Belfast Telegraph

Change isn’t always good and I’m off down the pub in protest

By Robert McNeil

Oh, to be in Britain now that spring is a month or two off. I’ve changed the words of the famous poem, by wotsisname, but you get my drift. What a place it's turning into.

Latest Government figures, billed as a sort of modern Domesday Book, show that traditional pubs, post offices and libraries are fast disappearing, while bookies, nightclubs and supermarket chains are flourishing.

I've no wish to disparage those who go to the bookies. I’m no good at mathematics myself and, consequently, cannot make heads nor tails of the various odds and combinations that go into making a bet.

But, that said, bookmakers’ premises have never stuck me as particularly salubrious places, and many of the inmates look as if they’d have your eye out for ten bob.

I cannot disparage supermarkets either, as I love them, with their staff so friendly (on pain of getting the sack) and their soothing muzak, which has some of the comforting allure of the asylum.

As for nightclubs, I've never really been one for these, unless there was nowhere else to get a drink. I don't think I'd be allowed in nowadays anyway. I was never allowed in when I was younger, so I can't think why they would let me in now. In particular, it seems the number of lapdancing ‘clubs’ has soared.

I'm not trying to be faux-naif here but, really, what are these about? There's one near a place where I go for an evening class (Ballroom Dancing — How To Avoid it), and I've never ever seen anyone go in or come out, not even bunches of lads.

Some people seem to make out that it's quite respectable — or is that pole-dancing? — while other accounts deem it sordid and degrading.

I'm not entirely clear how someone dances on your lap anyway. I just hope they don't wear stilettos.

Anyhow, these places are on the rise, and I have to ask all you men out there: which would you prefer, a night out at a lapdancing club or an afternoon at the public library?

I'm getting a mixed response here. Did someone say ‘library’? No?

Well, let's try another one, and this time both sexes may answer: which makes you happier, queuing at the post office or shoving a trolley round the supermarket? Hmm, slight majority for the supermarket, but I detect that many citizens have an affection for the post office, too, particularly the small local ones.

Even Cheryl Cole goes to the post office, though I admit I’m only mentioning her to try and show that I keep up with the news.

For my part, at the post office I feel all sort of snug and secure amidst the red and grey tones of nationalised industry.

I'm sure many of you feel the same, though I accept that supermarkets offer more in terms of mass-produced cheapness and consumer choice. There isn't that much to buy in the post office, other than stamps, writing paper (who needs that nowadays?) and those peculiar toys that some of them sell and which no modern child in their right mind would want.

Let’s agree on one thing: the traditional pub. Ask about the best boozers in any city, and it's the old, preserved ones that will be adduced. There's a moral in that story. Not all change is good. Solidity, craftsmanship and artistry married to function should never be lightly discarded.

Let’s say you’ve had a few in just such a pub at lunchtime. You may say to yourself: “I think I’ll treat myself to a stamp.” Or: “I know. I’ll go and have a sleep in the public library.”

Simple pleasures. But for how much longer may we enjoy them?

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