Recently I was in a pub in Cheshire when I spotted something that I can only describe as absolutely wonderful. When I say ‘pub’, it was in fact what most pubs in Cheshire have now become – a pub-restaurant. An aspirational pub-restaurant. Where once patrons ordered pints of Stella, now they’re just as likely to order cappuccinos or the limited edition produce of a local microbrewery. Where once customers were happy with an egg and cress sandwich, now they demand ciabattas; The menus bandy about terms like ‘pan-fried’; They’ve installed a massive sofa; There’s a room called ‘The Library’. Of course it’s all bollocks – the customers may want all the trappings but there’s still a deep resentment for all things cosmopolitan. Yes, we may watch Sex and the City but we still hate gays and the EU. Go and have a closer look at the books on The Library’s shelves – they’re all just Jeffrey Archer novels and Good Pub guides from 1986. The dickhead in the kitchen might offer to rustle you up a Pak Choi salad but he’d never eat that kind of food himself – he’s just saving up for alloy wheels.
Anyway, I was in a prime example of such a pub – maybe the best I’ve ever been in. The menu kept banging on about ‘organic produce’ and referring to the chef by name – Liam. Then I noticed a small blackboard high up on a wall. It was perhaps not much bigger than an A4 piece of paper and read, bafflingly, ‘Liam’s blog’. That bit was painted on, permanently. Then, below it, written in chalk, clearly in the handwriting of a sixteen year old girl, it said something like, ‘Chantenay carrots coming through nicely in the organic vegetable plot’. It was pretty clear this sentiment had not come from Liam. Liam was a front.
But still, I was intrigued – ‘Liam’s blog’. What did it mean? Did Liam have an online existence where he waxed lyrical about the comings and goings of life as a chef in a provincial pub-restaurant - the ‘best bits’ of which later made it on to the blackboard I was now looking at? I can imagine this – I’ve seen other pub-restaurants misguidedly go overboard with their online infrastructure, ie, “The Nag’s Head –don’t forget to visit our website / forum / facebook group”. But a quick internet search on my phone for the name of the pub throws up no such thing.
Let me be clear about this: The small blackboard I am looking at proclaiming itself to be ‘Liam’s blog’ has no online presence. The startlingly abstract reality of the situation finally dawns on me – the blackboard itself, in the minds of the people who run this pub, is ‘the blog.’ This instantly threw up a matrix of questions – what do these people think a ‘blog’ actually is? Maybe they don’t think words need clear definitions? When they write something on this particular blackboard do they imagine they’re writing a ‘blog post’? I imagine the bar manager handing a stick of chalk to a young member of casual staff whilst telling them to “go and update Liam’s blog”.
Watched East Bound and Down in its entirety again, which sent me on the second David Gordon Green bender of the year. The male relationships throughout his stuff are so monstrously well-observed (see Kenny Powers and his brother Dustin or Schneider's gang in All the Real Girls). There's a warmth and fondess between the men, but executed with the flippancy and irreverance that only years in each other's pockets can produce.