In praise of the great British boozer
PUBLISHED: 08:46 26 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:04 26 August 2020
Use your local says Macclesfield’s Peter Munday
This month Cheshire Life columnist Peter Munday is mostly taking a trip down to Macclesfield’s British Flag and the Lord Byron
If you see one or more men of a certain age walking purposefully down the road, it’s a fair bet that they’re on their way to a pub. This is even more of a likelihood after a few months of lockdown.
I doubt whether anybody has ever gone to meet their Maker wishing they had spent more time in their workplace and less time in the pub. Sinking that first pint is a wonderful feeling and, if you’re not driving, or working the following day, you can add a few more on to that tally with equanimity.
Cheshire is blessed with a huge variety of pubs and bars, from historic inns in the countryside and estate pubs to trendy bars in the high street and old-fashioned back-street locals.
A local is somewhere everyone knows your name... and where the bar staff remember what you drink; somewhere, other than your living room, where you can have a chat, and here you can even sit on your own if you choose. I have a great one only a few doors away from my house – Macclesfield’s British Flag. It is a very friendly, family-run pub and it’s not uncommon for four generations of the same family to be in there. Without a doubt, despite the name, it also serves the best pint of Guinness in town.
There’s also another one across town I go to fairly regularly on a Friday evening – the Lord Byron. There I join a drinking circle of anything up to a dozen lads of my age group, mostly from the building trade.
Learning to drink in a larger group is a male rite of passage. Failure to observe the etiquette will eventually result in ostracism. Round etiquette is hugely important. In a work environment, I reckon I’ve seen more people sacked over the years for being last to the bar than for incompetence – almost as heinous a crime is not buying one for yourself when it is your round. There is also the unwritten and unspoken rule that, if someone is a bit strapped financially, there will be a subtle attempt by everyone to make sure they don’t get caught on a big round.
Neither of my locals tends to get too crowded, so social distancing isn’t too difficult. Admittedly, there might have been a problem in the past though. One of our group used to have a Rhodesian Ridgeback apparently bred to herd cattle in South Africa. Of course, he took it upon himself to round us all up in the pub. He had this amazing trick of going around everybody’s chairs and stools and bashing them on the back until we all ended up scrunched into the smallest possible space with our knees practically on the table. If you went up to the bar, he’d follow you and gently try to steer you back.
Locals are part of the community, and while they may have dwindled in number over the years, we need them more than ever. Use your localWe’ll miss them when they’re gone.
In the meantime, if you drive past a grey-haired bloke striding along with a spring in his step five minutes before opening time, give him a friendly hoot. It might just be me.