Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, February 17, 2017

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It was good to see the letter from Malcolm Cox in the Lynn News praising my column, but alas, I need to correct a couple of misconceptions.

The body of the text is all mine, but I am not responsible for the headline. Without giving away too much of the mystery of the newspaper editors’ art, it is they who write the headings, and it is they who are due credit for the eye-catching appeal of the titles. This is, I believe, to make it easier to fill the space allocated for the column if I don’t exactly hit my 600 word count or on the very rare occasions that they decide that my views are too controversial and cut the odd sentence.

As for the suggestion that I may have had the odd pint too much when I pen some of my contributions, it is true that many of my opinions are voiced or written in pubs, but unfortunately ones which are closed. Every fourth Tuesday of the month, you may well find me rehearsing my points of view at the regular WEA discussion group, which meets at the Quakers building on Bridge Street*. This was once the Hulk public house and some of the ornate glasswork is preserved on the door and also inside. It closed in 1970, but there are still a few people around who have recollections of drinking there. In 1960, it was a Morgan’s house and was recorded as selling 120 barrels of beer (a barrel is 36 gallons) and 21 barrels of spirits.

Many of my written words are composed in the archive room at the True’s Yard museum, where I spend most Tuesday afternoons supervising and aiding anyone who comes in to access the collection. Part of the building was once the Naval Reserve, originally a Beer House tied to the Bagge brewery, before becoming successively owned Steward and Patteson, Watney Mann and Brent Walker before closing in the mid 1990s, and the most recent, rather boring, pub sign is on display among the exhibits.

Just because I choose not to imbibe as I write, it doesn’t mean that we are all like J K Rowling, who famously wrote Harry Potter in a coffee shop in Edinburgh, but I do wonder if the contribution of alcohol to the written word is rather overestimated.

Perhaps the most famous journalist to have a reputation for liking the drink was Ernest Hemingway, and I have been in several bars around the world that trade on his name, notably a couple in Havana.

However, it seems that even he could not drink and write. In an interview he was asked if it were true that he took a pitcher of Martini to work every day and replied: “Jeezus Christ! Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes – and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one.”

So it is quite possible to hold strong views without recourse to strong drink. Indeed, if it was the case that the expression of forthright views was only possible with a pint in front of you, I would suggest that the pubs of West Norfolk would be bursting at the seams with a legion of letter writers furiously scribbling away, hoping to catch the post and have their comments published in the next edition of the Lynn News.

* The WEA is held at 10.30, on the fourth Tuesday of the month, all welcome, free of charge and with complimentary cake!