Samuel Smiths – What a Fucking Rotter

I was late to getting the news that Samuel Smith’s brewery has issued a decree across its entire estate of pubs that anyone found to be swearing should be turned out of the premises, whether they will be barred seems to be up for debate but seeing as ever news piece I’ve read on this links to another article, which links to another and another and another, it is pretty hard to guess what the exact truth of the matter is.

I’ve read precisely one blog on this, saw a few comments on the #hopinions thread that Beer O’Clock run every Sunday

 

 

and I saw CAMRA’s response to the news

 

On this matter I don’t particularly care in one instance; if a private business wishes to enact its own policies about what is “good behaviour” then by all means go ahead.  People cheer when the private companies that are Facebook and Twitter remove members that are abusive (within their own definition of what abuse actually is) but heaven forbid a private company should refuse to, for example, make a cake saying something they disagree with, oh no.

It is rather odd that Sam Smiths has chosen to focus purely on swearing, I can only assume that they are OK with someone in their establishments saying nigger or faggot so long as there isn’t a four-letter word in amongst said possible drunken diatribe but what constitutes a private conversation in a public place?

Then again the current state of the world is pitted against itself in what exactly is and isn’t a “bad idea” what is and isn’t “hate speech” and more pertinently, what is or isn’t “offensive.”

Within the beer bubble itself there are points of view on certain subjects (for example pump clips) that go against the new orthodoxy and while all these little games and battle of wills are being played out, governments world wide are monitoring and recording their citizens communications under the pretence of security and protection.

 

The last thing anyone needs to be protected from is words, rude or not.

 

Thanks for reading

 

On a separate note, here is why some people actively boycott drinking Sam Smiths beers and so for some a swearing ban is neither here nor there…

 

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SpinningFields Manchester – Spreading the Disease

It seems that separate bits of Manchester architecture comes under threat at the same time in an almost cyclical fashion.

In January of last year I ranted about the sad state of some of the proposed decisions facing the heritage of central Manchester.

While the situation with the Fire Station on London Road is resolved in so much as Britannia have finally attained their 30 pieces of silver and like wise the Ancoats Dispensary reached its funding targets, just this week Bruntwood put forward their plans for the redevelopment of Oxford Road Station, which made no mention of its plans for the listed Salisbury Pub (or Grand Central for that matter).

Other news was that another historical pub The Sir Ralph Abercromby (petition) was also being tendered to be flattened along with a few other buildings in the area.

There are a few places in Manchester I don’t like to go to drink; namely the Printworks, Deansgate Locks and Spinningfields.

As banal as Printworks is and as loathsome as the Locks are they are at least honest and exist in such away as to work well with the area they have been created in (unless you are the Police).

The same I can not say for Spinningfields; a place as fake and phony as the wankers that go there and the food, drinks and “culture” that exists between the artificial grass, cold steel and empty glass.  It is a lifeless, soulless place.  A cut-through between Manchester and Salford and a place now deemed worthy of expansion by taking a wrecking ball to more of Manchester’s places and sites & sights of interest.

As plans and rumours keep swirling it may well be that most of the buildings will remain and be renovated but the Sir Ralph will make way for, it would seem, a car park, which given Manchester’s history will be horrendously overpriced parking in a bid to drive trade away from local and small businesses and seemingly push it towards that other soulless place that is the Trauma Trafford Centre.

Councils are not my favourite group of people.  From some reason, no matter the size of the council or the make-up that may consist of apparently local people the continually make decisions that run against popular opinion

This piece is not about the politics (or football) of red and blue, merely another hair-pulling exercise about the short-sighted decisions made by our increasingly untrustworthy public officials and that whereas jaw-jaw is preferred to war-war they all fall to more-more.

I hope you find time to sign the petition(s).

 

Thanks for reading.

Community vs Council

I am going to try to write this piece without it drifting into the realms of party politics and hopefully non-libelous comments.

 

 

Much has been made recently about a Northern Powerhouse and also devolution of power to the major cities of the North of England and giving more autonomy to county councils.  The general hope being that communities will have greater say and therefore a choice of how they are governed.

The town of Atherton in Greater Manchester falls under the control of Wigan Council.

They have a community centre called The Formby Hall.

This hall was a gift to the town of Atherton back in the early 1900’s.

Two annexes were added to the hall as part of the festival of Britain.

In circa 2011, with a valuation of the hall of about £235,000 Wigan Council sold The Formby Hall (and numerous other community centres under their ‘control’) to a company called Rose Leisure (or Eight Wonder, you know how businesses like to change names and have various subsidiaries).

