“Always be honest to each other… that’s the first thing…”
Pubs aye. I bloody love them, me. When my Dad would go out on a Sunday (every Sunday mind, come hell or high water) and he would speak of these exotic places – The Tut, The Taps, The Vine – I assigned almost mythical status to the imagined meccas his words conjured, almost to the point of obsession. I imagined what they looked like inside. The kind of people that would frequent them. When my Dad came home one Sunday proud as punch because he had bought some haggis ‘from a bloke in’t Vine’, this only added to my intrigue. Did they have merchants in The Vine? What else could you procure from these strange men?
And so, it was only natural that my first job was in a pub. After starting as a glass collector, my unbridled love for the pub life led to ten glorious years on and off in a number of boozers but primarily in the place that become my own local – The Tut ‘n’ Shive. I loved the Tut for a number of reasons. The people were (mostly) great. The jukebox was the best in town. It seemed to be entirely made of wood. Being inside the Tut felt like sitting in the hull of an old wooden ship, bound to absolutely nowhere but sure to be enjoying itself along the way. Alas, the Tut, while still standing proud after all these years, is no longer the place that it once was. Landlords come and go. Big companies come in. And a little piece of what made the place so magical in the first place is slowly stripped away year by year. It’s sad that I don’t find the same refuge in a dank, lonely corner of a forgotten town centre pub any more, but I will never forget the memories that were forged within that old place.
The romanticising of drinking culture is nothing new, of course. Cheers, Horace & Pete and the music of Tom Waits have done a sterling job in bottling that fine feeling of a cold pint, some warm conversation and a whole night stretched ahead of you like a vast ocean. But none of these things really captured my pub experience. And that’s why I love Early Doors.
The Grapes is a nondescript but charming pub somewhere in Manchester. The punters are unremarkable, the staff typical of any Northern pub. But it is in this mundanity that Early Doors really shines. Because these people are remarkable in their own way. Kenneth and his stoic determination, Duffy and his sunny optimism and perhaps most memorably of all, the inimitable Tommy, played with a glorious withering snarl by Rodney Litchfield. These old pubs are dying and this is a tragedy because all human life is here. They represent a tradition, particularly in the UK, that stretches back hundreds of years. The pubs don’t really change and nor do the people and if there isn’t some kind of comfort to be taken from that, then why are we all here in the first place?
As with the similarly wonderful Detectorists, Early Doors is a celebration of those of us that keep a database of which pubs we have visited, those of us that would rather do a pub quiz than a nightclub. It is a celebration of the drinkers.
My Dad once told me that his Dad, Arthur Johnson, would go down the Old George in Wombwell every single night. I have already mentioned my Dad’s drinking routine, and, like my forefathers before me, I feel like I’m not doing too bad either.
Early Doors made me feel like I was back in my local in its heyday, and for that I will forever be grateful.
To the regiment! I wish I was there…
For more, read why I love…