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Drinking for England

Read Adelle Stripe's short essay on Tadcaster and its drinking culture at Verdant's Brewing Folk...

"As a little girl, I believed that all men looked like the ones you saw on the street, with bloated crimson faces and large, pregnant bellies as if a barrel was shoved beneath their shirts. ‘All bought and paid for,’ they’d proclaim, with a satisfied smile. Or the classic, ‘I’m still carrying twins, it’s been a few years now.’ Even better was the name of this lesser-spotted condition: the Tad Tumour. It wasn’t until I started pulling pints that I realised the hardest drinkers were often rake-thin with noses like exploded raspberries. You could spot them from the particular walk they had, the ones that looked like they were holding marbles in their underpants or were shaking a trapped sock from their trouser leg on the way home after last orders. Back then, pubs closed from 3pm until 5pm, when the final bell rang and the workers clocked off. That was the quiet period, the Tad Siesta, when all drinking ceased, and the madness paused for a while. After opening the doors, each booth, snug and corner would fill up with the same men who sat in the same place every day and night, as if a slot were allocated for them. Woe betide anyone who dared to sit in their seat. After they died, the seat passed on to their sons, and then their sons after them. Those were the rules of inheritance.

Inside the gates of heaven, the air was always heavy with cigarette and pipe smoke, the copper top tables sticky with ale and the crumpled bun cases of pickled eggs. In those pubs, I witnessed men fighting with ghosts, women being dragged across the floor by their hair, billiard balls being chucked through windowpanes, but more often than not, quiet drinkers resigned to their situation, knowing their place and accepting it. Around town, the ale was always ‘nursed’, not drank. You nurse a pint in Tadcaster, you nurse it tenderly, as if it is going to save you from yourself. There is always love between the drinker and the drink..."


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