‘Dad, you know that red thing on the corner of our road? What is it for?’
Of course, my eldest was referring to the near relic that is the local telephone box – a concept so outdated that anybody even considering using one would think twice for fear of arousing suspicion that they were up to no good.
But the poor old phone box, as with many things which were ubiquitous in our youth, is slowly disappearing over the horizon.
Just as I used to roll my eyes whenever my old man harked back to the days of the 78, the schoolkids today glaze over when their parents start banging on about how they used to record songs from the radio onto tapes.
In our house, like many others, the CD collection has become something of a curiosity while even the DVD player has become nothing more than a 21st century ornament – such is the convenience of our ever expanding digital archive.
Most things which vanish from public life tend to do so because they have become obsolete and, as the old saying goes: you can’t stand in the way of progress.
But we shouldn’t be completely blinded by the idea of progress, especially when it comes to one of the greatest institutions of them all – the pub.
We have long been aware of the demise of the boozer – I have lost count of the number of times that I have written of the need for us to use or lose these very special places. But now it seems these monuments to the British way of life are as endangered as they have been at any time in living memory.
Latest figures from Camra – you know them, the people who tend to wear their faded prog rock t-shirts with pride while extolling the flavour and body of a pint they can’t see through – show that more than a third of pubs have been lost in the past four decades.
Since the 1970s, when there were 75,000 pubs on these shores, 28,000 have shut their doors and, while some of those lost venues won’t be missed by anyone, there are many whose passing will be mourned.
The Campaign for Real Ale, to give it its Sunday name, has used the publication of this latest sorry statistic as a stick to beat the Government with, and warns that more will close if drastic changes aren’t made soon.
Ahead of November’s budget, Camra is calling on Chancellor Philip Hammond to give every pub in the country a £5,000 business rates reduction after pointing out that landlords and owners are hit disproportionately hard by this tax. Taxation accounts for the third of the cost of every pint, which is one of the reasons why, in some parts of the country, a ‘pint of the usual’ will set you back £4.
You could argue that the British pub is a bit like Theresa May – horribly beleaguered but still here, against all the odds. But unlike our prime minister, there does seem something of a future for the future of licensed premises in this country.
Call it wishful thinking but I see it very unlikely that the local pub will go the way of the phone box or the Now That’s What I Call Music 5 cassette and disappear in my lifetime.
There are some things which technology will never replace.