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After our record-breaking scorcher of a BBQ summer, it appears the autumn has finally come. As I stood on the football pitch last Sunday, gasping for air in a desperate attempt to stave off drowning and cursing the daft bastard who jinxed the whole year by calling a hosepipe ban in May, it really sunk in. The Indian summer ain’t going to happen, this year has been a total write-off.

As the evenings draw shorter and the temperature drops still further, we console ourselves in the way that countless generations have before us. I speak, of course, of the hearty warming flow of the sauce.

Mmm… Central heating for adults

The local pub has long been a source of comfort to the average Brit. A safe haven in times of trouble. Somewhere to go, meet friends and get away from it all. However a stark realisation came across me last week, while trying to explain to someone where on earth all my not-particularly hard-earned money was going. Going to the pub is a phenomenally expensive affair.

Now, I’m not referring here to the fact that the pub outside my office now finds it reasonable to charge people £4.75 for a pint. I realise that the fledgling days of my career as an alcoholic, where you could get a pint and a pack of fags for a fiver, are long gone. Indeed tourists coming over for the Olympics must have looked barmen up and down with suspicion when he told them the price of their drinks. But believe me Johnny Foreigner, you weren’t getting ripped off, drinks really are that expensive. I have accepted this a long time ago.

My issue with the cost of a trip to the pub is that, even at these prices, nothing adds up.

Last week for example I went to the pub with a few friends, had three pints and somehow ended up spending £25. I hasten to add that these were pints of regular lager that I was drinking, rather than some organic infusion of hops, barley, lark’s tears and rainbows, the sort of which is sold at absurd prices in upmarket places as a form of tax on pretentious arseholes. Nope, three pints of regular £4 lager. £25. The maths doesn’t add up.

Inspired by this inequality, I decided to collect more evidence. This came sooner than expected, when on Sunday I checked my receipts and discovered that I had spent so much on alcohol the previous night, that I should in fact be dead. Where was this money going? I created a mental checklist, which went something like this:

  1. Buying expensive drinks
  2. Tipping the barman excessively
  3. Lost my wallet
  4. Abducted by aliens
  5. Er…

Now I know the first one wasn’t true. My local pub’s idea of an expensive drink is a bottle of Magners, while a glass of bubbly means a pint of lager. So that was ruled out. Additionally, the service there is little shy of one of those westerns where the saloon owner spits into a glass, polishes it and fills it with watered down urine, which appeared to make the 2nd option unlikely too. Three, no I still had it. Four, discounted on account of the fact that my rectum didn’t hurt too much. Five?

And then it hit me.

Up and down the country, through bars and pubs, amongst rich and poor, there was a universal solution. There are people for whom a trip to the pub is practically a freebie.

The answer to my problem was, of course, that I am one of these poor unfortunate people who actually goes to the bar and gets a round in. This means that, of a night, I inevitably end up buying enough booze to fell Oliver Reed. I’m far from alone in this regard, and can certainly think of a fair few of my friends for whom a trip to the boozer amounts to little more than philanthropy.

As if that wasn’t bad enough. I also have the misfortune of being someone who smokes with an element of conviction. Yes, that means that I actually buy cigarettes. Hoards of people seem to decide, on consumption of a few drinks, that they are suddenly a 40-a-day nicotine addict. Now I’m all for Nick Naylor-esque promotion of my hobbies, but when cigarettes have joined petrol in the ranks of commodities that require a remortgaging of your house, the world has no place for the fair weather fan. 10-packs exist for a reason.

Say what you like, at least he buys his own… Probably

So just you beware, ye freeloaders of the public house. My eagle eye is cast in your direction. I cannot alas make a McCarthy-esque claim to knowing the names of these foul miscreants, but I pledge to not rest until I discover and “out” these black holes of booze. The game is up. The revolution is nigh. It is time for the generous to stick together.

In this age of austerity, for the sake of mankind, let us “round” up on the cheapskates!

by Harry Harland

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