R.I.P – My local boozer. My escape, my sanctuary, my office. Where I could be a man…

Last Monday was a grim day in the Life of this Housedad. It was the day my local pub shut its doors for three weeks for a refurbishment. 

Without question, it needed a lick of paint and new chairs that didn’t snag your trousers when you got up to the bar. But that was all. Everything else about it was perfect.

It has been my local for 20 years and I have no-doubt poured thousands into its tills.

It served my favourite Doombar bitter. It was the place I escaped to most evenings when my wife got home from work. It was where I wrote at least fifty per cent of these 400-plus posts.

It was where everyone knew my name but left me alone if I didn’t want company. It was where I made new friends for when I did want company.

And at weekends, it was where I bonded with fellow males over football on its three satellite TVs.

For the most part, it was a busy, bustling place: a magnet for locals from every striata. My pub mates are postmen, couriers, builders, teachers, media workers and much more.

I’ve had chats with Saville Row tailors, consultant surgeons, mathematicians, sportsmen and actors.

I stood at the bar, pontificating and piss-taking, engaging and cajoling, listening and learning.

But for a significant part, I kept myself to myself, content in my own company, relieved to be away from the melee of the demands of family life for an hour or so. Delighted to be in the company of other adults after relentless days of housebound isolation and my children’s needs.

I adore my kids, but I need to be away from them to appreciate what I’ve got.

That’s what my local gave me: escape; sanity. It was where I could be me, the man, rather than me, the housedad who was made redundant and swapped roles with his wife two years ago.

It was where my out-of-town friends came to meet me because they knew it was difficult for me to get anywhere else at a reasonable hour because my wife works so late, but also because, like me, they regarded it as the best neighbourhood boozer they’d ever been to.

But this week, I learned that all of that has gone, never to return.

The pub’s owners – a band of hedge fund managers who decided they’d like to be in the hospitality game – have decided that the pub isn’t making enough money; isn’t as fashionable as the other pubs in the area; isn’t family-enough-friendly.

They want to turn it into a gastro-pub.

Aaargh! Shoot me now.

There will be ‘sharing plates’ (including atrocities such as octopus stew) in a sit-down only room i.e. no waffling at the bar. They have already got rid of the Doombar and will replace it with more fashionable aka more expensive, drinks.

They’re ditching the tellies, and with it the football – a shocking decision, as only the day and night before, my local pals and I had spent a couple of hundred pounds of our hard-earned cash on beer and Sambuccas as we comiserated each other over Manchester United’s failure to – or more like Manchester City’s achievement in – lifting the Premier League title.

It short, it doesn’t want men like me, who enjoy their own and other men’s company, who want some time away from their kids, and who most certainly don’t want to spend their time with other people’s children – especially strangers’.

They want families and groups of trendy friends: the types who wear hats, skinny jeans and affected thick-framed glasses.

‘This is a disaster,’ said my friend Rob – a guy I got to know, and only know, through that pub. ‘What are we going to do?’

And so today – Saturday afternoon – I set off on a reconnaissance mission to find another bolt hole.

I’d done my bit with the kids. In the morning, I’d made my wife breakfast in bed, then emptied the dishwasher, then took my youngest to a classmate’s party, then took my other boy to the local park, then took them both for a trek for a Happy Meal, then prepped their teas, then pre-cooked chips for tonight’s dinner with my wife, and then nodded to my wife that it was Time. Time To Go. Time For Me Time.

I know this is selfish. I know there are many mums amongst you for whom the concept of Me Time is a far-off fantasy, and my wife is one of those, too.

But I’m lucky: she likes me being out of the house, so she can do the things with her children that she misses doing during the week, because she does a 10-hour day. And I’m very grateful for that freedom.

And so I was determined to find that freedom, somewhere, anywhere. A substitute for the boozer I have loved for nearly half of my life.

Did I find it?

Well, as I write, a woman is sitting next to me with a shrill American accent as she nurses what looks like a six-month-old baby.

The first pub I popped my head into was jam-packed with groups of 20-something friends – PR and ad-types – competing with hysterical laughter at lame nothingness.

Nothing wrong with friends getting together – I used to be like that – but I’m my father’s son now, and guess always have been. I like men. I like to talk about beer and football and fuck all. Most of the pub men I know don’t even know I have kids, because I never talk about them. That’s why I go to the pub.

The second pub was like a creche meets an old people’s home.

The third, a carbon copy of the first.

What am I to do? Give up drinking? Become even more of a reluctant housedad than I already am?

Or wean myself onto octopus stew!






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6 Responses to R.I.P – My local boozer. My escape, my sanctuary, my office. Where I could be a man…

  1. Jude.x

    Keep looking Keith. The pub is out there somewhere. (I know of one in Wood Green, but who wants to stumble home on the tube!! lol) I agree totally with you. I don’t understand why anyone would want to take their kids to a pub either!!! A pub should be just as you describe – although women should occasionally be allowed in too, you know! :-)
    Good Luck with your search. Jude.x

  2. Ohh no, this sounds like a nightmare for you. I love the way you described your beloved pub. I am lucky as well to have a fab hubbie who is happy for me to go off out with my friends or on my own. It makes the world of difference. I hope your search is fruitful. Mich x

  3. It’s just so wrong! I hate it when they do this to proper pubs. On the beach front we used to have a derelict Victorian swimming pool which was converted beautifully into a pub. A real community pub with a Cheers-style bar in the middle. Not gastro-pub at all just adored by all. Someone bought it and turned it into a line-dancing club. It’s now flats :-(

    Hope you find somewhere soon.

  4. Ali

    Oh no, not good for you guys!!! These sort of pubs have heart and community, I always wanted to find such a pub you describe that girls (yeah she kids herself!) are perfectly comfortable too but then that wouldn’t quite be the same for the blokes sorry!!!

    Gastro pubs do give me a bit of a cold shudder but then I am liking the sound of the Octopus stew too!!!

    Hope you find your bolt hole or get to like the Octopus stew 😉

  5. At least you had a pub. You should try finding a decent local up here in Shetland! We’ve one proper pub, a Green King one no less, but it’s more in the middle of nowhere than most things up here so you’ve either got a designated driver or all the fun of the taxi ride home.

    In town, none of the pubs have proper cellars so the only beer you can get is either mass-manufactured crap or bottled. The local brewery stopped putting their barrels into these places because people complained it was “off”. Nothing to do with the crap storage conditions, oh no. Oh, and there’s the fact that the drinking culture up here is completely different. There’s practically a religious divide of Protestant/Catholic proportions around whether you drink the yellow tin (Tennants) or the red tin (McEwans). I have tried each of these piss-in-a-can-call-yourself-a-beer precisely once and they’re identical. But the cans have pretty colours and it’s easy to know which one you’re buying when you’re pissed.

    Keep hunting, that perfect pub’ll be out there. And if it’s not? Buy one and make it your own. Create that perfect pub.

  6. It’s all down to money in the end isn’t it. Your favourite pub is a haven for you and the rest of its clients, but it’s not pulling in the mega bucks so it has to be turned into yet another highly-priced ‘gastropub’ that prices daily drinking out of the realms of possibility.

    I suggest you enlarge your shed and invite the regulars over bringing their own beer.