The Courtyard Papworth – Book Night at a micro pub

Papworth Brewery is curious, although not unique, in that it no longer resides in its namesake place. ‘Newcastle Brown’ is a related example that comes to mind straight away, as I begin to ponder on this. The brewery used to be in Papworth, to be fair, but has since located up the road to Earith, where it continues to make some genuinely lovely beer for the people of Cambridgeshire, and beyond. One such ale is the lovely ‘Whitfield Citrabolt’,which I find myself supping thirstily just before I get on the microphone, in front of a live audience at The Courtyard in Papworth. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I can get like that on the beer sometimes. Let me explain.

So, Papworth Brewery is no longer in Papworth, but it is much to the credit of it’s founder, Chris Jones, that he has chosen to come back to Papworth and run a micropub at The Courtyard, a coffee shop by day, but a pop-up pub in the evening. In fact, since in Chris started running this pub, from Easter 2018, it is now open every evening except Mondays. That is particularly welcome news for the good citizens of Papworth, which has been somewhat bereft of pub for a long time (one reason why I tend to meet so many of the people of Papworth while I am out and about in the drinking establishments of St Ives). It is also good news for me and Carol Carman, another local author and member of the ‘Telling It…’ spoken word group, because Chris likes to run events at The Courtyard, and had invited us both to come down for a Book Night. Since neither Carol nor myself are particularly shy about talking about our books, we both jumped at the chance!

Carol Carman has recently released her latest work, a novel called Gingerbread Children, which you could, and should, find out about and buy by visiting here. I am currently reading this book myself and am enjoying it immensely. One line in particular, ‘if time had not actually stopped, it was certainly having a long hot soak before deciding what to do next’ is already one of my favourites of 2018. ‘Think Terry Pratchett with witches’, many have said in regard to this book. High praise indeed and well deserved!

If you are reading this blog, you probably know more than enough about me already, so I shall skip further self-reference here, bar to say that the success of the evening, as I suddenly realise while putting down the beer and picking up the microphone, is all down to Carol, me and the delights of Chris’ bar, as we begin to try and entertain the gathered throng.

The audience is kind and attentive as we both proceed to read extracts from our latest novels. This seems to go down well, I’m relieved to be thinking as we break politely to refill our glasses, and keep Chris busy. The folks here seem to be the type who are proper fans of books (you can sometimes spot that in a crowd) so we then proceed to run a Q&A session, once glasses are recharged. As we hoped, the questions are both numerous and insightful. Carol and myself both love to talk about the writing process, such as gathering ideas, getting to the finish line, publishing the darn thing etc and the following hour is a real pleasure. It always is, to share ideas and passions with a like-minded audience. It was a most gratifying session and even more so  when we find that a good number of our new friends actually want to read our books, which is always a welcome bonus! Signings ensue!

So thank you to Chris for inviting us, and Carol for keeping me company and making us look good. Here’s a picture of us being happy about it all, once it was over:

Thank you also to the good people of Papworth, who provided us with such a warm welcome. I would recommend this event to any other writers out there who like to talk to people who love books. You can follow Papworth Brewery on Facebook here, and contact Chris there if you wish to learn more.


Book Review: ‘The Gravediggers Arms’ by Charlie Mackle

While at a British Guild of Beer Writers summer party, I indulged in various conversations to see if there was any other ‘pub fiction’ out there to hang my #pubfiction hashtag onto. After a good number of chats, and I daresay, ales, I finally found one. Michael Clarke told me about a book written by his fellow-member of the Aylesbury CAMRA group, Charlie Mackle. It was not originally meant to be a book, but was a series of short stories that were published in the Aylesbury CAMRA monthly magazine, Swan Supping, and these were later collated together into ‘The Gravediggers Arms’ book. I thanked Mike for the tip, ordered a copy from Amazon, then promised to write a review. So here it is.

‘The Gravediggers Arms’ is not only the title of the book, but also the name of the pub in which all of the proceedings are based. In some ways this could be viewed as contender for the worst pub in the world. Falling apart, unclean to scientifically challenging levels, and frequented by regulars with an unhealthy reliance on the beers purveyed within these walls, this is the pub where we follow the adventures of its landlords and clientele in each chapter. And what beers we find there! Much of what is sold between these four walls is brewed on-premises and, for increasingly obvious reasons, are not likely to be widely available in the country as a whole any time soon. The names, as well as their ingredients, do little to add to their marketing potential, but do provide amusement to the reader, such as Fit Shaced, Undescended Gonad and Ring of Fire, the latter being a particularly ominously-named effort, and not only for the chilli added to the brew at the last-minute.

