Do you see what I did there?

Irish Mick and I went for a slightly up-market pub dinner above Windermere on Tuesday. Afterwards, I went back to the bar:

Barmaid: Did you two enjoy your venison burgers?
Me: Yes, thanks, they were very nice—but they were dead deer.
Barmaid: …?
Me: Sorry, that was just a joke.
Barmaid: …?
Me: … A pun.
Barmaid: …?
Me: … Well, a double-pun, really… Venison: dead deer.
Barmaid: …?
Me: Two pints of bitter, please.

Board of fayre

Jen and I went for an excellent Chinese meal when we were in Anglesey. Although I should have known better, not wishing to let the gwailo side down, I insisted on persevering with the chopsticks provided. As a consequence, a significant proportion of my meal ended up in places other than my mouth. China—the country, that is—is pretty inept when it comes to tableware. As inept as I am with chopsticks. For a people clever enough to have invented gunpowder, printing, and crispy duck pancakes, you'd have thought the concepts of forks, sensibly shaped soup spoons, and tea cups with actual handles would be an absolute breeze to the Chinese, but apparently not. But who are we Brits to criticise?

The following evening, we dined at a tasteful harbour-front bistro. I ordered their fancy burger with chips. When the nice, Welsh waitress returned with my order, I was somewhat mortified to see that it was being served to me on what can only be described as a scabby old bread board.

Let me make this perfectly clear: if I'd wanted to eat food off a plank of wood, I'd have been born in the Middle Ages. The same Middle Ages that believed diseases to be caused by the Devil, rather than by inadequate table hygiene. The same Middle Ages that officially ended, as far as I'm concerned, with the arrival of cheap, mass-produced china plates.

To add insult to injury, whoever had planked-up my meal had, in an ill-judged attempt at artistic flourish, impaled my burger on to the bread board with a knife. I'm not kidding: there was a sodding great steak knife sticking vertically out the top of my burger. I looked at the knife, then looked at the waitress: “If I can pull that out, do I become King of Britain?” I asked. The waitress laughed politely and left. Somewhat surprisingly, given the fact that she had just served me my meal on a plank of wood, I don't think she had understood my early medieval reference.

They must have used a hammer. It took me two big tugs to remove the steak knife from my burger, its tip having been driven with considerable force into the underlying plank. I could sense the other diners watching me. “Have you seen how that fat man's trying to cut his burger?” I could almost hear them whispering. “Why's he holding the knife in both hands?”

I don't like steak knives at the best of times. They're my fourth least favourite tableware after chopsticks, fish knives, and nasty planks of wood. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I've yet to encounter a steak that wouldn't have been a whole lot easier to cut with a perfectly ordinary knife, than with a pointlessly serrated steak knife with a stupid, unhygienic wooden handle. I wouldn't have minded—well, actually I would—but I hadn't even ordered a steak, I'd ordered a burger—and you definitely don't need a steak knife to cut a sodding beef burger in a bun!

I blame the telly. The people who prepare pub meals have got it into their heads that it's all about presentation. Presentation is definitely important when it comes to food, but there's presentation and there's presentation.

Serving meals impaled on planks of wood is most definitely the wrong kind of presentation.


Our nanny government seems to enjoy nothing more than protecting us from ourselves by banning stuff, so doesn't it do something useful this time and ban amplified music in pubs?

Times: The louder the music in venues, the faster you drink

Loud pop music in bars makes people drink more and down it more quickly, a study in France has shown…

The results, published online in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, show that the louder the music, the more swiftly the drinkers finished their beer, ordered more—or left.

It is entirely possible, Professor [Nicolas Guéguen, Professor of Behavioural sciences at the Université de Bretagne-Sud] admits, that they just found the atmosphere uncongenial, so accelerated their drinking and left.

Remember when you could actually hold a conversation in a pub? It's getting increasingly harder to do so. It's time to reclaim our bars from the alco-pop-sipping teenagers who only go there to get blind drunk. An amplified music ban would help achieve this—and protect us from ourselves by decreasing our alcohol intake.

Come on, Gordon, you know you want to!

And, in related news:

Liverpool Echo: Cains owners: We'll fight to save our beer

… The Toxteth [Cains] brewery yesterday admitted its future as a going concern was in jeopardy after a "perfect storm" conspired against the 158-year-old business…

[Y]esterday their six monthly figures made for painful reading: £4.6m losses; higher raw material and energy costs; and the effects of the smoking ban all took their toll.

My emphasis added. Let it not be said we didn't see this coming. For the record, Cains is one of my favourite pints.



Fitz in full Ivor Cutler mode.

I bought my dodgy railway ticket in order to meet Fitz for a pint or six in Birkenhead.

We hadn't seen each other since the unnecessary and draconian smoking ban. Sadly, Fitz had to spend most of the evening standing outside the pub in the rain smoking roll-ups. This despite the fact that every single one of the pub's other customers that evening (i.e. yours truly) had no objection whatsoever to his illegal, evil emissions.

Finally, the penny dropped:

Fitz: I think it must be my round.
Me: In that case, I'll just have a pint.
Fitz: Are you sure I can't persuade you to have a half?


The Albion, Chester

A pub for grown ups on Monday.

Remember the family hostile pub that Carolyn and I spotted last month? Well, I somehow managed to drag Stense into it on Monday. Actually, dragged is an awfully inappropriate word.

What a fantastic pub! Full of grown-up people enjoying grown-up beer and grown-up food in an altogether grown-up environment.

I was totally out of my depth.

On our way out, we couldn't believe our luck when we saw a family of four reading the blackboard outside. "Oh, it's not fair! Children aren't allowed in!" moaned one of the sprogs.

"Just like it was when I were a lad, kid," I wish I'd said.