As the Dulwich Raider has said so forcibly, we have pubs to defend. You could say, a way of life to defend.
OK, we’re not exactly fending off the Luftwaffe, but the ever-changing restrictions on the hospitality industry pose a similar level of existential threat to our most treasured institution: the public house.
As is revealed in the Health & Beauty chapter of our new book, Shirk, Rest and Play, getting out to support the pubs you love can provide vital exercise and help ward off the medical dangers of Deserting (also featured in the book, in excruciating detail). And at this most unsatisfactory point in history, you can defend your country at the same time as stocking up on booze.
But I mustn’t pretend my wanderings to replenish my growler with delicious cask ale are altruistic. Far from it. I need that shit.
Yes, I have a beer subscription with a local brewery that furnishes me with discounted fresh cans from brewers at the very top of their game. But without pubs, they too will fall. And at some point in the week, the living ale becomes an itch that nothing else can scratch. Which is why I set off the other night in the direction of the River Ale House, in East Greenwich, with hope in my heart, a skip in my step and nowt in my growler.
For some ludicrous and unknowable reason, we are expected to text our beer order in advance, outwitting the virus with our strategic planning. I had done so, after checking the micropub’s offering on the Real Ale Finder app, along with a request that they confirm their 5pm opening hours. I had my heart set on Siren’s Lumina, a Session IPA with a light tropical character, hoppy but well balanced, and as I set off ridiculously early I felt a fleetness of foot that could have foxed a full-back.
‘Open from 5.30 today,’ texted back the RAH.
I replied with a crying, wailing emoji that was sent with real feeling.
‘Be brave,’ came the response.
I pulled myself together and decided to take the long way round, past a few haunts of old, just to see them again. Say hello. Rekindle memories.
First up, Hardy’s Freehouse:
With the Victoria and William IV long gone, next was The Crown:
Ducking off the main road, I spied a light on at the Vanbrugh. A quick phone call and I was directed to the magic hatch where I could pick up a tinny:
It wasn’t cask but Anspach & Hopday are not to be sniffed at and I happily gorged while sitting on a bench, like a tramp. A craft beer tramp.
Still too early, I had time to visit the Pelton Arms, and, by taking my Brockley Brewey prize and trusty tankard to the nearby Thames, I could effect the river pint, possibly the greatest of the pint family.
Finally I made it to the River Ale House, delighted to see Trevor and his lovely assistant (Dave? Steve? Geoff?) dispensing fresh local beer with their customary cheer.
As I left, I saw a man waiting outside with two growlers and a massivebucket. Clearly, I had much to learn.
I noticed a lot of Christmas lights up in East Greenwich, but also a lot of people with empty containers, heading to the RAH, the Pelton or The Vanny. It made me smile.
Up on the heath I headed to a favourite bench, all aquiver. It was my favourite because it was unlit, but when I got close I could see amid the gloom a man and a woman doing what I can only describe as some kind of torture: stretching, thrusting, pressing, pushing, lifting. Talk about ruin a mood.
I made my way to the next bench, poured the Siren and enjoyed a transcendental moment of sheer joy.
I’d done my little bit for those I loved – and they had done something for me. As you will discover in Shirk, Rest and Play (Chapter: Leisure, or Messing About), we need to look after ourselves and each other. And we must oppose those who would threaten our pleasures.
We will fight them on the benches, and in the fields and in the streets. And we shall never, never surrender.