So, this is not meant to be a realistic look at the daily life of a local pub. This, after, all is a place where the CAMRA LocAle groups have paramilitary wings, and that’s not true, right? No, it is more a fantasy pub that has all the aspects of pub-life ramped up to the max. Which is no criticism. What the book manages to do is still reveal aspects we recognise from our own locals from within these exaggerations, as we read about the mad goings-on within The Gravediggers. From the ales that are strange beyond imagination but still sell to the enthusiastic locals, the real ale tickers, who have to drink everything out there at least once, to the sparsely populated Lounge area, where to local toffs occasionally visit, at great expense.

And you also can’t help but root for James and Mazz, our two heroes who run this place. James ends up in charge by being pressured into it by devious local businessmen and through lack of anything better to do, but it is Mazz, who has to look for an alternative career to that of being a mime artist, who finds that she has a particular talent for running this place. It is rarely smooth running though. The pub relies heavily on its few local regulars, who seem to be there more than the staff, and so the place is constantly trying to reinvent itself, trying the latest zeitgeist in the quest for success, or survival at least. Many of these schemes, in fact all of these, are doomed to failure, such as the fad for not banning mobile phones but actually only allowing conversation on mobile phones. They may not be natural business people, but at least they give it a go!

The tone is light and humorous, but the stories are not merely drunken fun however. Each new chapter usually looks at a contemporary issue (at least contemporary when it first appeared in Swan Supping) through the prism of The Gravediggers, and often highlights targets of the author’s ire. Politicians (national and local), celebrities and toffs are all  regular subjects of ridicule, but Mr. Mackle perhaps saves his largest criticism for the big breweries and the disappointing fare that they force upon the pub-going public. This is most clear from the almost-carefully named beers they offer, such as ‘Blandweiser‘, or ‘Yellowe Queen‘, which are seen as a fate worse than even the most gruesome of James’ latest experiments.

There are occasional moments of poignancy too if you care to look for them. Like the chapter written on the hundredth anniversary of Work War 1. The locals find an old photo in the walls of the pub, hidden away for years. I confess myself that I like to see old photos in pubs, and have written about them too, so I was particularly moved when we see that this photo is of a bunch of Gravediggers regulars in 1914, just before they headed off to war. We then discover that only two of them came back. “The rest of ’ems just names on the memorial”, one of our old regulars sadly reminds us.

The book’s stories do get steadily more extreme towards the end, but for me the book’s strengths lie where the tales remain just within the realms of a pub that the reader may recognise. But for all the madness within these four walls, it is clear that the real madness resides outside of them. So, the worst pub in the world? Maybe not after all. It is at least one you can’t help going back to, in the pages of this book. 

Mazz and James sum it up best themselves while musing about the universe, looking up at the stars from the vantage point of the pub garden. “Just to think,” Mazz says. “Out there in the infinite vastness of space there must be countless pubs, and there will be one just like The Gravediggers.” James replies, “I know the universe is big, but it can’t be that big!”  With our pub-universe getting smaller every month, this book serves as a reminder to celebrate these strange and unique places in our own towns and villages while we still can.

Cheers Charlie

You can find this book on Amazon here.

Out and about

It has been a short while since I have posted anything. Perhaps it is because I needed a bit of a lie down, but maybe it was also because I have been out and about attending book launches in Cambridgeshire. The first one has been a stand out date in my annual diary for years, even before I took to writing about pubs and beer. Yes, from 18th to 20th October here I was, at the legendary St Ives Beer Festival!

Er… ok, I promise I was there. Really I was. In fact I may have been at the bar when that photo was taken. I did work the bar for a shift after all, on the Friday afternoon. Like all CAMRA events, these are run by volunteers and rely on the skills, dedication and enthusiasm of the local CAMRA members. I am a member of Huntingdonshire CAMRA myself and have had great fun working at the festival bar before, so it was a real pleasure serving there for a while. There are several pluses in working a CAMRA festival bar. Firstly, they work on a voucher system so you don’t have to worry about all that pesky money changing hands. Secondly, we are duty bound to have a working knowledge of the beers we are selling so it is a great opportunity to indulge in some research. Also, and not least, the people here, on both sides of the bar, are polite, charming and really pleased to be there. The atmosphere, even for the presently-sober, is quite unique and well-worth coming for. For those in the area who like a good beer, I would heartily recommend saying hello to Hunts CAMRA and see what they are up to next.