The sale price, on record, for The Formby Hall was £65,000.

The covenant was that the sale would be made under the proviso that Rose Leisure would maintain all their newly acquired buildings so that they could continue to function as working halls to host a variety of activities.

The Formby Hall, for example, hosts (hosted) NHS Blood Donations, various gigs, charity nights, dance clubs, wedding receptions and probably most well-known The Bent n Bongs Beer Bash

Rose Leisure never really maintained the building, the roof is in a particularly bad way and only with some local people did it get fixed to an adequate level so that the Beer Bash could go ahead in 2015.

In about May of 2015 rumours spread that Rose Leisure were telling people with bookings that they would only fulfill them up until July of 2015 and all events after that would be cancelled.

Due to this “leak” it then forced Rose Leisure and Wigan Council to admit that The Formby Hall had been sold to a company called Hilldale Housing Association.

Hilldale are a bit of an odd company in that they themselves are only a conduit for investors to buy up properties for development.

In June of 2015 Wigan Council spent £2m on terracotta tiles

In August of 2015 South East Lancs CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) successfully had an Asset of Community Value (ACV) put on The Formby Hall under the Localism Act of 2011.

Hilldale had made assurances that the hall could stay open until March of 2016 but the doors were locked and as such no one can use the hall, it can fall into a further state of disrepair and of course it can be claimed that it is not being used and therefore it’s now lack of use by the community does not make it an asset worth saving.

In September of 2015 a notice of demolition was put up outside The Formby Hall, this is because due to a loop-hole an ACV can only protect a pub from demolition and the ACV had forced Hilldale’s hand.

There have been various groups formed and a petition of about 4,500 was handed in to Wigan Council to object to not only the initial sale (primarily to Rose Leisure) but also the demolition of a building that in essence belongs to the town and people of Atherton.

It is sad that said local groups have been butting heads with not only the council but with locally elected councillors and that relationships have soured and become cynical and cold.

This is how modern politics work.  It is not a democracy but an elected dictatorship whereby small outlying towns are ostracised.  It is unsurprising that voters are becoming more disillusioned by the whole process.

The case of Formby Hall is still ongoing and very much up in the air, it is hoped the council will listen, for once, to one of its communities.

There is a petition here if you wish to sign it…

Update: January 2016

Council recommends prior approval to demolish Formby Hall

The above link gives most of the information you need to know, the fate now lies in further planning meetings and a possible intervention by Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government Greg Clark and the constituent MP Chris Green.

The Tipping Point

A while back on twitter I asked what people thought was an acceptable tip to had over to a bar hand.

I raised this question because people had long told me the unwritten rule was 20 pence (it’s how much Leigh fans bought a flute for when they had some sense and about 50 cents in US monies).

The answers I got back ranged from confirming the 20 pence “standard” to saying that some might go up to a quid, but would usually expect about 50 pence as a maximum.

My mum (a former bar maid) and a friend who is one also confirmed they would take 20p, though my mum would point out that 20p back when she worked was worth a hell of a lot more than it is now.

There are of course stories of customers putting an actual drink on behind the bar for the staff once the shift has ended and other such pleasantries.

I hate the 5 pence coin, so if I ever get a drink that is between 5 to 15 pence short of the whole pound I’ll let the staff keep it.  But in my twattish way I won’t actually say “round it up” or “call it £X,” I’ll just walk away from the bar and hope, as has happened, that I don’t get chased down by some worried employee determined to had over the loose change, which in this day and age of the easily offended and of litigation-happy people I can quite understand.

There was also a discussion about how let the bar keep know you wanted to tip them.

“And yours” seemed  most popular, I go with “(and) one for yourself” – which last year in London lead to a novel situation.

Having spent about 4 hours in one bar marvelling over and obviously massively indulging in the beer selection I felt it only proper to tip the bar staff.  As an aside I don’t wait four hours, I have no set time of when I tip or indeed if I do, this is not some moralist hang-wringing piece nor is it a rant worthy of Mr. Pink.

So I got my final drink(s) and said “one for yourself,” to which I was then surprised as the bar (man in this instance) picked up his clean glass and proceed to inspect what he had been selling before informing me he’d have a half of one of the drinks I just ordered, he then gave me my change.

However I didn’t find this to be a giant piss-take.  It was a first and it has never happened since but the guy could have gone full on £11-a-pint if he’d wanted to but instead merely matched my drink.

Which also married up with a lot of “warnings” about how people take the inflections of the phrases used to instigate a tip in different parts of the country.  Not that I wish to infer that this practice is either common or exclusive to London.

