Ladies and Gentlemen raise your glasses please, it's National Pub Week!
As the number of people drinking in public houses continues to fall and 20 pubs a month close their doors forever, apparently, CAMRA is focussing it's attention on this "traditionally quiet" week in an attempt to lure you back into the pub. Quite why they're encouraging people to visit the pub and drink the over-priced shite that is, mostly, on offer is anyone's guess. I'd have thought that they'd be better off spending their time drawing attention to the real problems with Britain's brewing industry - duty levels, pricing policies, illegal imports, etc. Anyway, I daresay that CAMRA have organised a loose programme of events for pubs to participate in but I've decided to draw up my own list of alternative events for this week:
Saturday and continuing all week
- Johnny Vegas' Pub Challenge - the nation's favourite fat drunkard picks up a gauntlet thrown down by Jonathan Woss and attempts a tour of mainland Britain visiting as many pubs as possible in the eight days of Pub Week. Starting from his own local, the Colliers Arms in St Helens, Johnny will be ferried around Britain in a specially-equipped coach, following a computer-derived route that should see him visit more than 200 pubs if all goes to plan. There are updates on ITV, fronted by Ant & Dec, and uninterrupted live coverage on ITV2. Sadly the programme doesn't get off to a great start as Johnny has trouble being persuaded to leave the starting line. After three fruitless hours of reasoning with him, the producer resorts to using a pint of Guinness to lure him out like a dog. Unfortunately Johnny notices he's left his fags behind and it's another three hours before he can be lured back out. This time though, instead of boarding the coach he nips into the pub next door, The Kings Head, for a "swift one". He's still there at closing time.
- Have Dinner On Us - Buy three or more pints of over-priced pish and get a traditional Sunday roast dinner free*. And why not have a couple of pints whilst you're at it? (* CAMRA would like to point out that Spearmint Rhino's "Sunday Spit Roast" is not part of this promotion.)
- Johnny Vegas Pub Challenge - Having managed to bundle Johnny on to the bus after he was chucked out of the Kings Head, the team headed to Scotland overnight. Johnny appears to be in his element in the pubs of Glasgow and Edinburgh and is more than happy to stroll from pub to pub meeting and greeting people. Ant & Dec get plenty of opportunity to mock him mercilessly on the live update.
- Monday Night Mayhem - Fancy Dress and Pub Crawls are not solely the preserve of students during Rag Week or office workers supporting Children In Need. No! You too can get togged up in your wackiest outfit and tour your local public houses. And best of all, you don't even have to pretend to be raising money for charity! Live music, DJs, prizes and party games are all on offer at participating pubs. See your local press for details.
- Johnny Vegas' Pub Challenge - Johnny hits the North East on day three of the challenge. In an attempt to blend in, Johnny strips down to his T-shirt despite the temperature dropping below freezing. A combination of alcohol and hypothermia renders Johnny even more unintelligible than usual. Even Ant & Dec are stumped for something to say.
- National Pub Quiz Night sadly turns into National Bash The Teacher Night as, up and down the land, teams of smart-arse-know-it-alls dispute whether Question 7 refers to the original presenters of Antiques Roadshow or the current line-up, and point out, in answer to Question 23, that, strictly speaking, Toto Coelo are one-hit wonders because none of their other singles made the Top 40. Amidst all the confusion, large numbers of teams of IT experts are declared the winners despite using their "state of the art" mobile phones-cum-PDAs to look up most of the answers.
- Johnny Vegas' Pub Challenge - Day four and Johnny arrives in York having spent all night on the bus wrapped in thermal blankets. It's touch and go as to whether his chins will unfreeze enough to allow him to drink anything but, fortunately, there's a roaring fire in The Three Tuns and the fatman is soon ready for action. On hearing that old chestnut that there are 365 pubs in the York City boundary Johnny sets off to find out if it's true. At pub number 35 he gives the production team the slip and is discovered many hours later at a Chinese restaurant-cum-disco. He claims to have visited all 365 pubs, although the ladies he is with say they found him asleep in a corner at Burger King.
