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The January Man....

 " And the January man c omes round again in woollen clothes a nd boots of leather, t o take another turn and walk along the icy road h e knows so well. T he January man is here f or starting each and every year  along the road forever."  Dave Goulder, The January Man. The start of a New Year. The beginning of the annual cycle, captured so eloquently in Dave Goulder's beautiful song. Traditionally, January tends to be the most depressing month of the year, which this time around is playing out as even more miserable than ever as lockdown is carried over from 2020. Cold nights, dreary days, interspersed with shopping for essentials, visits to dependants, walks amid the gloom. This January man would love to be sat right now in a warm pub with friends and some excellent hand-pumped beer or a hazy, juicy NEIPA from the taps. But alas, in these troublesome times, we can't do that. In any normal year, January though would have seen me moaning, and exhorting people to suppor
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The Year The Music Refused To Die....

We were unable to see much live music this year due to you-know-what but it did not mean that there wasn't any good music about, quite the opposite. Here is my annual round-up of the best of the year.... It could have been the year the music died. Starved of gigs, tours cancelled, venues closed. Income streams dried up, new releases delayed. The support structure that oils the wheels of the industry rendered silent. Furlough payments not applicable. Singing not allowed to reduce the spread. A vital part of our culture left to wilt. Government-funding and Arts Council grants eventually came to many venues, but not all, and as a result many are facing a very uncertain future. Close to me in Halifax, for example, the town's first purpose-built venue in decades, The Lantern, where I saw the only gig I paid for this year when Liverpool band She Drew The Gun came to town, was identified as being one of the 30 most at-risk sites in the country, and like many others, have launched a cr

A Beer With No Pub....

I often do a summary at the end of the year covering the best beers I have drunk and the best pubs I have visited during the previous 12 months. But what can I say about 2020? A very disrupted year with many disappointments and setbacks. Here's some thoughts.... Back in the 1950's, an Australian singer, Slim Dusty, had a big hit with a song called A Pub With No Beer, which told of the misery facing drinkers when they turned up at their local pub to find that there was no beer on sale. For much of this year, beset by lockdowns and the restrictions of the tier system it has been a case of no pubs open in which to have a beer. And so for regular pub goers like myself it has been a big change of lifestyle. Early on in the first lockdown, I dug out and dusted down an old tall stool and positioned it in my kitchen so I could replicate sitting at the bar as I had an after-work beer, with work now located a short commute away up a flight of stairs. Wasn't the same as the Stalybridg

The Christmas We Get....

The Christmas we apparently deserve this year is one where we are slaves to the inconsistent, irrational Tier system. Or so it seems, as Covid, the gift that keeps on taking and then some, holds sway despite falling rates in previous hot spots and the imminent coming of the vaccine.... I shared a blog I wrote around 12 months ago on social media the other day, and in re-reading this tale of the pre-Christmas build-up , with its heady mix of shopping, a gig, and, primarily, visits to several pubs and bars, I was also saying how miserable and depressing the prevailing atmosphere of the time was. "And I think that this year with the country in its most miserable and fractured state that I can ever remember, Christmas can't come soon enough for so many of us"  - I wrote in naive ignorance, totally oblivious to the delights that 2020 would, and continues to, deliver.  This year, unless you are lucky enough to live in Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly, the Isle of Wight, and now He

The Happy World of Sabro and Other Stories....

It has not been a happy few weeks with the country under another lockdown, but I continue to search for those little things that make life more bearable.... This latest lockdown has been a miserable time, really. The sun that seemed to shine through Lockdown #1 has been replaced by almost incessant gloomy weather which means the picture I took above on a local walk the other week is the brightest I have been able to take in the last few weeks! So yes it's been gloom and very much a sense of doom as in the dash to Save Christmas the move out of lockdown from December 3rd has given most of us no positive change to look forward to. Well, you can get your hair cut and, should you want to shop in a non-essential shop, you can fill your boots. For those of us allocated to Tier 3 though you can't even get a substantial meal to pick through with your pint as you could have done in the old days of the tier's previous pre-lockdown incarnation. Many people are unhappy and indeed, &quo

The Wind Down To Lockdown....

We are now a week into our second lockdown of the year in England, with some of the routines of the first one starting to re-emerge. And here are some thoughts from over the past couple of weeks.... The final few days before lockdown had had an end of term feel to them, the end of the season, almost a sense of  fin de si├Ęcle. The announcement had said 4 weeks, but I don't think anyone really believed it as the figures continued, and have continued, to rise. Save Christmas they had said, more with hope than conviction. So a final weekend, which had begun with the anticipation of a move from Tier 2 to Tier 3 the following Monday. All pubs, unless they served food, due to close anyway, so it was a time of farewells and wish-you-wells, as far as was possible under the restrictions of Tier 2. A draughty afternoon with some of the lads from football outside in Halifax's Westgate Arcade, with the bonus that Kobenhavn was serving Arbor Zero Zero. Over a period of 4 and a half hours, a

Beverley Ales Hop....

I was in Beverley in East Yorkshire last week, and discovered that there were several really good pubs to visit in the busy little market town with its stunning Minster which lies a few miles north of Hull.... The last time I had been anywhere near to Beverley was when I was passing through on my way from Hull to York probably about 20 years ago, whilst the only time I had ever stopped was for a pint many years before that, though as to why I was there I have absolutely no idea! So a visit was well overdue, and with a couple of days holiday and the discovery that there was a decent offer on accommodation at the Premier Inn it seemed like a good opportunity to make up for lost time and maintain what has become something of a ''rediscover Yorkshire''  theme to my trips this year. And what about Beverley, you may ask? Well, it was founded by an English bishop, Saint John of Beverley, around 700 AD when the area was part of the kingdom of Northumbria, and developed as a pla