Tuesday 29 June 2010

Duo at the Bothy ~ Sarah Horn & James Cudworth

Sarah and James are young performers whose music is attracting wide attention, even though they are still in their teens. Although they only got together in June 2009 they have already performed at many festivals and numerous local clubs. They play their own mix of traditional and contemporary folk, along with acoustic music from other genres. Sarah plays violin and sings, while James sings and plays guitar, clarinet, harmonica, bass, drums, ukelele, stomp box, mandolin, saxophone and penny whistle. Here is a YouTube of them playing:

They are on at the Bothy this Sunday 4th July, replacing Nancy Kerr and James Fagan who had to cancel because Nancy is unwell. Sarah and James have stepped in at very short notice.

The Bothy is at the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS, which serves Thwaites real ale. It all begins at 8.00 pm.

Monday 28 June 2010

It's only words ...

The picture shows L'Homme
Politique (The Demagogue)
by Franz Marsereel, 1923.
Walking through town this morning after dropping my car off for its MOT, I saw a fellow wearing a T-shirt that stated: "DON'T ABUSE ALCOHOL just drink it". Quite funny, I thought, but then it got me thinking about the language associated with alcohol ~ the word 'abuse', in particular, which has been hijacked by anti-alcohol campaigners in the phrase 'alcohol abuse'.  The word 'abuse' is laden with negative associations: 'verbal abuse', 'domestic abuse' and, nastiest of all, 'child abuse' are phrases that accurate describe aggressive, violent or exploitative behaviour that has a victim, often incapable of self-defence. 'Alcohol abuse', as a phrase, doesn't work the same way: where is the victim? People who drink damaging amounts don't abuse the alcohol, which is after all designed to be drunk; the victim is their own health. In other words, self-inflicted injury rather than abuse.  The correct phrase should be 'alcohol misuse', but that doesn't have all the loaded, negative connotations of 'abuse' that the campaigners want.  

Does this matter? I think it does, as the choice of words sets up unconscious associations in the mind. To give a hypothetical example from industrial relations, during negotiations management might say: "We've listened carefully to your arguments, but have decided on balance to implement our original proposals". In the subsequent union circular, this may be reported as: "Although we presented many arguments against management's plans, they simply imposed them, refusing to budge an inch." In this case, both statements are factually correct, but the words on both sides have been chosen to give entirely different impressions. It's important that those of us who enjoy drinking should not accept our opponents' loaded vocabulary.

On the other hand, it must be said that we drinkers do seem to have our own vocabulary. In any CAMRA report of a beer festival, brewery trip or pub crawl, the drinkers will 'sample' the beers. Look at all the words for becoming inebriated; people rarely say "I'm drunk". They might say merry, tipsy, pissed, bladdered or any one of dozens, if not hundreds, of terms. CAMRA people will talk about 'sessions' (when they usually drink 'session beers'), which is just another way of saying drinking lots of ordinary strength beer all night in the pub. We often say, "I'm going for a pint" or "I could do with a drink." Just one, then?

Does this matter? Not really; such terms are just slang or euphemisms, sometimes used for comic effect, and rarely to deceive. They are certainly not used to try to influence a so-called public debate and change government policy. Loaded language has been the tool of propagandists throughout history, and the anti-alcohol campaigners have learned those lessons. It's entirely up to them how comfortable they feel using the tools favoured by the likes of Goebbels.

Saturday 26 June 2010

1st Waterloo Beer Festival

The first Waterloo Beer Festival takes place next weekend (1st to 3rd July) at Old Christ Church in Waterloo Road, L22 1RF, just a few minutes' walk from Waterloo Station. It will have more than 100 beers, plus ciders and perries.  Liverpool Organic Brewery is organising it in aid of Jospice, and there's a discount on the admission price for CAMRA members in the form of beer tokens. You'll find more details and directions on the festival website.

Opening times are: Thursday: 6.00 to 11.00 pm.  Friday and Saturday: 12.00 to 5.00pm and 6.00 to 11.00pm.

If you allow enough time before it opens, you can stroll down to the seafront to see Antony Gormley's sculpture Another Place, the famous statues on the beach.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Acoustic nights tomorrow

A reminder that Rich Simcock's acoustic music night, Place To Be, will take place tomorrow night in the function room upstairs in the Mount Pleasant in Manchester Road, Southport.  It's free and open to all, whether you want to perform or just watch. A PA is provided. The real ale is Tetley Bitter.