Eventually, though I did get to my stall, where I did try and sell, and sign, a few books. The local CAMRA group have been so kind to invite me here this year. They are an excellent set of people and I must note my particular gratitude to Richard Harrison and Juliet Ferris for their continuing support. It has been said that this sort of audience, a beer festival one, is tailor made for me, for the ‘Tales from the Red Lion’ series at least. And so it proved. I didn’t really have to work too hard to explain the point of the books to people who come over and express their curiosity. They have their own pub that they love and recognise the types of characters that I write about who inhabit them. However, there is some evidence that I didn’t mind a good bit of explaining, even if was not required…

Over the three days it all goes really well and I meet loads of new people and hopefully convert a few new fans of Pub Fiction. It was great to see some old friends and makes new ones too, the human ones and the ones found in my pint glass! I would thoroughly recommend this event to those who like good beer, good people or both. Can’t wait for the next one! But not just yet. I did go to bed VERY early after day 3 was over.


Hard on the heels of this event, but just long enough to recover, was a joint book launch that I had arranged with Carol Carman, a fellow-member of the ‘Telling It…’ group. We chose Niche Comics in Huntingdon to launch this, not only because Angela and Guy have been supportive of the group for some years now, and not only because this is a lovely bookshop as well as a comic shop. It is also because this is one of the few independent book stores around this area, and is well-deserving of support. Just like good pubs, there are not enough of these places left, so we should cherish them while they are still here.

Here is me and Carol posing for the camera. I promise that there were also many more people there than those who squeezed into this scene. Carol Carman, was launching ‘Gingerbread Children’, a fantasy novel set in the world of witches and biscuits and not dissimilar to a bit of Terry Pratchett, which is not bad thing at all. When Carol signed a copy of her book for me, she put a cheeky little note of apology that there were not any pubs in her book. In fact, ‘The Lamb and Werewolf’ gets a mention on page one! I can’t help but think how Dan would get on in that place. You can check out McCaw Press for more details of Carol’s book, and I hope you do.

Jamie Delano also joined us that afternoon. Jamie, as well as being the iconic ‘Constantine’ comic book writer, is also a novelist and has performed for the ‘Telling it…’ group a few times too, so it was great to see him again. He also has a new book out, ‘Leepus: River’, the next in his series set in a flooded near-future Inglund. Find out more about this here.

Once we got settled , we all read an extract from our books, then talked about our writing process, and answered questions from the audience. It was a lovely, enthusiastic crowd and one who genuinely seemed to love books and writing. I love afternoons like this. Let’s hope we can all get to more of these, in places like this, in times to come.

Oh, and this chap turned up in my life too.

He may also have proved to be a bit of a distraction. Maybe, though, just maybe he will become an inspiration! I shall be sure to let you know.

Coming up…book launch at St. Ives Beer Festival

It’s less than a month to go now! No, not Christmas, but the CAMRA St Ives Beer Festival. Which, for some round here is like Christmas coming early, since it is a particularly marvellous beer festival and, like Christmas, starts near the end of October. As an added bonus to the event I have been invited to come in and launch my new book, ‘Another English Civil War’, which, like me by then, also has a lot of beer in it. Marvellous!

Book signing beer festival

So, I shall be there each day from Thursday 18th October to Saturday 20th October for as long as I can stand up, but I will be particularly attentive on my book stall from 6-8pm each day. It’s a great chance to get in those Christmas presents for your beer and book loving buddies!

Come along and say hello and enjoy the ales and good company too. Details below.


St Ives Beer Festival website

Surprising rendezvous with Dorset Poets

So…ok, I am on holiday but I can still go into a pub on my hols, right? It doesn’t have to be pub research, right? It doesn’t have to involve Spoken Word performances, right? Not on a Monday evening in Swanage at any rate. And not in The Globe surely…

It’s my first full day in Swanage and there is a lot of walking to be done. Two walks for the dogs, two for me and by 7.30 pm my phone kindly tells me that I have broken my all-time step count tally, (25,000 before you go thinking it’s a disappointingly low number) so I’m thinking that I must surely deserve a pint. I’ve already been walking out of town towards where I’m staying, so decide to keep on going and take a look at The Globe, which sits on the outskirts of Swanage.

globe swanage pub

As soon as I walk in I can immediately tell it’s a local’s pub. Everyone is sitting at the bar, and they obviously all know each other very well. And they don’t know me. The conversation even stops when I open the door. Such things should never deter a pub-writer or you’d soon run out of things to write about, so I carry on towards to bar. Plus I’ve already spotted a healthy selection of ales at the bar, so instinct kicks in and before my conscious brain has a chance to back me out, my subconscious has already ordered a ‘Ringwood’s Razorback’ and has additionally noted that ‘Timothy Taylors Landlord’ could be lined up for later too.

