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It's closing time…

The north London pub-owner introduced himself as Nash. In his late 50s, Nash bought the pub last year from a man who couldn't keep up against the storms of Britain's worst post-war recession.

world Updated: Oct 12, 2010 00:24 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar

The north London pub-owner introduced himself as Nash. In his late 50s, Nash bought the pub last year from a man who couldn't keep up against the storms of Britain's worst post-war recession.

It's a traditional Irish pub and its patrons are mostly Irish. Nash, however, is Indian. "What do you think his real name is?" my English friend asked later. Nash, I replied. Has to be Avinash, I thought.

The friend is clearly impressed. Pubs in Britain — a land famous for its ales and bitter in all their dark and pale glory —are closing at the rate of 30 a week.

The thread that binds scattered lives across this island is beginning to look a bit frayed. Pubs were one of the first businesses to be hit as the recession sank its teeth. People stayed at home and bought their alcohol from supermarket chains, who were able to sell on the cheap.

The closures are a blow to village life in particular. Along with the post office (also under threat) the pub makes up the essence of rural idyll and charm. It has become a clichéd image of the English village — the soft, golden glow of a fireplace seen through the frosted window of a pub on a winter's night.

It's true nevertheless. And Nash's pub —although situated in the heart of busy London — is no exception. It hummed with life on a Saturday night as Nash sat quietly by a corner table, looking slightly intense but also satisfied.

With only two staff to help him, Nash keeps extremely long hours. And high street banks have stopped lending. "I have to go to the Durga temple tomorrow," he told me, abruptly sealing an unstated Indian bond.

There we were, two Indians in at a sea of cheerful and increasingly drunken Irishmen and women. Some danced to rock music. A man strolled in jauntily, wearing a large cowboy hat, silvery ponytail peeking out, a woman in his arms. He smiled broadly at Nash. If all the pubs closed down, I thought, where will these men and women go to leave behind their sorrows?