In Liverpool, it's another meeting of the Woody Guthrie Folk Club organised by Alun Parry in the Ship and Mitre, Dale Street in Liverpool, which is the Liverpool pub with the finest range of real ales and a few minutes' walk from Moorfields Station. The club meets in the art deco room upstairs.

From my point of view, it's a pity they clash.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Budget blues

There is a lot I could say about the budget, but not within the remit of this blog. As the BBC tersely put it, no change in duty on cigarettes alcohol or fuel this time round, and Labour's plan to increase the duty on cider by 10% above inflation will be scrapped from July. This was an increase that I really couldn't see the point of, especially from a Labour Party that claimed to be business friendly ~ cider makers and sellers are businesses too. 

This Budget simply means that no additional damage will be done to our struggling pub industry in the short term, at least not until next January when the 20% VAT rate comes into force: this will push up the combined taxation on a pint of beer to over a pound, and accelerate the rate of pub closures if no counter-balancing measures are taken. The raising in April 2011 of the threshold at which employers start to pay National Insurance may provide some marginal help for pubs as employers, but that's your lot as far as pubs are concerned. The Chancellor did say he would look at alcohol associated with binge drinking later in the year, but the gap between pub and supermarket prices is now so vast that if he decided to do anything about it, it would have to be so severe that I wonder whether he'd have the nerve. We'll see.

Sunday 20 June 2010

Falstaff reopens

The Falstaff in King Street is reopening after a short closure following the departure of Adrian Davies. Adrian was forced out by the pub company who saw that he had built up the trade from a very low starting point. The previous licensees had run the pub into the ground, despite it being a very successful operation when Gail Heyes (now at the Guest House) had left it a few years earlier. I don't know why Adrian, the licensee with the highest profile in Southport, was made to leave, but pub companies move in mysterious ways.

The new licensee is Mick Kershaw, who also runs the Ring O' Bells in Lathom and the Martin Inn in Burscough. This seems to be another example of the increasing trend for licensees to run more than one pub. The Falstaff reopens on Monday 21st (tomorrow) with an Elvis-themed night. I might pop in for a while to check what beers are on before moving on to the music session in the Guest House in Union Street.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Driving the limit down

Sir Peter North's review has now been published, recommending a cut in the drink-driving level from 80 to 50 mg. I've written on this previously.

All I can add is that there's nothing in these proposals to deal with the idiots who frankly don't care about any limit, who will continue to drive if banned, who killed a young woman whom I once knew and who nearly killed me twice when I was walking home from the pub one night. Two cars driven at high speeds at midnight in a residential area coming from opposite directions both nearly mowed me down within the space of 10 seconds as I crossed a side street.  Good job that, despite drinking all evening, I was alert enough to jump out of the way of each car in turn.

But lowering the limit is a quick, cheap fix, and like most quick fixes, it won't deal with the real problem, which is that, although drink driving is a very serious offence, the chances of being caught are very slim. As I said in my previous posting on this subject, we should enforce the current law far more rigorously and chase the real drunk drivers who will ignore any limit, rather than penalise the careful driver who conscientiously drinks within the present one. But enforcing the law in this way would be labour intensive and cost a lot of money ~ it's much easier and cheaper to make a law that sounds tough but at best simply nibbles at the edges of the problem.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Isambarde at the Bothy

Isambarde, a young group consisting of Chris Green (vocals, guitar), Jude Rees (oboe, vocals) and Emily Sanders (vocals, fiddle), is playing at the Bothy Folk Club this Sunday. I have seen this group before several times and can thoroughly recommend them, but don't just take my word for it; here's what Vin Garbutt had to say: "Isambarde are a really good young band. They’re good to listen to, good to look at and it’s very obvious that they enjoy performing.”

Here is an example of what Isambarde sounds like.  

It's happening at the Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport on Sunday at 8.00 p.m. Thwaites real ale.

Also this week in Southport is the bi-monthly singaround at the Mason's in Anchor Street, which is just behind the main post office on Lord Street. That's tomorrow (Wednesday) night from around 8.30 p.m. Robinson's beers.

