coyt ageeun
Ah’m allus loyzin’ it
In pubs, tha knows, pissed up
Tek it off ‘n’ forget
Ar lass reckons ah’m mental like
That’s a laugh comin’ from ‘er
Some o’ t’ stunts shiz pulled o’er t’ years
That time shi come in t’ pub
‘n’ put mi Sunday dinner o’er t’ top o’ mi ‘eeud!
The’ we’ mashed taties darn t’ back o’ mi collar
The’ we’ carrots ‘n’ sprouts ‘n’ all soorts
Tha knows what shi reckons meks a good breakfast?
A bleedin’ apple
That’s all, nowt else, just a bleedin’ apple
A bleedin’ apple on a bleedin’ little plate
Ah remember when ah wa’ a young ‘un
Ah biked it to ‘arrogate
All t’ way, non-stop, in t’ bloody sun
Abart eleven ah wa’
Ah were deein’ o’ thust
Ah knocked on a dooer
‘n’ asked for a drink o’ watter
Did ah gerra drink? Did ah ‘eck
Ah’ll tell thee summat
Tha’d ‘ave ter knock
On a lorra bloody dooers in Wombwell
Afore tha farnd someb’dy
That wun’t gi’ a kid
A drink o’ watter
Tha’d ‘ave ter knock
On a lorra bloody dooers all reyt
Sam’s Absence from the Horse Shoe Explained
Ah remember walkin’ art o’ t’ ‘oss shoe
This is abart thirty years sin’
Ring Mi Bell wa’ on t’ juke box
Remember that shite?
Suddenly ah guh flyin’
Ah’m darn on t’ floor ‘n’ ah look up
There’s these three lasses in jeans ‘n’ leather
Stood sneerin’ darn at mi
Ah tell thee, ah gorrup ‘n’ walked art
‘n’ ah nivver went back ageeun
Ah thought, well, that’s enough fer me
If even t’ lasses’re lookin’ fer a feyt nar
It shook mi up a bit ah’ll tell thi
It’s not like the’ w’re lads
Wunt raise an eyebrow these days would it?
‘n’ they’d put t’ boot in ‘n’ all
When ar wa’ a young ‘un
Resin wa’ better ‘n’ grass
Tha on’y smoouked grass
If tha cun’t get nowt else
Tha can’t even buy resin ner moor
Not that’s any good any rooud
‘n’ that skunk stuff, ah dun’t know
Ah can’t be doin’ wi’ it
Ah’d love a good smoke o’ resin though
Afghan black, summat like that
Like it used ter bi, ah meeun, back in t’ days
Tha cun’t g’ wrong wi’ that stuff
Thi mind went fuckin’ ivvrywheeur
It wa’ like all ‘n a sudden tha understood stuff
This skunk’s nowt like that
Just meks thi even moor mental than tha are already
Fat Al Dismisses Pig Parker’s Literary Ambitions Out of Hand
Iz started writin’ stuff tha knows
‘ad a couple o’ stories in this magazeeun
‘e showed it mi, di’n’t look like much ter me
But tha’d a thought ‘e’d won t’ Nobel prize ‘r summat
Nar, like, ‘e’s all lardy da
Dun’t even talk ter nob’dy ner moor
Thinks ‘e’s gunner bi a gret writer
Ah’m not bleedin’ jokin’
Ah tell thi, me ‘n’ thee, wiv got moor chance
O’ bein’ t’ next men on mooin
Gret writer f’ fuck’s sake!
Livin’ in a world o’ ‘is ooun
Can tha imagine anybody comin’ back from t’ shop
Carrying a book written by yon?
Ah allus thought ‘e wa’ a bit ‘n a weirdo
Can tha call ‘em that these days? Weirdos?