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Wednesday, 11 April 2012

We're not all hooligans!

The Guest House
Drunken misbehaviour banned
A couple of weeks ago, a college friend I’ve known since the late 1970s came to stay for a weekend. While discussing what we were going to do on the Saturday evening, I suggested going into Southport town centre for a pub crawl.  Having heard all the horror stories about what happens in town centres at weekends, she said she hadn’t done such a thing for years. In my last job, I used to get a similar reaction from colleagues if I happened to mention going into town at the weekend: “I wouldn’t dare!” they’d say, as though I had proposed a night on the tiles in Baghdad. Anyway, I told my friend she’d be all right – she’d be with me. And no, she didn’t say, “That’s what I was worried about”.

We had dinner in Wetherspoons - I know how to treat a girl - and then wandered into a variety of drinking haunts, including two more pubs and two hotel bars down Lord Street, Southport’s main street, and ended up in my local, the Guest House.  She agreed that she’d seen no fights, no vomiting, no vandalism, no girls being assaulted, and actually not heard a great deal of noise, even though there were quite a few people around.  We both had a great night out doing something the media usually suggests would be unpleasant, if not downright foolhardy.

And yet, undoubtedly there is trouble in our town centres, as we hear from the police and casualty units. Regrettably, all drinkers are tarred with the same brush, even though only a tiny minority of all the drinkers out on any given night causes trouble. In all the pubs, bars, hotels, restaurants, social clubs, bingo halls and nightclubs, there must a thousand well-behaved drinkers for every scumbag who creates problems.

I think the key to this is timing.  In pub time, which is up to around 11.00 p.m., perhaps 11.30 p.m. or midnight at weekends, you will rarely see any problems.  It’s so long since I’ve seen any trouble in a pub, and I do get around quite a few, that I can’t actually remember when it happened.

From around midnight, club time takes over. If I’m out at such times, which is less frequent nowadays, there is more noise, you will hear people shouting in high spirits, or sometimes screaming at each other, and you may see the occasional punch up. It’s usually at this time that the nasty assaults that appear in our local papers tend to happen, and this is the time the awful Theresa May, Home Secretary, was referring to recently when she spoke of the “mayhem” (yes, she used that word) on our streets every weekend. However, she predictably made no distinction between the well-behaved majority and the out-of-control minority, or between the vastly differing levels of trouble relating to different types of drinking establishments.

This relentless propaganda, for that is all it is, reinforces the impression that many people have that our town centres at weekends are like the Wild West. The fact that this is a grossly simplified caricature doesn't matter if your aim is to fuel the lie that Britain is a country in which alcohol misuse (although they prefer the emotive word “abuse”) is spiralling out of control, necessitating ever more draconian measures to combat it. It’s also a good pretext for increasing taxes above inflation every year, even though our leaders know that alcohol consumption in Britain has been in slow decline for many years.

The drip feed of such misinformation is gradually influencing the attitudes of the general public, and those of us who care should do what we can to oppose it in letters to the local papers, in our local CAMRA magazines as I have recently, on our blogs and in any other available forum. CAMRA nationally would be better placed campaigning against such prejudices, rather than sucking up to the government by supporting minimum pricing for alcohol.

Unlike most politicians and journalists, who tend unthinkingly to swallow the propaganda-dressed-as-science of the anti-alcohol lobby without question, we drinkers do actually go out there and we know what it’s really like. Nobody’s saying there are no problems, but if we can get the message across that the peaceful majority is being punished for the bad behaviour of the minority, perhaps we’ll appeal to what’s left of the British sense of fair play. It’s either that or we just accept whatever lies are being thrown at us and live with the consequences.

7 comments:

  1. What was the perspective of the other drinkers of Southport? That you and your pal were the rowdy hooligans lowering the tone, I suspect.

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  2. I suggest you send a copy of this post to Ms May:)

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  3. Good post. I was out in Liverpool city centre on last Thursday (bank holiday the next day), drinking not far from Slater st / Seel st / Concert Sq and to be honest no sign of any trouble at all. Headed down Bold St for the last train and no bother to be seen.

    I hate the idea that 'going for a pint in town' should be something that needs precautions...

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  4. Ah, CL: your waggish rebellion against anything you judge to be received wisdom among beer bloggers is looking increasingly strained. To put it another way: you're losing your satirical edge.

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. Tyson: I might do that, slightly edited of course.

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