I sit near the bar but not at it. I don’t want to take someone’s seat! I ponder that pubs in holiday towns like this must get a lot of tourists invading their territory, so it’s fair enough for these locals to be a little circumspect in regard to yet another stranger coming through their doors. The pint is good but no conversation looks imminent so I get my pint down to my last few sips and prepare to leave. As I do so I then notice that one more person has come into the pub, and also has not sat down at the bar. In fact, he has sat down right at the far end. And has put up a small handwritten sign. It says ‘Poetry Evening’. I raise an eyebrow. I pick up my beer and decide to leave the last few sips in my pint glass, just for now.

Martin is an instantly amiable chap and invites me to join the evening, which it turns out is run here regularly. I introduce myself as a novelist rather than a poet but he says that would be fine if I wanted to read a bit of one of my books. We chat for a while about running spoken word groups, which I also do myself from time to time, and I (of course) grab another beer. Gradually the rest of the group, or those who are coming tonight anyway, arrive and we all make ourselves comfortable.

dorset poets pub

We then proceed to take turns at reading a little something. Some read selections of their favourite poetry, but a few of us have our own compositions to try out.  Steve, the teenager amongst us, writes impressively with open honesty. Doug beautifully expresses his connections to nature, and also shows us a wry sense of humour. Martin entertains us with his hilarious poetical bombs, launched at the government, aristocracy and celebrity culture. Myself, I manage to read a bit of my first book, a short section that talks of the importance of making your memories while you can, which prompts me to take the picture above, and write this article, as it goes. Then, a bit later, once I do have that pint of ‘Landlord’, I even gain the (dutch) courage to read out one of my rare poems and a couple of old song lyrics. All of which I find all rather cathartic, now I think about it. Then by 10 o’clock, and all too soon, our time is up and we leave with handshakes and smiles. And some decent memories too. As a session in any pub should be.

So… it turned out to be an evening that was as lovely as it was unplanned. Nice to meet you all. Just goes to show what can happen in a pub if you care to look. And if you care to stay for those few extra sips!


If you want to join some poets and poetry fans in the Swanage area you can find them at The Globe, 3, Bell Street, Swanage from 8pm on Monday evenings.

Part 3 underway…

To be honest, I wasn’t planning on starting writing again so soon, with all this marketing of parts 1 and 2 I should be doing, but I happened to be down the pub with some friends this week and this idea fell out from somewhere as a good place to start ‘Tales from the Red Lion, part 3’. Quite where this will end up we shall have to find out together, but this should give you some idea of where we are heading. For those who are up to date, a sneak preview follows …

WARNING: (minor) plot spoiler below.

Pint beer

Chapter 1

 There’s a feeling of déjà vu as I look over the bar at Tom the Landlord and contemplate my first pint of the day.
“What have you got on today?”
“There’s the ‘Same Old’. That’s new. 4.4%”
“Didn’t you have that one on last week?”
“That was the ‘Same Old, Same Old’. That came in at a more matured 5.5%. I was worried at first, but it shifted nicely by Sunday evening.”
“It would, it would. Especially with this lot here.”
We take a moment to look around at the bedraggled but beloved regulars who keep this place alive during the day, and nod knowingly at each other.
“What’s it to be then?”
“Always keen to try something different.”
“Good, that’ll be a pint of the ‘Same Old’ then. Coming right up. No, no, put your money away. This one is on the house.”
“Well, thank you, thank you indeed. But you can’t keep doing that.”
“I know, I know. Just this once, since it’s you.”
We exchange smiles as I carefully pour Tom the pint, check that there is just the right amount of head at the top and hand it over to him. He inspects it in return with an approving look.
“Cheers,” we both say in unison. “Your good health.”

Now that I think about it, it’s more of a mirror image than déjà vu, but forgive me. We’ve only been open an hour and I’m not quite awake yet. You would think that me, more than anyone, would be used to the hours by now, wouldn’t you?

Summer party with some beer writers? Why not…

The summer is a good time to join the British Guild of beer writers. Because almost immediately you get to meet a lot of the members. At a party. In a brewery. ‘Should be my sort of thing’ I am thinking to myself as I amble down Coldharbour Lane towards Brixton Brewery.

