‘It’s time to smother Britain’s pubs with love and show our appreciation’

Many of the best – and, it has to be said, worst – moments in my life feature pubs.

For some reason I can’t remember them all, but there’s no denying there’s nothing like a cosy public house for a get-together.

With mates, with family, with colleagues, with a date, before a ­football match, celebrating a victory after, or analysing their defeat, a wedding, or post-divorce, birthday celebrations, first dates, treasured memories and funeral wakes.

All of life’s big moments, good, bad or dreadfully sad, are better shared – with strangers as well as friends – in a pub.

The highlight of my primary school years were the days when mum picked my brother and I up from the playground and walked home via my grandparents’ pub, The Duke’s Head in Canterbury.

Their locals nicknamed me Mrs Guinness because I often bore the froth of the famous Irish beer around my mouth. I was THREE years old when it started. “It’s good for you,” they’d chuckle, as the beer beard obliterated half my face. What were they thinking of?

Later Grandad gave me a giant Babycham Bambi, meant for display, but bound for my bedroom dressing table.

With her big blue eyes and ­unfeasibly long lashes, I ADORED her. Thus began my love of pubs, a romantic dream of log fires, friendly locals and ­delicious food.

And then my husband had a mad dream of owning a country pub set amid thatched cottages in the Dorset countryside.

So he bought one. It was gorgeous. The bills were high. The chefs’ huge egos ­obstructive. The staff no-shows on Mother’s Day – the biggest Sunday trade of the year – “because it’s Mother’s Day”. Unbelievable. The locals’ gossip and rumour spreading.

The tabs that never get paid. The suppliers that no longer stock your best-selling red wine. The local that hogs the same prime position at the bar supping just the one pint for hours. The counselling you’re required to impart.

The fights you have to stop. The no-marks that sup and then “do a runner”. We loved it all – sort of.

But it’s hard. The bills keep coming. Business rates and beer duty are high. Is it any wonder, then, that more than 5,000 locals could call time for good by 2024.

British pubs, landlords/ladies are unique. There’s nothing quite like them anywhere else in the world. They’re the heart of local communities, they’re social services, counsellors, referees. They’re a refuge for the cold and lonely.

Time then, gentlemen (and ladies) to smother them with love and show our appreciation.

Before they disappear, as fast as a cold pint on a hot day.

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