One of the highlights of Chas’ library in the Hub was the collection of the The Strand, filled with much inadvertent hilarity in the small ads…here’s a selection, I’ll be posting some more another time…
The Doom, Gloom and Wailing Press do not like any good news. Yes – binge drinkers do infest High Streets in many towns. These sad souls do not have any interest in cask ales or traditional pubs, who would not want to serve them anyway.
‘There won’t be any pubs soon; they are all closing at the rate of 20 a week’ is the most common moan of the media misinformed. Yes, pubs are closing, but what you are not told is that many of them re-open under new ownership and refurbishment. The danger is if the license is not retained and they pass on to private development.
There is an ongoing battle against this sort of thing with the PUB is the HUB campaign and investment in community pubs. Also heritage and historic protection.
The cask ale revolution does not seem to interest the media, and the fact is that there are now 700 micro-breweries in action.
Great swathes of the oblivious public remain in ignorance and beer festivals up and down the land are not newsworthy. Who wants to report events where happy humans enjoy themselves in large numbers without falling over, fighting, being sick or causing any kind of trouble. How boring is that?
Cask ale drinkers can’t buy draught beer in supermarkets as they have no facilities or expertise for dispensing any such thing.
Gordon Brown waffles on about the essence of being English. We prefer the word British as this means we can still have a United Kingdom.
The answer to what binds us together is staring him in the face if he ever took the trouble to look at an Inn sign.
If he ever ventured inside a pub he would not only find answers, but also what real people thought about him and his policies. He could always scuttle off to the gents to avoid buying a drink for anybody. Once there he could gloat over all the tax raised through licensing laws.
Once upon a time politicians bribed voters with drinks in inns. They have also served as polling stations.
Why the Frothblower?
Well, once upon a time in a Yorkshire village pub I remember a stalwart lad gazing in admiration at the head on his beer. They like a lot of froth in Yorkshire and fit devices called sparklers on their hand pumps, consisting of a restraining screw which restricts the flow and builds up extra froth. In the South we are content with a few bubbles. I have no problem with either. It does not affect the taste.
‘Cor – you ain’t arf got a big ‘ead – Wotcher gonna do with that then? Use it to shave with?’ The sturdy lad in shirtsleeves made no reply. He just took a deep breath and blew. WHOOOOSH, the cockney smart arse was dripping in froth. Crestfallen he took the resulting laughter with aplomb and added to it by saying ‘There’s no answer to that’ and went back to sipping his whisky and water.
The splendid Pub Sign was discovered in Salisbury by my recruited friend Howard. I first met Howard at Cambridge. Not in an educational capacity but on a coach trip, when he joined forces and added camera power as I pubologised. He has remained a stalwart ever since and many of his fine shots are in our archives.
It is a known fact that Angels adore Pubs. They appear on Pub Signs and I know I have come across some disguised as bar staff.
Many Country Pubs have an affinity to the local church and churchyards are full of stone angels. When we see them weeping draped over tombstones I feel it is only fair to drink to the memories of the dear departed even if we have little idea of who they were.
Do you know where your nearest Angel is?
Arms, Heads & Legs
These appear on Pub signs everywhere. What is it all about? It goes back a long way to the days when everyone who thought they were Someone wanted a Coat of Arms. It did not stop there. Trades and Guilds also wanted them. Royalty and the Famous like their heads to be depicted too – it was a status symbol. Even if they were not particularly popular.
It seems early generations of British artists and craftsmen did not go in for landscapes or painting cherubs in churches – it was mostly meticulous designs of a Heraldic nature. With ornate lettering very much a form of graphic art.
So where do the legs come in? Animals of course, from the mythical and fearsome to the commonest countryside creatures. Where would Coats of Arms be if they did not include Dragons, Griffins, Unicorns, Bears, Lions, Bulls and down the scale to Hares, Hounds, Foxes, Otters, Birds, to Hedgehogs and even Grasshoppers. All creatures Great and Small.
Does this serve a purpose today? Absolutely. The Great ARMS, HEADS & LEGS Game. If your idea of car travel is motorways forget it. This is for highways, byeways, minor roads, lanes and twisty roads where Pub signs are much in evidence. It is an antidote against boredom and can be enjoyed by grown ups and children.
Left hand passengers take left side of road, Right hand the right side. You can only score from Pubs on your side. Quite simple. You score one point for every arm, head and leg you can. Some signs are non pictorial – So a Kings Head with no picture will still earn you one point, or a Whatsit Arms two points. And two points for any other non-illustrated sign.
So a King in full pose with arms, head and legs visible is five points. The fun comes when you get to a Coach & Horses. How quick can you count all the visible legs etc.? This gives drivers a chance to slow down for speed cameras.
I have in the past used this game for very successful fund raising for charity. You need a worthy cause, some stalwart volunteers, a mini bus and driver. First priority is Benefactors to donate prizes. If your cause is worthwhile you will find reputable firms can be very generous with donations if you approach them properly and include them as sponsors on the forms you will need to run off. State Charity and ‘Guess How Many ARMS, HEADS & LEGS we visit tonight (Date).’ Many prizes to be won etc. 10p a Go or whatever it is you wish to charge, with provision on form for name amount Telephone No. etc.
Select an area of good family pubs, especially a well advertised starting venue and go for it. You don’t know how many pubs you will reach in the time you have. If you find an apathy Pub move on swiftly, if you are doing well don’t be in any hurry to move. The assumption is that you will aim for a high number. Punters will over calculate. It really does no matter. Some customers will rush outside to look at the sign of the Pub they are in. It all adds to the fun. Properly organized it is far more rewarding than a sponsored walk.
British Pubs have always liked well rounded things.
It probably goes back to the times when it was more or less agreed that the earth was no longer flat or pear shaped, but round and The Globe became popular as a Pub name. This would give the impression that the Pub was a worldwise sort of place even if the landlord and most of his customers had hardly been beyond the village boundary. The situation was improved in towns and ports where globetrotters could return from far away places and find good audiences for their tales and experiences.
There is also the British capacity for inventing or participating in games involving balls, such as cricket, football, skittles, billiards, golf and tennis. Even egg shaped balls for Rugby. All of these have had strong Pub connections and still do.
The sign for a pawnbroker was three brass balls, and there are Pubs called the Golden Ball, and the Blue Ball as these were popular colours for almost anything.