Take a minute to save the pub

It's getting towards the time for the coalition's government's first budget. Recent reports have suggested that not only will George Osborne put up VAT, which would increase the price of a pint by 6p and cost 7,000 jobs, but he’s also planning an additional tax rise on beer as well!  Pubs and related industries employ more than half a million people.

CAMRA, the Society of Independent Brewers and the British Beer and Pub Association, representing all parts of the industry, have come together for the first time to call for a beer tax freeze to help community pubs. Such an alliance is unusual, representing as it does brewers, pub companies and drinkers.

You can support this by clicking here to send an online postcard direct to the Chancellor to register your concern at these plans. With only a week to go, we need to act now to stop this beer tax double whammy.

Go on ~ it will only take a minute to help save our pubs.

Sunday 13 June 2010

Taxing statistics

I've just seen on an internet news site this headline: Public want unhealthy lifestyles tax to save NHS.  It went on to state that a study shows 35% of those surveyed support a tax hike on alcohol, cigarettes and unhealthy food. It's clear that our pernicious democratic system that sometimes gives political parties 100+ majorities in the Commons on less than 40% of the vote has tainted the researchers' views on what constitutes a majority. I suppose a headline that 65% don't want an unhealthy lifestyles tax is rather less dramatic, but such is the pernicious grip of anti-alcohol campaigners on media perceptions that this obvious fact has completely escaped them. I've got news for all those who want health taxes: we've already got them. The amount of tax and duty paid on alcohol and cigarettes is a very high percentage of the purchase price ~ another fact our media types failed to point out. 

A media "debate" on alcohol and smoking that misses out obvious facts, that is clearly skewed in one direction, and which regards 35% as everyone is no debate at all. It's more an example of "the big lie", so beloved of the Nazis, and the foundation of the dictatorship in Orwell's 1984. If this is overstating the case, it's not by much ~ the Daily Mail uses similar techniques all the time on a variety of issues.

I think the percentage in the picture is is higher now due to the beer tax escalator. I remember the Tories saying about the petrol tax escalator that idea of an escalator is that at some point you reach the top. But they were in opposition then of course.

Thursday 10 June 2010

Ale & Hearty at the Dog & Gun

The new issue of Ale & Hearty, the Southport and District CAMRA magazine, has just arrived from the printers. It's my first as editor, so I hope it's all right. I picked up my copy last night at the Branch committee meeting at the Dog and Gun in Aughton. The main article reports on the campaign to save the Becconsall  in Hesketh Bank, to which I have referred to in several previous postings. The beer blogger Tandleman, who in another guise is deputy organiser of the National Winter Ales Festival, has also written a characteristically punchy article. Ale and Hearty is available now free of charge in all good local pubs.

After the meeting, Mike who runs the pub had a chat with us about the possibility of his running a small beer festival next Spring. He would be limited to the Marston's range of guests, but as he's considering about 20 beers in a marquee, that would still give some scope for a reasonable choice. We chatted about cooling systems we'd used at our own beer festivals and serving beers by gravity to avoid the problems of trying to locate and borrow scores of handpumps, something he hadn't considered before. It's still only in the planning stage, but sounds an interesting venture.

The Dog and Gun had 5 real ales on, including Marstons Pedigree and Fever Pitch and a real mild. There is no keg or smoothflow ales in this pub at all, apart from the inevitable Guinness, although the mild sales are slipping and Mike fears he might have to remove it. It's a nice pub, well worth a visit, and is in Long Lane, about 8 minutes' walk from Aughton Park railway station.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Ad Nauseam

I've just read in the latest Private Eye that the celebrity photographer Rankin (whom I'd never heard of before) has agreed to direct an anti-binge drinking advert for the NHS Birmingham East and North primary care trust. Rankin's previous advertising work has included campaigns for Baileys Irish Cream and Jameson Irish Whiskey. Whatever next? McDonald's staff photographer doing some work for the Vegan Society?

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Truman's is back

I got this piece of information from Melissa Cole's blog. Old London brewery, Truman's, founded in 1666 and by the late 19th century the biggest brewery in the world, has been refounded by a couple of beer enthusiasts; there's a lot more information on their website. Truman's name was sullied for beer drinkers by its embracing of keg, a move which contributed to its decline and eventual closure by Grand Metropolitan in 1989.

