Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Village Pubs

Blogging from a bar, it could go one of two ways - rambling or unusually creative. We’ve already encountered the dilemma of whether to drink or not during interviews shot in a pub. Abstaining looks unnatural, but imbibing risks drunkenness on set and continuity problems as the level in the glass moves up and down. Both are cardinal sins in the BBC handbook! 

This week we are investigating the plight of Britain’s village watering holes, as around four are closing every week. How can this be when everyone seems to treasure them so deeply and tourists say they are the third most important reason for visiting this country? 

Today we’ve been in the Derbyshire village of Parwich, filming in the Sycamore. One secret of survival here is opening another business in the pub. In fact when you walk in the door it looks more like a family home. But on the right is a door marked ‘shop’ – it used to be the dining room. It may be small but it’s an Aladdin’s cave of household goods - puncture repair kits and packing tape, cauliflowers and lighter fuel. 

Janet, the publican/shopkeeper/mother of a toddler, says she simply stocks what people want. What she’d like is for locals just to spend a bit more with her and swerve the supermarket delivery van. It’s a devotional existence, more like a calling than a job. Janet puts in around 80 hours a week and, when she plots income against her time, she receives barely half the minimum wage. 

Most pubs are owned by either breweries or big pub companies. Many of these are in serious financial trouble, some owing billions to the bank. But their spokesman insisted they weren’t leeching money from the local boozer to pay off their debts, blaming instead the government for high duty and VAT on alcohol. 

Every year I make the same, not very pious, New Year’s resolution. Drink more… in my local pub. Achievable with a noble aims!  Why not join the pledge?

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