At a time when living in the past seems more popular than living in the present, I am going to take you back to 1984.
It was a rather grim time. Virus of the year was the newly discovered HIV. The Winter Olympics were held in Sarajevo before the city was engulfed by a brutal war. Indira Gandhi was assassinated. In the UK it was the year of a long, bitter miner’s strike and the Brighton bombing.
On a more frivolous note, Frankie Goes to Hollywood spent 15 weeks of the year at Number One in the charts, nine of them with Relax. Maybe this album appeared on one of those new-fangled CDs.
George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1948 and gifted a whole new vocabulary to the world. He would have been proud of how popular Doublethink has become in political circles.
Doublethink is a process of indoctrination whereby the subject is expected to accept as true that which is clearly false, or to simultaneously accept two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in contravention to one’s own memories or sense of reality (Wiki).
Some of the lowest post-war football crowds occurred that year. To put it in perspective, Notts County’s final year in the top flight attracted an average of 9,458 per match, only 2,101 more than 2019/20, their last year as a league team in League 2 (that was once Division 4).
I hadn’t graduated to non-league football by then. Oh, the regrets, the missed opportunities, the uneaten pies. The only non-league games I saw in the whole year were Lossiemouth 2 Ross County 3 in the Highland League; Gretna 3 Whitby Town 2 in the Northern League; and Penrith 0 Burnley 9 (NINE) in the FA Cup.
In keeping with the monochrome times everything in the 1984 Good Beer Guide was in black and white except the front and back covers. £3.95 got you 320 pages, including a burgeoning 18 page breweries section and 2 pages on Canine CAMRA. The latter featured Ben, pub dog at the Last Inn, Hengoed, near Oswestry, whose ability to detect Woods Special Bitter earned widespread fame and treats.
When at the Salmon in Belford, Northumberland, the Guide instructed us to ‘Inspect real ale drinkers’ register – and sign it’, an early iteration of a tracing app. The only beer was the distinctly average Lorimer’s Best Scotch, that was sold as 70/- a few miles further north. The pub’s place in the sun occurred when Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were filming Becket in the vicinity and quaffed in the Salmon on the way back to their hotel. According to the Newcastle Chronicle:
Bob and Hilda Smith, who ran the pub, provided the stars with a measure of privacy in the pub’s snug, and in return Elizabeth signed a Vaux beer mat “To Hilda Best Wishes” on July 23, 1963.
England’s north-east donated several classics to that year’s Guide including Newcastle’s Cooperage, dating from 1430, where you could get the exciting new local beer, Big Lamp Bitter.
The wonderful Star in Netherton, Northumberland – ‘unspoilt gem in isolated village – knock if closed’ sold a single beer straight from the cask. Surprisingly Whatpub tells us it is still a pub though it now only opens for five and a half hours a week with real ale “not guaranteed”. No wonder with those opening hours. The description is:
Entering this gem, the only pub in Northumberland to appear in every Good Beer Guide for 40 consecutive years from 1974 to 2013 inclusive, is like entering the private living room of a big house. Beer is served on gravity from the cellar at a hatch in the panelled entrance hall. The bar area is basic with benches round the wall.
It looks more like a pub from the inside. My recollection is of it being run by an old woman, in similar vein to the Sun at Leintwardine. Her name was Vera Wilson-Morton, who was born in the pub and lived there all her life. The Star had been bought by her grandfather in 1917 who arrived by pony and trap to take up residence.
Another distinguished survivor from the 1984 Guide is the Free Trade Inn, Berwick upon Tweed.
Though it dates from 1767 it is the 1910 interior refit that gets Camra’s national inventory swooning, including a rare partition forming a corridor leading to a ‘tiny former off-sales in the middle of the pub’ and this L-shaped bar. It’s one of several architectural pub treats in the town.
I finished the 1984 Guide with 530 pubs visited of the 5,000 listed. A modest 10% but the lifetime mission was taking ominous shape.