Pub Signs for the 21st Century

As any UK readers know, pub signs have been a long tradition in this country. For those of you who have never visited Britain, here are two examples.

With many pubs being bought out by large companies, corporate names have fast become the norm, and our towns and high streets have seen the old signs disappearing fast.

I thought it might be time for some new names for pubs, to better reflect our changing society, and our dependence on electronics in this century. As I have limited artistic skills, I have not attempted to draw them. Instead, I offer only some name suggestions that could be developed into signs by someone with good graphics skills.

And if anyone does that, remember where it originated!

If there was a pub in Beetley, I would like it to be called this.


For those of you hooked on Internet dating apps, how about this name?


Compulsive mobile phone users might enjoy a drink in this place.


Twitter users would have this obvious watering hole.


Anyone foolish enough to have already bought an all-electric car might like to stop for a beer here.


Those phone users still on pay-as-you go options might like to meet up with others at their pub of choice.


Six selections for you, to get your minds ticking over.

Please add your own in the comments.

The Barber’s Chair: Sports and Politics

It has been many years since I last had to go to a barber for a haircut.
In fact the last time was in 2000, almost twenty years ago.

From a very young age, until my late forties, I was a regular at the same barber shop in south London. Never one to let my hair grow, (it has never touched my ears, let alone collar) constant trips to see the barber were just an accepted part of my routine. Once I was working, I would have to go at weekends, and that meant they would be busy.

Back then, two barbers worked flat out dealing with the constant flow of customers. They rarely had time to sweep up the cigarette butts and huge amount of hair on the floor, and I always knew I would not get their best efforts when they were that busy.

As is common with hairdressers, they chatted to the customers. Both the one whose hair they were dealing with, and those waiting on the seats close behind too. Invariably, the talk would be about football, and because of its proximity to the ground of the local football club, Millwall, that team would feature.

Trouble was, I wasn’t a Millwall fan. I supported Tottenham, in north London. Admitting that would have been close to sacrilege in that company though.
So when the talk started about Millwall’s successes or failures, I went along with it, nodding or shaking my head at the appropriate time. Even during the summer, when it was cricket season, they still talked about football, and Millwall. Nobody even mentioned cricket, they just commented on what they expected of their local team when the next football season started.

As I got older, I became more reluctant to keep quiet. On occasion, I might even debate the poor performance of the local team, comparing it to other teams in that league who were doing well. Sometimes, this resulted in what some writers would describe as an uncomfortable silence.

By the time I was in my late twenties, I had started working shifts. This meant that I could now make the trip to the barber during weekdays, and often found the place empty. Even though I had moved a considerable distance away by then, it would never have occurred to me to use a different barber.

One weekday morning, I found Mustapha (the owner) alone in the shop. He was pleased to see me, and started to cut my hair. Our connection was so established by now, he never had to ask me what I wanted, and I always knew how much to pay. As he snipped away, he smiled at me in the mirror. “I meant to say, Pete, while nobody else is here. If I were you, I wouldn’t get into arguments about football. They might not end well, as some of those supporters are pretty tough guys, and can be violent”.

It hadn’t occurred to me that not being a supporter of the local team could put me in hospital, so I thanked him for his advice.

Changing the subject, he asked me “How are you doing at work? I bet the ambulances are still as busy as ever?” I chatted for a while about my job, then mentioned that I had become heavily involved in the union, and was about to become a local organiser. He had finished my hair, and was holding the mirror up, so I could approve the cut at the back. Even though we were alone in the shop, he leaned forward, speaking softly.

“Ah, politics and unions. I wouldn’t mention those either”.

Postcards From Blogging Friends: Part Eight

This is the last post in this series for now. Thanks again to everyone who sent them. If you want to see more, keep sending the cards! I promise they will feature on my blog.

Fraggle sent me this one, her third card. An English fortified tower.
Great history, from the north of England.

Two from Maggie in America.
She sent views of her home state, North Carolina.
The trees looking wonderful in Autumn.

A rock in a river, much loved as a slide by tourists.
It is called (what else?) Sliding Rock.
(Sorry I chopped off the top of this card. It looked OK in the viewfinder!)

The next selection is that something extra I told you about.
German blogger Michael could not find a card of his home town, so instead he sent me a parcel of local souvenirs.

This is a sticker, promoting his town of Eslarn.

