publicity stunt, but an example of harnessedrnpracticalit’: London traffic is sornslow-moving that lorries waste vast C|uantitiesrnof fuel crawling and stoppingrnthrough its tangle of tailbacks. Goingrnfaster than a horse-drawn vehicle is notrnpossible, and a horse waiting to move isrnnot wasting any energy. And Young’s isrnnot the only brewery to be doing well byrnstanding by its traditions. Fullers, Belhaven,rnGale’s, Arkell’s, and ShepherdrnNeame are flourishing, too. Moreover, arnrash of small-scale “micro-breweries” hasrnsprung up in recent vears, many makingrnmarvelous beers, prompted by earlierrnfears that the big boys would obliteraternreal brewing in Britain altogether,rnI’he political point to be made here isrnthat all can benefit when an enterprise isrnon a scale that allows it to be in harmonyrnwith the human condihon. The breweriesrnI praise are ver)’ much part of the localitiesrnin which they have grown up.rnSome of them might export bottles ofrntheir beers further afield, but the bulk ofrntheir business is conducted on their ownrndoorsteps, and they live alongside the majoritvrnof their customers and all of thernpeople they employ. The “big four,” bvrncontrast, are amorphous agglomerationsrnof anoninous financial power, makingrndecisions that affect people’s lives fromrnafar. You don’t have to be a distributist tornrealize that such remotely located moneyrnpower is only going to be interested in localrncommunities insofiir as they ser’e itsrnpurpose.rnSadly, the mark of die distant boardroomrnon local life has been made evenrnluore cruelly on the places that serve ourrnales than on the beers dicmsclvcs. Therernarc 62,000 pubs in Britain; a recent surveyrnshowed that only 212 of them have sornfar escaped the decorative eviscerationrnthat would, if the big boys had their way,rnbe the fate of them all. Most chainownedrnEnglish pubs (and most arernchain-owned) are now no more distinguishablernfrom each other than are internationalK’rnowned hotels or hamburgerrnjoints. CiK hostelries have been particularlvrnbadlv hit. With no respect for anyrnindiidual architectural integrit)-, theirrninteriors have been ruthlessly replaced byrnthe off-the-shelf, branded and themedrncod-Irish, mock-Victorian, or pseudo-rnAustralian kitsch that the marketing nrenrntell the ad men to tell the customers theyrnwant, lens of thousands of individuallyrninteresting interiors have suffered likerntliis, most of them irreparably. There arerneven examples of genuine Tudor ceilingrnbeams in genuinely ancient pubs beingrnripped out to be replaced by plastic replicasrnmore in keeping with the Tudorbethanrntheme parkcry diat the marketingrnmen dictate.rnThese sharp-suited carpetbaggers arernno respecters of the names of the communityrnresources that they so enthusiasticallyrnviolate, either. Ancient inn signsrnthat have immemorially announced thatrnyon have foimd “The King’s Head” orrn”The White klorse,” names that havernbeen on local maps since they were firstrndrawn, have been ripped down and replacedrnby cheap, jokey, crudely coinedrninventions such as the “Slug & Lettuce”rnor “‘I’he Ferret & Firkin.” Such namesrndon’t last, of course. One takeover later,rnand they’ll be equally inappropriatelyrncalled “Paddy’s Bar” or “‘I’he Moon &rnSixpence” before being once morernstripped out and reincarnated as “ThernBrendan O’Grady” or “The Bruce &rnSheila.”rnAll this is as disorienting to travelersrntrying to make their way through contemporaryrnEngland as it is to wayfiirersrncoping with contemporary English life.rnFor too long and in too many ways haverntoo many of us been separated from therninheritance of a past that gives meaningrnto our present. I saw this for myself recentlyrnwhen I revisited my parental homernin Wimbledon. I had arranged to meetrnan old friend, but had mistimed my journeyrnand arrived an hour early. It was arnbalm’ summer’s evening, and I decidedrnto pass die time by visiting die half-dozenrnor so local pubs that I had last irsed, perhapsrntoo frequently, nearly 10 ears earlier.rnI reckoned diat by drinking a half-pintrnin one, and a soft drink in the next, 1rncould take a look in each and retunr tornmeet my friend without compromisingrneither courtesy or sobriety.rnIt was a sad little tour. The shabby Edwardianrndignity of the interior of “ThernDog & Fox” had gone, its slightly self-importantrnplushness replaced by minimalistrnwine-cellar gothic — lots of black, looseboxrnseating, sanded floors, a blackboardrnmenu, and an iconostatie Australian flagrnhanging above the counter. ReleuHcssrnMuzak competed with the shouted ordersrnfor fashionable foreign lagers in anrnunforgivingly hollow acoustic. I drankrnup and left. “The King of Denmark” wasrnonly slightly more recognizable. I’he tradihonalrnarrangement of lounge bar (carpetedrnfor die clean and the suited) andrnpublic bar (linoed for the work-soiled andrnbooted) had gone, as had the quaint littlerntaproom for off-sales. England is a oneclass,rnone-bar society now. Again, therernwas Muzak, and the blackboard, and therninternational lagers —but at one end ofrnthe great long omnibar I was reminded ofrnthe past by the sight and sound of threernmiddle-aged men loudly boring eachrnodier and those widiin earshot in preciselyrnthe way that their predecessors mightrnhave done in the same spot three decadesrnago, even if the decor had then beenrndifferent. The only pub that hadn’trnchanged at all was “I’he Swan” —andrnthat, alas, only because it had been thernfirst to have its guts ripped out before beingrnwine-barified like the rest. It was justrnas horrible as I remembered it.rnI saved “I’he Rose and Grown” untilrnlast. It had always been my favorite.rnMany were the times I had popped in forrna pint, and fallen into conversation withrnwhoever was serving or standing at thernbar, in the easy comnumitv’ that was thernEnglish pub of old. Apart from therernnow being no division between thernlounge and public bars, the decor wasrnjust as I remembered, and the beer just asrngood. There was no chance of casual soeiabilit)’,rnthough. I’he bar staff were toornbusy, and there was no elbowroom at therncounter. I had to shout my order over thernnoise not of canned music but of countlessrncompeting conversations. Therernwere more people in that pub dian in allrnthe rest I had visited put together. Theyrnhad obviously not been listening whenrnthe voices of big business had beenrntelling diem what sort of beer, or pubs,rnthev shoidd want.rnMichael McMahon’s father u’a.s the landlordrnof a traditional English puh in thern1960’s.rnLetter From Venicernby Andrei NavrozovrnNot the Venice of the NorthrnI have always disbelieved those whornwould argue that the topography of arncountry, that is to say its purcK- geophysicalrncharacteristics, is dominant in thernshaping of the personalitv’ of its people.rnStalin used to call them vulgarizers ofrnFEBRUARY 2000/3.Srnrnrn