But back to my original light bulb moment, I asked about tipping because I was in a Greater Manchester pub and after sitting down with my first drink I could hear the distinct sound of pound coins hitting the tip glass (fashioned out of a pint nonik rather than the usual half or shorts glass).

Now either the punters were very generous tippers or that was how much the bar (maid in this instance) thought that is how much the tip should be.  Whether this was a conclusion she had come to herself or it was a direction from the pub got me thinking about who informs on bar staff how much to take for a tip.

When you think about it, given that a pint in this pub was an average of about £3.50 that works out as approximately a 30% tip.

Then also a while back (as I do take far to long to write these posts), in between a lot of tweets by people with sand in their vaginas I can across this post by Benjamin Nunn and though it wasn’t anything related to the post’s rant it did ring my alarm bell:

“To my mind, this is the equivalent of a 20 pence tip – more insulting than ignoring it altogether!”

With all that has gone on recently about companies taken employee tips either in the full or at a charge if the payment has been made by card it does make you wonder that if 20p is seen as patronising and maybe it is in places where living costs are higher it is, perhaps  we shouldn’t begrudge those taking a bit more than the “standard.”

Would appreciate comments and opinions on this, stick them below…

Mr. Pink, for those who don’t get the reference

Pump Clip Parade – Putrid Puritanism

This post was caused by some funny timelines; I saw this post on the Allgates Blog last week, but it is from May of 2014.

Allgates, by the way, apart from doing very good beers, write some excellent blog pieces so I was quite annoyed with myself that I’d missed this one on its original publishing.

For those who don’t know Pump Clip Parade, which itself started as a blog and has recently updated to its own .com is a website that, well I’ll let their spiel tell you:

Why, when there is the continual background murmur “we want more people to try cask ale”, do brewers keep giving their beers cringeingly bad, wince-inducing names and wilfully amateurish artwork?

It makes us, the drinkers, reluctant to drink the beer, however good it is.

It must stop!

Only by naming and shaming the culprits can we encourage brewers to improve the presentation of cask ale.
The focus is on British real ale, but occasionally foreign beers deserve the humiliation of a post on Pumpclip Parade.

This blog is not motivated by political correctness or anti-sexism. It is about bad marketing.

Mary Whitehouse could not come up with better subterfuge for her campaign of moralistic outrage.

 

What got me was the final line in the Allgates post:

“Just checked the site to make sure we weren’t appearing! We do, but only for awful clunking wordplay on our Caskablanca clip! But hands up as I think we had a few dodgy clips in our early days.”

Sure, if they wish to make some odd sort of apology because they’ve been “named-and-shamed” about a pun then by all means have at it…I just hope Pump Clip Parade doesn’t see their Twitter Banner picture or they’ll be for it…

 

Now the subject matter of the Allgates post above and what oddly Pump Clip parade denies it is mainly about is the issue of sexist pump clips.

I’m not going to talk about those in this post as that whole subject labelled as #beersexism is worthy of many posts and is far too intricate to debate about now.*

One aspect about Pump Clip Parade is that it is user-generated.

The campaign not only relies on the moralist need to nudge people into “good behaviour” but to keep a growing army of the perpetually offended on the look-out for anything else that can possibly raise the hackles of the fellow pseudo-virtuous.  The online version of the lynch-mob, pitchfork days of old.

The puritanical nature of this website is as patronising as every bit of health “advice” we receive on a daily basis for self-appointed “experts.”

The nannying associated with curbs on free speech is a thin end to the control of thought and the fear of seeing something that might offend leads to the closed mind and brain death from a lack of ideas, critical thinking and cognotive reasoning.

The final thing about the site is that it is a personification of everything that is currently wrong with the gentrification and snobbery associated with beer.  Heaven help the working-class bloke that gets a chuckle from a bad pun, some crap art or a bit of smut; the middle-class liberals are here to purge you of your soiled mind and clothes and invite you to join in the beer utopia of a world full of clean corporatism, where each pump clip as relentlessly dull and sterile as the other and drunk in a place filled with IKEA’s finest offerings.

Vive la différence.

Choosing to buy (or not) a beer because it has an image on it that can be seen to be derogatory is one thing, but not buying one because of language is just as silly and as immature as the puns used on the pump clips.

What is funny is that the justification for some of these pump clips, apparently (as the tag cloud helps you with) is “it’s just a larf innit?”or “a bit of fun.”