I’m early. I always am. Mr Contingency, me. However, the festivities are clearly underway already when I arrive. This lot are dedicated. I should find out more, but first things first. I must get a beer right away, lest I be considered an impostor. There is much of interest on offer, but I plump for one of my favourites, Dark Star’s ‘Hophead’. Not only is it a fine beer, it is only 3.8%. This night could well be quite a session, so demands a session beer, especially when in a roomful of strangers. Or maybe I should call them ‘people I haven’t been drunk with yet’. I suspect that this will be a somewhat temporary status.

Brixton Brewery

As I fill my glass, I see that everything here looks brand new, and remember that Brixton Brewery have opened these new premises as their second site recently, as an addition to their original site on Brixton Station Road, where they still do brewery tours. It sure looks like an might impressive outfit. I hope I don’t spill anything, as it’s going to properly stand out here if I do. Beer in hand, I get down to the serious business of introducing myself. There is a fascinating mix of people here who make beer, study beer, review beer or review pubs. I’m now thinking that I may well be the only novelist here, the ‘sole purveyor of Pub Fiction’. Oh dear, I’m using alliteration and words like ‘purveyor’ already – early signs of verbosity. (‘Verbosity’ is also one of my favourite fictional beers, from my book ‘Another English Civil War’. It’s a bit strong, that one.)

I’m soon introduced to Pete Brown, the Chair of the guild, and am informed that it is indeed that Pete Brown, the author of ‘Man Walk into a Pub’ amongst many others. Now I should tell you, I love this book, which is a hugely engaging social history of pubs in Britain, and I’ve bought it for a few people who are interested in that sort of thing, so it’s a real pleasure to meet him. If you want a copy you could grab one here, for example.

Pete Brown

I try and keep my cool but I just need to get the ‘I love your books’ thing out of the way first, before just settling down to some proper pub chat. That’s me loving Pete’s books by the way, in case you weren’t sure. I’m not expecting him to have read mine – he’s only just met me two minutes ago. After a short while and a request for a photo (me again), I can see that my pint is getting dangerously low, as you may already have noticed, so I head off to fix that.

Which brings me to the corner of the room that is, for the evening, the Brixton base of the Lickinghole Creek Brewery (real name, I would never have been brave enough to make up that one) where I hear there is a fabled Imperial Stout on offer. I say hello to the very enthusiastic Lisa Pumphrey, who is only able to provide me with a tiny taste of said brew, as it has almost ran out, due to its distinct popularity so far this evening. I must be quicker next time! Lisa tells me that it is 9.3%. This is not that strong for an Imperial Stout but strong enough for this evening I daresay! Not easily deterred, I do try another one of their beers and for some reason ask for a photo of their stout meeting my book. Lisa photo-bombed the meeting too!

Lickinghole creek brewery

It was great to hear from Lisa, and co-owner Min, about what these dedicated people are doing in their Virginia brewery and the ambition they have. I urge you to find out more about these great people here.

I continue around and proceed to participate in a good deal more chat, now effortlessly for some reason. I meet a historian, a lecturer, a brewer and a new Dad. All with a speciality in beer of course. Well, the new Dad is a little off his game, he tells me, but I can forgive him for that. “Don’t worry, mate”, I assure him, “one day you will get to the pub and one day you will get to sleep again”. I’m not sure how helpful that was. This is, of course  all just marvellous. But are there any other novelists here? Not so far, but the quest continues, and I then bump into a literary-looking chap called Mike Clarke.

Mike is a beer and pub writer and likes to put a bit of humour in his work, he tells me. I nod approvingly. Or at least I hope that’s how it looks. It’s now getting to that time of the night where a mirror is best avoided. Anyway, you can read one of Mike’s articles here, to get a flavour of what he means. Once I’ve yakked on a bit about what I do, Mike then tells me that I am, in fact, not alone in writing Pub Fiction. He, in fact wrote a novel set in a pub when he was at University! We chink glasses, and I tell him that I will now use the hashtag #pubfiction with more vigour from now on, now that it is ‘a thing’. Mike then offers to review both my books in his local CAMRA magazine, which is great news, and then tells me about The Gravediggers Arms.

The Gravediggers Arms is a collection of short stories set in a truly dismal fictional pub of the same name, serving questionable beers such as ‘Old Septic Tank’, ‘Undescended Gonad’ and ‘Ferret’s Liver Liquorice Stout’. I’d rather have another Hophead, or a Brixton Brewery or Lickinghole Brewery brew but the book sounds smashing, and I promise to check it out.

