Anorak News | Country Comforts

Country Comforts

by | 7th, March 2005

‘TIME was when agricultural labourers would dress in smocks and hats, wear neckerchiefs and chew of a straw while passing wry comments on life. Then they would consume huge flagons of scrumpy and pass out.

Fight! Fight! Fight!

One charming nineteenth photograph shows a bunch of such yokels, unconscious and flat on their backs on a grass verge strewn with empty flagons outside a simple country inn.

Yet this kind of rural idiocy is regarded not as a shameless disregard of government guidelines on alcohol consumption.

On the contrary, this ignorance of recommended units is part of our national heritage, to be smiled at and put on souvenir tea towels.

Then there is the more recent past, when rural pubs were frequented by a different kind of bumpkin. This sort wore leather jackets and long hair, and winded their way down country lanes on a greasy motorbike rather than a hay cart.

They would consume mass-produced cider whose logo featured a nineteenth-century yokel in a smock, neckerchief and hat. They too would pass out on their backs outside the pub – usually after braining someone in the car park at closing time.

Their antics are now the stuff of nostalgia, if not legend, and contribute in their own way to the gaiety of the nation. Not that them was gay, mind.

No, there’s nothing new about bucolic boozing – or pastoral punch-ups (the “rural riots” of twenty years ago are surely overdue for a TV drama-doc).

But things are different in 2005, and these quaint country customs will no longer be tolerated.

The Home Office has published figures on pub-related disorder in the countryside, and it has prompted predictable concern and outrage from politicians and other pillars of the community.

This makes life difficult for publicans like Barry Shingler, who is landlord of Marshalls pub in Barnstable, Devon. He opposes 24-hour opening, because he fears falling out with the local community.

“Every village has a busybody who’ll complain at the first sign of trouble,” he explains to the Telegraph.

All true no doubt, but there are traditional country remedies for this sort of problem. A “skimmity ride” to the busybody’s house, replete with hideous effigy of the sticky-beak in question, followed by a brisk ducking of said killjoy in the local pond.

That’ll learn ’em to come down from London, buy up the local houses and poke their noses into country ways.’

Posted: 7th, March 2005 | In: Uncategorized Comment | TrackBack | Permalink