And next a small metal badge, designed to be nailed onto a walking stick.

Last but not least, an impressive cloth pennant.
Front view.

Back view.

You all know how happy I am to have this collection, and to see something of where you live, or your trips and travels.

Keep them coming!

Fictional rule-breaking

Most of you are aware that I write a lot of fiction on this blog. Just lately, I have been posting a daily serial that is currently twenty-three episodes in, and I have written close to four hundred stories and serialisation episodes over the last seven years. A few of my stories have been published elsewhere too, in magazines and on websites.

None of these fictional pieces have ever been subject to the attentions of a professional editor or proof reader, though David Miller very kindly emails me with errors he has spotted, or the incorrect use of the wrong character’s name on occasion.

I started writing stories at junior school, and most were well-received. On three occasions, I won a prize for them, in my English class. But back in the early 1960s, teachers were strict, and their adherence to grammar and English even stricter. That carried on into my secondary school, right up until the time I left to start work. Lots of rules. Rules about sentence construction, when to use a new paragraph, how much punctuation was acceptable, and how to show events through the eyes of characters or observers. I kept to those rules.

When I decided to start writing fiction again, I made a conscious decision to ignore a few of those rules. A lot of them, in fact. I would write the stories as I saw them in my head, more or less as if transcribing a film I was watching. If that didn’t work for some readers, then so be it.

One golden rule is that a dead character cannot tell a story. If they are dead, then how did we know what they did, or what they were thinking? Films deal with this dilemma by using flashbacks, or camera angles that show the viewer a reaction. The eyes of a strangling victim will show terror to the viewer, but in literature, we cannot say ‘She stared at her killer in terror’, because she cannot have told us that. We have to say something like ‘He noticed the look of terror in her eyes’. In one of my serials, a young girl notices the unusually white smile of her murderer. But how could I know what she noticed, as he had killed her?

I resolved to ignore such rules, and write the fiction in a style that I enjoyed.

I also use a lot of commas. My English teacher used to write on my essays in a red pen, ‘Too many commas!’ She would put a small ‘X’ next to every one of them she felt was unnecessary. The same with paragraphs. A red line with the capital letters ‘NP!’ I can still see all her corrections in my mind even now. But I am no longer in her class, so I don’t have to follow her rules anymore. I write sentences, paragraphs, and character conversations as if I am speaking them. So I use commas for natural pauses, like taking breaths. Not ‘proper grammar’, I know.

But I don’t care.

So if you have ever noticed any glaring errors in my construction, writing, or interactions between characters, that’s why.

I intentionally break those rules.

Going Shopping: The Victorian Experience

Some of you will recall that I recently posted a photo-series about the sort of shops that were around when I was very young. Some more research shows that around one hundred years earlier, during the Victorian Era, many of those same shops were already trading. It seems very little had changed between 1860, and 1958.

Sainsbury is one of the largest supermarket chains in Britain. British readers will know the name well, as there is hardly a town or city in the UK that does not have a branch nearby.

This is how they started out.

Much in the same way as so many Victorians liked to be photographed standing outside their beloved houses, the same applied to the shopkeepers of the time.

Long before local authorities banned excessive on-street displays for ‘health and safety’ concerns, it was usual for many goods to be stacked outside the shops. There was rarely enough room for everything inside, and all that stock had to be laboriously carried back in at closing time.

There were always lots of small shops selling household essentials.
This would have been the ‘Homebase’ of its time

An ‘Off-Licence’ (or License) is a shop that sells beers, wines, and spirits that have to be consumed ‘Off’ the premises. Unlike pubs, it was forbidden to open any bottles inside, or to drink them in there. Customers could take in their own pots and jugs though, to be filled from barrels of beer inside.
They continued until the supermarkets began to sell alcohol, and drove them out of business.
I actually operated one, with my mother, from 1976-1981.
Not this one though.
(The sign ‘Free House’ doesn’t mean that the drinks were free of charge. It means that the shop is not tied to one particular brewery, so ‘Free’ to sell all brands)

Sweets and chocolate were always very popular. Dedicated ‘sweet shops’ could be found everywhere, usually with small children inside, trying to decide which sweets to spend a very small amount of money on. They almost always sold cigarettes and tobacco too, and you can see that stated in small print over the entrance door.

Tobacconists usually sold newspapers and magazines too, as well as offering some sweets or confectionery to tempt customers.

