Things To Do in Barnes, Battersea, Cheam, Clapham, Epsom, Fulham, Kingston, Putney, Surbiton, Sutton, Wandsworth, Wimbledon

Half a Shandy and a Packet of Crisps

They are closing at an alarming rate; although there are 60,000 pubs still in existence in the UK today, two are closing every day of the week.

This is the highest rate of closure since the 1904 Compensation Act forced ten per cent of pubs to close. These pubs rarely re-open as nowadays most are converted to residential or retail use. For those of us who enjoy a pint or a glass of wine this is the loss of meeting places where people know they will meet local friends and acquaintances. It leaves a gap in our community.

However, Wimbledon and Putney should not worry too much about the demise in local watering holes. One lunch time, in late February, I called in for my occasional Friday pint and whitebait at the Hand in Hand on the common and witnessed an interesting social mix and activity. In the families room was a living nursery with mums enjoying a break from routine child care. The room was choc-a-bloc with prams, toddlers and babies having nappies changed. All were safely ensconced in their own room, leaving serious lunch time clientele undisturbed in the bar next door. What a difference from my day as a parent when it was a bag of crisps in the car or a picnic on the grass outside. Vive la différence, I say!

Just a few yards away was another, more serious meeting - a high powered conference between Putney MP Justine Greening – Secretary of State for International Development – and Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport. With heads firmly locked together, they were no doubt discussing local and party political affairs after the poor result of the Eastleigh by-election. It seems a pity that the MP for Mitcham, Siobhan McDonagh, couldn’t be included. I am sure she would have joined in their commiserations after her party’s poor showing and would have contributed her ha’penny worth. I had a careful look on the table to check if there were flowers or other table decoration concealing a microphone or recording device but there seemed little to conceal such intrusive software that might lead to Mr Murdoch’s office or, indeed, to any of the red tops.

On other days, The Hand in Hand is host to a whole variety of local clubs and interest groups. Ford, the landlord, listed 14 different groups who meet on a regular basis in the pub including ones for poker, ping pong, beer tasting, knit and stitch, squash, bell ringing, choral singing, cycling, scouting, writing, quizzes and – every so often – Morris dancing; apologies if I have missed any. About the only interest group that is missing on that list is a political debating society but I think that the way elections are going that might happen soon enough.

For those landlords who are worried about their dwindling custom they could well take a leaf out of Andrew’s book and make the pub so welcoming that all the local interest groups and clubs queue up to find a space. And, of course, there are still the faithful locals to find room for.

Tony Kane is founder of Time & Leisure Media Group and editor of the Wimbledon, Wandsworth and Putney editions of Time & Leisure Magazine.