“Where Everybody Knows Your Name” – No Thanks.  

“There is no Chicago urban blues more heartfelt than my lament for you.

I’m a liberal guy, too cool for the macho ache. With a secret tooth for the cherry on the cake.

With a pious smile, a smile that changes what I say.

While I waste my time in regretting that the days went from perfect to just OK.”

Cruel” – Prefab Sprout (clip courtesy “thingslostinfire low” on YouTube)

Liberal. A dirty word. But I’m proud to be one. Even though it makes my drinking more expensive….

You see, I’ve never had what I could truly call a “local”, something that I’ve always yearned for. Somewhere nearby, where I could drink a decent beer or three and feel “at home”. I’ve always travelled to drink, from my underage days drinking pints of Holts bitter in “The Wellington” on Irlams o’th Height in Salford to the White Lion in Little Hulton and The Albion in Walkden and (more latterly) The Brink.

But I’ve always wanted something closer.

Then – one night about 5 years ago – my good friend Rob & I went into a pub opposite his then home. And I threw a few darts. The barmaid thought I was quite good and asked if I’d like to join their team.

I was elated. Could this be what I’d been looking for for all those years?

So, I went along for most of a season, closing my taste buds to the shit beer (Holts or Cross Bay – both kept badly) and my ears to some of the more unsavoury conversation, gently making others aware that that wasn’t the way I thought. I was the best player, I felt valued. I overlooked the negative and blocked it out.

Then, one evening after a match, I was asked if I’d like to stay behind and have a beer with the staff and landlord after closing. And my eyes were opened. 

What followed was the most vile stream of racist language and general prejudice that I had ever heard. It seemed that the simple fact that I was there, in that pub, meant that I was “one of them” and therefore must have shared their opinions and way of thinking.

I didn’t confront. I chose caution and made my excuses and left. Confrontation comes with risks that I simply wasn’t prepared to take. I know that all too well. Which is why I didn’t criticise the choice of Mark in his initial response to events posted in this – unlike some.

So I left the pub. And never went back. Even now, I childishly refer to that pub as “The Hood & Burning Cross”.

And the very next week, I posted my first thoughts about beer with this stream of drivel. Which I’m still embarrassed about. But it was a start. And we all have to start somewhere.

I don’t drink in the town in which I live. Even though I’ve lived here 26 1/2 years now and raised 3 kids here. Socially, I don’t belong here (I can hear the strains of “Creep” as I type). Nor do I drink in Bolton. There are a few decent places, (Ukrainian Club, Hen & Chickens, Great Ale) but there is a sense of threat whenever I’m in the centre of the town of an evening.

I chose (and still do) to drink – with any regularity – in Manchester.

I struggle with Sexism. Racism. Prejudice of any kind. Even my own pre-judgement of other pubs in my own area. I need to feel at ease. Amongst like minded spirits.

I inhabit a bubble. Both socially and politically. Which is why I find myself occasionally shocked by events both politically (blah blah blah Brexit, blah blah blah Trump….) and socially like those things that Mark deals with above.

There is no excuse for racism. There is no excuse for gender or any other form of sexual prejudice. Full stop.

Living and socialising in those bubbles – and the Manchester Beer “scene” is a bubble – insulates me from all of the shit that I can’t abide and – currently – handle. I’ll carry on thanks.

BeersFarnworth doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?

And as for a local? I’ll do without now, thank you.

“My contribution….to urban blues”