Which I’m sure would be the defence for the faux-violence in the website tag-line “…but bloody hell, some brewers should be tied up in hop pockets and beaten with malt-shovels.

But that is the problem with self-appointed moralists…they are full of bullshit.

There is one thing I like more than beer and that is free speech.  Of course this piece itself is full of hyperbole and faux-outrage which may lead to some sort of Streisand effect but it’s good to go down to someone else’s level once in a while and play the hypocrite.

 

“And thus I clothe my naked villany
With odd old ends stol’n out of holy writ,
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.”

 

*I suppose somewhere in that sentence I was meant to, at the very least denounce sexism…

Modernising Manchester – Making it Mundane

This post was provoked by reading this thread – about Oxford Road and the “Manchester Corridor”.  The thread is meant to be about plans and general speculation about the proposed changes to Oxford Road Station and the surrounding area.

Most people (including myself) were struck in mid-2014 by the proposed removal of The Cornerhouse and its relocation to another new build, with the stick-in-the-back-of-your-throat-named-by-committee moniker of HOME.

What peaked my interest was the discussions about The Salisbury Pub being worthy of saving but there was less love for The Grand Central.

Manchester has a fine musical heritage, I’d argue the best and most diverse in the world (but I am biased) and we are used to seeing our musical institutions being converted.

The Grand Central crowd of rockers/punks & goths, etc. were left homeless (for a short time) after the closure of Jilly’s RockWorld and before that, arguably the most famous of England’s clubs The Haçienda was closed down and turned into the same boring red-brick flats you see in every major city.  Jilly’s ended up being a Tesco, or a Pizza Express – you chose the evil empire that fits in with the jist of this piece.

The Salisbury does CAMRA discounts, it also caters to the rock crowd too, but it is what you would call a proper pub.  The Grand Central is very much in the vain of the dirty, stale lager places that I frequented as a kid.  You know, the ones with character, because it wasn’t about what was on the outside that really mattered but who was in the inside.

I’m not trying to match the pubs up against one another, I enjoy both pubs, in fact the whole area along with Font and Thirsty Scholar is excellent for a very, very short-walk drinking crawl.

This comes at a time when there is a campaign to get more money to save the Ancoats Dispensary (direct link to funding is here).

There are also campaigns to save (from the clutches of absentee landlords Britannia) the London Road Fire Station.  A building left to rack and ruin by said landlords inability to do anything with it and a typically inept Manchester Council wishing to spend it’s money more on pot-plants and junkets abroad than pay attention to anything about Manchester centre that doesn’t involve driving (literally) people away to out-of-town shopping centres.

The Star & Garter – another Manchester pub with a massive musical heritage, has a doubtful future as a redesign of Piccadilly Station will see it either removed or forced to close when access to it is severely restricted during the proposed building works.

There are success stories, of a sort, with old buildings being saved.  The Victoria Baths by way of a BBC programme, now sees the venue used regularly for many different events, the most relevant to this blog being the Indy Man Beer Fest.

Case and point about design by committee which isn’t fit for purpose and is fast turning into a danger is Piccadilly Gardens (and its Wall).

People can talk about Grand Central being a bit of an eyesore but Piccadilly Gardens, the first thing many tourists would see from either train or bus, is an absolute shit-tip.  Granted it is a major transport hub now, but what used to be open and actually had something to do with a “garden” is now closed-off (walled-off if you will), claustrophobic and as crime begins to rise and austerity policy means police on the ground have to be cut so Councillors can still get their free holidays abroad, the rise of CCTV will continue unabated, along with that fucking horrible, massive wheel.  Whoo a city centre that doubles as a fairground park.

As I write this MPs have voted against a bid to tighten pub planning laws which really comes as no surprise.

This isn’t some Luddite rant – progress is vital to keep things moving and viable for the future – but taking a look around, everything that is new build, all it is is functional.

I’m struck by the cotton mills near me.  Some being put to use for a variety of things, others bulldozed and left either as wasteland (or a zombie car park) or….oh yes, another bloody big supermarket.  The actually lack of planning for the future is stark.

I could get into conspiracy theories about social engineering, the destruction of communities to build a mass of individuals with no collective power and without he ability to give a crap about anything other than the self, but that is not the point of this piece.

With little or no public consultation, buildings are being ripped down and their replacements have no character, no history (obviously), no romance, nothing artistic or photography worthy.

It seems that each city wishes to become a copy-and-paste job of every other city, not only causing a loss of history but also of identity.

Let us end with a oft-repeated quote amongst pub campaigners but that I feel can apply to all things touched upon…

“When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England” -Hilaire Belloc