I don't recall ever seeing Truman's in Merseyside; if it was sold around here, it would have been rarity. But the famous name at least is back. I don't know whether they have revived an old recipe, as has been tried with our local Higsons, or whether it's a new beer altogether, as was done with Cain's. What I find interesting is the fact that brewers like to revive the old familiar names from the past. Nostalgia, I suppose ~ and nothing wrong with that.

Friday 4 June 2010

New singaround at the Lion in Liverpool

A few weeks ago, I was having a pint in the Lion in Moorfields, Liverpool, when I saw Sean, whom I knew from the Mason's in Southport. He has run the Lion since the previous licensee left to run the Belvedere in Falkner Street. He asked about having a singaround in the Lion along the lines of the Mason's singarounds. I said I'd give it some thought, but as I couldn't see how I could get someone from Liverpool to organise it, I finally decided to do so myself. As it's only a 42 minute train ride from Southport and just across the road from Moorfields station, the journey isn't a problem.

The singaround will take place on the second Thursday of the month between around 8.00 and 11.00pm, and the first one is on the 8th July. It's free, very informal, there's no PA and if you want to perform just roll up. If you simply want to listen, that's fine as well. There's no restriction on the style of music, except it has to be acoustic.

The Lion is noted for its range of good real ales. The regulars are Deuchars IPA, JW Lees Bitter and Youngs bitter, with changing guest beers too. A fuller description of this unspoilt city pub is in my Dale Street pub crawl (it's pub number 6).

The second Thursday was chosen to avoid a clash with the Woody Guthrie Folk Club which meets around the corner in the Ship and Mitre on the last Thursday of the month.

The picture shows the Lion steam engine, built in 1837,
after which the pub was named.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Rearming the beer festival

Looking at ReARM's stats for the last week, I was surprised to see that the most viewed item was the page on the Southport beer festival (9th to 11th September - link on the left). Close behind were the posting about InBev offloading Bass (2nd) and the "Events" page (3rd - link on left also). As one of the main purposes of this blog is to provide information of what's going on, I'm pleased that the pages giving that information are in the top three. Below the top three are postings on various topics, mostly recent but some from quite a while ago; it's clear that some people like to go back to find what I've written in the past.

Why was I surprised at the beer festival being number one? Quite simple: the festival is more than 3 months away and I wouldn't have thought that many people would be planning so far ahead. Just shows how wrong you can be.

I designed the oval ReARM badge to look like a pump clip or beer mat ~ I'm not sure I succeeded, but I quite like it anyway!

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Free enterprise

In the North West, we're used to lads coming around the pubs offering various goods for sale: batteries, lighters, socks, shirts or similar, although there don't seem to be as many as there used to be. Some pubs ban them, but they're not persistent and just wander off if you say "no thanks". However, I do wonder where they get their supplies from. One character I used to know in Southport went several stages further in enterprise: he'd steal whatever you wanted from a shop for a price, as long as it was small enough to be concealed about his person. He had lined his jacket specially to hide the goods from the detectors at shop entrances. I remember some people getting good bottles of spirits cheaply that way, although I never availed myself of his services. The last I heard he was in prison.

Some years ago, I discovered there is North-South divide in such activities. I was in Bournemouth for a union conference and waiting for some friends in a pub, when I was asked by a young man with the familiar large bag: "Would you like to buy some venison?"

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Helping themselves

Tesco is quite successfully endorsing the alcohol campaigners' demands for minimum pricing of alcohol while at the same time maintaining its market share in cheap booze. Apparently some survey or other of Tesco customers showed that more than half believed that cheap alcohol was the cause of binge drinking. Faced with this devastatingly original insight, Terry Leahy, chief executive of Tesco, wrote an article in The Daily Telegraph that endorsed minimum pricing and included this call to arms: "I think it is right that Tesco takes action." And this action is? Er ... wait around until the Government legislates on minimum pricing and then implement the law. In other words: nothing. The rest of Tesco's "action" seems to consist solely of aggressive marketing of cheap booze for the World Cup (£16 for two boxes of beer, or just over 50p per can or bottle).

When, as seems likely, the government introduces minimum pricing for alcohol, the extra money will rattle into Tesco's tills, so they win whatever happens. A wonderfully profitable basis for Tesco's concerned moral stance.