At the same time in America, shops were getting grander and grander. This is a Philadelphia drug store, in 1880.
The interior is magnificent.

After trudging around doing all that shopping, the Victorian consumer usually liked to stop off for a cup of tea, and perhaps a bite to eat.
Popular ‘Tea Rooms’ offered genteel surroundings, and fair prices.
You would be served by very smart waitresses too.
Still prefer Starbucks?

I think it is a great shame that these character-filled small shops with their dedicated and knowledgeable owners have all but disappeared.

Like many good things of the past, they have been consigned to History.

Wish You Were Here?: Holiday Postcards

Are you old enough to remember when we sent picture postcards from our holidays? Nice scenes of the place where we were staying, photos of sunny beaches, or the traditional British ‘saucy joke’ cards?

The modern advance of phone cameras, Facebook, Instagram, and many other social media platforms has more or less killed off the hand-written postcard. That along with the cost of postage, and the chore of buying them, writing them, and buying stamps to post them. I remember them with great fondness though, and I was still sending them regularly, as recently as 1990.

The first picture postcard officially recognised as such was sent in 1840, in London. The Victorian era in Britain saw the practice quickly taken up by holidaymakers though, as rail travel broadened the horizons of ordinary people, and they were keen to tell their friends, family, or work colleagues just what a great time they were having, by sending them a suitable drawing of the resort.

These ‘cute’ cards continued to be popular until the 1930s.

In Britain after WW2, family holidays became more commonplace. But the postcards they sent from their destinations began to change. This was the advent of the ‘saucy’ card, which usually had nothing to do with the resort, or even being on holiday.

Some of these became so rude, they were actually banned at the time!
Like this one.

Once the ‘swinging sixties’ arrived, sauciness was on the way out, unable to compete with what could be seen every day in the streets, at the cinema, or on TV. But they kept going with the saucy cards, all the same.

When organised holiday camps became popular here, people would send back postcards showing the camps themselves.
You have to remember that this was what was perceived as ‘luxury’ for working class people in 1960s Britain.

Once I started to travel, I was always keen to get the cards bought, written, and sent home as early as possible.
It was not unknown for us to return from our trip many days before the cards arrived.

I was lucky enough to go to places thought to be ‘exotic’ at the time.
Tunisia was considered to be an unusual destination then.

And very few British people travelled to the Soviet Union in the 1970s.
So I was sure to get cards sent back from Leningrad.

I understand why picture postcards have lost their appeal. And I can see why new generations of holidaymakers would find it crazy to buy a photo and send it home with something written on the back, when they can share a picture of themselves by the pool within seconds of arriving.

But I would still love to receive a holiday postcard from someone.

Surviving Halloween

Well it is still the 31st of October, and we have survived Halloween in Beetley. Regulars will be all too aware that I do not celebrate Halloween. In fact, I regard it as an American commercial invention, and avoid it, at all costs.

During all the years I lived in London, I had little or no idea about Halloween. For me, it arrived some time around 1990, with people knocking on the door after 6 pm, and asking for ‘Trick or Treat’. I had no treats prepared, and asked them for a trick instead. Some were flummoxed by my reply. Mums with small children called me a ‘meanie’, but older kids just threw eggs at our windows. By the time I was living in Camden, after 2000, older kids would knock up until 10 pm. They did not even bother to dress up, and never said ‘Trick or Treat’. They just wanted cash, which annoyed me even more.

By 2012, we were living here in Beetley. In a neighbourly spirit, we bought in lots of sweets and snacks, expecting better-behaved children to knock on our door on the 31st. But despite hearing them around on the nearby streets after dark, we didn’t get a single ring on the doorbell, or knock on the door. A few days later, we mentioned this to our neighbour. She told us that as we did not have a pumpkin outside, nobody would knock and disturb us. We had never heard of this tradition, but considered it to be admirable.

Since then, we have never put a pumpkin outside, and nobody has bothered us on the 31st. The same thng happened this evening. Despite crowds of noisy children traversing the local streets, nobody came to our door. Just as well, as we had no sweets ready, and Ollie might have barked. For us, this is an excellent way to celebrate Halloween, for those of us that do not want to celebrate it, and take part in the commercial excesses of this corrupted festival. Well done, Beetley.

We survived Halloween, and that made us happy.