A Word In Your Ear - September 5, 2013

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WE laughed in amazement when our local pub displayed Christmas Party posters in August.

Now in September there is an autumnal bite to the Irish Sea breeze through Great Marton.

It’s a pity the same inn, Blackpool’s oldest, doesn’t apply similar forward thinking to coal stocks for its traditional fireplaces. What more welcoming an attraction for wintry weather than cosy fires? Yet those embers glowed only a handful of times through last year’s freeze.

Another past haunt losing its warm appeal was one of the Fylde’s most charming country inns, by cobbled cottage lanes where you expected Miss Marple to appear.

In recent dining-out publicity the historic pub appeared gutted by renovation. No doubt this gave more table room for its cuisine, but those atmospheric, dark-beamed rooms and bar were what attracted us in the first place.

By all means modernise and improve where necessary but let’s not discard our heritage in the process.

Many village hostelries have been opened up into gastro-pubs where most locals can only afford to eat once a month. After being charged £7 for a prawn starter at one, I told its landlord that at my local you could get two main courses for that amount (though no longer by a warming fire).

“No wonder fewer people are drinking in pubs,” observed a veteran licensee to me. “They should reinstate small rooms in old inns, even replace their doors so you can chat but not hear bad bar language. What do coal and logs cost, compared with sports screens and promotions?”

He believed this was why micro breweries were sprouting up everywhere and, in many towns, “beer shops” were popular for limited choice but cosier settings in parlour-like surroundings.

“In the past there were ‘freehouses’ and genuine tenancies,” the licensee concluded, “but now some pub chains are squeezing out the trade’s lifeblood for short-term profit.”

Old fashioned, perhaps, but food for thought - with a pint by a fire.

n For Roy’s books visit royedmonds-blackpool.com, with signed copies at Gazette reception, Plackitt & Booth, Lytham (or his other haunts).