time, gentlemen, please…

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Several of you have quite rightly demanded I lighten-up a bit, and knock the overt doom-and-gloom of recent posts on the head, at least once in a while. And I couldn’t agree more! As Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson reminds us: “Meet me in ‘The Station’, don’t be late. I need to spend some money and it just won’t wait. The wide boys are all spoiling for a fight, so take me to the dance and hold me tight. I want to see the bright lights tonight.”

Having a cheeky cold-one at your local would surely help in taking a break from all our lockdown worries, but, for the time-being, the closest we’re going to get is the vicarious clinking of our crystal flutes against a near-by screen. Over the years and across channels we’ve been spoilt for choice wrt the particular Camra-ready hostelry we choose to imbibe our favourite tipple at and there’s more than enough to go round, before time is finally called.

Albert Square’s Queen Vic has always struck me as being wound a little too tight for its own good and, even with Carry On Babs behind the bar, it seems to flow endlessly hot and cold with punch-ups, drug-busts, flings, fallings-out, flirtations and fights. Walford’s watering hole is just too much crash, bang, wallop. In a similar vein, Emmerdale’s Woolpack, originally land-lorded-over by the beautifully hair-suited Amos Brierley, is simply too twee by half. Mind, with its wool bale sign, a popular symbol in sheep-rearing country, I’m sure the scriptwriters could have been far more salacious if they’d been given a post-watershed time-slot. Contrast both to Weatherfield’s rain-softened Rovers Return Inn, Jack & Vera Duckworth’s homely haven where Newton and Ridley’s finest mild cascades as freely as the saucy gossip and gentle frivolity. Perfect.

South of the river will see you pick-up the knock-off from Del Boy’s boozer-of-choice, The Nag’s Head, but for more privacy you’ll eventually wind-up at The Winchester Club, where barman Dave will grease the grey-gears of commerce with a discreet intro to vodka-and-tonic sipping Arthur Daley and his muscled minder, Terry. Being a staple of UK Gold now means it’s perpetually open for business but best not crack a can before nine in the morning, though.

Over the pond, everyone will know your name at Boston’s basement bar, Cheers. Ex-baseball player Sam, trustily aided and abetted by sidekick Woody, will ensure you quickly assume the same superior status of limpet-like regulars, Norm, Cliff and Doctor Frasier Crane. Ignore your thumping head in the morning, catch the first Greyhound outta town and you’ll be in Springfield for last orders, where maudlin, on-the-make Moe has served Homer, bar-flies Sam & Larry and belching Barney their favourite sudsy Duff beer from his eponymously-named Tavern for over three decades. Further afield will see you take a stroll down-under to enjoy a drop of the amber nectar with locals Donk, Walt, and the man himself, Mick ‘Crocodile’ Dundee, at the Walkabout Creek Hotel.

Back on home turf and I’m off for a quick-one at my personal favourite, the supreme sitcom Early Doors’ down-at-heel establishment, The Grapes, where I can fondly reminisce about proper opening-hours, the tinkling bell weekend rush, the sour tang of out-of-date pork scratchings, the queue for the overflowing toilets and the tell-tale heavy fug of fag-smoke that always gave the game away to ‘er indoors! Ah, make mine a large one and, until we can again experience it first-hand, let’s all raise a glass to the greatest boozers on the box.