16/09/2016

Things you don't see in pubs any more



Pies on plastic shelves

Pub food never used to be associated with good food and generally people did not even entertain the idea of having a meal at the pub. However there was food- of a kind- if you were peckish. Nobody expected a menu because essentially there was one option and that was a pie. These were those pies with very thick pastry which of course makes them look voluminous but doesn’t guarantee the amount of meat inside. The filling itself would be mincemeat and assorted hard to chew bits. People never really dwelt on what they were. These pies could be warmed up in a microwave oven but the real issue was- just how long had they been there? Traditionally they sat on one of three shelves in a plastic unit somewhere on the bar. This wasn’t refrigerated so depending on the temperature you might not even need to have your pie warmed up! You’d go in one week after another and this selection of pies would be sat there and you never knew whether they were the same ones from last week. Or indeed last month. You could opt for a cold pork pie of similar dimensions; you’ll notice the absence of the word `enjoy` there. Nowadays pubs offer properly cooked food of endless variety but perhaps it would be nice if they could have a pie on a shelf display. The pies would of course be plastic – come to think of it, weren’t they always? 



Elaborate Beermats

All pubs used to have cardboard mats on which you were supposed to sit your drink and this was an unspoken rule. It was considered a social faux pas to pub your glass directly on the table leaving a mark. These mats became the cause of much interest. Some people collected them. Companies saw them as a useful advertising platform so they would often sport drinks related products. In Liverpool one company released a series of mats which invented characters based on local pub names so you would have sketches of the likes of Penny Lane, Pierre Head and so on. Today beermats only tend to be seen in those old traditional real ale sort of places while the big chains have abandoned them altogether in favour of a flurry of menus.


Sticky Carpets

In the days before wooden flooring everywhere except the pavement was carpeted and pubs were considerably busier than they now are so many customers had to make do with standing leading to drinks inevitably spilling over. In those dark times the idea of cleaning carpets was anathema to landlords (and mops had presumably not been invented yet) meaning that each day’s spillage remained where it fell soaking nicely into the carpet. This yeasty brew eventually evolved into a sticky goo that would separate the unwary from their footwear if they stood without moving for too long.



Afternoon closing

In a development that would surely have appealed to previous generations of drinkers you can now stay in the pub all day. Most open at 7am for breakfast and remain open till midnight or beyond. The menus are so vast it would be easy to have three completely different meals. Yet once upon a time pubs shut in the afternoon. For two hours! Why? Nobody knows. So what happened was that at about 2.45 the bell would be rung and everyone would have to drink up before 3pm. The staff had to go through the rigmarole of closing up, putting everything away and locking up only to reopen at 5pm. Some regulars used to queue outside waiting for the doors to be released once more.


Five deep at the bar

This now only happens on New Year’s Eve or Christmas but big queues at the bar were once a daily feature of busy pubs. About as far as it could go was `five deep` before there was no space left. This means there were four lines of people ahead of you waiting to be served - and usually one elderly bar staff person to do it. Now there were supposedly two skills that bar people learned - to remember long lists of different drinks and also the order in which people should be served. Inevitably the latter was soon abandoned in favour a free for all won by the tallest and loudest people. Being Britain however much you were overlooked people would just mutter to each other or themselves because should a fight of any sort break out, everyone would lose their place!


Jukeboxes / Video Jukeboxes

Most pubs used to have jukeboxes and it was these that provided the soundtrack to the evening. You’d put your coins in and search a range of different music to select the songs you wanted to hear – and two weeks later they might come on! Due to their popularity there was no guarantee that if you chose a song on a Thursday that it would actually play that day. In the 1980s with rise of music videos, the plain jukebox was replaced by the video jukebox. Not only was this more expensive but it had a habit of silencing people as everyone gawped at the screen instead of talking to each other. And every single video had slow motion breaking glass and a dove. 


Collections
Many pubs used to be the location of esoteric collections sat on very high shelves around the bar and beyond. These could be specialist beans tankards, model cars, animal skulls, swords, assorted antique crockery or pretty much anything. People would admire and ask about them as well as speculating just how these items got up there. Was it an army of well-trained monkeys? It was probably someone using a ladder actually.


“None of those continental lagers….”

There are actually some pubs that now do not serve any bitter at all which is a complete reverse of pubs of yore. In them days bitter and variants of was very much the order of the day. There might be some lager but it was standard stuff. The very idea you might order a bottle of blond Belgian lager made in a microbrewery and sprinkled with moon dust or something was out of the window. If ever a hopeful punter requested such a brew the landlord would inevitably shake their head and declare “We don’t have none of them lagers the continentals drink.”


Smoke

Until within the last decade smoking was still allowed in pubs which created a thick cloud that would never truly leave as pubs were never renowned for ventilation. Even non-smokers would go home smelling heavily of smoke. In the run up to the ban smoking was restricted to a particular area of the venue though this proved impractical as smoke did not know not to waft across the line.  Many pubs  also tried to keep their customers –and probably those pies- warm by way of a real log fire crackling away in a vintage grate and probably adding to the low air quality already depleted by cigarette smoke.


Stag bars

A real throwback to the days when women rarely went to pubs unless taken there by a Man. Stag bars are where only Men were allowed in. Obviously it was thought that their intellect was so towering that women would feel over-awed by it and anyway shouldn’t they be at home with the mangle while their husbands spent all the shopping money on Double Diamond just because it worked wonders?


The seafood bloke

At around 10pm each night, someone would pop in in case we wanted to avoid the pies and instead try some delicious prawns or other seafood. He’d bring his wares in a wicker basket and offer them round for a small charge. Perhaps the reason why they no longer call was the growing realisation that seafood is one of the main causes of food poisoning. Especially seafood trailed around pubs all night in a basket.


The “anyone want a ....  ?” bloke

There were often characters who would breeze into a pub selling something that was probably found or to use the technical term stolen. These people had a wide variety of items of clothing, footwear or more unusually flags. They’d only take cash of course.  

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