Never To Be Weaned

After the busy roads of Thursday, Easter Saturday afternoon was very noticeably quiet. Even Sonning, that normally traffic-choked home of the well-off, wasn’t busy. Sonning golf club car park had more vacant spaces than taken ones. Earlier in the day I’d had to be in Reading and that too was remarkably uncrowded. It made me think I’d hate to be a retailer but perhaps this is standard for Easter. Perhaps it’s the turn of all the out-of-town attractions – the National Trust houses, theme parks and so on.

If I’d hate to be a retailer, I suspect I’d hate to be a publican even more. I saw the pub by the side of the A4 in Knowl Hill has gone. Another one quite probably lost forever – they rarely re-open. It’s very easy to think it’s a terrible trend and that’s my knee-jerk reaction. Maybe it’s just change though.

Photo: The boarded-up former Seven Stars pub at Knowl Hill, Berkshire

Another failed pub, this one at Knowl Hill

Some pubs are thriving and it seems, in the main, it’s the ‘boozers’, the ones relying on drink rather than food, that can’t hang on. Perhaps it’s just a reflection of rising affluence and the high price we pay in terms of available time as a result: we end up ‘time poor’ and spending the money we’re working so hard to earn on going out to eat.

Perhaps it means the old stereotypes of him spending the house-keeping down the pub while she’s struggling to make ends meet at home, him coming home boozed-up and knocking her and the kids about, aren’t relevant any more. Perhaps it’s to be welcomed. Stereotypes exist for a reason, and those stereotypes are nothing to get nostalgic about.

Perhaps there’s some nasty, creeping conspiracy going on, to make us all dependant on the food industry. Since the 80s cookery has become a dying topic for schools to teach, if it’s not actually dead. Fast food / cheap food / processed food / ready meals / chain restaurants / pub food and so on have spread through all walks of society. There are plenty of people who can’t cook at home even if they wanted to. Add longer working hours, relentless media ‘food porn’ that is basically saying ‘you’ll never be able to cook as well as all these chefs, buy their branded meals or go out to eat instead’, and lo! All of a sudden you have a population sucking off the teat of the food industry, a population that will never be weaned.