(I am, in fact reading this now, have chortled greatly at the first tale, and will write up a review in due course…)

Pub Fiction

The night is going swimmingly. I may have gone back to the bar, and possibly the toilet, a few more times than I have mentioned so far. However, I am all too aware that it is a long way home and I need to go while I still vaguely know which direction it is in. But before I take my leave, I feel I should at least introduce myself to the Guild’s Board Director, Joanna Dring, while I still have a small chance of talking some sense. As it turns out, we are both exceptionally talkative by this point so it doesn’t take long to find out that, among other things, she and I share an interest in promoting the pub specifically as an asset to mental health within communities. This is a running theme in the ‘Tales from the Red Lion’ series, and the article ‘A Safe Place’ on this site. I have sometimes wondered if it was just me thinking that, and that I was possibly overestimating the feelings of society at large on this subject, so it is good to hear that others feel the same way too. Jo pointed me in the direction of a couple of videos that Heineken have made on the subject so I’m sharing them with you here too, as they are both well worth a look. This one is with Frank Bruno, and this one with poet Solomon O.B.

Perhaps you can watch them as I reluctantly leave to try and find Herne Hill station. Thanks for a great night everyone!

A safe place

Pub community hub

Another English Civil War – Chapter 10. Dan.

…I have to stop talking for a moment. I look at the table and say this word in my head. Safe. I look at the empty glass. Safe. The bottles. Safe. Here. Now. I am safe. I know all about what lies beyond these walls and beyond this session, but if I try I can make it stay beyond, if only just for now. I can do this. I can. Deep breath. Then I turn back to the conversation with my friends. Here especially, I am safe.

It only takes me a short while to recover. I am in my safe place with good people, so the dip in my mood is brief and hopefully unnoticeable. We get in another drink, start talking about something else or other, and soon we have ascended to what we like to call the Happy Plateau. Yes, the hallowed Happy Plateau. This is the state of existence you could describe as being ‘As drunk as you need to be on any given night’. It’s a happy place, and I enjoy it while we are there. But it is also a sadly fragile state. All it takes is one pint too many, or a certain thing being said, and you are either flying too high, or falling off the cliff…


A running theme in both books is mental health, and specifically male depression. This is often seen in The Red Lion in two different guises.

Firstly, in those damaged by loneliness. Those, such as Henry, who come to the pub as their only source of human contact. They may get precious little even here, but the difference between getting these small interactions in the pub and the alternative vacuum of humanity without them can make all the difference. These are the people who lack the confidence to make functional relationships elsewhere in their lives, which is a reflection not so much on them, but the society that all too easily now allows this to happen. The pub may not always be the best place to find fulfilling relationships but for many they are the best, and possibly the only, place to start.

Secondly, there are those who function perfectly well socially but still find it hard to express their feelings sufficiently. Dan is the obvious example. He is perfectly happy to help people and listen to their problems but doesn’t know how to let others help him. He bottles up his guilt and depression to such an extent that causes him huge damage, while knowing full well the good that he can do when he lets people unburden themselves to him. Therefore it is also the confident types found down the boozer who may also be in need of help too.

So, for both Henry and for Dan, The Red Lion is their safe place, where they can be safe from their real selves as much as anything else. Matthew Hopkins is never able to follow Dan through the doors of the pub after all. So even when solutions are not sought or are not available at that given moment, the pub provides precious respite to enable it’s patrons just to keep going another day.

I’m looking to get across the point that much good can begin to be done for mental health in our pubs. Relationships small and significant that can be born in them, and all of these connections should be seen as positive.  But a good pub is only a start. They are places where community and support can be fostered but the mere existence of these places is not enough. It is the people within them that have to use the pubs they love to create these communities. They will not just create themselves. Our characters discover that a great pub is only a place of potential, not a solution in itself. And nor are they the only places that can help. After all, Dan finds that the park can be a great place to have a chat and make a connection while feeding the pigeons. But what a great asset our pubs are! They have already been our community hubs for centuries. Where else would all of us mix and meet without them? These places are already here and are the ideal places where we can begin to fix the loneliness and hurt around us. But as the numbers of pubs closing increases every week, the prospect of losing one of our best solutions to mental health issues is real and needs to be addressed.

‘Use them or lose them’ is part of the message. But the other part is…next time you do use one, perhaps just say hello to someone you don’t know. It may do more good than you think.