Monday, 15 November 2010
A few things have changed over the years since I left the area. The last act I went to see when I lived down that way was the Oysterband some 22 years ago. In those days there was a bar upstairs at the Sun Hotel and they had support acts and floor singers. Nowadays the main act play two sets and the support act is the raffle. And there's no bar upstairs. Everybody queues up like the good Englishmen we are - it was a long queue, though, at half time. Brendan suggested we go across the courtyard to the other bar. Good idea quoth I. It appeared to be shut. Never mind, let's nip 'round the corner to the one in the market square. Shut. The Red Hart? Shut. The King's Arms, shut. As were all the others.
Sunday night in Hitchin - in the town centre - and there wasn't a single pub open. I've never known anything like it. It wasn't like that in my day. We ended up at the back of the ridiculously long queue waiting at the hotel bar. I remember when Hitchin was the place to go to find where all the parties were. It was a ghost town. It was like being in Letchworth before the Black Squirrel opened.
Even in sleepy Suffolk it's difficult to find a pub that's shut. Oh how time's have changed. If anyone has any ideas as to how this sad state of affairs has come about, I'd be interested to know. I'm pretty sure it wasn't anything to do with Remembrance Sunday - there were quite a few pubs open in other parts of the town as I drove my weary way home. 100 miles. Tired and slightly astounded.
Despite the pub thing, Brendan pointed out that there were only two young people in the audience. He said, "There's not really a generation behind us." And I guess he's right.
The vibrant folk club culture has gone and it seems that our traditional social life of pubs is very quickly disappearing. I'm beginning to feel like a character from Flora Thompson's Lark Rise to Candleford watching the old ways go:
One last drink and then I'm on my own
Still trying to make the long voyage home