"Oh, you haven't heard? Mick's died."
To be honest, it wasn't a great surprise. Mick was 30 stone and could barely walk from the bus stops next to his two favoured pubs. He heaved himself in, drank 2 pints of Bomber, hauled himself to the pub up the road, then came back, had another two pints of Bomber, paid off his tab and went home. Mick did this every night. If he was ever later than expected, his fellow regulars wondered aloud if he'd died.
Then one day it happened. Found in his bed, apparently. Nobody inquired about the cause of death.
There are many things people believe about pubs that, if they were ever true, are no longer. One of the major myths is that of the local pub, where a man has his first ever drink bought by his dad or grandad, where he spends his beer career, and where they eventually toast him over his coffin at his funeral wake.
It probably persists due to the depiction of pubs in soap operas. Walford and Weatherfield seem only to have one real pub, to which everyone goes. This isn't a reflection of reality, just a device to get certain characters into a place together that the narrative wouldn't generally have them. In reality, a twenty something would never drink in the same place as Emily Bishop or Norris Cole.
Nothing is forever these days. Pubs close, get revamped, licences and policies change. Pub companies change a pub to a new 'format' to attract the 'more affluent customer'. A few places will have the same landlord and decor for decades (I'm looking at one of those across the road from me as I type), but they are few and far between.
I myself have had several 'locals', none of which I stayed at for over a year.
I looked at my pint of Kirkby Lonsdale Ruskin's. It looked right. But I'd had it before and knew it didn't taste like balsamic vinegar previously. I returned it, and the barman agreed with me and gave me a free pint of York Guzzler. He didn't turn the pumpclip around. Orders of the management. Had to get rid of the previous regime's beer, you see. I thought, if that's your policy, I don't need to come here again. Miles out of my way anyway, even if the pool table was really cheap.
My sister was barred after expressing her views about the place within the landlady's earshot. She was a fat cow anyway and her husband was a knob. Apparently.
I tried the local where I lived. Newcastle Under Lyme had plenty of pubs. There were five within five minutes walk of my house, but this was the nearest. It was a Bass pub, though I can't remember if they served Bass.
I had a day off. I went in and ordered a Stella. I had about 5 in the end. Followed with a double JD which I downed in one. Hell, if pubs had more customers like me, they wouldn't close. Not that my dubious alcohol consumption did this place any good.
I moved from Newcastle Under Lyme in 2007. I went back to visit my brother 4 years later. "Ah," I thought as I approached the area on the bus "I wonder how that old pub is doing?".
The bus passed, and I couldn't see it. For good reason, as it had been demolished. Punch Taverns reckoned it didn't pay it's way. I went by it recently, and nothing had been built upon the vacant land. Such is the way of pub companies.
We have a listed pub in Preston. Apparently unchanged since it opened as a hotel in the 1890s, it has one of only 17 original semicircular ceramic bar counters in the country. As someone once said, there are good pubs and there is good beer, but they very rarely coexist in the same place. This pub was a Robinson's.
I drank 1892 Mild and Unicorn until it poured from my ears. I even tried the Old Tom. The barman told me the record was eight pints before the drinker stopped being served. Me, I tried a pint of it and felt ill about two-thirds of the way down.
I tried my best with them. I even removed a dead rat from their storeroom when all the staff were to squeamish to do so. In retrospect, I never really fitted in there.
It came to a head one night when I went on Preston pub crawl with them all. It all ended in a misunderstanding and hurt feelings all round.
I see no reason to go back.
The thing is about pubs, and indeed life in general, is that nothing lasts forever. Death, of course, is the real finality. A pub may not be just for Christmas but it's generally not for long. Things change, as do people. My present haunt, I suspect, is about to go through one of these changes. But, sad and disappointing it will no doubt be, I will carry on and find somewhere to drink and blow my money.
Until the day they ban alcohol and close all the pubs, that is.