Published: 11:30, 26 June 2020
Boris Johnson says he’s looking forward to going to the pub, getting a haircut and playing cricket.
Well, far be it from me to advise our illustrious PM but, having said something positive, upbeat and accurate for once, he should have left it there. I don’t give two hoots about getting my locks shorn or dressing up in white and spouting nonsense about googlies and daft mid-offs.
No, all that matters is that we can all finally get back to the pub at long last.
And, for all the naysayers who claim our wonderful pubs will never be the same again, that’s nonsense too.
This wonderful country has suffered pandemics before and come back fighting fit and stronger than ever. In fact, those of you with an interest in history will know it was the Black Death that gave Britain its wonderful pub culture.
So, on the grand scale of things, Covid-19 is nothing compared to a plague which killed millions and a pandemic is certainly nothing new to Kent’s centuries-old bars.
Of course, it’s difficult to say with any certainty when the first pub opened in Britain and a number of different boozers lay claim to the title, whether it be for historic acclaim of simply the commercial advantages they think it might deliver.
And I certainly don’t want to get into any scuffles over which is the oldest pub in this great county, but I do know Ye Olde Yew Tree Inn in Westbere claims it was built in 1348 – well, that was exactly the same year the Black Death hit England’s southern shores and wiped out half the population. The plague was so bad, even the constant fighting between the English and French stopped, for a while at least.
Of course, beer was being drunk in England long before the plague arrived but with the alcohol all being brewed at home the quality of the ales varied massively. It’s safe to say drinking at this time was very amateurish.
But, by 1370 the Black Death had created a huge labour shortage which, ironically, proved to be a massive plus for English peasants. Reduced numbers meant they could demand higher wages and a better standard of living. With more cash in their pockets they could afford more, better ale and more, better food.
In response to demand the houses previously selling or giving away leftover ale were replaced by proper commercial establishments with better beer and food.
Pubs as we know, and love them, had arrived.
In time the ‘public house’ became regulated by the authorities and Richard II made a law that signs had to be erected.
Over time commercial brewers built bigger houses that became busy meeting places which sold beer – hence public house. And, we’ve been meeting our mates to get inebriated and talk nonsense long into the night ever since.
In effect pubs became the centre of every community and it is exactly this communal spirit that shone through the dark times in lockdown.
Pubs right across the county refused to be defeated and provided a community spirit by arranging takeaways and deliveries of both food and drinks.
This desire to serve their regulars, no matter what the challenge, is what makes the great British boozer what it is.
But, despite their remarkable resilience no-one should be in any doubt pubs have been tested to their very limits during the last few months.
We must all continue to do everything we can to support them once they can finally throw open their doors on July 4.
As part of this support, KentOnline plans to use its Love Your Local campaign to make sure every pub has the best possible re-opening. Pubs can even book a free advert to appear in their local paper. Find out more here