pubs

in t’ George by Geoff Hattersley

cedars pubThe 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.

screen time kidsBut 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….

2006 Aldeburgh Poetry FestivaslThe 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
Mad cow!

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

*

Don’s Watter

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

*

Cockroach’s Lament

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?

 

Friday Night Kings Head by Julia Webb

glasgow menIn the late 1940s, my father and his friend (both aged 14) were sitting in a pub in Glasgow. Two middle-aged drunk men were sat at the bar; they were well known local gang leaders from the notorious thirties. One of the men turned to other: “I dare you to stick this glass in my face,” he said in a fading act of bravado. “No, I dare you to stick it in my face,” replied his sparring partner. So the first man did. Blood burst from his face and the stools went over. But instead of going at each other, they left together to seek out the nearest hospital (Try reading No Mean City for more on Glasgow in the 30s).

Pubs used to be (still are?) notorious for churning out drink-fuelled violence, which often took place in queues – a queue at the chip shop or taxi rank with a ‘you pushing in mate’, or ‘you looking at my missus’, etc. But pubs have long been the social hub for the working classes that didn’t just involve fighting or getting so pissed you start dancing with a table. As I have written before, when featuring Daniel Sluman’s poem Barmaid, my friend married the barmaid in our local and many of my lifelong friendships were forged there. The pub was divided into three parts – the bar, the smoke, and lounge. The bar was where all the older men went after work, and where they would take their girlfriends or wives at the weekend. The lounge was for families. Then there was the smoke, where at one end the oldies gathered (we called it the death end), then the other end where we were – a panoptican of faces spread round the pool table. There were very few women. In fact there wasn’t even a women’s toilet for many of the first years I went. They would have to go round to the smoke or lounge; this meant going outside, which in the wet cold winters was not an attractive option.

Sadly, pubs are in decline. I don’t really put it down to the smoking ban, it was more a result in the rise in property prices, the financial crash in 2008 resulting in the heavy debt of the pubcos who sold the pubs on. Ironically, they are often turned into residential dwellings, with only 10% remaining as pubs. At the current rate of closure (around 30 a week), there will be no more pubs by the middle of the century.

julia authorBut let’s forget about the pubs’ demise for now and engage in a bit of nostalgia with Julia Webb’s funny and riotous poem, Friday Night King’s Head. This is a pub you would love to go to, if only to be a fly on the wall. “Some girl is pulling another girl’s hair and screaming, and some other girls are in the loo skinning up, and Andy is trying to force his way into the Ladies with his watery eyes, wet lips and flat cap.” Pubs are more than their insides, especially in the summer, when people spill out into the car park, the garden or the wall. “there’s a row going on outside, a Cortina is revving its engine, and someone is laughing, it sounds like a tree full of monkeys, but when you go outside it’s just the usual crowd sitting on the wall around the tree smoking.” (more…)

Helen Mort – last orders for chesterfield

Helen Mort 1Today’s poem is ‘last orders for chesterfield’ and sees the author moving invisible through a town as it crosses night with day (night-shift workers going home). The imagery conveys Spring set in decay (a rusty bicycle, russet skeletons of cars) with the writer unseen by locals (the waiting drivers don’t look up or step aside to let me pass), her history erased (the churchyard wall is clean of my dark signature), and yet in some small way, the spirit of her remains (he might pause to wonder what it is that seems to stir). This is a dark and sad poem (when I reach my parents’ house it will be overgrown with waist high-nettles) but it is not maudlin nor does it demonise the characters it portrays, besides of course the taxi driver who quickly turns from hero to villain (the lass he rescued, ‘the slapper was locked out’)

Helen began her poetic writing as a ghost in a pub; her first pamphlet, ‘a pint for the ghost’ is a memoir of a time now lost but still resonates in the mind. It is a set of poems that Helen has performed as a sequence, a running monologue of different characters, in ‘worked-out mines, smoky pubs, and deserted highways’. (more…)