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....
But in the absence of anything really positive, the government, whose trademark over-promise, under-deliver strategy (motto: 'super libera, sub promissione' ) means you may be promised the equivalent of an all-expenses luxury holiday in Barbados, but end up instead with a one-night stopover in a noisy, draughty, B'n'B in the backstreets of Scarbados where on one side the guy is snoring for England and on the other side the worse-for-wear couple have a blazing row, things are thrown, tears are shed, and then for the rest of the night they express their undying lurve for each other as noisily as they can.
As has been frequently pointed out, the hospitality sector has done more than many other businesses and organisations to make their businesses as Covid-19 secure as possible. Money has been spent doing this, the sector has had a very difficult, disrupted year, and now that the hope of re-opening for the majority has been taken away at what is traditionally their busiest time of year it is a crushing blow not to be able at least claw a proportion of their normal turnover back over the festive period. The rate of infection attributed to the hospitality sector has been very low in comparison to other settings and it hardly seems fair or logical that they aren't able to trade. Recently, TV chef Tom Kerridge has been highlighting the plight of Britain's pubs in a short series Saving Britain's Pubs and it has been a sobering, realistic assessment of how difficult it can be for the people running our pubs to make a decent living in normal circumstances, let alone when there is a pandemic to contend with. Kerridge, who runs his own food-led pubs, including the Michelin-starred Hand and Flowers in Marlow in Buckinghamshire, does come over as someone who cares deeply about this essential British institution in all its different guises as he suggests ways that the people running the pubs featured in the series could make changes to help them survive and then grow their businesses.
|Tom Kerridge (picture by Christian Barnett)|
And for those of us who miss the chance for a catch-up with friends, the warm embrace of community, the crazy chatter, the characters, the home from home, the buzz of conversation from surrounding tables, I could go on, we are confined to our garretts save for the odd excursion to the supermarket, a walk, a visit to care for dependant family members, or a socially-distanced catch up outside in the afore-mentioned gloom with a friend. Covid has put the kibosh on the spontaneity that so many of us who love the pub have missed so much over the past few months. Even when the first lockdown eased the randomness and chance to change your plans at the last minute, to go with the flow, was severely compromised but it was better than nothing. But the question has to be asked - is it better to grin and bear it for a bit longer and abandon this contrived attempt at Christmas with the almost inevitable spikes in the infection rate that will arise from the cross-country journeys and enlarged social bubbles? But, if you are going down that route would the opening up of Covid-secure premises like pubs make the situation any worse?
But away from all that debate I have found a few things to be positive about over the past couple of weeks. From a beer point of view I have been very happy with the mini kegs I have had - Neepsend Blonde, Fyne Jarl, Bristol Beer Factory Independence, and Vocation Heart and Soul, all bought direct from the breweries concerned so at least in my own small way I am supporting small local businesses. But the beer that has stopped me in my tracks was unexpectedly a can from the New Bristol Brewery called The Happy World of Sabro, a name I liked so much I decided to include it in the title for this blog! Now Sabro is a pretty new American hop variety, but is one with bags of flavour. Hints of cedar, mint, cream, with distinct coconut and stone fruit aromas jump out and grab you and it certainly stopped me in my tracks. This well-crafted beer, a 4.5% single hop IPA is from the husband and wife brewing team at New Bristol Brewery who, I think it is fair to say are not as well-known as other Bristolian breweries such as Bristol Beer Factory, Arbor, Left Handed Giant, and Wiper and True. This just underlines the excellent depth and quality of the beer scene in that city. Once we can travel again without restrictions and things are open again I look forward to being able to visit that city again, as I did back in 2018. Read my thoughts from that trip here.
|The Red Rooster, Brookfoot...signs of life|
And I suppose, another thing to be positive about as we adapt to life in Tier 3 is that we will be spared the inevitable Christmas beers about which I moaned in this piece from a few years ago. But should we be able to get promoted to the next tier, one Government minister has suggested today that for those pubs in Tier 2 a scotch egg may count as a substantial meal. Really?!! Although to be fair, he may well have been thinking of the beasts they used to sell at the Buffet Bar in Stalybridge, which were indeed substantial, nay gargantuan! But it just goes to show the general confusion and uncertainty out there, even amongst the ones making