- It's not all Beer Bellies and Beards - Your local CAMRA branch invites you to join them in the local CAMRA Pub of The Year, to find out all about the valuable work they do. And to sample some of the fine British Ales that are available in this pub and perhaps two others in a thirty-mile radius. Those of a nervous disposition will be pleased to note that the wearing of ill-fitting, beer-stained T-shirts has been outlawed for this event and that Sweaty George has promised to have a shower this week.
- Johnny Vegas' Pub Challenge - In order to have any chance of making it back to St Helens for Saturday's final show, the producer decides to skip a few of the destinations and instead take Johnny for a day out in Cambridge. Things start off well enough until Johnny adopts a Paul Calf-style antagonistic attitude to students. Ill-judged threats of physical violence lead to him being chased through town by the University rugby club. Taking refuge in The Regal, Johnny finds himself surrounded by hundreds of townies all shouting "Where's your Monkey?!"
- Last Chance to Drink Cheap Pish - Pubs up and down the land are slashing prices on all those extra barrels of real ale that they've ordered but been unable to shift. If you visit a townie pub you might have a chance to sample some decent ales at knockdown prices, but the chances are that by the time you get there and fight your way through the hordes of sixteen-year olds puking on the pavement, you'll find that they sold the lot during Happy Hour. Which happened to be between 4 and 6pm - just after lectures finish at college coincidentally. Instead seek out your nearest real ale pub where they are bound to have some cider left over and a barrel of that lager-brewed bitter that no one wil touch ("'Tis the devil's brew! Bitter brewed like lager? It's not natural, I tells ye! No good will come of it!")
- Johnny Vegas' Pub Challenge - Disaster strikes. Realising that he's been set up and the "specially invited" guests at the Disgusted in Tunbridge Wells are, in fact, all Daily Mail readers anxious to know how he managed to spend "nearly a million pounds" of Lottery money on a "sick, depraved" film that none of them ever had the slightest intention of seeing, Johnny legs it. He is last seen clutching a bag full of Tennents Super and boarding a train to London. Ant & Dec swiftly do a runner too.
- Johnny Vegas' Pub Challenge - The landlord of The Coliiers Arms calls in to say that Johnny is there, back in his usual corner. In fact, he's been there since last night and is trying to answer Question 13 from the National Pub Quiz - Which cult leader links the Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Monkees? If anyone does know the answer can they please let Johnny know as he's becoming more and more desperate. And he's scaring away the passing trade.
- Last Friday at the Mexborough Civic - Not actually part of my alternative Pub Week schedule, but an actual real event. Live music from Odium, Sillibus, and Laruso, for the bargain price of £2.50. See the website for more details.
- Your Local Beer Festival - All those people that you thought looked not that unreasonable at the CAMRA event on Wednesday night will be scaring the beejasus out of you at this event. Once-immmaculately-groomed beards will be sprouting at odd angles and hairy beer bellies will be peeping out from under over-stretched T-shirts. And that's just the ladies! Situated in the Town Hall, or in a sweaty marquee on the green if the weather is bad, you won't be able to avoid it. Nor avoid thinking "Woodwork squeaks, out come the freaks" every single minute you attend the event. Still, you'll be able to drink all those beers that you wouldn't normally cross the road for. And those of you who love the taste of seawater are in for a treat as this year we've laid on extra barrels of Oyster Stout.
- The National Vommery: following the success of the National Chippery, Camelot's marketing department have once again been snorting the Bolivian marching powder to come up with this as the climax to national Pub Week - forty-nine low-to-medium grade civil servants (probably from the Page St building) have been selected to spend their Saturday afternoon gettting as drunk as possible in a Whitehall pub. All the civil servants have been given a number and which ever six of those civil servants chunder first will be the winning numbers. The seventh chunderer will, of course, be the bonus ball. In the event of mass chunders, the independent adjudicator's decision will be final.