Saturday evening June 30 2007, as the smoking ban approached I decided to go out and take advantage of the last occasion I would be able to smoke in an enclosed public place in the UK. I headed out to New Brighton which in a straight line is about 7 miles from Higher Dew but a tad more by car. I headed for the latest place to have opened up within a few weeks and walked in. There was a duo on with the volume set so high I could not hear myself think, unfortunately neither could the barmaid and after 10 minutes of trying to attract her attention I left. I did manage to obtain a swift half in the next establishment but exited swiftly when I espied the karaoke machine being warmed up and headed for the next drinking house of hospitality. This one was quiet but extremely grim, my how times have changed. I don’t suppose it helped that the weather was atrocious. The pub opposite was packed to the rafters and I could not get in, there was only one more to try before I hit the sea front and the clubs. This big old establishment has gone through some name changes since I first ventured through it doors. I first knew it as the Neptune but like I said that was some years ago now, anyway I digress; I did get served in there and after a couple of drinks left for pastures new.
On the sea front some of the clubs were open and I headed to the “Irish” bar to see some friends. I spent some time talking to the landlady who told me she would expect the takings to go down at some point in the near future as the smoking ban bit. She also explained that some places would go out of business and it would be those who did not have a car park or outside meeting point for smokers. I looked along the sea front and figured out which ones she meant. Those with steps up to the front door and no car park or frontage were obvious candidates. I had a good evening up until it was time to come home. A taxi could not be found for love or money. It’s the one thing that has put me off from drinking on this peninsular. In either Chester or Liverpool city centre a taxi can be found in minutes and usually at any time day or night. Yes it’s expensive but it’s better than walking 3.5 miles to the bean counters house to ring a taxi to pick us both up from there. The bean counter was not impressed with her Crystal Tips hair do either, which is what the rain did to it by the time we arrived at her gaffe.
The following day I was driven back to the sea front to fetch my car which I had left the night before. On the way there we went past the kite festival on the sea front. It was quite a colourful experience with kites of all sizes, shapes, and colours literally filled a section of the skies. The only downside was the weather as it teemed down yet again but almost everyone I saw seemed to be having a good time. The event is one of many that the local council sponsor and encourage. The international guitar festival is just one other of a whole range of things that the local council have organised to give this peninsula some press coverage and attention to a wider audience. Of course there are many things I don’t applaud the council for but on just a few items they seem to have got it right. This place is a whole lot greener and has a vast array of wildlife that did not appear here until a couple of years ago. Walkways, a coastal path and cycle paths have emerged. In short it’s a pleasant place to live if you like that sort of thing and it’s not the council’s fault that all the industries have gone. Famous names like Camel Laird’s, Metal Box, Austin Packaging, Van Den Burghs, and Gandy Belt not to mention the docks etc. I could go on but suffice to say that upwards of 30,000 jobs have been lost in 30 years or so. The area was set in terminal decline but has been regenerated to a fashion in that there not so many old crumbling buildings and empty factories standing idle. Green belt and lush pastures may not be much compensation for when your factory has shut down and your livelihood has gone but it is better than none.
This brings me neatly back to the fact that even the landlords of the entertainment and hospitality business recognise that the new anti smoking measures will create even more unemployment. I genuinely have a great affection for the area I live in and I don’t want to see it run down any more but I suspect this is the start of another slow downward spiral. Only time and the friendly landlords and landladies will tell if my worst fears are founded.